A little quiet around here…

I know it has been a little quiet around here lately. Could be the winter blahs. So many current events have left me so disgusted that I just don’t have the energy to engage enough to write about them. Being a social activist or even a human with a pulse has been difficult lately with so much corruption, collusion and crap going on. While I could devote an entire blog with well-reasoned arguments and some research thrown in, I will instead give you my uncensored gut reaction.

Patrick Brazeau – Until now his main claim to fame as a Canadian Senator was losing a boxing match to Justin Trudeau. Now, he has been charged with sexual assault. Brazeau didn’t even have the common sense to put himself on leave from Red Chamber. No, instead, Brazeau is such an entitled prick that his peers had to vote to put him on a forced leave. Of course he will get full pay. I think in cases like this people should not be paid and if they are found not guilty they can receive retroactive pay. It galls me that a senator who has been charged with sexual assault should still be paid! Of course, I am sure he thinks he is totes innocent and all.

Mike Duffy – Another poster boy for why the Senate needs to be abolished. It seems that Mr. Duffy lives in Ottawa. But not wanting to miss a feeding at the trough he has declared his vacation cottage in PEI to be his primary residence. This means that us Canadian taxpayers get to pick up the $30,000 or so he is collecting to support his ‘secondary’ residence in Ottawa. Harper has so few ethics that he is not even forcing Duffy to reimburse tax payers. Entitled assholes all of them.

Juxtaposition of jackboots and flowers. (from a FEMEN protest)

Juxtaposition of jackboots and flowers.
(from a FEMEN protest)

Missing and Murdered Women March – Valentines Day marked the annual Missing and Murdered Women March in Vancouver. This march is an opportunity for us to collectively remember and grieve for the women who have died on the Downtown Eastside. The survival sex trade and extreme poverty in the DTES takes women down. Of course, the conditions in the DTES receive some assistance from serial killers and other women haters who go there to find victims. Violence against women is so ubiquitous in our society that marches like this are not even questioned. Being a feminist who works for social justice in 2013 is heartbreaking.

Truth about the reality for women living in a patriarchal society.

Truth about the reality for women living in a patriarchal society.

The Pope – So the biggest hypocrite walking the face of the earth has resigned as pontiff. Really who gives a rat’s ass? He is only going to be replaced by another white, European man who has no idea what is going on in the world. Yes, there will be talk of electing a man from Africa or Latin America but it won’t happen. Hell, they have even talked about a Canadian taking the prize. Rest assured everyone,  it will be yet another white man who will continue to keep women in their place and maintain the status quo. Oh and have you ever noticed how people sometimes reflect their names? Joseph RATzinger has really lived up to his name.

Sums it up well.

Sums it up well.

Christy Clark – I don’t know about you but I am fucking sick of seeing Christy Clark’s face EVERYWHERE. It seems like you can’t go more than ½ an hour without seeing some ad telling us how great she and her merry band of liars and thieves was the best thing ever for BC. She has sponsored ads on Facebook and Twitter. My evenings are filled with Clark and her ‘jobs’ plan for BC. I don’t give a shit about business and jobs; I want to know what she is going to do for our poor and disadvantaged citizens. She is trying so hard to be sincere but honestly she looks smarmy. I wouldn’t trust her to manage our petty cash at work let alone the province’s finances. Sadly for Clark, making herself so fucking omnipresent means I am going to take so much pleasure in voting for the NDP come election day. In other news because so many Liberal rats have jumped ship, the Liberal’s once healthy majority is down to just 4 seats. There are also rumours of some Liberals breaking ranks and voting against the government’s budget. Bring it on Adrian Dix!

 

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A bully gets his comeuppance

In our world bullies generally skate by as most people are afraid to take them on. This coupled with the reality that effective mechanisms do not exist to hold bullies accountable for their behavior. Without any real consequences, bullies begin to think they are invincible and that the rules are not made for them. Today all that has changed in the City of Toronto. A court has ruled that Rob Ford must vacate his position of Mayor as he has violated conflict of interest rules. I am sure for most thinking Torontonians this must come as a huge relief.

Toronto has had some interesting mayors over the years. But none of them have created so much controversy and derision than Rob Ford. Even Mel Lastman, who tried to call out the army when Toronto had a bad snowstorm, was not as universally hated. In fact, Rob Ford makes Mel Lastman look like a scholar and a statesman in comparison.

