Dec. 31: Year end program goes local to global with Tewodros Asfaw and Ken Lewenza Jr.

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Guests Tewodros Asfaw and Ken Lewenza Jr

We’re wrapping up another year – one that saw a major shift in Canadian politics with the federal election that allowed Stephen Harper to gain an absolute majority in Parliament. The provincial election saw the liberals gain the skimpiest of majorities with a one seat edge over the other parties.

As well, this year marked the intensification of global state terrorism with drone attacks, primarily by the US in Pakistan and Afghanistan killing civilians, the Egyptian revolt leading to the Arab Spring, the NATO assault in Libya, the so-called austerity measures around the world leading to huge demonstrations, especially in Greece, England and Spain, and of course the Occupy Movement which is a response to the economic and political global order and the power of the few over the many.

Locally, the downtown core has been the subject of much discussion as the city elites prepare to move parts of the university campus downtown, build a $77 million aquatic center, and move the main branch of the public library into the Art Gallery of Windsor.

I think the common theme in this very partial list is the power of the state backed by the corporate media to, at the least, exclude the majority from decision making if not killing people outright or subjecting people to police violence. State violence on a scale so vast and horrific is the order of the day thanks to Barack Obama turning the lives of so many people from Afghanistan and Iraq, to Pakistan and soon Iran into living Hells? And what about the revolutions in Libya and Syria? What role has NATO really played and has there been a true popular uprising in Libya, and ongoing in Syria? The latter point is one we’ll talk about in a January program. From the local to the global is the theme of this last program of 2011.

In the studio

 In the studio with me was Tewodros Asfaw, a Windsor based Marxist observer on the global situation, and Ken Lewenza Jr., former city councilor and a community/labour activist. We had a very lively and heartfelt discussion  on the year we’re wrapping up and on what 2012 holds for us. 

The ShakeUp 2011 Year in Review

Here’s a partial list of what we covered in 2011:

Jan 7: Martin Luther King with Abayomi Azikiwe and Radical History Conference with Jae Muzzin

Jan. 21: The New University with Wilma van der Veen

Feb 4: Mohammed Hagag and Mohammed Nour were in the studio with personal reflections on what is happening in Egypt.

Feb 18: Michelle Soulliere & Dr Lee Rodney – “How to Forget the Border Completely”

March 4: Coalition Opposing the Arms Trade; International Women’s Day at The University of Windsor

March 18: Phyllis Bennis on Libya and in-studio musical guest Keats Conlon

April 8:  Samuel Mulafulafu, Director of Caritas Zambia

April 22: BP oil disaster with journalist Dahr Jamail and Mississippi resident Shirley Tillman

May 13: David Camfield and the Canadian Labour Movement; Tewodros Asfaw and structural adjustment programs in the global south.

May 20: Windsor city council vs. the neighbourhoods and a crisis of democracy

June 17: Cathleen Kneen of Food Secure Canada; Lynne Phillips, founder of Windsor/Essex Food Advisory Group

June 24: Tamara Kowalska of the Windsor Youth Centre; musical guest Anna Atkinson

July 1: Michael Skinner and the Afghan detainee report; Wendy Goldsmith and the Canada Boat to Gaza

July 29: Jennifer Nalbone (Great Lakes United) and Asian carp; musical guest Rayven Howard

August 12: Tzazna Miranda Leal and upcoming Caravan for Freedom; Pablo Godoy and Students Against Migrant Exploitation

August 19: Valerie Kaussen and Haiti reconstruction; Noa Mendelsohn Aviv and Bill C-4 and refugees to Canada

September 2: Julia Putnam and Detroit’s Bogg’s Educational Centre; Melina Laboucan-Massimo and tar Sands protests

September 30: John Restakis & co-ops for economic and social change; Peter Cameron and the Ontario co-op movement

October 7: The Occupy Movement comes to Windsor/Detroit: Tam Espin in Windsor and Mike Shane in Detroit

October 21: Occupy continues: Joe McGuire in Detroit; Mohammed Almoayad and Criss Crossroads in the studio – be sure to listen in as Chris sings an ode to Occupy!

October 14:  Yusef Shakur and Ocuppy Detroit; Tyler Sommers of Democracy Watch and Ontario’s election.

November 11:  David Heap: Freedom Flotilla II & Israeli jails; report from Occupy Detroit.

