Sunday, April 23, 2017

The British and French Elections, The West Wing and more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List April 16 - 23

This week's list of articles, news items and opinion pieces that I see as must reads if you are looking for a roundup that should be of interest to The Left Chapter readers.

This list covers the week of April 16 - April 23. It is generally in order of the date of the article's release.

1) Far-left veteran Melenchon draws big crowd as French election enters final straight

Johanna Decorse and Emmanuel Jarry, Reuters 

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon drew tens of thousands to a rally on Sunday, aiming to maintain momentum that has pushed the one-time outsider into contention in the French presidential election, with the first round of voting a week away.

Read the full article.


Luke Savage, Current Affairs

In the history of prestige tv, few dramas have had quite the cultural staying power of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing.

Set during the two terms of fictional Democratic President and Nobel Laureate in Economics  Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen) the show depicts the inner workings of a sympathetic liberal administration grappling with the daily exigencies of governing. Every procedure and protocol, every piece of political brokerage—from State of the Union addresses to legislative tugs of war to Supreme Court appointments—is recreated with an aesthetic authenticity enabled by ample production values (a single episode reportedly cost almost $3 million to produce) and rendered with a dramatic flair that stylizes all the bureaucratic banality of modern governance.

Read the full article.

3) Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet

Bill McKibben, The Guardian

Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it’s hard to look away – especially now that he’s discovered bombs. But precisely because everyone’s staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don’t believe me? Look one country north, at Justin Trudeau.

Read the full article.

4) Nuclear war has become thinkable again – we need a reminder of what it means

Paul Mason, The Guardian

Last week, Donald Trump deployed his superweapon Moab, the “mother of all bombs” – 10 tonnes of high explosive detonated in mid-air in such a way as to kill, it is claimed, 94 Isis militants. The Russian media immediately reminded us that their own thermobaric bomb – the “father of all bombs” – was four times as powerful: “Kids, meet Daddy,” was how the Kremlin mouthpiece Russia Today put it. But these are child’s play compared with nuclear weapons. The generation waking up to today’s Daily Mail strapline – “World holds its breath” – may need reminding what a nuclear weapon does.

Read the full article.

5) Fightback against austerity is essential

The Treaty 6 Justice Collective, Regina Leader-Post

There are moments in history when local politics have national, and even international, significance. Saskatchewan is currently living one of those moments.

Read the full article.

6) Ottawa police won’t protect abortion clinic despite pleas

Heather Mallick, The Toronto Star

One block away from Parliament Hill, even as Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai won over MPs in the House of Commons on April 12 by crying out for the rights of girls, a cruel and abhorrent scene was playing out on the street.

Read the full article.

7) Jeremy Corbyn says he will break political rules to overturn the ‘rigged system’

Jon Stone, The Independent 

Jeremy Corbyn will promise to overturn “the wealth extractors’ rigged system” of politics and prove his critics wrong by breaking the rules of the "cosy cartel" that runs British politics.

Read the full article. 

8) If you think "sex work is work", how can you be against sex for rent?

Glosswitch, New Statesman

The mainstream left has no right to be shocked about sex for rent. It’s the logical conclusion of a pseudo-feminist politics which refuses to engage fully with power and labour redistribution.

Read the full article.

9) Once-pristine Arctic Ocean contains 300 billion pieces of plastic, study suggests

Ian Johnston, The Independent

Hundreds of billions of pieces of plastic are floating in the once-pristine Arctic, according to a new study, in a startling indication of how polluted the planet has become.

Read the full article.

10) The Handmaid’s Tale Is a Warning to Conservative Women

Sarah Jones, New Republic

Like the Kingdom of God, the Republic of Gilead is both now and not yet. Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale conjures a theocratic dystopia—a version of the United States taken over by fundamentalist Christians after a terrorist attack on Washington. Women are now divided into rigid classes determined by an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible. Atwood’s protagonist, Offred, is a Handmaid—a fallen woman who is forced to bear children for righteous couples—and the book follows her sufferings under the Gilead regime. Atwood paints in garish strokes intended to shock: This new society calls homosexuality “gender treachery” and forbids women to read, own property, or choose their own clothing.

Read the full article.

11) Why calls for secularism in education is a facade

Sachin Maharaj and Nadir Shirazi, The Toronto Star

If the true intent is for our schools to be secular, we would move toward one publicly funded system in which all the major religious holidays of our students are recognized and celebrated.

Read the full article.

12) Jean-Luc Mélenchon should be French president. Here’s why

Olivier Tonneau, The Guardian

The leftwing politician is not out to destroy Europe: he is out to save it. La France Insoumise proposes a peaceful revolution towards a fair democratic society.

Read the full article.

13) America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

 Lynn Parramore, Institute of New Economic Thinking

A new book by economist Peter Temin finds that the U.S. is no longer one country, but dividing into two separate economic and political worlds.

Read the full article.

14) Let’s appreciate what the Fearless Girl represents, rather than tearing her down

Susan Cox, Feminist Current

Is the Fearless Girl statue facing down Wall Street’s Charging Bull a symbol of female empowerment or a corporate cooptation of it?

