Archive for August, 2009

Harper has just ordered his government to try and destroy the opposition parties’ funding yet again.

stephen_harper_victoryVery few things Stephen Harper has done while in power have genuinely scared me.

Sure he’s done plenty of stupid things (denying gays the right to donate organs even if they’ve been tested, and opposing the UN conference to end racial discrimination to name two examples).   Sure, he’s done some mean-spirited things (creating a more regressive tax structure so that poorer Canadians must carry a heavier load of the federal budget, for example).  Sure he’s continued some of the most horrendously right-wing policies the Liberals implemented in their time in office (Employment Insurance comes to mind).

But in terms of 3rd world banana republic dictator-esque supervillany, this in my mind takes the cake.  In 2008, after having almost lost his government trying to emaciate and eviscerate his opposition like a would-be dictator and after having stretched the bounds of constitutionality by putting undue power into the hands of the unelected Governor General, Harper is now at it again.


U.S.-backed Chilean dictator Pinochet saluting his military guards

Harper just ordered Stephen Fletcher — the same guy who proudly boasted about how “The Japs” were “bastards” and then refused to apologize about it — to try once again to destroy and permanently cripple the opposition parties thus ensuring him a virtually untrammelled reign of terror for the foreseeable future.

This move by Harper isn’t just stupid; it isn’t just mean-spirited; and it isn’t just Conservative/Liberal politics as usual.  It’s scary and both anti-democratic and irreversible if implemented.  And that is a horrible combination.

Crimes against the rich vs. crimes against the rest of us

“You simply cannot hang a millionaire
in America.”

-William Bourke Cockran

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich
as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg
in the streets, and to steal bread.”

-Anatole France

Contrary to the myth that Western capitalist society obeys the rule of law, it has long been understood that the wealthy live under a different set of laws than the rest of us.  The crimes against property and against the wealthy are not weighted on the same scale as crimes against the weak and the destitute.

The average OSHA penalty for a wilful violation of the workplace safety laws causing death is $27,000 (USD).

On the other hand… The average penalty for uttering profanity (which would naturally cut into advertising revenue) on radio or television in the United States is $500,000.

The penalty for downloading 24 songs online (and thus depriving capitalists of that potential revenue) is $1,920,000 (source, source).

On the other hand…  Child abduction will cost you only $25,000.  Committing burglary against your non-wealthy neighbour is worth only a $375,000.  Arson is worth roughly the same as burglary.  Stalking is worth a pittance of just $175,000.  (source)

Vandalizing a something that isn’t even a primary dwelling or domus nets you $260,000 in France.

On the other hand… in British Columbia, Canada, the police (RCMP) can actually vandalize the primary residence of homeless people with impunity. (source)

A while back, TVO had a great speech by Darryl Davies which dealt precisely with the crippling inequality in the way we approach what is “criminal” and what is not.  For your viewing pleasure, I have included this lecture below.

We must start thinking of our modern capitalist society as not that far removed from feudalism in terms of the legal basis reinforcing the privilege of the wealthy.  I think this lecture goes a long way toward accomplishing precisely this.

Darryl Davies on crime (opens in new window)

Darryl Davies on crime (opens in new window)


‡ Nader, Raph.  The Good Fight.  Regan Books: New York, 2004.  154

Rumours of the Conservatives’ death in Québec have been greatly exaggerated

No left-wing activist wishes more than I that the media hype over the Conservatives’ putative death knell in Québec was reflective of reality.

Unfortunately, any progressive who wishes to buy in to that comforting and pacifying story is being sold a bill of goods.  Real organizing and the real fight to sweep the Tories from Canada’s most progressive province depends on being able to accurately estimate Conservative Party support.  The data now suggests that in the last four months the Conservatives have recovered as much as — if not more than — 50% of their lost ground in La Belle Province.

To be sure, the Conservatives are still down by 5-6 points from their 2008 election showing and are in risk of loosing at least one or two seats.  However even the most pessimistic numbers (from the Conservatives’ perspective) do not have the Tories loosing even half of their seats in Quebec.

Election planners with Canada’s two largest progressive parties — the NDP and the Bloc Québécois (the Liberals are not, under any definition of the term, progressive) — would be foolish to adopt a strategy that counts the Tories out or that does not consider them a continuing threat in the province.

