Who’s In Charge Here? Ain’t You?

June 30, 2010

I don’t even know how to begin this post.

The degree of disregard for the truth and our Constitution, the full on dissemination of disinformation and outright lies, the abject contempt in which all levels of the public service involved in the operations of the G20 have held the citizens of this city goes beyond unbelievable or mind-boggling. There’s not a word at my disposal that I can summon to adequately describe the degree of shock, dismay and increasing outrage welling up inside of me.

But, allow me to try.

Unmistainappallindignoustionflimflamfuckery!

There. I feel a little better. A little.

On Friday, we learn of a secret provincial cabinet shuffle of a 71 year-old wartime law that would allow security personnel at the G20 meeting to detain and lockup anyone who got within 5 metres of the perimeter “fence” and did not properly identify themselves. Done and done. Police willingly oblige, nabbing the unsuspecting here and there, sometimes far and away from the 5 metre line of demarcation. Upon learning about this, a sizeable chunk of the population reacts with the appropriate degree of Unmistainappallindignoustionflimflamfuckery.

Then yesterday reports emerge that, in fact, there was no such 5 metre outside the fence rule as part of the Liberal government’s tinkering with the Public Works Protection Act. According to the Canadian Press, when asked if there was an actual 5 metre zone as part of the Act, “…Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.” This came in response to an aide for Community Safety Minister, Rick Bartolucci, insistence that “There were no extra powers granted to police for G20. As we stated repeatedly the regulation was about defining property, not police power.” Of course, when copies of the Act started making the rounds on the interwebs it was there, apparently, in black and white for all to see that, in fact, there was a 5 metre zone outside the fence.

DESIGNATED PLACES REFERRED TO IN PARAGRAPH 2 OF SECTION 1

1. The area, within the area described in Schedule 1, that is within five metres of a line drawn as follows: … blah, blah, blah, layers upon layers of lies and bullshit.

But news reports this morning inform us that, no, there never was such a law in place. The police made it up and arrested people on a whim, in a classic example of the ends justifying the means. Now most certainly, the already insanely large bill for hosting the G20 will be added to, as we’ll be paying out compensation for all sorts of illegalities carried out by security forces in order to, as the law-interpreting police chief says, “keep criminals out.”

What gives?

It would be bad enough if we could just chalk all this up to gross incompetence and massive hazy acquaintance with the facts on the part of our fearless leaders. But nobody can be that stupid or gormless in the face of such intensive public scrutiny not even a representative of the cabinet of Premier Dalton McGuinty. There is something much more sinister and responsibility defying at work here.

This is intentional muddying of the waters, a multi-leveled hot potato buck passing conducted for the sole purpose of avoiding accountability by everyone involved. A deliberate creation of a big ol’ wall of confusion so opaque in its Byzantinism that it will be near impossible to uncover even the most basic facts of who knew/did what, when. All in the hopes of people just getting fed up and walking away in disgust, demanding nothing more than to be left alone so they can enjoy their upcoming summer vacation.

And civic political engagement dies just a little more, replaced by a crippling cynicism that only helps perpetuate a lawlessness and indifference to democratic principles by those we elect and appoint to uphold those very things. How dare we try to suggest that the only criminals in this whole sad, sordid affair were those who threw rocks and set police cars on fire. They are property vandals. What we’re talking about here is nothing short of the theft and undermining of our fundamental rights and freedoms that are part of living in an open society. That, I think, is the much bigger, more disturbing crime.

It’s enough to make you want to yell unmistainappallindignoustionflimflamfuckery!!! over and over again until the neighbours start banging on the ceiling, telling you to shut up.

nails spittingly submitted by Cityslikr


Organized Bands Of Roving Thugs

June 29, 2010

Thanks to a conspiratorial roving band of criminals/anarchists/ … (fill in the blank as to your dismissive name of choice) who chose not to disavow the use of violence and instead burnt and tore some shit up on Saturday, the well-armed and equipped security forces entrenched in downtown Toronto for the G20 gathering had all the excuses they needed to respond in kind, justifying not only their heavy-handed presence but the exorbitant cost of maintaining them here. If you build a barricade, they will attempt to storm it. From the very beginning, the organizing of the summit was a provocative act, used to demonstrate the need for a police state apparatus to keep us safe from the onslaught of threats swirling around us. Crazed terrorists from the outside; civil unresters on the inside.

