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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Having a hard time arguing with this

This piece from Now's Enzo de Matteo's been on my mind for several days. Distilled down to a few words, he's urging Toronto's progressive councillors not to make nicey-nicey with the Ford regime, but to dig in and fight and play dirty every step of the way.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Don Cherry is a pussy




Tough guy, hiding behind the guys who actually do the work and firing artillery rounds at people dozens of kilometres away.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More flying monkeys, Smithers!

Yeah, well.

Never thought I'd be linking to both the Stun and the Putz approvingly, but there it is.

What are we paying these people for?

Lest anyone suspect this corner of indulging in an unseemly end-zone dance at the apprehension of Toronto Police Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani, let me emphasize: this is barely the start.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

The things you find on the intertoobz ...

Hey, a freebie! Or, perhaps, one of those cheap plastic prizes you get in cereal boxes ...

If anyone feels like having a full and frank exchange of views with one of the mouthpieces for the Ottawa cops regarding the Stacy Bonds scandal, he appears to have provided his name and phone number here:

S/Sgt. Michel Marin
Ottawa Police Service
Professional Standards Section
613-236-1222 ext 5830

Haven't tried it myself, but if anyone does, please tell us about it in the comments ...

(H/t Dr. Dawg.)

Charges dropped against one G20 defendant ...

So it seems that Jaroslava Avila's not going to be prosecuted on bullshit "conspiracy" charges.

Yeah, well. While the evidence doesn't yet suggest that the Toronto Crown's office has its head as far up its ass as its Ottawa counterpart, let's not get too excited. It's not as if the Crown has suddenly developed a moral sense or anything.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Police brutality at the G20: Steve Paikin testifies



It just gets better and better, doesn't it. When it comes to sadistic assholes in police uniforms, the G20 really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Blue Wall is a threat to public safety



At some point, the whole discourse based on some spurious distinction between brutal sadistic bastards in police uniforms and the so-called "good" cops needs to be tossed out. I'd respectfully submit that we've passed that point.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Careful what you wish for, Julian

So Fantino's the new MP for Vaughan, and word is he's being groomed for a cabinet post right away.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blatchford smacks Fantino? Cue the schadenfreude chorus

Oh, dear. The queen of unthinking gut reaction says Julian wasn't there for the little guy at Caledonia.

Thwap hits one out of the park

A lot's been written and posted about Stacy Bonds and the vicious cowardly scumbags in Ottawa police uniforms who beat and sexually assaulted her, but thwap's just done a masterful job putting it all into context.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Re Trudeau / Fantino: I hate to be a buzz kill, but...

Justin Trudeau's slap at Julian Fantino over the Charter of Rights would carry just a little more weight if his party hadn't tried to draft Il Dunce as a candidate and weren't enabling the Harperites in their continuing campaign to use the Charter for toilet paper. Not to mention the fact that under Iggy, they vote with the government every time it really matters.

Sorry, Liberal friends. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, no matter where it's coming from.

Authoritarian whacking material: the Stacy Bonds video

Via JJ and the Dawgster. As JJ puts it, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.



(c) Canwest Ottawa Citizen

I really can't add anything.

Oh no, wait – yes I can. Matt Humphreys, John Ayre and Chris Bentley: today's Little Eichmanns TM. Take a bow, guys. You're a credit to the legal profession.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The essential Alex Himelfarb

Is it possible, from a legislative point of view, to declare this man an essential resource, indispensible to the national interest? In a new post on our dysfunctional democratic institutions, he writes:

The new populism we see developing to the South is profoundly undemocratic. Giving up on the possibility of collective progress leads not to democracy making but to institution busting, not to open knowledge sharing and public education, essential to democracy, but to the denigration of knowledge and expertise and surrender to slogans and spin, and, despite the rhetoric, not to greater personal freedom, except for the already rich and powerful.

He's probably a lot kinder to Bob Rae than I'd be, but that's because he's a gentleman.

Big props to pogge for #onpoli

Cross-posted from over here ...

A polite and proper acknowledgement to pogge for setting up this lovely sitting room. For weeks now, I've been somewhat disturbed by the, um, tone of some of the posts in the blogosphere. I won't mention any names, of course, but some folks are descending to, well, gutter language.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What Stageleft said

So Vern White's reaching out to the community in response to the Stacy Bonds scandal, wanting everyone to know that the Ottawa police take this sort of thing very seriously.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ottawa Crown Attorney's Office? This is your elbow. This is your ass.

Would you like me to go through that again? It's a fairly important distinction, and one you don't seem to have grasped just yet.

Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, law professor David Tanovich asks the obvious question regarding the Crown's decision to prosecute Stacy Bonds: what the fuck were they thinking? On what planet would the public interest have been served by seeking a conviction?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is the Crown in Ottawa waiting for?

Hello? Paging the Ottawa Crown Attorney's office. That's 613-239-1200.

A court of law has ruled that the Ottawa cops' treatment of Stacy Bonds was a travesty, and cited their "appalling behaviours." That's not a rumour or a bit of hearsay or an incomplete or biased newspaper account. It's a finding of fact by a judge.

Re Stacy Bonds: And another thing

As Alison points out over at Creekside, the record doesn't exactly inspire confidence when it comes to internal probes or police investigating themselves. One of the comments recalls:

Out of 3,400 investigations of police misconduct in Ontario, only 95 resulted in criminal charges, only 16 officers were convicted, and only 3 actually spent any time in jail.
As with Robert Dziekanski, the officers lied even though they knew there was video evidence.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Meaningful police reform? Yeah, good luck with that




Incidents like this latest horrifying chapter in Ottawa just underline the sad truth that's been self-evident all along: there is no effective institutional way of holding bastards like this accountable. These sadistic, cowardly lying pieces of shit do this for the same reason that dogs lick their balls: Because They Can.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday night Leaf-fan blues

Off the grid most of the day ... real-life tasks, dinner-party preps, whatever.

