Monday, 29 August 2011

orange you glad

#painttheCNTowerorange
One of the really nice things about the events celebrating Jack Layton was how easy it was to get a YES.

Can we have a state funeral?

Yep.

Can we cover Nathan Phillip's Square in chalk drawings?

Yep.

Can we ride our bikes with the casket from City Hall to Roy Thompson Hall?

Yep.

Can you make the CN Tower orange on Saturday night?

Yep.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could celebrate Jack with a few more easy yeses?

Can we have affordable housing?

Can we have a green economy?

Can we stop treating people who use certain drugs as criminals?

Can we make sure that all of our decisions honour the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Can we make sure that all of our decisions honour the treaties we made with Aboriginal people?

Can we honour our history of immigration by working to create better conditions and access for the people who choose Canada?

Can we honour our history as peacekeepers by always choosing peace?

And so on.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

legacies, legends and left-wing kooks

It has been a bit of a bumpy week.

We have been thinking about Jack. We have been thinking about Olivia, Mike, Sarah, Beatrice, Jack's brothers and others close to him.


And we have been thinking about legends and legacies. Many of us are surprised at our own profound feelings of loss. We didn't know that over these many years, even though most of us only met him long enough to shake hands and share a quick laugh, Jack Layton had somehow become family to us as well.



Not for everybody of course. There is the famous "anti-hagiographical" column and the debate that ensued.


But many of us are trying to express what we feel we gained by having Jack among us and what we might have lost with his passing.


There is the divine, the glowing and the silly.


There is a Facebook group called Things I Will Do In Memory of Jack Layton.


Marcus Gee thinks that this outpouring of grief is also civic engagement. People who share the "vision of a city that looks out for its most vulnerable and cares about the environment" are using this occasion to wave at each other across the piles of orange flowers. In this sad time, we can see how many of us there really are. He thinks that the people at Toronto City Hall who have been calling us "left-wing kooks" will have to take notice. I hope he is right about both those things. Of course, I'm going to have to do more than hope.



If Michael Valpy is right*,

When polls from the past federal election are closely analyzed, what shows up is that Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were elected by a lot of old people — people over the age of 45 whose electoral participation rate is between 60 and 80 per cent, climbing higher as they climb to meet their Maker. People under the age of 45 were powerfully anti-Conservative but at best only about 40 per cent of them voted. And if they had voted in the same proportion as the over-45s, there would not have been a Conservative majority; there probably wouldn’t have been a Conservative minority. What likely we might have got is an NDP-led coalition.
what all of us should probably do, one sure way to get them to notice, is show up and vote.


Then, like Rebecca, Margerit and Vanessa, do this.



*More evidence that Mr. Valpy IS correct at Scott's DiaTribes here.

Monday, 22 August 2011

thank you mr. layton






Friday, 19 August 2011

world water week

More than 2,600 humanitarians and policymakers meet in Stockholm next week to hash out ideas about how to tackle escalating problems surrounding water scarcity and access to sanitation, particularly in urban environments.

World Water Week delegates are seeking long-term sustainable solutions that will transform how water resources are managed. The goal is to try and improve the lives of almost 900 million people who lack access to safe water, and more than 2.7 billion who lack access to basic sanitation, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Red state

My neighbour gave me these tomatoes. Bloordale is awesomsauce.

Dusk dances

uh oh - red state found the blue state

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

red state, blue state

The good people at the Guardian listened to David Cameron:

"These riots were not about poverty. That insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this."

and wondered if he was right. They decided to see "what would happen if" they overlayed the addresses of people charged with "riot"-related crimes "with the poverty indicators mapped by England's Indices of Multiple Deprivation, which cover very small areas."

The map is coloured by the Indices of Multiple deprivation, from blue (richest) to red (poorest).

Click here to use the interactive map

Liverpool University urban planning lecturer Alex Singleton took a look at the early data. He found

• The majority of areas where suspect live are deprived - and 66% of them got poorer between 2007 and 2010, when the last survey was published
• 41% of suspects live in the 10% most deprived places in England



England riots: was poverty a factor? by Simon Rogers, The Guardian

Monday, 15 August 2011

this is history, this is a repeat

Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe, 1919-2009, by Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth, Discussion Paper No. 8513, August 2011, Centre for Economic Policy Research

