Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Economic Wisdom

Just want to point out something quickly. This Glob n' Mall article about PBO's Page vs. Dimbulb-Jimbo Flaherty's jobs forecasts says the following:
The PBO does not comment on whether the finance minister’s approach is appropriately balanced. Governments and citizens around the world are debating whether an economy is better served by boosting market confidence with a quick return to balanced books or a stronger focus on spending and employment will pay off in terms of stronger government revenue.
That's kinda weak sauce don't you think? Reading it you wouldn't think that 30 years of neoliberalism has just had it's biggest pants-shit ever, would you? You wouldn't realize that the debate shouldn't be whether the short-sighted greed-head scum-bags and their "confidence" (a vague, bullshit term) and a "focus" on, you know, maybe spending a little bit on the plebs, but instead, the debate should be between reversing the policy planks of the greed-heads entirely OR removing them from power altogether.

The greed-heads screwed themselves people. And their response to their fuck-up is to try to snatch up as much of what's left over after the disaster to maintain themselves in the fashion to which they've become accustomed. Neither they nor their mouthpieces have any claim to our respect, or our goddamned patience.

These cretins can say whatever they like. I'm long past taking any of it seriously.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Torture is Still a Crime

Just in case anyone has forgotten. Just in case the shamelessness of our current political culture has caused you to lose your moral and legal bearings. Beating people until they answer questions, driving people mad through sleep deprivation, systematically humiliating powerless human beings, mutilating people's genitals, threatening the families of prisoners, stress positions, water-boarding, etc., etc., ... it's all torture and it's all wrong and it's all illegal.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Al Qaeda Via Arrestees

Nothing important. Just a thought: The stupid, anti-democratic harpercon scum say that since there's no evidence that anyone didn't vote as a result of the calls sending people to non-existent polling stations, there wasn't a crime,and we all should just drop it.* They ought to be saying that since those two arrestees in Al Qaeda-VIA never killed or generally terrorized anyone, there should be no penalties there either

I actually haven't read anything about the terrorism arrests that were so exquisitely timed to be announced the same day that the harpercons were shredding the Charter of Rights with the latest round of bullshit "anti-terror" legislation. Given the fact that the Toronto-18 "plot" was almost entirely initiated and egged-on by a coke-addict RCMP informant, and given the fact that most of the other files of our boys n' girls at CSIS and the RCMP appear to have done nothing but traumatize innocent men, I'm skeptical about this one. I should probably read up on it though, since I've often asserted that with the massive wasting of resources harassing people who end up being innocent, it stands to reason that the terror threat must be miniscule or even non-existent. If this was a real plot and not bullshit, that's actually fairly important.

* These harpercon scum should at least be commended for being apolitical about their proposed amnesty for those illegal, misdirecting calls. To hear them say it, they have NO IDEA who was behind any of the illegal phone calls. They just think "No harm, no foul" shrug their shoulders and move on.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Fordist mass-production required armies of unskilled workers and provided more work for skilled workers. It also destroyed some sectors of craft production. Imperialism helped provide emigration and free land as an outlet for Europe's surplus populations. Farming was mechanized, increasing yields and freeing up labour. More people entered cities and utilized shops and services. The economy expanded. It was often a brutal process. Imperialism has already been mentioned. The cotton textile trade was one of the first mechanized industries. It relied on brutal working conditions in the mills and slavery from Africa to the United States.

Much of Britain's imperial adventures and no doubt a vast portion of the jobs for the rising middle classes was funded by the crushing taxes on the peasants of India. European imperialism brutalized Asia, Africa and the Americas and Australia.

Much of capitalism's benefits were inadvertent. This is as it should be, according to the proponents of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand."

Post-1945 automation began to slowly, inexorably reduce the absolute proportion of unskilled manufacturing labour required for production. That was okay. White collar corporate jobs were booming, as was government employment. Since the 1970s though, employment in the "developed" countries has been under pressure of automation (at an accelerating pace), "globalization" of unskilled work to "less-developed" countries, and an increasing trend of "flexible" labour laws, allowing employers to provide ever more tenuous employment. White collar employment has been subjected to the same pressures, especially since the 1990s, through the ICT revolution. Finally, government employment has stagnated and, in many important areas, been reduced.

There's no question but that economic growth during this period of assaults on labour has been funded by increased household debt. "Credit" (the other word for this debt) is what financed the industrialization of China and (to a lesser extent) India. But (as plodding dullards like the late Margaret Thatcher liked to say) debt cannot be extended and enlarged indefinitely. A financial bubble, based upon a real-estate bubble, based upon deregulated credit and financial markets, burst, creating a multi-trillion dollar debacle.

And we're going back into it:
The media is calling it a “Spring swoon”,  but it’s really just the next phase of the long slump.
After a strong showing in the first quarter (Q1), the economy is starting to lose steam for the forth year in a row. The main cause for the slowdown is –what Bloomberg calls–”the biggest federal-budget tightening in more than 60 years”.  The impact of the budget cuts can already be seen in  retail sales, personal consumption and consumer confidence.  Eventually, they’ll be felt throughout the entire economy pushing unemployment higher and shrinking GDP by 1.6 percent or more.
After a strong showing in the first quarter (Q1), the economy is starting to lose steam for the forth year in a row. The main cause for the slowdown is –what Bloomberg calls–”the biggest federal-budget tightening in more than 60 years”.  The impact of the budget cuts can already be seen in  retail sales, personal consumption and consumer confidence.  Eventually, they’ll be felt throughout the entire economy pushing unemployment higher and shrinking GDP by 1.6 percent or more.
So, don’t expect any help from overseas–like an uptick in exports–because it ain’t gonna happen. China’s investment-heavy economic model is beginning to crack beneath its prodigious debt-load and the slump in Europe will persist until EU elites achieve their goal, which is to decimate the social model that provides health care, pensions and labor protections for the people in the 17-member Eurozone. That’s what this is all about. Once the EU’s working population has been reduced to third world poverty, then policymakers will return to a pro-growth strategy, but not before. But that’s going to take a while, so don’t hold your breath.

But it doesn’t matter how discredited the policy is, the politicians are going to keep ratcheting up the pressure until they get what they want, which is, more privatization of public assets, more busting up federal unions and more dismantling critical safetynet programs. (particularly, SS, Medicare, Medicaid) Present policy has nothing to do with growing the economy or putting people back to work. It’s just plain old class warfare. 

The answer is increased government spending, higher taxes on the wealthy, a green energy revolution and a turn towards zero-growth and reduced consumption. We can still do this. IF we restore the democracy we had and improve upon it.