Read the full article.

15) Activist’s protest against practice of ‘carding’ derails Toronto police board meeting

Wendy Gillis, The Toronto Star

Meeting adjourned after journalist Desmond Cole refuses to leave following deputation. Of data collected on citizens by police, Cole said: “It was never your information to take in the first place.”

Read the full article.

16) Will We Abandon Women’s Rights in the Name of Progressive Politics?

Rebecca Traister, NY Magazine

The most disturbing thing to emerge from this week’s badly bungled Democratic “Unity Tour” staged by Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and new DNC head Tom Perez was the fact that the only thing on which the two men seemed to easily agree was that reproductive rights are not necessarily fundamental to progressive politics. This led to uproar and outrage among some precincts of the left, and eventually to mea culpas and “clarifications” from Sanders and Perez. But it is worth closely examining this fight over the importance of reproductive rights in the party because it is an argument that the Democrats seem to rehash over and over and over again.

Read the full article.

17) In The First Week Of Election Campaigning, Corbyn Has Outperformed May Significantly

Kerry Lanigan-Coyle, The Huffington Post

Flying start - two words that sum up the beginning of Labour’s general election campaign. In five days, Jeremy Corbyn has shown he has the passion and the plan in place to transform Britain in the interests of the many.

Read the full article.

18) Sanders-Backing Socialist Wins Big In Georgia City Council Race

Daniel Marans, The Huffington Post

A leading Black Lives Matter activist and self-identified democratic socialist named khalid kamau won a city council seat on Tuesday in South Fulton, Georgia, a newly incorporated municipality outside Atlanta.

Read the full article.

While this article is from before the period covered, it is an important read and has been included as well:

19) Burmese Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi Has Turned Into an Apologist for Genocide Against Muslims

Mehdi Hasan, The Intercept

AUNG SAN SUU KYI IS ONE of the most celebrated human rights icons of our age: Nobel Peace Laureate, winner of the Sakharov Prize, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an Amnesty International-recognized prisoner of conscience for 15 long years.

These days, however, she is also an apologist for genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass rape.

Read the full article.

See also: Mélenchon, US Bombings, Christie Blatchford & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List April 9 - 16

See also: Syria, Trump, the JDL & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List April 2 - April 9

Friday, April 21, 2017

Liberals, social democrats and union leaders have to stop helping to normalize Trump

Take a look at the photo above.

In it you will see Leo Gerard, the Canadian who rose to become President of the United Steelworkers (and a Vice-President of the AFL-CIO) accepting a pen as a ceremonial gift from President Donald Trump who had just used it to sign an executive memorandum that, in this specific case, Gerard was in favour of as it allegedly met the short term interests of his membership.

Think about this photo for a bit. It has been a scant few weeks (and even days) since this was the setting where this same President used other ceremonial pens to sign orders and memorandums that did terrible things like clawing back women's rights and trying to impose racist and bigoted immigration restrictions.

Yet here is the head of a union that claims to care about worker's rights, women, the racialized and the marginalized willingly being used as a photo-op for the White House and accepting little tokens, both literally and figuratively, from the Great Leader.

This really almost defies the imagination.

Even if Gerard favours the executive order on steel, it is absolutely shameful to see him directly help to normalize and legitimize the Trump Administration.

This is part of a truly foolhardy pattern of actions by many liberal, social democratic and union leaders in North America that sees them willing to celebrate various actions by Trump when it benefits their narrow perceived interests or their bankrupt foreign policy or pipeline ideas.

Both Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley have recently played this game.

The Trump Administration is a vile cesspool of misogyny, racism, bigotry, and fundamentally anti-union views and no one who claims to represent the interests of workers or to care about equality and social justice should be standing by that man's side at any such event, let alone serving as a prop that allows Trump to continue to try to represent himself as on the side of the American worker.

Not long after the inauguration I warned of how regimes like Trump's manage to establish themselves as the "new normal" and do so in no small part through the collaboration of their alleged opponents.

And, as was all too predictable, that same Trump that had millions marching in the street and liberals denouncing him, in somewhat hyperbolic terms, as a fascist who was a threat to the very fabric of American democracy, is now winning praise and willing acquiescence from many of these same people for flexing America's imperial muscle and for adopting a tone they see as more "presidential".

Trump is an exceptionally dangerous and deeply reactionary man whose regime is highly unpredictable as it is more closely tied to the delusions of his own megalomaniacal, ego-driven, authoritarian personality than it is to any coherent ideological idea and vision.

His administration needs to be opposed across-the-board and strongly on every front. There truly is no place to pander to it, legitimize it or to play into its narratives.