Abstract
Does fiscal consolidation lead to social unrest? From the end of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1930s to anti-government demonstrations in Greece in 2010-11, austerity has tended to go hand in hand with politically motivated violence and social instability. In this paper, we assemble cross-country evidence for the period 1919 to the present, and examine the extent to which societies become unstable after budget cuts. The results show a clear positive correlation between fiscal retrenchment and instability. We test if the relationship simply reflects economic downturns, and conclude that this is not the key factor. We also analyze interactions with various economic and political variables. While autocracies and democracies show a broadly similar responses to budget cuts, countries with more constraints on the executive are less likely to see unrest as a result of austerity measures. Growing media penetration does not lead to a stronger effect of cut-backs on the level of unrest.
The link above will download the whole paper in PDF and a summary of the paper can be found here.
Political implications
When the Great Recession spread, many governments embraced the advice from leading economists who had argued in a number of papers that budget cuts can be good for growth (Alesina et al. 2002; Alesina and Ardagna 2010; Giavazzi and Pagano 1990). In addition, an important literature has argued that there is no effective penalty for budget cuts at the ballot box – voters apparently understand the need for austerity, and do not punish governments that implement it (Alesina et al. 1998 and Alesina et al. 2010).

These results suggest a paradox – if austerity is good for growth, and the electorate doesn’t mind, why aren’t governments keener to cut their countries back to prosperity? Our findings suggest that fear of political unrest may be an important factor that is holding back governments. As expenditure cuts start to bite, the number of anti-government demonstrations, riots, general strikes, attempts to overthrow the established order, and political assassinations increases dramatically. In line with our results on expenditure, Woo (2003) shows that countries with higher levels of unrest are more indebted.

Flashback
Ontario Premier Mike Harris's Conservative government has launched a full-scale reform of the province's education system, calling for standardized report cards, a provincewide curriculum and the right to determine the amount of time that teachers spend in the classroom. He has also called for additional unspecified spending cuts of $500 million. Such changes have provoked fierce debate. [including] ...the largest teachers' strike in Canadian history.



"Before we were elected, we were criticized for saying things like 'No blade of grass will be untrampled at Queen's Park.'"

Harris Under Siege (Nov97 Updates)



The "blade of grass" quote is discussed at 7:30

Sunday, 14 August 2011

3 horsemen of the deficit

“Are you not the party of balanced budgets and debt elimination?” The reply was unequivocal, “Our goal is to grow the deficit as much as possible in order to create political space to eliminate government-funded programming. Until then, we want high deficits while lobbying for a balanced budget — and promoting social program cuts as the only solution.”
 from Apocalyptic crisis budgeting by Edmund Pries


video
http://vimeo.com/27353035


Flashback to the Harris government

...Through their new funding plan the government reduced education funding by an astonishing $987 million per year not counting the 1995-1997 reduction of $525 million bringing it to the grand total of $1.5 billion in education cuts in their first few years in office. 

...The plan however was to establish an elaborate crisis.  Senior Ministry of Education bureaucrats had released footage to the media of then Minister of Education John Snobelen stating "We need to invent a crisis in order to bring about change in the educational system."

Snobelen would go on to state on several different occasions during the recording:

“... if you don't bankrupt it well, if you don't create a great crisis," "Inventing a crisis is something we're not... intuitively good at," "they couldn't make the thing change, because we were late with the declared crisis," "how to bankrupt it... I like to think of it as 'creating a useful crisis'," "'Creating a useful crisis' is part of what it will be about" and finally, "But, yeah, we need to invent a crisis."
  
The point of creating a crisis was to legitimize policy changes that might otherwise be unpalatable.

Mismanaging During Storm (PDF) by Neville Britto

Saturday, 13 August 2011

this is not us, this is you


The Toronto Star has an interesting round up of who blamed who(m) for the London "riots." My favourite is this bit of wisdom from the insightful-as-ever Rush Limbaugh:
“(Rioters) were the people that bought into the false promises of socialism. These are the people that bought into the false promises of Utopia…”
Just as

...uppity women are people that bought into the false promises of feminism,

...uppity African-Americans are people that bought into the false promises of the Civil Rights Act,

...and Democrats are people who bought into the false promise of the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, 12 August 2011

this is apathy, this is criminal


www.45cat.com/record/clash1
"Something has gone horribly wrong in Britain. If we are ever to confront the problems which have been exposed in the past week, it is essential to bear in mind that they do not only exist in inner-city housing estates.

The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation."


www.45cat.com/record/clash1
"The shadow side of Britain is criminality which runs from top to bottom. MPs and members of the upper house have been prosecuted and sent to prison for cheating on expenses. Murdoch's minions have been exposed for paying off police. Cameron attended News International meetings 24 times in one year.

There is little respect for law even among police who have a string of dodgy deaths and clumsy cover-ups in recent years, Tomlinson, Menezes, Smiley Culture.

