James Moore and “precision” in Gaza-Israel

James Moore was on CBC radio in Vancouver this morning talking about the “difference” between Hamas rocket launches from Gaza and Israeli operations into Gaza.

Per Moore, Hamas’ attacks are indiscriminate, and are simply aimed at civilians to do the most damage. Conversely, according to Moore, Israel’s attacks are “pinpoint precision” and are specifically targeted at combatants, not civilians.

Let’s review the numbers, though, shall we? According to the Gaza medical authorities and the UN, there are nearly 800 people killed in Gaza so far, will all but about 150 being civilians. Roughly 81% civilian deaths. There have been about 30 Israeli deaths, all but 3 soldiers. 90% combatant deaths.

Equivalency isn’t something I’m arguing here – there should be no more deaths. But James Moore’s pronouncement that Israel’s attacks are solidly different because they’re more targeted is questionable, at best.

Just How Many BC Government Comms Staff Are There?

crowded_factory.jpgBelow are all the job titles of all the comms staff in the BC Government Communications and Public Engagement bodies as of last week. Count with me! :)

There are 278 people!

278. That’s more than a few. The records include folks in these two areas:

Government Communications: which tends to the day-to-day communications
functions, including strategic communications, media relations and issues management; and
Strategic Initiatives Division: which largely consists of technical experts who provide
corporate online and data services to government.

But don’t take my word for it; count for yourself. I might be off by a few. My eyes get a bit blurry counting them all.

This part is very curious:

There are over 15 online editors in the “Media Monitoring Services” section alone. With two more online editors in the mega-gravity well, International Trade and Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism/Intergovernment Relations Secretariat.

But 278, really? Really?

  1. Is that high or low compared to other provinces/states?
  2. What are their job descriptions?
  3. Do they troll in Twitter, Facebook, the comments section at the CBC and other websites?
  4. How many sock puppets do they each manage, if any?
  5. Or do they just clip newspaper articles and count hashtag usage, and benignly report the data to the ministerial staff?
  6. Do they do partisan work for the BC Liberal Party, or do they do work only on BC government programs?
  7. Why are Agriculture and Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation so devoid of comms staff compared to all other ministries? I can guess. I bet you can too.
  8. If you could FOI, say, 5 job descriptions, which ones would you choose? [Me: online editor, public affairs officer, media monitoring assistant, and I'm still pondering two more.]
  9. Can you think of how to craft an FOI request to determine how much work various of the 278 staffers do that is for government versus for the political party in charge? Because they’ve had a blurring line problem in the past.

Granted, many of these positions are necessary just for government to function. But 278?

278? Say it with me. 278.

And that includes at least one comms director and one comms manager and generally at least 2 public affairs officers for each ministry. Are they really pumping out that much content and fielding that many requests from media? Remember, there are far fewer journalists in BC bopping around asking questions than there used to be before the great corporate media consolidation/purges!

But it turns out, there are only 4-5 news releases each day coming out of all of government. And while comms does far more than just pump out news releases, I wonder whether they might be a bit, you know, overstaffed?

So. here is the list of comms positions. Enjoy!

2014.07.14 Responsive Records

Class Warfare CAUSED Income Inequality, Not the Opposite

Horatio Alger mythology is designed to make us leave the 1% alone and shut the fuck up.

If you haven’t yet seen John Oliver’s amazing rant about the perils of inequality and how the rich shame us out of talking about it by suggesting we’re trying to invoke class warfare, you can see it below.

The truth is, income inequality doesn’t just happen one day, then the classes fight each other. Class warfare is what creates the conditions for income inequality.

But as long as the 1% can keep us from talking about class issues, we can say income inequality 84,000 times each day and nothing will ever change.

The rich want to keep us poor and powerless.

But we all knew that anyway. It’s time we did something about that, don’t you think?

Because the more we continue to believe in this American Dream nonsense, the longer the 1% continues to pull our strings.

We need to demand higher taxes on the rich and corporations. We need to protect working people. And the environment. And people who aren’t old white men, so basically those without entitlements.

And if this isn’t yet clear enough for you, you may now watch John Oliver sock it to ya!

