Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The right wing tin foil hats are out in the wake of the Quebec City terrorist attack

What to do when the narrative you want to be true turns out not to be? On the anti-Islamic fringes of the Canadian right it seems it is then always time to turn to those Kellyanne Conway "Alternative Facts"!

After the horrific -- and now very clearly anti-Islamic -- terrorist hate crime committed at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night there was, for a short period of a few hours, some confusion as to who the police thought might be involved.

Quebec police took two men into custody. One of the two was Mohamed Belkhadir who was identified as being an immigrant from Morocco. As a result of this fact, as The Intercept noted:
Almost immediately, various news outlets and political figures depicted the shooter as Muslim. Right-wing nationalist tabloids in the UK instantly linked it to Islamic violence...
...White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer exploited the attack to justify President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said at this afternoon’s briefing when speaking of the Quebec City attack.
Likewise on the Canadian right there were those who made similar comments.

Later it turned out that the Quebec police had made a mistake and that Belkhadir was an innocent witness who had been at the mosque, had tried to render assistance to victims and had been apprehended when he tried to flee police as he did not realize he was being approached by police officers as opposed to possible attackers.

Quebec police determined that Belkhadir was not involved and released him. Police then announced that it was only the other person who had been arrested -- a white nationalist right wing extremist named Alexandre Bissonnette -- who is now alleged to have been the shooter. Belkhadir has been totally cleared.

These sorts of initially mistaken media and police reports, arrests, statements, and eyewitness comments are, of course, incredibly common in the chaotic aftermath of such terrible crimes and while they sadly are then used by conspiracy theorists as "proof" of a cover-up it makes perfect sense they would occur. The CBC explained why it initially reported the names of both Belkhadir and Bissonnette, then took both names down when the police announced they were not both culpable until finally posting Bissonnette's name as the alleged perpetrator when the police clarified matter. There is nothing nefarious about this -- there was an investigation that established that a person that the police had thought might be involved was not.

But this, of course, upended the notion that rather than being a racist attack on Muslims it was actually a terrorist attack by Muslims.

So it was time for the tin foil hats to come out.

The increasingly Alex Jonesesque commentator and Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah took to Twitter to raise the specter of a cover-up!

Seriously. This would also presumably mean that the Quebec police are part of this plot trying to cover-up a "MuslimOnMulsim" terror attack because of their long established, deep solidarity with people of the Islamic faith. That "seems" very believable.

And, needless to say, Rebel Media had to get in on the act. Ezra Levant and crew sent "journalist" Faith Goldy to Quebec City to file a report "Quebec Terror: Blame Trump, Ignore Witnesses" that talks about reports of "second shooters", claims to ask all the challenging questions, etc and to assure readers that "unlike the mainstream media, we’ll follow the FACTS — wherever they lead."

This is pretty disgraceful.

And who has got one of the banner advertisements right above these Rebel Media dispatches from the deluded?

Update: It turns out that Rebel Media is actually using the Quebec Mosque attack to fund raise so that their "reporter" can continue to sow doubts and to allegedly find out "What’s really going on at the mosque in Quebec City?" 

How grotesque is that? Even by Rebel Media's staggeringly low standards, it is pretty revolting.

Monday, January 30, 2017

"Miriam is my name and refugee is my profession"


Miriam is my name
and refugee is my profession.
My father is dead,
and my mother too.
My house...what house?
a tent is my home!
I had a home
a pretty one, with a garden
of pink stones,
roses and jasmine.
We lived happily,
in peace and tranquility;
the world was ours
in all of its immensity.
Our plot of ground
my father cultivated lovingly;
in the school, my brother
was the beloved teacher;
my mother, so good
so pure and so holy,
sacrificed her life,
so that we should lack nothing.
Until one day...
the worst of all...!
the demons arrived
sowing terror!
With bombs and cannons,
they blew up our houses,
and with bayonets and machine-guns,
they murdered all the people...!
Like beasts of the night,
they came by surprise;
the sleeping people
were their easy prey.
The savage assassins
killed almost everyone;
and crowned
their villainous heroism
with plunder.
Blood flowed
like sinister streams
and the sky
appeared to be made of fire.
My father and the men
like heroes defended us:
but how? Could they confront
the tanks
with their bare breasts?
My heroine mother
is now in heaven.
She fell as a martyr
defending her home
We, terrified
remained among the corpses...
waiting for death
to save us from "them"!
At dawn we arose
tinged in our blood
and found ourselves crouched
amidst the rubble.
We were taken to the hospital
to cure our wounds...
those of the body...the others, of the soul
never...they are too deep.
From there they took us,
where?...to misery.

They called us refugees
and exhibited us in the market places
in every country
they deplored the fact we were orphans,
and they made us a city
of caves and tents.

Brothers and sisters of all humanity
from your conscience
we hope for justice.

from the poem "Miriam", Tricontinental Magazine, No. 93 / 3-1984

Miriam was one of the refugee children uprooted and banished from her home in Palestine. She wrote these verses that were published in Tricontinental Magazine in 1984.

They speak powerfully to the universal need across time and nation to defend and support the rights of the refugee. Always. Everywhere. People -- human beings -- displaced and driven from their homes by the horrors of violence. 

The illustrations are from the magazine issue in question and accompanied the poem. 

See also: Deportee

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Trump Administration, O'Leary, the Women's Marches & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List January 22-29

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 January 22 - 29. It is in order of date of the article's release.