I don't feel like dealing with these fucking formatting glitches.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Stark Choice (A Reply to PLG)

Purple Library Guy spaketh thusly:
If I thought that the collaboration thing was both necessary and sufficient to get proportional representation, I'd certainly support it. I'm skeptical for tactical reasons. At a minimum, I'd like to see non-Conservative parties get together in a sort of joint policy development process and come up with an electoral system they all support, up front, and craft a bill that they all will commit to. Then maybe it might be worth talking about collaborating in the election to get in and pass that bill. Until you've got at least that, there are some serious problems both tactical and conceptual about how the collaboration is supposed to be done and sold, and what is supposed to happen if a majority Lib-NDP-collaborated government gets in.
That's what we should do then. At the present moment, the leadership (and membership?) of both the Liberals and the NDP have rejected cooperation and proportional representation. A citizens' movement that stands up for democracy and the rights of Parliament (Let's be clear; our quasi-democracy, as elitist driven as it is, functions fairly well, and isn't going to be replaced with genuine participatory democracy anytime soon.) should choose one form of proportional representation and insist upon it, along with insisting upon cooperation against the anti-democratic harpercons. While every system of proportional representation has elements that annoy somebody somewhere, they're all superior to the travesty we have now, where 30% of the vote plus election fraud allows disgusting pukes like the harpercons to lord it all over the rest of us. We should have the system we want decided beforehand, present it to the opposition parties and insist upon it, no ifs, ands or buts.
I would disagree with Kip that the problem is the system being "party-based". I've heard this quite a bit, and I think it's wrongheaded. The real problem is money. But in terms of the voting system itself, the problem is that FPTP distorts results and creates weird incentives not to vote for the party you actually want. I think a party is a useful thing actually. Individuals come and go, and only a few of the most colourful characters give people enough idea about them to have much notion what they'll do in office. A party has a collective ideology, a general mindset and approach to government, that gives a voter something to base a decision on. And functionally, for any kind of proportional representation to work you need parties, otherwise there's nothing to have proportions of.
I agree that in this day and age, with an electorate diversified by class, ethnicity, gender and etc., ... parties serve as good ideological guide-posts. This is no longer an era where wealthy white males control everything and one could pretend that Parliament should consist of reasonable, intelligent rich white dudes who can reach across the aisle and get things done. Nonetheless, I think that at this present moment in Canadian history, partisan blindness is sabotaging our quasi-democracy. The NDP is acting as arrogant and short-sighted as the Liberals used to do. The Liberals are united under Juicy Justin Trudeau, just as primed to retake second place from the NDP as they are to avenge themselves upon the abusive and scuzzy and dangerous harper. They're acting like asses and allowing harper to drive up the middle again.
Now thwap, you're pretty sure the collaboration thing is necessary, because you figure Harper will win the next election with a majority, partly through cheating. Or possibly Trudeau if the big surge lasts. If I agreed I'd be with you. But while I do think Harper will cheat as much as he can, and I do think Elections Canada has become pretty goddamned useless, I don't think he can actually get much mileage from dirty tricks--enough to flip a couple of close ridings, but not enough to give him a majority with much less vote than he got last time. The process itself has too much participation; long as everyone sends plenty of scrutineers he ain't gonna be able to do much ballot box stuffing, and annoying phone calls can only do so much.

And I don't think Trudeau's honeymoon will last two years. Basically, I'm expecting a minority government, and since I doubt the Libs or NDP will give it to Harper again, that means an NDP or Lib minority. Whether that can lead to PR is another question. But I think it would be easier to get them to agree on PR if elected and even to agree on some specifics and commit to them, than to put together this collaboration gig.
Justin Trudeau's appeal is intangible. As he's in the news more and more, I honestly believe that uninvolved Canadians are going to see this very handsome man and think pleasant thoughts about him. If he doesn't screw up something in a big, embarrassing way, those pleasant feelings are going to impact a lot of voters. And the Liberal voters I'm thinking of are the ones who tell themselves over and over again how wonderfully progressive, yet pragmatic they are. Even though the current NDP's policies have more in common with Joe Clark than with the CCF, they still see the NDP as dangerously dogmatic. These are voters who would vote NDP when faced with a stark choice between them and the harpercons. They're the votes that Justin Trudeau is going to bring back to the FIPA/NAFTA/GST/COLOMBIAN FREE TRADE DEAL LOVING Liberals. Just when it looked like the Liberals, already intellectually bankrupt and rejected by the voters, were going to fizzle into a party for their die-hard middle-class activists, Trudeau II comes along to give them a new lease on life. (And the stark choice isn't stark at all since Mulcair is stupidly moving the NDP to the centre.)

And harper is going to cheat like mad. The harpercons have a blank slate from the brain-dead majority on the Supreme Court to stuff ballots. These are people who think about stealing elections the way we think about policy and democracy. They're on it full-time, partly because (in their imbecilic, paranoid minds) it's them or us. They think that we're as scuzzy as they are and that they therefore have no choice. The Supreme Court ruling on Etobicoke-Centre says that mistakes are inevitable, and that if it turns out there are more ballots than voters on the voting list, it's an honest mistake and it's up to those who would complain to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that those votes were fraudulent. The harpercons are going to send out their activists to volunteer for Elections Canada, ... it's going to be a nightmare.

The harpercons have more money (again, through fraud, as the Dean Del Mastro case shows) and they'll blanket the television and other ad-spaces with bile and I think too any Canadians will be swayed by it. And the thing is, the harpercons are now experienced at fraud. They're more fine-tuned with their voter information lists and their misdirections.

I think harper will win the next election with a majority unless we make the witless opposition parties and the Canadian people realize that the stakes in this election are about our right to call ourselves even a nominally democratic people.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

thwap's mail-sack and (maybe) etc.,

Back when blogs used to be a more hep, groovy and "with it" kinda scene, they used to attract more idiots. So I really filtered the old comments section. As a result, I've gotten a couple of emails from people not registered with google. Here they are - - -

"Kip" writes:
Good evening Thwap,
I read and enjoy your posts regularly. 
I'm not a Party supporter: democracy needs to work toward acceptance of the fact that one person/one vote means, well, one person/one vote, and we need to openly acknowledge that our current party based systems do not allow for that.
I was going to add a comment to a Purple Library Guy comment (comments) but I'm not Google Sanctioned . . .  fortunately you are one of those rare people who provides a way the non-Googlists to contact you (aka known as an e-mail address). My apologies if this sound like a pet peeve*
Isn't it time we started to refer to the source of Mr. Harper's "mandate" as what it is - a plurality, not a majority
* which it is, but sometimes the dog needs to be taken for a walk, eh?
Next up is "Mark":
Bang on!
You are the first person I have read to say what I have been thinking re: Trudeau being a Republican-Lite, Obama-esque corporate shill. (Or to the right of Reagan, if you are 50 yrs. or older you'll have noted the pronounced rightward shift of the political spectrum).

I answered a Probit survey the other day asking whether a sleazy potshot ad re: Trudeau was "fair" or not. I suspect it was HarperCorp taking the pulse of the plebs........anyway, in the comments section I mentioned that Trudeau's biggest liability wasn't his age per se, but that he has the stink of Clinton-Obama "triangulation" about him.......time will tell. Wall St., Bay Street.....they know how to protect their interests.
So, first of all, I'll reply to "Kip." Kip was replying to this post, wherein I asserted that Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system was going to mean that the divided votes for the anti-harper opposition was going to produce another harper majority. (Especially if we factor in the way the anti-democratic media endorses harper and his shit and/or greed-head support will probably hover around 30% and there's nothing in place to prevent another round of fraud, which will be more ruthless and brazen this time around.)

Kip might have also been replying to this post, wherein between the "smoldering hunk" and the "hot babe" [the relevant google image search terms] I said that I wasn't calling for a merger of the anti-harper coalition, but a temporary alignment to defeat him, followed [crucially] by the implementation of proportional representation (whereupon the opposition parties can go back to hating each other all they want).

And I agree that harper doesn't have a majority. Because he most certainly doesn't have majority support among the electorate. he has a stolen "majority of seats" because he stole a crucial number of seats to win his bullshit majority of seats to avoid the consequences for his numerous crimes and so that he could ram through his oil-industry-dictated, anti-democratic agenda.

