#FHRITP: Name and shame

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This should have been tougher for me, an old union hand, than it proved to be. Meet Ryan Hart, on the left, who works for Cognex Corporation. On the right is Shawn Simoes, who worked for Hydro One and made over $100,000 a year—until yesterday.

The fellow with the goatee on the left of this photo:

Idiot dudebro.jpg

who actually shouted the phrase “Fuck her right in the pussy,” is as yet unidentified. Shouldn’t take much longer to rectify that. Nor to identify his two chortling companions.

Enough, already. Normally I am averse to employers regulating out-of-office conduct by employees. It has a faint odour of totalitarianism to it. Bosses don’t own their employees, they rent their time.


There is merit in the notion that testosterone-drunk misogynist punks of this kind, who have interfered with and intimidated countless women reporters just trying to do their jobs, should be punished. What employers in their right minds would want employees like this? Are women in their workplaces safe from the sexual harassment that comes so very easily, so damned casually, to these jockholes?

Nope. Not a dilemma for me at all, as it turns out. Name them. Fire them. Ban them. And I won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.

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Boycott Israel!

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Israeli Apartheid.jpgMy title is about to become illegal. So is the illustration. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Remember the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism and their silly one-sided Final Report? The other shoe is now about to drop.

I’ve long been a soft supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, but with some emphasis on the word “soft.” Noam Chomsky offers some solid criticism of the movement which, although I don’t agree with all of it, should encourage us to reflect on strategy. Norman Finkelstein, whose criticisms of Israel actually led to his being hounded out of DePaul University, is even more critical of BDS.

It behooves us to pay attention, and also to put all of our cards on the table. If we want a one-state solution, we should say so. If a two-state one, let’s be upfront about it.

Ah, if life were so simple. While I lean to a two-state solution based upon the Abdullah Proposal, the notion of ethnic rather than civic states does not sit well with me. Of course I would favour the latter kind of arrangement. But that’s a bit like being anti-Zionist, isn’t it? A principled position that has absolutely no relevance to the real world.

One can see that I’m arguing with myself. And I do so every time the Middle East comes up.

Where am I in sympathy with BDS? Well, I think boycotting products made in the illegal West Bank colonies makes sense. I think universities in Canada—like my own alma mater, Carleton—should disinvest in companies that shore up Israel’s military oppression of the Palestinian people. I’m not opposed to cultural exchanges, but frown upon giving a stage to one-sided Israeli propaganda that erases Palestinian history and perspectives. And I’m going to stay loudly critical of ethnic cleansing in the South Negev, second-class citizenship for Palestinian Israeli citizens and all of the other racist nastiness that we can expect in any state that defines itself by its majority ethnicity.

(Don’t like the word “apartheid?” Come up with a better one. I’ll use it.)

We need this debate. It’s very, very far from over. One could even argue that it’s hardly begun.

The Harper government, however, wants to use the law as a blunt instrument to shut down criticism of Israel, which, rather than being held to a “different standard” as its uncritical supporters claim we are doing, will now be held to none at all. The BDS movement will be banned. And so long, Israeli Apartheid Week. You don’t have a friend in the Commons, on either side of the House. Harper and his shrieky extremist friends are calling the shots, and judging from past experience the Opposition will either support this move or maintain a craven silence.

But a lot of us won’t. So, Mr. Harper—just bring it on.

UPDATE: Some of the Usual Suspects are claiming that the CBC story is untrue. The embarrassment has proven too much, perhaps. Yet an email exchange between CBC journalist Neil Macdonald and a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety really speaks for itself.

The hate speech laws were changed last year to include “national origin.” Some believed at the time that this would help to criminalize the BDS movement. I thought that was overreaching—now I’m not sure.

Did Stephen Blaney talk about “zero tolerance” or not? The would-be debunkers of Macdonald’s story do not address that issue. Instead they attack the CBC. Rather telling, I think.

If this was a trial balloon, as one commenter suggests, it may have fallen with a thud. Or perhaps action on this matter is to be deferred until after the October election. How would that action take shape? Blaney has signalled that complaints against BDS and IAW will be prosecuted. Cue B’nai Brith. Provincial Attorneys General, whose permission is needed to proceed under the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code, will doubtless fall into line.

One way or another, it really is too much for chagrined pro-Israel zealots to try to wish this story away. A change of headline is not a retraction.