Class Warfare CAUSED Income Inequality, Not the Opposite continued »

Lego Pimps Your Kids’ Brains For Shell Oil

Shell LegoThis is just too much.

Lego has teamed up with Shell Oil to pimp your kids’ brains for Shell.

We need to be helping our children understand that our future lies in the post-carbon energy infrastructure and things like solar roadways.

Here’s one way to do that, at Lego Block Shell.

Another is to share this priceless video, so that everything CAN BE awesome!

 

BC’s Deep Deep Racism, Shhhh!

Shhh, this is uncomfortable. It might make you ashamed.

Hopefully it will anger you to action?

First Nations burial grounds in BC have less protection than settler cemeteries.

Along with desecration at a Musqueam burial site, someone is building their home on top of another burial ground on Grace Islet off Saltspring Island. On stilts [see the horrible details below]. And the person building this home was once fined $150,000 for putting fake safety labels on retail products. Sigh. Morality much? Ever?

The minister responsible said in the legislature that Grace Islet’s “owner” “and the archaeology branch had done everything they needed to do to proceed” with the home construction. Except live moral lives, that is.

What kind of universe are we living in?

What kind of sick racist society allows people to build a home on someone’s burial ground?

Ours.

If this makes you ashamed as a British Columbian, you have a good soul. Here’s what you can do to force our elected “honourable” leaders to stop this blatant racism.

Educate yourself on this shameful situation. This is a good start. And you can follow developments in the Twitter.

Sign this petition. Then…

Email/phone the following people and tell them the following things:

  1. BC’s laws are racist and inadequate. You won’t tolerate this.
  2. Tell them to pass Private Members’ Bill M 208 to help First Nations protect their burial sites.
  3. Tell them that dignity matters to you and it should to them.

Here’s who you contact:

  1. The minister responsible: Minister of Forests Steve Thompson: FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-6240
  2. The premier: Premier@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-1715
  3. The opposition leader: john.horgan.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  4. M 208′s MLA, Maurine Karagianis: maurine.karagianis.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  5. Your MLA: see the listings here.

Then share this article with the 3 people in your life who appreciate human dignity the most. You have good taste in friends. They will support you in this campaign because they’ve got your back.

Finally…

Here’s some of the disturbing background about this stilt house on a burial ground.

Provincial archeologists in the 1970s marked Grace Islet as part of an ancient First Nations village. It later became privately owned and subdivided into a residential lot. The 0.75-hectare piece of land was bought in 1990 by Alberta businessman Barry Slawsky, who is now building a luxury home on the site.

The development has been intermittently stalled by a series of archeological assessments and permit requirements since the remains were found.

The owner has fulfilled all legal requirements and adjusted his plans. He is building the house on stilts so as not to disturb any burial spots, and has begun to clear the land.

Jacks said Slawsky has not responded to requests to sell the property or meet with First Nations. Some band leaders even enlisted a local rabbi to appeal to Slawsky on a religious values level.

“Can you imagine if us chiefs went to Ross Bay Cemetery (where several historical figures are buried) and said we’re going to build a longhouse over it?” Jacks asked.

The Tseycum chief is among a growing group of people — including several First Nations, politicians, archeologists and residents — opposed to building over the burial grounds. They want the land to be protected, but the province has said it has no plans to purchase the land.

In British Columbia, burial sites dated before 1846 fall under the Heritage Conservation Act and any alterations are managed by the archeology branch. Burial sites established after that time, including Ross Bay Cemetery (1873) and Pioneer Square (1856) in Victoria, fall under stricter cemetery legislation.

- from First Nations chief says province’s burial ground policies are racist.

 

How Translink Impedes Transit Use

Translink is “being evasive on exactly how much money is being spent on this.”

via Compass Card program delayed again by TransLink – British Columbia – CBC News.

How’s that for not surprising.

Translink is notorious for its taxation without representation: taking municipalities’ money without providing democratic representation to municipalities. This was a gift from the provincial government years ago to keep local communities from directing their transportation infrastructure.

And now, Translink continues to be evasive about how much money they’re spending on the Compass card system and turnstiles, in place ostensibly to stop fare evasion. They’ve always been unclear on how much fare evasion is taking place and how the turnstiles will fix that, without costing millions of extra dollars.

