Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Updated: 34 min 46 sec ago

Putting Things Into Perspective

2 hours 29 min ago
The bigoted backlash against Muslims in light of the recent ISIS attacks is given short shrift by This Hour Has 22 Minutes:

Should the time come when we no longer have a sense of humour, we will know that the terrorists have won.Recommend this Post

Critical Thinking - Yes. Fear Mongering - No.

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 08:18

Last week I wrote a post critical of Rex Murphy's CBC opinion about how the Syrian refugee situation should be handled by Justin Trudeau. At first blush, his view that more time should be taken in admitting 25,000 to Canada seemed reasonable. However, digging beneath the surface of those comments, one could see that Rex while really trying to inject fear and suspicion of them into the equation. I ended the post by saying that the timelines for bringing the refugees to Canada are a fit topic for debate, but Rex's subtly subversive cant is not.

Always an advocate of critical thinking, I offer as a contrast some comments by the Star's Martin Regg Cohn, who, while questioning those very same timelines that Rex seemed to, does so in a forthright and responsible way, without resorting to the demagoguery that Murphy did. Whereas Murphy plays the fear card in urging a slowdown, Cohn argues that the evacuation of 25,000 refugees is quite doable, but having them all come here by the end of this year will put huge strains on the infrastructure needed to accomodate them:
Thanks to the prime minister’s gambit, the Ontario government is scrambling to find every square metre of provincially owned property that it can place at the disposal of refugees arriving in the December cold. That means a couple of recently decommissioned hospitals in the GTA, schools with space to spare and other safe havens that Infrastructure Ontario can ferret out from its portfolio of barren buildings across Ontario, according to a senior provincial source.Cohn attributes political motivations to the rush:
Meeting the December deadline is about electoral credibility, not practicality.

Bluntly speaking, it’s an easy deliverable for a newly elected government trying to show its mastery of events during its first 100 days in power. The question isn’t whether it’s workable, but wise.The above perspective certain offers a positive contribution to the debate, but Cohn also sharply distinguishes himself from xenophobes and fear mongers like Murphy with the following:
Much has been said about the need to delay resettlement in light of heightened security fears after the Paris terrorist attacks. The impulse is understandable but unfounded. To be clear, Canada is drawing upon a pool of the Middle East’s most vulnerable refugees — mostly women and children — who have been languishing in UN-vetted camps for years, not secretly infiltrating Europe’s porous borders.

The bigger uncertainty isn’t security but capacity — the exigencies of timing, the shortages of accommodation and the harshness of the Canadian climate in late December.Responsible journalism versus cleverly-disguised prejudice. Sometimes they are not the easiest to distinguish.Recommend this Post

Star Readers Respond To Toronto Police Thuggery

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 06:25

Whether justice will ever be achieved in the terrible death of Rodrigo Gonsalez or the vicious beating of Santokh Bola remains an open question. However, given some compelling video evidence, there seems little doubt in the minds of Toronto Star readers that something is seriously amiss within the Toronto Police Force. Here are some of their views:
Man sues Toronto police for $5M over violent arrest, Nov. 19

I recently had the opportunity to watch a number of officers violently and repeatedly assault Santokh Bola, an unarmed man who was posing no risk to the public, or the officers in question.

Toronto Police Service spokesman Mark Pugash later admitted that the individual in question was wrongfully arrested, and that he was discharged from custody without charges. It later became apparent that the young man, who was begging for his parents throughout the assault, was intellectually disabled.

The officers made no attempt to question the individual, ascertain his identity, level of awareness of the situation or threat to the officers and community. The TPS’s recent behaviour in relation to the disabled, mentally ill and other vulnerable individuals is shocking and disgusting.

These officers are disgusting, and a culture that legitimizes police brutality while further marginalizing the minority community and mentally ill is disgusting. Police officers do not have a right to assault citizens. Their job is to protect these vulnerable people from attack, not be their aggressors.

As a physician and care-giver for vulnerable people, especially intellectually disabled individuals, I find the conduct of the officers in question to be shameful. Police officers are not above the law. Please stop behaving as if you are.

Dr. Colin Blair Meyer-Macaulay, Pediatrics, B.C. Children’s Hospital, University of British Columbia

Mark Pugash says that “the context of the arrest is important.” Indeed it is. I was assuming that Mr. Pugash was referring to the fact that Santokh Bola, the man who was assaulted by the police, is (surprise surprise) a person of colour.

