Category Archives: USA

GroupThink ReSpun: On US Police Forces Operating in Canada

We have decided that “GroupThink ReSpun” will be the name of the process whereby various of the Politics, Re-Spun crew collaborate on editorializing about a current event. Enjoy the poetry of the term!

So apparently, the RCMP wants to ease into allowing US agents to operate freely in Canada:

1. Do you want to be American? Discuss.

Amputating one of my limbs with a nail clipper and then sewing it to my forehead sounds more appealing, really. I don’t make a very good American. Clinging to my sacred socialist cows and such. – Tia

First of all, this question makes me want to sing “I am not American” by the Arrogant Worms. I, too, wonder how two entire continents can lose their identity to one constituent. Secondly, no. I do not want to be an American. I find it distressing that being Canadian increasingly means being saddled with failed American political policies, ten years out of date. – Anna

Despite parts of my idealistic self liking their historical rhetoric about democracy, freedom and such, their inability to implement it and all that current and historical imperialism demonstrate that actually joining that club is not a good thing. – Stephen

2. The FTA and NAFTA were the beginnings of an economic love-in with the USA. Is developing closer ties to the USA handcuffing ourselves to a drowning man or a good move for Canadians?

Albatross. Neck. Millstone. Neck. – Tia

Let’s be honest. American hegemony essentially died with the Iraq war (v2.0) and the American economy isn’t exactly winning all the monies, either. I’d like to see Canada develop greater distance from the U.S., but since Harper seems hell-bent of carrying out his creepy, Buffalo Bill-style inhabitation of Bush’s political skin, I don’t see that happening.  Come on. You know he has a Bush costume he puts on when he wants to feel pretty. – Anna

I’ve always felt free trade was always a great policy to pursue when your nation already is strong, so you would get an unfair advantage over weaker nations who are trying protectionism to improve their standard of living, you your nation had done. The global economic system is founded upon exacerbating inequality. Solutions lie in post-neoliberal trade, like fair trade and ecologically sustainable economic activity. So the FTA and NAFTA are not good in that sense. Plus America is in monstrous economic decline and has been for a generation, so increasing ties with them is a problem. – Stephen

3. Most Canadians don’t like NAFTA [], so would this kind of security cooperation be welcome to Canadians?

I would like to believe that most Canadians inherently enjoy being citizens of a sovereign nation with its own boundaries & with rules and legislation more or less untainted by the interests of an outside nation.  The idea of the US government being able to operate autonomously with any sort of gravity within our borders is frightening at best. – Tia

Honestly, this is like trying to get your kid over his dislike of baths by sticking him in the washing machine. – Anna

Security cooperation, even for a weekend, is a crisis in sovereignty. Why don’t we develop security cooperation agreements with Russia or some place? Simple, we don’t want to develop critical dependence with a country like that. Sure, the USA is physically close [and imperialistic, and threatening, and has lots of guns and a desire for resources under our part of the melting Arctic], but is that any reason to give them a house key? – Stephen

4. Should Canadians be worried about our sovereignty, privacy and civil liberties with American policing agencies operating here freely?

In a word? YES. – Tia

Of course we should. We’ve seen the sterling work American agencies have done of respecting their own citizens’ liberties. – Anna

Yes, easily. However, I will add that even if we were to stop or reverse any security harmonization with anyone, federal and provincial governments in Canada are already doing a great job of undermining our privacy and civil liberties: - Stephen

5. Why won’t Stephen Harper defend our sovereignty instead of engaging in more perimeter/continental security schemes?

Puppet. Strings. Dennis Lee said it best in a poem that appeared in his book “The Difficulty of Living on Other Planets.”

“When I went up to Ottawa,
I met man who sang tra la.
What did you do with the country today?
I gave it away, to the USA!” – Tia

Because he’s not interested in Canada, he’s interested in power. And money. Which is another way of saying “power”. – Anna

His economic agenda for a very long time was for more economic integration with the USA. This kind of integration leads to more strangleholds on neoliberal policies, like in the EU, which makes it harder for us to domestically fight for progressive economics. The same works for security and rights. The Conservative government has open contempt for democracy, so partnering with the USA on security and punitive policing accomplishes the same goal as his economic agenda. – Stephen

6. How contemptuous or condescending is it for the RCMP to want to ease Canadians into the notion of accepting American police forces operating here?