November 25: Author Al Sandine ( The Taming of the American Crowd) & the Occupy Movement; Zack from Occupy Detroit.

December 2: Sudbury based Chris Dixon and Occupy’s anarchist roots.

December 9: Russ Diabo and First Nations’ relationships with Canada; a statement on why Occupy Windsor left the park.

December 23:  Joanna Duarte Laudon and the Participatory Budgeting Project

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Dec 23: The Participatory Budgeting Project with Joanna Duarte Laudon

Friday,  on our Joe Strummer Day segment at 5PM Jon Liedtke, Rockin’ Robbee and I explored the links between Occupy Windsor, in which all of us participated, and poverty and homelessness in Windsor. Being politically powerless and vulnerable to mental illness, addictions and poverty, homeless people are truly disadvantaged.  Because being in the park caused us to meet and interact with homeless people, we also came to learn that one bedroom social housing in this city is in short supply (4-5 year waiting list). As well, the earlier struggle this year over the building of a $77 million aquatic centre while poverty and homelessness exist seems obscene.

So the enquiry today on the program is how much say do citizens have in the prioritization of what is needed to meet the needs of people? If neighbourhoods could actually have a direct say in that process what could it look like? In Windsor, city council has initiated neighbourhood councils but few people have high hopes for the current structure which is yet to be determined since only one meeting has occurred so far in some wards.  

Click to find out how to access social housing in Windsor/Essex

I spoke with Joanna Duarte Laudon, a Project Coordinator for Toronto with the Participatory Budgeting Project based at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn NY.  (Facebook)

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She has researched and facilitated public participation programs in Venezuela and her hometown of Toronto. In 2009 and 2010 she co-facilitated two participatory evaluations of Toronto Community Housing‘s PB process, working with a team of public housing tenants and staff to research and improve the process. Joanna has also worked with community organizations such as Barrio Nuevo, Manifesto Community Projects, and the Hispanic Development Council.

Our conversation began with a description of participatory budgeting (PB) and the New York based project she is a part of. She described PB as a “new model of democratic participation” rather than a “consultation” with limited involvement by citizens. She described how the PB process traces its roots to Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Suggested reading by Joanna Duarte Laudon

Also, at the 13:35 minute mark in the audio, we discussed the implications of the PB process for movement building for further involvement of citizens in the exercise of a true democracy – that is having a direct say in the management of our affairs. Getting involved in budget decision-making is a good way to start. 

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Dec. 16: Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance; Abayomi Azikiwe and the Defense Authorization Act in the US

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Jack Gibbons: @ 5:31

Abayomi Azikiwe: @ 41:10

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In the first half hour of the program we endeavored to grapple with energy strategies in Ontario with Jack Gibbons,  Chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.  The alliance, according to the website, “…is a coalition of individuals and approximately 90 organizations (health and environmental organizations, faith communities, municipalities, utilities, unions and corporations) that represent over six million Ontarians.” The alliance was “…established in 1997 to achieve the phase-out of Ontario’s dirty coal-fired power plants and to move Ontario towards a renewable electricity future.” In Windsor we know that green energy is a cornerstone of efforts to revitalize the local economy with Samsung coming to the city to build wind turbine towers. How sound is the Ontario government’s strategy for energy efficiency and what could be done to improve it? The Ontario Clean Air Alliance works to make sure we are moving in the right direction for a renewable electricity future and has published a report for energy efficiency as well as a six point plan for lower energy bills linked to a strong economy. During the discussion of the six point plan Gibbons mentions Combined Heat and Power (CHP) operations and listed several around the province. The one listed in Windsor is next to the Ford engine assembly plant.  Be sure to stay aware of  the coming campaign by the OCAA regarding the high cost of nuclear energy by clicking on image below:

In the second half hour we spoke with Abayomi Azikiwe in Detroit to get a handle on the National Defense Authorization Act about which one report says “…  writes into law an assumed role for the military in domestic counterterrorism that did not exist before.”

Click image for more on Occupy Detroit and Azikiwe's role.

Azikiwe also spoke on Occupy Detroit and the Emergency Manager law – a draconian tool of the State meant to ram through cuts to city services while a comopliant media drums up a crisis atmosphere demanding drastic action.

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Dec 9: Russ Diabo and First Nations’ relationship with Canada; a statement on why Occupy Windsor is leaving the park

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Russ Diabo: 2:55

Statement on Occupy Windsor: 45:45

Saturday, Dec 10 was the UN sponsored Human Rights Day.

