Want To ‘Send A Message’? Vote.

This op-ed appeared in The Ottawa Citizen on June 12, 2014 

In October 2013, British comedian and actor Russell Brand, acting as a guest-editor for a revolution-themed edition of New Statesman, penned a bizarre, 4,500-word call to revolution.

“I have never voted,” Brand declared. “Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot.”

Brand’s manifesto quickly went viral. He was called “brilliant,” lauded as the “de facto voice of a younger generation.”

What a shame that would be, given that if a generation adopted Brand’s approach to democracy, they’ll have rendered themselves mute.

Brand’s type of misguided effort to affect change has found an audience, though on a much smaller, not-quite-so-revolutionary scale, in the run-up to the Ontario election.

Decline Your Vote, a movement launched by conservative activist Paul Synnott, bills itself as a means to “(send) a message to all political parties that you’re not happy with what they have to offer or how they’re conducting themselves.”

“Declined votes,” the website notes, “are required to be recorded and reported as a separate category from spoiled ballots.

This your opportunity to vote NONE OF THE ABOVE.”

If only change-making were that easy.

Let’s be clear: It is absolutely your right to spoil, decline, or altogether refuse to cast a ballot. That’s the beauty of democracy: you’re free to vote – or not vote – for whomever you choose.

However, declining your ballot succeeds in “sending a message” about as well as abstaining achieves a “total revolution.”

There are legitimate frustrations over the first past the post electoral system; real grievances about the quality of the current slate of politicians/platforms/parties; an overwhelming desire to “throw the bums out,” yet a distinct lack of worthy alternatives behind whom to throw one’s support.

Cynicism toward the political system is understandable. But by forfeiting the influence you do have – the power of the vote – you are handing the power back to those you argue haven’t earned it. Whether by 10 or 10 thousand, the candidate with the most votes will be deemed victorious. Even if more ballots are declined than cast for the winning candidate, someone will be elected by night’s end.

Little notice will be taken of the number of ballots declined. Votes that, it can be argued, were wasted; that depending on turnout, might have made a difference in voting a candidate in – or keeping one out.

Case in point: In Nevada, where “none of these candidates” is an actual choice on the ballot, Democrat Harry Reid defeated Republican John Ensign by only 428 votes, while “none” garnered 8,000 votes. Similarly, Republican Dean Heller beat Democrat Shelley Berkley by fewer than 20,000 votes, as 45,000 votes were directed to “none.”

If you want to have an impact, are disaffected by the current state of political affairs, declining your chance for a say in the matter isn’t the answer.

Though your ballot may lack an ideal candidate, you can choose to support the person or party which represents your ideals better than the others.

Then, after ballots have been counted, get involved. Become politically engaged with your party of choice; have a say in shaping policy, work to recruit quality candidates.

And perhaps, come next election, you’ll have someone, something, to vote for.

 

Link Byfield – Another Thorn On The Wildrose

Though it took longer than I anticipated, it seems Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, gag order and all, has failed to contain the radical views held by some in her party from seeping out into the public sphere. These views would have been discovered eventually, mind you, as Smith cannot muzzle her candidates (or MLAs, for that matter) forever. However, the candidates who have come under fire in recent days provide a glimpse into the more extreme elements of the Wildrose party.

First there was Edmonton-South-West candidate Allan Hunsperger, a former Pastor, who wrote how tolerance and acceptance of gay people “is cruel and not loving.” You see, gay people should choose “to not live the way they were born,” according to Hunsperger. “You can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born, then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering … Warning people not to live the way they were born is not judgment or condemnation — it is love!”

Smith’s reaction to Hunsperger’s commentary was as off-putting as the homophobic screed itself.

“When a person is making personal statements in their capacity as a pastor, which he was, I don’t think anybody should be surprised that they’re expressing certain viewpoints,” Smith explained. “I’m not going to be the sort of politician who engages in discrimination against religious candidates.”

But when it comes to her candidates themselves ‘engaging in discrimination’ toward a group of people? No harm, no foul, apparently; so long as the discrimination is  expressed under the guise of religion.

Ron Leech, Wildrose candidate for Calgary-Greenway, was the next candidate to come down with foot-in-mouth disease. On a weekend radio program, Leech suggested he holds an advantage over his rivals in the riding simply because he’s white.

“I think, as a caucasian, I have an advantage,” explained Leech. “When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a caucasian I believe that I can speak to all the community.”

Once again, Smith’s reaction was one of indifference.

“I’m not concerned about (the remarks),” Smith assured reporters. “I think every candidate puts forward their best argument for why they should be the person the way represent the community. I know Dr. Leech runs a private school that has a large number of people from cultural communities. He has a very ethnically diverse riding. He’s made great friendships and in roads with leaders of different cultural communities.”

In other words, he’s not racist because he knows some ethnic people.

Unlike Hunsperger, however, Leech quickly apologized for, what he calls, his poor choice of words. Smith, being the ‘true leader‘ she is, broadcast the apology on twitter and Facebook, thus washing her hands of all responsibility.

As yet, however, there has been no apology or clarification from either Smith or Leech regarding the latter’s 2004 ‘defense of marriage:’

”I do not hate homosexuals, lesbians, adulterers or, for that matter, rapists. What I do hate is sin and its devastating effects on people’s lives … the foundational institution of all human society, always and everywhere.

[...] Redefining marriage to allow the deliberate exclusion of either a father or mother sends a terrible message to the next generation. It says children don’t deserve both parents, and it will further demoralize their own efforts to become parents themselves.

[...] It is biblically, morally and practically reprehensible for the government to pretend that two men or two women engaged in mutual stimulation are the same as a husband and wife, as potential parents. Marriage is not about equal rights; it isn’t a special-interest group. It is a repository for the future of humanity.

All Canadians — including childless homosexuals — benefit from a healthy marriage culture. All Canadians pay the price in increased taxes, mental illness, crime and human suffering when mothers and fathers choose to divorce or not marry. Adding same-sex marriages to a hodgepodge of family groupings will only worsen the confusion.

So I am against same-sex marriage for four reasons:

First, were homosexuality at all legitimate, the Bible would include options other than natural heterosexuality; yet homosexuality is only ever condemned.

So, second, homosexuality, like every other sin, is a conscious rebellion against divinely created order. Scriptures (like Romans 1:26-32) clearly call homosexual behaviour sinful. To deliberately choose to practise a sin is intentional rebellion.

Third, deliberately sterile homosexuality violates God’s intention for human creation itself. The Bible says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. So God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’ ” (Genesis 1:27-28)

Fourth, homosexuality distorts the image of God. The image of God comprises both male and female, a complementarity eternal and everlasting.

To affirm homosexuality is to distort the image of God, to insult the nature and being of God.”

To his credit, and in direct op[position to Hunsperger, Leech does state “gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose,” so there’s that …

But I digress.

The purpose of this piece is to provide a glimpse of another Wildrose candidate who, so far, has avoided media scrutiny. In addition, it seems someone has gone to great lengths to cleanse the internet of his written work.

