When you look back on 2016, you may think of all the greats we lost like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and, most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. You may also remember it as the year the UK decided to leave the EU or the year the US decided to leave its senses politically.

No matter how you saw it, though, you have to admit that quite a bit happened. With that in mind, we take a look back at 2016 in the News.

As this post had two authors, parenthetical initials indicate if the section was written by Jason C. McLean (JCM) or Mirna Djukic (MD).

Canadian Politics

2016 was the first year of the post-Harper era and it was an agitated one in federal politics.

Justin Trudeau’s popularity soared for a while, still largely carried by the expectations built during his campaign and his undisputable quality of not being Stephen Harper. To his credit, he did score some significant points in his first months in office by immediately opening the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and rebuilding relationships with our neighbours (which gave us both the most hilarious handshake attempt of all time and the TrudObama Bromance).

One of the first flies in the ointment was the infamous #elbowgate incident in the House of Commons.  Last May, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to escort Conservative Whip Gordon Brown through a cluster of opposition MPs in order to move the procedures along and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. This was perhaps a fairly embarrassing show of temper for the PM, but it degenerated into something out of a Shakespearian comedy in the following days, with Trudeau issuing apology after apology and the opposition throwing words like “molested” around.

Inopportune elbows aside, the Liberals took quite a few steps during the year that caused the public to question how different they really are from their predecessors. Not only did they go through with the $15 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but they also quietly changed the country’s policies about export controls to ensure that they could continue to trade arms with shady regimes with a lot less obstacles.

As the year went on, the government kept up the progressive discourse that got them elected, but too often failed to follow it up with actions. The Prime Minister even blatantly went back on his promise of electoral reform, driving the last nail in the coffin for a good portion of increasingly disgruntled voters.

This year was not any less turbulent for smaller parties.

The NDP was licking its wounds and doing some soul-searching after their grueling 2015 loss. Fortunately, many members signed an open letter recognizing how disastrous their electoral strategy of aiming for the middle ground was and declaring their desire to go back to the unashamedly leftist positions they used to hold

As for the Greens, they started the year as the underdogs who were doing unexpectedly well. The increased attention, though, revealed a world of messy internal struggles. These started when the party voted in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Leader Elizabeth May disliked this so much that she considered resigning. (MD)

Canadian Pipelines

Indeed, discrepancies between the government’s discourse and their actions accumulated throughout the year. None was more flagrant than their attitude toward pipelines.

The Liberals campaigned on promises to restore the trust of Canadians in the Environmental Assessment Process, “modernize” the National Energy Board and make Canada a leader in the worldwide climate change fight. Trudeau was the first to admit that the current environmental assessment protocols were immensely flawed and he mandated a committee to review them.

While still waiting for their conclusions, though, he had no problem with major projects still being approved by that flawed process. He had no comments when it was revealed that the NEB board members in charge of reviewing Energy East had secretly met with TransCanada lobbyists nor when indigenous resistance against various projects started rising.

If he thought that the population was on his side, or that they would remain passive about it, he was sorely mistaken. In August, the NEB consultations about Energy East were shut down by protesters. Anger and mistrust towards the NEB only grew after that, with environmental groups calling for a complete overhaul.

None of this stopped the government from approving two contentious pipelines in late November. Both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Line 3 were officially accepted. Fortunately, they did reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which was set to go through the Great Bear Rain Forest. (MD)

Standing Rock

2016 was the year that saw the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe emerge victorious (for the moment) over big energy and the North Dakota Government.

In July, Energy Transfer Partners got approval for the $3.78 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe’s only source of drinking water. The plan also saw DAPL cut across sacred burial grounds.

The Standing Rock Sioux challenged this both in court and with water protectors on the front lines. They invited others to stand in solidarity with them and assembled the largest gathering of Native American tribes in decades.

Things came to a head on Labour Day Weekend early September when DAPL sent private corporate security to attack the water protectors with pepper spray and dogs. Democracy Now’s shocking footage of the incident got picked up by major networks and there finally was major media attention, for a while.

As more people joined the camp and solidarity actions, including Facebook Check-Ins from around the world, increased, corporate media interest waned. Meanwhile the Governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which brought law enforcement from ten different states to Standing Rock.

With most media focused on the elections, police used tear gas and water cannons on water protectors in freezing temperatures. The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice demanding the camp be cleared by December 5th and roadblocks went up.

The Sioux Tribe’s infrastructure survived, however, and once 4000 veterans showed up in solidarity, the official stance changed. President Obama’s administration got the Army Corps to change its tune and deny the easement over Lake Oahe, meaning the DAPL will not go through Standing Rock, at least not until the Trump Administration takes office.

While their fight may not be over, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did flip the script in 2016 and was even named FTB’s Person of the Year. (JCM)

Indigenous Issues in Canada

Meanwhile in Canada, indigenous issues did make their way a bit more to the forefront in 2016. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women finally got underway September 1st.

While long overdue, the Inquiry will be independent of the Federal Government and has a budget of $53.86 million to be spent over two years. While overall optimistic, some in Canada’s First Nations communities are concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too broad, making it easy to not investigate police forces and specific cases.

Quebec is considering its own inquiry. It’s needed, especially when you consider that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) treated accusations that its officers were assaulting native women in Val d’Or by going after Radio-Canada and its journalists for reporting on the story and no one else.

Meanwhile, conditions in many First Nations communities continued to deteriorate. An indigenous police force in Ontario even recommended its own disbanding for lack of proper funding. (JCM)

Quebec Politics

Couillard struggling during a TV interview

The provincial government keeps slowly but steadily dropping in the polls. According to a Léger-Le Devoir poll conducted in November, the Liberals hit their lowest approval rating since the 2012 crisis. With only 31% of the intended vote, they are now barely 1% ahead of the PQ.

This is undoubtedly linked to the fact that the real impact of the budget cuts in public services started becoming more apparent. In a memorable interactive interview with Radio-Canada last June, Premier Philippe Couillard was confronted with an onslaught of people suffering from his austerity measures. Some had lost their jobs and others were overwhelmed healthcare workers and angry parents.

The fact that they did reach a budgetary surplus as a result doesn’t seem to have calmed the popular discontent. The shadow of past corruption scandals also remains.

Couillard assured the public that none of the scandals happened under his watch and that his administration is fully committed to fighting corruption. This commitment was, however, brought into question by a recent report which accuses the government of lagging behind on the Charbonneau recommendations.

If the PQ is now breathing down their necks in the polls, it is hardly due to their own accomplishments this year. In fact, the Parti Québécois spent most of 2016 trying to find a new leader after the freshly elected Pierre-Karl Péladeau resigned, citing family reasons. His excuse, standard as it might be, is not very hard to believe, considering he was later found to be stalking his ex-wife and is now in a grim legal battle against his late girlfriend’s ex.

In any case, the party was left in turmoil. It wasn’t long before another of its prominent figures left. Bernard Drainville, champion of the infamous Charte des valeurs, but also a major architect of the party’s policies and democratic reforms, decided it was time to call it quits. In a slightly surreal move, he announced that he was retiring from politics to co-animate Éric Duhaime’s notoriously salacious radio show.

Those who had hoped that his departure would help the PQ move toward a better relationship with minorities and immigrants were disillusioned by the conclusion of the leadership race. Veteran Jean-François Lisée and his divisive views on immigration won by a landslide, while the favorite, Alexandre Cloutier was left in the dust with Martine Ouellet and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon.

However, let’s not forget that Quebec’s political scene is not limited to the two major parties. In fact, a new player is preparing to enter it before the next election. FTB learned that a provincial NDP is in the works, hoping to provide the voters with a progressive option that doesn’t aim for Quebec’s independence. (MD)

Rape Culture

Rape culture neither started nor ended in 2016, but it did seem to find its way to our newsfeed frighteningly often.

First came the disappointing conclusion of the Gomeshi trial in May. The fact that a celebrity with so much airtime on the CBC and elsewhere had been sexually harassing his colleague for years and committing multiple sexual assaults while his entourage and superiors turned a blind eye was outraging enough on its own. The fact that four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking pretty much ended with a slap on the wrist from the court was worse. It made it very hard to keep pretending that our institutions and our society were not rigged to protect aggressors and silence victims.

Barely a month later, as if to demonstrate the scale of the problem, there was the Brock Turner case. Turner, a 20 year old student athlete at Stanford and a perfect mix of white, male and class privilege, was standing trial for raping a young woman on campus. Caught in the act by other students, he was found guilty. This could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, but he got six months in a county jail (he only served three).