Click image for statement on Human Rights Day

I’m always somewhat conflicted about highlighting a day for this and a day for that because in the end the things celebrated need to occur all year round – something like peace and goodwill only put into action around Christmastime.  However I get the fact we need to remind ourselves of efforts to make the world a more just place. 

I couldn’t think of a more apt place to start with human rights in a Canadian context than with First Nations. The emergency declared in Attawapiskat is another example of the unjust relationship between Canada and First Nations who have for centuries been trying to co-exist with a settler nation unwilling to admit we live on occupied land. Don’t we need to once and for all enter into a real agreement with First Nations governments and establish a just and enduring relationship built on sustaining the land, water and air? After all, these three things we all rely on for everything in order to survive.

All over the world Indigenous people are fighting resource extraction corporations such as miners and loggers for not only a share of the economic benefits but also to make sure that whatever is extracted is done so in a sustainable manner. We live in a finite world that will need to provide the same resources for future generations yet it is said we will need another Earth by 2030 at the rate we are using resources. Indigenous people in Canada have been fighting globalization for 500 years and today we are all at risk from a system of exploitation that is now out of control and “managed” by a global elite who answer only to themselves.

To help get some context for Human Rights Day I spoke to  Russ Diabo from his home in Innisfil near Barrie: Russ Diabo is a First Nations policy adviser and a Mohawk from Kahnawake, in Quebec

We spoke about the recent biannual conference by the Assembly of First Nations, Attawapiskat, the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which followed on the 1990 Oka crisis, and what is expected from a meeting of First Nations with Prime Minister Harper in January. Mr Diabo also spoke about what sustains him in his many years of struggle for justice. He named community and allies who help in the struggle and family. It is children and grandchildren who will be left the remains of this world and who deserve our best efforts to preserve all that sustains us. Diabo also named Defenders of the Land  as an important “… network of Indigenous Communities united in defense of our lands, Indigenous rights, and Mother Earth.”

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Statement from Media Conference held Friday Dec 9 regarding Occupy Windsor :

Media Release:

December 9, 2011

Good morning and thank you for coming.

 I’mPaul Chislettand a participant in Occupy Windsor. I have a few words before others speak on their experiences so far with Occupy Windsor and I ask that you bear with me.  

 We have been in the park for almost three months and have learned a lot about ourselves, the city, and how to come together as a community to seek ways to make change. We came to the park in solidarity with others around the world to speak out against inequality built in to the undemocratic economic and political systems that fail to meet the needs of people.

 Our purpose was to conduct political actions such as marches and rallies to alert people to the dangers of another free trade deal, this time with the European Union, a dangerous crime bill that seeks to criminalize minorities and those in poverty, high tuition fees, and inequality inWindsor. We conducted teach ins, we held general assemblies that are a hallmark of direct democracy, we learned to work together as a group of people largely unknown to each other three months ago to build a community that was inclusive and non-judgmental. We intended to be in the park for as long as we felt it necessary.

 Our presence in the park was itself a form of civil disobedience and made the statement that we have a right to freely assemble in our own parks without impeding access to anyone, including hundreds of people for the Remembrance Day ceremony. Over the last several weeks we began discussions on whether to maintain our presence in the park. The logistics of maintaining the park was overtaking our other purpose – to organize and conduct political action and outreach with the park as our base. What we found was that homeless people and those suffering from addiction and in some cases mental illness came to the park where we sheltered, fed and befriended them. Some of those people will speak in a bit. They stayed because they found community here. In the meantime we did not have a strong enough committee structure to maintain the camp properly and over time, MOSTLY only the people with nowhere else to go were staying overnight in the park. Our discussions over the last few weeks were around our moral responsibility to people who came for the community and learned about our cause, yet had no place to live. We decided about two weeks ago that some people needed to work on political action separately from the park while others would help maintain the presence in the park.

 I must STRESS here that at this point I am speaking for myself in that the park had become untenable and a decision was needed whether the camp was still a political expression or had become a camp for homeless people. As it turned out, the authorities had the same question. They said they were concerned for the welfare of the people staying overnight. The question we asked ourselves however was why do the authorities care about these homeless people and not the many others who are out there now under bridges, in abandoned buildings or what have you. What our presence in the park has done is made the invisible more obvious and right on the steps of city hall. The city has stated they will help the people who need it who are in the park and we ask: where is the help for the hundreds or more, who need adequate housing, food and community now?  Workers at the mission, Street Help, Windsor Youth Action Centre, and the church next door, for example, do all they can and we all know it is not enough.