Link Byfield, editor and publisher of the (now defunct) Alberta Report magazine, is the Wildrose candidate for Barrhead-Westlock-Morinville. A former ‘senator-in-waiting’, Byfield is beloved among social conservatives everywhere. What puzzles me is, being such a prominent figure, why he has remained silent throughout the campaign on various issues that he was once so eager to write about?

No matter. I archived much of his work years ago.

Whether Byfield’s writings are of any value to potential voters, I suppose is open for interpretation. However, given the public reaction to both Hunsperger and Leech, I suspect more than a few will appreciate having a complete picture of their potential candidate of choice.

Because I do not have (publicly accessible) links to the articles, the following excerpts can be lengthy. But I feel it is important to include as much of the original content as possible.

March 18, 2002 - On the issue of ‘conscience rights,’ the case of Dr. Stephen Dawson, a born again Christian who “refused to prescribe the birth control pill to single women or sildenafil to single men because of his religious beliefs.” Dawson not only abdicated his duties as a medical professional, but distributed photocopies of Bible passages to patients, one of which read “when you do not warn nor dissuade an unrighteous man from his evil ways, he will lose his soul for his iniquity, and his blood will be on your hands.”

He faced charges of professional misconduct, but in the end the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and Dawson ‘ended their confrontation’ by agreeing a detailed policy statement be posted in his waiting room, and that he refrain from proselytizing to patients.

(Ironically enough, Dawson would later have his license revoked for having “committed an act of professional misconduct in that he engaged in the sexual abuse of a patient.”)

Here is Byfield’s take, in part, on the matter:

“Note well the case of Dr. Stephen Dawson … Not only could it sound the death knell of freedom, but of society as we have known it.

Dr. Dawson is a Christian of no particular denomination. He reads the Bible and I’d think he prays. [...] He realized, he says, that he should stop abetting the sins of his patients, so he sent them all a letter explaining that he would no longer write birth-control prescriptions for unmarried women, or dispense Viagra for single men, since this would promote adultery. Nor would he refer anyone to a more compliant doctor.

If any such letter came to me, whether I agreed with it or not, I’d rejoice. [...] Last summer four women, even though they were perfectly free to find themselves another contraceptive dealer, complained to the provincial college of physicians. The CPSO has since charged him with “professional misconduct in that he failed to meet the overall moral and professional standard of care.” How ironic. His case is set for April.

Dr. Dawson has sinned against modern sensibilities in two ways, or so I would gather by reading the scathing comments about him in the press. First, he is discriminating against unmarried, sexually active women. This is hopelessly cruel and inconsiderate, apparently …Women have a God-given right (or at least a government-given one) to copulate as they wish without hindrance and lectures from him. Worse, granted that he himself has this mental thing about chastity, he has refused to send them along to someone with views more up to date. He has said that if he did, he might as well give them what they want himself; his responsibility is to discourage them as best he can.

Such intransigence has provoked outrage. “Suppose someone said, ‘I’m uncomfortable with treating a minority,”‘ countered science and religion Professor James Robert Brown in the Barrie Examiner. “I’d say, ‘So long, scum.’ You have no right letting your private beliefs affect your public behaviour.”

If Prof. Brown is the best the University of Toronto can find to moralize on the rights of conscience, God help Ontario. Anyone who could utter a remark so moronic belongs on a human-rights commission somewhere … Only a weak or perverse mind would equate race with sexual behaviour. To refuse medicine to a man because he is white or yellow or black is morally a totally different thing than saying that certain occasions of sexual intercourse should be discouraged. There are no “wrong” races unless you are a racist. There are, however, many, many “wrong” forms of sex, unless you are an imbecile.

[...] There is a growing tendency to mistake hurt feelings for criminal assault, especially on behalf of politically favoured “victim” groups: women, homosexuals, ethnic minorities, etc. To criticize their attitudes or behaviour is to “attack” them, which amounts to sexism, homophobia and racism. Thus freed from unkind comment, they do what they like.

But the worst part of Dr. Dawson’s prosecution is this. He is defending the principle of sexual purpose: that it isn’t just for recreation; it’s to transmit life through the natural institution of the family. Suppress his right to defend the natural family and you render inevitable the only ultimate alternative–the spiritually vacuous Brave New World that is the subject of this week’s cover story by Terry O’Neill. We always want to think that “choices” don’t really matter. They really do. Some paths lead to heaven, others to hell. If as a society we choose to suppress genuine freedom in favour of some fraudulent synthetic substitute, we will soon find ourselves in hell. Dr. Dawson could be forgiven for thinking we’ve already arrived. “

January 1, 2001 - On the issue of same sex marriage.

“ [...] Registered Domestic Partnership (RDP). This singularly unattractive label would be affixed to any two people who want to declare themselves mutually dependent for tax and pension purposes, be they a married man and wife, common-law cohabitants, two siblings, two gays or just two long-time friends.

[...] First, all of our “houses of worship” worth the name always have and always will reserve marriage solely to heterosexuals … homosexuality being what it is, relatively few homosexuals and lesbians want to be married anyway. They may want the right, but few seem to want the reality. This whole struggle has been about political mastery, not equal rights, for this is not a right they use … the few who do form more lasting partnerships already have the same tax and benefit rights as normal married couples… the Liberals gave them that last year: everything except the use of the word “marriage.” And now, needless to say, a few activists are determined to get that too, and nothing seems likely to stop them … the goal now is status.

This debate is not … between “traditionalists” and “progressivists.” It’s between nature and perversity; between reality and illusion. The triangle of father, mother and child is a permanent and inescapable norm of human nature. You can always find some workable exceptions to it, but they have to be recognized as exceptions. Any society foolish enough to pretend there is no norm will soon enough suffer grave, even fatal, consequences.

The danger of homosexual marriage is not that there will be many such marriages. There will be few. The danger lies in recognizing them, or affirming them, or pretending they’re just as good as the real thing. It debases the whole institution.

I don’t think it is possible to have a free and orderly society if the state refuses to affirm certain natural moral norms. It’s one thing to say that we should tolerate differences, but quite another to insist that the state not recognize any norms at all. Yet that is what we keep trying to do.

Christians say that man is inclined to rebellion against both God and his own better nature–that his good inclinations have been corrupted by ungodly, unnatural contrary impulses: pride, anger, dishonesty, lust, laziness, jealousy and greed. A good government sets itself to discourage these bad impulses, but can’t succeed unless (a) the government itself can tell good from bad, and (b) most people actually govern themselves. Families are an essential–in fact the essential–agent of that self-government. They are the first and most effective authority of all. Forget that simple fact and you are very soon left with a choice between anarchy and slavery. Which increasingly is our emerging circumstance. “

February 5, 2001 - On homosexuality, apparently being in the same class as, and promoting, pedophilia.

“The like-minded groups we now discreetly refer to as “sexual minorities”–homosexuals, lesbians, pedophiles, etc.–loomed large in the news in January. There was worldwide media attention on two gay pseudo-weddings in Toronto, which were described as a “first” despite the fact that such illegal ceremonies have been occurring in a few obscure renegade “churches” for years.

