Monthly Archives: June 2010

The G20 Protests

If you watched the Canadian media yesterday, most notably the CBC, you got to watch the G20 protests in Toronto devolve during the day.  What was originally a ‘family-friendly’ protest about the G20 was hijacked by groups of very aggressive protestors who decided that violence was their tool of choice. 

Several store windows were smashed, stores trashed and a few police cruisers set on fire. So far, 480 arrests and likely a similar number of people injured, mostly with cracked heads from being on the wrong end of a police baton.

I’ll step up right now and condemn the use of violence in a protest.  There is no need to trash private property and no need for the police to bust heads.  End of sentence and no qualifiers attached either. 

The difficulty becomes with the rationalizations that seem to get made by the anonymous, violent groups.  Their argument seems to be that if they don’t get media coverage, they can’t bring the focus of the discussion to their gripes with the G20.  The only way to get media coverage is to stand out from the crowds by dressing in black and throwing things through store windows in front of the cameras.

Where the argument falls over is the followup to the violence.  They’ve got the media attention, but are not coming forward to explain the intellectual linkage between bashing in the windows of a Starbucks and the scourge of globalized corporations rapaciously stripping developing countries of their meager agricultural resources and pushing the innocent citizens into indentured servitude.  (Not a bad off the cuff linkage eh?)

This tells me the violent protestors don’t actually give a crap about globalization, geo-politics, global economic reform, the environment and so on.  That makes them poseurs of the most shallow kind.  All they want to do is trash stuff and feel all ‘underground’ without the actual risk of being anything more than mindless thugs.  We call “Bullshit”

There is a follow-on argument that by being ‘underground’ and having committed some illegal acts, the Black Bloc (one of the alleged groups) can’t come forward to make their points known, to which we also call “Bullshit” 

During the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, the IRA did the dirty work, but their political arm, the Sinn Fein under Gerry Adams, leveraged the media coverage to make their points against the military occupation of Northern Ireland.  This resulted in some very convoluted press conferences with Gerry Adams condemning violence but rationalizing the behavior as essential for Sinn Fein to draw attention to their cause.

Put simply, if Gerry Adams can pull it off, why can’t the Black Bloc or any of the other ‘anarchist’ groups? 

The answer is they haven’t got the intellectual ability, communication skills, historical perspective or simply the balls to take the very real risk of arrest and come forward to draw the linkage between violent actions and the need for (state name of issue here). 

Which makes us call “Bullshit” a third time. 

You’ve got our attention, now tell us your gripes and your solutions.  Oh, that’s right, you don’t have discernable gripes, no workable solutions and no perspective beyond prancing around throwing rocks.

Poseurs who ninja-up their clothing, bust windows to feel all underground then run away without finishing the job should get back on the GO-train and go home to Mommy and Daddy in the suburbs.

Grow a set, or get off.

The Police State For A Week

We’re willing to bet most of our Ontario readers didn’t know this, but as of Monday, your rights as a citizen changed dramatically.  If you are within 5 meters of the G20 Security Zone in Toronto, you are now obligated to produce legal identification on demand of a police officer as well as state the nature of your business.  The penalty is two months in the jug and/or a $500 fine, as well as being arrested.  

This is one of those encroachments on our personal freedoms that happen because the authorities say so.  The Ontario Cabinet decided that an Order-In Council was the route to go, essentially deciding to change the laws for a couple of weeks around the G20 area.

We’ve written before about the outrageous security preparations for the G8/G20 Dog and Pony Show in Huntsville and Toronto.  Most of downtown Toronto looks like a cage, businesses shut down, employees working from home and several dozen major roads blocked off.  All of this is ostensibly to keep protestors away from the G20 meetings, in the name of ‘security’.

Now we’re not saying security isn’t necessary:  Security is important, as a gathering of 20 world leaders is a target-rich environment for those with grudges, behavior issues, electrochemical imbalances, theologically-derived issue-blindness, political ignorance, the consumers of common-sense suppressants and the simply crazy.  No question at all there.

However there is also the right of citizens to protest.  Peacefully, yes, but vigorously too.  Vigorously means loud where I come from:  Whistles, drums, catcalls, chanting, bagpipes, cowbells, air horns, trombones, signs, yelling and vuvuzuelas if need be.  Protestors can use very bad language if they desire, or can hand out photocopies of chants that start with “There once was a PM name of Stevie…”

Downtown Toronto, no matter how much fence you put up, is not a sustainable security environment.  There are too many people, places and ways to circumvent a cordon of security.  The authorities have to rewrite the rules to permit dictatorial police-state powers, if only for a limited time.

The deeper question, aside from the insane costs, is what genius decided that Downtown Toronto is a good venue for the G20 in the first place?  Was there some kind of closed-head injury involved? 