It was kind of them to buy some Vaseline before they decided to ram an unwanted, crooked foreign object up our asses without permission. – Tia

My knee jerk reaction is to say “very”. But upon reflection, the contemptuous thing is allowing American forces to operate in Canada at all. Metaphorically taking the country out to dinner and using lube before attempting to violate us is just common sense. Otherwise, there would be violent uprising in the street, or at least a sternly worded online petition. – Anna

In the old days, authorities wouldn’t come right out and say that we’re stupid and need to be managed. But now the level of contempt that our governments and security organizations have for civil rights is so blatant that they’re fine just saying nonsense like that. We should all be banging pots and pans in the streets. – Stephen

7. We have been harmonizing our regulatory and border security systems with the USA at a faster pace since 911. We generally go with their weaker standards. How will this initiative weaken Canada’s identity?

If you keep siphoning off booze from your father’s stash, and replacing it with water, eventually you’ll have nothing but water. So goes our identity. The more you dilute our legal system and security with that of the USA, we become more and more diluted and less Canadian. – Tia

It galls me that we’re constantly sold this narrative that our standards are weak, and that Canada is practically a nursery school for terrorists, and that our Polite Canadian Standards will DOOM US ALL. I would like to make the radical proposition that instead of assimilating, we try cooperating. Like, actually cooperating, for realsies. It’s an idea so crazy it just might work. – Anna

When a large company “merges” with a smaller one, it’s not an equal deal. There are two different parties with a unique, often deeply tilted balance of power. However much anyone talks about equality in the new relationship, the larger body will define more of it. So harmonizing with the USA on pesticide issues [we raced to the bottom and adopted their weak standards] or on trade or on security means our larger neighbour will dictate more than there are equal discussions. And given the Conservative government’s contempt for democracy, embracing the Americans in the security arena means adopting their more fascist elements. – Stephen

A Happy Birthday for Haiti

So I’ve just turned 45. What a sweet age!

Instead of asking people to only bring a quirky 45rpm record to my party next month, I’d rather give people an opportunity to donate money to the Canadian Red Cross for Haitian earthquake relief.

As many of you know, the case study in my master’s thesis was on how Haiti is the poster child for Canada pursuing, then undermining, the Human Security Agenda, with our economic exploitation of the country culminating in helping the USA kidnap Aristide on February 29, 2004 and flying him to the Central African Republic.

And many of you also know that I got my start in political awareness and international development work from Red Cross Youth seminars like this one over 25 years ago.

So, I’m fundraising in support of the Canadian Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti. It’s estimated that three million people have been affected by the disaster, and 200,000 have been left homeless. Thanks to hundreds of local volunteers with the Haitian Red Cross—many of whom lost loved ones, the Red Cross was able to respond immediately. Please donate and help the Red Cross. Haiti needs your help.And they need your help more then I need presents!

Donate Now!


$45 for my 45th birthday, or more or less. Or maybe even $208 for Haiti’s 208th anniversary of the Haitian slaves declaring their independence. It’s up to you!

Occupy the Church, Occupy Together






What do these words mean to you?

For many, the connotations are negative. Personal experiences with judgemental, rigid, frozen people who identify themselves as Christians have left a bitter taste in their mouths. Memories of being harangued, condescended to and lectured linger long after their encounter. Media and political examples of those who proclaim to be faithful are nearly always of a deafeningly ignorant and perplexing sort. If these were my sole run-ins with Christians, I would write them off as a group as well. After all, who wants to yoke themselves to a group of closed-minded and finger pointing hypocrites?

I found myself bashing my head against my desk earlier in the day, when I stumbled upon a Tweet from Westboro Baptist Church. Westboro is notorious for being vehemently anti-gay, anti-Semitic and vicously Pro-Life,  and have gone to extremes to publicly harass and shame these aforementioned groups in the media, often turning up at events with angry pickets and inflammatory signage. Should you ever require an emetic to induce vomiting after eating some bad sushi, I whole-heartedly suggest reading through their website.

As someone who identifies as a Christian, I am loath to lump myself in with their ilk, and was disgusted and nauseated after reading through their prejudiced, hateful vomiting of words. Today, they were generating press for themselves by announcing that they were going to ramp up their new crusade of placards and brimstone, by picketing the funeral of deceased Apple founder, Steve Jobs. Beyond smacking of a cheap stunt to get attention, I fail to understand how this would be useful to anyone, other than the Westboro coffers that are filling up with the tizzied tithes of like-minded Tea Party wing nuts and illiterate mouth-breathers. According to Margie Phelps of Westboro, Jobs is sizzling in the deep-fryer of Hell tonight, because he failed to use his riches to give glory to God. Ergo, this is a good time to spread a little of the crazy in front of his mourners and the sundry members of media in attendance.  I’m impressed that Westboro has been struck with the divine ability to know with certainty what Jobs is doing for eternity. Margie, honey, it’s time to go back to the basics, and visit Matthew 7: 1- 5.  “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Hmm. Convenient to forget this choice nugget, n’est pas?