[...] The January 1-8 edition of the U.S. Weekly Standard newsmagazine carried a chilling story … (documenting) how pedophiles are gaining acceptance as a legitimate “sexual minority,” especially the homosexual variety. This astonishing tolerance is not to be found among the general public … rather it exists among the various social, medical and psychological establishments, and many (though not all) of the homosexual organizations, where it has been incubating securely for over a decade. Now it is creeping stealthily into the areas of high culture and gay literature, cutting-edge cinema, classy advertising, “gay studies” departments, and into the legal system.

The process is identical to the one that has succeeded so well for homosexuality–behaviour which, you may recall, was a crime until 32 years ago. First, pedophilia ceases to be an immoral act; it becomes merely an illness. All the terminology is carefully neutralized: to go on calling it “sexual abuse” is denounced as pedophobic. It then rapidly ceases to be seen as a disease, and becomes merely a different orientation.”

March 19, 2001 - On homosexuals as parents, caregivers, and (apparently incompetent) competent human beings.

“A lesbian in our vicinity named Teresa O’Riordan, I read in our weekly Morinville-Gibbons Free Press, has been appointed to the local Community Justice Committee. She and seven other volunteers will help try to keep young offenders out of jail by giving them guidance and encouragement to turn their lives around.

[...] four years ago Ms. O’Riordan was something of a celebrity, when she had a run-in with the Alberta social services department over her suitability as a foster mother. [...]

Ms. T O’Riordan and her then-husband had the reputation in foster-parent circles of being excellent substitute caregivers; in fact, they specialized in severe and difficult cases … but in their middle years in, the middle ’90s, Mr. T departed, Mrs. T discovered herself to be a lesbian, kept possession of the house and brought in a female spouse. Word got around, and when she applied for two more foster children, having only one remaining in her care, she was asked if her new live-in was “more than just a friend.” Having thus run afoul of an Alberta Social Services policy against employing “nontraditional families” for foster purposes, she shared her unhappiness with the Edmonton Journal. Ever vigilant against homophobic intolerance in Alberta’s Tory government, the Journal loudly proclaimed her cause against then minister Stockwell Day.

But Mr. Day soon moved on to Treasury, and his social services successor, Lyle Oberg, put the “nontraditional” policy under “review.” The Alberta government was by now under attack about human rights from lesbians in Calgary, homosexuals in Edmonton, sterilization victims, nine sarcastic judges in the Supreme Court of Canada, the United Nations, federal cabinet ministers, its own addlepated human rights commission, Desmond Tutu and media-driven lobby groups everywhere. So on the question of homosexual fostering and adoption it quietly buckled.

[...] According to the Free Press, she is now a government-paid family counsellor in Athabasca during the day, and presents after-hours family life courses about parenting and anger management in Edmonton. And to boot she’s on one of federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan’s new Gentleness and Compassion Committees.

All of which goes to show how absurdly our public attitudes have been turned on their head. Here we have a divorcee teaching families how to succeed, a lesbian teaching about parenting, and all on the state payroll. Here we see a noted permissivist assigned to monitor young criminals whose most urgent need is probably a good hard kick in the pants.

As for anger management, I can’t help but wonder (bigot that I am) if Ms. T’s household suffers the kind of domestic violence and discord for which lesbian relationships are so notorious. The odds are that it doesn’t, but short of a police complaint or hospital emergency visit, how would anyone know? Did anyone ask? Is anyone these days allowed to ask?

[...] The trouble with Ms. T is not that she is a bad person; I assume she’s a very nice person, a nicer and more caring one than I. Nor is the problem that she’s “different”; we are all in some ways unusual, and if we weren’t it would be a dull world. No, the trouble with Ms. T is simply that there is no Mr. T, and every child should, if at all possible, have a mother and a father. It’s the way nature intended it, and no matter how many lobby groups and judges claim otherwise, the government can’t change nature. Moreover, anyone who can’t see something so obvious has no business teaching others about family life. Of all the things Ms. O’Riordan might have made a livelihood doing, it’s odd she chose this one. And it’s even odder that the people who hired her saw nothing odd about it. I suppose they sensed that the sexual misfits are unaccountably in control of things, and feared that if they didn’t hire Ms. O’Riordan they’d find themselves beset by her ruthless media attack dogs. Rather than risk such a calamity, they put her on the payroll. That’s how it’s done these days.“

November 20, 2000 –  On … Eminem?!? (and Byfield’s selective support for censorship and really, really Big Government.)

“There was much rolling of eyes two weeks ago when authorities in Ontario tried to prevent the loathsome white rapper Marshall Mathers (alias Eminem) from entering Canada. The attempt failed, the concert sold out and there was predictable tut-tutting about the self-defeating futility of anyone trying to censor “freedom of expression.”

Now like most people of reasonable taste, I have never listened to Mr. Mathers’ noise. Reading about it is enough. [...]

It probably was a mistake for Ontario Attorney General Jim Flaherty even to suggest there was a chance Mr. Mathers could be kept out for violating Canada’s Criminal Code hate law … he demonstrated his and our utter impotence to establish community standards of any kind at all.

Small-l liberals seem to like it this way. Mr. Mathers “is no more shocking for our time than Elvis and his swivel hips were for his, not to mention Alice Cooper and his chopping up a baby doll on stage in the 1970s,’ wrote Edmonton Journal pop culture apologist David Staples … he thinks the rapper deserves “respect” for giving the “raging ambitions and hormones” of young males a safe outlet. “It crosses a line,” conceded Mr. Staples, “but it’s nothing too horrific, and it certainly expresses feeling.”

Well, yes. And all feelings are equally good, right? So say the liberals. All emotions, no matter how depraved, unreasonable, destructive, self-indulgent, violent and vile–all deserve an unrestrained airing on a public stage, and life will go on. Nothing is shocking, nothing is shameful. Just learn a little tolerance.

[...] Why should we tolerate Eminem? He is bad for music, bad for social peace and trust, bad for morals, bad for his fans, bad for everyone, including himself … That liberals like Mr. Staples can behold 20,000 fans worshipping someone with the manners and morals of pimp, and imagine no evil will come of it if we just look the other way, surely represents some kind of cultural death wish.

It’s time–long past time, in fact–to admit that we have stopped even trying to defend community standards of decency. The job entails someone saying “no” to the parade of creeps who pander for profit to humanity’s worst instincts and impulses. Until about 40 years ago we were willing to do this, and we were a stronger and better people as a result.

What we need is a Criminal Code amendment authorizing municipalities to empanel a jury of citizens, half of them men and half women chosen at random, to arbitrate community standards. If Valerie Smith thinks Mr. Mathers has squandered his right to appear in Toronto, she should make her case to the jurors, and if two-thirds agree with her the concert should be shut down. If a record or video store sells such material, and a jury majority finds it outside community norms, the merchant should be fined.

Horrors! the liberals will cry; that would be censorship. Yes, indeed it would. But what is the alternative? To say there must be no such thing as community standards? To insist that our social norms must always be set by those who are consciously determined to destroy them?