So I haven't checked TSN or CBC or the Star or the Globe or anything else (not even the best hockey blog in the known universe) for the results of this evening's tilt between the Leafs and the Canucks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why the liars are winning

Couple of days ago, Rick Perlstein published an essay on The Daily Beast that sets out, in succinct and convincing terms, one of the most important reasons that our friends to the south are in such trouble.

I'm not alone in lamenting the debasement and vulgarization of civil discourse and the attendant coarsening of political culture, but Perlstein's got one of the most influential and worrisome dynamics down pat: the far-right crazies, teabaggers and Palinbots lie their asses off, and no one – not the Obama administration, the Democratic establishment, the Villagers nor the "lamestream media" – will call them on it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Best use of Craigslist ever

Someone in Toronto wants to swap mayors with Calgary. I can't imagine why.

Or maybe it's the other way around. I could be wrong, you know. Who knows what kids get up to on the intertoobz these days?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Live tweets from the CCLA's G20 hearings

Anyone who still thinks the cops are here to serve and protect should follow here ...



And here as well.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stephen Harper's pathetic Zio-fawning

Over at Let Freedom Rain*, two posts from Jymn note the courageous stand taken by the activists of Young Jewish Proud, in contrast to Steve's craven leg-humping. By now we're all familiar with the pattern: "standing with Israel" inevitably dovetails with pathetic and transparent attempts to equate all criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, making it easier to criminalize it as "hate speech" and thus silence it along with any substantive debate. Anyone think Ezra, that principled Free Speech Warrior, will have a problem with that? What are the odds? If these little Ziobots have their way, the very phrase "Palestinian human rights" will soon be verboten.

Olbermann to return?

Over at Unrepentant Old Hippie, JJ's got the only possible reaction to this news. I'll believe it when I see it, but ...

Oh, what the hey. I'm steal – er, reproducing it here.



Update: Seems KO's not the only MSNBC host to make political contributions.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Care for a chaw, S-Supt. McGuire?

This weekend's Globe chronicles the story of four people caught in the infamous police "kettle" that became one of the central themes emerging from Toronto's G20 clusterfuck.

Maddow, Maher and the trap of false equivalence



Crazy weekend, but Maher's got it bang on. It's long past time to stop pretending that the left and the right, at least in the context of modern American political discourse, are mirror images of one another. If we buy into that, we're fighting on the Evil Ones' turf by letting them frame the debate – and once we let them do it, the fight's over before it's even begun.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don Davies and Bill Blair spar over the G20

MP Dancin' Don Davies drops the gloves for a go with Billy the Bonecrusher at a public hearing about the G20 clusterfuck.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No name tag? You disgust me, Officer

Thank heaven, though, Bill Blair's on the case.

That'll larn 'em!

Update: Some cynical bastard suggested that the TPA, in a gesture of good will is springing for 5000 new name tags. Problem is, they all say "Bubbles."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jon Stewart at the Rally for Sanity



(h/t Dammit Janet)

Man, it's just one extreme to the oth ...

No. No, I can't complete that thought, because to finish that sentence would be to betray a complete misapprehension of what Stewart seems to be aiming for: namely, a swing away from extremes.

Sun readers: prepare for wet dream

Thugs, violence, kidnapping and threats. Just another midterm election in Rupert Murdoch's Amerika.

(h/t Dr. Dawg)

Update: Let's add sexual assault to the mix, just in case it's not noxious enough. H/t Jymn, Cliff and Uzza.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What happens when sane people stay home

Straying a little bit from this week's Fordapalooza – you know, the one where they demand loyalty oaths at the door – to cast an eye toward our friends to the south.

Via @Shoq, this special comment from Keith Olbermann on the teabaggers and their electoral prospects next Tuesday.



Seriously.

This scares the shit out of me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cops get away with murder, local paper finds

Well. No shit.



In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning. Sources say it's likely to set in the west, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And when I say "everyone," I mean "everyone except Alex Hundert ... "



... and anyone else who's being harassed by the cops and the courts, persecuted for political beliefs, and coerced into signing outrageously restrictive bail conditions.

Really, Premier.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Putz likes Ford. Who knew?

Really. Who could have foreseen such a thing?

As sure as a turnin' of the earth, as John Wayne might have said. Honestly, did anyone seriously expect anything else?

It's not especially surprising to see the Putz endorsing Ford. What's instructive, though, is the rationale – which, like most far-right tropes, doesn't really stand up to close examinations.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let's hear from another Sun reader ...



People like this are allowed to walk the streets unsupervised.

They're allowed out after dark.

They're allowed to vote.

Comforting, isn't it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More on police abuses

Bookmark this site: the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.

An invaluable resource, maintained by the best mayor Toronto's had in the last half-century. The most recent bulletin is a concise and comprehensive update on much of the fallout from the G20 clusterfuck: the competing and overlapping inquiries and reviews, the class-action lawsuit, and the persecution of Alex Hundert, for example.

Really, George? That's the best you can do?

Terrific post from Cityslikr over at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, defiantly taking George Smitherman to task for his arrogant and cynical strategy of wooing progressive voters by arguing that a vote for Joe Pantalone will put Rob Ford in the mayor's chair. I was disgusted enough by the sleazy sense of entitlement he was displaying on Metro Morning today, but this is, as they say, the cherry on the sundae.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some insight into the cops' worldview

Ran across this post on a website called Connected Cops a short time ago.

