Who would Jesus whip and flog?
Happy Easter, 2014!
20 April 2014
Who would Jesus whip and flog?
Happy Easter, 2014!
17 April 2014
Once upon a time, before we knew much about ecology and systems theory, corporations just went around raping and pillaging the countryside, polluting whatever they wanted.
This came back to me grotesquely in a Mad Men episode a few years ago when Don Draper takes his family out for a picnic in the countryside. When they finished, they packed up to go back to the car to drive home and left all their garbage on the grass. And the sight of that made my eyes bug out. We’ve come a long way, baby.
That’s what corporations do, maximize shareholder wealth and minimize obstacles to littering and destroying things. But in recent decades citizens in democracies have forced governments to introduce REGULATIONS [an evil word in this neoliberal world] and processes to evaluate, review or approve certain corporate behaviour.
Granted, we aren’t in a place where we are bouncing about revoking corporate charters, like we ought to when they behave badly, but at least we assess things.
Granted again, the Joint Review Panel approved The Enbridge Landscape and Ecology Eradication Project, granted again again with 209 boxes to check. We knew that was a scam environmental review process, but it is what it is. Sigh.
Less democratic countries would have totally corrupt review processes, filled with bribery or the dictator simply quietly working for the corporation that needs to pillage something. Or no review processes. Or ones with scopes so narrow that there would be no risk that the corporate pillage project might fail.
Countries that are quietly drifting into Soft Fascism often find ways to undermine public participation or oversight of corporate misbehaviour.
Maybe on a quiet day during a week when the legislature isn’t sitting so there can be no democratic debate, a government could release a quiet little missive from cabinet just, you know, completely exempting corporate landscape and ecology eradication projects from environmental oversight. Who really needs environmental assessment anyway when the scope isn’t really a risk to corporate will, or is just plain corrupt.
Those soft fascist banana republics are really quite bad. Aren’t you glad you don’t live in one, in those dark, wild west eras of corporate rights and freedom?
Sorry. Welcome to British Columbia, 2014:
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Environmental lawyers say removal of an important oversight leaves environment and communities at risk
VANCOUVER – The BC government has quietly passed two Orders in Council removing the requirements for environmental assessments of sweet natural gas processing plants and ski and all-season resorts. The Orders, which were deposited yesterday, were made without public consultation and despite widespread concern about the social and environmental effects of both industries.
“These regulatory changes only heighten the crisis of public confidence in BC’s environmental assessment process,” says Jessica Clogg, Executive Director & Senior Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association. “Environmental assessments are supposed to allow the public and regulators to better understand and avoid potential risks. Removing the requirement for an environmental review is not in the public interest.”
So you can see, two kinds of projects that have significant capacity to rape and pillage the ecology get to have no environmental oversight.
This is also an example of Executive Overdrive. Where the leadership of government [as opposed to the legislature or the courts] decides to do something that in a moral sense oversteps its limits. Changing the law without legislative oversight is the executive branch of government, the BC Cabinet in this case, shifting into overdrive to get its way. Executive overdrive is a constant companion to soft fascism.
So, it’s open season on the environment, brought to you by Contempt, Corruption and the Soft Fascist Banana Republic of British Columbia.
And some of the reaction was swift and indignant:
— pre_posterous (@kabayan2010) April 17, 2014
15 April 2014
The terrifying spectre in these countries is not of ravenous foreign capital, though there is plenty of experience with this too, but of the persistent suffering of being an oft bloodied geopolitical borderland.
By treating the street mobilizations and occupations at the heart of these protests as tangential aspects of big power confrontations we obscure the experience of politics as a popular exercise—from Southeast Europe to East Asia—and lose sight of the essential and informative similarities between these events.
All three countries fit into a sort of ‘third-generation’ of democratic awakenings. This is not the Arab Spring, where the concern was with entrenched autocrats, nor can the situation in BiH, Ukraine and Taiwan be likened to the anti-austerity revolts in established democracies like Spain and Greece—though these too have witnessed the appearance of ominously anti-democratic actors.
Instead, these are ‘emerging democracies’, where nominally representative institutions are still dominated by static and corrupt oligarchies, assembled around a handful of political parties that maintain close linkages with criminal syndicates. Conveniently, a sheen of ‘ethno-territorial concerns’, ably manipulated by officials in all three countries, masks the tremendous citizen-led effort that has gone into creating genuinely popular movements, composed of all segments and communities in these societies.
There is another, especially unfortunate, similarity to note, however. BiH, Ukraine and Taiwan have all, at one time or another, been labelled as fictitious or inherently reactionary polities by a curious alliance of local chauvinists and certain western “progressives.” In the case of the former, the rationale has simply been propagandist opportunism.