No credible case can be made that a free society never censors anything. A few lingering vestiges of censorship can be found even in our own; public sexual intercourse is still forbidden, for example, at least for now. (But just wait for the chorus: How intolerant of us! How would it harm you?)

The real question is, who gets to say what the community standard is? To whom do we entrust that task? To government bureaucrats? Not likely. To judges? No, they’ve spent the last four decades telling us they don’t feel qualified. But that leaves only one source of authority–namely, the public itself.

So let’s ask the public. Empanel a jury and let the Marshall Mathers of this world make their case.”

When Danielle Smith insists, so long as she is the leader of the Wildrose, she will not legislate on moral issues, I believe her. However, that doesn’t mean Albertans should be electing individuals who have yet to escape the mentality of the 19th century.

One of the more amusing moments to emerge from the Leaders’ Debate was Liberal Leader Raj Sherman’s quip: “This is Alberta, not Alabama.”

The Wildrose would do well to remember that.

Cross-posted at CalgaryPolitics.com

#OccupyWallStreet – Calgary edition

So much has been written about the Occupy movement, it’s difficult to discuss it further without a sense of redundancy. At the same time, it’s difficult for the apolitical to fully appreciate the scope of the protests without understanding the motivation behind it.

It’s also difficult to examine the #OccupyCalgary movement without first studying the original cause.

Below are snippets of some of the best analysis / commentary:

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman:

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent …  (the) people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

Former Clinton labour secretary and economist Robert Reich:

Barack Obama is many things but he is as far from left-wing populism as any Democratic president in modern history. True, he once had the temerity to berate “fat cats” on Wall Street, but that remark was the exception – and subsequently caused him endless problems on the Street.

To the contrary, Obama has been extraordinarily solicitous of Wall Street and big business – making Timothy Geithner Treasury Secretary and de facto ambassador from the Street; seeing to it that Bush’s Fed appointee, Ben Bernanke, got another term; and appointing GE Chair Jeffrey Immelt to head his jobs council.

Most tellingly, it was President Obama’s unwillingness to place conditions on the bailout of Wall Street – not demanding, for example, that the banks reorganize the mortgages of distressed homeowners, and that they accept the resurrection of the Glass-Steagall Act, as conditions for getting hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars – that contributed to the new populist insurrection.

The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof:

The frustration in America isn’t so much with inequality in the political and legal worlds, as it was in Arab countries, although those are concerns too. Here the critical issue is economic inequity. According to the C.I.A.’s own ranking of countries by income inequality, the United States is more unequal a society than either Tunisia or Egypt.

Three factoids underscore that inequality:

-The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

-The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.

-In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent. [...]

The banks have gotten away with privatizing profits and socializing risks, and that’s just another form of bank robbery.

‘We have a catastrophically bad misregulation of the financial system,’ said Amar Bhidé, a finance expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. ‘Its consequences led to a taint of the entire system of modern enterprise.’

Economists used to believe that we had to hold our noses and put up with high inequality as the price of robust growth. But more recent research suggests the opposite: inequality not only stinks, but also damages economies.” 

Other notable supporters of the movement include Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and renowned economist  Jeffery Sachs (video).

Although the #OccupyCalgary demonstrators voiced their solidarity with the American people, the Calgary ‘occupiers’ were generally more concerned about the issues here at home.

Among the issues discussed were an income gap widening faster than that in the U.S, a government whose ‘austerity’ measures conveniently overlook corporate welfare while slashing key governmental agencies, and an electoral system that awards a ‘majority’ to a party which garnered just 40% of the vote.

It seemed more an #OccupyParliamentHill movement than an #OccupyCalgary one.

Nearly all in attendance were content Calgarians who were happily employed, representing, among others, the financial and oil sectors, health care and education industries, and student body. Even the police in attendance were happy to count themselves as the 99%. After all, they *are* part of the public sector. They are also unionized. This makes them part of the Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad ‘union thugs’ and ‘public sector leaches’ Conservative politicians (and media) regularly villainize.

Four legs good; Two legs bad. Private sector good; Public sector bad.

But I digress.

What impressed me most about the #OccupyCalgary demonstration was the overall friendliness, politeness, and respect displayed by all in attendance. There were no instances of vandalism or violence; no abuse or disrespect shown to the authorities present.

Following the events at Bankers Hall, the protestors marched down Stephen Avenue toward Olympic Plaza, where they held a general assembly and set up camp, vowing to remain as long as they’re permitted.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Further reading: Parsing the Data and Ideology of the We Are 99% 

Below are some of the images I captured over the course of the day.


9/11 – A Decade Later

Take this opportunity to educate yourself of the facts surrounding the rise of Radical Islam, Neo-Conservatism, and the Politics of Fear. It may change the way you view the attacks of September 11, the subsequent “war on terror,” and the never-ending wars in the Middle East.

For those largely unfamiliar American Politics, you’ll be surprised to learn how long notorious figures of the George W.Bush administration, namely Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, have been on the political scene.

The BBC Documentary Series: The Power Of Nightmares 

Part 1 -  “Baby it’s Cold Outside“

Part 2 –  “The Phantom Victory”

Part 3 – “The Shadows in the Cave”

Summary/explainer courtesy of CBC’s The Passionate Eye:

Part 1 – Baby It’s Cold Outside

Sayyed Qutb: Father of Radical Islam
In the 1950s Sayyed Qutb, an Egyptian civil servant was sent to the U.S. to learn about its public education system. As he traveled around the county, Qutb became increasingly disgusted by what he felt was the selfish and materialistic nature of American life.

When he returned to Egypt, Qutb turned into a revolutionary. Determined to find some way to control the forces of selfish individualism that he saw in America, he envisioned an Arab society where Islam would play a more central role. He became an influential spokesperson in the Muslim Brotherhood but was jailed after some of its members attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Nasser.

In prison a more radical Qutb wrote several books which argued that extreme measures, including deception and even violence, could be justified in an effort to restore shared moral values to society. He was executed in 1966 for treason in Egypt. But his ideas lived on and formed the basis of the radical Islamist movement.

Leo Strauss: A Neo-Conservative
At the same time Leo Strauss, an American professor of political philosophy, also came to see western liberalism as corrosive to morality and to society. Like Qutb, Strauss believed that individual freedoms threatened to tear apart the values which held society together. He taught his students that politicians should assert powerful and inspiring myths – like religion or the myth of the nation – that everyone could believe in.

A group of young students, including Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama and William Kristol studied Strauss’ ideas and formed a loose group in Washington which became known as the neo-conservatives. They set out to create a myth of America as a unique nation whose destiny was to battle against evil in the world.

Both Qutb and Strauss were idealists whose ideas were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay.

Two Movements
By creating an alliance with the growing Christian fundamentalist movement in America the neo-conservatives rose to power during the Reagan administration. Senior American civil servants and politicians came to believe their view that the Soviet Union was an evil force against which the U.S. should be presented as a force for good.