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Welcome to the fresh air and sunshine, Omar Khadr. I hope you enjoyed your lamb dinner at the Edneys’ last night. I can’t begin to imagine the pleasure you must have taken in the evening ritual of a family meal.

Freedom. Delivered at last from the deep pits and squalid cages built by the system to hide away the inconvenient and the lost. The masquerade of official “freedom” is to be maintained at all costs: the ugly truths of power and rule must be kept out of the light, by any means necessary.

And so a kid was thrown down a hole. And all the Sovereign’s minions laboured to roll a rock over the opening, to bury him alive.

Scott Gilmore writes a perceptive column about the deeper cultural meanings of his selection for sacrifice. Like Hassan Diab, a Canadian citizen extradited to France for a crime of which he is certainly innocent, Omar Khadr is a classical pharmakos, one of us and yet separated from the majority by name and appearance.

These age-old memes are there to be enlisted by the powers and authorities—a vital part of their armamentarium. The cultural undertow drowns the ability to think, to see, to empathize.

But through all, Omar Khadr finally prevailed. There is still the rule of law and a Charter of Rights in Canada, if both are somewhat bruised at present. The saddening thing is how long it has taken to put matters right. The saga of Omar Khadr is one of flagrant injustice, gross abuse of process, and vicious political persecution. And it’s been there in plain view for all to see.

A child soldier aged 15 was taken to Afghanistan by his fanatical Islamist family to take part in military operations. He had been well-prepped beforehand with the usual Abrahamic slogans, smiting enemies and whatnot, and found himself in an al-Qaeda compound when American forces decided to take it out. In the ensuing firefight, it is agreed that young Khadr threw a grenade. It is also agreed that a US Sergeant (not a medic, by the way) died from an exploding grenade. But whether there were two grenades or one is still a matter of dispute.

The child, badly wounded after being shot in the back by a member of the US team, and with one eye full of shrapnel, was hustled off to Guantanamo, a zone of exception where human rights simply ceased to exist. He was tortured for many months—waterboarded, hung by his arms for long periods of time, deprived of sleep, and then illegally interrogated by CSIS agents.

He never stood a chance before the kangaroo court known as a Military Commission. When the presiding officer made too many concessions to the defence, he was promptly replaced by another, who suppressed evidence that would have helped to exonerate Khadr, while permitting doctored evidence to be introduced by the prosecution. A prison psychiatrist testified that Khadr was an unrepentant terrorist, founding his evaluation upon the dubious work of an Islamophobic Danish kook.

The outcome was a plea bargain, made under obvious duress: facing decades in prison after a fake trial run by unconstrained military hard men, Khadr pleaded guilty to five charges in order to get out of Gitmo and home to Canada. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Throughout all of this maltreatment of a Canadian citizen born in Toronto, Stephen Harper and his sado-political buddies in Cabinet, notably Vic Toews and more recently Stephen Blaney, did everything in their power to thwart justice and continue the persecution. A sexed-up dossier prepared by a Department of Public Safety policy munchkin was used to justify harsh conditions on his return. Khadr was grudgingly repatriated, then held incommunicado in various maximum security prisons. The Harper government fought his attempts to obtain bail every step of the way, losing fight after fight, until Khadr was finally released this week.

Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney told the plain unvarnished truth when he stated that Harper is an anti-Muslim bigot. Given the travails of other Canadians of beige hue with funny names at the hands of his government, one would have thought this screamingly obvious by now. The double standards in evidence when it comes to Canadian citizens have been up in lights for some time.

We should not imagine that the Harper government has no more cards to play. It is at least arguable that the recently passed citizenship bill C-24 could be used to attempt to have him deported to Egypt, despite being born in Canada. Nothing at this point should surprise us: the Conservative government has a long record of single-minded vindictiveness. Much will hang on Khadr’s appeal in the US courts against his Guantanamo conviction—which some believe has an excellent chance of success.

But in the meantime, the soft-spoken, personable young man who stood before the cameras last evening before sitting down to a family dinner has rejoined our community at last. “I will prove to [Canadians] I am more than what they thought of me,” he said. “I will prove to them I’m a good person….I’m excited to start my life.”

About time. For God’s sake let him get on with it.

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Some excerpts from the commentary over at Small Dead Animals. The chronology extends from just before the Alberta election results were known until now.


Prediction: Tory: 57 NDP: 23 WR: 5 Liberal: 2

Prediction Conservatives 43 Wild Rose 24 NDP 15 Liberals 4 Alberta Party 1

Cons 40 NDP 30 WR 18 No way the Communists are getting a majority. This is Alberta.