It strikes me as funny that law and order types, mostly right of centre leaning, will throw unlimited money and resources at what they perceive to be a problem of national security but when it comes to issues of a more social nature, well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Matters like poverty, the environment, unemployment are all best dealt with in a less is more fashion. There’s never enough money to go around especially if you’re doling out a billion dollars plus for a three day event hosting the world’s most vulnerable leaders.

But at least we know where these people stand and what it is they truly believe in.

What about the rest of us, many who merely shrugged a miffed shrug at what we felt was little more than an inconvenience albeit a costly inconvenience? Those that saw this gathering arbitrarily enforced and organized very much out of the public eye as simply an excuse for an extended summer getaway. To the cottage. To Scotland. (Yes, readers. I am indeed making a very pointed reference to those I once thought of as like-minded colleagues and fellow foot soldiers in the battle for progressive causes. I see them now as merely co-workers. Strangers sharing nothing but office space. Shame, shame I say to them and yesterday’s mea culpa should only be the beginning of their rehabilitation.) What exactly is it that they believe in?

Clearly it isn’t democratic principles. Those, we have just failed miserably. We stood idly by and watched as governments dismantled long, hard won ideals like freedom of expression and the right to open public assembly. “Designated areas of protest” do not constitute either of those freedoms. The provincial Liberal government’s Public Work Protection Act, secretively enacted by cabinet fiat earlier this month, handed over broad and very likely unconstitutional powers to the police, allowing them “to demand identification from and search without warrant anyone who comes within five metres of the security zone.” How did we find out about it? After someone was arrested and charged. Your papers! Where are your papers?!

We have not seen such intrusive, far-reaching powers granted to the government by the government since the fallout from 9/11 and, before that, Trudeau’s War Measures Act in response to the FLQ crisis. No longer does it take an actual threat for us to cravenly hand over our rights and responsibilities to the authorities. Any old perceived threat will do these days. Do we deserve any sort of freedom when we so easily hand it over with barely a peep of disgruntled complaint whenever we`re asked?

People on both sides of this battle line seem to agree on one thing: the violence we saw on Saturday did nothing to help the situation. There were many like Craig Kielburger who wrote that the nasty turn only served to diminish all of the protesters in the eyes of the public. “This group [Black Bloc] doesn’t deserve to be called protesters. Martin Luther King was a protester. He campaigned against racial segregation through non-violent tactics. The groups that marched peacefully on series of social issues, they were protesters.”

May I remind Mr. Kielburger that while Martin Luther King played an integral role in the civil rights movement, he was hardly alone in the effort. There was a more militant strain also at work within the African-American community epitomized by the likes of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. I don’t believe that one would’ve worked successfully without the other. For every Ghandi pacifist led march to independence there is the blood soaked path as witnessed in places like Algeria. The world’s beacon of freedom, the United States of America, was born from the womb of violent insurrection.

Am I likening the Black Bloc to early American revolutionaries? No. We’re simply talking tactics and I do empathize with those who feel the need to rage. While many will simply brush the riot-inclined off as professional agitators, I would suggest they’re missing the bigger picture.

When those we have elected stop listening to our concerns or wilfully ignore the requests we make upon them, what recourse is left us? The dangerous route is to throw our hands up in the air and dismiss them as only politicians doing what politicians do and head off to the cottage in disgust. Politicians will only do what we let them do and every so often they have to be reminded of that fact. Sometimes at the ballot box. Sometimes by peaceful protest. And sometimes by any means necessary.

Attempting to diminish that option with media massaged propaganda about anarchic radicals bent on nothing other than mindless destruction or trying to take it off the table entirely by an overwhelming show of official force emphasizes rather than addresses the underlying causes of dissatisfaction and anger. It is the growing disconnect between the citizens and those they have chosen to represent them that lies at the heart of the conflict that flares up every time the world’s leaders gather behind locked gates within our midst to discuss our collective future. We want to be heard not dictated to and if it requires the odd petulant outburst, so be it. Other, more reasonable methods don’t seem to be working at the moment.

violently submitted by Acaphlegmic


M.I.A. At The G20

June 28, 2010

All things considered, I guess arriving back home with only an hour delay should be considered a pleasant surprise. As we approached Pearson airport last night, the pilot informed us that we should buckle in due to reports of ‘weather’ on the ground. Certainly the plane circled in the dark clouds and growing dusk for a time but the landing was no more adventurous than many I’ve sat through.

