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.

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.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.05.45 AM
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.”

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.06.37 AM

See Hillary Clinton’s policy platforms

In this past week Beirut, Bagdad, Paris and most of Syria were the epicentres of yet another gruesome chapter of the war on terror. The images of a blood-stained Paris echoed the images of the Lebanese bloodbath that had followed the day before, but as one served as an echo chamber for the whole struggle against terrorism and radicalism the other was almost practically omitted: “after all,” some said, “it happens over there all the time!”

This gap in solidarity became much more than merely your routine ethnocentricity. Some have put forward the argument that it’s “normal” to feel more proximity to France, and this argument and the debate in general is in many ways the highest manifestation of how the war on terror is fuelled and perpetuated.

One of the best examples of this occurred in the wreckage of the Paris attacks on the On n’est pas couchés (ONPC) set–a renowned French talk-show rebranding itself On est solidaires for the occasion. During the televised debate where several politicians, artists and philosophers were invited, the discourse was the same–except for the notable exception of Jean-Luc Mélanchon (leader of the French left Parti de Gauche) and the philosopher Raphaël Glucksmann.

The drums of war were the same. The actors and the scenery had changed but the script was the same, the same one handed out in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks in the United States.

pray for paris french flag

The journalists in charge of orchestrating the whole affair reminded the audience time after time that the message the show was promoting was one of solidarity and peace but there was a cognitive dissonance, it seems, between the message of peace they were promoting and the “clash of civilizations” speech that came out of their mouths. The “us” against “them” was reformulated time after time, “they hate us because we love life,” “they hate what we love, music, art, gastronomy”… with every passing sentence the arguments became ever more void.

In the conversation that lasted more than two hours, the fact that the totality of the eight assailants who ravaged Paris last Friday were all Europeans, born and raised, was never brought up. So much for the racists and xenophobes among us for whom the prospect of one of them being a refugee birthed in them a pleasure of orgasmic proportions.

Yet the conclusion François Hollande and the majority of the panelists reached, which now seems a Cannon Law, was that these young men weren’t French, they were Daesh. Once Hollande uttered those words in his speech to the French people, real debate and reflection upon how to put an end to all of this nonsensical bloodshed was silenced.

Once Hollande uttered those words, France’s foreign policy and interventionism, its interior policy with regards to the Muslim minority, and the utter failure of France’s “integration” policies and the state’s relationship with its invisible and silenced minorities were exempt from any criticism.

And thus in the days that followed, just like every time a Western city or capital is the target of a major terrorist attack, the mystification of the terrorist, of terrorism becomes  the phantasmagoric object of all our hidden and deeply buried fears, a sort of blank sheet used as a deflection, to absolve us of all our sins.

This has become a routine affair in the past decade. Regardless of what country the attack might happen in, the drill is the same. It was same here after the attacks in Ottawa last year. Thus the real debate never really surfaces, the real question never really comes up: with all the anti-terrorism measures –le plan vigipirate in France, C-51 in Canada, the Patriot Act in the United States–  do we feel safer?

Today Syria is engulfed in a brutal and gruesome conflict that has millions of refugees fleeing for their lives and, if anything, the attacks in Paris should be the wake-up call for Europeans to understand why. Iraq has been torn apart for the past decade and apart from Kabul in Afghanistan the Taliban pretty much control  the stretches of territory that were in their possession before the invasion of 2001.

So instead of bombing Raaqa and swearing for more retaliation and pinning everything on the cosmic evil that is terrorism, it is our duty, while upholding the memory of the hundreds of thousands that perished in the past fifteen years, in this war on terror, to ask ourselves – hasn’t all of this become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Scores of innocent civilians laid lifeless in back to back attacks in Beirut and Paris and today, as I write this article, scores more will perish in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya because of wars that were not of their doing, caught in the crossfire of a war without end, that strengthens its grip with every attack, with every bombing, with every passing of “anti-terrorist” legislation.

We must ask ourselves the questions: “Who profits from this? What companies gained points on the stock market? Who has an interest in perpetuating the constant state of fear and hate?”

To use the terminology that Podemos has employed in Spain there is a caste, a transnational caste that has every interest not only propagating such terror but also in stabilizing and maintaining perpetual terror. This is the same caste that rails about refugees and yet on the other hand rants and criticizes “Western values.” It’s the same caste that authorizes airstrikes in the guise of retaliation and yet on the other hand guns down innocent civilians in the streets of Beirut and Paris.

On the chess board that is presented to us by the media, all of these different bloodthirsty actors are portrayed as enemies, Islamists versus Western forces, the bad guys versus the good guys, us versus them, when in fact their resolve and objective is the same, when in fact what links them all together is that they are fuelled by grief, destruction and death. From this vantage point, the us and them is a fake dichotomy, a rhetoric that only finds some sort of grounding in the clash of civilizations doctrine that is their lifeline. 

In reality it has never been about us and them, Arabs and Westerns. It’s about a military-financial-complex. The vicious tempo of its ever expansionary cycle has pushed more areas to be colonized by terror and in the wake of its passage deadlier and more gruesome attacks will be symptomatic. For as long as some profit off of war, others will have to die.