After I finished spitting at the screen, and hissing invectives, I was consumed by reading up and following the Occupy Wall Street solidarity movement, Occupy Together , that has been gaining traction worldwide. Borne out of backlash against the corruption, oppression and suppression of Americans by corporations and government, the movement has replicated like a virus, with a rapid surge of action groups springing up in cities around the world. As it should. For too long, people have been complacent in allowing themselves to be stepped on and kicked by the greedy and evil. A good, old-fashioned peasant revolt, replete with pitchforks and torches has been direly needed for a long time. It has begun. It is good. Again, Westboro’s various Twitter accounts decry the movement, proclaiming protestors infidels, sodomites and heathens. As do other fundamentalist, extreme right lurching (they don’t lean) organizations.

Epic fail.

Jesus would occupy.

The man, whose name so many draw upon to justify their hatred and prejudice?

He was a liberal.

He was a rebel.

He was a political leader.

He was angry.

The Son of God was no namby-pamby, milquetoast, limp-wristed man. He blasted money changers in the temple, who were thieving and corrupting though commercial activity. He didn’t keep company with royalty and rulers, starlets and the popular. He had a band of misfits and loners who shucked off the trappings of everyday life, and gave up their comforts to incite action. Jesus hung out with prostitutes, and worse, the universally reviled tax collector. He doled out free health care. He dispensed food to the hungry. He forgave people of their debts to God. He was a carpenter who labored, and became a radical teacher. He faced the death penalty for a crime he didn’t commit.

This man would Occupy.

So for those who need to return to the basics, and revisit exactly what Jesus DID espouse, I’ve got a few reminders of why Christians are called to be radical, inclusive, loving and political and why we need to Occupy the Church and our communities instead of hiding in glass houses.

Make Peace, Not War

Canada and the US spend absurd quantities of money fighting wars to protect the interests of multinational corporations that toss them kickbacks. We send our troops to places they have no business being, to come home in body bags, to fight wars that are not our own. Stop policing the world. Fix the problems here, where our people are being bled dry.

  • Matthew 5:9  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be Called the Children of God.”
  • Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite the on thy right cheek, turn the other also.”
  • Matthew 5:44 “I say unto you: love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which fully use you and persecute you.”
Corporate Greed is an Abomination
Corporations are not citizens. They are given leeway by the government to devastate the environment, enslave workers, create artificial economic hardship, destroy lives.
  • Luke 12: 15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in abundance of his possessions.
  • Matthew 6: 24 ” You cannot serve God and money.”
  • John 2:14 & 15 “In the temple courts, Jesus found men selling cattle, sheep, doves while sitting at tables, exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove them from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers, and overturned their tablets.” 
Equality and Social Programs
All people deserve equal access to free health care, free education, and accessible housing. Not just those who can afford to pay, to skip a queue, to be born into a better social standing.  Is that what we have now? Not even close. We are charged to take care of those who are unable to do this for themselves.

  • Luke 14: 13 & 14  “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, 
    because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
  • Matthew 22:39 “So in everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
  • Matthew 19:21 “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Crime & Punishment
The recent case of Troy Davis in Georgia is a perfect example of the hypocritical nature of governance, law makers and those who are able to exert power over us. Even when presented with law that would cast reasonable doubt, decision makers in the state of Georgia were able to exploit loopholes to strong-arm their will. North Americans cried foul, rallied for benevolence, pleaded for justice. There was none. This was not the first, nor will it be the last time the death penalty was used to send a message to the world. “Screw you. We are the government. We do what we want.”
  • John 8:7  “If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
  • Matthew 7: 1 & 2 “Do not judge, lest you too be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged with the measure you used, and it will be measured unto you.” 
Christians are called upon to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14) and to speak for those who have no voice. God does not hate fags. Or Buddhists. Or single mothers. Or immigrants. God hates hypocrites who spread lies, hatred and death. If Satan truly comes to kill, steal and destroy, as it is written in John 10:10, then it is our governments, banks and corporations that we need to rebuke. Jesus came so that we could live life, and live it abundantly. To watch our fellow-man wither on the vine, broken and indebted is to defy what our mission on Earth is. Every day that you and I turn our back on social justice, deny righteousness and turn a blind eye to corruption is a day that all of us have failed. The sickness and the sorrow that we are drowning in are symptoms of our own depravity, and the willingness to put on a blindfold. It is time to unite, join in solidarity, and scream “This isn’t working! Stop the madness. Fix this, and fix it now!”

