Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seattle Police and the OWS Movement

Many thanks to Roxy Katt for her post and link to a story and video showing Seattle Police arresting a woman for opening up an umbrella while on the ground in a park, a practice recently banned by the city.

While watching the video, I initially had the sense that the police were behaving so gingerly in making the arrest because a camera was filming the action. Then I started to wonder whether or not it might also be indicative of their ambivalence about what they had to do. Did they too think the new law, which they are required to enforce, is an oppressive response to peaceful protest?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Video That Police In All Democracies Should be Required To Watch

Sometimes sweet justice prevails. Watch this video from Democracy Now's Amy Goodman to see how.

Reasons To Occupy Toronto

There are many Canadians, most prominently Prime Minister Harper, who dismiss the Occupy Movement as having little or no relevance for Canadians. In a column specifically directed toward the young, but of significance to all progressives, The Star's Heather Mallick, with both style and considerable humour, today offers a wealth of reasons that counter this notion.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Another Excellent Column From Rick Salutin

As I have written elsewhere, in my view there are few Canadian columnists who can match or exceed the depth and range of intellect consistently reflected in the work of The Star's Rick Salutin. In today's piece, entitled Drawing inspiration from the strike that wasn’t, he explores the relationship between democracy and unions, reminding us that their members are the unions, not the executive, not the bargaining committee, not the leadership in general. He also reminds us of the challenges they face in the current political climate.

David Sweet's Video Appearance

While Conservative M.P. David Sweet is coming under criticism after his appearance in a video honouring James Hubley, a gay teen who was bullied before his suicide, I have a different interpretation of his participation which I am sure many will disagree with (which is fine, by the way).

I gather that the controversy surrounding Sweet stems from the fact that he has previously expressed his religious view that homosexuality is unacceptable in the eyes of God. Now, everyone wants him to clarify his position, implying that his appearance in the video is either hypocritical or politically opportunistic.

I see it differently. Despite the 'gottcha' mentality that now pervades our society and which is probably at the root of much of this ado, I see his appearance in the video not as a negative event, but as a positive one. Casting aside for the moment my usual cynicism, I can't help but think that his decision to participate was done after some significant soul-searching, and marks a brave choice for a member of a party whose constituents are often angry, intolerant and dismissive of concepts such as differing sexual orientations.

So for me, David Sweet, even though he refuses to discuss the issue further, has made a moral choice that transcends both party affiliation and religious beliefs. And for that, I commend him.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Media Pundits Don't Understand

Robert Hackett, a professor in the school of communication at Simon Fraser University and a research associate at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ B.C. Office, has written an incisive article on the failure of media pundits to understand the true nature of the Occupy Movement.

Including references to both the disgraceful Kevin O'Leary 'interview' with Chris Hedges and recent comments by Andrew Coyne, Hackett dismisses the frequently-cited criticism that the movement lacks specific demands by arguing the following:

Social movements have often started out with a shared grievance, not a particular solution. Think of the flagship of today’s global movements, environmentalism. It ranges from conservationists who want to preserve wilderness, to more politically-oriented groups advocating policies to counter global warming, to radicals who see civilization itself as the problem. A smorgasbord of approaches. But united by a concern that the ecosystems on which humans depend are threatened, and need our conscious protection.

So too with Occupy Canada. The people involved share one belief: that the currently dominant “neoliberal” or “free market” version of capitalism is not working for the vast majority of people. While it creates wealth for some, it is also the destructive global engine behind massive and growing inequality, the current fiscal and economic crisis, and climate change and environmental collapse.

Hackett's piece is well-worth perusal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Capitalism Tries To Turn Occupy Wall Street Into A Commercial Venture

In what can only be regarded as a perversion of the Occupy Movement, a couple in Long Island, New York has paid a $975 patent application fee to turn the phrase “Occupy Wall Street” into a brand for a line of coffee mugs, T-shirts, bumper stickers and bags.

“If I didn’t buy it and use it someone else will,” Robert Maresca, 44, told

While I'm not surprised at this attempt to commercialize an anti-establishment movement, just as I am not surprised to see increasing interest on the part of Obama and the Democrats to ride its coattails for political advantage, I can only hope that the movement itself continues to represent the widest diversity of views and unrelenting challenge to conventional ways of doing things.

Chris Hedges Discusses OWS On Charlie Rose

Just back from my hiatus, I found a very recent Charlie Rose interview with the always articulate Chris Hedges and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. It is well-worth watching as a primer for both the Occupy Movement and the corporate dominance that has turned true democracy into a charade.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Latest From Chris Hedges

For those who have not yet read Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class, his latest essay on truthdig, entitled A Movement Too Big to Fail, is must-reading.

