Sunday, 25 November 2012

Pallister disrespects what our veterans fought for

Manitoba CON leader and Fort Whyte
MLA Brian Pallister.

Gave his "rebuke" of the Province's rarely
used policy of allowing students to Opt-Out of
Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Image Source: Alyssa McDonald/Metro Winnipeg 
The Portage Daily Graphic has an article out about the Opt-Out Gate manufactroversy, replete with talking points from various CON politicians expressing "outrage" and "offence" at the rarely used policy.

Manitoba Opposition Leader Brian Pallister rebuked the provincial government on Tuesday as there is no requirement for students attend Remembrance Day ceremonies at schools.

Pallister said the move shows a lack of respect for veterans as he pledged to stand by veterans who "bravely stood up for us."

“These are men and women who left family and friends to put themselves in harm’s way. Many made the ultimate sacrifice. Asking Manitoba students to spend an hour of their time is a small price to pay for the freedoms too many take for granted,” said Pallister in a statement.

“It is our duty as citizens to show our respect to those who’ve given us the priceless gifts we enjoy today. Life, liberty and freedom are ours because young men and women were prepared to give up their lives to fight for those principles."

("PCs rebuke NDP stance on student attending services". Jordan Maxwell (Nov. 13, 2012). Portage Daily Graphic.)

So, because veterans died fighting in the name of liberty and freedom it makes perfect sense to deprive people with unconventional views the liberty and freedom to Opt-Out of Remembrance ceremonies?  Yeah, that sounds about right...

...or not.

The Pallister CONs have issued a press release. Perhaps that will clarify matters.

The premier’s misguided assertion in the media that this is a case of religious freedom misses the point. The PC Party is here for Manitoba’s veterans and will stand up for those who bravely stood up for us.

“These are men and women who left family and friends to put themselves in harm’s way. Many made the ultimate sacrifice. Asking Manitoba students to spend an hour of their time is a small price to pay for the freedoms too many take for granted,” says Pallister.

“It is our duty as citizens to show our respect to those who’ve given us the priceless gifts we enjoy today. Life, liberty and freedom are ours because young men and women were prepared to give up their lives to fight for those principles,” adds Pallister.

("NDP Disrespects Veterans". Manitoba PC Press release (Nov. 13, 2012))
"Missing the point"? How, Brian Pallister? In case your party hasn't gotten this, allowing the rare religious or political objector to Remembrance ceremonies (perhaps a radical secular pacifist or more fundamentalist Mennonite Brethren member) to "Opt-Out" is about honouring liberty, even when we don't like the choices people are making. The Premier isn't commending the decision, he's allowing it. Failing to see the difference is the trait of an illiberal mindset utterly inconsistent with the liberties our veterans fought in the name of.

Pallister's really disrespecting veterans. He's disrespecting them by advancing a policy driven by (rightwing) authoritarian urges. The same urges that drove some of the worst men in history, who our veterans gallantly fought against (particularly in World War II). He's embraced a demagogically driven manufactroversy rather than seriously consider the issues affecting veterans. Where is Pallister's indignation when it comes to his former colleagues' disgraceful treatment of our disabled veterans?

Flesh and blood human beings, it seems, are less important to the Manitoba CON leader than symbols.

How else could he get so invested in Opt-Out Gate without holding back due to the significant risk it posses to some children?

A 40 year Legion member noted the risk that Opt-Out Gate demagoguery would provoke bullying. Afterwards, a commenter on this blog, likely stirred up by the frenzy over Opt-Out Gate, considered systematic punching of kids in the nose if they opted out of Remembrance ceremonies.

If a (supposed) adult is talking about punching kids in the nose, imagine what other children would do.

Ignoring bullying is a Harper CONs trait it seems the Pallister CONs share.As is a preference for symbols over real, flesh and blood human beings and liberty.

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Opt-Out Gate: Dangerous Demagoguery

Note: This post was initially intended for publication right after Remembrance Day. The research took longer than expected. 

The Winnipeg Sun: Home of all that's unfit
for print.

Image Source: Google Streetview
image of the Winnipeg Sun Office
(2009)
In the lead up to Remembrance Day, the Winnipeg Sun ran more than a few articles on the extremely rare opting-out of Remembrance Day ceremonies by a small number of students. This story started out in Alberta - receiving attention from some media outlets in Edmonton. Eventually Alberta Premier Redford opportunistically chimed in with her disappointment.

Shameless demagoguery over symbolic slights is fodder for conservative politicians. Many conservative politicians lose on real issues. Thus phoney populism over minor slights works better for them than real populism over major public policies.    