A horrible event brought the discussion about rape culture a lot closer to home for many Quebecers in the fall. Multiple attackers entered the dorms of Université Laval and assaulted several students during one night in October. This sparked a wave of compassion and awareness with province-wide protests.

During a solidarity vigil in Quebec city, a young student named Alice Paquet revealed that she was raped by Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos back in 2012. Despite an onslaught of victim blaming and skepticism, Paquet decided to finally press charges, and her lawsuit is now in front of the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales. The latter will decide if the case goes to court. (MD)

US Presidential Election

Painting by Samantha Gold, buy the original on eBay

For most of the year, politicos everywhere, including here in Canada, were glued to what was transpiring in the US Presidential Election. And for good reason, it was an interesting one, to say the least.

First there was the hope of some real and unexpected change in the form of the political revolution Bernie Sanders was promising. The upstart Vermont senator managed to go from basically nothing to winning 23 states in the Primaries and even got to meet with the Pope, but that wasn’t enough to beat the largest political machine out there  and the Democratic Party establishment’s chosen candidate Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, another upstart candidate, though one of the secretly pro-corporate and openly far-right variety, easily clinched the Republican nomination. With the exception of a bit of plagiarism on opening night and the whole Ted Cruz non-endorsement incident, the GOP Convention was quite unified behind Trump.

The Democratic National Convention was a completely different story. Sanders delegates booed speakers endorsing Clinton and connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even left the room in protest when Clinton officially won the nomination.

The ensuing General Election campaign went back and forth for a few months with each candidate having their ups and downs. Clinton’s health rumours and Wikileaks revelations and Trump’s…well, his being Donald Trump.

Then it looked like it was finally over for the Donald with the release of the Access Hollywood tape. That was the last straw for several prominent members of the Republican establishment. Was the GOP going to implode?

Well, on Election Day, the unthinkable happened. The ideal “pied piper candidate” the Democrats had sought to elevate, because he would be so easy to beat, ended up beating their “inevitable” future President.

The bogeyman came out from under the bed and was elected to office. The joke went from funny to scary. Failed casino owner and third-rate reality star Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President Elect of the United States.

As Trump started building his brand new bubble filled with climate change deniers, corporate execs and white supremacists, the fight against him in the streets started and shows no signs of stopping in 2017. The real question is now: will the Democrats change gear and become a progressive alternative or stay the establishment course that led them to defeat at the hands of an orange carnival barker? (JCM)

Montreal Politics

At least Montreal didn’t spend 2016 electing a frequently cartoonish populist who doesn’t listen to experts. We had already done that back in 2013.

This was the year, though, that our Mayor, Denis Coderre, really started to shine. And by shine I mean make Montreal nationally and even globally famous for some really bad decisions and ideas.

2015 ended with the Mayor dumping untreated sewage right into the river. With that out of the way, 2016 was going to be the year where we planned for our big 375th Anniversary in 2017.

By June there were already approved proposals for really ugly granite fake tree stumps for Mount-Royal and a national anthem for the borough of Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles. How was the city going to pay for all of this? In August a task force gave the Mayor one option: taxes on water consumption and trash collection.

Coderre’s focus was squarely somewhere else in the last half of the year, though. After a 55-year-old woman was killed by a dog in June, Coderre tabled rather extreme Breed-Specific Legislation aimed at pit bulls, despite no initial proof that a pit bull was the culprit (and the later revelation that it absolutely wasn’t).

There were protests and even international condemnation, including that of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper. Coderre would hear none of it, though, even ordering the mic cut on an citizen during a City Council meeting.

When the so-called Pit Bull Ban, officially the Montreal Animal Control Bylaw, became law in September, the proverbial other shoe dropped. People started picking up on some of the other aspects of it, in particular the fines and fees and the fact that it covered other breeds of dog and cats, too.

The SPCA got a temporary injunction on the “dangerous breeds” aspects of the law in early October which was overturned on appeal in December. The bylaw comes into full effect March 31, 2017, at which point the SPCA will no longer deal with stray dogs or accept owner surrenders.

In September, another project met with a legal obstacle. Turns out fines Société de transport de Montréal (STM) security officers were handing out constituted a human rights violation.

While the STM will be appealing the Montreal Municipal Court decision, for now at least, they’re not supposed to be sending out squads of transit cops acting as glorified revenue generators. In practice, though, we’ve heard reports they’re still doing it.

The Montreal Police (SPVM) were also in trouble this year. They were caught spying on at least four journalists in November. Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden even mentioned this story ahead of his livestream talk at McGill University.

What was really surprising was that the SPVM got warrants for this surveillance. What was not surprising at all is how high this probably went. Police Chief Philippe Pichet must have known, and he was handpicked by Mayor Coderre a few years prior.

The Mayor said he stands by his police chief before cancelling an investigation into the matter.

Coderre probably wants Montrealers to forget good chunks of his 2016 and focus instead on 375th celebrations, then vote him back in near the end of the year. The opposition has another idea, though.

Official Opposition party Projet Montreal held its first ever leadership race in fall 2016 culminating in the election of Valérie Plante early December. (JCM)

Black Lives Matter/Police Killings

2016 continued the sad tradition of police murdering innocent people of colour for no good reason and getting away with it (for the most part). The Black Lives Matter movement also continued to speak out against these killings.

There were two such murders in early July very close together, to the point where it was possible to confuse notification of one with the other. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died at the hands of police in different cities in different states within 24 hours of each other.

This prompted solidarity protests across the US. There was also an impromptu BLM sit-in during the Toronto Pride Parade and a couple of Montreal marches which highlighted that racist police violence was not just an American problem.

BLM sit-in during Pride Toronto, photo Hector Vasquez (BlogTO, Creative Commons Licence)

In Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper, not part of the peaceful protest, decided to murder nine police officers, which, of course, became a national tragedy and an excuse for the right wing to incorrectly attack BLM.

In September, following the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted. There were days of protest and the governor declared a state of emergency on the second night.

There is sadly no sign that any of this will change in 2017, especially given the positions of the incoming administration on race and police. (JCM)

Syria

Sadly, this year was marked by the continuing conflict in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has again been accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The carnage in Aleppo reached new heights as the regime’s forces renewed their assault, driving residents to send their goodbyes over social media.

The Anti-ISIS coalition lead by the US is also responsible for a lot of civilian casualties. Amnesty International and the official opposition of al-Assad even called for a suspension of their airstrikes after they were reported to have killed between 100 and 200 civilians in the region of Manbij over two months.  This number is now confirmed to have surpassed 300, although the US still refuses to acknowledge it.

Local groups have been fighting the rising terrorist factions in Syria, namely the now famous Kurd “women’s protection unit”, also known as YPJ. However, despite their important role, their status with the international community is on shaky ground. One YPJ fighter is currently detained in Denmark under terrorism charges. (MD)


So that’s our look back at 2016 in the news. Here’s hoping for overall more uplifting stories in 2017!

Panelists Katie Nelson, Cem Ertekin and Jerry Gabriel join host Jason C. McLean for a look at the big worldwide, national and local stories of 2016. Plus 2017 Predictions!

Panelists:

Katie Nelson: “Paid professional social justice warrior”

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor and contributor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Report by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Sunday, December 11, 2016 in Montreal

WATCH:

LISTEN:

 

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

The Forget the Box Person of the Year for 2016 is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In what will hopefully become an annual tradition, we put up a poll briefly asked our readers to vote for the person or group of people who had the biggest and most significant cultural impact.

We also asked that voters treat mainstream corporate media coverage as one factor among many, not the predominant one. When you only look through the mainstream lens, as Time Magazine does every year, you end up being forced to pick people like Donald Trump, as Time did this year.

Despite being almost completely shut out of mainstream press coverage, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe managed mobilize the largest gathering of Native American tribes in recent memory and bring in allies and supplies by the busload. They also created an infrastructure that was built to last through harsh weather, attacks by private security dogs as well as water cannon and pepper spray assaults by militarized police.

They’re not protesters, they are water protectors. That is a very important distinction, and not just because it’s true. Yes, it changes the narrative, but it also changes the very concept of what resistance actions are.

It’s not just about being against something, in this case the construction of the environmentally hazardous Dakota Access Pipeline over sacred burial grounds and the tribe’s only source of clean water. It’s also about being for something, in this case, protecting everyone’s water.

It’s about building an alternative. By all accounts I heard, the camp was akin to a small city, not only in size but in infrastructure. It was a real community with community services.