Slam dunk PC

PC 47 Wildrose 29 NDP 10 Liberal 1


UNbelievable….at 62, I never thought I would see the day. K, how do i emigrate to Texas/Oklahoma..?? I am serious. These Leftist MORONS will screw this province…I still remember Mr Rae’s DAYS… I need another beer - then at least I can PUKE properly.. Fer the record, I voted last Fri for WR.

and rat fink resigns and runs away. great job you pinko commie loving scum. spinless rat.

I hereby propose a name change: Alberta should now be called “Venuzuela North”.

Demographics and gov’t jobs. Natives, Indians, Pakistanis, Somalis vote NDP and there are LOTS. College students vote NDP and Nensharia was an MRU prof before coronation, er, election.


I don’t think this has anything to do with the NDP in Alberta. This is about purging the current ranks of power. It’s going to hurt Alberta short term, but long term they’ll be just fine.

I’m new to this here but for heavens sake try to respect your fellow voters. FYI the most conservative government Saskatchewan ever had was Janice Mckinnon NDP as finance minister and most fiscally prudent,(no I didn’t vote for her) so much so, a disc jockey could run province and be voted Messers congeniality. Take a pill and offer some sound advice to these newbies.


My condolences, Alberta. Never thought I would see the day.

Oh how naive and effed you are Alberta. A socialist is a socialist, from the left coast, to the Newf shores. Leave now, while you can sell your house for close to what its worth now, before the FAST market decline. It will happen, always does with the DIps.

Sometimes life sucks. It is up to the free people to pick up a fight. If not. This generation is going down. When it hits the bottom it will be too late for salvage.


But really.. dippers have control of Alberta. Shit just got real folks.

When a government becomes smug, corrupt and incompetent the electorate must, if necessary, plug their collective noses and vote them out. Even if it requires voting for a party you would not naturally support. You get more of what you tolerate and less of what you don’t.

It’s all in how you look at it. This is a great 4 year opportunity to pound the “hot” Alberta economy down to reasonable levels and clear out allot of Eastern and other Third World deadbeats that have been flocking to Alberta like locusts.

The NDP won fair and square.

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Thugs in uniform

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The recent spate of killings of unarmed young Black men in the US has been drenched in the racism that remains a key element in the structure of American society. From 12-year-old Tamir Rice to Eric Garner to Walter Scott to Freddie Gray, four recent victims of police violence, the dismal story is the same: cop(s) kill with little or no provocation, and—until recently—have received cover from the judicial system as a whole.

Perhaps the most egregious example of summary executions by police—until the Walter Scott video surfaced, anyway—are the so-called “Houdini suicides.” Young men of colour, already having been searched, their hands cuffed behind their backs, somehow manage to produce a firearm and shoot themselves dead. In one case, a coroner stated that the bullet had actually entered the man’s chest from the front, but ruled the death a suicide anyway.

The fact that Black officers have been involved in some of this latter-day lynching—three of the six Baltimore cops now facing charges in the death of Freddie Gray are African American—does not neutralize the unequal power relations between Black communities and the largely white establishments that rule over them. As we have seen in Ferguson and other nearby communities (and who knows how many others), Black populations can be subject to vicious, organized shakedown rackets enforced by the local police. Casual police brutality is commonplace. When Blacks join police forces, they likely have to prove that they are “colour-blind” and as willing to brutalize their fellow citizens as other officers: certainly life for many Black officers can be made very difficult indeed by their white colleagues in any case, reinforced by deeply racist police departments.

But at this point even conservative commentators, so fond of using that new n-word substitute “thug” to describe unarmed victims of these lynch mobs in blue, are beginning to scratch their heads. The ubiquity of cellphone cameras has made the benefit-of-the-doubt default position for cops near-impossible to maintain.

A little caution, however, should be injected into the discussion at this point. There have been innumerable incidents of unsanctioned police brutality that have nothing to do with race, first of all, and they haven’t all taken place south of the border.

Think about the G20 protests in Toronto, for example, with the mass suspension of civil liberties by former Toronto Police Chief (and now federal Liberal candidate) Bill Blair. Illegal arrests, “kettling” and savage beatings of unarmed demonstrators were not, by and large, an expression of white supremacy. Nor was the brutalization of Tonie Farrell by a member of the OPP, or the gunning down of Sammy Yatim by a trigger-happy Toronto cop, or the electrocution death of Robert Dziekanski by four RCMP officers, or the assault on a woman by Ottawa cop Steve Desjourdy (who had previously roughed up another woman in custody). Then there was the killing of Ian Bush in BC: in this case one might want to use the term “Houdini homicide.”