Using the thesis from his book, namely that the members and institutions of the traditional liberal class: unions, political parties, academia, etc. long ago abandoned their function of opposing the rise of imbalance through the dominance of the power elite, Hedges asserts that the Occupy Movement will not be co-opted by those failed counter-balances.

Says Hedges:

The Occupy Wall Street movement, like all radical movements, has obliterated the narrow political parameters. It proposes something new. It will not make concessions with corrupt systems of corporate power. It holds fast to moral imperatives regardless of the cost. It confronts authority out of a sense of responsibility. It is not interested in formal positions of power. It is not seeking office. It is not trying to get people to vote. It has no resources. It can’t carry suitcases of money to congressional offices or run millions of dollars of advertisements. All it can do is ask us to use our bodies and voices, often at personal risk, to fight back. It has no other way of defying the corporate state. This rebellion creates a real community instead of a managed or virtual one. It affirms our dignity. It permits us to become free and independent human beings.

I especially like his reference to creating a real community and affirming our dignity, permitting us to become free and independent human beings. It is through the spreading realization of this strength as individuals opposing a system rigged in favour of the few that the many will grow and have a voice.

So despite Bob Rae stopping by at the St James encampment the other day, no doubt for political advantage, and despite unions beginning to show solidarity with the movement, they are not the important elements in this fight, having long ago sold out principle to become part of the power structure. It is the people themselves, you and I and all others who want to see change, that are the ones who matter in this movement.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Latest Threat To Financial Stability? Canadian Obstructionism

While we reflect on the concepts brought forth by the Occupy movement, namely that the many are ill-served by the control exerted by the few, we should also consider the role that our own government is playing in the world.

I have written extensively on the shame our government has brought to our name internationally by its unrepentant support of the export of asbestos to developing countries, going so far as to prevent it even being listed as a toxic substance under the Rotterdam Convention's Annex 111 classification.

Equally shameful is the obstructionist role Canada is playing at this weekend's pre-G20 meeting, when it tries to thwart a European proposal to add a minuscule tax on financial transactions that would yields billions in revenue to cash-strapped nations in Europe. In Canada, such a tax could generate more than $3.7 billion annually.

The proposal that our Finance Minister Jim Flaherty finds so threatening is as follows:

...a tiny tax of 0.1 per cent ($1 per $1,000) on transactions of stocks or bonds and only 0.001 per cent (1 cent per $1,000) on transactions of financial derivatives.

So a stock trade of $100,000 would cost an additional $100. Who is threatened by this?

And this isn't the first time the Harper government has worked against the interests of the majority. Prior to the 2010 Toronto G20 summit, he and his cabinet minister colleagues embarked on an international campaign to scuttle an IMF proposal for a levy on banks. As a result, the agreement by G20 leaders at the 2009 Pittsburgh summit to have the financial industry make a “fair and substantial contribution” for the costs of the crisis remains

Now what is it again that the Occupation movement has been saying about the 1%?

John Steinbeck and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

In my days as a high school English teacher, one of my favourite books to teach was John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, the story of dispossessed farmers who, due to drought and economic factors, are forced to leave their land behind and travel to California in the hope of starting a new life. That new life ultimately turns out to be one of terrible privation and exploitation as they seek work as migrant pickers, desperate to earn what little money they can to stave off complete starvation.

But beyond being a stinging indictment of an economic system that has stopped working for the people, the novel is ultimately a tale of strength and hope, informed as it is by the author's deep humanity and social conscience.

As I follow the Occupy Wall Street Movement, I find myself thinking of the things against which the movement is protesting, things that have, in fact, been part of the North American economic system for a very long time. But I also think of something else as well, a notion or concept that saves Steinbeck's novel from being a document in despair, a notion that I see very much alive in the people fuelling the Wall Street Movement.

First to the concept: Steinbeck believed in something called Manself which, while difficult to precisely define, is based on the notion that there is something within the human spirit, something we all share and are united by that propels us forward toward something beyond the status quo.

A quote from Chapter 14 (one of the intercalary chapters that breaks from the main narrative of the Joad family's struggles) of The Grapes of Wrath offers a useful demonstration:

For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man – when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back.

This you may know when the bombs plummet out of the black planes on the market place, when prisoners are stuck like pigs, when the crushed bodies drain filthily in the dust. You may know it in this way. If the step were not being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall, the throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live- for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died. And fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live – for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken.