Quebec Rolling-5 Poll Results:

2009-08-20 (QC)

Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, pseudo-progressive. She’s the real deal. [w/ video]

The Take

Before I had seen Naomi Klein and her husband Avi Lewis‘s 2004 documentary The Take, I was somewhat ashamed that I had not taken the time to sit down and watch it.

After viewing the documentary recently, I can say with certainty that I now deeply regret not watching it as soon as it came out.  I feel like I should have been shouting this film’s praises from rooftops for several years now.  This amazing, soaring, soul-wrenching, powerful, simple and yet also profound film is without a doubt the best documentary I have seen in the last 5 years (and possibly ever).

After watching The Corporationanother documentary in which Naomi Klein is featured extensively — with an old Marxist philosophy professor of mine, I was somewhat surprised to hear him so thoroughly bash its content.

“There’s nothing revolutionary in it.  There is nothing Marxist in it.  It’s nothing but the same old reformism,”  he told me.

Upon reflection, I suppose my former professor was entirely right about The Corporation.  However, The Take should put to rest once and for all any denigration of Naomi Klein personally as a non-revolutionary even if The Corporation may not have met expectations.  If there are any Marxists, anarchists or other revolutionary comrades out there who doubt Naomi Klein’s progressive and revolutionary bona fides, I challenge them to watch The Take and still hold that opinion.

Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, she’s the real deal.  This is the film that puts her over the top in my estimation into Noam Chomsky-esque territory (and coming from me, that is possibly the highest compliment I can give).

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, I now present to you The Take by Naomi Klein.  If you enjoy it, I strongly urge you to go to the film’s website and consider purchasing a copy of it.  This calibre of film making deserves our support.

“We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem”

Normally I don’t bother to give mainstream capitalist editorials a great deal of my attention.  However, yesterday there was an OP/ED in the New York Times that was a succinct and near-perfect exposé of the poisonous cocktail that is the mixture of guns, gender inequality and institutionalized misogyny in a culture.

It is well worth the read and I highly recommend it (despite the brief lapse into puritanism in paragraph 8).


Women at Risk

“I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me,” wrote George Sodini in a blog that he kept while preparing for this week’s shooting in a Pennsylvania gym in which he killed three women, wounded nine others and then killed himself.

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.

Back in the fall of 2006, a fiend invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.

I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

According to police accounts, Sodini walked into a dance-aerobics class of about 30 women who were being led by a pregnant instructor. He turned out the lights and opened fire. The instructor was among the wounded.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations.

One of the striking things about mass killings in the U.S. is how consistently we find that the killers were riddled with shame and sexual humiliation, which they inevitably blamed on women and girls. The answer to their feelings of inadequacy was to get their hands on a gun (or guns) and begin blowing people away.

What was unusual about Sodini was how explicit he was in his blog about his personal shame and his hatred of women. “Why do this?” he asked. “To young girls? Just read below.” In his gruesome, monthslong rant, he managed to say, among other things: “It seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little [expletive] has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason.”

I was reminded of the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in a rampage at the university in 2007. While Cho shot males as well as females, he was reported to have previously stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate said Cho once claimed to have seen “promiscuity” when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.

Soon after the Virginia Tech slayings, I interviewed Dr. James Gilligan, who spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts and as a professor at Harvard and N.Y.U. “What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.”

Life in the United States is mind-bogglingly violent. But we should take particular notice of the staggering amounts of violence brought down on the nation’s women and girls each and every day for no other reason than who they are. They are attacked because they are female.

A girl or woman somewhere in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count.

There were so many sexual attacks against women in the armed forces that the Defense Department had to revise its entire approach to the problem.

We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.

In case you missed it: Harper just gave more than $4 million of your money to Christian fundamentalist “school”

And, yes kids you too can get a  multi-million dollar renovation of your religious “school” from Stephen Harper just so long as you happen to own a religious school and happen to be of the same religion of the Prime Minister (and, presumably, happen to also hate “the gays”).

Harper christian fundamentalist school Alberta


A very religous friend of mine pointed out to me elsewhere that this school is not technically “fundamentalist” since they do not necessarily subscribe to a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.  Rather, this school represents a non-fundamentalist type of über-conservative religious schools.  While this obviously does not change the thrust of the issue at hand, I apologize for the error.


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