Accountability? It is to weep. In Ontario, the Special Investigations Unit, which is supposed to investigate serious injuries and deaths arising from police-public interactions, has operated as a cover-up machine. Ontario’s civilian review agency, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) does not inspire confidence either. Rotten apples are rewarded with promotions.

On the rare occasions that bad cops get charged with anything, a different metric is applied. The killers of Robert Dziekanski were charged—with perjury. Two of the four were convicted, and two acquitted. One of the cops went on to kill again—which was a little too much even for the RCMP, who cashiered him shortly afterwards. One of only two cops charged with offences during the extended police riot at the G20 in Toronto—he brutally beat a protester, on camera—avoided any jail time. In Ottawa, a friend of mine was Tasered by a violent police officer as he was lying face-down on the ground, handcuffed, after being falsely arrested. He won a rare victory in front of the highest police standards office in Ontario—and the officer was given a reprimand.

In one appalling case in 2003, a Toronto cop sucker-punched a Somalian immigrant and then tried to frame him for assault, which could have led to the man’s jailing and deportation. This was before camera phones, but someone caught the whole thing on videocam. Bill Blair made a special order that the officer should continue to receive full pay after he was convicted. After years of appeals, he served a 30-day sentence—on weekends.

What is the real problem with out-of-control police? A lack of any accountability mechanism that would rein them in. And that’s not just a matter of effective, accessible civilian review, which many, including a group I have been involved with, have demanded, with indifferent success. There is also a serious problem with the judicial culture, which too often places police above the law, or at least to one side of it.

Perhaps the only effective means of countering police excesses is, then, what we are seeing right now—citizens armed with cell-phones, and the amplification provided by social media. If “a riot is the language of the unheard,” as Martin Luther King put it, folks at the bottom of the social pyramid are now finding their unambiguous, unified voice—and a national audience.

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404 country not found

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I kept meaning to write about the events going on around Greek membership in the Eurozone, but events kept happening so often that the post that I usually write first in my head kept getting out of date. And now it’s too late to post with a Twitter echo, heh — although I suppose it frees me up from having to try to write first sentence clickbait.

I have been following the Greek situation with completely rapt attention, since every twist, turn, and repetition of it — a.k.a. “The Passion of Hellas” — has been deeply educational. And now the situation may, just may, finally be coming to a head. Or not! If there’s one thing that the Syriza government in Athens has done for us that we can hopefully all agree on, it’s to reveal that the emperor has no clothes. It really does appear to be a case of people following a bad theory off a cliff, because they are too blind or cowardly to do otherwise.

Because of all these twists and turns, any kind of analysis that does the whole situation justice won’t fit here, alas. In lieu of this, I offer you a few remarks:

1. We are continuously told that left-wing solutions won’t “work”, left-wing parties and their positions run counter to the Eternal Truths of economics, etc, etc, human behaviour doesn’t allow it, yadda yadda yadda. OK. If that were so, why is there a whole elaborate and very blatant superstructure constantly being erected and renovated to ensure specifically that humans behave so that left-wing solutions won’t work. Consider, like, every single “free trade” agreement of note for the past umpteen years.

And yet, in this Greek situation we see it at it’s most obvious, when it becomes clear that the troika is willing to entertain helpful political fictions and flexibilities about a Greek debt policy that has obviously failed. But it nevertheless insists on using the debt payment schedule as a means to force the Greek government to enact precisely the sort of reforms that any left-wing government worth its salt can’t accept. (Surprisingly, it appears that Syriza is a left-wing government worth its salt as leftists — needless to say, one is saddened by the fact that this is a surprise.)

2. Speaking of which, one of the most fascinating things about this whole episode, in terms of media at least, is the frequent speculation in European media of just when Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will see reason, ditch his finance minister, and fire the left-wing portion of his caucus, as well as the nationalist coalition partners — in order to form one of the usual weak-tea social democratic coalitions that will promptly give in to the troika and sign on the dotted line. It’s not only media — apparently the political culture of Brussels simply has a very hard time understanding that there are people who could be working outside their particular intellectual framework and yet be serious about it. What makes this all even stranger is that Syriza conducts its discussions more or less in the open, if you look at the correct media — which is of course not the media that the mainstream European media read.

