Action Items – A Few Light Topics

From the April 27th edition of the Friday Morning After on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal and worldwide at

How do the police determine when a protest has become a riot? Why does the legal definition of violence differ so greatly from the way the word is used in the media? In the first part of this week’s Action Items, we crack open the criminal code and discover all the ways in which both the police and the media are getting it wrong.

In part 2, we tackle Bill M312, the private member’s bill that seeks to reopen the abortion debate. Is there something hypocritical about demanding Stephen Harper quash the discussion? How do we balance the desire for an open Parliament against the risks of reopening critical rights issues?

For more information on the Morning After shows, go to

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The Gazette vs. Red Square

…this time it’s personal!

For reasons I can’t explain, the first article my sleepy finger chose to click on this morning was the latest spilled-ink by The Gazette’s Don Macpherson. I’d been following Mr. Macpherson on Twitter, intrigued by his recent dust-ups with fellow media personalities, and I suppose I wanted to see who or what he was fighting with today.

Whatever the reason, there I was laying in bed stumbling through the latest in a series of anti-student strike screeds by Montreal’s most put-upon victim of Francophone oppression, Mr. Don Macpherson.

I’m sorry, that should have read, “the latest anti student ‘strike’ screed”. Mr. Macpherson insists on putting quotes around the word strike, I suppose in an effort to create some doubt around the credibility of the student action. Sure, it’s a strike, but it’s a real strike? I mean, c’mon, there are strikes and then there are “strikes”. Am I right?

Anyway. There are two things you can glean from any of Mr. Macpherson’s recent articles on the strike. First, the strike is becoming increasingly violent. It’s counter-intuitive (read: false) statement, but it’s working for him despite the weeks of peaceful actions attended by hundreds of thousands of peaceful participants. But hey, man…someone thinks they might have maybe seen a red square of the jacket of the person who might have thrown that smoke bomb last week that may or may not have had anything to do with anything. Case Closed.

Secondly, you’ll learn that Mr. Macpherson isn’t too happy with the closure of Montreal streets caused by student action. A complaint which begs the question, does Mr. Macpherson live Montreal? I know I’ve only been here for a couple of years, but as far as I can tell, Montreal is the global capital of closing off streets. Whether it be for street festivals, marathons, construction, concerts, national celebrations, and yes, protests, this city of festival doesn’t seem to have an overwhelming issue with the concept of the “detour”.

Then again, when road closures are in support of a movement the Gazette would like to see ended, blocking a thoroughfare becomes a big problem.

It’s worth taking a moment for a quick aside to mention that to the best of my knowledge, no violence has been committed by anyone related directly or indirectly to the student strike. While it’s true that some mischief has been committed and some of that mischief may have been committed by members of groups associated with the strike, mischief is not violence. Some might see that as an insignificant legal distinction, but it’s really not. Mischief is breaking a window, or throwing a smoke bomb, or even tipping a police car when the Habs lose a playoff game. Violence is beating or pepper-spraying protestors (or even Habs fans) in the streets. Mischief is an act against property. Violence is an act against another person. Neither is socially acceptible (unless the police to it to those damned hippie kids, am I right??), but the distinction is nonetheless important.

Moving on…

If Don Macpherson were to read this far into the piece, he’d probably be saying something like, “I never implicitly said that Red Square protestors or student strikers had anything to do with the smoke bomb. In fact, I said that because of the non-verbal nature of the red square patch as a symbol, it might be easy to assume a supporter of the strike was involved and that by extension, anyone wearing the square might be seen to support that action.”

If you pay attention to Mr. Macpherson, you quickly learn that this kind of passive language is the cornerstone of his writing. And to back up his passive accusations, Mr. Macpherson has been citing a recent Leger poll, originally printed in the Journal de Montreal, (a paper you’d think the self-described #BadAnglo would avoid) which conveniently provided him with the following bon mot: “The Québécois don’t like disputes, so seeing a movement become more radical risks displeasing them…”

The Quebecois don’t like disputes? The Quebecois…don’t like…DISPUTES?!?

I guess that’s why every July 1st the Quebecois have a big Canada Day parade through the centre of Quebec City, because they don’t have a taste for conflict or resistance. Those two referendums were really about national sovereignty, they were about declaring the positive, beneficial and overall super-awesomeness of Canadian federalism!!

What fatuous nonsense. Whether you agree with the nationalist movement in Quebec or not, you have to admit that for the last fifty years or so, the Quebecois haven’t been afraid of a little dispute. Or a big dispute, for that matter.

