October 28, 2015

Destroying a village for the 90th time. The insanity of Israel.

Sometimes the news of the day is hard to fathom. Stephen Harper campaigning with the Ford brothers would be an example, or the recent announcement that neo-Nazi groups in the Excited States are now endorsing Donald Trump. The cartoon craziness in those two images is almost unbelievable.

And then there is a news item from Israel that completely boggles the mind.

Israeli authorities have demolished a small Bedouin village in the Negev. As it stands this story is not out of the ordinary in the apartheid state of Israel. The catch in today's news is that they demolished the village of al-Araqib for the 90th time since 2010.

Al-Araqib is one of more than 40 "unrecognised" villages scattered across the Negev in Israel's south. The inhabitants are all Israeli citizens and most are Bedouin Palestinians. The villages are usually denied state services, including water, electricity and education, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. In the case of al-Araqib, the village is made up of about 22 families of just over 110 citizens. Israeli citizens remember.

The destruction of this particular village has become so routine that today, only two police officers and two bulldozer crews did the job of levelling the shacks and lean-tos. Five years ago the authorities destroyed the brick homes the villagers had built after the previous demolition. There isn't much point to building anything substantial because it will be destroyed again, if not this week, perhaps next.

Israel claims the villagers' homes were built without permits, while locals say they were placed on the land after being displaced from their original towns and villages during Israel's establishment in 1948.

Today, as on other days, the residents stood helplessly as their remaining resources, lumber, canvas and tarpaulin sheets, were destroyed. This day, as on 89 other days, they rescued a few possessions; kitchen utensils, mattresses, children’s playthings and some chairs.

Then, for the 90th time, they stood back and watched the bulldozers destroy their homes. And they took photos.

Where do the people find the strength to stay and the will to rebuild yet again? How do they keep from breaking? And why does the Israeli state keep acting out this insanity?

Then again, since October 1, Israeli forces, or settlers, have killed 64 Palestinians, including unarmed protesters and bystanders, across the whole of Israel, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is the insanity, and the apartheid, that is Israel.

First photo by Reuters. Other photos by al-Araqib resident, Aziz Alturi. 
Final photo by Mussa Issa Qawasma for Reuters. 
Text copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 20, 2015

Justin Trudeau has the instinct to be Prime Minister? Yeah, right.

The day after the election and the sun came up. Reading Margaret Wente's column in Tuesday's Globe and Mail summed up some of our feelings:
A moment came during the red tidal wave Monday night when a friend turned to me in awe. The CBC’s seat counter had just clicked past 180 for the Liberals. "Oh my God," she said. "What have we done?"
No one, even diehard Conservatives, doubted that Stephen Harper deserved to lose. But even diehard Liberals wonder if Justin Trudeau deserved to win a majority government on his very first try, without the customary test of having to prove himself in Opposition, or, for that matter, any other responsible post in government. It’s like giving your kid the keys to the Ferrari before he’s finished driving lessons.
"I never thought this was in the realm of possibility," one voter told the CBC. "I wanted the young son to squeak in and be supported by maybe more experienced people.”"
"Oh well," said one of my Liberal friends cheerily. "At least he’ll have adult supervision."
It came down to strategic voting. People weren't voting for something, they were voting to rid the nation of Stephen Harper.

In his acceptance speech, which sounded much like his standard campaign speech, Mr Trudeau rambled on about hope in the classic Obama style, except of course that Mr Trudeau is no Barrack Obama. Hope was a cornerstone of President Obama's first campaign. It resonated with Americans in a powerful way. The message and the man were inspirational to millions; the thought of hope actually gave people reason to hope. Alas, there was none of that in the Liberal Party's campaign. Mr Trudeau did not inspire so much as he offered, in the final days of the election campaign, the best way of throwing Mr Harper out.

Mr Trudeau was helped along in the final weeks of the election by a collapse in NDP support, especially after the niqab affair sent their polling numbers in Quebec tumbling, and then throughout the rest of Canada as the Quebec polls were interpreted to us by Mansbridge and company. That racism and Islamophobia played a part in this election is something our good nation did not discuss on election night, nor is it likely to do so in the days ahead. Once NDP polling numbers went down, voters decided to give the Liberals another chance.

So another Canadian election where we voted negatively. Against something, or more correctly: against someone.

We have elected someone who has accomplished nothing of merit or value in his life. He is not an artist, nor a successful business person, nor is he an intellectual or a humanitarian. Mr Trudeau has done nothing but live a wonderfully, comfortable life.

According to Bob Rae, elder statesman of the Liberal Party and with all the sleaze that comes from crossing the floor, Justin Trudeau simply has the instinct to be Prime Minister. Instinct. Really? We've elected a prime minister based on throwing another out, and the best we can hope for is not experience or accomplishment, but his instinct.