The reason why I think the situation is at a (bad, depending on your point of view) turning point is that the EU-level politicians are finally coming to realize, with some chagrin, that the incentive structure of politicians that are actually left-wing is different from that of a government of post-social post-democrats. Syriza’s behaviour has been far from strategically perfect, but it is the sort of behaviour you would expect from a left-wing government with a gun to its head — the absolute minimum level of slow compliance. EU politicians seem to think that they’re actually offering a carrot as well as a stick, but they seem to have overestimated the attractiveness of the carrot.

It’s for this and other reasons that I find that explanations that reduce this situation to the bad behaviour of banks in 2008 to be overblown. There is a huge component of ideology and entrenched ways of doing business here. Indeed, one of the complaints about Yanis Varoufakis is that he is an “amateur”, which we can immediately translate into “bad at helping other people keep political cover.” Which he may be. The previous Greek governments hardly managed to implement structural adjustment in any effective way, but they were professionals in that sense — they gave other European politicians cover, and for that they are missed.

So, in that sense, Syriza really is like the child that pointed out that the Emperor has no clothes.

3. And speaking of the previous governments, isn’t it interesting how everything is all of a sudden due and payable and how Syriza must implement in a few weeks what has been avoided for years? One can’t help but imagine that this is only the expected reaction to a left-wing government being elected. Indeed, it turns out that, in the short run at least, it isn’t Germany that is Syriza’s principal enemy in the Eurozone, but rather the governments of other crisis countries, particularly Spain and Portugal for exactly the reason I mentioned above: the Syriza government takes away political cover from these governments by its very existence.

Indeed, not all the reforms demanded of Greece are bad ones. Greece has a widespread and problematic tax-evasion problem, for example, but it turns out that taxes are really deeply cultural. The German language has a great word for this: Steuermoral It is very hard to build a different Steuermoral and very hard to collect taxes consistently without the right kind of Steuermoral. That gives us an opportunity to learn yet another German word: Daueralimentierung — long-term feeding. Much of this agony has been about avoiding (the appearance of) the Daueralimentierung of Greek finances in the Eurozone. The structural reforms (bog-standard IMFery) are supposed bring Greece into some kind of long-term sustainability as an export competitor (!) to Germany. Obviously, this is a fantasy: Erst kommt die Daueralimentierung, dann die Steuermoral.

4. Which, of course, brings us to the real issue: Europe is not a real country, and the situation is, in fact, clear evidence that a currency zone must be a real country. Within an economic unit, there will always be subunits that are chronic underperformers, especially if your goal is (!) a continuous export surplus with everyone else. These subunits create, over the long run, a kind of death spiral situation, unless they are supported by the “overperformers”. Every long-lasting, successful currency union (USA, Canada, West Germany under the DM, etc) has some kind of transfer mechanism. There is no possibility that the Federal Reserve will pull the plug on Mississippi banks just because Mississippi is a big recipient of US federal program spending. (Exactly this very dangerous politicization has taken place with the ECB and is the reason why this is such a dramatic crisis for Greece — the plug-pulling was threatened almost immediately after Syriza was elected and the bank run hasn’t ended.)

The Eurozone was conceived and written explicitly under the guarantee that it would not become a “Transfer Union”, which in the northern countries means, “pay lazy southerners to loll about on the beach”. Therefore, arcane, wishful-thinking requirements were written into the treaties, allegedly designed to avoid this situation. These requirements are only as strong as the Eurozone somehow preventing a large economy like Spain or France from, um, falling into the “wrong” hands. Of course, since not all contingencies can be accounted for, adhering to these requirements can increase the possibility of a political upset. A transfer union of some form is necessary and inevitable — or the Eurozone will fall apart.

But the Eurozone is not a real country. Canada, despite its two languages and the binational griping, is a real country. Even if you were able to make a case for the overall benefit of an Eurozone-wide transfer union (and there are arguable benefits even for the payers, most importantly, well, a single currency), many citizens of Germany and elsewhere shy away from the idea. And the lock-in effect of the present arrangement into a neoliberal frame of thinking leads me to come to the conclusion that many German commentators have come to: Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende. Better a horrible end than an endless horror. Especially since an important principle, the primacy of democracy over debt and credit relations, is also at very much at stake.

