Category Archives: Psychology

Gordon Campbell Fires Himself During the Leaders Debate

I was thoroughly astonished at how effectively Gordon Campbell maimed his political career during the leaders debate. But really, I shouldn’t be because of his utter inability to have any meaningful breadth of vision as a leader.

I can understand why the Liberals are hiding out and not attending all candidates meetings. Their record is so bad, that being perceived as arrogant and dismissive by not showing up is less damaging than having to answer to–or actually not answer to–their record.

But while Campbell is clearly afraid of having his empathy-free personality exposed in a debate with his NDP opponent Mel Lehan, he couldn’t hide from the leaders debate.

And since his no-contest plea to drunk driving in Maui in 2003, after spending years hiding in an undisclosed location with his ego-inflating RCMP security detail, he has clearly lost whatever populist appeal he had in the 1990s as an opposition MLA. I’ve recently looked at the leaders debates going back into the 1990s and he’s certainly lost even that edge. Unfortunately he hasn’t lost that nervous hand thing where he holds his hands in front of his belly, palms facing forward, holding a non-existent soccer ball. In the 1990s, a friend suggested his hands looked like they wanted to strangle someone, but I have always believed Campbell thinks it makes him look pensive.

And tonight he showed us all some of the worst elements of his character while Jane Sterk took adequate shots at the front-running parties and Carole James calmly and empathetically addressed issues, asked fact-based questions of Campbell and showed real maturity in the face of Campbell’s addiction to all things economic, and his chauvinism and condescension.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

One of Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign epiphanies was all about getting elected on this: “it’s the economy, stupid.” Gordon Campbell, being obsessed with neoliberal economics, privatization, and reducing regulation, taxes, the government and all things public, spent much of the debate talking about how an issue or question affects the economy, no matter how far he had to drag the idea over.

Sure the Liberals have polled well on the economy, but he has drunk the neoliberal Kool-Aid so deeply that he still sees the global recession as a means to actually continue advancing his neoliberal agenda! It’s like Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine is his play book.

He knows that the recession is caused by neoliberalism and he loves it. It means more of the same.

What he isn’t hearing is that actual human beings enslaved by this global neoliberal economy are suffering under it since the economy doesn’t currently exist for them. And it scares them. So every time Campbell talks about how everything has to do with the economy, he just names their fear even more. Fear-mongerers like Campbell hopes this translates into votes. But hope and optimism and positive suggestions for a better province and world negate that negativity.

There were plenty of examples of Campbell’s obsession with economics. During the debate moderated by Russ Froese, he criticized Carole James for not having business experience. The assumption is that government is a business. That’s actually an ideology skulking around inside neoliberalism called New Public Management. But there are other more philosophically sound ideas of what a government is than that, the Social Contract, for one.

The pathetic thing about Campbell’s criticism is that elsewhere in the debate he reinforces what is commonly known about him, but seldom analyzed with his claim of being a businessman: he has spent the last 25 years in political life in municipal and provincial politics, so he himself has very little business experience. Whoops. George W. Bush may actually have more than him!

But to get a true sense of how economistic Gordon Campbell is, we only need to listen to the easiest softball question any politician could hope for, in the leadership category: what are three reasons why we should vote for you–and please answer without attacking or referring to your opponents. Sounds awesome. First, Carole James waxed eloquently about her resume and skill sets. To wrap up the trio, Jane Sterk did an good job of explaining sometimes vague experience, but right in the middle, Gordon Campbell failed his job interview:

“Well, Katy, that’s one of the more difficult questions I’m sure all three of us have had to try and answer. First let me say this, I think this is a very critical time in our economy. I think it’s important for us to have people with some business experience who can help deal with that. I think it’s important to have real leadership as we move forward and take advantage of the Pacific Century. That excites me. I also think that it’s important for us to have a government that’s willing to deal up front with the hard decisions we have to make with regard to climate change.”

Beyond the fluff of this nebulous Pacific Century, he went on talking about how the NDP did nothing to stop the pine beetle in the 1990s and why a new relationship with First Nations is important. 

But the beginning of his answer showed just how rarely he thinks about what public service really means–and he’s the premier! And he clearly wasn’t listening to Carole James inadvertently yet utterly destroy his lack of imagination, insight and breadth of personality just before him as he claimed that all three leaders couldn’t answer that question easily.

