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December 20, 2010

Don Meredith needs a remedial geography lesson

Not to mention remedial history. Canada NEVER went to war in Iraq, much less under "the previous Liberal government", as he asserts here, repeatedly, less than a minute in:

And yes, Mr. Meredith is a Conservative. Obviously a very partisan one, to make such hilarious factual errors. But perhaps that's all understandable. I don't notice his not-so-new-anymore Conservative government making any serious noises about peace...even in Afghanistan. Which he does finally get around to correctly mentioning, after repeated heckling and booing, at about the 1:06 minute mark.

PS: Mr. Meredith is now a senator. This was an election debate from a couple of years back in which he lost to Bob Rae, a Liberal. Mr. Rae has expressed his surprise at this in a tweet:

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Since he couldn't get himself elected to the House over one of those oh-so-blameworthy Libs, Mr. Meredith has now been appointed to the Senate by Harpo. Who, I reiterate, campaigned on a platform opposing this sort of thing. Read what Scott has to say about this.

Meanwhile, our friends to the south are amused/can commiserate:

holland-meredith-tweet.jpg

Isn't it nice to know you're not the only ones who have ignorant wingnuts in the house...er, senate?

PPS: Some remedial queer studies would also be in order, it seems. Or is that not "faith-based" enough for Harpo's latest Senate pack?

Do we need Wikileaks for this?

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Gawd, I hope not.

The federal government has relented in its refusal to release decades-old intelligence on Canadian political icon Tommy Douglas.

It's now promising to review the file and release additional material by March 31.

The promise follows a closed-door hearing during which a Federal Court judge expressed concern about the continued secrecy surrounding the file compiled by the RCMP on a figure of such historical significance.

Before the promise to provide additional information, the Conservative government had maintained that the release of the Douglas documents could hurt the present-day work of Canada's spy service.

Some of the materials date back more than 70 years.

Douglas, who died in 1986, is widely revered as the father of Canadian medicare. He was premier of Saskatchewan and then the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party.

He was the subject of surveillance for decades, first by the RCMP and later by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS.

Declassify everything, unredacted, or someone might have to do it for you, RCMP.

And don't give me that guff about how it's "going to hurt the present-day work" of CSIS. If so little has changed in the spy trade in over 70 years, then the spooks deserve a good kick in the butt for being so far behind the times. I strongly suspect that their methods were illegal and/or unconstitutional, if they still think there is something to hide after all this time. And if they claim this will hurt them here and now, they must still be using those bad methods.

Secrecy and closed doors conceal a multitude of sins, unacceptable in a government that was supposed to have been elected on promises of transparency and accountability. Remember?

All of which is all the more reason to declassify it all, unredacted. No exceptions. If they've truly done nothing wrong in the course of their spyings and pryings into the doings of Tommy Douglas, they should have nothing to hide.

And the government shouldn't balk at holding them accountable, either.

December 13, 2010

Once again, HarpoCons embarrass Canada internationally

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...only this time, they've gone and done it in Venezuela:

While many on the left know that Washington has spent tens of millions of dollars funding groups that oppose Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, less well known is Ottawa's role, especially that of the Canadian government's "arms-length" human rights organization, Rights & Democracy (R&D).

Montreal-based R&D recently gave its 2010 John Humphrey Award to the Venezuelan non-governmental organization PROVEA (El Programa Venezolano de Educacion-Accion en Derechos Humanos). According to R&D's website, "The Award consists of a grant of $30,000 and a [just completed] speaking tour of Canadian cities to help increase awareness of the recipient's human rights work."

PROVEA is highly critical of Venezuela's elected government. In December 2008 Venezuela's interior and justice minister called PROVEA "liars" who were "paid in [US] dollars."

During a September visit "to meet with representatives of PROVEA and other [Venezuelan] organizations devoted to human rights and democratic development" R&D President, Gérard Latulippe, blogged about his and PROVEA's political views. "Marino [Betancourt, Director General of PROVEA] told me about recent practices of harassment and criminalization of the government towards civil society organizations." In another post Latulippe explained, "We have witnessed in recent years the restriction of the right to freedom of expression. Since 2004-2005, the government of President Chavez has taken important legislative measures which limit this right."

Upon returning to Canada, Latulippe cited Venezuela as a country with "no democracy". He told Embassy magazine, "You can see the emergence of a new model of democracy, where in fact it's trying to make an alternative to democracy by saying people can have a better life even if there's no democracy. You have the example of Russia. You have an example of Venezuela."

Venezuelanalysis goes on to refute Latulippe's nonsense rather nicely; go there and read it for yourself if you're so inclined. Since they've already taken on the task, I'm not going to duplicate their work.

Meanwhile, those of us up here who've been following Harpocracy's shenanigans are doing our accustomed, dreary facepalm. You see, we know all about what the government has done to this so-called "arms'-length" organization. They've politicized it utterly to suit their con-tard view of the world. They've gutted it of all voices critical of Israel, and the stress of the scandal killed Rémy Beauregard, who used to head it up (and who opposed what Harpo & Co. were trying to do to it.) There have been several high-profile resignations, too, by members R & D could ill afford to lose. As a result of all this, R & D has gone from unremarkable and respectable to fractious and conspicuously neo-con, with an ugly dominionist-Christian fug on top of all the Zionist miasma.

So no, I'm not surprised in the least that they are the "arm's-length" bludgeon Harpo & Co. were going to use to club Venezuela, which IS democratic, more so in fact than we are...and which just happens to vote overwhelmingly in favor of non-conservative candidates, when all's said. Harpo is doing his damnedest to turn this country and all its institutions into cheap, shoddy copies of all the shit we see going on below the 49th Parallel. So of course he's going to copy their stance on Venezuela, too.

Venezuela has done what we haven't: rewritten its own constitution (and amended it) democratically, using assemblies of candidates elected by the people. It has freed itself from an old imperial power (Spain) and is in the process of decoupling from a newer one (the US). It has made all healthcare, including eye and dental coverage, free to citizens, whereas we've been backsliding into stealth privatization and those odious "public-private partnerships", which have benefited no one but the private sector, while sucking up ever larger sums of our public money. They have 100% literacy, thanks to Fidel Castro; we don't, thanks to a prevalent mindset that considers cutting teacher salaries and squandering the "savings" on standardized testing to be the "solution" to our schoolkids' poor performances. Their citizens make constant reference to their constitution; do many of us even know what ours says? Venezuela has been giving power to its people, while Harpo & Co. have been sneakily taking it away from us. So of course, Venezuela is a "tyranny"--it's the tyranny of a good example that they don't want us following. Chavecito walks in the footsteps of Simón Bolívar; what if Canada walked in the footsteps of Venezuela, or at least Tommy Douglas?

And of course, Harpo and his Cons are too cowardly to bring up the matter of Venezuela and its tyranny-of-a-good-example themselves. So naturally they're going to send The Tulip down on behalf of their little rejiggered Mulroney-era quango to talk to the discredited oppos, who are only too happy to feed him all kinds of bogus horror stories. Of course The Tulip is going to give them our taxpayer dollars, USAID-style, to help them plot their little putsches. And then, naturally, The Tulip is going to dutifully come back and talk smack about Chavecito here! What else WOULD they all do?

This entire fuckery was as boringly predictable as an old soap opera plot. But damn, it sure makes me hang my head when I'm on the tweeter, talking to friends in Venezuela. I still love my country, but I hate this insane, antidemocratic government. It makes me ashamed to be Canadian, and that's something I never thought would happen in my lifetime.

Guess I'm gonna be flying that upside-down flag of distress a lot here from now on.

December 12, 2010

Los Canadienses: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War

I'd been looking for this NFB documentary for a couple of years now, ever since I picked up a used copy of Dorothy Livesay's book, Right Hand Left Hand, in which the great Canadian poet chronicles what life was like for her as a leftist woman during the Dirty Thirties. This documentary is mentioned in it. As yet, the NFB has not made it available for purchase on its website. I wish it would, as this film is a window onto a largely forgotten piece of our history. It was made in 1976, the year Franco died and Spain returned to democratic rule. By then, nearly 40 years had passed since the Spanish Civil War.

One of the questions that affected the Canadian left most during that time, as Livesay noted, was the tension between the causes of peace and antifascism. When Spain's democratic, leftist republican government was attacked by Franco's forces, the question was resolved for many in favor of antifascism. More than a thousand Canadians enlisted in the International Brigades. At first, they joined the US-based Abraham Lincoln and George Washington Brigades. Eventually, they formed their own--the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. Many never came home; those who did were either ignored by the general public or persecuted by anticommunist fanatics.

Ironically, Canada's government, like Britain's and that of the United States, paid pious lip service to democracy while letting the fascists of Europe run roughshod over it. It was illegal for Canadians to fight in the International Brigades, but not to give aid and comfort to the Franco-fascists.

Three Snarls of a Disgusted Colonial


I

Freedom, in Spain, exhaled a groan.
Her champion, England, scribbling notes,
Refused as yet to throw a stone,
And only held the stoners' coats.

II

O Ananias! what a waste!
Iscariot too! such gifts misplaced!
For, living now, you'd both be set
To shine in Britain's cabinet.

III

Let Britain's leaders, if they choose,
Be cushions for Benito's hips,
And lick the heels of Adolf's shoes:
But damn them! must they smack their lips!

--Lorne Mackay, in The Canadian Forum

Meanwhile, the lack of aid and comfort to the more than one-fifth of Canadian adults who were unemployed, was glaring. It was also galvanizing.

The Depression had hit western Canada particularly hard--the very Prairies where so many immigrants had been shuttled off to settle and work the land had gone from being the nation's breadbasket to being on its bread line. The average unemployment rate in Canada was 22%; it was higher in the west. Drought and poverty forced men to ride the rails, and set immigrant workers at each other's throats. Ethnic slurs proliferated; anglocentrism revealed its rotten core. Only the left offered an alternative, one which set oppressed Canadians en masse against the federal government, and would later unify the diverse groups in the International Brigades in Spain. Dorothy Livesay notes:

Amongst the deprived, the effect on the single unemployed men was electric. They read of the international brigades that were forming, rallying volunteers to save the Spanish republic from fascism. Although it was illegal for a Canadian to serve in a foreign cause, 1200 young men and some young women managed to get visas to France and from there joined a freedom trek across the Alps. But in Quebec the reverse happened: the Catholic church called for volunteers to aid Franco, and got them.

Apparently, Franco was not a foreign cause for French Canadians, any more than fighting England's wars had been for Canadians during the Great War and the Boer War had been for their anglophone counterparts. The hypocrisy was blatant, but it was taboo for the mainstream newspapers to talk about it. Smug blindness to the Spanish republican cause was the rule of the day.

A combination of dire poverty, disillusionment, and idealism meant no shortage of commitment among the internationalist volunteers. But the forces of the left were poorly armed, with obsolete weapons. Worse, they had more ideological divisions amongst themselves than their fascist enemies did, and seemed more determined to eliminate each other than wipe out their common foes. A poorly timed separatist movement in Catalonia, along with indiscriminate purging of "enemies within", decimated what should have been a unified republican battle front. Franco's fascists, backed by Hitler's newly formed air force and that of Mussolini, had easy pickings.

Battle Hymn for the Spanish Rebels

The Church's one foundation
Is now the Moslem sword,
In meek collaboration
With flame and axe and cord;
Deep-winged with holy love
The battle-planes of Wotan,
The bombing-planes of Jove.

--Lorne Mackay, in The Canadian Forum

Wrote the Canadian novelist, Morley Callaghan, a progressive Catholic who condemned his church's support for the fascists: "Men often find it necessary to wear strange masks to support unholy causes. The spectacle of devout foreign legion thugs and pious, infidel Moors, ancient enemies of the Christian Spanish people marching to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers leaves me very cold indeed."

Solidarity from abroad became crucial for the Spanish republican forces to survive. Canadian aid led to medical innovation, as Dr. Norman Bethune set up the world's first mobile blood transfusion service, with funding and supplies sent by the Collective Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation (the forerunner of the modern New Democratic Party). The International Brigades were soon to follow. They went disguised as simple tourists. But since Canadian passports were not valid for travel to Spain (the government, aware of the pro-republican sentiments brewing, had made all travel to Spain illegal), the volunteer soldiers had to sneak in across the closed French border. They received a hero's welcome, and later distinguished themselves in the battle for Madrid, holding it for the republicans until the very end of the war.

Red Moon

And this same pallid moon tonight
Which rides so quiet--clear and high--
The mirror of our pale and troubled gaze,
Raised to a cool, Canadian sky,
Above the shattered Spanish mountain tops
Last night rose low and wild and red,
Reflecting back from her illumined shield
The blood-bespattered faces of the dead.
To that pale moon I raise my angry fist,
And to those nameless dead my vows renew:
Comrades who fall in angry loneliness,
Who die for us--I will remember you.

--Dr. Norman Bethune

There would be many more falling "in angry loneliness" than there would be comrades to raise their fists to the moon in memory.

The volunteers were, in most cases, absolutely raw recruits, lacking all military training. Many had come from pacifist backgrounds; they had never held a gun in their lives. Their idealism was the one thing that pulled them through; they made up in political conviction what they lacked in soldiering experience. They learned quickly; their survival skills as out-of-work laborers provided the necessary physical and mental hardihood for them to become one of the best fighting forces on the republican side. Unlike the intellectuals of the local brigades, who were unused to roughing it, the Canadians needed little hardening. They already had it in them thanks to the struggles they had faced at home.

from The Censored Editor

Who can say
Our sons must die?
Who can say why?

Some say for bread
we gave these dead
Dust is their bread

--Kenneth Leslie, in New Frontier

From a dustbowl they came; in a dustbowl many died; to a dustbowl the few survivors would return.

Despite some brilliant guerrilla tactics (such as stealing rifles and ammunition from the fascists, a trick that would also be used to great success twenty years later by Fidel Castro's revolutionary guerrillas in Cuba), and a heroic last push that set Franco's forces back 25 miles, in the end the International Brigades were defeated. The survivors made their way home, where a suspicious Canadian government quarantined them on the trains from Montréal to Toronto. Yet everywhere the trains stopped, bands of admiring supporters turned up on the platforms, shouting encouragement to the returned soldiers, wishing them well, thanking them for their sacrifices.

from The Censored Editor

You ask me why
Our sons must die
This then, is why:

To stand up straight
In the narrow gate,
Once to stand straight.

Is that all, then,
Once to be men?
That is all, then!

--Kenneth Leslie

The returning Mac-Paps were easily recognizable, even in civvies. They were painfully thin and had that haunted look that so many recently demobilized soldiers get when the violence of yesterday is still fresh in their minds. Some were disabled and clearly had their fighting days behind them. Others practically stepped out of one war and straight into another as World War II broke out, enlisting in the Canadian armed forces in order to fight another band of fascists, one that had given Franco his victory in Spain--Hitler's Nazis.

But the irony of a ringing call to fight for democracy was lost on the Canadian government, which had forbidden the first real pro-democracy fighting forces from striking out for Spain when fascism drew first blood. The Mac-Paps were barely remembered, except among their own, until quite recently. Today they are recognized, though they are still much overshadowed by those who fought in the two world wars. Real honor has been too long coming.

Consider this post a little effort toward setting that record straight.

December 6, 2010

Random ruminations on a massacre

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Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are; Courage to make them the way they ought to be.

--St. Augustine

I have to say something painfully honest and rather heretical, right off the bat: I hate once-a-year memorial ceremonies. I hate them because they commemorate senseless slaughters that prey on people's minds at all times, and not just on the anniversary of the day they happened. I hate them, also, because they too often "try to make sense" of the senseless, and end up making nothing but nonsense instead. It seems to me that such ceremonies are less about remembering than they are about walling that tragedy off, and forgetting the very things we should not.

For me, the calendar date is not the real reminder of what happened in Montréal on December 6, 1989. The reminder is the smell of snow in the air; it is the strains of "The First Noël"; it is the color purple; it is the names of fourteen women; it is the sound of gunshots fired. It is the feel of university textbooks in my hand; it is the stiffness in my knees after hours crouched on the floor at the Queen's Women's Centre, rummaging through its tiny, inadequate library in search of answers I could not find; it is the warm waxy acrid smell of a burning candle; it is the brittle texture of an old newspaper clipping; it is the stifled rage that turns my hands cold and pale even in the warmest room.

So, with that in mind, here I am, writing (ironically, today, because I must) about the events of that day, which for me really was only yesterday, and which memory has made as immediate as if it had happened just now. Why do I need to show up at a rote ritual for something that only happened hours, minutes, seconds ago? To be dutiful? To be palliated? To be comforted? To go away feeling smug and detached and all there-that-oughta-fix-it?

Listen:

There is no once-a-year duty in the world that can palliate out of existence the painful realization that a woman who has crossed some arbitrary line, into a place formerly reserved for men, that she can be gunned down at random, just for being female and out of some imaginary line. Got that? There is nothing that can comfort me about the knowledge that even in Canada, in this supposedly enlightened day and age, there are still men who think that a woman who dares to step outside the house is "asking for it".

What is "it"? Harassment? Dirty name-calling? A wad of phlegmy spit aimed her way? A wad of some other male bodily fluid entirely?

Or is "it" a hail of bullets, and a running stream of her own arterial blood across the floor of a cafeteria or classroom in a university no longer reserved exclusively for men?

You see, this is what no decorous yearly ceremony can palliate away from my mind.

I have before me the image of a young woman slumped in a chair, dead, while in the background, a police officer takes down the tinsel holiday decorations in the Polytechnique cafeteria. I can hardly fault him for doing so; the occasion was not festive, and any ceremonial trappings could only seem a mockery. All the joy and festivity was over for those fourteen women, for their injured comrades, for their families and friends. It was no longer an "occasion". It was a full-blown tragedy. The scene of the crime had to be stripped bare, so that it could be seen clearly for what it was.

You can look anywhere on the Internet, but you won't see that image; it was taken by a Canadian Press photographer but then promptly withheld for fear that it would seem somehow "inappropriate". I happen to have seen that picture, if only because I happen to have studied another "unwomanly" thing, namely journalism; it was in one of my textbooks. But it was never published for general consumption. Watered-down, decorous, "appropriate" things made their way onto the front pages of newspapers instead: piles of plastic-wrapped bouquets in snow, close-ups of the black granite monument to the dead, and so on.

I think that very "inappropriate" photo should be made widely available. Not out of disrespect for the victim or her loved ones, but precisely because it is so honest, so unguarded and so moving. There is no way such a picture could desensitize us to senseless violence; it has the opposite effect for me and for everyone else who ever saw it. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry all over again, in the way I did back then, when I sat in a group of women at the first memorial, just days after the shooting. Tears ran involuntarily down my cheeks; there was a strip of purple sweatsuit fleece tied around my coatsleeve, a badge of feminist mourning. I was not there to pay decorous respects, but to place myself in some kind of defiant solidarity, however fumbling and inadequate. I was there to make my own sense out of the "senseless" tragedy, and not to accept the official platitudes. Hence the purple; hence my angry, anguished tears.

Solidarity is not about mouthing the proper "respectful" platitudes, patting things down, smoothing them over and then, like a well-brought-up little lady, forgetting and going back to your kitchen, lesson learned. No. Solidarity involves messy grieving, sudden remembrance and sudden tears, and all kinds of other inappropriate and hardcore unladylike behavior. It doesn't give a fuck for good manners. It threatens established orders and, if carried out long and thoroughly enough, smashes through such arbitrary barriers as once declared that a school--be it of engineering, journalism or whatever--is not a place for men only, and certainly not a place for incompetent men simply because they are men. Solidarity fights for rights; it disdains the decorous preservation of unearned privilege.

Solidarity is highly "inappropriate". It smashes pat assumptions and antiquated notions, and sweeps entire world orders aside. It is a flip of the bird in the face of the harasser, a woman confronting a subway flasher and not letting him slink quietly off, the rage that prompted suffragettes to multiply, not disperse, when one of their number was beaten to death by the hooves of a horse. It is also the tears of a woman studying journalism, disagreeing in a silent rage about what is "respectful", believing, however "inappropriately", that publishing and widely disseminating such a picture might well be the only way to finally shut up the stupid fuckers who keep kvetching about their precious "right" to own a gun. A "right" which, like driving a car, is really not a right, but only a privilege, to be rescinded when abused. Just like the male privilege of sexism, which was never a man's right, but only a privilege. Which women could rescind whenever they got angry and fed up enough to finally stop behaving themselves and make some fucking history, and demand the rights that male privilege arrogates only to itself, while at the same time, smugly and decorously denying them--arbitrarily and without reason--to women. And one of those rights, the most fundamental, is the right of a woman to live.

THAT, my dears, is solidarity. It isn't meek, mild, modest or nicey-nice. It placates no one. It calls out bullshit of all stenches. It may start with an individual crying or raging here or there, but it is not about individuals or mincy-poncy individual rights, because talk of individual rights soon becomes bullshit. Solidarity is universal, and it demands universal rights, universal justice, no stinking exceptions. It gets goddamn motherfucking angry at times, and it is when solidarity gets angry that shit finally gets done. Because solidarity, when angry, goes out looking for allies and, by Goddess, it FINDS them.

And angry solidarity has done much for women in Canada. It prompted Heidi Rathjen and Wendy Cukier to band together, seeking and finding popular support for gun control, which eventually became law. It has taken guns out of the hands of robbers, rapists and killers, and put useful tools in the hands of police chiefs determined to put a stop to the violence. It prompted a group of Québecois feminists, under the editorship of Louise Malette and Marie Chalouh, to compile their essays into a marvelous book (which still reads as fresh and relevant today as it did twenty years ago), cutting the decorous bullshit away from the Massacre even as early as one year after. Angry, out-of-line women have improved the world for their sisters, and yes, for their brothers, too. Do we thank them best by placating them with rituals that ring more hollow with every passing year? Or do we do it by getting angry, seeking solidarity, and carrying the work forward with timely, "inappropriate" reminders of what it's really all about?

If I had a scanner, I would publish that "inappropriate" picture of the dead woman in the Polytechnique cafeteria--right here, right now. She died having taken for granted--too soon--the equal rights my feminist foremothers honestly thought they had won for her. She is innocent, and showing her as she was at that moment could never disgrace her or do her harm; it would be, on the contrary, a truer way to honor her memory. As a feminist I ought to be able to freely hold up her picture and say, Here is proof that we are not truly equal yet. This woman died at the hands of a misogynist. Did she die in vain? Dare we deny her?

Denial of hard realities is the ultimate disgrace; to bury a painful memory is to piss on it and learn nothing from it. Bearing that in mind, let us now remember this:

If real equality existed, it would never have entered into the mind of Marc Lépine to gun her down; he would have seen her as someone with an equal right to the same education he wanted for himself, stopped blaming others, buckled down to the tasks at hand, and welcomed her as a colleague and comrade, not a "feminist" enemy. And perhaps neither she nor her classmates would have been as quick to defensively distance themselves from the women's movement as some of them were at the time. They would not have seen it as some kind of nasty shit-disturbing inappropriate thing, but as a right and just movement that had done much for them and that deserved due recognition and gratitude. And that gratitude would not be decorous; it might be as simple as saying proudly, even in the face of certain death: Yes, I am a feminist. And fuck you if you don't like it!

Is that an inappropriate thing to say, 21 years later, when all the hurting is supposed to be scarred over and decorously "remembered" but, in the final analysis, buried and forgotten?

Maybe. But you know what? I don't care about any of that.

You can run us down with horses, or gun us down with Rugers--we are still here. You can mouth platitudes while slyly trying to take away what we have won, but we won't let you. We are onto you. We reject your "respect" and your "appropriate" tokenism. We are still grieving, still raging and still fighting, because deep down in our blood, we know we are not equal yet.

And we are not going the hell away.

Well-behaved women seldom make history. --Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

December 1, 2010

Canada disgraced in Latin America by yet another mining company

Late Night Sunrise from Michael Watts on Vimeo.

Its name is Pacific Rim, it is an environmental abuser, and it is menacing the people of El Salvador. What must Canada's Salvadoran immigrants, many of whom are refugees here from their country's dirty civil war, be thinking of this? Probably the same thing I'm thinking: that Pacific Rim is a dirty bully, a corruptor and a national disgrace, in at least two nations. I'm happy to see how the Salvadorans are fighting back and refusing to be intimidated. We could learn a lot from them up here in the Great Oblivious North.

November 29, 2010

Canada loves George Galloway!

Jason Kenney, of course, is still a no-show. But then, Jason Kenney isn't Canada.

And say, how did that disruption campaign to dress up pro-Israel shills as dirty fuckin' hippies turn out? Haven't heard a thing. Can I take it, then, that it was an Epic Fail? Bwahahahah.

November 24, 2010

Why is Jason Kenney afraid of this man?

George Galloway was in Calgary yesterday. He wanted to have a few polite words with Jason Kenney, who was responsible for debarring him from the country awhile back, on ridiculously specious grounds. As you can see, he's very polite, and he says nothing disagreeable here...unless, of course, you find the truth objectionable. As Jason Kenney undoubtedly does, or he would have let George Galloway in the first time. Galloway is far less obnoxious than the Coultergeist, who lies as easily as she breathes. And Jason Kenney had no problem with her, even though she is an open supporter of terrorism and likes to throw verbal bombs all the time.

So...why IS Jason Kenney afraid of George Galloway? Whom does peace threaten?

November 16, 2010

Gorgeous George is ba-ack!

And he looks to be in fine fighting form, too:

george-in-canada.jpg

Got his gloves on and everything. He's gonna need them...the far right is planning to send in the clowns:

But as Canadians flock to hear a British politician who was kicked out of the Labour Party in 2003, and voted out of office last May, some home truths are emerging about Canadian Middle Eastern politics, a bizarro world in which Zionists pose as Palestinians to shout down a bearded Scot.

An email circulating among Zionist and pro-Israel opponents of Mr. Galloway offers a novel and surprising glimpse into audience strategy in the YouTube era, in which the audience doubles as the media. It suggests Mr. Galloway can expect novel forms of resistance, to say nothing of aggressive questions, from a shadow army of pony-tailed Zionists disguised by keffiyehs and "hand-woven Guatemalan man-purses."

Um, yeah. I bet he's really shaking in his boots at that prospect.

Meanwhile, I can hardly wait for these goofballs to post the videos of their own epic fails to the Internets. I probably don't need to say this, but I will anyway: Give 'em hell for me, George!

UPDATE: So, how intimidating was it, George?

galloway-tweet.jpg

Not very, by the looks of things.

November 11, 2010

A Remembrance Day roundup

peace-poppy2.jpg

I've already pretty much given my own take as to what this day means to me, so I'm gonna shut up about me and just point you to some others' thoughts instead...

TorontoEmerg has a nurse's take on another nurse's letter home at war's end in 1918. November 11 of that year gave us the date not only of the war's end, but of a day for the remembrance of war's costs. This letter is particularly sobering as its author has no time to rejoice about peace; she is already nursing the casualties of the "Spanish" influenza epidemic that followed on the heels of the war. A reminder that wars bring famine and pestilence in their wake. And that's as good a reason as any to work for peace. Be sure to read the last paragraph and take it to heart.

Uruknet, meanwhile, has a stark reminder that war is NOT over, and some don't want it to be. Of course, they're not the ones being killed. The extremely asymmetric casualty counts in the Israeli assault on Gaza should give us all a lot of pause. It's easy for the Israeli soldiers in the video to laugh; they're not the ones facing the terror of daily bombing. They're the ones doing it. And they seem to think it's some fantastically large fucking video game.

A Creative Revolution points out something else interesting: those who want wars most, aren't the ones fighting them. And their motives have fuck-all to do with freedom. (I'll just squeak up to add that we thank those who fought for our freedoms the best not by mouthing platitudes once a year, but by exercising those freedoms, daily, and putting the boots to apathy. In this way, we ALL become veteran freedom-fighters.)

Your Heart's on the Left has some forgotten history that deserves to be remembered: the connection between those who refused to fight imperialist wars, and the democratic revolutions of the immediate post-WWI era. There was a League Against War and Fascism operating during the 1930s, which made an active connection between the causes of freedom and democracy.

Also worth noting: the mealy-mouthed lip service of so-called antifascism during World War II. Those same mushmouths could have saved themselves a much bigger war if they'd supported the democratic, leftist-anarchist-Republican side in Spain, back when it counted. Had they done so, they could have thwarted Hitler and Mussolini before they started gobbling up turf. Instead, they actively criminalized the effort to aid the Spanish democrats, and let the fascists aid Franco unopposed. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and its Canadian sibling, the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, had to do their recruiting underground. A shameful, much-glossed-over chapter of our North American history.

Kirbycairo has a short, to-the-point bit on why we should all read Frantz Fanon, the great psychiatrist who diagnosed the pathology of the neocolonial mind. The last war fought on Canadian soil was that of 1812; every war we've been in since then has been either imperial or neocolonial. It's time to stop that insanity!

Ms. Magazine has a short but comprehensive piece on the other casualties of war: the homefolks, particularly wives and children of soldiers. Is it any wonder women are at the forefront of the struggle for peace? They have the most to lose, on every front.

And finally, the Wikipedia entry for the white peace poppy offers up some interesting nuggets: "The Royal British Legion has no official opinion on the wearing of white poppies, stating that it 'is a matter of choice, the Legion doesn't have a problem whether you wear a red one or a white one, both or none at all'." Quite the contrast to the Royal Canadian Legion's harsh anti-peace-poppy stance. But the last line alone is the best: "In 1986 British prime minister Margaret Thatcher expressed her 'deep distaste' for the symbol." Considering that the Milk Snatcher preferred war over negotiations when it came to the Malvinas, that's no surprise. Talking sensibly would have done nothing for her "Iron Lady" image. She just had to out-macho (and out-fascist) those hateful generals of the Argentine Junta, by gawd, and she did. More meaningless death ensued. And since to be damned by the devil is to be truly blessed, I think that's all the more reason for me to crave a white peace poppy to wear on this date next year.

November 9, 2010

This is what cowardice looks like

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Hey, Mike: I see what you did there. Perhaps you'd like the Indiana Attorney General's office to see it, too? That could certainly be arranged. What you did qualifies as cyberstalking under US law, just so you know:

The United States Communications Decency Act was a piece of legislation that imposed heavy punishments upon anyone who:

(i) in interstate or foreign communications -

(A) by means of telecommunications device knowingly -

(ii) initiates the transmission of, any comment request, suggestion, proposal, or other telecommunications which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person.

(E) make repeated telephone calls or repeatedly initiates communication with a telecommunication device, during which conversation or communication ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number or who receives the communication.

Emphasis added.

I see at least four points in there that apply to your pissy little tweet: Annoy, abuse, threaten or harass. That IS what you were trying to do, and don't you deny it.

Well, annoyed and harassed I may well be. I'm always disgusted when some titty-baby coward who doesn't even have the guts to debate me like a man goes around calling me a bitch behind my back. But threatened? By someone who can't even properly post the URL to my blog? Ha, ha, FAIL. My personal info is not publicly available, and even if it were, I doubt you'd have the skills to ferret it out.

And who are you planning to distribute it to? Your eight measly followers? Double-ha-ha-FAIL. I can pick up as many on any given day, and real ones, too. DECENT ones. In other words: Not like you. Maybe that's what's got your undescended testicles in a knot? Here's a sure-fire popularity-increasing tip: Try not being such a fucking asshole. You want women to like you? Don't go around calling them bitches. Man up and talk to them, to their faces, CIVILLY, even if you don't agree with what they're saying. If you can do that, there might be hope for you. But threatening to distribute their personal info, which you can't get, to stalkers? Just because you have a small penis? Dude, that's just childish. And pathetic. And oh yeah, ILLEGAL.

Go ahead, Mike, make my day. I dare ya. Got the cojones to comment now, or are you still gonna go the whiny passive-agressive, Angry Inch route?

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November 4, 2010

Rednecks: We haz them.

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Is this a scene from the US South, fifty years ago? Nope. Try Southern Ontario, less than a week ago:

Two men, one dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe, hood and Confederate flag, and the other, face painted black and being led around by his captor by a noose tied around his neck, attended a Halloween party hosted at the Legion, and won the night's best costume prize.

The Campbellford Legion has temporarily closed their doors and will remain closed until further notice. According to Mayor Hector Macmillan, who spoke with the Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Provincial Command President Ed Pigeau, a Legion board of members is being dispatched to Campbellford to deal with the matter.

"They (provincial command) are sending a board of members to assess the situation," said Mr. Macmillan.

When Mark Andrade, a black man of Jamaican decent and owner of Rubbs Barbecue Bistro in Campbellford, stopped by the Legion that night for a beer with some friends he couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"I was immediately disgusted and pissed off that this was being encouraged, especially by the Legion," said Mr. Andrade. "The Legion is a place of respect, I mean you can't even wear a hat in there and here they are endorsing this kind of behaviour. Everyone else watched and didn't say a word. It was very revolting."

Mr. Andrade did not say anything to the two men, nor confront them - he just left. He added he had no idea who the two men were.

Poor taste and judgment: They have it. And as yet, we have no idea who "they" are. Can't wait to see if anyone comes forward to own up for this blunder. Not holding my breath, though.

BTW, if you want to be have fun with a KKK costume for Halloween, I suggest the following:

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Now THAT should win a prize, because everybody knows that the queerz have impeccable taste and a healthy sense of irony.

November 2, 2010

Peace or poppies? The ethical dilemma that shouldn't be

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"Soldiers and sailors and airmen, too
Fought for us across the sea;
Brave and unselfish, strong and true,
Keeping Canada free!
I'll wear a poppy on Remembrance Day
To show I'm proud of what they did for me..."

We sang that song in sixth grade, before I had any real idea how ironic it was. You see, both branches of my family were on the "wrong" side of the two World Wars, being Germans (the one in northern Germany, the other in the Serbian part of Yugoslavia). My family was NOT Canadian at the time, and freedom? Under Hitler? Pah. At best, non-Jewish Germans only thought they were free, or that they were fighting for their freedom (or whatever other bogus "noble" cause was in vogue). If there was one thing most Germans knew full well, it was that the war was NOT about anybody's freedom. It was a farce, a dirty joke, for anyone to claim that it had to do with that. I didn't know that at the time; I just sang along in the school assembly, blithe and unquestioning, when directed to do so.

And of course, I knew nothing about how the town of Kitchener, Ontario--home to one of Canada's largest ethnic-German populations--used to be called Berlin. Or about how Japanese Canadians were interned, for no reason other than being Japanese...and Canadian. If I had known those things, the whole "freedom" meme would have been easier for me to question. But of course they don't teach you things like that in Grade 6!

Seven years later, and several decades wiser, I went on to win second place in the provincial division of the Royal Canadian Legion essay contest, this time acknowledging my ironies, lamenting the futility of war, and adding that the purpose of war memorials should not be to glorify war, but to remind us not to make more of them. I'm still proud of that essay, which was what helped me to sort my mind out about war, and come down on the side of peace. My basic conclusion still stands.

And that was how I made my peace with the poppy.

Now I'm of two minds about wearing it again. This letter to the editors makes a cogent case for not wearing it:

World War I, of course, is not the only war in which Canadians fought and died, but the "they died to make us free" model seems equally inappropriate to Canadian participation in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the (so-called) Gulf War. World War II is a different matter - Hitler and Nazism were obvious evils which had to be eradicated. Even granting this, there are moral ambiguities associated with that war which we still have difficulty acknowledging.

In 1992, for instance, Brian and Terence McKenna made a documentary (The Valour and the Horror) which looked carefully at the bombing of German cities by Canadian aircrews. Although careful to praise the personal valour of individual airmen, the McKenna brothers pointed out that these bombs rarely hit military targets but did kill thousands of civilians.

Furthermore, they noted, the Allied command knew perfectly well that these bombs were missing military targets and killing civilians but continued the raids nevertheless, as a way of demoralizing hostile populations. Finally, the documentary suggested these mass killings contributed little if anything to winning the war. There was nothing new in any of this. Academic historians had been saying similar things for years - but nobody listens to academics. A documentary on the CBC was another matter.

The response to the McKenna brothers was electric. Although many veterans were glad someone had finally had the courage to challenge the official version of history, other veterans and many veterans groups throughout Canada uttered squeals of rage. They used their influence to spark a Senate investigation and the CBC was pressured (with some success) to define the documentary a "docudrama." In other words, it was fiction not history - in contrast of course to the sanitized version of history promoted by veterans organizations. It was a disgraceful episode in recent Canadian history.

If we want the future to be a better place, we must confront the horrors of the past, even if that includes horrors for which Canada (or the United States or Great Britain or any of the other official good guys) were responsible - and that means challenging all sanitized versions of history, even those that come masked beneath the emotionally charged image of a blood-red poppy.

Meanwhile, a British campaign resurrects an old idea, one that might just finally gain some traction in the age of the Internets, when buried history gets dug up again and dusted off:

The idea of decoupling Armistice Day , the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.

A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies instead of 'Haig Fund' and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.

The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the 'Haig Fund' imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women's Guild who in 1933 produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union joined the CWG in the distribution of the poppies and later took over their annual promotion

And here's an irony: The same Royal Canadian Legion who saw merit in my ambivalent essay, and who also claim with a straight face that the poppy represents those who died for our freedom...have tried to ban the free-speech gesture that is the white poppy!

Remind me of what all that warring and dying was for, again?

I would love to wear a white poppy. I think it's the perfect gesture: Honor the dead, by speaking for life and peace. But I live in a fairly conservative town, where the white poppy campaign has yet to reach. I can't see our Royal Canadian Legion branch selling them anytime soon; their official position is apparently still stuck somewhere around the same level as that sixth-grade jingle.

And I'm not the kind of person who stands on street corners selling things, braving ignorant people's abuses alone.

So here I am again, stuck on the horns of the same old dilemma: Peace or poppies?

How about peace AND poppies?

Sigh.

Guess I'll throw some coins in the box and fish out the old red poppy yet again...and pin a peace button right next to it, just so people know why I'm really wearing that thing. And if anyone wants to argue that it's an insult, I'll point to both and remind them that we peaceniks fight this fight so their loved ones don't have to go die for someone else's arrogance all over again.

October 26, 2010

Shrieeeeeeeeeeeek!

OMG, I won something...

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I'm not kidding. Looky here:

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Ye Gods, I beat out Antonia Z? Really??? Shrieeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

Ahem. Must compose self. Must compose entry. So, here goes:

I really wasn't expecting this. No, seriously. This obscure blog? Up against some much more established ones? Etcetera, etcetera?

Oh shit, I'm uptalking. Also shrieking like a little girl. Aaaaaack.

I'm sorry, I can't continue. So I'll just call up a little old feminist icon and have her say what I've always wanted to.

And thank you, SO much, to all those who voted for me. I couldn't--no, wouldn't--have done it without you!

Short 'n' Stubby: Suddenly, Toronto SUCKS!

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Well. How'd everyone like last night's municipal elections? Ms. Manx was watching the tweeter in spite of vowing not to, and the results had her doing a facepaw. Toronto has elected a boorish, drunken, wife-beating, racist, homophobic dickweed for a mayor. Or rather, the suck-ass SUBURBS of Toronto did. (Item: Both Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams hail from Scarborough. Sheer coincidence?)

Anyhow, here's what the Stumpy Cat found on the tweeter about the whole disaster:

The Torontoist compares Ford adversely to Mel Lastman. One thing Ms. Manx has heard over and over is that Mel actually LIKED Toronto when he ran it. The Stumpie agrees, saying she met the man when she got his pic for the Ryersonian, and yes, she got that impression too. (She also thinks the photo at the linky is full of win. Yes, that's exactly what the city is gonna look like for cyclists. Ford HATES them.)

The Toronto Star makes an object lesson out of the defeat of former council member Sandra Bussin. Moral of story: Taking huge campaign cash from someone to whom you later grant a no-bid contract does not pay. The voters remember. The big problem with the article, though, is that it's being played as a problem of incumbency, of getting too big (and established) for one's britches. Term limits, however, won't solve the real problem, which is corruption. And corruption knows no term limits, only dollar values.

Politics Respun analyzes the election outcome, particularly the baffling bit about Ford, relating it to what George Monbiot writes about people voting against their better interests. In short, it appears that the problem is "values" voting--that is, voting for the candidate that appears to conform to what you believe in (be it Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy), rather than rationally sitting down and doing your homework on the fucker and finding out what he really stands for. Ms. Manx nods sagely and says that sounds about right. If it's not voter apathy at work, it's voter ignorance. Both are Bhad News for democracy.

Back to the Star again. What the hell is this mindless boosterism? Ugh! That's not analysis, that's an after-the-fact Ford campaign ad. And it's ugly shit, too...Ms. Manx has seen the graffiti that lives in Toronto's alleys. Some of it is gorgeous; some imparts unexpected wisdom. She even did a photo essay on it to try to get people to look at it with fresh eyes. All of it adds character and interest to the bland face of a big city. Anyone who'd want to get rid of that will NEVER get her endorsement. And if you believe that "more subways" crap from a mayor who ran on a tax-cutting platform, our stumpy-tailed friend says she has a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that she's just dying to unload, cheap. And she also says PAWS OFF THE WILDCAT STRIKERS!!!

Politics and Profit lists 4 things that Rob Ford should do as mayor, but undoubtedly won't. Most worrisome item? #1, with a bullet.

Rev. Paperboy takes Rob Ford to the Woodshed, and delivers a satisfying smackdown.

And Christie Blatchford is just really, REALLY fucking vile. That is all.

Toronto, you USED to rock. Ms. Manx, however, says she prefers to wait four more years before she comes back for any length of time. Your streets have only gotten meaner in the interim, and the only thing that consoles her about it all is that this mayor's honeymoon will be shorter than Mel Lastman's stature. In fact, she bets it's already over!

October 24, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Russell Williams roundup

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It was a foregone conclusion that Russell Williams, recently convicted of dozens of break/enters, thefts, plus two sexual assaults and two murders, should be stripped of his military rank. Ms. Manx approves, and wishes his military pension would also be taken away; it's not as if he's gonna have much use for it anyway, seeing as he's serving two concurrent life sentences in Kingston Pen, with no chance of parole for a very long time. Maybe that, too, will come about in due course. Meanwhile, here are some other things the Stumpy Cat approves, in terms of journalism and blogging on the Williams case:

Our friend Elizabeth Pickett has an excellent piece up at Rabble, castigating the sensational coverage of his crimes as a "fetish" gone berserk. And she makes an excellent point:

One thing is clear: the effect of handling the case this way has been to feed into every stereotype about serial rapist murderers and to place Russell Williams as far away as possible from any description of humanness. That way we can file him tidily away in the mental vault we keep for depraved monsters.

Is that to ensure that few of us will be prompted to wonder just how and where he fits on our socially sanctioned continuum of male violence against women? Is that so we don't learn something that would implicate our military institutions, our systems of law enforcement, our courts of law, our legislators, and all of us in a wilful and systematic blindness to the inequities and inequalities that oppress womenfolk every hour of every day of every year in which we live?

Similarly, Your Heart's On the Left takes on the military's culture of machismo. Surely it has nothing to do with this at all? Don't be so sure. Remember, Williams isn't a fetishist, and certainly not a cross-dresser. A psychopath who, in his fantasies, controls others, will naturally gravitate to a job in which he can do just that, unchallenged--and the upper echelons of the air force will cheerfully turn a blind eye to him, as they did here. He fit right in, and had he not been caught, he'd still be using his position of authority to advantage--and killing more women.

Also not to be missed, within the same piece: A mention of "trophy" pictures of a teenager brutally murdered by the now-infamous (and disbanded) Airborne regiment in Somalia. Remember Shidane Arone? Canadians of a certain age can't forget him. Seems that Williams's particular brand of psychopathy (he also photographed the women he raped and murdered, as well as himself in various articles of stolen underwear) was endorsed and sanctioned by the military's culture of machismo and the glorification of violence. Of course, back then, THAT was swept aside as an "isolated" and "aberrant" incident, too. I guess it could look that way, if you forget that rape, torture and humiliation are old and brutal weapons of war. (Just ask the women of the Balkans what they fear most, being killed or being raped by their enemy. Rape was actually included in the "ethnic cleansing" programs that the region is so infamous for.)

The Regina Mom also seizes on the military-machismo aspect. Does it take us women to notice this sort of thing? Apparently, yes. Considering how much it affects us (and women within the military, like Williams's first murder victim, Cpl. Marie-France Comeau), it stands to reason, does it not?

But happily, women aren't the only ones who get it. A few good men also do, like the Chronicle-Herald's Laurent Le Perriès, who notes the connections that cannot be tidily explained away with words like "fetish". He recognizes that our entire culture is pervaded by the idea of rape as a mainstream, virtually "normal" thing, which it ought not to be. Rape is being seen--still--as just an outcrop of sex, when in fact it is the most horrific, lasting and damaging kind of violence there is. The result is a distressing trivialization of the suffering of rape survivors--most of them female. And also slut-shaming and victim-blaming, which add insult to injury, isolating the victim/survivor from the mainstream of society.

And finally, as Antonia Zerbisias notes, as long as all these things are viewed out of their proper focus, we can expect to see a lot more slipshod policing of any crimes of violence against women. All the more reason, then, for us to hold our media and our institutions accountable for their part in cases like this.

October 21, 2010

Vote for Pedro!

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Ahem. A vote for Pedro is a vote for me:

Or just bookmark this page, and go there daily and click on you-know-who.

And remember: Vote for Pedro, and your wildest dreams will come true.

October 20, 2010

I've been nominated!

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Yes, that's right, kids...your humble auntie is a nominee in the Feminist category of the Canadian Blog Awards.

I doubt very much that I'll win; there are others more deserving (popular, exclusively feminist, etc.)--but it's nice to have the mention just the same. This eclectic little corner of cyberspace appreciates a good nod, and will certainly try to live up to the recognition it confers.

Congratulations to my fellow nominees, too, many of whom fought for this category to be included and taken seriously. That's what it's all about, this feminism thing--the radical notion that we women are something more than just a ladies' auxiliary.

Media don't get the message. Memo #2, comin' on down...

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Oh, for fuck's sake. When the media latch on to a bad concept, they REALLY latch on and don't let go. Two days ago I blogged about how the Russell Williams case had been mischaracterized as a "fetish" crime. Did anyone get the memo?

The Star's Heather Mallick sure didn't. She went all melodramatic, and then right back to the ol' hinky-kinky:

Up to that point, Williams had been a pathetic panty thief and haunter of little girls. Panties don't talk back. They're mere containers for the living female that inhabits them. Williams later told police that underwear had been his fetish since his 20s, which shows the extraordinary power of a minor brain pattern. He was hopeless with girls. The evidence of his rapes shows that he didn't know how to talk to a victim, and there was even a strange, awkward politeness.

Oh sure. Just another socially awkward panty raider, who raped because he needed to get laid but didn't know how to talk to girls. Weirdo, weirdo. Case dismissed.

That seems to be a pattern at the Star, because another article, one purporting to get inside his criminal profile, also misses the mark:

Col. David Russell Williams -- who this past week indicated through his lawyer that he intends to plead guilty on Oct. 18 to two murders, two sex assaults and a string of fetish break-ins -- is a serial killer like none they have ever seen.

"This guy is quite unusual," says psychologist Vernon Quinsey, who spent 16 years assessing criminals at the Oak Ridge maximum security psychiatric hospital in Penetanguishene.

"We're learning from this case," adds an informed source, who requested anonymity.

"We haven't seen guys like this in the past and we don't expect to see a lot of them in the future."

Williams had a successful career and a long, apparently loving marriage, and didn't embark on a life of crime until he began a series of fetish home burglaries in September 2007, at the age of 44.

"It's very unusual for a guy who's got his act together like that ... to all of a sudden start committing crimes at a late age," says Quinsey, professor emeritus of psychology, biology and psychiatry at Queen's University.

"The guys you typically see start earlier," he adds.

"Almost nobody starts a life of crime when they're in their 40s."

Equally unusual was his escalation from panty fetish to sex assault to murder. Most serial killers assault and kill in tandem, right from the start.

Actually, that's not true either. Serial killers do in fact escalate their actions over a period of years or even decades, refining their technique and growing more violent as they gain confidence in their crime skills.

This guy most certainly didn't "start a life of crime in his 40s". Like all serial killers, his criminal behavioral pattern goes back a lot further than his indictable offences do. And it progresses from slightly odd but seemingly harmless acts to things much more sinister. If the media and the criminologists looked closer, I guarantee you that they would see a Russell Williams who most certainly did NOT have his act together. A CBC Fifth Estate report, which is the best thing I've seen on the Williams case so far, hints that his ability to break and enter may have been established as early as his late teens, when he began attending the University of Toronto. There, he got into the habit of playing an eerie "practical joke" on his dorm-mates: He would break into their locked rooms, hide in their closets for hours, and then when the unsuspecting dormie was doing his homework (or whatever), Williams would emerge from the closet and frighten him. A useful skill, no doubt, when you're a stalker of single, unsuspecting women--or underage girls. (It reminded me, as well, of Vincent Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter, in which Charles Manson directed his "Family" to "creepy-crawl" the houses of people he wanted them to burgle and kill.)

Alas, they don't say much about the bad breakup Williams went through either, around age 20. It would be interesting if anyone could locate that former girlfriend and find out why she dumped him; I'll bet he was a very troubling boyfriend, abusive and controlling, and she left because she couldn't take his so-called "fetishes" anymore. She might well not be the only previous girlfriend he terrified and alienated! I hope those women, wherever they are, come forward and shed a bit more light on him. They might well be doing the public a service.

If the domestic media got this wrong, the foreign media couldn't be trusted to deliver a less sensationalized version. And sure enough, in the UK, the Telegraph went the Star one further and called Williams a "cross-dresser". That is also dead wrong, of course. Remember what I said about the difference between fetishism and predatory behavior? This guy didn't just want to wear female clothing, he wanted to control the rightful owners of these personal items, to terrify and terrorize them. A cross-dresser usually likes and admires women; a predator hates them and wants to feed off their fear of him. But the Torygraph couldn't be bothered with that. Much more sensational and saleable to show pictures of Williams posing, unsmiling and hirsute, in a girl's pink flowered tankini swimsuit!

I'm not the only blogger taking issue with this stupid habit of the media of chasing after the bright shiny objects (or the flowered pink ones with the string-bikini bottoms). If the media want to score a real scoop, they have to learn where to train their lenses, and it's not on the thing that looks the most shocking. They need to learn to focus on the things--many things--that are easy to overlook at first, but point to larger patterns.

Not everyone at the Star is getting the story wrong. Antonia Zerbisias has been shining a light of feminist inquiry on the little details her colleagues missed. She notes that it was a female police chief whose cops didn't sleep on the strange evidence that was piling up. She rightly asks the question: Does it take a woman to know that the seemingly trivial--the theft of a woman's underwear--is no joke?

I think it does. A woman feels violated when her most intimate clothing is stolen. She feels more naked than she would when simply surprised by a friend while getting out of a shower. Someone strange and uninvited has wormed his way right up close to her, and she can't even see him. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? Can you, if you're not female? Can you, if you're a policeman who would rather bust a car thief or a stereo stealer? Stolen underwear looks pretty penny-ante to a male. It looks like...well, like a joke.

Like the "joke" Russell Williams played in his college days at U of T, breaking into other students' rooms and hiding in their closets for hours, waiting until his unsuspecting victim was well occupied before scaring the bejeebers out of him.

Or like the "joke" that the media would prefer to make out of all this, forgetting the deadly--and terrifying--implications their little tricks have for women and girls.

October 18, 2010

Memo to the media: Lose your sexual fetish and report the REAL story!

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For those living in Southern Ontario, these are interesting times, in the Chinese-curse sense of the word. An air-force colonel from CFB Trenton is currently standing trial for a stunning series of offences ranging from stalking and break/enter to rape and murder. Any of these crimes is a shocking thing for a prosperous man in uniform to commit, but the media have fixated inordinately on the sexualized nature of his ugliest offences.

Take, for example, the Toronto Star's Heather Mallick. Normally she gets it right, but today, she fell into a predictable media-dumbass trap: the inability to distinguish between two things that must not be confused. See if you can spot what things I'm talking about:

No, I don't know why he did what he did, and I have the awful feeling that we'll never know. It just may be that the result of his guilty plea is that we won't discover what seed was planted that gave root to this level of perversion and cruelty. The court won't dig deeply enough.

It's not sufficient to say that he liked doing what he did, the best and most customary explanation for psychopathology and fountain-like cruelty.

What this day revealed is the awful specificity of the human sexual impulse.

Did you spot it?

I'll give you a hint, in case you didn't. It lies in the last three words. What Col. Russell Williams did was not due to the "human sexual impulse", although it may look as though he did.

It's hard to blame Heather Mallick for making that blunder; she was surely not the only one. Peter Mansbridge, on CBC, fell into the same trap when interviewing a criminal profiler about the case. So, I'm sure, did many other reporters, covering this story from the whole gamut of slants and angles.

Williams's crimes had a sexual overtone that was impossible to miss. He stalked single women and girls. He broke into their homes. He rifled through their clothing, particularly their underwear. He photographed himself wearing said clothing, particularly the victims' underwear. He masturbated on their beds. He stole hundreds of pieces of underwear and other intimate objects, and kept extensive photographic files on his computer as trophies of his violations. And when that didn't suffice him, he graduated to sexual assault, and then to killing.

As far as the major media are concerned, it appears that Russell Williams is a sexual fetishist gone off the deep end. He isn't.

He is a predator.

There are several crucial differences between the two. These are the differences:

For a fetishist, an object (or specific body part) stands in for a human being in a sexual context. For a predator, a human being becomes an object; the objectification is sexualized.

A fetishist usually doesn't steal fetish objects; s/he prefers to buy them or barter for them. Fetishists prefer to obtain the consent of the person from whom they get their things.

A predator invariably steals. Consensual activity does not interest him. Stealing, for the predator, is a form of control; it renders victims uncertain, ashamed and afraid. The predator is aroused by the notion that he has control over a victim's emotions. He appropriates what is not rightfully his, often making it his by wearing it, posing for photos in it, or mutilating it. Often, the more intimate the object--underwear, for instance--the more desirable it is as a means to scare his victims. This is why a predator's thefts should not be laughed off as a kind of solitary panty raid, but taken seriously an indicator of more devious criminality below the surface.

Fetishists don't always act alone; they may share with a fellow fetishist, or a club of like-minded individuals, if so inclined. Usually their activities are consensual. They rarely feel the need to impose themselves forcibly on someone else. In fact, they usually derive comfort from knowing they are freely accepted.

Predators usually act alone. If they take an accomplice, it is never an equal partner but a subordinate; see Paul Bernardo and his battered wife/accomplice, Karla Homolka. Some accomplices are taken under extreme duress, in keeping with the predator's controlling nature, or are gradually persuaded through some form of brainwashing. But in any case, they are weaker than the predator, and thus easily manipulated. Predators impose themselves on their accomplices, who in a sense are also victims.

A fetishist isn't generally interested in controlling a person; s/he is content to play with an object or collection of objects, and obtains sexual gratification that way. This activity usually doesn't escalate.

A predator collects human victims as trophies, rendering them into objects to be controlled. When he grows tired of taking easy, inanimate trophies--stolen jewelry, underwear or other personal effects--he begins to entertain the notion of taking humans themselves as his trophies. He escalates his violations over time, in both frequency and intensity, as an addict will increase his dose of drugs when he becomes habituated.

Fetishists are rarely violent. Many are quite odd, but this is beside the point; their oddity generally harms no one. They tend to respect the dignity of others.

Predators are increasingly violent. Often they do not stand out as odd on first glance; their cultivated façade of normality IS the point. It enables them to escalate their crimes until they die or are caught, whichever comes first.

So, we can see that a fetishist ≠ a predator. If anything, they are diametrically opposed.

This is why I get so angry when I see the media falling into the trap of fixating on Williams's alleged sexual fetishes, instead of understanding that he is a predator, one who sexualizes power-over. The media's job is to clear up our confusion, and instead, they are adding to it. And in so doing, they hang women and children--the persons most likely to become a predator's victims--out to dry.

Is it the mention of sex that flips the switch? I think it must be.

We live in a society full of strange sexual double standards. It's okay to use sex to sell everything under the sun, but "obscene" for a new mother to breastfeed in public. It's okay to show people being blown up in a bloody mess on TV, but not a happy couple making love. Porn sex? That's another matter altogether. It's commercial, it often looks sterile, mechanistic and unreal, therefore it passes muster with the censors. It seems that anything which objectifies people is all right, while anything that humanizes them or shows them in their natural form is suspect, to be viewed askance.

The predator has infiltrated the media, infusing it with the sex-object mindset. Often, the media itself is the predator; think of all the times the various outlets have been liked to hunting wolves or circling vultures. Is it any wonder, then, that crime stories lead the nightly newscast? They are the pornography of those who would never watch a blue movie or an amateur sex tape. Blood and guts are sexy. If it bleeds, it leads.

The only problem is, that blood has to come from somewhere. Or rather, someONE.

And in the case of Russell Williams, it came from living, breathing, beloved women. Somebody's daughters. Somebody's sisters.

Williams stalked females whom he saw as unguarded and alone. It was the typical cowardice of the predator: pick off the one who is further away from the herd than the rest. To designate them the weakest, fit only to be culled. In his mind, as in the minds of all predators, they were isolated and therefore fair game.

They were not. They belonged to others. Families who suffered when these daughters, these sisters, were brutalized and killed.

Of course, to point out the psychopathy of one who would do such a thing is less sexy than dwelling in minute detail on "the awful specificity of the human sexual impulse", as Heather Mallick calls it. To look away from the queasy spectacle of a man posing and prancing and masturbating in women's underwear and try to open a window into his head, where the victim is coldly and clinically isolated from her near and dear, is much less likely to sell papers or glue eyeballs to the commercial-flashing screen. But it is necessary. It is the media's duty to get behind all this, to talk to psychologists and psychiatrists, criminalists and profilers, who know the difference between a fetishist and a predator, and to convey this difference to their readers, listeners and viewers.

Knowledge is power, but the media only seem to give it while in effect they are taking it away. And in the process, women and girls are being disproportionately made to suffer, and are also disproportionately made invisible, their truth concealed even as sexualized object-females dance merrily across screen and page, everywhere, all the time.

And we, the consumers, do we go on consuming this falsehood blindly? If we do, we are complicit. We enable our own abusers, our objectifiers, by letting this slip by and not speaking out. We are infiltrated. We become inured to the predatory mindset; we may even fall victim to a form of it ourselves.

If we let that happen, we become accomplices. Shake hands with our predator, people--the predator is us.

October 17, 2010

Pierre Laporte remembered

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Pierre Laporte in April 1970, a few months before his kidnapping and assassination by members of the Québec Liberation Front (FLQ). He was one of two men kidnapped by the FLQ during the October Crisis; the other, James Cross, who was kidnapped before Laporte, was later released. Pierre Laporte was the sole fatality. His son, Jean, has written a tribute to him that I just had to translate and share:

It was 40 years ago, on October 10, that they took my father. It's been 40 years, on October 17, that my father was taken away from me.

For me, the October Crisis is much more than an historic event that the media talk about every 10 years. October 1970 evokes above all the tragic loss of my father, a person I loved and admired. October 1970 completely turned my life upside down, has marked it forever, and the historic recalls continue to haunt the lives of my nearest and dearest.

For the majority of Québécois, Pierre Laporte is the minister who was killed in October 1970. The name might also bring to mind a bridge, a school, a highway...For my family and for me, it's much more. Pierre Laporte was a father, a husband, an uncle, a brother. He was the pillar of the Laporte family. He was also a man much involved in his community, warm and genuine.

Today I'd like to talk about my father, since the historic crisis has had the effect of eclipsing his contribution to our society.

Pierre Laporte was a journalist at the newspaper Le Devoir for 16 years. His work contributed to the defeat of the National Union [party] and the birth of the Quiet Revolution. An ardent opponent to the head of the National Union, Maurice Duplessis, he was the one who revealed the natural-gas scandal and the dubious electoral activities of that government.

Moving from journalism to politics, he was elected four times deputy of the county of Chambly, in 1961, 1962, 1966 and 1970. In the government of Jean Lesage, he was an important member of the team of the Quiet Revolution. He was named minister of municipal affairs and later of cultural affairs.

After the defeat of the Liberal Party in 1966, he became leader of the official opposition. In 1970, he participated in the leadership convention of the Liberal party, which chose Robert Bourassa. He rallied without hesitation around his new chief. After the victory of the PLQ (Québec Liberal Party) in April, he became parliamentary leader and head of the ministry of Labour, as well as Immigration, along with the title of vice-premier.

My father was probably the most nationalistic of the Bourassa cabinet's ministers. He was recognized as a redoubtable parliamentarian, but he was also greatly appreciated by his colleagues, in his own party as well as others.

And then came the October Crisis...

The province of Québec lost a great politician who loved Québec with all his heart, who cherished the French language, who loved action and life. A man who gave years of his life to his province, who fought against social injustices with respect for democracy and who worked tirelessly for the advancement of numerous causes.

The October Crisis led to the useless and sometimes abusive arrests of many citizens. Their families suffered for it. All the citizens touched by these arrests have been able to regain their families, their home lives. But not Pierre Laporte.

Forty years after the October Crisis, is it not time to remember Pierre Laporte as well, the journalist and the man of politics, and to recognize his support for his province and country? It is time to return Pierre Laporte to the place he deserves in history beyond his tragic end, and for that, it doesn't matter what our political allegiances are. In so doing, we say yes to democracy, yes to our freedoms, and no to violence.

It is this which I wish for my father, for my family, and for all those who never want to live through another October 1970.

The October Crisis is uniquely tragic; it is the only time in peacetime Canadian history that the War Measures Act was invoked. The kidnappings of Laporte and Cross were what prompted it. A day after it was formally invoked in Parliament (notably, with the agreement of all opposition parties, including the separatist Parti Québécois), the FLQ announced that they had killed Pierre Laporte.

Would a more peaceful response have saved him? Possibly. But it's hard to know for sure, since the day before the Act's invocation, the FLQ-sympathetic union leader Michel Chartrand had boasted, "We are going to win because there are more boys ready to shoot members of Parliament than there are policemen." The FLQ may well have been planning at least one assassination, a sacrificial murder to show that they meant business; in which case, the pro-Québec but still unity-loving Pierre Laporte's life was probably forfeit no matter what. In an atmosphere of rising pro-FLQ sentiment, with large, well-attended demonstrations in support, it must have looked as though national unity were truly under siege, although the actions of the Parliament (and indeed, of a majority of Québécois, over time) have demonstrated the opposite.

Angry talk is often just that and nothing more. But not so the word of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously said "Just watch me" when a reporter asked him what he was going to do. He promised action, and he delivered it.

