Category Archives: Racism

Two Minutes to Counter Anti-Union Brainwashing

YouTube – What Have Unions Done For Us is a nice two minutes this Saturday morning for you to enjoy while the blueberry pancakes are between flipping and your shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee is gently steaming your upper lip.

It’s not like you didn’t actually know all the things that unions have done for all workers for 1.5 centuries, it’s that there has been a concerted effort among the corporate media, local and global corporations, and the comprador anti-union politicians they breed to keep us from remembering that unions are sometimes the only political group that has worker interests at heart.

So if you have two minutes this morning, feel good that lots of what we take for granted actually came from struggles from our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and their parents. There were plenty of midnight lynchings, beat-downs, imprisonments, extra-judicial death sentences and random neighbourhood street violence that those who came before us suffered so we could take advantage of minimum wages and benefits while the rich get so incredibly richer while we are doing the labour.

Happy weekend, everyone!

The Police State Infects An Apathetic Canada

Not to sound too alarmist or impolite, but what do you call a country with governments that do the following:

  1. arrest peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders in/near a designated free speech zone under non-existent laws, then beat, intimidate and abuse them,
  2. declare a panel discussion at a public university to be a demonstration to arrest someone for a probation violation,
  3. define protest to be a mental or personality disorder to lock up an 82-year-old devoted protester for the rest of her life.

I would call this a totalitarian, authoritarian, gulag-loving police state. Welcome to the Canada and BC of Stephen Harper and Gordon Campbell in 2010.

I’m not making up this nonsense.

Number 1 happened to hundreds of people in Toronto during the G20 in June. Numbers 2 and 3 happened in the last 4 days in Toronto to Alex Hundert and in BC to Betty Krawczyk, which you can read about here and here.

What are we supposed to do to get people’s attention to the arbitrary suspension of civil liberties?

  • use all caps?
  • write a sensational editorial title like “The Police State Date Rapes Canada”?
  • spam everyone?
  • scream at people at train stations and bus stops?
  • stop whining, and just join the apathetic masses?

This police state has slipped into Canada without significant criticism from the mainstream corporate media or the governing Conservative-Liberal coalition in Ottawa.

The goal is, of course, for the political leadership in Canada and BC to intimidate and terrorize the population so much that we choose to avoid public dissent, protest or even assembly.

The rule of law is an ass this year in Canada.

Our leaders openly mock it.

My hope is in Don Davies, NDP MP and vice-chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. They will continue meeting soon to discuss the G20 debacle which threatened the fabric and principles of Canada’s democracy, and as of Friday night, is obviously a continuing threat. Contact him by email or here.

My other advice is for all of us to contact all the members of the House of Commons Public Safety Committee and let them know that the police do not have the right to arrest people under fictional laws. Nor are police allowed to arrest someone because they declare a public meeting at a public university to be a protest just to violate that person’s parole.

Charges were never even filed for hundreds of people arrested at the G20. This parole violation arrest Friday night will also not stand up in court.

Here are their email addresses for easy pasting [new members updated 10.11.10]:

Sorenson.K@parl.gc.ca

Davies.D@parl.gc.ca

Holland.M@parl.gc.ca

Gaudet.Ro@parl.gc.ca

MacKenzie.D@parl.gc.ca

Mourani.Ma@parl.gc.ca

Kania.A@parl.gc.ca

McColeman.P@parl.gc.ca

Norlock.R@parl.gc.ca

Lobb.B@parl.gc.ca

Mendes.A@parl.gc.ca

Rathgeber.B@parl.gc.ca

We should also contact the BC Liberal premier and attorney-general and let them know that protest is a vital part of a democracy, not a mental or personality disorder.

We should also spread these stories to our people, our networks, our social media existence.

We should also send these stories to the journalists in the country that we respect. It doesn’t matter if they are local, provincial, national, tv, newspaper, online, or magazine.

We must make the bad people stop. Right now, they are counting on the terror of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment to keep more of us from rallying.

So we need to change the climate before we take to the streets. Calling out a bully is a critical tactic. We have to call out our political leaders to keep Canada from becoming more of a gulag that it is already slipping into.

Back to School Activism: Wake Up, Parents!