 What we found inWindsorwas that the city prioritizes spending for pools and tax breaks for foreign corporations to locate here while so many people exist in need. We could add the problems of infrastructure that go unheeded as well with hundreds of flooded basements as a testimony of how spending is misdirected. All of this highlights our reason for being in the park. We get to vote once every few years and then we sit and wait to see what happens. OccupyWindsoris an expression of a desire to NOT sit and wait any longer.

 While it is a controversial decision and not everyone agrees with it, the park will be cleared out this weekend and I must stress that this is not a unanimous decision. It is quite possible some tents will stay under the banner of Occupy Windsor. I am one those who chose to de-camp and continue movement building with the allies I have found in the park. I think it is the right thing to do because we cannot fight injustice and look after people in need at the same time. Other allies include First Nations people in Windsor who we have negotiated with to share a large Teepee to be located in a place yet to be decided, and will be jointly used for ceremonies by First Nations people, and for educational purposes by all of us. I believe the park has served the purpose we intended it to. Now we must organize ourselves to regain our community in such a way that no one is left out and that we do not need to rely solely on corporations and their political allies to make decisions for us. We need to take back our own power neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

 In closing, it is important to note that the park we are in is named after Senator Croll, and it’s not that title that means anything; what’s important is that Mr Croll was Mayor of Windsor during the depression. During that time he insisted the city go into deficit in order to provide relief for people in need. How different politicians are today, yet the needs of people are just as pressing as they were in Mr Croll’s day. I am part of the 99% and I refuse to be silent. I believe that leaving the park will make the movement a stronger and  more effective political force that can draw more people to it in order to create a more fair and inclusive community.

Dec 2. Chris Dixon and Occupy’s anarchist roots with photo-journalist Doug MacLellan in studio

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On Friday we continued exploring the meaning of the Occupy movement, partly out of my own experience with Occupy Windsor, but also because this movement is still in the process of being defined by participants and outside observers while virtually ignored and/or misunderstood by the corporate media. It’s an important movement because of the tremendous problems facing working people, students, retirees, and so on caused by what appears to be the collapse of global capitalism. The Occupy movement is, I believe, a call to others to become involved in setting a new agenda for our own futures instead of leaving our fate in the hands of people who only know how to plan for profit. As the interests of the powerful few are threatened in a coming collapse we can again hear calls for war with  Syria and Iran.

In this country, besides the continuing build up of the military, the Harper regime is just getting warmed up for its four year grip on power. For a glimpse of the future one needs only look at the ‘blame the victim’ mentality over the injustice in Attawapiskat, the spending on the military, and the crime Bill being rammed through parliament – I mean the list is very long with the Harper gang.

Dangerous times lie ahead and the Occupy movement needs to be fully understood and its meaning clearly articulated in order to meet the coming environmental, economic, and political calamities. The planning needs to start at the neighbourhood level and in my experience in Occupy Windsor, we proved people could come together and practice a form of direct democracy to reach consensus on issues from the organization of the encampment to what actions will be carried out and how. By working together we came to know and trust each other so during general assemblies  it became possible to make decisions in the best interests of the collective because we learned to care about each other.

Nothing is perfect in human affairs and some assemblies went beyond two hours so as with any prototype, we tested the basic design and found that it works. Now seems the time to build beyond the prototype and see if this model will work in neighbourhood councils, universities, non-profit organizations, and so on.

On the program we spoke to Chris Dixon from his home in Sudbury to get his take on the Occupy movement from an anarchist perspective. Chris Dixon  “is a longtime anarchist organizer and writer who currently lives in Sudbury where he is involved with Sudbury Against War and Occupation and Occupy Sudbury.” “He is a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies and the activist journal Upping the Anti. He is currently completing a book, titled Against and Beyond, based on interviews with radical organizers across the U.S. and Canada”

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Also in the In the studio was a man who has become a friend, Doug MacLellan, who is a photo-journalist with many years of experience and many kilometers of travel under his belt as well. While getting drawn into the Occupy Windsor experience, Doug has maintained a professional detachment and has helped several of us keep a balanced perspective on what we are doing.

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