And all of this skirts the debate that transit should be fare free anyway. Sigh.

But now, I have quite a bit more sense of how Translink impedes transit use. Yesterday I tweeted to the universe this futile yet obvious observation:

Turns out, Translink didn’t reply to my tweet. Maybe they’re understaffed [but I know they monitor their hashtags]. :)

Today I spoke with a small business operator who had a Fare Dealer sign in the window. I wanted to buy fare savers. He was out, and even more frustrated than me:

  1. He has to pay up front for fare savers and bus passes.
  2. He can only put in 2 orders each month; Translink explained that they’re too understaffed to take more orders.
  3. Large retailers like London Drugs get an infinite amount of Translink fare products, and on credit.

So a few things are clear here, unless Translink can somehow credibly refute the above 3 points:

  1. Translink impedes transit use by making it too complicated to get fare savers and fare cards, quite the opposite of requiring shops at Skytrain stations to stock fare products.
  2. Translink is funded by federal, provincial, municipal and gas tax revenue but won’t allocate sufficient staffing to allow riders to get effective access to fare products.
  3. The Compass card is just another elaborate corporate welfare scheme based on a right wing government policy decision to install the system to stop fare evasion [poor bashing] despite not providing a sound business plan and without sufficient transparency to see if the Compass system provides value for money.
  4. Fares are a tax on the poor. A tax system designed with dignity and respect for various income classes is a progressive system that taxes the rich more than the poor. Then it spends that money on public goods like a high quality free public education, health and transit systems. Instead, we have MSP premiums going up, underfunding of education and increasing transit fees.
  5. If the governments really cared about climate change and building a post carbon energy infrastructure, transit would be free. No turnstiles. More Skytrain cars. More buses. Less cars. More green electricity being used to move more people.

 

The Occupy Movement Has Changed the Narrative, But We’re Not Done

Recently, with the WEF spending the last few years acknowledging global income inequality is a problem, I’ve declared a kind of victory for the Occupy Movement: getting the lexicon on the 1% and inequality on the tongues of the sly gazillionaires who rule the world, and into mass consumption.

Now we see that the CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest cancers of neoliberal capitalism and a prime mover of the 2008 crash, has admitted that income inequality is a problem and a destabilizer. Sadly, though not surprisingly, in this interview he also trotted out typical neoliberal “realities” of globalization, making the economic pie grow [but growth and decline lead to unequal distribution], outsourcing and winner-take-all-capitalism. And repugnantly, he lamented [sniff] how “if there was a lever to pull and a button to push…” then he continued with a babble of phrases and jargon, but what he was implying is that we’d just pull that lever and fix it all. But he also implied there is no lever/button.

But guess what, Lloyd Blankfein, there is. Wait for it…just redistribute income.

He even said in the interview that economies need to grow [not so, say the Steady Staters, including me] and they need to distribute the income properly. But how does one make a market/economy distribute income properly? It’s NEVER been from the voluntary goodness of the 1% or their compradors.

We’ve had to fight for it, either through social movements, unionization or government regulation. We’ve had to take it from the rich.

Here’s the lever, Mr. Blankfein: raise taxes. Raise them on the rich, on the corporations, on the $1.5 trillion, yes TRILLION, in cash that US corporations are just sitting on. Raise them to generate some income to create some public goods: a robust public education system, a public healthcare system, subsidies for green energy and transit development, a stronger welfare and unemployment insurance system so people can live in dignity. Arts, culture, solar roadways, home retrofitting, organic food development, funding a gap year for volunteerism, providing amnesty and language/job training for illegal immigrants. How about that, for a start?

Then increase the minimum wage to a living wage.

How’s that for addressing income inequality, Mr. Goldman Sachs apologist spin doctor?

Well, he’s a smart guy, but instead of suggesting all these OBVIOUS undergraduate economics solutions, he said there is no lever or button.

What a liar.

Now that we’ve got these liars talking about income inequality, but trying to spin us into believing there’s nothing we/they can do about it, let’s get busy.

If you scroll back up to the top right corner of this webpage, you’ll see that 85/116 people voting [albeit, a self-selecting non-random sample], felt we should reboot Occupy Vancouver. But it’s really 84 because I voted twice, each on a different browser. Sorry.