While it's not especially surprising to see cops using the intertoobz and taking advantage of the power of things like FB and the Tweeter, what's instructive is the tone of this particular piece. It purports to be about lessons in the use of social media for law-enforcement professionals in the wake of the G20, which is innocuous enough, but note the underlying assumption implicit in the title: "When cops are attacked with social media."

Friday, October 15, 2010

The day they turned the Charter of Rights into toilet paper




Well, I guess it's official now. Out of bathroom tissue? Just make a few photocopies of The Charter. The highest law of the land carries about as much weight as a couple of rolls. Single-ply scratchy.

By now, everyone's aware of the latest shameful episode in the Alex Hundert saga; ridiculously onerous bail conditions which can't possibly hold up when submitted to even the most elementary constitutional challenge, obviously designed to set him up for further arrests and harassment. Excuse me? No attending meetings? No talking to your friends? No expressing political opinions? (I'd suggest that Justice of the Peace Inderpaul Chandhoke might want to reacquaint himself with the Charter of Rights, but given what people have been using it for, perhaps we can't blame him for not wanting to review it too closely.)

And of course, the coercion to which Alex was subjected at the Metro East detention centre: no phone call, no lawyer, sign these conditions or you'll be kept in solitary confinement till God knows when.

So not only have we reduced the Charter to something to be used for distasteful personal hygiene – we've reduced ourselves to the stereotypical banana republic.

Smarter and better observers than I have gone through this already. It's hard to single out any one post in particular, but Travis Fast has nailed it here:

From the time of initial arrest the idea is not to get a criminal conviction but to use the administration of justice to systematically harass political activists depriving them of their liberty, time and money (on defence lawyers). What the police, Crowns and Courts are doing is abusing the the justice system in order to police political dissent.

It used to be that when Toronto cops misbehaved, Julian Fantino could be counted on to spin it as isolated and confined, or just the work of a few bad apples. Anyone who believes that now, I've got some land to sell you. This is obviously part of a coordinated and systemic effort by the cops and the Crown to criminalize dissent and intimidate other citizens.




But again, I'm not really pointing out anything new here. What I would suggest, though, is that it's all part of a nauseatingly established pattern evident from both police and prosecutors. They engage in this repulsive authoritarian bullshit, abusing us and our fellow citizens, for the same reason that dogs lick their own genitals: Because They Can.

And why is that? Well, there's a sorry history behind it, but what it boils down to is this: there is NO accountability for these bastards. There is absolutely no meaningful institutional way of holding these people responsible for the abuses they visit upon us. That's why I keep going on (and yes, I know, I do go on ... ) about the futility of expecting an institutional response.

The reasons for this are complicated, but they can be approached from two broad perspectives: the police and the courts. Some of my fellow bloggers have dealt with the courts already (plenty of links to get you started, I hope), so let's focus on the police.

On paper, police are subject to civilian oversight. In practice, the Toronto Police Association has a long history of doing everything possible to neuter that, and it has been abetted in that by a tame and ineffectual Police Services Board. Board members have varied from “cops are tops” cheerleading to sporadic attempts to assert some measure of control, but as a corporate entity, the Board has never, in living memory, demonstrated anything close to genuine effectiveness.

Perhaps the best illustration of that is in the Toronto Police Association's continuing refusal to refrain from political activity. Every few years the issue arises, and just as predictably the Board will harrumph and cluck its disapproval – and be blown off. No one has ever had the stones to actually put the question to a legal test. Culturally, historically and institutionally, the board has always been a paper tiger.

Just as predictable has been the police union's response: huffing and puffing about how Board members “don't understand police work.” The arrogant and transparently ridiculous argument that Association executives aren't police officers and thus aren't subject to the proscription on political activity. (Jesus H. Murphy. How many other people get to decide for themselves which laws they'll obey and which laws they'll ignore? How they'll interpret the laws? Or throw up bullshit excuses like “we're not police officers” for the purpose of this law?)

But it hasn't stopped there. Five years ago, we saw widespread defiance of an order from the chief of police during contract negotiations, marked by mass demonstrations of armed and uniformed cops to demand more and more of our money. Call me a stickler for paperwork if you must, but we provide police officers with those uniforms and weapons to be used in the performance of their duties. Marching on city hall in a display of armed force to press private contract demands is not part of those duties.

And given that there's never been any material or tangible consequence for things like this, is it any surprise that more and more cops feel the licence to go wilding – on us? Who's going to stop them? We've all heard dozens of revolting stories of egregious police abuses, sadism and brutality during the G20, and it's abundantly clear that nobody's going to face any criminal or disciplinary liability for any of it. The Blue Wall's up, folks, and it's going to stay up.

Established procedures for complaints? Independent inquiries? Talking to the Police Services Board? Uh-huh. Good luck with that.

(To come: more on the dysfunctional nature of police culture.)

Update: Speaking of cops, it seems that Officer Bubbles is inadvertently demonstrating the healing power of public scorn.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Robert Dziekanski, the RCMP, and an anniversary

Presented without comment:


Really can't argue with that, can you.

Constable Kwesi Millington.
Constable Gerry Rundel.
Constable Bill Bentley.
Corporal Monty Robinson.

You guys proud of yourselves?

Moon 'em, Mahmoud

OK, so let me make sure I've got this right:

Israel bombs the shit out of Lebanon, flattening towns and neighbourhoods and killing hundreds of people, and nobody says anything.

Iran – for all its other faults – helps finance the reconstruction and relief efforts, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit is "provocative?" Supporting Hezbollah is undermining Lebanese sovereignty?