Unfortunately, so too did the FLQ--in direct response to those words and the actions that followed them. They delivered the body of Pierre Laporte in the trunk of a car, abandoned in the bush near an airport.

The unity of Canada has often been in doubt, but only during October 1970 was it truly in danger.

October 5, 2010

Dear Jason Kenney...

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Recently, I and many other Canadians petitioned to allow US war resisters to stay in Canada. Well, today, a certain Conservative snotball who somehow became immigration minister decided to throw the following all over us:

You have all emailed or written me at some point to express your views on the issue of US military deserters and recent legislation to give them a special pathway for permanent residency.

As you may know, with bipartisan support from Michael Ignatieff's Liberal Party caucus, the government succeeded in defeating the Bill. Here is a YouTube video of a question I answered during Question Period on the subject.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCeUrJHlJps

Yours sincerely,

Jason

Oh, "Jason", is it? Funny, but I don't feel friendly enough to go on a first-name basis.

Here's my response to that:

"Dear" Mr. Kenney:

Actually, the majority of Canadians wanted the war resisters to STAY, not the bill to be defeated. And we thank neither you nor the Liberals for doing this to them.

You, sir, are an ass.

Sincerely,

One disgusted Canadian.

My only regret is that I didn't append more adjectives in front of the "ass".

PS: Looks like I'm not alone.

September 23, 2010

This is Canada. We support the troops...

...including those that some in our government would not want us to support. Namely, the war resisters:

Did you know that some prominent and famous Canadians, such as Toronto radio host Andy Barrie--weren't born here? That they came here from south of our border as Vietnam war resisters, facing court-martial and incarceration at home? And that, because the Canada of four decades ago was a more welcoming place than it is today, they were able to make their homes here, establish good careers, start families, and contribute productively to this great land? No? Well, now you do. And you'll also find a lot of them reaching out to help younger war resisters--those facing deportation today because they refused to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq. They have a campaign going here, urging Canadians to write to their member of Parliament. I just did. Now, how about you?

September 22, 2010

Conservative Politician Tips (or, How to Turn Canada Into the 51st State, Guaranteed!)

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Oh, if only their platform were this simple. Unfortunately, there's a bit more to being a Tory politician in Canada than this. So, here's Aunt Bina's simplified guide to everything you need to know in order to make it as a right-wing politico today. Compiled from my tweets to #ConservativePoliticianTips, and with linkage added.

1. Always play to the xenophobe. Be particularly eager to paint immigrants as terrorists.

2. Scamming, shady sponsorship and bribery are all okay as long as you're not Liberal, Bloc or NDP. (CK paraphrases: "Always bring up Adscam." Good one!)

3. The liberal media is your enemy. Get your corporate buddies to set you up an all-con channel like FOX.

4. Canadians secretly crave US-style bully politics. Let no one tell you differently.

5. What's good for the NRA is good for Canada. Or at least for YOU.

6. To catch young voters, talk a lot about Justin Bieber. Who is at least two years too young to vote.

7. Always be devious. I mean divisive. Er, I mean DECISIVE.

8. Urban = elitist, rural = oppressed by urban elitist. Never-fail formula for suckering the masses!

9. Victims of guncrime = SUPER-elitists, evil oppressors, gun-grabbing little Hitlers, etc.

10. Sweater vests will make everyone think you're Mr. Rogers. Piano playing also an asset.

11. Four words--jet skis and wetsuits.

12. Think football--Fake libertarian, go authoritarian. That is, fake left, go right.

13. Play to petty regionalism. Screw the big picture.

14. Dangling the trinket of gun freedom will make everyone forget those fascistic G-20 arrests.

15. Always forget where you came from.

16. Whatever awful thing you do, always point the finger at the other guy and yell that he does it more. (Jymn paraphrases: "Know your weaknesses and attribute them to the other guy." Thanks, Jymn!)

17. Mantra: "Think for yourself and FOLLOW ME!"

18. Everything old is new and hip again. Especially the Red Scare. (CK again: "Always grossly overuse the word 'soshalism' & make sure it's interchangeable w/ Fascism!")

19. Never, ever admit when you're wrong. (Thanks again, Jymn!)

20. If female, sell out your sex; if gay, sell out LGBTs; if nonwhite, sell out your race.

21. To make it as a conservative politician, just do one thing--SELL OUT!

(And if you have anything else to add to the list, drop it in the comments slot below, please. Kthxbye.)

September 15, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Isn't that (law) illegal?

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Ms. Manx is concerned about our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and about existing (old) laws on the books that predate and violate it and really, for that reason, should be stricken. Otherwise, ridiculous things like these can happen:

A man can (and DID) get arrested for practising witchcraft. No shit, there IS one old anti-witchcraft law on the books still here, although it's actually supposed to be an anti-fraud law. That is, you can't do witchcraft for financial gain. Okay, fine...why not strike that law and replace it with one saying you can't do any kind of religious ritual for financial gain? Make it applicable to "faith healers" of all stripes, so that it's truly fair and doesn't single us Wiccans out. Or is that going to cut unduly into the lucrative business of all those televangelists, megachurch pastors, and other charlatans calling themselves Christians?

And what the hell is up with that old World War II law to keep the Germans out? By now it's obvious that Germans are no threat to "public works" (if they were, neither of my parents would be in this country; my dad arrived here in the 1950s, and my mom in the '60s.) So who's the real threat? Protesters? REALLY? Oh come on. Since when has there been a war on protest here? Or...wait. I get it. It's a war on free speech! Suddenly it all makes sense--anything that opposes the G-20 and its brilliant plans to suck the life out of the world is illegal!

Ms. Manx says it's time to strike those ridiculous laws and replace them, if you must, with something that makes sense. And that does NOT violate our Charter, or wink at one group while smashing another.

Time to end the war in Afghanistan, for the entire region's sake

Maybe it's just me, my bookish predilections, and the fact that I'm reading a lot of Greg Mortenson's work right about now (I just finished re-reading Three Cups of Tea, and have now begun Stones Into Schools). Maybe it's the fact that people in need are the same everywhere. But if you needed more evidence that war really IS stupid, read this:

While millions of Pakistanis in internal refugee camps struggle with shattered lives in the aftermath of last month's floods that destroyed farms, crops and livelihoods, Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team appears to be stuck on the launch pad.

The reasons could have to do with the realities of Canada's war in Afghanistan -- and the fact that, to put it mildly, our military may not be a popular item in many parts of Pakistan.

Certainly, there's widespread sentiment here that DART's 200 soldiers should already be on the ground in the flooded areas doing useful things like ramping up water purification systems and rebuilding damaged infrastructure like bridges, roads and electrical systems.

In disaster relief, says Walter Dorn, a professor at Canadian Forces College, "the big advantage of the military is rapid deployment. We haven't seen much of that [by Canada], and it is disappointing."

It's not clear what the holdup is, since Foreign Affairs is keeping its cards close to its chest on the matter, but some observers believe the sticky issue is Pakistan's demand that Canuck troops go unarmed.

Despite a late August press report that Pakistan is about to issue a formal request for DART, Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dana Cryderman denies that is the case, saying that only "informal discussions" with Islamabad on the subject are happening at the moment.

"In general, should a decision be made to deploy Canadian civilian or military personnel, a thorough analysis of the security situation would be conducted to determine requirements for the safety and security of government of Canada personnel," she tells this reporter.

Given the level of fighting in Afghanistan and the near civil war in Pakistan, you can see the problem.

Dorn points out that Canadians are dying in Afghanistan while fighting a Pashtun-based insurgency that has roots in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time, terrorist attacks have occurred in all regions of Pakistan, not just in the Pashtun northwest border areas.

Some locals will see Canadian DART soldiers "as enemies in their homeland," he says. "There may be people living in Pakistan who are making plans to kill Canadians in Afghanistan. I think Canadians in Pakistan offer themselves as a target. There is a segment of the population that is virulently anti-American," and by extension, he says, anti-NATO.

Nine years ago, right about this time, the US declared war against Afghanistan, and dragged the rest of NATO into it. I knew right away that it would be disastrous, and it gives me no satisfaction to see how right I was. NATO is a Cold War relic that should have been demolished at the same time the Berlin Wall fell, and instead, here it is, being made the handmaiden of "western"--really, just US--imperialism yet again. And it's all because no one in any western government had the guts and the vision to say something like "Enough of this crap, it's time to work for peace! Let's abolish this organization and act in good faith for a change."

Meanwhile, innocent people in Pakistan and Afghanistan are paying for our collective folly with their lives. War, war is stupid...yes, yes indeedy.

September 12, 2010

Best bad book review EVER.

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Something (and that something being Thwap) tells me that a certain putz from out west is about to be fast-tracked to the remainder bin. His latest parvum opus is obviously financed by tar-sands profiteers, since it paints their dirty oil as "ethical". Here's all you really need to know about it:

It is so surprisingly bad that one would think that Levant spent two-thirds of the time he was supposed to be writing the book reaching under his belly to jerk himself off to his fantasies about Stockwell Day.

And if that called up an awful picture in your mind, you're far from alone. I have it on good authority that Ezzy's schlong is only two centimetres in length when fully erect. I also know what LaughingStock looks like in his wetsuit; it's an uninspiring vision, to say the least.

EDIT: Great minds, etc.

September 3, 2010

Canada, Incorporated?

Some prog-blogging friends got up to no good recently, and this is what they brewed:

Suddenly it all makes sense. THAT's why the cops charged the G-20 demonstrators for singing what we thought was our national anthem--IT'S NOT OUR CORPORATE JINGLE!!!

(And, worse--they sang lyrics that Stevie the Spiteful didn't personally approve, as CEO of Canada, Inc.)

September 2, 2010

Why so afraid of a "Ground Zero mosque" that isn't?

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Israeli cartoonist Shlomo Cohen neatly illustrates the phantom nature of the "victory mosque at Ground Zero". It's not a "victory" mosque, it's not even an actual mosque, and it's not actually at Ground Zero. I'm pretty sure, though, given his background and country of residence, that satirizing irrational fear and hate was NOT his intention here.

Maybe I shouldn't post this so soon after the longest fucking quarrel I've had with a troll to date, but I'm damned if I let outsiders set my agenda here, any more than I let idiots make up my mind for me. So, here goes: I'm all in favor of Park 51, the non-mosque that is not gonna be built on the ashes of the former World Trade Centre.

That's right, you read that correctly. I'm totally cool with Park 51.

And yes, this post is gonna be my little contribution toward the education of those who let fear, hatred, bitterness, bigotry and generalized stupidity rule their lives. If it changes their minds about Park 51, great; if it at least forces them to think and rethink, it will have done what I meant it to do. (I can't do your thinking for you either, people, but I can give you plenty of crunchy food for thought, and I can ask you to take it quietly home and chew it over on your own, can't I?)

So. Here goes.

For starters, let's consider the political climate that surrounds the Park 51 debate. You would have to be totally dissociated to think that this debate is occurring in a vacuum. There is an awful lot of racially-charged hate being whipped up very deliberately right now, some of it in the guise of a certain recent "non-political" rally to "restore honor". The rally in question was, of course, VERY political. And honor, that vague, shifty concept that people are known to kill each other for across all cultural boundaries, had fuck-all to do with it. Unless you consider ugly people with ugly attitudes scrawled all over their ugly shirts and getting ugly with perceived outsiders to be "honorable", of course. In which case, yeah, something was restored, all right.

Now, with that kind of climate, is it so surprising that a drunken idiot would try to start a brawl in a bar with a Middle Eastern theme? Or that a Muslim cab driver gets his throat slashed, specifically, for being Muslim? Or that a bunch of armed teenagers would go around trying to terrorize worshippers at a mosque in western New York, which is nowhere near Ground Zero? Or that an arsonist would try to torch construction equipment at the site of a mosque-in-the making more than 800 miles from Ground Zero?

Which is why I wonder if the trolls who pooped here, claiming that two blocks' walk from Ground Zero was too close for a Muslim community centre, have any real idea of how ridiculous their pleas for "sensitivity" towards the insensitive demands of non-Muslims really are. Or how fucking ironic. If Murfreesboro, Tennessee, isn't far enough away from Ground Zero to build a mosque--a REAL one--then clearly no place in North America is.

And that means that Muslims are not really welcome here.

What's sad and ironic is that Muslims in North America have made real, serious contributions to these lands since the first one to settle in New York landed in what's now Manhattan, nearly 400 years ago. And one of their finest gifts, their contribution to the fight against Islamist terrorism, isn't being given due credit. Instead, we get to see them treated to utterly demeaning shit like this:

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...which is hardly a ringing endorsement of inter-faith peace. It's a ridiculous demand, coming from someone who lives just about as far in the US as it's possible to be from Ground Zero (unless you count Hawaii), someone who will never have to look directly upon that heart-stabbing community centre herself. Why the hell should Sarah Palin care, as long as she can score cheap political points on the tweeter?

But if the political points are cheap and easy for a Sarah Palin, they come at a much greater cost to those at whom these barbs were directed. Why do peaceful Muslims constantly have to repudiate and refute (not refudiate, which is not a real word) those who use Islam as their bludgeon? And can you imagine what would happen if they, in turn, demanded that Christians "refudiate" their own extremist brethren? It's not as if there's any shortage of them. Especially in the anti-mosque camp. Will they repudiate the violent amongst themselves? Will they come forward to denounce those who advocate burning mosques?

If my own skirmishes with the anti-mosque crowd are anything to go by, they're falling on their asses in this department. I have not seen ONE opponent of Park 51 say his confederates: No, don't burn, don't vandalize, don't terrorize. Not even when I asked them to, would they repudiate. Instead, they turned on me, telling me to be more tolerant. Of what? Arson threats? Intolerance? Oh, please. If I can't ask you to tolerate a peaceful Muslim community centre, you have no right to tell me I should tolerate your intolerance of it. That's just fucked up.

And even when peaceful Muslims come forward, time and again, to repudiate and denounce those who tarnish the name of their religion, their voices go unheard. Instead, they get drowned out by shriekers like this one at Alan Colmes's website:

These people are everything that is wrong with America. Why are so many blacks, like those pictured above, for the victory monument at Ground Zero? Because in their hearts, they know the attacks are not aimed at them, so they don't give a damn.

That's fucked up, too. (And racist, clearly--which is another hallmark of the current toxic political climate. Why else would the commenter mention the color of their skins?)

In case anyone forgets, blacks and Muslims died in the collapse of the WTC, too. They worked in that building. How could the attacks that killed them NOT be aimed at them? Is Park 51, which will incorporate a memorial to the victims (but not the hijackers), a slap in THEIR faces, too?

If you're going to talk about "everything that's wrong with America", and somehow loop Muslims into it, you may want to consider the singular irony of Saudi oil money going to finance the leading anti-Islamic crapaganda channel in the United States. (What--did you really think Rupee Murdoch was brainwashing you just out of the goodness of his own grinchy little heart? Wake up, Amurrica.)

And--irony upon irony--the Park 51 project is headed by an imam whose brand of Islam is anathema to the Wahhabi princes of Saudi Arabia. FactCheck has a marvelous list of facts about Park 51 that would make your head spin. Among them is this:

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has a long history of cooperation with the U.S. government, beginning during the Bush administration. In February and March 2003, he led cultural awareness training for FBI employees in the bureau's New York field office, New York division officials told us. In 2007 and twice in 2010, he traveled to the Middle East to talk about religious tolerance and Islam in America as part of a speaker program organized by the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs.

Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said of the imam: "His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it's like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States." Rauf's most recent trip, which is in progress as we publish, garnered objections from people who feared he would try to raise money for the Park51 project during his trip, but the State Department said those concerns were unfounded.

Rauf is an adherent of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that has itself been targeted by extremists. A 2007 report by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation suggested that Sufis could be potential partners against radical Islamism. "Because of their victimization by [extremist sects] Salafis and Wahhabis, traditionalists and Sufis are natural allies of the West to the extent that common ground can be found with them," the RAND study concluded. Indeed, Rauf has often spoken out against extremism, including recently as part of a Washington Post discussion about the Park51 project, then called the Cordoba Institute:

Rauf, July 21: We are not the extremists. We are that vast majority of Muslims who stand up against extremism and provide a voice in response to the radical rhetoric. Our mission is to interweave America's Muslim population into mainstream society. We are a Muslim-American force for promoting the universal values of justice and peaceful coexistence in which all good people believe.

Wait, what? He's a Sufi? He co-operates with the US government? He speaks up for peace? He wants Muslims to live in the mainstream, not the margins? What a stab to the heart. What a slap to the face! Everything that's wrong with America, yup yup yup, that's him all right. Why, he might even ask us to join him in singing Kumbaya! The horror!

And yet, if my trolls are to be believed, I'm some kind of extremist for supporting this moderate man of Islam.

As my friend Orwell's Bastard notes, these guys are terribly busy trying to make words mean what they don't mean, to the point where they become utterly meaningless; when that happens, they go and make up their own, which could mean anything and actually mean nothing. Could that be what "refudiate" really means? I mean, how else is it possible for me to be an "extremist" for liking this moderate, Imam Rauf?

Oh, but of course. If you're tolerant of Muslims, especially moderate ones, you're intolerant, because that means you've shut the wingnuts, those "moderates" who keep moving the goalposts ever further to the right, out of consideration. You're ignoring their crapaganda whenever you look at the facts and refuse to be swayed by emotional blackmail. And if you refuse to let your blog be hijacked and your discourse derailed by those who try to sneak a false label onto you by claiming you're falsely labelling THEM, why, you intolerant extremist you!

I would argue that I've been more than tolerant enough by letting the trolls babble at me about my imagined insensitivity for their poor hurt widdle feelings for as long as they did. I even argued back in good faith, and got shat on all the more for it, in unmistakably misogynous terms. I got accused of having no sense of humor (which, as anyone who reads this blog regularly can tell you, is the most ridiculous charge of all.) Normally, they get three strikes. If they can't say anything decent within three posts, they get the royal flush. Sometimes, if I'm really not in the mood, they get it even sooner. My blog, my rules. If they don't like 'em, they can get their own; I promise I won't visit.

And if you really want to talk about intolerance and insensitivity, how about this?

This is the same fucking asshole who convened that flop-sweat rally to "restore honor". Nice, eh? And of course, he's a leading voice in the anti-mosque (really, anti-Muslim) "movement". The timing of his bullshit is no coincidence; he also heads up some travesty called the 9/12 Project. It claims to be "non-political" (there's that non-meaningful phrase again!), but it's just another fucking wingnut hijack. Glenn Beck, who is not a 9-11 survivor himself, has no shame about using the ugliest date of the past decade to his own selfish, hateful ends.

And he uses it to whip up the same selfishness and hate in others. The kind that raged on the day after September 11, 2001. The kind that led to the torching of the Hindu Samaj Temple in Hamilton, Ontario; the kind that led to numerous attacks on Sikhs; the kind that is now leading to attacks on existing mosques, mosques under construction, and a Muslim community centre that's still only on the drawing board.

I'm supposed to tolerate this hate-mongering crap in the name of "moderation", but you know what? I've had more than enough. I owe you "moderate", "non-political", "anti-agenda" rightards nothing. No tolerance for your intolerance, no acceptance for your meaningless redefinitions of words, and no platform for your absurd phantom visions of a "victory mosque". From now on, all you get out of me is a well-deserved Doc Marten bootprint on your sorry asses.

September 1, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Ms. Manx takes aim for gun control

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Ms. Manx is, of course, all in favor of gun control; she remembers the Montréal Massacre only too well. She wants to see the long-gun registry stay; it may have something to do with the fact that long guns are the overwhelming heavyweights when it comes to gunshot deaths in Canada. So it heartens her up to read a few things that seem to indicate a balance tipping in Law-Law Land, and which may just be the magic bullets that kill the SupposiTory attempt to scrap the long-gun registry:

The Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom, a long-time "skeptic" of gun control, has read the RCMP report and changed his mind. Seems that pro-gun talking points are simply no match for facts and figures, especially ones endorsed by police chiefs nationwide. Blam!

Another Star columnist, Heather Mallick, has let her frustration with the pro-gun, anti-registry rural New Democrat MPs boil over. She points out that the NDP, once the party of feminist progress, has become mired in cushiness and nicey-nicey bullshit. Why is it suddenly so important for MPs to curry favor with Con-deluded rural voters? Why can't they educated them as to why the gun registry is actually good for gun owners? Among other things, it can help get a stolen gun back to its rightful owner, just as motor-vehicle registration can do with cars. Ah, but such talking points would mean stepping out of their comfort zone and actually risking a debate with those voters, instead of just going the easy route of kissing ass. Mallick concludes, on a pessimistic note: "The corpses of the Montreal Massacre are silent and the yapping gun-freedom brigade is so very loud."

But if the corpses of the Massacre are silent, their living relatives are not. At the top of the Globe's letters-to-the-editor section today, there's a beautiful message from Suzanne Edward, who lost her daughter that day, urging NDP leader Jack Layton to stand by the promises he made when he founded the White Ribbon Campaign against violence. There's also a letter from Ward M. Eagen, of Toronto, who points out that Tommy Douglas, the founder of the NDP, was an early gun-control advocate, disappointed in half measures and compromises, who said, "Some day, we will have the techniques to register all firearms." Those techniques are in effect now. Eagen also points out that the NDP was a rural party from its inception. If being strongly pro-control didn't hurt Tommy Douglas's popularity with his rural Saskatchewan base, shouldn't that tell Jack Layton and his fellow NDP MPs something?

Well, some of those rural MPs are listening--if not to pro-control voices from the base, then certainly to those of their enemies. And one of them, Charlie Angus, is now so incensed with the Tories that he's changing his stance--he's now likely to vote in favor of keeping the long-gun registry. Angus is an influential voice among rural and northern Ontario New Democrats, so his backlash against the Tories is very heartening to this little red-haired wild-rose girl from up North.

Montreal Simon seems to share Ms. Manx's hopeful view of Charlie's change of heart, and he serves it up with plenty of amusement on the side.

And if you're wondering what might have changed Charlie's mind, here's a video full of clues. It features a horse with two asses, one of which is facing the camera:

That's James Bezan, a Tory, getting nasty toward the NDP--the party that holds the hammer when it comes to whether the long-gun registry stays or goes. The horse's name is Woody. Doesn't Woody look like he can't wait to buck that buffoon and drop a load on him?

And finally, for those who want to help the NDP get its act together on this one, here's a Facebook group you'll want to join, and some e-mail addresses you'll want to use.

August 30, 2010

This is what the real Canada looks like

This is what it looks like when real, ordinary Canadians from all walks of life turn out to take back OUR streets from the thugs of the G-20 crime cartel. It's no coincidence that the national anthem was sung, and that its most-repeated phrase "We stand on guard for thee" sat ill with the transnational oppressors. When a government takes 2 billion dollars away from the people and spends it on thuggery, it is up to the people to stand on guard...and not let their country get sold out to the transnationals for a profit that most of us will never see.

August 24, 2010

I wouldn't call it unpredictable

I would, in fact, call this simply shameful:

Canada's position on human rights issues is becoming harder and harder to predict, says Amnesty International's newly appointed boss.

Salil Shetty said Monday that Canada is now taking drastically different positions in areas such as torture and the death penalty where it has traditionally been progressive.

"Generally speaking if you talk to most Canadians, there's a big gap between what they believe Canada does and what the reality is in terms of government policy and actions," Shetty said in an interview.

"It's a G8 country, it's a major world power and it has produced so many leaders on these issues, so it has (had) a trendsetting or agenda-setting role."

Amnesty's new secretary general said it's hard to know where Canada stands on many issues.

"You could predict where Canada stood on many of the issues in the past and now you can't be sure," Shetty said before delivering a speech at the CIVICUS World Assembly, a gathering of civil society groups.

Salil, it's not so bewildering when you consider who's in charge of us here:

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Just take the most noxious right-wing positions you find kicking around to the south of us, transpose them up here, give them a sweater vest and a bland non-accent, and voilà! Instant explanation for what's been ailing us up here in Beaverlandia.

Most of us are perfectly capable of grasping why Omar Khadr needs to be repatriated and stand a fair trial here. We're Canadian, we like justice. But Harpo is US Repug Lite, and he doesn't.

Most of us are in favor of refugee claimants, whatever their origins, getting a fair hearing from immigration. We're Canadian, we remember how many of us (or our forebears) came as immigrants and/or refugees. But Harpo is US Repug Lite, and he doesn't.

Most of us are in favor of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. We're Canadian, and we cherish those rights. But Harpo is US Repug Lite, and he doesn't.

Most of us are in favor of basic human rights as set forth by the United Nations. We're Canadian, and we take pride in our long-standing record as UN supporters and peacekeepers. But Harpo is...

...well, you get the picture.

Harpo is un-Canadian, and it's time to haul him the fuck out of office. That is all.

August 22, 2010

More Music for a Sunday: The entire hip-hop genre, explained...

...by the world's lamest rapper:

Every hip-hop meme is in there. Every. Single. ONE.

(Thanks to the tweeterriffic @gameandpc, whom you are hereby commanded to follow. Queen's orders!)

August 19, 2010

The true face of the IDF

Here you go, people...this is what the Middle East's One True Beacon of Democracy™ really looks like:

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Meet Eden Abergil, the Lynndie England of Israel. She's a piece of work, but she's far from alone in her nastitude; apparently it's commonplace for IDF soldiers to take trophy pictures of themselves with their victims.

And that's not all it's commonplace for them to do:

No one deluded himself that the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, which takes up five of the eight floors of a new building in the center of El Bireh, would be spared the fate of other Palestinian Authority offices in Ramallah and other cities - that is, the nearly total destruction of its contents and particularly its high-tech equipment.

After all, Israel Defense Forces troops were deployed in the building for about a month.

Armed vehicles were always parked in front of the building, around which the familiar pictures of destruction accumulated; crushed cars, banks of earth, deep ditches in the roads, broken pavements, dismantled stone fences, toppling electricity poles, loose cables and clouds of dust and dirt enveloping every vehicle, tree and roof in thickening layers.

The Ministry of Culture is located in the large residential area the IDF kept under curfew, even after its partial withdrawal from Ramallah on April 21 and its focus on the siege of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

Every night the neighbors, who hid in their houses, heard the sounds of objects smashing as they were hurled through the windows of the Ministry of Culture.

Shades of Kristallnacht, anyone?

Wait, it gets "better":

In other offices, all the high-tech and electronic equipment had been wrecked or had vanished - computers, photocopiers, cameras, scanners, hard disks, editing equipment worth thousands of dollars, television sets. The broadcast antenna on top of the building was destroyed.

Telephone sets vanished. A collection of Palestinian art objects (mostly hand embroideries) disappeared. Perhaps it was buried under the piles of documents and furniture, perhaps it had been spirited away. Furniture was dragged from place to place, broken by soldiers, piled up. Gas stoves for heating were overturned and thrown on heaps of scattered papers, discarded books, broken diskettes and discs and smashed windowpanes.

In the department for the encouragement of children's art, the soldiers had dirtied all the walls with gouache paints they found there and destroyed the children's paintings that hung there.

In every room of the various departments - literature, film, culture for children and youth books, discs, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement.

There are two toilets on every floor, but the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building, in several rooms of which they had lived for about a month. They did their business on the floors, in emptied flowerpots, even in drawers they had pulled out of desks.

They defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Some of them had burst. Someone even managed to defecate into a photocopier.

The soldiers urinated into empty mineral water bottles. These were scattered by the dozen in all the rooms of the building, in cardboard boxes, among the piles of rubbish and rubble, on desks, under desks, next to the furniture the solders had smashed, among the children's books that had been thrown down.

Some of the bottles had opened and the yellow liquid had spilled and left its stain. It was especially difficult to enter two floors of the building because of the pungent stench of feces and urine. Soiled toilet paper was also scattered everywhere.

In some of the rooms, not far from the heaps of feces and the toilet paper, remains of rotting food were scattered. In one corner, in the room in which someone had defecated into a drawer, full cartons of fruits and vegetables had been left behind. The toilets were left overflowing with bottles filled with urine, feces and toilet paper.

Yep, they really have a lot of respect for the West Bank Palestinians in the IDF. A lot of respect.

And this is who Harpo supports in all kinds of gungy, nefarious ways.

And this is who some people are standing by with xenophobic, racist, bigoted and just plain unfunny cartoons.

And then some have the gall to shriek about "delegitimization"? Israel seems to be doing a good enough job of that on its own; it doesn't need any help from without, heaven knows.

August 18, 2010

Bet this never happened to the REAL Judy Garland

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This should happen more often, though...because it shows the wingnuts in their true colors:

A few months ago, right wing firebrand Ann Coulter reacted to words of advice from a Canadian University official with stringent claims that she was being silenced and was the victim of a "hate crime." But how will Coulter respond now that her own fellow conservatives have dumped her from a "Taking Back America" conference for agreeing to speak her piece at a gay conservative group's event?

Anti-gay religious news site WorldNetDaily announced in an Aug. 17 article that Coulter had been disinvited from the WND event, which is slated to take place on Sept. 17, because Coulter has accepted an offer to speak at Homocon, an event scheduled for Sept. 25 that is sponsored by conservative gay group GoProud. Coulter had previously been scheduled to appear as a keynote speaker at WND's "Taking Back America" event, but that invitation was rescinded by WND.

WorldNetDaily describes its "Taking Back America" conference as being "about freedom, the freedom the founding generation of leaders fought for in establishing the United States." By "freedom," WND seemed to mean a legal curtailing individual choices, based on a specific notion of morality: "It is time to choose the kind of country in which we want to live--whether we want to live under the rule of law or under the rule of man," text at the WND site read.

"The choice is simple: the world of standards and morality, self-government and accountability to God or the world of tyranny and ever-changing moral codes enforced by government," continued the text. "The only way we can reestablish our freedom--our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--is to break the hammerlock of statism and the notion that moral relativism holds the answers to ordering people's passions and behavior." The text did not indicate what agency, if not government, would enforce this brand of freedom.

Ha, ha...who's the REAL freedom-of-speech party again? Big hint: it's NOT over there on the right.

And check this out. I always thought that being a far-right "libertarian" capitalist meant that you could literally do anything for a buck. Well, maybe not:

WND condemned GoProud's sponsorship of a conservative conference earlier this year, and the site's editor and CEO, Joseph Farah, said that dropping Coulter was the only thing to do given that she was, he suggested, lending credibility to the gay conservative group.

"Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about 'taking America back' when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very 'unconservative' agenda represented by GOProud," Farah told his own news site.

"Earlier this year, GOProud was permitted to sponsor the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, the biggest event of its kind," Farah noted, going on to recall that various anti-gay groups dropped out of the conference rather than attend an event that had been partially underwritten by a gay organization. "GOProud is about infiltration of the conservative movement and dividing it from within with twisted and dangerous ideas way out of the mainstream of American public opinion," Farah continued. "Ann Coulter is, I'm afraid, validating this effort for money."

"Validating this effort for money"--I thought that was supposed to be GOOD, at least to those guys. I guess it's not good when those guys are GAY. And even a flippant 'phobe like the Coultergeist gets her convictions tied in more knots than her panties.

Speaking of knots, how's this for tortured logic?

The article stated that Coulter would be welcome to continue as an op-ed writer for the site, and Farah drew a distinction between allowing people of differing political views to publish at WND and allowing people who speak to other groups to speak also at a WND event. "There is simply no room there for compromisers or for people who accept money from those determined to destroy the moral fabric required for self-governance and liberty," said Farah of the event's roster of speakers.

Shorter Farah: We'll still pay you to spout crap on WingNutDaily because we could sure use the eyeballs, but it has to be OUR uptight, conservative brand of crap. But we can't let you bring those gaywad cooties to our conferences. Freedom isn't free, y'know.

And how's this for a bitchy widdle slap-fest?

To Coulter, Farah directed pointed questions about her appearance at GoProud's Homocon event. "Do you not understand you are legitimizing a group that is fighting for same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the military--not to mention the idea that sodomy is just an alternate lifestyle?" Farah asked.

"That's silly," Coulter rejoined, going on to tell Farah, "I speak to a lot of groups and do not endorse them. I speak at Harvard and I certainly don't endorse their views. I've spoken to Democratic groups and liberal Republican groups that loooove abortion.

"The main thing I do is speak on college campuses, which is about the equivalent of speaking at an al-Qaida conference," Coulter continued. "I'm sure I agree with GOProud more than I do with at least half of my college audiences. But in any event, giving a speech is not an endorsement of every position held by the people I'm speaking to. I was going to speak for you guys, [even though] I think you're nuts on the birther thing (though I like you otherwise!)."

Shorter Coultergeist: You're nuts, but I like you. And I give speeches for al-Qaida. Yeah, I'm nuts too. But those crazy faggots like me!

And speaking of nuts:

Coulter's response to Farah was markedly different from the thrashing she gave last March to University of Ottawa's provost for what Coulter characterized as his attempt to "silence" her by cautioning Coulter about the legal differences in what is considered to be hate speech in Canada, as opposed to the U.S.

"Since arriving in Canada I've been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches I hadn't yet given and denounced on the floor of the Parliament (which was nice because that one was on my 'bucket list')," Coulter wrote in a March 24 column at Conservative News. "Apparently Canadian law forbids 'promoting hatred against any identifiable group,' which the provost, Francois A. Houle advised me, 'would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.'

"I was given no specific examples of what words and phrases I couldn't use," Coulter continued, "but I take it I'm not supposed to say, 'F----you, Francois.' " Coulter went on to declare herself the victim of a hate crime due to Houle's note. In the event, Coulter's appearance had to be canceled due to safety concerns when a mob of students--described by Coulter as "rioting liberals"--became increasingly unruly before Coulter's speech.

I can't believe this bullshit version of the story is still circulating out there. Once more, with feeling: The Coultergeist was too busy boozing it up at a pricey fundraiser. Of course she couldn't be bothered to show for a FREE appearance. She thinks independent-thinking, leftist students are Randian "looters" for al-Qaida, remember? Plus, she had to make herself out to be the martyr, after all, and we nasty-wasty Canadians weren't obliging her with any serious reasons. She was not forced to cancel anything--she CHOSE to. And saps that we are, we supported her right to choose, even if it meant that she could open her big yap and accuse us of all sorts of horrible things that we did not and never would do!

But the most tortured bit of logic is this, at the end:

Homocon has drawn sponsors from the rightward end of the political spectrum, noted Christopher Taylor in an Aug. 17 op-ed piece at the Washington Examiner. Taylor questioned the purpose of Homocon and GoProud, promoting a version of conservatism that the rightward fringe might not have recognized. "One of the most basic principles of conservatism as opposed to the modern left is that we treat everyone as Americans in America, not as any form of hyphenated-American," wrote Taylor. "Conservatives shouldn't care what color you are, how tall you are, if you're male or female, they don't care if you are left handed or ambidextrous, it simply doesn't matter."

Taylor went on to write, "Having a Homocon for gay conservatives is a slouch toward this identity group-politics, where we focus on the ideas and interests of each specific specially split off group, as if you can really take human beings and jam them into little boxes of like-minded and like-cultured people."

For gay conservatives, the principle values of conservatism still apply--a catalogue, as defined by Taylor, that includes "limited government, individual responsibility, love of liberty, suspicion of government power, free market capitalism, and equal justice," all of which conservative gay rights proponents say dovetail with GLBT equality.

It's always so funny to see concepts like "limited government" and "suspicion of government power" touted by the same people who voted for Dubya, he of the warrantless wiretap, the search-and-seizure, the spying on dissident groups, the Free Speech Zones, and all those other things that we don't have up here in the Great Unconservative North (or didn't, until Harpo decided to emulate his crushboy).

And since when do conservatives REALLY not care what color you are, or if you're female, or what? They are the MOST discrimination-prone people on the planet! Of course they care. If they didn't, they wouldn't be so blatantly racist in their protests against Barack Obama. Nor would they elect a single anti-choicer. Black people would not still be agitating for their rights, nor would women, nor would queerfolks, in a country that blats loud and long about liberty but is really bristling with laws and statutes and state constitutional amendments and oh yeah, "free markets" geared at taking it all away.

Maybe what these homo-contards really mean is that everyone should be equally repressed and discriminated against, albeit in different ways, but turn themselves inside out trying pretend they're really, truly equal and that nothing's wrong. That's conservofascism as I understand it.

Good thing I'm a socialist and don't have to tie my brain in so many knots. I believe in struggling for equal rights and freedoms for everyone--no exceptions--until you get 'em, for holding politicians accountable in order to hang onto 'em, for being free and able to seek redress for governmental and corporate violations of those rights, for redistribution of wealth (hey, it enables a LOT more freedoms than it inhibits!), and for keeping the environment clean--and that includes kicking the dirty-minded conservatives out of the bedrooms of the nation. My ideology is clear, straightforward and just plain makes sense, which is more than I can say for theirs.

August 16, 2010

Surprise! G20 "security" law is nothing of the sort!

How on Earth does an anti-German war-measures act from 1939, which effectively became null and void at war's end, get dug out again for use against peaceful protesters--nearly 30 years after our Charter of Rights and Freedoms was formally enacted to prevent just such things? Well, apparently it's just for show, because any charges laid under it go poof when it's time to take it to court!

I guess Pierre Trudeau's good old Charter trumps Harpo and his sneak-thievish drive for supremacy after all (and along with him, Dalton "The Enabler" McGuinty.)

Be sure to watch it all. You'll get a chuckle out of the flustered police spokesman, who clearly wasn't expecting any reporters to challenge the official version of the bullshit--much less forearmed with the facts, as Paul Jay clearly was.

August 15, 2010

In which a persistent hasbara troll gets pwned...again.

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Hey! Remember how a few weeks ago, a wanker calling himself Jamie, and using a spoofed hotmail address, outed himself here? Well, he's ba-ack...and seeing as he's apparently also a masochist, I think I'll play with him a bit before I feed him to the spam eater for good:

An unapproved comment has been posted on your blog News of the Restless, for entry #2928 (Surveillance society tug-of-war in Berlin: a small but significant victory). You need to approve this comment before it will appear on your site.

This is also the Germany where police stood idly by as pro-Palestine
protesters broke into a house to rip down an Israeli flag in the
window.

Palestine is an apartheid society towards Jews and women -
pro-Palestinians are supporters of apartheid. Long live Israel!

Commenter name: Jamie
Commenter email address: binathebith@hotmail.com
Commenter URL:
Commenter IP address: 85.211.199.190

Needless to say, I'm not approving any more comments from this chicken-shit troll; after this, you'll never hear from "Jamie" again. Anyone who doesn't have the guts to post a real e-mail address doesn't deserve the dignity of being treated like a real commenter. But since he thought to "educate" me earlier about things I already know (and frankly don't give two shits about), I think it's time we educated HIM, yes?

So, with that in mind, I googled for the incident which he claimed took place. I wasn't expecting it to be real. But apparently, if all the pro-Israel whore media sites are to be believed, mirabile dictu, it was. Only, as you can probably guess, "Jamie" got the details grievously wrong. Here's the JTA on the incident (emphasis added):

Berlin police remove Israeli flags

January 12, 2009

BERLIN (JTA) -- Police removed two Israeli flags from the window of an apartment building along the route of an anti-Israel protest in a German town.

The incident in the city of Duisburg occurred toward the end of the Jan. 10 rally.

Demonstrators, mostly of Turkish background, were on their way home when they apparently spotted the two flags hanging in the fourth-floor window. Until then the two-hour demonstration had proceeded "without incident," the brief police report read.

Demonstrators stopped and "threw snowballs and other objects until the police removed the flags."

The young couple living in the apartment reported the incident in a blog entry. According to Sebastian M., he and his girlfriend hung two Israeli flags out their window, which was along the route where some 10,000 anti-Israel demonstrators were to pass.

"During the demonstration which went through our street, the police broke into our flat and removed the flag of Israel," Sebastian M. wrote, adding that the police said they were concerned that demonstrators would break into the building.

"We both were standing on the other side of the street and were shocked by seeing a police officer standing in our bedroom and opening the window to get the flag," he added.

So...no protesters broke into the house. The police--the same Berlin police whose chief wants to film peaceful protests (including, no doubt, Palestine supporters)!--came and took this little attempt at provocation (and pathetic try at victimhood) down. In so doing, they saved the little idiot provocateurs' necks. The incident was nipped in the bud, and no one got hurt.

And Jamie the ingrate doesn't even thank the Berlin police for doing their job correctly and keeping the peace between two angry factions. Instead he defames them, with the classic (and patently false) "Good German" smear, no less, saying they "stood idly by". Nice, eh? Tells you something very unflattering about his character, and why he feels he has to hide behind a fake e-mail address. Jamie is a crapagandist, and not even a very good one, since even the smelly hasbara-media contradicts him.

Now, about that Palestinian smear. Isn't it funny that Jamie feels the need to claim that Palestinians do...what Israelis themselves do, namely discriminate against Jews and women?

While the Knesset focuses on legislation pertaining to Muslim veils, it ignores processes the continuously reinforce the exclusion and humiliation of Jewish women. We already saw women being pushed to the backs of buses (an ongoing affair despite the High Court's ruling on the case,) women confined to one side of the streets in Jerusalem's haredi neighborhoods, and the humiliation of Mizrahi girls in Emmanuel. Earlier this week, we were told about the violent removal of girls from a go-karting facility at the same community.

At the end of this process we can expect to have a state managed by haredi men who discriminate against and humiliate women.

We've become accustomed to taking for granted political parties who disqualify women from taking office. These parties are nonetheless allowed to run in the elections, join governments, and lead the country despite their discriminatory conduct. Indeed, the State of Israel permits open, explicit, and legal disqualification of and discrimination against women; many women in this country are deprived of the basic civilian, democratic right to be elected.

Note that this is from an Israeli news site also.

BTW, Jamie is also full of shit when it comes to Palestinians in Gaza and their attitudes toward Jews and women:

Edith Lutz, a German Jewish member of the organization, said to Ynet the vessel is already anchored in Mediterranean waters, and that the organization had received many requests from Jews and non-Jews to take part in the flotilla.

"We began in Germany," she said, "but many have called us from England, Sweden and the US. There may also be another boat accompanying us, mainly carrying reporters."

Lutz explained that the Jewish flotilla aims to convey a message: Lift the siege.

"Our vessel can open a window between Israel and Gaza residents," she said. "Two years ago I took part in the Free Gaza flotilla and wore a Magen David (Star of David), and the kids said, 'Look, she's Jewish,' and they all accepted me very well. When we met (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniyeh and they told him about me, he turned to me and said they have nothing against Jews or Israel, only against the occupation."

Emphasis added.

German Jewish women are welcome in "apartheid" Gaza when they come in the name of peace! Who'd of thunk? Bueller?

There's only one bitch here, Jamie, and it's you.

PS: Jamie, I'm serious--post shit like this, and it's no wonder no one will "debate" you:

Oh "kiddie rockets"? Did a "kiddie rocket" cause this, Sabina - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Beersheva_kindergarten_ after_rocket_attack_from_Gaza.jpg/170px-Beersheva_kindergarten_after_rocket_atta ck_from_Gaza.jpg It's some "kiddie rocket" that can do this much damage - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/Grad_Beersheba.jpg/220p x-Grad_Beersheba.jpg Try explaining to this guy of the little "kiddie rockets" that cause this - http://www.allworldwars.com/image/057/Gaza021.jpg It's very annoying when jumped up little trolls like you get blogs and read a few articles on Electronic Intifada, then think you know everything about the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Well get this you piece of pig-shit - YOU DON'T. You don't know jack-shit you stupid whore, so stop pretending you do, give up your stupid commie blog and sink into a life of loneliness and misery like you deserve. It's funny that you always claim any criticism of Israel is struck-down as anti-Semitism (which is, of course, a malicious lie, no doubt invented so you lot could cover up real anti-Semtism), but any debate to the bullshit you blog about is called "trolling" and anyone who dares question of the screed of 'Bina is a "masochist". Go fuck yourself you hypocritical piece of shit. (Oh, PS, that court rulling on the buses has been enforced and the whole situation came about not through state-sanctioned sexism, but from the intolerance of the Orthodox community. As for the women Knesset members - there are many. The State of Israel has no statutes banning women or Arabs from becoming members of the Knesset - it's just that some parties don't run them as candidates and those parties get voted in. Such is democracy. It would be wrong to ban these parties - fascist, even. You've got to stop equating the State of Israel with private establishments.) If you hate that some people say every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, then why do you actively call every supportive statement of Israel "hasbara"? - That just highlights your inadequacies as a debater.

See why I don't want this turd coming back, and why anything else he writes will not be acknowledged, just flushed? This was his third strike; baseball rules. I have standards, and this is definitely lowering the tone of the discourse. (In fact, his mere presence does that.)

Now, let's get a few things straight: This is MY blog (which I'm definitely NOT giving up), and I don't bow and scrape to fascist idiots of ANY stripe here. I also don't take abuse in the form of ANY "jumped-up troll" (nice bit of projection there, Jamie, that's YOU) trying to "educate" me from the viewpoint of one who only reads rightard crap. As if he had anything of worth to impart. He probably knew he had nothing of value to say. Why else would he come on here all nasty, snotty and aggressive, calling me a bitch from the get-go when spouting his simplistic shit, using his spoofed (and poorly spelled) e-mail address as a vehicle for the limp-dicked insult?

And then he goes on doing it. Not once more, but twice. He comes into my house three times, each time leaving a steaming brown pile on the floor, and still expects me to treat him with tolerance, while not according ME the same dignity. Cognitive dissonance, thy name is Jamie.

And then he thinks he can lecture ME on debating? Bwahahahaha. Check out his masterful screed above--doesn't he have have a brilliant future ahead of him in the British House of Lords? (Whenever his testicles decide to drop, that is?) "Hypocritical piece of shit"--project much, again? Pretending to care about women, and then turning around and calling them ugly names when they don't simper and go "Oh, I'm sorry, you were right, don't mind me, I'll slink back into obscurity now like a good little woman"? Yep, winning gambit there, dude. (Snort.)

No wonder you're anonymous, Jamie--if I were as inept at this debating thing as you, and got my ass kicked good and hard for it by some leftist chick I thought I could batter into submission, I wouldn't want the world to know who I was, either.

And you even got pwned with material from your own side! How painful is that? Pretty damn painful, judging from the venom of the response. I thought using the pro-Israeli press to refute your nonsense would make an impression, but apparently it made no more impact on your little leaden skull than a Hamas rocket.

Free advice, Jamie, not that you're likely to take it, seeing as your reading comprehension is terribly poor: If you want to be respected, be respectful. LEARN TO READ, DAMMIT. (And make it something other than your silly wingnut blogs, fergawdsakes, they're nothing but a godforsaken echo chamber full of feces-flinging howler monkeys and rabid bats.) Stop your infantile whining. Dump your damn hypocrisy. Quit hating women. In fact, just quit hating, period. Use a real e-mail address, learn to apologize when you've been rude and wrong, and keep a civil tongue in your head--how hard is that? I don't think it's too much to ask.

And I don't have to tolerate anyone who "thinks" otherwise. Baseball rules...

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Adios, "bith". And don't bother replying on anything else here, either.

Short 'n' Stubby: Ms. Manx's must-reads, a two-fer

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Before I decided to knock off for the nochy, Ms. Manx meowed at me. That's a gentle reminder that there's a couple of things she wants you to read, so here they are:

Mi amigo Orwell's Barstid has a thoughtful treatise up on his site about how conservatism--formerly honorable--has lost its mind in the age of crapitalism and corruption. Ms. Manx concurs heartily that it is a shame that right-wing radicals of all stripes have thrown out a lot of babies with the bathwater, and wants you all to know that back in the day, she really liked Ontario Premier Bill Davis--a truly Red Tory who made public education his main priority. Sadly, as far as the HarpoCons are concerned, the Red Tories are Dead Tories.

And then there's this other guy, Alex Himelfarb, whom I don't know from Adam's housecat, but DAMN, he ties together some seemingly unrelated issues in a dynamite post on bargain-basement citizenship. Ms. Manx wants out of the bargain basement; she's seen what's on offer down there, and she says it smells musty and is very ill-fitting and beneath the dignity of man and beast alike.

August 14, 2010

Surveillance society tug-of-war in Berlin: a small but significant victory

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If you need any evidence of how far Germany has come since the end of World War II, and how far by comparison Canada has sunk, look no further than this interesting little report in the Berliner Tagesspiegel ("Daily Mirror"):

Berlin police president Dieter Glietsch wants police agents to go on videotaping the participants of peaceful demonstrations, despite a court verdict.

He will appeal the court decision, he said on the RBB evening newscast on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a panel of judges declared the filming of peaceful protesters to be a violation of the protesters' rights. The police may only make videos in the event that a protest turns violent or results in vandalism. The judges based their decision on the contention that such measures would constitute an attack on freedom of assembly, as well as the right to informational self-determination.

Should his appeal fail, Glietsch plans to urge the Berlin House of Representatives to pass a by-law to allow the police to film peaceful demonstrations.

Translation mine.

This fight isn't over yet. But the fact that the court has ruled in favor of protesters over police indicates something important: The Germans have pulled ahead of Canada in allowing peaceful assembly over the clamor of the police/surveillance sector.

Granted that police are all alike, here and there--this one insists he'll get the law remade in his own favor. But still, the court has ruled in favor of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

Viewed in light of what happened at the G20 summit in Toronto two months ago, this should tell you something, nicht wahr?

August 2, 2010

WTF is the matter with Alberta?

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Since I've been getting trolled all over the Internets by a disproportionate number of Albertans lately, I've been wondering what's the problem with them. Apparently, I'm not the only one. (See Jymn's comment here.) The Mound of Sound has also been inquiring into the problem, and offers the following insight:

Years ago the "Rest of Canada" had laws requiring properly installed, properly certified baby seats to be in all cars used to transport infants. Guess who didn't? Full points if you guessed Alberta.

There was a movement in the Alberta legislature to mandate the use of babyseats but it was angrily resisted, with real indignance, by the Conservative government of the day. Their explanation? Why, forcing drivers to have proper car seats for infant passengers would intrude on their rights. Those sphincters actually stood right up on their hind legs and said that and said it again and again and again. Those uber-right mouthbreathers eventually relented but only after being dragged, kicking and screaming, through their own filth. If you ever needed a window into the dark, perverse mind of the far right, there it is.

They're so pro-life out in Alberta, eh? They care so much about the unborn that they won't strap in their already-born infants in car seats--or at least, they won't require people to do so by law, although many of them would like nothing better than to see abortion outlawed. Consistency and logic: Two more things that alienate the West.

Well, that explains their mindset, but still not how it got that way. I wonder: could it be something in the water? Bovine feces has been ruled out; there are more head of cattle being raised in my home province of Ontario (where cowboy hats are, strangely, much scarcer.) That leaves either sour gas, or tailings from the tar sands.

Don't worry, Alberta, science will deal with you yet. You will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century--and even defunding universities in the Rest of Canada to your own advantage won't help you.

July 29, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Dude, where are my criminal charges?

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Hidey-ho, folks, it's another G-20 roundup for ya. And here comes Ms. Manx with all the linkies you should clicky...

First up, the Toronto Star's Carol Goar draws up a score sheet for what's been done and what's still doing. Surprise: So far, not a single person arrested has actually had criminal charges laid that stuck. One month later, and it's Protesters 1, Cops 0. Goar's moment of untruth: "Peaceful advocacy groups tarnished their reputation by knowingly providing cover to protestors bent on violence." Carol, shame on you--the cops were not a peaceful advocacy group! I seem to recall at least one video where the peaceful advocacy groups were chastising the vandals. Is that what you call "knowingly providing cover"?

The Star and the Globe are both reporting that environmentalist Dave Vasey, one of the more prominent arrestees (he was singled out early on as a "leader"), has gone to court, only to find the charges against him not even on the docket. Maybe because the "five-metre rule" he was charged under was bogus? Or maybe just because the cops had nothing on him, and they knew it. Their purpose in making the arrest was not to lay charges, but strictly to intimidate Vasey and others (whom they presumed to be his "followers", no doubt), and thus curtail protest. As always, the operative question to be asked in cases like this is Cui bono?--for whose benefit?

That question is certainly topmost in my mind when it comes to this case, of a young Muslim woman being forcibly stripped of her headscarf and sweater. Violation of modesty is a specifically intimidating move when the victim is a Muslim. Was this violation of her person done to discourage her from protesting? It sure smells that way.

And you know things have come to a bad pass when a distinguished scientist and former holocaust survivor like Ursula Franklin looks at the G-20 fiasco and draws inescapable parallels to the fascist ordeal of her youth.

July 27, 2010

G-20 roundup: Slowly, the media are catching on...

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The Torygraph dutifully printed the above photo in 2009, but are the major media really getting the message? A few small items give me hope that a little of the truth IS finally starting to filter through:

The Toronto Star prints Dave Coles's analysis of what "went wrong" at the Toronto summit. The union leader comes to the same conclusions as I've drawn on a number of occasions:

There is strong circumstantial evidence that, faced with a public relations defeat over the cost of the two summits, high-ranking members of the government and police orchestrated a clandestine security operation. The operation was orchestrated to inflame the public imagination against all protesters. Strategically, it was designed to justify what is still truly unjustifiable -- $1 billion on security.

[...]

The dominant image emerging from the summit is of a black-clothed "protester" smashing windows, and an apocalyptic image of a burning police cruiser. Those images had their desired effect. Opinion polls now show most people support police actions, in light of the demonstrator violence.

What if the Saturday rampage was allowed to happen? These are serious questions, and need a public inquiry to answer them.

Look at the evidence. Police sources told the Toronto Sun that they were ordered to stand down, and let the rampage unfold on Saturday. Officers standing down throughout the streets of the downtown were vividly captured on video.

Video evidence shows a "demonstrator" trashing two Toronto police cars. He is wearing the same thick-soled boots as those of the police riot squads standing down, and watching, a block away. All the boots bear the same yellow logo. We unmasked three police agents provocateurs at Montebello by noticing that the trio were wearing the exact same military-issue boots as uniformed police. The old saw is: If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. This "demonstrator" looks like a cop, right up to his buzz cut. He has everything but an earpiece.

If that sounds a bit familiar, you've probably seen it here before. Dave Coles is one of the legitimate protesters (along with Maude Barlow and a number of actual anarchists) who unmasked the Montebello provocateurs in this prior entry of mine. And he's also facing an uphill battle in the inquiry into that incident, according to the Montreal Gazette:

Lawyers for Quebec's provincial police tried Monday to block a protester from participating at a police ethics commission investigation into the behaviour of three undercover officers at a 2007 demonstration.

Allowing third parties to intervene would add to the cost and make the process more complicated and inefficient, Andre Fiset told police ethics commissioner Richard Iuticone.

"Who knows how many days it would go on?"

Fiset and two other lawyers argued that Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, should not be given standing in the complaint against the three Surete du Quebec officers, who posed as protesters at the North American leaders' summit in Montebello, Que.

Such designation would allow him to cross-examine and subpoena witnesses and submit evidence at the hearing against sergeants Jean-Francois Boucher, Joey Laflamme and Patrick Tremblay.

Well, at least now we know the names of the three burly phonies (one of whom had a rock in his hand, indicating an attempt at violent provocation) who couldn't fool a real anarchist OR a real unionist.

Obviously, time is not the issue here, and neither is cost or complexity; the real issue is the use of police provocateurs, which is illegal in Canada, but apparently is not supposed to be an issue. That's why the cops' lawyers are not eager to have Dave Coles question their clients on the stand. They know the cops would lose.

As it stands, the "normal" process is sorely lacking in fairness and thoroughness both:

Coles later submitted a complaint to the police ethics committee, which was rejected, although the commissioner acknowledged that one or more of the sergeants verbally abused and shoved the man, repeatedly refused to identify themselves and refused to put down a rock when asked to do so. But the commissioner said that under the circumstances, the behaviour was justified.

Coles asked that the committee revise its decision, which it did, and ordered the same commissioner who rejected the original complaint to proceed against the three officers.

"This raises serious doubts about the commissioner's ability to seek out evidence and conduct cross-examination that may show that his previous conclusions about the facts of this matter were ill-founded and wrong," says the motion submitted by lawyer Mike Cohen, who is representing Coles.

"Any reasonable person would find this very bizarre," he added Monday in an interview.

He says it "makes no sense" that the same commissioner who refused to cite the officers is now required to proceed against them. "We argue that there are provisions in the law for the committee to allow a third party to intervene."

Obviously, the police can't police themselves. And their commissioner didn't want to; it took a protest from Dave Coles to get his decision reversed. And the law guarantees him standing--something the police ethics commission didn't want to grant him. No doubt because it has much to hide. One wonders why--they themselves admitted shortly after the 2007 incident that yes, they HAD used infiltrators!

And yes, those infiltrators are the three burly men in the video, who are now named as violators of law. When the police break the law rather than upholding it, then use an ethics commission (conveniently, convened by themselves) to try to cover their own tracks, well...draw your own conclusions, gentle reader. I would humbly submit that they've just totally undermined their own authority as enforcers of the law, and that their credibility is shot to hell.

Meanwhile, on the actual anarchist front, Macleans has an almost-good (surprisingly so) piece on what they're really like, and what they're really about:

That commitment of purpose and the long-standing relationships belie a common view of the G20 demonstrators as hobbyists or kids out to smash some windows. Yet a glance at Canada's increasingly militant left shows that, far from being driven by socially isolated ideologues or rampaging teens, it is composed of sturdy networks of committed, methodical people organized into "affinity groups"--small, intensely democratic collectives that reject words like "leader" and "organizer," and insist that executive positions are transient if they exist at all. Such groups can move quickly and fluidly, both during mobilizations on staging grounds like the G20, and more routinely in their communities.

The first page of that piece (which is infinitely better than the second, where the hunt for an imaginary pathology begins) also highlights the fact that "squatter" activists actually took care of the vacant building they occupied, which was not ruined until police broke a window and chucked a can of tear gas in. Once again, it begs the question: Who are the real villains here, the cops or the anarchists?

Finally, let's hope Alex Hundert is right when he says the people are waking up. The first thing needed, always always ALWAYS, is a change of consciousness.

July 26, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Ms. Manx has two new neighbors...

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...and she'd like you to pay them a visit, too, because she thinks you'll like them:

Margarita del Norte

and

Orwell's Bastard.

One's from our far north, the other from the deep and sweaty south (Toronto.) Progressive voices from far and wide!

July 25, 2010

Officer Bubbles is worse than you think

How is Adam Josephs, alias "Officer Bubbles", worse than you think? By virtue of the simple fact that he's not the only arrogant asshole on the Toronto police force. By virtue of the simple fact that protest has been criminalized, unannounced, in Canada. By virtue of the simple fact that Courtney Winkels would have been arrested even if she hadn't blown a single bubble. Because protest is illegal in Canada now, duh.

The question is, why did no one announce to the media that protest and community organization are now illegal? Maybe it's because to do so would be to declare that we aren't really a democracy; that martial law is essentially in effect where there is no just cause to implement it; in short, that we have crossed the line into fascism and dictatorship.

That's how Officer Bubbles is worse than you think. He's not just some random asshole in uniform, but a symptom of something deeply and chronically wrong within the system. Were he just a random asshole, he could be easily weeded out. But the fact is, police forces have a predilection for assholes, and not just in Canada. Think Dan Mitrione, the Indianapolis cop who trained CIA-backed torturers in Santo Domingo, Brazil and Uruguay before finally meeting justice at the hands of the Tupamaros in Montevideo. Mitrione got a hero's funeral, but he was no hero; he was a professional asshole in uniform.

Assholes-in-uniform have no compunction about arresting people for no good reason (a bandanna, a backpack full of street-medic supplies, a lawyer's phone number written with a Sharpie on a girl's arm, etc.--not good reasons.) Assholes-in-uniform have no problem doing assholish things as a matter of course. Assholery is their profession. They're trained to see the public as an adversary, an unruly dog to be kept at heel by any brutal means at hand; Josephs' own Facebook page refers to his job as "taking out human garbage" for the City of Toronto, after all.

And there is little question that the G-20 cops were taught to see the protesters as the Enemy, the forces of communism and anarchy, criminals for simply protesting. Human garbage, in other words. That's why no police broke the line; that's why not one of them said "this is not right" when peaceful protesters were corralled in a driving rain for five hours at Queen and Spadina. Not one of them failed to charge when the protesters had completed the last chorus of "O Canada". Not one of them laid down the baton and shield in protest of their comrades' blatantly unlawful behavior.

If even patriotic protest is illegal in this country, then we've come to a bad pass. All the right-wing whining about the "police state" of Cuba becomes ridiculous when viewed in the light of the G-20 in Toronto. In Cuba, when the so-called dissidents of communism demonstrate, they usually get ushered, unhurt, onto buses, and brought home. If jailed, they are still treated humanely; hunger strikers get medical care, even if they are hell-bent on suicide. In Toronto, when dissidents of capitalism demonstrate, they get bones broken, skulls cracked, sexually assaulted, threatened with gang-rape, and herded into Gitmo-like people-pens. Ah, the glorious freedoms of capitalism that we've all heard so much about!

The question no one dares to ask is, If capitalism makes us free, why do capitalists have the greatest number of prisoners per capita, political and otherwise?

Think about it.

Why did the glorious freedom of capitalism need a Dan Mitrione to teach its enforcers to torture not only criminals and so-called subversives, but even innocent people, in order to discourage disobedience? Why did it need him to teach police in three different countries how to electrocute people--not to make them talk, but just "to teach them a lesson" or even "to take out human garbage" by means of death? Mitrione's trainees in Brazil honed their craft on street beggars, after all. Why would anyone want them dead unless they had a human-trash mentality at the bottom of it--a learned mental defect that left them incapable of Christian empathy for those Jesus called "the least of these my brothers"? Mitrione was a devout Catholic with nine children. He couldn't possibly have missed that lesson in Sunday mass; priests teach it all the time as an example of the virtue of charity. Did he simply ignore it? Or did his later training as a professional asshole-in-uniform override it?

Given that Mitrione's mission in Latin America was to roll back all efforts of progressives to establish a more equitable and just state under socialism, and to keep those countries in subservience to the biggest capitalist nation of all, I'll go with the latter option. Right-wing Catholics like Dan Mitrione are taught to override Jesus's true teachings all the time. The disciples' simple, effective practice of holding all property in common, so that everybody is looked after and no one is stuffed while others starve, gets ignored routinely by such people. The message of mercy and loving kindness is obscured by the competing vision of the Old Testament God, the angry punisher, who decreed (via the elite priesthood) that disobedient men, women and even children should be stoned--that is, tortured--to death as an example to others.

