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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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):

It’s that time of the year again, the time for review of the year articles, the top 10s of 2013, the political winners and the political losers. Unfortunately this article is not going to take such a clear cut stance, but it will make reference to one of the most important tends in this past year, the rise of the socialist alternative.

2013 most certainly could go down in the memories of progressives, radicals, rabble-rousers and revolutionaries as just another dull year within an infinite sea of rampant victorious capitalism. Some might say, as always amazing movements were bread in these past 365 days but none of them gave birth to anything of substance.

And such could be said of almost every year since Fukuyama, oracle in chief of the new world order, announced the  end of history. For Fukuyama and the neo-liberal guard, the fall of the wall of Berlin and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc coincided with the ushering in of a new age, a never changing age of relentless growth and prosperity, an age in which any alternative to capitalism was dead in the egg.

From the onset, Fukuyama’s divination seemed quite fragile. It foresaw a utopia on earth, but never answered the question, for whom?

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Was this the end of history? Some think so, but is that changing in 2013?

Certainly since 1989 the rapid growth of global capitalism is due to the erasing of almost every from of regulation: regulation of the financial markets or regulation of trade. In this new world the main enemy is any barrier to the complete freedom of multinationals and corporations.

In pure economic terms there is no doubt that these past decades have been fabulous for the GDP and NASDAQ and all their siblings within the family tree of economic indicators. The wild 90s and 2000s were la belle époque, but not the end of history.

For its proponents and ardent defenders the end of history was not, in any way shape or form, the end of inequality or the dawning of a more just world, quite to the contrary. For those that crafted the doublespeak rhetoric of the end of history, it literally meant that, like it or not, capitalism was here to stay. The only alternative, communism, had crumbled and thus from now on consumerism was a synonym for freedom, capitalism was liberty and inequality was the natural way of things.

On the other hand any “alternative” to the new modus operandi was thrown into the dustbin of history alongside “communism” (insert here Stalinism). Any movement that spoke of a greater redistribution of wealth or fought for the defense of the social welfare state – or as Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it, the right to an adequate standard of living – was trash.

For the neo-liberal elite, the welfare state is seen as the final frontier, a regulation of society at large that must be abolished under current standards. Thus ‘left-wing’ movements, be they social-democratic, socialist or any other alternative tendency, have been struggling for relevance in this new age and some have chosen the path of least resistance and decided to implement the norms and dictates of the end of history, somehow thinking that this would make them relevant again.

Hand in hand with this loss of relevance goes the alienation of many groups in society that have lost for faith in the democratic system in its entirety. A democratic system that offers no substantial alternative breeds in itself disaffection and apathy, slow is the death of democracy as we know it.

Michelle Bachelet during the most recent presidential election in Chile
Michelle Bachelet during the most recent presidential election in Chile

And yet the 2008 crisis has planted the seeds of something new. The world has been rocked by popular discontent voiced in different ways, in very different parts of the globe. And the year 2013 was no different with continued uprisings in Europe against austerity –the dismantling of the welfare state through brutal “structural adjustments”– uprisings in Turkey against the privatization of public spaces, here in Canada protests, led by First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities, erupted against environmental degradation for short-term profit.

But most importantly, 2013 was a year in which many struggles gained concrete victories amidst great aversion.

In Chile, Camila Vallejo, Gabriel Boric, Giorgio Jackson and Karol Cariola, leaders of the student protests that have rocked the country since 2011, were elected to parliament. Vallejo was elected on a communist ticket and that party, after the last legislative elections, has the biggest percentage of seats since the time of Salvador Allende.

Still in Chile, Michele Bachelet was reelected to the highest position in the country with a whopping 62 percent of the vote, the biggest percentage for a presidential candidate in the history of the Chilean left. Madame Bachelet was elected on a platform to continue to roll back the reforms that were ushered in under the military junta of Pinochet and to implement universal free post-secondary education.

