The G-20 Summit: A Lament for Sanity

A Saturday evening in June; this night, in the City of Toronto, there are black-clad “protesters”, faces obscured by balaclavas and masks, causing damage to the businesses and homes of regular working people.  They are doing sensible, thoughtful and pro-social things like setting fire to police cars, smashing windows and throwing feces into clothing shops.

Disgraceful Scene in Toronto
Disgraceful Scene in Toronto

It seems like everybody approaches  this event with an axe to grind.  There are those with complaints about the international economic order who see the summit as an affront to their sense of justice.  There are those on Twitter asking why the police aren’t just shooting some of these people in the street.

Television journalists, somehow apparently stuck for something to talk about in the middle of these extraordinary circumstances , are suggesting that the fact that some windows got broken and some police cars were burned is somehow evidence that the police have failed to discharge their functions properly and diligently.

I am saddened and ashamed by the events I have seen on the television screen today.  Canada is a place that should tolerate a lively and spirited debate about our diverging political views.  It is also a place where unassuming people who go to work and try to provide for their families can do so without having damage inflicted upon their homes, businesses, streets and vehicles.  It is a place where we all should be free to roam in our public places without fear of confrontation and mob violence.

My own view is that the police have done a tremendous job in difficult circumstances.  They can’t protect each and every piece of property in the entire City of Toronto; that would be impossible.  The officers that were on scene had to respond cautiously to events unfolding in front of them.  For tactical reasons (maintaining formations and their own security) they can’t necessarily chase after every idiot throwing a rock through a window.  Respond physically to the actions of protesters, and they open themselves up to complaints of “police brutality”;  respond in a measured fashion and in a way that preserves both their tactical objectives and their own security, and people complain that they aren’t doing enough to disperse the mobs.  It’s ten o’clock right now, and current reports suggest that although there have been some minor injuries to a number of officers, none of them have been seriously hurt.  I sincerely hope that remains the case throughout the rest of the evening, and indeed the entire weekend.

Likewise, I wish no ill upon those who, moved by the strength of their own convictions, have gathered to peacefully exhibit their disapproval about the policy choices of the assembled leaders.  I genuinely hope those people stay safe too.

In the end, it seems to me that what we have seen played out so shamefully on our TV screens is irrefutable evidence that it was a spectacularly bad decision to try and hold this summit in the middle of the most populous city in Canada.  The Prime Minister has released a statement tonight about the violence:

Free speech is a principle of our democracy, but the thugs that prompted violence earlier today represent in no way, shape or form the Canadian way of life

He’s right about that, but this sentiment rings a little hollow in the circumstances.  The entire central core of Toronto has been locked down and turned into a no-go zone, essentially an occupied area from which the general public is completely excluded.  You know what?  That in no way, shape or form represents the Canadian way of life either.

And therein lies the problem:  it is an unfortunate fact of reality that hosting summits such as the G-20 automatically ensures that a certain  element of criminal agitators and troublemakers will be in attendance, provoking violent confrontation with a police presence that must itself be on scene to protect the gathered leaders.   The question must then be asked: why host such a conference in the middle of an urban area, where the safety of innocent bystanders and their property will necessarily be placed at risk?  Why do so, when security requirements are such that it is deemed necessary to so radically restrict the freedom and liberty of our citizens?   There are reportedly more than 20,000 peace officers and security personnel massed in the streets of Toronto tonight, charged with the responsibility of facing down the violent thugs and preserving order.  Each and every one of them is in harm’s way.  I can tell you from personal experience that they have friends and family members sitting at home worrying about their well-being very much tonight.

Ask yourself what tangible benefit  will come from this meeting of the political elites in downtown Toronto.  What work product will emerge from this meeting that is so crucial as to justify not only the enormous financial expense involved, but also the outrageous injury to our country’s traditions of liberty and democratic freedom.  What exactly will you see in the empty homilies contained in the end of summit communiqué that are of such substance, import and moment that they justify not only these things, but the risk to life and limb for police and (genuine) protesters alike?

The masked idiots who are setting alight police cruisers are misguided cowards.  It is difficult to understand how throwing human shit through the broken window of a Starbucks will have any appreciable effect at all upon anything except the poor bastards who will have to clean it up.   It is even more difficult to regard anybody who would hide behind a mask and a well-timed change of clothes in an effort to avoid detection as any kind of a thoughtful, responsible or courageous political actor.

Turning the focus to the summit attendees, it is similarly difficult to understand how a series of staged photo ops next to the fake lake or over the Conference Table will have any effect on the global economic order, or “maternal health” or any other issue you can think of.  Whatever you may think of the established international economic order, it is difficult to persuasively argue that this physical convergence of the leaders of nations is of critical importance or necessity.

So, on both sides of the barrier: stupid;  pointless; unnecessary; disgraceful.  In short, an outrage.

There is little that either you or I can do about the violent agitators attempting to dominate the streets tonight.  That will be up to the men and women from various police services stationed in the streets of Toronto.  The next time you have occasion to be in the vicinity of a ballot box, however, you might legitimately ask yourself why this had to happen at all, and why it had to happen here in particular. If you don’t find acceptable answers to those questions – and I have suggested above that they are very difficult to find – then you might ask yourself why Mr. Harper and his government ought to expect your vote.

