November 11, 2009

The ShakeUp

Nov. 11 2009


Paul Chislett

We must remember. If we do not, the sacrifice of those one hundred thousand Canadian lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with our collective national consciousness; our future is their monument.

Heather Robertson, A Terrible Beauty, The Art of Canada at War. Toronto, Lorimer, 1977.

Every year at this time I keep asking myself, why must I remember and what exactly am I remembering? What does it really mean to ‘die for Canada”? My father served in the Second World War as a gunner in the Royal Canadian Artillery. His mother died just as he was to embark for England in 1942; he was 18. He was granted compassionate leave for the funeral and then shipped off for 2 years of training before his regiment landed in Normandy in July, 1944 as part of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. While he survived that experience, he must have come home a changed man; I didn’t get to know him at all really because by 1972, he was dead at 47 from the effects of alcoholism. It’s a sad story and when I go to visit his grave in Port Hope, his home town, I look at some of the surrounding markers and see similar ages of men who survived war, only to fail to thrive in the peace they fought for.

And there we have it…does it make sense to think we can use armies to create peace and justice – justice and peace for whom? Across the globe, millions live in fear and aching hardship because war and occupations have burgeoned since the end of WWII and the Cold War.  What I remember now is certainly my father and all the men of his and earlier generations who came back broken, but I also remember the civilians in Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea…the list is long – too long for the sacrifices made by soldiers who died and suffered many years ago. I’m filled with sorrow and anger when I see Steven Harper – who, like me – has never known war, starvation, and want, but unlike me, is comfortable to visit those plagues on other peoples far away, call it a war for peace, get his picture taken, and then walk away to continue to manipulate a flawed political system for his own ends.

The military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the expansion of those into Pakistan, are not similar in any way to the past world wars. What are similar are the machinations of corrupt politicians and corporate elites who, just as previous to both world wars, are carving the world up into spheres of influence, and when necessary they will use working class men and women to fight even bigger wars again. What does remembering matter when we allow the same damn thing to happen? We must reject men like Stephen Harper and General Hillier and truly make the sacrifices of all those who perished in every war worth something by building a society that rejects war and conflict as a means to solve problems.

Today, Remembrance Day is descending to a maudlin middle class anguish lacking in a fierce desire for action and change. It does not have to be this way! To Robertson’s statement then: what kind of monument are we building? Well, it’s up to us to define the peace, and we do that by categorically rejecting war and its promotion as away to solve anything.


Call the PM and David Suzuki calls you

Deadline for entries has been extended to Monday November 23rd

One phone call could do three things:

1. Help stop climate change
2. Give you the chance to talk to David Suzuki
3. Score you a $400 gift certificate from Mountain Equipment Co-op

Here’s how it works:
– Find a friend (or a trusty webcam) to take a video of you calling Prime Minister Stephen Harper. You can reach him by dialing (613) 992-4211, then ask to leave a voicemail message. Make sure you tell him how you want Canada to be a leader at the UN Climate Summit this December. (Hint: press pound to skip their outgoing message)
– Share your video on our website (entry form at the bottom of this page).

The top five storytellers will win a personal call from David Suzuki.


Goodbye to globalization

In an Age of Catastrophe, resurrecting the globalized economy is a huge mistake.

Dateline: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

by Mel Watkins

Globalization used to be the word of the millennium. It seems like only yesterday you couldn’t get through a sentence in any news source, without encountering pro- or anti-globalization arguments.

Now the word is practically an endangered species, and the reason is obvious. The current financial and economic crises, which fell from the sky — cyberspace, to be precise, where all that funny money was swirling around like bales of straw — have given globalization a bad name.

Not too long ago, “globalization” was a Superword that superceded any and all attempts to regulate the marketplace. To take the biggest example, the push to globalize production and marketing swept nationalism aside, creating a borderless world where nation-states were irrelevant, even though they had been around for close to half a millennium.

Professors in business schools strutted about, paid ridiculous salaries (by university standards) to sweep borders away with the wave of a bully’s hand. Wizards of high-tech funded new schools of Global Governance, to employ social scientists bored with teaching about old-fashioned national societies and governments.

National governments had to bow before the God of Globalization. In the immortal words of Margaret Thatcher: There Is No Alternative. Petty national concerns about, say, the environment or labor standards, yielded to pursuit of profit. Such was the freedom of choice offered by neo-conservatism!

Then 9/11 struck like lightning. Suddenly there were borders again. The United States became a National Security State. Not only was the word “national” back in the discourse, the US even used the term “homeland security” despite its fascistic overtones.

Never before has the border between Canada and the United States been policed as rigorously as now — and the situation promises to last indefinitely. Hysterical op-ed pieces for the Globe and Mail conveyed the consternation of Canadian elites, who had long relied on the eraser as the instrument of choice in negotiating Canadian-American relations.

Bang! The shock of the financial and economic crises led government after govenment to install national monetary and fiscal policies around the globe — including Canada, notwithstanding its neo-conservative government — to a degree unprecedented in our history. Keynesianism, always a national project, finally got its day.