See also: Trump -- Reflections on the state and the revolution

See also: Justin Trudeau's dangerous Syrian Trump gambit

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When it comes to opportunistic hypocrisy on the environment, Rachel Notley is right up there with Trudeau

If you are among the growing number of people who are rightly outraged by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's hypocrisy on environmental issues then you should be equally outraged by the actions and stances of his newfound, close ally on these issues, Alberta's NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

In a recent widely shared article in The Guardian, American environmentalist Bill McKibben pointed to Trudeau's terrible record when it comes to anything but rhetoric:
Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5C (2.7F).
But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tar sands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet. 
One of the first things that President Trump did upon taking office was to reverse the environmentally and morally correct decision of his predecessor, Obama, to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. When he did this -- in defiance of basic logic around stopping climate change and with no regard for the widespread opposition of Native American activists to the project -- Trudeau quickly expressed how pleased he was in a moment that will, I assure you, be looked back upon with great shame one day not very long from now.

Right there with him in celebration was Notley.

To be clear, the Liberal Prime Minister and Canada's only New Democrat Premier united to herald the reversal of one of Obama's few principled environmental decisions by a newly minted President who rose to power on planks that included bigotry and extreme climate change denial and who has absolutely no regard for Native concerns or rights.

To call this a low moment for Canadian 'progressives' would be a profound understatement.

People need to understand the depth of just how craven actions like these are. As McKibben rightly pointed out:
 173bn barrels is indeed the estimate for recoverable oil in the tar sands. So let’s do some math. If Canada digs up that oil and sells it to people to burn, it will produce, according to the math whizzes at Oil Change International, 30% of the carbon necessary to take us past the 1.5C target that Canada helped set in Paris.
That is to say, Canada, which represents one half of 1% of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget. Trump is a creep and a danger and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite.
This having-your-cake-and-burning-it-too is central to Canada’s self-image/energy policy. McKenna, confronted by the veteran Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, said tartly: “We have an incredible climate change plan that includes putting a price on carbon pollution, also investing in clean innovation. But we also know we need to get our natural resources to market and we’re doing both.” Right.
But doing the second negates the first – in fact, it completely overwhelms it.
It is, basically put, utterly impossible to be serious about climate change and yet to think it acceptable and possible to exploit the tar sands without seriously exacerbating an already existential threat to human existence.

To justify such bald, overt and grotesque hypocrisy with the usual right wing rhetoric about jobs and the economy simply makes it all that much worse by reinforcing the basic arguments that leaders like Harper and Trump and that the right and the business community use every single day to derail and to stop any attempt to do anything at all to end the destruction and havoc being caused at an ever accelerating pace by fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry.

Defenders of Notley on the left will point to the "difficult position" she is in, or to her government's progressive actions and policies, as well as to how she is an improvement over the past Conservative governments the province had for decades -- as if this is a standard that should be used as a bar for anything.

Yes, Notley is not as bad as the extreme wing of Canadian conservatism in Alberta that ultimately gave us the Reform Party and Stephen Harper! Well done.

But one way Notley is no different from those who came before her in Alberta is in her coldly calculated willingness to put her own narrow provincial political interests ahead of everything else.

So it is that she has shamefully barred any of the members or staff of her government from helping the BC NDP in its efforts to end over 20 years of deeply reactionary and destructive Liberal Party governance there, due exclusively to their opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This makes clear that Notley will de facto support any politician, even one as awful as Christy Clark, to push Alberta's pipeline and tar sands agenda and to stay in power. That Clark's regime has been terrible for B.C. workers, those living in poverty, Native Peoples, tenants, women and just about any part of the population that New Democrats are supposed to care about apparently does not factor in at all.

They are not Albertan, so too bad for them I guess.

New Democrats might want to consider what this will mean in the coming federal election if they have a leader like Peter Julian or Niki Ashton who are strongly opposed to building new pipelines. It is rather clear that they will not be able to count on any solidarity or support from Notley who appears to be taking bankrupt Canadian social democracy's fixation on "power" to its logical conclusion.

Notley's government is developing as the ultimate poisoned chalice for the NDP with a level of sheer opportunism that leads it to be willing to align itself with anyone from Trump to Trudeau to Clark who will back its tar sands and pipeline agenda regardless of not just how harmful this agenda is in-and-of-itself to the planet and for climate change, but also of how odious the broader policies of these new 'friends' may be overall.

See also: NDP Minister Brian Mason and Libertarian Party Leader Tim Moen agree! Jane Fonda is the problem, not climate change.

See also: The threat of climate change is immediate and real -- Ending 'car culture' is a key part of combating it

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Ale Your Great-Grandfather Drank: Great Moments in Canadian Capitalist Advertising

Well, if he is having one....

But "The Ale Your Great - Grandfather Drank" really seals the deal.

Clearly 1938's best Canadian advertising slogan.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chili Garlic Shrimp

Today we are going to take a look an easy and quick way to make a mildly spicy and very tasty shrimp dish that can either be a side dish, a great afternoon snack with cold beer, or a light main if served with some ramen or udon style noodles.

It can even be prepared using thawed precooked shrimp, though it is best made using uncooked, peeled shrimp which really takes almost no time at all.

The ingredient portions listed here work for around a pound of shrimp.


2 minced cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon chopped or grated ginger
1 medium diced onion
1 heaping tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
3/4 cup vegetable broth or, if you have it, 3/4 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of Vegeta seasoning

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat and add the onion, ginger and garlic. Saute for around 1-2 minutes and then (if uncooked) add the shrimp and chili garlic sauce, mustard powder and saute stirring constantly for around 2 more minutes.