What is even more disturbing about Rob Ford is the fact that he works with children as a coach of a football team. I can only imagine the things these young people have learned from him. Part of Ford’s defense was that he never read the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Whether he read it or not is immaterial, as we all know ignorance of the law is no excuse. Ford believes the rules do not apply to him regardless of what they are and who makes them. To him all of this comes down to a battle against right and left and the left is persecuting him.

Judge Hackland saw it differently. In his ruling he stated: “it is difficult to accept an error in judgment defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the integrity commissioner and the [council] code of conduct.”[1] In short, Ford bullied his way to this decision. Instead of heeding professional advice that he needed to do things correctly he believed he was above it all.

Of course, being the bully he is, he will not go away. He has vowed to fight this ruling and run again if he is actually made to step down. People like Ford never learn from their mistakes because they believe themselves to be above it all. And if they don’t get their own way they stamp their feet, yell and scream and bully those who are disagreeing with them. I think Rob Ford needs a big time out.


Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘I hope’ edition

  • The most important thing for which I am hopeful today is that Barack Obama is re-elected tomorrow. This US election has been even more insane than normal. The attacks on women’s reproductive rights have been outrageous from blatantly false and crazy assertions that women’s bodies have supernatural powers and insistence that women carry babies they don’t want. I wonder how men would feel if women made decisions that forced them to undergo unwanted vasectomies. A Romney presidency would be a catastrophe of epic proportions for the United States and the world. We could expect an invasion of Iran,[1] further roll backs to the already patchy US safety net, and more economic disaster for the poor. At least Obama has the ‘incumbent’ factor, which generally favours the re-election of a sitting president.
  • I am hoping I can take next week off. I have had not had any significant time off in months that did not involve my mother. I do still have to go to Calgary weekend after next but if I can get a rest first that would be good.
  • Listening to Christy Clark announce the new Destination BC,[2] I am hoping she loses her voice. I am so tired of listening to her feign excitement when, really, she has nothing to be excited about and she sounds fake.

[1] Not that Obama’s foreign policy has been all that great either.

[2] Ya, we used to have Tourism BC.

Published in: on November 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Reflections

Deb and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary last week. This means that equal marriage has been a reality in Canada for almost a decade. Honestly, I did not think we would see equal marriage a reality in my lifetime, if ever. It is amazing how quickly things can change politically.

What have been slow to change, however, are reflections of this reality in pop culture. This is now starting to change – at least in Canada. I recently watched an episode of Undercover Boss Canada[1] wherein a female employee was featured. They referenced her female partner as her wife. While I have grown accustomed to hearing this over the past 9 years, I still perk up and pay attention when that word is used in reference to same-sex couples. At first, the word ‘wife’, really bothered me. It made me think of notions of heterosexual marriage where the woman would slave away for the betterment of her family. Now, I am increasingly becoming more comfortable with the word even in reference to my own relationship.

The other show was Dragon’s Den. They introduced two women as a couple who had been married for 6 years and no one batted an eye. Ultimately, this is how it should be. A same-sex marriage should be treated the same as any other marriage – that is a marriage of two people who love each other.

Representations in pop culture are imperative. We must see ourselves reflected in our culture if we are to feel accepted. I suspect that as equal marriage becomes more of a reality in the US, we will see more positive representations. This will go a long way towards reducing the stigma attached to being lesbian or gay. This will have huge positive effects for youth. If you are gay or lesbian, imagine being able to see someone like Ellen or hearing the song Same Love? What if you could tune into a popular show and see a married same-sex couple who was the same as the other couples, facing the same life issues as their parents. Here is the crux of what it means to be different: you don’t have any role models. As a young teenager, I completely related to music made by men singing about women. I could sing along and dream and not have to worry about my secret getting out. Now, how would I have felt if Little House on the Prairie had a same-sex couple represented – it would have been huge. I may not have felt so isolated.

As time goes by, I look forward to seeing how equal marriage is further expressed within our dominant culture.


[1] No commentary on my TV choices please!!!

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Democracy is for Sissies

Is it just me or does it seem that our politicians are ruling via subterfuge? It seems like most government made decisions are one big shell game: ‘quick, look over there, shiny’ while a new tax is shoved down our throats. We can’t even count on them to maintain the integrity of their own values and ethics throughout the course of their time in power. Democracy has become code for bait and switch.

This week in politics in BC, our Premier, Christy Clark, has decided that the culture at the BC Legislature is ‘sick’ and that she tries to stay away from it as much as possible. She likened it to the complaints made about the ‘beltway’ in Washington, DC. These comments, originally made in May, were released when it was announced that the legislature would not sit this fall. Clark clearly has an overblown sense of her importance. To compare BC politics to what happens in Washington, DC is like talking about your acne problem when you have a little zit.[1] All of senior civil servants, you know those people who provide crucial factual information to government politicians, all sit in Victoria. If she is not there, she can’t get all the information to make policy decisions. If her ministers behave as she does, they will also not be getting crucial information with which to make decisions.