From BC's Kindergarten English-Language Arts Curriculum Guide

I’ve already begun with A Back-To-School Wishlist for Society and now that school is finally starting this morning it’s time to talk about parental advocacy and activism.

Parents: you are the most fundamental advocate for your students. The BC Minister of Education, for instance, is not.

Do not forget that this year, and not just because tomorrow is World Literacy Day.

Why? Her open letter to you [below] is perfectly reasonable, arguing about why we matter so critically to our children’s success. But when we compare its contents to some basic facts of how the BC Liberal government is undermining our social institutions and other trends in society, we really see what kind of manipulation is going on and why we need to be vigilant against the BC Liberals’ gruesome plans for education.

This is going to be a long 10 months. You need to stay frosty.

While the minister is correct in asserting the value of parents in a child’s education, the BC Liberals have done the following to support an anti-Robin Hood wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to tax cuts for the rich and large and mostly foreign corporations:

  1. closed over 200 schools
  2. laid off thousands of teachers and support staff
  3. refused to fund K-12 pay increases or carbon offsets they legislated themselves, meaning boards of education must make cuts to fund those costs
  4. attacked working people with a decade-long minimum wage stall, privatization, contracting out and legislated wage roll-backs, all of which impoverish workers, forcing them to take on extra work…all of which erodes parents’ and caregivers’ ability to spend precious moments with their students
  5. enhanced the high stakes testing regime and industrial warehousing of students which undermine individualized education
  6. forced budget cuts that erode supports for vulnerable students
  7. threatened the democratic legitimacy of boards of education who question the minister’s “wisdom”

Years ago I described the BC Liberal government’s political philosophy as sado-masochistic. They keep abusing us, we seem to keep electing them. I used to characterize it as forced sado-masochism, but since we have re-elected them twice, I’m not sure how forced it is. This is clearly an unhealthy relationship that feeds on feelings of apathy and powerlessness.

When you read the minister’s words below, you will surely see that time is of the essence. We must have free time to engage in all the positive support we can provide our children.

If the minister really wants to acknowledge the important role parents play in education and the solid research that supports that goal, the rest of her government wouldn’t be doing so much to undermine that relationship for the sake of tax cuts to the rich and global corporate shareholders.

The minister’s advice is still useful, though, assuming we can create the time to engage in political activism. In fact, the BC School Act’s fundamental purpose is to “enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”

The BC Liberal party’s goal is the economic focus, since so far this decade we’ve seen a constant erosion in our healthy, democratic and pluralistic society. But let’s look at how we can re-frame the minister’s advice to restore our society:

  • join your schools PAC [parent advisory committee]…to stay informed of parent and community action to protect our students and education system from further government cuts
  • get to know the teachers…to keep up with what kind of decimation is occurring in classrooms this year so you can mobilize to fight the government
  • learning truly is an active social process…that is currently being undermined by the government, so parental involvement in community action to protect public education is an essential civics lesson

And we need to keep up with our neighbours to see signs of things to come.

  1. We must be vigilant to make sure the government doesn’t engage in creative initiatives like attaching RFID chips to students to cut down on the time and expense of tracking attendance, so we can lay off some more support staff and help teachers focus more on weightier tasks. California is experimenting with this. Just because technology lets us do something doesn’t mean it’s right.
  2. Let’s avoid the thrust of academic inflation, cramming more and more knowledge and homework into the system at earlier grades because of some insane notion that the more students memorize before graduation, the smarter they will be. This comes from a lack of understanding of lower and higher order thinking. Learning is about learning how to learn, finding information, and improving analytical skills more than memorizing the dysfunction of Charlemagne, his heirs and the Carolingian dynasty. In fact, wise teachers have realized those addicted to the policy of increased homework are off the mark: “Once it leaves this building, we’re not using it for report card marks,” he said. “Once it leaves here, we don’t know who’s been working on it.”
  3. And in the same category as treating our children like RFID carriers, we need to avoid early streaming and its clones. At one Calgary school, despite their ineffective anti-streaming spin, they are streaming 7-year-olds into visual and performing arts, humanitarian and environmental issues, scientific inquiry and innovation, or sports and athletics streams. Streaming is wrong. It is particularly wrong with 7 year-olds who are far from able to pick or be assessed in one area. And more fundamentally, it perverts notions like Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory [which argues for enhancing students experiences in ALL intelligences] by picking a subset and ignoring the rest. But it can be quite cost effective to inject some Brave New World class juice into our culture. We must resist this.