In the aftermath of the terrible events of the past week, in the memory of all of the victims of this never-ending war on terror, the victims of Kabul, of Baghdad, of Damascus, of Beirut, of Mosul, of Kenya and Yemen, of Bali, of New York and Washington, of Paris, of London, of Madrid, of all of the victims of this horrible war, it is our duty to honour them, to put an end to the false dichotomy and thus an end to this war!

Vos Guerres, Nos Morts!

Donald Trump is in the news once again, and this time, he’s gone a little too far. Since the first Republican Debate, the business mogul has been criticized for his rude behavior on television.

It all began when Fox reporter Megyn Kelly, who hosted the debate a couple of weeks ago, was verbally attacked by Trump after she questioned him over several remarks he made about women. He said: “she had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Whatever that means!

Furthermore, he also retweeted a message that referred to the journalist as a bimbo. How mature of a political candidate who wants to run the country!

His most recent clash with reporter Jorge Ramos is just plain rude. During a press conference, Mr. Trump had the journalist escorted out of the room, after he was trying to ask the candidate questions about his recent call to deport millions of illegal immigrants and build a wall between the US and Mexican border (brilliant idea!).

Donald Trump insisted he had to wait his turn to submit a question. He kept telling the anchor: “You haven’t been called, go back to Univision.” Univision is the American Spanish television network which refused to air the Miss USA pageant, which Trump co-owns, due to his racist remarks. As security approached Ramos, he said: “I am a reporter. I have a right to ask the question.”

While in the hallway, a Trump supporter approchaed the journalist and told him that what he did was rude and that he should go back to his country. For the record, Ramos is a U.S. citizen; go back where exactly? That’s what I call being rude and racist!

He was later welcomed back to the press room and was given the chance to ask his question, even though Trump answered in a non-friendly manner.

Even after all of this, I am still puzzled as to how and why this man is still leading the polls. Not only does this person insult people from the media on live television, he also has the nerve to throw his nasty, racist comments too?!

Why give him this much exposure anyway? And as for votes, doesn’t he realize that most voters are Mexican AND women? I really don’t understand why anyone would vote for him. Let’s just hope he doesn’t win the election.

Most people go through their lives, believing in ideals, yet never taking any action. They simply go with the flow of the world, not caring where history might take them. Others, however, wish to alter that flow. They do not believe that their fate is set in stone, and they dare to change it – make it better.

Grace Lee Boggs is such a person. Born in 1915, Grace experienced the entirety of the twentieth century in the United States. She is a Marxist theoretician and a Black Power activist, who worked closely with the likes of C. L. R. James. She also worked with James Boggs, who later became her husband. She has lived in Detroit for more than 50 years and considers that place to be better, in some ways, than cities like New York.

“I feel so sorry for people who’re not living in Detroit. Detroit gives a sense of epochs of civilization, in a way that you don’t get in a city like New York. I mean, it’s obvious, by looking at it, what was doesn’t work,” she says in American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, a 2013 documentary directed by Grace Lee.

Filmmaker Grace Lee met the activist Grace Lee Boggs about a decade ago, when she was working on another documentary she called The Grace Lee Project. Essentially, the purpose of the earlier project was to meet with other Asian American women, who share the common name, and define a common set of stereotypes that have come to be associated with the name Grace Lee.

In that sense, American Revolutionary is a result of Lee serendipitously meeting Grace and being especially impressed by her. After all, Grace is a 99-year-old woman, yet still is more energetic, more active, and more passionate than most young people I know. Hearing her ideas in the documentary definitely made me question certain things I thought were always a given.

In the documentary, Grace says “You begin with a protest, but you have to move on from there. Just being angry, just being resentful, just being outraged does not constitute revolution.” Coming from a person who has been married to a Black Panther, whom the FBI has classified as a ‘rabble-rouser,’ and who has favoured Malcolm X over Martin Luther King Jr., this statement is highly interesting. Is it that after decades of struggle, Grace has lost her interest in violent struggle, or is it that she has acquired wisdom that may be still hidden from us?

Grace herself answers that question in American Revolutionary. The documentary is structured in such a way that it is a biography of Grace Lee Boggs, and an essay on her philosophy at the same time. Admittedly, the documentary attempts a monumental task: Fitting almost a century of self-reflection, contemplation, and theorizing into 82 minutes. To be fair, I do not think any documentary could do this task proper justice. However, I do think that it comes pretty close.

Cinema Politica will be screening American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs on Monday, April 13 at 7 P.M. at Concordia University. If you are still asking yourself what revolution means to you, if you are still asking yourself what your collective struggle means to you, the life of Grace Lee Boggs will definitely get you thinking. You might not find the answers you’re looking for, but perhaps you might discover new directions.

In what has to be one of the most fascinating must-watch pieces of television produced in the last little while, John Oliver interviews Edward Snowden in Russia for his HBO show Last Week Tonight and they end up talking dick pics. While that may seem like a waste to speak of something so trivial, it’s actually an attempt to contextualize the NSA spying program in a way that the “average” person who doesn’t know or care about the Snowden story can relate to, showing why they should be afraid of a wide-sweeping surveillance state.

