Photo Exhibit in Toronto

Another great event at the Tinto Coffee House in Toronto, by my friend Jon Elmer.

A month-long photo exhibition, “The Children of Palestine: Images from the West Bank and Gaza Strip”, by Jon Elmer will open in our mezzanine starting Wednesday, February 1, 2006.

Jon Elmer is a Toronto-born photojournalist and writer; his images and articles have appeared in number of independent magazines and periodicals, including the Journal of Palestine Studies and the Progressive. The photos were taken while reporting from Palestine, on the intifada and developments in Gaza.

On Thursday, 9 February Jon will be at Tinto for an opening presentation and reception. He will screen a slideshow with a larger number of images. Please join us from 6:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.

For more details please click here to visit our website.

No one is the majority!

So, fitting my last entry’s random thoughts about laying claim to the majority, it seems that no one can – which I think is a very good thing.

The conservatives got a minority. The NDP picked up a lot of seats. The lesson: the liberals lost, the conservatives didn’t win. One would be hard pressed to interpret this as a shift to the right. The conservatives will try to make it that, but they have no claim to say the voters shifted.

Continue reading “No one is the majority!”

Some contrary thoughts before the results are in

So, people who follow this blog know I was pretty worried the last time around about a conservative victory. I created the ‘fear and loathing report’ to follow the election. This time I managed a measly two blog entries. Partly, admittedly, my blogging output has fallen off. I am trying to spend a little more time thinking and less time writing. That’s what I tell myself anyway. Partly though I suppose I am just more calm about the possibility of a conservative victory. Not because it wouldn’t be bad, by any measure I can think of. More because I realized if they don’t win this time, they’ll win next time. The liberals have been in power for too long. When that happens people vote conservative. That’s been the pattern over the past few decades. Then the conservatives run the country into the ground – run up the debt, destroy the public sector, engage in corruption – and then people vote liberal again.

That’s a kind of comforting mainstream analysis – to think of politics as a cycle. A few days ago I was feeling alarmist. I don’t think of history as a cycle so much as a spiral, anyway. But it seems to me the world sees these elections as pretty low-stakes. The winner will be pro “free trade”, pro intervention in other people’s countries, pro following the US military to disaster in Kandahar, pro occupation of Haiti, pro “getting tough on crime”, pro integration with the US, pro privatization, pro deregulation, pro dispossession of Palestinians, pro war profiteering. True, the degree to which the winner is reactionary remains to be seen, but there’s agreement on these fundamentals.

I tried discussing this with a colleague at work, explaining why I was seriously considering abstention (I didn’t abstain, I just voted).

“If you abstain,” he said, “you don’t have the right to complain about anything.”

“What if I reject all the available choices?”

“Then you should choose the least bad, or run yourself.”

“What if I reject the whole system?”

“Then pack up your sh*# and get lost!”

I thought that was a bit too “love it or leave it”. But I wasn’t stumped: “But I have nowhere to go. I reject the global system!” He shrugged and said he was torn between the Green Party and the NDP, both of which had reasonable platforms. I said I wasn’t impressed with the foreign policy of any of the parties.

“Your problem is that you’re at odds with the whole population. Of course the parties are going to reflect the population.”

An interesting point, that. Whether we’re voting or abstaining, whether we’re right-wingers or liberals or leftists or anarchists, we all want to believe we’re in tune with the population. Abstainers point to the 40% who don’t bother to vote. They’re the silent majority who’s with us – and you can add lots of those who do vote, because they’re just trying to choose the best of a bad lot. Liberals and conservatives just point to the electoral results themselves. Social democrats argue for proportional representation. The leftist thesis is that the media prevents certain issues and facts from reaching the population, distracts them, demobilizes them, and that if the population knew more, and felt more empowered, they would be inclined to be leftists. Can we take all that for granted, do you think? It’s what I go on as a working hypothesis, but sometimes, and it’s usually around elections when right-wing parties get elected, I wonder – if I am at odds with the majority, does that mean I should do something different?

A last thought for vote night. Maybe Canada isn’t so much going against the trend in the Americas as it’s 5-10 years behind the trend. The liberals discredited themselves. If the conservatives disgrace themselves (though it might not be giving them enough credit… they have some slick machinery, some smart advisers from Australia and no doubt the United States), then maybe the left will have a shot. That was how the PT in Brazil (and for that matter the Bolivarians in Venezuela) got in: the other parties went down in corruption. What the PT did with the power once they got it is another story.

Counterevidence: The PT got in because of a reputation for innovative management based on what they did in the state governments they controlled. If we make the analogy between the NDP and the PT, the NDP have won provincial power, and having gotten into power, proceeded to not distinguish themselves from those to the right of them.