The story, about an exemption in laws governing Remembrance ceremonies at public schools - that had existed for quite some time -, probably sprung up as reporters desperately sought out topical, ratings grabbing content for Remembrance Day. The Sun dailies, particularly the Winnipeg Sun, saw this as an emotions grabbing story in line with their basic MO of stirring up manufactroversies over perceived affronts to tradition. They realized that, if Alberta had such rarely used exceptions, other jurisdictions must have them as well. Manitoba, it turns out, is one such jurisdiction.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Winnipeg Riding Poll

I've decide to come up with another poll, both to keep the site a bit more interactive and to learn a bit about what types of readers this blog attracts. Given the sensitivity of the info, in addition to the manual act of just not answering the poll I've added a "prefer not to say" category.

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Monday, 19 November 2012

Trudeau knocking out NDP's chances of forming gov't?

Justin Trudeau, pictured after a charity boxing match.

Trudeau is the "perceived frontrunner" in the 
Liberal leadership race.

Liberal poll numbers have risen following
his entry into the race.

Image Source: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Posted in the National Post
On October 2 the charismatic Justin Trudeau entered the Liberal leadership race. While the Liberal leadership convention isn't until 2013, Trudeau has received lots of media attention. Right now the CBC describes him as the "perceived frontrunner". Were the convention held today, I'd expect it to be a shoe-in for the 15th Prime Minister's son. No offence to Martha Hall Findlay or the other contenders, but that's an undeniable truth.

The Liberals have longed look for saviours in leaders. Slapping on a new face is a hell of a lot easier than changing the party, after all.

First there was Dion - crushed by Tory attack ads as "not a leader". Then there was Ignatieff - tarred by Tory attack ads as a "cosmopolitan", fair-weather Canadian, and Liberal elitist. Finally came Rae's brief, intern leadership - only for Rae to be blown off as a bad Premier of Ontario (the actual facts be damned, of course).

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Great New Blog

A new blog's on the scene: the WpgNewsReview. The blog was started less than two months ago, in October, and has a lot more content than one would expect for such a new entity.

It's written by a business owner, former military serviceperson and 40 year Legion member. The blogger aims for media criticism while categorically rejecting the notion that they're an alternative journalist or that their blog is a substitute for newspapers.

There's a lot of solid analysis on the blog, particularly when it comes to municipal public administration and public finances. For instance, there's several posts on the city's snow removal scheme - detailing the media announcements, zoning schemes, and city contracts.

I think we is in big trouble

How to tell when a politician or hack is lying?

What's all the hubbub - bub?

Snow removal - two thumbs up (their bums)

There's also an analysis of the city's contract with Emterra for garbage removal.

Great stuff, really.

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

War to End All Wars





Next of Kin monument, in front

of the Manitoba Legislature.

Photo taken by the Analyst.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the "war to end all wars" ceased. Many people, including many Canadians and Manitobans, fought and died in that war. Men, like those soldiers in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, fought on the front-lines, experiencing the horrors and trials of war firsthand.  

Farm workers left the fields of Manitoba and enlisted to fight in the "war to end all wars". Jobless workers also flocked to serve their country in the army.  Women worked in the factories and as army nurses, with significant strides towards more rights - including attainment of the right to vote for  Manitoba women in 1916  and for women in all of Canada by 1918.

The hope and dreams for a world without any more wars were to be dashed. The next worldwide war, the devastating Second World War, would begin in twenty-one years with a remilitarized Germany's invasion of Poland. Dreams of a better world at home were more immediately crushed, with horrendous working and economic conditions in Winnipeg persisting for returning soldiers. The attitudes of our city's economic elites were not what the veterans had expected as thanks for their service.  


Photo of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

Image Source: Wikipedia
The Winnipeg General Strike began a year after the First World War, filled with many disappointed former soldiers. The Canadian Government of the day betrayed those who had served Canada valiantly with brutal suppression.

The veterans of the wars of Canada, be they from the World Wars, the Korean War, the War in Afghanistan, and countless others are important to remember. Not for mere sentimentality or due to an idealization of the "glory" of war, but as a way of remembering what the costs of war are. Over what bare minimum of decency and respect those who fight for a country expect in return. And over the need to continue nation-building and social improvement for all within a fair and just society at home after and during conflicts abroad.

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Friday, 9 November 2012

Transportation Poll

Response from readers to poll on mode of transportation.

Image Source: Constructed by The Analyst off excel. 

Now's probably the time to finally get around to writing a post about the results from the "Mode of Transportation" poll of readers that was open in the summer. A plurality of readers who responded to the poll drive a personal automobile (45%) and, when car poolers (5%) are added, 50% of reader poll respondents are motorists. Bicycling (18%) and Public Transit (16%) were the runners up.