Now to reply to "Mark." Mark, isn't it precious that one of the first things that Justin Trudeau did was to vote against killing an insane "free trade" bill with the usual bullshit that they want to amend the bill instead? Yes, the Liberals will force an amendment while the harpercons enjoy their stolen majority and are impervious to opposition demands. What nonsense! A 31 year piece of legislation, negotiated in secret. We are not a democratic nation.

Trudeau's US-American alter-ego, Barack Obama is going full-steam ahead with his "Grand Bargain" of austerity, despite the fact that the whole austerity thesis is based on bullshit. That's the danger of these "centrists" like Obama, Trudeau, Chretien, Clinton and Paul Martin (and Mulcair); they give legitimacy to Thatcher's idiotic TINA argument. Neo-liberalism is dangerous nonsense. Always has been, always will be.

No time to type anything else today.

Thanks to both of you for the kind words and the commentary.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Oh Yeah; Cooperation, Followed by Proportional Representation

The not-anti-democratic, constitutional parties should cooperate to defeat harper, hold him accountable, and implement proportional representation.

After that, they can get back to hating each other all they want.

[I think I'll stick to posting silent-screen starlets for my ironicalist "eye-candy" segments. I feel a little creepy posting those two pics. Maybe pictures of food, or landscapes .... ]

Saturday, April 20, 2013

First-past-the-post + divided opposition = harper win

This sanctimonious, falsehood-filled, ethically bankrupt article is good for something. harper will probably win the next election if things continue as they are going.

And, no. I don't want to go to a street corner somewhere and pointlessly protest something for an hour or so.

I wish we spent more time working on getting power and less time bewailing the latest atrocities.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Obama Liberals

President Obama expanded the war in Afghanistan (like he said he would), attempted to prolong the occupation of Iraq past the exit date negotiated by bush II, supported the TARP bail-outs, presides over the torture of Bradley Manning, failed at his promise to transfer the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to some other lawless hell-hole, vastly expanded the murderous predator drone program, attacked the Occupy Movement, protected Wall Street banksters from criminal prosecution, the only person to serve prison time for the USA's torture regime since Obama came to office is John Kiriakou (the CIA agent who blew the whistle on it). Obama has espoused indefinite detention of terrorism suspects and claims the right to murder US citizens on American soil.

That's all pretty much off the top of my head. (Aside from having to look up John Kiriakou's name.)

In short, Barack Obama is a menace. He's an asshole. He's an imperialist, mass-murdering scumbag.

I don't care how loathsome his racist, right-wing hypocritical opponents are. I don't care about how stupid Sarah Palin is, or how vile and crazy Glenn Beck is, or how putrid and senile John McCain is, or how craven and scuzzy the entire Repug elites are.

Barack Obama is responsible for himself and his own crimes.

And it's the simpletons among "progressives" who, whether through partisanship or from being overwhelmed at the enormity of the issues, who give Obama a pass for all of his crimes, who are standing in the way of us ever achieving any sort of decent society.

In another online guise, a poster who I tend to respect took offense at my categorizing the latest crisis with North Korea as being Obama's fault. The poster informed me that I was attempting to grasp at the reality that Obama is merely continuing what had been bush II's policies and those of most presidents since the end of the Korean War.

To whit; a variant of the argument that Obama is a helpless non-entity, carried along by the tide of fate. Some "progressive" Obama fans have actually excused Obama based on the fact that America has an empire. The sad truth is that whatever it is, the psychoses that produce Obamabots makes progressives forget that imperialism is a BAD THING that we should struggle against, and not an excuse for when someone that deluded people think is on their side, does bad things.

I mean, if you're going to ignore Obama's vast ramping-up of the killer drones, and the increasing of troop levels in Afghanistan, and babble that Obama is a prisoner of the office of the presidency, ... why criticize anyone? Why did so many of these types condemn bush II then?

The most persistent display of this shit-headedness though, comes from the "funny when he's making fun of easy--target David Brooks, but infuriatingly stupid when he attacks Obama's critics" blogger Driftglass.

I was going to go in and critique one of his laughable partisan splooges in detail, but having skimmed or re-skimmed (in the case of older ones) a few examples, I'm too sick at heart. Perhaps I'll do one tomorrow.

I also read this ranting nonsense:

Either way, reality is at best treated as a despised red-headed stepchild in Greenwaldian spewings whenever the subject is Barack Obama.
Earlier that day on the same network, a solemn discussion was held, in response to complaints from MSNBC viewers, about whether it is permissible to ever allow Barack Obama's name to pass through one's lips without prefacing it with an honorific such as "President" or "the Honorable" or perhaps "His Excellency" (that really did happen).
Got that?  "MSNBC viewers" (read: Someone who posted a comment on the internet) brought up how to address the President, and they talked about it!  Those awful wretches!  Don't they know that the proper mode of political discourse is teeth-gnashing schizophrenic monologue devoid of reason or accountability?  Especially when the subject has anything at all to do with Barack Obama!  Any honorific saner than Your Nazideathpuppymurderiness means you might as well just get it over with and lick Obama's balls.  This is apparently the kind of thing that goes on in the fervid Neo-LaRouchian whackyland that is the mind of Glenn Greenwald.

What do you say to something like that? The dunce actually thinks its a good use of network television time to talk about how there needs to be some sort of honorific. And he writes as if he thinks this is a substantial part of Greenwald's critiques of Obama and his enablers.

By the way, it was Driftglasses' spewing of hatred against Greenwald that first got me on to this topic. One of Driftglasses' more persistent memes is that Greenwald discredits himself when he supports a particular stance or action of Ron or Rand Paul. It never seems to dawn on Driftglass that he's more vulnerable to charges that he's an apologist for Obama's crimes than Greenwald is for the stupidities of Pauls Snr and Jnr, because he seems to believe in such logic whereas Greenwald doesn't.

Why am I talking about this? What's the relevance for Canada? Because I honestly believe Justin Trudeau is a Canadian version of Barack Obama. A telegenic presence, a marketer's dream (which in Obama's case is more like a product), who will convince Canadian progressives to turn off their brains and sell their souls the same way Obama does to US progressives.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Remember Afghanistan? It Was In All the Newspapers?

I wouldn't begrudge Canada's paying over one-billion dollars a year to free a country of 30 million people from tyranny.


But I do kinda resent Canada's having spent almost $20 billion since 2001 in Afghanistan to impose one brutal tyranny on that country, rather than another one.

So how's Canada's largest foreign policy investment since WWII working out?

Check it out!
Faced with an impending withdrawal deadline and tightening budgets, U.S. planners created another security entity, the Afghan Local Police (ALP), which they have pitched as an affordable short-term fix to fill this security vacuum. However, the name is a misnomer, since members do not have police powers and are essentially village militias armed with AK-47s. Highlighting its prominence as a key feature of the U.S. exit strategy, General David Petraus described the ALP program in 2011 as “arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capacity to secure itself.” 