And this you can know- fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.

The above have always been powerful words for me, as Steinbeck articulates the strength of humanity, the willingness to live and die by principles and beliefs that are a threat to the powers-that-be. He tells us to fear the time the bombers stop dropping the bombs not because he is extolling warfare, but because he sees the use of armed repression as a powerful example of how threatened by the innate strength of humanity are those those who would control us, dictate the terms of our existence, and consign us to lives of misery if they can benefit from that misery.

Essentially he is telling us that whether or not our fight against injustice, evil, and inequity is successful in the short-term isn't the ultimate consideration. Rather, it is the fact that there are those among us who will fight, even if the odds are against them, who will suffer, even die, because their cause is just, that is the reminder of what we are and what we can be. It is, in fact, a strong repudiation of those who would have us believe that we are simply consumers of their goods, voters for their party, fodder for their economic empires.

It is this spirit of Manself, this defiance, this resilience, this refusal to any longer passively submit to a fate determined by the corporate agenda, to in fact confront it and work to defeat it, that I see in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

It is that thing the power elite, responsible for so much inequity, so much environmental destruction, so much suffering and despair, should be afraid of.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Toronto

Well, I had the opportunity to attend the Occupy Toronto march to St. James Park, and I was impressed by the age range of those in attendance, as well as the calm orderliness that prevailed. I really hope the movement, as it spreads throughout the world, will give people the voice, the knowledge and the strength needed to fight the gross imbalances that exist today, whether the issue be taxation, corporate dominance of government policy, environmental degradation, etc.

BTW, the media report that there were over three thousand in attendance.

I'll have more to say in future posts, but for now, a few photos:

CBC Apologizes Privately for O'Leary

The following has been reported in The Globe with regard to Kevin O'Leary's boorish and abusive recent interview with Chris Hedges:

CBC’s ombudsman says Kevin O’Leary’s heated remarks during an interview with author Chris Hedges violated the public broadcaster’s journalistic standards.

The watchdog says hundreds of complaints were filed after Mr. O’Leary called the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist “a nutbar” during CBC News Network’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange on Oct. 6. The remark came during a seven-minute segment about the Occupy Wall Street protests unfolding in the United States.

Unfortunately, like an embarrassed parent covering for an errant child, CBC News correctly issued a private apology to Mr. Hedges after the interview but should also have apologized on air.

A CBC spokesman was not immediately available Friday to say whether that recommendation would be implemented.

Unlike a responsible parent, however, in its on-going quivering deference to the right-wing forces it is constantly seeking to appease, there is no indication in the report that CBC will demand an apology from O'Leary, just as it gave him a free pass earlier when he used the racist term 'Indian giver'.

Until O'Leary is brought to his knees in a genuine apologize, anything the CBC does on this matter is, to me, a mere charade of integrity.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pop Quiz: Can You Detect The Bias In This News Report?

Hint: it's from a Fox affiliate.

Funny, But True

Enjoy this satire that really isn't a satire about the 1%:

A Victory For The Occupy Wall Street Movement

With the world watching, and over 300,000 names on a petition to stop it, the planned 'cleanup' of Zuccotti Park, formerly called Liberty Plaza Park, has been halted. The cleanup, which had been ordered by Mayor Bloomberg and was to have involved the 'muscle' of the NYPD, was to have taken place at 7 this morning; In a a pretty transparent attempt to end the occupation, the protestors had been told that after the cleanup, they would not be allowed to bring back sleeping bags, tents, etc.

As reported by, more than 3,000 people gathered at Liberty Plaza in the pre-dawn hours this morning to defend the peaceful Occupation near Wall Street. The crowd cheered at the news that multinational real estate firm Brookfield Properties will postpone its so-called “cleanup” of the park and that Mayor Bloomberg has told the NYPD to stand down on orders to remove protesters. On the eve of the October 15 global day of action against Wall Street greed, this development has emboldened the movement and sent a clear message that the power of the people has prevailed against Wall Street.

The world continues to watch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What the Occupy Movement Means for Canada

There is a surprisingly good article (but only online, I think) in the Globe and Mail by an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Armine Yalnizyan, who offers an interesting assessment of the Occupation Movement.

These are a few of the facts the article brings forth:

Raise the top tax rate by 3 per cent on those making over $250,000 -- a round number which marks the entry gate for the fabled 1 per cent - - and, at 32 per cent, you’d still pay less than the 33 per cent rate in the U.S. at that income level. It would raise about $2-billion, the federal share of, say, a national child-care program.