And if 10% of those 84 people joined us in rebooting Occupy Vancouver, along with building our affinity network starting with Occupy Ottawa, we can move to the next phase of the Occupy Movement highlighted by the 3 month Wave of Action: actually DOING something about income inequality. And if you wonder what we CAN do, see my list, above. But there’s so much more!

So if you’d like to catch up on the Occupy Vancouver reboot, and [as a bonus] if you’ve already dumped Facebook, we’re looking at the Wave of Action platform to do our organizing. And you’re free/encouraged to join us!

The platform feels a bit like Facebook, but it’s owned by everyone and we have control over our privacy. Once you get in, search for Vancouver and connect up so we can see where to go next with the agenda of doing something that the lying spinning 1% want to convince us we can’t do: fix income inequality and get more economic, social, political and environmental justice in the world.

The 1% Has More Solidarity Than We Do

In Davos, the 1% rule the world. Literally. They also have the guns.

The 1% are claiming we have it out for them; that if we don’t tone down the rhetoric and stop calling them names like “the contemptuous rich,” we might end up starting a class war. But they already know there’s a class war, and it’s been going on for generations. Today, the rich are winning because they have more solidarity than we do. The year 2014 is a battleground and the currency is solidarity. If we don’t start organizing together, quickly, and far more effectively, the contemptuous rich will continue to come out on top.

For centuries, the 1% were the nobility, the aristocrats, the old money, the patriarchy. Then Adam Smith pitched capitalism in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations, and liberated the entrepreneurs to join the blue bloods. Today, every January, corporate and government leaders from around the world – the people who literally rule the world – meet in the winter-wonderland of Davos, Switzerland, to launch the annual World Economic Forum. There, they plan the global agenda. This year’s sexy new idea was advancing “social entrepreneurialism.” That sounds so kumbaya, just like public-private partnerships, but it’s just spin for privatizing social services.

The World Economic Forum is just one of the most recent venues where the global elite show their solidarity with each other, and plan how to maximize shareholder wealth and minimize global social, economic and political equality. Beyond Davos, our rulers have also created a roadmap for undermining the democracy of nations through secret trade agreements like NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and CETA (the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement). These agreements are designed to give right-wing governments the excuse to deregulate industries, privatize public services, and elevate shareholders’ and investors’ “right” to profit above the needs of society.

How does this translate in Harper’s vision of Canada? April Fool’s Day this year marked the end of the 10-year Canada Health Accord and the beginning of a 12-year fiscal plan to cut $36 billion from federal Medicare funding. This manufactured disaster is textbook Shock Doctrine, designed to impair the public health care system in order to drive more demand for private alternatives.

THE RISE OF THE 99%

The Occupy Movement helped us understand the 1% and the 99%. One of the movement’s critical failures, however, was its inability to frame its core message in the face of a hostile corporate media, and a well-coordinated network of police and intelligence service agencies working together to discredit, mock, beat, arrest, and terrorize the Occupiers. The Occupy Movement’s message was, and is, merely equality: a demand for political, social and economic equality, plus, a healthy environment. This simple message manifested itself in dozens of demands, but whose message won? The 1%. After all, they own the guns and the corporate media. But, there is hope for the 99%.

On March 19, for instance, 650 people gathered in the Maritime Labour Centre to formally kickstart the Metro Vancouver Alliance, a solidarity catalyst if there ever was one. Its birth was inspired by the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing model, active in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK. The MVA is a coalition of labour, community and faith-based organizations who share common progressive goals.

On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the Occupy Movement rebooted itself in a worldwide “Wave of Action.” Its goal is a three-month rolling wave of activism at former Occupy sites, designed to reinvigorate the solidarity started in 2011. And there are other solidarity catalysts in Canada, including the Greater Edmonton Alliance.

These coalitions are fantastic, but they risk irrelevance if they can’t evolve to the next level of solidarity. These alliances need to grow more intense, both inwardly and outwardly.