As for the supposed radicalization of the student strikes. Hell, the Quebecois might not like a dispute (*cough*), but they don’t seem to have a problem with broad generalizations and false assumptions.

While using a poll as silly as that one undermines Mr. Macpherson’s point (not to mention his #BadAnglo credibility), it does serve to expose his motivations for opposing the strike, even if he’s only implying that he opposes the strike. Or implying that he’s implying…whatever…

It doesn’t take a cartographer to map this all back to his feeling of victimization as anglo in Montreal and his deep fear that a PQ government would have him lined up against a wall and pelted with cheese curds until he can sing the Top 10 Francophone pop songs while standing on his head. Mr. Macpherson, and the Gazette in general, don’t oppose the strike because they really believe an affordable education is a ridiculous request. Rather, they oppose the strike because they fear the harm it can do to Premier Jean Charest and that any further damage to the embattled Liberal will surely lead to a PQ government.

They’re not stumping against students, they’re stumping against sovereigntists.

And that exposes the real problem with the Gazette in general and their mouthpiece-of-the-moment, Mr. Macpherson. On the issue of the strike, or the Charest government, or his fear of the PQ, Mr. Macpherson doesn’t seem to have the courage to come out and say how he really feels. Instead he hides behind bullcrap polling numbers and oft-repeated innuendo about who might or might not have been responsible for recent mischief in the city, all the while defending his fearful, thinly-veiled drivel as “Journo 101” (a term he used frequently in his recently argument with Mr. Ghomeshi).

It’s no secret newspapers use columnists to push their political agenda. Sure, the paper will tell you columnists are there to provide contrasting viewpoints and to expose the meat of any particular matter. They’ll even trumpet their bravery when hiring columnists from opposite ends of the political spectrum to offer more well-rounded coverage, as Quebecor often does with Warren Kinsella. But it’s all nonsense. When you really read what these folks are writing, you realize they’re all cogs in the influence machine. The Gazette does not want to see an end to the Liberal government in Quebec City and writers like Don Macpherson are dutifully pushing that agenda.

(Every once in a while, for cover, a columnist write a piece with an opinion contrary to the paper’s agenda, just in case someone has the temerity to point out their crap. Then the columnist can self-righteously say, “You must not read my column regularly, or you’d know…blah blah blah.”)

Whatever the piece, be it the oppression of anglophones or the supposed dissolution of the student strike into “violence”, you can bet it’s all about making the next election harder for the PQ. And if you have to spread a bit of innuendo or suspicion or make broad assumptions in the name of the cause, what’s the big deal, right? It’s just a column, and like this one you’re reading now, it’ll be relevant today and old junk tomorrow.

The point is not to know when you’re being led (always), but where you’re being led. The media’s job is to make the path to the cliff as attractive as possible. It’s that last step they don’t talk about that’s the real doozy.

Father Knows Best… “Blame the Boomers”

Occasionally, my Father and I have little email exchanges in which we debate some matter of the day. This week’s example actually started a couple weeks ago with a segment I did on my radio show about the 2012 budget (link here) in which I explained how increasing the retirement age was actually not a slight against the elderly, but against the young. Well, that got Dad’s dander up a bit and he wrote the following:

From: Dad
To: Josh

Hey Josh,

I’m working my way back through your Friday shows, and the March 30th show on the Tory budget seems to take a lot of unfair swipes at my generation in particular and the pensions for which we have worked. I have paid into UIC (EI) and CPP all of my working life, which in my case started at 16, and we working stiffs, both represented and unrepresented (from an organized labour standpoint), have planned our retirements around that 30 year investment. Even in the represented groups, of which there are a diminished number now, deferred wages in lieu of a pension plan included the provisions of CPP and OAS to defer costs to employers and make more money available to younger workers should the company go out of business.

But now the Reform-a-Tories change the rules without much thought as to how old farts such as me get back into the work force to augment our OAS losses. I should like to remind those starting out that it was this much maligned group that did their best for their children in the hopes that they would achieve more than we did. Sadly, that seems to be a failing prospect. The problem is with the money-grubbing capitalists and their boot-licking politicians more so than the Boomers.. However, It is handy for the government to pit parent against their children to deflect attention from what they are doing.

You were quite right to advise your generation of voters to get to the ballot box if they want better representation. They will have to wrestle for their power and it will not be an easy struggle.

Ok so much for my morning rant…… I’m am really enjoying your show.

Love you,

From: Josh
To: Dad

I think you’re a little quick to take umbrage.