This is actually part of a hilarious/informative (what has become the hallmark of Oliver’s show) segment on the upcoming renewal of the US Patriot Act. If you have the time, you should really watch the whole segment (33 mins), which you can below. But you can also skip ahead to the Snowden interview. it starts at 13:40

I am a human being and a citizen of the United States, and more importantly a citizen of the Earth. I live in a free country, which is part of a free world, right? I am allowed to love who I love and live in peaceful harmony, right?

Daily I find reasons to doubt that my rights, freedoms, and civil liberties mean anything at all. For the last week I have been reading all about Indiana and Governor Mike Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act… this act gives business owners the right to deny service to anyone who goes against their religious point of view. Therefore any Christian run business can openly and legally discriminate against same sex couples and those who are transgender or do not fit into the “good Christian” box.

Religious rights are more important than rights given to a human being who was born LGBTQ. WOW-all I can think is that we have entered the fucking Twilight Zone… this is absolutely ridiculous, so many people (from Stonewall to the Human Rights Campaign and every person who has spoke up against LGBTQ oppression in between) have spent lifetimes fighting for marriage equality and human rights, this is even more demeaning- its a gadzillion steps back. It rationalizes injustice in the name of Religious right. You are doing it wrong Indiana.

Many people and celebrities are calling to boycott the entire state of Indiana. The NCAA championship in Indianapolis is even cancelled due to this. While I do agree with the ban on travel and boycott of Indiana, at the same time I want to go there and say it to his face that we will not sit back and take this.

Action needs to be taken now. This whole situation is infuriating. I am angry for all the steps that we must reclaim and agree that a convergence of protestors would be absolutely awesome but would also have to be self sufficient / rely on the Indiana LGBTQ community to help support or it would be counter productive.

equal

Protestors would have to take steps to not support any of the businesses who are openly in favor of this preposterous act . Bringing food, sleeping in your cars, and making sure that all amenities are procured across state lines are a must.

Although some businesses have openly come out in praise of this new act, there are still many who will suffer unjustly. There are many non-Religious, LGBTQ friendly businesses in Indiana who do not support this act.

My only hope is that they do not unjustly suffer for the idocracy of their government. Thousands of businesses are now donning stickers that say “This business serves everyone” and registering to be part of the list of businesses who openly disagree with the act. In a time where all small business is suffering, why would anyone want to turn away willing customers?

Memories Pizza is one of these businesses that openly celebrates the new act. They have openly delclared that they would deny service to any same sex couple who would want pizza at their wedding.

A local Indiana television station spoke to Crystal O’Connor, the owner of this pizzeria. She says that they are a Christian establishment and that she and her family have beliefs and others are entitled to their own.

“We definitely agree with the bill.” She doesn’t think the bill targets gays or discriminates but instead protects businesses like hers who have a religious belief.

ABC Channel 57 also spoke to her father: “That’s a lifestyle that you choose, I choose to be heterosexual, they choose to be homosexual–why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?” Ignorance is really special.

There has been a public outcry against Memories Pizza in response to their intelligent statements on social media and review sites such as YELP. My only question is, who cares? What respectable/ fabulous Gay or Lesbian couple would ever have pizza at their wedding? Especially pizza made by hate mongers. Come on now.

memories pizza
Memories Pizza website hacked

This whole situation just all beyond reason and morality- whenever we have to ask ourselves “WTF?! Aren’t we past this?” LOVE IS LOVE, people are born gay or straight or in between, we have no choice in the matter, and all love should be respected and diversity celebrated.

It makes me wonder what else is going on in Indiana that they are trying to put the wool of Hate over our eyes… there is clearly some other shit going on there. Its unfathomable to think that this asshole wants to run for president. Even some Republicans are embarrassed and outraged believe it or not.

I said “some” Republicans. Then there is the Bush family tree. “I think Governor Pence has done the right thing,” Jeb Bush said in a radio interview on Monday, “people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all” and that the facts have not been established – wow he’s so smart, just like his broski, former “President” George W. Bush, infamous for his intelligence (or lack there of).

Palm to face. The fact that anyone supports this travesty is also astounding to me and really speaks volumes about how this world is run.

For the most part the far right has lost the battle against marriage equality, but there is clearly work that needs to be done. There must be international backlash to this act, the world showing support for every human on this planet, discrimination is unacceptable always and forever.

cat gay pride

The religious veil is thin, it does not hide the hate. We cannot go backwards. Arizona vetoed a similar act last year, there will be more instances of this if we all do not band together and stop it.

Bigotry is unacceptable and it will be stopped. This act affects ALL of humanity. Love one another and support human rights by speaking up against injustice.

FUCK HATE! FUCK THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT!

Every year, Cinema Politica brings some of the most important, relevant and powerful political and social documentaries to Canadian screens. This year, one of the most anticipated films is Blair Dorosh-Walter’s Out in the Night, which tells the stories of four African-American lesbian women who were incarcerated after an altercation outside a New York theatre, labeled as a ‘ruthless lesbian gang’ despite clearly acting in self-defense. In the spirit of films like The Thin Blue Line, Out in the Night methodically deconstructs the case against these four women, as well as shedding light on their lives before and after their prison sentences.