At the same time, most ominously of all, we face the ecological crisis of global warming and extreme climate change. This is where we really need global solutions and global action — but in the world as presently structured, and likely to be so structured for some time, nations must align in agreement before the world can react.

Indeed, mired as we are in catastrophes galore — global warming, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the extermination of species, extreme poverty — if there is one thing on which the left can agree, it is that the globalized economy does not work. To merely resurrect it, as is currently being done, is a big mistake.

Now is the time to question globalization, to ponder the consequences of allowing the market to run rampant. Is it not possible that we need not more globalization but less, not linking but de-linking, the better to lessen the likelihood of more financial and economic crises — and to deal with the latest and greatest of capitalism’s horrors, the ecological footprint of long distance trade?

Perhaps we should read and heed the great and wise economist John Maynard Keynes on how the message of the Great Depression of the 1930s was that there should be less international finance and less international trade. Or study today’s writers, the American ecologist Bill McKibben and his book, Deep Economics, and the American scholar of food, Michael Pollan, on the compelling case for local production, respectful of community and nature.

Globalization as we’ve known it must go, despite neo-conservative attempts to reassert the primacy of the marketplace. Nation-states may toddle on for a while, as the global economy wanes and local economies wax, as together we hold our breath and skirt the edges of anarchy.

Mel Watkins is a Professor Emeritus in Economics and Political Science at the University of Toronto. He serves on the Straight Goods Board of Directors and the Maher Arar Support Committee.

Clinton, Goldstone and true cost of the occupation

Hever: The Israeli government is hiding the true cost of the occupation even from itself

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s [recent] visit to Jerusalem …, the US-mediated peace talks threaten to collapse. Meanwhile Israel ramps up its occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported last Friday that at least 11 locations within settlement colonies in the West Bank are escalating construction in order to alter “facts on the ground.” In October, the joint Israeli-Palestinian organization, Alternative Information Center, organized a conference on the economy of the Israeli occupation in Bethlehem. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky attended and spoke to the AIC’s Shir Hever about the real costs of maintaining Israel’s occupation.


Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include international aid to the Palestinians and Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of the economy of the Israeli occupation.


Clock ticking in Honduras

Giordano: A month before elections, coup regime that once sought to kill time is now running out of it

For the past four months, ever since the military coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from power in Honduras, the oligarchy has been accused of purposefully delaying to make it to the scheduled election of November 29. But now, with only one month to go, it looks likely that no more than a handful of countries will recognize the elections unless Zelaya is immediately returned to power. Al Giordano, who has been extensively covering Honduras since the coup for Narco News, shares his belief that the latest attempt to negotiate Zelaya’s return will not work, and that there are some inside the coup resistance in Honduras that are hoping to take advantage of election day to do more than just boycott the vote.


Al Giordano is an investigative journalist based in Chiapas, Mexico. He is originally from the Bronx, New York. Since 2000 he has been the publisher of Narco News, which reports mainly on the US War on Drugs effects on the people of Mexico and Central America. He is also the founder of the School for Authentic Journalism and writes a blog called The Field which focuses on US politics.


Auditor General Report Confirms Abuses in Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Toronto – The Report of the Auditor General released on November 3, strongly supports advocates’ concerns over the massive shortcomings of the Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  Auditor General Sheila Fraser exposed the realities of a program that makes migrant workers exceptionally vulnerable to abuses.
“The Auditor General has finally confirmed what UFCW Canada and our allies have been saying for years. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has opened too many doors for potential abuses to migrant workers,” stated UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley.

“The Report sheds light on issues that we have been voicing for almost two decades, unscrupulous employers being issued Labour Market Opinions to bring in workers to fill jobs that don’t exist.  These workers, who regularly pay thousands of dollars to come to Canada, are left with little or nothing by way of work or housing.  Employers regularly are refusing to pay the promised wages, and sometimes provide inhumane living and working conditions. This is just the tip of the iceberg in an embarrassing system that is rife with labour and human rights violations,” adds Hanley.

The Auditor General’s report calls attention to the failure of the federal government to follow up on the legitimacy of job offers and working and living conditions for migrant workers, which ultimately leave these workers in vulnerable situations.

“Workers are also vulnerable because they are tied to one employer and have precarious immigration status,” explained Sonia Singh of the Workers Action Centre. “We need the government to take responsibility and ensure that workers are granted permanent residency status, otherwise the system will remain open to abuse.  The government must implement monitoring and enforcement measures to keep a check on bad employers.”

“Ultimately, the Auditor General’s report should make Canadians re-think the efficacy of a program that fails to provide a long term strategy for our nation-building efforts or labour needs. To help solve the crisis of our aging workforce Canada needs workers that have the stability of immediate landed residency, not disposable economic units that are imported as commodities and then thrown away when they are spent,” states Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada Director of Human Rights.

UFCW Canada, as Canada’s largest private-sector union, has been actively advocating for the rights of migrant workers across Canada for almost two decades. In partnership with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA),, UFCW Canada also operates nine agriculture worker support centres across the country.

The Workers Action Centre is a worker-based organization committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment.


Richard’s Sign-off Piece!