Certainly the baby boom generation is the one that helped to create the social state in which we now live and prosper. They are also, quite ironically, the ones who now overwhelmingly vote against that very state. Not only is your cohort the largest single demographic voting block, they’re also voting Conservative in ever-increasing numbers.

If my notes from that show are to be believed, the point I was making was not that the baby boomers either did or did not earn their right to a pension. Certainly, anything paid should be, in due time, repaid. You have paid into a system and should expect a reasonable return. Also, I was certainly not arguing that the baby boomers were responsible for a pension crisis, because I don’t believe there is a pension crisis.

I do, however, believe that the baby boom generation is, as Tom Mulcair said at the start of my segment, leaving less for the next generation than was left for them by their parents; less in terms of economic prosperity, employment diversity, employment opportunity and wage levels. In fact, the leavings for the next generation in their working years are so much less promising than those left to you by the WWII generation, who can even bother to worry about the absence of public pension or OAS we’re like to expect in our older years. And it won’t be gone because it’ll be untenable to maintain the program from an economic standpoint, but rather because it will have been sacrificed on the alter of ideology. And while I know you still hold onto to the collectivist ideal, you are the minority in your cohort.

The point, as I think you took it, is that OAS or CPP won’t be there because the baby boom will have spent all the money and left naught for us. But you’ve misread me. My point is that OAS and CPP won’t be there because the baby boom generation, which currently dominates government, will either kill the programs or hobble them to such an extent that they’ll exist in name only.

And how can they do this? Well, because your cohort votes in larger numbers than mine and in much larger numbers than those behind me. And while it would be political suicide to kill the entitlements of your largest voting block, there’s little harm is screwing over the people who aren’t likely to vote for you anyway.

Weakening entitlements, increasing the retirement age, and incentivizing the baby boom generation to work longer, reduce opportunities for young people. And none of these things can be blamed on a broken system, because the system isn’t broken. The money won’t be gone because, as the Conservatives claim, the money is gone. It’ll be gone because your cohort overwhelmingly voted for a government inclined against state-sponsored social programs.

The baby boom generation is the generation in power. They are the generation that’s moved North American society inexorably to the extreme right. They are the generation that are, for the first time in Canadian history, leaving less than they were given, both in economic prosperity and social programs.

Accepting this, I would caution members of your generation against talking in broad, generic terms about the baby boomers, because when taken generally, they don’t look so great. These capitalists and moneygrubbers and fixers that have ruined our economy…how old are they, exactly? The captains of banking and industry have white hair, as they always have.

It would be far more useful for the members of the baby boom generation who are getting screwed just as hard as us kids to delineate themselves through social strata, rather than generational lines. That you are of the baby boom generation is less relevant than you being a member of the manufacturing class, for example. My being of Generation X/Y (the bridge cohort for people born at the end of the 70’s) is far less relevant than my being a child of the middle class, who was given much, but not nearly as much as some, a fact reflected in my current social standing. Being from an affluent family has always been a leg up, it’s a much longer leg now.

Ironically, when you attempt to defend the baby boom as a generational whole, you are defending the very people you and I equally blame for our troubles. Impossible as it is to believe, our Prime Minister is a Beatles-loving baby boomer; later in the cohort than you, but still solidly within the range. He is, for lack of a better term, the younger brother if the early cohort boomers like you.

I too have been paying into CPP and OAS since my teens, but it’s impossible to ignore that my contributions are rapidly becoming sunk costs; money that I am obligated to spend, regardless of my expectation of return. And it would be disingenuous to argue that my generation has the same expectation of return as yours.

When I’m 69, or whatever the retirement age is when I get there, I won’t care what generation did what to whom when, I’ll just wonder where my 50 years of investment went. By then, it won’t matter who I blame. It’ll be gone all the same. Spent on planes and hunting for diamonds and whatever other bullcrap the Conservatives think up in the next 3 years.

And like it not, these turkeys and Reformatories are your generational brethren. Might be time to disown yourself from the baby boom. They’ve no better to you than they’re being to me.

OK…enough of my response to a rant. I gotta get back to work.

Good chat.

Love you,



Action Items Easter Spectacular

Looking for something good to listen to over the holiday weekend?? Of course you are!

Well, look no further. Download this week’s special double-edition of The Action Items from the Friday Morning After on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal.

First, it’s the April 6th Action Items in which I lay bare the F-35 scandal and reveal some information you’re not going to hear in the mainstream media.

Second, from the March 30th show, I dissect the 2012 Conservative budget and reveal why it’s such a bad deal for young Canadians.

For more information on the show, go to

To Download, right click on the player and choose “Save Link As”.