Still, if we are to take his current dubious First Nations policy seriously as a reflection of his leadership self-concept, we need to also remember that he stormed into office in 2001 and promptly embarked on a province-wide treaty referendum that was panned as purely racist and horribly worded to ensure the government could do whatever it wanted. Now that’s a sign of a special kind of horrible leadership!

Later, in responding to his neglect of the poor by not increasing the minimum wage for 8 years, Campbell again dragged out how the average wage in BC is $22/hour. My eyeballs swell with pressure every time he says this because he assumes we will all think we’re ok with that so we don’t need to care about the poor. But I wrote about that annoyance more here and I can’t go into it again or else I’d have to vomit.

And during his closing comment of the entire debate, the very first thing he said was that this election is about the economy and leadership. It’s clear that he doesn’t even have a vision of his own leadership and the issue around the economy is not whether the neoliberal government should continue to maim us during the recession, but whether we’re fed up with an economy that abuses people so that we can build an economy that actually serves people.

And to close, from the economy he invokes his fear-mongering hobby by threatening thousands of jobs that are at stake if the NDP forms government. Sure, BC is leading Canada by thousands in jobs lost in the last several months, but he’s hoping we’re not paying attention to that right now.

The trouble is, we are paying attention to that right now.

Chauvinism and Condescension

Aside from his reframing of everything into an economic lens, Gordon Campbell’s dark and dirty side came out during the debate as well.

Gordon Campbell’s first slip into condescension–or rather, insight into his character–came when Carole James asked him to justify his tough on crime stance with the cuts to prosecution and corrections officers in his February budget.

Campbell: “I think, Ms. James, you should understand...I know this is a big job and it’s hard to get it–a handle on it, but the fact of the matter is we’ve added additional prosecutors to fight crime and fight the gansters, BLAH BLAH BLAH,” and at that point nothing else he said mattered.

He just called her stupid!

And it wasn’t like she said anything stupid. She was just asking about line items in his own budget. Of course he had no answer, so he just verbally slapped her on the top of the head. Eight years of bullying policies seem to fit nicely with his personality.

The second condescending gouge came when the three leaders were talking about addressing crime. Campbell was all about the variety of retributive justice and policing interventions. Carole James was talking about policing as well as the prevention programs while Jane Sterk spoke against a policing-only strategy, supporting prevention programs and decriminalizing illegal drugs. 

To this, Campbell mumbles in response to the alternative perspectives, “it is a multi-faceted approach that is required of us.” 

This is one of those phrases people use to let their audience know that they are, again, too stupid to understand the complexities of it all. Yet Cambpell has only a single-faceted policing/prosecution strategy, while both of the other leaders have a multi-faceted approach. So on top of his habit of insulting people to get them to shut up, he wasn’t listening to what multiple approaches actually sound like.

It also means that Campbell is either unaware of the social determinants of crime, or he doesn’t care about them. It’s all about the hammer for him.

The next example of Campbell’s chauvinism and condescension came when Carole James asked him whether he’d fund his pet hammer projects by transferring money from other areas like auto safety or community safety. After the question, the moderator, Russ Froese, said open debate time was up and Campbell would have to answer the question during his rebuttal time.

Campbell laughed.

Sure it could have been the nervous laughter of a child unable to adapt to a tense situation. Or more likely it’s the typical behaviour of someone who enjoys demeaning others in the legislature. Unfortunately, he let that slip during a debate that more than a few people would be watching. It simply made him sound like someone who doesn’t have the time for this nonsense.

It is also at this point that Campbell starts answering questions and issues by speaking to “Russ” by name. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but with two female leaders attacking him, it sure looked like he was seeking a connection with the other male on the stage. It might be out of insecurity. It might be because he is playing to a male voter demographic that happens to dominate his party’s base. It might be to marginalize the women on the stage by establishing the dialogue as a male-to-male context, thereby making the women interrupters. 

Then, in a flagrant violation of the respectful tone of the debate so far, when talking about healthcare, Gordon Campbell got truly ugly.

His government pledged to build 5,000 new long-term care beds for seniors. It turns out they built almost 5,000 assisted living beds, which are useful but are far from the same level of intensive service of long-term care. Then George Abbott, in one of his first public bids to distance himself from the Campbell regime for a leadership run coming soon, ultimately agreed that they didn’t actoually build 5,000 beds, instead it was about 800.

So Carole James asks, “I’d like to ask Mr. Campbell, is his health minister telling the truth or are you?”