It was raining for sure, more startling to my eye perhaps due to the fact that I’d just spent 6 days in Scotland without seeing more than a wee dram of the stuff. Hey! You’re looking tanned. Been down south recently? No, Scotland. What?!?

We sat for a spell on the tarmac, waiting for gate personnel to come and free us, again due to the earlier deluge. There was no reason to suspect otherwise. That is, until I caught sight of this monstrously huge, unmarked, half-cargo/half-military plane taxiing on past us on the right and into the darkness ahead. Ah, yes. The G20’s packing up and heading out. Moments later, our plane lurched forward to the gate.

Truth be told, in the part of the world I was holed up in during the course of the G8/G20 meetings there wasn’t much talk of them. Granted, I was in the soccer mad U.K. although they still insist on calling it ‘football’ despite the fact that what we play over here is called ‘football’, leading only to confusion and Three’s Company-like conversational mix-ups. Not much else but soccer was talked about and with England’s humiliating ouster at the hands of Germany yesterday, it will continue to be so in all likelihood until the qualifiers for 2014 start up again in a couple years’ time.

We heard about the outbreak of violence on Saturday, of course. The main point of the exercise, I imagine. There were images of the suited G8ers, glad-handing and photo-opping in front of Muskoka backdrops. As for the details of what was going on inside the gathering? Nothing much aside from many commentators pointing out that the annual aid pledges promised to the developing world were less than the cost of hosting this particular 3 day event.

According to the statement our Prime Minister released at the confab’s conclusion, it appears that the deficit hawks in the crowd won the day. Countries have vowed to start cutting and slashing their spending and wrestling down their debts and deficits starting almost immediately. The PM assured us that Canada would lead by example, hitting its targets ahead of schedule. It will be interesting to see if we’re more willing to keep that promise than we’ve been with past declarations of international aid.

Making my way uneventfully from the airport and into a cab, the drive home was tinged with the surreal. There was no westbound traffic on the Gardiner except for the two motorcades that zipped past us. Motorcades. Huh. Our driver seemed skittish and told me that it had been a crazy weekend. A moving target of road closures and detours. As if to prove his point, he attempted to turn north from Lakeshore only to be sent back west by a traffic cop blocking the street. This, however, seemed to be G20 non-related and more to do with the earlier weather event, what with the massive pool of water in the road and a downed hydro pole nearby.

We wound our way through unfamiliar territory all of which was very quiet and peaceful. Granted, it was 10:30 on a wet Sunday night so I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was only when we reached College Street that some life seemed to pop back into the streets. But there’s nothing really all that unusual with that, right?

Once home and slightly unpacked, I began to comb through in more detail the reports of what happened here over the weekend. Again. Huh. As bad as the doomsayers predicted? Well, there were no dead bodies on the streets but outside of that, despite all of the military tactical planning, serious violence against property erupted, civil rights were egregiously trampled upon and nothing more came of the proceedings than an attempted buffing up of the justifiably damaged neo-liberal brand.

Likewise, I too feel shamed. For choosing convenience over conviction and allowing myself to be chased from the city by the braying of the law and order crowd. Retrospectively reading through the stream of information that emerged over the course of the weekend – much of it in real time – it is clear that a significant segment of this city’s population was traumatized by the show of force shown on both sides of the (figurative… and quite possibly, literal) fence. And I was m.i.a.

What would my presence here have accomplished? Next to nothing, I’m sure, except maybe bearing witness to the imperious show of power. Citizens’ rights were summarily rescinded while I was off drinking beer and watching soccer in the warm Scottish sunshine. A scenario, I must admit, that is depressingly routine (minus the Scottish sunshine angle).

So to those of you who remained here and got involved, recorded the events for posterity and maybe even were detained or arrested, my heartfelt apologies for abandoning you and this city during a time of need. It is due to attitudes like mine and my cavalier approach to our rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy that allow our elected officials to behave as if there are no consequences or repercussions to their actions.  They cannot be held accountable from afar and no few hundred words in hindsight will change that. Again, my sincerest of apologies.

And if there’s anything I can do to make it up to you…

supplicantly submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate XIX

June 25, 2010

It’s Friday somewhere including right here and if you’re reading along right now you know that it means Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

Up this week: Tibor Steinberger for Mayor!

