Monthly Archives: July, 2015

Exploring the latest Wiki-leak on the TPP – CBC, Canada Post in danger

You may have heard that Christmas, er, election season is coming early this year. The signs are all around us (figuratively; wait a few weeks for the signs to literally be on every lawn). From the campaign-style announcements of big cash giveaways, to the barn-storming leaders’ tours through key regions, to the swirling rumours that our Fearless Leader is going to visit the Actual Head of State’s Puppet Representative to get ‘er Majesty’s permission to dissolve Parliament, cause that’s how we roll here in Canada, still, for some reason nobody’s ever been able to convincingly explain to me, it seems that everywhere you look, the election is in the air.

Some have questioned the timing of this election call, given that by law, the actual election day is more than two months away. If the rumours are true, this will be the longest election Canada’s had since the twenties – and you gotta remember that back then, YouTube’s market penetration was WAY lower, and so politicians had to go around the country by train to make sure their vicious personal attacks got heard by key constituencies in swing ridings.

These things took time, y’see.

But this time around, the logic seems to be that under new campaign finance laws (which the Conservatives unilaterally passed without consulting either the Opposition or the public) the Conservatives are pretty well set up to have way more money than any of their opponents. (Funny how that works out.) So the longer the campaign is, the more the Cons will be able to outspend the opposition.

In other words, if you’re already fed up with the constant drone of radio commercials basically implying that Justin Trudeau is a stoned fratboy who wants to have sexytimes with terrorists and fritter away your hard-earned tax dollars on daily visits to the hair salon, you may want to consider either leaving the country or hiding in the woods until late October, cause that shit’s about to kick up several notches.

Of course, pissing on/belittling/slandering your opponents doesn’t by itself win elections. It’s also necessary to massively distort and oversell your own accomplishments and plans. The Cons had no doubt been counting on running on their strong economic record, but given the latest monthly data (Scotiabank analysts called it “ugly”, which lemme tell you won’t be good for the economy’s self-esteem at all), it seem that they’re going to have to come up with something else to pompously monologue about for the next two and a half months.

Enter the TPP – that once-obscure “trade” treaty which has shot to recent prominence as negotiations near completion. Apparently Harper & Co. are pushing for the deal to be done within the next few days, so they can start bragging about their Herculean international prowess right out of the election’s starting gate.  Continue Reading

CityNews stoops to victim-blaming in coverage of Toronto #BlackLivesMatter protest

Yesterday afternoon and evening, a few hundred protesters organized under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter stopped traffic on an on-ramp to the Allen Expressway at Eglinton Avenue.

The protest started just metres away from the spot where Andrew Loku, a local man originally from South Sudan, was gunned down by Toronto police just a few weeks ago, shot within a minute of police arriving on the scene at his home. Ever since Loku’s death, activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have been ramping up the pressure on both the police and the city government.

On Thursday, the activist group Black Lives Matter-Toronto occupied a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board. They demanded the mayor and the police chief apologize for Loku’s shooting. “Every single day, black bodies in this city face violence,” said the group’s co-founder, Rodney Diverlus. “Whether it’s carding, whether it’s surveillance, whether it’s physical violence, and whether it’s death. This is life and death for us.” […]

The female officer was the first up the stairs, a thin double set that goes out and back with a landing in the middle. The male wasn’t far behind. “I went in and stood at the door because I heard a commotion,” said [Leslie] Colvin[, a building resident]. “And I heard ‘Drop the hammer! Drop the hammer! Drop the hammer!’ three times. And then ‘Bap! Bap! Bap!’ — two or three shots.”

[Susan] Schofield[, another resident,] was also standing in the stairwell. “I heard them yell at Andrew to drop the hammer,” she said. “Andrew didn’t have a chance to do anything. It was that quick.”

Loku was allegedly threatening his upstairs neighbours with a hammer. In the aftermath of his death, there’s been a lot of speculation about his mental health and emotional stability, none of which is in any way relevant.

A case in point is CityNews’s coverage of last night’s road blockade: Continue Reading

ICYMI – Unist’ot’en Camp appeals for help amid increased harassment from RCMP and Chevron

Even for folks who follow these issues closely, it’s hard to keep track of all the nightmarishly ill-conceived energy mega-projects that cartoonishly diabolical corporations are proposing or constructing in Canada right now. And to be fair, when you’ve read one apocalyptically gloomy worst-case if-it-breaks-we’re-all-fucked scenario, you’ve read them all.

But the devil is (usually) in the details, and that’s quite true in this case. Oil and natural gas companies are multi-billion-dollar enterprises, and they’re not exactly well known for their compassion or naivety. It should be no surprise that they have detailed and nuanced plans to get their politically toxic pipeline projects built, whatever the costs may be.

It also shouldn’t have been surprising to me that the pipeline that’s closest to being built is one that I personally hadn’t heard of up until a few days ago, but I was surprised nonetheless.