Despite some success in achieving security gains, the ALP program has been plagued by such problems as Taliban infiltration and insider attacks. But most controversially, ALP units have been accused of committing serious human rights abuses against local populations with apparent impunity.
And, in a country plagued by more than 30 years of war and a long history of thuggish militias, many Afghans have difficulty distinguishing between the ALP program and militias of the past.
It’s hard to blame them. Since the ALP program started in 2010, serious accusations have been lodged against ALP members, including rape and murder. In May 2012, for example, an ALP commander in Kunduz province and four of his men abducted an 18-year-old girl, chained her to a wall, and repeatedly raped her for a week. Human Rights Watch investigated another incident in Baghlan province where four armed ALP members abducted a 13-year-old boy and gang raped him the house of the ALP commander. And in February 2011, an ALP unit in Herat province reportedly raided several homes, stole belongings, and beat residents. One boy was allegedly detained and beaten overnight by the same ALP unit in June 2011 and had nails hammered into his feet. There have also been many complaints of ALP members demanding bribes or “Islamic taxes” from villagers. Community members say that the national police have failed to investigate such incidents.
Pompous gas-bag Terry Glavin likes to do some investigative journalism and dig-up some horrible background information on somebody giving a talk to a peace group somewhere in order to discredit the peace movement through guilt by association. Using his own methods, we can assume that Glavin approves of all the filth quoted above, given as how it's not really all that different from the hunter-killer teams and other extortion, rape and murder that NATO and our Afghan allies have been indulging in since day one of this debacle and he's one of the more fanatical supporters of said debacle.

When NATO leaves and there's some equality of firepower between the insurgency and our puppets, and the civil war ensues, my money is on the insurgency. I have a hard time believing that the cowardly rapists in the Karzai/Warlord government could have prevailed against an enemy that enjoyed the same air support they now have from NATO. Which will mean that we sent almost 200  of Canadian soldiers to their deaths, and wounded hundreds more, and spent $20 billion for goddamned nothing.

Don't forget the schools.

And the cretins who supported this slaughter and rapine won't ever learn to shut the fuck up.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Islamic Bomb

Philosopher Sam Harris has the dubious honour of sharing fellow "New" Atheist Christopher Hitchens' bigotry against Muslims. (Richard Dawkins appears to think that Islamic fundamentalism is the worst sort of fundamentalism but I'm not sure that he supports the US-backed invasions of their countries.) While it's not out of line for an atheist to see many things in Islam that are insane and dangerous, it is out of line to believe that Islam is more insane and dangerous than any other religion and to target their populations with military assault (all protests that when one calls for military actions against their countries it is not targeting them specifically notwithstanding).

Here's the skinny on Harris from Glenn Greenwald.

Here's Harris providing some nuance to his views in the face of Chris Hedges' accusations that Harris endorses a nuclear first-strike against the Islamic World.

Here they are facing off in person. (Haven't watched much of it.)

But dig; When the Arab OPEC states started to get super-rich in the 1970s, did they loan their money out interest-free to the less-developed nations that needed some sort of way to adjust to the massive dislocation of a 300% oil price rise? After all, Islam forbids usury. Nope. They deposited their dollars in Western banks who in turn, loaned it out at interest to the LDCs.

That's just one example (but a big one) of how Muslim elites can be depended upon to be just as materialistic as anyone else. The same thing goes for martyrdom by the way. You'll find that most Muslims try to avoid  getting killed. They go to the doctor when they're sick, in order to avoid getting worse and dying. Just like Christians and every other religious adherent who supposedly believes in a glorious after-life of clouds and ponies and eternal youth or whatever the fuck.

Because deep down, religious people know it's bullshit.

Which isn't to say that SOME Muslims (including Muslim leaders) are fanatical nut-jobs. But let's not forget Chairman Mao, who believed that China could come out on top of a nuclear war between the Communist Bloc and the USA. At a meeting of international communist leaders, when the Italian Communist Party leader Togliatti said that he wanted peace because Italy would be destroyed in a nuclear exchange in Europe, Mao told him words to the effect of "Whoever told you that Italy had to survive? If there is a nuclear holocaust, 8 million Chinese will survive and that will be more than enough for humanity."

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Red Army generals told Premier Kruschev that the honour of the military depended upon meeting any US-American provocations with an equal response. When Kruschev asked them if the lives of tens of millions of people were worth it to defend the prestige of the Red Army, he said that his generals looked at him as if he were simple.

At the same time, President Kennedy was facing off against generals and advisors who told him to man-up and teach the Ruskies a lesson by starting a nuclear war. To this day, more and more monkey-brained Christian fundamentalists are infiltrating (infesting) the US military. Like that wingnut general who said that his god was bigger than Saddam Hussein's god and that's why America won.

As much as I think the present political crisis is Obama's fault, I still think that the present "Dear Leader" of North Korea is loony-tunes. But they're not a danger to the world. Their bomb is for self-defense.

Pakistan has a nuclear bomb. They've had one since 1998. They haven't bombed India to glorify Allah in all this time.

Most Muslim rulers are the same sort of grasping, power-mad assholes as the rulers of other societies.  They like the privileges of power and they like staying alive to enjoy them. By inventing a non-crisis out of whole cloth, Harris unnecessarily increases the tensions. The same tensions that are encouraging Islamic fundamentalism by convincing more and more Muslims to rally around God and country in the face of foreign insults and attacks.

And now for some eye-candy:
That's Myrna Loy (before she did those "Thin Man" movies I suppose).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Attack Ad Against Justin Trudeau

I'm really unhappy about Justin Trudeau. Seems to me that he's what stands between the bankrupt Liberal Party of Canada (a "vision" for Canada that appears to be some incoherent mish-mash of corporate inhumanity and vaguely progressive rhetoric) and its eventual demise. With his name and his looks he'll kindle enough interest to help spoil the NDP's chances of reducing the harpercons to a minority.

Regardless of all that (and not that I have any high hopes for the NDP under Mulcair) I find those harpercon attack ads against Trudeau to be sickening. I'm tired of these asinine attack ads. The fact that it's the fourth in a series of these garbage-brained nuggets of stupidity is what really gets to me. Dion, Ignatieff, Mulcair, and now Trudeau. This sort of crapola is not what political debate is supposed to be about. It appears to be all that the "conservatives" are capable of though. This is the party of KKKate Makkkmillan, Kady Shittle, Rob Anders, David Sweet and John Baird after all.

I have it on good authority though, that Justin Trudeau is a very good looking man. Running ads featuring his handsome face and of him disrobing (both taken from his participation in worthy causes) is probably going to have the opposite effect that the harpercon brain trust is hoping for.

But this lil' post is about the fact that if you go to the youtube video of the ad put up by the harpercon party of Canada, you'll see that the gutless pricks have disabled comments for it. Probably because they know they're a hated vile crew of scum whom the vast majority of Canadians would like to see reduced to living naked in the woods or imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

And now, for no reason:

Foreign Workers Program

The purpose of the foreign workers program was to drag down wages in Canada.

Full stop.

Barack Obama (the great hope of so many deluded pwogwessives) believes that wages in the USA also need to go down.

European corporats and their political henchpersons (what is a "hench" anyway?) want to do the same thing to the European working class.

The thing is, you see, is that these are mostly insane people, in control of an insane system. Environmentalists say that there should be less consumption. Zero growth. But the nutbars like Obama and whatever mediocrity is currently the president of the Royal Bank and all the rest of that pack of scum, they're champions of the consumer economy. There's no other way to describe them but as deluded jabbering nutbars.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The NDP and Socialism and Justin Trudeau

Well, the NDP decided that they don't like public healthcare, but that they do like private banks who gouge everything and everyone in sight. Or something that probably makes sense to Tom Mulcair. They took the dreaded word "socialism" out of their party constitution.