Independent media like Democracy Now helped spread what was happening and DN’s compelling footage of the dog attacks even pierced the mainstream media bubble for a bit. It was, though, social media and word of mouth that really let the public know what was going on in Standing Rock.

The tribe also won…for the moment. After threats of expulsion and a firm deadline from the Governor of North Dakota, the Obama Administration relented.

The US Army Corps of Engineers announced that the Dakota Access Pipeline would not cross the Missouri River at Standing Rock. Permit denied. Again, only for now.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, has pledged to keep building, pay the fines and wait for the incoming Trump Administration to overturn the Army Corp’s decision. Given Trump’s love of big business, disdain for the environment and indigenous rights and the President Elect’s previous business ties to Energy Transfer Partners, it looks like the fight will pick up again in 2017.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will be ready. They have created an infrastructure that is built to last and have already shown the world a sustainable way to fight for social justice. For that, they deserve to be Person of the Year.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders placed second in our poll just as he did in the Democratic Primaries. If he had been the candidate and beat Trump in the General Election, he would most definitely have been the political upset story of the year and probably Time’s Person of the Year, too.

As things played out, though, he did have a huge, or rather yuuuge, impact on the American political system, proving that someone who proudly claims to be a Democratic Socialist can be a major contender for the Presidency. He also gave people upset with the political establishment’s close contact with Wall Street a unified political voice.

When he first entered the Presidential race, he was largely unknown outside of Vermont (and among Montrealers who watched Vermont network affiliates). He ended up winning over 20 states, beating out the largest political machine within the Democratic Party.

Now he is a borderline folkloric household name and someone who may very well shape the Democratic Party’s post-Clinton future.

Gord Downie

Gord Downie on stage during The Tragically Hip’s farewell show (image: CBC)

Canadian rock icon Gord Downie placed third in our poll. The Tragically Hip frontman showed everyone in Canada and the world both how to go out rocking and how to use your celebrity privilege the right way.

After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Downie led the band on a month-long farewell tour, culminating in a final concert over three hours long broadcast and streamed live from Hamilton. It was emotional, raw and incredibly powerful. A real thank-you to their fans.

During the show, Downie had a chance to address our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly (he was in the crowd, wearing a Hip t-shirt no less). Downie used that opportunity to urge the PM, in front of basically the whole country, to do something about the situation in First Nations communities up north. He did it in the most polite way imaginable, too, by implying that Trudeau was already going to do something.

Since the show, Downie has released The Secret Path, a ten-song album telling the story of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who escaped from an Indian Residential School and died on the 400 mile journey home. His hope is to shine much needed light on the horrors of the Residential School system.

The man who is considered by many to be as emblematic of Canada as Tim Hortons and hockey said he is doing this project because “Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are” and it will take another hundred years to hopefully fix things.

Downie was honoured by the Assembly of First Nations in December and given the Lakota spirit name Man who walks among the stars.

Honourable Mentions

There were fourteen choices in total in our poll, some of which were added at the suggestion of our readers. In this case, the nominations themselves count as a vote. The public-nominated choices were: Amy Goodman, Nigel Farage and Yoshua Bengio.

The other honourable mentions that got some votes were (in no particular order): Anarchopanda (who finally won, at least partially, his court case against Montreal bylaw P-6), Black Lives Matter (always relevant and extremely important), Donald Trump (yes, even by our criteria, he had an impact) and Barack Obama (one last shot, I guess).

Thanks to everyone who voted. We should do this next year, too!

 

 

 

 

You may have seen that meme. The one contrasting two Bernie Sanders rallies.

In the first image, taken when he was still running for President, Bernie’s in a stadium surrounded by thousands of people. In the second, he’s promoting Hillary Clinton to about 150 people in what looks like some sort of auditorium:

bernie-solo-bernie-hillary

So, what happened? Did Bernie really drop that far in popularity in such a short time? No, he didn’t. By most accounts, he’s still one of the most popular politicians in the US.

I suspect the sharp attendance drop isn’t due to the speaker but rather the subject matter. It’s not what the thousands who flocked to him in the primaries want to hear him say, or at least not what will motivate them to come out in droves and hear him speak.

Think of a famous musician or band that you and quite a few others adore. They’ve got so many hits, but they also have that one album that really seems out of place. Now imagine they were going on tour and promised just to play songs from that one album very few like.

Sure, some may show up. Diehard fans and those few who actually do like the obscure material. But it won’t be anything like the attendance they would get on a regular tour.

It’s not that people no longer like the artist, they just don’t like the tunes they’ll be playing. It’s not that people no longer like Bernie, it’s just that they really aren’t fans of “We have to all vote Hillary to stop Trump.”

Now some of those Bernie fans staying home may very well vote for Hillary Clinton to prevent a Trump Presidency. They’re just not super excited about doing it.

DNC Logic Fail

It could have been easy for the Democrats this election cycle. They could have picked someone who inspired people by the thousands. Those who flocked to Obama in 08 but felt disappointed overall by the result were ready for Bernie to be the next phase, the one that would actually make the change happen. People who never voted before, or never voted for a major party before, were ready to do so for Bernie.

Problem was that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and establishment Democrats already had their nominee (the leaks proved it). They didn’t want Bernie to run for President under their banner, but they did want the people who flocked to him to vote Democrat in November.

bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton

The Dems thought they had the perfect solution: rig the Primaries against him, then convince Sanders to come on board and support Clinton. They had to make some concessions in the platform to do so, but it didn’t matter, once elected, they could do what they wanted to.

They got Bernie on board, so why didn’t their plan work? Surely all these people were just following a charismatic leader and would continue to follow him wherever he led them.

That thinking by the DNC is why America now faces the prospect of a reality TV star turned Twitter troll turned cornball fascist actually becoming President. The Democrats couldn’t see outside of their own bubble of top-down leadership and cult of personality.

If they had looked deeper, just a bit deeper, they would have remembered that Bernie Sanders had been saying the same things in pretty much the same way for decades. None of it had received much response outside of Vermont until 2015. They would have realized that it was only after the Occupy Movement happened and people began searching for a political voice that was aligned with their thinking that Sanders went from being someone people knew (and loved) in Burlington to a political phenom that millions wanted to see in the White House.

The movement that backed Bernie existed before it became Bernie’s political revolution. The people involved chose him as their champion and he agreed. When he stopped speaking for them and started speaking for Hillary, it was the end of that unofficial contract. They had chosen Bernie as their representative, they never chose Hillary, even if Bernie did.

You can co-opt a progressive politician. You can’t co-opt a progressive, bottom-up movement. The only thing you can do is embrace it and let it tell you where to go. The DNC clearly didn’t think of that, and now they’re paying for it.

Bernie’s Movement in Pieces

Now, Bermie’s movement is fragmented politically. Some have followed Bernie and gone to Hillary. Revolution later, stop Trump now, presumably. Others are supporting Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein, which makes most logical sense policy-wise.

A few, though, are outright voting Trump, I’m guessing to give the middle finger to the DNC, also probably all white. Some have chosen Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, which really confounds me. He’s like the anti-Bernie on many issues.

Yet, there are more who plan to simply write in Bernie’s name on the ballot and others who plan to stay home, or go to the bar, on election  day.

clinton-trump

So this huge block of voters that would have all voted Democrat? They’re not a block anymore. Also, those volunteers that would have campaigned for Democrats up and down the ticket provided Bernie was at the top? Not gonna happen. Huge opportunity missed.

Instead, the Democrats’ path to retaining the White House relies on their traditional supporters and the fear of a Trump victory. Currently, Clinton and Trump are pretty much tied, with Clinton losing in key battleground states. Sure, it’s only by a little bit and tonight’s debate may turn that around, but the fact that it is even a contest is the real problem, a problem that the DNC could have avoided.

With all of the former Berners added to those who always vote Democrat added to those who fear a real life version of Idiocracy, Trump wouldn’t have stood a chance. The debates would have just been icing on the cake.

People want to vote for something. Now they have to vote against something and that’s never a good situation.

As for Bernie, he’ll draw the crowds once he starts playing the hits again.

 

 

Podcast panelists Vincent Simboli, Jerry Gabriel and Cem Ertekin discuss Montreal’s Black Lives Matter protests, Mike Ward and the Just for Laughs season, the US conventions and our News Roundup including the Turkish coup, Pokémon GO and more. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Vincent Simboli: FTB Contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB Contributor

 

*Black Live Matter report by Mirna Djukic

*Conventions and Just for Laughs reports by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

We have some very exciting news to report: Bernie Sanders is the winner!