Cancelling the fall sitting of the legislature is hubris at its worst. The provincial government just announced that revenues are $1 billion dollars below projections. If the legislature does not sit, then the opposition does not get access to this information to ask questions. I actually think there is a more sinister reason for not having a fall sitting. The timing of this supposed deficit announcement is curious. It is a little more than 6 months before the next election. I predict the BC Liberals will have a feel-good budget delivered in February and the shortfall will become a windfall. Everyone in government will slap each other on the back and congratulate themselves on their uber-financial management skills. They will then start the dog and pony show as they hand out the pre-election goodies. Personally, I am tired of being bought with my own money.

We can’t even count on politicians to stay true to their own beliefs in values. Apparently, once upon a time, Stephen Harper was against omnibus bills yet his government has passed one and has another one planned for the fall. Whoops! There goes your democracy right down the omnibus toilet.

All of this begs a much bigger question: when did democracy become a game of collusion and subterfuge? When did political parties abandon ideology and brokerage politics?[2] I used to think brokerage politics was a horrible development, now I long for those days where you could still tease a little bit of ideology from party platforms. Politics is now a game of confuse the voter, say whatever you need to so you are elected then do whatever the hell you want. Re-election campaigns start right after an election. We used to get a measure of peace in the first 2 years after an election, now the attack ads start almost immediately.

Leadership seems to be something that is missing from all politicians modus operandi. Real leaders build consensus, they answer tough questions and they lay out a vision for the future. We are so short on any kind of vision as everyone is focused on the next election. If you are an effective leader, you don’t have to resort to confusion and downright lies to convince people to follow you. If you want to lead effectively you have to be accountable; people watch your every move; you are a role model. I see no role models amongst the current crop of politicians. Instead they are all focused on maintaining their positions of authority even when they can’t stand to work at their place of employment.

 


[1] Primarily this is due to structural differences. In the US there is no party discipline to speak of so every vote is up for grabs. That means lobbyists are trying to convince 535 people of their position each time there is a vote.

[2] Brokerage politics saw the reduced reliance on ideology for policy decisions. Parties tended to move towards the centre so they had a better chance of getting elected.

Canada and Iran – an oily standoff

Last Friday, the Canadian government severed all diplomatic ties with Iran. Usually when countries take this step there have been increasing tensions and perhaps a series of escalating incidents. One might fairly ask what precipitated this event. The answer is, well, nothing. To be fair, diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have not been great since the revolution in 1979. Iran has always been a little pissed that Canada smuggled 6 Americans out during the hostage crisis. Factor in the death of Zahra Kazemi and relations have been strained. So the question is why now? Why would we take such a drastic step in the absence of any kind of simmering diplomatic feud?

I have a theory. Stephen Harper is from Calgary. I have blogged before about how American Calgary is in its view of the world. Although born in Toronto, Harper’s education was at the University of Calgary. Particularly in the 1990s, the University of Calgary was a hotbed of a pro-American brand of conservatism.[1] Both the economics and political science departments were rife with these politically motivated students and faculty.[2] Who knows how or why this started; did Calgary create them or did they impact Calgary? Regardless, this is the school of thought that informs our prime minister’s policies.

Now, what does all of this have to do with us severing diplomatic ties with Iran? If you were to listen to Vic Toews[3] you would have heard him say that Iran is the biggest threat to global security.[4] Iran’s threat to global security was no different last Friday than it was the Friday before or the year before that, so why now?

As an historian, I have been trained to look for broad conceptual contexts in which to situate events. When an event does not make sense, historians are trained to tease out what may actually be going on. Given how American Calgary is, I began to think about why Americans might take this kind of action. Pretty much all American foreign policy has to do with money, and it’s compatriot, oil. Iran is a major oil producer and a competitor to Canada. As we all know, Harper and Alberta have been trying to find a way to move Alberta’s bitumen to China. Harper has his eye set on China and moving bitumen there as a means to diversify our exports and take advantage of China’s huge economy. What does all this have to do with Iran? Well, if Harper can isolate Iran even more than it already is or provoke some time of military strike, Iran will be further isolated in the international community. UN sanctions will follow and China will be looking for a new source of oil.