Honestly. Happy first day of school!

It will definitely be a long 10 months. The system is more handicapped than last year. Our resources and time are strained further. But the need for our vigilance, advocacy and activism has never been higher. And it doesn’t hurt to read BC’s curriculum guides to find out what should be going on…and if you don’t see how they translate into real things in the classroom, ask your children’s teachers, who would be thrilled to see parents that engaged in learning.

But we are not along. Even the minister thinks we should get involved with the PAC, for instance.

Let’s make sure that’s the worst advice for her political career she ever issued, and I’ll see you at the other end in June.

Words from the minister:

As your child heads back to school this year, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the important role you, as parents, play in the success of all the children and young people in our education system.

Research has shown that when parents are involved and engaged, it not only helps their own child, it helps other children in the school. The evidence is consistent and convincing: parent engagement is one of the key factors identified by researchers in high-performing schools, and families have a major influence on their child’s achievement in school and through life.

I really encourage parents, when thinking about back to school, to talk to their child’s teacher. Really get to know your child’s teacher. Offer to volunteer. Become part of the parent advisory committee. You need to know what’s happening in the classroom to support your child.

Keep in touch with your school and discuss your child’s education. The close co-operation between home and school contributes significantly to creating a positive learning environment for children.

Learning is an active social process. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Your role in their education remains as important today as it was when they were saying their first words or learning to walk.

As your child heads back to school, please get engaged to ensure all our children have a successful education experience. We can’t do it without you.

Margaret MacDiarmid
Minister of Education
Government of British Columbia

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, Labour Day 2010

Imtiaz Popat and I celebrated Labour Day on “The Rational” last night. The video podcast is below.

We discussed:

  • Labour Day
  • my Labour Day article today: “Labour Day, Dignity and Doubling the CPP”
  • volunteer labour
  • dignity for seniors
  • doubling the CPP because $11,000/year is unacceptable
  • BC’s pathetic minimum wage
  • a fall federal election could lead to a Liberal minority government and time to leverage them for economic dignity
  • student poverty is a result of right wing ideological choices: post-secondary education is seen as an income boost and the government wants its cut
  • the government is managing our CPP funds by investing in tar sands and privatized highways
  • BC’s Gateway Project and the North American transportation infrastructure vs. Peak Oil
  • workers and unions need to engage in society by working in coalition with community groups and climate justice
  • corporations and government employers are not taking the lead on greening our society, so workers need to
  • extremism, xenophobia and skapegoating
  • increased corporate profitability, how productivity gains aren’t trickling down to workers: class war
  • all majority governments are bad right now, especially considering how much of the social conservative agenda being introduced by Harper with just a minority government
  • BC Conservative party’s increasing viability, along with the BC Greens means more of a chance of a BC minority government in 2013
  • what will it take for a BC political party to say they’ll actually get rid of the HST?
  • and we would have talked about this intensely if I had read it in time!

The video podcast of the conversation lives at Vista Video.

You can watch it in Miro, the best new open source multimedia viewing software: http://www.miroguide.com/feeds/8832

or…

You can watch it in iTunes: itpc://dgivista.org/pod/Vista_Podcasts.xml

or…

The podcast file is at http://dgivista.org/pod/COOP.Radio.2010.09.06.mov

Enjoy!

A Voice from Haiti, Who We Are Further Victimizing

This morning I wrote about how we and the French are continuing to rip off Haiti 7 months after their earthquake.

Today I read about one woman’s experiences. She sounds so much like us. Getting to the human level during these kind of existential events, we always see that “they” are just like “us”. I wonder if we can think of our new Tamil visitors that way?

Beyond some poignant quotes below, she finishes here piece this this, which seems like a futile hope from where we stand:

We have a lot of work to do. We need to have dialogue so we can tell the international organizations what we need, what problems we have. I’d hope that the Haitian authorities and the international community can collaborate, can have good relations to develop really useful solutions for those who have problems.

Some other disturbing elements of her piece:

Young women suffer sexual aggression because they have to bathe in public.