The logic of the latter, however, has been considerably more muddled. Namely, that since individual regimes in Belgrade, Moscow and Beijing had and still do nominally oppose themselves to ‘western imperialism’, they were as a result standard-bearers of the global social justice movement and their opponents and/or victims tuto complete counter-revolutionary. This kind of logic is itself deeply reactionary, however, marginalizing not only the complicity of these so–called ‘progressive’ regimes in incredible campaigns of violence and extermination but, moreover, tarring entire ‘opposing’ populations with the taint of ‘fascism’.
A thorough analysis, in contrast, requires that we take seriously the complexities of democratization and specificity of individual societies—rather than fitting all of human experience into bankrupt ideological dualities.
To begin with, the attempt to place these countries exclusively into the arc of ‘anti-globalization protests’ glosses over crucial local dimensions. In both BiH and Ukraine, though post-socialist dispossession (‘privatization’) has engrained deep-seated resentment against local plutocrats, Euro-Atlantic integration remains an aspiration of large segments of the population. Not because the Bosnians and Ukrainians have any illusions about their peripheral status at the edges of the ‘known’ western world, but precisely because for many the alternative(s) appear still worse. Nor are the Taiwanese protesting against free-trade as such, rather they are steadfastly opposed to being economically, and eventually politically, swallowed up by Beijing. This does not make these movements backward, it makes them a product of local struggles.
The terrifying spectre in these countries is not of ravenous foreign capital, though there is plenty of experience with this too, but of the persistent suffering of being an oft bloodied geopolitical borderland. And the tanks and gunships that have, are and are likely to come rumbling towards the plena, occupied squares and legislatures of Sarajevo, Kiev and Taipei are of the distinctly ‘near abroad’ variety.
The second and, arguably, more important dimension of this conversation is about tactics—what Bosnians, Ukrainians and Taiwanese protesters can learn from one another. Democratization, if it is to be substantive, must ultimately be a bottom-up, grassroots process. Very generally, I think we can speak of three ‘phases’.
The first involves a generally mass insurrectionary or, at least, oppositional character, usually marked by spontaneous mobilization, energy and anger. The sudden ferocity of the Bosnian protests was exemplary of this first overture.
Once the initial episode of militancy subsides, the second phase consists of permanent occupations and blockades of practical and symbolic centres of power—public squares like the Maidan or, in the case of Taiwan, the legislature itself.
In an ideal world, the final step will include both the creation of new establishment actors (e.g. progressive-democratic political parties) and extra-parliamentary forces (e.g. autonomous and organized social movements). This, however, is a lengthy process with the likelihood of setbacks at every juncture, especially in the form of overt foreign-backed ‘counter-revolution’, as in the case of Ukraine.
None of these countries fits perfectly into this timeline and aspects of each episode have a habit of appearing half-formed in earlier moments. Moreover, it is still far too early to offer definitive analyses in any of these cases. Nevertheless, we can so far observe the following: in BiH, we had instances of brief militancy, coupled with spontaneous citizen plena but no lasting occupations, sustained street protests or new political parties. Nor have clearly democratically-inclined establishment actors emerged in Ukraine out of the sustained street violence and occupations. Moreover, the possibility of war has sharply narrowed the ability of genuinely progressive forces to organize against reactionary nationalists.
Meanwhile, the massive crowds assembled by the Taiwanese students have engaged only in peaceful civil disobedience as they have successfully occupied their country’s halls of power. Nevertheless, the intransigence of the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and the ‘spent’ character of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suggests this confrontation is still in only its early days.
We can also begin to draw certain organizational conclusions, however. No democracy can exist where elites do not fear being toppled by the citizens—at the polls or in the streets. Moreover, claiming that democracy means only elections empties the term of its substance and promotes unaccountability and corruption in emerging democratic regimes.
Secondly, the promotion of democratic practices within protest movements is integral to preserving them as genuinely transformative initiatives. Rather than wide-eyed utopianism, the participatory and directly democratic aspects of the plena in BiH and the occupations in Taiwan signal sober political acumen—they are the change they want to see.
Finally, the relationship between numbers and tactics is important. Bodies in the streets are essential as is confrontation with the authorities. But the more violent a movement is, the more polarizing and less democratic it tends to become. As such, street warfare in Kiev promoted the emergence of hierarchic, nationalist militias while non-violent resistance in Taipei has produced and been produced by a network of horizontal working groups.