I've always thought this attempt to "move to the centre" is as bone-headed as it's possible to be. "Let's be like the Liberals who just imploded due to their lack of ideas!"


And, the Liberal Party of Canada has just made Justin Trudeau their leader. The Barack Obama of Canadian politics. A young, handsome, empty vessel, someone for whom dewy-eyed people can imagine all sorts of progressive things out of his vague rhetoric, but only from deliberate disregard for the non-progressive things that he's said.


Canadian politics has become so debased, so delusional, that none of this matters right now. Let's go all-out to simply force our representatives to respect the basis of their power over us. The NDP and the Liberals can at least claim to support Parliament and the Constitution. We have to stop harper first. Then we can work on improving the intelligence and sanity of our politics afterwards.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Grave Injustice

If someone committed a grave injustice against you (stole your business, your life savings, kidnapped your child, poisoned your family, destroyed your life) and then bribed or otherwise corrupted all the institutions that could bring you justice, what would you do?

What would you feel entitled to do?

Would you ever say to yourself: "Well, the courts have ruled in my adversary's favour. I might not agree with this decision, but I have to respect it."? Would you really say that in the face of an obviously corrupt process?

What if it never even got that far? What if the police were in your enemy's back-pocket and they ignored your claims and beat you up if you made a stink about it? Would you say: "I guess there just wasn't enough evidence to press charges."?

So, faced with a failed economic system, disguised by a corporate media system biased towards the status-quo, we face at least a decade of ruinous austerity. We face ruinous austerity, which means we have no idea what sort of economic tail-spin it will cause. We also face the galloping crisis of global warming, which we, as a civilization, are obviously incapable of even admitting to, let alone responding sanely to it.

At the present level, we have super-corrupt provincial governments in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. We have corrupt incompetents pretty much everywhere else. We have a government installed via fraud and protected by corruption. And we have three federal parties, all competing to be their own versions of the lowest common denominator, in order to try to win the "big prize" of a majority of the seats in our legislature, based on the largest minority of the bare majority of Canadians who bother to vote.

Part of the reason for this revolting state of affairs is OUR failure (we the people on the internet and in the streets who have been right all the time; right about Afghanistan, right about Iraq, right about global warming, right about "free trade" deals, right about economic policies, right about tax-cuts, right about education, right about pollution, right about the First Nations, right about gay rights, right about feminism) to use what power we have as a small, but committed minority, to have an impact on the political culture in this country.

Right here, right now, I encourage everyone who reads this to leave a comment. Everyone, even the lurkers; lurkers who are similar to the people who I've met in person who are just as intelligent as me, but lack the self-confidence or the willingness to publicly make mistakes, to blog or speak in public, leave a comment.

But your comment must answer the question: In the face of a government installed via fraud and protected by corrupted institutions, in the face of the fact that you believe in your heart that our present "government" stole its power, ... what can unarmed, democratic activists do in response to this?

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Montreal Simon's post alerted me to the fact that 2014 is going to mark 100 years since the First World War. This is as good a time as any, then, for me to say that Tim Cook's book Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars is a good book.

The part about Borden and the First World War does a great job of showing how that conflict really put Canada through the wringer. Not only did it pit English against French, but also rural against urban and workers against employers, like never before. Reading it, I felt like I was reading about recent Canadian politics while simultaneously reading about Canada's youth and the "great leap forward" into industrial maturity.

It's a good read. Check it out!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Oskar Schindler and Erin Brockovich

So, I finally got around to watching "Schindler's List" in its entirety. (The last hour got cut-off when I watched it a month or so ago.) I'll add my voice to those who say it is a masterpiece. The reason for this post is that all I really know about either Oskar Schindler or Erin Brockovich comes from the Hollywood films made about them, but I wonder how important the two portrayals are at identifying the heart of what made them remarkable, and what would make other, similar people remarkable.

The characters in the films are both fairly simple people with a high sense of entitlement. Schindler, as the guy who happily takes the stolen property of imprisoned Jews and who then exploits them as super-cheap labour, is obviously the one with the greater sense of entitlement. But you can tell that the Brockovich character really thinks she can do whatever she wants, the way she abrasively confronts anyone who disappoints her.

They're both, in their own way, "people persons." They've got an excellent gift for gab and for schmoozing and for remembering people's names and stories. Schindler butters up the Nazi functionaries he wants contacts from and Brockovich is able to keep the whole Doestoevksy novel of all the families in the poisoned California community straight in her head.

What happens in the films is that these two characters, with their sense of right and wrong clearly delineated, and their self-confidence in the themselves so strongly developed, react with righteous, unshakeable conviction, when confronted with evils far outside what passes for respectable behaviour. And the thing that made them heroes isn't that they called evil "evil." It's that they believed enough in their own convictions and their own "guiding stars" (for want of a better term) to actually do something amazing and heroic in response to this evil.

For Schindler, it was seeing that the Jews he had robbed and exploited were actually being gunned-down in the street, that finally turned him:

For Brockovich, it was stumbling into the ongoing corporate cover-up of poisoning and mass-murder:

Sometimes, things really are black and white. Very often actually.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Canadian Banks Outsourcing Jobs

Billions of dollars in profits. Multi-million dollar salaries. But still, they want to save a few hundred grand at the expense of the livelihoods of their workers.

Who are the main shareholders in Canadian bank stocks?

Of course, you'll always find some mainstream economist who will drone on and on about how small this particular incident of outsourcing, automating, down-sizing, whatever is, in the context of the economy as a whole. There'll be some study showing how wages in outsourcing-prone industry aren't any more stagnant than wages in the wider economy so there's nothing to worry about and all is right with the world.

It's not as if this stuff should be expected to add up year after year, decade after decade.

It's the same with these economists as it is with their blathering about the steady decline in poverty in Canada, which runs parallel with the steady rise in homelessness and food bank use during the same period.

But it does add up.

It's what brought about the 2008 financial panic and multi-trillion (still only multi-billion in Canada) recession/stagnation we're currently suffering through.

The icing on the cake for us sane people is that the hucksters have managed to blame this debacle, and the billions of dollars in government debts, on the poor, on public healthcare and on the salaries of public sector workers. And too many ignorant people are still buying it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Miserable Failure

So, Tom Flanagan is back, writing in the Glib n' Stale. (He doesn't have a steady gig like plagiarist, shit-for-brains Margaret Wente, but that might be testimony to his inferior fellatio skills.) Anyhow, if some figure, revered by the Canadian Left, had been filmed saying that child pornography was just a "taste in pictures" do you think they could ever rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of the Globe's editorial board? In Flanagan's case, he's done sterling service for Canada's scum-bag ruling elite, attacking and attacking and insulting the First Nations and providing a blue-print for their further marginalization and the expropriation of the wealth on and under their lands, so it's all got to be put in the proper perspective.

If a left-winger did that AND did something like call for the assassination of Ezra Levant or Andrew Breitbart on national television, AND THEN told a right-wing viewer who emailed him to complain "I know where you live!" ... well, all this would be testimony to blah, blah, blah, self-interested hypocrisy.

So, Margaret Thatcher died. I think my idea of her legacy will be the working-class Brit who I met one summer working as a security guard between college semesters. He'd emigrated to Canada and was forced to do temp work like being a security guard. He liked Thatcher. He said: "Somebody had to do something about the unions. They were too powerful." Awesome buddy. Stick to your principles and ideas no matter what the reality. Let me know if they ever find the WMDs.