I mean, most activisty types have heard of Line 9, or Northern Gateway, and Keystone XL made quite a name for itself as well. But if you’ve heard of the Pacific Trail Pipeline, well, congratulations, I guess. You either live in Kitimat or you’re contending for your town’s Activist of the Year award. For the less-well-informed, here’s a backgrounder from Vice: Continue Reading

“Fringe” parties and the Overton Window

This is the latest in an ongoing (and soon-to-be-concluded) weekly series on the question of voting and whether it’s worthwhile. You can read the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth entries if yer interested.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve looked at several reasons why voting is not a meaningful or useful activity most of the time. A lot of these reasons have boiled down to one of a few issues: namely, our dysfunctional party system and the strong influence of capital over our governments.

At the outset, I considered the fact that none of the parties likely to win this fall’s election intend to address the fundamental issues and injustices of our time, from climate change to systemic racism to imperial warmongering, and I posed the question, “Does it really matter who wins?” If all we’re going to get is different shades of bad (from not-completely-terrible orange to holy-hell-this-is-awful blue to a-kinder-gentler-but-not-meaningfully-differently-awful red), then what’s the purpose in engaging in the whole exercise?

From there, I explored the dynamics of lesser-evil-ism, and how strategic voting consistently plays to the interests of capital by helping to elect parties which are willing to sell out their principles for votes (and which demonstrate when in power that they’re also willing to sell out their principles for dollars). Continue Reading

Sandra Bland’s death painfully demonstrates why we can’t address police brutality with more cameras

[Content warning: police brutality, suicide/murder, racism]

The tragic and unnecessary death of Sandra Bland in police custody in Waller County, Texas, last week has sparked a firestorm of debate in the United States and internationally. Every aspect of this case is horrific, from the belligerence and brutality of the cop who stopped and arrested Bland for an apparent “failure to signal” right up to the suspicious circumstances in which Bland was found dead in her jail cell, hanging from the ceiling with a garbage bag tied around her throat.

Defenders of the police (yes, they’re still going) argue that the arresting officer acted well within his rights, and contend that Bland’s death is what it seemed to be – a suicide. (They also, disgustingly and in typical fashion, attempt to smear Bland’s character and imply that she in some way had this coming.)

To activists from the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and to lots of everyday folks, however, that story smells pretty strongly of bullshit. And indeed, legal experts

One striking aspect of this “debate”, which is frustrating for anybody who’s been opposed to the increased presence of cameras in the public sphere, is how strongly people on all sides lean on the evidence of video surveillance. Continue Reading

Getting “left behind” on the TPP is fine by me – we shouldn’t buy into this race to the bottom

It’s been called the sleeper issue of this fall’s federal election campaign, but my riding’s Liberal candidate sure seemed surprised that I brought it up when he came knocking on my door earlier this week.

I got home from work just in time to catch Arif Virani in the hallway of my building. I gotta admit, I was pretty impressed to see him out canvassing on a weekday afternoon three months before the election – and I was excited to give him a piece of my mind.

I saw a certain look of resignation in his eyes when I mentioned Bill C-51 – and indeed, he had a well-thought-out reply to the oft-made criticisms of that bill. (It was an argument that I didn’t particularly buy into, but it was a thorough and well-prepared one, and one I imagine he’d had to make pretty frequently.)

But he had quite clearly not heard about the Trans Pacific Partnership from nearly as many people in his door-knocking.

I made it clear to him that the TPP is for me one of the biggest issues of this year’s election, and that any party that can endorse that sovereignty-destroying nightmare of a “trade” agreement won’t get my vote. (I didn’t mention that I’m not entirely certain I’m going to vote anyway – didn’t want to undercut my argument!)

To his credit, he didn’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but instead frankly acknowledged that he didn’t know much about the issue, beyond the squabbling over supply management which has dominated recent coverage of the mysterious deal: Continue Reading

Planning for the future in the face of imminent catastrophe

Sorry everybody – this is a downer of a post. If you’re feeling that kinda tip, here’s some mood music to accompany yr reading.

It must take the patience of a saint and the optimism of a puppy to be James Hansen.

Hansen, as you may know, was a climate scientist with NASA up until a few years ago, when he quit his job to become a full-time Cassandra, travelling the world warning everybody who would listen about the perils of climate change. His predictions on the rapidity and severity of temperature and ocean level rises have been repeatedly dismissed as fringey and extreme, until they turned out to be prescient. (For instance, check this New York Times article about Hansen’s testimony to Congress on the threats global warming posed to the world…from 1988.)

A man like that could be dour and defeatist. After all, he’s been ringing the alarms on this issue for three decades, with only the most minimal of impacts. But Hansen continues to push people and governments to wake up to the extremity of the situation.

This week he announced the release of a new study showing that Antarctic glacial ice is now likely to melt at a rate for more rapid than had been previously predicted. The upshot is a ten-foot rise in ocean levels over the next half-century. Continue Reading

ICYMI – Canadian and Ukrainian PMs sign deal to screw over Ukraine’s working class

It’s a great misfortune that the very words “trade agreement” have been known to cause eyes to glaze over, yawns to spring unbidden to mouths, and minds to wander. “I should probably do the laundry when I get home,” you think, “but I don’t really want to,” as some blowhard drones on about the significance of CETA or the TPP (that second one’s by yrs truly, btw -I am that blowhard!).