It was a classic catch-22. Campbell was screwed. So he did the best thing he could think of, attacking Carole James by saying, “no, you’re not.” And if you saw it, you’d know it was as transparent an attempt at dodging a tough question as Campbell could provide. And it had the added bonus of petulance and absurdity as her question was based on Campbell’s own health minister’s admission of facts.

Then on the environment, Campbell tried to spin his woefully inadequate climate change program with airy nonsense and unicorn tears by saying our grandchildren will thank us for making the hard choices and “building a bridge to the future,” whatever that means, when the climate intervention program will fail miserably based on what scientists say is required. 

Then Carole James replied to his nonsense by saying he is inconsistent on the environment with a pathetic carbon tax along with pushing for offshore oil and gas drilling, irresponsible fish farms, firing park wardens and reducing environmental protection. And during this description of Campbell’s duplicity, a man with a microphone turned on just laughed. 

I doubt it was Russ Froese. If it was Campbell, such a laugh is useful for dismissing the legitimacy of someone’s criticism. But in stating those blatant hypocrisies in Campbell’s approach to all of the environment, there’s nothing illegitimate about the criticism. The laugh just sounds like a desperate attempt to avoid the reality.

So, in an era where electoral reform will likely sweep BC’s electoral system out of the 19th century, it is stunning that the leader of the governing party would allow himself to exhibit such despicable behaviour in public. But then again, for someone who has been in hiding since Maui, he seems to have forgotten that the soon-to-be passe rude and dishonourable behaviour in the legislature is part of the reason why people will vote for change this month.

And it’s not useful to let that nasty behaviour show up in public!

It made him look even more misanthropic than he already is, especially when Jane Sterk was attacking the polarized blame game of BC politics and Carole James was presenting an enlightened, human-centred vision for what the BC government should make the economy do for people.

So in just over 59 minutes, Gordon Campbell’s failure to relate to human beings, his obsession with the economy, and his rudeness, condescension and chauvinism will be a strong likely explanation for significantly increased voter turnout, a new electoral system, and an end to his days as premier.

Alcohol Privateer Fear-Mongerers, With Flaky Arithmetic

In what the industry is calling the NDP’s “six-pack attack,” private store owners are warning an NDP win on May 12 could increase the price of a half-sack of suds by three dollars

The NDP’s promise to increase the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 would have a disproportionate impact on the food-service industry, she said. “You could see the price of a bacon-cheddar burger at Earl’s jump from $13.55 now to $16 under the NDP. A burger at the Cactus Club could go from $14 to $16.60.”

via NDP’s pledge to up beer prices brews woes.

Before I address twisted arithmetic, let me just say that I don’t buy my BC brew at private liquor stores. Their selection is overpriced and awful, their stores are generally untidy, they are understaffed with usually not-so-thrilled workers who are paid awful wages–no surprise there.

Without injecting any numbers, a private liquor store is making a killing if it sells beer at prices higher than government stores, yet pays people minimum wage, thus less than the BCGEU employees at government stores. That’s got to make some sense, right?

And why do the privateers get a 16% discount on products compared to government liquor stores? Because Gordon Campbell will subsidize privatization wherever he can. Corporate welfare 101.

So, I have absolutely no sympathy for the privateers. Their criticisms make me just shake my head at their baldfaced greed.

The best part, though, is that if you buy your beer at public liquor stores, none of this neoLiberal Party fear-mongering will affect you at all! And the threatened restaurant burger price increases are made up as well, so have no fear.

That said, let’s look at the math. You can take a look at the BC NDP’s analysis of public and private liquor costs here.

But here’s my first question. If a 6-pack of beer costs $12 at a private liquor store [already $2 more than at a government store] and the privateer owners are claiming that a $2 minimum wage increase from $8 to $10 will cause the $12 6-pack to cost $15, what kind of labour costs must they have? I know this sounds like a word problem from grade 9 Math or something, but just think it through.

If there are [an unrealistically high] 3 employees making $8/hour on duty over 12 hours each day in a privateer’s store, the daily labour cost is $288. At $10/hour, the labour costs go up by $72. In this scenario, and looking at labour costs alone, the only way $3 can be passed on to consumers is if they sell merely 24 6-packs each day–and nothing else. That’s clearly just nonsense.