Add the broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the shrimp are done to your liking. Shrimp cook very quickly and when they have that classic, pink shrimp look they are done!

If you are using precooked shrimp follow all the steps but do not add the shrimp until the very end and simmer them for only around 2 minutes.

Pour all the saucepan's ingredients in a large serving bowl and, if desired, garnish with some chopped green onion.


See also: Fiery Caribbean style peel-and-eat shrimp

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Is there a need for immunization in Canada? An echo from a darker past reminds us the answer is unequivocally yes!

One of the latest "trends" that most amazes me is the astonishing and profoundly harmful numbers of people in Canada who pass around total conspiracy thinking nonsense about immunizations and vaccines for children and whose willful ignorance undermines enormously successful efforts that were made to eradicate many devastating and horrible conditions in the 20th century.

"Anti-vaxxers", as they are known, prey on people's credulity and lack of scientific knowledge to perpetuate falsehoods that fly in the face of the actual and clear historical record that shows directly the hugely beneficial impact widespread immunization programs have had.

Recently I came across a leaflet from 1951 that was published for the "Seventh National Health Week" and that looked at the progress modern medicine was making on a number of fronts as well as at the distance there still was to go in combating preventable illness.

The leaflet is interesting in a number of areas, but where it is most illustrative from a present day perspective is in the area of immunizations.

At the time vaccines for conditions like diphtheria were available but still were not nearly as widespread in their usage as they needed to be. Even so, despite a lack of universality they were already having a significant positive impact when used and available.

This is nothing compared to the incredible impact they were to have over the coming decades with widespread public health campaigns in schools and more broadly.

Before we go into the numbers here, please note that in 1949 Canada's population was 13,177,00 and that today it stands at 36,433,000.

Between 1943 and 1949 there were 9,856 cases of polio in Canada (the overwhelming majority of which would have been among children and youth) leading to 605 deaths as well as what would have been a lifetime of health issues for those who survived. At the time this leaflet was published there was still no vaccine against it. 

What about today? "Thanks to immunization, Canada has been polio free for the last 20 years." Yes, that is right, not a single case of polio. Seems pretty clear cut to me.

Between 1943 and 1949 there were 14,595 cases of diphtheria resulting in 1,399 deaths. This was, in fact, actually a huge decline from previous years thanks to immunization as can be seen above. In Toronto they had even eliminated diphtheria. 

People have forgotten how horrific diphtheria is. Here are a couple of images to serve as a reminder:

This child has severe neck swelling due to diphtheria. 

Respiratory diphtheria affects the mucous membrane of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms include a mild fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, malaise and loss of appetite. Sites of infection can include the anterior nose, pharynx/tonsils or the larynx. The most common manifestation that leads to systemic infection is pharyngeal/tonsillar diphtheria. It can progress to acute respiratory distress, upper airway obstruction and asphyxia in young children. An adherent, asymmetrical, greyish-white membrane is visible on the tonsils and oropharynx typically within 2 to 3 days of illness.
Patients with severe disease may develop notable swelling in the neck area giving the characteristic bull neck appearance. Systemic complications such as myocarditis and central nervous system effects (such as muscle paralysis) can occur. This happens if the toxin produced at the site of infection is absorbed into the bloodstream. The case-fatality rate is about 5% to 10%.

Localized infection of the skin (cutaneous diphtheria) may occur. It manifests as various types of lesions which can be indistinguishable from impetigo. Cutaneous diphtheria is rarely associated with systemic complications.

Why have people forgotten? Because, thanks to immunization basically no one in Canada gets diphtheria anymore! 

In Canada: "Since 1993, a total of 19 cases have been reported with a range of 0 to 4 cases annually...The last death due to diphtheria in Canada was reported in 2010."

In the case of "Whooping Cough" (pertussis), immunization has led to a dramatic decline in incidence. Whereas between 1943 and 1949 there were 76,679 recorded cases of it in Canada resulting in 2,047 deaths, now, with a far higher population, we see between 1,000 and 3,000 cases a year with few deaths.

However pertussis has made a bit of a comeback with periodic outbreaks directly due to people either not immunizing their children or delaying immunization. Given that the inoculation for pertussis "is included in a vaccine that typically also protects against diphtheria, tetanus and polio", this is very alarming.

The 1951 leaflet asks, "Is there a need for immunization in Canada?" and the answer both then and now is a resounding Yes! There is no serious case against immunization that is not predicated on ignoring the evidence or on distortions and misrepresentations of the scientific record. It is a peculiar and disturbing form of privilege and scientific illiteracy that would lead people in a society that has so obviously and dramatically benefited from public, mass immunization to turn their backs on it as some kind of bizarre, internet fed fad.

 Immunize your kids! It is your responsibility to both them and to society, and the historical evidence of its efficacy is absolutely, unequivocally clear. 

Mélenchon, US Bombings, Christie Blatchford & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List April 9 - 16

This week's list of articles, news items and opinion pieces that I see as must reads if you are looking for a roundup that should be of interest to The Left Chapter readers.