(pause)

The winner of the FTB US Presidential Election Poll.

Honestly, I was thinking of just using the first part as the headline of this post. Misleading? Quite. But if the Associated Press can do it, so can we. However, it could also be a bit of a mean tease to those (like myself) who were hoping for a Sanders victory in California last night.

us election pollNear the beginning of the primaries, we asked our readers to vote for the candidate they wanted to be the next President of the United States with the promise that the winner would receive the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post explaining why they are the best choice. This is that post.

As candidates dropped out, we removed them from the available choices (except for Lincoln Chafe, I still think #feelinchafed will trend). Only Ted Cruz and  John Kaisich had actual votes when we removed them (two apiece).

With 153 votes cast, the Vermont senator and everyone’s surrogate grandpa won the poll with a resounding 48%. Donald Trump was second (one only hopes ironically) with 14%, one vote ahead of “You realize you’re a Canadian site, right?” Hillary Clinton got 7%, narrowly beating out a push for four more years for Barack Obama which tied with None of the Above.

So why did the majority of our readership pick Bernie? While I can’t be sure of their reasons, I think the fact that he is a once in a generation candidate probably had something to do with it. Not only is he an inspirational speaker who brought income inequality, money in politics and the need for universal healthcare and a $15/hr minimum wage to the forefront of mainstream political discourse in the US, he also proved that socialism isn’t a dirty word, at least when you couple it with the word democratic.

He is also very consistent in his talking points and has been for thirty years, a unique quality in legitimate POTUS contenders. He didn’t change his views to suit the electorate, the public caught up with him. He then became the figurehead of a movement that started with Occupy.

His ads were not only powerful, but themselves revolutionary in their choice of speaker. Some of them featured people establishment politicians usually avoid associating with, like Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner and Chris Wilson, a man who turned his life around after spending half of it in prison.

Sanders went from a candidate unknown outside of Vermont (and southern Quebec homes with Vermont and upstate New York affiliate stations) whom very few thought would even come close to being a contender to the man who won 22 states, seriously challenging a household name with an unparalleled political machine behind her. He also met with the Pope. And all of this in just a year.

Unlike politicians who drop out when offered a deal that benefits them personally, he has vowed that the struggle will continue right up to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. But the struggle is now more about entrenching the values of social and economic justice in the Democratic Party, a party whose establishment fought hard against a progressive shift in the primaries. With Bernie, it’s about the issues and the movement or revolution. Not about him.

What path Bernie will follow after the convention is unclear, so is the next step for the movement he champions. What is clear is that Bernie has already had a yuuuuge impact on the American political landscape and political progressives around the world.

No wonder so many FTB readers are feelin’ the Bern.

Panelists Der Kosmonaut, Cem Ertekin and Jerry Gabriel discuss the Mayday March protests and the violent police reaction in downtown Montreal, an update on the US Primary elections, Prince leaving us too soon and Peter Sergakis’ lawsuit against Peter McQueen. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Cem ErtekinFTB Contributor and Managing Editor

Der Kosmonaut: Poet, writer, spoken word artist, DJ and blogger at The Adventures of Der Kosmonaut

Jerry Gabriel: Podcast regular and FTB Contributor

* Reports by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

What do the 2016 US Presidential candidates eat? What do their gastronomic ways say about their presidential personality?

Though it only lasted five months, our own federal election in Canada gave us enough time to find out what out candidates ate, and what it said (or didn’t say) about their leadership style.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is the Tom Mulcair of candidates south of the border. Just not in the way you might think.

Each has pulled his party in the polar opposite direction. Yet they share a gruff gastronomic asceticism on the campaign trail.

If you recall, Forget the Box was the first outlet to uncover the bombshell news: Mulcair’s organs are made of bricks and wool. Our investigative report disclosed that this Prime Minister hopeful had never been seen partaking in food, even when hiking on Mont-Royal, stumping in small towns, or Schwartz-ing with jovial peers.

    

Now Sanders’ food choices remain equally opaque, leaving us up here to surmise that he survives on his healthy diet of finger wagging. Even the hearty US press corps, with its fifteen months of research, has come up mostly empty trying to paint the “lifestyle” profile of loveable Uncle Bern.

In candidate surveys, the best they could come up with was “scrambled eggs for breakfast.” This sounds like it was filled in by some campaign intern. Though it’s not really an answer, we’ll assume they’re unsalted, devoid of condiments.

To be fair, Sanders has this slight edge over Mulcair. The latter was never even seen sipping coffee, whether in meetins or at pictoresque rural working class diners. Sanders, on the other hand, was definitively ID-ed sipping Vermont craft beer. It seems suspicious, sort of a photo-op setup.

Yet I believe it. He is drinking the hoppiest beer in a state known for very hoppy delights, which seems to fit with his enjoyably bitter personal brand.

Ted Cruz

You might recall the eponymous #GuacGate, spurred by the NYT’s suggestion of peas in traditional Mexican-American versions of guac.

We saw then that guacamole was a deeply divisive political issue, and this was before the immigration debate gathered full steam. Yet it also united party leaders in unexpected ways, such as Jeb and Obama’s ardent disavowel of this French intrusion into an already-perfect dish.

Fittingly, one of the only dissenters, even in a moment of bipartisan fun, was divisive Senator Ted Cruz. The Texas senator came up on the wrong side as his colleagues as usual, claiming his distaste not only for guacamole, but for avocadoes full stop.

Fitting consistent with his Texas image, Cruz picks enchiladas (the legal kind) over any other dish.

Donald Trump

Now to the frontrunners. We’ll save Clinton to the end, because her food preferences, like Harper’s in my original article, somehow leave me most unsettled.

This is a surprise in itself, because in this unprecedented US primary spectacle, you’d think Trump would reign supreme generating gastronomic headlines. Yet despite him criticizing Kasich for his hearty four-course Italian meal at a New York market food stand, he has been criticized for eating pizza with forks and generally unhealthy food preferences. This might be exciting for another candidate, though for Trump’s grand style, his diet lands up surprisingly boring, even unworthy of mention.

He claims he eats light and healthy on the trail, sans alcohol. He does, of course, mention that he indulges in his favourite dish once in awhile: US steak. This is helpful, given the cartons of unsold Trump Steaks likely sitting in some warehouse.

Hillary Clinton

Remember Obama’s epic stops at Ray’s & In n Out burger, photos of juicy burgers joyously shared with Senator Joe? They swarmed over social media, part of his fresh new image that helped launch him to the win.

Source: WaPo

Clinton, on the other hand, is ever the milquetoast frontrunner. In ways eerily similar to Harper who, lest we forget, was once touted to regain his majority reign, she avoids unplanned ops or stops or any real insight into her soul. So the first similarity is their over-advised inhuman personas: it’s hard to discern if they have any real passions or preferences at all.

Yet the second is spicy. We revealed Harper’s “secret obsession” with deathly strong hot-sauce (he supposedly kept a special pantry of it at Sussex Drive, if you recall). Clinton, too, has been said to carry hardcore hot sauce in her purse, a “confession” corroborated by aides.

Now, some criticized this as blatant pandering, since this detail unsurprisingly slipped out during one of her Southern campaign stops. It’s possible that Clinton’s hot sauce obsession is as manufactured as her Southern accent.

Like her true views on society, policy and values, one thing’s safe to say: we’ll never know the truth.

—–

What dirt have you uncovered on the Presidential candidates eating habits?

UPDATE: Press time: Carly Fiorina just announced her VP run with Cruz. We’re curious if the Cruz team vetted her dietary preferences before the presser.

‘I always used to eat Milk-Bones as a kid’: Carly Fiorina snacks on dog treats and tells puppies to vote Republican because ‘Obama ate your cousin’ in bizarre video – Daily Mail, 15 Dec. 2015

Souce: Daily Mail

Last Tuesday night, Donald Trump won both New York Presidential Primaries. He crushed his Republican opponents and the establishment Democrats brought his ideal general election opponent a huge (not yuuuge, that’s a good thing) step closer to clinching her party’s nomination.

No wonder Trump was beaming the next day when he said: “Bernie’s gone. You know that? Bernie’s gone. I love running against crooked Hillary. Bernie wouldn’t be as much fun.” More like Hillary he can beat, Bernie not so much.

trump and clintons

For months, the Democratic Party establishment and allies in most major American corporate media outlets have had two main goals:

  1. Make the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign go away
  2. Force all progressive voters to unite with neo-liberal and somewhat socially left neo-con dems behind the candidate they had selected eight years ago: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tuesday they came closer than ever before to making their first goal a reality. Unfortunately for them, they did so in such a way that all but ensured their second goal will be next to impossible to fully achieve. What they have done since has only compounded their mistake.