When we add in the loss of the privateers’ discount of 16% to 10%, that 6% will affect final costs too, but not significantly. Even if the $12 6-pack were being sold at cost, the loss of the extra 6% discount would increase the 6-pack by 96 cents. Since the privateers’ mark-up is a whopper, the real final cost increase of the 6% discount reduction is far less.

So how does the privateer industry get a $12 to $15 price jump in their wonky arithmetic? They add 25% to the final product cost. Why 25%?  Because if the minimum wage goes from $8 to $10, that’s a 25% jump. I do enjoy my beer, but honestly, I’m not that stupid. And anyone who thinks it through for just a short time isn’t that stupid either.

I think the industry, the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., is simply lying with these numbers by suggesting that’s how labour costs factor into retail prices. I also think the neoLiberal Party is promoting the lie to scare beer fans away from the NDP and their plan of cutting back on the corporate welfare program for privateer, profit-gouging liquor vendors. Enough already!

I also think the industry and the neoLiberal Party are expecting people are stumped by grade 9 Math word problems to the point that they’d believe the crazy arithmetic without working through the problem with a pencil and paper.

They must think we’re stupid. Oh right. This is consistent with the neoLiberals’ disdain for the population it governs.

Doing similar math with the burger costs, we find more PR and rhetoric masquerading as arithmetic.

With a 25% increase in minimum wage from $8 to $10, Earl’s and the Cactus Club claim they will pass 18% and 19% of that increase on to their burger consumers. This isn’t as pathetic as the alcohol privateers’ lame arithmetic, but it is also impossible to find plausible. The last time I was at Earl’s they were going to charge me $4 for there to be vegetables on the plate of my entree.

So, we have the BC neoLiberal Party candidates ducking all-candidates meetings, telling people to just “get over” the BC Rail corruption scandal, lying about social service improvements, watching their lead in the polls evaporate to within the margin of error, seeing female voters favour the NDP by a back-breaking margin and the Canucks in the playoffs distracting loyal Liberal voters from all things political.

And now we have the arithmetically-challenged fear-mongering trying to scare beer drinkers into thinking the NDP is going to rip them off.

But in the end, if you buy your BC brew from a government liquor store, the minimum wage increase and the reduced discount for privateer liquor vendors will simply not affect you at all!

So, even though I’m not a BCGEU member, I’ve been a proud member of 3 unions in my life. I feel wonderful buying my beer at government stores because I know the workers are at the very least being paid a living wage and the product costs less than at the privateers’ stores where they have been getting their 16% discount in Campbell’s New Era of corporate welfare for privatized services.

So, do your grade 9 Math word problem above, get your result, keep shopping at public liquor stores, wag your finger at the neoLiberal Party’s desperate fear-mongering, vote NDP and STV with a smile and enjoy a new era for human beings starting on May 13th.

No More Strategic Voting: Thanks STV!

This election will see the last strategic vote you will ever need to cast in a provincial election in BC.

STV is polling quite high and I expect it to pass. This means that you no longer have to plug your nose voting for someone to keep someone else from running the place. And it also means you don’t have to waste your vote in a protest by voting for a candidate who won’t win, all to avoid abstaining.

STV means the proportion of votes going to parties will come very close to being translated into seats in the legislature by making sure that someone you rank will use your vote to win a seat.

So if you can’t handle Gordon Campbell anymore, and would prefer not to vote for the NDP for whatever reason, but you feel you need to do it now, here’s how you can put a smile on your face.

When you cast your ballot, vote for STV as well to make sure that the next election will mean that your ranking of candidates won’t be wasted as one of them will almost certainly use your vote to become elected.

The most frustrating thing for me leading up to any election is listening to smart, passionate, concerned friends voting for parties they hate to keep from wasting their vote. Or else they don’t vote and I can understand why. If the system is this broken, it needs to be fixed.

I think for a place with only two political parties our current system is awesome since the winner will have to get more than 50% of the votes. 19th century Canada was such a place, but even then the parties didn’t need to represent women or other politically undesirables.

But in a place like Vancouver, BC and Canada, there are no two parties that effectively reflect everyone’s identities and passions. This is why we get vote splitting, unearned majority governments, wasted votes, apathy, anger and cynicism.

It’s astonishing that we can fix all these things just by changing the system.  STV here we come!

Some Early Justification for NDP’s Gender Policies

I saw today three examples that support the need for the BC NDP’s affirmative action candidate policies. As much as it has been and will continue to be controversial, today alone justifies it for me.