If you want to host a gathering of world leaders and be security conscious, the only worse choice would be at the Apple Store in Times Square.  Invariably some G20 Finance puke from Absurdistan would accidentally cut in line and get his ass kicked by a fanboy who has been waiting for week in line to fondle the brochure for the iPhone 4.  Downtown Toronto is by far, the second-dumbest possible venue imaginable.

None of this excuses the insta-police state that has been established around the G20.  Like it or not, the G20 is an occasion for the regular folks to protest how the stinkin’ rich treat the rest of us.  That’s one of the responsibilities of democracy, you have to let protest be heard. 

At the same time, there is a responsibility placed on the protestors:  It must be peaceful.  There can be no violence, as that tips the very delicate scales of police response from merely holding station to protecting life and property.

The Ontario Federation of Labour, a largish labour organization here, is going to be protesting, with an estimated 10,000 people in what is billed as a ‘family-friendly’ protest.  The OFL is bringing their own marshalls to guide the group and members are encouraged to bring their kids, perhaps the thought being that adults with children in tow can protest the G20 loudly, but without the potential for mayhem on either side.  The police are less likely to turn on the pepper spray taps confronted with a mass of parents and children and the parents are less likely to throw things. 

That is a very wise use of the democratic right to protest.      

The Shakey Jakes in Ottawa

Ottawa got a dose of California this afternoon.  A 5.0 magnitude earthquake rolled us around this afternoon at 1:41 pm.  Yes, we’re all safe and no, there was no damage beyond a few broken windows, hideous traffic jams and some soiled undergarments. 

Californian readers are going “5.0?  Meh!  We use those to stir our lattes…”  For us however, it was a bit of a surprise.  We don’t normally get seismic events that are noticeable, even though we are in a large rift valley.  The Ottawa Valley is part of the West Quebec seismic zone.  You can actually stand on either side of the fault lines at various places around the Ottawa area, one foot on one geologic mass and one foot on another geologic mass.

Conceptually, the entire Ottawa Valley could drop a couple of feet or slip sideways a few inches and shake the whole metro area into dust, but the seismic area is reasonably stable, burping off the occasional rumble a few times a year to release the very moderate seismic pressures involved.

However, having an office building start to buck under your feet is a bit of alarming for most Ottawa inhabitants.  Working right near the Parliament one thinks of very unpleasant acts of Citizens Behaving Badly involving Ryder rental trucks, fertilizer and fuel oil.  At the same time, the Chinese President, Hu Jintao is in town and we all know how happy the Falun Gong and the Tibetans are about China. 

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Ribfest is lined up along the downtown, a couple of dozen propane and wood-fired booths dispensing ribs, pulled pork and chicken.  Most of my colleagues thought either a Ryder Rental-Cousin Timmy-Screw You Harper-G8-G20-Kiss-My-Ass blast, or one of the Ribfest rigs went “Foom!”  Earthquake was about nineteenth on the list, at least until the second rumble that went on for ten seconds.  By the fifth second, we’d settled on earthquake.

Moments later the fire alarm went off, followed a minute later with the the evacuate signal.  Grab the backpack and out we go, several thousand folks clogging the sidewalk, trying to call home and wondering what the hell just happened.  After a half-hour or so, things settle out.  Some folks go back to work, others are done for the day.

That was it.  Nothing catastrophic.  Just unusual.     

Yet More Oil In The Gulf

Pushing towards Day 60 of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, more details keep seeping out of the hole in the ocean floor in the form of emails, text messages and general conversation.  Right up until the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up, killing 11 rig workers, the drillers, well service companies and even BP itself categorized the whole operation as a Five-Alarm, Full-Mongolian, Cluster-Fornicative Act. 

This serves to underscore the complete lack of legislative enforcement that has to be laid in a steaming lump in front of the US Government.  Yes, I am going to blame Prez O for this one.  To quote Harry Truman; “The Buck Stops Here.”  That’s the definition of the gig of President.  O-man?  Grow a set. 

Now, yes, certainly, Bill Clinton and Dubya did set the tone for the enforcement by government, which could best be summed up as “Get on your knees, shut your eyes and open your mouth.”  Having Shotgun Dick Cheney as VP didn’t help either, with his open invitation to the oil companies to write their own energy policy that he would rubber stamp, but the enforcement side can’t all be laid at his rooms at the Undisclosed Location. 

Tonight Prez O is going on the airwaves to bring the US up to date on the spill.  Herewith, my first draft of his speech:

Thank you for letting me into your home tonight.  I want to speak to you, my fellow Americans about what your government is doing about the oil spill in the Gulf:  To clear the air and water, so to speak. 

Since the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico, we haven’t had the vaguest clue as to how much oil has been leaking out.  British Petroleum has been shitting us since five minutes after the fire went out. 