A 35 per cent tax bracket for Canadians whose income is higher than $750,000 -- the U.S. top rate, except there it’s applied on incomes above $373,650 -- would yield $1.2-billion. Over a decade, that could pay for the federal share of fixing drinking-water and waste-water infrastructure across Canada.

Realistically, however, such is not going to happen in the near future. As Yalnizan points out:

But governments are increasingly tangled up in elite interests. The latest example is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty‘s drive to marshall support to scuttle a proposed financial transactions tax, a mechanism that could help slow down the wild gyrations of the stock market we’ve witnessed of late. Flaherty and other G20 finance ministers will be meeting in Paris just as thousands of Canadians gather to Occupy Toronto on Bay Street. He will be protecting certain interests, just not those of the majority of Canadians.

And that will likely remain the status quo, unless and until enough of us join the movement to make both our voices, and our outrage, heard.

Mississauga Bans Shark Fin Products

Say what you will about Mississauga and their errant mayor, but on Wednesday its municipal council did the right thing. Despite those who urged caution, the council voted to implement a ban on the possession and sale of shark fin products, now joining the Canadian cities of Brantford and Oakville, and the State of California, in taking a stand against this barbaric practice. As well, Toronto will soon be considering implementing the same measure.

Meanwhile, my letter to the Hamilton City Council of August 23 requesting such a ban continues to go unanswered. Hardly surprising, in that it is not one of the more progressive municipalities in Ontario.

The Truth About The Garda Screeners' Dispute At Pearson Airport

While the mainstream media has uniformly reported that the job action delaying so many passengers recently at Pearson International is over scheduling conflicts, to my knowledge only one source has actually reported the nature of that conflict.

The Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom yesterday reported the following:

A few months ago [Garda, the screeners' employer] tried to cut costs by replacing better-paid full-time workers with part-timers.

Garda now wants its workers to bid against each in order to keep down the wage differentials it pays those who do the worst shifts.

Shift-bidding, as it is called, strikes directly at the heart of unions. It allows the employer to pit one worker against another in a search for the most desperate.

So in other words, to increase its profits, Garda, in an apparent violation of the collective agreement it has with its workers, is trying to get those workers to offer their security services cheaper than their fellow workers.

Why has the MSM withheld this information from the public?

Do we really want to entrust our flying security to a company that shows such contempt for its employees?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gerald Caplan Writes on The Occupy Wall Street Movement

In an online article entitled This is what democracy looks like: Occupying Wall Street and Bay Street, Gerald Caplan and Amanda Gryzyb discuss why the occupation movement is a healthy expression of the people, and address some of the inequities that will surely help focus its Canadian incarnation beginning on October 15: vast social inequities, climate change, rising unemployment, precarious jobs, the lack of upward social mobility and the egregious corporate influence over government.

More specifically in Canada, some dismaying facts about life here are as follows:

The youth unemployment rate is 17.2 per cent. An increasing number of Canadians – young and old – are precariously employed or underemployed, without benefits and without job security.

The poverty rate in Canada is over 10 per cent, and one in seven children live in poverty.

Our homeless shelters are over capacity and our food banks face constant shortages.

Tuitions at Canadian universities are rising, and graduating students are debilitated by student loan debt.

A nation of such wealth simply should not have such glaring social inequities.

Let's hope for a good turnout on Saturday.

Peel Police: Where Racial Profiling Goes By Another Name.

And that name appears to be 'rookie mistake.' At least that is what the force is claiming in its 'apology' to Isaac Williams, a 60-year-old who emigrated from Jamaica in 1972 and who, despite having received a heart transplant, is apparently youthful enough to pass for the 20-year-old black suspect wanted for a break-and-enter. That suspect was also described as being 6 inches shorter than Williams. Despite those facts, the Peel Police, in a typical cover-its-ass institutional response, deny that any racial profiling was involved.

The full story and a video with the wronged man is available here.

My CBC Letter of Complaint About Kevin O'Leary

For anyone who might be interested, here is the letter of complaint I sent off by snail-mail (not as easily ignored as email, at least that's my thinking) yesterday to the CBC about Kevin O'Leary and his disgraceful treatment of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Chris Hedges:

To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing to express my strong disapproval of Kevin O'Leary's insulting 'interview' with the well-respected writer and journalist Chris Hedges on a recent Lang and O'Leary Exchange. In referring to Mr. Hedges as a 'nutbar' and employing a general tone of sarcasm throughout the segment, O'Leary not only disgraced himself but seriously tarnished the reputation of the CBC, which at one time enjoyed world-wide acclaim for the quality of its programming. To allow one of your employees to resort to ad hominems as a substitute for reasoned discussion is inexcusable, and is a sad extension of the Corporation's unwillingness to demand an apology from O'Leary for his racist statement earlier this year about “Indian givers.”

