Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Turning point" and "Disarray"

Government ministers should know better by now than to say things like this. Turning Point and Disarray are popular terms for describing the early phases of Western wars in developing countries.

Really, all they mean are that the war has entered a new phase because the hardscrabble enemy unsurprisingly discovered they couldn't survive conventional combat against a NATO-standard offensive and didn't stick around after some early heavy fighting. 

Of course, the bulk of French forces will likely be gone by the time the African occupation force shows up to deal with the insurgency that will develop should the Islamists and their allies manage to consolidate enough to launch one.

On it goes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Your opportunity to do something . . .

CONTACT THE CRTC. According to David J. Climenhaga's article on the Rabble site, "With no market for hate and right-wing drivel, Sun News comes cap in hand for public subsidy".

That's right, it looks like HateTV is going broke, and they're looking for a handout, to keep up the spew. Click on the Rabble link to find out why you need to click on the CRTC link; essentially, Stevie's weasels could make it happen, if we don't make noise.


Ashley Smith died in the immediate because her prison guards failed to quickly intervene despite clear evidence that a medical emergency was was taking place before their eyes. Robert Dziekanski died after being tasered by the RCMP at YVR who then, astoundingly, failed to check for vital signs and administer first aid when he became non-responsive. Shidane Arone was tortured to death by Canadian soldiers at Belet Huen, Somalia.

Ms. Smith, Mr. Dziekanski, and Master Arone had one thing in common. They all died as a result of the actions or inactions of uniformed servants of the Crown who were dutybound to know and act otherwise. Instead, despite all the training and corporate propaganda respective to their services, they failed.

Why? Institutional cultures form, training standards are developed in vacuums, hierachies meant to maintain a common standard and chains of responsibility also reduce the need for people to think critically. Rules and orders are followed because they exist and why they exist isn't anyone's concern but those at much high paygrades. Boatrockers are forced out or walk out.

We inherit our uniformed services and institutional practices from the times when we understood much less about ourselves. Religion and society mandated black and white law. Hell or prison or freedom and paradise. The rules were clear for life and death and no one really had to think outside that box.

Our police respond to disturbance with electronic truncheons. When they investigate and arrest, the courts sentence the found-guilty to the gaol, and the gaol is kept secure by guards, much the same way they did a century ago. Our soldiers for all their Kevlar, GPS, and night-vision gear would react the same way to drill commands shouted by a parade commander from 1913 or 1943, as they do 2013. The basic patterns of equipment and organisational structures haven't changed in 70 years.

Meanwhile, out there in society, organised religion is decline, we've put machines on Mars and sent them to photograph Pluto. Gay people can marry instead of go to prison. We find causes of crime in poverty and mental illness, much the same as we now understand failed states and terrorism to have causes in poverty and colonialism, both in turn the side-effects of neoliberalism. Education is universal. We are networked locally and globally. A map of the entire planet and good many people living on it is stored on the "phone" that fits in my pocket and works nearly everywhere. We can eat and drink around the world in an afteroon downtown. I can be more than 10 000 km from here tomorrow, on Bondi Beach or a temple in Kathmandu tomorrow and not in months. A person transplanted from 1913 would be in an alien world.

Yet here we are, putting people in institutions with the same basic form and function as those of Victoria and Edward and expecting them to think and act like according to the standards of a world where their own children might grow up to walk on Mars. Is it any wonder they fail so tragically?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Teh Landlords!!1!

Wow, I've thought CBC has been in a bit of a decline lately, but not to the extent of this piece by Kathy Tomlinson. Tomlinson has taken one example of a landlord getting screwed by a particularly bad tenant and used it to declare landlords everywhere "powerless" victims government legislation too protective of tenants.

I didn't think it needed to be mentioned that landlords by definition are not powerless.

A decent treatment might have weighted the propensity of landlords to act as slumlords or simply overcharge (esp. in places like BC's inflated housing market) against the occassional wretched tenant. Instead it's just tabloid writing. Sigh.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lost art

I was reading Simon this morning as everyone should, and he made an insightful comment about hockey, which seemed to be a pretty good analogy for so many other things in Canada these days.