Democracy has opponents, though, as all three of these movements are discovering. In the coming months, the need for meaningful solidarity campaigns will only grow. Diaspora mobilization while important is not sufficient. Activists in emerging democracies must exchange experiences and support each other across cultural and geographic barriers. Widely accessible digital platforms already provide these connections locally, now they must do so globally. We must help each other as it appears no one else will.
Additional insights into Taiwanese politics and media were provided by Elise Wang of Princeton University.
Jasmin Mujanović is a PhD candidate at York University and currently a Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. His Twitter handle is @JasminMuj.
14 April 2014
In Kitimat, in a non-binding plebiscite, the people of Kitimat, but not the first peoples who live outside the town boundary, voted about 60-40 to kick out Enbridge.
They’re liars, don’t you know, making up a fake map of BC’s coast to pretend that oil tanker risks are lower than they are.
But it also turns out that Yoko Ono knows a thing or two about fracking and carbon energy.
And we also know this about the oil and gas industry:
#Jessica #Ernst worked for over three decades as an #environmental #biologist doing #research and independent consulting for the Alberta petroleum industry. One of her main clients was the EnCana Company, which began large-scale fracking in the region of her home community of Rosebud Alberta in the early years of the 21st century.
In 2007 Jessica Ernst the scientist became Jessica Ernst the whistle blower. Bringing forward evidence that her own water well and those of her neighbours had been severely contaminated, Jessica sued the EnCanada Corporation. She also sued the forerunner of the Alberta Energy Regulator as well as the Alberta government itself.
Click this link right above here to read the rest. It’ll blow your oilwell.
It is time to force our politicians to scrap carbon energy and move to a post-carbon energy infrastructure: wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc.
Let’s Occupy a green energy future and defeat climate breakdown!
11 April 2014
“When Centennial’s students found out Seymour couldn’t hold a pyjama day because many students didn’t have pyjamas, they fundraised to buy every Seymour student a pair last Christmas.”
When parents receive letters from their kids’ school asking for donations for playground upgrades or library books or technological devices, a certain segment of the population sighs, grows a few more grey hairs and dies a little bit inside.
Parents who are struggling financially cannot afford the luxury of even a tax-deductible donation to the school their children attend.
Sometimes, parents are confused. Don’t we pay taxes? Aren’t taxes structured in such a way that those who are more well-off shoulder a bit more of a burden for social services than the poor and struggling? That’s called a progressive tax system, but it is hated in our neoliberal era of tax cuts, austerity, privatization and social service cuts. The BC Liberal Party hates the poor and has been bashing them for most of this century.
But these are often just abstract policy debates. The reality is that there are real families, tens of thousands of them in BC, and real children who suffer and are often ashamed, too ashamed to trot out their poverty at school.
Who teaches them to be ashamed?
10 April 2014
“We are, of course, not in the world alone and our lives here are finite.”
“Our individual and family responsibilities are primary. Yet the desire to accumulate private goods in the end does not lead to satisfaction simply because, as we all learn, enough is never enough.”
- Jim Flaherty, October 2011, Western
It has been an honour to serve Canada. Thank you for the opportunity. pic.twitter.com/vIbBNgT0wY
— Jim Flaherty (@JimFlaherty) March 18, 2014
It is always sad when people die, including former federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
He will easily be remembered as an intelligent man who lived a life of public service, despite the fact that his economic policies were justifiably vilified by millions.
I have not been a fan of his economic policies. I especially don’t like that he announced a cut to federal healthcare spending increases which will lead to a $36 billion cut in healthcare funding to provinces over the next decade. Federal funding increases were designed to get the federal government up to covering 50% of the cost of our public healthcare system; that is now in jeopardy.
And I didn’t like most of the economic policies of his party, and their financial mismanagement that led to things like losing track of $3.1 billion.
But it was clear that as an intelligent man, at least at times he paid more attention to facts and research than lots of his party colleagues. Recently he publicly opposed Harper’s tax cut plan of income splitting for Canadian families. Facts indicate that the policy would help the 1% and some other rich folks and do nothing or virtually nothing for most of the population.
The biggest value of income splitting to the neoliberal Conservative Party of Canada is a justification for yet another tax cut and consequent service cuts, because they believe government is bad and needs to be reduced in size and scope.
Flaherty eventually opposed that income splitting policy, publicly, acknowledging that it would not be good for the country. When he stepped down from politics last month it looked as if that opposition ended his political career. And while he said he wasn’t leaving politics for health reasons, it looks like that might have been the case. Time will tell on that.
I also noticed the esteem that people all around Canada held for him as a person of integrity, in part because of his devotion to public service in talks like this. This is what kept him high in people’s estimation of who could take over the party if it or the country finally tired of the soft fascist rule of Stephen Harper. I heard of no one who felt any MP had a better shot at taking over for Harper than Flaherty.