I suspect the ongoing decline of the CBC's journalistic integrity stems from your desire to placate the Harper government and its right-wing adherents. History teaches us that such efforts at appeasement rarely yield the results intended, but rather exacerbate and accelerate the deterioration of the placating body. I also suspect you will find declining support for organizations such as Friends of the CBC, since the distinctive role the Corporation once played in Canada is quickly becoming just a memory.

It is perhaps ironic that in substituting invective for reasoned discussion in his Hedges' 'interview,' O'Leary was exemplifying the thesis of Hedges' book, The Death of the Liberal Class, which posits that the traditional challenges to the power elite's excesses no longer exist, as unions, the church, educational institutions, the media, etc. have abdicated that role in favour of ensconcing themselves within the power structure.

As a long-time supporter of the CBC, it is a harsh truth that I wish our national broadcaster had proven the exception to.

Lorne Warwick

For those interesting in registering a complaint, both the snail-mail and website contact information is listed below:

Audience Relations, CBC
P.O. Box 500 Station A
Toronto, ON
Canada, M5W 1E6

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Older Generation Joins With the Young

For people of my generation, the following videos are heartening, depicting as they to the willingness of military veterans to put themselves at risk to protect the young people in the Occupy Boston Protest. Be sure to view both videos - the first explains the vets' position, the second demonstrates the courage of their convictions:

Civil Disobedience: The Courage of Tim DeChrisotpher

I had not heard of Tim DeChristopher, a brave young man who, in the dying days of the Bush administration in 2008, attended an oil and gas auction in Utah in 2008 and disrupted it by submitting winning bids on various tracts of land, with no intention of paying for them. Despite the fact that the auction was later determined to be largely illegal, DeChristopher was charged with disrupting an auction and sentenced to two years in prison this past July.

An indication of how threatened the 'powers that be' felt by DeChristopher's actions can be inferred from this excerpt from the prosecution's sentencing report:

The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of “civil disobedience” committed in the name of the cause of the day. A significant term of imprisonment will underscore this truth for the defendant and the community.

In other words, the system protecting the forces of greed and environmental depredation felt the need to send a strong warning to discourage others from trying to alter a status quo that seems impervious to conventional avenues of remediation.

In a time when there seems to be a growing recognition of the need for civil disobedience, this young man's story is a very important one. You can read about him and see a number of short interviews with him here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Panic of the Plutocrats

That's the title of an excellent article by the New York Times' Paul Krugman as he writes about the hysteria being elicited in the power elite over the implications of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

From Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, describing the protesters as “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans” to Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare", and Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain calling them "anti-American," it is clear that the ultra wealthy, those used to having their political agenda enacted unimpeded, and their minions are feeling deeply threatened by a movement of citizens who are finally paying attention to the man behind the curtain.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Tim Harper on the One-Year Anniversary of U.S. Steel's Hamilton Lock-out

We are approaching the one-year anniversary of U.S. Steel's lockout of the workers from its Hamilton plant; the lockout would seem to be in contravention of the guarantees that the company undertook when seeking approval from the Harper government for its foreign takeover of the steel-making facility. (We citizens, of course, are not allowed to know the details of the agreement.)

The Star's Tim Harper offers his analysis of the situation in an article entitled Broken promises and impotent government hurt Hamilton
and reminds us that last year, while in a minority situation, the Harper government promised a review of the Investment Act, responding to prompts by the NDP and Liberals. Needless to say, now that he has achieved a majority, Mr. Harper has backed off from that promise.

I guess he doesn't want to send the wrong signal to the corporations. As for the locked out workers? Well, they don't really count, do they?

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Chris Hedges Addresses the Occupy D.C. Protesters

The acclaimed journalist offers a stirring indictment of the American Dream that has become a living nightmare for the majority of Americans:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chris Hedges From The Occupy D.C. Protest

In a very informative interview from Washington, Chris Hedges incisively and very articulately holds forth on the implication of the protests, the difference between the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party, and how Obama is no different from preceding American Presidents.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An Interview Fox News Refused To Air

I have to say that my life has been immeasurably enriched since becoming a regular visitor to In addition to providing important perspectives on issues that are either largely ignored or heavily filtered by the mainstream media, the site features well-known writers such as Chris Hedges, who has a focus in his work that we can ill-afford to ignore.