But first, being in an anti-no-spin zone, my take on this issue is affected by being a white male, with university degrees, raised in an upper middle-class suburban Judeo-Christian, English-speaking home. So of course I lose out on typical affirmative action policies, and I’m fine with that.

As an NDP member and as someone who attended the last convention and voted for the affirmative action policies, it is not because of some kind of male/white/oppressor guilt. It is because breaking generations-long sociological trends can take generations without some intervention.

Not everyone was ready to stop owning people 240 years ago, nor was everyone ready to let non-whites drink out of whites-only public drinking fountains 40-odd years ago. We could have waited for multi-generational educational programs to make the glacial change necessary, while watching old bigots slowly die off.

Honestly, I don’t have that kind of patience.

And when David Chudnovsky decided to not run again as my MLA, I was saddened at what would be the end of his accomplishments and his future potential in the ledge. But I also know that over a dozen women were approached to consider running for his seat, and every single one of them had the qualities to be a successful MLA. But how many of them would have considered it if men were allowed to run? That we’ll never know for sure, but ask around and you’ll find that a few probably wouldn’t have.

So what did we lose with the new policy? People of my demographic weren’t able to run and that left us in the end with Mable Elmore and Jinny Sims to choose from. Quite a fantastic choice. Each signed up over 500 new members in the riding and were an example of on-the-ground democracy in action for 6 months leading up to the nomination meeting. It was an embarrassment of riches since either would be a fantastic MLA.

As far as I can see, Vancouver-Kensington will not suffer under this policy and I expect that with hard work and dedication of already dozens of committed volunteers and staff, the NDP will keep the riding, for many many reasons.

So what happened today to further vindicate this policy for me?

The Victoria Times-Colonist perpetuated sexist reporting yesterday in remarking on how Carole James “looked comfortable in a brown suit and silver earrings as she began her campaign.” The story neglected to comment on how comfortable or uncomfortable Gordon Campbell looked wearing his business suit. Perhaps the premier was wearing jewelry too, but we’ll never know now, nor will we know if that made him more or less comfortable.

Then in the comments section of a Vancouver Sun piece today on the carbon tax, this unenlightened soul wrote about Carole James “Has anybody else noticed that Carole James starts every sentence with the same two words (Gordon Campbell)? Thank you for repeatedly reminding us that Gordon Campbell is our current premier. I do believe I shall vote for him in May. Now run along in your Hillary Clinton-esque pant suits and go celebrate your much-anticipated 2nd place finish with your union buddies.” No spin necessary here. If you don’t get my point, you can stop reading right now.

And finally tonight on Vaughn Palmer’s Voice of BC show there was discussion of the new candidate policy and how it is being received. To wrap the short conversation on that topic, Palmer mentioned that the Liberals have about two dozen female candidates, to which he added, “and that’s not bad for them.” Two dozen is just about right when you look at their list.

Wow. What an astonishing accomplishment getting around two dozen of 85 candidates to be women.

I don’t mind spinning this if it isn’t obvious. No one expects much from a radically right wing party like the neoLiberals in terms of authentic representation, particularly in representing the majority gender of the province. So Palmer is giving a nod to the efforts of the neoLiberals for accomplishing that much anyway. And he’s absolutely right when he said that’s not bad for them. It isn’t bad…for them. But they are a party that is as far from egalitarian in policy and procedure as we have ever seen in BC. And if they are any kind of benchmark we should be seeking, then we are criminally deluded.

In light of these three instances alone, and even without how wonderful it was to choose from two fantastic contenders in Vancouver-Kensington, as a member of the demographic unable to run for the party nomination, I do not begrudge the policy at all and I’m glad I voted for it at the last convention.

Further, I expect it will change the face of the ledge and legitimize in bigots’, cynics’ and anyone’s mind that women can do the job.

And while all the arguments about negative consequences and precedents of affirmative action policies still have merit, a little tweaking now and again can vindicate itself substantially. And I know that the ends justifying the means are not always a strong argument to promote, but inaction is itself a choice with political ramifications. After all, in the STV referendum we are tinkering with our 19th century electoral system that was designed for two broad-based parties that fight for seats. Our population and society don’t reflect that party norm today, and frankly the two parties did a poor job of representing everyone 140 years ago anyway.

So while there will continue to be great arguments against this policy, I’ve found great peace in supporting it so far and I look forward to the day when my idealism is better realized and we can do away with this tweaking because our political culture will have become less bigoted.

Is Controlling for Race Inherently Racist?