Right-wing cops are no different. The basically positive message of community policing, "to serve and protect", is overridden by the human-garbage mentality of the asshole-in-uniform. The police are then no longer the citizenry's "friend and helper" (as the German police slogan would have it), but the friend and helper of the moneyed oligarchy--the sole interest they serve and protect.

The same polite, friendly, quintessentially Canadian cops who cleared the roads in my hometown so our little peace march could proceed in 2003, could nowadays be turned against us. Then, I proudly carried a Maple Leaf, as well as a Stars and Stripes with the stars rearranged in a peace symbol, to show solidarity for neighbors to the south who also opposed the war against Iraq. Nowadays, I'm not so sure I could get away with that. I'm being forced to reconsider whether I want to take part in any open demonstrations at all, even with my country's flag and the national anthem as rallying symbols. If the cops in Toronto could charge a peaceful demo where the protesters waved the flag and sang "O Canada", then no manifestation of free speech and peaceful assembly is immune. We are all subject to the modern equivalent of stoning, without mercy. We are all fodder for the Dan Mitriones.

And that's why Officer Bubbles is worse than you think--it's because he's more common than you think. He's not a random asshole or a bad apple in a basically good barrel; he's just one of a great many, specially selected and trained to think of all the rest of us as human garbage, to be taken out without compassion or compunction.

And that's what makes him so goddamn scary.

July 22, 2010

Dear Iggy: This is why I will NEVER vote for you.

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This landed in my inbox yesterday. See if you can tell me what's wrong with it:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns about the human rights implications of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

Human rights are at the core of Liberal values. This is why we have taken the unprecedented step of negotiating an amendment compelling each country to monitor and publicly report on how this Free Trade Agreement (FTA) impacts human rights in both Canada and Colombia.

This is the first such human rights reporting requirement for any FTA in history. It imposes a new requirement on Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to focus on, collect and analyze information on the impact of the Canada-Colombia FTA on human rights in both Canada and Colombia. This information must be provided to the Parliament of Canada in an annual report which can then be used to guide Canada's foreign policy with respect to Colombia. In addition, the public tabling of the annual reports in Parliament will allow for greater scrutiny by opposition parties and provide a transparent way for civil society organizations from around the world to access this data as they conduct their own human rights impact assessments.

The Liberal amendment for a human rights reporting requirement was motivated by a desire for greater public oversight in the area of human rights and a belief that human rights are deeply intertwined with economic opportunity. We recognize that human rights abuses in Colombia have largely resulted from violence fuelled by Colombia's illegal narco-economy, which, in turn, has been perpetuated by Colombia's endemic poverty, persistently high unemployment and insufficient social infrastructure. We believe that increased political and economic engagement can help address the root causes of violence and improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

In recent years Colombia has made significant progress in combating human rights abuses.

On June 29, 2009, U.S. President Obama commented on these advancements: "I commended President Uribe on the progress that has been made in human rights in Colombia and dealing with the killings of labor leaders there, and obviously we've seen a downward trajectory in the deaths of labor unions and we've seen improvements when it comes to prosecution of those who are carrying out these blatant human rights offenses. President Uribe acknowledges that there remains more work to be done, and we look forward to cooperating with him to continue to improve both the rights of organized labor in Colombia and to protect both labor and civil rights leaders there."

More recently, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay recognized "the significant progress made in terms of a drastic reduction in the number of complaints of extrajudicial executions and the continuous prosecution of members of Congress and public officials for alleged links with paramilitary organizations" in her March 2010 report on the human rights situation in Colombia.

The Liberal Party believes that Canada has a moral obligation to help Colombia continue to improve its human rights record. We must work with Colombia to strengthen its public institutions and create legitimate economic opportunities for all Colombians. This free trade agreement, with the Liberal amendment establishing a human rights reporting requirement, will significantly strengthen Canada's ability to achieve these goals and engage Colombia on the issue of human rights. Furthermore, the Liberal amendment will provide Canadians and Colombians with an ongoing assessment of progress in this area.

Former Deputy Minister of DFAIT, Peter Harder, has called the Liberal amendment a "significant innovation in free trade agreements in that it provides both the Colombian and Canadian legislatures the opportunity to annually review and assess the human rights implications of the agreement. I expect that future parliaments will build on this precedent when they consider proposed free trade agreements."

Prominent civil society organizations and unions in Colombia have also publically supported the proposed amendment.

Dr. Leon Valencia, Executive Director of Arco Iris, stated that "I think it is interesting and useful that the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Canada includes an amendment which requires both governments to present an annual report to the respective Parliaments on the repercussions of the agreement on human rights in each country... This will provide an important yearly forum to discuss the situation in Colombia, and will give Canadian citizens the opportunity to monitor human rights violations in our country." He went on to describe the Liberal amendment as "innovative and converts the Treaty into something which is dynamic and provides new platforms for analysis and discussion. Perhaps this could be included in other free trade agreements."

M. Gerardo Sanchez Zapata, President of the Apparel and Textile Industry of Colombia Trade Union Sintracontexa, lent his support to the agreement on behalf of 12 other Colombian unions: "This procedure is welcomed by Colombian workers and we are thankful to the Parliament of Canada for its position, because it helps strengthen a mechanism already in place that monitors and evaluates the progress in matter of human rights."

Colombia is at a critical juncture in its history, emerging from decades of violence and civil war. The Liberal Party of Canada believes that countries like Canada can support Colombia on its path to peace, justice and reconciliation by helping to build and strengthen Colombia's public institutions and provide greater public oversight on the human rights situation in Colombia. Canada must not turn its back on Colombia and isolate its people at this time. Rather we must seize this opportunity to engage the people of Colombia and work with them to break the cycle of violence and human rights abuses that prevents the country from reaching its vast potential.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to me on this very important issue.

Respectfully,

The Office of Michael Ignatieff, M.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition


I'll spare you the tortured use of italics from the original.

Here's my open letter in response:


Dear Office of Iggy the Boyar:

You're right about only one thing here: This IS an unprecedented step you have taken. And an unfortunate choice of direction.

No previous Liberal administration would have contemplated doing what you have done. They all resisted the US's urging to legitimize Colombia's right-wing government and toxic business atmosphere. So yes, what you have done is indeed unprecedented--for Liberals, and for Canadians.

But that isn't what I petitioned you to do.

I didn't petition you to add a worthless human-rights amendment, which will never be respected and which the Tories will only gut, as is their wont. I petitioned you to OPPOSE the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. You didn't do that; you PASSED it.

And you call yourselves an opposition? I call you a bunch of butt-boys.

But don't worry, a few people in Colombia will thank you for your kindly concern. Those few are Uribe himself, and his cronies--the ones who already own too much of the country; who have taken it from a violent banana republic to a narco-paramilitary failed state; who go around murdering bothersome peasants, stealing their land, and then dressing them in fake FARC uniforms before burying them in mass graves. Cocaine traffickers, in particular, will appreciate the good work you have done; you have just made it that much easier for them to export their noxious product, which will undoubtedly land on our streets, burdening OUR legal system to the breaking point. And of course, we mustn't forget the military-industrial complex, particularly that of Israel, which cheerfully sells weapons to right-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army alike.

And your measly little human-rights amendment proposes to change this situation HOW, again?

Please spare me the elaborate justifications. There is no justification for what you have done to the people of Colombia. Some 4 million of them have already fled to neighboring Venezuela in order to escape from the narco-paramilitaries and the army (which may as well be regarded as a single entity, so indistinguishable are they from one another). One of the Bolivarian missions advanced by President Chávez was to grant them Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, so that they would have a decent shot at jobs, free healthcare, and a good education--things the oh-so-humanitarian government of Alvaro Uribe would not grant them in their native Colombia. It is fair to say that Hugo Chávez has already done more for Colombians than you have, and it's safe to say that it's more than you will ever do.

But then again, Venezuela is Colombia's nearest neighbor and largest trading partner. The violence of Colombia's five-decades-old civil war spills over Venezuela's border (and those of Colombia's other neighbors, Ecuador and Brazil) with nauseous regularity. And so do the drugs. And Hugo Chávez used to be stationed near the Colombian border in his army officer days, ostensibly to patrol for guerrillas, but really to violate the human rights of peasants. He found this role objectionable, as did his fellow soldiers. It was a major turning point in his political consciousness. Now, as president, he takes the position that Colombia has to police its own borders, stop repressing its own people, and not expect Venezuela to pick up the slack in its guerrilla and drug wars. Colombia has failed repeatedly to do so.

Worse, Alvaro Uribe has refused to take responsibility for his own crimes and failures, preferring to project them onto his neighbors. That's why today, President Chávez has broken off relations between Caracas and Bogotá. His patience has been tested long enough. His Ecuadorian friend and counterpart, Rafael Correa, ran out of it two years ago, when Uribe's army bombed his country and then blamed him for "harboring" the FARC when he had done no such thing.

As for me, I have no patience for your nonsensical position that more trade with Colombia is the answer. For whom? Working-class Canadians have never benefited significantly from free trade; just the opposite. The only people ever to benefit from such agreements are those who really don't need the extra cash. Nothing will trickle down to Colombian campesinos, and nothing to the average Canadian, either. The last thing we need is more cheap goods flooding our market; we are already glutted.

And there are only so many bananas we can eat, and there is only so much coffee we can drink. Personally, I prefer to get my bananas from Ecuador and my coffee from Brazil. Those countries have decent presidents and are not known for their narcos or their paramilitaries.

In short, dear Iggy, this is why I won't be voting for you. It's not the only reason, but it's a big one.

Adios, cabrón.

Luv,

'Bina.

July 19, 2010

Who is this "silent majority", and why do they want to shut us up?

tricky-dick-mask.jpg

I have always found the phrase "silent majority" irksome. Not just because Tricky Dick used it (and was, of course, lying his ass off when he did so), but because makes no sense. How do you know people who share your smugly conservative views are, in fact, a majority, when they're silent?

You don't, and that's just what makes this phrase so stupid. It takes a lot for granted.

It takes for granted, as Tricky Dick did, that just because a majority of people aren't out there at any given time demonstrating against some huge injustice, that they must therefore be FOR it, rather than against it and unable to do anything about it (like take time off work or travel many miles to go to a demo, say). It takes for granted that people are constantly free to speak their minds publicly, and if they don't, it's because their mind is already made up in favor of the prevailing order, or the ruling class, or whatever trash the TV is trying to sell them.

Of course, that's ridiculous. Not everyone who opposes the G-20 fuckery is going to be able to turn out to demonstrate against it; I'd say that maybe just one opponent in ten made it to Toronto for the big demo, and that's an optimistic number. Fewer still made it to the subsequent protests against police brutality and the violation of civil rights, but that hardly means, as Dalton McGuinty claimed when he appropriated Tricky Dick's phraseology, that those who showed up to speak out were a vocal minority. They were just the few who could afford to spare the time and energy to be there.

More insulting is the notion that the so-called "silent majority" assumed to be in favor of the fuckery has more wisdom and sense on the issues. In fact, those in favor are the ignorant ones. And to anyone who had the nerve to snark on the protesters, claiming they didn't know what they were against, here you go. Chow down on this open letter from someone who WAS there, and who knew full well what it was about:

First, why did we even protest the G20?

The G20 is the meeting of 20 leaders from the 20 richest countries in the world. They meet to discuss and implement economic policies. There is no administrative body, and the G20 is accountable to no one. The one thing that came out of this G20 meeting in Toronto was an agreement on 'austerity measures'.

In a nutshell, austerity measures is another way of saying cuts to public spending in order to bail out banks and corporations, which are the reasons for economic crisis in the first place.

A lot of people have been talking about neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a cluster of policies or an ideology based on belief in the free market: that the market can best regulate itself, and should not be subject to interference. This includes taking for granted the assumption that capitalism is a good thing and that it's necessary. Capitalist enterprises such as corporations involve increasing profit by whatever means necessary: the responsibility of corporations is to their stockholders, not to those who are affected by corporate policies.

[...]

Neoliberal policies and practices have resulted in the economic crisis that we're currently in the midst of--where folks are laid off work, factories close, or companies move overseas where they can capitalize on more cheap labour to increase their profits.

Rather than questioning the roots and assumptions behind neoliberal policies, the G20 leaders have decided that the solution for neoliberalism, is, in effect, more neoliberalism. Rather than taxing banks or corporations, they are taking public money to bail out these institutions, which are by their nature unsustainable. Put simply, this is taking money from the poor, to bail out corporations and banks, which result in more money for those who own the companies or the people who own a lot of stocks.

This is a big part of why we protest the G20. Because we disagree with a small population imposing policies that make a few richer, while increasing the divide between the rich and the poor, and continuing to harm the majority of the world's population and the environment.

Those who protest are vocal, yes, but they are NOT a minority. Nor do they protest on behalf of a minority. They protest on behalf of the overwhelming, and TRULY silent, majority of the world that is NOT represented by the G-20 and its unethical, unaccountable so-called leaders.

The people Dalton McGuinty and Tricky Dick claimed for their own, as a "silent majority", are in fact the minority. They are every bit as vocal when they say that the "anarchist thugs" who were there "got what they deserved". I certainly don't see THEIR opinion being under-represented in the news, nor in online polls, nor in "official" polls by Angus Reid et al.

In fact, this manufactured opinion has been made to carry the day, because the discourse has been hijacked since before the G-20 summit began. The cops who arbitrarily decided to not let protesters within five metres of the fence were the terrorist musclemen, and the three levels of government who gave the keep-'em-out orders were the same who determined in advance what the tone of the discourse was to be: Everything going on inside the fence good, everyone protesting outside it bad. Everything inside the fence order and propriety, everyone protesting outside it anarchist thug.

Thus was a billion dollar security boondoggle sold to a thumb-sucking public who would, of course, be the ones footing the bill. And thus was said public manipulated into thinking, against all evidence to the contrary, that the cops had done the right thing when they arrested more than a thousand people on no actual charges.

A billion dollars and a thousand arrests for nothing. Nothing, that is, but a vastly unpopular fuck-over of the vast majority of the world's people--with cutbacks and shitty macroeconomic policies already proven by all of Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia not to work. Seems pretty steep, but it's nothing compared to the price the world's exploited people--and yes, Canada has 'em too--are going to pay.

Must keep that majority silent, since they weren't in on the consultation, right? Must ridicule, suppress and just plain shut them up. At all costs.

I propose that the so-called "silent majority" referred to by the Dalton McGuintys and Tricky Dicks of the world be referred to, instead, as the Silencing Minority. Because that is, in fact, what it is.

"It is so much easier sometimes to sit down and be resigned than to rise up and be indignant." --Nellie McClung

July 18, 2010

Music for a Sunday: On the hill where he went when he ran from a raging storm

When this Payola$ song first came out in '83, it was considered unusual and a bit shocking for telling what life is like for children of abusive, alcoholic parents. It was inspired by an actual story, told to one of the band members by a kid with a badly blacked eye, who was painfully frank about his alcoholic dad. After that, the song practically wrote itself; I can remember reading about how it came about, and how satisfied the entire band was with this very strong piece.

I was a little shocked at first, but I also liked it. It was courageous, and I badly needed courage. I was bullied at school a lot that year, so I could somewhat relate. A few years later, the full significance of it finally sank in. This tune saw me through a bad time, five years when I was intermittently seeing a boyfriend who drank (and whose father had also been an abusive drunk.) It gave me the strength to survive, and eventually dump the drunk.

I still consider it their strongest song, all these years later. And I absolutely love it.

July 17, 2010

Roll out the RED carpet...

...because Orwell's Bastard is here. And man, is he PISSED.

July 13, 2010

Conservative "libertarians"--whose allies?

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I was chided by a liberal today for very rudely telling off a gun guy who presumes that his side is the "right" one to be on in the battle for civil liberties here in Canada. I always love it when people supposedly on my side take up for the other; way to prove that "liberals are milquetoast" belief the right holds of you, pal. But you know what? I don't feel bad for telling the the con-job to fuck the hell off. Mr. Gunner had it coming; he was snotty and patronizing, and dared to use that "when I was young and foolish, I thought like you, too" canard on me.

BIG mistake.

You see, I'm not that young anymore. Youthful, yes, and I look young for my years, but I'm not exactly one of those green-haired kids you see at demos and some people think are the only ones that show up. I've already lived three years longer than Che Guevara, who died before he was 40. I don't think of myself as middle-aged, but clearly I'm not a kid, and haven't been one for quite some time. I have been in the struggle for all kinds of human and civil rights in Canada for more than two decades now, starting when I was 20 or so. I may not be a major figure, and I wouldn't go putting on airs of being a veteran, but neither am I just some snot-nosed punk with naïve notions about making the world a better place. I'm old enough to have much clearer ideas than that, and more concrete patience as to how they are to be implemented.

I am in the struggle, and I am committed to it for life. I committed myself to it little by little over more than half of my life to date. Each failure (and there have been many) has taught me something. I know the struggle is not going to be won by grand gestures or any other overnight victories. Time and experience and liberal lashings of extracurricular study have granted me that wisdom. That's why I am vocal about just how much I don't appreciate being patted on my pretty little curly red head by some good ol' Johnny-come-lately with a gun who thinks he's some kind of anti-authoritarian authority, just because he has a penis extension with an ammo clip.

(Or because he wants one and can't have it, thanks to the evil wicked federal government not granting him the privilege of having the supposed means to overthrow it. Same thing, really. Gun guys are all perpetual wannabes. Let them have a deer rifle, and they'll all cry because you won't let them have a machine-gun; let them have a machine-gun, and they'll cry because you didn't let them have a fucking bazooka. Big, fat, perpetually dissatisfied babies they are, at whatever age.)

Anyhow, this all has me thinking: Just because the right-wing flibbertigibbertarians are now joining in our clamor for civil liberties in the wake of the G-20 fiasco, should we on the left seriously consider them as allies?

My gut instinct tells me NO, WE SHOULD NOT. And my gut is not alone in this. My eyes and ears tell me so, too.

Even a cursory look around should be enough to prove my gut check correct. Where were these guys at the G-20 protests? Were they marching? Were they supporting from the sidelines? Were they reporting with cellphones and home movie cameras? Were they blogging and tweeting in support of the jailed?

None of the above.

The right-wing gun-guy flibbertigibbertarians were all conveniently elsewhere. They were not even raising their pipsqueak voices in solidarity from afar, as I was. They would never cheer for a leftist standing up to authority. In fact, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that before the G-20, they were all rah-rah for the Harpocrats, because those guys promised to get rid of the long-gun registry and because they hated the Dirty Fucking Hippies, and considered anyone who would protest global capitalist hegemony to be an anarchist deserving to get his or her head bashed in, like that poor soul in London the last time (who was, incidentally, just a passer-by). These guys all had absolutely NO problem with that, other than maybe what it cost and how bad it made capitalism look for just a split second there. But it didn't concern these concern trolls. It was someone else's head being bashed in, not theirs. And it was all happening at a safe distance.

Now that it's all suddenly right here in Middle Canada among us, and the evidence is all out there on YouTube that the cops were heavy-handed on orders from above, NOW all of a sudden they pipe up. Not that I'm unhappy to hear it, exactly--but jeez, gun guys, why so late to the party? Were you expecting to make a grand entrance with your guns, your ammo and your god-awful camo, and proclaim yourselves the saviors of us all?

If so, you're full of shit.

You didn't show up with your guns to the G-20 to clear the line of armored cops away from the people they were beating on. You didn't show up at the jails, either, to blast the thousand-some arrestees free. No Molotov cocktails for you, oh no. That's Black Bloc tactics, pure DFH stuff. You didn't fire a single round in defence of the leftists, not even from a kiddie slingshot. Explain to me exactly how you and your weaponry are supposed to be the God-sent answer to tyranny, again?

Oh yeah, I forgot. The feds, the same ones you voted for because they were right-wing lawn-order types, wouldn't let you buy your widdle bang-bang guns and bring them in. And if you had, you'd have been mown down by the riot squad, not with rubber bullets either, and you knew it. You pissed your pants in fear of it.

Poor babies.

No, I don't trust a conservatard with a gun to fight for the rights I have yet to obtain, because I've already seen how worse than useless they are at merely defending the existing ones. And it's not because these guys have their hands shackled by us mean little lefties, or Big Bad Government, no matter how much they whine to that effect. It's the fault of no one but the cons themselves. These guys are no Che Guevara; to them, he's another Dirty Fucking Hippie. And a commie, oh noes. Those are the worst "authoritarians" of all, to hear the rightards tell it. They think every leftist is Joe Stalin underneath it all, even though there's ample evidence throughout Latin American history that the much-feared leftist guerrillas were in fact the biggest real libertarians of all, while the official Communist parties of the various countries were at pains to distance themselves from Moscow and the guerrillas both, and the guerrillas, in turn, disdained Moscow as too authoritarian and the official Communists as too stodgy, too reluctant to fight for the people, and too busy trying to build their own electoral legitimacy in a fake-democratic system which was blatantly stacked against the Left on all fronts.

But let's not trouble their australopithecine brains with those facts, shall we? The point is, these right-wingers, even when they manage to organize themselves, are no freedom fighters. They couldn't get up even the most half-assed of guerrilla armies. In Canada they have never done so yet, and in the US, they have only succeeded in making asses of themselves. They have much in common with the fascist cops they claim to despise--they eat too many doughnuts, and they LOOK like doughnuts, too. One would think they were cops manqués, and one wouldn't be wrong; they are. And if they ever passed the entrance exams to police academy (which, heaven knows, takes no geniuses), they would turn into the worst kind of cop: the Bullyboy With A Badge, the kind that's hot to crack hippie heads at a G-20 demo. They will never fight for others; they don't really care about the oppressed. Here or abroad, they will only jeer at the poor to "get a fuckin' job", ignoring the fact that most of those wretches already have two or three apiece and still can't make enough to buy a decent house. The only people they will fight for is themselves, although they might pat the likes of me smirkingly on our heads and nobly claim they're doing it for us, because we're too silly and wussy to scream for more and bigger guns. (They think we only scream for ice cream.) Some might even eloquently fool themselves (and a few of us) into believing that there really is some higher purpose to what they're doing.

But at bottom, no, they're not doing it for anybody but THEM. That's why they voted for the Tories in the first place--or local fringe parties who think the Tories aren't right-wing and authoritarian and pro-capitalist enough. It behooves us on the left to remember that. Don't watch their mouths when they talk; watch their feet when it comes time to vote. These guys will never vote for the common good. Pure, unenlightened self-interest is their modus operandi, now and forever.

Don't believe me? Fine, take a good hard look at anyone who ever accomplished anything for civil rights and liberties anywhere. Tell me who they were, what their politics were. Was Rosa Parks a right-wing white guy with a gun, agitating for the right to unlimited guns? No, she was a middle-aged black lady who'd been a staunch, quiet civil-rights campaigner for many years before she simply sat down and stayed put on that bus in Montgomery, and wouldn't budge when Whitey ordered her to. How about Gandhi? Damn, the dude kicked out the British Raj from India without firing a single shot--or even a literal kick! He walked around in white loincloths, not camo fatigues. He organized protests, not armies. And both of these heroes had such a mass following that it was impossible to ignore them. They won in the end, not with bullets but with ballots.

Closer to home, Tommy Douglas--CCF socialist and Baptist preacher--gave every individual in Saskatchewan the right to free healthcare, education, highways and more. His socialist initiatives were so successful that every other province in Canada eventually copied them, even those with conservative premiers. Under Lester B. Pearson, a Liberal, the changes wrought by the leftist Tommy Douglas and his provincial government became enshrined in federal law. Pearson also let the Vietnam-era draft dodgers, conscientious objectors, and peace activists in, and more than 25,000 of them came to call Canada home. All have praised its peacefulness and freedoms; none have tried to import US-style gun-mad politics here. And Pierre Elliot Trudeau--another Liberal--patriated our Constitution from Britain, and appended our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thanks to those two documents, we are (or were, before Harpo) better off than our cousins to the south, rights-wise. I'll bet you good money that the rightards aren't even remotely familiar with the text of either one. I can tell you this much: Neither the Constitution nor the Charter guarantee ANYONE the right to guns.

And need I remind you that the Underground Railroad ended in Canada, where slavery was abolished long before it was even thought seriously about in the US? I'll give you a broad hint as to why that is: it certainly wasn't Tories, or any other conservatives, who agitated for that abolition. And it's a pretty safe bet that conservatives weren't sheltering any runaway slaves, either.

The entire history of the Americas is rife with conservative oppressors and liberal-to-leftist freedom fighters. There is not one conservative who ever fought for human rights, and not one socialist or true, un-milquetoasty liberal who didn't.

And no, the leftists didn't all have guns. They didn't all need them: Tommy Douglas needed only his pen, some paper and a microphone to become our Greatest Canadian. Even Dr. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who famously left behind his medical kit and kept his rifle when fighting in the Cuban revolutionary war (which his column won at Santa Clara), would say that it the people's revolutionary consciousness, not his gun, that was his best and most effective weapon in the struggle for human rights. The gun was merely his back-up, a tool for holding off the enemy. It was not the instrument of change; the mind was. It was only when he could make no progress with the people that his revolutionary guerrilla armies failed.

Where no mind for change exists, there can be no revolution; there cannot even be a victorious struggle for one person's rights, let alone the "individual" rights of all. No individual's gun, nor indeed the collective ownership of lots of guns, can change that. The US is lousy with guns; have they overcome the tyranny of Wall Street and the Pentagon yet?

No, because the mind for positive social change is one thing conservatives have never had, and never will. Not even the so-called "libertarians" of the right. Those guys will fall right in behind authoritarians like dominoes, when all's said; the topdog/underdog mindset is all they know. And they want to be topdog; they don't resent authority unless they don't have it to themselves. They don't want to build a world where there are no topdogs or underdogs. They are conservatives, and the only thing they conserve is the old order, in which women and minorities stay in "their" underdog place, and white male topdogs with guns run the show.

No, they are not our allies. They never were, and never truly will be. And woe betide anyone who is lulled by a few nice words from them into thinking otherwise.

"If you tremble indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine." --Ernesto "Che" Guevara, one TRUE libertarian.

July 12, 2010

Cops Behaving Badly: G-20 Dickweed of the Day

He threatens to arrest a girl for blowing bubbles. BUBBLES, people. You know, those harmless, rainbow-swirly little things made of soap, water and air? The kind little kids blow all the time, and laugh hysterically over when one pops on them? To this dickweed, though, that's "detergent", and constitutes an "assault".

Are you writing this down, people? Because it's useful information. Next time they come at you with rubber or plastic bullets, tasers, pepper spray and tear gas, you can have THEM charged with assault in turn--all of those things are a LOT more dangerous to the public order than soap, water and air. And I've never seen them used legitimately--or harmlessly--on anyone yet.

Meanwhile, what's the harm in a few soap bubbles? This big wuss sure seems to feel threatened by 'em. Maybe it's because they would pop on him and stain his nice, black polyester uniform. Or leave a spot on his sunglasses, oh dear. How can you intimidate people when you've got soap splotches on your shades? How can you even take yourself seriously?

Yeesh.

Dude really needs to lighten up, or man up, or both. Like the guy off-camera says, a billion of our tax dollars could have bought someone with a better attitude.

BTW, Dr. Dawg was taking names. Apparently, Dick Weed's real moniker is A. Josephs.

A. Hole is more like it.

July 9, 2010

Oh HarpDaddy, how could you???

Miss Ruby Jones, Stevielicious's Number One Fan, does the G-20...

...and suffers the consequences.

OH NOES, SHE FORGOT "O CANADA"!!!

July 8, 2010

"This ain't Canada": the trauma of the G-20

A young woman who was arrested at the G-20 protests talks about her dehumanizing experience at the hands of the cops. She was far from alone in being grotesquely maltreated. Stories like hers are pouring out, and it's getting awfully hard to deny the ugly picture they add up to. Even rah-rah cop-huggers like the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington are now waking up to the brutal side of those whose job it is to be enforcing the law, not making it up as they go along, or taking it in their own hands. What the fuck, for example, to make of this?

An incident during the protests on University Ave. -- captured on video -- would be a good one to study.

In it an officer says "this ain't Canada right now" while another one says "this is G20 land." And when a man, who was put in a physical hold by police for no reason clear on the video, said "I don't like to have my civil rights violated" an officer can be heard saying "there's no civil rights here in this area."

Where did these officers get this idea? On their own or from above?

Pertinent questions, and let's hope there are answers. For that, we will need a full public inquiry. Have you joined this Facebook group yet?

In the meantime, DAMMIT JANET! has some very pertinent information for those who were told this wasn't Canada and that their legal rights were thus null and void. Perhaps someone out there can use it--at the very least, to embarrass those who fucked up big-time by uttering those very revealing words. Because the last time *I* looked, Toronto's geography didn't magically change overnight just so the G(oddamn)-20 could grace our home and native land with its presence.

July 7, 2010

G-20: the New Normal



"Suddenly it's repression, moratorium on rights--

What did they think the politics of panic would invite?

Person on the street shrugs--'Security comes first!'

But the trouble with normal is IT ALWAYS GETS WORSE!"


--Bruce Cockburn, "The Trouble With Normal"


Greetings, citizens, and welcome to the New Normal here in Canada! Just when you thought the bad news from the G-20 fiasco had reached its nadir, guess what? "Normal" got worse:

The 57-year-old Thorold, Ontario resident - an employee with Revenue Canada and a part-time farmer who lost a leg above his knee following a farming accident 17 years ago - was sitting on the grass at Queen's Park with his daughter Sarah and two other young people this June 26, during the G20 summit, where he assumed it would be safe.

As it turned out, it was a bad assumption because in came a line of armoured police, into an area the city had promised would be safe for peaceful demonstrations during the summit. They closed right in on John and his daughter and the two others and ordered them to move. Pruyn tried getting up and he fell, and it was all too slow for the police.

As Sarah began pleading with them to give her father a little time and space to get up because he is an amputee, they began kicking and hitting him. One of the police officers used his knee to press Pruyn's head down so hard on the ground, said Pruyn in an interview this July 4 with Niagara At Large, that his head was still hurting a week later.

Accusing him of resisting arrest, they pulled his walking sticks away from him, tied his hands behind his back and ripped off his prosthetic leg. Then they told him to get up and hop, and when he said he couldn't, they dragged him across the pavement, tearing skin off his elbows , with his hands still tied behind his back. His glasses were knocked off as they continued to accuse him of resisting arrest and of being a "spitter," something he said he did not do. They took him to a warehouse and locked him in a steel-mesh cage where his nightmare continued for another 27 hours.

"John's story is one of the most shocking of the whole (G20 summit) weekend," said the Ontario New Democratic Party's justice critic and Niagara area representative Peter Kormos, who has called for a public inquiry into the conduct of security forces during the summit. "He is not a young man and he is an amputee. .... John is not a troublemaker. He is a peacemaker and like most of the people who were arrested, he was never charged with anything , which raises questions about why they were arrested in the first place."

Read the whole thing. It's truly horrendous.

This is just one of the more egregious cases to emerge from the G-20 débâcle. While not everyone there was treated quite this badly, enough of the activists experienced serious psychological effects that they realized they had to do something. That's why they've formed a support group for those traumatized by the violence. (Other support resources can be found here.)

What's worth looking into is why this is happening at all. When did it become "acceptable" for cops to rip off an amputee's prosthesis while falsely accusing him of a slew of illegal acts?

Stageleft tackles this question by examining the National Post's coverage of the story, and the readership's responses to it.

I entered into a discussion about the suspension of generally taken for granted civil rights/liberties at the G8/G20 meetings on a Conservative site and stated as part of the discussion with someone who made no bones about his support for whatever the police did:

As long as there are people like you who defend this sort of police action and attitude the greater the likelihood that you will ultimately become the recipient of it.

The reply came back:

Until it becomes a problem for the average citizen, expect no action on this front.

The thing is, this was a problem for the "average citizen". Hundreds upon hundreds of average citizens were detained in cages in Toronto, not because they broke any law, but because they were caught up in large number sweeps, because the authorities didn't like the look of them, because they weren't deemed cooperative enough by the authorities, or simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Judging from the general response from the blue corner to these sorts of instances the reply I received to my comment should more properly have been, "until it becomes a problem for me, expect no action on this front".

This is precisely the sort of thinking that worries ME. Does it take a Bad German like your humble keyboard-rat to see how similar this is to the way "Good" Germans thought in Nazi times? This "fuck them, as long as I'm all right" attitude is precisely what prevailed then.

It's a good thing I don't own a scanner, or I'd haul out the picture of my grandfather in his SS uniform and post it here. His expression in that photo is the same one I feel stealing over my own face when I'm scared shitless and can't do anything about it. Opa was not a political animal in the least. He was certainly not a Nazi. He had no antisemitic views and no special ambitions. He was just a shoemaker. But because he was six feet tall, had done obligatory service with the Yugoslavian army, spoke three languages (German, Hungarian and Serbo-Croat), and was an "Auslandsdeutscher"--an ethnic German from outside of Germany--he was "offered" the "choice" of joining that "elite" force.

It was, need I say, hardly a choice, unless you really wanted to choose between joining, and watching your family be shot before it was your turn. Opa was married and had three small daughters; the youngest was less than a year old. Who would shoot a baby? The forces of the "New Normal" in the Third Reich, that's who. And it didn't matter if the child was German or not. They were more likely to kill a Jewish baby than a German one--but if the German one had a father who wasn't willing to knuckle down and accept the New Normal, that baby was toast.

And this is what Canadian soldiers were ostensibly sent overseas to fight against in not one but two world wars. This is ostensibly why the Canadians took Vimy Ridge in 1917, when the British and the French--supposedly their "superiors", coming as they did from the two "mother countries"--could not do. This is ostensibly why the Canadians were in those two wars long before the laggards in the United States finally caught the war bug. Canada, we good Canadian schoolkids were taught to believe, cared so much about freedom that its young men were willing to sacrifice their lives--not for their own country, but for others! The world had to be saved from Hunnish imperialism, and saved it was. (Never mind that the real Huns were not, in fact, Germans. The world was saved from those Mongol hordes, and that's all you need to know, eh?)

Only, of course, it wasn't really that. Canada, as a "child of Empire" (yes, that was the actual phrase!), was told it was her duty to go to war for Mother England. It was, in both wars, a battle of imperialisms, not a battle for human rights as the soldiers were led to believe.

Of course, if you said so at the time, you got brutalized in all kinds of ways. During the Great War, pacifists (or suspected "slackers") got the demeaning "gift" of a white feather, often from some anonymous sender, implying cowardice and all kinds of other nasty aspersions on the recipient's manhood. If you weren't hot for war, and ready to jump without even asking how high, you were a nancy-boy. And in World War II, "conscies" (conscientious objectors) were also looked down on as slackers and probable homosexuals, and all sorts of other unmanly things. They were also sent off to labor camps. The fact that Canada, that human-rights beacon (along with its neighbor to the south, and Mother England for that matter) wasn't taking in Jewish refugees (unless they could demonstrate their strategic value, as did the physicists who went to work for the Manhattan Project) was conveniently glossed over. Even today, nobody wants to talk about it much, unless they're Bad Germans--or Bad Canadians--like me.

I bring this history up for a reason. People really badly WANT to think that what happened at the G-20 is some kind of aberration, and that on the whole, Canadian history hasn't been THAT bad. And for them, I guess it hasn't. Were their ancestors among those who got their heads bashed in by Mounties during the general strike in Winnipeg in 1919? Did they, like Tommy Douglas, risk losing a leg for lack of money to pay a surgeon? Were they hired as virtual slave labor by the railroads, like the Chinese, but later made to pay a head tax--no women allowed, lest that Yellow Peril start reproducing here as it did in China? Were they interned during World War II for no good reason at all, like the Japanese-Canadians in Obasan?

I guess not. Unless it touches THEM personally, they just shrug it off. "Security comes first!"

But there's no small amount of self-deception inherent in that position. As Stageleft writes,

They say that, on the whole, we are a more empathetic species than we used to be. That once upon a time we cared about what happened to our immediate families, and then, as we became more urban and technology allowed for better communications we became more caring more about our extended families, and our communities... and then that was extended to people who shared a geographical location like "our country", and ultimately, to those far from us, as we saw (for example) after the tsunami in Indonesia, or the earthquake in Haiti.

Unfortunately that empathy doesn't seem to extend to people who we don't agree with politically, or who experience things that make us uncomfortable.

There are a lot of people who have consciously suspended any empathy towards their fellow citizens because they do not agree with them politically, or because something happened to them that, if acknowledged, means that abuse happened - and this is Canada, a shining example of peace and democracy, possibly the greatest country on earth, and the authorities would never, ever, abuse their authority, because if they did that would mean.......

..... no.... no its better not to think thoughts like that.... if those people hadn't been where they were, even if they had a perfect right to do so, nothing would have happened to them - so whatever befell them is really their fault isn't it?

It's either that. or they're just plain lying.

I've heard it said that a Liberal is a Conservative who just hasn't been mugged yet, if that's the case a "we unconditionally support the authorities Conservative" is a non-authoritarian/anarchist who hasn't yet had their run-in with the police.

-- and as I said, the longer people support what we saw happen in Toronto, the greater the likelihood that it will happen to them as the authorities discover that there are few, if any, consequences for their behaviour.

It's disturbing, isn't it, to think that we have something in common with Nazi Germany, here in Canada, today. But it's true. What happened to the Germans did not come overnight; it didn't swoop down on them all of a sudden. It was a gradual, incremental frog-cooking. What would have been unacceptable if imposed all at once is quite acceptable as long as it only happens to others and not YOU.

Better still if those others are somehow visually identifiable; it makes the shunning, the singling-out, the persecution, so much easier; it also makes it easier to say "won't happen to us". You wore black in Toronto that day? You must be an anarchist, just asking for it. You wore a vinegar-soaked cloth over your face to protect against the gas? That's a bandit disguise! You have an artificial leg? Tough, we're not giving it back. What's the matter with you, can't you hop?

And so on.

The trouble with this "normal" is that it really does get worse. Just ask the Argentines how it went for them when they leaped from the frying pan (the quasi-fascist rule of the inept Isabel Perón) to the fire of the junta:

Of course, the eliminationist rhetoric coming from a lot of conservatives in this country would have us believe that "elimination of all leftist opposition, forever" is a worthy goal. No more of those rock-throwing hooligans in black disrupting our nice complacent corporate-capitalist order, yippee!

Only, of course, there's something a lot worse, something that won't be eliminated when all the so-called hooligans are gone. The real hooligans, the real thugs, are not those seeking to overthrow power, but those looking to seize and maintain it:

...and they will do anything, even stuff a rat up a young woman's vagina in order to kill her and thus maintain their "order". Utter barbarity like this is not beneath them, it is but one of many weapons in their arsenal.

I really do recommend that you watch this movie in its entirety and learn from the Argentine junta. One of the things that should really grab you is the incremental nature of their eliminationist policies. They didn't just make 30,000 victims go poof overnight. They did it little by little. Frog-cooking, as it were. A disappearance here, a random arrest there. Little horrors from time to time would come to light; a refrigerated truck might be found by a roadside, filled with human corpses hanging like sides of beef. Or the infamous green Ford Falcons favored by the Argentine secret police would race through the streets, blaring their sirens; all traffic would hastily move aside to let them by so they could "arrest" another "criminal" or dozen or so. It might seem random, but there was a method to the madness:

"First we kill the subversives; then we kill their collaborators; then...their sympathizers; then those who remain indifferent; and finally, we kill the timid."

--General Ibérico St. Jean, member of the Argentine junta

Gee, what does that remind me of? Oh yeah: this. Only inverted.

But you can see that the order is roughly the same. They don't come for everyone at once. First, they come for the "communists"...

You think this barbarism is just some kind of Argentine thing? Wake up. They got their training in torture partly from the CIA, and partly from old Nazis who emigrated from Germany shortly after the war, when things started to get hot and the big show trials and executions at Nürnberg were starting up. The fact that the US literally helped subsidize this atrocity should stand as proof positive that the so-called "champions of freedom" in this world, whom the right-wing jingoists always hail as heroes, are the worst villains of all.

And yes, it IS fascism when "we" do it. It is no less fascism when "we" do it than when the Nazis terrorized their fellow Germans under Hitler, or the junta its fellow Argentines. I don't care whether your excuse is "order" or "racial purity" or what. IT IS FASCISM NO MATTER WHO DOES IT OR WHY.

Fascism is not an ideology but a methodology. It is the art of frog-cooking. It is a matter of getting the people to accept, by degrees, an ever tighter controlling hand from above.

And that hand is not just the state, but an amalgam of the state and the corporate sector. So all you conservatives and right-wing libertarians can shut the fuck up about the "evils of statism". And fuck you, too, for trying to snatch the banner of freedom from the hands of those who were carrying it back when you were still sitting around with your thumb up your ass, babbling bullshit about "anarchists". If you want to talk intelligently about fascism, you have to accept Giovanni Gentile's definition of the word. Mussolini's speechwriter/ideologue made it abundantly clear that fascism isn't merely the iron heel of the state, and it most certainly isn't socialism, it is corporatism--the running of the state in the same top-down manner as any big business. The state is not the ruler, under corporatism; a dictator, with bundled masses of thugs at his command to enforce "order", is. And corporatism has a lot of self-declared "enemies":

After socialism, Fascism trains its guns on the whole block of democratic ideologies, and rejects both their premises and their practical applications and implements. Fascism denies that numbers, as such, can be the determining factor in human society; it denies the right of numbers to govern by means of periodical consultations; it asserts the irremediable and fertile and beneficent inequality of men who cannot be leveled by any such mechanical and extrinsic device as universal suffrage. Democratic regimes may be described as those under which the people are, from time to time, deluded into the belief that they exercise sovereignty, while all the time real sovereignty resides in and is exercised by other and sometimes irresponsible and secret forces. Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical, and destructive than one, even if he be a tyrant.

Ah yes. The tyranny of democracy. Why would anyone classify democracy as a tyranny, unless it stood in the way of his own ambitions and held him accountable? People who know how to recognize an autocrat from his earliest baby-steps instinctively reject his rule, voting him out of power or, if he somehow makes it to the parliament, they get their representatives to nullify his influence or otherwise make sure that he goes no further. People who are fully informed would not vote for a dictator, knowing what he holds in store for them. They would, however, be out to overthrow him if he did manage to get the reins in hand. Little wonder Mussolini didn't care for democracy (and neither did his close successor, Hitler, and neither does his more distant one, Harper.) If we accept the Mussolini/Gentile contention that "real sovereignty resides in and is exercised by other and sometimes irresponsible and secret forces", who better to take control than a dictator, commanding the police forces of a nation? That way, the pesky "delusion" of democracy can be abolished once and for all.

Or so the would-be dictators think. The fact that democracy keeps sprouting again from their rubble, like a weed from a salt-strewn roadside, must be terribly galling to them. Why else denounce the democrats as "thugs", even when it's manifestly clear that, as in the case of John Pruyn, there is not the most remote whiff of thuggery about them, and that it's the cops who beat the innocent amputee who are the thugs?

That's another thing about fascism--it has the most marvellous power to reverse things. Black is white, day is night, wrong is right. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. And woe betide you if you don't love Big Brother and hate whomever he (who is not a literal he) wants you to hate. Fascism is not definable for what it is, but rather for what it sets itself against.

And its first casualty, as in war, is still truth. That's why an Angus Reid poll found support for the police thuggery appallingly high among ordinary Canadians (who are by no means fascist, and in fact a solid majority aren't even conservative). That's why Dalton Fucking McGuinty has no problem making political hay off the trauma of the people who had to watch all that, but doesn't oppose police brutality or the G-20 tyranny which occasioned it. The truth is that the G-20, and all other elite undemocratic governing bodies, must go. But that's not getting out there. The going narrative is still "THEY are not like US; THEY are lawless, WE are good".

As long as that narrative pertains, "we" do not see "them" in us. We may be momentarily lulled by that warm feeling, but the water all around us is getting hotter. And that puts all us all in great danger. Nazi Germany and fascist Argentina are not so far away after all.

July 5, 2010

G-20 summit: Human rights catastrophe and legal nightmare

fascism-obvious.jpg

Well, actually, now that I think of it...

g20-riot-cops.jpg

Yes, sometimes it really IS that obvious.

Good evening! Here's tonight's G-20 roundup, brought to you by nobody but little old anticorporatist me.

First up, let's go to Tabatha Southey at the Globe & Mail, to see what fascism looks like up close and personal:

An officer threatened to arrest me for standing on the street (I was with a journalist and a photographer who lives in the building that we were in front of), but after two days of the G20 in Toronto, I was almost as inured to that threat as I was to the random searches I saw going on, everywhere, blocks away from the designated high-security zone.

Earlier that day, well before the much-publicized destruction on Yonge Street, I'd been threatened with arrest for "obstructing" a search by trying to take a picture (at a respectful distance) of two young men being searched.

An officer there had tried to grab my cellphone. Other officers had crowded around. They boisterously mocked the psychiatric patients coming out of the mental-health hospital behind me.

When I eventually, after a heated exchange, asked the officer for a badge number, he walked toward me repeatedly, sticking his chest out so that, if I didn't step back quickly, I'd be hit. As he did this, he yelled, "You want my badge number? You want my badge number? You want my badge number?"

I was scared. I didn't get the badge number. It's a tiny story beside many much more alarming ones, but these stories have filled this town up.

Yes, indeed it is. And that's why I can only sporadically include them here. Southey's account is pretty emblematic, though, of what the cops were up to: harassment, threats of violence, and other un-officerly conduct. Were this to happen at any time other than a fucking useless G-20 summit, the cop who did it would be suspended with pay, pending an investigation. So far, none is forthcoming. That's just one of many things that are different here.

The question is, why are they different? Well, here's one possible answer: There will be no investigation of this poor police conduct because the police were, in fact, doing their job:

Canadian state history, despite popular perceptions and mythologies, is replete with examples of the police--municipal, provincial and federal--"doing their jobs" in mass arrests, detentions, beatings, even killings of non-elites from various backgrounds (but particularly against indigenous communities and worker's strikes). Only a short sample would include: the Red River Rebellion, the Northwest Rebellion, the Winnipeg General Strike, the On to Ottawa Trek, the FLQ "crisis," the Quebec General Strike, Solidarity BC, Oka, Gustafsen Lake, Ipperwash, the OPSEU strike of 1995, June 15, Sun Peaks, Six Nations. And on and on so it has gone up to the present. Did the police not do their jobs in these cases?

In all of these instances, people were being restored to their station as the ruling classes saw it. Techniques, dress, language, and certainly public relations have changed. But, at root, the job of the police remains. And that is a job that we should be looking to abolish rather than restore.

...and their job was to brutalize and intimidate people into NOT protesting. And into remaining "down"--cowed, heads ducked, willing to take whatever abuse the ruling classes decided to heap on them, as long as there's still food, water, clothing and shelter in it somehow.

But is that legal, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Dr. Dawg has an excellent video up from The Real News, featuring constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo. He has some additional questions for the man who led the commissions investigating the Walkerton water scandal and the Maher Arar abduction/torture case:

If I live within an arbitrarily designated "public works area", can Blackwater or a mall rent-a-cop or any other appointed "guard" legally enter my home and arrest me for attempting to deny them entry? Will they be armed?

If I don't consent to being ID'd and searched on my way to work, can I legally be prevented from going to work? I cannot prove this, as it is only anecdotal, but during the Vancouver Olympics, a contractor told me he lost an employee due to said employee being denied passage through Vancouver by the police for the duration of the Olympics for having written an anti-Olympics letter to the local paper that was never published.

If any of the protesters/shoppers/citizens arrested and detained in handcuffs for 24 hours and jammed in a 10 by 12 by 20 foot cage along with 40 other men are not formally charged and given their day in court, will there be no other opportunity to challenge these arbitrary Charter-free zones until the next time they are dusted off for a globalization bunfest?

And finally, why is Chief Bill Blair on the hot seat for having been given these extraordinary powers he didn't ask for when it was presumably the PMO that told the Ontario cabinet to ask for them?

All of this points to the strong likelihood that this wasn't bad policing at all; it was police doing what they were told, which was to maintain "order" (read: oppression).

And this truth is so bad for some to take that even the children and spouses of police officers are now angry and disillusioned:

To think I would see the "trampling" of our collective rights and the right to "free speech" being discarded is devastating to me as a once proud Canadian. The actions of police in arresting and charging those who were peacefully exercising their rights is something I would expect to witness anywhere else but Canada.

The words "the true north strong and free" of our national anthem are now a mockery.

My youngest daughter was a victim of this suspension of our rights. She was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and obstruct police. This young woman headed the largest ever contingent of university students to post-Katrina New Orleans, on a Habitat build, this young woman slept in -30C temps outdoors to highlight the plight of the homeless, this young woman volunteers with a soup kitchen. This young woman is a dedicated pacifist who would not even kill a bug.

And this young woman is the daughter of a policeman who was on G20 duty. The police officer who beat her with his/her baton would not have known that. Not everyone was an "anarchist" and armed. Some like my daughter were just there to suport their causes in a peaceful, lawful manner.

But here's the rub: Those "special powers" granted to the police? Were not.

Hours after Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair sat in front of a bank of cameras and microphones last Friday morning, defending the powers the province gave police to search, detain or arrest anyone coming within five metres of the G20 summit's security fence, Toronto police received new information: The regulation specified nothing of the sort.

But police, having papered the area with pamphlets outlining G20-related security rules, felt no need to send out a press release clarifying how the regulation in question worked.

In total, police arrested more than 1,000 people over the course of the G20 summit.

A thousand people arrested, essentially, on no legal grounds. For what reason, other than to intimidate and coerce people into having no dissenting opinions to offer? Yeah, tell me it's not fascism.

And yet, some would still have us blame the "anarchists":

And yet we understand today what the bourgeois left, with its stern and pompous little warnings against what it calls violence, will only understand when future generations look back at them in anger. This is why we do not chide any person who, hounded from pillar to post for the crime of wishing to walk in her neighborhood, smashes the icons of our capitalist basilica, our holy of holies, our glass, our possessions, our things.

Is there anything more smug than bourgeois people offering to be scandalized by broken glass? The slightest disintegration of their spectacle unnerves them. "Violence!" they cry.

By violence, they do not wish to indicate the forty thousand children who die each day from hunger and other capitalist depredations. They do not mean the millions of children forced each day into servitude around the world to keep them in cargo. By violence they mean the destruction of objects.

"I agree with peaceful protesting," they say, like they're offering some special indulgence, "but I think it's terrible when there's violence." Oh, thank-you, Pope of Peoria.

It's pathetic. Perhaps an undercover cop at $80/hour breaks the glass of the American franchises or perhaps it's some kid who has understood justice and decided to act. That's not the important question. The real question is: Why is the franchise there destroying the neighborhood and leaving its backtrail of environmental filth in the first place?

To the tongue cluckers we say: Do you think future generations will be as indulgent with you as you are with yourselves, you pompous whitewashed sepulchers? Stop destroying the world, and we'll worry about some plate glass later.

I have seen my ten-year-old attacked in broad daylight on a peaceful afternoon by your police, I have seen the people falling under the horses, I have seen peaceful people dragged down, beaten, and hauled off to face what you call "justice." Shame on you, giving your little sermons against the iconoclasts.

Our group never broke anything, never offered the least resistance except for shank's mare and a few eggs and the art of the skedaddle. I would have stopped anyone from molesting the shop of some small business person. None of us were interested.

I remain absolutely committed to nonviolence (even this little formula will not, I assure you, stand the test of time) and, for strategic reasons, to not spending a lot of time smashing the machine. But I do not think future generations will be grateful for our nonviolence. Your platitudes about violence are your way of avoiding looking at the real violence your system is causing every day. You know you are doing wrong with your commerce, yet you carry on destroying the world. Stop it. Wake up.

And on that note, I'd like to close with a special fuck-you to Hillary Clinton, who calls the government of Venezuela "intolerant" even when evidence is literally under her nose that she and her so-called "allies" are the real bad guys.

July 4, 2010

Music for a Sunday: "Mother, let me fight..."

Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be the music of rebellion--right? Well, here's a great example of that:

Now, not to take anything away from Jerry Doucette, who is one of Canada's greatest and most-covered guitar heroes, but let's just contrast that song with another rebel tune, from another great guitar man--Alí Primera, Venezuela's numero uno folk hero:

Here are the lyrics, in my own translation:

Mother, let me fight

Mother, let me fight

Mother, how I adore you

because I love my people

and you taught me

to fight for them

You taught me
to share my bread
to share my love
to share my dreams

Now I want
to share my arms
that embrace you--
with the same
I want to embrace my people

Mother, let me fight
Mother, let me fight

You taught me
not to kill the butterflies
or cut the roses
that you grew in your garden

I learned little by little
to love the others
For the humble ones
Mother, let me fight
Mother, let me fight
Mother, let me fight

And do you remember, Mother,
how one day, there came a knock at our door--
a boy begging for bread
and you made me give him the old shirt
in which I used to play
and you were a good Christian.
I hope you understand
that the struggle for the people
cannot be won by charity!

Mother, let me fight
Mama, let me fight
You taught me not to kill the butterflies
or cut the roses
that you grew in your garden

I learned little by little
to love the others

For the humble ones,
Mother, let me fight
Mother, let me fight
Mama, let me fight

Quite the contrast, no?

Who is the bigger rebel--the little boy who needs Jerry Doucette to tell his mama to lighten up, or the young man who directly asks his mother for her blessing before going off to the guerrilla struggle for her freedom and for that of his country?

Three days ago, it was Canada Day. Today is the US's independence day. Tomorrow is Venezuela's independence day. And the rebellion is still going on. We all have a much bigger fight ahead of us than just getting Mama to let us play some rock 'n' roll.

Torontonamo Bay: One young man's personal account

Meet Dan Hamilton. He's 18, gay, and a new resident of Toronto. And on his first day in that city, something happened to him:

Dan was corralled and carted off to the Toronto East Detention Centre--or Torontonamo Bay, as it's rapidly becoming known, for its Gitmo-like people-cages and dehumanizing conditions. There he was kenneled in segregation, on account of his being gay (his boyfriend was with him, and a few other gays as well).

What the cops did was the height of absurdity; progressive demonstrators against the G-20 are probably the least homophobic crowd you could hope to fall in with. And indeed, Dan himself has nothing but good to say of them.

I suspect he and his comrades were caged separately not for "their own safety", as the cops lamely suggested, but to impede the solidarity that people forced to survive in concentration-camp conditions rapidly develop. In Torontonamo Bay, prisoners looked out for one another. When the only toilet in the people-cage was a plastic portapotty deliberately stripped of its door (not by previous prisoners, but by the guards), people barricaded the view with their bodies so their comrades could relieve themselves with some modicum of privacy. Little acts of solidarity can make a big difference to prisoner morale--and, conversely, strike a blow to that of their captors. So anything which disrupts that solidarity--such as the homophobic singling-out of gays, lesbians and other queerfolk--should be read as a deliberate swipe at the mental well-being of the prisoners.

And of course, the "don't make me abuse you" type of remarks from the riot cops as they were rounding people up are interesting, too. Don't wife-beaters and rapists say those sorts of things all the time? Like it's the victim's fault? Like she has the power to make it stop (which of course she doesn't)? That's also psychological abuse and torture--the threat of physical violence is often more traumatizing than the actual thing. Women in the human kennel at Eastern Avenue were so shaken by the threat of rape that being strip-searched soon after was a nightmare for them.

All of this was done very deliberately to send the message: Don't protest. Don't dissent. Terrible things will be done to you if you disobey us. You, the victim, will be blamed, because you "provoked" this.

Unfortunately for the cops, they still haven't figured out how the Internets work, or the fact that this dissent was all tweeted, live-blogged, and YouTubed while they were still smirking and sniggering over the way they'd temporarily reduced human beings to the level of caged dogs. Meaning, the Shock Doctrine may have finally met its match. People are coming together again, in solidarity, to protest what was done to the protesters. And that is a sign that all efforts at repressing dissent...are a billion-dollar EPIC FAIL.

July 2, 2010

Cops Behaving Badly: The "Miami Model" at work

No, the Miami Model is not a tall, shapely, ex-Latin American beauty queen. This is the Miami Model, in two minutes or less:

Yeah hi, it's me, banging on about the so-called Black Bloc again. These guys have so much in common with the riot cops, don't they? Both groups are violent, destructive, and hellbent on throwing society into chaos and rendering it unrecognizable. They even seem to dress alike--all in black, sturdy footwear, faces obscured one way or another. One might almost say they were one and the same.

Actually, there are some differences. Anarchists didn't do this--the cops did. Funnily, though, there were some convenient ruffians in the paddywagon to make sure a peaceful demonstrator named Lacy was properly terrorized:

At that point at least two officers yanked me up, including a thug, who may have been a plain-clothes officer, and was a black male wearing a black T-shirt with curvy print on it, about 6'3, perhaps 250 lbs. Photos of this man show a muscular, powerful frame. For the sake of this write-up, I will call this person "Thug A." I later learned that this thug or one of the other thugs may have been named Officer Antonie. Several other thugs, who may have been plain-clothes police, were present. One of them was a tall black man wearing plaid shorts and a white T-shirt, who also may have been a plain-clothes officer. For the sake of this write-up, I will call this person "Thug B."

Please note that none of my attackers ever identified himself as a police officer. They were wearing plain clothes and were driving an unmarked vehicle that looked like a standard soccer-mom minivan. I have no qualms calling my attackers thugs. They never gave me any indication that they were anything but thugs.

I was yanked in an aggressive fashion toward a blue unmarked van. The door was open and the middle seat of the van was folded down. Thug B climbed into the back of the vehicle just before I was flung toward the open door. As I was tossed toward the open door of the vehicle, my right knee hit something which I believe was the edge of the van (the metal lip of the door step). I was pulled into the vehicle, with Thug A roughly pulling my legs into the vehicle.

As I was pulled into the van, another thug, who may have been a plain-clothes officer, was sitting in the driver's seat of the van. For the sake of this write-up, I will call the person sitting in the driver's seat "Thug C." While I was being pulled into the vehicle, Thug C reached back with his right hand and took hold of my neck. Thug C was white with brown hair and a beard and was wearing a black T-shirt and black baseball cap.

As the van began moving and the door to the van closed, the two thugs in the back seat pulled me around so that I was laying face up with my head almost in between the passenger and driver seat. As they were doing so, Thug A was punching me in the stomach, just hard enough to shock someone who is delicate but not hard enough to harm me. As they punched me and turned me over, they said statements such as "stop struggling," and "stop punching." (Again, my hands were cuffed.) I immediately realized that they may be making such completely erroneous statements because we were being recorded, and I loudly stated "I'm not struggling. I am not resisting arrest."

Thug A sat on top of me over my pelvic area. My handcuffs were digging into my wrists. My only goal was to live through the experience without losing my humanity, my spirit, or my presence of mind, to find out where I was being taken, and to find out as much as I could about these thugs, whether they were officers or some sort of private contractors, i.e. paramilitary groups.

Thug B then squeezed my throat with his right hand, digging his thumb deeply into my carotid artery area, on the right side of my throat. He held this for perhaps ten seconds, as Thug A stepped on me, re-adjusting himself overtop of me. I almost passed out at that point as the carotid artery is the chief artery that supplies blood to the brain. At some point during or before this strangulation, I wet myself. Urine seeped into and through my clothing. Darkness almost overtook me, but I held on and I did not lose consciousness.

During this whole time the thugs were calling me names such as: "cunt," "bitch," "whore," and "street trash." A constant barrage of their statements were phrases such as "Look at this street whore." In addition, Thug A was making statements such as, "So you think you can smash up Toronto? Think again, you dirty bitch."

When I did not lose consciousness from choking, Thug B punched the right side of my head with his left fist. This was done at least once, and may have been repeated. I did not lose consciousness, but I began telling them, "I am a good person. I don't know why you are doing this to me. I did not harm anything or anyone."

As I was saying this, Thug A, who had been sitting on top of me, began patting around my skirt. "Why is she wet?" he yelled. Thug B replied that I had "pissed" on myself. Thug A then expressed disgust and began calling me horrible names, and deriding me for "pissing on him." He stopped sitting on my pelvic area and moved further down my legs.

During a large part of this assault, Thug C was reaching back from the driver's seat and pulling my hair very hard, harder than it has ever been pulled. A man in a turquoise-colored shirt was sitting in the passenger seat of the van. For the sake of this write-up, I will call this person "Thug D."

[...]

They roughly turned me over face down. We were quite obviously taking the short ride around the block to the entrance to the jail cell. At some point before we reached the building, the thugs stopped the car in an area that appeared to be a parking lot. Both thugs in the back seat got out. I tried to turn my head to the right to see what Thug A was doing, but Thug A took his fist and brandished it about an inch from my face, saying, "If you move, this goes into your nose." I kept my face down toward the gray van carpet.

Thug A got back into the vehicle, but Thugs B and D must have left. Thug B was still driving. I remained where I was and asked where they were taking me. Thug A said, "We haven't driven very far. Where do you think, you dumb bitch?" Thug A continued verbally insulting me as the van pulled into the PCC.

As I the doors opened to the vehicle, many other uniformed officers were visible in the giant prisoner intake room. I began loudly orating that I had just been assaulted. The uniformed officer who had initially grabbed me, whose face was with mine on all the front pages of the Toronto Star on Monday, June 28, came and sat in the front seat. He asked Thug A who the arresting officers were, asking "me and you?" I gave them a moment to agree on who the arresting officers were, and demanded to know their names and badge numbers. Thug A said, "My badge number will be on the paperwork." I demanded perhaps five more times of both of them, but neither one would tell me.

There were several senior-looking uniformed police officers standing nearby, and I proceeded to orate about how these officers had assaulted me, and that there were some bad, bad police officers working in this department, and that this officer here was one of them. Thug A only complained to the officers that I had "pissed" on him. He asked whether I had "any diseases that he had to worry about." Regardless of the arrogant tone of his question, I thought it was a fair question, and I answered him that I didn't have any diseases I was aware of. I asked him whether he had children, and whether he would like it if they were mistreated for simply taking a photo at a demonstration. I told him that he was a very bad person, and repeated that I am a good person, I've done nothing wrong, and I have harmed nothing and nobody.

What's the difference between a plainclothes officer, a "Black Bloc anarchist" (note quotes; there are, in fact, REAL anarchists who look and act nothing like this bunch), and a plain old thug? Apparently, not a helluva lot.

If you ask the old question, Cui bono? and they all answer to the same effect, you can safely assume they're on the same side.