Truthdig's value, I think, is evident in the following video that has gone viral, featuring an interview by Fox news with a very articulate Occupy Wall Street protester Jesse LaGreca. In the piece, LaGreca launches into a skillful criticism of the kind of journalism practiced by Fox. For reasons that will become apparent, the interview was never aired.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Republican Eric Cantor Concerned About Growing 'Mobs' On Wall Street

In a shameless but hardly surprising display of partisan hypocrisy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) referred to the Occupy Wall Street protests as “growing mobs.”

Why is this hypocritical? Well it has something to do with his enthusiastic support of Tea Party protests back in 2009.

You can hear his almost 3:00 minute peroration here, and you will note that very few American platitudes are overlooked, including reference to American exceptionalism and what a giving and generous people Americans are. Few emptier speeches have I recently heard.

Chris Hedges Vs. Kevin O'Leary

Many thanks to Dr. Dawg and Let Freedom Rain for the link to this video, in which Chris Hedges demonstrates amply his disdain for that bombastic cipher, Kevin O'Leary.

Noam Chomsky on the Occupation Movement

Largely shunned these days by the corporate-driven mainstream media, Noam Chomsky expresses some optimism about the Occupy Wall Street Movement that has spread to several cities:

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

‘If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself’

So says Republican Presidential nomination hopeful Herman Cain. Expressing his disdain for the Occupy Wall Street movement, Cain seems at a loss to understand the anger people feel over the failure of the United States Federal Government to reign in the reckless practices of Wall Street, its thralldom to the corporate sector that cares nothing for environmental depredation, housing crises, financial meltdowns from which it is largely insulated due to taxpayer-funded bailouts, etc. etc.

When pressed by the host on whether the banks played a role in the 2008 meltdown, Cain allowed that they did "in 2008. But we're not in 2008, we're in 2011,"

Such incisive analysis by a Republican Presidential hopeful takes my breath away.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Aerobic Workout While On The Job

The NYPD shows us how its done with only one simple piece of equipment, a baton:

Has This NYPD Officer Been Watching Video of Toronto's G20?

You decide.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Shark Fin Ban Update

The latest news on shark finning, the ugly and barbaric practice of killing sharks so their fins can be used to make a soup prized as a status symbol in the oriental community, comes from two communities, Mississauga and Toronto.

Last night, the former voted to move forward with a bylaw banning the possession and sale of shark-fin products in the city, capping nearly an hour of debate on the matter. The bylaw decision — which will not be formally voted on until next week’s council meeting — comes a month after city staff suggested municipalities do not have the authority to ban shark fin.

Toronto, sadly, is being offered the same timid staff advice to the effect that the city has neither the legislative reason nor the manpower to enforce such a ban, first proposed by two councillors, Glenn De Baeremaeker and Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Said senior licensing and standards manager Bruce Robertson:

“The matter is one that clearly and more properly rests with more senior levels of government.”

He added it would be “very difficult, at best, and nearly impossible, at worst, to enforce the ban on a product that can be legally and easily purchased,” outside Toronto and brought in.

The committee will instead be urged to call on Ottawa to ban the importation of shark fin, cartilage and all other derivative products to Canada, and to protect shark populations in Canadian waters.

While the call for a national ban seems like a good idea, given the Harper government's reluctance to impede commerce in any way, I am doubtful about the fate of such a proposal. As well, there is nothing to stop Toronto council from passing its own ban as an interim measure.

Nothing, that is, except perhaps the political will to act with integrity.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Chief Bill Blair's Gambit

It is difficult to know exactly what the repercussions will be for Chief Bill Blair, who attempted to go over the heads of his civilian overseers, the Toronto Police Services Board, and appeal directly to Mayor Rob/Doug Ford in trying to stop the mandated 10% reduction of the police budget.

In his most recent meeting with the board, the possibility was held out by the Board that the reduction could be spread out over two years because of the legislative constraints around officer deployment.

As the final motion passed, a notably agitated Blair fought back.

“I have to tell you, I can’t recommend it in good conscience because of the impact it would have on public safety …” the chief said before being cut off.

Perhaps the fact that he was cut off will serve as a forceful reminder to Blair that he isn't running this operation, that civilian safeguards are in place to exercise reasonable restraint on police forces and overzealous, even arrogant police chiefs.

My fervent hope, however, is that the Chief does not resign over the issue of reductions. Any action that makes him look like a martyr will, perforce, lead some people to forget the ignominy he rightly earned over his role in the massive violations of Charter Rights during last years G20 police violence.