Out in the Night insertFormally, Out in the Night uses the same set of tools as other socially-conscious documentaries. Talking heads, inter-titles, archive footage, you know the drill. Expanding or playing with the limits of representation and documentary form aren’t really the concern of the film as much as communicating information in as direct a manner as possible.

Out in the Night succeeds in this goal, telling the story of these four women and laying out the many holes, inconsistencies and outright fabrications in the case laid against them in such detail that it becomes almost impossible to doubt their innocence. Simply as an example of documentary journalism, Out in the Night is a very strong film.

However, like many films of this nature, Out in the Night doesn’t quite go far enough. Although the story of these women and the many ways in which society and “the system” failed them are laid out, the larger questions, and any attempt at answering those questions, are only slightly touched upon. It isn’t enough, for me, to simply say -how- these women were wronged so spectacularly, but -why-.

What are the systems of homophobia, male entitlement and racism that created a world where these events could even happen? How has the media, whose sensationalist coverage of the incident and subsequent trials is a focus of the film, become so skewed and dependent on hyperbole and exaggeration? What social and political systems are responsible for what happened, and most important of all, how can we combat them?

The film does an excellent job at raising awareness of the many failures of the American justice system and the adversity faced daily by African-American members of the LGBTQ community, but raising awareness is step one. Step two is aiding the audience in putting that awareness to good use, how to channel the outrage at this and similar incidents into real social change. How to recognize the systems, both political and social, that made this happen, and ensure these mistakes are not repeated.

Out in the Night is ideal for festivals like Cinema Politica, and group viewing in general, in that may be at its strongest when accompanied by group discussion. Monday’s CP screening, in partnership with Black History Month Montreal, will include a group discussion with special guest speakers.

Simply watching the film isn’t enough. Talk about it, discuss the questions the film didn’t bring up or answer. Use it as a catalyst, a jumping-off point for discussions of social change and reform. Because although it is very good, it can’t function on its own as a tool for inciting the change in the world that will prevent incidents like the one shown in the film from occurring again.

* Out in the Night plays at Cinema Politica Concordia Monday, February 2, 7pm. 1455 deMaisonneuve Ouest, room H110

So it looks like some people who have been downloading movies and TV shows illegally are going to get letters. That’s right, not even emails. Actual snail mail. Threatening snail mail at that.

Not sure if this will have any effect, given that our mail service is soon not going to be a door-to-door thing and also considering that these warnings are nothing more than that. There are no fines or jail time possible, they’re just toothless warnings.

But Canadians are, for the most part, a well-intentioned people. I’m sure we’d happily pay to support the shows we want if there was a way. That is, if there was a way that didn’t involve having to first pay for a cable service and then the content we’re looking for.

Such a thing exists south of the border, or rather it will exist soon. HBO is finally making it possible to purchase the GO platform, accessible through computers, smartphones, tablets and as an app on Smart TVs, without first having a cable subscription, but only in the US.

That’s right, all that fine HBO program… Yes, Game of Thrones, new season, because that and maybe True Detective is all we’re really after, right? The service should cost $12 a month and while that’s a pretty penny to pay for one show, it also may include quite a bit of the back catalogue, kind of like Netflix. That means Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, old episodes of Game of Thrones, pretty good deal, if you ask me.

I would gladly pay $12 a month for HBO legally, instead of “going to a friend’s house” (cause I’d never do anything illegal… and then admit it online). A lot of time, energy, talent and money went into these shows and I’d happily support them. Unfortunately, due to my geographic situation, I can’t. Instead, I’m free to support Canadian cable conglomerates that had no hand in creating the programming I want. I have neither the will or the funds to do that.

It’s time that Canadian media companies shifted focus away from fighting hard to reinforce a system that allows them to become rich by buying then re-selling content they didn’t make, through an outdated method, and instead creating some great content of their own and distributing it through apps and streaming services that the whole world has access to.

There has never been a better opportunity for Canadian-produced media to shine globally. Sure, Canadian companies don’t have the marketing or production budgets that Hollywood does, but that can change and will change if they stop focusing on distribution, and opt for a simple model, using something like a website and an app, and instead of buying US shows, pour that money into content production and promo instead.

Hollywood has a reason to fear the internet, Toronto doesn’t. We should let the full American version of Netflix come in without people having to be clever, same for HBO GO. Who cares what Canadian company owns what? We won’t be buying shows anymore, we’ll be making them.

The internet should have no national boundaries. Not only does that democratize things for smaller content producers, it also makes it possible for national media companies that aren’t American to get a leg up.

Unfortunately, for now, it looks like our media conglomerates are clinging to the old ways so much they’ve resorted to sending letters.

But honestly, guys, if you blow this chance, THE NORTH WILL NEVER FORGET!

Creative Commons - Loavesofbread

The news that came after the ‘grand’ deliberation of the jury last night in response to the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO wasn’t one bit surprising. It did, though, feel like an electroshock of seismic magnitude.

Although it’s obvious that a judicial system that gives the same definition of ”personhood” to multinational corporations as it does to an actual person is rigged and corrupt to the core, it was a shocking verdict given the public outcry revolving around the case, the popular mobilization and the massive sensitization campaign that swept like wildfire throughout communities in the United States.