Let's face it, besides being at the helm of a superior military machine when a fellow fascist (Argentina's Galtieri) invaded the British property of the Falkland Islands, Thatcher was a miserable failure. Sure, she broke things (like the power of the trade unions in Britain), and that's usually about the extent of the "success" of any right-wing figure, but her "positive" achievements were nil. She was on the wrong side of history on Apartheid, on gay rights, on economic policy. Her world view was informed by the simple notion that as the daughter of a grocer, she knew that the books had to be balanced at the end of the day. Supposedly, wage workers don't have to pay for anything then? What? People don't go into debt to buy houses and take more than one day to pay it off? Corporations don't have debts?

She was just a miserable failure, like Tom Flanagan, Jimbo Flaherty, bush II, Barack Obama, Mike Harris, Ralph Klein, ... the whole damned miserable lot of them. But their failures serve the ruling class, so all is forgiven. By the rulers anyway. And the simple.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Resisting the State - Chapter 5

This was maybe the most problematic chapter of Scott Neigh's Talking Radical:Resisting the State for me. It's about Don Weitz of the Anti-Psychiatry Movement. Now, I've heard of the Anti-Psychiatry Movement before. And I get that mental institutions were, and remain, frightening places where horrific abuses have occurred. I get that people are over-medicated, given what are essentially chemical lobotomies. I know about the CIA mind-control experiments (read: torture) at the Allen Institute in Montreal (to provide but one Canadian example of this horror). But I also know that there is such a thing as mental illness. I know people personally who are lonely and confused and occasionally tortured by imaginary conspiracies based on hallucinated phone messages and other things. I know about people allowed to make harmful, life-altering choices while in treatment, to preserve the ridiculous fiction that they're in control of their own lives. In Hamilton, Ontario alone, I know of two tragic cases where people died because physicians were unwilling to risk censure or lawsuits and have them committed to treatment even after they and their family members pleaded that somebody do so.  (There were probably more, but these two stories really affected me.)

This chapter got my hackles up right away, which is probably a good thing. Even in my defensive state, I was able to get Neigh's case against the abuses of psychiatry. Here's one part though, that got me. Weitz describes how, as a privileged young man at university, he began to question what he was doing with his life:
It was 1950 and I was in college at the time. My grades were falling and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, which is not unusual. I was very confused, but I was never violent, never committed a crime toward anyone at that time or since. Because I was saying some things that they didn't understand or agree with, my parents thought I was mentally ill so I was locked up ... Within a very short time I was subjected to the horrors of sub-coma insulin shock treatment, which is really a form of torture.
Now, obviously, depriving someone of their liberty should require more than just having your parents think you're weird. And the "treatment" that people like Weitz suffered was often based on a combination of delusion and sadism. At the same time, this very vague "I was saying some things that they didn't understand or agree with" led me to doubt Weitz's credibility.

Did Weitz say: "I don't know Mom and Dad. The subjects that I thought I'd be interested in have turned out to be completely uninteresting. I think maybe I should take a year off, work in a factory or planting trees or something" or did he get into some manic, incoherent rants at two in the morning?

Yes, there's a stigma against mental illness. But part of the process of infantilization is the way some mentally ill people refuse to admit they have a problem when it's staring them and everyone else in the face. If a guy drinks all the time to the point of losing several jobs, killing his kids while drunk driving, and ending up on the streets, and says: "What's wrong with having a little drink now and then?" nobody would take anything they have to say as being worthwhile.

Bonnie Burstow and Weitz begin their book Shrink Resistant thusly:
The labels say: "Don't take this person seriously. There's nothing to what she says. So what if she complains about the pills making her dizzy or sick? She doesn't now what she is talking about. After all, she is mentally ill." ... As pychiatric survivors, we know what it is like to be permanently  brain-damaged by psychiatric drugs, electroshock and other forced treatments - for our "own benefit" and against our will ... We know too that the stories in this anthology are not unusual. Go into any psychiatric facility in any major city or region in this country, and you will hear them.
 Here's an important section where Neigh and Weitz confront the politics of psychiatry:
To sort out some of the politics surrounding psychiatry, it can be useful to start by considering the two general classes of moment - two kinds of though, really - that can lead to engagement with the psychiatric system. One might be encapsulated by the sentence, "I feel bad." This captures the idea of an individual experiencing distress, identifying that experience, and making choices about how to navigate it. The other though is, "S/he is acting oddly." This can play out in many different ways, but what is key is that it is not someone acting on their own experience of distress but rather is someone acting based on observations and judgements about someone else's behaviour. However sympathetic the observer might think they are being, centering their judgement rather than that of the experience of the person in distress opens the door for coercion and oppression, whether the observer intends this or not.
Very true. This is a complex subject. Perhaps, as with free speech, we have to accept it as a value in itself, even if it means tolerating speech we find repugnant. I remember reading a journalist's account of reporting on a homeless woman. She was living inside the entrance of a Montreal subway station. When they did a tv news report on her, the only real result of the story was that the bureaucrat who had tolerated her presence there felt compelled to evict her. She moved underneath a pine tree nearby, which had branches that extended to the ground, providing a canopy and wind-barrier of sorts. According to this account, she was happy there in the winter, pissing and shitting on one side of the canopy and living on the other. She did not want to be moved to a shelter, so nobody took her away. The reporter didn't do a story on her, he just made some enquiries about it, which resulted in the owner of the building (which housed either another government office or some large corporation) having the branches of all the trees cut so that they no longer provided shelter from the elements. It was at that point that the journalist decided he'd done enough to help this woman.

The same institution that let a friend of mine make all sorts of bad decisions while in a state of prolonged mental confusion because "she was in charge of her own life" and who told her she was a voluntary patient who could leave any time she wanted, was also keeping a young woman in 48 hours of solitary confinement for being confrontational. Every time I went to visit my friend at this hospital, I always felt a twinge of fear, that in some vague process, a guy in a white coat would determine that I was likewise insane and that orderlies would restrain me as a sedative was injected into my arm.

I think there's a lot of fucked-up stuff in the mental health world. I also know that medication created by some giant, corrupt pharmaceutical company has permanently helped me overcome a debilitating problem with OCD.

Pages 131-140 is basically Scott providing an overview of the big issues.

Pages 140 - 157 talks about Weitz's life and his history of activism. Pages 151-154 deal with Weitz's involvement with the overall successful campaign against shock treatment in Ontario.

I'm still conflicted about the whole subject but I'll let Weitz have last word:
I don't care how dissident or different a person may be, no one deserves to be locked up, even if they're suicidal. They claim that if someone is suicidal, he or she should be locked up. It's in every Mental Health Act: "Oh, well, he's talking suicide; we have to lock him up." Excuse me, whose life is it anyway? You want to help me if I'm suicidal? Understand why I'm suicidal. You want to help me? Don't give me any drugs; understand my existential situation. how did I get that way? Why do I want to kill myself?