Without any practical journalistic skills outside of Googling and Wikipedia, we haven’t been able to dig up much about candidate Steinberger the person which is just fine with us frankly. Usually, the more we find out about those seeking public office on a private level, the more we grow to dislike them. But maybe that’s just the misanthrope in us shining through a little.

What Mr. Steinberger lacks in terms of a personal bio he more than makes up for with the wealth of issue oriented material that he provides. He has plenty of ideas about how to make Toronto a better place proving once again that, generally speaking, there is an indirect proportionality between the amount of thought a candidate puts into their platform and the degree of coverage they receive from the mainstream media. Shoddiness and laziness begets shoddiness and laziness, I guess.

Sifting through Mr. Steinberger’s extensive To Do List in an attempt to formulate a unified campaign whole, we’d have to say that first and foremost this is a pro-business candidate. If elected mayor, Mr. Steinberger would cut taxes for businesses that employ people in Toronto and those hiring the handicapped and disabled. He would set up mentoring programs to help those wanting to start their own business. To further enhance Toronto’s business environment, Steinberger would finally build that bridge to the island. Under a Mayor Steinberger, there’d be a designated annual “Toronto Business Appreciation Day to thank the businesses operating in this fine city for bringing all kinds of products and services to the people that live here.” A Mayor Steinberger would let the whole world know that “Toronto is open for business.”

Now normally, politicians who say that kind of thing leave us very, very cold. It makes the city sound like some low rent red light district. But Tibor Steinberger is not simply about things at the expense of people (to paraphrase another mayoral candidate). He seems genuinely concerned about the less fortunate, the homeless and those afflicted by addiction. His approach to helping them ranges from the straightforward – levying taxes on alcohol to help pay for rehab programs, using vacant city land for temporary housing – to the less conventional. Steinberger would float barges holding empty shipping containers that would serve as shelter.

However, there is a limit to Mr. Steinberger’s generosity. In fact, there is something of a punitive streak running throughout his list of ideas. He is willing to help those who are struggling as long as they make an attempt to get back on their feet again. If they don’t want to work then they don’t belong here. Tough love, it would be and something Steinberger would be unafraid to wield at a number of levels.

He’d build Toronto a new jail not because the present one is in a deplorable state but because it’s too small. The use of red light cameras would be increased and photo radar reintroduced. Steinberger’d institute higher rates of fines for lawbreakers especially re-offenders. The infinitely escalating scale of fines would offset the cuts to such taxes as the land transfer and vehicle registration tax that Steinberger wants to see abolished.

That’s not to say that this is just another law and order candidate. With all the talk this campaign of restoring fiscal sanity to the city’s finances, there has been almost no discussion over the unrestrained growth of the police services budget. The tough talking, bully boy mayoral candidates have been all about staring down the unions at City Hall and in the TTC with nary a peep in the direction of the police. Mr. Steinberger has no such hesitation, promising to “set up an inquiry into why so much money is being spent on our police force.” Oh, snap! What do you say to that, George Smitherman?

Lest anyone think Tibor Steinberger is some kind of police hating nut, however, he does believe that “our police force is the best trained in the country and our men and women in the Metro Police are still being overworked and the taxpayers should know why.” So somehow we’re managing to both overwork and overpay the police. Obviously an inquiry is in order but at least Steinberger is willing to break the cone of silence that’s descended on the issue so far in the campaign.

Mr. Steinberger’s seeming dichotomy on the whole policing question is emblematic not only of his candidacy but of the mayoral race in 2010. People are demanding financial restraint but don’t want to see services cut or user fees increased. They want a better transit system but think our taxes are already too high. We want more but want somebody else to pay. In this sentiment, Tibor Steinberger perfectly encapsulates why politicians of all stripes cannot possibly meet our impossibly high and unrealistic expectations.

Thus, his campaign motto, A Vote For Me Is A Vote For You, sounds very appropriate right now. When asked our question, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Steinberger like to see his legacy written?, his answer was: “[The] Mayor Steinberger legacy is simple, Listened to the people and fixed the broken city and made Toronto safe without raising property taxes.”

Simple. Compassionate. Contradictory. Tibor Steinberger is most definitely a candidate for our times.

— dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Our Gushing Wells Needs Capping Too

June 24, 2010

As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to gush an estimated 35 to 60 thousand barrels of crude oil per day, Americans are waiting for the day when the gushing will finally be stopped. An ecological and economical nightmare, the horrendous disaster will deprive many thousands of workers in tourism and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico their livelihood for quite some time to come and possibly cause irreparable environmental damage. Work on building relief wells which would cease the flow of oil has commenced and will hopefully be completed by this August. In the meantime, containment and cleanup procedures have been implemented to deal with the huge daily flow of crude oil. BP, the oil company responsible for the unmitigated disaster, has estimated its cleanup costs at present totals close to 1.6 billion dollars. Many more billions will be spent before this nightmare comes to an end.

Up here in Canada, we have had a different type of explosion, a figurative one, but one which has resulted in huge flows of money being sucked up into the ether. I refer to our federal and provincial governing bodies’ penchant for wasting billions and millions of taxpayers’ money, most of it in a non-accountable and frivolous manner.

The G8/G20 summits being held in Huntsville and Toronto respectively this weekend are the leading examples. Costs associated with this weekend events are almost as high as the ones for the present oil spill cleanup south of here, believe it or not. The cost for the latter of 1.6 billion US dollars is certainly higher than the 1 billion Canadian dollars for security for the summits but not all the formers’ final costs are in yet. The feds have, as yet, not released estimates of all the other costs (housing, transportation, meals, entertainment, etc) associated with the conferences. Throw in as well the unknown costs of lost income for businesses, property damage, lost tourism etc and it is fair to assume a few million more will be needed before this overpriced photo-op comes to an end and the city can be handed back to those who actually live in it. Already both the parliamentary budget officer and the federal auditor general have stated they will investigate the costs associated with the summits once they are compiled but by then it’s too late isn’t it? The money has been spent.

Both the government and parliament seem to be of the opinion that spending tax payer monies needlessly is part of their raison d’etre. They spend it on investigations and commissions whose outcome and determination could easily be provided by students taking ethical school courses across the country at no cost at all. Fourteen million dollars spent on the Oliphant Commission to come to the conclusion that former prime minister Brian Mulroney acted inappropriately in accepting cash stuffed in envelopes from Karlheinz Schreiber? C’mon, who needs to spend that kind of money when common sense tells us the answer.

The Braidwood commission in B.C. is another example of a huge leakage of money. The commission and its final report on the death of Robert Dziekanski is expected to have cost the provincial taxpayer more than 4,000,000 dollars and the final total may be as high as 6,000,000. Again, I think we all know that RCMP officers tasering a visitor who could not speak our language 4 or 5 times until he died at the scene does not require expensive pondering. We all know it was wrong and that’s all there is to it. The monies would have been better spent on bringing the officers involved to trial. In an ironic twist, the B.C. Attorney General has just appointed a special prosecutor to investigate this tragic incident, namely one Richard Peck. You may remember him as the special prosecutor who dropped into Ontario long enough a few months back to dismiss all charges against Michael Bryant without even a trial taking place to sort out guilt or innocence in another equally tragic affair. You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath about the outcome of his investigation regarding Robert Dziekanski.

Even more frustrating is that after all these expenditures, neither the Oliphant nor Braidwood commissions had the mandate to indicate criminal wrongdoings. So after all this huge wastage of money, the sole outcome was an elaborate statement of obvious conclusions that the taxpayer had already made. Nothing more.

And what about the 500,000,000 dollar parliamentary budget? Sheila Fraser, the federal auditor general, had to fight tooth and nail to finally get to see how those millions get spent. Politicians said she did not have the right to do so. Really? Last time I looked, that budget comes out of the taxpayers’ coffers and therefore, Ms Fraser, representing the taxpayers’ interests, does indeed have that right. I’m sure the results of that audit will be most interesting and quite likely most disturbing.

It’s time we demand that our elected officials spend our money more wisely and not on inane inquiries, meetings and definitely, it seems, not on summits. Why it costs Canada hundreds of millions more than other countries to run these latest summits is still yet to be determined but I’m pretty sure the audits’ conclusions will be that the money could have been put to much better use. The irony of CSIS filing a report this week stating that the G8/G20 terrorism risk is very low underlines the need for stemming this gushing flow of taxpayers’ monies from all our legislative wells.

Chidingly submitted by Distant Cousin