It seemed more like a sermon on the benefits of the system: St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s tone was that of a bureaucrat, dishing-out bunches of reports, pharisaic evidence and physical proof, in his attempt to make us believe that officer Darren Wilson was right to murder in cold blood an 18-year-old Afro-American male for the crime of stealing a box of cigarillos. McCulloch said time after time that the accounts conveyed by the witnesses were contradictory, that it was all speculation and that, all in all, the legitimate fear that Afro-Americans (and others) have of the judicial system (one that not that long ago was the firewall of segregation) were unfounded, in other words, ridiculous.

ferguson verdict

McCulloch, a white, middle-aged man, was standing in front of the cameras last night speaking from the top of his altar down to the amassed crowds of Afro-American residents of Ferguson. It was the perfect metaphor for the hypocrisy of the entire situation. The subaltern can’t not speak. That was the message that rang out, the message that was supposed to quell once and for all the riots that had engulfed the impoverished St. Louis suburb since mid-August.

McCulloch was merely the avatar of a system, the message wasn’t his or that of the members of a jury, it was the message of law. Once McCulloch, from his prestigious position, with all the lights and the cameras driven on him, spoke, that was the word of ”god”: the word that would twist, turn and bend reality to fit its image that we had adjusted for it. In this reality, the people of Ferguson — their anger, their sorrow, their sense of alienation, their profound frustration — don’t fit within the canvas. It’s almost as if this new deity of law could remake events to suit its own pre-established narrative.

It  was a thorough investigation, they say, and out of the 162 000 cases that involved grand juries in 2010 only 11 decided not to return an indictment. But beyond that, there is a profound difference between indictment and conviction. In no measure was it the Grand Jury’s role to convict officer Darren Wilson of murder or manslaughter, voluntary or involuntary but to examine if there were grounds to… Were there grounds? I wonder…

Is the fact that a police officer shot an unarmed teenager several times with forensic evidence that the teenager was shot in the back considerable grounds for indictment? Is the fact that there are several contradictory accounts of the events sufficient grounds for a more in depth investigation through a full trial? The fact that the corner store from which Michael Brown supposedly stole the infamous box of cigarillos that would cost him his life denies that they called in law enforcement, is that grounds for indictment? Maybe the fact that his corpse was left 4 1/2 hours in broad day light, terrorizing the entire community, is reason for indictment on the grounds of negligence?

Forget all of that. There are sufficient grounds in the fact that every 28 hours, an African-American is shot dead by American law enforcement or vigilantes. Let’s shed a bit of light here. Michael Brown’s death is not the first and not the last brutal murder of a young Afro-American at the hands of the police and thus Officer Wilson should have been indicted and convicted within this framework. Unfortunately, the message sent back from the grand jury’s non-indictment was clear: it’s okay for the police to use lethal force against subaltern groups.

It’s okay for Americans to exploit the working force of millions of ”illegal” immigrants and treat them inhumanely. It’s okay for American law enforcement to kill in cold blood young and poor African-Americans, such as 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was shot dead while in a playground, playing. It’s okay to take the poor and toiled to court when they fraud welfare, but when the banks make millions in bonuses and stash them off in the Bahamas to avoid taxation, it’s also okay. It’s illegal in most places to smoke or deal weed to a make a few extra bucks but when too-big-to-fail financial institutions launder blood money from cartels, that’s okay.

This is the state of our judicial systems, that the mainstream media uphold this veil of ideology that casts law as the ultimate truth and the maker and breaker of reality. What is law is truth, what is law is real, all the rest is nonsense…

But ”law” is nothing else than the crystallization of subjective interests. You only have to look at those who benefit from the law, you only have to take a look at the barriers that allow some to have a greater access to justice than others, to see that law is merely the crystallization, in many ways, of ideology.

In this sense, the grand ideal of the American Dream found its wreckage on the rocks of the grand jury. The ideology that uses the symbols of equality, liberty and freedom in practice abides by the notion that some are more equal than others, that everyone has the right to speak but only a few to be heard and if you’re never heard, the question is did you ever speak in the first place?

Law is always the structuring framework of ideology. Example laws vary in countries with different ideologies and forms of law vary in different times, but law is always the subject of the reigning ideology and the economic and social elites. That’s why banks used tight debt laws as leverage on the poorest sections of American society and yet no law could jail the bankers that knowingly, maybe even willingly, instigated the economic downturn.

Law is a silex shaped by ideology, a tool of legitimization of violence, used to keep the subaltern under the grip of the ideological apparatus. Law defines what violence is legitimate in Webberian terms and what violence isn’t, what special interests can use coercive force and what forces have to be denuded of their coercive force.

That’s why the tears, the anguish, the blood, the misery and the voices of the subaltern are rarely taken into account in ”legal” terms. We are tricked into believing that Lady Justice is blind-folded. Justice isn’t blind, it’s blinding.

A luta continua.

Photo used under Creative Commons by Loavesofbread

So, here we go again. Thirteen years after the tragedy at the World Trade Center on September 11, and eleven years after the beginning of the Second Gulf War, a coalition of the ‘’willing’’ is being put together to salvage the what remains of Iraqi democracy.