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From Kshama Sawant’s twitter, campaign for 15 dollars minimum wage

One of the greatest victories of 2013 surprisingly had for a backdrop the United States of America. For the first time since the great depression, a major American city elect an openly socialist candidate to office.

Kshama Sawant was elected bringing to the center stage of American politics the struggle for a living wage instead of a minimum wage, rent control and higher taxes for the wealthiest. The victory of her grassroots movement is the embodiment of the Socialist Alternative that in 2013 started to dawn.

In Europe, splinter left-wing groups that offer a true alternative to the neo-liberal status-quo championed by center-center right and center-center left wing political parties are on the rise. Syriza the ‘radical’ left-wing coalition of several left-wing political parties is now given the lead in the polls. Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras, has been endorsed by the European left to lead a new anti-austerity coalition in the upcoming European elections.

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Syriza founding congress picture by Eleanna Kounoupa Creative Commens on Flickr

Here in Montreal, Projet Montreal more than doubled its seats in city council and has become, for the first time in history, official opposition. A coalition of progressives from all walks of life and Quebecois left-wing political tendencies has shown the way for left-wing movements to link social movements and grassroots politics to a prominent place on the political spectrum.

For these reasons the year that is now coming to end was a very fruitful one in which the alternative to this current system of savage capitalism grew in an extraordinary manner, and announced the return of history.

For this reason we have much to look forward to in 2014.

A Luta Continua

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

This article will likely get a lot of conservatives angry and upset and I’m sure some liberals as well. Perhaps that’s my intention, some people are in a dire need of a 21st century reality check. You know how to stop gun violence in America? Repeal the second amendment.

Think of me as Piers Morgan on steroids. You might think I have a pretty extreme position on gun control, but as an outsider looking in just like Morgan, I have a perspective Americans refuse to see because they think their liberty is in jeopardy. Well, it isn’t.

Do you really believe that people in Canada, the UK or anywhere else in the developed world feel less free because they do not have a constitutional right to own a gun? I can’t speak for all of them, but I suspect they’re happy and secure knowing their guns are tightly controlled, so they don’t have to live in fear. The freedom of the mind should never be overlooked.

The second amendment is not being used the way it was intended in the first place. That well-regulated militia was replaced by a free standing army two hundred years ago.

The founding fathers in all their wisdom could not foresee the future. What we have today is the result of a centuries old document and politicians who refuse to revisit it.

More guns means more murder. That fact is now proven (again) thanks to the largest study of its kind by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University. There are over 10 000 gun murders a year and 20 000 gun related suicides, but for some reason people still refuse to believe that guns are largely responsible.

The number of gun related deaths in the country doesn’t seem to affect people as much as hearing about another mass shooting on television. Mass shootings where at least four people are shot happen on a daily basis.

Often times the perpetrators of the more violent tragedies are said to be mentally ill. Still, Americans reject the more simple solution and refuse to learn a thing from the international community.

What does America have that other developed nations don’t? A constitutional right to bear arms.

Other countries have gun owners too of course, but it isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. Just like driving a car, if you’re deemed unfit to drive, that privilege can be taken away or refused outright.

repeal-second-amendment-cartoon

What do other developed nations have that the US doesn’t? Universal health care. Not only do people in other countries not have to worry about getting shot, they don’t have to worry about a mentally ill gentleman shooting up a shopping center. They can get treatment before the tragedy occurs because they don’t need to afford it first.

Imagine having a healthy country without a fear of guns or being shot by one. I live in a city of close to four million people. The only guns I’ve ever seen are the sidearm of cops. I’ve never seen a gun in the hands of a drug dealer, a shop owner, a pedestrian and especially not a school teacher.

Without the fear of everyone packing, I feel comfortable at home with my door unlocked or out on a terrace drinking a beer. Does that not sound good to everyone?