I also come to grips with the fact that the black-clad mob [protestors] in Toronto has left a lot of people not only in the general public but in the wider nonviolent social/global justice movements in Canada feeling disgusted, demoralized and dispirited. Just the result you want if your goal is to marginalize and stifle dissent. I would suggest that what the 'blocistes' accomplished was what many feminists have termed 'silencing'. While the more numerous non-violent voices were indeed heard on the streets and at Queen's Park (25 000 in the main march!), they weren't 'heard' in the more meaningful, mass sense as loudly as the same reels of destruction overplayed in the media, and the same accounts of destruction and violence witnessed to on the ground by journalists, activists and citizens. The blocistes, in other words, are the most effective tool on the ground for silencing the valid concerns of the broad social movements questioning neoliberalism, corporations, imperialism and war - because like a ball dropped in a glass of water, they take the discursive space away from the broader movements, inviting and indeed compelling the public (through the media, of course) to only focus on the violence of smashing, burning, destroying, throwing, hitting... which are all pointless, repulsive, destructive, and frightening.

Bingo. That's the whole idea, isn't it? To scare people the hell away from even thinking of demonstrating against something they know to be repugnant, repulsive and utterly evil?

Only, of course, it's backfiring. People turned out in force to demonstrate against the arrests and detentions of innocent demonstrators like Lacy. They are bent on showing themselves to be unintimidated by the crude tactics of the Miami Model. They also seem to be overwhelmingly distancing themselves from the Black Bloc. Many are doing so not only out of disgust at the futility of window-smashing, spray-painting and car-trashing, but also out of a suspicion--probably well founded--that every anarchist group resorting to Black Bloc tactics has been infiltrated by police provocateurs.

Even some anarchists themselves are distancing themselves from the rock-throwing vandals. Once more, I refer you to what I blogged in 2007, after three fake anarchists were unmasked as cops in Montebello, Québec. Anarchists--REAL ones--and unionists banded together against the phonies. THAT's what I call solidarity!

Alas, solidarity seems to have taken a real beating lately, along with all the innocent activists. It seems strange to note this, but seven years ago, I was in a peace demo here in my very sleepy, very stodgy, very conservative Southern Ontario town, and not only did the cops NOT beat us up, they gave us an escort, using their cruisers to keep the road clear of traffic so we could march without having to cram ourselves onto a narrow sidewalk!

Ah, the Good Old Days, when the cops were still Good Guys. Now, we can't tell the cops from the robbers, literally, unless we're willing to parse the finer details of their appearance, as well as asking that Latin Question. Something that some of us are apparently unwilling to do...to our detriment, I sadly fear. Give the cops too much benefit of the doubt, and you end up kissing goodbye to your civil rights, one after another, in short succession. Sometimes, as in Montebello, you have to jump to an un-PC conclusion based on "insufficient" evidence, and point out the naked emperor in your midst, or risk losing your own credibility. (That last is being steadily undermined by the major media already--also in cahoots with the cops.)

And on a final note, I offer you a tiny bit of surrealism. An anti-BB site using their name. There appears to be a corporation behind this recent addition to the Internets. Just one more of those wacky little things that make you go hmmm...

June 30, 2010

Authoritarians: Canada haz 'em.

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Ah, yes. I suppose a lot of others will be asking the same thing. Unfortunately, I already know what the answer will be.

Happy Canada Day Eve! Are you looking forward to the fireworks tomorrow, boyz 'n' girlz? That's nice, but trust me, they will be NOTHING compared to what happens when the Toronto 900 get their day(s) in court. How do I know? Oh, a little birdie has been perching on my left shoulder, whispering all kinds of interesting things in my ear.

So what has the little birdie been telling me? Well, here are a few things I heard just today:

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association--that's right, our own equivalent to the ACLU--is going to court on behalf of all those wrongfully arrested (read: ALL arrestees) during the G-20 summit. The suit will target Toronto police and all the other police forces trucked in for the occasion. (Some came from as far away as Calgary and Edmonton. Western fascists--boo, hissssssssss.)

And speaking of police, my friends Pale and Willy would like to know if you have seen a certain burly dude posing as an anarchist. His black duds looked way too new and clean. His shoes look nothing like the grubby sneaks a real anarchist would wear, but a great deal like the sturdy clodhoppers issued to the riot cops. He obviously has regular access to a gym. And that buzzcut? Standard police issue. If you know him, call your local Crimestoppers. In Toronto, that number is (416) 222-TIPS.

Other police beat (and beatdown) stuff: Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun apparently has a number of unnamed sources in the Toronto police force, and they've told him some very interesting things. At times it makes you wonder who were the bigger victims of this blatant breach of democracy, the cops or the people they corralled. (Read all about the conditions in the jail and then tell me. I think it's no fucking contest.)

Meanwhile, Matttbastard is calling for a public inquiry. As are plenty of others. Five hours in a police corral in the pouring rain out at the intersection of Queen and Spadina does seem like pretty solid grounds. So does the fact that police chief Bill Blair makes up his own laws, lies about them, and then, after days of angry protest, finally admits his guilt. I would call that grounds for dismissal, and certainly for a public inquiry ASAP.

The inquiry should leave no one out. The Ontario government, like Bill Blair, has a lot of unethical (and unconstitutional) lawmaking to answer for (it's now denying its obvious role; what a load of mounted police horseshit). The feds are also far from innocent. I'm pretty sure that Harpo's hate-on for Ontario, and its capital city in particular, led to his sadistic decision to host the G-20 billion-dollar boondoggle there, just so he could see the famously progressive city punished for being the economic hub of the nation. Well, he got his secret wish; Torontonians are now appropriately traumatized. The Shock Doctrine has claimed another societal victim.

But all is not trauma and shock. Among the haul of so-called "weapons" seized by the coppers, there's a full set of medieval LARPing gear. Chainmail, crossbow, the works. Clicky here for a good laugh.

And while you're at it, you may also want to sign the CCLA's petition. Sure to be one of many circulating in the days and weeks to come.

Finally, read what this Saskatchewan blogger, who was there, saw that the major media aren't talking about. And then you'll understand why I feel that bloggers have a better handle on the situation than even the most experienced of the professional journalists who were there. Remember, bloggers don't have to self-censor and sanitize, nor do they have to stick to pre-scripted conventional media narratives. Bodes ill for the mainstream media; bodes rather well for us pixel-stained wretches.

And let's hope it bodes well for our home and native land, too. I'm not feeling that true patriot love this year.

Heroes for Today: Johnny Cash, Black Bloc anarchist?

Johnny answers a sartorial question with a song:

Jesus Christ. Just listen to those lyrics. Aren't they a brick through the window of your smug bourgeois sensibilities?

June 29, 2010

Hey gun nuts, take note...

THIS is how you handle a crime in progress. No concealed carry (or any other "carry") necessary:

A would-be looter in Toronto this weekend got foiled by an alert, quick-thinking passer-by...who had no weapon other than a wicked tackle.

THIS is how people with real cojones do it. Not from the safe distance afforded to those with a pussy pistol or a taser, but hands-the-fuck-ON.

And yes, Mark Steyn, this is how CANADIANS do it, you effete ex-Brit twit. Try not to soak yourself again, 'kay?

(BTW, Toronto police, you too should be making a note of this. Where were YOU when this went down? Too busy leaving out decoy cars for your own to trash, I guess.)

Short 'n' Stubby: Ms. Manx takes on the G-20

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Yes, it's time for another of THOSE posts. Fear the Stumpy Cat! For she has been all over the Internets, and what she has found on the G-20 would frizz your hair...

Linda McQuaig notes that the real criminals all got off scot-free. Not surprisingly, the biggest ones were behind the fence. Downtown TO merchants have more to fear from them than from a few black-clad rock-throwers breaking their windows, and they know it.

Among the criminals who got off without so much as a slap on the wrist, count the Toronto Police. Dr. Dawg notes the use of rape threats (and actual sexual molestations), linking it to a strikingly similar tactic of war.

And the police don't even have the excuse of actual crime prevention/solution to excuse their fascistic behavior. Among the innocent people caught up in their nets, count a CITYTV reporter; a Globe & Mail reporter; a UK Guardian reporter; a CTV videographer; and a large number of indymedia people.

Of course, if those awful anarchistic journos had really been serious, they would have gotten access to the wonderful Fake Lake, along with Christopher Robin the Bourgeois Kvetcher.

For those who doubt if the police used provocs, you can lay your doubts to rest. Substantial photographic evidence exists, as do videos. And if that's not good enough, the police themselves have admitted to doing it in Québec. And they never did rule out that they would use it here. Refusing to confirm or deny should always be taken as a tacit admission of guilt from a public official, since those who have nothing to hide, will have no problem categorically denying the charges!

And that's not even counting the "five-metre rule", which Toronto police chief Bill Blair just made up as he was going along. Since when do cops get to make the laws in this country? Oh, since NEVER. Their job is strictly to enforce. When they take lawmaking into their own hands, that's a direct subversion of democracy.

As is the fact that they deliberately let the "rioting" happen. You may or may not agree that they planted provocs (and if you don't believe the evidence I posted above, fine), but it's quite clear that they stepped aside when the rocks flew and the windows smashed, and it was all to justify their draconian approach later that day (and in the days that followed.)

And what is this bullshit? No arrests? I guess that makes 900 nonpersons taken into custody. Erwin Schrödinger's cat has NOTHING on the Toronto cops for having it both ways.

Also, fuck you, Wikipedia. There were NO riots. Unless perhaps you're referring to what the police inflicted on the citizens: tear gas, pepper spray, tasers and nasty projectiles. I stress that the people didn't start that, nor did they fight back violently. All the protests against the police thuggery have been peaceful. The "rioting" was all on the part of the police. (Including the non-uniformed ones posing as "anarchists".)

But the last word of the day really must go to Naomi Klein, who speaks for all of us when she tells the lot of them to "stop playing politics and public relations" with the lives of the citizens. Watch the video here.

Cops Behaving Badly: Do you recognize any of these "anarchists"?

Check 'em out!

Now, how could you be an anarchist--a real one--and NOT know who Che Guevara was, even when you're wearing his face all over your body?

Or for that matter--what's up with the pot-leaf bandanna? Dude looks much too straight to me, if you know what I mean.

But if by any chance you know who they are, please report them to the Toronto Police Service (or whatever police service they came from). I think it's time they turned in their badges. Worst undercover cops/agents provocateurs EVER.

June 28, 2010

A few random thoughts on the G-20, Black Bloc tactics and police brutality

I'm not sure what to make of this man. He seems belligerent. Yet he's wearing socialist and peace symbols on his shirt. WTF? Anyway, his situation (which could be street theatre, for all we know) pretty much encapsulates what went wrong in TO this past weekend. How ironic is it that consumerism got thwarted by the thugs of über-fucking-capitalism? Merchants, now you know: Capitalists are NOT your friends. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...and I love the goofy emo kid in there stealing the show, BTW.

Lately I've been hearing a lot of stupid petty bourgeois kvetching about the so-called Black Bloc, vandalism, broken windows, etc. As though a bunch of anarchists (or supposed anarchists) in black were the real culprits at the G-20 summit in Toronto, and all the violence was their fault. Here's a representative sampling of the drivel:

Our first foray today was to attend the Toronto Community Mobilization Network's press conference at 3 p.m., which was barely a press conference: it was in fact an extended chance for TCMN to whine at the press for being unsupportive. (At least when Bill Blair holds a press conference and bullshits to your face, he doesn't need a crowd cheering for him.) It was exactly what you'd expect: cops are bad, we're exercising our legal rights, the people who have been detained overnight are "political prisoners" (by the way, I've rung Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone just now, and she says "drama queen says what?") and on and on--a long-winded stream of the biggest heap of self-righteousness not seen since, well, since the last time I heard Stephen Harper criticize the left wing in this country.

And for all of that, protesters, you still could have come out the good guys today. It would have been so easy. You only had to do one thing, one single goddamn thing: "We don't approve of or condone the Black Bloc tactics and we don't approve of or condone violent protest." There you go. Say that, and you're heroes, plain and simple: people who chose not to let their grievances against the government be tainted by malice, even in the face of ridiculously overwrought police tactics. One lousy sentence; that's all we asked of you. Just show us a little good faith.

But of course it didn't happen--not from the top. We got weasel words worthy of Parliament. "We don't comment on the actions of individuals." "That's not the story here." And the reason for the weaseling out is really simple: organizers don't want to condemn Black Bloc tactics and bandana thugs. The radical protest movement in Canada (and let's call it that for lack of a better umbrella term, to distinguish it from the labour unions and NGOs that vamoosed on Saturday the moment they realized the goon squad had ruined everything) long ago decided that the Black Bloccers are part of the movement and welcome at their rallies, and that the next time they hold a protest the thugs will show up again and they'll break shit again, and the rest will just yell "solidarity" like a bunch of useless assholes.

Care for some cheese with that whine, journo boy? Little caviar on a cracker, perhaps?

Poor babies. How hard it must be to be you, or rather how easy: Just blame it all on a bunch of kids in black, get a few complaints and disavowals from activists in the same piece that directly prove you to be a pontificating jackass (as well as a liar), and just don't dig any deeper. And you wonder why they don't trust you media droids? If this is the best you can do, quit fucking wondering. Your shit is self-explanatory.

The kvetcher who wrote that was working for an LLC blog--that is, one of those corporate mouthpieces dressed up to look like hip, cool, internet-savvy cutting-edge independent whatever. Nothing independent about it, in actual point of fact; any "blog" with an LLC at the bottom is not a real blog. It's a corporate entity, not an independent media outlet, and reflects a corporatist worldview when all is said and done. This reporter is a perfect example of that. His final paragraphs also strike me as representative somehow:

The entire day was a pathetic waste. At the end of it, journalists and delegates partied inside the International Media Centre; the summit was done, they could now go home, and there was free booze to spare, so why not? It'd be a shame to come to the G20 summit and not get hammered by the fake lake.

Actually, in retrospect, the fake lake is honestly kind of nice. It only cost about fifty thousand bucks, not the one-point-two million everybody kept discussing, and it's really quite pleasant to sit in. But when a fake lake is the best part of your day, it's been a worthless day. That's the fault of pretty much every last one of us.

...not to mention disingenuous. That $1.2 million figure included the free booze, which our "alternative" bourgeois journo-boy did not disdain to drink. The "fifty thousand bucks" only refers to the centimetres-deep splash pool proper, but it's still a hefty sum of money for some plastic liner and a little bit of water. There are families in Toronto who manage to live on less than what that glorified splash-pad cost, for an entire year. (Trust me, dude, you don't want to see where they have to do it. There's no "kind of nice" about moldy, roach-and-rat-infested apartments in crime-ridden slums.)

Anyway, this is the kind of opinion you get when people's brains are eaten by corporatism--which, as Mussolini's speechwriter knew, was the essence of fascism. You get a whole lot of bitching about the wrong people, while the real culprits--definitely NOT "every last one of us", as Christopher Robin there says, but just a very very few--get off scot-free.

Oh what the hell...maybe some people just need pictures to help them understand what this was all about.

capitalism-pyramid.jpg

There you guys go. Succinctly put, no?

Notice that the "We Fool You" element is second from the top. They have the clergy, but the press would also fit in that tier. The press is, after all, the ruling class's instrument. Like the clergy, it's their job to justify God's ways to man--"God" being the ruling classes, "man" being the rest of us.

And don't get the idea that the "alternative" LLC "blogs" are any different. Actually, they're just a semi-hip repackaging of the same old thing you'll find in any crotchety old conservative rag. The excerpts I cited above are a prime example. They're full of smug, whiny-assed dismissal of legitimate protest, in case you hadn't noticed. It's like Christopher Robin there was just looking for excuses to dismiss the entire anti-G20 movement.

Which, of course, he was.

Now, why do you suppose he was doing that?

As always, the best question to ask first is that old Latin standby, Cui bono? In other words: Who benefits?

Well, corporatists benefit. That's a given. He wouldn't be writing for an LLC "blog" if not. Look at the pyramid, and remember: This guy is employed by those at the level of "We Fool You".

And after them, there's the ruling class. They like to see attention deflected from the real culprits to a few convenient scapegoats. "We Rule You" needs "We Fool You" to get the ruled masses to accept the rulership of the few.

And above the ruling class, there's...what? Anybody? Bueller?

Now. Let's look again at the middle-to-lower levels of that pyramid. Below "We Fool You" is the face of the oppressor we saw yesterday: "We Shoot At You". And below them are the useful idiots, the parrots we can always trust to squawk along at whatever propaganda "We Fool You" put out, along with "We Shoot At You". Yes, the "We Eat For You" bunch is contemptible as all hell, though very fashionably dressed (and very appreciative of all the free booze being served around the lame, overpriced fake lake. Belly up to the bar, boys.)

I'd say that Christopher Robin, while he writes for "We Fool You", is actually a member of "We Eat For You". Little wonder, then, that he feels compelled to piss on the peons below. What else do the eaters do when full of booze and there's a fake lake lapping at their feet, putting thoughts of pee-pee in their little pea brains? What else--just take a flying whiz at the producers without whom the entire pyramid, including their preening, smug layer, would crumble down.

And it would crumble. If the peons knew who their real enemy was, that is. Which is why "We Fool You" has been so busy this past weekend, tamping down dissent, stroking the bourgeois sense of entitlement at "We Eat For You", and defending and justifying the actions of "We Shoot At You" and "We Rule You". Even if they disingenuously deny it, as Christopher Robin does.

Unfortunately for Christopher Robin and his blame-the-Black-Bloc ilk at We Fool You, LLC, there's video like this one, showing undercover police in action...

...in which, if you look closely at about the 45-second mark, you'll see a masked, black-clad "anarchist" (conveniently marked with an arrow) melt in behind the police line. Something he wouldn't be able to do if he were not, in fact, one of them!

So much for blaming the so-called "Black Bloc". The real blame, a healthy portion of it at least, must fall on "We Rule You" and "We Shoot At You", and not the small radical anarchist element among "We Work For All" and "We Feed All". (The lion's share of the blame goes, of course, to the nameless, faceless entity at the top of the pyramid.)

And now we know why so much money was spent on unregistered security corporations at the Billion Dollar Boondoggle. And also why the same got that quickie licence, while the police got sudden, overnight, secret expanded powers. I'll bet these fake anarchists, put there to stir trouble among the real ones, were in fact the unaccredited security contractors in question. Who needs a real cause for mass arrests and suspension of civil rights when you can just manufacture a bogus one--using the services of a corporation?

Ah yes, "We Rule You" and "We Fool You", "We Shoot At You" and "We Eat For You". We See What You Did There.

And We Are No Longer Fooled.

Why all conservative voters should be ashamed

This, apparently, is what THEY voted for:

Pure, unadulterated human rights abusage. Riot thugs charged a peaceful protest this afternoon at the corner of Queen and Spadina in Toronto (note Steve's Music Store in the backdrop.) There is no excuse for what they did. All the protesters did was sing "O Canada", with emphasis on the words "We stand on guard for thee".

Apparently, they are the only ones who did.

The G-20, as Jesse Rosenfeld astutely points out in the UK Guardian, is an expansion of the failed G-8 in the aftermath of the global capitalist economic collapse. It was all about changing nothing, except maybe for the worse. It's all about capitalist globalization over and above all human rights, dignity and national sovereignty. (Harpo said so himself.)

Rosenfeld, incidentally, was singled out by riot thugs and beaten and held incommunicado for over 24 hours for that. He was one of many journalists to suffer a "detention" for covering the summit--and its many detractors. (There were more detractors than boosters for the G-20 bullshit. Doesn't that tell anyone anything?) Another Jesse, The Real News's Freeston, was beaten up, and two photographers for the arch-conservative National Post were jailed!

Gee, it's as if the "authorities" didn't want the media reporting an uncontrolled, unscripted version of the story, eh?

Well, of course they didn't. That would have been giving too much freedom of speech to the dissenters. And as my friend Sol points out, dissent is now illegal. You can't even march up to the "security fence" to state your viewpoint without being hassled for a fucking ID, for fuck's sake. And this draconian law was passed in secret!

Meanwhile, the going meme in the compliant whore media is that "peaceful protests turned violent". Bull-fucking-SHIT they did! If the media were fully honest, they would come right out and say "Peaceful protests were attacked by fully-armed riot police in an effort to quash all dissent", because that's just what happened! Again, my friend Sol is your go-to guy for what's wrong with this meme.

And of course, this meme is part of a larger strategy: Make all dissenters out to be criminals. Marginalize them all. And if they don't make violence themselves, throw in a few provocateurs and let THEM provide all the necessary pretexts.

There's just one problem with this: Nimble citizen journalists are now blogging. And they can spot the discrepancies with ease. Case in point: These two posts by Dammit Janet. Interesting how provocs wear the same shoes as the cops, no? And even more interesting how the cars deliberately left out to be torched were NOT working Toronto cop cars. (Wrong numbers. Also, one was missing its plates. Hmmm.)

The major media are doing a very half-assed job. Not surprising; their job is to prop up the existing order, not undermine it with too many pesky, incriminating facts. A pity it's all crumbling around them, and the questions are too many, too pointed and too hard to be "answered" with facile lies anymore. The fascism is naked now, and so's the emperor.

The only remaining question is, what are WE going to do about it?

PS: Here is one place to start.

June 16, 2010

Dear islamophobic shrieeeeeekers...

You know how you're always shrieeeeeking at us feminists because we're not shrieeeeeeeking along with you about the evils and horrors of Mooooooozlim (or Mawwwwwwwzlem) "honor" killings coming to these shores, along with those brown immigrants?

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Well, you can stop shrieeeeeeeking now. Because two of those people you're so frightened of, and always shrieeeeeeeeking about, have finally admitted their guilt and are going to prison for the rest of their lives.

Yes, the murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was horrifying. How could a father and brother, who ought to have been nurturing and protecting her, put their hands around their daughter/sister's throat and strangle her instead? The rationale for their crime is culture-based, and yes, horrible, but let's be honest, it is neither foreign nor far removed from that of other domestic femicides in North America:

Media in Toronto and around the world immediately reported and continues to report that Aqsa was killed because she refused to wear the hijab. But it was much more complicated than that.

Parvez felt like he was losing control of a daughter who was failing most of her Grade 11 subjects at Applewood Heights Secondary School. He believed she would be better off attending an Islamic high school.

But at a meeting with her father and school officials on Sept. 17, 2007, she told them she wanted to stay where she was.

A day after the school meeting, Aqsa ran away from home for the first time. Her clandestine exit from her school was orchestrated by school officials and a social worker from Indian Rainbow, a non-profit agency for immigrants. They arranged for her to stay in a shelter.

The familial problems had been obvious a year earlier, when the local Children's Aid Society (CAS) had been brought into speak with her father, once school officials became aware of growing cultural clash between Aqsa and her father, a taxi driver. Life after they had moved to Canada in 2001 was much different than the small village of Pur Miana in the Punjab area of Pakistan.

She told officials she feared she would be beaten, perhaps even killed, if she told her father she didn't want to wear traditional clothing anymore to school, especially her hijab.

Now, after spending several days in a Mississauga shelter, she returned home after receiving a letter from Irim, telling her that her father would give her whatever she wanted so long as she returned home.

For a few weeks, things worked out. But the trouble started again.

During a second round of family mediation in November 2007, Parvez said it would be better for her to quit school and stay home.

She contemplated leaving home again but told a couple of her close friends in November that if "she ever messed up again," her father would "kill me."

She began to cry. "No, he swore on the Qur'an," Aqsa said. "He said he'd kill me if I ever ran away again."

Aqsa left home for the final time on Nov. 29, 2007, and settled in with a Pakistani family, who had a daughter Amal Tahir, friends with her sister Irim. The Tahir household was far less strict than her own home, and she felt safe there.

To her siblings, Aqsa's actions were shocking. Running away from home was unheard of in a Pakistani household, they testified.

In a chilling police interview on the day Aqsa was killed, her mother crying and talking out loud to herself, was recorded as saying she thought her husband was only going to "break legs and arms," but instead "killed her straight away."

"Oh God, Oh God. . . Oh my Aqsa, you should have listened," Anwar Jan said in a police interview room. "Everyone tried to make you understand. Everyone begged you, but you did not listen. . ."

When she asked her husband why he killed her, he told her: "This is my insult. My community will say you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked."

"...you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked."

That's all this boils down to. Aqsa's father was embarrassed because his youngest child, of all people, had decided, just two years shy of legal majority, that she did not want to be so strictly controlled. For a while and in some ways he loosened that grip, but when he saw her making a bid for more freedom, he tightened it again...the final time, right around her neck.

And Mother blames the victim: "Oh my Aqsa, you should have listened..." As though she had not. As though it were only her fault, and not that of her killers--her father, her brother.

It seems to me that Aqsa was the one trying to be heard, and the others were not listening to her. Even her sisters, who obediently said they had "heard nothing" when their baby sister was struggling against the death grip of father and brother!

We can try to blame these things on the Parvez family's foreign origins, but that ultimately won't wash. Patriarchy is pervasive all over the globe. Yes, even here. When a woman gets sexually assaulted, we often hear the question: What was she wearing? Funny how that is never said about men. Does a man with a bulging wallet, one whose outline can be seen through the back of his pants pocket, ever get blamed for being mugged? Should he be? No? Then why women?

I'll tell you why. It's because our society, like that from which the Parvez family came, is still very patriarchal. Women are seen as property, to be traded and controlled. When a young woman marries, does she walk down the church aisle alone? No. Her father escorts her. He "gives her away" to her husband-to-be. The handing over of control, along with the change of surnames, is so blatantly obvious. In our society, women are still, symbolically and in fact, chattel. No muezzins or minarets required.

And yet, the shrieeeeekers who want us feminists to castigate Muslim immigrants for honor killings, take all this patriarchy of their own as perfectly natural. They take it for granted. They do not even see it as patriarchy; or if they do, they say it can't be as bad as what Those People do. Those People force their daughters to wear hijabs, oh noes!

It's always Those People. It's never OUR people.

And when something bad happens among Our People--when an abused white Christian wife asks for a divorce, say, and her husband takes out the shotgun and gives her both barrels in front of the kids, before perhaps taking their lives and/or his own--those same shrieeeeekers are out there, blaming her, claiming she "asked for it", maybe huffing that if she didn't get out sooner it must have been her fault. Those same no doubt are also grumbling about the liberalization of our divorce laws and the existence of a long-gun registry, and what uncontrollable, mouthy jezebels all these teenage girls are nowadays, thanks to comprehensive sex education, condoms and Gardasil shots, and blah blah blabbity blah blah.

And we are supposed to view the Parvez family as some kind of cultural anomaly, some foreign threat, to be kept out by special exclusion laws, no doubt?

No, shrieeeeeekers, it doesn't work that way. Because honor killings are not a Muslim thing. They're a tribal thing, and our own tribe has them too. Only we don't label them as such, because our patriarchy is something we are too deep in denial about to openly admit, discuss and demolish. We call it "stability", "law-abiding", "morality" and many other false, inaccurate things. We even call it "natural order", although we go to unnatural lengths to codify it, institutionalize it and enforce it.

How far do we go? Far enough to blame the victim of domestic violence, just as Aqsa's mother blamed her.

And sometimes, far enough to kill the victim. Or send her back to her abuser, who eventually kills her, and call that "preserving family integrity". It is the same thing; either way we look at it, it results in her death.

And either way we look at it, that's a murder to be prosecuted under the existing laws of the land. No special immigration laws--really, exclusion laws--required.

The death of Aqsa Parvez made it to the news precisely because it is so anomalous. The entire Pakistani-Canadian community is not rife with unremarked honor killings of women and girls. Murders are comparatively rare in Canada. This is not a place where the authorities turn a blind eye when someone is killed. Our grasp of patriarchy may be shaky, but the law is clear at least on what constitutes a murder.

And "honor", that fuzzy concept that varies from person to person and place to place, is not considered an exculpatory factor. Fathers and brothers don't get off here for claiming they could not control a wayward sister-daughter. The law applies to them.

And most imams here exhort their congregations to obey the laws of the land. Which most Muslims do. They even voted against sharia as a potential legal basis for divorce arbitration, which should tell us something: Muslim Canadians want to be part of mainstream society, not outsiders. They want to live by the same laws as we do. They don't want to take us over, outbreed us, or force their laws and religion upon us. They overwhelmingly accept our way of life, our laws, as part of the conditions for living here in Canada. The case of Aqsa Parvez is the exception that very clearly proves the rule.

And that is nothing to shrieeeeek about.

June 12, 2010

Gaza Roundup 13: Beat the (Propaganda) Press

Little by little, the truth about the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla is leaking out. Press the play button on the video above to see some of it--including raw footage by Iara Lee, who was on the Mavi Marmara when the Israelis shot the place up.

And here are some more things the Israelis and their media lackeys aren't bound to like:

Kevin Neish's photos from the Marmara, plus transcript of his full interview at Rabble.ca.

Hamas has quit suicide bombings...quit them quite some time ago, actually, since they had a way of backfiring. That hasn't stopped Israel from crying victim, mind you. Or from obscuring the fact that Hamas was nonviolent before Israel started financing it as an "alternative" to Fatah.

Gary Leupp uncovers some interesting dirt on the smarmy "rabbi" who sent his equally smarmy son to play gotcha with Helen Thomas.

Harry Siegman re-dissects the Holocaust meme, but not the way hardline Zionists would like to see that done.

John Pilger finds parallels with the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Stuart Littlewood has a useful primer on hasbara and how to see through it.

Rick Telfer has a lotta linkage on AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups with inordinate power here in Canada.

FAIR has four pieces worth your clickage: Pundits in Denial on Gaza Plight, Turkey Is Media's Latest Target for Alleged 'Terror' Ties, Misleading Media on Israel and Gaza Rockets, and Thousands of Rockets, Millions of Bullets?

And across the pond, Media Lens has also been doing spectacular work of unravelling the lies, with this two-part report.

And finally, here are some survivor testimonies from the Gaza flotilla.

June 9, 2010

Only in Canada, eh?

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Sometimes, even in the midst of horrible Harpocracy, I still find reasons to be proud I'm Canadian. Like this little news item, retweeted by Antonia Zerbisias:

If the G20 leaders are hankering to read something by Noam Chomsky or a biography of Che Guevara by Fidel Castro during their summit, Chapters has it all laid out for them.

The book chain has created a reading list and series of G20 tables in its stores across Canada to "promote dialogue," said Bahram Olfati, Chapters' vice president for adult trade.

"You see people such as Bono talking about giving aid to Africa. We have included the book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo, which says this aid isn't really helping," said Olfati. "It is one of my favourite books on the tables."

With subheads such as "Outlaw Literature," the tables are the product of a series of roundtable discussions among Chapters executives and staff to cover G20 issues from the left, right and centre, said Olfati.

But each store has the leeway to add to the table. And the one Chapters store inside the yellow security perimeter in downtown Toronto for the summit of 20 world leaders this month has decided to include titles by Chomsky, a long-time outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, and a few on Guevara, including Che: A Memoir by Fidel Castro.

"They should have made the full list," allowed Olfati, who prefers to call the 35 core titles "provocative" rather than "subversive."

It's not often that I see Corporate Canada giving the corporatist parties a poke in the eye, so whenever that happens--even if once in a blue moon--I run my flag up the pole. A little early for Canada Day, but what the hell. It's a reminder that we are NOT a "centre-right" country after all, nor a melting-pot clone of the US, but a diverse, multicultural one with a sizable--and still thriving--left.

Take that to your fake lake and smoke it, Harpo!

PS: Che: A Memoir is actually not a bio of Che, or even a memoir, but a collection of Fidel's speeches (and one book introduction, written for the Bolivian Diary) about his friend. Just so's you know. I own it and recently finally got around to reading it myself. Like everything else Fidel writes, it sets things straight and excoriates the lying liars who twisted them.

June 7, 2010

Gaza Roundup 11: Humberto says shalom

As usual, Humberto "Not Rex Murphy" da Silva is all kinds of right-on.

So are Ali Abunimah and A Creative Revolution. And Queen Rania (the world's only Palestinian monarch) and El Duderino.

May 30, 2010

Humberto sez: Tax the Bastards!

Humberto explains the new "harmonized" sales tax and why it's so OUT of harmony with the way things should be done in this great land of ours.

May 28, 2010

Economics for Dummies: All you need to know about the G-8

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Any questions?

May 19, 2010

Why Canadian women are being told to STFU

Yes, Harpo IS a radical misogynist. This I know. Because his policies tell me so. And if you don't believe it, watch this video:

Any questions?

May 17, 2010

Quotable: Humberto da Silva on "Odious Oda" and the Harper anti-woman agenda

Isn't it nice to hear a man who really, truly GETS it? One who's not trying to cram false values down other people's throats? One who can sweep away a veritable Augean stable of right-wing bullshit with clear, incontrovertible facts? And above all, one who does it in his own voice, rather than hiding behind the skirts of a woman?

Promised You a Miracle

Thanks to a friend on Facebook, some music for this fine Monday morn:

Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr teams up with Canada's own Martha Wainwright to remake an '80s classic for Oxfam. The message for G8 leaders is clear: No more promises, time for action. Time to do what it takes to keep women from dying in childbirth or shortly thereafter.

(And yes, abortion SHOULD be included in that plan. Suck it, Harpo, you fundie panderer.)

May 11, 2010

We are all Greeks now, or soon will be

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"Arrival of Lord Byron at Missolonghi", by Theodoros P. Vryzakis, 1861. National Gallery of Athens, Greece. The English Romantic poet sailed with his own fleet of ships as an aid agent of the London Committee in December of 1823, and stayed on to fight, eventually leading a Greek brigade. Four months after his arrival, he died of a fever at Missolonghi while preparing to launch an attack.

The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!

Where burning Sappho loved and sung,

Where grew the arts of war and peace,--

Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!

Eternal summer gilds them yet,

But all, except their sun, is set.

--Lord Byron, "The Isles of Greece"

Lord Byron was either nearly two hundred years ahead of his time with that pronouncement, or else history is now by way of repeating itself, amplified. The struggle for Greek independence of Byron's day looks pale now in comparison to what lies ahead. Back then, it was only the Ottoman Empire the Greeks were up against. Today it's a vaster, more nebulous, and infinitely more bloodthirsty one, that of international capital.

Yeah, hi, it's me again. The pissed-off pedantic dissident of crapitalism has another axe to grind. And it's going to get swung over Greece--as far afield as Germany, France and even a whack or two at the good ol' Yankee military-industrial complex. You may want to grab yourself a big bottle of retsina, or ouzo, and a plate of Kalamata olives before you read on; this one's not for taking on an empty stomach. Plus, you may need something to throw when all this is over, although I doubt you'll be shouting "Opa!"

Y'okay. Let's begin.

Over at Ten Percent, blog-buddy Rick B has some good insights into the situation:

The quote 'inability of the Greek government to live within its means' is such a poisonous falsehood, as if financial institutions did not for years bribe key people into endless debt restructuring not because it helped them but because it made money for the banks. This is a merry game played by elites with the costs passed onto those not allowed to participate, yet the besuited oligarchs have the chutzpah to project their irresponsibility onto their victims. This is a rescue package within the rules of the game, better than what could have happened but ultimately it prolongs the scam. Neoliberalism, does not work, financialisation in place of actual productivity does not work (excuse the pun), capitalism unregulated and unconstrained does not work, Adam Smith was actually very clear on that despite what Randroids and laissez faire fundamentalists prefer to read into his works (by current standards he'd be labeled a socialist by corporate media). What we are seeing is a rolling breakdown of systems of human activity because we are serving the economy not making the economy serve us.

Right on, Rick, and you'll get no arguments from me. For the banksters to call the Greeks, along with the Irish, the Portuguese and the Spanish "PIGS", is gross projection from the overfed slop slurpers at the global trough. It's not the pampered people of those countries who are to blame; it's their lousy leaders, who opened the markets to foreign capital. Alas, it's the citizens who must reap what the politicians sowed, and of course, it's all tares; the banksters have already made off with the wheat. An economy where people serve capital, rather than the other way 'round, is one doomed to fail for all but those who have always had more than they could possibly have known what to do with anyway. A pity capitalism can't die of clogged arteries half as easily as its fat-assed proponents--being inanimate, it's infinitely capable of being resurrected by Victor Frankenstein and his electroshock machine!

I did promise to tell you what the role of the Germans in all this was, and I keep my word. So here's the ugly rotten maggoty meat of the matter, via Defense News:

France and Germany, while publicly urging Greece to make harsh public spending cuts, bullied its government to confirm billions of euros in arms deals, a leading Euro-MP alleged Friday.

Franco-German lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit said that Paris and Berlin are seeking to force Prime Minister George Papandreou to spend Greece's scarce cash on submarines, a fleet of warships, helicopters and war planes.

[...]

"It's incredible the way the Merkels and Sarkozys of this world treat a Greek prime minister," he declared, adding that Papandreou had recently met Sarkozy and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris.

"Mr. Fillon and Mr. Sarkozy told Mr. Papandreou: 'We're going to raise the money to help you, but you are going to have to continue to pay the arms contracts that we have with you'," Cohn-Bendit said.

"In the past three months we have forced Greece to confirm several billion dollars in arms contracts. French frigates that the Greeks will have to buy for 2.5 billion euros. Helicopters, planes, German submarines."

Despite its economic woes, which recently deepened spectacularly when its credit rating was downgraded, Greece is one of Europe's biggest arms buyers, seeking to keep pace with its regional rival Turkey.

See why I'm angry? I'm a Bad German; "Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles" is just the old Nazi version of the national anthem, as far as I'm concerned, and I have about as much use for that sentiment as I do for the Nazis. And since my mom's side of the family is from the Rheinland-Pfalz, right next to what's now Alsace-Lorraine, the tiny little soupçon of French blood I got from her means I'm also très fâchée about the whole steaming heap of merde coming from Sarko. This makes me hang my head about my ancestry, and doubt seriously of the goodness of humanity on the whole. Epic internationalist FAIL!

The only Greek I have is two years' worth of the ancient university stuff, just enough to foolishly convince me that I could almost translate Sappho if I wanted to, but like her poetry, it's very fragmentary. Greek history is what I'm now learning on the fly, also by snips and snaps. But it doesn't take a historian to see how stupid this whole arms race is. Greece is in the EU; last time I checked, Turkey was also, or well on its way to it. There is no logical (that's Greek) reason for an arms race between the two countries. And if it came down to it, Canada wouldn't be able to supply peacekeepers to get them off each other's throats, as it did in Cyprus. Our troops are too busy now making the world safe for pipelines capitalism "democracy" (another Greek word, and notice that I put it in quotes) in Afghanistan, don'cha know?

Meanwhile, Truthout has some good stuff on the Greek crisis and the growing resistance thereto. First, a little insight from a French analyst, Maurice Ulrich, of l'Humanité:

There are those who call for political unity in Europe right now, without which, they say, there will be no salvation. But to carry out which policies? What's come to the fore, today is the extreme noxiousness of a liberal Europe for its people. In the race for free and undistorted competition the poorest countries could only keep up with the richest by social dumping. The richest countries could only compete by playing on the same field. The message Europe is giving to Greece today - the same one it will give to Spain and Portugal tomorrow - is that the only way to keep in with a liberal Europe is to shatter salaries, pensions, and public services. But who really believes that tomorrow, or after tomorrow, our very own public services, pensions and salaries will be able resist?

[...]

What's happening in Greece isn't a fluke. Even as the media incriminate, and not without justification, the policies of Greek leaders, we must remember that they were aided and abetted by the very same players who now want to strip Greece of its hide and make a golden fleece. It's only the first of the crises that this capitalist Europe has in store for us. And it's precisely this Europe that we have to change. We want a Europe of cooperation, a different role for the European Central Bank (ECB), and we want the ECB to lend to Greece at 1% interest. It's what our petition calls for, a call that has been widely heard and one that must be amplified.

As Marx himself said: the free worker who goes to the free market to sell his hide 'has to expect to get it tanned.' The same is true for the people on liberal Europe's great competitive market. Yes. Now is the time to start resisting, to start working towards another kind of Europe. Now is the time to call up the people.

Then, sociologist Jean Ziegler, interviewed by the same French publication:

Caramanlis' right-wing government, which preceded the current PASOK (socialist) government, was a machine for systematically pillaging the country's resources. As in a banana republic, Greece's resources were privatized on a large scale even while tax evasion became massive. A reliable estimate by Swiss banks puts Greek tax-evading capitals in Swiss banks alone at 36 billion euro. In addition to this, some of the largest Greek ship-owners transferred their headquarters abroad: first among them, the biggest, namely Latsis, moved its own to Versoix near Geneva.

The scandalous end-result of all this is that the onus of paying heavily for the State's quasi-bankruptcy now falls on the Greek people, on Greek workers, while the ruling classes themselves have taken the precaution of transferring almost all their fortune abroad. The Greek public debt stands at 112% of the country's GDP.

[...]

With the European tax-payers' money (in the euro-area's fifteen countries and in Switzerland), draconian conditions are imposed on the Greek people. Under the guise of rescuing the country, the resources of whose State were pillaged by the previous, right-wing government, the rescuers make them suffer a considerable social backlash (a wage freeze, cuts in social benefits, in the number of public workers) and more privatizations - which has the advantage of bailing out the big European banks that were massively involved. This actually gives Europe and its financial institutions an opportunity to dismantle the Greek social welfare even though PASOK has been voted into office on a social justice platform.

[...]

The Europeans and the ECB could have lent funds to Greece at an exceptionally low rate to enable the country to meet its obligations in a short time. Instead, Greece was forced to choose between either borrowing at very high rates or accepting the EU and IMF's plan and the economic strings attached to it. Greece was reluctant to submit to the unacceptable conditions imposed by the EU and the IMF and had been hoping to get loans by itself on the international market. All it took to prevent this was for Standard and Poors, one of the private rating agencies, to lower its rating of the Greek State's solvency. And immediately Greece was barred access to the free capital market, or only at prohibitive rates of interest (almost 20%). Greece was left with no other choice but to submit to the conditions laid down in the EU and IMF's plan.

What gives me some heart in the midst of this massive Beschiss is the fact that the loudest internationalist voices against it are all, if their names are any indication, Franco-German (or Germano-French) leftists. People who are ethnically and ethically (woo! more Greek!) a lot like me, in other words.

And this leads me to the recent regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW). That's the most populous of the 16 German "lands" (states), and it also happens to be where my dad's side of the family hails from. The state recently dealt rightist Angela Merkel a huge bitch-slap by electing the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) to the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament; the Bundestag is the lower). The Greens also doubled their percentage of the NRW vote over last time, and the socialist Left party is making its debut in the parliament thanks to this vote. All in all, it's a heavy blow to the CDU/CSU and the so-called "grand coalition", and it's gonna make it that much harder for Merkel to shove anything else filthy down Germany's collective throat.

So what motivated this heavy hitter among German lands to tack portside? The Greek crisis, and the fact that Angela Merkel decided to pillage German social services in order to make that hyper-conditional "bailout", i.e., to force the Greeks to buy all that aforementioned military hardware. Germans like their social services as much as we Canadians, go figure--and they are not at all impressed by international crapital taking a pound of flesh from those who are already skin and bones.

Of course, the major Anglo-Amurrican media (especially the bizmedia morons) deliberately choose to misinterpret the situation as merely a matter of Merkel being a weak sister, missing the overbearing crapitalist tyrant angle entirely (or worse, praising it.) All of them have one thing in common: they blame the Greeks, leaving out entirely the military-industrial angle. And no wonder: if they had to point the finger at the correct culprit, three more accusing fingers would be pointing right back at them in England and the US.

Who do you think started this damn snowball rolling, anyway? France? Germany? Gimme a break. As strong as the German economy has long been, historically, it's been sucked dry by two far bigger leeches than the so-called PIGS. The exsanguination of the German economy is the dirty little secret of London and New York during the Roaring Twenties. Bankers and stockbrokers, not Jews, were the real collective enemy of the Weimar Republic. They were, as Ike Eisenhower found out to his chagrin, also backing the collective enemy of the United States, relying on an endless weapons shopping spree to keep the economy rolling their way. But since it's hard to identify them just by looking, and they're well enough off to laugh at anyone who tries to make them wear a badge of shame, they'll never be rounded up and sent off to get a taste of their own medicine...

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...more's the pity. Because if true justice prevailed, they'd be the ones forced to eternally work off the debt they created, for slaves' wages. Or to put it more poetically, they'd be made to roll that stone endlessly up a hill, like Sisyphus in Hades, never reaching the top.

Meanwhile, Lord Byron is stirring in his grave. And the Greek Resistance is rising, phoenix-like, from its own pyre...I dare to hope. But unless we all join in, it will be as futile as the one Lord Byron tried so bravely to lead.

We are all Greeks now, or soon will be.

'Tis something, in the dearth of fame,

Though link'd among a fetter'd race,

To feel at least a patriot's shame,

Even as I sing, suffuse my face;

For what is left the poet here?

For Greeks a blush---for Greece a tear.


Bumper sticker du jour

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Thanks to Tigana Too.

April 30, 2010

Canadian comedy is eerily prescient--and better than US news

Dave Foley of The Kids in the Hall anticipates Glenn Beck, back when the latter was still mumbling drunkenly behind a 7-11 store somewhere. Keitho (when he's on, he's really really on) points out the eerie parallels.

And yes, the paranoid hysteria is being whipped up against Russia again, and "killer bees" (i.e. the Latin American left, which was always independent of Moscow--and yes, even Cuba had its squabbles with Teh Russkies). So this is even more eerily prescient than even Dave and Keitho could know.

See, this is why we export so many comedians to the US. We could export political commentators, too; trust me, when Jon Stewart is their number-one newsman, they'd never know!

April 29, 2010

The Parliament Hillbillies

Finally, our lovely government in its true colors:

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Starring Stephen Harper as Jed, Jason Kenney as Miss Jane, Rahim Jaffer as Mr. Drysdale, Vic Toews as Granny, John Baird as Jethro and Helena Guergis as Ellie May.

April 26, 2010

Why my boobs aren't quaking today

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Yes, people, you read right: I'm not doing Boobquake today. I'm doing Brainquake instead. I can just hear the chorus already...

"Aw, 'Bina...you party pooper. You spoilsport. You...you...you...HUMORLESS FEMINIST, you. Why aren't you letting your bodacious double-Ds bounce out in the breeze, sticking it to crazy Iranian clerics who are dumb enough to think that immodest women cause earthquakes?"

Well, uh...maybe it's because I don't feel the need to sink to that dirty-minded man's level. He's got Teh Stoopid, and I'm supposed to counter it with more Stoopid? Uh, no. (Besides, I've already mocked him here, in item #5.) How about countering him with a flash of brains instead? You know, like realizing that he might not have been talking about boobs, or legs, but simply showing your hair? That's considered immodest by Iranian mullahs.

Yes, I know. Pathetic.

But it's true. The morals police there can bust you if they think you've got your headscarf on too loose. Or they can make you remove your makeup and/or nail polish if it's deemed too gaudy. Even showing your socks can be a no-no, or at least it was not so long ago. Maybe it is again today, or will be tomorrow; it all depends on the whim of the mullahs.

And that's what's so horrible and scary. The mullahs, not the elected president, are the real rulers of Iran. Even if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (whom I don't care for, BTW) were to be overthrown tomorrow, those guys would still be firmly in place. It is therefore with regard to them that the real cultural battles in Iran will be fought. It's all very well for us over here to show our tits to salivating dudes and call it rebellion (or just a Girls Gone Wild video--same diff); it's something else to rebel over there, where smaller, subtler, but far more concrete acts on a daily basis must constitute a genuine push-back against the mullahtocracy.

But to understand that, you have to use your brains and read up a bit on Iran. I recommend Azar Nafisi's book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, to give you some idea. Or Betty Mahmoody's memoir, Not Without My Daughter. Those books make all this cheeky western girl-talk of immodesty seem downright dumb.

And that's because it IS dumb. It is, as the originator rather sheepishly confesses, a snarky joke that somehow morphed into a "protest". It has now reaped the inevitable crowd of male gawkers that show up whenever free (as in gratis, not liberated) boobies are in the offing. This is way too frivolous to merit being called a political movement. It's just "woo-hoo, look how rebellious we are!"

Yeah, girls, someone's looking, all right...and it's not the person at whom this fauxtest is being aimed; he can't see you. It's a whole lot of other dudes, who are training their telephoto lenses at your neckline and rubbing their hands (or other body parts) with glee. Which is exactly what the misguided mullah was babbling on about, if you leave out the earthquake bit. So there you go; you're proving him right in an effort to prove him wrong. Feel foolish yet?

But hey, the boobquakers protest, this is all for the sake of science! Okay, girls, let's do some science. (You can cover up now if you like. We won't be needing our boobs for this one.)

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it's true that an unscarfed head is immodest. Therefore, if the hypothesis is that immodesty causes earthquakes, this hypothesis has already been disproved. You can disprove it at any time, with a simple look around you when you're out in public. How many women do you see who have their hair fully covered? How many do you see who don't? If it's a majority that don't, and the ground isn't shaking angrily underfoot, then you can pretty much take it for granted that the immodesty of these women isn't making seismic trouble after all, eh?

And just look at France. This past week, Sarko banned religious headscarves altogether. Has the ground opened up and swallowed the entire country? Are tremors turning the terre into a trampoline? Non? Well, then, there again is your answer. And no tittaes needed to prove the hypothesis false.

Canada doesn't have a nationwide headscarf ban; Muslim women are free to wear their scarves, or not, as they please (except in Québec). Most women here go bareheaded all year round, even when it's foolish to do so (chills and sunstroke can happen, and for these reasons, as well as fashion, I love my hats!) Does Canada have a lot of earthquakes? No. It hardly has even minor tremors! Even "immodest" Québec hasn't been hit with any big 'uns. So, again: Hypothesis false.

Science class dismissed. Now, let's do some Women's Studies.

The best ones to tackle the sexist stupidity of an Iranian mullah are Iranian women. Does anyone know what they're saying and doing about this? Maybe we should start paying attention to them. I will be. I hear that they are an educated and sophisticated bunch, on the whole, particularly the younger ones. I hope they're criticizing this guy as he deserves. He should be feeling thoroughly embarrassed by his superstitious and outdated view of the world, and all the unwelcome attention it's gotten him. It's one thing to urge modesty; it's quite another to do it with ridiculous, easily debunked arguments. If virtue isn't its own reward, then an earthquake-free existence (or the promise thereof, which is ludicrous in a land as seismically active as Iran) isn't going to cut it either.

And speaking of rewards: What, exactly, are we supposed to be getting out of this whole skin-show, as women? In terms of actual feminist advances, we're getting nada. Unless, of course, you count cheap laughs and bulging male eyeballs as feminist achievements. I don't.

Plus, right-wing pseudofeminist anti-Islamist warhawks are taking up the "cause", too. Do I want to be seen flashing my ta-tas with that crowd of cretinesses? Do you?

And in the end, it's not going to shake things up for us here, is it? It's not going to win us an extra ounce of respect. It's not going to earn us wage parity with a man's dollar. It's not going to get bad laws struck down or modified. It's not going to provide us with birth control that works, or abortion services as needed. It's not going to provide working moms with daycare, or divorced custodial mothers with adequate child support. It's not going to ensure that rape victims get a fair hearing in court. It's not going to keep bar-room baddies from slipping roofies in our drinks. It's not going to level the playing field (and believe me, it's not level, girls.) All it's going to get...is guys ogling us. And the only thing in the world it's gonna rock is some stranger's cock.

Call me a killjoy, but I think we can all do better than that.

PS, ca. 4:10pm: And then along came Femquake....and I joined THAT, too. The nice thing about being a feminist is that you don't have to choose between having boobs and having brains--you're smart enough to know that it's all in how you deploy them.

PPS: And say, how's about we do a QueerIslamicane to this Clay Yarborough dude here in Florida? Since he thinks gay people and Muslims bring hurricanes because they're not his breed of folks, I say it might be worth testing the hypothesis. Everybody dress modestly--women in headscarves, men in turbans--and parade past his office in same-sex couples, holding hands. See if the weather starts getting rough. Too silly? Well, now you know why I didn't do Boobquake. Like I said...we can do better.

April 6, 2010

Cruelty, the uncoolest cut of all

First, a little music to set the mood...

...because I'm really going to try for rationality and detachment here. It's not gonna be easy, because everything about this just triggers the old blue blaze of rage and pain that I felt as an ostracized, bullied child. Every time I got shut out or picked on, that blaze is what I felt. And I don't like admitting that I still feel it every time I see someone else get shut out and/or picked on. You're supposed to get over that old kid stuff, you know?

Only, here's the sad part: You don't. You really don't. And if you're honest with yourself, you admit it.

And if you're really REALLY honest, and painfully so, you admit that this shit goes on everywhere.

Okay, I admit it: This shit goes on everywhere. It goes on in supposedly liberal, enlightened, democratic-socialist CANADA, for God's sake. I know, because it happened to me.

And no, it didn't happen for the same reason as it happened to Constance McMillen. I'm not gay. I didn't have a prom date at all (at least not for MY high school's formal), much less one of my own sex. I was a shy, introverted, bespectacled, skinny, pale, redheaded, frizzy-haired, unathletic, unhip, unhot, too-damn-smart-for-my-own-good geek. And in a small town, where the narrowest definition of "cool" prevails, someone like that stands out. And standing out is unforgivable. The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And yeah, I got hammered. All through grade school and much of high school, I got fucking hammered.

I won't go into any specific incidents. I've already been triggered enough for one damn day. There are more of them than can be named, anyway, and it made going to school nauseating. And this was for a kid who enjoyed classes. A kid who really wanted to be a doctor someday; a kid whose teachers kept telling her she really ought to be a writer. Being seen enjoying the use of your own brains is apparently utterly unforgivable in a place where conformist mediocrity is prized, other than of course in athletics.

So I got hammered. And I continued to stick out anyway. I bent, but would not be hammered down. I tried to hide my brains: useless. (I still got high 90s in French without even trying. I could have slept through that class and still aced every test.) I tortured my hair with a curling iron, to straighten and feather it into some semblance of fashion: useless. (One small whiff of humidity, and foof it went.) I got contact lenses, so people could finally see that I had a pretty face and not just four eyes: useless. (They were in the habit of seeing me through their own distorted, invisible funhouse lenses. Nothing I did was going to shatter those.)

No, the only thing that saved me from the whole thing was graduating. And going to university in a modest-sized city, where things were bigger all around. And learning to be myself, instead of some cookie-cutter knockoff of every other ditzy chick with Farrah Fawcett wings in her hair. It meant accommodating my curls, accepting my introverted, geekish nature, and learning to flip the bird at convention (and sometimes, at conventional people). And it meant becoming someone radically different not only from what the others were, but from what I had been and thought I should be.

Even a nervous breakdown and the realization that I wasn't going to make it to med school wasn't nearly as bad as being forcibly flipped out of the pond like I was all through my grade- and high-school years. Even realizing I'd fallen hopelessly in love with a gay guy, and being damn near suicidal at the ripe old age of 20, was a piece of cake compared to being shut out. I could get over my thwarted dreams, go beyond the misplaced romantic interest (he's still my best friend to this day--how 'bout THEM apples?), and even get past the desire to just go to sleep and never wake up. But this? No. It follows you silently everywhere.

I thought I had gotten away from it at university, good fucking riddance to small towns and smaller minds--only to find myself suddenly struggling with all the unresolved pain, anger and stark terror of those days. And sometimes, in the dead of night, when I should be asleep but just can't, I still have those moments where I forget who I am, who I've worked so hard to become. I even forget that the town has grown, and is not the same bigoted little place anymore. All I remember is what I have yet to overcome.

And what I have to overcome is that poison cruelty that seems almost inherent in people. The same that prompted Jean-Paul Sartre to say that hell is other people. It's not inborn; it's learned. And it gets passed down through generations. Each one gets beaten by the previous one until it bears the identical scars. Then it turns on the next and starts beating on them until they, too, bear those scars...

So when I read the obscene self-justifications that some people go through, presenting themselves, the bullies, as the poor little victims of a nasty, gay revolution--well, why not just wave a red cape in front of me and every other excluded kid? I mean, it's not as if you're not just asking to get your sorry asses kicked, is it now?

And yeah, I would so love to kick every ass of every person who ever did this to another. Doesn't matter for what "reason". I don't give a shit for your justifications; spare me the "explanations", I'm in no mood to hear any of them. Don't bother to comment here; I'll either delete it or declare you a Wanker of the Week, depending on whether my mood is fair or foul. You cannot explain or justify this. I know what you did. It has a name: CRUELTY.

Cruel isn't cool, and I'm not fucking cool with anyone who's cruel. I want to kick cruel people's asses, ALL of them. I'd wear out my trusty old cherry Docs doing it, no doubt about that.

But we're not supposed to kick ass; we're supposed to be meek, mild and forgiving. We're supposed to grow beyond all that. We're supposed to Forget. I mean, it's only a silly prom, fergawdsakes. For a bright kid with a future, it's supposed to be just a stumbling-stone on the road to Better Things. It's only important to those who peaked in high school. That ain't me, right?

Well, fuck it. I haven't forgotten. And I'm not sure I've forgiven, either. The fact that a fake prom so far from where I grew up has the power to trigger all my buried outrage and bring it crashing back like it only happened yesterday, is a testimony to the power that cruelty has. It has the power to make me forget, or at least minimize, the fact that I did go to a prom, in another town, with a guy not from my high school. He liked me more than I liked him. He was not the guy I'd have gone with, had I been "cool" enough to be offered a choice of dates; still, I showed him mercy, because he was an even bigger geek than I was. He didn't know what a loser I was to all my peers. To him, I was actually pretty. For his sake I put on a brave face and a beautiful outfit. How elegant I looked in my own hand-made royal-blue strapless moiré dress and my mom's black elbow gloves (a damn sight better than these tacky little prats, that's for sure.)

And yeah, I made the dress myself. Pleated overbodice, six-inch-wide sash, floor-length skirt, the works. And the black organdy ruffled shawl, too. See what happens when you apply yourself in Home Ec, girls? And don't you guys wish your girlfriends were hot--and SMART--like me?

But this makes it hard to remember that. It has the power to make me forget that I'm not the ostracized kid anymore, that I quit being that kid even in my last year at high school, where I began to morph into an adult whom other adults actually like. It even has the power to make me forget, for a moment, just how strong I really am.

And that strength didn't come out of nowhere; it came out of being that excluded, bullied kid. Maybe it's made me a better adult, a better listener, a more worthwhile person to talk to and with?

Maybe.

One thing it definitely HAS made me is glad that I don't fit in, after all. Because if fitting in among the bullies who made my youth hell is such a prize, I don't want it. I'd have to turn into a piece of shit just like them. What's that old saying? "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat", I believe is how it goes. Nope; no rodent here. Just a human being who doesn't need to pretend superiority.

And one who admires the hell out of Constance for taking you all on and showing you all up. She's got more class in her left pinky-nail than all of you have in your collective, pathetic, self-justifying carcass.

So yeah, bigoted kiddies, knock yourselves out claiming that you are the bullied ones, being shat on by northerners, gay revolutionary ACLUers, and people from the two coasts and God only knows where all else. Whine your sorry asses off about how everybody else looks down on you (as if YOU had a monopoly on pusillanimous shitheadedness!) Go play your smarmy phony victim card until it wears the hell out.

And it will, soon. Because it's flimsy. And because the rest of the world isn't stupid; it knows what lengths you went to in order to make sure your precious widdle prom was queer- and crip-cootie-free. That much secrecy takes planning and co-ordination. It takes a lot of complicity. It also takes massive amounts of cowardice. Not one of you kids had the stones to defy your parents, your school board, or your picky-picky peers; you are all a bunch of fucking wimps! You think you avoided "drama" by excluding Constance and her same-sex date, and a tiny bunch of disabled kids? HA! You just brought it on yourselves, ten-thousandfold. You deserve the shitstorm that you've got coming now.

And I, for one, will be pointing the finger at you and laughing when the verdict comes down against you. Because I love seeing the shoe go on the other foot, and pinching. It's not nice, I know. But it is satisfying. And it is so very, very richly deserved.

Sucks to be you, kids. Here, have another song. And try learning how to dance without that graceless booty-humping you did at your "drama-free" prom, 'kay? That shit's no cooler than your overt, deliberate cruelty was.

April 2, 2010

Have you heard of Humberto da Silva yet?

No? You haven't? Well, then you simply must watch this:

REAL free speech, being used for what free speech is supposed to be used for: exposing myths, lies, and pompous self-righteous twats.

He's no Rex Murphy, and that's fine with me.

April 1, 2010

A song for the day

No joke, this one's good. Back in the day, these Torontonians opened for Rush. Word is they've recently reunited, too.

March 26, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Norman Bethune, socialized medical pioneer

"Dr. Norman Bethune: Surgeon and Innovator".

When you hear the teabaggers screeching about public healthcare being "socialism" and "communism", stop and think--maybe they're not so far off the mark after all. But they're wrong about it being a BAD thing. It is a lifesaver, and was conceived as such from its very beginning, on grounds both socialist and humanitarian. Norman Bethune, the great Canadian physician who served in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in the Spanish Civil War, and later with Mao's troops in China, was a communist. As a curator points out in the video above, it was considered a deep dark secret in Canada at the time, although those who had regular contact with him through his letters were well aware of it, since they were typically leftists themselves. Certainly he himself was not ashamed of it; in fact, he was (rightfully) contemptuous of those who dismissed him and his work on account of it.

To this day, there are heroic statues to Norman Bethune in China. Even more important than his weighty historic role, though, is Bethune's contribution to medicine. He is considered an innovator in blood-transfusion services and thoracic surgery both. He invented a pair of bone shears still used in thoracic surgery at present. And if you're a fan of M*A*S*H, you may be interested to know that Bethune's work was later copied by mobile army surgical units from the capitalist US, as well. He perfected his mobile emergency transfusion techniques during his Spanish Republican days. Here's a snippet from one of his letters to the Canadian leftist magazine, New Frontier, in 1936, describing how the service operated:

Our night work is very eerie! We get a phone call for blood. Snatch up our packed bag, take two bottles (each 500 c.c.)--one of group IV and one of group II--out of the refrigerator and with our armed guard off we go through the absolutely pitch dark streets and the guns and machine guns and rifle shots sound as if they were in the next block, although they are really a half mile away. Without lights we drive. Stop at the hospital and with a searchlight in our hands find our way into the cellar principally. All the operating rooms in the hospitals have been moved into the basement to avoid falling shrapnel, bricks and stones coming through the operating room ceiling.

Our bag contains a completely sterilized box of instruments, towels, etc., so we can start work at once. The man is lying most frequently on a stretcher so we kneel down beside him, prick the finger and on a slide put one drop each of Serum type II and type III. If his red blood cells are agglutenated by II and not by III--he is type III. If agglutenated by III he is a II, if by both he is a type I, if neither, he is group IV. So now we know what blood he can take safely. If I, II or IV he gets our bottle of blood group IV (the universal blood). If he is a II, he gets blood group II. He could also take IV but as these "universal donors" are only 45% of the people, we must use II's when we can.