But let’s be clear here. There is nothing ‘’humanitarian’’ about this third intervention in Iraq, and neither will it resolve anything. Sorry Stevie.

When the lessons of the past aren’t learned properly, or when they’re thrown purposefully into the trash bin, the missteps of the past become the fatal mistakes of the future. As the saying goes: History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce. But I don’t know what would it be the third time around. A comical apocalypse? The question that must be asked and yet isn’t being asked by the mainstream media is quite simple: Why? Why again? Why us? Why should we think this will help?

A-statue-of-Saddam-Hussein-is-pulled-down-in-Baghdad-on-9-April-2003.-Photograph-Jerome-Delay-AP
Soldier looks as Saddam Hussein’s statue is toppled.

Once again, at a frantic pace, the Conservatives and the Liberals are trying to turn the debate regarding the Canadian intervention in Iraq into a Manichean argument, a choice between good and evil: Either you’re for boots on the ground, or you’re with the terrorists! Anything less than military intervention is, apparently, unthinkable. For them, the roots of Islamic terrorism have to be “bombed out,” and obliterated.

But then one must wonder: Isn’t this the same strategy that was also used or attempted in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria? Didn’t the international community, through their sponsorship of radical Islamic organizations, ease the toppling of several governments in the region? Didn’t Western governments, de facto, pave the way for the chaos and massacres that are currently unfolding? Yes, absolutely!

Using the same strategy, with the same problematic actors, yet still expecting a different outcome is insanity.

Blatant, disingenuous hypocrisy fuels the Conservative government’s foreign policy, especially when it comes to the so-called “war on terror.” This is the same hypocrisy employed by the Bush administration, which thought that terror could root out terror, that torture could save the world from cruelty, that bigotry and racism could shun bigotry and racism. Unfortunately, this ideology of fighting fire with fire has left the whole of Middle East in blazes.

Stephen_Harper_and_George_W._Bush_July_6_2006

The Guantanamo Bay strategy, using brutal and cruel tactics to fight against brutality and cruelty, has utterly failed in the past and will utterly fail again, but this time around Canada will have indelible blood on its hands.

So, this is the non-strategy that the Conservative government and their Liberal allies are offering us on the silver platter of media: Military intervention with no timeline; no real notion of how many Canadian troops will be sent or what role they might serve; no strong local allies except for the dysfunctional Iraqi government, whose lack of legitimacy is the reason behind the current crisis; and no exit strategy.

As for the rhetorical fallacy of acting as “military advisors,” let’s remember, that back in the 1960s, US president Lyndon B. Johnson promised Americans, that the US’s role in Vietnam would only be an advisory one; we all know how that story turned out.

Maybe, deep down inside, Harper is waiting impatiently for his “Bushian moment.” Maybe he has developed some sort of a Bush complex —something that within the neo-conservative ranks is similar to the Napoleon complex — and this is the moment he has been waiting for all of his life?

How many lives will it take for his folie de grandeur to be exorcised?

It might seem incredible, even improbable, but as I write this article right now there’s a no-fly zone over an American town. It’s rarely stated in the mainstream media, it’s pretty much under the wraps. Maybe because the term ‘no-fly zone’ has been linked for the past few years with some of the world’s worst conflicts such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine. This might hit the point home for the regular Joe watching the news that a suburb by the name of Ferguson in Missouri is undergoing an occupation – there are no other words to describe it – worthy of a war zone.

The killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown sparked the massive uprising that has been omnipresent on our TV screens for the past few days. I feel that it’s important to state Michael’s name time and time again, even though by now it has become a household one, because unfortunately too many in the media are either quick to slander him or as quick to try and overlook the fact that an 18 year old African-American has, once again, died at the hands of law enforcement.

Michael BrownIt is important to remember Michael Brown and the exact facts of his story and his short-lived life because recently many within the mainstream media have been trying to drag his name and reputation through the dirt, trying somehow to use the petty crime of the shoplifting some candy and snacks to justify the police’s horrendous crime of killing an unarmed 18 year old pedestrian.

But one thing must be clear: Michael Browns and Trevon Martins, there are hundreds of them, hundreds of martyrs of police enforcement, thousands of victims of police violence and hundreds of thousands of law abiding ‘’citizens’’ whose rights and liberties are trampled by those who supposedly are there to ‘’serve and protect’’ them.

Michael Brown’s shooting isn’t an isolated case, far from it. While, for the sake of his memory, it’s important to remember the individual aspects of the case, it is also important to place this specific case within a broader framework to understand why and how this occurred and what were the underlying forces that instigated such a horrific outcome.

It is only within this broader framework that the details of the shooting, that some would want the general public to forget, become centerpieces to understanding the social and economic discrimination that is paramount. Omitted from much of the ‘reporting from the ground is the institutional racism and the systemic economic inequality which created the space, the breeding grounds for such police brutality.