But no, as usual Mr. Pugash was busy making excuses for police violence, this time with the oh-so-familiar “his description matched that of a suspect.” From this, we are left to infer that police violence is A-OK if the victim is a suspect.

You know, Mr. Pugash, we have a name for a state where the police are empowered to make summary judgment and mete out punishment on the fly: a police state. I’m pretty sure that Canada isn’t one.

Scott Welch, Richmond Hill

To serve and protect? Why do we need so many mouthpieces cleaning up afterwards?

Recently a Brantford boy, come big-city-lawyer, filed a $5 million brutality suit against Toronto police. For innocent Santokh Bola, citizen video played like a Brown-shirt massacre. Wordsmiths usually clear officers criminally so why waste our taxes on SIU investigations? Money settles civil suits silently.

But silence deafens Brantford. Anyone recall the name of the cop who patrolled our kids and killed multiple times since 2006? Finally reopened last January, SIU investigations linger silently. How much must they feign blindness, those we trust to watch our watchers?

Richard Chmura, Brantford

What the heck is going on with our police? The video does not lie. Three cops beat the crap out of someone — pounded in the poor guy’s head, kicked him, then punched him some more. And, from what I can see, he was not even resisting arrest.

This is what one expects from “mall cops,” not from those who are specially trained, and paid very well, to enforce our laws. “To serve and protect” we’re told.

The police say that one has to consider the “context” of the situation before jumping to conclusions. Seriously? In what context is it OK for the police to beat someone up? I thought they were trained to subdue someone, not beat them up. This was not the G20 after all.

The fact that they arrested, and beat up the wrong guy, is to them, a minor detail. And they just got their budget increase, for what, higher insurance premiums?

Jeff Green, TorontoRecommend this Post

Chrystia Freeland Challenges Bill Maher's Islamophobia

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 12:08
While Bill Maher likes to present his views as reasonable and moderate, he clearly fails to recognize the inflammatory nature of his remarks. Chrystia Freeland tries to point out they are are counter-productive, serving only to demonize Muslims, alienating them even further from the West.

Recommend this Post

Media Manipulation: Astroturfers And Propagandists

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 06:34
I have frequently written on this blog about the importance of critical thinking; it is truly the only way that we can navigate through the thickets of information with which we are constantly bombarded today. I have also admitted that it is an ideal toward which I strive, frequently falling short of the mark due to the cultural, political and social contexts within which I and everyone else interpret things.

One of the strengths of the Internet is that it gives all of us access to almost limitless information from a multitude of sources, one of the key methods by which we can evaluate what we hear and read about. Nonetheless, placing too much faith in only a few "trusted" sources, such as Wikipedia, can short circuit our quest for solid and deep thinking. As you will see in the following Ted Talk, investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson makes some very surprising observations about how both the old and the new media can manipulate us in ways we may not realize.

Wondering about the term astroturfer used in my title? Watch the video to find out its rather insidious implications:

Recommend this Post

Time To Reject Magical Thinking

Sat, 11/21/2015 - 07:03

Canadians, along with the West in general, have been fed a neoliberal diet of propaganda and policy for so long that far too many have succumbed to magical thinking, the belief that we can have it all with only minimal pain, the later in the form of low taxation rates. A steady barrage of government waste stories, coupled with the extolment of the individualist giants who walk among us, all, as the mythology goes, self-made men and women, has created the unfortunate but quite intentional effect of equating taxation with government theft of its citizenry.

All of which, of course, is arrant nonsense.

As my friend Dom says about capitalist titans who 'made it on their own,' "Oh, and did they build their owns roads? Were they educated by universities they built? Did they personally educate their skilled employees?)

And as one of our finest Canadian thinkers, Alex Himelfarba, has repeatedly asserted, the concept of taxation is not a profanity but an absolutely integral part of a fair, just and balanced democracy. If you haven't read or heard him, be sure to check out my blog links to some of his work.

There is no substitute for critical thinking about such matters, but the cost of riding the low-tax bandwagon can be very high, as this Star letter writer reminds us:
What do Montreal sewage, the Gardiner expressway, the Lac-Mégantic derailment and Walkerton water have in common?

They are the legacy of cynical politicians elected by gullible voters. For decades, the likes of Mike Harris, Rob Ford and Stephen Harper have peddled the Thatcher-Reagan lie that government budgets can be pared without limit until we all live tax-free in Eden North and the wealth trickles down for the good of all.