I hope he visits southern Lebanon. In fact, I hope he goes right up to the border fence, looks the Israelis in the eye, and then drops trou and moons them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best use of the word "socialist" this month

I've written recently about the need to win back the words, with this one being perhaps the most important, given the way the Venomous LoserTM at the Toronto Sun flings it about so carelessly.

So it's especially heartening to see things like this.



It adds a little frisson to the schadenfreude.

All right, all right. I know. Cheap shot. More substantive post to come soon.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A tale of two tweets




Because I'm pretty sure he'd rather be at home enjoying a restful day in the company of friends and family.

Also: a terrific post from Rusty Idols contrasting our own G20 asshole cops with the riot cops in Belgrade, who stood up to a bunch of homophobic thugs. Yes, that's Serbian police, being progressive.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Let's get their names

I'm speaking of the moral pygmies otherwise known as the prosecutor and Justice of the Peace involved in revoking Alex Hundert's bail.

Better and more eloquent observers than I have already noted the context for this asinine, insulting and overbearing development. But it's not just about an organized and calculated campaign to criminalize dissent and make people reluctant to speak their minds. What's particularly galling about this is the smug arrogance of the state functionaries; they know what they're doing is bullshit, they know we know, and they know there's nothing we can do to hold them accountable. (At least not in the formal institutional sense, but more about that in a moment.)

It's the same kind of attitude we saw from the hordes of asshole cops who were indiscriminately abusing and brutalizing people during the G20 clusterfuck. We're doing this because we can, and we're not even trying to hide how much we're enjoying it. Arbitrary, bullying pricks.




So. The prosecutor and the JP: today's Little Eichmanns TM. Not much point in hoping for a meaningful institutional response (as Alex Hundert's case shows), but at least we can expose them for what they are: banal little cogs in the apparatus of repression, deserving of nothing more than our scorn and our pity.

H/t Dr. Dawgpogge and Cathie.

Update: The Justice of the Peace in this travesty is one Inderpaul Singh Chandhoke, whose 30 years on the bench apparently haven't fomented an appreciation of basic logic, let alone the Charter of Rights.

Big h/t Dr. Dawg. More to come. Let's see if we can name and expose the prosecutor and the security manager at Metro East Detention. Maybe there's work for them at Abu Ghraib.

Crazed terrorist threatens to down aircraft in suicide attack

Gosh darn those dirty brown people with funny names!
Terrified passengers on a London-bound flight froze in their seats as a crazed man ran through the aisle of the Qantas jet screaming: 'You will all die!' 
Praying and yelling in a foreign language, the man threatened to kill himself and the passengers on the fully-laden jet several hours after it took off from Melbourne to fly to London via Hong Kong. 
Flight attendants managed to jump on the man and restrain him as he threatened to open an emergency exit door, shouting: 'It is God's will'.
From the Daily Mail.

Wow. So why isn't the media going apeshit over this? This is Fox News / Sun Media / National Putz whacking material, for Chrissakes.


Never mind.

What's that you're saying? Bias? In the lamestream media? Facts inconveniently deviating from the approved narrative? 

Sorry, I'm just not understanding you. Your lips are moving, but I can't hear what you're saying.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lazy leftie takes advantage of the hard work of others

Not so fast, stereotype lovers: That would be me, linking to good posts from other progressive bloggers.

Stageleft:: The Clearest Statement of Conservative Philosophy You Will Ever Read

What matters is that we are going to ram through a bad and unpopular decision that lines up nicely with My Party's Ideology, justified by my lies. 
And you fucking idiots will sleep right through it.
Beautifully succinct, and perhaps it even picks up on Salutin's suggestion about the influence of  Leo Strauss on the Harpoonians. But maybe I'm just still in mourning.

DAMMIT JANET:: Did the good guys just win one?

No juice and egg on their face. Not quite the hog's trough banquet they were expecting. 
Let the market decide. And I'm betting this venture is falling flat on its eggy face.

What the hey. Karma doesn't always have to be a bitch ...

Isn't it time ...

... for moderate Christians to "refudiate" Charles McVety? Aren't community leaders supposed to take responsibility for outing the radical extremists within their midst?

Creekside: McVety wants National Defence investigated

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More Sun readers speak ...




Link here. Who knows, they may actually leave this charming stuff online.

About those "elites ... "




Seems it's a new talking point for the Harperites and their media lickspittles: smear their opponents as "Toronto elites."

Ummm ... just who was it that spent billions of dollars turning our city into an armed camp for the benefit of the most exclusive elite club in the world last summer?

John Baird might want to take his own advice.

The slow leak of Marcus Gee's drip-drip narrative

The Globe's ideologically reliable urban-affairs curmudgeon thinks he has the secret to Rob Ford's success.

Not surprisingly, it's a variation on the Mike-from-Canmore theme, except this time it's Peter Robinson, cheesed-off ordinary guy.

Take note of how carefully Marcus sets Peter Robinson up: he's no raving reactionary. In fact, he voted for David Miller! Quelle horreur! And why is he cheesed off? Well, take a guess: he's exasperated with the drip-drip-drip of steadily rising taxes and fees. It seems like every time he turns around, he's paying more money. Which is why Rob Ford's idiotic "stop the city hall gravy train" slogan is resonating with him:
"Maybe there needs to be four years of chaos and cost-cutting to restore a balance. Maybe, for all his faults, if he cuts and cuts we will somehow get started again."
Marcus then sets out all manner of things that Peter Robinson is now paying more for: his tax bill, the fees at his local hockey rink, his car registration fee, swimming lessons for his kids, etc. And the last straw, of course, is the bitter aftertaste from last summer's municipal garbage strike.