Occupy your city.
Occupy your church.
Tomorrow is too late.

Why I Am Going to Attend Occupy Vancouver

I am white, middle class, educated and, by all accounts, an extremely fortunate woman.

I live in Canada where my parents’ (sometimes life-threatening) health issues are covered by a provincial medical plan.

My water and air are clean, and food is plentiful.

My husband and I are employed.

I am not desperate, but I am angry; I am not sick, but I am sickened.

I know I will never be able to own a house in my home city without winning the lottery, or paying on a mortgage until I am 70.

I know that in our society I am ‘overeducated’ and, as a contract university instructor/researcher, will always be underpaid when compared to other professionals.

I know that we are killing innocent people with our invasions and occupations.

I know that, as a woman in this country I will disproportionately pay in lost income and career advancement for having children.

I know that despite the—often herculean—efforts of committed citizens organizing across the province, the federal and provincial governments are more interested in building pipelines and transmission lines and highways to export every resource we can dig, dam and cut out of this place of ours.

I know that citizen action sometimes wins, but not often enough to save our watersheds, or fish or our climate.

I am often told that I am lucky to be a Canadian, and certainly when I read the testimonials emerging from the OccupyWallstreet movement, I feel that way. But I am not alone. We here have our own stories, and the growing exceptionalist sentiment in this country is dangerous. Dangerous because we are not unique, we colonized this country on native land. We are infected by the same democratic malaise affecting people around the world. A short historic window existed where (admittedly flawed) collective institutions and public policies helped to equalize some power and some income in Canada: creation of environmental programs, Status of Women, equalization and social security, a national system of health care and progressive taxation. These institutions are eroding today, victims of a greedy class—a 1% if you will— winning a broader culture war wherein greed is good, brown is green and might makes right.

I’m tired of feeling powerless. I know that every time I walk downtown I pass men, women and sometimes children sleeping on every other corner of our streets while billions of dollars is poured in to stadiums, into war machines and corrupt business people posing as political leaders.

The Americans occupying Wall Street are not alone today, not because of some need for international solidarity (though there is that) but because their problems are literally our problems. Income inequality in Canada grew faster than it did in the US since the mid 1990s. Inflation adjusted (real) wages in this country are falling, and this while the richest 1% of Canadians take historically unprecedented growing chunks of the national pie: 32% of all income growth between 1997 and 2007, in fact. The abortion debate is being re-opened. The Keystone and Enbridge pipelines are ever closer to construction and with them comes an exponential increase in environmental destruction. I don’t have one reason to be in the streets this October, I have a hundred.

I am going to Occupy Vancouver (despite the issues with the word ‘occupy’) because we multitude, we majority, need to (re)create spaces where genuine democracy can flourish: on the streets, in our places of work, our homes and force change. We need to create places where the concerns of the disappeared women are not minimized and silenced, nor are those of our schoolteachers, wilderness advocates, farmers, health care workers, veterans and other diverse citizens. These are not the voices that echo in elite-controlled buildings in Victoria, in Ottawa, on Bay Street and Howe Street. This movement may be disjointed, it may be difficult, but it is a start of something very sorely needed in this country.

I am part of the 99%. We, together, are the 99%. Occupy Vancouver, and not just on October 15.

Flexing the Democracy Muscle

It all started last night in Twitter, the trigger of a harmonic convergence of indications that democracy is alive and well in the world. Here’s how it played out:

A woman on the news tonight complained that elections are time consuming. I appreciate her concern for my time.

via aaronwherry (aaronwherry) on Twitter.

Aaron Wherry is a parliamentary reporter with Mclean’s magazine. I appreciated his sarcasm. Elections are time consuming. They also cost about $10/Canadian, a small price to pay to be free of despotism.

Then it moved to Dale Smith, freelancer in the Ottawa press gallery:

I’m sorry that democracy is so inconvenient. MT @aaronwherry: A woman on the news tonight complained that elections are time consuming.

via Dale Smith-Journo (journo_dale) on Twitter.

More blessed re-calibrating principles about what ought to matter. I wonder if that woman on the news thought the Egyptian revolution last month was time consuming.

Then I reviewed the results of my wildly unscientific poll on the website yesterday about desire for a federal election this spring:


Would you like a federal election this spring?