Can’t Forget Voter Suppression

For a party that has railed against voter suppression tactics and still does when the Republicans try to pull them in general elections, it’s a little hypocritical that all Democrats aren’t up in arms demanding to know what happened with the 126 000 people in Brooklyn who were unceremoniously de-registered as Democrats and denied the right to vote in the Primary on Tuesday.

It’s also unfortunate that New York only let people registered as Democrats by last October vote in the primary. A move designed to prevent rival parties from pushing less electable candidates ended up hurting the Democrats’ chances of running the most electable candidate in the next general election.

Moving forward, there is now word that Rhode Island, a state where Sanders leads in the polls, will only be keeping one third of their polling places open. How can this not be considered voter suppression?

While all of this is horribly undemocratic, it’s also real sad for the Democratic establishment. They don’t realize a very simple truth: getting the party faithful to rally behind Sanders and join all the new progressive voters he has inspired is a helluva lot easier than the opposite path they have chosen, the path they always choose.

Why would someone who never saw themselves as a Democrat until they were inspired by a particular candidate turn around and support the opponent who they associate with denying them their right to vote in the primaries? Or, as this meme puts it:

sanders wonka

Maybe the DNC feels that the Trump or Cruz boogeyman will be enough to convince Sanders supporters to hold their nose and vote Clinton. It may be, but #BernieOrBust and #BernieOrJillStein (referencing the Green Party leader) are real things. Stein even reached out to Sanders, asking him to cooperate on a political revolution.

Bernie Sanders is a Stronger General Election Candidate

Adding establishment support to the grassroots movement Bernie built would clearly be the easier path to victory for the Democrats. But not only that, Bernie Sanders is a much stronger general election candidate than Hillary Clinton.

The Republicans have been planning to run against Clinton for about eight years. In that time they have surely amassed significant dirt on her which you had better believe they are waiting for her to get the nomination to release.

If the Democrats flip the script and put up Sanders, all attacks will have to be policy-based. Sure, they can call him a socialist, to which he clarifies that he is a democratic socialist, explains what that means and moves on. Calling someone a socialist only works as an attack if the candidate is not one and thinks it’s a charge he or she has to defend against.

Bernie Sanders has proven himself to be a movement builder. He is inspirational just as Obama was inspirational in his campaigns. Clinton comes across as someone who feels it is her turn to be President.

Sanders has pull with independents and could even bring in votes from Republicans dissatisfied with the prospect of voting Trump or Cruz. He has respect on both sides of the aisle while Republicans have been conditioned for years to hate the very mention of the name Hillary Clinton.

Sanders has proven to be quite a good fundraiser, too, on his own terms. This means the DNC could focus any PAC money they have received on House and Senate races.

Could Things Be Changing?

In an interview that was published in the New York Times on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden criticized Clinton’s attacks on the boldness of Sanders’ promises:

“I like the idea of saying, ‘We can do much more,’ because we can. I don’t think any Democrat’s ever won saying, ‘We can’t think that big — we ought to really downsize here because it’s not realistic. C’mon man, this is the Democratic Party! I’m not part of the party that says, ‘Well, we can’t do it.’”

While Biden and President Obama have refused to officially endorse any candidate in the primaries, as incumbents finishing their second term generally do, their remarks have heavily hinted that they favour Clinton. So why this sudden change?

At first I thought, optimistically, that maybe Biden was floating a test balloon as he did with Marriage Equality. Then I realized that it probably had more to do with Democrats wanting Bernie’s email list of donors in the event that he drops out of the race.

hillary clinton computer

It doesn’t look like the HRC camp’s tactics are changing. A few days ago, a Clinton Super PAC was caught paying $1 million for online trolls to attack Bernie supporters (one former paid troll even shared her story on Reddit). These are tactics most frequently used by right-wing parties.

Meanwhile the message out of the Clinton Campaign and many democrats has been that Sanders is done and should drop out “for the good of the party.” This despite the facts that Clinton herself argued in 2008 that it’s not done until California votes and that Obama had less pledged delegates at this point in 2008 than Bernie has now.

Bernie’s not done, as much as Donald Trump and Clinton supporters wish he was. He does face an uphill battle, and even admits that his path to victory is a narrow one. It is made considerably more difficult by attacks and the risk of more voter suppression in the upcoming primaries.

California may turn the tide, but if it doesn’t (and there are already stories of independents accidentally being registered as members of a right wing party and unable to vote) and it comes to a brokered convention, then the Super Delegates will play an important role.

For months, people in the Sanders camp have loathed how presumed Super Delegate votes were and still are being included in delegate tallies in media reports and have voiced concern that Super Delegates could thwart the will of the people. However, given the countless would-be Democratic voters denied the chance to vote for their candidate, it wouldn’t be undemocratic for Super Delegates to vote for Sanders  if Clinton still has the lead in pledged delegates come convention.

It would be correcting an injustice and insuring that Sanders, a stronger general election candidate, was nominated. Of course, that would take the Democratic establishment, or at least enough members of it, realizing and admitting that their handpicked candidate is the weaker choice and that the last eight years of strategy was wrong.

Progressives are sick of being taken for granted by neo-liberals and neo-cons and might not take it this time. While Sanders has ruled out running as an independent, his supporters may forego voting for Clinton. If that “splits the left vote” and elects someone like Trump, the Democratic establishment only has to look in the mirror to know who’s to blame.

On paper, it must have looked like a really bad political move: an invitation any seasoned political strategist would know to politely decline. Sending your candidate to another continent just days before a crucial and tight primary is ludicrous.

The only Rome a by-the-book strategist would have sent Bernie Sanders to last Friday is Rome, New York. Fortunately, it looks like either the team behind Sanders is as unconventional and risk-taking as their candidate or Sanders was really calling the shots on this one.

Bernie’s trip to the Vatican was a political success and it was even before rumblings about a papal meeting started to surface.

International Experience

One of the key accusations Hillary Clinton’s supporters have thrown at Sanders over the course of the primaries is that the Senator has no international diplomatic experience whereas Clinton, a former Secretary of State, has tons of it. While she clearly still has more, they can no longer say that Sanders has none.

Sanders was invited to the Vatican to speak at a conference on income inequality, a topic that is a regular part of his stump speech. When he was there, he was photographed chatting with Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia. So now, Bernie Sanders has chatted with world leaders and spoken at a global conference in the Vatican.

bernie sanders evo morales

It’s what happened outside of the conference, though, that is really telling. Sanders was mobbed by the media to the point that it was hard for him to move through the crowd: the kind of treatment usually reserved for a visiting celebrity or an American President; the kind of reception President Obama got quite frequently when visiting foreign countries early on in his first term.

The imagery is palpable. Sanders is already meeting with world leaders and receiving the rockstar treatment abroad. While he wasn’t in New York campaigning, you had better believe voters in New York got to see those images.

Meanwhile in California

Clinton also took time off from campaigning in New York this weekend to have dinner in California with George Clooney and guests paying $33,400 a plate for the privilege of being in the same room as them. A photo with the pair cost $100,000.

So when Sanders was speaking out against income inequality, Clinton did her best to give the unequally wealthy special treatment in a rather over-the-top way. That irony wasn’t lost on Sanders supporters, people who make internet memes, several of which were either part of the media or the protesters themselves outside the event.

Even Clooney later told the media that the amount of money in politics was obscene and Sanders was right to criticise the system. He also spoke briefly with the protesters outside before heading in.

That juxtaposition, coupled with the fact that Sanders was now an international phenomenon, was enough to declare Bernie’s trip to the Vatican a huge (or rather Yuuugge) political success. But then another international celebrity entered the picture: the Pope.

Yes, Bernie Sanders Met With Pope Francis

On Friday night, the story in the mainstream media had shifted from Bernie wowing them in Rome to people making the point that he didn’t meet with the Pope. Even current Vice President Joe Biden weighed in, saying that while he thought Sanders speaking at the Vatican conference was a good thing, the Pope would not necessarily endorse him.

None of it mattered. Sanders had his international story and the fact that people, including the sitting Vice President were mentioning the Vermont Senator and papal endorsement (even to say there wasn’t one) in the same breath was an amazing victory for the Sanders camp. It went from “Hillary’s only primary threat is Martin O’Malley” a year ago to “Bernie’s almost done and should step back gracefully” a month ago to “no, he didn’t meet with the Pope and the Pope wouldn’t endorse him” on Friday.