Well, yeah buddy, we know. It's tougher all over. But, according to Marcus's storyline, ordinary reasonable people like Peter Robinson are prepared to allow four years of service-slashing scorched-earth policies from government – while simultaneously convincing themselves that their taxes aren't going to go up. Short memories folks have, doncha think?

But that's just the beginning. Peter Robinson's complaints are set up as something we can all relate to. In other words, they're the context for Marcus's narrative, and that's what needs to be challenged.

So:

Yo, Marcus? Show me something that hasn't gotten more expensive over the past several years. Now, let's contrast that with what Peter Robinson's been taking home over the same period. Anyone want to bet that the rate of increase for the first set of figures won't be somewhat higher than that for the second? And naturally, the drain on the second is going to be higher because of user fees, cost-recovery imperatives, and the like.

Again, my friends: context. Sorry to go all academic on you, but the capitalist imperative of short-term profit maximization and the demands of investors, shareholders and executive-compensation packages make that inevitable. Of course when organized labour tries to do the same thing by negotiating the best possible contracts for its members, it's all "lazy union thugs" and "outsource" and "contract out services" and "privatize" and "protect the poor taxpayer."

What's most insidious about this narrative – and Marcus is far from being the only one propagating it – is the way it's constantly dressed up as "common sense," as if it's something any reasonable person can understand. Again, another manufactured narrative, and in truth it's far from reasonable, because it's constructed so as to avoid making obvious comparisons and asking reasonable follow-up questions.

Everybody whines when taxes go up, for example. But at least those resources are used in accordance with public policy, in which every citizen has a say. The revenues that government raises through taxation go to things that contribute to the common good.

Contrast that with the spectre of rising bank rates. I don't know how much Peter Robinson spends on his mortgage, and I'd be willing to bet that wasn't part of his conversation with Marcus Gee, but the rising cost of borrowing money means he has to spend more on interest when he renews his mortgage, doesn't it? Anyone think that hasn't been rising steadily? And where does that money go? Does it pay for municipal services? Does it fix potholes in the road? Does it help maintain public-transit infrastructure? Does it help to defray the cost of his kids' swimming lessons?

No. It feeds bank profits. Somewhere there are executives winning bonuses for meeting their profit targets, and does anyone want to bet that that's not where the extra mortgage money goes? That bonus is paying for some suit's Albany Club membership. Which he then gets to write off. So in effect, guys like Peter (and you and I, for that matter) are subsidizing it twice. Just a hunch, but I doubt we'll see Marcus asking questions about that any time soon.

It may be too late to derail the Ford train wreck, and even if Smitherman or Pantalone manage to pull this one out of the fire, the dominant storyline for this election's been set. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep pressing the alternative.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The new (lobotomized) national newspaper

Oy.

The redesigned Globe's Focus section - the intellectual heart of the paper, where Big Ideas are supposed to find room to stretch - leads with Margaret Wente arguing that we should take Sarah Palin seriously.

I'm just going to find a brick wall to bang my head against now.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Manji for Salutin? Are you serious?

I don't think I can improve on Eugene Forsey's characterization: this is worse than Courtnall for Kordic. (h/t Jymn at Let Freedom Rain).

At a time when the reinvigoration of civil discourse is more important than ever, why in god's name is the Globe jettisoning its most thoughtful, original and engaging columnist? Are focus groups and demographic targeting and tokenism more important to Canada's self-appointed National Newspaper than raising the tone of the national conversation? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

In losing Rick Salutin's voice, the Globe isn't just getting rid of a genuinely original and progressive thinker. It's abandoning the whole notion of intellectual curiosity, leaving us with hacks like Blatchford and Wente.

Quality journalism is more important than ever, regardless of how unsustainable the traditional business model may have become. What the Globe's just done is give its readers one less reason to look for it there.

Update: Welcome eyecrazy readers, and thanks for the traffic! Just take your shoes off at the door, if you please ...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Too much snark, not enough cerebral

Mea culpa. While I'm tossing off cheap shots (well-deserved cheap shots, mind) at Toronto's mayoral candidates, someone else is actually taking the time to craft thoughtful and reflective stuff.

Another quiet, persuasive and on-the-money post from the indispensable Alex Himelfarb. What are we supposed to do when the government is bent on dividing us, on manipulating us, on exploiting our resentment, and on keeping us fearful and ignorant? A taste:
How will any of this make us safer, more prosperous, healthier?  How will any of this help us address the challenges of an aging population, deepening inequality and poverty, climate change and environmental degradation, a widening productivity gap?  Feeding and feeding off anger and distrust is easy but just where does it take us?
Go and read it now.

The lady IS for turning

Thanks for playing, Sarah.

Rocco? That hook, emerging from stage left?

Monday, September 27, 2010

When clichés replace actual thought



Really, Sarah.

The "come on, boys, behave" act is getting tired. And "mad as hell and not going to take it any more" doesn't qualify as thoughtful engagement.

The sad part is that you can do better.  But then, so can we.

Update: And so we have.  Take the hint, Rocco.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aggressive, hardball progressive politics

What we need more of in this country. Digby's got it exactly right.

For those of you who don't know Congressman Alan Grayson, here's an introduction. He's doing God's work.



(H/t DownWithTyranny.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gun registry: Harper's self-inflicted wound

In Ottawa, Jeffrey Simpson doesn't just channel conventional wisdom – he pretty much personifies it.