The troublesome truth is, no matter what book-keeping tricks we use, public debts inevitably come due in the form of failed infrastructure, lowered quality of life, disease and death.

Perhaps the most heartening implication of the Harper Party’s ouster is that most voters now accept that there is a price for being Canadian – one that is well worth paying for the privilege of living in what is still one of the best countries on earth.

Paul Collier, TorontoRecommend this Post

Rex Murphy On Canada's Refugee Plans

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 08:06
While I am hardly dismissive of those who are expressing concerns about the speed with which the Liberal government is planning to bring in Syrian refugees, those concerns, I believe, are being exploited by some for less than noble purposes. Take, for example, Rec Murphy's point of view, expressed on last night's National news broadcast, my critique of which follows the video:

At first blush, as is often the case with Murphy's pontifications, his position sounds quite reasonable. However, if you listen to it carefully, moving past his gratuitous endorsements of Brad Wall and the former Harper regime, the subtext of his message is that there is much to fear from the Syrian influx that might be bearing within their midst ISIS agents coolly biding their time while they plot our destruction.

Such a jaundiced view is at variance with the facts of Canada's refugee plans. Murphy chooses to conflate the Paris attacks and Syrian refugee situation in Europe, which has seen massive numbers enter with little or no documentation, with Canada's plan:
They will most likely come from Jordan, Turkey or Lebanon, where almost all have been registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Jihadis interested in violence are not going to sit in a refugee camp for months — sometimes years — waiting for an interview with a visa officer, say experts.

“The idea that ISIS would use the refugee system to infiltrate Canada is vastly overblown. There is no history of this,” said Wesley Wark, a security expert and professor at the University of Ottawa. “You could never be certain your jihadi would even arrive.”Some of the refugees in the camps have been there since 2011, when the civil war in Syria began.
Normally, government-sponsored refugees go through three levels of intense screening for criminality, war crimes and medical needs. UNHCR officials conduct detailed interviews and identity checks in the country of first asylum. Even if Syrians don’t have passports, most carry national identity cards with bar codes.

“We question them about past or current military activities or affiliations, including their future plans. We have a number of biometric security and anti-fraud measures including iris scanning,” said a UNHCR spokesperson. The registration data is entered into an interconnected global system.

The UNHCR then triages the refugees, and selects a very small number (about 1 per cent) who would make good candidates for resettlement by countries such as Canada. Women with children, unaccompanied minors, the elderly, sick and vulnerable are given priority.More details about the process can be accessed here.

The wisdom of bringing in 25,000 refugees on a very compressed schedule is certainly a fit topic for debate. Rex Murphy's pandering to fears and prejudices is not.

Recommend this Post

UPDATE: A Police Or An Occupation Force?

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 06:25
Last night, the CBC reported on the case of Rodrigo Gonzalez, the subject of yesterday's post and the latest to die at the hands of Toronto Police. while the report perhaps sheds no further light on what occurred, it at least graphically brings to the public's attention something everyone should be very, very disturbed by:

Recommend this Post

A Police Or An Occupation Force?

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 07:55
While I realize there is an element of hyperbole in the title of this post, I cannot help but think that for many vulnerable people, the Toronto Police might be viewed more as oppressors rather than as protectors. Yesterday I posted about the beating at their hands of Santokh Bola, a 21-year-old intellectually challenged man falsely arrested on Nov. 1. Police say he matched the description of a man armed with a knife, but perhaps significantly, they have not released that description, nor have they named the officers involved in the brutality.

Today's Star has yet another report of a man's encounter with police that led to his death. Since police apologist Mark Pugash insists that context is always important, here it is:
More than ten police officers, including a tactical squad carrying shields and a battering ram, responded to a 911 call to a family apartment in the city’s west end.

In the Nov. 6 incident that is only now coming to light, there was an altercation, two Tasers were used, and shortly after, the resident, Rodrigo Hector Almonacid Gonzalez was rolled out on a stretcher. His head was rapidly moving from side to side, according to time-stamped surveillance footage from the building provided to the Toronto Star by his family.