Their talk of safeguards, environmental protection and responsible stewardship of the seas has been nothing but unmitigated manure that we are collecting and will put on the roses in the Rose Garden.  Unfortunately the Rose Garden isn’t that big.  So we’re going to fix it for you, the American People, with our 8 point plan:

Point 1:  I have signed an Executive Order, nationalizing BP America.  As of right now, BP is our Bitch.  If BP and their stockholders want compensation, the line forms over here.  You don’t like it?  You can kiss my sweaty black Presidential ass. 

Point 2:  The BP stock dividend is now officially Zero.  If you’re a stockholder in BP and you got a beef with that, you can join the line over here to kiss my sweaty black Presidental ass.  Take a number.

Point 3:  The executive management of BP America is now in the custody of the Secret Service.  Their new job is pushing a shovel and dragging boom in Louisiana.  They did it and they’re going to clean it up, personally.  We got Sheriff Joe Arpiao from Phoenix to supervise their new workplace.  You’ll like Sheriff Joe as long as you do exactly what he says.  If he says you get lunchmeat three times a day, then you get lunchmeat three times a day.  Get used to the prison orange jumpsuits.

Point 4:  The National Guard is rolling as of one hour ago.  I signed an Executive Order mobilizing the National Guard of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to get to the shores.  Now. 

They’re bringing shovels, sand, straw and will walk the whole shoreline mopping up until it’s spotless.  If that means 12 hours on and 12 hours off for the next 40 weeks, then that’s the deal.  We’ll pay for it out of the proceeds from selling off BP America piece by piece.  If you want to help, come on down.  It won’t be easy work, but it’s work and we’ll pay you well.

Point 5:  We’re bringing General Russell Honore back in.  He did the job in New Orleans in the days after Katrina, when FEMA was pissing around comparing pants and media coverage under Dubya Bush.  I have signed an Executive Order giving General Honore complete control, under Martial Law for everything twelve miles out, to two miles inland from the shoreline, from Texas to the Florida-Georgia border.  General Honore has my complete support to do whatever he needs to do to clean this mess up now.  If General Honore says taking a bullwhip to Tony Heyward will make it go faster, then Tony best get prepared for a whuppin.

Point 6:  The Minerals Management Service is officially gone, as of tomorrow at Noon.  I am writing a clemency order and getting a half-dozen serial rapists out of Federal jails.  Prison-crazy, sociopaths can’t do worse than you morons at MMS.  You turd tappers let the oil companies write their own safety inspection reports since 2005.  I’m getting you the hell out of the American government service.  Your severance is:  I’m not going to have you shot.

Point 7:  When we sell off BP in a few months time, you can be assured that the first in line for the cash will be the folks who have had their whole livelihoods trashed by BP.  Now, if we can use your shrimp boat and crew to work on the cleanup, we surely will.  General Honore will organize it by tomorrow afternoon and we’re payin cash.  By the way, your Federal taxes?  Fuggedaboud’em for the next five years.  You’ll need the break as we don’t know what the hell the effects of all this are going to be.

Point 8:  For the rest of you; don’t boycott BP, as it’s now your own oil company.  We own it and we can use the money right now to pay for this cleanup.  If that means y’all don’t go to Exxon or Shell, well, they just have to suck it up and take some responsibility for one of their industry buddies being king-size fcukups.  By the way, we have noticed you haven’t sent any of your techs or spill supplies to the Gulf to help out.  Thanks loads, a-holes.  We’ll remember that the next time you want a favour.

That’s all I got right now folks.  This job does surely suck some days, but when we need to, we’ll talk again.  Good night.”

The G8-G20 Billion Dollar Hoedown

There’s an international meeting coming up in Canada later this month.  The Group of 8 Finance Ministers are getting together.  June 25 and 26th the G8 are hittin’ the bong in Huntsville, just north of Toronto, up in cottage country.  The Deerhurst Resort is the venue.  The Deerhurst is a beautiful place with golf, watersports and a spa.   

Unfortunately the media will not be allowed to go to the Deerhurst, as the High and Mighty G8 Bean Counters don’t want to be annoyed by the unwashed, ink-stained wretches.  Media meat will be restricted to downtown Toronto.  To keep the media vaguely sober and out of the massage parlours, our Canadian Government is putting on a Big Show. 

Down at the Canadian National Exhibition, on the shores of Lake Ontario, in the Direct Energy Centre, our Gov is putting in a fake lake, Muskoka chairs, canoes and some live trees in the media centre.  Estimated cost?  $2,000,000 to pamper the media monkeys while the G8 talks about fiscal restraint up at the Deerhurst.  The Fake Lake will be about a metre deep and cover a couple of hundred square feet. 