I think so.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/v5/content/poll/pollResultHub?id=131895&pollid=131895&answerid=&poll=GAMFront&save=&show_vote_always=no&hub=Front&subhub=VoteResult&vote=145079&button.x=16&button.y=9&button=Vote
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/v5/content/poll/pollResultHub?id=131895&pollid=131895&answerid=&poll=GAMFront&save=&show_vote_always=no&hub=Front&subhub=VoteResult&vote=145079&button.x=16&button.y=9&button=Vote

Here’s why.

The advantages to having demographic information out in the open far outweigh the disadvantages, said Prof. Fullan, who is also professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

“We said we should use the information to make all schools better, but I understand the fear,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Prof. Fullan believes in setting targets for test scores, and in the idea of statistical neighbours, whereby schools with similar demographics can be compared with each other.

via globeandmail.com: Data on schools website divides parents, educators.

Let’s start with this poll. The last time I saw such a close race was the Quebec separation referendum over 10 years ago. This is the vote tally as of 11:30pm tonight. Apparently it was also evenly split earlier this afternoon.

The poll shows that over 4,000 people agree with Michael Fullan that the demographic make-up of a school in the form of parents’ immigration background is a significant enough variable in determining which school’s product they purchase.

The Ontario government removed income and education levels from the presentation of information. That is a rather damning self-indictment. They initially included it because it fit the profile of what they wanted educational consumers to consider when making their purchases, then they removed it. Perhaps people couldn’t stomach the blatant reality that some would choose a school based on the wealth of parents, but clearly, that does go on.

Essentially, what we’re dealing with here is the Ontario government’s tacit support for a class based public service. Pick some variables that determine the class you want your children to associate with, then publicize the data for informed choice. Society should not be condoning or supporting such class-based decision-making. Period.

In BC, we’re well aware of the criminally narrow range of high-stakes testing that our students suffer to generate Foundational Skills Assessment scores for the hyper-libertarian, unregulated market-worshiping Fraser Institute to use in ranking schools. The whole process is obscene and celebrates active ignorance of the breadth of what it takes to evaluate our multi-faceted human beings in the K-12 education system and the system as a whole.

And now in Ontario, the government is essentially controlling for race in the statistical analysis that parents unjustifiably wish to make. When we talk about immigration background, we’re talking about the polite way of describing parents’ race. I have a hard time thinking that if Michael Fullan tried to float this concept as an academic project past OISE’s research ethics board, he would have been roundly rebuked–at least I’d hope so.

The government is inciting a firestorm of bigotry by enabling people to be able to move their students from schools with too many of the wrong kind of classmates, with people defining wrong in whatever mildly to severely racist tone they wish.

This is the height of social and political irresponsibility. In an era of economic crisis when local communities will increase in importance for enhancing individual and regional socio-economic resilience, inserting this wedge that will split communities is simply reprehensible.

And since I’ve only taught high school and have never been a professor emeritus at OISE, I’m totally open to hearing all these great arguments in libertarian social engineering that Michael Fullan feels far outweigh the provincial government condoning race-based divisive education policy.

Stop Colombia From Privatization at Gun Point

In BC we know too well what a rabidly anti-union government can do to the lives of unionized and non-unionized working people. Colombia is the poster child in this hemisphere for extremism among these neoliberal, anti-human carnage-mongers. And our federal government wants to increase trade with this murderous regime!

It’s time to let Colombia–and our federal government–know that human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Follow the link to read the details and email Colombian President Uribe to let him know that we won’t stand for this: Colombia liquidates Cali unions < Global Justice | CUPE.

Paul Moist is asking CUPE members to send email to president Alvaro Uribe Velez after riot police and soldiers evicted city workers in Cali, Colombia and liquidated their union.

Sixteen members of Cali’s public sector unions have been killed since 2004, including union executive Carlos Alberto Chicaiza Betancourt.

“This is privatization at gun point,” said Moist. “It’s chilling to think that the people who are doing this are those with whom our government has just signed a trade agreement.”

The Unanticipated Pricetag of Being an Olympic Corporate Sponsor

The Canadian Press: Threats against Olympic sponsors worry security officials.