The neo-conservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision and created a hidden network of evil run by the Soviet Union that only they could see. They used anti-communist propaganda which included Donald Rumsfeld’s over-estimation of Soviet military technology and the William Casey led CIA assertion that various terrorist organizations were backed by the Soviet Union to further their cause.

At the same time, the Islamists faced a refusal of the masses to follow their dream and began to turn to terror to force the people to “see the truth”. Underground Islamic leaders like Ayman Zawahiri, who would become a mentor to Osama bin Laden, ordered the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in an attempt to shock the masses into seeing their version of reality.

Afghanistan: A Battleground 

In 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. War in this remote country marked the beginning of key battleground in the Cold War and an extraordinary alliance between radical Islamists in Afghanistan and around the world and the neo-conservatives in the U.S.

Washington provided money and arms including Stinger missiles capable of shooting down Soviet helicopters. But it was Islamic Mujahideen fighters who would fire them. Among the many radical Islamists drawn to Afghanistan was a young, wealthy Saudi called Osama Bin Laden. Long before 9/11, he was seen by neo-conservatives in Washington as one of their foot soldiers, helping fight America’s cause.

After nearly 10 years of fighting, Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan and shortly afterwards, their own government collapsed.

Both the neo-conservatives and the Islamists believed that it is they who defeated the “evil empire” and now had the power to transform the world.

Part 2 –  The Phantom Victory

The neo-conservatives – determined to push on with their agenda – were convinced that there were other evil regimes that needed to be conquered in order to spread democracy. So they turned their focus to Saddam Hussein, who had just invaded Kuwait. But at the end of the first Gulf War, President Reagan was not in power and the neo-conservatives no longer had a leader that shared their vision. Once Kuwait was secured, President George HW Bush called a halt to the fighting.

The neo-conservatives turned to the religious right and began a campaign to bring moral and religious issues back into the center of conservative politics. And they invented a new enemy, Bill Clinton, focusing on the scandal surrounding him and Monica Lewinsky.

Meanwhile, the Islamists descended into a cycle of violence and terror to persuade people to follow them. They launched attacks against the leaders of the Arab world – in Egypt and Algeria – to overthrow what they believed were corrupt regimes. Then they began using bloody terrorist attacks to shock ordinary people into rising up.

But both groups failed in their revolutions. The neo-conservatives did not succeed in their attempt to impeach Bill Clinton because polls showed that Americans simply didn’t care about the moral issues involved. And the Islamists – lacking the popular support to topple regimes across the Arab world – returned to Afghanistan.

Defeated, the Islamists formed a new strategy. In the late 1990s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a follower of Sayyid Qutb, paid the Taliban to allow them to recruit and train Islamist fighters for attacks on a new enemy – the U.S. The new jihad would be against the source of corruption itself.

Zawahiri and bin Laden began to implement their new strategy in the late 90′s. Suicide bombings outside American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania attracted the attention of the West. And the neo-conservatives now had a new phantom enemy.

Then bin Laden funded a plan first proposed by an Islamic militant, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. On September 11th, 2001 19 hijackers brought down the World Trade Center, killed thousands of Americans and shocked the world.

But the attacks had another dramatic effect: they brought the neo-conservative agenda back into the forefront.

Part 3 – The Shadows in the Cave

In the wake of the shock and panic created by the devastating attack on the World Trade Center, the neo-conservatives reconstructed the radical Islamists in the image of their last evil enemy, the Soviet Union.

They created a sinister web of terror run by Osama bin Laden from his lair in Afghanistan. And they were able to convince George W. Bush to begin a “War on Terror”.

The war in Afghanistan removed bin Laden’s main source of recruits, but the U.S. military and the Northern Alliance also captured and killed many people in the Taliban camps that had nothing to do with bin Laden’s goal.

The story circulated that bin Laden and the core of al-Qaeda had retreated to a complex in Tora Bora, but an exhaustive search revealed no sign of an underground fortress.

The arrests of various groups of suspected terrorists in the U.S. following the September 11 attacks failed to find any substantial evidence of terrorist sleeper cells. Similarly, in the UK, arrests under new terrorism laws have resulted in only three convictions of Islamists, all for fundraising or possessing Islamist literature.

Much of the media coverage of potential terrorist attacks also became highly speculative and sensational. There were reports that al-Qaeda was poised to use a radiological weapon, referred to as a “dirty bomb”, which would kill thousands of people. But nuclear scientists argued that this was a false threat. They said that a “dirty bomb” wouldn’t kill many people from fallout because the radioactive material would be spread thinly by any explosion.

Still, the neo-conservatives had found they could use the threat of Islamist terrorism and claimed that they had found hidden links between al-Qaeda and their old enemy, Saddam Hussein. Iraq became an important enemy against which to unite the U.S., and other politicians such as Tony Blair who wanted to play an important role in protecting their countries from attack.

Politicians and counter-terrorist agents have decided that they must be pro-active in imagining the worst possible attacks and in stopping those who seem likely to carry out attacks. They are convinced that it’s the only way to save the world from a looming catastrophe.

Further viewing: 2011 Maddow/Engel Documentary - Day Of Destruction, Decade of War 

Great reads:

This Is What War Looks Like – The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks took photojournalist Kate Brooks to Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover the fall of the Taliban.

Those Who Face Death  - Photojournalist Kate Brooks spent the decade after 9/11 photographing the U.S. military struggles and political upheaval in the Greater Middle East. The following collection is from her time in Iraq in 2003-2004.

Fareed Zakaria –  Reflections on 9/11 and its aftermath
Juan ColeA tale of two Afghan Leaders, before and after 9/11
Noam Chomsky - The Imperial Mentality and 9/11
Foreign Policy Mag - The Black Hole of 9/11
A Television News ArchiveUnderstanding 9/11
Foreign Policy MagThe 9/11 Anniversary Reader: FAIL edition
Foreign Policy Mag9/11 from Arab Shores
Globe & Mail – The Muslim world’s 9/11 generation emerges from a long shadow 
Al JazeeraThe Decade of 9/11: war without end
SlateTrutherism 2011: The Rise and Fall of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory
Doug SaundersAl-Qaeda’s zealots of yesteryear turning to politics, democracy
The NationThe Years Since 9/11: A Lost Decade
Mother JonesPatriot Acts
Paul KrugmanThe Years of Shame 
The AtlanticThe Soldier and the Rap Star: A Tale of Two Post-9/11 Students 
Michael Ignatieff9/11 and the age of sovereign failure 
Daily Mail UKThe 9/11 victims America Wants To Forget – the 200 jumpers who’ve been ‘airbrushed from history’
Alternet“I Stayed to Fight” — Being a Muslim Immigrant in Post 9/11 America 
ReutersDecade after 9/11, Afghans languish in Pakistan 
The Independent9/11 lost decade: The American dream, and the missing years 
Reuters Iraq: Victim or beneficiary of September 11 attacks?
Washington PostPublic sees wars in Iraq, Afghanistan as least effective means of reducing terrorism 
New York TimesOne 9/11 tally – 3.3 Trillion 


On TV:

National Geographic Channel9/11 and the American Dream  (Phenominal footage of the day’s events)
Raw Story Paul Simon performs ‘The Sound of Silence’ at Ground Zero

Sounds:

Eminem – Mosh

Sun News Network: Let The (Incredibly Lazy) Astroturfing Begin!