So until the National Concussion League tightens the rules, punishes the guilty, and enlarges the rinks so the good players have a chance to get away from the goons, I won't be going back.

Goons. Goons who can't see Idle No More as anything more nuanced than 'lazy Indians who are also maybe terrorists looking for more gummint handouts.' Goons who won't understand climate change as anything but a liberal conspiracy. Goons who run shrieking to the GG when politics don't go their way. Goons who can't win an election fairly. Goons who shut down debate or investigation on any topic or thing that might make them look bad.

Goons who really, really just want a one-team game where they can invent and change the rules as they go along far far away from the the burning white light of reality.

1 Sun Nooz Regiment

Apparently that station gives these patches to Canadian Forces members, which might explain why my recent long-serving sparring partner had so much trouble with loyalties and political structures.

Six years of Conservative oral and some of the troops have lost their bearings.

I'm reading the comments below the site where this was posted, and it's all military people thanking SunNooz and talking about how grateful they are to the organisation for recognising them.

I'm not sure I've ever seen any group of people in such grovelling need of constant praise and validation from a media organisation. Pathetic.

Yeah, CDS, you might need to fix that.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Help Ontario wildlife . . .

DALTON'S DASTARDLY DEMONS are at it again. The David Suzuki Foundation has a fine blog, with a post by Jode Roberts, "Driving a hole through Ontario's Endangered Species Act". Seems that some trolls in the Ministry of Natural Resources are proposing that a lot of protection should evaporate. Click on the link to help.

Unfortunately, last month the Ministry quietly put out a notice that they would like to give themselves new powers to exempt both existing and new activities from going through the bother of meeting requirements under the Act, and give power to industry to self-police.

Christy Clark, Creekside Style

Alison, doing her thing as only she can do it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chief of the Defence Staff,

I've just had a bizzare conversation that once again makes me think you really ought explain to all ranks that the Prime Minister is not Canada's 'boss' and that the oath they swore is, in fact, to the Queen. In my day that much at least was explicitly clear.

Mind you, I am assuming you understand this idea a little better than some of your fellows.

It was bad enough that I had to watch non-stop CTV in the Petawawa dining hall 15 years ago, and then listen to the troops parroting whatever was said there. I'd hate to think the Canadian Forces are why SunTV is still able to broadcast.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Short comment non-Aboriginal Canadians losing their shit

Just a short comment, about non-Aboriginal Canada as it bigots and nutters froth and stonk about.

These people about the rights the Indians have about hunting and taxes, or they howl about laziness and drinking. And now they go off about the blocked roads and uppity voices.

Really, they ought be supporting the Ogichidaakwe Spence and Idle No More because they are Aboriginals and their allies saying quite loudly "this shit isn't working and something has to change." You'd think our non-Indigenous blowhards would figure out that if the Indigenous peoples had it so good they'd be keeping their mouths shut?

Nope. That would require getting off the intellectual couch.

Alex Himelfarb on #IdleNoMore

This Alex.

"Divided No More"

Divided No More is an #IdleNoMore inspired blog by Indigenous scholars and activists and is full of thoughtful and inspired commentary. I highly recommend paying a visit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The unsmart ones

That would be the NRA dragging the president's kids into their little tantrum. It isn't like there life is going to get any easier from here on, but really!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz Tribute: Post your papers!

Wow, as a tribute Aaron Swartz, who hanged himself last week while facing charges for distributing millions of papers for free through JSTOR, academics all over the world are posting .pdfs of their papers online

Access to most of these papers is likely restricted because they are stuck behind journal publisher paywalls. This means the only people with access to most research are members of the academy or institutions because they can afford the massive subscription fees.

This also means that the money goes to the journal publishing house, and not the researchers who write the papers.

There is an Open Access movement afoot to change this. Perhaps now it can achieve critical mass.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


In this post commenter Double Nickel drew my attention to a Sun piece by John Robson (I won't link to that publication). It's of a bit convoluted piece, full of misrepresentations (e.g. "Queen of England") and outright racism ("the white man") that gets the lumpenprols a-frothing, but he does make a sort of point about the kind of resistance that Idle No More supporters are capable of.