They should be worried! I don’t know if they need to be $1b worried, but if you do the math, there is earned concern:

((The Olympics corporate welfare program) + (obscene reductions in government spending for human beings) + (radical and radicalized groups who object to the billions wasted on this spectacle, and what in our culture it has steamrollered) + (sponsors and government groups that flaunt their glee in the faces of those suffering) + (an opportunity to capture attention on a global scale)) x (an unpredictable economic depression [ooops, Great Recession]) = a perfect storm of wariness.

And while the CBC recently reported that the carnage that has become the lower mainland in the last 2 months is likely the playing out of choked distribution points in the Mexican drug war, the climate of fatal violence in and around Vancouver increases the likelihood of radicalized responses to the Olympics.

And if Gordon Campbell gets re-elected [by the way…did you know that Gordon Campbell hates you?] then we should all expect things to ramp up considerably once he implements his crowning agenda buoyed by being elected a third time!

— —

Threats against Olympic sponsors worry security officials

OTTAWA — Possible threats against sponsors of next year’s Vancouver Olympics have federal security agents wringing their hands over “extremist elements,” a newly released intelligence report reveals.

The report by the government’s threat assessment centre cites vandalism of a corporate backer’s premises, theft of the Games flag, and skirmishes between protesters and police during unveiling of the Olympic countdown clock.

The Royal Bank of Canada, a key Games sponsor, “has been named specifically in anarchist and anti-Olympic Internet postings,” notes the analysis, 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics: Terrorist Threat to Vancouver Area Facilities.

Between September 2007 and last May, anarchists claimed responsibility for four attacks in which large rocks were thrown through the windows of Vancouver Royal Bank branches, says the assessment under a section titled Domestic Non-Islamist Extremist Groups.

“Extremist elements . . . have publicly stated their intent to continue acts of protest and possible violence against both the Olympics and commercial symbols they perceive to represent the 2010 Olympic Games.”

The threat assessment also looks at Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and radicals inspired by the terrorist movement, as well as “Lone Wolf” attackers like Kimveer Gill, a gunman who killed one student and wounded 19 others at Montreal’s Dawson College.

The document was prepared last July by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, which includes representatives of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and several other security and police agencies. A copy was recently released along with other assessments to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Several portions of the threat assessments, labelled For Official Use Only, were withheld from disclosure.

Chris Shaw, spokesman for Games monitoring group 2010watch, found the reports amateurish.

“This is the best they can do?” he asked.

“These guys need to get a serious grip, frankly. I think they’re really confusing legitimate political dissent, however disruptive it might be, with a threat. And it’s simply not.”

More than 5,000 athletes are expected from 80 countries at the Winter Games, to begin next February in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

Numerous activists, from aboriginal groups to anti-poverty fighters, oppose the Games, saying the expensive mega-event will hurt Vancouver’s poor, damage the environment and drain provincial coffers.

The cost of Games security has been pegged at $900 million, far more than the original estimate.

Organizers are depending on corporate sponsors including the Royal Bank to support and promote the Games, but their participation appears to have heightened fears they will become targets for those who claim the Olympics have come to symbolize money more than sport.

The threat assessment centre prepared two briefs last September on possible actions against the Canadian Pacific Spirit Train that travelled to Montreal from Vancouver to drum up Olympic enthusiasm.

“There have been calls to boycott companies and organizations which support or sponsor the upcoming games,” says one assessment. “Acts of vandalism, criminal mischief and trespass against sites associated to the Olympics and its sponsors have taken place and now protest action against the train is being encouraged.”

CSIS referred a request for comment to the B.C.-based integrated unit responsible for Games security. However, a unit spokesman did not return phone calls.

Shaw fears the threat assessments cold be used to justify cracking down on groups that oppose the Games.

“No one knows who threw the rocks through the (Royal Bank) windows,” he said. “Just because somebody’s posted something to some obscure blog . . . assuming that therefore you’re dealing with anti-2010 anarchist protesters, to use their term, is just absurd.

“If the police knew who’d done it, they would have arrested them, and they haven’t. So it could be anybody.”

The Royal Bank refused an interview request, but said in a statement it believes most people don’t support vandalism against sponsors, adding that the safety and security of employees, clients and suppliers are the bank’s top priorities.

“We have numerous security measures in place to protect them and will continue to assess and enhance our security procedures as required,” the bank said.

“RBC respects the right of people to express their opinions as long as it is done in a peaceful and respectful manner. We accept that there will always be critics; we would only hope that criticism will be constructive and truthful.”

Earn $50 by Threatening to Cancel your Credit Card: Not a Joke

Here is a follow-up, of sorts, to an earlier post about the arbitrary and substantial power that random customer service agents have to appease complaining customers.