Ultimately, though I didn’t support most of his economic policies, his death appears to be on par with Red Tory Joe Clark’s last day in parliament. While he was no iconic progressive leader, his departure leaves behind many far lesser people.
10 April 2014
First, it started with IKEA, which has been locking out its Richmond, BC workers for 11 months. Then it expanded to a white Richmond farmer who isn’t all that happy with all the non-white farmers changing the complexion of farming in BC.
So we’re all committing to #BoycottIKEA and boycotting W & A Farms products.
A portion of every dollar you spend at any of that chain’s stores goes to fund the anti-social Fraser Institute and its campaigns to destroy the public education system in Canada.
The [Weston] family foundation has donated nearly $22 million to the Fraser Institute for its programs to destabilize the public education system and promote school choice and vouchers.
Milton Friedman was the inspiration for these programs. His 1995 Washington Post editorial said it all: “Public schools: Make them private.” And that’s what the Weston-Fraser partnership has set out to do.
But, wait, there’s more!
The Fraser Institute’s ability to obtain such vast sums from Weston may hinge on the fact that two Galen Weston cousins are Fraser Institute directors. They’re also on the board of the family foundation that doles out the money.
And it’s fine for people to express opinions and fund whatever they way. Within constitutional limits. But it’s also within our rights to oppose and boycott companies that are reprobates with anti-social tendencies.
So the 2014 boycott list is hereby expanded:
Sing it, people! :)
9 April 2014
Clearly, I’m no brain surgeon. But if there are homeless people, a civilized culture would find a way to use a progressive tax system to house them. Simple.
Homelessness, however, is a magnet for reprobate poor bashers who are too greedy to part with their wealth [massive or otherwise] to solve a problem.
But guess what. Research shows it’s actually cheaper to simply house the homeless. Unless you secretly hate them, or are a supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada that rejects science, research and data from an ideological, ignorance-embracing stance.
It’s actually this easy:
8 April 2014
A few days ago, I wrote about picking May Day as a good time for Occupy Vancouver to reboot itself and catch up with the Occupy Movement’s worldwide #WaveOfAction.
But I think that idea can be bigger, it can be a day for all of Occupy Canada to reboot.
7 April 2014
The idyllic town of Steveston, located at the western tip of Richmond, is the site of what appears to be a battle for the ages: the City Council is facing an invasion of the Borg as they debate what to do with a developer’s plans for an historic district along the waterfront.
Yes, the Borg. Those Star Trek baddies who are part-human, mostly-machine who invade, who tell you in a terrifying voice that “Resistance is futile,” who ignore the fact that you just want to get on with your own life, and who assimilate you – forcibly make you be part of their plans, and do their bidding.
They’re pretty awesome villains on TV, and while Steveston isn’t actually facing an invasion of robots who want to take over your life, they’re facing a foe that’s pretty comparable.
Enter Onni. Onni is a real-estate development company. In Vancouver, that’s pretty much tantamount to the Borg. And Onni is making their stand in Steveston at Imperial Landing, a stretch of newly-developed land along what used to be the BC Packer’s fishing land and cannery alongside the Fraser River in Steveston. And they want you to comply with their wishes, and the won’t take no for an answer. Resistance is futile.
According to Onni’s website, Imperial Landing is a mixed-use community, featuring residential suites above “60,000 square feet of retail space.” However, if you were to visit Imperial Landing right now, you wouldn’t know it, because the bottoms of these new fancy residential suites are all empty.
“Empty?” You might ask. Why would valuable retail space alongside a waterfront in Vancouver be empty? A very good question.
It turns out that Richmond’s City Council wanted to preserve the character of the property that was up for development when BC Packers – the fishing and canning company – sold the land. So they zoned it “Mixed Maritime Use” – a land-use decision that intended to preserve the character of the area by restricting it to maritime-related uses, like fish markets, boat supplies and services, offices, and the like. They did this a long time ago.
But Onni didn’t like this. According to documents before the Richmond City Council’s Planning Committee, Onni has been, for some time, trying hard to convince Richmond to re-zone their land so that they can do more than just maritime related uses.
Richmond has so far said no – they have wanted to preserve the land for maritime uses. It’s a valid choice that the Council – democratically elected – has made. And in our society, that’s generally something to be respected.
But again, Onni won’t take no for an answer. Resistance is futile.
Onni went and built their Imperial Landing in the mixed maritime use land zone. They’re relatively pretty buildings, all new and shiny. And despite Onni arguing since at least 2007 that the mixed maritime use zone was economically unfeasible – they built them anyways.