This list covers the week of April 9 - April 16. It is generally in order of the date of the article's release.

1) Is There Any Accountability for Canadian Columnists? A response to Christie Blatchford's astonishing column about a sex assault survivor

Mandi Gray, Robson Crim Legal Blog

On March 15, 2017, the National Post published an opinion piece titled “Mandi Gray’s Astonishing Remark at Sex Assault Appeal Hearing: It’s Not Worth It” by Christie Blatchford. Blatchford’s commentary solidifies why sexual assault is often unreported, especially if the perpetrator is in a position of power.

Read the full article.

2) Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon shakes up France's presidential race

Agence France-Presse, The Guardian

The French Communist-backed presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is closing in on the frontrunners Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, according to new polls.

Read the full article.

3) Migrants from west Africa being ‘sold in Libyan slave markets’

Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home.

Read the full article.

4) Great Barrier Reef at 'terminal stage': scientists despair at latest coral bleaching data

Christopher Knaus and Nick Evershed, The Guardian

'Last year was bad enough, this is a disaster,’ says one expert as Australia Research Council finds fresh damage across 8,000km

Read the full article.

5) Alberta Catholic high school under fire for pro-life presentation comparing abortion to Holocaust

Emily Mertz. Global News

A Catholic high school in Red Deer is being criticized for a pro-life presentation to students that compared abortion to the Holocaust.

The presentation in March by Red Deer and Area Pro Life was recorded by a student at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School during a mandatory Grade 10-12 religion class.

Read the full article.

6) Sean Spicer: ‘Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons’

David Edwards, Raw Story

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer asserted on Tuesday that Adolf Hitler had never used “chemical weapons.”

Read the full article.

7) The Latest San Bernardino Shooting Reveals A Far More Common Form Of Terror

 Melissa Jeltsen, The Huffington Post

When news of an active shooter inside an elementary school broke on Monday morning, it triggered panic and alarm. For residents of San Bernardino, California, a community still reeling from the trauma of a terrorist attack that killed 14 people less than two years ago, it was as though a fresh wound had been ripped wide open.

But as the details of the shooting emerged, it became clear that what took place inside that classroom was driven by domestic violence, not ideology. The story police told was as American as apple pie: A rage-filled man taking his wife’s life.

Read the full article.

8) France is angry. The left must show Europe that bigotry is not the answer

Owen Jones, The Guardian

The radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is surging in the presidential election, challenging far-right xenophobia and the complacency of the centre

Paisley Dodds, The Toronto Star

“Imagine if the UN was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera,” said one lawyer in Haiti, where UN peacekeepers face hundreds of allegations of child sex crimes.

Desmond Cole, The Toronto Star

Police oversight in Ontario isn’t broken — it is designed to protect police from accountability, and in that sense it’s working just fine.

After years of public discontent, the provincial government recently launched a comprehensive review of three police oversight bodies. The Special Investigations Unit, which looks into any death, serious injury, or allegation of sexual assault involving police, is the agency most tied to public trust, and therefore the one most in need of an overhaul.

The Real News Network

Vijay Prashad and Paul Jay ask if the US "mother of all bombs" dropped on Afghanistan and the missile attack on a Syrian airbase, are PR events to show Trump and the US military will "fight without restraint" and "take on Russia"

Tariq Ali, The Guardian

A century after the Bolsheviks seized power for communism, Tariq Ali chooses some of the best books about an uprising that changed the world forever.

Socialist Worker

April 13 marks the one-year anniversary of the start of a nationwide strike at Verizon that won important gains for Verizon workers. Danny Katch talked to Dominic Renda, a call center worker and member of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1105, and Amy Muldoon, a technician and shop steward in CWA Local 1106, about their memories of the strike, and some of the lessons it can hold for workers and others fighting to defend their rights under the Trump presidency.

The Canadian Press

Alberta's NDP premier has a message for anyone in her government who is thinking of going to British Columbia to campaign for the New Democrats in that province's election: Think again.

Nika Knight, Common Dreams

In a surprising twist in the French presidential election, leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is surging in the polls, raising the possibility of a run-off vote between the pro-worker and pro-immigrant candidate and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Murray Dobbin, Counterpunch

The irrational has begun to dominate our politics as if the American virus has stealthily moved north to infect our national narratives. It reflects itself in various ways but it seems that war – old wars, current wars and future wars – have gripped the minds of our political elite and their courtiers in the media. Most problematic is Chrystia Freeland whose well-documented hostility towards Russia raises questions about her suitability for the Foreign Affairs post. She got off almost scot free for blatantly lying about her Nazi grandfather. Justin Trudeau lost his reason regarding the US missile attack on Syria and we were subjected to an extra-heavy dose of non-sense about Vimy Ridge with Trudeau opining that ‘this was Canada at its best.’.

Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Guardian

Locals describe the moment the ‘mother of all bombs’ was dropped, as critics question the wisdom of deploying the weapon.

Gregory Shupak, Middle East Eye

When the US accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun and then bombed Syria's Shayrat air base, the secular priesthood in the US media praised the supposed morality of the US air strikes.