We have at least four years to try out Mr Trudeau before we do this election thing all over again. "Oh my God. What have we done?"

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 18, 2015

Why I'm opposed to strategic voting

I've heard from all kinds of people that they are going to vote in the best way possible to defeat Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. They are choosing to vote strategically.

What this means in most cases is that people who might normally align with the New Democrats, are instead voting for the Liberal or Green candidate in their riding. In some instances, I suppose there are historical Liberals, or disenchanted Conservatives, who have decided to, perish the thought, vote for the crazed socialists.

Strategic voting is a mistake.

Strategic voting promotes an us versus them attitude, in which people make a clear decision to be against something.

Surely our democracy is worthy of more than negative voting. Many Canadians are open to changing their vote from election to election, depending on local candidates, national leaders, various circumstances and new, or newly discredited, policies.

Candidates should matter and do. We elect our Member of Parliament. If we want good people to seek public office, then we should treat them with respect and that includes not discounting them out of hand simply because of their political party affiliation.

Strategic voting tends to support the winning is everything idea; that somehow, winning at all costs is a model to be emulated. That ignores the kind of discussion that elections should promote, the conversation around the policies and values we share as Canadians, and the vision we seek for our nation. If we are only voting against something, to rid ourselves of some perceived evil, then how can we be sure that we are voting for the policies and values to which we subscribe? Or in the words of Pete Townsend, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (particularly true when one compares the history of the Liberals and Conservatives and the corporations that finance both).

To vote strategically, people have to rely on polling data, and while that might be an indicator nationally, or possibly provincially, the sampling used in individual ridings is poor at best, especially in close elections. Letting pollsters guide our voting decisions is not a good idea.

And voting strategically might just push us ever close to the American two-party system, and we all know how brilliantly that system is working. If anything, we should be encouraging even more political parties by public financing of elections and proportional representation. In the last federal election more people didn't vote, than those who actually voted Conservative. Think what might happen if each one of us took one new, never-voted-before person to the polls.

Voting strategically is a falsehood. Ultimately our nation would be better served and we would be better represented, if we just voted for the best candidate, or for the party that best represents our vision of Canada. On Monday, let's all vote, encourage others to to do the same, and see what happens.

We're all in this together.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

Tom Mulcair in Vancouver: The Last Rally

Saturday, October 17th, and one last rally on the west coast for Tom Mulcair. Hundreds of people arrived early, before the doors opened at Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver.

Candidates, like Constance Barnes, chatted with people in the crowd. She told me she had had five hours of sleep last night, and that was great!

In the last few days of the election campaign, all the parties are putting up grand displays of their leaders, and the NDP is no exception.

Finally, the doors opened and hundreds scrambled for seats. Our seats ended up being behind the stage, in the area near the giant poster and flag that serve for props at every rally.

When I first started attending political rallies as a teenager, no one gave much thought to the backdrop. Stages were often used, usually with a flags and posters, and the crowd sat out front, along with the media, TV and journos. Politicians spoke at podiums, many reading from written notes, or for some of the better speakers, rambling free-form from the notes in their heads. Things have changed.

At today's rally only about twenty-five percent of the crowd actually sat in "the front" where they could actually see the speaker's face. Most of the 5000 in attendance sat, or more likely stood, on the extreme sides or at the back of the "stage." The backdrop, where the large flag and poster are located is an important area. Signs were distributed to all sitting in the immediate backdrop.

A campaign worker then came along to yell the rules: No phones are to be used. No picture taking. No texting. No staring off into space or yawning. Attention must be focused on the speaker at all times, and when others are applauding, we are to wave our signs. When Tom asks a question, we are to shout out the answer. We are the backdrop for television, the internet, the event itself, and the entire world! Expectations were rather high.

Those rules and expectations didn't suit Jeem and he went off to find his journo friends, or wander through the crowd. His people apparently.

First up, the colourful Constance Barnes, without much sleep, candidate for Vancouver Centre. If there is a god in heaven, let a sign of her almighty omnipresence be Contance's victory over Hedy Fry on Monday. Constance introduced Dan Mangan, alt-pop-singer-songwriter star, who entertained with three songs. Jeem helped by tweaking the sound.

Our very own candidate and Vancouver Granville's Mira Oreck, and the candidate for Pitt Meadows-Meadow Ridge, Bob D'Eith, had the honour of introducing Stephen Lewis.


Mr Lewis gave a fantastic speech that eloquently showed the campaign as it really is, without the filter of handlers, message consultants or a teleprompter. Highlights included the on-going incompetence of the Liberal Leader and the buffoonery in evidence as the Conservative Leader, and our nation's prime minister, now holds rallies with Doug and Rob Ford. It was classic Stephen Lewis and a delight to hear.

When Tom Mulcair took the stage the crowd was ready as were the security agents.