Yes (79%, 15 Votes)

No (21%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

via Politics, Re-Spun.

That felt good, for what it was worth.

Then I was reminded of the various electoral events happening in BC this year:

  1. the BC Liberal party leadership race
  2. the BC NDP leadership race
  3. a by-election for the newly chosen premier to earn her seat in the legislature
  4. a referendum on the Harper Sales Tax [HST]
  5. a possible provincial election in the fall
  6. municipal and board of education elections in November
  7. recall campaigns against government MLAs accused of lying about the HST before the 2009 election or just about bringing in the HST at all
  8. and now a likely federal election in early May because Harper didn’t put in his budget funding for new healthcare professionals [only forgiving some of the student loan debt of some of them], ignored doubling the CPP, and gave a pittance increase to poor seniors getting the GIS.

And if you want to see some very useful consumption of time in the service of democracy, read these 5 questions for the BC NDP leadership candidates.

But we also have a 2011 context of democratic movements. Here are two videos showing time lapse map of global protests and uprisings in the last 3 months, as well as a map centred on Africa and the Middle East. If you have wondered whether something is up about exercising political rights, these videos are a testament to the movement.

And despite a corporate media blackout, kidnapped president Aristide returned triumphantly to Haiti last week.

There is also a movement now to force BMO to oppose the union-bashing Republican governor of Wisconsin, since BMO recently bought Wisconsin’s M&I bank that funded him, a bank that paid sickening bonuses to its exiting board. In fact, the Madison, Wisconsin firefighters union members forced their branch of M&I to close a couple weeks ago as they collectively withdrew over $100,000 of their money from that bank in protest of its support of the governor.

By the way, M&I received $1.4 billion in US government bailout money WHICH THEY NEVER PAID BACK before BMO bought it for $4.1 billion.

On a related note, on Saturday, April 2, 2011 from 2:00pm there will be a massive rally at the Peace Arch for workers and activists from Canada and the United States to support the workers in Wisconsin and all over North America who are suffering attacks on their collective bargaining rights, as has been the case in BC for the last decade.

So what is democracy? For certain it is time consuming. But it’s also the only thing that the majority of citizens have power to do. We outnumber the corporations and their well-funded right wing politicians who are trying to cut taxes and public programs that support our society.

Democracy is about standing up for our rights and our choices for how we want to live. We cannot sub-contract this democracy to elected politicians and professional political staff. They have jobs to do, but we must hit the streets to support the causes we care about.

Obama was elected with 3 million activists working hard on his campaign. Then they all went home when it was time to push Congress to pass a really good medicare bill. The political culture changed enough to get him elected, but not enough for activists to realize they need to be eternally vigilant.

If you are in Vancouver for the next week or so, you can catch 1984 at The Cultch, presented by Langara College’s Studio 58. It’s a great story. It’s also a description of the kind of world we can look forward to if we do not flex our democracy muscles.

We have everything to lose.

Guarded Optimism About the Libyan No-Fly Zone

Last Friday was an exciting time for me. Aristide returned to Haiti and the Libyan government declared a ceasefire in its suppression of the democratic revolution/civil war going on there. And I was counting bald eagles in Active Pass.

I spent a long time, including the case study of my MA thesis, exploring Canada’s economic occupation of Haiti, including our role in Aristide’s kidnapping over 84 months ago. His return was heartening for me as 2011 is turning into some kind of year of democracy.

As democratic revolutions roll through Africa and the Middle East, I was bothered to see the Libyan government not capitulate to democratic protests, instead attacking its citizens. But with the UN Security Council voting to establish a no-fly zone in Libya, Gadhafi, while crazy, is not nuts, so he declared a ceasefire.

I like the fact that the UN Security Council can do something useful. I like how notions like humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect doctrine can be implemented without cynical perversion by global powers. And from what I can tell, that’s what happened, at least up to the ceasefire.

My hope would be the UNSC resolution and the resulting ceasefire could open up some space for the revolution: stop the killing, allow the revolutionaries to shore up their defenses and reorganize to continue forcing out their dictator while the rest of the world just sits back and allows the UNSC resolution to merely empower a no-fly zone. Let the Libyans take over their own government by helping them keep Gadhafi in check.

What worries me now is that other interests will take over. The USA launched a missile strike on Libya on the weekend, on the 8th anniversary of their Iraqi invasion. Rich countries and Big Oil are concerned about oil stability. Stephen Harper may want to help SNC-Lavalin not suffer too much in a transitioning and new Libya as they’re building a big, sexy prison for Gadhafi.