And that egregious misuse of state power is something no healthy democracy can afford to forget.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Controversy at the College of Teachers

We are told in today's Star that Jacques Tremblay, the former Chair of the College of Teachers Disciplinary Committee, has other interests, including writing soft-porn for teens. The author describes his book, entitled Sexteens this way:

The Sexteens book “is meant to empower teenagers, to encourage them to be strong and resist or avoid peer pressure.” Tremblay said the book has “been endorsed by parents and educators.” He did not identify the parents and educators.

I have little to add, except that he decided to include in this 'instructional tome' a character named Harry Dick.

Not exactly my idea of worthwhile reading.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When Police Chiefs Go Rogue

In a frightening, bald, and very public display of how much of a politician he has become, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has announced that he is no longer taking direction from the Police Services Board, as required by law, but is instead trying to broker a deal on the police budget directly with Mayor Rob/Doug Ford.

Refusing to even try to meet the mandated 10% budgetary reduction, the truculent Blair has submitted a budget with a 1.5% increase, a move that recently earned the scorn of Ford acolyte and hand-picked vice-chair of the Board, Michael Thompson, who recently opined that the Chief would have to be replaced if he can't follow Council and the Board's direction.

With political skills sharply honed during the G20 violation of Charter Rights last year, the errant Chief has perhaps succumbed to an unbefitting hubristic delusion that he is a law unto himself.

For anyone unfamiliar with Greek tragedy, hubris always leads to a big fall.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Monday, October 3, 2011

No Surprises Here: Harper Government Set To Undermine Unions

As reported online in the Globe and Mail today, "The Conservatives are set to take another hit at labour organizations, this time through a private member’s bill designed to force Canada’s unions to open their books to the public."

"The bill’s content is still confidential, but its title shows it will seek to change the rules governing labour organizations under the Income Tax Act, which exempts unions, along with charities and municipalities, from paying taxes. If adopted, the bill will force unions “to apply financial disclosure rules” that are already in place for charities, said a source, given the tax benefit that they receive."

Whatever the ultimate fate and intention of this private member's bill, it will keep alive the tired conservative rhetoric about union bosses and at the very least represents their continuing campaign of sowing public and union members' discontent with unions.

As well, it could mean ending unions' political activism, thereby eliminating one of the few counterweights to the corporate agenda that is so well-financed in this country through lobbyists, conservative think tanks, etc.

Most darkly, it could be a prelude to Harper introducing 'workplace democracy' legislation that would allow union members to opt out of paying dues to unions that pursue causes that individuals don't support, a favorite tactic of the right-wing in United States and an effective way to cripple or destroy unions.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Criminal Teachers And Those Who Protect Them

As a retired teacher, I cringe when I read about wrong-doing by those in the profession. It enrages me that people occupying positions of trust and care would violate their duty to protect and nourish by exploiting their young charges. However, as one who aspires to the ideals of critical thinking, I can't turn a blind eye to these offences and wish them away.

A series in The Star, the result of a lengthy investigation, suggests a systemic problem in bringing these criminals to account. The paper theorizes that one of the reasons this is occurring, in some cases over many years, is a reluctance by teachers to inform on their colleagues. I cannot speak to that, having never known anyone to behave inappropriately in the classroom, but I do know from experience that just like the Vatican did in untold cases of pedophiliac priests, institutions try as hard as possible to conceal their problems, lest the institution suffer bad publicity that therefore impede the career paths of the ambitious.

For example, there was a case of an administrator who was stealing goods, money and services from his school; I have it on what I consider very good authority that a brave soul made every effort to bring the wrongdoing to the attention of senior administration and board officials. He was told unequivocally to drop his pursuit. Eventually, and I don't recall the precise details, his crimes became public, at which point he was permitted to resign, and the board signed a confidentiality agreement with him, an agreement that the board still insists is valid and thus binds them to secrecy. Of course, the critical thinker would immediately ask why the board entered into a secrecy agreement with him. I will leave you to ponder the implications.

The other problem, and I saw this with teachers who either had either very poor attendance or poor teaching practices, was an unwillingness by administration to confront the problem which, if done properly with several opportunities for improvement, can lead to dismissal of the teacher. The difficulty, as one of my friends and colleagues used to say was, “Lorne, they just don't want to do their jobs.”

The following example illustrates this perfectly:

Another administrator in my board, who was moved for harassing his staff as he constantly pressured them for money to feed his gambling problem, was moved to my school for a year where he was allegedly given the job of overseeing special projects which, to my knowledge, never went beyond scheduling on-calls when teachers were absent. The following year he was moved again and became an adult education administrator where, as far as I know, he finished out his career.