Image Source: Constructed by The Analyst.

Motorists made up a lesser percentage of site survey respondents than they do of Winnipeg's overall Labour Force (according to the 2006 census). Bicyclists made up a substantially higher portion of site survey respondents (18%) than they do for the Winnipeg Labour Force at large (1.8%). Public transit users were slightly over-represented (16% of site survey respondent's versus 14.20% of the Winnipeg Labour Force).

Overall, it seems that The Winnipeg RAG Review readership (or, at least, poll responders - given the comically small sample size and selection bias) have diverse commuting habits.


Mode of transportation for the Winnipeg Labour Force, according
to the 2006 census.

Image Source: Constructed by The Analyst based on 2006 census
data. 

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

US Presidential Election & left populist talk

Barack Obama, campaigning in Orlando, Florida.

Image Source: Barack Obama's
 Flickr photostream
Well, today's the big day in the US. The day citizens of that republic vote for president (through the comically indirect, winner take all, and disproportionate "electoral college" system).   Obama, in all likelihood, will win.

Statistician Nate Silver has crunched the numbers, giving Obama very high odds of winning given his efficient state-by-state distribution of support in the highly winner-take-all electoral college despite being neck-and-neck when it comes to the popular vote (Wired magazine has an article out debunking the statistically illiterate claims of anti-Nate Silver hacks).

What's particularly notable about this US Presidential election, aside from eerie similarities to the ones in 2004 and 2000, is just how the background and issues have been shaped by left populism and how much centre-left populist rhetoric the incumbent's using.  

The pro-austerity, anti-public social investment Tea Party movement laid the stage for the the Republican campaign to take the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections , based on notions of "government intrusion" from "Obamacare", "overtaxation", and "reckless spending". A variety of McCarthyite conspiracy theories about "communists" in the halls of power, "latte liberals" hating America, and what not filled the movement's not too marginalized extreme. Anger over the collapse of the demand and the American economy had been squarely directed at the US Federal Government in general and the Obama administration in particular that election. Income inequality was not an issue.

By the 2012 election campaign, two things happened to change this.


  • The top ranks of the Republican Party, like both major parties, are filled with members of the American plutocracy. The fact that their candidate was a country club conservative, rather then a supposed "man of the people" fighting the evils of "latte liberalism", was made more apparent by choosing the obliviously, hereditarily wealthy and privileged Mitt Romney rather than a nouveau riche Republican. The Democratic opponent, President Barack Obama, is also well known to have had a much less privileged upbringing - making it harder for "latte liberalism" charges to gain traction.  
  • Romney, in turn, picked one of the most radical opponents of social investments - which provide opportunity to the working and middle classes - imaginable in Paul Ryan. It became patently obvious that Ryan's past proposals for cutting social investments to the public so as to redistribute money to the rich (through tax policy and maybe even some direct subsidies) blatantly amounted to class warfare against the majority of Americans. 
What the Obama campaign successfully did was seize on the opportunity created by a media backdrop that was paying some attention to economic unfairness and unequal opportunity in the US. While some Occupy activists opposed Obama in Iowa, he should still be greatly indebted to them for the opportunity their conversation-changing activism provided. 

Tax relief to the middle class, equal opportunity, "we built it together", and the same set of rules for all Americans are themes the Democrats have repeated again and again in this campaign. Barack Obama, despite some of his more regressive economic policies, fashioned himself as a centre-left populist and hammered Romney over his tax plans and personal income tax returns. The theme was relentless, leading to less emphasis on the intra-class war issues known as "culture wars" and more on the pressing socioeconomic issues facing the highly unequal United States. 

Obama's term has been good for the very rich, in terms of corporate welfare measures like the TARP and in terms of the recovery more generally, where over 90% of the income gains in the first year of recovery went to the richest 1%. The top-heavy, bottom frail recovery and distribution of income will likely continue through Obama's second term. Nevertheless, centre-left populist talk will have extended the President's time in the White House.   


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Friday, 2 November 2012

First Nations and Party Politics

Kevin Chief, MLA for Point Douglas-
a provincial riding with a large aboriginal
population- was featured in APTN's "The
politics of being Aboriginal".
Chief, a man of First Nations
descent, has roots in the area -
growing up in a poor, single-father
household in Point
Douglas .

Image Source:

University of Winnipeg,
Kevin Chief Bio
 Probe Research's has done some fascinating research on the voting behaviour and party preferences (both Federal and Provincial) of aboriginal peoples in Manitoba. It's been covered in a documentary, "The politics of being Aboriginal", on APTN.