(I wish I was making all this up, but I’m not.  Here’s the link to more of the background on the deal, from the CBC.) 

Late in the afternoon on the 26th, the G8’ers jump into a couple of 1972-vintage Chevy Econoline Shaggin’ Waggons and cruise to downtown Toronto to party it up with 12 more G-folk at the downtown convention centre.  After the last case is empty, sometime on the 28th, they stagger out to Pearson airport, into the aircraft and bugger off home. 

Total tab for the security is estimated at $1.1 Billion.  Most of downtown Toronto is being closed with kilometers of concrete barriers being dropped into place starting yesterday. 

There is an area set aside for Official Protests.  It’s a park in downtown Toronto, not a lot bigger than your back yard.  The fences, barricades and pepper spray dispensers are already in place.  Voice-recognition technology from hidden microphones and surveillance cameras staffed by multilingual lip-readers will be searching for anyone who uses violent or offensive language.  If a mutter is found to be foul, the entire Official Protest area can be flooded with pepper spray in mere seconds.

A chain-link veal pen is set aside for those who dare carry actual protest signs.  After all a protest sign has a wooden stick in the middle and we all know what happens when protesters wave wooden sticks:  Someone could put an eye out!  The veal pen has pre-sighted sniper posts, so those stick wielding violence-crazed terrorists can be shot on site and the remains sluiced down the sewers and into Lake Ontario.

Naturally, the media is not permitted to be near the park:  The media ID hard card does not allow the media to cover anything resembling news.  Conflicting opinion is news, so the media is not allowed near the Official Protest Park for fear anything besmirches the collegial atmosphere of the G20 Summit.

Which brings up the entire question of costs.  According to the CBC, here’s some of the previous security budgets for G8 and G20 Summits.  All the events are post 9/11, so the security has been heightened to the usual irrational levels.

  • September 2009 – Pittsburgh: $18 Million (G20)
  • April 2009 – London: $30 Million (G20)
  • October 2008 – Japan: $381 Million (G8)
  • July 2005 – Gleneagles Scotland: $110 Million (G8)
  • June 2010 – Huntsville and Toronto: $1.1 Billion (est.) (G8 & G20)

The numbers by comparison are so far out to whack as to be humorous, if it weren’t for the pesky problem that you and I are paying for it, directly, right out of our taxes.

Here comes the hard question:  Are we paying for the security teams from other countries and if so, why? 

There is a precedent for us paying the whole shot and it comes from the UN.

When you hear about little countries like Chad or Burkina Faso joining in on a UN police action or peacekeeping detail, one wonders how they can afford the involvement.  The quick answer is, they can’t.  Very few countries can afford the cost of having soldiers and support services, bullets, beans and beds, in theatre for more than a week at a time. 

There is the whole question of transport.  Most small countries do not have hardened transport or fighting vehicles beyond a few ancient APC’s that rarely start.  They rely on the major powers for transport, including ‘copters, LAV’s, Strykers and so on.  The US, the UK and Canada provide all the support services.  The small country puts up the uniforms, a change of underwear and some bodies to fill the boots, relying on the UN stipend to earn some needed cash and the bigger UN players to provide everything else.

We suspect that is exactly what is happening with the G8 and G20 Summits.

Conceptually, the Italian Prime Minister has a security detail of several dozen people.  Someone is paying to fly them over, including the advance team a few weeks before.  They have to be put up somewhere, fed, watered and entertained while ostensibly performing the critical advance sweeps, liaison duties with the Canadian security groups, endless meetings and the usual briefings known as Death by PowerPoint. 

In the world of common sense, the Italian government is paying for their own security detail, for their own PM, just as the US Secret Service is paying for the advance and security detail for President Obama. They would pay for the hotels, per diems, transport, phone calls home and the occasional dinner out with the lads.  This is the “pay your own way” model and is the fair and common sense methodology.

If Canada is picking up the whole tab, it could be as grotesque as paying for the flights and fuel for the various G20 heads to jet into Pearson, as well as their security details, all the meals, all the hospitality, all the entertainment and all the hotel rooms that have been booked to house nearly 3,000 participants for a day and a half of work.  Or it could be somewhere in between the other end of “pay your own way, you miscreants” where we pay for a goodly whack of the expenses for the other 19 countries to show up.

In any case, at either end of the spectrum, $1.1 Billion for the G8 G20 Summit security is almost triple what we paid for the entire Vancouver 2010 Olympics over four weeks.

Using some simple math, there are roughly 15 hours of actual G8-20 events over the four days of the meetings.  Divide 1,100,000,000.00 by 15 and you get $7,333,333.33 per hour.

That is $7.3 Million per hour for 20
of the folks to get together to read a media release that their fartcatchers have already agreed is the final communiqué.

Your tax dollars at work.