Gonzalez, 43, died in hospital the following day, and his family wants to know what happened in the apartment and why it took the province’s police oversight agency, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), five days to show up at the apartment. Nobody told the family to preserve the scene in the bathroom. Vital evidence may have been lost during this time, the family’s lawyer says.Gonzalez, for whatever reason, had locked himself in the bathroom, and his concerned wife, Sosana Chavarian, called 911. No weapons, no drugs, nothing except a man in distress who locked himself in the bathroom.
Photographs taken by Gonzalez’s wife at the hospital show a head injury wrapped in bloody gauze, as well as a black eye, bruising on a limb and shoulder, and what the family suspects is a Taser mark near his groin.Why it took more than 10 officers, some from the tactical unit and armed with shields, a battering ram and three tasers, has not been addressed, but the results were deadly. Gonzalez died in hospital, presumably from injuries suffered in the police overreaction.

Gonzalez's wife blames herself for his death because she was the one who placed the 911 call. However, based on the story, blame would seem to lie elsewhere.Recommend this Post

“There’s always a context in which these things take place.”

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 14:23
So says Toronto police spokesman and perennial apologist Mark Pugash about the beating administered by the police to Santokh Bola, a victim of what the authorities admit was a 'mistaken arrest.'

Sure looks to me like just another case of police brutality, something the Toronto constabulary is becoming notorious for:

Bola’s lawyer, Michael Smitiuch, told a news conference Wednesday that the video shows police delivering 11 punches to Bola in quick succession, and a total of 20 blows to his head.

“Officer, please, officer,” Santokh can be heard saying in the video. “Let me go, please let me.”

The incident took place by Bola’s car in the rear parking lot of his family’s store on Islington Ave., according to the lawsuit.

In the video, Bola can be heard begging to speak to his grandfather and twice says, “Let me talk to my parents.”

He also pleads, “Sir, I beg you.”

When the beating was over, Bola was held briefly in a police cruiser and then set free, Smitiuch said. No charges were laid.

He was taken to Etobicoke General Hospital by his grandfather, where he was treated for head and facial injuries.Recommend this Post

On Prudent Spending

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 09:04

Now that the former fiscal masters of the universe, a.k.a. the Harper government, has left us with a structural deficit that will mean $3 billion to $5 billion in each of the next five years, the usual ideologues are suggesting that Justin Trudeau needs to reign in his deficit-spending plan. Financial probity is nothing to be lightly dismissed, but The Star's Carol Goar has some suggestions on how that deficit can be made more manageable:
... clean up the tax credits, deductions, exemptions and deferrals (known collectively as “tax expenditures”) that cost Ottawa billions of dollars. The Conservatives brought in at least 70 of them. But past Liberal governments created them, too.

These hidden expenditures cost approximately $150 billion a year in foregone revenue.

A second alternative is to stop spending money on Conservative priorities. The Liberals were never in favour of jailing young offenders for drug possession and other non-violent crimes; detaining unsuccessful refugee claimants; building mega prisons; auditing charities whose leaders spoke out against government policies; buying top-of-the-line stealth fighter jets; or airing prime-time government ads.

A third choice is to terminate, or substantially scale back, corporate subsidies. Right now, there is a request for $1 billion from Bombardier sitting on the prime minister’s desk. Chrysler came calling last year. Over the last half century, Industry Canada has disbursed $22 billion to businesses ranging from oilsands developers to ice cream parlours, high tech manufacturers to pizzerias. The assumption is that these handouts boost growth and create jobs, but no government has provided credible evidence to back up this proposition.
The cupboards need not be bare as long as ideology no longer trumps strategic expenditures that will benefit the many instead of the favoured few so slavishly courted by the former regime.Recommend this Post

They Shame Us All

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 10:38
Canadians like to regard themselves as fair-minded people. It is for precisely that reason that we need to denounce strongly those who attempt to subvert those values by hateful speech and acts:
An unprovoked attack on a Muslim woman near an elementary school in Toronto appeared to be “motivated by hate,” police said Tuesday as they investigated the incident that was swiftly denounced by local politicians.

The attack came two days after a mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was set ablaze in the aftermath of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead.

Peterborough police are investigating the fire as a hate crime and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured Muslim Canadians the federal government would work hard to find those responsible.

The Toronto assault took place around 3 p.m. on Monday near the mid-town Grenoble Public School while a woman was on her way to pick up her son.

Police said the woman, who was wearing a hijab, was approached by two men and attacked.

“It was a completely unprovoked attack,” said Const. Victor Kwong. “She was punched all over and kicked.”