There’s a lot of theft, you have to watch what you have very carefully. …Anyone can just frequent the camp, whether they live there or not

You have to work hard not to get sick. You see children who were normal before January 12 and now you see their color has changed, they’re skinnier, they have bumps all over their skin.

You can’t be walking around all day with all your belongings under your arms. You have to be able to say, “That is my place, that’s where my possessions are, that’s where I sleep, that’s where my home is.”

via t r u t h o u t | Amid Haitian Housing Crisis, Student Calls for Dialogue.

How We [and the French] Keep Ripping Off Haiti

It was so nice to see so many billions pledged to help Haiti after its earthquake where the planet kicked the country after it was down from centuries of racist, imperial and neoliberal exploitation.

But how much money pledged has shown up?

And worse, did you know that Haiti spent more than a century paying off France reparations money for their own freedom? Imagine what the country would have been like if it didn’t pay that odious debt.

Let’s explore all the odious exploitation of Haiti for the last 206 years, with special focus on the last seven months. Continue reading How We [and the French] Keep Ripping Off Haiti

A Fine Collection of Canada Day Racism

First Nations propose changing Stanley Park’s name to Xwayxway.

What an interesting story about changing the name of Stanley Park to remove the colonialism. We now have Haida Gwaii and the Salish Sea. Removing colonial markers is about us as it is about the First Nations.

But I am thoroughly astonished, but sadly not surprised, at the degree of racism in the comments to this story. There are 16 comments now, only one in favour of the name change and many of those opposed spouting such racist bunk that it truly sours Canada Day.

More shame.

Reports from Haiti by CUPE and the Red Cross

Claude Genereux, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE, Canada’s largest union, shares his impressions on where Haiti is at 4 months after their devastating earthquake, which compounded the neoliberal economic earthquake Canada and others have been perpetrating on Haiti for decades.

Saddest for me is the lack of time and opportunity for children to play. This is why we have Clowns Without Borders.

Here is a brief, yet expansive report from the Canadian Red Cross. There are more details at the Canadian Red Cross Haiti page. Hurricane season is coming. We need to keep building relationships to restore and enhance stability compared to where they were before.

On Carole James Being a Woman

On Monday and Tuesday I wrote about reasons I had been hearing from people about why they think we lost the election. It was a list of reasons I had heard, presented in no particular order.

The only order jigging I did was to put my belief at the end, the one about engaging with members and the progressive social movement in BC that I contributed to Think Forward BC NDP.

In describing the category of reasons why people think we lost that dealt with Carole James, among the 5 reasons I included that people were suggesting, one of them was that she is a woman.

Not explicitly writing that I don’t necessarily believe this list of explanations of the electoral loss meant I left some ambiguity about what I do believe.

I don’t believe we lost the election because of any of the first 8 categories of reasons, including that our leader is a woman. I believe we lost because we alienated our members who chose to not fund, volunteer for or vote for a party that no longer reflected what they felt the party should be.  I don’t think it was the gender of the leader.

I think people who don’t think women should be premier wouldn’t vote NDP anyway. I have also talked to party members who were concerned about having a female leader because they feared sexist voters wouldn’t vote for the party. But like I said, I don’t think they’d vote NDP anyway.

The sexist reality of this province is that one’s gender can be an element in their political success or failure. There are also racist elements in the political culture in BC. We don’t talk about either of them too much, though. They are very touchy subjects, understandably.

But we need to talk about race and gender and all sorts of demographic issues that unjustifiably bias the public’s political decision-making.

These are real issues to discuss, not in the context of deciding how to let racism and sexism sway our political existence, but to figure out how to build a progressive society in BC that is beyond this kind of bigotry.

Two days ago, Carole James discussed one example of this bigotry in politics:

“It’s difficult for women because you can be seen as shrill very easily,” Ms. James said. “You can be seen as haranguing in a way that men aren’t. When you take on tough issues I think there’s also a tougher standard for women to find that balance.”

What kind of civilized, enlightened society exists in which a provincial political party leader who happens to be a woman has to moderate her political existence to accommodate troubling perceptions in the population? It turns out, ours. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a few things to say about how we ought to judge people. Decades later, we still have a way to go.

And when we voted for an equity policy at the 2007 convention, there was much debate: uncomfortable and touchy, but necessary.