So it gives one a nice little frisson of schadenfreude to read something like this with one's morning coffee:
Since the last election, remember, the Conservatives have gone backward: from an 11-point lead over the Liberals in the last national vote to a statistical tie in all the polls. The reasons are many, but the essential thread is clear: The government and the party have done nothing to expand their base of support and, instead, have shrunk back into the core.
What the gun registry vote mostly does, therefore, is strengthen the Conservatives where they are already overwhelmingly strong, and possibly give them a good issue in some NDP and Liberal-held ridings in rural or semi-rural areas. But for every one of those opposition-held ridings where keeping the registry might serve the Conservatives well, there are just as many where their stand is a political liability.
There's a big opening here for all kinds of cheap shots about long guns, compensation, insecurity, phallic symbolism and the gender gap, but it's shaping up to be a nice weekend and, well, you know. Things to do and all that.

Yo, Steve? You want to use the gun thing as a wedge issue? Knock yourself out.

Caveat: as this post from the increasingly indispensible Alison suggests, let's not get too het up about Iggy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Winning back the words: a subversive's work is never done

Reading this rather revolting story from Dr. Dawg. Our old friends at the Toronto Sun are up to their old tricks, led by the venomous loser Sue-Ann Lyons. Er, Levy. Whatever.

The good Doctor's summary and deconstruction speaks for itself, so no point in going through it all again. What's worth noting is the smirking, self-congratulatory tone permeating the braying, faux-populist tabloid. They're getting all full of themselves because their boy's heading for victory.

That tone's certainly evident in the latest steaming pile from Venomous Loser. But smirking or shrieking, one of the things that's a virtual constant in every hateful little screed she tosses off is her characterization of everything and everyone she hates as "socialist."

Like her fellow hacks, she panders to the lizard-brains by reducing language to clichés and simple-minded notions that appeal to the gut and the emotions rather than the intellect. Central to that is the tactic of throwing words around so carelessly that they lose all connection to their actual meanings, and are transformed into epithets. I've written before about the need to reclaim the discursive turf, so let's add another benchmark to the campaign: "socialism."

Yes, it's a biggie. A loaded word, to be sure. We need to reclaim it and make sure that its meaning is clear and easy to grasp, so that it isn't loaded any more and can't be used as a rhetorical cudgel to shut down debate. Once that's done, the Venomous Loser can stand on top of the Sun building and scream it till she's blue in the face.

To arms, comrades!

Smitherman's toast

Really, when was the last time anyone blew a lead like this (other than Paul Maurice's Leafs, of course?)  I think this sums up George's campaign about as well as anything:




There's a line between between chutzpah and arrogance, and with the suggestion that the anti-Ford vote should coalesce around him, I'd say George has just crossed it.

He started out as the front-runner, without much vision but with plenty of establishment backing and a big-time attitude of entitlement. Then when Rob Ford's message (stupid and simplistic though it is) started becoming the defining storyline of the campaign, he joined Rossi and Thomson trying to out-Ford Rob Ford. Andrea Addario sums it up beautifully:
The credible alternative to Rob Ford is not a candidate that panders to the same parts of the city’s lizard brain. Any campaign that successfully counters Ford’s rage, in both its incoherent and specific forms, needs to reach the progressive, compassionate heart of Toronto – the Toronto that rejected Mike Harris and still rejects Stephen Harper.
Is that George Smitherman? Not looking likely. In his craven bid to appeal to the same destructive anger as Ford, he threw away the opportunity to be that alternative. Smitherman has embraced spending freezes, privatization, and tax cutting. What’s the message here? Look at me! I’m just like Rob Ford! But I live downtown, so I’m somehow less scary? It hasn’t worked.
Time to face it, George: you're toast. You've gone in only one direction since the campaign kicked off, and you've had plenty of time to turn it around, so there's really no reason to think you've got any growth potential. Time to call it a day.

Update: The lady's got the right idea, although if this is true, she's leaning toward the wrong Italian. Take the hint.

Update 2: The lady's not for turning. Even if the car's heading for the cliff ...

Update 3: Globe curmudgeon Marcus Gee is writing as if it's a two-man race now. And George isn't one of them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's just talk about "elitism" for a second

So a lot of the discussion surrounding Rob Ford's popularity, it seems, centres on the slippery and oft-misused notion of “elitism.” How does the storyline go? Angry voters are finding a champion in Ford because of the way he stands up to the downtown elites.

Anybody noticing a common theme here? Yesterday it was "fed up with high taxes and wasteful spending." Today it's ordinary, hard-working lunch-bucket types, tired of being told what do do by the condescending latte-sucking downtown socialist elites. In both cases, Ford's appeal is based on a noxious current of anger and resentment. Rags like the Sun never miss an opportunity to stoke that current by torquing every storyline with resentment of these so-called elites.

I wrote at some length yesterday about how far the discursive goalposts have been moved by thirty years of right-wing stupidity. The touchstone was Ronald Reagan's dismissive putdown during one of his debates with Jimmy Carter. 

 

It seems like a throwaway line, but it's resonated through public discourse ever since, and we have suffered for it. Consider the context: Carter's making a well-researched argument, listing in concise and easy-to-follow bullet points the policy areas wherein he and Reagan disagree, and Reagan just smiles in his folksy, aw-shucks manner, and in four short words, blows off the argument with a smile. What the hell, eh? Facts and policy don't matter. Who wants to listen to that guy with his facts and figures, anyway? It's the easy-going, genial manner that wins the day. Now there's a guy I can sit and have a beer with. 