The two men hurled slurs that were “bigoted in nature” at the woman and tried to rip off her hijab, Kwong said.

The woman fell to the ground and was robbed of her cellphone and some money before the two men fled the area, he said.

We can only hope the perpetrators are caught and punished appropriately.

Meanwhile, in the case of the mosque arson, people have taken matters into their own hands:
A crowdfunding campaign to raise money for repairs to mosque in Peterborough, Ont., that was damaged in a fire set deliberately on Saturday has hit its goal of $80,000.

The mosque was damaged in a fire late Saturday night. An entry on the fundraising website FundRazr set a goal of $80,000, the estimated cost to repair the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association's mosque. That total was reached just after noon today.

Association president Kenzu Abdella said members of the congregation had been inside 784 Parkhill Rd. to celebrate the birth of a new baby just an hour before the fire broke out. He said the fire was "clearly a hate crime."

Such cowardly hatred will never prevail as long as people of goodwill loudly and passionately make their voices heard.Recommend this Post

On Keeping Perspective

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 06:06

With the cacophony of voices calling for Canada to continue to "Bomb, Baby, Bomb." and Canadian miscreants retaliating against Muslims by setting fires to mosques, it is crucial for voices of reason to be heard above the din of destructive rhetoric and behaviour that is emerging in the wake of the Paris massacre. Now is not the time for the default absolutist thinking so favoured by the fearful and the vengeful, who somehow believe that you cannot deplore and combat terrorism without uncritically endorsing military action that seems not to quell the threat of ISIS, but only embolden and strengthen it.

One such voice of reason is Trevor Amon of Victoria, B.C. In today's Toronto Star, he writes the following:
Paris has suffered a terrible tragedy. More than 100 people were killed, and many more were injured. How various countries should respond to this tragedy is the question to be answered going forward.

There are four of five permanent members in the UN Security Council involved militarily in Syria, and all four have long been nuclear weapon states. Any one of these five nations could make the choice of wiping Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen off of the map within the next 24 hours, but none is willing to do so. None of these four nations is apparently willing to commit to making the much smaller choice of putting significant troops on the ground either.

And of course, China is doing absolutely nothing about this terrorist situation, and you do not seem to hear very much criticism from any source about China’s inaction and apathy.
Ah, but what should Canada do? Is Canada a nuclear power? No. Does Canada have one of the top 10, or even top 20 militaries in the world? No. Canada has spent over $500 million in the last 12 months on a bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, but are we any safer from ISIS in Canada as a result? No.

Stephen Harper found the money for a bombing campaign, but he cut money from the RCMP in an attempt to balance his budget when millions of dollars more were and are needed for the Mounties to keep Canadians safe at home.

Furthermore, the sole terrorist at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa left us with a video that explained his motivation for his actions: He was angry that Canada was military involved in the Middle East. How does our continued military involvement in the Middle East keep other radicals at home less likely to attack targets on Canadian soil?

What is our national interest here? What are our obligations to our allies? What are we trying to achieve? When will we know that we have achieved our goals?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be under pressure from many corners to do this or that in the coming days based on what has just happened in Paris. We need to take a step back here.

The Paris attacks were not of the magnitude of the Nazis marching into Poland in 1939, or the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbour in 1941, or even Al Qaeda hijacking four planes with devastating consequences on 9/11. Lots of nasty things are going on in Syria and Iraq, but there are also lots of nasty things going on in Nigeria that don’t seem all that 24/7 newsworthy, and therefore it seems that we just don’t care all that much about what is going on there.

Maybe Canada should do something in the light of the recent Paris attacks. Maybe Canada should not. Whatever Canada does or does not do there should be a reason, and the reason should be arrived at through reasoned discussion and not simply by way of emotion, ideology or perceived obligation.Recommend this Post

Collective Amnesia

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 07:05

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, it seems that the world is about to embark on even greater military intervention in the Middle East, intervention that will undoubtedly be aided and abetted by a fog of amnesia about recent history.

While I do not consider myself particularly well-versed in international politics, especially as it pertains to the Middle East, it hardly takes a Ph.D to know that every time an outside force enters the region, disaster ensues. Consider, for example, the Soviet Union's failed incursion into Afghanistan in the 1980's, which essentially gave birth to Al Queda thanks to the U.S. arming of the mujahideen. That the Soviets found the country uncontainable in no way deterred U.S. adventurism there, which only made the world's situation much more precarious.