Are my hopes naive? Likely. And they appear increasingly naive when we examine these 10 reasons to oppose this intervention in Libya. While I have a variety of opinions of them and I think #9 is profoundly true, they are all compelling and deserve consideration as we judge the events as they roll out in coming days and weeks.

Here are ten reasons to resist the siren calls for intervention:

  1. Intervention will violate Libya’s sovereignty.  This is not just a legalistic point – although the importance of observing international law should not be discounted if the big powers in the world are not to be given the green light run amok.  As soon as NATO starts to intervene, the Libyan people will start to lose control of their own country and future.
  2. Intervention can only prolong, not end the civil war.  “No-fly zones” will not be able to halt the conflict and will lead to more bloodshed, not less.
  3. Intervention will lead to escalation.  Because the measures being advocated today cannot bring an end to the civil war, the next demand will be for a full-scale armed presence in Libya, as in Iraq – and meeting the same continuing resistance.  That way lies decades of conflict.
  4. This is not Spain in 1936, when non-intervention meant helping the fascist side which, if victorious in the conflict, would only encourage the instigators of a wider war – as it did.  Here, the powers clamouring for military action are the ones already fighting a wider war across the Middle East and looking to preserve their power even as they lose their autocratic allies.  Respecting Libya’s sovereignty is the cause of peace, not its enemy.
  5. It is more like Iraq in the 1990s, after the First Gulf War.  Then, the US, Britain and France imposed no-fly zones which did not lead to peace – the two parties in protected Iraqi Kurdistan fought a bitter civil war under the protection of the no-fly zone – and did prepare the ground for the invasion of 2003.  Intervention may partition Libya and institutionalise conflict for decades.
  6. Or it is more like the situation in Kosovo and Bosnia.  NATO interference has not lead to peace, reconciliation or genuine freedom in the Balkans, just to endless corrupt occupations.
  7. Yes, it is about oil.  Why the talk of intervening in Libya, but not the Congo, for example?  Ask BP.
  8. It is also about pressure on Egyptian revolution – the biggest threat to imperial interests in the region.  A NATO garrison next door would be a base for pressure at least, and intervention at worst, if Egyptian freedom flowers to the point where it challenges western interests in the region.
  9. The hypocrisy gives the game away.  When the people of Bahrain rose against their US-backed monarchy and were cut down in the streets, there was no talk of action, even though the US sixth fleet is based there and could doubtless have imposed a solution in short order.  As top US republican Senator Lindsey Graham observed last month “there are regimes we want to change, and those we don’t”.  NATO will only ever intervene to strangle genuine social revolution, never to support it.
  10. Military aggression in Libya – to give it the righty name – will be used to revive the blood-soaked policy of ‘liberal interventionism’.  That beast cannot be allowed to rise from the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan.

2011, The Year of Democracy: Haiti and Libya

Aristide has returned to Haiti in the last hour after Canadian troops, US marines and others kidnapped him almost 85 months ago, with Obama trying to impede his return. Bad move. This morning we are also seeing a Libyan cease fire in response to the UN Security Council’s resolution for a no-fly zone in Libya.

While the UN Security Council is usually an anti-democratic, imperialist body, this decision, is an unusual example of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine actually working. Libya is experiencing a grassroots democratic revolution along with many other nations in 2011, the year of democracy.

Haiti will experience the joy of their returned president in the coming days and months.

And there were 3 bald eagles in the Active Pass bald eagle count this morning.

Namaste, world.

2011 Class Warriors Include Anonymous and the Uncut Movement

Today’s note is simple.

It’s big picture context.

On one hand we have:

  1. 30 years of neoliberalism,
  2. with the Conservative-Liberal passive coalition in Ottawa,
  3. a Democrat or maybe Republican Lite in the White House after the Bush years,
  4. the Tea Party,
  5. anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin and Ohio,
  6. developed countries bailing out capitalist fraudsters to keep them out of jail while cutting social spending,
  7. and general right wing bliss-seeking.

On the other hand we have

  1. the democratizing capacity of texting, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,
  2. some widespread anti-corporate, counter-hegemonic media in sites like The Real News and Al Jazeera,
  3. a sentiment that the fifth estate is becoming the fourth,
  4. populist democratic uprisings or revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, maybe Algeria, hopefully Libya if they can hold on, and several other African and middle eastern nations,
  5. a worker and pro-public sector populist, activist uprising in Wisconsin,
  6. the Uncut Movement, designed to reverse neoliberal public sector spending cuts to offset tax cuts to corporations and the rich, which is not even 6 months old yet and has already spawned groups in many countries and a dozen Canadian locations,
  7. we have Wikileaks which is speaking truth to power by exposing powerful groups’ truths to the power of the people, and possibly contributing in part to the Tunisian revolution,
  8. and we have Anonymous, a collective that may end up contributing significant elements to democratization movements, or they just may stay goofy.
  9. [And now suddenly, we have serious black eyes on the oil and nuclear energy sectors leading to more arguments for post-carbon/radioactive energy development, which is itself a democratizing movement because it erodes power of global energy oligarchs.]