It’s not a coincidence, unfortunately, that Michael Brown was an African-American youth. It’s not a coincidence that Michael Brown, being an African-American youth, lived in community where an important percentage of people live under the poverty line. It’s not coincidental that a poor African-American youth by the name of Michael Brown was shot seven times in the back, his only crime that he was born on the wrong side of the tracks in the wrong neighborhood.

To disconnect the events that occurred in Ferguson in the past week from a general understanding of the underlying, silently killing, economical violence is to rob the reaction of the inhabitants of Ferguson of any traction, of any righteousness. And to rob the Ferguson riots of any righteousness is to sterilize them, to disassociate them from their primordial political demand, which is equality. At the heart of the Ferguson riots is the struggle for democracy in America.

michael brown shoplifting cnnMany within the right-wing media would like us to believe that ‘’the mob’ – as they so dearly call them – that are looting and burning, confronting the police, were waiting for this moment like some sort of Christmas in July. Somehow in their twisted rhetoric, riots such as these are just occasions to provoke havoc which completely deplete any sympathy we should have for the cause. Although it is undeniable that the majority of Ferguson residences are profoundly shocked and angry at the killing of Michael Brown, seeing things from that sole vantage point doesn’t render justice to their cause, either.

At play here are two diametrically opposed forces, first of all the riots are not directed at the police forces (the individuals behind the riot gear) per say. When interviewed, local residents are very clear in their demands. They won’t be satisfied with just an end to the violence against their youth, they are demanding an end the economic equality which is the main enforcer of police brutality. The police are seen symbolically by the majority of the population of Ferguson as the defenders of status-quo, of a system that is overtly racist, a system that allows such brutality to perpetrated not only in a flash spark of violence like the death of Michael Brown, but on a regular basis.

Media outlets such as Fox News and Sun News here in Canada are right to a certain extent in their coverage of the events. Except they get it wrong when it comes to which side is fighting to uphold the laws and democratic aspirations of the American state and which is looting and burning. Those who have set Ferguson ablaze aren’t the people that live there, rather it’s the ultra-militarized police force that undergoes no checks or balances, that is completely above all of the laws and the constitution, that can violate with all impunity the rights and liberties of common American citizens.

one bullet hashtag
Image: @MediatedReality on Twitter

Fox News, Sun News and the KKK may applaud the ‘”patriot”actions of the brave police officer that shot an unarmed 18 year old seven times in the back, but the true patriots here, the true minutemen, are those that are resisting an occupying army and the unequal and profound corrupt system they enforce. Such a system is the main suspect in the death of Michael Brown, a system which usually doesn’t offer such gruesome spectacles, but does nonetheless kill on a regular basis, not with bullets of steel, but with bullets in the form of green dollar bills.

* Top image: The Daily Banter

 

It was almost like a party. That’s how both mainstream corporate and independent media outlets along with a good chunk of people on the ground via Twitter have been describing the scene in Ferguson, Missouri Thursday night.

I guess that’s what happens when you replace a military-style crackdown on freedom of assembly and freedom of the press by local police with a group of state highway patrol officers marching with the protestors and without riot gear. People celebrate the end of the occupation. I’d probably do the same if I was there.

The site of police marching with the people they are supposed to serve is as heartwarming as it clearly PR damage control. Likewise it’s a good thing that there isn’t a brutal crackdown on rights underway in Missouri currently, but should we really be celebrating?

In order for there to be an end to an occupation, there first needs to be an occupation. In order for fundamental rights to be restored, they first need to be suspended illegally.

ferguson_police_2

Let’s not forget that the St-Louis County Police Department effectively turned a protest into a riot and a riot into a war zone by using equipment designed for a military. Let’s also not forget how they got that equipment.

As the absurdity of a makeshift suburban police state subsides and the status quo resumes, let’s remember what normal means.

We live in a world where politicians order up arms that the military doesn’t want because those weapons are made in their districts. We live in a world where the military gives their unneeded arms to local police forces that don’t need them, shouldn’t have them but are all too happy to use their new toys.

We live in a world where an almost exclusively white police force is in charge of patrolling a predominately African American community. We live in a world where police murder unarmed teenagers and, for the most part, get away with it.

Mike Brown is still dead. Let’s not forget that. He was shot unarmed while trying to surrender to police. Let’s not forget that this is the normal that Ferguson and the rest of us are returning to.

When that changes, then there truly will be reason to celebrate.

* Images: The Daily Banter

Net Neutrality, the principle that all content online should be equally accessible, is under attack…again. This time around, the Federal Communications Commission in the US is poised to allow an internet “fast lane” for sites that pay for premium carriage (things in Canada, btw, aren’t much better).

John Oliver has something to say about this. On his new HBO show Last Week Tonight (think Oliver hosting The Daily Show but with uncensored swearing and occasional nudity), Oliver not only dug into the reasons behind the FCC’s new stance, but also why so many are apathetic about it. He concluded with a very unique callout.

Enjoy! And after watching, the site he mentions is fcc.gov/comments

Recently, in the House of Commons, “middle class” has become the favorite buzz word, omnipresent in every debate related near or far to the current state of the Canadian economy. “The middle class is hurting” is an almost daily remark uttered from the Liberal corner of the house as is the question “What is this government doing for the middle class?” Every dip or bounce in the GDP or in economic indicators resuscitates the urge of many parliamentarians to take care of this vital and yet fragile section of Canadian society.