I don’t think my theory is wrong. The drums to war have been beating for quite a while with regard to Iran. While I believe the Iranian regime and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are reprehensible, the rights of sovereign nations are still paramount. Invading Iran because they supposedly have nuclear weapons sounds a whole lot like Iraq having ‘weapons of mass destruction.’  Any action that impacts Iran’s ability to sell its oil on the open market benefits Canada.

As a British Columbian all of this really concerns me. It seems that Harper is willing to squander our hard earned, though somewhat tarnished now, international reputation to sell Alberta’s bitumen. He is also willing to put our province at risk to do it. The Gateway pipeline is almost universally opposed in BC. I fear this pipeline is going to be shoved down our throats whether we want it or not.

The pipeline is not good for Canada. It will ship unprocessed bitumen out of the country leaving us in our familiar ‘hewer of wood, drawer of water’ role. Like lumber, why would we ship this stuff out of the country without processing it and creating more jobs in Canada? I wonder if we might feel better about the pipeline if there was to be a refinery in BC that would process the bitumen before it shipped out to China? The reason we are not doing this is because it would make it more expensive and the Chinese would rather process it there for cheaper. So Harper is willing to sell out Canada to benefit is buddies in the tar sands.[5] Now there’s a surprise.


[1] I was at the U of C at this time as well. Some TAs in the political science department were caught trying to sell Reform Party memberships to undergrads.

[2] Tom Flanagan comes to mind.

[3] Who listens to him anyway?

[4] Clearly if we were to believe Vic we should be severing diplomatic ties with the US, but I digress.

[5] Make no mistake it is the tar sands. It has been called the tar sand for decades. Only recently did some PR schmuk come up with ‘oil sands’ to try to convince people it is not dirty oil. One is not against the tar sands by calling it the tar sands; one is simply being precise.

Notions of Race and Ethnicity

There have been two stunning examples of how race and ethnicity mix together to produce vile results. While the events are not linked in any way, what they do illustrate is how systemic, almost to the cellular level, racism is in Canada today. The first event was the reaction of Sageunay mayor Jean Tremblay to the PQ’s secularism policy.[1] The second issue was the bank of Canada’s decision to change the features of the female researcher on the back of the new Canadian $100 bill to make her look more racially ‘neutral’. These issues clearly demonstrate that while Canada may pride itself on being multicultural, we are still a nation of xenophobes when it comes right down to it. Racism runs far, wide and deep in this country.

One of the things Jean Tremblay said regarding the PQ’s secularism policy:[2] “We have to respect the Muslim but we have to respect the Christian more.” He went on to rail about how Canada was a Christian country and that people coming here had to respect this fact. He was saying this with a certain PQ candidate in mind who happened to come from Algeria.[3] She earned the ire of the mayor by supporting her party’s secularism policy. What Tremblay is not saying is that ‘those’ people, who also happen to be non-Christian and non-white need to learn their place. If they dare to come to Canada and in particular Quebec, they had best be prepared to bow down to the white, Christian man.[4] In his world, Catholicism is the only acceptable religion and any limits placed on its expression are outrageous.

As the Bank of Canada was designing our new plastic money, the decided to consult some focus groups. Apparently, there was concern that the picture of the researcher on the back of the new $100 bill looked like she had some ‘Asian’ features. The Bank of Canada was skittish enough that they decided to ask for revisions to make the woman have a more ‘neutral’ racial look. The use of the word ‘neutral’ here is extremely problematic. Clearly the Bank of Canada defines ‘neutral’ ethnicity as Caucasian. They then went on to say that they don’t feature any racial groups on Canadian money. Whoa, wait a minute no racial groups? What are Caucasians if not a racial group? What the Bank of Canada really meant was that they only group they will feature on money is Caucasian people. So we can now all know that we are getting a large heaping serving of racism along with our money!

These examples illustrate how white privilege permeates every part of our society. Racism thrives on power imbalances. In Canada, white people have all the power and, apparently, we feel the need to let every non-white person know the score.

As a Canadian, this disgusts me.


[1] Which I blogged about here.

[2] This policy would forbid any provincial government employee from wearing any religious paraphernalia (Kirpan, Hijab, Burka etc) however they could wear one small cross. They also said they would not take down the crucifix in the National Assembly.

[3] In a spectacular display of racism and privilege he said her name was completely unpronounceable to him.

[4] Who is also straight.