It has been fascinating to watch the Conservative campaign strategy evolve over the past two weeks; working in tandem with Sun TV in a quest to secure a Harper majority, and to destroy the opposition leaders.

Aside from the standard issued talking points submitted by the Conservative war room and subsequently written into Sun TV scripts, the Tories are running a co-ordinated effort with their Sun Media counterparts as they try desperately to reach that magical number of 155 seats.

Take for instance, week number one (April 18-22) where the focus was entirely on Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Party, and the ‘threat’ of a coalition:

Brian Lilley, on Ignatieff and the Liberals:

“Michael Igantieff wants to be in power, but do we know where he stands?  He has flipped and flopped on so many big issues that it’s tough to know.  Look at his parliamentary record. Look at where he and his party stands. A quick glance shows that they would bring about a national daycare program to raise your kids for you, and they’d regulate what you can do with your own children by outlawing spanking and any use of force.

Now that part’s important.

Any use of force would be illegal. That could include making it illegal for you to strap your two year old, your wiggly two year old, into their car seat against their will … no parent would be allowed to strap their screming kid into a mini van.

The Liberlas would also expand ‘harm reduction sites’ from Vancouver to other major cities across Canada. What does that mean? Government sanctioned (drug) shooting galleries in a neighbourhood near you.

Oh, and convicts in jail? They’ll get ‘harm reduction’ as well. That’s right, free smack for junkies in jail and a needle exchange program to administer illegal drugs in Canada’s prisons.”

Note, that the ‘harm reduction site’ Lilley despises so much refers to Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site which Harper has been fighting to have shut down despite clear, scientific, evidence the program saves lives.

You can listen to Lilley, Adler, and Levant discussing this issue, and alternatives  to Insite (such as dumping drug addicts in a deserted place – yes that what Lilley actually proposes), BY CLICKING HERE.

(Let’s not forget Lilley’s “Exclusive: Ignatieff planned the Iraq war!” fabrication, which made star appearance during their first week on the air.)

Enter the weekend, a monumental surge in the polls by Jack Layton and the NDP, and a shift in strategy for week number two (April 25-29), the week of Sun Media’s “Layton caught in Bawdy house!” smear campaign.

Charles Adler, on Layton and the NDP (April 26):

“Jack Layton’s resemblence to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou – it’s uncanny, both in appearance, and in policy.

NDP love for big government has the potential to turn Canada into the next Greece, with a top heave public sector that could break the neck of the economy. This prospect is scaring a lot of citizens of Adler Nation.

From Peter in Port Rowan, Ontario, he says ‘in my youth I lived in Communist East Germany and we had to adore Vladimir Lenin – now I see a remarkable physical likeness in Layton to Lenin – their socialist policies are pretty close also. De we really want that kind of a Country? God help us and do not let this come to pass.’

Wait a minute … Jack Layton, George Papandreou, Vladimir Lenin – it’s getting a little eerie, don’t you think? Three men, three moustaches, three power alley hair-do’s …”

“Layton doesn’t need 100 (seats) to become Prime Minister. He could do it with fewer than 80. What are the consequences of a coalition led either by the NDP or by the Liberals? David Frum made that clear last night, said that Harper would not govern if he get’s a minority. And the premise is, if Harper doesn’t get the magic 155 seat total, Jack — with the help of Igantieff and Duceppe — Jack could move into 24 Sussex with Olivia.

The ‘Stop Jack’ campaign, in the next few days, may proove meaningless if the blood is already in the water.”

Adler and his favourite (not-an-actual) Liberal Dan Donovan, on Layton (April 29):

Adler – “At this point, what’s most important, I think you and I could agree, what’s most important is not having the NDP at 24 Sussex, I think that’s what’s crucial. So here’s my question to you: If the Liberals end up in the number three spot as now appears likely, if they’re number three will they be willing to do some sort of deal with Stephen Harper, to give the Country as much stability as possible, and to keep Jack and Olivia out of 24 Sussex? I think that’s the question tonight that most people are most interested in pursuing.”

Donovan – “We’ve agreed and disagreed on many things over the past year, but I think one thing we both can agree on is that Jack Layton would be an absolute calamity for this country, and I think a lot of Liberals, like myself, who want reform in the party and want us to reach further and do things better do not see a Jack Layton led coalition.”

Take note of Adler’s statement from April 26: “The ‘Stop Jack’ campaign, in the next few days, may proove meaningless if the blood is already in the water.”

Two days later, on April 28, the domain www.liberalsforharper.ca was registered, and the ‘stop Layton’ Astroturf campaign was officially launched. That evening, Stephen Taylor, director of the National Citizen’s Coalition (NCC), wondered aloud if there were “Liberals out there who would rather vote for Harper than see Jack Layton form any sort of government.”

On the morning of April 29, Taylor introduced liberalsforharper.ca to the public for the first time, feigning ignorance of its origin in the process.

That evening Adler spent a good portion of his show promoting the liberalsforharper.ca cause (as detailed above),  building on a plea he issued to readers earlier in the day:

 “A few years back, (Ignatieff) cracked a few standing beside Stephane Dion. There is very little doubt that when the clock strikes 12 on Monday night, the party of Chretien and Trudeau will have struck out, finishing No. 3 for the first time ever. The big question on Tuesday morning will be, how does the Grit family deal with sickly Uncle Grit?

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Stephen Harper must scrub up, then go into the operating room.

The PM needs to find the right scalpel to save Uncle Grit’s life. If he can find a way to give Michael Ignatieff a shred of dignity, he might be able to prevent Ignatieff from seeking revenge by cutting a deal with Jack Layton, making the NDP leader prime minister.

There is a coalition government in Britain today. It was formed by the party that got the most seats with the party that got the third-most. It was formed by the Conservatives and Liberals. Do we still have a British parliamentary system?

Suck it up boys. The country is surely worth it.”

On April 30, Harper himself began trumpeting the liberalsforharper.ca strategy, both on the campaign trail and through the media, telling the Toronto Star,

“I believe that as the choice becomes clear … a lot of traditional, Liberal, moderate voters, are going to look and going to say that the Conservative platform — and where the Conservative Party is taking the economy — is a hell of a lot closer to what I think than what the NDP has in its platform …”

“I think a lot of Liberals who understand that, are going to think twice and I think ultimately, rather than follow their party blindly down an alley toward the kind of merger with the NDP that Mr. Ignatieff mused about, I think they will take a hard look at voting for this (Conservative) party, and I welcome that.”

As Canadians head to the polls in what, by all accounts, promises to be an historic election, it’ll be interesting to see how the partnership bewteen the Conservatives, Sun Media, and the NCC continues to unfold.

If Harper fails to get his majority, you can be sure Sun Media will be urging Liberals to ‘do the responsible thing’ and ‘save the country from Layton,’ knowing full well a full merger between the Liberals and the NDP is a very real possibility.