Them Blades at Mitzi’s Sister

Met up with a few of the folks from Pension Plan Puppets last night for the very first time in person. Thanks to the organiz-y efforts of @kidkawartha, Spouse and I were able to meet him and @kimjorn for dinner at Mitzi’s Sister on Queen St. W. in Toronto before Them Blades took the stage later that evening. Also joining us – once he managed to make a brief escape from an ongoing slumber party, as I understand it – was @mforbes37.

KidK will be well known to those who read the comments around here. Jorn is lead guitarist for Them Blades.  He and  another fellow by the name of Godd Till (@zambonicyouth) now reputedly write with @mforbes37 (himself of Bitter Leaf Fan fame) at a site called Zambonic Youth, but I don’t believe it because I am fairly certain that the last new post over there was drafted on a cuneiform tablet by ancient Egyptians.

Spouse and I had a great time meeting these PPP peeps and the others in attendance too. At the very same time that this was going on, there were a lot of other PPP’ers meeting up with one another in the Big City last night;  there was a huge crew meeting up at the Loose Moose for a combination spontaneous birthday celebration for Down Goes Brown/pre-game piss-up (PPP overlords Chemmy and SkinnyFish had driven up from the States for Saturday night’s Leafs/Habs tilt).

I thought that I’d post the video below – a quick clip I took of the band playing their third song of the night – so the PPP’ers who couldn’t make it out to Mitzi’s would be able to see a little of Kim Jorn’s band for themselves.

I hope the folk in Them Blades don’t mind that I’ve posted this video clip; I haven’t asked their permission. I think the name of the song is “Rock the Cashbar”. As a point of interest, keep your eyes peeled for the freaky looking dude on the dance floor near the mid-point of the video; he was the drummer from one of the other bands on the bill. Reportedly, he had difficulty keeping hold of his drum sticks, played much of his set clad in his boxers, and fell off the drum throne 3 times.

A Place Of Its Own

Mike posted this in my little article about Gord Kirke’s busy, busy schedule:

Hello Mr.B.Burke.

Am Mr.G.Kirke, I work with a HOCKEY TEAM here in CANADA as an SEARCHING officer. I have just found out that a foreign customer with us WAS FIRED last year without leaving a next of kin to his PLAYERS and he has no known family. The HOCKEY TEAM will keep the PLAYERS if it remains unclaimed which will only favor the HOCKEY TEAM, so I decided to look for a foreigner that will agree to inherit the PLAYERS while I prepare grounds for the claim.

I deem it important to assure you that this is legal and genuine and will be carried out officially too. The claim itself is overdue and will be given prompt attention by the HOCKEY TEAM upon your payment request while I’ll give you exclusive details and support from here. I am ready to give you 25% of the HOCKEY TEAM for your support and I also guarantee the safety of your name and details.

I’ll furnish you with more details upon getting your immediate response.

Thank you.


Obviously, this is waaaay funnier than what I wrote. It deserves a post of its own.  Voilà.

Life on the periphery

I was in Toronto today attending a work-related educational conference. When the lunch break came, I decided I needed to pop outside for a bit of fresh air to clear my head. The conference was taking place in the area of City Hall, so I wandered down to Nathan Phillips and watched the skaters gliding around the ice for a bit while I enjoyed a “World’s Best” Hot Dog – you can find them right next to the “Best in Toronto” Hot Dogs, logical inconsistencies notwithstanding.

Before returning to the lecture hall, I popped into the public bathroom. As I turned the corner heading into the washroom – always a bit of a scary moment, if only for hygiene-related reasons, when the public lavatory in question is located in a busy urban area – I overheard the following conversation:

Homeless Guy With Head Wound That Was Obviously Bleeding Profusely Not So Long Ago: “…see, but I’m not. I’m not suicidal. I’m homicidal.”

Concerned Looking Homeless Guy: “Yeah, the cops told me to get down and I didn’t get down, and then they beat the shit out of me.”

H.G.W.H.W.T.W.O.B.P.N.S.A: “Fuckin’ ay.”
C.L.H.G: “See, ’cause I don’t bring no weapons, I don’t carry no weapons. I take your weapons and turn ’em on you.”

It occurred to me that maybe I ought to wait and use the bathroom at the conference facility.

Static Journey vol.1

ggdposterSome thoughts on volume 1 of Darin Cappe’s Static Journey “box set” retrospective on the Rheostatics (you can get it here):

  • I was a little disappointed initially that the first track in the set – position of primacy, very important – was not in fact a Rheostatics track, but rather the Introduction for the band that was sung by Dave Bookman (accompanied by Steve Stanley) prior to the band taking the stage on the evening of the last concert. It all made sense though, right near the end of the track when you can hear the first thunderous applause as the band takes the stage; it sent chills up my spine again, just the way it did on that night, thinking of all the Sprouts assembled in the grand old concert hall. I remember it occurring to me that this last show was likely the first time ever that all the Sprouts were together like that at one time, just to see the Rheos (most club shows were good for maybe 200 attendees at most, and even the Bathurst Street Theatre shows in ’97 couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 hundred at most, and at Maple Leaf Gardens or Molson Park Canada Day shows – well, those of us who were there had tickets to see other bands too, so that doesn’t count).