This weekend we’ll receive the Equity Mandate Report and decide what to do in the future to encourage more diversity in NDP candidacies.

Having had the pleasure of watching the equity policy contribute to a number of successes like Mable Elmore’s election in Vancouver-Kensington, I will encourage continued discussion about the various forms of bigotry that exist in our political culture, with a goal of moving past it.

I voted for the equity policy in 2007 and I will vote for the new Mandate recommendations this weekend.

Dialogue is important.

It isn’t always easy and it is often cumbersome to the point of wondering if it’s worth it. But in a progressive political party, earnest members of good intentions deserve the space and the freedom to discuss controversial subjects in a productive way.

While I don’t think we lost either of the last 2 elections because our leader is a woman, some people still do. And that is worth discussing because if we don’t, the elephant in the room will remain, which is what we’re trying to avoid when we examine equity issues in the first place.

Bill Bennett: King of Plausible Deniability!

The ad reads, “You want someone who pays taxes and is concerned about how the money is being spent,” underneath a photo of Bennett and his family and a slogan that reads, “He’s one of us.”

So Kootenay East Liberal Party candidate Bill Bennett did it again. First his campaign planned to host a beer night at a pub, advertising free beer. Bennett claims it was not his idea, but some over-zealous person on his campaign. Plausible deniability. Have a seat in your throne, Mr. Bennett!

Now he runs an ad talking about how voters want to elect someone who pays taxes BLAH BLAH BLAH. I’m trying to think of a provincial politician in a scandal about not paying taxes. Maybe that’s why he mentioned that idea.

Tom Daschle lost his chance at a cabinet post because of tax problems. Oh, wait. He was looking for a spot in Obama’s cabinet.

Ok, there appears to be no obvious context for him to make that comment, unless not living in Kootenay East means I’m missing out on some local controversy.

It is only when you look at the heredity and policies of his opponents do we see value in the statement.

NDP candidate Troy Sebastian belongs to the Ktunaxa First Nation and lives on an Indian Reserve so is exempt from federal and provincial taxes under the Indian Act. Wilf Hanni, leader of the BC Conservatives, and one of his party’s top contenders for winning a riding, is opposed to the governing Liberals’ Recognition and Reconciliation Act.

Bennett has recently broken with party policy to also oppose the new relationship, all to remove one of Wilf Hanni’s greatest wedge issues. He has also run ads recently that neglected to include the Liberal Party branding, since it carries such a stink to it these days.

So, if Bennett is more crafty than daft, his tax comment is all about continuing to remove Hanni’s wedge and play the race card against his NDP opponent. Plausible deniability exists again. Here is your scepter, Mr. Bennett!

And while daft and clueless [and arrogant and out of touch, the quite accurate NDP mantra against the Liberals] are possibilities, my money is on Bennett being crafty, sneaking free beer and racism against First Nations in because he is desperate to keep a seat he only barely won.

And in the end, he’s in trouble either way. If he’s too daft and clueless to see how free beer and a comment about paying taxes might be spun badly, why would anyone vote for him as their MLA?

And if he’s crafty, then he’s a lying, scheming, opportunist who will flip on party policy and attack an opponent by pandering to racists, and that is not a person worthy of representing any British Columbians, except of course for Liberal voters who happen to be bigots.

But then again, the BC Liberal Party has a convicted drunk driving for a premier, a former mayor under criminal investigation, a now-resigned cabinet member with a suspended driver’s license, a few others with drunk driving or a plethora of moving violations and a homophobe. And don’t get me started on the sick and disgusting things I heard come out of Harry Bloy’s mouth during question period while I was sitting in the gallery several years ago when there were two female NDP MLAs in the house. That vitriol steams me to this day.

And while the NDP has its share of candidates with some speeding tickets, the trophy with the headless bowler goes to the Liberals for either criminal or madly anti-social behaviour–and don’t get me started either on how anti-social their policies have been for 8 years.

So in the end, Bennett seems more crafty than daft to me, in part because he would fit right in with his party.

So when you go vote tomorrow, Saturday and Tuesday, if you live in Kootenay East, ask yourself if Bill Bennett is just stupid or a lying racist. Whichever answer you get, make sure you don’t vote for him.