Then the proper blood is warmed in a pan of water and we are ready to start. The man is usually as white as paper, mostly shocked, with an imperceptible pulse. He may be exsanguinated also and not so much shocked, but usually is both shocked and exsanguinated. We now inject novo-caine over the vein in the bend of the elbow, cut down and find the vein and insert a small glass Cannula then run the blood in. The change in most cases is spectacular. We give him always 500 c.c. of preserved blood and sometimes more and follow it up with Saline or 5% Glucose solution. The pulse can now be felt and his pale lips have some colour.

Yesterday, we did three transfusions--this is about the average daily, besides the blood we leave at hospitals for them to use themselves. We collect 1/2 to 3/4 gallon daily, mix it with Sodium Citrate (3.8%) and keep it just above freezing in the refrigerator in sterile milk and wine bottles. This blood will keep for about a week. We are working on the use of LOCKES' SOLUTION to preserve the red blood cells longer and are making up Bayliss Gum Solution. (Gum Arabic in Saline.) Bayliss was (or is!) an English Physiologist who brought out this gum solution for shock during the war of 1914-18.

There is a Barcelona Unit who are putting up blood in sterile ampules. I will go there and see the method. It looks O.K.

The International Brigade Hospital needs male and female French and German speaking nurses--not English speaking at present although these may be needed later. Brain surgeons also.

Well, this is a grand country, and great people. The wounded are wonderful.

After I had given a transfusion to a French soldier who had lost his arm, he raised the other to me as I left the room in the Casualty Clearing Station, and with his raised clenched fist exclaimed "Viva la Revolution." The next boy to him was a Spaniard--a medical student shot through the liver and stomach. When I had given him a transfusion and asked him how he felt, he said "It is nothing--Nada." He recovered--so did the Frenchman....

(From Right Hand Left Hand, by Dorothy Livesay. All spelling, typography, etc. as in Bethune's original letter. Linkage added. The blood types which were then called I, II, III and IV are now known as O, A, B and AB, respectively.)

Bethune's letter gives some indication of the difficult circumstances he operated in, as well as the spirit of those he operated on. It's not hard to see where his humanitarian dedication came from, I trust!

So when you hear a teabagger yattering on about the "evils" of socialized medicine, you might want to think upon the life and times of one of its greatest proponents, and point out to the 'bagger that every military in the world, including that of the US, owes a debt of gratitude to a Canadian communist who invented the art of mobile blood banking on the battlefields of Republican Spain.

And then, you may feel free to tell that ignorant 'bagger to shut the fuck up.

March 25, 2010

Quotable: Özlem Sensoy on the Coultergeist/freedom-of-speech canards

"When the 'free speech' card is played (by those whose speech aligns with power structures, like Coulter), it is a defensive response to their perspectives and power being challenged. The 'free speech' discourse protects power and privilege by acting as a shield against such challenges. If you dare challenge free speech as a normal social value, you dare challenge the founding ideals of Western-style democracy."

--Özlem Sensoy, in the Vancouver Sun

March 24, 2010

Photo du soir

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Ezra Levant, trying to strike a suitably grim pose and succeeding only in looking like a sanctimonious little putz covered in flop sweat, announces the Coultergeist's no-show...which was planned ahead of time. For what reason, one wonders, as if we couldn't guess?

Captions welcome, BTW. Let's have some fun with the putz. His 15 minutes are now officially up, except for the punchlines.

This just in...Coultergeist and Levant caught in major LIE!

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Film at 11! God bless you, Kady O'Malley...

Finally, an observation from a CBC reporter who was in the Foyer while Coulter was being interviewed by CTV's Power Play: At approximately 5:15pm, he overheard a member of her security team tell a Conservative MP that her event "may be cancelled," which would suggest that the decision to do so was already being considered before more than half the crowd had assembled outside the venue -- hopeful speech-goers and protesters alike. Coulter herself, meanwhile, told Cosh that she never actually left the Rideau Club -- where she was the guest of honour at a $250 per head private reception -- for the university. Given the travel times involved, and the 7:30 pm start time, she would likely have had to do so by 7pm at the latest in order to make it in time.

Oh Ann? I believe you and Ezra Irel Levant now have a golden opportunity to exercise some REAL freedom of speech. Get creative and make it a pretty apology!

ADDENDUM: The U of O weighs in.

Last night, the organizers themselves decided at 7:50 p.m. to cancel the event and so informed the University's Protection Services staff on site. At that time, a crowd of about one thousand people had peacefully gathered at Marion Hall.

"Freedom of expression is a core value that the University of Ottawa has always promoted," said Allan Rock, President of the University. "We have a long history of hosting contentious and controversial speakers on our campus. Last night was no exception, as people gathered here to listen to and debate Ann Coulter's opinions.

I encourage our students, faculty and other members of our community to maintain our University as an open forum for diverse opinions. Ours is a safe and democratic environment for the expression of views, and we will keep it that way."

Please note that this is the University of Ottawa's official statement and no further comments will be issued.

I'm sure the decision was actually made much sooner, but only announced at 7:50 to the university authorities. Charming how these free-screechers always keep their word, no?

Ann Coulter really hates freedom of speech. Here's why...

Reason #1: It's very easy to own her bony ass with the facts.

All you have to do is get a word in edgewise, which of course is something this fast-talking nag doesn't want to allow. Fortunately, this CBC reporter didn't have to go all Bill O'Reilly on her and cut her mike. He just had to keep talking. Watch how her confidence turns to deer-in-the-headlights on a dime!

Reason #2: She's afraid of any serious challenge. Especially if it comes in boisterous crowds.

About two thousand noisy protesters is what it takes to get an Ann Coulter speech canceled, apparently.

That's the scene which transpired on Tuesday night at the University of Ottawa, where the right-wing author had planned a talk. Canadian media described the crowd as "boisterous."

"A spokesman for the group that organized the event said there were fears for Coulter's well-being after about two thousand people gathered outside the venue to protest her presence there," The Toronto Star reported.

Two thousand "boisterous" people, merely protesting? Not one weapon, not one death threat in all that crowd? Just people shouting and waving placards denouncing a foreign terrorist invader on our soil? Wow. Some threat to her "well-being". I guess for Ann, well-being is directly tied to her own monstrous ego and her ability to overtalk. You can do that one-on-one, or even one-on-two or -three. But one-on-two-thousand? Yeah, no wonder she felt threatened. One CBC reporter clobbering her with facts; two thousand students clobbering her with free speech. Kind of hard going, that!

But hey, Ann, you shouldn't have any problem standing up to them, I should think. Not if you really believed in free speech (for those other than your scrawny old self, of course). Not after what you said just a few short years ago:

"They better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them," she said on Hannity & Colmes in 2004. "They're lucky they're allowed to be on the same continent as the United States."

Yeah, big brave words. And just like everything else she blats to the four winds, utterly empty of meaning and devoid of fact.

Canadians won the War of 1812; it's the Yanks' best-kept secret and the reason for our so-called "luck". We taught them to show some respect, and we taught it to 'em the hard way. We torched the White House, Ann...and we are the only country ever, in all the world, to have done so.

Maybe that's why we're so "lucky", eh Ann?

Maybe you should count yourselves lucky that the Canucks didn't get greedy 200-odd years ago. We were quite content to merely keep you off our turf; we had no interest in stealing yours. If we were, you might be having to learn French in school today, Ann. And knowing you, with your massive ignorance and incuriosity about anything not immediately under your nose, you'd probably flunk it. Which would put your paltry notion of free speech at a double disadvantage.

As it is, you're an epic fail, and true free speech--which we do have, and exercise up here, as you've no doubt found out to your chagrin (that's French, Ann, look it up!)--has won the day.

C'est la merde.

March 15, 2010

Everything you ever wanted to know about Venezuela (but couldn't make it to Toronto to learn)

Awhile back, I posted an invite to a Bolivarian demo and teach-in in Toronto. Well, the video from that event is now out...

Glad I didn't have to miss the event after all; I just got there a little late, thanks to the miracle of the Internets.

Kudos to Socialist Project for the video.

March 14, 2010

Spot what is wrong with this picture...

one-of-these-things-is-not-like-others.jpg

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you tell me which one is not like the others
By the time I finish this song?

Co-workers say the alleged gunman in a fatal shooting at an Edmonton car dealership on Friday was recently suspended for making racial comments.

Police say a man with a gun walked into Great West Chrysler near Stony Plain Road and 178th Street at about 7:50 a.m. MT and started shooting.

It's believed he shot and killed one man, shot and wounded another and then turned the gun on himself.

Sources have identified the shooter as Dave Burns, 55, an employee who was recently suspended for making racial comments.

Co-workers say he didn't get along well with visible minorities, and some went as far as to describe him as a white supremacist.

They also tell CBC News that Burns had a swastika tattooed on his body and had a very hot temper.

[...]

"I had known the man for a long time. I just can't figure out what happened. He just snapped. Something went awry somehow. I know he was very attached to this dealership," he said.

"We have talked to a lot of people about it and that is what they are all saying. Not when they worked together for years."

One person who knew Burns from Alberta's four-by-four vehicle community said that when he heard about the shooting he just couldn't believe it.

"This was a guy who snapped for no apparent reason. It was not like he was a monster," said Corey Kruchkowski.

He said Burns helped organize the growing movement in the province to drive off-road vehicles in an environmentally responsible way.

"This guy obviously was an altruistic person in some parts of his personality. If you met him in the years before this happened you would never think that this was someone who could hurt people."

No, of course you wouldn't.

And the white supremacist rhetoric, gun nuttery, discomfort around visible minorities, and swastika tattoo were not "apparent reasons", either.

Music for a Sunday: The Ballad of Hugo Chávez

A little birdie told me this song won some kind of award. No kidding! What a rum old world.

March 8, 2010

Have you heard? Feminism is CRAP!

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It's totally true, ladies and gentlewomen, because some opinionated little snot on Facebook said so just yesterday.

Yep, right in time for International Women's Day. Lovely!

Wasted a lot of good time and electricity saying so, too. But damn, she sure told us, didn't she?

Yes, dear, I totally agree with you; feminism is crap. After all, what do you need the vote for? The Conservatives don't respect it. You probably don't use it. Or you use it against your own best interests and don't even realize it.

You have the ability to read and write, and you waste it scolding people you don't want to expend the least effort to understand, on the Internets. You have the right, as well, to wear pants, to drive a car, ride a bike, use birth control, have a career, etc.--and you take it all for granted.

If those things were taken away from you tomorrow, you'd probably miss them. Maybe you'd even protest.

And yet, you think that the social force that gave you all these things you take for granted is CRAP.

Maybe you don't want those things so much, little sister? There are plenty of people who'd be more than happy to take them away from you if you allowed it. In fact, they are busy and working hard to do just that, even as I sit here wasting good electrons calling you out on your shit, girlfriend. They are counting on your smugness, your complacency and your stupidity to help them do exactly that. Whenever you or any other girl calls feminism crap, a devil rubs its hands and sets to work, chipping quietly away at your rights. It starts by driving a wedge between you and your feminist sisters. From there, it proceeds to rolling back hard-won gains; in the end, you will find yourself back in the kitchen and wondering how the hell you landed up there. Maybe it's because you thought fighting for your rights was crap?

But then, I'm into crap. I like the things that crap gave me. I think we could get a lot more, too, if we were willing to fight for them. I don't take them for granted, and I don't think others should, either. If that makes me full of crap in your eyes, fine. You haven't grown up and seen the real world yet. Don't worry; you will. And you're not gonna like it. And if you find misogyny punching you in the face, with lower wages and fewer rights than your brothers after all, and you get the urge to complain, just remember what you said: Feminism is CRAP! You opted out, and you can thank feminism for giving you that option, because life itself certainly hasn't and won't. So suck it up, cupcake; you're on your own.

Unless, of course, you swallow hard and learn how to fight like a woman. That's "crap", sweetie? Tell it to a woman, to her face, no hiding behind the Internets. You'll get set straight so fast you won't know what hit you. Life itself will set you straight in due course.

This is a lot bigger than just a word or a phrase in the national anthem. We are not equal, even if you think you are. When half the population is excluded, even symbolically, it sets up a mindset: Half of us don't really matter. Their rights don't matter, because those rights were won by crap.

And the saddest thing is, some members of the half who don't count vociferously defend the status quo, thinking they have everything they need already, including equality. To be told differently threatens their smug, complacent, "everything is already perfect" worldview; no wonder they jumped all over a modest, but sure-to-catch-on initiative for change. They don't like being told the truth; they'd rather sing "la la la la la" with fingers in ears.

They want to believe we already have equality, but we don't. The fact that we don't is as obvious as our national anthem, and some people just don't see it.

THAT is what's really crap here, people.

What's wrong with the CBC of late?

Let Humberto da Silva explain it to you, he knows:

Some time ago, I was dismayed by a lousy piece of CBC reporting on the situation in Venezuela, and now I know it's not my imagination, nor is it a coincidence, that CBC sounded virtually indistinguishable from any right-wing channel you could name when it came to Latin America. There really HAS been a shift to the right, and even my favorite (and formerly fair and honest) broadcaster has fallen victim to it, largely because right-wing hands now hold the budgetary choke chain on the nation's watchdog, and they are pulling it tight.

(Muchas gracias, Emily Dee)

March 6, 2010

Dear Dan Savage...

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Dear Dan:

Have I told you lately how much I love and adore you?

In your latest Savage Love column, you wrote in response to a Torontonian reader:

WHEREAS you're writing from Canada, and WHEREAS my Canadian readers patiently endure my rants about conservative American politicians (like last week's rant about New Hampshire state representative Nancy "Wiggle in Excrement" Elliott), and WHEREAS my American readers might assume that Canada -- where gay marriage is legal, everyone has health care, the boys are hot, and the girls are hotter -- doesn't have any batshit-conservative politicians of its own, BE IT RESOLVED that I will make an effort to write about Canada's batshit-conservative politicians every once in a while.

No time like the present: I could write about your batshit-conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, who's always proroguing the shit out of your parliament. (I don't know what proroguing is exactly, but like the shit in French on breakfast-cereal boxes, it sounds pretty fucking filthy.) But a better example of conservative batshittery would be Vic Toews. Canada's unofficial "Minister of Family Values," member of parliament Toews -- surprise! -- doesn't like the gays because we're a threat to the family and the institution of marriage. Toews has described gay marriage ceremonies as satanic "Black Masses" and insisted that adding gays and lesbians to existing Canadian civil rights statutes would bring the "jackboot of fascism [down] on the necks of our people."

You know where this is going, right?

It turned out that Toews -- who once warned that gay marriage could lead to polygamy -- was cheating on his wife of twenty-five years. After getting a much younger woman pregnant, Toews wound up getting divorced. Another marriage destroyed not by gays stomping around in fabulous jackboots, but by another straight "Christian" shitfuck politician slamming his dick into someone who isn't his wife.

Toews's affair became public two years ago, but the scandal didn't destroy him -- he became minister of public safety this January -- because the Canadian press sniffed that Toews's affair and divorce were private. Excuse me, Canadian-press pansies, but a politician who scares up votes attacking the private lives of others, a politician who insists that other people are out to destroy his marriage, can't be allowed to hide behind "my private business!" when it turns out that the only threat to the politician's marriage was the politician's own greasy cock.

Here's hoping that all straight folks everywhere one day realize that anti-gay ravers come in just two flavors: assholes who are externalizing their own internal struggles against homosexual desires (Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Charlie Crist, Joseph Ratzinger, et al.) and assholes who are attempting to compensate for and/or draw attention away from their own moral shortcomings (David Vitter, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Vic Toews, et al.).

Toews is pronounced "taves," and it seems to me that it should be a word for something nasty. Get on it, Canada.

Dan, consider it gotten-onto. I'm gonna do my damnedest to think up something nasty yet relevant, perhaps along the lines of Santorum.

And in the meantime, I just wanna say that I don't care if you ARE gay-gay-gaiety-gay-gay, and I'm a hot Canadian chick; I'd totally jump your bones anytime you ask.

Or, failing that, I'll just find something nasty to make stick to Vic. I suspect it would make you just as happy, if not more so.

Love 'n' mush from another of your Canadian fans,

'Bina.

PS: Gentle readers, the floor's open. What horrible, cross-your-legs-and-cringe repugnant peccado do you think a "Toews" should be? Suggestions welcome in the comment slot below...

March 4, 2010

There once was this dude, Jason Kenney...

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Sorry, I'm not up for a limerick tonight. I just thought I'd share what happened to Jason Kenney's Wikipedia page before someone changes it back:

Kenney was born in Oakville, Ontario and raised in Saskatchewan. He graduated from the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, a Catholic, co-educational, boarding high school located in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He studied philosophy at the St. Ignatius Institute of the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university in San Francisco, California. However he dropped out before completing his undergraduate degree to begin work in Saskatchewan provincial politics. He did not always want to be a politician. He wanted to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia. The Giant Redwood. The Larch. The Fir! The mighty Scots Pine! The lofty flowering Cherry! The plucky little Apsen! The limping Roo tree of Nigeria. The towering Wattle of Aldershot! The Maidenhead Weeping Water Plant! The naughty Leicestershire Flashing Oak! The flatulent Elm of West Ruislip! The Quercus Maximus Bamber Gascoigni! The Epigillus! The Barter Hughius Greenus!

With my best buddy by my side, we'd sing! Sing! Sing!

[singing] I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay. I sleep all night and I work all day.

MOUNTIES: He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER: I cut down trees. I eat my lunch. I go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays I go shoppin' And have buttered scones for tea.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He eats his lunch. He goes to the lavatory. On Wednesdays he goes shopping And has buttered scones for tea.

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER: I cut down trees. I skip and jump. I like to press wild flowers. I put on women's clothing And hang around in bars.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He skips and jumps. He likes to press wild flowers. He puts on women's clothing And hangs around in bars?!

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER: I cut down trees. I wear high heels, Suspendies, and a bra. I wish I'd been a girlie, Just like my dear Papa.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He wears high heels, Suspendies, and a bra?!

[talking] What's this? Wants to be a girlie?! Oh, My! And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter!...

[singing] He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

He's a lumberjack, and he's okaaaaay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

If you're wondering what brought this on, rumor has it that Jason is a screaming closet case. And certainly his removal of gay rights from all mention in the latest edition of the citizenship guide for would-be new Canadians would indicate the clanking presence of something skeletal and pink-tutu-clad doing the Watusi in five-inch heels behind his closet door...as would his priors.

(Heh: The little wanker is on the defensive already. This should be gooooood.)

February 23, 2010

This one's just for you, Otto...

Soooo...Mr. Inca-Kola Dude thinks he can get away with calling figure skating some kind of pansy sport?

Well, blame him for what I'm about to do here, folks...

Ahem.

Plushy may not have taken gold at the Olympics this time 'round (and what's up with the trash talk, anyway, macho man?) But if skating doesn't pan out for him, I bet he'd clean up at Chippendales. Even without the muscle suit, he's got a mean little booty-shake.

And no, any guy who can hold a spread-eagle squat for several seconds while a girl plants a skate blade on his thigh and balances one-legged that way ain't no pansy, either.

February 20, 2010

Two quick announcements

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Your attention, please...

A commenter on my Open Letter to Peter Kent, Sofia Ramirez, writes:

*Please distribute widely* People in Toronto, Montreal and Caracas, Venezuela will be demonstrating in support of the democratic people's movement in Venezuela and exposing the hypocrisy of the Harper Conservatives who are waging war in Afghanistan while avoiding public accountability at home. Conservative Minister for the Americas Peter Kent has publicly criticized Venezuela as 'undemocratic' for applying its laws to TV and radio broadcasters. Kent and his fellow Harper Conservatives shouldn't speak about democracy at the same time as closing our parliament for months to avoid being investigated for complicity in handing over detainees to torture in Afghanistan. Thursday, February 25th @ 5pm 365 Bloor St. East (at Sherbourne) In front of Venezuelan Consulate For more information see/contact: Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=319821343005&ref=nf Latin American Solidarity Network (LASN): cca_toronto@hotmail.com Barrio Nuevo: barrionuevo.canada@gmail.com

Also, Cort G. e-mailed me this:

Saturday, 27 February 2010, 09:30 - 16:00 Pre- registration: vzteachin@hotmail.com Saturday, Feb 27, Registration 9:30 Sidney Smith Building, Room 2117 100 St.George St. (North of Harbord St.) The Challenge of Solidarity: Attend these events to participate, to learn and to help all of us to rise to the challenge of solidarity -- building a movement against imperialism.

Registration: 9:30 a.m.
Donation: $10 or what you can

Opening Session 10 a.m. -- 11 a.m.

Greetings by Venezuelan consul.

Opening address: Ten years of the Bolivarian revolution, covering Venezuelan history, the current context, and the challenge that Venezuela poses.

Speaker: Maria Paez


Workshops for the morning, from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
1. Communal councils and grassroots organizing and the new state.
2. Imperialism's economic crisis and Latin America.
3. Workers' Control and the Unions.
4. Colombia/Venezuela/seven U.S. bases and more.
5. People-to-people solidarity.

Vegetarian Lunch 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

Workshops for the afternoon from 2 p.m. -- 4 p.m.
1. ALBA and Its Challenge to Neoliberalism.
2. Venezuela and World Solidarity.
3. Women and the Venezuelan revolution.
4. Endogenous development and oil
5. Alternative media in Venezuela and Canada
Final plenary: Latin American Solidarity and the Canadian Left

Organized by: OPIRG, Centre for Social Justice, Barrio Nuevo, Hands Off Venezuela/Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, Latin America Solidarity Network--Toronto, Socialist Project, Venezuela We Are With You Coalition/Coalicion/Venezuela Estamos Contigo. Co-sponsored by Toronto, Bolivia Solidarity,Toronto Haiti Action Committee

For further information, email vzteachin@hotmail.com
Location : Sidney Smith Building, Room 2117, 100 St.George St. (North of Harbord St.), University of Toronto

Contact : vzteachin@hotmail.com

Anyone who can make it, please do attend. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

And have a grrrrrreat day.

February 18, 2010

Let's see Peter Kent explain THIS.

Since this report was filed, it's been confirmed that the assassins are, indeed, Mossad agents, and they were traveling under false passports. And there's an even weirder twist:

The Foreign Office was investigating how the identities of six innocent Britons -- at least three of whom lived in Israel -- came to be used by the alleged hit team.

[...]

As police in Dubai released CCTV footage of the suspects, some of the Britons whose identities were stolen voiced their anger after waking up to discover that they had been named in the plot.

"I have not left Israel for two years and I certainly have not been to Dubai recently," said Kent-born Paul Keeley, 42, a builder who has lived on a Kibbutz in northern Israel for the past 15 years.

"When I first heard about this I immediately looked to make sure my passport was still there and it was. It has not been stolen, so I don't know what on earth has happened.

"I woke up this morning and suddenly my life is like an espionage movie. It is all very worrying but I know I have not done anything wrong."

Mr Keeley's mother, Joan, of Yalding, near Maidstone, said the picture released by the Dubai police of a suspect named as "Paul Keeley" was similar to her son, suggesting that his identity had been used because of his resemblance to the alleged assassin.

[...]

The Foreign Office said the British passports were "fraudulent", while the Irish foreign ministry said it had issued "no such passports" in the names used. A spokesman for the government in Berlin said the passport number on the German document was also fake.

Another of the suspects named in Dubai was Harrow-born Melvyn Mildiner, 31, who lives near Jerusalem, and who said he was "angry, upset and scared" to discover that his passport had been forged.

"It's not me, which is one silver lining to this entire story because at least I can point to it and say, 'Look, that's not me.' It's not the picture that I have in my passport and it's not the picture that I have on my face that I walk around with every day," he said.

"I have my passport. It's in my house, and there are no Dubai stamps on it because I've never been to Dubai."

Mr Mildiner, who bears a resemblance to the picture on the forged passport used by the alleged assassin, added: "I don't know how this happened or who chose my name or why, but hopefully we'll find out soon."

The other Britons named in Dubai were Salford-born Stephen Hodes, 37, who works as a physiotherapist at a hospital in Jerusalem; Michael Lawrence Barney, 55, originally of north London, who is also understood to live in Israel; Jonathan Louis Graham, 31, of north London; and James Leonard Clarke, 47, who until recently lived in Brighton.

But what really leapt out at me was this bit near the bottom:

Mossad hit squads were known to have used forged foreign passports. Canada and New Zealand have both had disputes with Israel in recent years over suspected Mossad agents trying to use forged passports on operations.

Even Canada, eh? Pity.

And it's not just Canada. The Emerald Isle is also full of questions now:

The Irish government says the trio of alleged passport-holders identified on Monday in Dubai as Gail Folliard, Evan Dennings and Kevin Daveron do not appear in Ireland's records of legitimate passport-holders.

"We are unable to identify any of those three individuals as being genuine Irish citizens. Ireland has issued no passports in those names," the department said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The Irish government says the passport numbers publicised by Dubai authorities also are counterfeits, because they have the wrong number of digits and contain no letters.

Things that make you (and France, and Germany) go "hmmmm", eh?

There is literally no blow too low for the Mossad to strike, it seems. Interpol also wants a piece of these guys now.

And yet, Peter Kent said just the other day that an attack on Israel is an attack on Canada. Well, Peter? Let's see you explain this. And please, make it a good one. I want to know just how Interpol could possibly be tarred as "anti-Canadian".

Especially since they're going after an Israeli spy organization with a known history of forging Canadian passports.

February 10, 2010

An open letter to Peter Kent

Dear Mr. Kent:

On your recent official trip to Venezuela, in the name of Canada, you made some remarks that embarrass us as a country, and disgust me as a Canadian. They are as follows:

"Canada is concerned over the Venezuelan government's recent suspension of broadcasting of [three] television stations and the death of two students in protests related to this action. These events are further evidence of a shrinking democratic space in Venezuela."

Mr. Kent, Canada is NOT "concerned" about the Venezuelan government's legitimate actions regarding broadcasters in violation of its laws. And for that reason, Canada would appreciate you not rudely fobbing off your personal views as those of an entire nation when you are the guest of a foreign leader. You were the guest of President Chávez, were you not? And if you were not there as his guest, whose guest were you? Were you in fact a guest of the putschist opposition, and was that the reason you didn't show your face there for very long--or present it to the president himself, at Miraflores Palace?

The reason I ask is because you made those uncalled-for remarks in your official capacity as a minister of state. Just as you made the following remarks in your official capacity on the shameful occasion of the military coup against the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya:

"Canada condemns the coup d'état that took place over the weekend in Honduras, and calls on all parties to show restraint and to seek a peaceful resolution to the present political crisis, which respects democratic norms and the rule of law, including the Honduran Constitution.

"Democratic governance is a central pillar of Canada's enhanced engagement in the Americas, and we are seriously concerned by what has transpired in Honduras."

Now, that's all very right and proper. No one could fault you for saying that. But when that legitimately elected leader attempted to return to his country, from which he was unceremoniously ousted, and regain his rightful seat, you said:

"We urge restraint. We view his initial and subsequent attempts to re-enter the country as very unhelpful to the situation."

What a strange thing to say! Somewhere between the coup and the attempt at return, your sense of what constitutes an American democracy underwent a rather odd shift. You went from being against the coup to being, in effect, for it. Why else would you oppose an elected leader's efforts to regain what is rightfully his, and restore his country to normality?

It's nonsensical and incongruent remarks like these that make me seriously question your credentials as a diplomat and a democrat, Mr. Kent. And they also make me question your moral right to pronounce on the situation in Venezuela. Especially when you do it in the name of Canada.

You see, I don't think Venezuela happens to be suffering from a "shrinking" of its "democratic spaces" at all. I can understand Spanish, and I have been following the RCTV situation (as farcical as it is), along with the rest of the Venezuelan media situation. And I don't see a "shrinking" at all; in fact, I see quite the opposite. The media in Venezuela are still overwhelmingly in corporate hands. Public and alternative media are still a minority there, albeit a vibrant and growing one, and increasingly popular with ordinary Venezuelans. That's an expansion of democratic spaces, not a "shrinking"!

But then, you are a fine one to talk, sir, are you not? After all, you made your official remarks in the name of a minority government, at a time when Parliament has been prorogued out of a very antidemocratic combination of sheer spite and irresponsibility. Canada's democratic space has been closed off altogether under the watch of your party, Mr. Kent. Where is your moral authority to say anything about the media situation in Venezuela?

Ah, but I suppose you may be speaking in your capacity as a former broadcaster. I vaguely recall that you used to work for CanWest Global, a private media conglomerate, before you entered politics. I can well imagine that the arch-conservative CanWest Global corporate editorial line, which you also represented for a time in an official capacity, would have colored your outlook on non-conservative, non-corporatist governance somewhat.

Still, that doesn't excuse your remarks, which were supercilious, ignorant, and totally inaccurate. And it doesn't excuse what you said in response to Venezuelan ambassador Roy Chaderton, after he quite rightly rebuked you for your disrespect before the OAS. Far from being the "rhetoric of desperation", as you called them, Mr. Chaderton's remarks were based entirely on fact. And if you, Mr. Kent, were worth your salt as a journalist, you would appreciate that. After all, journalism is supposed to be about reporting facts, not opinions-disguised-as-facts.

It is awfully hard for a former reporter to be bested at his own game by a diplomat from South America, is it not, Mr. Kent?

But of course, I forget to whom I am writing. CanWest's stock in trade has been opinions-disguised-as-facts for so long that of course, as an old loyalist to the company line, you would have difficulty distinguishing the one from the other. Poor judgment is a known occupational hazard at CanWest Global; it may be why that once prosperous corporation is now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Still, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. And ignorance of the real situation in Venezuela is no excuse for sticking both feet in your mouth. As long as you work in an official capacity, representing all of Canada--or claiming to--you are obliged to seek the fullest picture of the situation abroad, and not rely on the narrow viewpoints of a corporatist few as you have done. Our parliament is not the CanWest news desk. Our nation is not a corporation.

Mr. Kent, you are an ignorant man; you may be an ignorant man as a matter of profession. Certainly you are a partisan of the arch-corporatist party of ignorance. But we Canadians are not an ignorant people, nor are we corporatists. We are well aware of how much our democratic spaces have shrunk under the reign of your party, just as we are aware of how much the overall quality journalism has declined in Canada thanks in no small part to CanWest's hard-right editorial line.

Your ignorant remarks embarrass us all before the world.

February 4, 2010

Venezuela: Who haz Teh Stoopid?

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Oh lordy, lordy, good Gordie. I have about a week's worth of stupid Google alerts in my e-mail box right now, burning a hole in my head. All of them concern Venezuela, and if they weren't so damn commonplace, they'd be egregious. But there's nothing egregious about the anglo media getting Venezuela and Chavecito wrong, so let's just give the most classically stupid ones a quick rundown before I delve into the hot stuff:

First up--FUX Snooze, with "'Terrorist' Twitter Threatens Hugo Chávez's Stranglehold on Media. Only, of course, it doesn't, because there isn't any stranglehold. In fact, if any of these FUX Snoozers could read Spanish, they'd realize that Chavecito has actually advocated using Twitter. (A half-assed and snotty "fair and balanced" English account can be found here.) Perhaps the Chavistas will start an anti-FUX campaign once they're done polishing off what's left of RCTV!

Next, we have the LAHT, parroting a discredited "national college of journalists", who in turn are parroting the media owners' line about Venezuela being a "disaster zone for free speech". Note: Not one of these shameless palangristas has been killed, as they would be in Colombia for breathing a word of boo about Alvaro Uribe (or any lesser right-wing corrupto). Neither has a single one been arrested for lying to the people, as they do all the time in Venezuela. And meanwhile, the majority of Venezuela's media remain firmly in the hands of crapitalists who dictate--yes, DICTATE--to their "journalists" the same old editorial line: Chávez has a stranglehold on the media here! Your free speech is under attack from the state!

Following that, we have some "analysis" by the Dissociated Press via the WaHoPo, claiming that Chavecito's "socialist project" is "badly hobbled". Only, of course, they, too, are parroting the silly oppos with their dimwitted slogans (which are pure wishful thinking, or perhaps a projection of where they themselves stand). Something's hobbled, all right, but it's not the 'Cito. He at least has a coherent (and popular!) electoral platform for the coming September. And that's just what the oppos are trying to stage yet another boring coup d'état against--they got NADA.

Next, a shitty little fascist blogger tries hard to convince us that he has a finger on the pulse of Venezuela. Sorry, dude, but you've got it up your own rectum, and what you feel is nothing but your own peristalsis. You know nothing about Che, either, and all your flatulent free-form musings won't convince us that what you do is "journalism", not even the ultra-crappy kind that the Dissociated Press and the Venezuelan "college" favor. Face it, Humberto, you're just another brownshirt hack. (And don't ask me where that brown came from; if you can't smell it, I shan't enlighten you.)

Then, some twit from Tulsa thinks that TV stations are being "shut down". No, they're not. They're being held accountable. Horrible as it sounds, Venezuela has media regulations and standards, and they must be complied with by all domestic stations broadcasting there. Shockingly, other democracies also have 'em, and most are comparable to Venezuela's. Eeek, creeping socialism! (PS: RCTV is NOT "International". Its programming is 90% domestic. Get your facts straight, or risk looking a complete idiot.)

And speaking of twits, here's a little more derivative twaddle about the Twitter non-revolution that will most certainly NOT topple 11 years of successful Bolivarianism, to the utter disappointment of the derivative twit who twaddled it. See you in September, "Business Insider" dude. You may want to borrow my crystal ball, it works better than yours.

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BTW, the same publication is a veritable fountain of mirth for this entry, too. Petro-economy in Venezuela deteriorating? Not even hardly. Needless to say, the 'Cito is not "backtracking", either. He's doing business with China and India, whose demand is growing. And he's a caution to the Saudis!

The Jamaica Observer can't even spell his name right, much less grasp the fact that these "former loyalists" of which it speaks are all crooked, back-stabbing coattail riders who thought they could use his popularity for a springboard and then overthrow him when the time was ripe. Needless to say, they are all wrong. And at least one of them is facing corruption charges! Funny dat.

The Moderate Voice sounds very shrill, and not at all moderate. Srsly, comparing the 'Cito to that weirdo from Libya? You may want to get to a vet, it sounds like you're about to hork up a big-ass hairball there.

Even the CBC haz Teh Stoopid, since they open and close with RCTV's viewpoint--which is a tacit endorsement of it, in other words. That's Bhad Nhews! (But perhaps symptomatic, since they've been in a state of degeneration ever since Harpo kept cutting their funding or threatening to do so. Maybe they're currying favor?)

Okay. Enough with Teh Stoopid, it could go on all night and I'm getting sick of it. Here's the straight dope, and it comes from no less a figure than Roy Chaderton, Venezuela's ambassador to the OAS:

Part one of two; click through to hear it all. Here's what he said:

February is the month of carnivals. I refer to Rio de Janeiro, Port of Spain, Barranquilla, New Orleans and Québec City, among others. Yes, there is a carnival in Canada, but there's a difference; not because the winter carnival of Québec occurs under extreme low temperatures. The difference is that when in other countries they start to put on carnival masks, in Canada the ultra-right starts to take off its mask.

I speak of diplomacy and respect for freedom of expression; I had the opportunity to tell the story of a far-right journalist who recently visited Venezuela. He asked for interviews with the Foreign Minister and other official functionaries who could not fit him into their schedules. In reality, he was not interested in speaking to my Government, but with the opposition, in order to motivate them and offer them support, among others, to putschists and destabilizers. He met with two important government deputies whose opinions were irrelevant to him.

The recent media censoring of a speech by President Hugo Chávez, by the putschist station RCTV, was supported by this journalist, who on his return dared to say that in my country democratic spaces have been reduced. Who is this gentleman? Anyone with moral authority, or a journalist who, like any other, can opine whatever brings him gain without greater consequences than a democratic polemic? NO!! His name is Peter Kent, Minister of State for Latin America in the Canadian Foreign Ministry. So, who has seen a person of such high rank, who could not and did not seek a meeting with his potential host, impose his presence in a country, abusing his diplomatic flexibility? What a lack of democracy, what a lack of respect!

Canada has long been the country that has functioned the best on our continent; however, there are new little details:

For its intromission, I denounce the violation of the no-intervention norms on the part of the current Canadian minority government. This is not the Canada of Lester B. Pearson, posthumous Nobel peace prizewinner, who universalized healthcare rights for his people; nor is it that of John Diefenbaker, the conservative Prime Minister open to socialized medicine. Neither is it that of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the leader who took no orders from Washington, and was one of the most brilliant western statesmen of the 20th century, steeped in the ideas of Christian socialism. Nor is it that of Jean Chrétien, Liberal leader, elected several times by his people, who had a cordial relationship of mutual respect with President Hugo Chávez. I am speaking of a Canada governed by a far-right, which closed Parliament for several months in order to halt an investigation over the violations of human rights by its soldiers in Afghanistan; which censors protests in Ontario and the criticisms of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver; which has flirted with the Honduran putschists; which is preparing for an offensive in favor of the media dictatorship in Latin America, and to destabilize leftist governments. However, I must thank the Government of Canada for its concern over the two students who were killed, and inform them that they were leftist militants, murdered by gunmen of the opposition.

Oh, Canada! What crimes are being committed in your name!

In this ultra-right-wing circus, an embarrassing Inter-American Human Rights Commission participated, which kept mum about the Caracazo massacre in Venezuela and supported the coup against President Chávez along with the inter-American mafia of human-rights bureaucrats which have infiltrated the OAS, with the complicity of its highest authority, such as a Secretariat of Freedom of Expression which believes that the private initiative to defame, censor and destabilize is a freedom deserving of protection.

In the face of the media dictatorship, the Empire and its partners, under the Bolivarian Revolution we enjoy extreme freedom of expression and are developing to the fullest all the human rights, such as those of the indigenous peoples, a mater in which we offer our advice to Canada in order to rescue its impoverished indigenous from the claws of exclusion and extreme poverty. It is very easy, just treat them as equals.

The Axis of Evil is trying new tactics. Knowing that the ultra-right cannot win popular support against President Chávez, it is doing its best to sabotage Venezuelan democracy with the hope of winning the presidential elections in September and, from there, repeating the operation in Tegucigalpa and after that, the one in Jakarta, such as that mounted at the time by the CIA and the media star Henry Kissinger against the Chilean democracy.

This is not an anecdote. The agenda of the Republican Party continues unabated in Latin America. Behind the curtain is the most violent power in history, which violates all human rights in the name of democracy and security; so historically aggressive that if I were to seek a show of hands from all ambassadors whose countries were dismembered, invaded by marines, or whose democratic governments have been brought down by US intervention, a forest of arms would rise, and of course, immediately the Secretary General would leap up to visit all the affected countries, to build bridges of straw and in the process gather some small votes for his re-election.

The law is the law; for this reason we protest before the governments of the United States and Canada for inciting RCTV to disobedience. Mediocre, racist, violent and vulgar, accustomed to transmitting adult programming during children's hours, while during the coup against President Chávez in 2002, they broadcast only children's programs (The Jungle Book, Tom and Jerry, etc.) during adult hours, in order to conceal the popular rebellion against the coup. Five years later, the concession, property of the state, was not renewed, and RCTV was relegated to cable. Now, with 90% Venezuelan programming, it pretends to be an "international" station in order not to classify its programming, play the National Anthem, or transmit required official messages. Other suspended stations returned to air on complying with the law. For TV Chile, it was enough to register and prove that it was not Venezuelan; the same happened with the Televisa stations.

RCTV is a station with a long-standing media criminal tradition. Since 1984, it has been a leader in the silencing by the private media of the former president Luís Herrera Campíns. He was castigated for prohibiting the advertising of liquors and cigarettes in the media, and for imposing the playing of a Venezuelan piece of music on radio for each imported one played. This sanction lasted until the day of his death in 2007. It's a curious fact that the radical opposition station, Globovisión, transmitted freely because it accepted this norm. RCTV is the spoiled brat of the dregs of the international media, and did not abide by the law.

So it can be said that the Axis of Evil relies on the support of RCTV, El Nazional, and Globovisión in Venezuela, and on that of FOX News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, the Miami Herald, CNN in Spanish, the Grupo de Diarios América, El Tiempo (owned by the Santos family of Colombia), El Universal (owned by the Ealy family), El País de Madrid, the Inter-American Radio Association, the Inter-American Press Association, the representatives of media terrorism, the Southern Command, and the Fourth Fleet in this witches' sabbath of the inter-American demons.

Translation mine.

Those are harsh words, but I agree with them absolutely. I am not one of those "my country, drunk or sober" morons who call themselves patriots. I'm one who believes that any Canadian with an honest sense of pride in our country, as well as a conscience, can only agree that this is no longer the healthy, progressive, democratic Canada of Lester B. Pearson, Tommy Douglas, and Pierre Trudeau. Our parliament is fucking prorogued, and all decision making is now going on over our heads and without question or scrutiny. Ambassador Chaderton is right--we used to function the best of all, and now we no longer do. As he says, we have lost our political virginity. We are dysfunctional.

Our parliament is in an advanced state of degeneration, and our media are in grave danger of going the same way. Many of them, since they go along with the lies about RCTV, are already there. And yes, CBC, I'm glaring at YOU. I expect such crap from CTV and CanWest Global, because they are private broadcasters who favor the side their bread is buttered on, but you are a PUBLIC network. You have the resources and the means to do a whole lot better. In case you forget, you too have a responsibility to the public, and you're not meeting it adequately.

Especially not with regard to our sister nation, Venezuela, which IS a functioning democracy and deserving of all the respect due to one.

January 29, 2010

The Real News on the prorogation and the Canadian pro-democracy movement

Forget the Harperite lie about prorogation being "routine". There is NOTHING routine about evasion of hard questions about torture. That's the real story here.

January 25, 2010

Is our Parliament working?

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Canadian Press reports that the Liberals and NDP planned to show up. The National Post says they're there. The Bloc are apparently still at home, and so are you-know-who.

Sigh.

January 23, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Whose Parliament?

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I wasn't able to make our local anti-prorogation march today, thanks to some stupid self-inflicted foot problems that made donning my walking shoes impossible for a good long while. But that won't stop me from protesting, or making a holy nuisance of myself, in other ways. Like, say, blogging the day's events and articles worthy of reading:

Emily Dee kicks things off with a short but sweet (and to-the-point) video and the good words of Antonia Zerbisias.

So, coalitions with the Bloc Québécois are out of the question, because the latter is supposedly separatist and hell-bent on breaking up Confederation? Funny, Harpo didn't think so himself not so long ago, as The Tyee reported not so long ago...oh, how soon they forget!

Pale Cold at A Creative Revolution sends the pundits to the back of the bus. Fortunately, they don't have far to go--their bus always WAS a short one.

Michael Geist busts the conventional stupidities of the media and political parties both.

So, we progressives hate Harpo? Damn right--he's earned it! And you'll never guess who else does, either.

Even in Oman, they're rallying for Canadian democracy. How's that for a global village?

JJ has some numbers that should depress Harpo to tears. Bad Tory! No majority for YOU!

And if you really want to know what it's all about, Montreal Simon is your go-to guy. He knows this is much bigger than just a widdle prime-ministerial hissyfit that shut down Parliament (twice now).

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January 21, 2010

Paul Quarrington, RIP...

Yesterday, I found this song echoing through my head for the first time since...oh, about 1995 or thereabouts, when I was at journalism school and you couldn't turn on a radio anywhere in Toronto without hearing it:

And today, I found out why I suddenly had this little adolescent earworm. Paul Quarrington, singer/songwriter, novelist, and filmwriter, has passed away. He wrote this song along with the Rheostatics, and lobbied for them to be in the soundtrack of the film version of his novel, Whale Music. Until then, no one knew who the Rheostatics were; a damn shame, because they're a fine, still underrated band (and recently reunited just to pay tribute to the ailing writer who once gave them such a big, generous career-boost.)

I still haven't read that book (yeah, I know--shame on me!), and I only saw parts of the movie when it finally came onto TV. But it was big, big news while I was in j-school. All my classmates were talking about it, and this haunting song was everywhere. I still have memories of intoxicating darkroom chemical vapors swirling around my head while this was playing in the background as I did my job as photo editor of my j-school paper. Somehow, it was very appropriate: quirky, funny, poignant, meditative.

I dare you to listen to it and not find yourself absentmindedly singing along with the "ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba" chorus at some odd, unforeseen moment...

January 18, 2010

Haiti: The UNtold story

If you're wondering why aid has so much trouble reaching Haiti, here's a broad and rather interesting hint, in video form. Those who've been trying to "help" Haiti for years have in fact been actively weakening it because the uppity niggruhs keep trying to elect the "wrong" candidate. And when those aforementioned uppities turn out in the streets to protest the obvious foreign interference in their democratic process, guess what happens? Here's another hint...

Criminalizing dissent. It's the Amurrican Way.

And Canada is being dragged along into this quagmire of utter disgrace, as are the Brazilians--who were chosen specifically because of their color and affinity for the Haitians.

January 15, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Caption time!

I call this one "When Evo met Bev", but I'm sure you have something better:

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BTW, by way of backgrounder, that's Canada's minister of international co-operation, Bev Oda...who used to be on the Status of Women portfolio before she bobbled it up big-time at Harpo's behest. Bev is there to pledge $28 million CDN to help Bolivia fight poverty.

Captions, please, amig@s!

January 13, 2010

Haiti earthquake: Some early photos and video

Via Aporrea, two YouTubes. Some photos:

And some video:

Aporrea is also reporting that the UN chief-of-mission in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, has been killed in the 7.3 magnitude quake. The UN building (and that of MINUSTAH) has been destroyed, along with at least one hospital and a prison building (from which several inmates are reported to have escaped.)

Natural disasters hit Haiti harder than anyplace else on Earth because of its poverty; El Duderino reminds us of why Haiti is so poor in the first place, and why it is also so vulnerable to coups planned from just a few hundred miles offshore. (Coups which, incidentally, have disgraced my own home and native land, and shame me as a Canadian.)

In a way, the destruction of the MINUSTAH headquarters seems like poetic justice, since MINUSTAH was originally there to prop up a government that the people of Haiti did not elect, and overstayed its welcome considerably--and under protest. Its real mission is unclear, but its apparent mission is to make sure that the original elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, doesn't get back into office in any way, shape or form. Its stated mission was to distribute aid and fight crime, but it seems to have been complicit in its share of crime and has been less than effective in distributing aid--except to foreign NGOs, of which there is certainly no shortage in Haiti, whatever else is lacking.

And there is a lot more lacking in that little country now.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's response was quick and to the point: They sent doctors and are gathering non-perishable food, clothing, medicines, etc. Solidarity in action, rather than endless preachy words. No wonder the Haitians gave Chavecito a hero's welcome last time he showed up in person. They will again, I'll bet, when they're back on solid ground.

Seguid el ejemplo qué Caracas dió...

UPDATES: Some other Canadian content on this story. A Progressive Bloggers member is worried about her parents, who are currently in Haiti and unaccounted for. Another Canadian citizen in the country texted for help, and got it. Meanwhile, a Canadian nurse is confirmed to be among the dead.

January 8, 2010

Dear right wingers: You can stop SHRIEEEEKing now.

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German Muslims protest the exportation of Wahhabism and terrorism from Saudi Arabia; in this case, specifically, to Iraq. Note the date on the picture. Muslims protesting against Islamist terrorism is hardly new or unique, no matter what wingnuts are saying to the contrary.

Dear wingnuts:

You finally got what you've been bellowing for. Muslims just stepped up to the plate to protest Islamist terrorism today.

Now you can just STFU.

Really.

Majed Moughni, a Dearborn attorney, said Sunday afternoon that Muslims need to let the world know that those who would commit terrorism do not represent Islam.

"It's very frustrating to know that these guys are using Islam and committing terror," he said. "Islam stands for peace."

His Facebook group, Dearborn Area Community Members, is calling for local Muslims to hold a protest during the scheduled Jan. 8 hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The 23-year-old was charged Saturday with trying to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Friday. He told federal authorities he was acting on orders from Al Qaeda.

Well, guess what? That protest happened today, and got coverage...even on FUX, which used AP wire reportage (predictably skimpy). Still, for FUX, that's really saying something.

ABC did a bit better, with video.

A local paper, the Dearborn (MI) Press and Guide noted that several Islamic leaders, plus a Muslim woman who was on board the flight that the would-be suicide bomber tried to blow up, also stepped forward to denounce terrorism...in the name of Islam:

Shortly before he appeared in court, Imam Mohammad Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights and other Muslims spoke at a press conference, condemning terrorism in the name of Islam.

Among those with Elahi were Victor Begg, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan; Imam Mustapha Elturk of the Islamic Organization of North America; and Imam Mohammad Mardini of the American Muslim Center in Dearborn. The meeting was sponsored by the council and was held at the Michigan Round Table for Diversity and Inclusion in Detroit.

Each imam condemned all acts of terrorism as crimes against humanity and supported law enforcement agencies in their efforts to protect their fellow citizens, while preserving civil rights.

Also at the press conference was Hebba Aref, a passenger on the flight from Amsterdam. She, too, spoke against terrorists targeting innocent people.

And just to further shush the shrieeeeekers, look what a group of North American imams also did today:

The 20 imams associated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada said this marked the first fatwa by the Muslim clergy declaring attacks on Canada and the U.S. to be attacks on Muslims.

"In our view, these attacks are evil, and Islam requires Muslims to stand up against this evil," the imams said in their fatwa.

Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said attacks on Canadian or U.S. soil are essentially attacks on Muslims.

"We are part of this society," he said. "This is my home, and if anybody attacks on Canada, in fact, attacks on my home."

The imams said it is a duty of every Muslim in Canada and the U.S. to safeguard the two countries.

"They must expose any person, Muslim or non-Muslim, who would cause harm to fellow Canadians or Americans," they said.

"It is religious obligation upon Muslims, based upon the Qur'anic teachings, that we have to be loyal to the country where we live," said Soharwardy. "We have no problems in Canada; we can practise our religion freely."

Whoa...Muslim imams using a fatwa to protect western society and religious freedom?

Gee, it sure sounds to me like the imams value the freedom of religion that we all enjoy here in Canada. And it sounds an awful lot like they value their fellow Canadians, too, regardless of religion. It even sounds like they have no problem abiding by the laws of the land!

And above all, it sounds like they ARE speaking out against Islamist terrorism. In fact, they've been doing it for several years already. If you wingnuts weren't shriiiiieeeeking so goddamned loudly, maybe you'd have heard about it.

And if you don't believe me, do your own Google search. Type in "Muslims protest terrorist" or "Muslims protest terrorism". Go on. I dare ya. See how many news links you get. Have fun reading them all.

And in the meantime, just STFU.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A Canadian journalist in Cuba

Jean-Guy Allard talks about the Canada-Cuba relationship (which is very different from that of the US to Cuba!), as well as his own ties to the island, the Left, and the revolutions going on all over Latin America today. He got his start in Cuba translating to and from the French for Granma; you can hear his Québécois accent through his very fluent Spanish. He takes great interest in what's going on not only there but in Venezuela and Bolivia; he also is watching the situation in Honduras, and ties the coup there unequivocally to US interests. But even if the Left's battles are still largely uphill against that capitalist behemoth which is forever trying to eat us all, he remains cheerful, energetic and an example to us all about what the future can look like if we have the courage to strive for it.

January 7, 2010

Barrick Gold disgraces Canada in Chile, too

Part II of a program I posted here yesterday.

This episode takes us to the Atacama Desert of Chile, the driest place on Earth, and the nearby Valle del Huasco, a small strip of green farmland in an arid region. We meet a local priest, who calls citizens to protest against Barrick via his radio show. He can see from the belfry of his church the damage the Pascua-Lama project has already done, and he can foresee what it's going to do in future. It doesn't take a geologist; just living there, watching the damage grow from day to day, is enough.

The Pascua-Lama project, on the Argentina-Chile border, is three times as big as the Veladero one in Argentina. It will affect three glaciers--Toro 1, Toro 2 and Esperanza. Barrick Gold proposes to move these glaciers to the Guanaco Glacier, but this is bullshit, as the second segment shows:

Since when can glaciers be moved by dump trucks? And does anyone take them seriously when water is so important to the extraction of gold? Those glaciers aren't going to be moved, they're going to be stripped.

A sensitive environment like the Andes cannot bear human meddling on such a scale. Five rivers originate from the glaciers in question, and people downstream depend on them for the crops that sustain their lives. Even in such an arid part of the Chilean Andes, there are people who farm for a living, and who don't want Barrick in their backyard--not only for the unsightliness of its open pits, but for the depletion of the glaciers that provide water for their crops, and for the poisoning of whatever water is left--again, with cyanide.

Barrick doesn't much care about this; they present themselves as "socially responsible", but their actions speak louder. They have no problem making a mockery of local indigenous people in the name of public relations. Even more disturbing, they don't have the environmental permits they are required to have by the government. I guess, if you can get the president of Argentina to veto a protective law passed unanimously by both houses of parliament, little things like permits, along with borders, don't matter anymore.

And neither do little things like local people.

January 6, 2010

Barrick Gold shames Canada in Argentina

I just happened across this video (in Spanish) today. It was so shocking that I had to view it twice to be sure I had heard everything correctly:

This is Part I of the report, called "Glaciers: The First Veto". It's from an Argentine news show called "Telenoche Investigates", which aired on December 17. In it, we see how vital the Andean glaciers are to Argentina, and how fragile they are in turn, thanks to global warming. These glaciers are not just a pretty white patch of ice on top of mountains; they're a source of water to lands that would otherwise be desert. Thanks to these glaciers, the western regions of Argentina can be irrigated and farmed. The wines of Mendoza, in particular, depend on the glaciers; without them, no grapes would grow. Local people depend heavily on these glaciers for their well-being. And because of the variability of snowfalls--heavy some years, light in others--Argentine climatologists, agronomists and geophysicists all monitor the glaciers very closely. Whatever happens to the glaciers affects everybody and everything for hundreds of miles downstream. For some, it is literally the difference between survival and death.

For this reason, the Argentine parliament unanimously voted to protect the glaciers in 2008. Both houses passed a radical bill that would declare the glaciers and nearby mountain areas off limits to mining. Yet the bill was vetoed at the highest level by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. What happened?

A powerful mining firm, based out of Toronto, is responsible for the veto. Barrick Gold, one of the largest gold miners in the world, pressured President Fernández to veto the anti-mining law. They saw two regions near the Chile-Argentina border, Veladero and Pascua-Lama, which were simply too full of gold and silver to resist. Never mind that local citizen power had previously forced Barrick to abandon a planned Argentine mine project in La Rioja province. Never mind that these regions are ecologically sensitive, being located near the Guanaco Glacier (and several other, smaller ones). Never mind that several regional governors protested the high risk of water pollution and glacier depletion. Barrick wanted to mine, and Barrick got its way. It overrode the Argentine senate and house of deputies, not to mention the will of an entire people, and essentially stuck the president in its vest pocket. And to make sure that no pesky ministers tripped them up, they sent out thugs to threaten a former minister of the environment. Romina Picolotti, who was expelled from the government, tells how she received death threats, and threats against her children. Whom does she blame for these mysterious menaces? Who else but Barrick. The threats followed hot on the heels of her denunciations of Barrick's polluting activities in the Argentine parliament!

But Picolotti has addressed another parliament as well, one with the power to leash Barrick if it wanted to. The Canadian government has been receiving wave after wave of complaints, and not just from Argentina. Canadians are well aware of what Barrick is doing, and are indignant that it is being allowed to continue using our money to fund these projects which not only endanger the very existence of sensitive Andean glaciers, but also to pollute important watersheds with cyanide solution (the waste products of gold extraction; you can read more about that process here.) Canadians know that this probably wouldn't have been allowed here (for obvious reasons), so why in Argentina? And why would one company's bottom line be more important than the well-being of the citizens not only of Argentina, but in the case of the Pascua-Lama project, neighboring Chile as well?

Barrick would no doubt argue that its projects generate jobs and income, and while that may be true for a few, the majority of those adversely affected by its operations see no benefit whatsoever from the gold mines. To be frank, Barrick just does does not have the power that the glaciers do to sustain people's lives. The majority get nothing from Barrick's presence in the region. They receive no jobs, no housing, no income and no social programs. Barrick doesn't feed, clothe or house them, nor does it provide them doctors, nor does it send their children (the same whom they threatened, in the case of former environment minister Picolotti) to school. They probably wouldn't receive any compensation if worse came to worst, either, and one of the dams holding the cyanide pools were to rupture, spilling its highly toxic contents into local rivers and groundwater aquifers. Most likely, the Barrick projects in Argentina would enjoy the same impunity as Union Carbide did in Bhopal, India during the 1980s.

After all, they know how to corrupt a government and bend it to their will.

The second installment of this program will appear here tomorrow.

January 4, 2010

Farewell, Lhasa...

This morning, I was saddened to learn (via DAMMIT JANET!) that Lhasa de Sela has died of breast cancer.

For those who don't know who she is, she's the closest thing Canada has ever had to its own Mercedes Sosa (who also, sadly, passed away recently.) In fact, she covered a Fito Páez song that "La Negra" Sosa also did, "Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón". This cover was used to great effect in the documentary The Take, by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, about the struggle of the occupied-factories movement in Argentina. That was my first contact with that haunting voice.

Here's one of her last pieces, which feels hauntingly prescient now:

Sleep well, Lhasa. You are loved and missed.

December 28, 2009

Goodbye, Blue Monday...

Excuse me, the Internets have an announcement to make:

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Damn. I never even knew there WAS such a thing, and now it's been cancelled on me!

I think I need a drink.

Oh, and speaking of "need a drink", read this and weep in thy beer, O my friend and neighbor to the south of us:

Here are a few truths: First, we've been living in a one-dollar, one-vote corporatized democracy for a long time. If this is news to you, then you're probably also shocked to learn that the U.S. Constitution, by awarding two senators to each of what H.L. Mencken called "the cow states" -- no insult to the cows in my own barn -- was deliberately crafted to make fundamental change difficult. Who made "moderates" like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Lieberman of Aetna mini-presidents? Alas, the founding fathers did.

Living in such a polity, anybody who thought entrenched interests like the insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital industries weren't going to find ways to make money off healthcare reform probably wasn't paying attention back at the beginning, when Obama said that despite the abstract appeal of a Canadian-style single-payer system, it was a political non-starter.

Really, Gene? Really, Barack? Our single-payer system up here, which is popular with nine out of ten of us, and which could bring down even a majority Conservative government if it ever foolishly tried to gut it, is just an "abstract" one? You "free", "independent" Yanks are that powerless against the corporations down there? Or are you just that cowardly? What do you have a government for, if not to put a leash on those snarling, dog-eating dogs, and muzzle them?

Oh, I get it. The dogs are the ones holding the leash in the United States of Amnesia, and with a wad of Benjamins, they muzzle YOU.

Spare us the old Soviet Union jokes, we've heard them all before.

Good thing Tommy Douglas is a-moldering in his grave, or he'd chew your asses up so badly, you'd never sit down again. He faced as much pressure from the forces of "free market medicine" as any US president ever could, but he didn't back down. Even when doctors went on strike in Saskatchewan, he just brought in doctors from elsewhere who were willing to take up the slack until those misguided MDs realized their mistake and came into the fold.

In Venezuela, it was so bad that Chavecito brought in Cuban doctors, as did Evo in Bolivia. Both of them had the gonads to go up against the oligarchs of their respective countries and do it, just as Tommy Douglas had the gonads to do here.

So, Barack, where are YOUR 'nads at?

And sorry, Gene, but imperfection is NOT a start...except to an even bigger débâcle down the road. Forcing fellow-citizens to buy insurance they couldn't afford in the first place is not going to provide them with the care they need. It will, however, help ensure that they can't afford a house, or a car, or maybe even food and clothing. All of which they're gonna need before they need a doctor or a hospital.

No, this gradualist approach is NOT going to lead to gradual improvements. It's going to lead to people avoiding care for as long as they can, until an emergency drives them to it.

And you can never underestimate the stupid stubbornness, or the stubborn stupidity, of a conservative, either. They WILL hold out until an emergency, or death, whichever comes first. They will spend the duration of their nasty, brutish and short lives muttering under their breath about how hard they work for their money, and about the dangers of relying on Big Government.

And for once they may be right, although not the way in which they think they are. In the US, government is beholden to Big Money. All US governments, Democratic or Republican, are conservative that way. Even FDR didn't make good on his early impulse to de-fang Wall Street! And a government beholden to moneyed interests is a government doomed to the distrust of its own citizens no matter their political affiliations. That distrust, of course, is richly deserved, because the citizens are the ones who will be left out in the cold. Unless, mirabile dictu, the government grows a spine and tells Big Money to go screw. And understands that it will have to fight--REALLY fight--for what's right.

Tommy Douglas saw that coming when he took the plunge in Saskatchewan, and did what the progressives of that province elected him to do. No gradualism for him; he knew what was right. He didn't go halfsies, and neither should anyone else whose intention it is to provide universal healthcare.

Now, I REALLY need a drink.

December 23, 2009

"Holy shit! Oh my God!"

A once-in-a-lifetime sighting, caught on camera from an Air Canada flight to the Bahamas. The space shuttle can't be seen, but the fireball from its engines, and the smoke trail, are clearly visible.

BTW, some moron left this comment on the site:

the space program is a cinical ploy by desperate big government liberals who want to push their science onto our children in their public schools. WAKE UP AMERICA. real americans everywehre are realising america's days are numbered now that an islamic marxist is our president. TIME TO SUCCEED FROM THE UNION

...thus proving just why more public education is so desperately needed by our neighbors to the south--to combat the McCarthyite idiocy (and the plague of bad spelling) that's so rampant among the teabaggers. Yeah, the space program--which has been in place since Eisenhower signed NASA into existence in 1958--is all Obama's doing. He's out to warp your mind and destroy you with science! Unga bunga inga binga bunnnnnggggga...

December 20, 2009

Oh look! Pundit Kitchen has finally discovered Canada...

A little late, as you can see:

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Jack Layton (left) is still the leader of the NDP, just as Gilles Duceppe (right) is still heading up the Bloc Québécois. But sadly, Stéphane Dion (middle) was usurped by a Russian boyar who is considerably less popular than he, for reasons still unknown. (The "reasons still unknown" refers to the usurpation, not the unpopularity. Iggy's unpopularity owes to the fact that he's Harpo Lite, with a dollop of ivory-tower snootiness thrown in. Dion's was due strictly to poor timing.)