But no one has ever cared to define what middle class means in this day and age. Before claiming to be the champion of the middle class, one has to first identify what the middle class truly is and if the notion of middle class is the same as when the concept was first coined.

The truth is that in many ways the middle class as a sociological entity was born in the post WWII period, built in many ways as a consequence of the Spirit of 45, which is brilliantly portrayed in Ken Loach’s documentary of the same name. This Spirit of 45 was the motor behind a blueprint to sap the economical and social foundations that had bred fascist and extreme right-wing ideologies in the first place.

spirit of 45
Scene from The Spirit of 45

Through communist, socialist, social-democratic forces during the first post-WWII decade, the foundations of the social state were laid: universal public health, universal access to post-secondary education, social insurance and more. This social welfare state is the engine that allowed the development of a new kind of social class which was universally described as the middle class.

This development of capitalism with a human face went hand in hand with the construction of a mass consumerist class and here is where the dichotomy begins. Even though the accession of the middle class was enabled by the construction of a social welfare state, the majority of individuals of the middle class never considered themselves as the product of the social welfare state, or a product at all, because of the lack of class conciseness within the so-called middle class, the middle class never truly existed.

To form a political or social class, one must first identify with the bonding aspects that supposedly connect individuals to one classification or another. So what are the unifying aspects of the middle class in economical, social or political terms? None, if there were some before, they hardly exist today.

Unlike the working class, which is historically united around organized labor movements or expresses its political force through labor parties or the farmers which organized farmer organizations, be they unions, coops or political parties (the NDP is the alliance between those two social groups and political forces), the middle class has never succeeded in organizing around a certain set of values and principles. So the subsequent question is: if the middle class is not a class by definition, what meaning should give to this notion of middle class?

silent majorityOne interesting historical aspect is that the development of the middle class as a notion that is intertwined with the neo-liberal revolution spearheaded by Thatcher and Reagan in the 1980s. At the time, the middle class was used as a synonym for the “silent majority”that was against taxes, against welfare fraud and thus against the social welfare state as a whole, against government in many ways and inherently individualistic, only preoccupied by economic matters. Here taxpayers and middle class are interchangeable. In the Canadian context, in many ways the consequent “common sense revolutions” of Mike Harris in Ontario and of the Reform Party on the federal level used the same rhetoric and couched their legitimacy on the shoulders of an invisible middle class.

Today, global austerity, the tyranny of balanced budgets and growth as an end in and of itself use the same logic and are supposedly championed by the middle class. To be the “champion of the middle class” is to not challenge the reckless economic ideology that is at the root of the global recession despite the hardship of hundreds of thousands of Canadians, the true non-silent majority.

The middle class as a notion is the worst enemy of everyone who in purely economic terms is middle class, in between the affluent sections of society and the disenfranchised.

The motion that we are seeing today is the motion of disenfranchisement of the middle-class as a direct reaction to the advent of modern capitalism. Through austerity policies and the dictatorship of profit and the markets, the social welfare net which had been the motor of the ascension of the middle state is under assault.

There is a complete disconnect between the economical reality of most middle class families today in Canada and the reality portrayed by politicians in the House of Commons. In that sense, the middle class is a complete abstraction, with no ties to reality.

The middle class is anything and everything you want it to be, you can make it say what you want, however you want and when you want it and because it’s unrepresented, without a physical link to everyday reality, it will never contradict you. The Liberal and the Conservative parties fight in a meaningless debate to represent the silent majority of Canadians, the hurting middle class that needs jobs and economic growth, while on the other hand is okay with slashing corporate taxes and hand-outs for multinationals. Really, the middle class is Disneyland for political demagogy, it’s the link that reconciles the irreconcilable.

living wage

The truth of the matter is that today a clear majority of Canadian households barely survive from paycheque to paycheque. In this reality where a living wage is an unforeseeable utopia, a majority of Canadians are indebted to their necks and most of my generation will start their professional careers with an already unhealthy amount of debt and in precarious jobs positions.

This is the reality of the majority of Canadians and these elements constitute the new social class of the 21st century: the precariat.

The middle class of yesterday is the precarious unemployed youth of today, the minimum wage slaves, the young families struggling to provide a standard of living for their children. These are the tens of millions of Canadians that have fear for their future and their financial stability.

The notion of middle class cherished by many politicians is but an abstraction, it superimposes itself upon this dreaded reality with the objective to make it disappear. Forget your real situation, because as long as you considered yourself middle class, trust us and there will be a better tomorrow for you and me.

Little do they know that the prosperity and the growth they talk of created the dismay of the middle class as a tangible reality, as something to look forward to.

Now we are all precarious.

If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying until someone screws up and your opponents are tired from fighting you and winning. Net Neutrality, the principle that Internet Service Providers must offer their customers all content available online evenly and fairly, is at risk again.

In the US, the FCC really dropped the ball and lost in court and in Canada things aren’t much better.

I hope you take the time to read up on the details through those links, but if you’re wondering why you should care, here are ten ways the internet and the world may be different if Net Neutrality disappears (and this, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg):