Jan. 21: The New University Cooperative and an update on the Canadian Boat to Gaza

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There are many complaints on campus about tuition, budgets, food services, class offerings, and so on. The complaints seem to stem for a lack of empowerment. Decisions are made by a select group around the president, and while students’ tuition funds a sizable portion of the university budget, students have little say in decision making. This sounds a lot like society in general doesn’t it? There is a new model on the horizon for universities and that model is the New University Cooperative.


According to Dr Wilma van der Veen, a professor at Okanagan College and a board member of the New University, in a recent article, “ [t]he NUC incorporated as a federal multi-stakeholder cooperative in the fall of 2007. This structure was chosen as it represents the most democratic form of organization enabling all stakeholders to have a direct role in the development of the NUC, where hierarchical relationships between students and faculty and administrators are minimized.”

Wilma van der Veen

Sounds like what is needed in our neck of the woods. In society at large we have given over much of our power to a managerial class which seems ever more disconnected with those they are supposed to serve. This is certainly the case at UWindsor. So, we need to take that power back and the New University Cooperative (see pamphlet) should be an example to us all on how we can empower ourselves. No one needs to be excluded; rather, power, responsibility and accountability are more equally shared.  On Friday we spoke with Dr Wilma van der Veen in Kelowna BC.


The Canadian Boat to Gaza is a home grown attempt to pressure the Israeli government to lift the siege they impose on the people of Gaza. Efforts have been underway for some months and the fundraising goal is close to the hallway point. Sandra Ruch is a spokesperson for the CBG and she spoke to us from Toronto.

More info on Jeff halper’s appearance in Toronto:

On Saturday, 12 February 2011 Jeff Halper, from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, will give a talk about “Why We Need the Canadian Boat to Gaza”.

Halper is an Israeli author and speaker about non-violent strategies to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD); and was on the Free Gaza flotilla that broke the Gaza siege in 2008.

When: Saturday, February 2011 · 7:30pm – 10:00pm (Doors will open at 7:00pm)

Where: Bloor Street United Church
300 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON

Advance Tickets: $10 available at:
Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham St., Toronto &
Toronto Women’s Bookstore, 73 Harbord St., Toronto

More Info: cbgtickets@gmail.com or call Ruth at 416-588-6356
All proceeds go to ICAHD and the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

You can pick your tickets up at the door on the night of the talk anytime after 6:30pm. Please bring your order confirmation number.

Music featured on the program was local band The Locusts Have No King

Jan 14: Arizona shooting : media, misinformation and mental illness – a volatile mix.

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Last Saturday, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded, 6 others were killed, including nine year old Christina-Taylor Green, and many others were wounded. A lone gunman, Jared Loughner, has been charged with the crime. The news media has been deluged with commentary in the US, while in Canada, with strict gun laws, especially on handguns, and where assassinations of politicians is rare, we are fairly complacent that such a thing could not happen here.


Victims killed in shooting outside a Tucson, Arizona Safeway store (clockwise from top-left): 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, U.S. District Judge John Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwin Stoddard, Gabe Zimmerman



However, in December, we commemorated the 1989 Montreal massacre in which 14 women were murdered by Marc Lepine, a disaffected young man who blamed women for his inability to succeed in life. The idea of using guns to settle grievances is not alien to this country and we need to pay attention to what is happening in North American society as a whole. Much is already being said about the nature of political language in the US, the role of the media and especially media personalities like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and the like. On top of this is the reality of working class despair in the US and Canada so the question must be asked: Why did Jared Loughner, 22, take a loaded gun to a political event and use it to kill? Is he just crazy? Or did political rhetoric influence him? Do words matter and how can people discern the ideology of the rhetoric: that is, who is saying what and for what purpose?

Consider this: a friend of Loughner described how Loughner went to a 2007 event that Gabrielle Giffords was at. Loughner asked Giffords, what is government if words have no meaning? He complained that his question was not answered and most people would not be surprised, for his was a question for a research paper in university. It occurred to me that he asked a pertinent question that no politician would really be able to answer in a few short moments.

We don’t know what Loughner watched and listened to in the media and bits and pieces of his life are coming to light. It seems that overall he is being treated as a madman, a lone killer. But what if he represents a cross-section of society of angry and frustrated people who only rely on the mainstream media for information they need to make sense of the world they are in? A mainstream media that is a hodge-podge of a vast array of commercial TV,  with hosts ranting and raving about communists in in American political life, reality shows, and talk shows that pander to base emotions with little or no thoughtful analysis of the world.

With political debate in the US amounts to crosshairs on a map, and comments like “don’t retreat, reload”, how can rational questions be formulated let alone answered?  Loughner committed a heinous crime and there can be no justification for it. However, there is a reason for what he did and the reasons seem to go deep into the culture of the US with its history of using violence to solve problems.

I talked with Professor Jim Wittebols, who teaches political science and communication studies at the University of Windsor, to get an understanding of the situation in the US. In the interview we referred to a report entitled Misinformation and the 2010 Election: A Study of the US Electorate

Also, to understand the political situation in Arizona, I found this article by Joel Olson to be helpful.

Jan 7: Abayomi Azikiwe and Detroit celebrates Martin Luther King; Jae Muzzin organizes the Radical History Conference in Windsor

Martin Luther King: The Massey Lectures

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This was our first program of the new year and we wish you all a safe and just 2011. This year is likely to be a tumultuous time in Windsor/Detroit, Canada, and around the world. The global elites are mounting a campaign the corporate media has dubbed an age of austerity. Further cuts to social spending, and attacks on unions, wages and pensions will intensify. Look for price increases in food and fuel this year. More than ever it will be necessary to build community links neighbour by neighbour by neighbour.

On this program, we’ll be focusing throughout the year on empowerment, and to be empowered means to have no illusions to what we face as students and working people. Then we can learn how to not only challenge injustice, but also seek changes to an unjust political and economic system often referred to as capitalism.
As a starting point of investigation for our resistance campaign, in the first half of the program we’ll talk to Detroit activist, Abayomi Azikiwe about the upcoming Martin Luther King Day RALLY & MARCH FOR JOBS, PEACE & JUSTICE.

In the second half, we’ll hear a conversation I had with Windsor activist, Jae Muzzin at his home about his organizing efforts for the Radical History Conference coming up Feb. 4, 5, and 6 at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre, 328 Pellisier St.

Music on the program featured Jennifer Warnes singing Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat.

Dec 31: Lone wolves, human capital theory, and popular education: a conversation with Mireille Coral and Adult Education in Windsor

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We’ve  closed out a year that saw the mobilization of activists in Windsor during the Social Forum in June and the US Social Forum in Detroit. Also in June, the G20 meeting of the world’s power elites saw the state react with arbitrary violence against those who stood against growing corporate power.

In October, Ontario communities went to the polls, and in Windsor we ended up with essentially the same anti-worker council ready to continue to divide the city between worker and ‘taxpayer’ using the Windsor Star as the media organ for City Hall. As if we hadn’t already noticed the authoritarian stance of the mayor, he recently stated that council should not get bogged down with constituent concerns – i.e. backyard chickens – because council needs to focus on the mayor’s overall vision for Windsor – a vision that seems rooted in what developers want.  Voter turnout in Windsor was just over 46% [i]and this is considered pretty good.

2011 ought to be an even more interesting year as the likelihood of a federal election seems certain, and there will be a provincial election in the fall. How can we avoid voter apathy and low voter turnout – in other words, how can citizens learn to act in their own best interests instead of reacting to events? If citizens do get galvanized to vote they seem to do so against their own best interests as seen in the election of Rob Ford in Toronto. Some justice advocates in Windsor are saying that what is missing is an accurate analysis of the problems the working class faces.

For example, in Toronto, media reports indicated voters were angry at slick politicians who fail to deliver and are people most voters don’t identify with. In Toronto, mayoral candidates George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone were seen by some as elites who talked above ordinary people[ii]. Rob Ford, on the other hand, was seen as just a regular guy who would walk the talk so to speak. With a voter turnout of over 50% in Toronto, up from the 30’s in previous elections[iii], and Ford receiving 47% of the votes cast, voters seemed determined to shut out the elites and vote in one of their own. Reports since have reminded us all that Ford is a wealthy elite himself and that his credentials as a populist fighter for the people are slim at best! Pitting the suburbs against urban core dwellers is a recipe for disaster.

What is missing in the current mix of culture, politics and the economy is a recognition that different social classes are in conflict with each other.  That there is a working class is a necessary starting point, and the second strand is that the middle class is a social creation born rather by accident as a reward for workers who put their labour to use for the benefit of the capitalist or elite class. That social paradigm has collapsed and nowhere is it more evident than in Windsor/Detroit. As long as we keep electing people who refuse to accept class as a starting point for dialogue, then we risk descending further into conflict among the working class instead of coming together and reorganizing our social, cultural and economic structures. Maybe it’s time we stopped electing anybody and start to come together to rebuild society.

Today we have a very special guest – my wife, Mireille Coral, who is an adult educator here in Windsor. Mireille has just finished her MA in adult education which examined how to teach adults in “a city in crisis”, and she is part of a team which is launching a Centre for Popular Education in Windsor.