Despite a seemingly never-ending campaign, Tom was clearly energized by the enthusiasm of this crowd. And it was a different kind of speech for Mulcair; more emotional, more personal and intimate. There was the call and response, the questions from Tom and the answers from the large crowd. The one that stuck, that resonated, was the one referring to the scandals and the old ways of the Liberals and the Conservatives. "We're not going back!" echoed through the Convention Centre.

The backdrop performed well. Signs went up on cue, lights dazzled and questions were answered. It was great theatre.

The spectacle was impressive. Campaign organisers were pleased with a turnout of 5000. People were happy; they were entertained and involved. Taking photos and sending them off instantly is an important part of any campaign now, be it political or commercial.

Being props in a backdrop is important too. And it can be fun.

We don't have to go back.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 14, 2015

If you are considering voting Liberal on October 19th...

Polling suggests our federal election could be close, very close, and many Canadians are now giving consideration to voting Liberal as a way of unseating Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.


Consider for a moment the following:

  • Justin Trudeau and the Liberals support Bill C-51. Just like Stephen Harper.
  • The Liberals support Keystone XL and expansion of pipelines in Canada. Just like the Conservatives.
  • Justin Trudeau supports the Trans Pacific Partnership. Again, just like the Conservatives.

Ever since Confederation our country has elected only Conservative or Liberal governments. Often they've worked together to maintain the status quo as in the case of Bill C-51. If we keep repeating the past, when will we ever see real, progressive change in this country?

This election is still up for grabs and indicators are that BC could decide the next government. Change will happen. Real change will happen if we elect New Democrats.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

October 09, 2015

Bob Zimmer, Conservative MP, should withdraw. Now.

The incumbent MP for the Northern B.C. Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding, Bob Zimmer, made these comments at an all-candidates meeting in Fort St. John earlier this week.

"One of the major drivers of missing and murdered aboriginal women is the lack of economic activity, or simply put, the lack of a job. … Ultimately, when people have a job, they're not in despair. They can stay on reserve, and that's where we want them to be." 
And that's where we want them to be?

The Grand Chief and president of The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Stewart Phillip, responded;
"Aboriginal women and communities were shocked, outraged and deeply offended by Mr. Zimmer's derogatory remarks towards women, Astonishingly, Mr. Zimmer's simplistic solution to one of Canada's most disgraceful and profound abuse of human rights issues, concerning missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, is that aboriginal women should stay home, stay on the rez, and get a job."
Bob Zimmer should withdraw from his re-election campaign.

Tell Mr Zimmer what you think by calling his office at 250-787-2160 or by email to Bob.Zimmer@parl.gc.ca

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

Tom Mulcair in Surrey

It was an early morning rally for Thomas Mulcair in Surrey on Wednesday, October 7. People were walking the oval at the Surrey Arts Centre and the trees were beautiful in the morning sun.

When I arrived at 7:30 some people had been standing in line for an hour, and with all the media, handlers and candidates, there was no way we were all going to get into this building. Not that that's a bad thing... the optics are better if it's standing room only.

The media bus

Many of us did make it into the building and were herded into a room slightly removed from the main action. This wasn't going to work so I manoeuvred myself back into the auditorium to be with my people: the journos and camera guys.

Finally, much after the designated start time of 8:00, former premier of British Columbia, Mike Harcourt, provided a spirited introduction to Tom Mulcair.

It then became a scripted affair. Tom was excellent of course, in both official languages, but at this stage of a campaign these things tend to be message tracked. In many ways, the crowd is a backdrop for the media coverage. We know this, yet so many of us want to be a part of it, even if it means arriving at 6:30 in the morning.

Security agent at far left.

One thing that stood out was the security presence. When I first met Tom Mulcair at an event at Kwantlen University in Richmond in February 2014, there might have been one staff person with him, and no evidence of security.

I counted at least eight agents, and while they can be identified by their green lapel badges, they tend to stand out anyway. During the event, an agent stood at each of four doors; if  someone left the building they weren't allowed back in. Inside, three agents watched the crowd. Another agent spent the entire time watching Tom. If he moved, her eyes followed, and when he left the building she followed close by, and again nearly always watching the candidate.

Security agent with lapel badge, and another at extreme right.

Watching. Always watching.

Somewhat later than expected, Tom Mulcair left the building, shaking hands, hugging friends, and taking time for all the photos that have become a big part of this campaign. His security detail seemed to be used to it, though not entirely comfortable either.

People, of all ages and all stages in life, want to have their photos taken with the Leader, and Tom, though obviously tired from the long campaign, and his handlers, had patience and time enough for everyone.

Even Mike Harcourt got into the photo action. No security agents needed.

Tom Mulcair's final campaign rally in MetroVancouver will be on Saturday, October 17, 12:30 pm at the Vancouver Convention Centre (West Building). 

We're all in this together.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.