And now that Onni claims that because they haven’t been able to find tenants to fill their mixed maritime retail spaces, they should be allowed to rezone them for broader retail uses. In effect, Onni wants to do an end-run around the planning process after they’ve been denied so many times.
Someone named Bob Ransford is leading a PR campaign on social media to support their desires to do just that. He’s a local Steveston resident, PR person who works for real estate developers amongst other clients, and principal of Counterpoint Communications. He’s tweeting doomsday messages about the upcoming decision - in his words, surely only a sadistic City Council would allow such beautiful buildings to go unfilled. If you read his tweets, you’d think that Steveston were facing economic collapse if these buildings weren’t immediately rezoned and leased out to the highest bidder.
Bob Ransford insists that he’s doing this out of the goodness of his own heart. Which is probably a good thing, because if he were being paid by Onni to do this work, they might want to revisit his instructions.
Here’s one of his recent tweets. See if you can spot the problem, and the Borg-ness of Onni’s demand to Richmond City council:
See the problem? Let’s go back to the current zoning of the land: mixed maritime use. For maritime related businesses and offices. How could, then, Onni purpose build a cafe in a maritime use?
Here’s where the Borg come in. Remember, resistance is futile.
The process to get a construction permit in Richmond is apparently a quick review to ensure that your proposed building meets the zone in “character and form,” ie, that it isn’t completely out of whack. Since these are buildings to be leased, their use is flexible – they’re effectively empty shells waiting to be filled in.
This is a loophole – obviously, the assumption that you will get a development permit for a building that suits the zone and then use it for those purposes. I suspect that the grand strategists at Onni saw an opportunity – while they had been arguing for some time that mixed maritime was economically unfeasible, they’d build buildings anyways, let them sit empty, and then push for the rezoning ex post facto – all to get what they wanted after being denied. The tell is in Bob Ransford’s description of the space as a “purpose built cafe.”
As the Borg would say, “you will comply.”
There’s more. Onni has been pushing for a 17,000 square foot grocery store – one of Jimmy Pattison’s Nester’s Groceries – to be stuck in one of the buildings. Totally not an allowed use under mixed maritime use zoning. So they hired Mustel, a polling and public opinion firm, to see if local residents wanted a new grocery store.
In the report to city council, Onni claims that the survey was overflowing with “unprompted” responses from residents who wanted a new grocery store. Except that the poll was a push-poll. The first four questions asked poll respondents just how far they had to go to get groceries, and how much grocery shopping they did outside of Steveston. Then they asked: “What stores would you like to see in the new development?”
Unsurprisingly, people wanted grocery stores! This is hardly news: when you ask leading questions, you’re “priming the pump” and making people think about what you want them to think about. This can be put to terrific use with unscrupulous polling.
But again, who’s surprised? Onni is the Borg. Resistance is futile.
Onni hired experts to say that the retail in the new buildings wouldn’t compete with other shops already existing in the village. They claim to be looking for a different tenant mix. But Steveston already has a grocery store. Bob Ransford thinks this is fine, because, after all, competition is “quite legal and common in free market economies.” Except, of course, that it’s the opposite of what Onni is promising Richmond.
The issue will go before Richmond’s planning commission tomorrow night (April 8) and I doubt that Onni will lose again. Because resistance is futile. And because Onni is offering a $1,500,000 “voluntary contribution” to Richmond’s leisure and culture fund.
Sadly, though, this highlights the death grip that real estate developers have on the Lower Mainland. The duplicity in this case is just more staggeringly obvious.
Here, we have a developer that has insisted that the property zoning on their land isn’t “economically feasible,” but they went and built what they wanted anyways. Now they say that the City has to acquiesce and comply with their demands, simply because the buildings that they built are empty.
What precedent would Richmond set here? A horrible one. Developers can built whatever they want, no matter the zoning of the land, and then force the City to change the zoning later. The death of local land use planning, all through a set of buildings along an idyllic waterfront.
While people like Bob Ransford might insist that they’re just concerned about the community, it strikes me that they’re only concerned about parts of the community that they agree with. Ransford himself says he was on the planning committee 17 years ago that set the mixed maritime use zone – he disagreed with it then, disagrees with it now. Only problem with that argument is that Council has decided, and Council represents the community. Nice collateral attack against the decision, though.
Ransford doesn’t seem to get the problems here with the developer’s duplicity – building what they want and then trying to force the decision ex post facto. He says he doesn’t care about the developer, only the community. But perhaps he should remember that “perception is reality.”
Onni is about to score the ultimate goal: forcing City Council to reverse its decision simply because they did what they wanted. Better to ask forgiveness than permission.
Duplicity abounds. Resistance is futile. You will comply.