The member groups of progressive coalitions need to find ways of connecting their individual members to better support each other. And the coalitions themselves need to support each other. I believe such an effort at deepening and broadening solidarity has, so far, been lacking. Meanwhile, the 1% are deeply well-connected, from community chambers of commerce right up to the World Trade Organization. They’re all spouting the same spin and rhetoric on their members’ behalf, while we, the 99%, can often not get past “letterhead coalitions,” a term introduced to me by Amanda Tattersall, one of the founders of the Sydney Alliance in Australia. What good is it to have a coalition when the extent of union, or faith, or community organization activity is merely a letter of support?

We need to seed more alliances in Canada. And we need to help union members themselves understand why unions matter. Labour campaigns like these can only help: the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) campaign, Together FAIRNESS WORKS; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) campaign, Unite for Fairness; and the National Union of Public And General Employees (NUPGE) campaign, All Together Now.

We need to then connect union members with social change coalitions, like Occupy Version 2 and the upcoming Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa (August 21 to 24). Our window is opening again. It’s time to leap through and convene the big gatherings.

This piece originally appeared in Our Times magazine.

My Deepest Apology to Stephen Harper, Military Genius

Yes?

For years I have been openly mocking our prime minister. He believes he’s the combined reincarnation of General Douglas MacArthur and Winston Churchill, often touting things like the Canadian victory in the War of 1812, even though Canada wouldn’t exist for another 55 years. Pish posh.

In reality, I have criticized Harper for being an international relations buffoon, something more like Ian McKellen’s Richard III.

But despite having criticized war-mongering Harper [who nevertheless abuses and neglects military veterans and their mental health disabilities] for deciding to buy a bunch of F-35 fighter jets, I shouldn’t have.

I criticized the ill-informed decision. Then when it turned out that he announced the procurement cost while neglecting to include the cost of…the engines…I criticized him for lying to the public.

But as it turns out, Harper has bested me. His commitment to buying these planes without the engines was very smarterer than any of us gave him credit for.

Because the engines are dangerous, don’t you know. Well, we didn’t know. But Harper probably did. The Pentagon has had to ground their whole fleet twice [see below].

So, next time you see me criticizing our Commander in Chief for a moronic military or international relations misstep [like skipping/missing G8 leader photo ops because he's in the can], please remind me that I misjudged him on the F-35s. Buying them without engines was likely the greatest military decision of this new, young century.

The U.S. military said it had grounded the entire fleet of 97 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets until completion of additional inspections of the warplane’s single engine built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

The Pentagon’s F-35 program office, Air Force and Navy issued directives on Thursday ordering the suspension of all F-35 flights after a June 23 fire on an Air Force F-35A jet at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The Pentagon said U.S. and industry officials had not pinpointed the cause of the fire, which occurred as a pilot was preparing for takeoff. The pilot was not injured.

The incident is the latest to hit the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program, the $398.6 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It followed an in-flight oil leak that triggered mandatory fleetwide inspections of the jets last month.

- from U.S. grounds entire F-35 fleet pending engine inspections

The End of Facebook at Politics, Re-Spun

Note how this looks a bit like the Death Star? :)

Hello!

Welcome to the post-Facebook Politics, Re-Spun website!

You will not find a Like/Recommend button at all anymore. Anywhere. We’ve even stripped it from the ShareThis ribbon. We’re so nasty! :)

Why?

Because Facebook is the devil. And Big Brother. And a menace to social networking.

They spent most of the last decade encouraging people and groups to network for free in Facebook. Bait.

Then the switch? They have essentially crippled organic sharing without us paying to boost content to all our likers/followers.

We were so stupid to assume they wouldn’t do this.

Now, they will use the Facebook app in your phone to monitor everything your phone “hears.” You must all delete your Facebook app out of your phone now.

If you don’t, you deserve to have your life monitored by Facebook. “Run, you fools!”

And finally, Facebook will track you even if you never click a Like/Recommend button, by just knowing “you” are viewing a webpage with some kind of Facebook code on the page.

Well, here at the Politics, Re-Spun editorialist worker co-op, we will not be a party to Facebook stalking you. Or us.

And when you think about it, we get 10-20x more traffic here from Progressive Bloggers than Facebook anyway. So, no loss, really.

So, fuck off and bad riddance, Facebook.