Read the full article.

Also, on April 13th a debate was held in Toronto around the idea of a Basic Income.

"The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been championed by both progressives and conservatives. Not everyone on the left, however, is behind the idea. Is the UBI a means of redistributing wealth, attacking poverty and protecting workers from technological displacement? Or will basic income serve to advance an agenda of austerity and privatization? This important debate features two speakers speaking in favour of the left support for Basic Income and two against."

Socialist Project posted a video of the entire debate which you can watch here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The True Triumph of Working People Comes Only With Socialism! - Communist Comics

“Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land,
A hard-working man and brave.
He said to the rich, ‘Give your money to the poor,’
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.”—Woody Guthrie

But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour. 

- Karl Marx & Frederick Engels

Illustrations by Rius from the illustrated Quixote Classic Communist Manifesto, 1975 (Their order has been rearranged from the original). 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Trudeau's Refusal to Stand Up to Trump A Disgrace

Guest Editorial by Robert McCarthy

By now we have all heard about the U.S. administration's air strikes on Syria. The news of these attacks have sparked sadness, outrage, and an outpouring of support for the people of Syria. My social media was flooded with responses to the attack from people who normally don't comment on political issues. The majority of the responses I have seen were wonderfully and typically Canadian.

The day after the attack Prime Minister Trudeau came out with a statement that goes against everything Canada stands for. The first sentence in his statement reads: "Canada fully supports the United States’ limited and focused action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against innocent civilians, including many children." Nothing could be further from the truth. The Canadian people have always been a voice for peace, even when our government wasn't. It was the Canadian people who put pressure on the Liberal government of the day, lead by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien, to not join the United States in the invasion of Iraq. Without this pressure from the people, there is a chance that Canada would have fallen in line with this invasion.

Mr. Trudeau's statement does not speak for the majority of Canadians. The Canadian people are peaceful and always come together to show support to the people in countries abroad when they are faced with war and many other issues. It's time the Trudeau government does the same.

Robert McCarthy lives in Sudbury, Ontario and has been an NDP activist and the Disability Rights Representative on the Federal Sudbury NDP Executive since 2008.

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See also: Justin Trudeau's dangerous Syrian Trump gambit

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Syria, Trump, the JDL & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List April 2 - April 9

This week's list of articles, news items and opinion pieces that I see as must reads if you are looking for a roundup that should be of interest to The Left Chapter readers.

This list covers the week of April 2 - April 9. It is generally in order of the date of the article's release.

1) NDP differences on international policy need to be debated

Yves Engler, Rabble

There has yet to be a single question about foreign policy in the NDP’s first two leadership debates, but some contenders say they want the party to devote a forum to international affairs.

Read the full article.

2) Russell Peters's 'joke' about young women had no place at the Junos

Kira-Lynn Ferderber, The Ottawa Citizen

Many of us in Ottawa’s music community were very excited to have our city host the Juno Awards on Sunday night; unfortunately, the show quickly took an unpleasant turn. Co-host Russell Peters chose to open the evening by looking out at the crowd gathered at the Canadian Tire Centre and commenting “Look at all the young girls. This is a felony waiting to happen.”

Read the full article. 


Warren Kinsella, The War Room

The Soldiers of Odin is a rapidly-growing far-Right anti-refugee, anti-immigrant racist organization now found across Canada.  Experts call them a terror group.  More on them here and here.

The Jewish Defence League is a far-Right group that has itself been classified as extremist by the FBI for many years, and its parent organizations Kach and Kahane Chai are now officially terrorist organizations in Israel, Canada, the E.U. and the United States.  More here and here.  The JDL wasn’t always that way, as I write in Web of Hate, but it sure is now.

And now the JDL stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Muslim and immigrant-hating Soldiers of Odin.  An organization founded by an actual neo-Nazi.

Read the full article.

4) Suspended police officers make Ontario's Sunshine List

Mike Crawley, CBC News

At least 15 police officers in Ontario earned more than $100,000 each in 2016 while sitting at home for most or all of the year, suspended over criminal charges yet collecting their full pay, an exclusive CBC Toronto analysis reveals.

Read the full article. 

5) South Sudan Is Officially In Famine. This Is What That Means

Ian Wishart, The Huffington Post

The first famine in six years has been declared in the world's newest nation, South Sudan. To understand just how dire the situation is, you need to understand the United Nations' reluctance to use the f-word: famine.

John Paul Tasker, CBC News

Senator Lynn Beyak has been removed from the Senate's Aboriginal peoples committee, interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose told CBC News in an interview Wednesday.

The Guardian

Iceland’s parliament has presented a bill that would require public and private businesses to prove they offer equal pay to employees, in what would be the first such requirement in the world.

Read the full article.

9) Mishandling of sex-assault cases violates right to equality, lawsuit alleges

Robyn Doolittle, The Globe and Mail

The 18-year-old Western University student whose sexual-assault allegation was dismissed as “unfounded” by a detective who relied on rape myths and stereotypes during his investigation was the victim of systemic discrimination based on gender, a lawsuit filed against the officer and the London Police Services Board on Friday alleges.