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Weird sex stuff

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Cheating.jpgSo here we are in 2015 and progressives still haven’t figured out sexual relations. Monogamous, bounded, closed? Or polyamorous and open? Or points in between (since this of all things shouldn’t be reduced to a binary)? Spoiler: I think whatever works is good. But…even with that general understanding, questions arise.

How did this come up? Why, it was my last hurrah on Twitter. A very bright PhD candidate who has made herself an expert on decolonization, and with whom I have had friendly dealings for some time, was Tweeting about things she didn’t like in dudebros. (“Dudebros” is shorthand for unreconstructed young sexist males. I can’t recall if she actually used the term or not.) “Mansplaining” was there, of course. Also “cheating.”

That last brought me up short. I asked her what she meant. Yup, the traditional term for a monogamous partner stepping out. So I allowed as how I thought this was a little old-fashioned, but OK, then.

And, as so often happens in that wretched medium, dung pellets immediately hit the mini-fans. I was instantly blocked. Then the pile-on began. Screamers rushed in, some thinking I was talking about the student’s own partnership (God forbid). I discovered that I am judgemental, faux-superior, patronizing and smug, something I really should have been told a long time ago. No wonder I don’t have any friends.

For once I lost my presence of mind, and responded badly. And I’m sorry I did. I have enormous respect for this student. She can tell you every micro-nuance of how colonization works, whether of land or of the mind. To use the lingo, I thought Twitter was a safe space to discuss the social mores that she had indirectly brought up.

Nuh-uh. That’s not how taboos work. They’re discursive black holes.

So here’s what I meant to say, and the floor is open for comment.

When it comes to human relations, I don’t privilege one kind of consensual arrangement over another. I will, however, admit to some strong prejudices when it comes to the language used to talk about them. For example, the word “relationship,” hard as it is to avoid, gets my back up. I find it cold, impersonal, alienating and reifying. I received a card once that sums up my feelings on this score: a woman is addressing a man, saying: “That sounds great, but would it be good for the relationship?” At the next fold we see a monster in the living room, chained to a stake.

Precisely. My soul-mate and I preferred the word “partnership.” It seemed to be more person-focussed and egalitarian, at least to us.

And another word that makes me react is “cheating.”

Make no mistake: I think that lying to one’s partner(s) is fundamentally wrong and destructive. Transparency and honesty are essential in a lasting partnership, however that partnership is constructed. These are essential elements of trust. It’s the privileging of sex in the hierarchy of no-noes that has me scratching my head a bit.

Here’s the standard definition of “cheat”: “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.” Of course, we all know the more colloquial meaning, which—to be blunt—sounds way over the top when juxtaposed with the dictionary one. The last place I would look for 1950s vocabulary like that is within progressive ranks. We’re supposed to be cultural critics, for crying out loud, reflecting on everything in society that’s taken for granted. The question of “gender” is under examination 24/7, and people consciously confront various oppressive assumptions and behaviours that had remained unquestioned until recently. Ditto, “race.”

And yet…here be tygers.

I haven’t, I admit, heard the word “unfaithful” come up so far, but it must be lurking there somewhere. The two words, if not synonymous, obviously overlap. Both imply that a grave injury is being inflicted on someone simply by performing a sexual act outside the confines of the partnership. Both suggest, then, that the very basis of fidelity to another is sexual restraint.

I know that in some partnerships there is agreement on precisely that restraint. And I don’t judge this in the slightest way, because people are complex and form a variety of arrangements for mutual comfort, and that’s the way it should be. But I can’t begin to understand the frequent enormity of the reaction to breaking that agreement, other than to the objectionable sneaking around and lying that can go with it—also very conventional and 1950s, by the way.

Contrast and compare. What if a spouse drains the other spouse’s bank account to spend on booze? Pawns his valuables? Assaults her? Lies about him to his boss? Disrespects her in public? Emotionally abuses her? We find suitably disapproving terms for all of these oppressive behaviours. But somehow, “unfaithfulness” and “cheating” aren’t among them. Isn’t that…a little odd?

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A few words of gratitude

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My learned pal Richard Warman, ably assisted by my co-blogger Balbulican, set up a crowdfunding page a little over a month ago to assist in my legal expenses for my recently-concluded lawsuit.

Their dedication and hard work has been an expression of true friendship. I can offer in response only the slightly awkward phrases allowed us by social convention.