And look where we are now. Once upon a time, education, intelligence and the ability to reflect thoughtfully on things were considered desirable things. They were something to aspire to. It's indicative of just how degraded public discourse has become that they're now considered liabilities. Nowadays, it's almost lethal when you can be portrayed as an "elitist." The very term itself has taken on pejorative overtones; to call someone elitist suggests that he or she is arrogant, out of touch, considers himself or herself better than everyone else, and has all kinds of other undesirable qualities.

The corollary, of course, is the inevitable elevation of ordinary and transient social convention to the status of Holy Writ. "Let's go back to the phones: we've got Mike from Canmore, ready to tell us what he thinks about the long-form census." (The Harrisites used to call it "common sense," when what they were really up to was one of the most vicious class wars in nearly a generation. Ontario still hasn't recovered from the damage.) But there are other terms for it as well: populism, gut instinct, and eventually, mob rule. 

Whatever you want to call it, it's all based on common elements: simple easy answers, no thought required, everything boils down to quickly memorized slogans and clichés. With Reagan, there was never any shortage of those: "Evil Empire," "tear down this wall," "government is the problem." Again, it's indicative of just how badly civil discourse has been degraded that today's right-wing flying monkeys can just repeat similar catchphrases ad nauseum and believe that they're making cogent arguments.

The current civic election in Toronto has its share of those idiotic, no-thought-required memes as well: "gravy train," "hard-earned tax dollars," "tax-and-spend leftists," etc. My personal favourite is the so-called "war on the car." News flash, morons: there is no "war on the car." What there is, is a recognition that not everyone drives a car and that any sane and workable transportation policy has to account for the fact that different people have different ways of getting around. Yes, it's an idea with a lot more syllables than “war on the car.” Get used to it.

As a matter of fact, it really doesn't take much to break down these clichés; once that's done, it becomes pretty clear that the assumption and value judgments they're based on don't stand up. "Tax-and-spend," for instance. I wrote yesterday about taxes, but once again: Societies raise revenue, collectively, by requiring their citizens to pay taxes. They then allocate their collective resources in accordance with publicly determined priorities. In other words, they spend the money. "Tax" and "spend." When did this become a Bad Thing?

Again, an illustration of how important it is for progressives to win back the discourse. If we fight on the other side's terms, we're screwed.

So, back to those idiotic truisms. It's time to reclaim the notion of elitism as well. When we're talking about multi-million-dollar decisions that affect the future of my city and my community, I want those decisions made on the basis of comprehensive analysis, careful consideration, genuine attempts to build consensus, and a well-thought-out rationale that considers:
  • what the objectives are
  • what resources are available to pursue them
  • what the opportunity costs of those pursuits are
  • the target population
  • what the indicators of success / failure are.
In short, I want those decisions made by intelligent, thoughtful, educated people. I don't want them made on the basis of some stupid angry asshole's gut reactions. If that makes me an elitist, fine. Sue me.

Let us conclude with this:




Further examples here, here, here, and here.

Angry, overbearing, belligerent, name-calling, and screaming. Lying about his boorish, drunken antics. Simple-minded proposals that have no basis in fiscal or mathematical reality. No grounding in which level of government does what. No ability or inclination to connect with people who disagree with him. Pulling answers and numbers out of his ass. These are not civic virtues, folks.

So, my suburban friends: how badly do you want to cut off your noses to spite your faces? Never mind buying into the questionable premise that the city is broken and he's the one who's going to fix it. Do you really think this guy's going to make things better? Do you really want to put this guy in the mayor's chair just to stick it to downtown voters?

I'm sorry, you were saying something about privacy?

That was part of the rationale for the Harperites' assault on the census, wasn't it?

For your consideration: Sean Bruyea. A vocal critic of Veterans Affairs whose personal medical and financial records seem to have been xeroxed and used for paper airplanes by hundreds of bureaucrats and used to brief former minister Greg Thompson. Details of his pension, his mental condition, his chronic fatigue, his tension headaches, even suicidal thoughts, all collected as a weapon to be used against him.

One expert in privacy law called it the worst breach of privacy he'd ever seen.

This is what happens to critics of this government.

This is what this gang of thugs will stoop to.

I'm sorry, were they saying something about the long-form census being intrusive?



(H/t Susan Delacourt.)

Update: Chet has more.

Upperdate:  As does pogge.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can we stop talking about taxpayers?



I know, I know. It's not going to be easy to push back against 30 years of right-wing stupidity. And I think I recall someone saying, once upon a time, that an election campaign is no time for a discussion of serious issues.

But we're coming down to the home stretch of the Toronto civic election, and Rob Ford's still the odds-on favourite. Don't know whether it's too late to keep this particular bus from going off the cliff, but either way, there's a lot of damage to undo, and it's not going to get undone unless we start the pushback.

I've written in some detail about why Ford's message seems to be resonating with so many voters. Nothing's changed in that regard: both he and they are idiots (h/t thwap). But let's look a little more deeply at the essence of his message: spending is out of control, the city is falling apart, and people are sick and tired of their taxes going to waste.

Breaking down a message like that isn't easy, because it sounds so simple. The simplicity, however, is deceptive, because it's based on a number of assumptions that just don't stand up once you look past the ideological and discursive constraints. So, let's begin with the most basic and easily digested component of that message: the whole notion of "taxpayers' money."

First off, let's stop calling it that. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, taxes are what buy us civilization. We get to have roads, public health departments, electricity, clean water, hockey rinks, fire departments and schools because we pay taxes. They are the mechanism whereby the citizens of any society pool their resources to accomplish things they can't do on their own. They are the means whereby we act for the common good. They are part of the fabric that holds communities together. It gets more than a little tiresome hearing people bitching about them.