But U.S. aggression in Afghanistan was merely prologue to even greater disaster in Iraq. Indeed, writer Oliver Willis suggests that George Bush's inept decisions led directly to the creation of ISIS:
1. The decision to invade Iraq, which had been contained by the no-fly zone created by the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations and unable to threaten its neighbors or the West, created a power vacuum in the Middle East which had been filled by Saddam Hussein until the invasion in March o 2003.

2. The Bush administration believed it could install Ahmed Chalabi – part of the public relations campaign to sell the Iraq War to America – as leader of the new government, but he had been outside of the country so long they never accepted him. He was viewed as a “western stooge.”

3. Almost all of the leaders of ISIS have connections to the former Iraqi government, mostly coming from the military of the Saddam Hussein regime.

4. Paul Bremer, who was the appointed head of Iraq by the Bush administration, passed the de-Baathification law which sent Iraqi army members into the populace, eventually becoming insurgents and terrorists:

The de-Baathification law promulgated by L.­ Paul Bremer, Iraq’s American ruler in 2003, has long been identified as one of the contributors to the original insurgency. At a stroke, 400,000 members of the defeated Iraqi army were barred from government employment, denied pensions — and also allowed to keep their guns.

5. ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:

Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.Some might admit that "mistakes were made," but no one seems to want to take any lessons from those mistakes.

There are now calls for long-term and intensive military build-ups in the fight against ISIS: Some also speak of a much more aggressive military option. Experts say it would require 150,000 U.S. troops, could last decades and cost trillions.An enthusiastic Thomas Donelly of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute is calling for such an implementation in Syria and Iraq: It would take “more years of heavy combat than we’ve seen before” and “decades,” to properly re-integrate alienated Sunni populations that have sometimes backed Islamic State. The initial stage would cost more than $1 trillion over several years, he estimates, and 150,000 troops.

“Anything less than military engagement is likely to be useless,” Donnelly said. “It’s a war.”Justin Trudeau has mounted the world stage as an emblem of soft power. We can only hope that he manages to keep his head as so many others in the 'civilized' world are losing theirs as they frantically beat the war drums, the reverberations of which are likely to grow louder and louder over the next weeks and months.Recommend this Post

An Encouraging Sign Amidst The Terror

Sun, 11/15/2015 - 12:07
While the right seems hell-bent on exploiting the Paris massacre, it is heartening to see that some of the people most affected, the French, are demonstrating that they won't be so easily manipulated
French mourners in the city of Lille, which is north of Paris, sent anti-immigrant bigots scurrying away after they tried to intrude on a vigil for victims of Friday night’s terrorist attacks, the Independent reports.

The vigil began at 3 p.m. local time but was quickly interrupted by about 15 members of far-right group, the French National Front. The group angered grief-stricken vigil attendees by shouting, “Expel Islamists,” throwing firecrackers and unfurling an Islamophobic banner.

But the bigots were quickly forced to leave when the crowd of hundreds turned on them and forced them to retreat. Security forces intervened before tensions escalated further, according to the British publication.
Recommend this Post

Where Is Justice To Be Found?

Sun, 11/15/2015 - 08:10
For Adam Nobody, the answer appears to be 'nowhere.' Last week retired judge Lee Ferrier ruled at a police disciplinary tribunal that Toronto police Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani should lose five days' pay for his brutalization of Nobody, characterizing it as fleeting and physically minor. a strange way indeed to regard Nobody's broken nose and broken cheekbone.

The judge felt that Andalib-Goortani has already "suffered enough."

It is an assessment at odds with Toronto Star readers, a few of whose missives of outrage I reproduce below:
Police officer Babak Andalib-Goortani has essentially had his allowance docked as a punishment for his behaviour during the G20 protests in Toronto. The judge who heard his appeal apparently felt that the man wasn’t really bad, just naughty, “barely over the line of wrongfulness.” After all, he wasn’t the only police officer to wade into crowds after hiding or removing his name badge, and he’s suffered a marriage breakup, mental stress due to his criminal prosecution, and the loss of his home.

None of these hard times, it seems to me, came about because of what he did. They happened because he was caught, and that only if we discount all the other people in the world who suffered the same troubles without the excuse of legal proceedings in their lives.