That is momentum. That is changing the story. That is a campaign that is far from done and may go all the way to the White House. And that is all I thought I would write until I opened social media Saturday morning.

But then something I wasn’t expecting showed up in my newsfeed. Bernie Sanders had, in fact, met with the Pope. It was brief, five minutes approximately. It was at 6 a.m. in the foyer of the guest house where Sanders was staying and Pope Francis kept his residence. But it was arranged in advance.

Bernie Sanders was given an audience with the Pope. Even though Francis made it clear later to reporters on his plane that it was not an endorsement, something a head of state (the Vatican is a state) cannot do in another country’s election without causing a diplomatic incident, it was still a meeting.

This was the icing on the cake for a trip that any political operative thinking in “realistic” terms would have tuned down in a heartbeat. It turned out to be a yuuuuge success and well worth the risk.

It’s something I have been asking myself for the past few months: Why, as a lifelong Canadian, do I care so much about the current US election?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a bit of a political junkie and I also write about politics, so American presidential elections always interest me. But never this much and never this early.

Sure, when the parties pick their candidates and the election looms, I’ll watch the debates and tweet about things like “binders full of women.” I’ll even find a bar to watch the results on election night.

But this year, I have been glued to the primaries, refreshing the page as results come in and once even watched CNN and was incredibly amused and confused by how caucuses operate (they’re flipping coins, really?).

Why do I care? After some reflection, it comes down to two people and none of them are Donald Trump.

It’s Not the Circus, It’s the Substance

When it comes to politics, one thing I have always enjoyed is the spectacle. The theatre of the whole thing. Yes, I know that they are talking about serious issues, but seeing as how I have never believed that any prominent candidate would ever be able to or want to change how things run, I have settled for watching their rise to the top as sport and trying to guess the outcome in the same light.

Things are different this time. I believe that Bernie Sanders wants to make things better. He doesn’t just say the sort of things that please my progressive sensibilities; he has been saying them for over 30 years.

I was really taken aback when I saw a video from the late 80s of Sanders talking about his ideal President. He used many of the same lines that are a key part of his stump speech today. So he didn’t just grab those ideas and talking points from the Occupy Movement afterall.

This isn’t a case of a candidate catching up to what the voters want and emulating it. Instead, the voters have finally caught up with the candidate.

That is something truly revolutionary. While the spectacle remains with the Republicans, the substance is with Bernie. Though I have to admit, the bird landing on his podium was probably the most spectacular piece of unexpected and improvised political theatre I have seen in a long time.

So that’s why I have been following so closely, reading the polls, getting annoyed every time Hillary Clinton or her supporters tried to block the Sanders surge. Hell, I even joined the Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash on Facebook.

Well, Bernie’s authenticity is one of the reasons. The other is a little closer to home.

What this Election Means for the Canadian Left

It’s no secret that the election of a new US President has a profound impact well beyond the 50 states. A change of face and possibly direction in the world’s one remaining economic, cultural and military superpower always has an effect around the world and here in Canada, too.

But that’s not why I care so much this time. I am far less interested in the relationship our current Prime Minister will have with the next POUTS than I am with the effect a potential Sanders victory will have on the left in Canada.

One of his better moments: Tom Mulcair speaking out against Bill C-51 in the rain
One of his better moments: Tom Mulcair speaking out against Bill C-51 in the rain (photo: Toronto Star)

If the Empire itself, a country that can generously be described as center-right by and large, can elect a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist as their President, then what place does the NDP, supposedly the most progressive party in Canada, a center-left country, have removing the word socialism from their party platform?

Moreover, if the unapologetically left approach the Sanders Campaign has employed eventually moves him into the White House, there will be no more justifiable electoral reasons for the NDP to remain silent on issues that speak to their left flank.

Not only does Bernie Sanders welcome the support of Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner, he put her in an ad. He also didn’t stop BLM activists from taking the microphone at one of his rallies. Meanwhile, Tom Mulcair’s NDP remained silent during Quebec’s student protests in 2012, even when the movement was threatened with massive police repression and draconian laws.

What were they afraid of? That they would be tagged with embracing protest? Well, one of the images that improved Bernie Sanders’ rep among voters was the one of him being personally arrested at a civil rights protest in the 60s:

bernie sanders arrest

Also, while Mulcair campaigned for a $15/hr wage for federal employees, Sanders wants to make that a reality for everyone in the US. When our own left-leaning party is more cautious than a potential Democratic Party nominee for President, it makes me wonder.

The Change is Happening

Admittedly, Mulcair has been talking tougher lately, as his leadership review is approaching. He tweeted #ibelievesurvivors just before the Gomeshi verdict was announced, is arguing for democratic socialism and has openly called Donald Trump a fascist.

It makes me wish that this was the Mulcair we got during the campaign and during his tenure as Opposition Leader. Sure, he was strong in his opposition to C-51 and in a few other ways, but overall he refused to embrace the radicalism that was at the base of his party.

Whether Mulcair remains NDP leader or not, the change in the party’s approach to big issues has already begun, and that’s thanks to the influence of the success Sanders has had so far. Imagine what the NDP will be courageous and principled enough to campaign on next time if Bernie is President.

So why do I care so much about the next US Election? It’s because of two people: Bernie Sanders and Tom Mulcair.

On Friday night, protesters successfully disrupted a rally for Republican presidential frontrunnner Donald Trump. When the race-baiting businessman realized that anti-Trump activists made up roughly half the crowd, he cancelled the event. Then he went on the offensive. Predictably Twitter moaning about freedom of speech:

First, Trump clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that the right to free speech enshrined in the US Constitution (the states doesn’t have hate speech laws like we do in Canada, where Trump could probably be charged) doesn’t work that way. As this civil rights and constitutional lawyer pointed out:

What is really ironic, though, and what would really be tragic if Trump ever ended up in the White House, is that his recent rally rhetoric promotes an attack on the very constitutional right he claims he was denied on Friday.

Trump’s “Good Old Days” Were All About Suppressing Free Speech

Over the past few weeks, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to attack protesters more and more. As Rachel Maddow and others pointed out, this was most likely a deliberate attempt to provoke violence so he could claim he was the victim.

What is the most troubling about his rhetoric are his constant references to the “good old days” where there were “consequences” for protesting and protesters would most likely be “carried out on a stretcher.” To be clear, Trump misses the use of state violence to stifle dissent, to stifle free speech.

While his hypocrisy is palpable, so is the (perhaps willful) ignorance of his supporters. That they can claim to support a right while championing someone who seeks to repress it, most likely in a brutal manner, when in power, is stunning.

It’s About the People Rising Up, Not Politics

By Saturday, Trump had already named a culprit: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This was based, at least on the surface, on the fact that some of the protestors inside the event were vocally supportive of the Vermont Senator and completely ignored all the other protestors inside and the thousands in the student-led demo outside.

For his part, Sanders responded the best way he possibly could:

“As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama.”

In response, Trump threatened to send his followers into a Sanders rally and now the story has basically turned into Trump versus Bernie, at least in the mainstream press. While this will help Sanders in the upcoming primaries, especially given Hillary Clinton’s lack of support for the protesters, it distracts from what is really at play here: that a group of protester, mostly people of colour, were able to stop a Donald Trump bigot love-in.

Maybe Trump can’t fathom or admit the truth, so blaming a well-organized political machine is the only way out. I think, though, that admitting it wasn’t a power play but rather a play against power makes it impossible to deny that it is the protesters who are on the side of freedom of speech.

Donald Trump’s rights were not violated Friday night, he was in the power position while seeking a greater power position. But if he becomes President, you can believe he will do his best to eliminate the right of free speech through protest for everyone.

GOP & Democratic primary presidential candidates policy on food issues

Where do the Republican front-running prez brigade stand on food policy? What do the Democratic presidential candidates say when it comes to important food issues?

More than most other issues, food remains foundational to the wider platforms of the GOP & Democratic 2016 primary candidates. It’s reach relates to the deeper economic, environmental, foreign policy, health and labour platforms on offer.

For all the debates, media hype and fact checking, there’s been little to no discussion of food issues, let alone wider food policy. Here in Canada, it took outside advocacy groups to push for food policy in the run-up to the election.

The Eat, Think Vote campaign urged citizens to eat with their MPs to get them to pledge to tabling national food policy. Luckily, it seems the tactic worked, as the eventual majority party made good on their promise to follow through on the national food policy mandate, not to mention what we see now in mainstream press running renewed calls for this policy.