I was once suicideal. Alf Jackson saved me. I could have ended up in the Clarke with electroshock. How did he help me? I was very suicidal. I was going to lie down on the TTC subway tracks. This is a fact I'm telling you now. It was 1978 or '79. I had a nine-year-old son who had died from cancer a few years before. I was getting a divorce about the same time. Doesn't take a PhD or MD to understand how somebody can feel very depressed and suicidal about theri life. Alf let me stay with him for two days - no drugs, no antidepressants, no locked wards. I got through it because he was the mensch, he was the person that he was.
We do not have a healthy health system. We do not have an understanding system. We have to get rid of the medical model. That has to be abolished. It has to be destroyed. The medical model in psychiatry is a fraudulent scheme; it's destructive, harmful.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Resisting the State: "I Call It Surviving"

Chapter 4 of Scott Neigh's Resisting the State deals with Lynn Jones,  a black, female trade union and community activist from Truro Nova Scotia.

My Mom's family settled in Truro when she was a girl. We went down east once on a visit and my Aunt was driving us around and referred to one part of town as "where all the black people live" with what I sensed was unease. Having grown up in Hamilton on a steady diet of Buffalo, New York news and American television, my 8-10 year old mind immediately thought of practical dangers of poverty and crime and not some visceral dislike.

Maybe around ten years ago, a black guy asked me for money outside Copps Colosseum in Hamilton. "I'm not a nigger!" He told me. "I'm from Nova Scotia!" Completely unsure as to what the proper response to that should be, I asked him what part of Nova Scotia and when he said Truro, I told him that my mother was from Truro.  I said my Aunt lived in Bible Hill. We talked a little bit about the place and I went on my way.

Nova Scotia has had an oppressed black community since the American Revolution, when blacks who had served the British cause were given their scant reward by the British government as dramatized in Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes. They were relegated to segregated sections of Halifax and, among other places, Truro.

Lynn Jones faced blatant discrimination from the very beginning in Canada's white supremacist society. That's the origin of the chapter's title: "You call it activism. I call it surviving." Her statement shows the clarity of the difference between minority and majority status. For white people in North America, it's possible to just go with the flow. An attractive middle class white woman could, in the 1960s, get a financially successful husband or, with time, a career. A working class white guy can hope to get a steady job and know some degree of autonomy. But for a low-income, female black woman, or a Canadian aboriginal, struggle comes as part of the job description. For instance, it came as a bit of a surprise to me to hear that there were separate washrooms for black and white schoolchildren in Truro schools in the 1950s.

Jones fought for recognition of black culture while in high school. In university, she fought for the preservation of a government program that allowed blacks and aboriginals to access post-secondary education.

When, as a member of PSAC, her and a friend applied for two union executive positions that were vacant, the retiring members suddenly decided they weren't going to leave after all, provoking a genuinely spirited campaign. Once in, Jones got her union working on things like sexism and racism. Men walked out of meetings where they were told not to refer to women as "girls" and both white men and white women bridled at the idea of bringing "non-union" issues like anti-racism into the discussion.

On pages 122 to 126, Jones relates her organizing the community in Halifax, primarily black, against the federal government's attempts to close down an unemployment office. Given the lack of public transportation and the community resident's lack of private transportation, this was not a good thing. They occupied that office for 122 days before the feds relented.

But, and this is where Scott and I have our biggest disagreement; The feds waited for a bit, and then they moved the office to a smaller location and then closed it altogether. I believe it's a tall order, but we have to work at taking power ourselves. Spirited communities of people are crucial and power corrupts and yadda, yadda, yadda. But as long as the assholes have the initiative, they will wear us down and they will win. As exhausting as the struggle is just to hold the line, it will be a bigger, more exhausting struggle to take power away from those who have it, but it will also mean less struggle later on. If it's done right and set to with philosophical rigour.

[P.S. This post took a little longer to type because when i couldn't find a google image for Lynn Jones, i looked for images of Truro, Nova Scotia. Apparently there's a talented budoir photographer in Truro. If you're looking for such a service, and you're passing through Truro, you might want to check that establishment out.]

I Don't Want To Be An Old Man Who Can't Stop Making Unsolicited Speeches

There's the example of the guy in the second video at this post. Then, ... at a talk that I gave (wherein, this middle-aged white guy got himself FORMALLY INCLUDED on the schedule) a respondent, .... a successful in life, now retired, older white guy, went off on a series of extended rants about his own hobby horses, rather than the topic at hand (which, please remember, was formally put on the agenda), and then, at the electoral reform town hall last night at the Church Street Community Centre, I left after the audience started getting restless and then one old white guy took the microphone and began making a speech instead of asking a question.

Oh yeah, at the big "Idle No More" rally at the Eaton's Centre, as it was winding down, some middle-aged white guy in a British Red-Coat jacket got up on a wall and started making an impromptu speech about the system.

I had been too moved (almost to tears) by the event itself and by the story of the Dene Nation woman my friends and I spoke to about how "Idle No More" had reawakened so much pride in her heritage and herself personally and her people, that I would even consider hijacking it by getting on a soap box and telling those assembled about what they should all be doing.

As I say at that first link, I don't believe that as white men, we should shut-up forever. I actually think I've got something important to say. That's why I put myself on the agenda one evening and gave a talk. But when somebody else is trying to talk about something, and especially when a lot of other people came to hear what that person is trying to say, it's not the time for you to take over the discussion, and especially not with a pointless recitation about how the system is fucked and how WE DEMAND JUSTICE!!!!

This being Canada, it's most likely the law of averages that these obnoxious types are white, but that doesn't explain why they're 95% male.

[Sean Connery's picture is up there as a joke. He's an older white guy who a lot of women seem to like. I was speaking with a Muslim, Arab woman, in her early-forties and a professional type, and she told me he was her favourite actor. She found him very attractive. I remember about ten years ago, a lot of women seemed to say that a bald man could be attractive if he was Sean Connery.]

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Resisitng the State: Urban Colonization and Resistance" UPDATED!!!!

Chapter Three of Scott Neigh's Talking Radical: Resisting the State is based on interviews with Roger Obonsawin and Kathy Mallet, two First Nations people who worked to build friendly spaces and services for their fellow FN people in Canada's urban centres.

Roger Obonsawin

Kathy Mallet

Neigh begins by discussing the urban environment and how First Nations responded to it. He points out the dual dilemma wherein First Nations peoples were confined to isolated, impoverished reserves (which remained impoverished as a result of deliberate federal government policy) but if they moved to urban centres to escape this poverty, they were met with blatant and outrageous levels of racism, discrimination and abuse.

Obonsawin is from Quebec but has done most of his work in Ontario. His mother was French Canadian and his father gave him his Indigenous background. They moved to Sudbury when he was young and his mother was quite active in getting services for Francophones in the city. Obonsawin's father tried to keep quiet about his culture because knowledge of it would endanger his night-job as a bartender. When he graduated from high school, Obonsawin worked in the mines for a while before being hired by the Ontario Department of Public Welfare. The government sent him to Toronto, to what is now Ryerson University for extra training and Obonsawin decided to focus on First Nations' social welfare supports. [Reading this section made me think about what a different country was being created in Canada in the 1960s and 1970s. Governments were building services to meet genuine needs in society and the end result (together with a tight labour market) was a strengthening of the confidence and dignity of more and more members of the population. I think it was that, more than "stagflation" that produced the neo-liberal counterattack on the welfare state that has brought us to this depressing political-economic environment.]

Obonsawin was first radicalized by the Trudeau government's 1969 proposal to eliminate the separate constitutional status of the First Nations and assimilate them into Canadian mainstream society in the infamous "White Paper on Indians." Obonsawin was a young man, only beginning to become politicized and his own involvement against the White Paper was slight. But the crisis opened the eyes of First Nations peoples across the country as to the real nature of the government. Furthermore, even though the White Paper was pulled, Obonsawin says that assimilation remained the goal of every federal government since.