Trade agreements are notoriously boring subjects. They are stuffed with arcane legal terminology and have an absolute alphabet soup of acronyms, and they are entirely lacking in sex appeal, action shots, and gripping human interest angles. For precisely these reasons, they don’t sell newspapers or attract viewers. The most exciting visuals you’re gonna get out of them is a formal signing ceremony, replete with the flags of the member nations and earnest besuited politicians earnestly mumbling about the incalculable benefits of free trade and the incredible economic opportunities that will ensue from this agreement – a scene much like this one:

That’s right – Canada just signed a free trade agreement with Ukraine! Surprise! Bet you didn’t hear about it.

But before your eyes go all focussed-on-the-middle-distance-y and your mind gloms on to the first thing it can find to distract you from the menace of listening to me talk about the nuances of a bilateral trade agreement with an eastern European nation, just let me say that I promise to do my best to make it entertaining. (Although I can’t do anything about the total lack of sex appeal, I can promise you some rock and roll if you stay tuned to the end.) Continue Reading

Getting Obama’d, or, how we fool ourselves into thinking politicians are on our side

This is the latest in an ongoing series on the question of whether voting is a worthwhile exercise. If you’re interested, you can read parts one, two, three, and four.

This week’s entry is going to be the ultimate in “dog bites man” journalism, but it’s also a point well worth making loudly and repeatedly: politicians lie.

Politicians lie, and they mislead, and they inculcate false impressions. Politicians demonize their opponents and exalt their own parties, regardless of whether this demonization or exaltation is deserved. Politicians promise something for everybody, they promise prosperity, they promise responsibility, they promise that they will stand up for you. And then they proceed to help out the wealthy and ignore their promises.

This has been the pattern since time immemorial. That it isn’t always true isn’t ultimately that relevant. It’s true often enough that politicians have a well-deserved reputation as untrustworthy. A poll conducted by the Gandalf Group last year found that only 13% of Canadians “trusted politicians to behave ethically in fulfilling their duties.” The findings shocked the polling company’s director, David Herle, who had just months before successfully managed Kathleen Wynne’s campaign for premier of Ontario.

“After over 20 years in opinion research, it comes as no surprise that politics is not the most respected profession, but the findings of this survey with respect to the extent of the cynicism is shocking,” said Herle.

“The gap between politicians and others in public life, the extent to which our politics is believed to be inherently corrupting, and the frequency with which private interests are assumed to trump the public interest are all corrosive to democracy.”

Of course, Wynne’s premiership is a prime example of why most Canadians are cynical about politicians. As I wrote in an earlier post in this series, “Strategic voting and how it helps the capitalists win“: Continue Reading

Canada’s premiers endorse pipelines, just in time for another major pipeline spill

Sometimes it’s hard not to see the hand of fate in certain synchronicities. That was certainly the case these past few days when a conference between Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers to discuss energy and climate issues coincided with a major pipeline leak near Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The premiers came to some semblance of an agreement (full text PDF) which, to listen to them tell it, will almost single-handedly stop climate change in its tracks while supporting tar sands workers:

“It’s a huge step forward,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told the Star in an interview here Friday at the Council of the Federation meeting…

“This is not an incremental move. This is a pretty major step forward,” said Wynne, noting it will promote “cleaner, greener” renewable energy while at the same time helping oil- and natural gas-producing provinces safely transport their products.

“A strong economy and strong environmental protection . . . are not mutually exclusive,” she said, predicting premiers from “the oil-producing provinces are going to take heat for this.”[…]

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall played his hand beautifully by berating Wynne, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in the days leading up to the conference for being soft on pipelines and the tar sands, and by extension anti-energy sector workers. He continued to play his role in the aftermath of the talks, although reading between the lines it’s clear he’s pretty satisfied with the strategy:

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, the oil industry’s biggest champion at the Council of the Federation, admitted he did not get everything he wanted in the strategy.

“There’s some things that I was hoping to see in the energy strategy to a greater extent than perhaps had existed. One of them is around energy independence that speaks to right now even though Canada is home to roughly . . . the third greatest oil reserve on the planet, we import oil . . . because we haven’t been able to move it across the country or were able to,” said Wall, a pipeline proponent.

“So parts of Central Canada and Atlantic Canada have to import oil from other places, which just seems D-U-M-B dumb for any country that would have the oil reserves that we have,” he said.

But Wall, who had arrived in Newfoundland reminding equalization-receiving provinces that oil and gas wealth was bankrolling their transfer payments, admitted everyone put some water in their wine.

We had a meeting and we had some pretty frank discussions and I guess that’s what’s changed. It was a vigorous discussion,” he said, emphasizing “oil — it’s not a four-letter word.”

Maybe we should start spelling it oyul? Continue Reading

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