US food advocacy groups have had a harder time tabling such issues, yet Food Tank put out this great list of questions for presidential candidates which I lauded last month with other similar calls. Recently, some others have joined in, most recently celeb foodie Michael Pollan (in Esquire, of course) and celeb chef Tom Collichio.

It can be hard to find what morsels of food-related policy the front-running GOP or Democratic candidates have publicly put out in their platforms.

So we’ve done the work for you. See below for the food policy snippets form their policies, starting with the Republicans. Or, if you’re interested in the Dems, skip down to our summary the 2016 Democratic candidates.

The GOP Primary Front-Runners on Food Policy

Ted Cruz

For Cruz, policy platforms on food fall under his reforms to small businesses and the stable dollar.

For small businesses, when it comes to food, Senator Ted Cruz promises to:

  • End EPA regulations like the Waters of the U.S. rule and the Clean Power Plan that “burden small businesses and farmers.”
  • Pass the REINS Act, “holding Congress accountable to vote on any major cost-inducing regulation.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.03.49 AM
Ted Cruz is promising that tax cuts and reining in the Fed will help food producers.

His platform promises to rein in the Fed, which he promises will help farmers and ranchers:

  • “When the dollar is high as it is today,” says Cruz, “prices tend to fall, which is good for consumers, but farmers, ranchers, and the energy industry get hurt, as do American exporters.  America needs a more stable dollar.”

For income of farmers and food workers, Cruz’ flat tax policy would promise to free up income to get the economy flowing so to speak

See Ted Cruz’s full policy platforms.

Marco Rubio

Rubio dedicates one entire policy platform to farms. His main premise is to “get government out of the way of farmers” via curbing overregulation, cutting taxes and opening up new markets.

This includes platform to:

  • Repeal regulations on farmers and ranchers. This includes undoing the EPA ‘Waters of the U.S. Rule’ which Senator Rubio pledges will “dramatically expand federal control over ponds, ditches and streams.” Other regulatory repealing includes cutting carbon mandates, to open up what he calls “swathes of productive land off-limits for agriculture or other beneficial development.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.06.15 AM
Rubio, who is fading from the front-running crowd, is promising to get the government “off the backs” of farmers and ranchers.
  • Cut the punitive “death tax” on farmers. This is part of his larger tax plan. This will free up cashflow for farmers and ranchers, e.g. “to immediately write off the cost of new machinery and equipment.”
  • Oppose new taxes on energy. Senator Rubio promises to fight cap-and-trade in order to decrease costs for farmers. This falls under his wider energy plan.
  • Open new markets for farmers and ranchers. This would be supporting pushing for “timely completion of trade agreements to boost exports for US farmers and ranchers”

See Marco Rubio’s policy platforms

Donald J. Trump

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.06.52 AM

Donald Trump does not explicitly state food policy platforms, though vague connections might be found in his trade proposals.

See Donald Trump’s policy platforms

Democratic Presidential Candidates Policy on Food Issues

Bernie Sanders

Democratic 2016 presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has the most lengthy public platform relating to food. In several sections of his platform, he touches food issues. In particular, food policy is explicitly mentioned in the platform he calls “fighting for the rural economy.”

Broadly speaking, Bernie Sanders supports:

  • Farm policies that foster the new generations of owner-operators.
  • Upholding land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all.

Sanders promises the following outcomes from the platform of his farming and food policies:

  1. Make sure that family farmers and rural economies thrive;
  2. Expand support for young and beginning farmers; 3
  3. Produce an abundant and nutritious food supply;
  4. Establish an on-going regeneration of our soils;
  5.  Enlist farmers as partners in promoting conservation and stewardship to keep our air and water clean and to combat climate change.

Specific food issues and food policy fit into Senator Bernie Sanders’ rural communities, farm agriculture, & renewable energy platforms. Here are the top lines:

Supports to agriculture

Senator Bernie Sanders promises to “fight for America’s small and mid-sized farms.” In particular, he pledges platform policy to:

  • Expand services of the D for new and underserved farmers. Says Sanders, this department should “live up to the name” it was given by Lincoln, who called it the “People’s Department”
  • Encourage growth of regional food systems. Senator Sanders pledges to invest into local farmers who sell “directly to local consumers, institutions, and restaurants.”
  • Reverse trade policies, e.g. NAFTA that he says “have flooded the American market with agricultural goods produced in countries with less stringent environmental, labor, and safety regulations.”
  • Enforce US antitrust laws against large agribusiness and food corporations. Senator Sanders pledges to “stand up to corporations” to make the prices that farmers receive more fair. He wants to prevent “few large companies” that  “dominate many agricultural industries, allowing them to force unfair prices on farmers.”
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By whatever measure, Sanders covers the most food issues by double in his platforms of other candidates.

Renewable energy investment

Several energy policies impact farmers, ranchers and small food businesses, not to mention food to plate distribution. Senator Sanders is particularly firm on this matter. His platform says it will:

  • Increase investments in wind energy to “substantial” degree
  • Make the Wind Production Tax Credit permanent.
  • Invest into biofuels, e.g. ethanol. Sanders calls these an “economic lifeline to rural and farm communities in Iowa and throughout the Midwest, supporting over 850 000 workers, all while keeping our energy dollars here at home instead of going into the pockets of oil barons.”
  • Support the Renewable Fuels Standard

Rural US

Though not directly related, Sanders speaks fully on rural US improvements, which has huge impact on farmers, ranchers and the future of food quality & distribution. Senator Sanders pledges to:

  • Improve the electric grid. “We desperately need to improve our aging rural electrical grid, which consists of a patchwork system of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s,” says Bernie Sanders.
  • Invest in high-speed Internet services for rural folk to improve infrastructure, e.g. for farmers.
  • Improve dams, most of which facilities exist in rural areas. His Rebuild America Act will invest $12 billion per year to repair “high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across rural America; and the flood levees that protect our farms and our towns and cities.”

See Bernie Sanders’ policy platform

Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her US presidential candidacy for the Democratic party, does not specifically offer food policy improvements. Certain issues for food production, distribution, farmers & ranchers crop up in her other platforms.

Renewable energy

She does have a platform on renewable energies, some of which touches directly farmers and food production. Secretary Clinton promises to:

  • Reform leasing on public lands. This includes to “reform fossil fuel leasing and significantly expand clean energy production on public lands, from wind in Wyoming to solar in Nevada.”
  • Promote clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship.
  • Fully fund programs to provide help to “producers who conserve and improve natural resources on their farms, strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard, and double loan guarantees that support the bio-based economy’s dynamic growth.”

Minimum wage

Her labour and minimum wage policy touches food workers, in particular. These fast food workers started the minimum wage campaigns which Secretary Clinton pushes:

  • Raise the minimum wage and strengthen overtime rules.
  • Support raising the federal minimum wage to $12
  • Support to raise further than the federal minimum through state and local efforts
  • Support workers organizing and bargaining for higher wages, “such as the Fight for 15 and recent efforts in Los Angeles and New York to raise their minimum wage to $15.”
  • Support the Obama expansion of overtime rules “to millions more workers.”

Rural communities

Clinton promises broadly in her rural policy to raise agricultural “production and profitability for family farms.” Vaguely, she mentions that:

 

Farmers and ranchers supply food for America’s dinner tables, invest in farm machinery and supplies, and provide domestic energy resources that fuel small businesses. The agriculture economy also drives America’s larger economic success—accounting for about $800 billion in economic activity each year.

Yet her policies do not go into specifics, except to:

  • Increase funding to support farm succession. This support would supposedly include “the next generation of farmers and ranchers, invest in expanding local food markets and regional food systems, and provide a focused safety net to assist family operations that truly need support during challenging times.”

 

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See Hillary Clinton’s policy platforms

Panelists Ethan Cox, Josh Davidson and Jerry Gabriel discuss student tribunals at Concordia, the US Primary Season and Justin Trudeau’s statement that pipelines will pay for green energy. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Ethan Cox: Editor at Ricochet

Josh Davidson: FTB Food Columnist

Jerry Gabriel: Podcast regular and FTB contributor

 

* Concordia Tribunals report by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Feminism is more than burning bras and not shaving your armpits. Being a feminist means demanding equal pay for equal work, taking charge of our bodies, gender freedom, ending domestic violence and rape culture, and crushing the all powerful patriarchy.

No, it does not mean we hate men, in fact many feminists actually are men! Yes, it does mean standing together with our sisters and trans sisters, but it does not mean bullying other women into thinking how we think and pushing our ideals on others.