December 17, 2009

Helicopter Canada: a centennial documentary

A little treat from our commie-pinko National Film Board for all you documentary buffs out there:

"Helicopter Canada", by Eugene Boyko, 1966. Made just in time to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday the following year. Hands-down one of the most charming documentaries you'll ever see; shows my home and native land from coast to coast to coast. And barely dated, to boot.

December 8, 2009

This is why I do it, people

A few days ago, I wrote a letter to three members of Parliament--three women who had the courage to vote against the Tories' shameful motion to scrap the long-gun registry, and to protest the mere lip service paid to the victims of December 6. Here's what I wrote to them:

Just wanted to say thank you...

...for not supporting the Tories' mockery of women on Tuesday. I was a student at Queen's University at the same time the Montreal Massacre occurred, and it shook me to my core. It also confirmed for me that there is still a crying need for feminism, and that women's rights are by no means a done deal.

It also confirmed for me that we need gun control--MORE, not less. If residences and motor vehicles are all registered, there is no reason why firearms, whose sole purpose is to be used for killing, should not also be.

Once more, THANK YOU!

Today I heard back from one of them:

Dear Sabina,

Thank you so much for your email message. As I'm sure you understand, the day of the vote was very diificult. Your kind words helped and I appreciate that kindness very much. You are the next generation of activists; we will need you in the struggle for equality and justice.

In Solidarity,
Irene

Why do we do these seemingly futile things? Because we know they are not futile even if there is a momentary setback. Notice has been served to other members of Parliament: The gun registry is popular with ordinary Canadians. Especially the women over 40, who, like me, have personal memories of what it was like to be terrorized in the wake of the Montréal Massacre--a terror that went deeper than 9-11 ever could.

Smart on crime means tough on Tories

Don't know who made this video, but I can totally get behind it. It's bang-on...on every point.

December 7, 2009

Honduras: "Clean" elections officially a fraud

The Real News explains it clearly and in great detail. Less than 40% participation is NOT a flood of support--it is massive abstention!

Shame on Graeme Clark for falling for the sham. Shame, too, on anyone who gave this farce a moment's credence. Especially the English-language mainstream media, who are all so damn lazy and such piss-poor reporters that they take Gorilletti's claims at face value even when they are phony on the face of them!

For some more interesting details on just how democratic this whole process wasn't, check out the latest from Honduras Coup 2009 and BoRev.

December 6, 2009

Remembering the Montréal Massacre, 20 years later

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The fatal victims of the Montréal Massacre of December 6, 1989. Top row, left to right: Anne-Marie Edward, Anne-Marie Lemay, Annie St.-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Daigneault, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Geneviève Bergeron
Bottom row: Hélène Colgan, Maryse Leclaire, Maryse Laganière, Maud Haviernick, Michèle Richard, Nathalie Croteau, Sonia Pelletier

20 years ago, I was a student at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I was also a volunteer at the university women's centre.

I say "volunteer", but truthfully, there wasn't much to do there, even if there was a lot of will to do things on the part of that one little clutch of women. The late 1980s were something of a black hole for feminism. A lot of people thought that the main goals of the movement had been achieved, and that what was left of the movement had to be nothing but a bunch of radical, man-hating lesbians who didn't shave their legs.

We knew it wasn't like that. We had some lesbians, yes--and some radicals, yes. But we weren't all lesbians, or even all that radical. And man-haters? Definitely not. I'm straight, and my best friend is a gay man; my radicalism was then a work in progress (still is). For the most part, we were just women, trying to raise awareness of the issues and to gain full justice for our gender. Leg-shaving wasn't even an issue with us. There was too much else going on, most of it flying completely under most people's radar.

Access to safe legal abortions was and still is under fire from the far-right here in Canada. AIDS, too, was fast becoming an issue for heterosexual women; today, they are the fastest-growing group of HIV-infected persons. And domestic violence hadn't exactly gone away, either. Date rape, usually involving alcohol and/or drugs, was a growing problem, particularly on university campuses (it's even worse now.) And working women had yet to earn more than 65 cents to a man's dollar (they still haven't come anywhere near 65 cents today, either). Male students on our campus mocked an anti-date-rape campaign with window signs reading "NO MEANS MORE BEER", "NO MEANS SHE'S A DYKE", "NO MEANS KICK HER IN THE TEETH", and other equally charming sentiments. These were the things we concerned ourselves with, back in the dying days of the smug, complacent 1980s.

But that smugness and complacency were all-enveloping, even stifling. Apathy was about the only thing that ran rampant on our campus, other than hordes of drunken, purple-dyed engineers during Frosh Week. For that reason, we felt isolated. (Isolation is an oppression unto itself.) There wasn't much to do at the centre, other than log the occasional incoming phone call, or help a rare visitor check out a book from the centre's tiny library. Most of my time there I spent reading those books myself, contributing to my informal education with an undeclared minor in women's studies. Often I found myself wondering when and if I would ever get to put this newfound knowledge to use. More often, it felt like just a small group of women, maybe a dozen in all, that got together to socialize now and then, and talk politics rather than family over the dinner table.

I remember one potluck dinner we had, when I drank too many glasses of wine and walked euphorically home in minus-20 weather without my hat and gloves, and with my coat undone, thinking what fun it had been, what amazing women they all were, and how great and strange it was that I couldn't feel the cold. I walked alone, not the least bit scared--it's easy to take back the night when the streets are deserted anyway! Later, when I got into bed, I had something worse than the bed-spins: I found myself unable to breathe in the warm, stuffy room. I kept myself awake that night with gruesome thoughts, reminding myself to breathe, and breathe, and breathe. Not so euphoric, after all.

But that night paled in comparison to something else that happened later on.

In the early morning hours of December 6, 1989, I had a particularly vivid and baffling dream. In it, I was with a group of women, and we were all wearing beautiful dresses in various bright colors, with beaded trim, and wreaths of silk flowers in our hair. We were dancing in circles around a silver fountain in some indoor atrium, to electronic pop music. Suddenly, the record stuck. Then came a rapid-fire banging noise, that at first sounded like part of the song's beat, but wasn't. It was gunshots. The women scattered in panic and hid. Then another song began to play--"The First Noel". The women came out of hiding again, but this time, very solemnly, they gathered around the fountain in little clusters, with their arms around each other. I looked and saw that some of the women were wearing badges of a purple fabric with some indistinct crest embroidered on it in gold and silver thread, and was told that this was the symbol of feminist mourning.

Then I woke up.

I wrote the dream down in my diary, then promptly forgot about it and just went on with my day as usual: breakfast, classes, lunch, more classes, supper. By that time I was so caught up in my end-of-semester essays (ah, the joys of being an English major!) that I had completely forgotten my dream. I settled down on the couch to read a bit and scratch out some notes before heading to my typewriter.

Then the phone rang. It was Bridget, a fellow volunteer at the Women's Centre. She told me something that ran through me like a lightning bolt: A gunman had opened fire at a Montréal university, and fourteen people were dead. All were women. Apparently the man had separated the people in the room by gender before opening fire, claiming he was at war against feminists. Those were his words, in French. Je lutte contre les feministes!

I walked to my bedroom in a daze. I lit the candle on the little goddess-altar I had built on my dresser, then sank to the floor in shock. Fourteen women dead--for being "feminists"!

And it had happened at a university.

I was in university.

It could have happened anywhere.

It could have happened here.

It could have been any woman.

It could have been me.

I walked around in limbo for several days after that. I don't remember much of what I did then, only that I attended a vigil in one of the big lecture halls. There was a space down in front that was women-only, and I sat there. It wasn't some radical separatist thing; it was a need for the comfort of my own, my sisters. Someone tied a scrap of purple fabric--sweatsuit fleece, by the looks of it--around the sleeve of my coat.

The badge of feminist mourning.

The woman next to me was young and pretty, a student too. I knew her only vaguely as the friend of a friend; her name, I think, was Robin. She was rather short and plump, with honey-colored hair and a friendly, roundish face; she wore glasses. She took my hand, and then she said something surprising, innocent and utterly heartbreaking all at once: Your hands are so small!

I began to cry. And I thought, irrationally but still relevantly: Yes, my hands are so small--and that's just the problem, isn't it?

A muted soprano chorus rose up from the crowd: We are sad and grieving women, and we are singing, singing for our lives...

I joined the singing.

She held my hand throughout the service, and in the end it was strange, if small, comfort. A comfort to know that I wasn't so alone in the struggle now, that even the most complacent had been shocked awake, but a sad, cold comfort too, because fourteen women had to die in order to prove that we feminists were right--there was still so much to do!

And yes, there still is. Twenty years later, it's an ugly thought that we still have so much fighting left to do. Tiring, depressing--haven't we been through all this shit? Why aren't we done with it yet? Why so much more, still, now?

The Spanish word for struggle is lucha. More accurately, la lucha. It's feminine. In some parts of Latin America, Lucha is even a woman's name. Struggle, in other words, is a woman.

Es larga, la lucha. The struggle is long.

This, then, is our struggle, and that of all women:

Fourteen women died just because they were women, at the hands of a violent loser who was pissed because he couldn't make it into engineering school, 20 years ago. He wasn't smart enough, but he blamed women for his own failure. We hold memorial services, very lovely ones too, but do we really remember what it's all about?

Or do we do this to silence what we really ought to remember?

Not enough has changed since then, and what has changed, is constantly under fire--literally--from the forces of conservatism. There is now talk of scrapping the long-gun registry, which women fought for in the wake of the Montréal Massacre. Never mind that police chiefs like it, and even a lot of gun owners understand that it's no worse than a motor-vehicle registry. No, the conservatives think it's too much of a bother to keep it, just as it's too much of a bother to keep the Status of Women committee properly funded (and run by someone other than cock-sucking toadies). The conservatives are always out to fuck us over, and who gets it in the neck first? Yep--women. Same as it ever was...

Conservatism is a luxury, affordable only for the complacent, the apathetic, the ignorant. The ones who are doing all right, because they've got theirs, jack. It's telling that men go that way a lot more than women as they get older. That's because they can afford to. They still make 40 cents more on the dollar than we do! It might as well be 1959, from where we women sit. At least, back then, a dollar--or a woman's 60 cents--went further. Thanks so much for the phony liberation, capitalists! You can keep your fucking Virginia Slims, this "baby" hasn't come a long way at all.

Yoko Ono was right; we are the niggers of the world. Black, brown, yellow, white--whatever our color, we women are the underclass in every class we occupy. We've gone from slavery to sharecropping, and even now, we're still stuck in the ghetto, making less than a man but paying more. Can anyone honestly say we are not worth 3/5 of a man when they remember that we're just making 61 cents to a man's dollar after all this time? That's negritude for ya, baby.

We got the vote, but do we get what we vote for? And when we get it, do we get to keep it? And can you believe that here in Canada, we were not even considered persons until 1929? And that after all this time, there are still a shitload of crabby old coots--conservatives, in other words--who think that what little we get is entirely too much for us?

When a man gets beaten up, chances are that it's by another man, and that there is nothing sexual or gender-based in the violence. Women? Well, let's put it this way--it's rarely another woman who beats them up. Just as it's rarely a woman who beats up a man. The bulk of violence women face is distinctly gender-based, and it is directed against them, just because they are women. Worse, our culture glorifies it even more now than it did back then. In fact, a lot of people--some of them women!--will even say we had it coming, because we supposedly got too damn uppity for our own good. If only we'd stayed home, baking cookies and popping babies out of the oven like we women are supposed to (according to the female misogynist group called R.E.A.L. Women), none of this would happen...

Except it does happen to women who stay home. In fact, those are the worst-abused ones of all. Their submission grants them no protection from the violence, the misogyny and often, the alcoholism of their men. This kind of "traditional" family plays hell on the children. Just ask Patrick Stewart. Yes, TV's super-rational Captain Picard is the son of a battered housewife and an alcoholic father! Who knew?

Oh, only the world's long-suffering millions of women. We know all about that. But who listens to us? Whenever we say something about it, even if we're polite and apologetic and not offensive in the least, we get beaten down with derisive cries of "man-hating lesbian bitch". Even our own sisters shout us down!

Well, fuck that shit.

Nothing will ever get done about anything if no one raises hell. So why not us women? After all, we live in it every day. I'm getting more radical, not less, with age--and I don't care how many wimps and losers I scare off with it. The revolution, la revolución, oh look, another woman--is not for wusses. My hands may be small, but they're full of rocks, and I can hurl them a lot better now. I've had lots of time in which to do it.

Es larga, la lucha. The struggle is long. But I'm just getting started.

It's been twenty years now, and my tears are still not dry.

montreal-memorial.jpg

December 5, 2009

Yes, we CAN...haz torture inquiry

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If you wanna know why I'm happy, read what Jack Layton sent me today:

Parliament passes NDP motion for an Inquiry on torture allegations

Thank you for your email concerning the recent allegations of prisoner
torture in Afghanistan. I am providing this update on our efforts to get
to the bottom of the allegations.

On December 1, Parliament agreed to pass the motion by New Democrat
Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar calling for a public inquiry over the
torture allegations. From the start, our Party believed that a public
inquiry was needed. We welcome the support of the other opposition
parties who agree with our position.

It's now up to the Harper Conservatives to do the right thing. In
opposition, Mr. Harper spoke of a government's moral responsibility to
respect the will of Parliament, because it was ultimately the democratic
will of Canadians. We want his government to be guided by these words
and to set-up this public inquiry.

Please find attached my speech in Parliament in support of my
colleague's motion and you can visit the following link to read the text
of the full debate:

LINK 1

Canadians are understandably upset that there is a reluctance to take
responsibility for these allegations. Transferring detainees to those
whom are likely to torture them is a violation of international law.
However, the Conservative government continues to dodge and dismiss all
concerns about the treatment of prisoners. They've concealed evidence,
intimidated witnesses and obstructed the Military Police Complaints
Commission inquiry. We even heard from three Generals who told the
Afghanistan special committee that it wasn't their job to follow up on
the condition of detainees after they were handed over to Afghan
authorities.

It is clear that an inquiry is needed. Mr. Colvin's revelations deserve
to be fully examined. And, if required, the appropriate people should
be held responsible.

New Democrats have been raising concerns about prisoner transfers in
Afghanistan since 2006. For more information, please refer to:

LINK 2

Again, I appreciate hearing from you. Feel free to share my response
with anyone who may be interested. All the best.

Sincerely,

Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, Canada's New Democrats

There you have it. A little triumph for real Canadians today.

December 3, 2009

No great harm without some gain

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Well, it looks like Amy Goodman's run-in with our meshuga border goons has not been a total bust. Her book, which she was in BC to promote, is now a bona-fide bestseller, if this note from her publisher (Haymarket) that landed in my mailbox is any indicator:

Featuring overflow audiences, as covered by the Los Angeles Times and Mail Tribune, hundreds of people across the country have been "Going Goodman" instead of "Going Rogue," listening to stories from Breaking the Sound Barrier, that put in the place of the usual suspects, voices and viewpoints the corporate media exclude and ignore -- a model which clearly caught the attention of the Canadian Border Patrol, who outrageously detained, questioned, and searched Goodman for over 90 minutes this Thanksgiving, over fear of what she may say about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

And unlike the Paliness's poo-pile, Amy's book will not be a "daggered" entry on the bestseller lists. Nor will it become a "featured" giveaway with any book club's introductory offers. It's gonna go on selling steadily on the basis of its own considerable merits.

Congrats, Amy, it couldn't happen to a more deserving soul!

November 27, 2009

A big embarrassment for my home and native land

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Amy Goodman talks to the CBC about her unexpected detention at the border. See Raw Story for video of the whole interview with CBC's Kathy Tomlinson.

I'm rarely ashamed to be a Canadian, but today is different. Today, one of my personal heroes and role models, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, was detained at the border. She was coming to British Columbia to speak out against war and promote her book, but that's not how the uniformed stormtroopers saw it:

Goodman says Canadian Border Services Agency officials ultimately allowed her to enter Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country within 48 hours.

Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.

Goodman said she told them she planned to speak about the debate over U.S. health care reform and the wars in Asia.

After much questioning, Goodman said the officials finally asked if she would be speaking about the 2010 Olympics.

"He made it clear by saying, 'What about the Olympics?'" said Goodman. "And I said, 'You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to push for the Olympics in Chicago?'"

"He said, 'No. I am talking about the Olympics here in 2010.' I said, 'Oh I hadn't thought of that,'" said Goodman.

"He said, 'You're saying you're not talking about the Olympics?'"

"He was clearly incredulous that I wasn't going to be talking about the Olympics. He didn't believe me," Goodman said.

See, this is the paranoia that goes with having a conservative government. Harpo & Co. are already under siege. The war in Afghanistan was never popular here, but Canadians being dutiful troop-supporters, the criticisms have all been very muted. Rather than do the really bold thing and declare NATO a relic of the Cold War past, Harpo has chosen to kiss ass and lick boots in Washington. And keep sending Canadians to die in a country that has been the downfall of every foreign power ever to invade it. (Alexander the Great is said to have died at Kandahar, which is supposedly named after him. Canadians are currently in the Kandahar province. Every so often one of them comes home in a box, and the region remains ungovernable. So, why are we there?)

And the Olympics are a special point of paranoia. The actual risk of terrorism in Canada is almost nil, and the likelihood of anything disrupting the games is vanishingly small. It would have been absolutely zero if we were not at war in Afghanistan against a phantom menace that never menaced us before. When he made Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore was struck by how laid back we were, and how little gun crime we had as a result. That's Canada for you; we are not a nation of paranoiacs. We're proud of our warm hearts and cool heads. We take special pride in our love of peace, and have sent peacekeepers on every mission that the UN has called upon us to do so.

But since Harpo & Co. run a minority parliament, and they are constantly in danger of being toppled by a non-confidence vote, it stands to reason that they want to keep up every possible façade that says "Look how well we Tories can do things". And of course, what bigger one than the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics of 2010? Never mind that the Games are not their brainchild, and that the bid was won under a previous, Liberal government. Nor that the logistical masterpiece that is the longest Olympic torch run in history is going off without a hitch. (It's also none of their doing.) No, Harpo's selling point is the security angle, and he's playing it to the hilt. In other words, once again, he's appealing to a very un-Canadian sense of paranoia, not pride.

And that paranoia is why I'm not proud to be a Canadian today. When an innocent person like Amy Goodman, who has much in common with the best of Canadian values, is stopped at our border simply for being outspokenly anti-war (which I am too!), and accused of trying to foment terrorism against the Vancouver Olympics, all I can do is hang my head and wish that all these assclowns could be tossed out of office tomorrow.

Peacefully, of course.

PS: A Creative Revolution's own Pale Cold was on the Daily Kos with this, and a host of other things that suck about the situation. Don't miss it!

November 10, 2009

The day Mississauga became a ghost town

Since I'm on a Gordon Lightfoot kick today, I might as well include another apt song of his to introduce this entry and set the emotional tone:

Thirty years ago today, the local nighttime news was filled with some of the scariest scenes I've ever watched. A Canadian Pacific train, number 54, en route from London, Ontario, had derailed near Mississauga, just west of Toronto. Several tankers were on fire. The contents were styrene, toluene, propane, caustic soda, and chlorine--any one of which could cause a nasty explosion if set alight.

The cause of the Mississauga wreck was seemingly small and insignificant, but it's something a trainman overlooks only at his peril. A wheel box on the 33rd car in the 106-car train had run dry of oil and overheated. Locals seeing it pass thought the train had already caught fire; the hot box was smoking and giving off bright orange sparks. As the train passed the level crossing at Burnhamthorpe Road, the axle broke and the wheels went flying, tracing a fiery arc in the air. The undercarriage of the crippled car then sagged toward the rails, eventually snagging on a switch and collapsing near Mavis Road.

The chemical tankers behind the damaged car were ruptured as they slammed into one another and then fell off the tracks. A column of flame more than a kilometre and a half high erupted into the night sky. People from as far away as 100 km could see the fire burning. Towns as far as 10 km away felt the shock waves from the blast.

In the caboose, conductor Ted Nichol was thrown against a stanchion. He looked out the window, saw the orange-and-white column of flame ahead of him, made a quick attempt to contact Pruss by walkie-talkie, then leapt out of the still-moving train, CP 54's cargo manifest in hand, and ran for his life.

Then CP 54 came to a grinding halt, followed by a second explosion.

Brakeman Larry Krupa, 27 years old at the time, took a life-saving action: he got dangerously close to the fire in order to release the brake-line couplers of the 27th car, which was the last one standing--thus freeing the front end of the train, and saving his life and that of the engineer--his own father-in-law, Keith Pruss, 52.

Then came a third explosion, so massive that it was seen as far away as Kingston, Ontario--and Buffalo, New York. Pruss and Krupa got the unharmed remainder of the train--27 cars and three locomotives--out of the area as fast as they could. The shock wave knocked down everyone standing within a kilometre radius of the scene.

Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion was 58 at the time. She got little rest that night as she made sure the first few thousand evacuees were safe in their designated disaster relief centres, then drove to Mavis Rd. to see how the fire crews' work was progressing.

Meanwhile, the first police officer at the scene, Constable Doug Rielly, who had stopped his cruiser just 400 feet away from burning cars, was trying to disperse a crowd of about 300 people who had gathered to watch, oblivious to the danger. The gawkers were none too happy to see the uniformed party-pooper, and came at him with threats and cursing. Rielly called for reinforcements. That got rid of the gawkers.

And it was a good thing, too. As Carsten Stroud wrote in "City in Flight", published in the March 1980 edition of the Canadian Reader's Digest, all of them could have ended up cremated on the spot:

Of all the disaster workers, the firemen were exposed to the greatest risk for the longest time. Struggling with bulky hoses each time they approached the fire to change the streams, they knew that sudden, violent death was at their elbow. They had all seen a training film of propane tanker fires in the United States. In one, a tanker explosion killed a camera crew 2500 yards away. These Mississauga firemen were less than 500 feet from a tangle of propane tankers already ablaze.

Emphasis as in original.

Compounding the danger of the propane fire was the tanker loaded with 90 tons of liquid chlorine "somewhere in the middle of the inferno at the Mavis Road crossing." Writes Stroud: "If it ruptured or blew up, an enormous spill of chlorine gas would bring agonizing death to everyone it enveloped." It was an extra layer of fear on top of what the firefighters were already experiencing as they strove to bring the propane blaze under control.

Luckily, the city had been prepared for just such an emergency. Mississauga did not even exist on the map until 1974, when three smaller towns, which had remained separate for over a century, were amalgamated. Any residual separatist sentiment was melted that night in the heat of the fire. Hazel McCallion, elected as mayor in 1978, had every right to feel proud of how her city was coming together in the hours and days of adversity. As an ever-expanding series of concentric circles were evacuated around the disaster zone, she oversaw the movement of 225,000 people. Not one of them was harmed--save the mayor, who sprained an ankle in all the bustling, and kept hobbling on from duty to duty regardless.

Eventually the fire crews brought the propane fires down. But the cars were still too hot to handle, and the chlorine tanker was leaking. Several firefighters inadvertently inhaled some of the gas; one, John Engel, then 33, had to be hospitalized. The danger was far from over.

Writes Stroud,

As it turned out, only about 20 tons [of the liquid chlorine] remained. Experts concluded that over 70 tons had indeed leaked out in the first six hours after the derailment. Normally, it would have moved across the ground and collected in valleys and hollows; there, it would have turned into deadly gas. Instead, because of the propane explosions around the tanker, hot air currents had propelled the chlorine thousands of feet high. This had saved Mississauga.

Given that chlorine was one of the most feared gases of World War I trench warfare, the danger Stroud describes would have been horrific if a comprehensive evacuation plan had not been in place. For nearly a quarter-million citizens to be moved out of harm's way is quite the logistical achievement, and it went off without a hitch. Luck was also with Mississauga in that the explosions carried off most of the chlorine to a level where it could do no harm, and would eventually disperse in the air.

It was five days before the authorities gave the all-clear, and the people of Mississauga could finally return to their homes.

Mississauga has become a textbook case in how to handle large-scale emergency evacuations. Until Hurricane Katrina flattened New Orleans in 2005, in fact, it was the single largest peacetime evacuation in North American history. Hazel McCallion is now 88, and still mayor of Mississauga, never having been defeated at the polls. Her nickname is "Hurricane Hazel", and she remains a feisty old bird--a real pistol. I have a hunch she won't leave City Hall until they carry her out, feet first. Fortunately, she is extremely popular--her popularity cemented, no doubt, by the terrific way she handled the disaster!

And yes, the explosion was visible from my own town, too--it lit up the night sky, though none of us could see the column of flame. It was the talk of my middle school for several weeks.

My own favorite memory of the whole shebang, however, has got to be this weird little New Wave song by Eva Everything and The Gas, recorded in a studio in Toronto--aptly named "Great Shakes" because of its proximity to the railroad tracks. It's very rare and I couldn't find any video of it, but I remember it well from the news footage at the time. While looking for it, I found out that Eva Everything has since become a science writer and has a quirky, fun-looking book out. She also has a Facebook page, here. It would be fun to see her wacky song YouTubed, if anyone can find it and the news footage of the explosion.

Meanwhile, because I too now live right next to some CP tracks (in a house I find myself often referring to as "Great Shakes"!), I find myself watching the trains a lot. And on the neighboring CN tracks, too. Lots of tankers go by on the rails every day; hundreds, maybe thousands per week. Yet, strangely, I'm never afraid, even though I know full well what might happen. Maybe it's because the Mississauga disaster has made everyone more vigilant since then--and no one more so than the trainmen who, like Keith Pruss and Larry Krupa, have to handle vast tonnages of dangerous materials every working day. Who knows how many times they've gone to bat against corporate execs who are too often tempted to cut corners--and who try to influence parliamentarians into allowing safety lapses for profit's sake? The trainmen are the unsung heroes of our railroads, and I hope they never let up.

The gales of November came early...

A well-made tribute to the 29 sailors who went down 34 years ago in the most famous Great Lakes wreck of all time--that of the Edmund Fitzgerald. They all came from the US, but because they went down in Canadian waters, the empathy for their families and friends is shared across the border. This song is a Canadian classic.

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

I can't think of a more haunting line in any ballad than that. This song is so eerie, in fact, that one night a few years ago I actually heard it in my dreams, pitch-perfect right down to the steel guitar that echoes the wailing of the north wind. I woke up in a flash, unable to get back to sleep. The Witch of November had come stealing, all right--and with her, she took my nerves.

But this song is more than just a haunting ballad. It's also accurate in many concrete details. The Edmund Fitzgerald, as the lyrics say, carried 26,000 tons--26,116 to be precise--of taconite (iron ore) pellets, bound for the US Steel mills in Detroit. The account of the disappearance is in line with the actual events (although the dialogue, especially between the cook and crew, is probably poetic licence, since the last words via radio from the ship's captain were a terse "We're holding our own"). It happened so quickly that no one could quite believe it. And after the sinking, there was much confusion for years as to what could have caused it; there were so many conflicting theories. At the time the song came out, the cause was still unknown.

But Peter Unwin, author of The Wolf's Head, a compendium of history and folklore of Lake Superior, seems to have cracked the mystery once and for all. I'll let Unwin lay out the facts, and draw my own conclusion in a bit:

At seventeen years of age, the Edmund Fitzgerald was a neglected and ailing vessel. It had also taken its blows. In 1969, in a serious grounding, the ship suffered damage to its bottom and internal superstructure. A year later, it collided with the S. S. Hochelaga and sustained damage above the waterline. Three times the ship suffered injury above the waterline in collisions with the lock walls at Sault Ste. Marie. Welding cracks in the ship's keel area were discovered in 1969 and again in 1973. The Fitz also had an unusual bow action, what [Captain] McSorley called "that wiggly thing"--in hard weather the bow of his carrier flipped to one side and took forever to return. "If she starts to do the wiggling thing, let me know. This thing scares me sometimes," he told a mate. His stated opinion of his own ship was that it was "not as great as you might think."

In five years its hull had been damaged five times. In that condition, bruised, possibly sailing with a loose keel and its twenty-one hatch covers held down by a minimum of clamps, it headed full speed into the worst storm to strike Lake Superior in more than half a century.

[...]

Despite the circumstances on that dreadful night, of all the ships on Superior only one sank, the relatively young Edmund Fitzgerald. It is possible this massive carrier had been sinking for hours, that as its captain ploughed hard into the mounting waves, it was sinking. With every nautical mile, the ship slipped another degree below the surface. Even with pumps spewing thousands of gallons per minute, the ship was sinking. Inch by inch the distance between Superior and the spar deck decreased. What had once been compartments filled with air were now filling with water, tons and tons of water, coming from the top, perhaps from below.

[...]

From the time the ship was built in 1958 to the time it disappeared in 1975, the United States Coast Guard allowed the Edmund Fitzgerald to load an extra three more feet of cargo. A single inch of increased draft on a ship that size meant an extra 130 long tons per trip. Multiplied by forty-five trips per year and then the ship's lifetime of perhaps fifty years, that inch translates into millions of dollars.

Year by year the Edmund Fitzgerald was riding lower in the water. In 1958 nautical engineers had concluded this ship could be safely loaded in winter to 24 feet 6 inches. In 1973 the Fitzgerald's load line for the critical late-fall sailing season was increased a full 20 inches. Fully loaded, it now floated closer to the bottom of Lake Superior than it had the year before. When the Fitzgerald left Wisconsin for the last time on November 9, it was cargoed to a draft of 27 feet 2 inches forward, and 27 feet 6 inches aft, low enough that a twelve-foot wave would board it. A fifteen-foot wave hurled three feet of water across the deck. A thirty-five-foot wave like the ones encountered on November 10 put the deck nearly twenty-five feet beneath the surface of Superior.

After the investigation the Coast Guard's first recommendation was to rescind its own reduction in freeboard brought about by changes in 1969, 1971, and 1973. The Lake Carriers Association issued its own report in which it complimented itself on its safety record through the years, and demanded that no changes be made to current load-line regulations: the Edmund Fitzgerald had struck a shoal and sunk.

Just a shoal? Hardly.

It was greed that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. Greed that kept the Fitzgerald in such poor condition; greed that left so few clamps on the hatches, allowing water to seep in from above; greed that kept raising the load line above what the engineers had decreed, time and again; greed that sent the vessel out on its final voyage when winter weather was already setting in, and the shipping lanes would be closed by law in a matter of days. And in the end, the shoal otherwise known as greed cost 29 lives, plus a highly-valued ship--once the biggest "laker" in the world--plus 26,116 tons of iron ore that has never been salvaged.

And who would salvage it? Who would dare brave the fury of the world's greatest lake? Is anybody that foolhardy?

I was born in Northern Ontario; I lived there for the first ten years of my life. I was a little girl when the Fitzgerald sank. I don't have any personal memories of the sinking. But I do have a visceral memory of what Superior is like; by concidence, burned in my brain not long after that fateful sinking.

It's clean, unbelievably big, deep blue, ruggedly beautiful, and full of excellent fish, the freshest I've ever tasted. I remember one family trip we took there; I remember wandering along its shore, picking up handfuls of rusty-brown agates, and jade-green, water-smooth pebbles (epidote, according to my gold-prospecting rockhound dad.) My senses were singing. Eventually, the lure of the big water was too much for me to resist; I took off my sandals and waded in.

And suppressed a scream.

It hurt horrifically for a minute or so; then my feet went numb. I dropped my rocks and stumbled out, teeth rattling in my head, my legs dead below the knee. It felt as though I'd been in it forever, but I had been in for much less than five minutes. It was the height of summer, and Lake Superior, inviting as it looked, was in fact bone-hollowing cold.

In an instant, I grasped the macabre horror of what awaited anyone unlucky enough to get caught by its rough waves. And they were rough--even on a calm day, you could feel them sucking at you like a live thing, hungry for a human sacrifice. Even wading in the shallows, you felt it. I was maybe nine years old at the time, and I've never forgotten.

Now, just imagine what it must be like in early November, as fall gives way to winter, and freezing rain turns to sleet and snow. Imagine that great blue water turning a flinty, taconite grey, tossed by hurricane-force winds. Imagine it coming in 30-foot-high swells. How long do you think a ship's crew would last, if they went down in that?

"The waves turn the minutes to hours" is an understatement. Seconds would feel like eternities. Death might not be long in coming, but it would still be long enough that its utter horror would be inescapable.

Lake Superior--Gitchigami, its Ojibwa name, means "Big Water"--is not to be trifled with. Nor is its power to be underestimated. Like all the Great Lakes, it is so large that it can create its own weather and climate patterns--a trait otherwise limited mainly to oceans. "The gales of November come early", all right--and nowhere more than on Superior. Pushing through a last shipment of heavy iron ore pellets--an oversize one, at that--at such a time, really is the worst kind of hubris. Were I the owner of a vessel like the Fitzgerald, I would never take such a risk. No amount of money to be made would be worth the loss, especially with a lake as legendary for its hunger as Gitchigami is.

And, pagan that I am, I would probably feel compelled to propitiate the Mishipashoo--the legendary feline water-spirit of Gitchigami--with regular rites of bonfires, native-style drumming and chanting, and prayers for mercy. (Not to mention binding-spells against human hubris--a sentiment far too easily felt when confronted with such a large body of navigable water, daring one to brave it...)

Here's a nicely-done metal cover of the Gordon Lightfoot song:

It's missing the piercing intonation of the steel guitar that rang with such eerie clarity through my dreams one night, but I think it still does justice to the ballad.

PS: Read here about the efforts of a Fitzgerald victim's nephew's efforts to save the ship that tried to rescue his uncle and 28 crewmates. It's a very moving story. I hope that even if the Arthur M. Anderson doesn't continue to sail as a working "laker", it will still be preserved for its historic value. Perhaps it could be turned into a floating museum in honor of those lost on Lake Superior--the human sacrifices, counted and uncounted, of Gitchigami.

October 27, 2009

Ti-Jean tells it like it is

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Actually, I call shenanigans* on dis--the lol-maker forgot to put de h'apostrophes on all de haitch-words, h'as Ti-Jean would.

(Everything else, 'owever, h'is correct!)

*Or should dat be "Shawinigans"?

October 26, 2009

Uruguay: Pepe Mujica wins, but...

...something still smells like the same old, same old all over again:

The candidate for the Broad Front, who won 47% of the votes yesterday but could not become president and must now fight a second round, criticized the elections system in his country, where a candidate has to win fifty percent of the vote, plus one, in order to win. "We have to go on struggling," Mujica said.

In an interview with Radio 10, Mujica said that "in some parts of the world, a party with 47% wins the elections, but in Uruguay, no."

Mujica considers that "we have a right-wing bloc divided into two parties who help each other when the chips are down."

Translation mine:

Ah yes, the old Blanco/Colorado oligarchy, that's governed Uruguay for almost as long as there have been elections in that land. That's what he's referring to, and undoubtedly it's true. When the same two parties keep swapping rule but nothing really changes, you know you're dealing with a duopoly. And when the duopoly gives way to a military dictatorship, as it did during the 1970s, you know that it was a farce all along.

José "Pepe" Mujica, who fought against both the duopoly and the dictatorship at various times during his Tupamaro days, undoubtedly knows this well-scripted farce by heart. He may be 74 and look like a nice old grandfather now, but he hasn't forgotten what he took up arms against when he was a young man. While the weapon has changed (it's now ballots, not bullets), the struggle has not.

And he notes, quite rightly, that second rounds are not necessary everywhere; right here in Canada, the latest government took much less than 47% of the ballots in the last two elections. Harpo would kill for anything approaching Pepe's degree of popularity, probably because it would give him carte blanche to ram through something utterly unpopular (such as this) over the loud objections of a very clear majority of Canadians! All that's holding him back is that he hasn't got a majority of 50%, much less 50 + 1. And while we're not a duopoly to the extent that Uruguay for the longest time was, we're not far from it, either; we've got a long-time farce of Liberal vs. Conservative swapping going on, although it's acrimonious rather than buddy-buddy as in Uruguay. Still, at times it's hard to tell which is which, and that's never good.

But one thing we don't have, which Uruguay does, is that burden of the need for a clear majority in order to form a government. It's a burden which stacks the deck in favor of established parties, and makes it harder for a leftist coalition like the Frente Amplio (Mujica's party, or more accurately, parties) to gain a foothold--not that a first-past-the-post system necessarily makes anything easier, as we up here know only too well. Either system clearly favors the oligarchs, and unless a leftist with true mass appeal breaks out in a big way, as in Venezuela and Bolivia, well--we're stuck.

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, a second round--totally unnecessary, except for keeping up appearances (and tensions) will go down on November 29. It's practically a foregone conclusion that Pepe Mujica will win, because his opponent is a truly loathsome old oligarch and an apologist for the dictatorship. But it's not a "clear majority", so the very farce that Pepe fought against as a young man is perpetuating itself--and inadvertently proving that he was right all along.

Ironically, had he moved further to the left, instead of trying to make a play for the "mushy middle" (which always goes to the conservatives, when all's said, out of cowardice), he might have gotten the outright majority and then some on the first round, as Chavecito did in Venezuela, ten years ago. Venezuela was deeply embroiled in a long-term crisis, starting in the mid-1980s. Uruguay isn't there yet. But if the global economic crisis deepens, as I suspect it will, and foreign investments end up sacking it as they have in the past, we may well see a shift at last. And then perhaps Pepe Mujica may have to reconsider his "reformist" tendencies and become a real revolutionary once more. And then we may end up seeing some truly hilarious backpedalling from people like the morons at the Wall Street Urinal, who felt the need to recast Mujica--obviously no neoliberal--in the most capitalist-friendly light possible, just to keep up the artificial dichotomy between the "good" left and the "bad". Which, if the video below has anything to say, is a farce, too:

Mujica, far from wanting to distance himself from Chavecito, wants to learn more from him. Can you blame the man? Nothing succeeds like success, and Chavecito knows it well. You can bet he'll be helping Mujica steer a better path after the 29th of next month. And when he does, it will throw a puck in the Wall Street Urinal--and any other media cloaca that burbles happy horseshit about how neoliberalism is poised to make a comeback.

October 24, 2009

Why Chavecito isn't worried

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(Just so's ya know, the above is a photoshop. That's not Chavecito's body, and those lily-white paws are definitely not his hands!)

What...him worry? Nahhhh. Why not? Hmmmm...maybe it's because the big handsome guy has nothing to worry about, and he knows it?

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, today dismissed the results of surveys which show a supposed drop in his popularity over the last few months and asserted that he would win re-election in the 2012 elections.

During an official ceremony, the president said that "they (the opposition) have already begun; they're fighting a lot, for sure. Of course, they want to be deputies now, and many want to be presidents, so they go around telling stories, and now they're saying they'll win out over Chávez in 2012."

Chávez dismissed the findings of the opposition's polling firms, which claimed that between August and October, the popularity of the Venezuelan government dropped nearly 20 points, from 60 to 42% approval, due to the citizenry's rejection of socialist measures.

The head of state laughed at the "party" the opposition threw over certain opinion polls which claimed that his popularity had dropped over the last two months.

"They're already campaigning, and they say I'm campaigning. Fine, it's true, my campaign never ends. I began on February 4, 1992 (with the failed uprising against the government of Carlos Andés Pérez) and I'll end it on the day they bury me," Chávez said.

The president bases his confidence that he will be elected to a third term on the fact that while the opposition is supported by capitalists and the wealthy, his government is bringing in socialism "which frees the people, the majorities, from slavery."

Translation mine.

Chavecito isn't worrying for other reasons, too. A key one being the fact that the survey firms he's referring to have the oppos' stinkum all over them:

"Alfredo Keller & Associates and Hinterlaces are briefcase-toting enterprises, totally disreputable, and a laughing-stock for the vulgar manipulation they've committed about Venezuelan political reality for the last 10 years in the interests of the US State Department."

So says Carlos Sierra, co-ordinator of mobilizations and events in Caracas for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), adding that the said survey firms should be investigated by legal authorities.

"These private companies that take opinion polls in the Caracas Country Club district, should be held responsible before the Venezuelan justice system, and explain where they get these numbers whose purpose is to deceive the population--an objective they keep achieving with less frequency every time," Sierra said.

These companies blatantly violate the constitution of the republic, Sierra asserts, and for this reason, the PSUV is calling on the Prosecutor-General and the National Assembly to open a legal investigation into their activities.

"in contrast to what these companies announced in their latest manipulations, the popularity of Chávez is holding steady around 60%, according to the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD), Encuestadora Siglo XXI, and even Datanálisis, which is linked to the opposition sectors," Sierra said.

IVAD and Datanálisis emphasized, in their latest opinion polls, published in September, levels of 57.9% and 57.3% support, respectively, for the leadership of president Hugo Chávez Frías.

Hinterlaces and Alfredo Keller forget that the president's leadership rests on revolutionary governance, expressed in socio-economic programs aimed at improving the lot of millions of Venezuelans who were marginalized by neoliberal politics, the same which these firms defend, Sierra says.

"Not for nothing is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela among the first five countries on the planet with the highest rate of sustained growth, according to the United Nations," Sierra recalls. He is referring to Venezuela's Human Development Index, which has grown in a sustained manner since 2003, despite hardships caused by certain opposition actions, such as the coup d'état of 2002 and the petroleum-industry sabotage of 2002-3.

In the Human Development Index, which takes into account levels of education, health and economic growth, Venezuela now occupies the 58th highest position worldwide. In Latin America, it lags behind only Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba.

The figures of the UN and Datanálisis "are a clear expression of the policies implemented by the National Executive, which have a favorable impact on the Venezuelan population, especially the most vulnerable sectors."

Again, translation mio.

When you're well armed with the true facts, you're pretty well disinclined to give much credit to bullshit. Human Development Indices (and dramatically improved nutrition levels) are pretty damn hard to argue against. So's the fact that Venezuela recently made the UNESCO Executive Council--kind of a hard thing to do if you're not progressing substantially and democratically!

On the other hand, accusations around discredited Argentine nuclear scientists are easy to laugh off--and you can see Chavecito do it here. Albeit, alas, only in Spanish. But check out his face, tone of voice and body language anyhow--he clearly thinks the accusations surrounding this Macaroni 'n' Cheeze dude are hilarious, and so do I. It's like accusing Canada of being in the nuclear arms race just because we build CANDU reactors, fergawdsakes. (CANDUs generate electricity, not weapons-grade plutonium. BTW, let's give Bloomberg a hearty round of applause for getting this story right.)

No, Chavecito's not the least bit worried. He's laughing, and why not? He's got, as usual, plenty to laugh about. The oppos are in their customary state of disarray, and the only way they have of shoring up their discredited parties and platforms is to resort to lies, rumor-mongering, false accusations, lies, lies, more lies, and oh yeah, did I mention damn lies...and statistics?

October 13, 2009

NYT: Anything in favor of single-payer medicare is not fit to print

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From FAIR, a shocking (or not) admission from the editors of the Old Grey Harlot:

In response to FAIR's September 22 action alert, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt agreed (10/11/09) that the paper's September 20 article about Medicare for all excluded supporters of a single-payer healthcare system.

FAIR pointed out that the article, written by Katharine Seelye, laid out many arguments against single-payer--it would mean a big tax increase, it would hurt doctors, and so on--without including balancing responses from supporters.

Links as in FAIR's original.

Um, Ms Seelye...why couldn't you come up to Canada and get the balancing argument here? For that matter, why not just give Michael Moore a call? Surely it wouldn't cost that much to get on the horn to the guy who not only came here, but also to Cuba, to see how we and our Cuban friends do things, healthwise. I know he's happy to talk to anyone who has questions for him! Could it be that his pro-single payer argument is a lot stronger than the anti-healthcare one?

Nahhhhh...not according to the NYT's Clark Hoyt it isn't...

Health care is a sprawling subject that is hard for a newspaper to get right. It involves economics, politics, and philosophical and moral values. There are complex delivery systems and hard-to-explain concepts, like how spending $829 billion over 10 years and adding 29 million people to health insurance rolls could save the government money in the long run. There are terms to keep straight -- single payer vs. public option -- lobbyists for special interests, and five separate comprehensive proposals under consideration in Congress, running to thousands of pages.

Why did I just get the image of a talking Barbie doll in my head, saying that math was so hard? Maybe because there was one:

Katharine Seelye, the reporter, said she was trying to explain why Medicare-for-all was not going anywhere and provided links online to arguments for it. "I thought the substance of it had been dealt with elsewhere many times," she said.

Yeah, the "substance" comes courtesy of right-wing crapaganda sites. The same that organize the "tea parties" to make it look like the current mess that is US healthcare is actually popular with the grassroots. It isn't.

If you want to know what the NYT won't tell you, you might want to ask Canadians why we voted Tommy Douglas as our all-time Greatest Canadian. This ahead of a formidable prime minister--Pierre Trudeau, who patriated our Constitution and attached the Charter of Rights and Freedoms--and Terry Fox, who lost a leg to cancer and ran the Marathon of Hope cross-country to raise funds and awareness before the disease returned and took his life.

I can tell you why Tommy was, without a doubt, our greatest Canadian--he gave us single-payer healthcare! And he did it over all the counter-arguments from the right and from the insurance industry. He also did it, incidentally, while slashing a massive provincial deficit in Saskatchewan--run up by his more "fiscally conservative" predecessors, who were apparently utterly uninterested in providing public services and existed mainly to make sure that big businesses got favorable conditions in which to profiteer. Tommy Douglas was everything that Barack Obama probably wishes he himself were--a successful reformer on multiple fronts, capable of cutting the crap and winning respect by never selling out. Here's how the CBC put it:

Amid widespread skepticism, Premier Douglas mobilized aggressively, passing more than 100 bills during his first term. He introduced paved roads, sewage systems and power to most farmers and managed to reduce the provincial debt by $20 million. Over the next 18 years he weathered [anti-]Communist fear campaigns and a province-wide doctors' strike. Elected to five terms, he introduced Saskatchewan residents to car insurance, labour reforms and his long-standing dream of universal Medicare.

Medicare was so popular, in fact, that politicians of every stripe, across Canada, eventually adopted it. Every province and territory now has its own public health plan, and for that, we thank Tommy Douglas--who pushed it through over the wails and squalls of "free enterprise" types who tried (unsuccessfully) to convince ordinary Canadians that the sky was falling. Just like the teabaggers in the US are doing now.

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That's something you'll NEVER see in the NYT! (Neither is the salient fact that doctors are, actually, NOT hurting up here, at least not financially--that is, if the number of luxury cars in the "Doctors Only" parking section at our local hospital is anything to go by.)

But hey! All is not lost. Here's Clark Hoyt again:

But The Times had not seriously explored the issue during the current debate, and I thought FAIR had a point.

The public option, a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers, favored by a majority in the Times/CBS News poll, has been covered extensively as a political story. But the substance has received less attention. Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, said she wondered if the paper had done enough. "If people had understood it more, would the politics have turned out differently?" she said. "I don't know, and I'm not saying this from a point of advocacy." Editors need to keep asking: Do their judgments about what is realistic become self-fulfilling prophecies?

The answer, of course, is a screeching, resounding YES. By censoring an important part of the debate--just because it comes from a place outside and well to the left of the reporters' and editors' own biases--it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy when the under-informed readers decide to knuckle under to whatever seems "centrist" enough for the Newspaper of Record, and adopt it as their own opinion. They will then vote, however half-heartedly, in that direction, ignoring the truly viable, but much more progressive option of single-payer medicine, which might cost them a bit more in taxes but would save them many times that in insurance costs.

In the end, unless hell is well and truly raised (by you, the reader!), things will never change in the US, except to become even more convoluted and bogged down. Over time, real social change and progress become less and less possible, even as the papers are screaming about how "things have gone too far" and "there was bound to be a backlash". Or how third parties are only "spoilers" to the Big Two, who keep looking more and more alike as time goes on. (The fact that the centre of the field keeps shifting to the right is, of course, a thing never to be mentioned, even in a rare moment of honesty.)

But least Clark Hoyt admits that "FAIR had a point". Even if he's not willing to do a whole hell of a lot about it, other than briefly admit that and then let it slide.

And just think, if thousands of FAIR readers hadn't written to the NYT and complained, they wouldn't have gotten even that piddling admission out of them.

Still think that paper is liberal, conservatard boys and girls?

October 3, 2009

Alan Grayson: my latest hero

Watch him speak truth to power (and powerful insurance lobbying interests):

Then, watch all the Repugnican heads EXPLODING.

And toward the end, you can hear Dubya and his buh-rilliunt catch-all solution. Emergency Pap tests, ladies? How 'bout a mammogram in the ER? Next thing you know, emergency prenatal care will be all the rage, as will emergency chemo and radiotherapy for that cancer. Just leave everything till it gets so bad that you'll HAVE to go there and nowhere else. If you're lucky, you might survive, only to get a sticker-shock bill in the end because you weren't sick enough, or poor enough, to qualify for truly free care.

"Die quickly." Yeah, like IN EMERG. Dubya recommends it, therefore it must be just what the doctor ordered. And a lot of conservatards are now repeating it all over the Internets.

Fuck you, tards--that shit would never fly in Canada. Single-payer healthcare is so sacred up here, even the Conservative Party--as full of right-wing and free-trade crap as the Repugs, but wussier, and rightly afraid of popular opinion--won't touch it, much less re-privatize the whole system. They'd be voted into oblivion if they even laid a finger.

Information Is Beautiful: Wonktacular fun with factoids

I've been asked before how I manage to find all the awesome stuff that makes it to this blog. Well, some of it I ferret out myself. But for other bits, I have awesome friends forwarding me stuff. Like today, when my best friend sent me this link--Information Is Beautiful. Even if you're not a chart-wonk, you've got to be impressed with the handiwork of those who are. My fave chart? This one here:

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I'm embarrassed at the failing grade my home and native land gets on meeting Kyoto emissions goals (read the bottom row and weep, my fellow Canadians--we are the scum de la scum, after the US which never signed on to Kyoto. Thanks a pantload, Harpo!)

But all the same, I love the "target" presentation. Very effective. Bull's-eye! And blogrolled. Thanks to P.!

September 7, 2009

Stupid Sex Tricks: Next time, just take the damn insulin.

I mean really...what else is there to say to THIS?

It all began when 62-year-old Enrique Milla, a married man of 25 years, went to a doctor to discuss his sexual dysfunction.

After consulting with a urologist, Milla decided to have a penile implant, cbs4.com reports.

His attorney Spence Aronfeld told CBS4 news partners Newsradio610 WIOD that the decision was a huge mistake.

"The problem is that Mr. Milla has uncontrolled diabetes and it is absolutely, 100 percent, contraindicated - which means it should not be done on anyone with uncontrolled diabetes because diabetics have a rate of infection (higher than) people who don't have diabetes," said Aronfeld.

Milla went ahead with the surgery and developed a very serious infection, which caused his penis to become gangrenous. It was then removed.

"The man will live the rest of his life without his penis," Aronfeld said.

On second thought, this makes rather a good case for socialized medicine, does it not? We get very few cases of uncontrolled diabetes up here in Soviet Canuckistan.

September 4, 2009

Oh, those crazy Canucks!

Would you just LISTEN to them?

Can you believe they don't know what a "co-pay" is? One guy thinks it's one of those drinks with the little umbrella in them! Well, maybe the little umbrella protects you from something? I'm sure it's a better protection than the US healthcare "system" is. After all, that's where the REAL death panels are...

Full disclosure: Yes, I too am a crazy Canuck. I was hit by a car at 14 and suffered a really badly broken pelvis. I went to Sick Kids in Toronto that same day. Best children's hospital in the country; even attracts doctors from overseas (my orthopedic surgeon was British--"luv" that accent!) AND the US. Cost to me and my parents: NADA.

Meaning, no drink with the little umbrella in it, either. I can live without that!

August 30, 2009

Roy Romanow's message to Barack Obama

A former (NDP!) premier of Saskatchewan, Canada's first province with single-payer healthcare, speaks out, along with others in the medical and nursing fields:

US visitors, please spread this message. Grab the YouTube and put it on your blogs, or link to it in forums. The advice in it is very important, especially the part about "trying to cross a chasm in two steps". Right now, that's exactly what Obama is trying to do--and it's exactly why his plan is in so much jeopardy. Learn from Tommy Douglas--do it all in one, and play hardball if you have to. The end result is worth it!

August 27, 2009

Shaming us all as Canadians

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I have this shirt, BTW. And there is a very good reason why I have it...

As a Canadian, I am deeply ashamed.

I am ashamed of how, for all that we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, when push comes to shove--when people from a culture the rest of us barely understand (if we understand it at all) are mistreated abroad--we, as Canadians, seem all too happy to shrug our shoulders and let it happen--that is, until the mistreated ones are forced to fight back to the point where we are all, collectively, embarrassed. And only then do those with the power to do something about it finally do the right thing. But they tend to do it in a too-little-too-late sort of way. And it's all because of the culture--or more correctly, cultures--of the mistreated ones.

Yes, people, I'm talking here about Canadian Muslims. People with names like Suaad Hagi Mohamud, or Abousfian Abdelrazik, or Maher Arar, or even Omar Khadr. They are all very different from one another, but they all have one thing in common: they are Muslims.

Well, actually, they have something else in common, too: They were neglected and/or shat upon by our own government precisely because they are Muslims.

Ever since 9-11, it's been hard to talk about Islam--what it really means, what it doesn't. It shouldn't be. There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and how many of them are hardcore, far-right, plane-smashing-into-buildings jihadists? As I recall, it only took 19 of them to pull off the infamous events of that day in 2001, plus a couple of paymasters wiring cash back and forth.

And there was not a vast conspiracy of the entire world of Islam behind them, no matter what any scaremongering turd from the punditocracy (or any screeching fruitbat from the blogosphere) says. Out of a billion or more people, only a few hundred or thousand have gone in for terror training; fewer still actually pulled off an attack. A great many one-time terror trainees have chickened out, and some have even informed on their erstwhile comrades.

But even these (who far outnumber the actual suicide bombers) are a very small subset. The majority abhor all terroristic behavior, calling it un-Islamic, and rightly so. Most of the world's Muslims in fact live by the laws of the land, even when those laws are secular, and they have no interest in imposing Sharia on non-believers--through terror or otherwise. Here in Canada, there was widespread misinterpretation of some proposed changes to Ontario's faith-based divorce arbitration law--changes that would have been inclusive of Muslims, but definitely did not impose "backdoor Sharia", as the screamers all feared it would. (The point later became moot when the Ontario goverment scrapped the proposal, mainly in response to pressure from all the screamers.)

Who was the real terrorist in Ontario's divorce-arbitration kerfuffle? Surprise: Not the Muslims. It was the screamers. They hijacked the debate with fear, loathing, and ultimately, sabotage. How very civilized, humanistic and Western of them! What a great example to the Muslims of the world...in how NOT to do things. It also must have confirmed every one of their suspicions that we are just as xenophobic and bigoted up here as any redneck south of the 49th Parallel. Not exactly a point of pride for any of us, unless you're a screamer--in which case you're chronically oblivious to how much of a shit you look to everyone else.

And all this screaming came out of the woodwork after 19 men crashed some jets on a bright September day. Just 19 of them, and what a panic they unleashed. It's crazy! The truth should be head-thumpingly obvious: The overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But they are all being treated as terrorists by our government, and 9-11 is to blame. The fires of 9-11 have blinded half the world to what the other half is really thinking.

It doesn't help, either, when our government or its agents, in their zeal to root out terror plots, actually end up helping to foment them. They have done it either directly, as in the case of a group of misguided young men who planned a local 9-11, or indirectly, as when they agreed to go along with NATO and fight Unocal's pipeline wars in Afghanistan (thereby putting us on the shit list of precisely such groups as the one I just mentioned). Whether as entrappers or entrappees, our government just embarrasses the hell out of me whenever it pulls this thoughtless crap.

But what embarrasses me most is when our government willfully permits Canadian citizens, who just happen to be Muslim, to be abused abroad. Every one of the four Canadians I mentioned earlier was subjected to maltreatment ranging from unlawful imprisonment to torture. And had they been white Christians, it is very doubtful that they would have gone through any of that. Whatever one thinks of Islam (and I for one am very uncomfortable with the brand subscribed to by Omar Khadr's bat-shit crazy family, and relieved to know that it is actually very uncommon), one ought to realize that tolerating the imprisonment and torture of others simply because they're of a different religion is to perpetrate the same form of persecution that you are accusing that religion of doing!

And when you start with the persecution of one religion, where does it all end? You'll notice that on the t-shirt I posted above, there are symbols of not only Islam, but most of the world's other religions as well. There's a good reason for that.

Shortly after 9-11, the Hindu Samaj Temple in Hamilton, Ontario, was fire-bombed. Apparently the vandals who bombed it mistook it for a Muslim mosque. The fact that Hinduism and Islam have very little in common was no deterrent to the bombers--they saw brownish people in baggy clothing wandering in and out, and since the place looked faintly "exotic" and Eastern, well, what more reason did they need? Any religion that didn't conform to the Judeo-Christian canon was automatically suspect. A clearer case of panic-driven religious persecution would be hard to find.

And Hindus were not the only non-Islamic religious group to suffer. Sikhs also bore the brunt of the hysteria, thanks to the fact that traditionalist Sikh men wear turbans. And Jerry Falwell blamed pagans--uh, that would include little red-haired Wiccan ME--for angering God into "letting" 9-11 happen! I have icons and scriptures of many different religions kicking around my place. So you can kind of see why I'd get touchy enough to buy a shirt like that, eh?

And of course, me also being a Bad German, I'm rather keen on what Pastor Niemöller said. It was true then, and it's still true now; just substitute "Muslim" for "Jew".

Have we really progressed so little since the Middle Ages that we let this prejudice blind us to the rights of Muslim Canadians? I hope not. But with the way my own government has been acting (or NOT acting) toward them, I think you could forgive me for not holding my head as high as I'd like to (even when I'm wearing my bad-ass shirt). This selective blindness to injustice against Canadians abroad shames us all. And it shames us all as Canadians.

PS: Great minds, etc.

August 26, 2009

Harpo tries to gut Canadian democracy...AGAIN

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While everybody is screaming about Chavecito and his perfectly democratic and constitutional law reforms down in Venezuela, a sneak thief of Torydom up here is doing his damnedest to cut the guts out of ours without anyone knowing. And if it hadn't been for the Internets, and a Facebook group called I Support Public Campaign Financing, I'm sure fewer of us would know about this:

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper's attempt to cut off political party subsidies last year led to a very close brush with defeat, one might have thought the vote-tax debate would be dead and buried.

Think again.

It appears Manitoba cabinet minister Steven Fletcher has been tasked with promoting the idea all over again.

Fletcher -- the minister of state for democratic reform -- has been talking about gearing up to take on the vote tax again. He has indicated it is something his government still plans to pursue.

"We believe that political parties should support themselves with people who voluntarily donate to whichever party they wish to support," said Fletcher.

Of course, this bland logic completely skips over the fact that the Tories tend to woo the rich corporatist types, who count on them to push through "reforms" that benefit only one small sector of society--THEMSELVES.

It also ignores something else:

A year ago, the Liberal Party was absolutely reliant on the money from that allowance. The Liberals raised a little over $5.8 million in direct contributions but received $8.7 million in the per vote subsidy.

The Conservatives, in comparison, raised $21 million in donations and $10.4 million came from the vote tax. Losing $10 million would hurt but they would still have had four times as much money as their nearest opponent.

But with a new leader, a new fundraising plan and at least the appearance so far of a wider appeal with voters, the Liberals' financial fortunes have improved. In the first two quarters of this year the Liberals already surpassed their 2008 fundraising totals, registering $5.9 million in donations with Elections Canada.

Added to that, with the Liberals' 2008 elections showing so dismal, they are bringing in far less in the per-vote subsidy because they got 800,000 fewer votes. In 2009, they will raise $7.2 million in the vote tax subsidy. If they raise another $4 million in the third and fourth quarters, they will no longer be as reliant on the vote tax money.

Meaning, guess who would stand to LOSE the next election?

Now, I should come clean--I am not a Liberal voter. The current party is not the party of Pierre Trudeau, who patriated the Constitution and gave us our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These Liberals smell too much like Tory Lite. They are too centrist for me; too much talk and too little action on the social-issues front, and weak on the environment too (except for maybe Stéphane Dion, bless him and his dog, Kyoto.) I've been voting NDP for the past decade or so because they're the ones with the best combo of red and green. And yes, I've done it with the full awareness that they tend to split the progressive vote (oh, like the Greens don't?) and enable the Tories, as vote-splitting in Germany did for a certain Austrian PFC in Germany during the 1930s, to be first past the post despite losing the popular vote. If nothing else, voting NDP gives me a chance to say "Look, this Lib/Con duopoly is a farce--and here are the alternative votes to prove it."

Besides, I've voted Lib before--holding my nose the entire time. They still lost. That was it for me. Ever since then, I've voted my conscience.

And if you think that protest-vote element is a waste, you're missing more than just a few screws. The NDP have gained popularity, seats and even a new provincial government recently, and for anyone to claim they are only useful as a vote-splitter is to ignore the huge disaffectation that decade upon decade of red/blue spit-swapping and general inaction is generating. Add to that the ballooning Harper deficit, plus a recession (generated on Harpo's watch, while he and his fundie-fruitcake parliament were busy hitching their wagon to Dubya's death star), and the rising cost of living (gee, do you think privatization had anything to do with that?) and the poor quality of services received (ditto) and I'd say there's something very important for Jack Layton and Co. to capitalize upon. It could be the 1930s all over again, when hard times turned a lot of minds not-so-lightly toward socialism. If they can firm up their progressive agenda beyond vague talk, they'd have a real fighting chance. They might even surprise everybody by collecting lots of mom-and-pop donations, Obama style (remember, Obama's campaign folks were at the recent NDP convo in Halifax) and if that happened, it would be even worse news for the Tories--and Iggy, too, who is just Harpo Lite at the end of the day.

So, what is to be done in the meantime? Well, if this bad penny comes up in Parliament again, I think we'll be seeing something like this, only this time, in earnest:

Last November, you might remember, Conservative plans to cut off the per-vote subsidy which parties get led to a near meltdown of Parliament. The opposition parties accused the government of trying to use the threat of a recession to kill off its opponents by bankrupting them. Then the Liberals, NDP and Bloc banded together to form a coalition and were prepared to vote down the government and take over.

And this time, I don't think our lovely and talented Governor-General will be in any mood to prorogue. Especially if hundreds of thousands of angry Canadians converge on Parliament HIll to ask, not so rhetorically, where the hell their votes have gone.