No, INM and its associated actions cannot easily "bring the economy to its knees" as Nipinak vents, but it can certainly disrupt the hell out of it. And do it with much support from non-Aboriginal Canadians. This is the latest round in a general and slow burning uprising that includes the student protests in Quebec, the anti-G8 protests in Toronto, Brigette DePape, the popularity of Occupy in this country, and so on. Extend it, and we're part of a global movement of transformation.

We've watched a government steal an election, destroy any environmental protection it can find, sell development access the most toxic stretch of planet short of nuclear test site to a foreign power, permit torture, attempt to discredit veterans and soldiers, hide things. This is without unprecedent. Unless you're an Aboriginal person. Hey, wait...
What we're seeing now is blowback. Many of us are not particularly interested in waiting a couple more years until another election. We don't want to see what damage is done in the mean time. We also don't trust the next one to be run fairly. Cheat in one without consequences and all future elections are in doubt.

Anyone expecting us all to sit peacefully while all this happens is deluded. Everything many Canadians like about this country is under attack and when that happens, people. fight. back.

The more we're dismissed or suppressed, the more noise we'll make.  

Shorter Matthew Coon Come to Theresa Spence?

"Stop threatening my legitimacy."

I don't know much about the relationship between Grand Chiefs and the AFN and the heads of individual Bands and settlements, but I'm increasingly convinced that the AFN is very worried about Idle No More and Theresa Spence. She's embarrassed them into action, and their actions have taken the standard apparently Constitutional form.
He [Coon Come] explained that while the Canadian Constitution Act places executive powers in the Queen, in practice this power is exercised by the prime minister.
"The prime minister is not going to relinquish his executive powers to the Governor General. That's the reality," said Coon Come.
"I don't know who is advising her. I don't know who she has surrounded herself with," said Coon Come adding "but I think if one is to make statements, they have to be credible based on at least some facts, on some knowledge, and hopefully be able to compromise."
Compromise? Fail. First off, not with this Prime Minister. The same way the Royal Proclamation of 1763 inadvertantly acknowledged the rights of Indigenous peoples by acknowledging that they must be allied with the colonisers, sitting at the table with Harper acknoledges his authority as the arbiter of the Crown and Aboriginal relationship. This is the man behind two omnibus bills and the Attawapiskat third-party manager. This is Monsieur L'etat c'est moi, complete with photos and salutes. You DO NOT give this man Czechoslovakia. Diverting slightly from Dawg, having the Governor General in the room means having a higher (if only symbolically so) authority in the room than Harper.

Second, there is no compromise on the protection of waterways, coastlines, and natural resources. There is no compromise on the Northern Gateway or Tar Sands. There is no compromise on resource access in Indigenous territories. There is nothing to compromise about over the perpetuation of the appalling conditions in many Aboriginal communities.

We reverse course, with our very bodies if need be. Anything else is failure.

A mystery in the desert . . .

— One half of the mystery. Big. —
WHAT ARE THEY UP TO? According to WIRED, it's big and mysterious and in the desert of western China: "What Did Google Earth Spot in the Chinese Desert? Even an Ex-CIA Analyst Isn’t Sure". One thing, whatever they're doing, it doesn't need a lot of water. Logistically, it's a hump.

Stevie's endgame . . .

Audits and things

It stands to reason that if Idle No More and/or the initiative of the Assembly of First Nations with the government continues, that some pretty shocking information about the social and political reality of many Aboriginal communities and settlements will emerge. The challenge will be in explaining how these are symptoms of the problem. These are WHY INM exists, and why something so desperately needs to change in this country.

The big example right now consists of the concern over Attawapiskat's finances and the sense that something unethical occurred in regard the hiring of Spence's partner. Having been involved in research in remote Aborginal communities over the past few years, and with friends and colleagues specialising in the area, I can say that this is just scratching the surface of a host of problems that usually remain unmentioned.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that something less than perfect happened with the finances in Attawapiskat.