Read the full article.

10) Spineless Social Democracy

Thorvaldur Gylfason, Social Europe

Of all social democratic parties in Europe none has fared worse at the polls of late than Iceland’s Social Democratic Alliance. Whereas in the parliamentary election of 2003 it won 20 out of 63 seats in Parliament, it barely cleared the 5% threshold in the 2016 election, securing three seats, all in rural constituencies. The reasons for this spectacular fall from grace may hold lessons for other social democratic parties.

Read the full article.

11) Federal judge blocks Pence's Indiana law requiring women to get an ultrasound before they get an abortion

Timothy Mclaughlin, Reuters

A U.S. federal judge blocked an Indiana measure requiring women to have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before undergoing an abortion, saying that the mandate was unnecessary and a burden to low-income women.

Read the full article.

12) Toronto’s Jewish Defence League Fascists

Yves Engler, Dissident Voices

We live in strange and dangerous times. While Toronto thugs export their violence and extremist ideology to the USA and the Jewish Defence League works with neo-fascists to bash Muslims, the dominant Canadian media has placed a cone of silence over these disturbing developments.

Read the full article. 

13) How does a pundit get neo-Nazi fans? This is how.

Bernie Farber, iPolitics

If you’ve ever been through the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, you know that it’s a heart-searing, life-changing experience. It tells the story of one of the most terrible acts in recorded history: the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children during the Second World War.

Read the full article.

14) Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers

Mary Emily O'Hara, NBC News

With little notice, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that advocates say rolls back hard-fought victories for women in the workplace.

Read the full article.

15) Trump administration halts money to UN population fund over abortion rules

Liz Ford and Nadia Khomami, The Guardian

The US state department said on Monday it was ending funding for the UN population fund (UNFPA) – the first concrete move in what activists describe as President Donald Trump’s “crusade against the health and rights of women and girls globally”.

Read the full article.

16) Unarmed. Not wearing a seatbelt. Running away. Police are more likely to shoot if you’re black

Neil Bedi and Connie Humburg, The Tampa Bay Times

In the past three years, police shootings have sparked an unprecedented series of protests across the country.

Groups led by Black Lives Matter said the shootings were part of a larger pattern of racial discrimination.

Read the full article.

17) U.S. Is Helping Israel Annex So Much Land, Palestinians Could Have Essentially Nothing

Democracy Now

Last month, a U.N. agency sparked controversy when it published a report accusing Israel of imposing an "apartheid regime" on the Palestinians. The report came the same month the Israeli government took the extreme step of banning non-Israeli citizens who endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement from entering Israel. For more, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky.

Read, watch and listen.

18) Boxer Custio Clayton says he was racially profiled by Montreal police

Kalina Laframboise, CBC News

Former Canadian Olympic boxer Custio Clayton says he was racially profiled — detained without reason, handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of being a drug dealer by Montreal police on Tuesday night.

Read the full article.

19) I’m not going to answer the same question about being fat any more

Lindy West, The Guardian

This morning at 8:15am some man with a cool life navigated to my YouTube page, found a five-year-old video in which I taste-test an unpleasant seasonal cookie, and typed the comment: “It’s like watching a reallllllly slow suicide.” Men have been leaving similar comments on this video obsessively for the past five years: “You fucking disgusting pig. KILL YOURSELF.” “You actually posted a video of the time when your fat ass got really super excited about eating seasonal, promotional candy.” “Fugly dumpling stuffs her gullet on youtube. Disgusting.” The video is monetised; my husband asked me today whether I’ve made any money off of it. I told him I think YouTube sent me a check for $100 (£80) once. That’s it.

Read the full article.

20) Of Course Donald Trump Doesn’t Think Bill O’Reilly Did Anything Wrong

 Rebecca Traister, New York Magazine

By every rational measure, “Donald Trump Defends Bill O’Reilly on Sexual Harrassment Allegations” should be the least surprising headline of any given day.

Read the full article.

21) Halifax police sign on to ‘start by believing’ sex-assault campaign

Les Perreaux, The Globe and Mail

Halifax police have signed on to a slow-growing movement of municipal forces adopting a “start by believing” approach to sexual-assault complaints in the hope of hastening a culture change among officers and encouraging victims to come forward.

Read the full article.

22) Hero or villain? The Livingstone question

David Rosenberg, Rebel Notes

My favourite political image among the protests and street activism that has marked the first three months of 2017 is a banner held on the St Patrick’s Day parade. It proclaimed:”More Blacks! More dogs! More Irish!” – mocking the daily racism of the 1960s when people looking for homes were confronted by openly discriminatory window signs rejecting applicants from these categories. The first Race Relations Act of 1968 finally knocked that appalling behaviour on the head, but not the sentiments behind it. It took another 20 years of grassroots campaigns led by victims of racism, finally aided by another layer of government, to normalise anti-racism and explicitly promote multiculturalism.

Read the full article.