Debunking the profiteers' lies about healthcare

First, The Real News does an excellent job (as does Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the man who should have been president) of debunking those who claim Canadians are suffering under "state-mandated wait times":

Now, a little something courtesy of Public Values:

A new poll conducted by Nanos Research points to overwhelming support (86.2 percent) for strengthening public health care rather than expanding for-profit services. "With more than eight in ten Canadians supporting public solutions to make public healthcare stronger, there is compelling evidence that Canadians across all demographics would prefer a public over a for-profit healthcare system," said Nik Nanos, President of Nanos Research. Nanos Research was commissioned on behalf of the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC) to conduct a random telephone survey of 1001 Canadians between April 25th and May 3rd. The margin of accuracy for a sample of 1,001 is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

As well, the federal government just released its report: Healthy Canadians - A Federal Report on Comparable Health Indicators 2008. Its findings identically mirrored the CHC polling results. In that report, a leading indicator pointed to the fact that, "Most Canadians (85.2 percent) aged 15 years and older reported being 'very satisfied' or 'somewhat satisfied' with the way overall health care services were provided, unchanged from 2005."

"Throughout our campaign, Canadians have told us they want to keep our health care system public and to improve it with made-in-Canada solutions. They also have told us they flat-out reject Dr Ouellet's proposal to provide us with American-style two-tier medicine. This poll certainly underlines that for us. Eighty-six percent is a significant portion of the population," said Michael McBane, National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition. "It is striking that Dr Ouellet could be so out-of-touch with the pulse of most Canadians."

If a doctor can't even take a patient's pulse correctly, is that not grounds for him to lose his medical licence? If not, I don't know what is.

Maybe Canadians need to be allowed to vote for who gets to head the CMA, too.

July 26, 2009

Spike Lee does the Wrong Thing

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Oh, lordy, lordy, good Gordie. What is it with all these Yankee Doodle Dumbasses flying down to Venezuela to pontificate--unimpeded and, strangely, unarrested--about how there's no free speech in that country? Or that free speech is under attack there? Or (insert other ignorant "free speech" blather here)?

Yes, folks, it's happened again. This week's booby-prize winner is none other than Spike Lee--of whom, frankly, one expects much better things than this:

The director didn't directly refer to the dispute in Venezuela, but he said there are "no circumstances" under which news media should be silenced.

Visiting to screen his 1989 film "Do The Right Thing" and met with fans to discuss race relations, his career and the late Michael Jackson, Lee said he is "a firm believer in freedom of speech."

"It's my opinion that there are no circumstances where the media should be shut down," he said to loud applause. "I'm not talking about any country specifically, but globally."

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Of course, he would have to pick Venezuela, of all countries, to say that.

And of course, he would have to say it right as Globovisión--Venezuela's shittiest right-wing commercial channel--is coming under well-deserved fire for lying to the people, and for advocating treason and assassination and fascism. (It was one of four major TV channels all advocating for the coup of April 2002, just so's you know. All of which are still broadcasting, although one--RCTV--is now limited to cable and satellite. Its public-airwaves licence was not renewed, owing to numerous violations of Venezuelan broadcast law--many of them dating back long before Chavecito.)

And of course, he would have to say it, coming as he does from a country that has yanked broadcast licences for much, much lesser offences than Globovisión's crimes, as well as busting its own people for exercising their own free speech. (I'm not talking here about racists and Nazis--their speech, ironically, is protected as "free". I'm talking about pacifists. I'm talking about feminists. I'm talking about leftists. I'm talking, in short, about everything that isn't a racist or a Nazi in the US.)

So, here's MY free speech, freely exercised in defence of the right thing, and in denunciation of bullshit:

Hey Spike, why did you say that in Venezuela? What a dumb-ass thing to do. Why don't you go say that in Honduras? It's a much more appropriate venue. They're throwing Venezuelan journalists out of there for exercising not only their freedom of speech, but for supporting it in transmitting the voices of ordinary Hondurans, too. I'm talking here about the journalists of VTV and Telesur, the only channels in all of Latin America that have the cojones to call the coup by its right name, and to transmit pictures the "freedom-loving" coupmongers don't want the rest of the world to see.

For that matter, Spike, if you wanna see how free-speechy your own country really is, just run down Pennsylvania Avenue screaming "Death to the president!" at the top of your lungs. See how far you get with it.

Or, hey...just yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre, preferably while one of your own films is showing. See how much applause you get for that exercise of your lungs.

Are those things legal where YOU live, Spike? No? What a surprise.

Where I come from, uttering death threats isn't protected speech. Neither is racism, or sexism, or any other form of bigotry. Nor is yelling "fire" when there's no fire in the building. Here in Canada, stations have lost their broadcast licences for failing to comply with national broadcast standards.

And believe it or not, I'm 100% okay with all of that. I don't consider any of those things to be infringements on my freedom or anyone else's. Where I come from, the right to swing a fist ends where the next person's nose begins. Up here, only the Nazis scream "fascism" when someone deprives them of the privilege (which is not a right) of oppressing others. Which is quite an irony when you think about it.

But such is life in a free country, and Venezuela is, after 40 years of fake democracy, finally free. It has been for the last ten years, when the people themselves rewrote and ratified its constitution. It was they who decided it was a crime to threaten an elected president with death, a crime to forcibly remove him from power and spirit him out of the country, a crime to openly advocate for those things. In that, they've gone your country and mine one better. They exercised their freedom of speech to create, protect and defend their own democracy. They have a perfect right, therefore, to remove from the airwaves any station that offends against that democracy. That shit is NOT free speech, unless you're a fascist or an idiot.

So, Spike, how's about you think about it? Inform yourself as to what's really going on in Venezuela, compare it to what's already happened to various stations all over North America and Europe (without any "free speech" hullabaloo!), and if you're gonna talk about a free press, do it in Honduras. Or in Colombia. That's where the real crying need for free speech is right now.

Go on, Spike. Do the right thing for real.

PS: YVKE Mundial reports that Spike "would like to meet President Chávez". Funny how that never made it into the Dissociated Press's very slanted (read: anti-Venezuelan) piece. Hmmm, do you think someone's using him for propaganda? And Spike, maybe you should do like you said to the Venezuelans to do--attack them using your own voice. Would be a good idea, no?

May 24, 2009

One more reason to despise Microsoft

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...as if we all needed one.

Microsoft, the informatic giant founded by Bill Gates, has decided suddenly to cancel its Messenger service to those countries against which the United States maintains a commercial embargo.

Among those affected are Cuba, Iran and North Korea, who have all openly rejected the policies of the US. Also included are Syria and Sudan.

Right now, all cybernauts of those countries trying to log on to the popular Windows program have begun to receive the error 810003c1, which prevents them from going online in Messenger.

"Microsoft has cut Windows Live Messenger IM for all users in countries embargoed by the United States. Microsoft will no longer be offering service for Windows Live in your country," reads the support page in Windows live when anyone looks up the error in question.

Translation mine.

Fortunately, there's an easy way around this: Simply change your settings so that it says you're not in an embargoed country, such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan. Tell them you're a Canadian. Problem fixed--embargo lifted!

Being a Mac user, however, I prefer to just go on avoiding them and all their endless bugs-disguised-as-features...and feeling damned smug about it.

May 12, 2009

An open letter to the US State Department

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Hello, humorless suits...

A little birdie told me today that you've been reading this site--specifically, this entry. I'm not sure exactly what about it intrigued you enough that you took the time, but hey...thanks for taking the time. It's not every day that government agents read this humble blog.

Or is it? Maybe, from now on, it will be; I can only hope.

Now, why would I hope that the traditional enemies of democracy, the sponsors, mentors and trainers of death squads, would stick around here and read stuff I wrote and/or translated? One would think I might be freaked out to learn that you spooks had been here.

Not a chance.

Actually, I've been spoiling for a scrap with you guys. I was bullied as a kid, and now that I'm all growed up, I've decided to stand up for the underdogs, the way no one on the playground stood up for me when I needed it most. So, bullyboys, consider this your long-overdue punching-out.

Since so many people who have a major beef with you speak Spanish, and you seem to be utterly deaf to everything they say (even when they learn enough English to say "Yankee go home"), I've been diligently translating their news in the hope that someone pays attention and takes it to heart. And yes, I hope that someone is YOU.

You see, dear faceless suits and earpieces, I don't think you have any idea how bad you people look to the rest of the world. Especially Latin America. Oh sure, there are a few oligarchs, sell-outs, and paid-off local bottom-feeders who will still flatter you and fawn on you, and take your smelly money and your crappy "advice" on how to run their countries and their economies. They'll wave your flags at their astroturf demonstrations, and they'll go out of their way to eat your burgers and buy your overpriced crap. But in case you haven't noticed, they've lost a lot of ground among their own. Except for Peru, Colombia, Panama and Mexico, they're not in power. Everyone else has a more-or-less progressive government. There's a reason for that.

And no, it's not "anti-Americanism".

It's pro-Americanism.

Permit me to explain.

First of all, you people are NOT the only Americans. The Americas stretch all the way from our Canadian Arctic Circle to the ice-cold Argentine toe of Tierra del Fuego. Everyone from here to there is an American. Even the Cubans.

Secondly, all these Americans have a right to freely elect their own sovereign governments. Whether you people like those governments is immaterial; you don't get to decide anymore to replace them on a whim. Oh sure, for a while there you did...but those days are over. Got that? They're over. Finished. Kaputt.

(And yes, even the Cubans elect their representatives. They have elections; they just don't have multiple parties, and they don't have right-wing parties as a result, either. Maybe you don't like that. But whether you like it or not, I think it's safe to say that the Cubans prefer it to the alternative. Even your own former generals have admitted as much.)

Thirdly, the weak "democracy" you tried to peddle down there when your beloved military dictatorships failed hasn't worked out either. It was fraught with corruption (which I'm sure was to your benefit) and it left them in insupportable and often odious debt to the IMF, the World Bank and other "development" banks which were nothing more than ATMs for you, and cash vacuums for the people of LatAm. Please don't pretend that you don't know what I mean by that. Anyone can see by how rapidly LatAm grew poorer as the US grew richer that there was a two-way money pipeline operating, and the larger pipe of the two ran south-to-north.

Now that the various strong democracies are putting some serious muscle into turning off the valve and keeping more of their hard-earned dinero at home, diverting it into domestic channels instead of those of international capital, I can hear you guys crying foul. Oh sure, you do it in polite code. Sometimes you do it as yourselves. Sometimes you do it in the guise of media columnists (fifth columnists?) and "journalists" (note the quotation marks; they are there for a reason.) But no matter what way you do it, I know what you're saying. It's plain enough: you label anyone who doesn't keep the valve all the way open as a "dictator", or you claim that they have an "anti-freedom" agenda. You do this even when it's frankly ludicrous. It doesn't matter to you if it's true, as long as the US sheeple believe it to be true.

And yes, I'm well aware of the CIA's ongoing media project. It never really ended. Its job is to "influence" or "shape" public opinion--in favor of whatever the corporate sector and you guys decide between you is in your collective interest. Thus, for a couple of decades there, we got a lot of very strange editorials and opinion pieces proclaiming that brutal military dictators had "saved" Latin America from the communist boogyman, with a blithe glossing-over of the fact that democracy had also died there, in an apparent case of "collateral damage". Perhaps you guys mistook democracy for another nasty-wasty commie? It's an easy mistake to make.

(By the way, I'm also quite certain the CIA reads this blog. I get an inordinate number of hits from Virginia, and an awful lot of seriously stupid, intentionally misleading comments from people whose IPs trace back to there, too. Hi and a big fat one-finger salute to all you folks in Langley, and your Miami station too!)

In the end, though, all your efforts to subvert these countries' democracy--be it through outright dictatorship or the buying and rigging of elections, all the gambits you used have failed. There's only so much moral, intellectual and literal bankruptcy a country can take, and all those "little" countries (some of them as big as Brazil or Argentina) have either reached their limits or are approaching them now. Sooner or later, they were bound to turn their backs on you, the better to turn their faces back toward their own people.

Now they're looking at their own and trying to figure out how to do right by them. Their first priority is not what you think in Washington, or what your CIA pals think in Miami--it's what they themselves think. They might still be willing to have diplomatic relations with you, but this time around, they want it to be a two-way street, with you people listening respectfully for a change and KEEPING YOUR HANDS THE HELL OFF. That's not anti-you, it's pro-THEM. Pro-American, in the most catholic sense of the word.

I prefer not to take any side but that of peace and friendship. It makes for better relations all around. But yeah, if it's a matter of picking sides between them and you, guess what? This former bullied child is gonna stick up for the underdogs. They need to know that someone in the Northern Hemisphere, someone not a native speaker of Spanish (but willing to learn, in fact willing to teach herself) will stand with them. They don't get a lot of solidarity from gringos, but perhaps this Canuck will do. After all, our country has been treated like your backyard, too, and a lot of us are just as angry and resentful at the way you've undermined and subverted us. Even as I write this, I'm seeing the way efforts are being made to privatize our public educational and healthcare systems, all in the name of compliance with NAFTA. Those systems were hard-fought-for in the 1950s by a democratic, elected socialist named Tommy Douglas, who faced ugly anticommunist hysteria back then, too. So, yeah, I can totally relate to the Latin Americans. And if they want to be socialist, I think they should be free to decide it without your interference, however subtle, sneaky, subversive and underhanded.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you learned something. And I hope it makes you deeply doubt yourselves.

May 10, 2009

Cops Behaving Badly: Provocs at the G-20, suspected

No...REALLY? Well, duh. Remember, kiddies...protests are always peaceful as long as it's only protesters protesting. It's never a riot until the cops show up!

Liberal Democrat Tom Brake says he saw what he believed to be two plain-clothes police officers go through a police cordon after presenting their ID cards.

Brake, who along with hundreds of others was corralled behind police lines near Bank tube station in the City of London on the day of the protests, says he was informed by people in the crowd that the men had been seen to throw bottles at the police and had encouraged others to do the same shortly before they passed through the cordon.

Brake, a member of the influential home affairs select committee, will raise the allegations when he gives evidence before parliament's joint committee on human rights on Tuesday.

"When I was in the middle of the crowd, two people came over to me and said, 'There are people over there who we believe are policemen and who have been encouraging the crowd to throw things at the police,'" Brake said. But when the crowd became suspicious of the men and accused them of being police officers, the pair approached the police line and passed through after showing some form of identification.

Brake has produced a draft report of his experiences for the human rights committee, having received written statements from people in the crowd. These include Tony Amos, a photographer who was standing with protesters in the Royal Exchange between 5pm and 6pm. "He [one of the alleged officers] was egging protesters on. It was very noticeable," Amos said. "Then suddenly a protester seemed to identify him as a policeman and turned on him. He ­legged it towards the police line, flashed some ID and they just let him through, no questions asked."

Amos added: "He was pretty much inciting the crowd. He could not be called an observer. I don't believe in conspiracy theories but this really struck me. Hopefully, a review of video evidence will clear this up."

Hmm, what are the London Indymedia folks saying? Great Googly Moogly, let's have a look-see...

Aha! Paydirt:

When the G20 Meltdown was announced, many of us knew that the police were going to launch a "dark ops" assualt on the protest. The media was foaming at the mouth about "anarchist violence", "killing bankers", "mayhem", and all the rest; they certainly didn't want to be proved wrong. Although many knew beforehand that kettling and police agitators would be used at the protest, we also knew that to miss the festival would mean that we had given up our right to assemble peacefully in the face of the Police State (which many citizens have already resigned themselves to). Thus we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But that's just a beginning. Here's another lead, mentioned by the Indymedia report, worth reading in its entirety. It's chock-a-block with links, some to photographic evidence. It looks as though the police and the media co-ordinated the "violent protests" so that there would be plausible reason to discredit the PEACEFUL protesters!

But surely they wouldn't do that? Surely the media are honest, and the cops are our friends...

Yeah. Right. Even here in Canada, that's often not true. Remember those three burly "anarchists" who looked suspiciously out of place at an anti-SPP demo in Quebec? The REAL anarchists, who weren't looking to riot, weren't fooled either. Most of them live on vegan food and can't afford steroids, much less regular access to a gym.

Don't forget, either, the London cop who broadcast his fascistic intentions on Facebook. He was planning for violence. Perhaps he knew who the provocs were, and had reason to look forward to knockin' some 'eads?

The watchers are being watched, and if they're scared, they SHOULD be. It is not the protesters, but the "authorities", the enforcers of capitalism, who are the real destructive forces out to bring society down. When the banker is exposed as a robber, and the cop and the "journalist" are his accomplices, you know that the "security" you've been living is a dirty, stinking lie.

Meanwhile, we await the video, which should serve only as a final confirmation of what anyone who's been paying attention will already know.

May 3, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Infinitely crankable

For what you are about to receive...well, I really can't put it better than one of the commenters at YouTube did:

Let me explain to anyone under the age of 40 that stops by here: this is rock from the far side, the wild side, this is eyes-out-on-stalks, ears-in-a-flotation-tank heavy metal. These guys were outré, avant garde. I bitch slap any weedy modern-day pretenders. The Webster were insanity with a Marshall stack. Try and wrestle this song and the album if you've the brass balls to do so. I don't think you can. So run along, kids, and leave this to the real men! Bust the busters!

Ahem. Well put!

And with that said, here's Max Webster, featuring Kim Mitchell and a secret guest vocalist whose screeching alto you might recognize:

There's an incredible amount of Max Webster stuff on YouTube, BTW...and Kim Mitchell solo ain't bad either:

Rah, rah, olé!

Here's another of his Max Webster greats, which proves that he's good for much more than just the loud noodly stuff:

March 29, 2009

Music for a Sunday: The Ballad of Hugo Chávez

How did this escape my notice so long? There's this group up here in Canada (hailing from Hamilton, Ontario) called Arkells, and guess who they dedicated a (very cool) song to? Yep, him:

"The Night of the Sun". Crank your speakers!

March 24, 2009

The indigenous people's holocaust

AMERICAN INDIAN Holocaust

How did Hitler learn genocide and eliminationism? By taking his cues from what happened in North America.

This concerns mainly what happened in the US, but in Canada it was not much better. Up here, we didn't have a Trail of Tears, but the Catholic and Anglican churches organized "residential schools" whose ostensible purpose was to educate the "Indians", but whose real purpose was to de-indigenize them--basically, to turn them into a lesser class of white people, to strip them of their native culture and languages. Many inmates in those "schools" suffered physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy people running them. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide are the inevitable fallout from such a holocaust.

And also, as Bruce Cockburn sings, "the local Third World's kept on reservations you can't see". Here, as in the US, the indigenous people were often shunted off to the worst land--the good farmland was set aside for white settlers. And if oil or other valuable minerals were found under the land they were on, guess what happened. Land-claims cases are before courts in several provinces, and many of them don't end well for the natives. Usually, it's the corporate sector that wins--"mineral rights" trump human rights, it seems. Even something as presumably simple as getting an ancestral burial ground back can turn into a decades-long nightmare. And on rare occasions, that too ends in death for the unlucky natives, who are still seen as second-class citizens by the authorities, and especially police, who can get trigger-happy and, in any case, don't need much to trigger their own racism.

What's weird, though, is that all this racism has spawned some unexpected blowback: some natives think that the international Jews are behind their troubles, instead of drawing the more obvious and correct conclusion (it's the gentiles, folks). Such was the case of David Ahenakew, who made headlines with some really stupid, bigoted remarks and who has since had a steep learning curve to climb. (Apparently, during his post-war military service, he met some old Nazis in Germany who filled his head with rubbish.)

But he's not the only one; a few years back, I met members of a prominent Mohawk family of artists, and apparently they subscribe to something frightfully similar! I was horrified and nauseated and heartsick about it for days, wondering how such talented and obviously intelligent people could fall for such a stupid lie. It's a no-brainer that instead of hating the Jews, they ought to be identifying with them instead, and looking for common ground.

After all, both peoples have suffered strikingly similar fates.

March 21, 2009

Antifascist beatdown? You got it!

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Yes, we have racism too up here...but we have a lot more anti-racists to beat back against it. Get a load of this:

Violence erupted Saturday afternoon as about 30 members of a white supremacist group and hundreds of anti-racism protesters clashed in downtown Calgary.

At least two people suffered head injuries after they were struck by hurled projectiles and police arrested three people.

The Anti-Racist Action group gathered outside city hall to commemorate the International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination.

As they marched through the downtown, a bus carrying members of the Alberta-based neo-Nazi Aryan Guard arrived in the same area.

In all, about 500 people from the two groups clashed outside a transit station, which led to train and bus service briefly being shut down.

[...]

Members of the neo-Nazi group - many wearing sunglasses and scarves over their faces to hide their identities - waved white-power flags and signs bearing swastikas, and shouted expletives at the crowd.

As the clash heated up, water bottles, snow and placards rained down on the Aryans, who carried signs reading: "White pride, why not?"

[...]

Aryan Guard supporters Kelsey, 15, and Meghan, 18, who declined to give their last names, said they're not racists.

"I like being white and I think they take it the wrong way," said Kelsey, wearing a black scarf around her neck emblazoned with a white circle and cross in the middle.

Heh...yeah. They were so "proud" they couldn't even show their faces or give their real names, much less acknowledge that they are fascists. And they were outnumbered by hundreds. Some white pride!

February 10, 2009

Men Who Just Don't Get It: The Preacher Man from Down Under

I feel for Australia right now. Not only do they have dozens of bushfires and nearly 200 gruesome deaths to deal with, they also have fundamentalist fools who insist on twisting the tragedy to their own ends. Case in point: Pentecostal pastor Danny Nalliah. Not only does he preach for a ministry with a stunningly inappropriate (and downright arsonistic-sounding) name, he also comes to a stunningly inappropriate (and downright arsonistic-sounding) conclusion about what really caused the wildfires:

The Catch the Fire Ministries has tried to blame the bushfires disaster on laws decriminalising abortion in Victoria.

The Pentecostal church's leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream about raging fires on October 21 last year and that he woke with "a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb".

Oh joy, the Holy Spook is a firebug. One who doesn't trust women to make up their own minds about what goes on in their own wombs, at that.

Naturally, there's been a huge outcry about this whacked-up "explanation" of the fires, which are the product of a combined drought and suspected arson. Some of it comes from downright devout quarters:

The former Treasurer, Peter Costello, who sent a video message to an Australia Day prayer meeting organised by Pastor Nalliah this year, was outraged by his remarks on the fires.

"To link the death and suffering of bushfire victims to other political events is appalling, heartless and wrong,'' said Mr Costello, who has lost a Christian friend in the fires.

"Those who have suffered deserve ever support and sympathy. It is beyond the bounds of decency to try to make moral or politcal points out of such a tragedy.''

One would think that with such unequivocal rejection of his theory, a person would sit down and give it some sober second thought. But not Rev. Danny. Nope, he's not merely unrepentant, he's downright arrogant in his insistence that he's right:

Asked by the Herald if he did not believe most Australians would regard his remarks as being in appallingly bad taste, he said today: "I must tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear."

He said it was no use "molly-coddling" Australians.

Asked if he believed in a God who would take vengeance by killing so many people indiscriminately - even those who opposed abortion, Mr Nalliah referred to 2 Chronicles 7:14 to vouch for his assertion that God could withdraw his protection from a nation.

"The Bible is very clear," he said. "If you walk out of God's protection and turn your back on Him, you are an open target for the devil to destroy."

Really? That's news to me. I became a Wiccan, stopped calling myself a Christian, and quit believing in devils more than 20 years ago, and I haven't been destroyed yet. Soon after my quiet inner revolution, I and thousands of other Canadians, women particularly, marched for the total decriminalization of abortion here. We got what we called for; the Supreme Court struck down existing legislation, the Parliament passed no new laws, and so there hasn't been a law forbidding abortion here since 1988. That's right: THERE IS NO ABORTION LAW IN CANADA. We are free to terminate a pregnancy if we so decide. Most who do, do so in the first trimester; rarely in the second; almost never (unless the woman's health is at risk) in the third. In other words, we uppity wimmin self-regulate rather nicely up here.

Now, according to Pastor Dan's reckoning, we should all have burned up 20 years ago. But we're still here, and we've had remarkably few deaths by deliberately-set wildfires, all things considered. That's not to say that global warming and climate change haven't touched us in other ways (hello, shrinking glaciers; goodbye, Arctic pack ice!)--but who are we to blame abortion for something so totally unrelated as the loss of polar bears?

And what kind of God would be dumb enough to send his signs in such a ham-fisted way? This is supposed to be the same lord of Israel who guided his chosen people by giving them literal road signs to follow--a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and a star over Bethlehem to indicate where they'd find their newborn king. Plus, he's supposed to be beneficent and merciful to those who believe in him. Why torch hundreds of people (including those who believe in him!) and then send just one self-important crank a kooky dream to say "I don't like abortion" when he could merely write the message in the sky and save everyone a lot of hassle and ambiguity?

But no, no. We're supposed to believe this pastor dude. He had a dream! Big deal, last night I dreamed of tangles of dirty laundry and leaky plumbing. Oh noes, it's a SIGN! Of what, I'm not exactly sure, but I dreamt it, therefore God must be talking to me!

Except I quit believing in THAT God over 20 years ago, and have never been given a plausible cause to regret it since. I'd rather put my faith in the scientists on this one; they called the true cause of all this horror correctly.

January 14, 2009

It's 22 degrees below freezing tonight...

...with a windchill in the minus-30s. Do you know where your music is?

Here's a little something by Bruce Cockburn, for all my fellow deep-freeze-bound North Americans.

Stay warm, y'all.

January 11, 2009

Quotable: Justin Podur on crapaganda in the Canadian media

"Modern Western armies, like those of Israel, the US, and Canada, think of information as part of warfare. They expend tremendous time and resources mobilizing support for their violence. They do this by controlling information, disallowing independent journalists (as Israel is doing), using embedded journalists, and running a massive public relations machinery designed specifically to deliver arguments and propaganda for the foreign press and for foreign consumption. There is a special machinery just for Canadians, and a special strategy to sell war in Canada. There was one for the Iraq war, there is one for the Afghanistan war, and one for Israel's wars as well. What is so unusual about the media environment today is that all this expense, all this media machinery, can be circumvented by anyone in its target audience by the simple click of a mouse. So click away."

--Justin Podur, "Turn off the Canadian Media, Please"

December 11, 2008

The Harper Dictatorship

Also known as Harpo Marxism.

December 8, 2008

Iggy's palace coup

Via Montreal Simon, I just learned that the worst possible thing could have happened, and one that will drive a stake through all hopes of a coalition faster than anything else: Iggy the Warmonger has staged his palace coup.

Now, a few words about Iggy, so you'll understand why this is not a good move.

Michael Ignatieff should have stayed at Hahvud; its ivory tower was a better fit for him and his out-of-step attitudes, and he did less damage there. The man couldn't get his ass elected democratically at last year's Liberal leadership convention. He was for the war on Iraq before he was against it (and it took the extreme unpopularity of that war, not the extreme stupidity of it, to make him change his mind.) His position on Afghanistan is still the same, whereas a clear majority of us want our army out of there, so even unpopularity isn't a reliable indicator of which way he'll swing. His "principled" stance is absurd and unbuyable. Plus, notwithstanding Iggy's misplaced "idealism", there's the inconvenient fact that Afghanistan will never morph back into anything even vaguely resembling what it was before the US and its "Grand Chessboard" strategies eated it. Facts? What are those to Iggy's so-called towering intellect (which is really just rank stupidity expressed in a nifty, shifty way) and his so-called idealism (which is just plain cock-eyed)?

The only thing about him one can definitively nail to the wall is his lust for power. He will say or do anything to get into power, which is not good for those of us who want a coalition leader who will think first of the good of the country, and not how to muscle his own egotistical ass into the PMO. If we wanted that, we'd be out there rah-rahing with the other brain-deads for Harpo, or maybe for that other autofellator, Jim Karygiannis. When you get past the whole "intellectual" thing, there's not a dime's worth of difference between Iggy and Harpo in terms of attitudes or strategy. And I'm not fooled by the color of the respective ties.

Oh, don't worry--I'm still for a coalition. I'm just against having this neoliberal freak-scene in charge of it. Iggy's naked power-grabbing can only take him so far before he, too, is subject to a non-confidence vote. (Thank heaven for parliamentary systems.) But if you see a lot of typos here from now on, have pity--I'll be writing this blog with one hand clamped to my nose.

So much for right-wing turns making journalism "lively"

I've been reading a number of newspaper writers (or former ones) diagnosing What Went Wrong at their respective (ex-)rags lately, and go figure, a lot of them are saying things remarkably like what the guy at Whap! Whap! said in October:

About 10 years ago, The Columbian hired a former Gannett editor who quickly stripped the paper of its local character, turning it into a clone of every corporate franchise in the country.

At the same time, the editor and publisher took a hard turn to the right politically.

Also at the same time, the company (which had been a pioneer in digital media) turned newsprint-centric, crippling the website while greatly expanding its print product.

So this newly right-wing, ink-on-paper dynasty did what every right-wing entity does: Go deeply in debt, mortgaging its future for short-term pleasure.

Today, the once-proud institution is a journalistic and business disaster.

Did you catch that second-last paragraph, kiddies? It said "...what every right-wing entity does: Go deeply in debt, mortgaging its future for short-term pleasure."

That "short-term pleasure", I think, is what used to be referred to, a little over ten years ago, as "lively journalism". I was in j-school at the time, and I got to witness this ugly transformation first-hand. That was about the time when formerly respectable newspapers began to jazz themselves up in a big way with dodgy political and economic pundits, and began sacrificing the real news (which was perceived to be suffering from Liberal Bias) in the name of "balance" or, worse, "liveliness". Such hard-to-starboard rolls didn't cause me to take more interest in the papers, but rather a whole lot less, for a simple reason: More often than not, they simply suck out whatever lifeblood was left at a once-readable paper and replace it with candy-scented embalming fluid.

Up here in the Great North, the apotheosis of this euphoric neo-conservative lunacy was the National Post, founded by Conrad Black (once Lord of Crossharbour, now Inmate 18330-424 in a Florida penitentiary.) Basically, it was the chief tout of hardcore Friedmanism with a boob job (come to think of it, so was Black's wife, who was eulogized in the National Post as a paragon of style long after her husband's pride-and-joy had been sold off to finance his high-living fraud habit.) And as long as the economy was booming, this model could point to itself and crow that This Was The Way Things Should Be Done. Profits were through the roof! Costs were below the sub-basement! Local reporting was replaced by wire-service pap! Unions were busted, and shareholders were salivating! Whoopee!

Of course, now that the "booming" bubble economy that financed all this flummery has gone poof, so has that model. And everything that relied on it for a semblance of success is in freefall, including media outlets (newsprint and other) that relied on right-wing nuttery to "liven" them up. Lord Black is in jail, and Lady Babs is a social pariah (O horrors!), and frankly, their fall from grace--and that of their ex-newspaper--ought to have been a harbinger to someone besides myself.

But then again, I'm not the sort of person to be fooled by "lively" trash.

December 4, 2008

So when do we get a Canadian PSUV?

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I've been saying it (not too loudly around my formerly Conservative dad) for years--if Reform and the Tories could unite the right in this country, why couldn't the rest of us unite the left and doom those turds to permanent nonentity status?

Canada is not, and never will be, a far-right nation, even after all the Reform-a-Tories' efforts to drag things that way. But they will go on trying as long as the left is disjointed, and they might even succeed in skewing the notion of where the "centre" lies. Which is why my big hope for this Yuletide is the Canadian equivalent of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Whaaaaaaaaaat?

Yes, that's right. I want Canada to learn from Venezuela, which means I want our left to learn from theirs. They united not two or three, but oodles of leftist parties within a year to create that PSUV, and they've just won big in the regional elections down there, too. Proof, if ever anyone needed it, that uniting the left works wonders for a country. Proof, too, that where the need exists, along with popular will, it can be done.

And yes, I think it's possible to do it in Canada. Just look at the numbers: Harpo had just 38% of the popular vote in the last election, and less than half the parliamentary seats. That means there's already a good 60% of us, at least, on the left. That's actually even better support than the PSUV got in the latest election, where it won a healthy 53% of the popular vote and a rock-solid majority of mayoralties and governorships.

Now, just imagine if we channeled that energy in the proper direction. Go on. As John Lennon sang, it's easy if you try...

All right, so Stéphane Dion is no Chavecito. He's Mr. Meek and Mild; the 'Cito is Mr. Big 'n' Bombastic. This is Canada; that's Venezuela. We have a blandly nasty, fundie-neocon Ken doll currently in charge (nominally!); they have a big red-hot socialist chili pepper (out in front of an equally fractious bunch of socialists that the lamestream media never deign to show us because they want us to believe he's a dictator and a one-man band).

But hey, a girl can still hope for a unified left, especially since Dion finally showed his 'nads the other day to set that lyin' Harpo straight. I voted NDP in the last election, but I couldn't help liking the man who named his dog Kyoto; he struck me as fundamentally decent, even if he was more wonkish than charismatic. Had there been a coalition then, I'd have voted for it gladly, without holding my nose. Charismatic leaders can wait (but not too long, Justin!), as long as we have a committed coalition at least.

Well, now, we're on the verge of actually having one--I think. The reason I put it so tentatively is because Parliament has been pro-rogued until January 26, in a lame attempt by Harpo to try to save his power-hungry ass. Worse, the newly-born coalition is supposedly shaky, according to all the media whores; the basis for this contention is but a single story, the drama-queenery of one Jim Karygiannis, a back-bencher Liberal MP from Toronto, who whines that he can't work with the NDP, because they supposedly are "vicious".

Please, try to keep the beer from shooting out your noses, my fellow lefties. Remember, we're polite to a fault up here, and beer-snortzing is poor form. Especially from those of us who voted for the Party of Niceness...

Oh, fuck it. Where does Karygiannis get off pulling shit like that? This is not about him, it's about Canada. Can he please pull his head out of his own not-so-important ass and make an effort to save his constituents, along with the rest of my home and native land, from another three years* of Harpocrisy?

No, of course Karygiannis can't--because this is all about him and his massive ego, not national unity and the salvation of our economy and social services from more right-wing ideological disasters. Shit, parliamentarians aren't public servants, they're the kings of the Hill and they get to do what they want on the taxpayers' dime, and they are not obligated to be answerable to the rest of us. Didn't you get the memo, peon?

So, Jim...FUCK YOU VERY MUCH. If all you want is attention, why not stand up on your back bench, turn your rear to the cameras and pull down your pants instead? But if what you want is to serve your public, sit down, shut up, and work with the "vicious" NDP. You need them to give your party a parliamentary majority now.

And we need a united left yesterday to undo the damage of Harpo. Even if it's currently nowhere near the Venezuelan PSUV for success. As Venezuelan leftist journalist and PSUV member Gonzalo Gómez says, unity on the left is essential to stop the right. We need every seat in Parliament that we can get.

Preferably without a head stuffed up it.

* The "usual" parliamentary term here is roughly four to five years between election calls, but Harpo is so greedy for a majority that he couldn't wait four. So he did it in three, and still got a minority, but he thinks it's a mandate because he's an egomaniac, too.

December 1, 2008

Vive le Canada!!!

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Where else would you get things like this happening?

The Liberals and NDP have reached a deal to bring down the federal Conservative government and form an unprecedented coalition to take its place that would last 30 months and include cabinet seats for both parties.

Sources confirmed Sunday night that the two sides have ironed out an agreement that would see a cabinet of 24 members -- 18 Liberals and six NDP.

The two parties called emergency caucus meetings Monday to lay out the plan under which the Tories would lose power to Canada's first coalition government in 91 years.

91 years. Think of that, people, and savor it. This is how a parliamentary system works. Last time this happened, Canada was in the depths of a long and bitter war. Well hey howdy, aren't we now? Our army's been in Afghanistan for longer than World War TWO, if I don't miss my guess.

And this coalition, unlike the conservative/conscriptionist Borden Union Government (which provoked riots in Quebec with its pro-draft stance), won't be such an odious compromise, either. It'll be a PROGRESSIVE one. You know what this historic news calls for?

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Now, with that off my chest, here's a little nitty-gritty wonkery from yer ol' Auntie 'Bina:

The key question of who would lead the first coalition government of modern times remained unsettled Sunday night, as Liberals differed over whether Stéphane Dion should take over as interim prime minister, or a new leader be chosen -- and leadership contenders Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc met to discuss how to proceed.

Dion is stepping down as Liberal leader, but he might be persuaded to postpone that, IF anyone is really so inclined. Iggy the Warmonger is no choice of mine (everything about him just rubs me the wrong way, plus there was all that time he spent at Hahvud). And I don't even know what Dominic LeBlanc looks like, let alone much about his leadership style.

On the other hand, Bob Rae is very familiar to this Ontarian. He's a Liberal now, but used to be NDP, and in those days he was premier of my fair province, too, so to me he seems a natural choice to oversee a Liberal/NDP coalition. His French is decent. He's also tactful and conciliatory enough to make things work. To me he seems like an obvious pick, even if I would much prefer Jack Layton (whom I met in Toronto more than a decade ago, along with his wife Olivia Chow, and instantly liked both of them--which is a very unusual reaction for me to any politician).

All right, people, get to work and hammer out those details. Give this fair land the government it deserves, and let's hope it's a reasonable facsimile of the one the majority of us voted for.

Okay, I can't resist the urge to let out one last whoop. Harpo is finished. And for that, I paraphrase Charles de Gaulle:

Vive le Canada...LIBRE!!!

November 30, 2008

Separated at girth?

Oops, I meant to say "birth":

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Federal transport minister John Baird, Harpo's right-hand man, and...

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...Squealer, Napoleon's right-hand pig?

November 25, 2008

RIP Kenny MacLean

"Somebody Somewhere", the hit written by Kenny MacLean for Platinum Blonde, a Toronto band, in the mid-1980s. Kenny, the band's bass player from their second album onward, was found dead today of a probable heart attack. He was 52.

November 23, 2008

We now have "free" trade with Colombia. How the hell did THAT happen?

From Aporrea, here's one for the scratch-yer-head-till-it-hurts files:

Even though Colombia is not a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, its president, Alvaro Uribe, travelled to Peru to meet with a group of leaders from various parts of the world and to take advantage of the opportunity to establish contacts with China, Japan, Canada and others, with the objective of increasing trade.

Uribe arrived in Lima on Friday afternoon and a few hours later signed a free-trade agreement with Canada, his country's ninth. This Saturday, he signed an agreement to promote and protect investments with China.

According to Uribe, the agreement with Canada will generate some 120,000 agricultural jobs and 97% of Colombian exports will have free access to that North American nation.

Translation mine.

Fuck, shit, shuck fit.

How the hell did this happen? El Narco wasn't even invited, yet he got in AND wangled a free-trade agreement with my home and native land--most of whose citizens don't want free trade, let alone with a narco-terror state like the current, unhappy Colombia. (We get a lot of imports from there already--most of them refugees! In fact, before Harpo, Colombia was our #1 source of refugee claimants.)

Now, don't get me wrong. We don't want "free" trade with anyone, but we would love fair trade. I'm sure Colombia, the part of it that has no truck with Uribe, has something to offer us besides cheap bananas, flowers grown with dangerous chemicals, and former narcoterrorist paramilitaries looking to avoid getting killed by their ex-bosses (who, go figure, are mighty close to El Narco).

But here's the rub: We want to see Colombia get its house in order before we do business with it, because we don't believe doing business with it is enough to put said house in order. Why is it so hard for certain people to comprehend this? Why do they keep pushing for an agreement which would only deepen a current disaster?

"No" is the same word in English and Spanish, and spelled slightly differently, but pronounced the same, in French. So why can't our respective so-called leaders seem to hear it when we're all screaming it at the top of our respective lungs?

November 21, 2008

My heart bleeds. Bwahahaha...

Oh, poor CanWest Global. The poor, poor National Post. Look at what's happening to them now. Don't you feel sorry for them?

Weighed down by debt, media giant CanWest Global Communications Corp. isn't ruling out possible asset sales after buying itself some wiggle room by renegotiating debt covenants and cutting 560 jobs across the company.

[...]

CanWest yesterday posted a loss of $1 billion, or $5.73 a share, for the three-month period ended Aug. 31.

The loss was attributed in part to a $1.01 billion non-cash writedown on the goodwill and broadcast licences related to the company's Canadian conventional television business - a move Asper said had been taken by other big media companies.

Revenue, meanwhile, rose to $725.9 million from $678.4 million a year earlier as the company benefited from last year's acquisition of specialty TV-operator Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc.

CanWest, which also owns the Global television network and big city newspapers across the country, has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks as an economic recession threatens to further sap advertising revenue.

Analysts have expressed concern that the company is in danger of running out of cash to service its $3.7 billion worth of debt obligations.

"Given the high degree of operating and financial leverage across CanWest's operations, we believe a deteriorating economy will remain a major headwind for the company," said Drew McReynolds, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

A "deteriorating economy"? That's not their biggest problem. Their biggest problem is that all of CanWest's products, without exception, STINK. Their TV network has long been consistently the worst in Canada (with ratings to prove it), and the National Post--Convict Black's old vanity rag--has been trying (and failing) to drag us to the far fringe of the rabid right since its inception in the late neo-con 1990s. With pompous know-nothings like, for example, this one pontificating on Venezuela, the National Pest is doomed by its own putrescent innards, not its external environment. It will fold; it's a question of when, not if. (And frankly, I hope none of its so-called journalists ever find a job in the field again, because they've done nothing but lie, mislead, misdirect, lie, lie, lie, and did I mention that they lie?)

And of course, here's what they plan to do about their general lacklustre suckiness and the money pit it's dug for them:

In a bid to fix its balance sheet, CanWest said this week it is cutting 560 jobs, or about 5 per cent of its global workforce. The company said the move would save $61 million a year.

As well, CanWest took steps earlier this month to improve the performance of the National Post, its flagship newspaper, by focusing more on profitable markets and cutting back on deeply discounted circulation.

Notice that NONE of this involves actually improving their product. They could fire all their drivellers and dreck-writers and replace them with real journos who know what they're talking about, but of course that means losing the far-right slant that's made them so infamous and inedible (and indebted) in the first place!

See why I say it's doomed, and why I won't miss it when one more stinking media empire collapses?

November 12, 2008

Dr. Strangewhoops, or How Greenland Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb

Where the hell is Major Kong? Looks like he now has a real-life counterpart or two. Brace yourselves, kiddies, it's a hot one.

What burns me is how close the Thule base is to our own Arctic. I guess this means that to the Nuclear-Industrial Complex, a bunch of Canadian Inuit are disposable, eh?

November 11, 2008

A few (heretical) thoughts on Remembrance Day

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If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

-- Lt.-Col. John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields"

Today is the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, which at that time was known simply as "The Great War".

Nobody back then thought that it was only a FIRST world war, let alone that there would be another (or others, as is now an idea rapidly gaining traction among progressives.) It was known, popularly, as "the war to end all wars"--partly because it was so horrendously destructive, with loss of life on an unprecedented scale, but more, I think, because of the sheer psychological effect of all that destruction on the people who witnessed it at close hand. It caused an enormous distaste for war itself, as well as for the lies that lead to war, and the empires that demand wars in order to perpetuate and sustain themselves. At the Armistice, 90 years ago today, millions of exhausted people sincerely believed that war itself was exhausted--that there could simply never be another, because people would take one look back at the one that had just ended, shudder and decide it wasn't worth it.

How soon they forgot. Just 20 years later, another war was about to begin. Or had begun already, if you accept Hitler's theft of power (and I, for one, do) as the true opening salvo of World War II. The second world war turned out to be an even greater war than the so-called Great War, with more loss of life and more psychological destruction still. By the time Little Boy and Fat Man fried Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, it was clear that the forgetful leaders and peoples of the developed countries had learned absolutely nothing from history, let alone its most horrible prior chapter--which, for many of them, was a vivid, living memory.

Nor, it turns out, would they learn from the second one, either. Fat Man and Little Boy were not the end of their line, but merely the progenitors of a vast and ruinous nuclear-industrial complex. All manner of militarism was so popular and profitable with the US congresses of the 1950s that retiring president Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell speech, very nearly made reference to a military-industrial-congressional complex. Was it only the unwieldiness of the terminology that dissuaded him, or was some other, darker force at work?

What I know is this: Eisenhower, as the general who accepted Germany's surrender at the end of the European phase of WWII, had acquired a personal distaste for war, having seen enough of the shooting kind at close hand to last several lifetimes. A cold war--which I consider to be World War III, since it in fact encapsulated many highly destructive shooting wars, particularly in Latin America--was also repugnant to him, but it seems that talk of the communist menace won out. He mentions that, in the same "military-industrial complex" speech, as a menace "greatly to be feared". Never mind that Soviet Russia had never fired a shot at the so-called Free World, and was in fact its ally during the war against Hitler. Suddenly, at WWII's end, Russia was The Enemy, and Germany was the toy over which the superpowers squabbled, just as Yugoslavia had been some 20 years previously. It made no sense, and still makes no sense, that former allies could so quickly turn on each other for something as abstract as mere ideology--and in fact, ideology really isn't the reason for the sudden turnaround at all.

I've come to an heretical conclusion about the world wars, one that will undoubtedly sit ill with traditionalists and "respectable" historians, who like to tout such pious, abstract notions as freedom, honor and gallantry as the driving forces behind them. But still, mine is the only explanation that makes sense, since a great many free-thinking, honorable and gallant people have never had the least stomach for war, and it does no justice to sweep them under the rug simply because they don't fit a certain "accepted truth". My heretical conclusion is this: The world wars were, and are, all and always, about imperialism, and specifically, imperialism of an economic nature.

Sit back for a moment and let that sink in, dear reader.

Are you shocked? Horrified? Sputtering with rage? Ready to string up the red-headed witch for an unholy blasphemer?

Wait.

And think, for a moment, about why nations go to war against each other in general. What is it that motivates them? A mere hatred by one leader of another leader's guts? Ridiculous. If that were the case, why did Winston Churchill express, early on, admiration of Hitler and Mussolini? And if it was really about democracy versus tyranny, why was he himself a monarchist--and one with bloodthirsty tyrannical tendencies of his own? The fact is, he didn't hate the tyrants' guts or even their grotesque ideologies; he actually admired those. No, the real reason he hated them is that they threatened his beloved British Empire economically and territorially.

And since the territories of empire are acquired for economic reasons above all, it stands to reason that the economic imperative was, however unspoken, paramount. The Boer War, I'm sure, would never have been fought if vast deposits of gold and diamonds had not been found in South Africa. If it were for all the reasons conventionally given, it would have been fought much sooner. Ideology alone was not enough to do it. Neither was geographical unity of the British empire in Africa. And certainly the flaming racism of the Boers was not the real problem; the British were scarcely any better. Winston Churchill himself was a flaming racist; he just wasn't such a country bumpkin about it as the Boers. Class snobbery also counts here, kiddies. Had the agrarian Boers had a Cecil Rhodes to call their own, Britain would surely have lost and its colonists would have ended up toiling like slaves in the mines rather than owning and profiting from them.

Let's face it: Wars fought over political ideology alone tend to be lost by the idealistic ideologues who launch them; wars fought for economic reasons, however, tend to be won by the most avaricious, regardless of who fired the first shot, or of what pretended ideological grounds they claim. This is one field where economic incentive really does shape the outcome. Greek nationalism hit a wall in the 1920s, and Anatolia remains Turkish to this day; perhaps, if cold hard greed rather than nostalgic idealism had been a driving force behind it, and if Greece had been the richer at the outset, the outcome of the Megali Idea would have been very different.

Ideology was, of course, a very convenient pretext for getting the public, especially in the US, to accept the unacceptable: an arms race on which billions of dollars were squandered that would otherwise have gone towards healthcare, education, and social welfare of every kind. Shit, who needs to invest in the peons when their lives are cheaper than the ammo for those highly profitable cannons? Better to scare them with the menace of communism; that way, they'd buy anything. Including stock in the war machine.

Of course, the communist "menace" is still being fraudulently touted today, but it's been largely replaced by the twin spectres of drugs and terrorism, since people have grown largely skeptical that communism was ever such a threat to begin with. Where did they get that idea? Gee, you tell me. How did the Berlin Wall crumble, again?

And what kind of capitalism grew up in its rubble? Something that looks an awful lot like the pre-crash conditions of the late 1920s, you say? Something that looks a lot like history repeating itself, but in a messier, less distinctly staged form, with all the lessons neither learned nor absorbed?

BINGO.

So here we are, drearily slogging through yet another long, ugly, economically motivated world war. For those keeping count, this is World War IV.

Doesn't look like it, you say?

True, the million-scale deaths necessary for a truly spectacular global conflict are not talked about (although, in Iraq, surely more than a million people have died by now.) And no, there's been no spectacular footage of nuclear explosions, either (although radioactive weapons have been deployed, to the tune of 4.5 billion devastating years of half-life.) Talk of ideology, too, is strangely muted, although there are still incoherent mumblings from the US right about some dodo-bird called "Islamofascism", which never existed but once--namely, when Moroccan Moors helped Franco win the Spanish Civil War. (And we all know what side the US right would have taken in THAT one, eh kiddies?)

But economic reasons for the current global cut-and-thrust? Oh, they're there, all right. The biggest one is spelled O-I-L; it's the reason why a funny, lovable democratic socialist leader in Venezuela is being painted as a tyrant (the better to depose him undemocratically). It's also why Ecuador, with its handsome US-educated wonk-in-chief, is being slapped upside the head with an absurd, unwarranted debt rating. It's why the cute, mild-mannered guy in charge of oil-and-gas-rich Bolivia is being satanized as an Indianist racist, despite a total lack of evidence that he is one. It's why right-wing nuts in South Florida are making noises again about the need to annex Cuba, pronto (though, if asked, they will swear up and down that it's that old boogerbear, communism, and nada más). It's also why the war in Iraq is still a long way from over, even though everyone actually fighting it is sick to death and wishing with all their might that it would end this instant. There is talk of that theatre of battle going on for at least another four fucking years!

If this protracted bloodletting isn't a world war, then tell me--what is it?

And tell me, too--if the saying behind our beloved Remembrance Day poppies, dating back to the end of the Great War, is "Lest We Forget"--why the hell have we forgotten, again and again and again?

One would think, after 90 years (and more), that someone besides me would have seen the repetitions of the overall pattern and understood what it all meant.

October 30, 2008

Canadian pop does feminism

"Women Around the World at Work", by Martha & the Muffins. Still the coolest keyboard and sax riffs around. And still some of the punchiest lyrics.

October 23, 2008

And this is why Canada still votes on paper ballots

So that stuff like this doesn't happen.

So that life doesn't imitate art imitating life:

And so that no dickweed with Harpo's tyrannical ambitions gets a parliamentary majority.

Any questions?

October 22, 2008

This just in: British journos are seriously stupid!

serious-cat.jpg

Media Lens, the British media watchdog group, finally draws a conclusion that I figured out for myself a long time ago: that while the British media may be slightly more liberal than their Yank counterparts, they're still piss-poor at doing their actual job--that is, if you consider said actual job to be informing the public of what is really going on in the world, so that the public in turn can do its part and change the world.

And also, that they're a bunch of snot-nosed toddlers with gargantuan egos:

Since starting Media Lens in 2001, we have learned that corporate journalists are very often ill-equipped, or disinclined, to debate vital issues with members of the public.

In 2004, the esteemed Lancet medical journal published a study showing that 98,000 Iraqis had most likely died following the US-led invasion. John Rentoul, chief political correspondent of the Independent on Sunday, responded with sarcasm when we challenged him about his dismissal of the peer-reviewed science:

"Oh no. You have found me out. I am in fact a neocon agent in the pay of the third morpork of the teleogens of Tharg." (Email, September 15, 2005)

Undoubtedly the redoubtable Mr. Rentoul thought he was being witty by saying that. Well, he's half right--but only half. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt about the morpork thing, but by uncritically repeating, for paid publication, what the neo-cons say, he is in fact making himself into their paid agent. It is only a question of whether they pay him directly or indirectly.

By the bye, Mr. Rentoul, blowing snot all over your readers is no more mature than trashing a really serious peer-reviewed medical publication, like the Lancet, for having the temerity to contradict you. I expect that of freepers, not real journalists doing real work in the field.

But maybe I'm being unkind. Perhaps Mr. Rentoul just didn't understand the question? If so, he's not the only one:

In 2003, Roger Alton, then editor of the Observer, also did not take kindly to a reader accusing him of peddling Downing Street propaganda on the eve of the invasion:

"What a lot of balls ... do you read the paper old friend? ... 'Pre-digested pablum from Downing Street...' my arse. Do you read the paper or are you just recycling garbage from Medialens?" (Email, February 14, 2003)

I do hope the reader in question replied to the oh-so-civilized Mr. Alton, something along these lines: "I, sir, do not recycle garbage...but you, sir, DO. It's nice to know that you are so environmentally friendly. From now on, sir, I will follow your example, and recycle your not-so-hard work forthwith as fish-wrap. It's more useful that way than if I actually read it, as I know full well you have not done with anything you got from Downing Street."

But even when the British media decide to get all Web 2.0 (or is it 3.0 by now?) and offer their readers an "interactive" space to opine in, a double standard still prevails:

Last week, Matt Seaton, editor of the Guardian's Comment is Free website, was asked why he dismissed readers of Media Lens as a mere "lobby", but not readers who post comments on his website. Seaton replied:

"because, unlike MediaLens readers, users of Comment is free are not given directives to spam journalists and others - and would not mindlessly follow such directives if they were" (Email, October 15, 2008)

Strange. I receive Media Lens e-mails from time to time, and I do not receive "directives" via them, let alone ones I follow "mindlessly". At the bottom of every one are suggested actions the readers can take, but these are only suggestions. Not all readers take them; certainly not I, because I've actually got a degree in journalism, have met a number of pros from various media, and have seen for myself what a load of monstrous egos and midget minds inhabit the field (yes, even here in nice, liberal, socialistic Canada). A few are as nice as they come (Ron MacLean of CBC Sports is one of those good eggs); others, many more others, are rude and downright nasty even if you ask them for nothing more than the time of day. I really don't feel like writing to those people, because I know in advance that it won't make a difference. I wouldn't get a satisfactory explanation, let alone a "gee, I never thought of that"; I'd count myself lucky to get snotty responses like those catalogued above.

No, I'd rather write of them than to them, and expose them with mockery here, because here, they can't cow or intimidate or (here comes a big bad word, kiddies) CENSOR me. This is my space, and if they ego-google themselves and happen to come across what I say about them, they get what they deserve. So far, not one of them has done so--or at least, not that I would know, because not one of them has expended the very minimal effort (a gentle fluttering of fingers over a keyboard) to say something back.

Hey media types, here's a little free advice for y'all: If you want to be taken seriously, start by taking your work seriously. Don't get all caught up in what Media Lens rightly criticizes as "professional navel-gazing, ego-burnishing and insider gossip." When you sink to that level, you are taking yourself seriously and your work lightly. The public does not benefit from this, unless perhaps you're thinking to cure our collective insomnia that way. (Melatonin works better. Try it sometime.)

If you're going to have a media section, put it to good use and do some real self-criticism once in a while. It may seem painful at first, it may even seem a little Marxist, but it won't hurt you to learn to take your work more seriously and yourselves more lightly. I do it all the time in my own writing, because I feel that I owe it to my readers, as many or as few as they may be. I do it in my poetry, my fiction, my essays, and yes, this blog. Even the silliest stuff, like my satire and my limericks, gets worked over until I feel it will pass muster and make somebody else's day.

The very least you "serious" journo-types can do, if you want the public to respond to you in kind, is to give some evidence that you are capable of independent thought. You can't do that if you recycle blatant nonsense, or praise it (like so many of you did with the Euston Manifesto, a self-congratulatory non-manifesto if ever there was one)--or if you're all wrapped up in cotton balls, insulated by self and station against what you perceive as the rabble. Hello, you're only human, you're a member of it too--get over it, and more importantly, GET OVER YOURSELVES!

And if you want to convince us that you are Serious Cats, don't lose the serious thread. Report the issues honestly--don't just play back what he said, what she said, what they said. Unless you have the nerve to examine what made them say it, you have no business being in the business. You may as well just hunch on your perches, fluff up your feathers, and say "Polly want a cracker", for all the serious difference you make.

October 17, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging Too: Marxism--it's a par-tay!

marx-victory.jpg

Peace, dude.

From Aporrea, an innnnnnteresting sign of the times--and times to come? Could be:

Whether Karl Marx's books are in fashion, or whether this is a response to the financial crisis is unknown, but what is certain is that they have never sold as well as now, says Jorn Schütrumpf, a German editor specializing in Marxist literature. "Since 2005, my sales volume has never stopped growing."

"Of course, there is a fashion, mainly because many young people are buying the book they've never read, and it's a hard, challenging read," said Schütrumpf, surrounded by photographs of the German philosopher, and the emblematic figure of German socialism, Rosa Luxemburg.

In times when the world is on the edge of a recession, Schütrumpf says, "a society which feels the need to read Karl Marx again, is a society which is feeling ill."

Translation mine.

He's not kidding--remember what society was feeling like the last time this happened?

PS: Ha, ha--look who else is noting an interesting trend in Marxism. When Canada's dumbest, dimmest, rightardliest national newspaper is picking up on it, even from THEIR stupid-ass angle, you know something is brewing.

October 11, 2008

In case of election theft, break glass

(Note: This is a spoof. But we really do recognize evolution, gay rights, etc. up here. Pot's not really legal yet, though. And while perfectly legal, abortion may be hard to get depending where you live. Sorry.)

October 9, 2008

Two by Bruce Cockburn

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher"--a peaceful man's anger at war on the poor.

"Call it Democracy"--still relevant today.

This is the kind of great Canadian artist that Harpo thinks is irrelevant to regular folks. Remember this when you go to vote!

October 8, 2008

Quotable: Margaret Atwood on the arts in Canada

"At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we've been punching above our weight on the world stage - in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it's a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada's cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada's GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an 'estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).'

"But we've just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called "ordinary people" didn't care about something called "the arts." His idea of "the arts" is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand: I'm one of them, and I'm no Warren Buffett. I don't whine about my grants because I don't get any grants. I whine about other grants - grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity - not because they think they'll be millionaires.

"Every single one of those people is an 'ordinary person.' Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. 'Ordinary people' pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for 'the arts' in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. 'The arts' are not a 'niche interest.' They are part of being human."

--Margaret Atwood, Mel Hurtig lecture at the University of Alberta, October 1, 2008.

October 7, 2008

Last week of the election campaign panic button edition

What do you bet that all these were the doing of Conservative supporters?

So far, 34 acts of vandalism and threatening phone calls have been reported in the Toronto ridings of St. Paul's and Parkdale-High Park--all directed at persons with Liberal party signs on their lawns. 17 victims have had their cars' brake lines cut. One of the victims, a father of two (ages 22 months and 6 months), sums up the magnitude of the vileness succinctly: "You have to crawl under someone's car and cut the brake line, knowing that it could kill someone, or their whole family."

Really, is the re-election of a bad prime minister worth the deaths of two babies in their car seats? I thought Conservatives were supposed to be "pro-life", but I guess that only refers to fetuses.

Scott Tribe, my fellow Progressive Blogger, has amassed some pics of similar grotesquery in Guelph, Ontario, at his site. (No, it's not just a Toronto thing.)

In case no one has said so yet, this kind of behavior is most unCanadian.

October 5, 2008

As the market goes, so does Harpo's support

And I, for one, am neither surprised nor displeased to learn this:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's stand-pat, don't-panic response to economic turmoil seems to have fallen flat with voters, sending the Conservatives to their lowest support levels of the campaign, according to a new poll.

[...]

Harper, who took a break from the hustings Sunday, will spend the final week contrasting his "modest, achievable, realistic" platform with what the Tory spokesman characterized as the "grandiose, risky schemes" advocated by opposition parties. That will be bolstered by the party's largest-ever, direct-mail campaign warning voters against Dion's proposal to impose a carbon tax.

However, the latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima rolling survey suggests Harper would be wise to bolster his own platform with assurances that he has a plan to ride out the economic maelstrom.

With just over a week to go until voting day on Oct. 14, the survey pegged Tory support at 34 per cent, down from an early campaign high of 41 per cent.

Potentially more ominous for the Tories, who have based their campaign almost entirely on the perceived strength of Harper's leadership, the prime minister's personal popularity has also dipped to a campaign low.

Forty-one per cent said they have a favourable impression of Harper - down 12 points - while 51 per cent had a negative impression.

Forty per cent of respondents said their thinking about which party to support has been somewhat or greatly affected by last week's stock market meltdown, prompted by the financial crisis in the United States. Concern was most pronounced among those in Ontario and Quebec, the country's manufacturing heartland.

Looks like he's not going to get his desired majority (read: bully pulpit). Nor is he even going to hang onto the minority he's got. He stands to lose seats in the very parts of the country where he made such a big to-do about gaining them three years ago. And those parts, as luck would have it, are the industrial ridings of Southern Ontario and Quebec. The parts which are--as luck would also have it--most affected by the stockmarket busts in Toronto and New York. Not, of course, the "safe" Tory ridings of Alberta, where the oil from the Tar Sands seems to have soaked permanently into virtually everyone's brain, so that they vote for the Fuck the Poor party everytime.

The fact that Harpo will be held accountable at the polls surprises me not at all, and I'm hoping he gets a walloping there. I'm not "cheering for a recession", as Harpo and his lackeys have accused his opponents of doing; only a fool (or someone who stands to profit from a recession) does that. What I'm cheering for is the fact that we are now seeing the Emperor stark naked. Laissez-faire (laissez-foutre, really) doesn't work. And also that the NDP's support is up to 20% now. They're not far behind the Liberals, and while they don't seem likely to pass them in the mere week they've got left, they'll probably get their best national showing to date. If that's not something to cheer for, I'll eat my little red hat.

October 2, 2008

Tories = cowards

Debate, schmebate--how do you debate someone who refuses to be debated? You call him by his right name: COWARD!

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper was readying to take on opposition leaders in last night's nationally televised debate, several of his Conservative candidates were making themselves scarce at local debates.

From the North to the Atlantic provinces and the Prairies, Tory candidates have been missing at a number of encounters.

The latest Conservative no-shows covered four Ottawa-area debates, sponsored by Canada's largest public service union and a weekly newspaper, at least one debate in Saskatchewan and two others in Winnipeg and the Northwest Territories.

The scarcity of one Conservative at a riding debate prompted a Calgary CBC radio station to launch a contest to locate Rob Anders, the Conservative incumbent in Calgary West, to prove he was still alive.

A Liberal party list of Tory candidates who have refused to participate in debates had grown to 17 across Canada by yesterday, before the no-shows registered this week.

Why do I get the feeling they had to be summoned with a loud, derisive "BAWK, buk buk buk buk"?

This, people, is what happens when you get a smug, self-satisfied party that relies more on the cult of personality and stupid, standard soundbites than on a willingness to campaign, and debate, on the merits of an actual platform. Maybe it's because when it comes to platforms, the Tories don't seem to have one--but they do have a crappy-ass record. About all they CAN run on is image and soundbites, because if they had to do it any other way, they'd lose.