The pendulum is swinging.

Perhaps the Tea Party pushed it too far and triggered some counter-populism.

All I know is that 2011 started in tremendous flux. Democracy is on the table. People are moving towards it. Old power elites, totalitarians, neoliberals…all of them are at grave risk of increasing irrelevancy.

The trick in each of our local areas is to mobilize the irate and motivated. We need to build community-based social movements for progressive change. We need to ally ourselves with regional, national and global movements that exhibit creativity, commitment to ideals and strategic engagement to change the nature of political dialogue so we can reverse the scourge of decades of neoliberalism.

Complacency doesn’t fit in 2011.

Will 2011 Be the Year of Service With Integrity?

“Honour House is a refuge, a place of unity and composure for Canadian Forces personnel, first responders and their families to stay while healing occurs.”

- Honour House Society

Think of all the people who selflessly serve our country and citizenry, often involving risking their lives. What is their healing worth to us when they suffer in the line of duty? And I’m not talking about Don Cherry building a career raging against what he feels to be the inferior Quebecois while hypocritically visiting the Vandoos, a Quebecois regiment in Afghanistan, over the Christmas break.

I have some small affinity with Romeo Dallaire and the emotional suffering he endured as Canada, the UN and the world abandoned Rwanda to its 1994 genocide. What kind of respect and commitment from Canadian society do our Canadian Forces personnel deserve when they encounter difficulties including PTSD, which is significant if not rampant in the Forces.

What kind of emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological and financial support do our first responders [police, fire fighters, ambulance paramedics] deserve when they encounter some of the most brutal circumstances humans endure.

Last night I watched a short clip from The Daily Show from a few weeks ago pointing out the hypocrisy of the US Republicans holding up financial support for health treatments for the 911 first responders suffering brutally ill health. This is just tragic, but sadly not very surprising. Canada’s treatment of our Forces personnel is less than dignifying as well.

Last night I also watched episodes 4.14 and 4.15 of the West Wing. They aired in February 2003 in a month when millions of people around the world protested the Republican invasion and occupation of Iraq, which was launched 6 weeks later, under cover of the lie that Saddam Hussein was connected to Osama bin Laden.

The episodes revolved around the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, humanitarian intervention and what the fictional president would do with his own Rwandan genocide. He stepped up, in case you missed the episodes.

This was also pretty much my final year teaching high school after some disturbing years of new educational policy by the BC Liberal government and Education Minister and Deputy Premier Christy Clark designed to undermine universal access to high quality education, part of the government’s multi-sectoral privatization agenda.

This was also a time when I was about to start a couple political science degrees culminating in my thesis on how Canada contributed to the Responsibilty to Protect doctrine, then demonstrated how to scuttle it with our participation in the kidnapping of Haitian President Aristide on 2.29.04, particularly galling after our contributions to restoring his presidency a decade earlier. Another contributing factor in the Haitian case is Canada’s neoliberal economic occupation of that struggling nation which has had economically crippling effects similar to the Duvalier eras. And I won’t even go into Canada’s shameful behaviour in Haiti since the earthquake almost a year ago.

February 2003 civil society exercises in democracy, my views of Romeo Dallaire and the preventable Haitian genocide and these poignant West Wing episodes contributed to my desire to explore the idealism of the responsibility to protect, to promote freedom from fear and want, and to enshrine human dignity as a core motivation on our planet and in BC. And sadly, exploring idealism is often matched with understanding how it falls short.

So today, so early in 2011, I think we all ought to reflect on what service means, what integrity looks like, what gratitude demands and how commitment to the human community calls us to act. Honour House is an important but nowhere near complete response to selfless sacrifice. It deserves our support. As does the One in a Million Fund and the Hire Canadian Military initiative, among other programs.

And the BC NDP and BC Liberal parties are spending the first few months of this year rebranding themselves. Service, integrity, gratitude, community and selflessness are appropriate benchmarks to consider when watching this process.

Will 2011 be the year of service with integrity?