That's part one. Part two: it's not Your Money, Mr. and Ms. Pissed-Off Taxpayer. It is the price you pay for living in a civilized society instead of a state of savagery. It is a collectively owned resource, to be used in the pursuit of the public good and in accordance with publicly determined priorities. You get to participate in that determination through your inherent right to participate in the public decision-making process: by voting, by talking to your elected representatives, by exercising your rights of free speech and free assembly, and by having conversations with your fellow citizens. And once that determination is made, you live with it. You don't get to take your ball and go home just because you didn't get what you wanted.

Thirdly, it's time we stopped talking about ourselves as "taxpayers." That kind of discourse is based on a very limited and restrictive view of our relationships to our community, to our government, and to one another. When you reduce your view of those relationships to just "me" versus "the government that takes my hard-earned money," you're setting yourself up for nothing but anger and resentment – the very things that Ford's tapping into. Take those away and he's really got nothing else.

That's the way public discourse has been drifting for at least 30 years, ever since our southern brethren decided to send a second-rate Hollywood has-been to Washington. And setting out the resultant damage could be the work of an entire career, never mind a blog post. But perhaps the worst aspect of that damage has been the vandalism done to language and public discourse; if words and ideas are degraded and stripped of their meanings, we can't even have productive conversations any more. If all we can do is throw around tired clichés and discredited tropes, then there goes any hope for meaningful and effective communication – the first step in fixing things.

Therefore, a challenge to both fellow progressives and anyone else: let us, henceforth, resolve to stop talking about "taxpayers" or "shareholders" or "consumers," and instead embrace and revitalize the notion of "citizenship."

Yes, citizenship. A privilege, a badge of honour, an indicator that you're something more than an apathetic disengaged dullard. Citizenship carries rights, but it also carries obligations to your community and to your fellow citizens. In return for the rights conferred by citizenship, you assume certain responsibilities – critical thought and active civic engagement most of all.

It means thinking beyond clichés.

It means recognizing that there's an entity out there larger than yourself.

It means resisting the atomizing influence of corporations and manufactured narratives that seek to distract us from genuine issues and turn us against one another.

And it means participating in the civic life of your community.

This goes beyond labels like "right" or "left" or "conservative" or "liberal" or "socialist." Citizenship is a proud and honourable idea, organically developed through centuries of patience, care, learning, and preservation of intellectual and moral traditions. And it's been disfigured almost beyond recognition by decades of misdirection, lies, and bullshit. It's time to reclaim it.

(Tomorrow: that "elitist" thing.)

Another Sun reader speaks



Res ipsa loquitur.

Link here. Isn't it inspiring, the way Rob Ford brings out the best in people?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Little Eichmann of the Day

I'm proposing a new feature for the progressive Canadian blogosphere: Little Eichmann of the Day, awarded to the functionary / cog in the apparatus of repression whose actions best combine bureaucratic compliance with an utter lack of any moral sense.

Just to be clear: you don't need to be wearing swastikas, goose-stepping, or perpetrating genocide to exhibit these qualities, and I'm not saying these people are Nazis.

Today's nominee: the B.C. Attorney-General's Office.

Alison has posted this horrifying story about Betty Krawczyk at the Galloping Beaver and at Creekside; I urge you to read it. She is a grandmother in her 80s. While she has never harmed another human being, nor has she even damaged a single piece of logging or construction equipment, she has been hit with eight jail sentences. Now the Crown wants to argue that she suffers from a personality disorder or mental illness and use that as an excuse to lock her up for the rest of her life.

The money passage (link here): 
Her real crime in the eyes of the courts is that she challenges the legitimacy of the judicial system to criminalize dissent, to punish protesting:
"I won’t do community service should that be part of my sentence. I have done community service all of my life and I have done it for love. I refuse to have community service imposed on me as a punishment. And I won’t pay a fine or allow anyone else to pay a fine for me. I won’t accept any part of electronic monitoring as I would consider that an enforced internalization of a guilt I don’t feel and don’t accept and I refuse to internalize this court’s opinion of me by policing myself."
Back to jail for Betty K.
After serving out her last sentence in full, Betty appealed it on the grounds that the squelching of protest inconvenient to corporations and governments is an illegitimate use of the legal system.
The Attorney General's response to her appeal has been to recommend the court re-sentence her under the rules of "accumulated convictions", designate her a chronic offender, and lock her up for life!
I'm sure Michael Brundrett is just following orders.

Update: Cliff at Rusty Idols has beaten me to it, as has Chet Scoville, but yes, it's the old Soviet model: redefine dissent and opposition to the State as a form of mental illness and then you can incarcerate people indefinitely. For their own good, of course. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where we're headed, if we're not careful

A sobering snapshot of an America in decline from a blogger I've been following.

What a delightful bit of serendipity. Just a short time ago I was writing about the damage resulting from thirty years of right-wing bullshit, and along comes DownWithTyranny, laying this at Ronald Reagan's doorstep. Simplistic, get-something-for-nothing nostrums wrapped in soothing images and syrupy clichés, all calculated to appeal to frightened, insecure and confused people who don't want to deal with reality and its messy complications.



In other words, simple-minded pablum aimed at children. That's pretty well all the right-wing howler monkeys have to offer. False narratives that appeal to emotion and gut reaction rather than straightforward analysis. Hazy references to mythically simpler and more prosperous times, coupled with implicit or even overt scapegoating of some sinister Other – immigrants, feminists, environmentalists, organized labour, or whoever happens to be a convenient target.

Once again: this is not conservatism. Conservatism is a noble, principled and time-honoured philosophical tradition. This is simple-minded atavistic bullshit.

Of course, no one up here is working from that playbook ...
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