Note how the above shows the unwillingness to directly confront a problem employee. It was much easier to simply shift him around.

Public opinion notwithstanding, it is not unions that protect incompetence; the union's role is simply to ensure that the entire process that can lead to dismissal is scrupulously followed, which requires that administration, usually the principal, conduct many meetings with the teacher in question, offer constructive instruction as to how to improve, maintain the appropriate paperwork, etc., all guaranteed to ensure that his or her rights under the collective agreement have been observed and respected. Most principals, in my experience, did not want to put in the effort to do this, and were happy to simply arrange a transfer of the problem to another school, if one were available. Then, of course, he/she became someone else's problem.

It should be clear from the above that like so many other institution, politics in the worst sense of the word permeates education; indeed, taking a few quotes from the Star article demonstrates how officials no longer speak in meaningful ways, but use the obfuscatory language undoubtedly learned by watching the sleaziest of our so-called political leaders. Consider the following:

In an interview, College registrar Michael Salvatori said he could not discuss any individual cases. The Star had hoped Salvatori would answer questions about whether students were let down by the College or the school boards in cases where it appeared better screening or earlier detection would have saved a lot of pain.

“We are confident we have processes in place to protect students,” Salvatori said. “We can always do better.”

Asked about cases where it appears a teacher did not warn authorities of unusual behaviour (Baggio is one), Salvatori said “there are very few cases where (teachers or principals) do not carry out their duties.”

“The heart (of the College) is the public interest and safety of students,” said Salvatori, who added the College is concerned about “the welfare of students and ensuring teachers are well qualified and competent.”

I'll let you evaluate what he said, but for me, his comments do not pass the smell test.

Or consider the following criminal behaviour, which went on for 14 years, aioded and abetted by a feckless administration. I personally find the account difficult to read:

Antonio Raco

In what teachers commonly refer to as “passing the trash,” the Windsor-Essex Catholic District Board moved this Grade 6 teacher between at least four schools from 1991 to 2005. College prosecutors allege his assaults on girls from Grades 6-8 included taking students into the supply room and groping them; pulling a student close and thrusting his pelvis against her from behind; playing a game he called “Red Light,” moving his hands all over a girl's body until he touched her vagina; touching their breasts and hugging them so he could feel their breasts; and sitting on the floor in gym class and pulling girls against his groin. Raco swore at students, threw desks and played favourites. When one parent complained he told all the students he was going to “shun” her daughter. He was also, the college alleges, a dreadful educator.

One day, he told his young students never to share classroom discussions with parents: “This is Raco's circle — whatever happens in Raco's circle stays in Raco's circle.”

Raco, 53, was convicted of three counts of sexual assault in 2009 and sentenced to six months in jail. He is appealing his conviction. The College began a hearing two weeks ago but adjourned it because it was worried Raco (who was not in attendance) had not been properly notified.

Until those in positions of responsibility make the public good a priority over protecting and promoting their own careers, expect such betrayals to continue.

UPDATE: I just opened my Sunday paper, and The Star's investigation seems to be continuing. The latest headline: Sexting, cuddling with student, a teenage girl, did not cost teacher his job.

If you have the stomach for it, click on the above to read it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Powerful Indictment of NYPD Brutality During The Occupy Wall Street Protest

While the following video may seem tame by the standards of brutality set by the police last year in Toronto during the G20 Summit, it is heartening to see mainstream coverage of unwarranted police actions on Wall Street during the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest.

The host of the MSNBC show, Lawrence O'Donnell, has strong condemnation, as you will see, of what the police did to non-violent young protesters, and offers a realistic assertion that police abuse of citizens happens all too frequently, and that all too infrequently are they held to account. Not once do I recall this kind of condemnation by any mainstream media sources over the terrible things done in Toronto last year.

Please sign this petition urging Prime Minister Harper to stop threatening Michaela Keyserlingk and to stop exporting asbestos.

Star Article on Shark Finning

Having written previously on the inhumane and ecologically disastrous practice of shark-finning, I was pleased to discover in my morning read of The Toronto Star an article about the practice in China, which has the greatest appetite for shark-fin soup, considered a delicacy and status symbol there and throughout the world. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of high-profile individuals including Richard Branson and Yao Ming, both of whom held a news conference for WildAid in Shanghai last week, there is a growing recognition among the Chinese that this slaughter must stop.

If the topic is of interest to you, I hope you will check out both the story and the video that accompanies it on the Star website.