And if that happens, the prospect of a Conservative government completely evaporates, not only for the current election cycle, but quite possibly well into the future.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca 

Below is an actual picture from Adler’s show, comparing Layton to Lenin

Sun News Network: Because Facts Have A Well Known Liberal Bias

“Folks, this is gonna be a thing.” ~ Sun TV host Theo Caldwell

Sun News Network, a channel brought to by its own sense of self importance, is the epitome of pseudo-journalism comprised of (self professed) semi-literate on-air personalities with the combined intellectual curiosity of failed Vice Presidential candidate and former half-term Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Irresponsible at best, the inherent lack of journalistic integrity is an insult not only to the many well-established, credible, hard working news organizations across the country, but to Canadians who’ve come to expect both accuracy and honesty in reporting.

Simply put, Sun TV is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Conservative Party of Canada, the National Citizen’s Coalition, and the Canadian network of industry funded, Right-leaning ‘think tanks’ dedicated to promoting a given agenda.

Modeling itself after Fox News – ‘Hard News’ in the morning and throughout the afternoon, followed by “Straight Talk” opinion programming during prime time evening hours – it’s hardly surprising that like their southern counterparts, there is little to distinguish between the two.

Take for instance ‘Straight Talker’ and host of Byline, Brian Lilley.

Three days into its network debut, Sun TV’s ‘Hard News’ team began the day with an “exclusive” report from Lilley, who suggested Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was “on the front lines of (the Iraq War) pre-invasion planning.”

‘Hard News’ host Neelam Verma dedicated her entire two-hour show to covering the “bombshell” report, often wondering aloud whether Canadians “know the REAL Michael Ignatieff.”

Joining Verma in “exposing Ignatieff” was Lilley himself, along with Sun TV’s ‘Hard News’ analysts Brigitte Pellerin (wife of Sun Media columnist & Sun TV contributor John Robson, and founder of Canada’s anti-choice movement Pro Woman Life,) and Alex Mihailovich.

Among the notable statement to arise from the two hour assault on reality:

Lilley:  “Ignatieff was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning … his own words show he was intimately involved.”

Verma:  “This is really important information right before the election.”

Pellerin: (noting Ignatieff professed to have been on the sidelines) “Why do I feel this Bill Clintonian debate here by the meaning of sidelines? Really!”

“This new information shows that indeed he was on the front lines. His role was in the pre invasion planning.”

Mihailovich:  “I keep hearing over and over ‘compassion’ coming out of (Ignatieff’s) mouth and how compassionate he is and how Liberals are about compassion … Ignatieff himself was in the war room. He was in the background. He was planning this stuff out. He was helping the US build towards a war.”

“Ignatieff was involved with the US government planning the Iraq war – that’s the bottom line …. Ignatieff was in on the Iraq war”

“I have a document here; This isn’t written by Ignatieff but this is from one of the centers that he chaired, looking at civilian body count and what would be acceptable. Now these are not words of compassion, in my eyes. This is something far beyond. This is cold and constantly it is something these guys in the back room do to go forward, and he was a part of this … Now all of a sudden he’s a peacknik of sorts and he’s compassionate? Like, really!”

Pellerin:  “This is going to be a revelation for a lot of Canadians for how deeply involved Ignatieff was in these ‘cold calculations.’ “

“You can bet the term ‘flip flop’ will be used a lot today, and in the coming days. This is really damaging info.”

“Will the real Michael Ignatieff please stand up?”

Verma:  “Do you think it will have an impact on how Canadians vote?”

Mihailovich:  “I hope it does.”

“The amount of flip-flopping we’re seeing here is unprecedented.”

Where Verma’s morning show left off, subsequent ‘Hard News’ programs picked up, delivering eleven straight hours of fomented outrage, which was then followed by five ‘Straight Talk’ hours of rhetorical hyperbole.

Given the amount of time, and effort, dedicated solely to the coverage of Lilley’s “earth shattering investigative journalism,” one would assume the accusations regarding Ignatieff’s involvement in the Iraq war were unequivocal; that the article was thoroughly vetted and meticulously fact checked, as is standard procedure with all credible news organizations.

Of course, that would require Sun Media (Quebecor/QMI) to be either credible or a news organization, neither of which it qualifies as.

Within hours of the report saturating the Sun TV airwaves, respected journalist Glen McGregor put Lilley to shame by swiftly, and thoroughly, disproving the entire premise of his piece.

Following a run down of the facts regarding Ignatieff and his activities with the Carr Center for Human Rights, including listing multiple NGO’s in attendance for the “Understanding Collateral Damage” conference, McGregor levels the following blow:

“If the Sun was unaware these groups also participated in ‘invasion planning,’ that’s just shoddy reporting. It took me four minutes to find the participants list on the Carr Center website.

If the Sun knew and chose not to include this fact in the story, readers can draw their own conclusions about the integrity of the reporter and his news organization.”

Ouch.

Ironically, “Hard News” personality Krista Erickson hosts a ‘Media Monitor’ segment with Lilley wherein they heap criticism on other media personalities; the first one taking place two days after Lilley’s failed attempt at investigative reporting.

In the category, “Barefaced Bias”, Lilley scolds the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge for his interview  with Ignatieff versus his interview with Stephen Harper.

Lilley: “the tone was different … with Ignatieff it was relaxed, it was sitting back, it was in his studio; it was cordial. There was a much more aggressive nature with Stephen Harper than there was with Michael Ignatieff. (Mansbridge) constantly interrupted him … Harper is constantly interrupted.”

Assuming Lilley watched both interviews, he had to have known, as was explained by Mansbridge at the beginning of each, it was the politicians who chose the manner in which to be interviewed. Ignatieff was “relaxed, sitting back, in studio” because he chose the “in studio” option. Harper, on the other hand, selected “location of choice,” his choice being to stand awkwardly inside a minor Hockey arena.

Lilley’s suggestion that Harper was “constantly interrupted” by Mansbridge is countered by observations made by respected journalist, and national editor of Maclean’s magazine, Andrew Coyne:

It’s telling that in interviews Harper simply talks through and over questions he does not wish to answer. The interviewer asks a question. Harper talks around it. So the interviewer tries to follow up. At that point most (people) yield long enough to at least listen to the question. Harper does not. He just ploughs on. He won’t take the cue. Saw that (with) Mansbridge, now (with) FriesenCan’t recall whether he was always that way, or only since becoming (Prime Minister). But that absolute refusal to yield the floor is not incidental.

Next, Lilley names Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star as the “Sloppiest Story” of the week, referring to her coverage of controversial remarks made by Conservative candidate Brad Trost about the funding status of funding of Planned Parenthood.

Lilley claims MacCharles “failed to contact the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London, England,” claiming he did, and was told “the election got in the way” of their funding and “there’s no problem with the Harper government.”