Enough. It’s time to go watch TV.

2-1 in the Americas

So, the 2006 elections have gone well so far. Bolivia and Chile have both gone to the leftists. But Canada will be moving rightward.

It’s interesting to see how the editorializing on behalf of the Tories goes. It’s basically – the liberals are bad, and the tories really aren’t as bad as you think. Quite a sales pitch.

Even though my first inclination was to abstain this election because I wanted turnout to be low (points to anyone who guesses where I would have gotten a notion like that), I’ve found a reason to vote. Someone reminded me that the party you vote for gets $1.75 in federal funding. And in Canada apparently it’s harder for parties to raise funds from corporations, which is a good thing.

But what I wanted to do in this blog entry was to point out a few other things that are going on. Of course, these are not the sorts of things that should be debated by candidates or the public at election time, so it makes sense that they aren’t part of the electoral conversation (that’s sarcasm).

Like the bombing in Kandahar. The injured soldiers, the diplomat, dead. Canadian officials talking about preparing for more like that. Do the injuries and deaths have any relationship to Canada’s foreign policy? To the way Canada’s linked up with the US military in Kandahar?

Like bin Laden. The US Terror War, which has alienated the world, increased every kind of terror including the kind the US is at war with, and which everyone seems to agree Canada should get more into, not less (while everyone else in the world is trying to move away).

Like Haiti, where the elite is trying to set the UN up to do a massacre so that elections can be cancelled. Why would they do that? Because they can’t pick the winner. Which, incidentally, is why they got rid of the last guy. So, if these pre-planned massacres do happen and the elections are cancelled or just delayed again, what side of democracy will Canada be on? What are the different sides of this debate? Who is prepared to talk about what is really going on in Haiti?

More consensus: Americanization of the justice system (mandatory minimum sentencing). “Free Trade” (something that’s at the heart of the left shift in the Americas, but well outside discussion in Canadian politics).

No wonder Canada’s going against the trend. There’s a single issue in this campaign, “corruption”, and it is by nature moralistic, not ethical, let alone political. So much consensus, so little at stake. But so much at stake, too. We’re missing a lot.

UK Independent: Davison and Buncombe

Another nice blog brought to you by Joe Emersberger. Read his letter to the UK Independent with his brief introduction, below.

Sometimes the media will be honest about an issue, then disregard what it
has documented at a future time when the information becomes much more
embarrassing to Power.

The case of Luis Posada Carriles comes to mind.

It’s possible that sometimes this happens because journalists don’t bother
to research a topic in their own newspaper. The drive for profits results in
two scenarios – sloppy low cost work that relies on quick government or
corporate handouts, or conscious self censorship. [Maybe some combo of the two would be a third scenario]

I don’t recall ever seeing a situaton as occured over the past few days with
Independent’s reporting on Haiti. An article by Andrew Buncombe was about as
good as you’ll ever see in the corporate press. The day before an article by
Phil Davison that was horrible – a regurgitation of propaganda by the
Haitian elite and their foreign backers.

Here is what I wrote to Davison:

RE: Independent: UN’s chief peacekeeper is found dead in Haiti hotel:

Mr. Davison:

Your article relies on the Haitian police, MINUSTAH and the Haitian business
community to inform your readers about Haiti. With such a one-sided choice
of sources it is no surprise that there is no mention of the widespread human
rights violation which these groups have committed. There is no mention of
their victims, no mention of political prisoners.

Why do refer to members of the business community as “some political
leaders”? The business elite called for a strike to prod the UN to be even more
brutal in their attacks on Haiti’s poor. Why is that obscured?

Do you know about any of this? If not, I suggest you read today’s article on
Haiti by Andrew Buncombe. [1] In fact, you could have learned much by reading articles by Buncombe written months ago. [2] He gave voice to political
prisoners, to MINUSTAH;s victims, to independent filmmaker, activist (and Haitian resident) Kevin Pina. Did it ever occur to you that there was another side to the story? Did it ever occur to you to read your own newspaper?

Joe Emersberger

[2] INdependent: UN admits Haiti force is not up to the job it faces
: Andrew Buncombe: July 30, 2005




Filth Canada!

So, there’s an election on in Canada apparently. Everyone else is doing it (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Brazil, Israel, Palestine, maybe Haiti), why shouldn’t we?

I didn’t pay much attention at first because I figured I’d already seen the episode: a report comes out, it turns out that the liberals are corrupt because they were in power, the conservatives want a chance to be in power so they can be corrupt, someone wins, there’s corruption, meanwhile Canada does large-scale dirty corrupt stuff (Haiti) and no one notices or cares.

Continue reading “Filth Canada!”