It is very, very hard to first of all, train or attract and then retain skilled professionals in remote locations. Imagine living in a place with severe social and economic problems have become entrenched and intergenerational.

Imagine living in a place, where once you learn to recognise the physical expressions of FASD, you start to sense that 30, 40, 70 per cent of the community might be affected. Or, where a victim of sexual or physical abuse, usually at the hands of a close relative, must watch as their abuser's conviction is ignored or dismissed by the community due to the latter's popularity or position. For the abused, simply living in the community is trauma.

In more benign cases, a professional making the move to a community may be actively prevented from doing their job by coworkers or community members who see them as taking a well paying job away from a local person or a relative, or feel threatened by the fact of their skills. Or feel like this is another means of colonialism.  I've seen examples where professionally qualified people hired by remote Aboriginal settlements for their skills left after a few months because they were obstructed from doing the work they were hired for.

As a researcher, that is someone with the power to describe community life to a larger audience, I will be told one account of community life first. As people relax, I might start to hear narratives and stories that depart from the official line. I understand why. Because of the audit culture as well as ongoing Treaty, self-government, and land-claims issues, not to mention plain old Canuck racism, any published account of the community may have political implications. It's a bit like Miranda rights during an arrest, where the police caution that 'any evidence may be used against you'. A researcher then has to be very careful about what they write up and how they do it in any papers or reports. If they're too honest, they won't be going back. There's lots of things that stay unmentioned.

Unless they've spent enough time in some of these communities to get beneath the surface, most Canadians don't have any sense of just how deep the problems go. Most wouldn't have any sense of the knock-on effects of residential schools. "Intergenerational trauma" is term that requires a sit down and a box of tissues to really comprehend. Most wouldn't understand that what people in the community value as important, such as taking care of family, does not necessarily resonate with the ethics or standards of conventional public administration and accounting. 

Some of these accounts are already emerging. They must be understood as symptoms of the underlying issue being addressed by Idle No More, the AFN, and Theresa Spence. That is, that that status quo is not working, these problems are not going away. The ugly facts of life on some settlements must not be used to against the movement.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Do not disturb

Watching footage of Chief Theresa Spence yesterday, as she spoke on Victoria Island, I found myself pondering a few things.

A few years ago I had some medical issues that meant I couldn't eat. The solution  partly involved a couple of weeks of subsisting on an intravenous dextrose solution (sugar water) and five different courses of antibiotics, and sometimes morphine. I lost a substantial amount of weight and grew very weak and sore. I was encouraged to walk around as much as I could, and I would set out on laps around the hospital. I could do about a half hour of brisk walking, trailing my IV tree and collection of clear tubes with me. When I'd finish, I'd head back to my ward and bed and collapse. Sometimes I'd be unconscious before my head hit the pillow.

Watching the news today, the breathless and tired Chief Spence get up and speak, I was reminded of what my short exposure to controlled starvation felt like. She's tired. Unbelievably tired. Her voice weak, her body unbelievably so. Her heart, strong but on her sleeve. She's in pain. Your body does not consume itself to survive without pain. You don't watch your community remain ill without pain. She is struggling to stay upright.

Yesterday, with all its activity, was very very hard for her. I am struck by the contrast between this starving woman in a tent, and other chiefs, men for the most part and dressed in finery, meeting with the PM and his people in the Langevin Block.

I find myself with a lot of thoughts: One, that none of this would have happened had Chief Spence not put her life where her convictions are. It also maybe true that she's embarrassed all the major 'leaders' into action. That the power distinctions are so marked: I remember in Winnipeg seeing one of Atleo's predecessor's, Phil Fontaine, walking with a close familiarity with Lloyd Axworthy and wondered if they sent each other Christmas cards. 

I've encountered this familiarity or the privilege that powerful people have with each other in other places, and it's always bothered me. Most of these people probably know each other. They've been around for decades. They're politicians or professional bureaucrats of rank, making them members of the same private club. The membership criteria isn't ideological, it's simply that they achieved that level of elitism and power. You got here meaning you passed the test and here's your membership card...sir. While they might represent different and often competing interests, they're also on familiar terrain and among class peers.