Our establishment is seen as corrupt, and everyone knows this. Authorities do not command respect from anyone, least of all savvy, hard-nosed, selfish opportunist criminals, a generation born into the kind of valueless, amoral consumer-driven materialism dominant since Thatcher."
People are wondering why the rioting started... really?
by Dean Whitbread, usefully imaginative since 1984

Thursday, 11 August 2011

this is us, this is apathy

Some more clues about why we riot?

Again, the the themes of

  • how we use exclusionary practices to shut down community engagement, 
  • how we use the corporatization of public space to limit freedom of expression and assembly, 
  • how we diminish the capacity of grassroots organizations to speak truth to power and establish a collective voice, 
  • how we define leadership to make us leaderless, 
  • how we let markets drive social policy decisions and 
  • how we respect our neighbours 
arise in this presentation by Toronto's own Dave Meslin.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

this is england, this is us

All over Twitter and Facebook people are posting Clash videos in response to the London "riots" that spread out to become the UK "riots." They might be posting them on Google Plus too but I keep forgetting to go there.

There has been much written about property damage, criminality, randomness and thuggery.

http://twitpic.com/633c2d
This was the first thing I read that made any sense at all: Riot Thoughts by Will Wiles.

And here is the second thing: Crime Without Causes by Nick Harkaway.

Both these articles look at what remains a constant in England and what has changed since the Clash first sang London Calling.

Will Wiles addresses the issue of the corporatization of public space. Torontonians - think Dundas Square. On trips to London, I find the reduction of public space and the freedom to be unobserved is wearing upon the spirit. After a week of "Cashier Number Four" harping at me everywhere I go, I desire nothing more than a remote mountain top where I can scream epithets unheard and unwatched.

I have a great memory of a Friday during the Days of Action when the Days of Action Coalition threatened to shut down Toronto. We didn't of course but the threat was enough to keep many commuters off the road. We rode from the Hillside TTC barns to Queen's Park, at one point down the MIDDLE of College Street. It was exhilarating to take back the streets for a few hours.

As much as I love the convenience of buying things on a Sunday, I miss the commercial-free days of my youth when we could see our environment and each other independent of our economic roles. Each Sunday our Mums and Dads seemed different and our city was a playground. We reproduced ourselves, our ids came out to play.

But it is a very repressed id indeed that needs to burn down the corner shop. Or do I mean oppressed?

Some on Twitter have made disparaging comparisons to the Arab Spring along the lines of The Arab Spring protesters are fighting for freedom and the "London Rioters" are fighting for plasma TVs.

Here is a thing: The dictators the Arab Spring protestors rise up against never claimed powerlessness. In our part of the world, since the Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney years, we have been told by successive governments that they are powerless in the face of market forces to shape society through policy and programs. So why are we surprised when protest is directed at symbols of the market?

Here is a thing: Since that era, governments have worked to diminish the ways people gather to express dissatisfaction and organize around issues of oppression and disenfranchisement (unions, community organizations, etc.). So why are we surprised that protest in Western countries often takes a form that seems individual and random?

Here is a thing: These three countries (US/UK/Canada) are notorious for resistance to taking good care of the planet. In Canada, our government will not agree to even LABEL asbestos a hazardous substance and insists that economic benefits of extracting oil from tar sands justifies the harm to people, wildlife and the environment. So why are we surprised when protesters show the same amount of respect for their neighbourhoods?

Here is a thing: The banking crisis exposed an ethos of plunder and greed among the leaders of the industry. These are the "leaders" that our political leaders tell us we must trust with "rationalizing" our decisions about social policy. It turns out that these people were, at best, acting with complete disregard for the common good in favour of their own benefit and, at worst, were engaged in criminal activity. With very few exceptions, these people were never punished for this behaviour. In fact, many were rewarded with taxpayer money and saw their own personal wealth increase while individuals, communities and whole countries were facing financial ruin because of their actions. So why are we surprised when protesters show the same amount of respect for their neighbours?

Here is a thing: The US and the UK have a long history of trying to resolve conflict with violence. Canada has recently given up its role as peacekeeper, often justifying this by saying that peacekeeping is impossible in a world where there is no peace to keep!?!?!

On April 20, 1999 two teenage boys went on a violent rampage at Columbine High School and killed 13 people and themselves. Then-president Bill Clinton said, "We do know that we must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons" (CBS, 1999).

The summer before, on August 20, 1998, the US military destroyed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and bombed al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in retaliation for bomb attacks on its embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The Clinton administration claimed that the al-Shifa plant had ties with al-Qaeda. Questions remain about the connection between al-Shifa and al-Qaeda and various sources claim the destruction of the plant and subsequent loss of medications resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths.m .,

Do as I say, not as I do.


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