Obonsawin joined the Union of Ontario Indians, which was the only institution for First Nations in Ontario and, together with national groups like the National Indian Brotherhood, fought back. The federal government's new tactic was to kill with kindness. They began to offer funding to these organizations.

The tenor of the meetings changed quite dramatically before the demonstrations and after. Before the demonstration it was more "How do we organize ourselves to fight this?" They were very effective in organizing to march on Ottawa. After that the tenor of the meetings was more, "How do we access funds to keep our organization going?"

Government money was directed to specific groups and nations, Status, Non-status, Metis, ... all would have to campaign separately for separate funding grants. Now, personally, I can see that this went down one of two ways; Neigh and Obonsawin see it as a deliberate process of divide-and conquer. Me, I see it no doubt partially that, but I can also see that well-meaning bureaucrats within the Department of Indian Affairs might think that smaller groups within the broad collective of First Nations might like their own funding for their own issues, so as not to be drowned out by the larger groups. There might also have been simply a desire to impose some rationality on the system. Instead of giving a huge lump sum to some amorphous collective, provide specific funds to specific groups to do specific things. Part of my reason for thinking this way is that the Canadian government isn't that smart. I don't think the Ontario government hired people like Obonsawin who had little training and then paid for their education as some sort of sinister plot. I also don't think the entire federal bureaucracy knew the devastating impact of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for a long-term crushing of the spirit of First Nations resistance.


Right, where was I?

Oh yeah. So, Obonsawin gets involved with Native Friendship Centres in the often very unfriendly urban environment that so many "awesome Canadians" believe is the go-getters' alternative to the reserves. How unfriendly are Canada's urban centres? Check it out: The northern Ontario town of Red Lake was where Obonsawin went to manage a Friendship Centre. Soon after his arrival, he gets a call from a Native couple. They desperately need a car to get the wife to the hospital. Neither the ambulance service or the police would do the job because it was determined by these public servants that the wife was probably just drunk.


I mean, the icing on the fucking cake is that neither the husband or the wife drank and he was holding down a good job in the mines, but hell, ambulances will show up at a junkies' flop-house if they're called, but in racist small-town Canada, those crackers won't even do that.

On pages 86 and 87, Obonsawin speaks about how he had to go all the way up to the mine manager to get decent housing for Native mine workers. In Canada, in the 1970s, the main employer in a mining community provided the First Nations workers with shacks, outhouses and a communal water tap, while giving their white workers heated homes with plumbing. First Obonsawin was told that the Natives preferred living that way. Then, when confronted with the line-up of frustrated First Nations applicants for housing spots, the mine's housing manager said that the First Nations people would "mismanage" their housing. Obonsawin had to go all the way up to the mine's manager to solve the problem.

Obonsawin tried to steer the Friendship Centres to focus more on fostering Aboriginal culture. At Red Lake he switched the meetings from English to Ojicree, which necessitated Obonsawin needing a translator, rather than the bulk of the Centre's clients. When he moved to Toronto, Obonsawin found the same absence of First Nations community in Toronto. Unlike other groups, First Nations in Toronto have no neighbourhoods to call their own. They have no street full of shops and restaurants celebrating their culture or community.

Using the Friendship Centers to foster cultural awakening turned out to be an incredibly important beginning to restoring some sense of pride and purpose among First Nations in Toronto. (This is something that can't be emphasized enough. I've recently started pointing out how so many Christian Canadians feel so bent out of shape about the imaginary "war on Christmas" that they're suffering, or the way cultural conservatives feel now that they're not encouraged to fag-bash anymore, or how Tea-baggers in the USA are having conniptions over a black president. Culture matters. And cultural dislocation and alienation are devastating. If so many mainstream Canadians are bawling their eyes out over multiculturalism, imagine how the First Nations feel having had their languages almost destroyed, their religions outlawed for decades, their economy eviscerated and their laws abolished?)

Finally, with the 1982 Charter of Rights & Freedoms, Obonsawin's activism went towards defending the traditional legal and economic rights of his people in the face of further attempts at deliberate assimilation on the part of Trudeau.

I'll finish this section on Obonsawin with this quote from the book:

I've always seen Indian Affairs as the enemy. People don't see it that way, but they really are. They are not there to further our interests but to protect the government's interests.  ... I really believe that Indian people are just an afterthought unless you really push yourself in there, unless you're visible and just say, "No!" ... That means civil disobedience sometimes, that you are prepared to go to jail for your principles and your beliefs, or prepared to go to the front lines for them.
Kathy Mallett's story centers around the welfare of indigenous children, racism in Ontario schools and the theft of indigenous women's "Indian Status" by the state when they married a non-Aboriginal man.

As is detailed in the book Dark Legacy, the First Nations had been systematically targeted for destruction via their children. "Kill the Indian in the Child" was the goal of the residential schools. By the 1960s, the religious perversion, rape and tuberculosis of the residential schools became untenable to maintain. It was in that decade that the Canadian state which had done so much to torture and abuse First Nations children in their residential schools decided that it was vital for the welfare of First Nations children that they be removed from their supposedly incompetent parents and sent to live with non-native families, often in other provinces or even other countries.

Eventually, there was an uproar in Manitoba, led by the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council (DOTC) who spearheaded efforts to create indigenous-controlled child welfare agencies and to challenge the Manitoba CAS. It seems that Kathy Mallett was a student in Aboriginal Studies at the the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and leader of the Aboriginal Students Union at this time.

We did lobbying, we did public speaking to white social workers [laugh] to let them know what we wanted for our community. We got a lot of flack from them. That's fine.

We did not know how to use [the media] initially but as we got involved with them and  became friends with a lot of the reporters, we got to know them, they got to know us. Some of them would say to me, "Kathy, you're so accommodating. We phone you up, you're busy but you are there. We call up some of these men in these political organizations - "I don't have time to talk to you." We got to know how to use the media quite well.
Things came to a head when a First Nations woman approached Mallett's group to find out why her child had died in a foster home. This child was taken from her mother by the state, and given to a foster home that was only supposed to have four children, but this baby made five. She drowned in the foster parent's bathtub.

Mallett's group wanted to conduct a full-scale review of the Manitoba CAS and then build their own indigeneous child welfare capacity. Mallet says that some First Nations men thought that by putting Aboriginal workers within the traditional CAS they could solve their problems without reinventing the wheel. Mallett looked at the CAS director, a union-hating, pink-Cadillac driving tyrant of a woman, and thought otherwise. Winnipeg's First Nations formed the Native Family Services and the Urban Child Welfare Coalition. First Nations activism forced the provincial government to form an inquest into the young girl's death which ended up calling for changes in the way CAS was run and acknowledged the First Nations' concerns.

The CAS director called all of this one-sided and "melodramatic." When reports came out of First Nations youth being illegally placed in solitary confinement at a youth facility, the battle-lines hardened. But all of this stress began to provoke splits between CAS workers and upper management.

Pages 98-100 deal with Mallett's group and their successful resistance to the CAS's clumsy (and eventually fruitless) attempt to buy off FN anger with token positions on the CAS board of directors. Buy the book and check it out!

Hmmm. T'would appear that I'm spending way more time on this series than I'd planned to. I'll finish my chapter summaries, but they'll be WAY shorter. I still hope to whet some appetites for social justice readin'!