Would any of them go on a hunger strike? What would have stopped them at any point until now from stating with one voice that one more FASD baby born on a reserve is one more too many? What would have stopped them from saying on more Nunavut TB case is one too many? One more boil water order, gang shooting, or suicide is too many? Or state that C-45 is will not be allowed to stand in practice no matter what the legislation?

They had their meeting with Harper yesterday and everyone agreed to "high level dialogue" which translates to more of the status quo. There won't be a revisiting of either omnibus bill, clean water will not appear on so many reserves and settlements, the Indian Act will not be up discussion, the RCAP recommendations will not be revisited in any meaningful way. Why? The government of Canada under Stephen Harper does not negotiate in good faith with people who stand in the way of its policy objectives. This fact is unavoidable.

I think the Woman on the Island named for a long dead queen understands this and a great deal more.

I often think we don't do real sacrifice well in this country. A severe beating on an Edmonton commuter train and people are not advised to intervene (most would not anyway), to the point where a man died. Afghanistan? We saw no long queues outside recruiters, no call from the government to fund it through a tax increase. We changed some road signs in Ontario and made some yellow magnets, and everybody else carried on with their lives and careers. Climate change? Sure our children will perish in heat and storms, like the children of the past did at the Somme or Nagasaki, but we will not do a thing to prevent it now.

Do not disturb.

Do not disturb the sacred hierarchy, the privilege of class, the pomp and ceremony, and well tailored suits. Keep it civil means keep it aloof and abstract, do not remind us with your body that people are suffering.

Friday, January 11, 2013

More INM commentary

In a comment a few minutes ago The Regina Mom wrote:
Just have to express my disappointment with you folks at The Galloping Beaver over this one. Let us focus on coming together and better ways of working together instead of magnifying our differences, especially now. And I find it interesting that I'm not hearing any of this divisiveness here in SK.Let us focus on coming together and better ways of working together instead of magnifying our differences, especially now."
Yes, I very much agree. But there are many voices in the movement, as there are outside it, who would pursue policies of division and difference. Their populism is attractive to some and these voices will become more attractive if talks between the PMSH and the Vice-regal deteriorate. I don't at all mind calling these groups out for the danger that I believe they are.

I worry about the wheels that are in motion right now. The PM has no intention of of talking to Indigenous leaders in good faith. His actions demonstrate that he sees Indigenous people as obstacles to his vision of Canada. Why else would he impose Bill C-45?

Furthermore, the PMs record shows that he will use the institution of state against itself to neuter his opponents. Prorogue, secrecy, you name it, he's done it. 

I also worry that disruption of economic life will prompt loud public voices to call for a brutal government response. I worry about the deeper divisions this could provoke in our already divided country. The Harper government did not flinch when its allied security forces shutdown a city core and arbitrarily caged and abused over a thousand people in Toronto so it could have a meeting. Why would it flinch in crushing INM protests, should they become more direct?

There's a very real question of what happens if nothing productive comes from the current meetings, if Chief Spence dies. Larger economically disruptive actions like blocking ports and transportation networks will provoke a response by the government, but there's not a lot of consideration what the response might look like, and then of course what happens after that. You can bet that Harper is gaming this out. He holds the hard power here, which consists of monopolies on legislation, force, and the if/how of negotiations. If he's sitting down with the Chiefs, he's already decided on the outcome and if he looks like he's giving ground, its probably a trap, perhaps intended to satify enough people that the protests diminish enough not to restart when people realise nothing actually changed.

I am very concerned that if things grow worse, the unifying voices of non-violence and dialogue within INM will find themselves drowned out by those calling for harder measures. I believe these dangers need to be labelled.

"All my relations"

This is one of the most compelling things I've ever read, and captures so much about about Idle No More, the ideals it aspires to, and hope for the future. Go now, and read.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Short Idle No More musings

I have some issues with the position of some players within the movement.

I abhor the term "settler-Canadian" when it is applied to individuals and think it is a divisive, counterproductive frame. Why? Because I am not not my ancestors. I am not a coloniser. I am not a settler. I have only one country of origin and I am aware of my privilege. Regardless of the past, how many generations must I descend from before I am considered native to this land?