I know as individuals we can support programs that have merit. We can also support political movements that reflect these benchmarks because if we do not demand commitment to high standards we will all accept an inferior society. And that would be our fault.

Let us lead by example and participate in society by acting with integrity and service to those in need, particularly those who selflessly serve us.

Fundraising Douchery: Unicef Canada

Hot on the heels of the piece I wrote for Politics Respun about detrimental fundraising and elementary schools, I’ve found myself angered and annoyed by another form of fundraising that uses the school as a vehicle for driving charitable giving. While I have no problem with fundraising for registered charities as a rule (or even registered charities being supported by schools) I’m loathe to give props to an organization that asks children to run around soliciting funds from people via cheque, pledge or online donation. Especially since this amounts to parents feeling obliged to solicit, beg, harass and demand donations at work, from friends, family members and out of their own pocket.


It’s not as though we are able to give freely, of our own volition because we’re supportive of the cause. We’re being asked to give in order to meet status quo and keep up with Aiden and Jaiden Jones. It’s a form of hostage taking, and after being accosted for funds by the teller at the bank, the check out woman at the grocery store, the children in front of the liquor store and 46 different solicitations in my mailbox, I’m jaded and bitter. I’m tapped out, and I’m no longer giving from my heart. I’m giving out of guilt or desire to make people shut up and go away.

We were not intended to give out of anger or guilt.

I had never felt this way about Unicef’s orange Hallowe’en box campaign that had been a part of our lives for decades. Being given a small orange box, asked to take it out with us while Trick or Treating, and to bring back our pennies was an unobtrusive way to learn about helping and free-will giving while having fun. It was not a burden. When I knocked on doors for tooth ravaging loot, people knew that kids would be coming with Unicef boxes, and always had a bowl of pennies and nickels ready. If we didn’t have a box, they often asked why we didn’t have one. It was one night, for one cause, without a high demand, and donation could be made freely without expectation.

I have not had school aged children prior to this year.  I am not a teacher. I do not play one on television. (Yes, I AM sure I’m not a teacher, even though I may look like one.)

I had noticed that nobody had come to my door with a box in the last few years, but assumed it had something to do with the schools electing not to participate.

So, when the Big Kid’s school sent me a permission slip (which perplexed me, because they have no problem asking me to hawk magazines and wrapping paper on behalf of my kid) to ask if my kid could drag a box around this Hallowe’en, I didn’t hesitate to sign off and send it back. I have a gigantic penny jar that was ready and waiting for visitors on Hallowe’en, and figured people in the area would be doing the same.

This is the redacted (ineffectively) the form I filled out. Note that it CLEARLY states they’re sending a BOX home with my kid:

Box. They’re sending a BOX home. Yes? I read that right, didn’t I?

I didn’t get a box. I got an envelope.

An envelope asking me to set up an online account for my kid to fundraise on behalf of Unicef. To ask friends/family/neighbors/coworkers to donate ONLINE or via cheque. In funds large enough to warrant a tax receipt.

Really? WTF, Unicef?

Sadly, my scanner is evil and cut off some of my pithy commentary. This is what kids get from Unicef in 2010:

No box. No collecting on Hallowe’en? The logo is still utilizes the box in it’s imagery.

Interestingly enough, the box embargo is only in Canada. Americans are still using boxes.

The bigger surprise, to me, was that boxes were done away with by Unicef in 2006. So, why did the school think that boxes were on their way?

After making an angry tweet on Twitter about the death of the orange box, Unicef had this to say to me about the box:

“The orange box evolved into a month-long campaign, allowing more Canadians to take part. The spirit of the box still lives on.”

Spin, spin, spin.

I’ll tell you why they did away with the box:

  • Overhead required to purchase and distribute the boxes was costlier than a paper envelope
  • Anonymous donation at the door doesn’t allow for databasing givers.
  • Rolling pennies, nickels and dimes + logistics of it = time consuming.
  • Requires fewer donors at higher giving levels (gifts of $20, $30) to  make campaign effective, rather than dozens of boxes containing handfuls of pennies.
  • Likely problems with people collecting with the box, but not turning in the box or the collected funds.
  • You cannot repeat solicit someone who gives anonymously.
  • Children asking for large donations en masse are more effective than adults doing it.

This is no different than the other solicitations my children were asked to make over the past few weeks.

It’s now the 5th one in 40 days, and I’m fed up.


Unless Unicef wants a paper envelope filled with pennies, they’re not going to be meeting with my credit card or my labor any time soon.

Viva the orange box, baby.

Viva the orange box.