It goes like this.

Call your credit card company to cancel your card and watch them dance. I did that tonight, calling CIBC to cancel a card I don’t use anymore. Buddy asked why. I said I don’t want to do business with banks anymore. Maybe he thought I prefered under my mattress, but I’m such a credit union guy, but I didn’t elaborate. As if he actually cared.

He asked if I would reconsider. I said no. He offered me a $50 credit, on the spot. So I said yes, I’ll keep the card. Which I never use. And that has no annual fee. And that never had a balance carry over.

After I spend the $50, I’ll call to cancel the card again. I wonder how many times I can do this before they just say fine, go.

I remember a few months ago word going around that if you phone up your friendly neighbourhood [ok, global corporation] credit card usurer and ask to have your interest rate dropped from 19% or 24% or whatever to 11% that they’d almost certainly do it, or almost meet the rate you ask for.

Maybe it’s the global recession, but I’ve NEVER been offered free money to not cancel a credit card.

So that was the easiest $1500/hour I’ve ever earned. Give it a try.

Poor Bashers Tend to Be Hypocrites

I’ve now received this thing for the third time this month. It makes me vomit. Why? Read on…

This was written by a construction worker in Fort MacMurray …he sure makes a lot of sense!

Read on…


I work, they pay me.


I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit.


In order to earn that pay cheque, I work on a rig site for a Fort Mac construction project. I am required to pass a random urine test, with which I have no problem.


What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don’t have to pass a urine test.


Shouldn’t one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare cheque because I have to pass one to earn it for them?


Please understand – I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do on the other hand have a problem with helping someone sit on their arse drinking beer and smoking dope.


Could you imagine how much money the provinces would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance cheque?

Jean Swanson is one of my heros. She works in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood and wrote Poor Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion, a book that challenges everyone’s assumptions about the poor, assumptions that usually justify why we won’t re-organize society to keep from continually kicking them.

The below response to the above depressingly common attitude is inspired by her exploration of the same issue in her book.

I’m just quite tired of the “don’t get me wrong, I really think we should help the poor, except if they…”

Another good [if not far better] point is that there are hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in tax cuts that go every year to people in the top 20-40% of income earners in our society who can afford and write off RRSPs, stocks, and capital investments.

We don’t ask them to present their urine or a blood sample or prove they aren’t wife/child beaters, embezzlers, speeders, j-walkers, theists, atheists, supporters of gun control or capital punishment, regular voters, hockey fans, cokeheads, neglectors of children, gamblers, pot smokers, contributors to political parties, beer/wine/spirits drinkers or various social miscreants.

We give value-free tax cuts to the well-off [like me] as long as they meet the legal requirements to get tax refunds.

I too can sure imagine how much we’d save if we did similar morality testing on those earning over $57k, double the Canadian average annual income.

Recipe for Assassinating the CBC

  1. Start with an ideology that opposes communitarianism and public ownership and worships the market’s capacity to create “the good” even if the market is far from freely competitive. The federal Liberals and Conservatives have well demonstrated this.
  2. Choke its funding.
  3. Appoint corporate leaders who wouldn’t dare come up with an original idea to guide CBC as a core part of the ever morphing Canadian culture.
  4. Fail several years ago to come up with the cash necessary to secure continued rights from the NHL to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada, the core brand of MotherCorp and the closest thing we have to a central icon of Canadiana.
  5. Cancel shows like This is Wonderland just as they receive a plethora of award nominations.
  6. Murder the CBC orchestra.
  7. Intentionally bungle securing the rights to the theme song to Hockey Night in Canada.
  8. Let bake for several years at 43,500 degrees.
  9. Don’t turn off the oven so that the whole concoction burns to a crisp: strangled of cash, free of its flagship show and cultural icons.
  10. Turn off the oven after it’s too late, take out the burnt carcass and say it can’t compete with CTV, TSN, Global and the Americans; put a bullet in its head.
  11. Toss it in the garbage and instead of auctioning, give away at fire sale prices the broadcast frequencies that MotherCorp held for generations to the strongest of corporations in a bizarre corporate welfare pitch in an arena where Big Media wants to take away a nation-wide network of frequencies that up until a few years from now were owned by the (fucking) people.
  12. Pretend you don’t know what oligopoly means.
  13. Worship Rupert Murdoch and Leonard Asper.