Had Lilley bothered to read past the first paragraph of the article, he’d have come across this:

“William Stairs, chief of staff in Oda’s ministerial office said in an email to the Star late Wednesday that despite Trost’s claim, no decision has yet been made on Planned Parenthood’s application because CIDA is ‘still reviewing the file.’

Brad Trost did not respond to the Star’s queries.

Ryan Sparrow, spokesman for the national Conservative campaign, responded late Wednesday via email, and did not deny that the group had been turned down.

He said only: ‘We base funding decisions on the quality of the proposals we receive. We are proud of our international assistance record and we are proud of the results that have been accomplished under our Conservative government.’

CIDA had not yet responded to the Star’s questions on the Planned Parenthood’s funding applications.”

In light of recent reports which detail Planned Parenthood’s struggle with the Harper Government, it begs the question whether Lilley spoke with the organization at all.

Elizabeth Payne of Postmedia writes:

“In 2010, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was getting kudos for putting maternal health on the international radar screen, Canada, for the first time in 40 years, provided no money to support an organization which is one of the world’s biggest health providers to vulnerable women.

As a result, International Planned Parenthood Federation was forced to draw on reserve dollars and had to make cuts to some technical services to make up a $6-million shortfall, officials at the organization’s London office confirmed.”

So, that’s journalism : 2 -  Lilley: 0.

Evidently, the Sun News Network can’t even accurately consume the news, let alone report on it. It’s a woefully inadequate, amateurish parody of itself, destined to fail miserably once viewers have to start paying subscription fees.

It will, however, be interesting to see who the ‘champions of the free market’ point the finger at following when they meet their inevitable demise.

George Soros? The ‘homosexual agenda’? Muslims? Frank Graves? The Human Right’s Commissions?

Ah,who am I kidding? They’ll blame the CBC.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Secondary Suites And The Right To Affordable Housing

In December 2007, at the height of Calgary’s housing crunch, a report emerged from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation that confirmed what many had long suspected: the cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in Calgary eclipsed that of all major Canadian cities, marking the first time since the CMHC started tracking the data that Calgary tenants paid more than their counterparts in Toronto and Vancouver.

What’s more, the cost of that two bedroom apartment had grown by 83% over the span of a decade, from the $595 paid on average in 1996, to the $1,089 required to rent an equivalent unit in 2007.

A poll conducted in 2008 found that due to this dramatic cost increase (combined with a critically low vacancy rate), half of those sleeping on Calgary streets were employed, including 200 working families – 190 of which included one or more children.

Even those fortunate enough to have secured affordable accommodations before the vacancy rate plummeted to 0.5% were’t immune.

Some Calgarians found themselves among the 2500 tenants unilaterally evicted as landlords raced to convert entire rental complexes into more profitable condominiums, while others faced seemingly obscure rent increases, leaving them little option but to pay hundreds of dollars extra per month in order to stave off eviction.

Such was the experience of Marni Armstrong, whose landlord hiked her rent by 150%, from $600 to $1500 per month in an effort to force her and others from their units so to hasten the process of condo conversion.

Despite widespread calls for the Province to implement rent controls, a measure overwhelmingly supported by homeowners (78%) and renters (92%) in both Calgary and Edmonton, the Stelmach government flatly rejected the idea, even refusing to consider it as a temporary measure.

Because of the Tories’ reluctance to intervene, hundreds, if not thousands, of Calgarians were effectively priced out of the market during the housing crisis, forced onto the streets despite having steady, if not multiple, sources of income.

Skip ahead to 2011, and evidently, little has changed.

According to the most recent data from the CMHC, the average cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in Calgary sits at $1,069 per month, virtually identical to the 2007 market. A 2011 report released by The City of Calgary Community and Neighbourhood Services Social Research Unit outlines the continual need for affordable housing alternativesin the city.

On affordable housing and homelessness, the report states “homelessness is not only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem.”

“In order to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary in the Private Rental Market without overspending on shelter, a person would need to earn a minimum wage of $20.62 per hour, which is an hourly shortfall of $11.82 over the current Alberta Minimum Wage of $8.80. Stated another way, 2.3 people would need to work full- time for a full-year at the current Alberta Minimum Wage of $8.80 to affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary.”

It estimates nearly 40,000 renters in Calgary who “simply cannot afford to pay average market rent [leaving] them at considerable risk of becoming homeless.”

Though Calgary’s city council cannot change decisions made at the provincial level (rent control, minimum wage), they posses the ability to expand the market of safe, affordable housing for both renters, and home owners, simply by making secondary suites legal throughout the city.

The measure currently being considered by city council, and endorsed by influential organizations including the CMHC, Calgary Chamber of Commerce (CCOC), Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB), Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region (CHBA), Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP), Urban Development Institute (UDI), Fraser Institute, Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), and the YWCA of Calgary, would be beneficial to all Calgarians, irrespective of age, race, gender, or income.

As noted by the CMHC, legalizing secondary suites is “a relatively inexpensive, low impact way to provide safe, affordable housing to Calgarians [which] affords the opportunity for renters to live in locations … close to their places of work, educational institutions or important services.”

Calgary home owners, both current and prospective, would also benefit from the legalization of secondary suites because rental income from legal suites can assist in paying down, or count toward qualifying for, a home mortgage. In essence, secondary suites make housing more affordable for all Calgarians, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Much of the opposition toward the broad legalization of secondary suites arises from the disconnect between the reality and perception of what constitutes a livable income, as well as attitudes toward those on the lowest end of the bracket.

A Salvation Army report examining Canadians’ attitudes toward poverty found over half of those surveyed believe a family of four “can get by on $30,000 a year or less, including 21 per cent who think $20,000 is enough.” According to Statistics Canada, a Canadian family of four earns, on average, $84.800 annually – more than double what is believed to be the absolute minimum.

On those living in poverty:

- 49 per cent believe if the unemployed really want to work, they’d find a job

- 43 per cent believe all you need to escape poverty is “a good work ethic”

- 41 per cent believe those in poverty “take advantage” of assistance programs

- 28 per cent believe those in poverty have lower moral values

- 23 per cent believe people live in poverty because they’re lazy

The fact is, people who live at or below the poverty line include  students, seniors, and those with struggling with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. They include single parents, working families, and immigrants new to the Country. Many living in poverty aren’t unemployed, but underemployed – possessing an extensive range of skills and training, but only able to find work in low paying positions.

For these people, having access to safe, affordable accommodations is often the vital first step toward escaping life on the brink.

Affordable housing should never be considered a privilege, but a basic human right.

Calgary prides itself on being a world class city, welcome to all who wish to enjoy the vast array of culture, diversity, and opportunity the city provides.

How attainable this ideal will be for future generations will depend entirely on the ability to afford the opportunity to call Calgary home, and the looming decision on secondary suites could prove to be the deciding factor.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

Calgary City Council will decide the fate of secondary suites THIS COMING MONDAY, March 7. It’s time to  Take Action, Calgary!

Contact Mayor Nenshi and/or your local Alderman and tell him/her to support the legalization of secondary suites – ALL contact information can be found HERE

Together we can keep the city moving forward, beyond outdated policies, and toward a Better Calgary.