Every conservative, NRA and gun toting liberal talking point concerning guns has been refuted countless times. Whether its gun free zones being more dangerous, more guns meaning more safety or guns being required to overthrow the government; nothing they say has an increment amount of validity despite how many times they repeat it.

There are a few things that can be done to lower the occurrences of mass shootings and gun crime in general; background checks would be a start. But lawmakers and the public refuse to acknowledge the crux of the problem; when people use their second amendment right to buy a gun, they think they have the right to use them.

I understand the second amendment is sacred to too many Americans to just do away with it entirely, or even touch it for that matter, we’d sooner see universal health care. Well, guess what? Your stuck with it and the violent, fear inducing culture that comes with it.

Until the day comes when the second amendment is repealed, it won’t really matter how many background checks are done, which guns are banned or how many bullets you can fit in a clip. The culture will live on and so will the violence. The only way to kill the culture is to kill the law that feeds it.

Besides, I don’t think the founding fathers would be too proud of a constitutional amendment that costs 30 000 lives every year. Do you?

I admit it, I don’t know enough about the conflict in Syria to be able to come up with a solution. Neither does Barack Obama.

Sure, his administration has vast resources that can give him a very clear picture of what’s going on, but that still doesn’t mean he knows how to solve the problem. He admits this but is acting anyways, provided congress lets him.

Let’s assume for a second that John Kerry is telling us the truth and Bashar al-Assad did in fact use chemical weapons on his own people (not saying he did). Obama’s proposed surgical strike of his chemical facilities is still an ineffective move that only makes things worse.

Obama Syria 1_0

Imagine your neighbour gets drunk one night and starts beating his wife. You could call the cops, or maybe go and confront him yourself, bang on his door, hit him if you have to and try and get his wife out of the abusive relationship.

All of those are courses of action that may make things better. What Obama is proposing to do in Syria is akin to doing nothing in the moment and then stealing the guy’s beer the next day when he’s unlocking his door.

I think Obama knows this and doesn’t care. This isn’t, after all, about Syria. It’s about the US and his presidency.

Why else would he make such a big deal out of going to congress for approval? It’s something he’s supposed to do anyways and is pretty much a rubber stamp.

He wants everyone to know he’s doing this because he wants people to see that he can get congress to support him on something, anything. He’s dangling the military intervention carrot that will make arms industry funded Republicans swallow their pride and support the President.

He’ll get his war, or rather his limited intervention. Once again, America will flex its military muscle to the world and nothing good will be accomplished.

Syria’s dictator will still be in place and continue to kill. In fact, he’ll probably be even angrier and emboldened after a US attack. The rebels, peaceful protestors at first and now apparently backed by Al Qaida, will fight on and continue to kill as well.

navy syria obama

This situation was brutal before anyone floated the idea of chemical weapons. Taking out the supposed facilities that produce them won’t change that, just like taking away your abusive neighbour’s beer will only piss him off more.

Do I think that a full-scale invasion like what happened in Iraq is the answer? Absolutely not, I was against that war and not out of any love for Saddam.

Going to war and claiming it’s for humanitarian reasons is only justifiable if you do so every time a similar set of circumstances arises and not just when your oil and business interests permit it. There are horrible things happening in Egypt right now, too, sure it’s a very complicated situation, but so is Syria.

On the world stage, the US likes to act like a teacher who punishes schoolyard bullies. Problem is they leave the bullies whose parents donate to the school alone and sometimes even befriend them.

Another problem is they’re not actually a teacher, but rather a bully themselves and have proved this on several occasions. They went through their drunken cowboy phase, learned some big words and like to think of themselves as enlightened, but they’re still the same person.

Whenever another bully moves in on their turf or outdoes their dickishness, they have to put them in their place. This time, though, two other bullies, Russia and China, are friends with the dude America wants to school.

Things could get ugly in the schoolyard of international relations, but things are already ugly on the ground in Syria and can only get worse. If people would think of that first and not the theatre of the schoolyard, then at the very least we wouldn’t make things worse.