1) Donald Trump Signs Anti-Abortion Executive Order Surrounded By Men

Amanda Terkel, The Huffington Post

On Monday, surrounded by other white men, President Donald Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order that has far-reaching consequences for women’s reproductive health access worldwide.

Read the full article.

2) Benoit Hamon - the 'French Bernie Sanders' - goes from underdog to Socialist favourite


Benoit Hamon, who was a surprise winner of the first round of the French Socialists' presidential primary on Sunday, was the furthest to the left of the top three contenders.

Read the full article.

3) Nova Scotia village hosts one of the smallest women's marches, but it's still mighty

Jennifer MacMillan, CBC News

The village of Sandy Cove, N.S., may have just 65 year-round residents, but its voice is being heard by thousands around the world.

Gwen Quigley Wilson and Melissa Merritt, who both live in the area, wanted to join the millions of people who marched worldwide for women's rights on Saturday, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration.

But it's a 2.5-hour drive to Halifax, where the biggest local march was taking place. So they decided to organize their own march.

Read the full article.

4) You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.

 Dina Leygerman, The Bigger Picture

Say thank you. Say thank you to the women who gave you a voice. Say thank you to the women who were arrested and imprisoned and beaten and gassed for you to have a voice. Say thank you to the women who refused to back down, to the women who fought tirelessly to give you a voice. Say thank you to the women who put their lives on hold, who –lucky for you — did not have “better things to do” than to march and protest and rally for your voice. So you don’t feel like a “second class citizen.” So you get to feel “equal.”

Read the full article.

5) Women's March Organizer Linda Sarsour Is Under Attack on Social Media

Mattie Khan, Elle

One of the organizers of the Women's March is under attack this morning, following reports from conservative news sites like The Daily Caller that accused her of having ties to terrorists. Linda Sarsour, a Muslim-American woman, has been an activist for decades and is widely respected for her dedication to progressive causes.

Read the full article.

6) With Donald Trump as President, Americans Are Flocking to Socialism

Kate Aronoff, In These Time

One evening the week before Christmas, about 100 people squeezed into a room in the Brooklyn Free School, located on one of central Brooklyn’s posher streets. The private school’s chair collection exhausted itself within minutes as attendees packed the room for the monthly meeting of the Brooklyn chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—which, just a month earlier, had fit easily into the same space.

Read the full article. 

7) Why we should listen to anarchists in the age of Trump

Nathan Schneider, America: The Jesuit Review 

Among the sweeping changes that President Donald J. Trump has already brought to Washington with his inauguration is the specter of window-breaking anarchists.

“Less than two miles from the inaugural ceremonies,” The Washington Post reported on the front page of its website on Friday evening, “anarchists marched through the city’s streets, smashing bus-stop glass, vandalizing businesses and lighting fires.” It goes unexplained how the paper was able to confirm that these protesters were adherents of anarchist political philosophy, since fascists, soccer fans and others have been known for such conduct at times. (To The Post’s credit, at least, if these are the same protesters who also punched white nationalist Richard Spencer in the face, that pretty well points in the anarchist direction.) But whatever you think of such mayhem, or regardless of whom you accuse of it, anarchism is a tradition of thought and practice that we would do well to reconsider in times such as this.

Read the full article.

8) Trump and Netanyahu Are Going To Get Jews Killed — Unless They Change Course

Peter Beinart, Forward

When the mass violence starts, and some Israeli Jews die, and many more huddle in bomb shelters, I won’t write a column like this. I won’t write a column like this because when Jewish blood flows, it changes the conversation. American Jews became less tolerant of criticism of Israel. And I feel less comfortable offering it. When the next intifada begins, I’ll write more cautiously for fear of causing pain to my fellow Jews, who will already be suffering enough.

Read the full article. 

9) Don't shame the first steps of a resistance

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Socialist Worker

The United States has just experienced a corporate hijacking. If Trump's inaugural speech did not alert you to the fact that they intend to come after all of us, then you are not paying attention.

The scale of the attack is as deep as it is wide, and this means that we will need a mass movement to confront it. To organize such a movement necessarily means that it will involve the previously uninitiated--those who are new to activism and organizing. We have to welcome those people and stop the arrogant and moralistic chastising of anyone who is not as "woke."

Read the full article. 

10) Trump Gives Green Light To Keystone, Dakota Access Pipelines

Brian Naylor, NPR

President Trump on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for construction of two controversial oil pipelines, the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access.

Read the full article.

11) Democracy is Not a Team Sport

Kristine Mattis, Counterpunch

Once, at a check-up in Wisconsin, a nice young dental hygienist asked me if I followed the Green Bay Packers. She happened to be a huge fan, bristling with excitement about the upcoming game. I hail from a different state, have lived in a number of cities, and never cared much for football. No, I was not a fan. In fact, I always enjoyed playing sports more than watching them. Nevertheless, the woman went on to talk about her team for the entire time she cleaned my teeth.

Read the full article. 

12) Toronto police threaten to seize phone of man lawfully filming arrest

Wendy Gillis, The Toronto Star

“Clearly there is more work that we have to do. This is very much a teaching moment,” says Toronto police spokesperson after man lawfully filming an arrest was told to stop recording, then threatened with having his phone seized.

Read the full article.

13) Irish women to go on strike in protest of country's abortion ban

Siobhan Fenton, The Independent

Women in Ireland are going on strike to protest the country’s abortion ban.

Pro-choice women will refuse to attend work on 8 March, as part of direct action to make the government pay attention to growing frustration over lack of reproductive rights.

Read the full article.

14) Is the left with Trump against the TPP?

Pranav Jani, Socialist Worker

I hate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Donald Trump also opposes. But labor and the left need to make sure we don't fall into the trap of Trump's economic nationalism--which is just changing the terms by which U.S. capitalism exploits the working population at home, while trying to keep its global dominance against China's rise.

Trump's rhetoric and even threatened action against free trade--a border tax on U.S. companies that move production, restrictions on exports and imports--are calculated to continue the myth that he is for ordinary working people.

Read the full article.

15) White House sources say Trump was ‘visibly enraged’ at the size of the Women’s March: report

David Edwards, Raw Story

President Donald Trump became “visibly enraged” over the weekend when he saw that the Women’s March dwarfed the size of his inauguration crowd, The Washington Post reported.

White House sources told the Post that Trump’s celebratory mood turned to “flashes of anger” less than 24 hours after he took office.

Read the full article.

16) Let’s Talk About How Bell Fired Me After I Asked For Mental-Health Leave

Maria Mclean, Canadaland 

Today, a giant Canadian company is doing a wonderful thing for mental health awareness. The hashtag #BellLetsTalk will be used a record-setting number of times and will raise a record-setting amount of money. Tomorrow, praise will rain down on Bell for their record-setting generosity, and all I’ll be able to think about is how Bell responded to my mental health needs when they were my employer. They fired me.

Read the full article.

17) Let’s Talk About The Corporatization of Mental Health

Hana Shafi, Torontoist

While Bell Let's Talk Day strives for mental health awareness, Toronto critics say there are better ways to start conversations.

Read the full article.

18) How the Star got its O'Leary poll story dead wrong

Paul Adams, iPolitics

It isn’t always the polls getting it wrong. Sometimes it’s the journalists.

Here’s a newsflash: The polls in the election that delivered us Donald Trump weren’t the problem. The journalists and commentators who reported on them — they were the problem.

Read the full article.

19) Premier Kathleen Wynne bombarded on social media by homophobic, sexist abuse

 Mike Crawley, CBC News

The replies to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Twitter are not for the faint of heart.
The tweets at Wynne predominantly express anger about her record and most stay within the bounds of fair comment, not crossing the line into personal abuse. Such calls as "Resign!" "You're incompetent!" and "Worst premier ever!" are now simply part of the deal for a politician in the era of social media.

But Wynne also draws a significant number of abusive, sexist and homophobic tweets.

Read the full article.

20) Jimmy Snuka probably murdered Nancy Argentino. Don’t forget that.

Josh Kolic, The Hoop and the Harm

Nancy Argentino.

If you are going to remember anything about this piece, it should be that name. It’s one of the few things that has been brought up in the days since Jimmy Snuka passed away.

Nancy Argentino was 23 when she died. Her life – like all lives – meant much more than being the possible murder victim of a famous professional wrestler.

Read the full article.

21) "I'm Afraid They Are Out to Kill": Water Protectors Testify to Police Violence at Standing Rock

Democracy Now

On Tuesday, Donald Trump took action to revive the contested Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. He signed the presidential memorandum as water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota were gathered to testify to a wide range of police abuse. One of those to testify was Diné water protector Marcus Mitchell, who has lost sight in his left eye after being hit by a bean bag round fired by police last week. We hear his testimony and then get response from water protector Bobbi Jean Three Legs of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and longtime Anishinaabe activist Winona LaDuke.

Read the full article.

22) Toronto police can't stop you from filming them, nor seize your phone, lawyer says

John Rieti, CBC News

The man who captured video of Toronto police officers using a stun gun on a pinned suspect "absolutely" had the right to record that footage, a criminal lawyer says.

Read the full article.

23) 3.2 million people and you still can’t see us

 Kate McInturff, Behind the Numbers

An estimated 3.2 million people turned out for Women’s Marches around the world on Saturday. The sea of protesters had barely arrived on the Washington Mall before the questions started: “Where will this protest movement go? Do they have a plan? Is this just a one-off event?”

Read the full article.

24) Why non-Indigenous support for Joseph Boyden should set off alarm bells

Alicia Elliot, CBC Arts

I must admit, until the Joseph Boyden controversy started, I never thought I'd see white men in national newspapers arguing against Canada's colonial definition of "Indian." I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. After all, there is a uniquely Canadian history of rewarding "good Indians" and punishing "bad Indians."

Read the full article.

25) Strike for $15: Food service workers ready to take on Aramark

CJ Chanco, Rand and File

Cafeteria workers at York University and the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Scarborough campus are gearing up for a joint strike in February. The workers are employed by Aramark, which is contracted out by the universities to provide food service on their campuses.

Read the full article.

26) Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will.

Alicia Garza, Mic

I’ve been grappling with how to challenge cynicism in a moment that requires all of us to show up differently.

On Saturday, I joined more than a million women in Washington, D.C., to register my opposition to the new regime. Participating in the Women’s March — if you count satellite protests around the country, the largest one-day mobilization in the history of the United States — was both symbolic and challenging.

Read the full article.

27) Here are the potential sinister motives behind Donald Trump's voter fraud lie

Lawrence Douglas. The Guardian

During the third presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump whether he would “absolutely accept the result of the election” should he lose. What Wallace neglected to ask was whether Trump would accept the result if he won.

Read the full article.

28) Chicago To Trump: Go F*ck Yourself

 Dominic Gwinn, Wonkette

Donald Trump looks at Chicago and sees one thing: a war-torn post-apocalyptic hellscape. On the campaign trail he barked about the dismal homicide rate and claimed that he alone could stop Chicago’s crime within three weeks. Just last month he tweeted that Chicago should ask for federal aid to fix its beleaguered police, a gesture that was met with pursed lips and blank stares. Then he had to send his latest 140 character tantrum into the ether, threatening to impose martial law.

Read the full article.

29) Kevin O'Leary's 'Misogynistic' Remarks Are A Warning Sign: Arlene Dickinson

Maham Abedi, The Huffington Post

Arlene Dickinson says Kevin O'Leary's latest "misogynistic" jab at her proves exactly why Conservatives are better off without him as leader.

Read the full article.

30) Jacqueline Craig Case: Leaked Bodycam Video Shows Cop’s Violent Arrest of Mom Seeking Help 

Kirsten West Savali, The Root

The Fort Worth Police Department has dropped charges against Jacqueline Craig, 46, and her daughter, Brea Hymond, 19, and will not pursue charges against Officer William Martin for the violent Dec. 21 arrests of Craig and her daughters, Dallas News reports.

Read the full article.

31) Take my class, Indigenous studies prof tells Manitoba premier after 'racist' comments

CBC News

The head of the Native Studies department at the University of Manitoba is inviting Premier Brian Pallister to attend his class after comments from Pallister critics are calling inflammatory, disgusting and racist.

Read the full article. 

32) Onlookers yell at man drowning in a Venice canal: ‘Go back where you came from’

Amanda Erickson, The Washington Post

As the man bobbed in the water, onlookers pulled out their smartphones.

“Go on, go back where you came from,”one man yelled. “Africa!” shouted another. “He is stupid. He wants to die,” said a third, caught on film. Someone in a nearby water bus threw out a life vest, but the man in the water didn't grab on. Spectators began to wonder if he was suicidal. One woman suggested to a neighbor that he was just pretending.

Read the full article.

33) This powerful Twitter account is sharing the names of Jewish refugees the US turned away in 1939

Zak Cheney Rice, Mic

In May 1939, as the Nazis were tightening their chokehold on Europe, the United States government rejected the SS St. Louis, a German passenger vessel carrying 937 refugees who were trying to dock at the Port of Miami.

Read the full article.

34) A top White House official told the media to 'keep its mouth shut'. That's a threat

Francine Prose, The Guardian

Anyone who cares about language has been repeatedly appalled by the crudeness of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and by the thuggishness of the directives issued by Trump and his cohorts. They have instructed the American people on what to believe, whom to hate and how badly they can behave. And yet we continue to be surprised by each bullying pronouncement, most recently by chief White House strategist Stephen K Bannon’s suggestion that the “humiliated” media might do well to “keep its mouth shut”.

Read the full article.

35) Against amnesia: The empire under Obama

Khury Petersen-Smith, Socialist Worker

Even before Barack Obama left office, an effort was underway to secure his legacy as a progressive and an idealist. And now that Trump has taken the throne of American power, the mythology surrounding the Obama years will only grow.

The myth presents Obama as a tragic figure: committed to a progressive agenda, but more committed to national unity. This idealism, the story goes, left Obama open to a relentless, racist opposition by the Republicans that hamstrung his presidency from the start.

The Republicans' racism and efforts to undermine Obama at every turn are undeniable facts. But an honest assessment of Obama's presidency needs to go further--to look at the unforgivable actions that he, and not the Republicans, is responsible for, particularly beyond the borders of the U.S.

Read the full article.

36) Toronto woman's Facebook photos from Women's March flooded with sexist comments

Ali Chiasson, CBC News

The Women's March in Toronto on Jan. 21 saw thousands of people gathering in solidarity for equal rights and female empowerment, but all that positivity was suddenly swept away for one Toronto woman when she checked the photo album she posted on her Facebook page the next day.

Read the full article.

37) Canada considering global fund to counter Trump abortion directive

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says Canada will increase its funding for global sexual and reproductive rights, possibly through a safe-abortion fund announced by the Netherlands this week that was in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s order banning U.S. funding for any organizations that mention abortion.

Read the full article. 

38) Jewish groups pan Trump for signing refugee ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day

 Laura Koran, CNN

Many organizations that advocate for refugees slammed President Donald Trump's executive action Friday imposing "extreme vetting" on those fleeing to America, among them Jewish groups that took particular exception to the day on which he signed it: Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Read the full article.

39) Trump official justifies travel ban with attack that would not have been stopped by new rules

Athena Jones, CNN

A senior Trump administration official on Saturday pointed to the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, to justify the President's order to ban US immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.

But neither of the attackers in the shooting, which left 14 people dead, would have been affected by the new ban.

Read the full article.

40) A Federal Judge Just Issued a Stay Against Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban"

Mother Jones

A federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay Saturday night against President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigration from certain predominantly Muslim countries, temporarily allowing people who have landed in the United States with a valid visa to remain.

The ruling—a stunning defeat for Trump at the end of his first week in office—protects from deportation refugees or visa holders who were detained at American airports since the signing of so-called "Muslim ban." It also protects those in transit when the emergency ruling was filed.

Read the full article.

41) The Lawyers Showed Up

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

For weeks, we have been wondering about the lawyers. What suits would they file? Would they have standing? Could they have any impact? Today, the lawyers showed up. Bigly. And happily, for America, the courts are still independent, and largely allergic to “alternative facts.” This is a country where the law matters and the Constitution endures. And it’s also a country in which hordes of lawyers just showed up at airports to defend detained travelers ensnared under Donald Trump’s lawless and unconstitutional Muslim ban.

Read the full article.

42) Jeremy Corbyn calls for Donald Trump to be banned from UK visit until Muslim country travel ban is lifted

Jon Stone, The Independent

Donald Trump should be blocked from making his planned state visit to the UK as long as his "Muslim ban" policy remains in place, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader said Theresa May should not be endorsing Mr Trump until it was clear his Government was "actually going to protect fundamental rights and freedoms and laws".

Read the full article.

43) If Trump is a fascist, he may be the most backassward fascist we’ve ever seen

Corey Robin

Rousseau thought that in a real democracy, each person would be so concerned with the fate of the republic that at any sign of a problem, she’d “fly to the assemblies” to make things right. Tonight she flew to the airports.

Read the full article.

44) Mexico to Israel: Dismayed, Disappointed With Netanyahu's Support of Trump's Wall

Barak Ravid, Haaretz

'Mexico is a friend of Israel, and must be treated as such by its prime minister,' its Foreign Ministry says, noting that it had expressed its solidarity with Israel only a day earlier, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Read the full article.

See also: The Women's Marches, the Inauguration, Saskatchewan Austerity & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List January 15-22

See also: Obama's Lies, Male Violence, Meryl Streep & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List January 8-15

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wynne's anti-democratic, unprincipled retreat on road tolls shows that in Ontario politics the car is still king

In a staggering display of political cowardice combined with a Mike Harris worthy contempt for local democracy, Premier Kathleen Wynne has reversed her position on allowing road tolls in Toronto as a revenue tool. Now she and her Liberal government will not grant the city of Toronto the authority to impose tolls on the DVP and Gardiner highways despite the fact that the city bears the full costs for the maintenance and operation of them.

This is an outrageous slap in the face to the people of the city, though it is a political calculation that makes a certain amount of sense despite the Liberal stranglehold on seats in Toronto (where the toll plan was popular) as both the NDP and the Conservatives had already positioned themselves as in opposition to the toll plan.

In one of the more egregious moments in her fundamentally misguided campaign to pander to right wing populist narratives ONDP leader Andrea Horwath had aligned herself with the Conservatives and Patrick Brown on the issue and had backed his motion in opposition to the city's plan despite the fact that doing so aided and played into nonsensical anti-tax platitudes that are entirely reactionary.

But the ONDP having already alienated many Toronto progressives on the issue left the door wide open for Wynne to do the same so as to try to appease the 905 vote while knowing that the Toronto pro-toll voters have nowhere to turn.

To be sure there were many legitimate reasons to be critical of John Tory's toll plan but this is not what led Wynne to her decision. Rather we see here again the incredible political power of the cult of the car and car driving and the deep-seated fear that politicians have in  taking even the most minor steps to confront North America's utterly unsustainable car culture.

On full display as well is the cynicism of 905 politicians like  Oshawa Mayor John Henry who celebrated this overruling and undermining of civic democracy calling the unilateral cancellation of the plan by the province "great news" for his constituents who drive into Toronto who will now get to continue to freeload using very expensive infrastructure that they do not have to pay for in anyway.

In our politics the car remains king and all of the most ludicrous reactionary nonsense, much of which flies in the face of reality is trotted out to defend this -- including by many people on the left.

Year after year after year tolls on transit users (which is what transit fares are) increase -- the people who can least afford such increases statistically by far -- while the right of the well-to-do and middle class to drive wherever they want, whenever they want, by themselves if they want is massively subsidized by the government on every level imaginable.

Few people realize the extent to which car usage depends on direct government intervention. This is true in terms of the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry (subsidies that even the IMF found were harmful to those living in poverty) but also in other dramatic ways as well such as the allocation of public space.

Yves Engler wrote of this is "Private Cars, Socialized Costs":

When are capitalists in favour of public ownership? When it earns them a profit. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than when looking at car companies.
As auto interests have pocketed stupendous profits over the past century they’ve also pushed to socialize huge amounts of urban land. While this may contradict textbook economics, capitalists often prioritize socialized costs/privatized profits over “free markets”....
...Cars are produced for profit, owned by private individuals, but are completely dependent upon public roads. It is even hard to conceive of a large-scale privately owned road network. While there are a good number of toll highways financed and operated by private corporations, it is almost impossible to envision an entire city road system — let alone that of a province or nation — financed and operated privately. Simply put, cars need roads and the state must pay for them; otherwise most of us would still be riding public transit because an unsubsidized private automobile would be too expensive and too inefficient.
But even the suggestion that car drivers should pay an amount that would have been 1/3 less than a one way trip fare on the TTC to use Toronto's highways is shot down as too politically risky.

Again we see that it is impossible to get people in North America -- who are through their patterns of behavior, privilege and consumption literally destroying the planet -- to endure even the slightest increased cost or inconvenience to try to move people out of their vehicles or to at least help to lessen the extent to which we all collectively finance the private individual's ability to drive at will.

This is true even though anyone who claims they believe in the very alarming facts of climate science and climate change must know that the levels and types of car usage that exist now are not environmentally, economically and morally sustainable.

Not even in the short term.

Given the opposition of many progressives to expanding the oil sands or to the reckless building of oil pipelines one has to ask, if they oppose things like tolls, what, exactly, do they think all those oil sands and pipelines are there for? Car culture is not an abstraction. Its impact is devastating and very real.

Thanks in part to a coalition of New Democrats and Conservatives it is clear that not only is Tory's halfhearted plan off the table but so would be any serious plan to use tolls and other methods, such as enforced car pooling or ending subsidies to fossil fuels, to create significant disincentives to driving and to generate revenue to put into public transit while doing so.

Wynne's running roughshod over the right of Toronto's democratically elected city council to implement tolls to pay costs that Toronto is solely on the hook for shows just how central the mythology of the automobile is in our broader political discourse and just how far away we are, with timing rapidly running out, from taking the real steps that would be needed to curb car culture and to at least help to try to mitigate impending climate catastrophe.

Further Reading:

When it comes to the need to confront car culture head on I have written previously and in more depth of this in the past in these articles (among others):

It is time for a war on the car

What is with all the Ontario left ranting about road tolls and Toronto 'elites'?

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

I also cannot speak highly enough of Yves Engler's four part series The Great Toronto Toll Debate. This series begins with On Toronto Tolls, Marxists Align with Auto Industrial Complex and ends with Suburban Sprawl: An Enemy of the Left.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Leonard Hutchinson and the Social Realist Art of Canadian Working Class Resistance in the 30s

Leonard Hutchinson was a Canadian artist whose incredible artistic social realist takes on life and struggle during the Great Depression have, sadly, largely slipped into relative obscurity.

Hutchinson was born in Manchester, England in 1896 and emigrated to Canada in 1913 eventually moving to Hamilton after the First World War. Hutchinson died in 1980, but it was just prior to the Depression that he mastered a technique of creating art that the prints of which would then be made from wood blocks. The idea was to make his art more affordable and broadly available.

Hutchinson's art is searing, powerful and evocative of this era of mass poverty, social dislocation and working class resistance. It strikingly conveys the time and place and is anchored among the workers of Hamilton and area.

One of the few retrospective looks at Hutchinson to have been put into print was done by the Canadian Liberation Movement in 1975 as part of its "Toward a People's Art" series of books. The CLM was a far left nationalist group that saw Canada as little more than a US colony and that fought for the creation of a working class anti-imperialist movement.

The book they published "Leonard Hutchinson, People's Artist: Ten Years of Struggle 1930 to 1940", though long out-of-print, is well worth tracking down for its full page reproductions.

Today we look at a selection of some of these remarkable pieces.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Road to Erie

Covered Bridge

St. Jacobs

Tobacco Workers (Bright Leaf) 

Tobacco Worker

Dover Boats (Pt. Dover)

Bridge at Port Dover

Blacksmith Shop

Canadian Homes and Gardens




Worker's Picnic

Grist Mill (Doon)

Old Barn with Windmill


Saw Mill (Twelve Mile Creek)

See also: The Art of Resistance: Sketches of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front 1964 - 1966 Part II

See also: Sketches of the Soviet Union in the 70's: Anton Refregier -- Part II Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia, Turkmenia and Georgia

Wednesday, January 25, 2017



The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"

My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

(aka. "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos")
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Martin Hoffman

What's past is prologue

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Women's Marches, the Inauguration, Saskatchewan Austerity & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List January 15-22

San Francisco March via Maris Lawson, Twitter
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.

There are many related to the incredible and historic display of women's resistance in the wake of the inauguration of the racist, homophobic and bigoted Donald Trump as American President.

This list covers the week of January 15 - 22. It is in order of date of the article's release.

Calla Wahlquist, The Guardian 

Ninety per cent of people living in rural and regional Australia believe they are already experiencing the impacts of climate change and 46% believe coal-fired power stations should be phased out, according to a new study.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

A proposed agreement to compensate women who endured sexual harassment as employees of the RCMP has passed a key hurdle, with a Federal Court judge agreeing two lawsuits against the police force can proceed as a class action.

Alison Durkee, Mic

Jan. 16 marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day honoring the legacy and achievements of one of the foremost leaders from the civil rights movement. 

But while male leaders like King and Malcolm X are renowned for their contributions to the influential movement, the role women played in the civil rights struggle goes largely unnoticed. Americans may know the names of Rosa Parks or Coretta Scott King, but the numerous other women who played key roles in the fight for equal rights are too often wiped from the history books.

Salim Muwakkil, In These Times

Eight years ago, many African Americans—including me—entered a state of near-delirium when a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois was elected the first black president of the United States. I watched that election unfold just blocks from the new president’s house, in Chicago’s upscale Kenwood neighborhood, in a home full of politically hardened black baby boomers. Tears were visible in most eyes. Few of us had believed we’d live long enough to see a black POTUS. Barack Hussein Obama’s victory seemed to vindicate the heroic struggles of so many unnamed ancestors. 

Warren Thomas, OPSEU

Nobody wants a strike. But when your employer asks you to accept a deal that would turn your good, middle-class job into a bad job, then you have no choice. You’re going on strike.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz

They gathered in the narrow street, on a cold and dark night. They were tense. The howl of a distant jackal broke the silence. For some, this was their first operational mission. They’d always dreamed of it, and they’d been in training for a long time. The adrenaline was flowing, just the way they liked it. That’s what they enlisted for.

Simon Enoch, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

It is now abundantly clear that the Saskatchewan government’s “transformational change” agenda is in reality a not-so-subtle euphemism for fiscal austerity in response to the current economic downturn. Recently announced spending cuts in health ($63.9 million), education ($8.7 million) and social services ($9.2 million), coupled with comments from the premier suggesting significant public sector layoffs and wage cuts make it clear that the government’s plan for the economy is to “cut its way to growth.”

Joe Soss, Jacobin

The New York Times’ front-page attack on food stamps over the weekend peddled harmful myths and outright lies.

Toronto March via Don Breithaupt, Facebook

Larry Elliott, The Guardian

The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth.

Murray Mandryk, Regina Leader-Post

The government made it official Friday — at least, to those who control public sector salaries. Saskatchewan is freezing the wages of all civil servants.

Michael Chessum, The Guardian

I don’t even like cupcakes that much – and I despise the practice, which is sadly becoming more widespread, of playing out the left’s internal squabbles on the pages of newspapers. But the picture painted by leaked emails from Momentum’s steering committee last week, in which I urged my colleagues to “eat cupcakes and think about butterflies” in a frustrated plea to them to step back from the brink of a split, is worthy of elaboration. The coup currently under way in Momentum tells us something bigger about the need for the left to rethink its strategy.

Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report

Mocking, protesting and ridiculing Big Cheeto before and after inauguration will be big fun. But storms of ridicule did not drive Ronald Reagan or Dubya from office. Mockery that only undermines the legitimacy of evil persons rather than the capitalist system makes us nothing more than the warm up for Corey Booker or whoever Democrats nominate next. Left messages, memes and hashtags need to eviscerate Trump but also to educate people.

Chris Floyd, Counterpunch

Saturday Night Live had a really funny ha-ha joke the other night. Making fun of Trump’s whiny tweet asking “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” the funny ha-ha SNL news guy said brightly: “Of course not! At least Nazi Germany had the guts to take on Russia!”

Eternity Martis, Daily Xtra

Pride Toronto’s members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping police out of this year’s and future parades, and to endorse all of Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demands.

Nicholas Boyle, The New European

There is a great lie peddled about the referendum: that it expressed the will of the British people. The pattern of voting showed up a colossal divergence between England, with its Welsh appendage, on the one hand, and Scotland and Northern Ireland on the other.

Don Snyder, Forward

Jews in Europe are voicing increasing consternation about Israel’s budding engagement with surging far-right European parties that have anti-Semitic histories.

Rachel Revesz, The Independent

Denver March via Vox
A woman has filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, accusing him of sexual assault.

The woman’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, told the press her client filed a lawsuit on Tuesday.

At least a dozen women previously accused the President-elect of sexual assault and he strongly denied all the claims. Only one person filed a lawsuit against him but dropped the case shortly after she failed to reveal her identity at a press conference.

J. Hoberman, Tablet

Sterne [Stars], an East German-Bulgarian co-production that won a major prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and thereafter fell into obscurity, is itself the story of a memory on the brink of oblivion—a movie in which, for a few hours, time stands still before swallowing its protagonists.

Kehinde Andrews, Leah Green and Bruno Rinvolucri - The Guardian

Dead white men are revered by many as responsible for the advancement of civilisation, says sociology professor Kehinde Andrews. But, he argues, this so-called progress came at the expense of millions of people of colour. Global inequality is not an accident, he argues – it is designed to keep the hierarchy of race intact.

Harriet Agerholm, The Independent

Incoming US President Donald Trump has said he will wage war on Isis, vowing to "bomb the s*** out of 'em".

And as the world gears up for a seemingly more violent four years, it is worth reflecting on President Obama's tenure

Justin Gillis, The New York Times

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

Desmond Cole, The Toronto Star

For Mayor John Tory money was no object for an ill conceived subway expansion and repairing the Gardiner expressway, even if we had to borrow it. But on housing the mayor is crying poor.

Derick Flack, Blog TO

A proposal for a new park system connecting various green spaces along a hydro corridor on the west side of Toronto has taken a major step forward at the outset of 2017. The idea for the Green Line, which takes inspiration from New York's High Line, dates back to 2012, but now there's finally a budget and design team in place to realize the vision.

Micah White, The Guardian

Shortly after Donald Trump’s shock election victory, I received an urgent call from one of the co-creators of the Women’s March on Washington. She was concerned at a moment you might expect her to be ecstatic. Hundreds of thousands of women in 17 countries had already signed on in solidarity, and the numbers kept growing. Yet despite the tremendous momentum, she confessed a nagging skepticism about the effectiveness of the protest.

Jody Paterson, The Globe and Mail

Arthur Manuel was born into indigenous activism. Working with the seeds his father, George, first sowed in the 1970s in the early days of Canada’s indigenous rights movement, the tireless B.C. aboriginal leader was on the front lines of the international fight for aboriginal title and self-determination right up until he drew his last breath.


Reid Wilson, The Hill

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) turned out en masse at ordinarily sleepy party caucuses earlier this month, electing a slate of delegates who could be poised to take over the largest Democratic Party organization outside of Washington, D.C.

Mike Crawley, CBC News

Labour groups are optimistic Premier Kathleen Wynne and her provincial Liberals will follow Alberta's lead and commit to raising Ontario's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

CBC News

The internet can be a pretty intolerant place, and it may be getting worse.

An analysis of Canada's online behaviour commissioned by CBC's Marketplace suggests a 600 per cent jump in the past year in how often Canadians use language online that's racist, Islamophobic, sexist or otherwise intolerant. 

David Harding, Yahoo News UK

Police officers in Bristol tasered their own force’s black Race Relations Advisor in the face – after mistaking him for a wanted man.

Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian

Gérard Singer, a retired clerk in the French social security system, was queuing up for a Socialist party rally on the edge of Paris in the freezing cold, and the mood was grim. “The Socialist party is in the shit,” he sighed.

Benjamin Shingler, CBC News

Françoise David, a longtime activist and one of the founders of Québec Solidaire, is leaving political life. 

Jeff Sparrow, The Guardian

In a recent article, the novelist and academic China Miéville warns progressives against adopting the cynical savviness so characteristic of mainstream punditry.

“Becoming a radical critic of capitalism,” Miéville writes, “involves a process of disenchantment, the dying of surprise at the system’s depredations; but being one, a long-term witness to those depredations, is to repeatedly discover that we can be shocked by what no longer surprises us.”

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has postponed the vote on Trump’s education pick Betsy DeVos, hours after receiving the completed ethics review for the Michigan billionaire.

Dan Froomkin, The Intercept

For those of us who believe in core progressive American values – multiculturalism, civil liberty and civil rights, free speech, a free press, truth in government, economic fairness, environmental protection, inclusiveness, equal justice, a humane society, the list goes on – today marks the first day of a disaster on a scale that until a few months ago was beyond our imagination.

Shaun King, The New York Daily News

We are here. It is real. It is sad. It is ugly. I hoped we could somehow avoid it, but the moment is upon us. Today is one of the dumbest days in American history.

The Guardian Editorial Board

In its outward details, the orderly transfer of American presidential power accomplished in the inauguration-day scene on Capitol Hill today felt time-honoured. The ceremonial essentials of the occasion – the stars and stripes banners, the dignitaries and the prescribed rituals of the swearings-in – were familiar and traditional. Political rivals took their places on the podium as they do every four years, shook hands and applauded one another, offering gracious compliments and providing a show of national dignity.

Yet all this was in fact a sham. Donald Trump’s inaugural address was a declaration of war on everything represented by these choreographed civilities. President Trump – it’s time to begin to get used to those jarringly ill-fitting words – did not conjure a deathless phrase for the day. His words will not lodge in the brain in any of the various uplifting ways that the likes of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy or Reagan once achieved. But the new president’s message could not have been clearer. He came to shatter the veneer of unity and continuity represented by the peaceful handover. And he may have succeeded. In 1933, Roosevelt challenged the world to overcome fear. In 2017, Mr Trump told the world to be very afraid.

Darrell Etherington, Tech Crunch

Trump’s administration is acting quickly to dangerously reimagine reality. It has deleted all specific mentions of “climate change” and “global warming,” as well as removed an entire page dedicated to the subject at the http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/climate-change URL, which is no longer an active link.

Sacramento March via Shirin Rajaee Twitter

Sarah Buhr, Tech Crunch

And so the transition of power begins. First up is the WhiteHouse.gov site where several pages are now changing or altogether disappearing — including a page on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

John Wright, NCRM

Turnout for Saturday's anti-Trump Women's March on Washington has already exceeded attendance at the inauguration on Friday, according to multiple reports. 

Jason Easley, Politics USA

Millions of Americans have taken to the streets from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between as the Women's Marches on Washington is estimated to be the biggest one-day protest in US history.

Jade Hernandez and Amy Powell, ABC News

The streets were flooded with crowds of people attending the Women's March in downtown Los Angeles Saturday.

Max Greenwood, The Hill

The marching portion of the Women’s March on Chicago was cancelled on Saturday after the crowd ballooned to 150,000, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Initial estimates placed the event’s expected attendance at about 22,000. That number was eventually raised to 50,000. But that estimate ultimately fell short too, prompting organizers to cancel the actual march because the planned route had become too congested.

"Our march route is flooded. There is no safe way to march. We are just going to sing and dance and make our voices heard here," organizer Ann Scholhamer told a portion of the crowd.

While the march itself was cancelled, the rally portion of the event is scheduled to go on, according to the Tribune report.

“We called and you came. We have flooded the march route. We have flooded Chicago," organizer Liz Radford told the crowd.

Hillary Johnstone, CBC News

Thousands of people marched through downtown Ottawa on Saturday in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington — to raise awareness for women's rights and human rights — as U.S. President Donald Trump marks his first full day in office.

Timothy B. Lee, Vox

Women from across the country have converged on Washington, DC, on Saturday for a massive rally to protest Donald Trump’s election and promote women’s rights. At the same time, there have been rallies organized in major — and not so major — cities across the country.

Daniel Politi, Slate

Protests around the world via Nick Bilton, Twitter
Organizers and city officials were expecting around 200,000 protesters in Washington on Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington. But the turnout surpassed all expectations as the demonstration grew into a more than a half-million–strong force that could turn out to be larger than the crowds that gathered for Donald Trump’s inauguration. The result of this much larger-than-expected crowd was evident to anyone who tried to join using any form of public transportation as trains and subways overflowed with people trying to make it into downtown Washington.

Adam Lusher, The Independent

Donald Trump is so unpopular that there are even women marching against him in Antarctica.
The day after the inauguration of a president who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals, thousands will be marching in Washington and in more than 60 countries around the world, to “stand up for human rights, women’s rights and against hate.”

Mother Jones

Dramatically larger than expected crowds showed up Saturday at women's marches in Washington, DC, and more than 600 cities around the world. Mother Jones reporters have been on the scene all day, interviewing protesters and gathering photos and video. In this roundup we've collected some of what they saw, as well as highlights from across social media.