23) The Last 5 Presidents In A Row Have Bombed Iraq

Darius Shahtahmasebi, Activist Post

Who is to blame for the current state of chaos in Iraq? An oversimplified and misguided, if not dishonest course of action would be to blame Iraqis for being the radical, death-cult worshiping fanatics they are and ignore America’s foreign policy decision-making, which led to the current situation. In turn, one could place Iraq on a travel ban list of nations that doesn’t include any of the countries that created and support al-Qaeda (and then nonsensically remove them from your revised list some weeks later).

Read the full article.

24) Trump lifts ban on hunting hibernating bears

Daksha Rangan, The Weather Network

The state of Alaska is home to 16 U.S. national wildlife refuges and a vast variety of iconic animals — two of which are now fair game for hunters.

Read the full article. 

25) Government unveils eight-page 'rape assessment form' for mothers hit by tax credit cuts

Jon Stone, The Independent

Women who have a child conceived due to rape will have to fill in an eight-page form to prevent the Government from withdrawing their tax credits.

Read the full article.

26) Community and Police Action Committee faces barrage of criticism over wristbands

Simon Gardner, CBC News

At a meeting of a committee that works to improve relations between diverse communities and Ottawa police, speaker after speaker ripped into the force over a controversial wristband campaign supporting an officer charged with manslaughter.

Read the full article.

27) No good will come of Trump's Syria strike

Ryan Cooper, The Week

On Thursday night, the Trump administration abruptly announced that it had launched more than 50 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield, in retaliation for the apparent use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians by Bashar al-Assad.

Read the full article.

28) Trump's Strike has Prolonged the Syrian Tragedy

Chris Nineham, Socialist Project Bullet

Trump's attack on the Shayrat airbase in Syria has received plaudits from western politicians and commentators across the board. Liberal pundits, who had nothing but contempt for Trump days ago, are suddenly more respectful after this show of lethal force, even though most would probably accept The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland's caveat that despite this virtuous show of violence, Trump is still not to be wholly trusted.

Read the full article. 

29) Brendan Cox, Husband Of Murdered Jo, Warns Of The Rise Of Fascism

Chris York, The Huffington Post

The husband of murdered MP Jo Cox has warned of the growing dangers of fascism and extreme right-wing politics.

Brendan Cox, whose wife was stabbed and shot by a right-wing extremist outside her constituency office last June, said communities need to stand together against division and hate.

Read the full article. 

In addition to these articles, the following two articles from prior to this past week are worth sharing in the roundup as well:

30) Colin Kaepernick Saw This Coming

Dria Roland, Complex

In pop culture years, 2012 was ages ago. But try to remember. That was the year quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the first half of the Niners game against the Rams in Week 10, and a backup QB named Colin Kaepernick had to fill in. The game ended in a tie, the NFL's first in four years. The next week Kaepernick started, and led the team to victory. And even after Smith was declared healthy, Kaepernick continued to start—and to win. A "quarterback controversy" brewed, but coach Harbaugh went with the guy "with the hot hand," as they say.

Read the full article. 

31) Israel Is an Apartheid State (Even if the UN Report Has Been Withdrawn)

Jakob Reimann, Foreign Policy Journal

A withdrawn UN report's conclusion that the criminal occupation of Palestine and Israel's racist policies toward Palestinians are "apartheid" remain true.

Read the full article. 

See also: Canada 150, Saskatchewan Austerity, the Ottawa Police & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List March 26 - April 2

See also: Climate Change, Police Malfeasance, Lenin & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List March 19 - 26

In Honour of Paul Robeson's Birthday - Music and Resistance

Once he did not exist
But his voice was there, waiting 

- Pablo Neruda, Ode to Paul Robeson

Today is the 119th birthday of one of the towering figures of 20th Century American musical and political history, Paul Robeson.

Despite his groundbreaking work on the stage and in film during the Jim Crow era, despite his  astonishing talent as a singer and despite his lifelong work and struggle against American institutionalized racism and capitalism, he has been largely written out of this history due to his dedicated commitment to the cause of Communism and broader human liberation as well as his steadfast opposition to American imperialism.

Robeson is a genuine hero who was a man of tremendous personal courage. He was also a "Renaissance Man" who was a giant in any number of artistic, sporting and intellectual disciplines and pursuits.

There have been few figures like Paul Robeson.

Robeson stood in the streets of Republican Spain as it faced the Fascist counterrevolution, he refused to bend during the dark days of McCarthyism and he never wavered in  his principles from opposing the war in Vietnam to ending colonialism.

In 1973, on the occasion of his 75th birthday a group of prominent Americans ranging from Dizzy Gillespie to Pete Seeger to Harry Belafonte organized to celebrate the man and his work. Part of this included the publication of a retrospective about him and his incredible story.

Here we look at some of the most notable and memorable parts of this book as well as at some of his stirring and moving musical performances. And we also see the statements of respect and solidarity that came from around the world.

A luta continua, vitória é certa!

(click on images to enlarge)

Because you sing,
they know that the sea exists
and that the sea sings.

They know that the sea is free, wide and full of flowers
as your voice, my brother

The sun is ours. The earth will be ours.
Tower of the sea, you will go on singing.

Pablo Neruda, Ode to Paul Robeson