The campaign is now done—there was never any intent to let it drag on—and funds are on their way to me. They came from friend and foe, and from strangers who saw merit in the cause. I am heartened by the generous-spiritedness expressed by all.

To those who claimed their “prizes” for contributing, or who were high bidders on the “Dawgtion,” rest assured that these matters are in hand!

And in the meantime, once again—thank you, to everyone who took part. Heart-warming. Deeply appreciated. I’m sincerely grateful.

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Twitter no more

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Das Gerede, Martin Heidegger called it, “idle chatter.” It’s the sea of everyday speech in which all of us are immersed, and from which most of us never emerge. Those who manage to do so are answering a silent call of conscience.

If there were ever a perfect model of das Gerede, it would have to be Twitter. I have Tweeted for years now, drowning in ephemeral and worthless commentary. We are not meant to speak to each other in twenty-five words or less. This isn’t concision, but truncation.

At its best, Twitter points elsewhere, to news links, or even to lengthy and thoughtful analyses that encourage us to wrestle once more with our angels. Seldom, however, does a Tweet, or a series of them, contain or convey much content. Jeet Heer has attempted the Twitter essay, but for me this is rather like trying to put the theory of relativity into rhyming couplets. Twitter is a fundamentally unserious medium. It is too small to contain who we are or what we mean.

Worse, it is highly addictive. The Twitterverse is populated by Gabor Mat√©’s hungry ghosts. It’s Usenet on a slightly higher level, moderated by the blocking and muting function and by its enforced brevity, but it’s still a park for the self-indulgent, with their endless unsatisfied craving for interaction.

Guilty, by the way. No Ishmael, I.

For years I have had two major writing projects on the go. I’ve dillied and dallied and found excuses and procrastinated. I want to complete them. There is nothing that aids procrastination like Twitter. And blogging, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

What decided me? My own voice on Twitter. Wasted words. Crazed interlocutors. The hissing and spitting of ideological pallbearers, shouldering their dead creeds, barging their way through the crowds, shouting commands and imprecations. Shoddy market stalls. Affectation. Trolls. Poseurs of every stripe. Wilful misunderstanding to alibi the gushing toxic spill of call-out culture. Straw men and women. Narcissism.

There are wonderful folks on Twitter. I’ve become firm friends with people I’ve never seen in the flesh. We call to each other through the crowd-noise, toss a little sustenance to each other. But this is no longer enough, if it ever was.

Blogging has been my other joyful distraction. I’m not ready to give it up, but I won’t be writing as many articles, or as my father would have called them, squibs. I put thought and passion into those pieces, but it’s a zero-sum game: every morning one has a finite amount of what Hemingway called “juice,” and what goes into my op-ed-type opinion writing is what doesn’t go into my long-term creative work.

Now I get to find out if I’m serious. It’s about time.

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Minority Report

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How many Canadians realize that they can be arrested and have their liberties curtailed by court order—even if they haven’t actually done anything or been charged with anything?

The law that permits this, introduced by the Liberals after 9/11, was on the books, then off the books, then put back into force by Stephen Harper in 2013 with Liberal support. Until recently, it was little used. Yet, just as a new wave of anti-“terrorist” hysteria is receding, life has finally been breathed into it. The fear machine must be fed.

Never mind the unpassed Bill C-51. You can be arrested and imprisoned up to a year right now, or forced to live under a “peace bond,” for what amounts to a pre-crime. The police have begun rounding up suspects with funny names who “may” commit a crime sometime in the future, as well as giving free reign to their time-honoured practice of entrapment. In case no pre-crime exists, after all, one can always be artfully constructed for deficient protagonists by those who are worn to serve and protect.

In this respect, the well-known film offered more security to the citizenry—the “pre-cogs” really could see into the future, at least most of the time: without intervention a crime would indeed be committed. But here in Canada in 2015, we don’t have pre-cogs. Instead we have eager-beaver cops who target the weak-minded and vulnerable, and make police-flavoured guesses about the intentions of others. In lockstep, the judicial system is playing along, imposing strict conditions upon ordinary citizens whose future acts are the subject of present scrutiny.

Better be safe than sorry, we are told. “Terrorism”—which can mean just about anything these days—must be nipped in the bud. Yet, remarkably, public opinion has reversed on Harper’s Bill C-51, which will give CSIS broad new powers to harass dissenters. Most people, as it turns out, don’t want laws that can be easily abused by unaccountable agents of the state. The problem is—they’re already in place.

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