If all we want from our justice system is punishment for criminals, which is what legal proceedings did determine the man is, then it’s arguable that he has already paid a price. If we want an offender to take responsibility, feel remorse, and genuinely try to address whatever in him lead to his mistake, with the goal of being welcomed back into a supportive community, neither Andalib-Goortani nor the rest of us are served by this judgment.

He has been judged to be a victim of an attempt to hold our police to civilized standards of behaviour. This does no favours to the man himself, our police, or the rest of us.

Jim Maloy, Barrie

Well, I guess it’s official: we live in a police state.

That a police officer, convicted of brutally beating an innocent, passive fellow citizen, should keep his job is utterly unbelievable – that is, assuming that we do live in a “free and democratic society,” as our constitution proclaims.

What’s happened in this case is called police impunity: the right of police officers to do anything they wish, no matter how criminal, with little or no consequence. The text of Judge Ferrier’s ruling could have been read out in Moscow or Beijing without anyone thinking it abnormal.

Because it’s poppy-time, I cannot help asking: Is this the kind of society that our brave soldiers, sailors, and aviators fought and died for?

Steven Spencer, Pickering

Like prosecutor Brendan Van Niejenhuism I was stunned that convicted Andalib-Goortani was simply docked five days pay for his assault with a weapon.

The retired judge assigned to the Police Tribunal, Lee Ferrier, simply confirmed by his irrational and unfair decision that justice is certainly not for all, but that there is one law for the police, and another for the average citizen.

It’s telling that in the 47-paragraph decision, not one line addressed the impact on the victim of the assault or the impact on public confidence in policing, but was devoted entirely to how Andalib-Goortani is a victim because of his assault on Adam Nobody. Too bad he lost his house and marriage because of his criminal actions, he should have lost his badge and his job too, if not sent to jail.
Until the police complaint system is overhauled, and pro-police biased judges are removed from the process, justice is just a catchphrase for unfair, and worthy of nothing but ridicule.

Gerry Young, TorontoRecommend this Post

Cowardly And Indefensible

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 07:09

As cowardly, indefensible and savage as the terrorist attacks on Paris were, equally so is the response of the right-wing, eager to score points by exploiting that massacre for its own twisted political purposes.

If you haven't already done so, be sure to read Montreal Simon's post on the matter. As well, check out the video carried on Addicting Info, and if that doesn't sicken you sufficiently, take a look at Mother Jones, which carries some of the most outrageous tweets by some of the most unhinged minds in U.S. political culture today.

Beyond that, I have nothing to say.Recommend this Post

On The Importance Of Political Renewal

Fri, 11/13/2015 - 07:04

I'd like to share with you a comment made on a previous post dealing with the self-delusion the Conservative Party seems to be engaged in as they lurch toward 'renewal.'

AniO wrote:
The rehabilitation of the Conservative party is vital to our future, however. Sooner or hopefully later, the current government will become old, tired, arrogant and corrupt - the inevitable ravages of power, it would seem. At that point it is vital that we have an ethical and solid alternative to vote for. After the hostile takeover of the PCs, we didn't have and look what happened. How do we get them to thoroughly clean house and reform (pun intended) themselves, and return to their roots of a once-ethical, credible political party with the interests of Canada and Canadians at heart. Our longer-term future may depend on it.Here was my response:
You make an excellent point here, AniO. A healthy democracy demands a healthy and functional opposition, a party to hold the government to account and serve as a government-in-waiting. Here in Ontario, for example, the Liberal government has been in power for far too long, and has become what you describe: arrogant and old. The most obvious sign of this is the fact that it is selling off 60% of Hydro, which means that they are surrendering 60% of an annual $750 billion in profits, all for a few billion dollars.

When I voted for them in the last provincial election, I knew it was time that they spent some time on the bench, but unfortunately, the PCP under Hudak was never a consideration by virtue of his manifest incompetence, and I could not support the NDP's Andrea Horwath because she triggered an unnecessary election in her venal quest for power.Renewal is something that must come from within, something that follows a careful and motivated soul-searching, the capacity for which I believe the Conservatives currently lack. While they are no doubt paying close attention to the many notes of grace coming from the new Trudeau government, to emulate the style without the substance will merely continue the blind path the party has been on for so long.