I was offended when Gloria Steinem, a famous voice of the feminist movement, and Madeline Albright, the first female secretary of the state, said that any woman who doesn’t back Hilary Clinton is not a feminist. They went on to say that girls were just voting for Bernie Sanders because he was popular with men.

Albright said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She has famously used this phrase for other more appropriate situations in the past. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.

In 1996, when Sanders faced Republican Susan Sweetser in a bid for re-election to the House, he found himself up against a female candidate. Then Gloria Steinem went to Vermont to endorse Sanders, saying in jest that she’d come to dub him “an honorary woman.”

Even though Bernie Sanders is a cis gender white male he is more of a feminist than Hilary Clinton. I feel the Bern because I did my homework, not because any boy told me to do so.

Women for Bernie
Feminists for Sanders in the Vermont Vanguard. Will You Vote for…Substance or Image? | Vanguard Press | Nov. 2, 1986

Hilary Clinton responded to the female criticism by saying “I have spent my entire adult life making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices—even if that choice is not to vote for me.” If Hilary does win the democratic nod I will still vote for her over any Republican, I do agree with her on some things and definitely don’t think she is as evil as the other side.

Feeling The Bern is a movement that will improve the lives of women. He supports paid maternity leave, calls on men to join in fighting the gender wage gap, and has always supported gay rights.

She stated that she would have supported the Defense of Marriage Act if she was in power and then only “evolved” to support gay marriage later in her career. I do not agree with her corporate strand of feminism and believe that in order for women or anyone to succeed in this country we need a democratic revolution and socialist overthrow.

Clinton has even accepted donations from countries that treat women terribly, while Sanders is being funded by the everyday people. Ideology is more important to me than gender.

I remember being 18, my first time voting. Candidates in the primary included Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, a woman and a black man, holy shit. I stood in the booth and cried because I knew what kind of moment this was.

People fought for ME and that there was so much more to be done. Change is still brewing. There was a time where both women and people of color could not even vote let alone run for president. I thought of all the suffragettes and civil rights activists that fought for this basic human right.

Barack Obama got my vote that day just as Bernie Sanders will get my vote this coming election. I will never understand why so many young voters don’t show, every voice counts. We must educate ourselves and join together to take charge of our own future while fighting oppression. You can’t complain if you don’t vote.

Feminist Art
Feminist Art in The Brooklyn Museum

There is no answer to why humans judge others based on the color of their flesh, age, sex, orientation, or presentation. We must accept each other’s differences and appreciate unique beauty. Be the change you want to see and never tolerate ignorance or hate. Strive for peace, acceptance, freedom and above all else love. Sexism infiltrates all parts of life.

I was bartending last night and a man came in with two of his grown sons. He said to me early in the conversation ” Are you married?” I said no happily, still smiling, and told him that wasn’t in my cards. He then asked me if I wanted children, I laughed and said NO, “Oh that will change when you find the right man.”

WHAT? The smile was gone. No, I do not need to find the right man to complete my life, I don’t need anyone. I am perfectly happy with my cats and independence.

It was so ignorant for him to assume anything about my sexuality and throw his values on me. He was obviously religious and has money, he mentioned that he had eight children and it was the best thing in his life, especially now being older. I told him that over population was a real thing and I would have no part of it.

A moment later a man playing in the band said to two women sitting at the bar (who were obviously on a date with each other) “Why are these two lovely ladies sitting alone at the bar? Come on men! Take care of these lonely girls!” They looked at each other and said,”No, thank you!”

No woman should ever feel judged or unsafe. Protest the propaganda and spark inspiration and change. Stifle hate with beauty and truth. Be a feminist, a humanist, an informed voter, and a person who stands up for what is just. Make the world a better place to live in by taking an active part in its reconstruction. Choose your candidate based on their history and credentials, not their gender. Of course I want a female president, but it must be the right woman!

* Featured image Meredith Nierman/WGBH

It wasn’t long after news of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing hit social media on Saturday that we got an idea of what the Republicans were planning, courtesy of Conn Carroll, Communications Director for Senator Mike Lee of Utah:

This sentiment was echoed in much more nuanced terms by GOP Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz:

It is clear that the Republicans, who now control the US Senate, plan to block any Supreme Court nominations current President Barack Obama makes to replace Scalia on the bench. Their motivations are clear and it is possible for them to achieve this goal, with a little over a year to go before the next President is sworn in.

But if they do succeed in carrying out this plan, they may have wished they hadn’t. Nobody knows who the next President will be or which party will have a majority on the Senate.

Republican Dream Scenario is Just a Dream

The GOP is clearly hoping one of their own moves into the White House and nominates a right-leaning candidate which the Senate, still controlled by Republicans, quickly confirms. Now, I know that you have to approach an election with the attitude that you are going to win, but even GOP strategists must realize that their dream scenario is a bit of a longshot.

It’s extremely likely, thanks largely to gerrymandering, that the Republicans will still form the majority in the US House of Representatives, a body that has nothing to do with Supreme Court nominations. They have a likely, though not definite, chance of retaining control of the Senate, too, so there is a decent chance they will retain control of the confirmation process if they succeed in delaying.

When it comes to winning the Presidency, the odds are not in their favour. When a two-term President is still popular at the end of his second mandate, there’s a good chance his party will keep the Oval Office, for at least another term.

George W. Bush was extremely unpopular across the board when he left office, to the point that John McCain didn’t really want him helping out during the campaign. Obama is still loved or at least respected by most of those who voted for him and the people who hate him now hated him in 2008, too.

Also, the Democrats have narrowed their options to two and the debate is pretty much centered on how much to the left of Obama the party should go. The Republican field, on the other hand, is still wide open.

Factor this all in and the possibility of a Republican being able to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice, while not an impossible scenario, is not the likely scenario. So the question becomes: Why would the GOP gamble everything on a bet they very well may lose?

Irrational Fear of Obama or Playing to the Bigoted Base?

Despite all the rhetoric the right throws at him, President Obama is a solid practitioner of incrementalism. Anyone he nominates to the Supreme Court, though perhaps harboring a liberal bias on some issues, would be, by and large, a moderate. Not just that, but someone specifically selected to pass through confirmation by a majority Republican Senate.

us supreme court

FTB’s legal columnist Samantha Gold listed some of Obama’s potential choices. These are all qualified jurists who really don’t scream anything close to radical activist. One of them, David Jeremiah Barron, even once wrote a legal memo justifying drone strikes against US citizens. While this horrifies me, I don’t see why law and order “kill the terrorists at all costs” Republicans would have a problem.

What may make the GOP nervous about confirming some of these names? Could it be the names themselves? Sri Srinavasan and Jacqueline Hong-Ngoc Nguyen both have the qualifications to justify being on the SCOTUS, but they also both have names that don’t sound white, because they’re not. They also both weren’t born in the US.

None of this should matter, but it may matter to the more racist elements of the Republican base. We’re talking about people who care less about the fact that Srinavasan graduated from Stanford Law than the fact that he swore his oath to the circuit court on the Baghavad Gita instead of a Bible.

Now, of course the Republican Party can’t come out and say that racism played a role in their decision to force a delay in the nomination. What they can do, once it becomes widely known that the Thurmond Rule (what they are using currently to justify pushing the nomination to the next President) is not an actual rule and also doesn’t even apply until the last six months of a President’s term, is play the fear and hatred of Obama card.

It’s something they have mastered. Irrational paranoia over a moderate incrementalist. In this case, though, it may give them a result that will make approving an Obama nominee seem like the safe bet.

What Could Happen

Let’s look at a few hypothetical situations that could arise after the Senate Republicans delay filling Scalia’s seat until the next US President is sworn in:

  1. Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is the next President and the Republicans still control the Senate: The list of potential nominees would be similar, though maybe not that drone supporter guy in the case of a Sanders presidency. All the Republicans accomplished was leaving the court deadlocked for a year with no purpose behind it.
  2. Clinton becomes President and the Democrats take control of the Senate: She could nominate some of these people but would be free to go with a judge decidedly more liberal.
  3. Sanders becomes President and the Democrats take control of the Senate: The Republicans freak out, call a lame duck session and try with all their waning power to confirm Obama’s nominee because they know Bernie won’t pick a moderate or even close!

Never mind the fact that the current Republican course of action has them completely and deliberately ignoring their constitutional responsibility to promote an illogical fear of Obama and appease the more racist elements of their base, it also has them throwing everything behind a bet there is a good chance they won’t win.