They want a parliamentary majority, but with the repeated contempt the Conservative candidates (most recently, and notably, Maxime "Biker Babe Boinker" Bernier) have shown for everything from the Parliament to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to the church/state separation, to journalists, to their own local ridings, they don't deserve even a minority.

September 23, 2008

Quotable: Wajdi Mouawad on art and politics

"Now, as one functionary to another, this is the second thing that I wanted to tell you: no government, in showing contempt for artists, has ever been able to survive. Not one. One can, of course, ignore them, corrupt them, seduce them, buy them, censor them, kill them, send them to camps, spy on them, but hold them in contempt, no. That is akin to rupturing the strange pact, made millennia ago, between art and politics."

--Wajdi Mouawad, "An open letter to Prime Minister Harper", at The Wrecking Ball

September 2, 2008

Debbie Schlussel: rough 'n' ready, 'n' wrong, wrong, WRONG!

A month ago today, right-wing idiotess Debbie Schlussel totally soiled herself over the horrible murder of young Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus near Neepawa, Manitoba.

Now, what some random twat says about senseless violence might not matter so much to me had she not seen fit to use that incident as an excuse to impugn the honor of all Canadians, and on ideological grounds, no less:

While I do not know if it has anything to do with nationality, I'm struck by what I can imagine was a bunch of scaredy-cat people (in this case, socialist Canadians), who didn't want to risk of themselves to help this innocent victim of a brutal murder.

Okay, bitch, put 'em up. And don't give me that "I won't fight because I can't, I'm just a tiny woman" crap. You want to show us how much bigger and badder you oh-so-capitalist Yanks are? What's the matter, too scared? Well, don't worry, we don't really want to beat on your ass--we're too busy laughing our asses off at you for how wrong you got every last detail of this story.

Let's start on the "Canadians are cowards" angle. Not only did the victim himself put up a fight, thus saving the lives of his fellow riders, there's now a story out on CBC that a trucker named Chris Alguire, who hadn't been on the bus at the time of the killing, later intervened:

Continue reading "Debbie Schlussel: rough 'n' ready, 'n' wrong, wrong, WRONG!" »

August 19, 2008

What's good for GM ain't so good for Venezuela

Found something interesting and curious at Aporrea and just had to translate:

"For 60 years, we of GMV have been working with Venezuela and its people; it's our fundamental job to think of this organization as a great human team, which has the right to exercise its functions to contribute to the well-being of the country, of business, of its families, and ourselves." (El Nacional, Page 1-21, Sunday, August 17, 2008)

Some older workers will recall that during the first administration of Rafael Caldera, General Motors had an assembly plant in La Yaguara, Caracas--surrounded by high electric fences and watchtowers with reflectors, in order to defend itself against guerrilla attacks.

A rebellious worker, detained by company security and the National Guard, was incarcerated and tortured for several days in a dungeon on the premises, before being handed over to the DIGEPOL, the infamous political police of those days. When he was finally freed, the worker took his case to the Ministry of Labor whose head, Tarre Murzi, ordered an inspection of the GM plant.

The Ministry inspectors weren't allowed to enter, on the grounds that GM was a US business, so the Ministry had no jurisdiction over it. The minister, indignant, called a press conference to which, strangely, no one came. When a second such conference was similarly boycotted by the official and private media, Tarre Murzi took up the embarrassing matter with President Caldera--who, true to his "principles", fired the minister.

Continue reading "What's good for GM ain't so good for Venezuela" »

August 17, 2008

Oh, those "pro-life" Catholics!

First, they made an attempt on the life of the president of Ecuador:

Continue reading "Oh, those "pro-life" Catholics!" »

August 16, 2008

And this is why I call them SupposiTories

Looks like the "new" Conservative federal government up here is getting old awful fast. They're a minority, but they bully like they're the only game in town, and a Globe & Mail editorial calls them on it:

Last year, the governing Conservatives prepared a secret handbook on how to disrupt parliamentary committees and create chaos. No mere pamphlet, the book ran to 200 pages.

It instructed committee chairmen to select blatantly biased witnesses and tutor them in advance. It gave the chairmen pointers on how to obstruct parliamentary business, to storm out of meetings if necessary.

Team Harper never expected its opus to be made public. But the media got hold and the headlines poured forth - "Tories blasted for handbook on paralyzing Parliament" and the like.

Liberal Ralph Goodale noted how it was rather peculiar to see the government getting its knickers in a knot over a dysfunctional, chaotic Parliament when, in fact, "the government's deliberate plan is to cause a dysfunctional, chaotic Parliament."

We thought the Grits were bad, chimed in the New Democrat, Libby Davies. But these guys, she said, were taking the gutter stuff to a new level. "They've codified it."

Continue reading "And this is why I call them SupposiTories" »

July 23, 2008

Charlie Rose in conversation with Neil Young

Canada's elder statesman of folk-rock strips his soul--buck naked--on his Living With War album, his latest film, creativity, ecology, love and more:

Young doesn't use set-lists in his performances; he proceeds naturally and organically, as the feeling takes him. He repeatedly emphasizes the notion of creativity as a gift, a mysterious impulse to be followed as it strikes: "Respect the source. Be there for the source."

Words to live by, whether you're talking about creative impulses, or anything else.

July 20, 2008

Don't stop Bill C-51, stop the hysterics!

Lately, I've been hit with a spate of petitions to sign and YouTubes to watch, all claiming that a certain bill currently before the House of Commons will make it illegal for you to grow garlic or take Vitamin C. Most of the well-meaning but ill-informed souls who keep sending me this stuff haven't actually troubled to read the bill.

But trust me, folks, it's worth the trouble to read. It will calm your spinning mind and slow your palpitating heart, all naturally. Bill C-51 is not going to send the feds out to confiscate your comfrey or take away your tulsi. It doesn't grant them that power. What it does is require that all patented natural health products sold in stores receive identification numbers, similar to the system already in place for drugs, and health product companies will have to be licensed--i.e. pass muster as safe and reliable--with Health Canada before their products can be placed on store shelves.

Contrary to the C-51 naysayers' hysteria, this does NOT mean that "70% of all natural products could disappear from store shelves"--a nice round figure, which I suspect is vital if you're pulling things out of your ass. What it means is that most existing products which are known to be safe and reliable, will stay right where they are, and instead, anything new and/or potentially risky will be more closely monitored. C-51 will also facilitate the recall of anything found to be dangerous, or just plain not living up to its manufacturer's claims. I can't imagine anyone having a problem with that, can you?

Continue reading "Don't stop Bill C-51, stop the hysterics!" »

July 1, 2008

A stupid note on Canada Day

And who struck it, albeit inadvertently? The CBC. They interviewed a group of new immigrants (there's a special citizenship ceremony for some of them on Canada Day), and who did they interview? Some twit from Venezuela who claims he came here because of "political instability" back home.

Talk about desecrating the day. Can we please leave the political bullshit out of it and just interview someone who came from a REALLY unstable place next time, CBC? Like, oh, I dunno, COLOMBIA?

Jesus doesn't like it when you lie!

Even Jesus Hates You

At least, that's the impression I got last time I thumbed through any of the four Gospels. Too bad this site, calling itself the Catholic World News, hasn't gotten that message...and apparently, neither has a politically uncelibate Venezuelan archbishop, who routinely violates his vows with the opposition:

Continue reading "Jesus doesn't like it when you lie!" »

June 25, 2008

Aww, too bad!

What a shame. Lord Blah-Blah has to serve out his full sentence:

Conrad Black's conviction on fraud and obstruction of justice charges has been upheld by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The court said today that defence lawyers' arguments weren't strong enough to topple Black's conviction.

Black has been at a minimum-security prison in Florida since March serving a 6 1/2-year sentence.

Minimum security, such a light sentence--and he still appealed it? What a self-important wanker.

June 23, 2008

John McCain is...

...one of these:

Asshat!

Oh, you think I'm being too harsh? Here:

Continue reading "John McCain is..." »

June 10, 2008

CTV reports a death in Afghanistan...

...with a rare dose of honesty:

A B.C. father says the loss of his soldier son to a freak accident in Afghanistan will haunt him forever.

"Of course I grieve," David Snyder told CTV News from his home in Penticton on Sunday about the death of Capt. Jonathan Sutherland Snyder.

"Of course I will have a hollow in my being forever."

[...]

"It's about hazard and chance, and unfortunately there was an accident -- and he died," David Snyder said.

The former reservist also said: "War is stupid. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows that. Well, no they don't. The politicians don't know that."

He also told The Canadian Press that he supported his son and the military, but not the Afghanistan mission.

You had to see the video yesterday, though--they actually showed this intelligent, articulate man questioning the government, the Afghanistan mission, the stupidity of war. For a corporate, corporatist, rah-rah network like CTV, this was really saying something.

Of course, some commenters on the CTV site took him to task for it, accusing him of "playing politics" like Cindy Sheehan. I doubt whether this is "playing" anything. Cindy was right to question the cause for which her son died, and so is this man. It's a credit to see, however, far more voices criticizing the critics than the grieving father, who has every right in a democratic country to express his obviously well-thought-through opinion.

It's not a soldier's prerogative to question his mission; it is that of the civilians, particularly his family, who can hold the government accountable in the event of his death.

June 5, 2008

The myth of happy racism

Found a little item on Aporrea and thought I'd translate it and follow up with a few thoughts of mine own:

Could it be that my black friends in the Venezuelan opposition don't feel that they are being alluded to when other oppositionists use words like "niches" (common, vulgar people), "monos" (monkeys), "macacos" (ditto), etc.? Could it be that they just don't say such things in front of my friends? It saddens me to say that in front of me, yes, they say those things.

The Venezuelan right-wing has trouble with its racism for two reasons, one bigger than the other. The smaller is that, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said, the main difference between Colombia and Venezuela is that in Colombia, the conservatives win all the wars, and in Venezuela, the liberals win. The conservatives lose the wars but win the peace and go on ruling, because the only visible gain left to the liberals is that racism had become shameful and official ideology camouflaged it. There was racism, stupid like all a priori segregation between people, but up until 1998 it was shifty and artful. The racists would surely blush to show themselves as much as they do in Bolivia. Because in Venezuela--this is the bigger reason--even the most "aryan" has an African grandmother, as Romulo Betancourt once said.

Continue reading "The myth of happy racism" »

May 27, 2008

L'affaire Couillard--c'est le Maxime!

Ah oui, cher(e) ami(e), Tante Bina a trouvé beaucoup d'histoires bien scandaleuses pour toi!

Ahem. En anglais:

Maxime Bernier, our beleaguered and blundering foreign-affairs minister, has finally resigned. The reason? His ex-girlfriend, the erstwhile biker babe Julie Couillard, is in fact something of a security risk--a fact that Bernier and the Harper Tories repeatedly denied. When questioned (very politely) on the matter of her questionable ties by the opposition, the Tories cried salaciousness.

And considering that Bernier left confidential documents at her house, there seems to be some validity to the line of questioning on her potential for security risks. Meanwhile, we find out that somebody bugged her bedsprings.

She also accompanied him to his swearing-in spilling major cleavage. And she's now spilling her story.

Who's salacious again?

Now, for a scary thought: I called Bernier on his cowardly putziness regarding torture earlier this year. He's also well known for his out-of-line remarks on Afghanistan. Now I wonder if he and his ex-GF were actually the official conduit for Afghan heroin--the only cash crop Afghanistan is actually cashing in on--to the Hell's Angels. You have to admit Julie's credentials are ideal for the job.

Meanwhile, Maxime is going down in history--like a sack of solid lead bricks.

Quel fromage.

May 26, 2008

Harper, Harris--what's the diff?

Not a dime's worth, apparently, beyond the fact that the one is federal and the other provincial. The one's from out west, the other's from up north. Our "new Conservative" PM is well known for his penchant for recycling right-wing failures from other hardline Conservative governments-that-failed. Apparently, in Harpoland, the fecal matter falls up--just as in BushCo's Amurrica. And my, how the sewage flows uphill here in Ontario lately--more specifically, all the way from Walkerton to Parliament Hill. Meet the New Tory, same as the Old Tory (not to be confused with the respected Red Tory, now alas a Dead Tory).

A certain failed premier of Ontario is obviously the template for the "new Conservative" Harpo. His latest environmentally dubious recycle? None other than a goober from the late and unlamented Mike Harris regime:

Continue reading "Harper, Harris--what's the diff?" »

May 11, 2008

When they don't sign their names, what does it say about what they have to say?

The reason I ask that long-winded question is this "opinion", which is presented as if it were fact, in the National Pest, Canada's would-be paper of record:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been accused of many things: squandering his country's oil income, suppressing opposition media, using his army to intimidate the citizenry. Now, documents recovered from computers belonging to FARC, the drug-funded Leninist insurgency based in Colombia, suggest Mr. Chavez may be actively undermining the sovereign government of its western neighbour. If so, the Western Hemisphere may be about to gain its first internationally designated state sponsor of terrorism.

Continue reading "When they don't sign their names, what does it say about what they have to say?" »

May 7, 2008

One, two, three, four...

...let's have a CLASS WAR!

On second thought, says the National Pest, maybe not. Too bad for them that Linda McQuaig, Conrad Black's pet hate and Terence Corcoran's nemesis, is on the case. And, unlike Corcoran, she doesn't like to make lies and damn lies out of statistics:

Continue reading "One, two, three, four..." »

May 6, 2008

On behalf of all Canadians, I apologize...

...for the rude, snotty dickweed we have for a prime minister. Canadians are a polite lot in general, but you'd never know it to look at our PM. The Harper Index, a progressive news site that follows the foibles of the Stiffy, has a list of folks he's snubbed (which is sure to grow as time keeps on slipping-slipping-slipping into the future), and there are some doozers on it:

Bono, the international rock star and AIDS activist, was snubbed by Stephen Harper at the G8 summit, who said he was too busy to discuss the African AIDS crisis with him. "Meeting celebrities isn't my shtick," Harper said. "That was the shtick of the previous guy."

Continue reading "On behalf of all Canadians, I apologize..." »

April 21, 2008

Lord, what class!

Conrad Black gives a photog the finger

You can always count on Conrad Moffat Black, His Lordship of Crossharbour (and lately, of the Penitentiary) to exemplify model behavior and propriety. And to illustrate, in graphic terms, just what conservatism is all about.

And now, you can also grin at the sweetness of the Lords of Karma, because the above photo won its shooter a prize:

A photo of former Canadian media baron Conrad Black giving the finger to reporters during his trial in Chicago has taken top prize for spot news at the second annual National Pictures of the Year awards competition.

[...]

The Conrad Black photo was taken by David Chidley of the Canadian Press during the businessman's trial, in which Black was convicted of obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of his former newspaper company, Hollinger International Inc.

Black is currently serving a 6 1/2-year sentence at a jail in central Florida.

Couldn't have been more richly deserved, eh?

April 1, 2008

They call THIS upholding free speech?

As a Canadian, I must say reading things like this makes me hang my head in shame. See if you can guess why:

Canada is often thought of as a land of bland consensus and multicultural harmony - the last place where you would expect to see a religious minority up in arms, and journalists accusing the state of gagging freedom of speech.

Yet in recent months, these have become fixtures of the country's public debate.

The opening shot was fired by Mark Steyn, an outspoken conservative columnist regarded by supporters as the Canadian equivalent of Denmark's cartoonists or the Netherlands' Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Continue reading "They call THIS upholding free speech?" »

February 25, 2008

Ah, que c'est magnifique!

Un grand salut to a French supermarket chain for its efforts in going after the corporate greedheads...je vous admire, chers messieurs et 'dames!

The French supermarket chain Leclerc, one of the most important in the country, has decided to punish the big brands for raising the prices of their products too high, according to the daily Le Monde.

As of Friday, February 1, the chain plans to remove the following articles from its shelves: the 12-pack of the cheese "La vache qui rit", by Fromageries Bel; Ajax cleanser, made by Colgate-Palmolive; L'Oreal and Nivea facial creams; Orangina soft drinks; and Brossard cookies.

These products had raised their prices between 8.29% and 20.63% in recent months, which the chain does not consider justifiable in light of inflation.

"These items will not return to our stores until the suppliers agree not to raise their prices above the average of others of their kind," stated one of the owners of the chain, Miguel Eduardo Leclerc.

Translation mine.

Yowie zowie, that's positively shades of Chavecito!

As much as I love that Laughing Cow cream cheese, I've been finding it prohibitively expensive here in Canada, too. We could use this kind of price-fighting here.

Dis donc, Miguel Eduardo, ne pouvez-vous aller à faire la même chose ici?

February 24, 2008

Karl Rove: NOT welcome in Vancouver!

In Venezuela, the neo-con rich bang pots to bring down a popular president, and bring back oppression of the poor. In Canada, the regular folks do it the other way around--to fight the rich neo-cons who are trying to cheat us all out of a good future.

BTW, the Fraser Institute is deeply un-Canadian and downright anti-Canadian. During the '90s, they faked a big debt crisis (in response to the overlords of international capitalism), falsely claiming that we could no longer afford a public social safety net, and the media bought it. The feds cut some social services and downloaded others onto the provinces; the provinces then turned around and did the same to municipalities. And right now, the municipalities are teetering on a brink, and taxpayers are still paying (through the nose) for all this Fraser treachery. When we're not having to pay through the nose for less efficient, more expensive private-for-profit DISservices. Meanwhile, poverty is worse--thanks to Fraser's loud hyping of a crisis-that-never-was. So it's good to see them get some bad publicity for a change, and on Global at that--the most right-wing of our major TV networks!

(Oh, and they're still at it, too...as recently as 2006, they were ringing the phony alarm bells about our national debt, AGAIN. Pfeh.)

February 23, 2008

You know you've come a long way when...

...a gay pastor who broke the same-sex marriage barrier gets positively reported in the redneck-conservative Toronto Sun!

The Order of Canada was awarded for the first time to a gay activist at Rideau Hall yesterday.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean presented Torontonian Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes with the country's highest civilian honour for his long-standing work as a gay rights champion.

"About 27 years ago, I was fasting to protest the police actions around the bathhouse raids," Hawkes, 57, said in a phone interview. "And to see how far we've come, that Canada is the first country in the world to give its highest award to a gay activist."

Continue reading "You know you've come a long way when..." »

February 5, 2008

Q. Why does Stormfront hate human rights?

A. Because Stormfront hates everything and everyone except their fellow neo-Nazi whackjobs, duh.

What's really funny is that they're now holding up two people they would otherwise look upon as sworn enemies as champions of their, uh, "right to free speech".

A Liberal MP is being hailed as a poster boy for free speech on a white supremacist website.

Victoria MP Keith Martin was praised Friday on stormfront.org, a website that proudly displays the logo "White pride world wide" and links to radio addresses by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Martin earned the dubious distinction after giving notice that he plans to introduce a private member's motion calling on the government to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

[...]

The extreme right adherents at Stormfront were clearly thrilled to find a member of the Liberal party, which introduced the act and prides itself as the party of the Charter of Rights, joining their crusade.

"The sordid Soviet-style reign of terror by the Canadian Human Rights Commission is now out in the open," declares Paul Fromm in a posting on the website.

"The CHRC reign of thought control looks like a drying pool of vomit on the dirty floor of some dingy dive. Yes, it stinks and good men are beginning to speak up."

Fromm, a controversial anti-immigration and free speech activist who has been linked to neo-Nazi groups in the past, predicts it "may be easier" for Conservative MPs to back the motion because it's being introduced by a Liberal of "white and Indian (India) parentage."

The website urges readers to join a campaign to pressure their MPs to support Martin's motion.

For Martin, receiving praise from a white-supremacist group was both unwelcome and ironic.

"I'm a brown guy," he quipped in an interview.

Wait a second, you say--that's just one of them. Who's the other?

Continue reading "Q. Why does Stormfront hate human rights?" »

January 27, 2008

Well. Now I've TRULY heard everything...

...at least, I think I have. For all those who doubt that racists--not just skinheads, but all of them--talk in code, here...bone up on the latest, courtesy of the National Post.

It was a routine e-mail from the boss sent to congratulate a junior prosecutor in Houston, Tex., who had won manslaughter convictions against an intoxicated driver.

"He convicted Mr. Sosa of a double intoxication manslaughter, got a weak jury to give him 12 years in each, and then convinced Judge Wallace to stack the sentences," Harris County assistant district attorney Mike Trent wrote in an office-wide memo. Then came the odd part: "He overcame a subversively good defence by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."

The e-mail was sent in 2003 but came to light only this month as part of an unrelated controversy with his office, forcing Mr. Trent to defend himself against accusations of bigotry -- not because he offended the people of Canada, but because "Canadian" has apparently become a code word for blacks among American racists.

Continue reading "Well. Now I've TRULY heard everything..." »

January 22, 2008

Hi, my name is Maxime.

And I am a cowardly, spineless, gonadally impaired Tory wuss.

Maxime Bernier, cowardly supposiTory from Quebec

What does 'Bina have against me? Oh, just this. And this.

My name is Maxime Bernier, I am the Tories' token Quebecois, and I love torture.

January 21, 2008

A letter to Mike Malloy

I decided to get busy with the e-mail tonight. Let's see if this gets read on the air.

To: mike@mikemalloy.com

Subject: Maybe it's not my place to say this, but...

Hey, Mike...

Maybe it's not my place to say this, as a white Canadian woman who was just a baby in diapers when Dr. King was killed. Obviously I have no grand and glorious MLK "experiences" to share. So I'll try to spit my bit without resorting to the usual media encomiums and pablum about him. God knows we've all heard enough of those today.

Continue reading "A letter to Mike Malloy" »

January 8, 2008

Third World invades First World! Film at 11...

Well, actually, no film. Why? Because this isn't sexy enough for TV, compared to Britney's latest camera-friendly freak-out:

The United States ranks last among 19 industrialized nations when it comes to deaths that could have been prevented.

The report by The Commonwealth Fund, published in the journal Health Affairs, said 101,000 deaths per year could have been prevented by access to timely and effective healthcare. The top performers were France, Japan and Australia.

Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at deaths "amenable to healthcare before age 75 between 1997-98 and 2002-03."

The researchers found that while other countries saw these types of deaths decline by an average of 16 percent, the United States experienced only a 4 percent decline. "It is notable that all countries have improved substantially except the U.S.," said Nolte, lead author of the study.

Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said the finding that other countries are reducing preventable deaths more rapidly with less money "indicates that policy, goals and efforts to improve health systems make a difference."

Translation from Wonkish to plain English: Knock off with all the free-market shit, America, you are starting to eat your young! Get single-payer public healthcare already, and take some lessons from your neighbors to the north!

Of course, to say something like that would make one a socialist, and everyone knows socialism is evil. Milton Friedman said so. (So do some "Christian" wackos with obviously zero knowledge of the subject.)

Soon as I find out where they buried Friedman, I swear I will make a pilgrimage to piss on his grave. I think it's quite right to hold him responsible for the current mess, and I hate what he's done to my American friends.

What a pity we Canadians don't have another John Kenneth Galbraith on hand to lend our buddies to help them get themselves sorted out properly.

January 1, 2008

A Canadian new year's tradition

It wouldn't be Canada without the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

And it wouldn't be a happy new year without the firing of the Chicken Cannon:

Granted, this was from five years ago. But I like to think the target is still relevant.

December 31, 2007

Quotable: Morley Callaghan on fascism and the church

"It seems to me that those who have tried to make the rebel cause the Christian cause have no shame. All those who are heart and soul with the rebels have made a clear cut choice between the things that are Caesar's and the things that are God's. They are on the side of property rights against human rights."

--Morley Callaghan, Canadian author, writing during the Spanish Civil War as a Catholic in support of the Republican cause. The Vatican notably took the opposite side, and still does.

One more case of deep prostration

From the Halifax News, some important information about the difference between Canadian privacy law and that of our neighbors to the south--a difference that is now being eroded due to the push for "deep integration":

Individual privacy is best protected in Canada and under threat in the United States and the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and border control, an international rights group said in a report released yesterday.

Canada, Greece and Romania had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by London-based watchdog Privacy International. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst.

Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies."

"The general trend is that privacy is being extinguished in country after country," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Even those countries where we expected ongoing strong privacy protection, like Germany and Canada, are sinking into the mire."

Continue reading "One more case of deep prostration" »

December 26, 2007

American Fascists: the Hour interview with Chris Hedges

George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC's The Hour (he never introduces himself as "your host", always, endearingly, as "your boyfriend") interviews Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists:

Hedges makes the interesting and useful point that the reason Canada doesn't have a fundie-dominionist problem is because we still have some semblance of a social safety net. He observes that fascism takes hold when there is prolonged instability and insecurity in a country. His only fault, as far as I can see, is that he doesn't see it is already happening in the United States.

December 25, 2007

Oh look! I found The Frantics!!!

And now that I've said that, I'll have to put them back again.

(Seriously, folks...you haven't seen Canadian comedy until you've seen these guys.)

("SHUT UP!!!")

December 12, 2007

Bless you, Don MacRae...

Though I don't know who you are, sir, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. I loved this letter you wrote to the editors of TheMorningCall.com:

According to a Dec. 4 editorial, Hugo Chavez is taking advantage of the ''disparity between Venezuela's 'Haves' and 'Have-nots' that really threatens democracy there.'' If Venezuela was at our southern borders rather than Mexico, Americans would be celebrating his efforts to educate, provide health care and create jobs for the 'Have-nots.' But that's not happening in Mexico, so there is illegal immigration.

The recent referendum was criticized as Chavez's attempt to be ''president for life.'' But there is no guarantee that Chavez would be re-elected if presidential term limits were lifted. When will the U.S. Constitution be amended to limit the number of terms that senators and representatives may serve? Or is there some virtue in having elected officials continue in office?

After Franklin Roosevelt was elected for four terms to serve from 1933 to 1949 (he died in office in 1945), the U.S. constitution was amended. The 22nd Amendment limits the president to two terms in office.

Saying that Chavez intends to replace democracy with socialism is misleading. Socialism is part of our democratic system. Fire and police departments, educational facilities, roads, water and sewage works, recreational areas, parks and rivers are just some of our socialist institutions.

Good, solid points all. I would add that socialism is to economics what democracy is to politics--a process of more equitable distribution of powers. In fact, you can't have real socialism without democracy in some form, because a process of more equitable distribution can't work if it's run from the top down. It needs grassroots participation, and it needs to give the people a say; it's a no-brainer. What political system provides that better than democracy? (BTW, Canada's socialist system also provides healthcare, old-age pensions, and unemployment benefits.)

Bless you, sir, and keep setting them straight.

December 7, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Baby, it's cold outside...

...and we're about due for another dumper of lake-effect snow here on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The seasonal norm is 3 degrees Celsius, and today's high was that...in the negative integers. My joints ache, my fingers are waxen white and my nail beds are blue. That's why I'm holed up in here, looking for pictures with something about them that'll warm my cockles.

Like, oh, say, Chavecito's cozy scarf, which goes great with dimples...

Chavecito in a very cozy looking scarf

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Baby, it's cold outside..." »

November 27, 2007

Who died and made Fedecamaras king?

The arrogance of these people just knows no bounds. I wonder if the reporter for the Canadian Press agency wasn't chuckling when s/he wrote this:

Fedecamaras, which counts thousands of large and small businesses among its members, rejected Chavez's constitutional overhaul as an "illegal act" in mid-November, and has since called on Venezuelans to oppose its passage in a Dec. 2 referendum "by every possible legal means."

First of all, what gives THEM the authority to pronounce on the legality of a constitutional reform? Do they still think they write the law in Venezuela, and the government's duty is to rubber-stamp it? Apparently they do. Which is why they oppose those reforms--the reforms were written by not only Chavez, but the National Assembly, and some of them directly undermine the unelected power of the business sector, which is led by Fedecamaras.

And secondly, what is "every possible legal means"? The only way the reforms can be defeated is by VOTING. Anything else is NOT legal. Empty rhetoric? Hey, no one farts it like business leaders. Empty barrel, loudest noise, blah blah.

But what really makes me giggle over all this is how the CP reported this as if Fedecamaras had any moral standing left. I wonder how hard it was to keep a straight face while noting the following:

Continue reading "Who died and made Fedecamaras king?" »

November 25, 2007

How right was Clara Fraser...

...when she wrote that profit is unpaid wages?

Well, in the case of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce alone, she was right to the tune of at least $600 million. And bear in mind that when this was written, the loonie was still BEHIND the greenback.

Not no more, it's not.

Loonie kicking sand on George Washington

Loud and clear, but saying the wrong thing

Somebody please tell Harpo that the incumbent Australian PM got voted out because he refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol. Harpo opened his piehole wide at the Commonwealth Summit in Kampala, Uganda...and the wrong sounds came out. And right on the heels of that came a major, MAJOR fuckery:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted any reference to binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions be deleted because the call for committing to such targets would not apply to all major polluters.

"What we were dealing with here was an initial proposal that would suggest binding and absolute targets on some countries and not others. And Canada has been insistent now at three consecutive international forums that we need one effective international protocol that ultimately involves action by all major emitters," he said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who met earlier Saturday with Harper, was one of the strongest advocates of a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

But Canada refused to agree to the plan, and without consensus, the Commonwealth was blocked.

Continue reading "Loud and clear, but saying the wrong thing" »

November 19, 2007

Venezuelan opposition, take note...

You people. You're always claiming that Hugo Chavez--YOUR president, like it or not--is trying to drag your barely-existent middle class into poverty, because it's the poor that vote for him and so he wants to make/keep people poor in his efforts to be president for life.

The fact that all this is a shameless lie doesn't stop you from repeating it. Or believing it. You people are not so much human beings as loop tapes on endless replay. Do you seriously believe Karl Rove's unwritten adage--that endless repetition magically turns a lie into truth?

Continue reading "Venezuelan opposition, take note..." »

November 17, 2007

Canada's big shame

The video of the tasering of Robert Dziekanski speaks for itself.

The videographer mistakes him for a Russian (unable to distinguish the language from the victim's native Polish). But what's unmistakable here is that the man was NOT so violent that he had to be forcibly subdued, let alone in the manner we see here. He was frustrated enough to throw some furniture--looking around to see if anyone was paying attention, meaning this was not done out of blind rage or that brand new bullshit excuse for Taser deaths and police brutality, "excited delirium", but with the intent of getting the airport authorities to help him.

And after more than ten hours of unexplained delay and waiting and inability to contact his mother who was supposed to meet him at the Vancouver airport, it is quite understandable that he'd be anxious. Who wouldn't be, as a new immigrant in a country whose language he couldn't speak, whose customs (and immigration procedures) he didn't understand, and whose authorities apparently couldn't be bothered to dig up an interpreter and help him out?

We are not a police state, but things like this make me wonder what's becoming of us.

Robert Dziekanski was buried today in Kamloops, BC.

November 16, 2007

President for life, eh???

Uh...no. Sorry, all ye wingnuts, but the Big Guy himself just contradicted the dumbest of your alarmist claims. Story from Aporrea:

According the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez Frias, the most important thing is that the people have the power to elect and re-elect a president as many times as they want. He expressed this during an interview conducted by French journalists Mariani Pascale and Renaud Girard, of the daily newspaper Le Figaro.

In response to questions about the referendum on constitutional reforms, to be held on December 2, he reiterated that the re-election proposal was not made with the intention to be president for life without offering the citizens the power to decide, as in Europe.

Continue reading "President for life, eh???" »

October 26, 2007

Well, whaddya know...

Premier Stelmach paid attention!

First it was Venezuela. Now, Nigeria is reviewing its relationships with international oil companies and the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta is set to announce a decision Thursday on increasing royalties from the energy industry. It's a move the industry warns could devastate Alberta's oil patch.

At least once analyst compared Alberta to Venezuela last month after a government-appointed panel called for the province to boost its total take from the energy industry by 20 percent a year, or roughly $2 billion.

Continue reading "Well, whaddya know..." »

October 20, 2007

An election issue, you say?

Incredible!

It may be more than a year away, but Americans already think they know what the big issues of the 2008 presidential election will be.

On the thousands of web pages, acres of newsprint and hours of airtime already devoted to the long race to the White House, two subjects get most attention: how and when to end the war in Iraq and how healthcare should be paid for.

But another issue is gaining prominence, one which is of much greater significance to the rest of the world.

Indeed, it is one that could have profound implications for the global economy.

The issue is free trade.

President Bush devoted his most recent weekly radio address to lauding the benefit America gets from free trade deals.

"Millions of American jobs depend on exports," he said.

"More exports support better and higher-paying jobs - and to keep our economy expanding, we need to keep expanding trade."

Continue reading "An election issue, you say?" »

October 9, 2007

They could learn a thing or two from Venezuela

From Straight Goods, two interesting articles on Alberta and its oil.

Numero Uno notes that Ontario's oil addiction is fueling Alberta's polluting ways, and reviews a bomb-throwerish book whose basic thesis is that Albertans are stupid for polluting so much and not giving a shit. Of course, it's not as if our entire country isn't car-dependent to a fault, and it's not as if that isn't feeding into the nasty state of affairs in Alberta. And it's not as if there aren't conservative politicians all over it doing their damnedest to keep it that way--because, they say, jobs depend on it. (Someone kindly clue them in to the radical notion that protecting the ecology is also good for the economy--environmentally-friendlier technology CREATES jobs. Someone also inform them that green politics are taking hold in Alberta even as the pollution problem goes from bad to worse--precisely because there IS a pollution problem, and the ranchers aren't so happy with the oilpatch. Remember, farmers feed cities!)

Numero Dos is even more interesting. Finally, word is getting out that the way Alberta's oilpatch does business...is not sound business. Alberta's public sector is suffering because oil is treated as a private-sector purview, which it shouldn't be. And the fact that the oil industry is still crying poor, has Ricardo Acuña of the Parkland Institute calling foul:

Continue reading "They could learn a thing or two from Venezuela" »

October 8, 2007

Floaters in space

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how space toilets work. Stick around till the end and you might learn something about, er, meteor showers.

A faith-based flipflop...flops

Oh, how I wish our neighbors to the south were taking notes right now. This, folks, is an example of how NOT to mix religion and politics.

Continue reading "A faith-based flipflop...flops" »

September 23, 2007

SupposiTory takes aim at Native people

It's not hard to guess who he's really targeting here, is it?

Anyone directing, participating in or financially supporting an illegal land occupation in Ontario would face harsher penalties under a Progressive Conservative government, leader John Tory said Sunday as he paid a visit to one of the province's current cauldrons of aboriginal unrest.

Tory took his election effort to this southern Ontario community, where Six Nations protesters have been occupying the site of a now-moribund housing development since February 2006, to denounce the way Premier Dalton McGuinty's government has handled the conflict.

John Tory: not racist. Honest, Injun!

September 9, 2007

So Brian Mulroney was on CTV tonight...

...and what a show THAT was.

Continue reading "So Brian Mulroney was on CTV tonight..." »

August 27, 2007

Oh no, now they're provoking thought!

The Montreal Gazette is shocked, SHOCKED that what I've long known--that it's never a riot till the cops show up to get the violence started--might actually be true:

Every time protesters gather at such meetings - notably at Seattle in 1999, Quebec City and Genoa in 2001 and Miami in 2003 - there are rumours of state-paid agents provocateurs whose job is to tar non-violent protesters with a reputation for violence and anarchy.

Thanks to the SQ [Surete de Quebec], these rumours will now take on new life and credibility. The SQ officers were got up like members of Black Bloc, a loosely organized group that first came to North American attention in 1999 in Seattle when they smashed storefronts of stores like Gap, Starbucks and Old Navy during the anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations.

While Black Bloc has done a great deal to undermine more serious and legitimate protests, now the SQ has done the Black Bloc an unexpected and undeserved favour: Because of Montebello, fair-minded people might now be tempted to conclude the people they thought were hooligans could eventually turn out to be police undercover officers.

Continue reading "Oh no, now they're provoking thought!" »

August 22, 2007

Police provocateurs unmasked in Montebello

Provocateurs policiers? En Canada? C'est impossible.

Non. C'est bien possible:

Story from the Toronto Star:

Continue reading "Police provocateurs unmasked in Montebello" »

It's just as I thought.

Fortress North America, a.k.a. the Security and Prosperity Partnership? It's a fascist power grab. And just as it worked out all peachy for PNAC, the Reichstag Fire 9-11 provided the perfect pretext for these people to create a three-way Anschluss between us, the US, and Mexico.

For anyone naively thinking this will lead to warmer and fuzzier trilateral relations, I have bad news: it won't. Our borders will not be easier or safer to cross for business, shopping, pleasure, or just spending time with relatives on the other side; they will be meaner and nastier and far more nerve-wracking. Already, Canada's border guards are armed and dangerous; meanwhile, Mexico is getting an apartheid fence and a passel of racist pottymouths and useful idiots from El Norte to "defend" the boondoggle from the Yanqui side while the corporatists keep laughing all the way to the bank (having built a portion of it using the very people they claim they are trying to shut out).

What it all means: Canada and Mexico will still be on the ass-end of the "free trade" sodomy, only this time it will be a much harder, nastier bum-fucking than ever before. But at least we're united in one concrete way. After all, we're both taking an unfair amount of blame for terrorism--never mind that 9-11's triggermen got in quite legitimately through US international airports, NOT across our borders! How about that...they were LEGAL aliens.

Now, kindly 'scuse me while I scope around for some Scope. I think I just threw up in my mouth. No, don't send me any get-well cards. I'll be okay. It's a logical reaction to the devil's brew of racism, fascism and corporatism we're all having jammed down our throats.

August 3, 2007

Lord Ta-Ta and the Magic Disappearing Money

Oh, too bad. Oh, so sad. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm GLAD Conrad Black can't come back to Canada!

Conrad Black cannot leave the US while he awaits sentencing for fraud and obstructing justice, a judge has ruled.

Canadian-born media tycoon Black was found guilty last month in Chicago of swindling shareholders while running newspaper firm Hollinger International.

He had asked to return to his Toronto home until 30 November, when he could be jailed for up to 35 years.

But Judge Amy St Eve said she thought Black would try to stay in his native country and fight extradition.

Continue reading "Lord Ta-Ta and the Magic Disappearing Money" »

August 1, 2007

Crony conservatism? We got it.

Who is Stiffy Harper's little red crony?

I guess there's not that much separating us from the Americans after all.

July 25, 2007

More double talk from Alvaro

Contradictions between right-wing assertions and fact are such fun, especially when they're blatant. Check out, for example, the gulf between this assertion...

President Alvaro Uribe said Friday that Colombia's institutions are now free of infiltration and corruption by right-wing militias blamed for some of the nation's worst human rights abuses.

In a nationally televised address, Uribe said his government has "overcome paramilitarism."

"Today paramilitarism no longer exists because combat against leftist rebels is now, in practice, the exclusive work of our democratic institutions," Uribe declared in the speech to Congress marking Colombia's independence day.

...and this fact:

Continue reading "More double talk from Alvaro" »

July 19, 2007

Lord? Ha, ha.

One more comedown for Conrad Black, coming right up: NDP member of Parliament, Charlie Angus, has moved that he be stripped of his Snowflake.

"Your felony tarnishes the reputation of the Order of Canada, so end of story," Angus said in an interview yesterday.

"We need to maintain the integrity of the office. People who are chosen for the Order of Canada represent the best and the most noblest of our aspirations," he said.

Continue reading "Lord? Ha, ha." »

July 18, 2007

Harpo's asinine strawman argument

You can't make this shit up.

Some South American countries are at a crossroads because they falsely believe their only choice is between socialism or the American style of capitalism, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Canada-Chile Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Chile, Harper said Canada will play a bigger role in Latin America and the Caribbean, but one that is different from what the United States plays.

"Too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices are — if I can be so bold to say — to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become, quote, just like the United States," Harper said, in what appeared to be a reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "This is, of course, utter nonsense."

Continue reading "Harpo's asinine strawman argument" »

July 17, 2007

I am cringing as I type this

And why not? This is the most embarrassing show of prime-ministerial hubris I've seen in a while.

Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to visit Colombia this week, and dismissed criticism that Canada is putting trade ahead of human rights.

Colombia continues to struggle with Marxist guerrillas and a flourishing drug trade.

"When we see a country like Columbia that has decided it has to address its social, political and economic problems, it wants to embrace economic freedom, it wants to embrace political democracy and human rights and social development, then we say we we're in," Harper told reporters Monday in Bogota.

The prime minister went on to announce that Canada has started free-trade negotiations with Colombia, considered the most violent country in the western hemisphere, and Peru.

Continue reading "I am cringing as I type this" »

July 16, 2007

30 years for Lord Fraudulent of No Fixed Address?

Oh, let us pray...

U.S. prosecutors are expected to ask that Conrad Black be given a virtual life sentence of at least 30 years in prison, sources familiar with the case told the Star, even though a government lawyer suggested in court last week that the 62-year-old fraudster might face 15 to 20 years behind bars.

A 12-member jury convicted him Friday on three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction. Each fraud count carries a maximum five-year sentence while the obstruction charge, related to Black's removal of documents from his Toronto office in May 2005 despite a court order to the contrary, carries a possible 20-year term.

Continue reading "30 years for Lord Fraudulent of No Fixed Address?" »

July 13, 2007

Conrad Black: Guilty! Guilty!! Guilty!!!

It's Fitzmas in July...in Chicago and Canada.

Media tycoon Conrad Black has been convicted of three charges of fraud and one of obstructing justice.

Black, 62, was cleared of racketeering and tax evasion but could face 35 years in jail when sentenced on 30 November. His lawyers said he would appeal.

He was facing 13 charges over claims he stole $60m (£29.5m) from investors in newspaper firm Hollinger International, which used to own the Daily Telegraph.

The Chicago jury also convicted three of the UK peer's associates of fraud.

Judge Amy St Eve adjourned Black's bail proceedings until Thursday to allow his defence team to consult Canadian lawyers. Black was allowed to remain free on a $21m bond.

He also handed over his UK passport to the court and will remain in the Chicago area until next week.

Heh. This time he can't bugger off to Bora Bora on a Hollinger private jet, either.

Hey Conrad, does your Savile Row tailor do orange coveralls? Might be worth looking into. After all, your next big vacation destination is not Club Fed!

July 12, 2007

Pirates of the Great North?

Well, actually...no. Michael Geist and Daniel Albahary explain why Canada is NOT a pirating country:

...and lay out who's REALLY behind those bogus charges and cries of rip-off. (Surprise, surprise: it's Big Industry. AGAIN.)

June 12, 2007

Montreal Bolivarians fight back!

A bunch of ex-Venezuelan escualidos tried to lay siege to the media during the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Montreal race, to report only their (false) version of the story of the RCTV non-renewal. Much to their surprise, a Bolivarian contingent was already out in force to counter them! In the end, the escualidos came away with zero coverage. The strong police presence securing the streets apparently prevented any attempts at a physical confrontation, although there was apparently a lot of shouting from both sides.

This might be a good time to visit the Quebec Bolivarian Society's page, oui?

May 29, 2007

The airwaves are hotting up in Venezuela

RCTV is off the public airwaves (ding, dong!), but don't cry for it...there is nothing on it worth saving, if Stephen Lendman's latest excellent report on Venezuelanalysis is any indication:

Along with the other four major corporate-owned dominant television channels (controlling 90% of the nation's TV market), RCTV played a leading role instigating and supporting the aborted April, 2002 two-day coup against President Chavez mass public opposition on the streets helped overturn restoring Chavez to office and likely saving his life. Later in the year, these stations conspired again as active participants in the economically devastating 2002-03 main trade union confederation (CTV) - chamber of commerce (Fedecameras) lockout and industry-wide oil strike including willful sabotage against state oil company PDVSA costing it an estimated $14 billion in lost revenue and damage.

This writer explained the dominant corporate media's active role in these events in an extended January, 2007 article titled "Venezuela's RCTV Acts of Sedition." It presented conclusive evidence RCTV and the other four corporate-run TV stations violated Venezuela's Law of Social Responsibility for Radio and Television (LSR). That law guarantees freedom of expression without censorship but prohibits, as it should, transmission of messages illegally promoting, apologizing for, or inciting disobedience to the law that includes enlisting public support for the overthrow of a democratically elected president and his government.

In spite of their lawlessness, the Chavez government treated all five broadcasters gently opting not to prosecute them, but merely refusing to renew one of RCTV's operating licenses (its VHF one) when it expired May 27 (its cable and satellite operations are unaffected) - a mere slap on the wrist for a media enterprise's active role in trying to overthrow the democratically elected Venezuelan president and his government. The article explained if an individual or organization of any kind incited public hostility, violence and anti-government rebellion under Section 2384 of the US code, Title 18, they would be subject to fine and/or imprisonment for up to 20 years for the crime of sedition.

They might also be subject to prosecution for treason under Article 3, Section 3 of the US Constitution stating: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort" such as instigating an insurrection or rebellion and/or sabotage to a national defense utility that could include state oil company PDVSA's facilities vital to the operation and economic viability of the country and welfare of its people. It would be for US courts to decide if conspiring to overthrow a democratically government conformed to this definition, but it's hard imagining it would not at least convict offenders of sedition.

Continue reading "The airwaves are hotting up in Venezuela" »

May 10, 2007

Breaking Ranks: US soldiers resisting war in Canada

My home and native land has a long, proud history as a place of refuge for the persecuted, the downtrodden, and the people of conscience. When black Americans fled slavery on the Underground Railroad, Canada was the end station. They followed the North Star to get here, literally. A hundred or so years later, the Vietnam War drove tens of thousands of men to flee the United States yet again--this time from the non-racial slavery that was the military draft. Many of these war resisters became permanent citizens.

Today, our country's reputation as a refuge is under attack. While the people of Canada are as open and welcoming to war resisters as ever, our government is not. There is craven cowardice in Ottawa as politicians seek to tie their fortunes to Dubya's foul star. Why they are doing so, heaven knows; I suspect greed and corporate graft. This is a corporate war, not a war of liberation or against terror, that is being fought over Iraq. Yet too many of our members of Parliament are too cowardly, too deluded, or just too stupid to speak out. They underestimate the true nature of the Canadian people, who are staunchly opposed to this war--and who welcome the soldiers who have said no to it as well.

March 26, 2007

Quotable: Conrad Black's father on life, the universe and everything

"Life is hell, most people are bastards, and everything is bullshit."

--attributed to Conrad Black's father, George, on his deathbed; if true, goes a long way toward explaining why Black fils turned out the way he did

January 3, 2007

From the sublime to the ridiculous

First, the sublime: Talk about your true Canadians! As if it weren't impressive enough that we still have three surviving veterans of the Great War among us, now their unselfishness and dedication to democratic ideals is truly beyond compare. From the Beeb, a little item that will leave you misty-eyed:

It all seemed to have been settled.

Towards the end of last year Canada's parliament responded to a huge public petition for a state funeral to be held for the last of the country's World War I veterans.

The parliamentary vote in favour of the idea seemed to decide the matter.

But there is a snag. None of the surviving veterans wants a state funeral.

Continue reading "From the sublime to the ridiculous" »

December 16, 2006

Toronto does it again...

...in diabetes research.

First there were Frederick Banting and Charles Best, with their discovery of insulin as an effective treatment for diabetes (mostly for type 1, although some type 2 sufferers also depend on it). They made that discovery at U of T.

Now, researchers at Sick Kids think they may be onto something even more exciting. Not a treatment, but a CURE:

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

"I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."

Continue reading "Toronto does it again..." »

December 7, 2006

The people have spoken...

...the doors are staying OPEN!

But the parliamentary debate on same sex marriage is now officially CLOSED. And the vote not to re-open it wasn't even close! Even twelve Conservatives broke party ranks to vote against this absurd motion. The final tally? 175-123 against.

That means that this law permitting equal marriage rights stays on the books, and those right-wing Chicken Littles who oppose it will have to admit that the sky hasn't fallen since it was passed, and is in no danger of doing so. (Guys, just suck it up already. Nobody's making you marry someone of your own sex.)

Have I mentioned yet today how proud I am to be Canadian?

November 8, 2006

"If I wasn't Muslim..."

Best takeoff on "If I were a rich man" (from Fiddler on the Roof) I've ever seen:

Trenchant social commentary on bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance and fear from a European Muslim viewpoint. This one's from Bosnia, where ethnic cleansing has long been a source of unrest.

Someone, please send this to Mark Steyn, that fearmongering fascist purveyor of the "Eurabia" meme. And tell Maclean's to dump the terror-baiting fraud, whose racist rants and inane excuses therefor (no excuses, bitch!) should have no place in Canada, let alone its leading news magazine.

October 26, 2006

Minutemen make monkeys of themselves

A couple of days ago I blogged on a certain noteworthy Zapatista demonstrating just how easy it is to get past a Minuteman (pronounced "myNOOTman", as in very small and not well endowed) patrol.

Well, today, Raw Story has revealed confirmation as to just what fools these myNOOTmen be--and how foolish they want you and me to be:

The Minuteman Project sent out a press release late Tuesday evening hyping their Web site, which is showcasing 1,000 documents allegedly obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) by World Net Daily columnist Jerome Corsi. Most widely known for his longtime attacks on Democratic Senator John Kerry's military record, Corsi also co-authored a book about the Minuteman "battle" to secure America's borders.

SPP was launched in March of 2005 as a trilateral effort by the United States, Canada and Mexico to increase the security and improve the quality of life of North Americans through greater cooperation and information sharing. Many conservative critics view the trilateral initiative as a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

"The documents give clear evidence that the Bush administration has created a 'shadow government,'" Corsi said in the press release.

Corsi claims to have "hundreds of pages of e-mails from U.S. executive branch administrators who are copying the e-mail to somewhere between 25 to 100 people, a third of whom are in the U.S. bureaucracy, a third of whom are in the Mexican bureaucracy and a third of whom are in the Canadian bureaucracy."

"They are sharing their laws and regulations so we can 'harmonize' and 'integrate' our laws into a North American structure, not a USA structure," Corsi said.

In plain English, I believe that translates to BOOGAboogabooga! Evil Canadians! Evil Mexicans! We should be dominating them, but instead, they are dominating us! And they do it by pretending to be collaborating with us!

Raw Story continues:

The documents can be viewed on the Minuteman Project's Stop the Security and Prosperity Project page, but there's no mention of any particular "smoking gun" which could proves the contention that the White House has created a shadow government. The anti-immigration group appears to consider the mere existence of communications among bureaucrats from the three countries as proof of their assertions.

One series of letters show U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez writing to North American Steel Association leaders in all three countries thanking them for their "suggestions on enhancing the competitiveness of the steel industry" in North America ....

"The North American industries' recommendations for launching a North American steel strategy were well received and formed the basis for the Committee's discussions on a program of work going forward," Gutierrez wrote to assorted Steel Association chairmen and presidents.

A RAW STORY examination of documents related to the "steel strategy" as presented at the Minuteman Web site did not turn up anything untoward.

But Corsi maintains that the "documentation he received is missing key pieces."

"We received very few actual agreements, though many are referenced," Corsi said. "Many of the work plans described lack the work products which the groups say they produced."

Translation: We got nuttin', but we're still soiling ourselves with fear.

Yes, folks, things is mighty desperate in Wingnuttia right now. They are soiling themselves with stuff they pulled out of their own asses.

(Not that they hadn't always, but they're really reaching for it this time.)

September 14, 2006

This is why you should promise NOTHING to gun nuts

...no matter how badly you want to be elected. (Yes, Tories, I'm talking to you. Clean out your ears and pay attention!)

The last thing Canada needs is easier access to guns, because things like this have an ugly tendency to happen in countries where gun use is under-regulated.

Police in Canada have named the gunman who went on a shooting spree in a Montreal college, killing a young woman, as 25-year-old Kimveer Gill.

Gill, from Montreal, wounded 19 others in his gun rampage before being killed in a shootout with police.

Continue reading "This is why you should promise NOTHING to gun nuts" »

July 27, 2006

Je proteste!

Condi the bass-ackward Mountie

Now, this is NO way to portray a Mountie. Quite aside from the fact that Condi stands for just about everything unCanadian and couldn't get her man if you dropped him smack on his ass in front of her, I take umbrage at this on the grounds that Mounties only ride black horses. (It goes better with the red serge. No, I'm not kidding.)

July 22, 2006

We are all shitheads now

When I first heard the "We are all (insert name of plucky little hard-done-by country here) now" meme, I was put out by it. It was a little too simplistic an expression of empathy for the victims of the 9-11 tragedy, and besides, it was a bit bass-ackwards, seeing as 9-11 was more like a cold shower of welcome-to-the-world reality for Americans. So when Le Monde proclaimed that "we are all Americans now", my first thought was, I'm unspeakably sad for those whom this has affected, but count me the fuck out of "we". I'm still a Canadian and a citizen of the world, and no amount of terrorism is gonna change that!

Continue reading "We are all shitheads now" »

June 29, 2006

Another Liberal not worthy of the name

You can always tell who the cynical power-jockeys are up here in the Great North. They gravitate to the party most likely to get them elected, even when they have little or nothing in common with the values implicit in the party name. These infiltrators are almost laughably transparent, but it's never stopped any of them from trying it yet, even when they get their pee-pees whacked by their constituents in the end.

Take the once-dominant Liberals (please!). There used to be a sub-group within the party calling themselves "Liberals for Life", even though they were neither. What they should have called themselves was Closet Conservatives Against Choice, which is a far less catchy thing to call oneself, and also far less likely to get votes. But at least then, they'd have been honest. What I don't understand is why they weren't in the Tories all along, since their ideology would have fit and then they'd have been in power, where they could have wrought a helluva lot more havoc. (Plus, in the end, they'd have gone down a bit earlier on the same ship with their ideological soulmates instead of continuing to infest an already rat-ridden-enough party.)

There's a reason I'm bringing this up. Here it is:

On June 21st, Parliament saw first reading of a private member's bill by Liberal MP Paul Steckle to re-criminalize abortion. Bill C-338, "An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (procuring a miscarriage after 20 weeks of gestation)", would restrict later abortions performed after twenty weeks.

The bill would allow exceptions to save the woman's life and "to prevent severe pathological physical morbidity of the woman." Otherwise, anyone who "uses any means or permits any means to be used" to perform an abortion past 20 weeks would be subject to penalties of a prison term of up to five years, and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

Continue reading "Another Liberal not worthy of the name" »

June 24, 2006

What's in a face?

What's in a name?

--Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The less clear we are about "who wrote Shakespeare", the more "Shakespeare" can be idealized and indeed idolized. ... Just as "man bites dog" is a more eye-catching headline than "dog bites man", so "Oxford is Shakespeare" makes a better story than "Shakespeare is Shakespeare"--at least in some quarters. The brouhaha about any portrait is beside the point if the subject of the portrait didn't write the plays.

--Marjorie Garber, "Looking the Part" (in Shakespeare's Face, 2002)

It all began in the spring of 2001. Stephanie Nolen, a young reporter for the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, was chatting on the phone with her mother. Seems the parents' up-the-street neighbor in a suburb of Ottawa, Lloyd Sullivan, was the proud heir to the only oil portrait of William Shakespeare painted in the Bard's lifetime. The modest-sized likeness, dated 1603, was rendered on oak board by one John Sanders, Lloyd Sullivan's distant ancestor. Sullivan had gone to a lot of trouble to trace the painting (which had spent many years under his invalid grandmother's bed in Montreal!) to its source. He had spent ten years and thousands of dollars to have it authenticated by the best experts in the field, and now he was finally ready to make it public. Nolen, captivated from the first moment she laid eyes on "Willy Shake", as Sullivan had dubbed the picture, was more than happy to break the news to the world. And everyone who heard the story was agog.

Why such a fuss over a little old oil painting?

Continue reading "What's in a face?" »

June 13, 2006

Gitmo North: UNACCEPTABLE!

This is not the US.

This is Canada.

So why is THIS happening--here?

Continue reading "Gitmo North: UNACCEPTABLE!" »

What purpose does a blackout serve?

Occasionally, it serves to protect a potentially innocent person's identity; sometimes, the family of a perpetrator, especially when s/he is related to the victim of the crime.

However, in this instance, one really has to wonder...

Continue reading "What purpose does a blackout serve?" »

June 5, 2006

Another of Canada's worst exports

Right up there with Pamela Anderson and her fake everything, it's John Roberts and his fake news.

On the June 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior national correspondent John Roberts, in reporting on the diplomatic package the United States and several other nations will offer Iran to discontinue its purported nuclear programs, commented that "Iraq endured 11 years of sanctions, and, you know, we still had to go to war to get rid of what it was that they had." As professional journalists, host Wolf Blitzer and Roberts are undoubtedly aware that no weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear or otherwise -- were found in Iraq and that the Iraq Survey Group's September 2004 final report (also known as the Duelfer Report) concluded that "Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991." Nevertheless, Blitzer responded: "Good point, John."

Continue reading "Another of Canada's worst exports" »

May 20, 2006

Oh, my virgin eyes!!!

I swear...I'll never look at Dr. David Suzuki the same way again:

Nude David Suzuki

Continue reading "Oh, my virgin eyes!!!" »

May 15, 2006

Rona Ambrose: Canada's (inter)national embarrassment

If anyone makes me, as a Canadian, hang my head in shame, it's this woman:

Canada has no chance of meeting its targets under the Kyoto accord and must set more realistic goals for cutting greenhouse gases, the federal environment minister says.

"My departmental officials and the department officials from natural resources have indicated that it is impossible, impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto targets," Rona Ambrose said Friday.

Continue reading "Rona Ambrose: Canada's (inter)national embarrassment" »

May 2, 2006

Somehow, I always suspected as much.

It's a little late for April Fool's jokes, but what the hell. This one's worth a laugh and a half:

Gerry Nicholls thought he was hallucinating as he kicked back in his seat to take the 35-minute GO train ride to his Oakville home.

About every three seconds, the scrolling electronic sign that usually carries transit updates and advertisements had a very different message that he just could not keep his eyes off.

"Stephen Harper Eats Babies. Stephen Harper Eats Babies. Stephen Harper Eats Babies," the message kept repeating.

Continue reading "Somehow, I always suspected as much." »

April 12, 2006

Brownfield's barrio gambit: what really lies behind it?

NOW the truth comes out!

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning acts of violence against US Ambassador William Brownfield on Friday.

Acting Minister Alcides Rondon confirms that Venezuelan Ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez has received a formal complaint from State Department sub- secretary, Nicholas Burns, alleging inappropriate protection on the part of Venezuelan security forces.

Continue reading "Brownfield's barrio gambit: what really lies behind it?" »

March 27, 2006

Hey Stephen, here's your big chance...

...to put your money where your mouth is:

An Afghan man who had faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity is seeking asylum in another country, the United Nations says.

Mr Rahman, a Christian for 16 years, was charged with rejecting Islam but his case was dismissed because of gaps in evidence, Afghan officials said.

Continue reading "Hey Stephen, here's your big chance..." »

March 16, 2006

...and equal mediocrity for all

What a surprise. Seems the much-vaunted US healthcare system (or rather, LACK thereof) just ain't all that 'n' a bag of chips, after all...

Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health-care quality suggests that Americans -- rich, poor, black, white -- get roughly equal treatment, but it's woefully mediocre for all.

"This study shows that health care has equal-opportunity defects," said Dr. Donald Berwick, who runs the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.

Continue reading "...and equal mediocrity for all" »

March 10, 2006

Please, Bill...don't thank us

Those of us who really know the score, aren't happy about our role in Afghanistan. And your saying things like this doesn't help:

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton thanked Canadians for staying the course in Afghanistan, knowing the price of that commitment is the blood of its soldiers.

"It's painful that you're losing people there and I'm sorry," Mr. Clinton said Thursday in a speech to 7,000 people at Rexall Place.

"But you've done a good thing for the cause of freedom and the stability of Canada.

"And as a citizen I am profoundly grateful that you've stayed the course and I appreciate it," he said to applause.

Continue reading "Please, Bill...don't thank us" »

March 9, 2006

For sale: One Canadian party leadership. Never been used.

Bidding is still open on eBay:

Looking for a new challenge? Why not become leader of the Liberal Party? It is possible with the Rick Mercer Report Liberal leadership kit.

Kit includes:

  • Fifteen minute consultation/conference call with the RMR writing staff to craft your campaign message. (Staff includes three high school dropouts and a U of T commerce major. Photo not to scale.)
  • The use of our colour printer for photos and such. Ink cartridge is running low on magenta.

That should be enough to put you in charge of what was, until recently, a major Canadian political party. So take the plunge and become Liberal leader. For more info check out the Rick Mercer Report Tuesdays at 8pm (8:30 NT) on CBC.

Current bid is $16 million CDN.

March 4, 2006

Harper can dish out the ethics, but he can't take 'em

Oh, boo hoo. Poor Stephen Harper. Barely in office a month, and already he's got the ethics watchdog snapping and snarling at him. From the Toronto Star:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is attacking the legitimacy of the federal ethics watchdog after he announced an investigation of Harper's conduct recruiting David Emerson to the Conservative cabinet.

In a letter made public yesterday, Bernard Shapiro said he has decided to embark on a preliminary investigation into whether Harper complied with the conflict-of-interest code for MPs when he brought Emerson, who had just been re-elected as a Liberal, into the Tory fold.

Shapiro's decision prompted new criticism that Harper is ignoring his vow to practise more ethical, accountable politics.

Continue reading "Harper can dish out the ethics, but he can't take 'em" »

February 25, 2006

Compassionate conservative? My ass!

There's a reason why so many people are getting more and more reluctant to loosen the purse strings nowadays. Quite aside from the nose-holding aspect of so many charities claiming to be the answer to problems better addressed by good old-fashioned socialism, you get rather unfortunate stuff like this leaking out to the media:

Sen. Rick Santorum's charity donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period, well below Better Business Bureau standards — paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll.

The charity, Operation Good Neighbor, is described on its Web site as an organization promoting "compassionate conservatism" by providing grants to small nonprofit groups, many of them religious.

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance says charitable organizations should spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities.

Continue reading "Compassionate conservative? My ass!" »

February 9, 2006

Dawwwwg!

Mailed to me by a friend today. Originator unknown:

George W. Bush congratulating Stephen Harper on his minority government

Found: Voices of reason...

Unfortunately for the cartoon flap still raging in parts elsewhere, they live in Canada--where EVERYTHING is different. The Globe and Mail's Michael Valpy elaborates:

The difference is illustrated by events in France in 2004 and Canada in 2005, said Tarek Fatah, a leader of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

In France, few if any representative voices within the French Muslim community were heard in the news media speaking in favour of a law banning conspicuous religious symbols, such as the traditional Muslim head scarf, in public schools.

This was the case even though a significant percentage of French Muslims