I think radical scholars like Taiaiake Alfred are ultimately ethnocentric Indigenous separatists who preach an essentialist notion of indigeneity. I find them to be populists, dismissive of anyone regardless of ethnicity, who hold perspectives outside of their limited worldview. When they spend hours on Twitter indulging in macho posturing, they appear ridiculous. When they post images like this, they imply support for violence and can inspire terrorism.

I find disgusting the way this has turned into a pissing contest of authenticity between different groups of Aboriginal people. My M├ętis friend and Indigenous scholar, heavily involved in Indigenous issues, is in tears after being dismissed by "full-blood" Aboriginal people as inauthentic, some "white" pretender who is not allowed to have a voice. Straight out of Fanon, and later, Said.

However, none of this messiness, which should be expected in any such resurgence, should detract from the desperately needed conversation that Idle No More is forcing.  A radical change in the relationship between Canada as a state and Indigenous people is in order to finally resolve the issue. Canada is a colonial state with a perverse relationship between the descendents of the original inhabitants and the original colonisers. We, all of us, still think act and think through regressive institutions and understandings.

This must change, and it could get very messy before it gets better.

But if you are going to do the organised religion thing,

I must insist that you do it like this!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Beaverton...

It's like The Onion for Canadians and it is very good.

As Justin Trudeau continues his tour around the country, seeking to inspire Liberal Party members' hearts and minds as his father did some 42 years ago, no one has yet worked up the courage to mention to the family scion that the Liberal Party has been defunct for almost two years.
"I was about to tell him, I swear," said campaign manager Tommy Caroso, "but you should see the look in his eyes when he talks about being Party leader. It would have been like telling a kid there is no Santa Claus."
Caroso and other aides have managed to successfully satisfy the delusions of the great Pierre’s eldest son by staging events at seniors homes where the residents suffering from dementia also still believe the Liberal Party remains a potent political force, and paying homeless people to shake Justin’s hand at meet and greets.
“We even got the Conservative Party to do us a favour for old times sake and pretend to be outraged by Justin’s 2010 interview where he said Albertans shouldn’t be in charge of the country. The truth is that interview wasn’t even real; Justin was just talking to my buddy Roy”

Monday, January 07, 2013

Location, location, location . . .

IT'S GREAT TO BE A CANUCK, as the map above clearly indicates. That's what a report in the Washington Post proclaims, "A surprising map of the best and worst countries to be born into today". Click on the link for details and observations.

It is important to remember that Stevie will change this, if he can.

Not Stevie-friendly . . .

BILL McKIBBEN & 350.ORG urge you to do the math, because they believe it shows we're running out of time. Bill also believes that it is time to organize to take on the fossil fuel industry. I believe he's right: HuffPost has a fine explanation of the urgency.

Anyway, Bill took his message on the road, in his "Do the Math" tour of the US. In printed form, it can be found at Rolling Stone. Heard it on PBS, but it seems elusive; below, is a version of same shot by an audience member at Duke, with reasonably good sound.

Americans are getting the message. Earlier today, a bunch held a "die-in" at TransCanada's Houston offices to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. At least two arrests have been confirmed, according to 350's FB page.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Impact on their families?

Corrupt cops sentenced to house arrest, not jail, because the ordeal of being investigated, tried, and convicted of corruption was difficult for them and their families?

I don't know, perhaps if the convicted had owned-up to their crimes in the first place their families would not have been put through a "catastrophic" 12 year ordeal. I fail to see how the impact of long investigation and trial somehow constitutes a mitigating circumstance when it comes to sentencing the convicted. Can you imagine the implications of that kind of precedent?

Two standards, apparently. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Ships, not.

F-35, now ships. Go read The Sixth Estate for some thinking on the numbers behind the next Conservative military procurement scandaliciousness.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Pussy paranoia . . .

UNLIKE STEVIE, it can be hard to tell what your cat may be up to, cats are subtle creatures. Matthew Inman's oeuvre is available at Amazon and elsewhere.