They will have to do much better than that to once again be considered a government-in-waiting.
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Some Surprising Findings

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 14:56
Whether it is due to what has been called The Francis Effect or the increasingly severe weather that so many parts of the world are experiencing, a recent study finds that more and more Americans are beginning to appreciate the threat posed by climate change. Additionally and rather surprisingly, even those who are disengaged from the issue or completely skeptical support the development of alternative, clean technologies:

Meanwhile, here at home, a majority of Canadians
favour imposing new taxes on fossil fuels such as gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas to reduce greenhouse gases and overwhelmingly endorse the growth of the renewable energy sector in Canada(93%), according to a new poll.

The support for a tax is strongest in BC (62%), females (60%) and young Canadians in the 18-29 age group(68%), and weakest among Ontarians(53%) and the 30 to 39 age group, the Nanos Research poll commissioned by University of Ottawa Positive Energy found.It is long past due that we make a real commitment to mitigate the worst effects of climate change before it is too late for all of us. Recommend this Post

A Sordid Story

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 06:58

While it is yet too early to tell how the new Trudeau government will handle the environmental and climate change file, early indications are promising. Minster Catherine McKenna has said that with regard to future pipeline proposals,
assessments will be “based on science” and ensure Canadians can participate in the hearings. During the campaign, the Liberals slammed the review procedures – put in place during Conservative rule – as inadequate and pledged that pipeline assessments would include upstream impacts of crude extraction.Lord knows that the oil interests cannot be trusted to police themselves, as the sad and corrupt tale of Nigeria, Shell Oil, and the late Ken Saro-Wiwa amply demonstrate.

Saro-Wiwa, a passionate Nigerian environmental and human-rights activist, has been dead for 20 years, executed on trumped-up charges, the apparent victim of collusion between a corrupt military and Big Oil.
It was Shell that Mr. Saro-Wiwa was campaigning relentlessly against in 1995 when Nigeria’s military government arrested him. And it is Shell that continues to operate about 50 oil fields and 5,000 kilometres of pipelines in the Niger Delta today.Although he died for his cause, that cause is yet unfulfilled:
The lands of his Ogoni people, in southeastern Nigeria, continue to be contaminated by oil, and thousands of people are still reported to be exposed to the pollution, despite repeated promises of a cleanup.

A report released this month by Amnesty International concludes that the giant oil multinational Shell has failed to clean up the pollution from its southern Nigerian pipelines and wells. Shell is the biggest international oil producer in the Niger Delta, which is the biggest oil-producing region in Africa – and one of the most polluted places on the planet.And while Shell Oil has made its mea culpa over what transpired in the land of the Ogoni, the fact is it has done little to reverse the harm and environmental despoliation it has caused:
[A] 38-page Amnesty International report says it is Shell itself that is breaking its promises in the region. Amnesty’s researchers visited four oil-spill sites that Shell said it had cleaned up years ago. They found soil and water still blackened and contaminated by oil, even though people were living and farming nearby. “Anyone who visits these spill sites can see and smell for themselves how the pollution has spread across the land,” said a statement by Mark Dummett, an Amnesty business and human rights researcher.

One contractor, hired by Shell to help clean up a spill site, told Amnesty: “This is just a cover-up. If you just dig down a few metres, you find oil.”It is an egregious corporate failure that has not gone unnoticed by Amnesty International:
“It is heartbreakingly tragic to see how 20 years after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa … we see very little has changed: the oil spills have not stopped, and Shell still has not cleaned up this huge environmental degradation,” said a statement by M.K. Ibrahim, the Amnesty director in Nigeria.

“In the 20 years since Saro-Wiwa was executed, thousands of villagers in the Niger Delta have still not been able to drink clean water, nor farm on their land, nor fish in their waters,” he said. “This oil pollution is wrecking lives.”And government corruption, it would seem, continues, as reflected in the customs seizure of this:

The above, called the "battle bus," is a
full-sized steel bus, created by British-Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp in 2006, [which] carries oil barrels on its roof and is emblazoned with one of Saro-Wiwa’s most stark and enduring phrases: “I accuse the oil companies of practising genocide against the Ogoni.”Intended to inspire Nigerian youth to be vigilant and hold the government and oil companies to their promises of environmental remediation, the sculpture has instead
become a symbol of the ongoing censorship of communities in Nigeria and it has also made explicit the links between the violence and corruption and the influence the oil companies . . . have in the region.”Back here in Canada our new government, unlike the old with its virtual blank-cheque mentality for all things resource-related, will indeed do well to keep in mind the true nature of the oil multinationals and legislate and regulate them accordingly.Recommend this Post