Published in: on August 18, 2012 at 9:39 am  Comments (1)  
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Slaktivism

Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism or slackervism) is a term formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.[1]

I am so sick and tired of seeing petitions for this and that. Petitions have never really been effective – even back in the days where people went door to door and got real signatures. The only kind of petitions that have any weight in our political system are ones that have terms of reference defined in law. For example, Bill Van Der Zalm’s petition to get the HST overturned. In this case, legislation sets out how the signatures must be gathered[2], and the petition must be verified.

Signing petitions because you are upset at how sled dogs are treated or you want a community garden on the front of the provincial legislature do nothing and mean nothing. The only thing they do is make people sitting at their computers feel like they are engaged in their society and that by clicking and typing their name in that they made a difference. What really gets me is when Canadians start promoting American petitions like ones asking for universal healthcare. How the signers in Canada can think this will have any effect in the US.

The other, closely related, annoyance is thinks like the Kony2012 event of the past 10 days or so. Ostensibly it sounded like a great idea: fining Joseph Kony who is most certainly guilty of crimes against humanity. His recruitment of children for the LRA is so outrageous it almost defies description. Like willing little sheep, millions of people posted the video on facebook, twitter and other social networking sites. All the while doing this with almost zero critical thought. We are so keen to think that these meaningless actions will get a result that we just click the buttons.

In the internet age, critical thinking is crucial. We cannot just blindly follow what our friends, peers and family members are doing. We must analyze and come to our own decisions. Blindly sharing allows unworthy campaigns to go viral. Groups who want to impact public opinion know exactly how to do it. A video or campaign framed with outlandish statements and a call to arms. It really is that easy. Welcome to the age of Slacktivism.


[2] Online is not acceptable.

Published in: on March 21, 2012 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Completely out of touch

So apparently one of the candidates for the presidency of the Liberal Party of Canada says that they need to bring in new ideas. In particular, Mike Crawley thinks we should debate the role of the Monarchy in Canada. Is this the best they’ve got? Because, if so, we are completely and utterly in trouble. If the Liberals cannot rebuild their party we will be stuck with some brand of a Stephen Harper government for the foreseeable future.

I have a few suggestions for the LPC if they can’t think of new ideas:

  • Re-assess the relationship between the government and the governed. Our first-past-the-post system is broken. We need a much more representative government with some mechanisms to make our voices heard in between elections.
  • They must engage youth. If the LPC were smart they would tap into the energy of the Occupy Movement in Canada. They need to harness and organize the movement’s ideas and use some of their methods. If the Occupiers feel valued and listened to by the LPC they will gain a whole new constituency.
  • The must look at the relationship between corporations and consumers and corporations and their employees. There needs to be some serious discussion about consumer rights and corporations being held accountable. Similarly, corporations must be regulated when it comes to how they treat their employees. The situation at the Caterpillar plant should be high on the government’s agenda.
  • As a country we must pledge to stop filling the DTES with new souls. Every child must be given a minimum standard of living and access to opportunity. We must eradicate poverty and invest heavily in child development programs. Finally, we must value stay-at-home parents. It has been proven time and time again that children who are stimulated intellectually by a parent at home have much better outcomes.

As for the Monarchy, who really cares? Besides the odd Royal Visit and the need for extra security it really does not cost as that much. In fact, given the last couple of Royal visits, it would seem that the Monarchy is more popular than ever.

Why we need a new social contract

Over the past three decades we have seen the decimation of the social contract between us, the governed, and our collective governments. As pursuing profit at all costs has become the new religion, our governments have breached their responsibility to us. Continued privatization and deregulation has opened up more ways for corporations to rob us at every turn. Whether it is as a consumer or an employee, the social contract is gone.

Take the latest example of corporate greed. Caterpillar, a company that makes billions in profits, has locked out its employees in London, Ontario. Caterpillar wants to reduce wages by over 50%, add co-pays to benefits and force employees to pay 25% of the cost. It has been common for manufacturers to ask employees to take a pay cut but 50% is unheard of. It is not like this company is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Apparently, Caterpillar has a reputation of extracting concessions from its workers by waiting out their unionized employees until they are desperate.

Where is the intervention of the federal government? How come at the whiff of a labour dispute at Air Canada had Lisa Raitt running to the Industrial Relations Board? Where is she on this one? This is union-busting at its finest and clearly the Harper government couldn’t care less. Why is it ok to force a 50% compensation reduction on a group of legally unionized workers? Surely if a company does not have monetary pressures to demand these concessions, it ought to be illegal.

If the government(s) can’t protect us what are we to do? Clearly there is something seriously wrong with our system. It is time that people wake up and withdraw their consent to be governed. Once again, the Occupiers have it right.

Published in: on January 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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