Chronicling community action, revolutionary and revealing thought

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Social Forums and Social Issues

Social forums and Social Issues

Hello Parkdale people.  I write to you from Quito, Ecuador, 
at the Americas Social Forum. 

The week has been packed with seminars, panels, conferences,
roundtables and presentations of all kinds from speakers
across the Americas. 

While I appreciate the intention of this forum,
I found it, with the exception of
the indigenous and small farmers movement,  an
intellectual practice rather than a social movement that will
actually engage the common person, the community member
to push for change.

I read with interest OCAP´s latest campaign to help street vendors
in Toronto.  The same phenomenon is now happening here in
Quito where troops of police wander the streets of this colonial city
for the expressed purpose of preventing street vendors from
doing their business. 

This never happened before in the history of Ecuador.  The number of
police in the city reminds me of Toronto and makes me wonder if this
over-policing issue is part of the globalization process to keep poor
people in line in places with diminishing economic opportunities.

I find it fascinating to see Quito, a 500-year-old colonial city, once run
down and filled with poor people who streamed in from the countryside
due to lack of agrarian reform, now spotless, its newer districts entirely
modernized, and it´s colonial sector complete refurbished looking and feeling
like a museum. 

The only thing is:  the people are missing.

Downtown in the colonial district there used to be thousands of street vendors
and people living and breathing in those old crumbling colonial buildings and on
the streets.

Today, there are no street vendors at all in the colonial district because it is against
the law.  And in fact no people seem to live downtown anymore.  So while Quito has cleaned up its buildings, the price was paid by the poor that once lived there.  Today you see few poor people at all downtown and virtually no street people like you see in Toronto.  In fact, Quito looks like a far richer city than Toronto. 

But I also found Manhattan cleaned up the same way.  There were no street people
like there once was in the 1980s when I visited last year, and no more tent and cardboard cities.  Mayor Gugliani mopped up the place. 

The same has happened in Quito.  While more than 70 per cent of people in this country
live in poverty, the city reflects an affluence which the country itself cannot afford. 

I wonder if we are living in a time of virtual economies.  Three million Ecuadorians
emigrated from this country during the last ten years due to a lack of employment, and next to oil, the money sent home from these expatriats is the largest source of revenue for Ecuador.
And yet you would not be able to tell the poverty of Ecuador from looking at Quito.

Tomorrow we will be filming in a poor neighbourhood in Quito to find out what is really
happening here.




Sunday, July 25, 2004

Did you know?

Ashcroft lost to a dead guy in Missouri.

US gov't has videotapes of boys sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison

Seymour Hersh: The US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison.
"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

The link

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Website to list buildings with repair orders

"This is a good first move. Tenants have a right to know whether there are ongoing problems in buildings before they move in," Gail Nyberg, spokesperson for the Federation of Metro Tenants Association said. "Just as a landlord can check a tenant's creditworthiness, should not a tenant be able to check a landlord's repair worthiness?"

The link

Men branded as terrorist threat languish in Toronto jail

From the article:-
"Give them the same rights that someone who has picked up a gun and killed six people would have if that person went to court. He would have the right to full disclosure and he's actually committed a horrible crime. These guys haven't been accused of committing a crime."

Norris believes the Supreme Court ruling is meant to apply to notorious war criminals or someone who has committed a crime where "overwhelming evidence" is presented — not the allegations his client faces.

"It's your right to worry about security and care about your country, I understand. But this is my life, my innocence."

The link

Friday, July 23, 2004


From OCAP's Website:-

Stand up to City's Crackdown!
Bring Items to Sell!
All Proceeds to the Vendors!
North East Corner of Dundas and Spadina - Saturday, July 24, at Noon

The same agenda of upscale redevelopment that is replacing low income housing with condos and that is driving homeless people from the places where they take shelter has now taken aim at the street vendors of Chinatown. Poor people selling vegetables or other merchandise are not part of the vision of a tourist haven "Chinese Yorkville" that is being promoted in this area of the City...

The link

Masaryk-Cowan Rec Centre closing update

The Masaryk-Cowan Rec Centre will remain open on weekends-- for the time being. Aparently they got a call telling them they were to stay open for the time being. But I was told they could close anytime, nothing was definite.

On CKLN, Ryerson's excellent community radio station, people concerned about the same thing happening in another high-risk area, Jane & Finch, were also voicing objections to similar closings. Seems it may also be happening in Scarborough, too. Spoke with one of the persons on the airways, Likwa; and he was pleased to hear others were also trying to do something about it. One of the primary concerns is that people want their kids to have something to do to stay out of trouble. And summertime, weekends is an especially cruical time.

One of the reasons Robin related that Sylvia Watson said the Centre was closing on weekends was no one ws coming. Well, if people can't afford the fees and programs *drop off*, then yeah, people may not attend. It's a community issue, and you don't have to be using the Centre yourself to be able to be actively concerned about it, as Sylvia Watson was trying to say as well.

So we'll see how that goes.

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today

A buddy of mine, who works for MacWorld, posted somethng of interest on his own blog, and I thought I'll repeat it here.

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today:

  • Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
  • Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
  • The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
  • A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
  • Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
  • The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
  • If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
  • A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
  • Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
  • HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
  • Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
  • A president lying about an extramarital affair is a impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
  • Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
  • The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.
  • Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.
  • You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.
  • What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

The link

Monday, July 19, 2004

Food Security in Venezuela

July 19, 2004
Venezuelan president expands food security program
to help street population and opens 18 new discount
New program to benefit 600 thousand of Venezuela´s
poorest including street children
By Robin Nieto
Caracas- In a country that has long endured wide
social disparity created by an oil economy where
the wealth of oil revenues reached only a small
minority while the majority suffered from extreme
poverty, the government of Venezuela under
President Hugo Chavez continues to initiate programs
meant to provide emergency relief to those
Venezuelans most in need.  
Yesterday Chavez announced the creation of a new
food program to benefit the poorest of Venezuelans;
adults and children who live on the street.  Chavez said
the program will draw from the existing Mercal
(Mercados de Alimentos) food security program,
which consists of government supermarkets with
basic food supplies at fixed discount prices. 
Chavez announced that one thousand houses for
prepared food distribution will be opened next
week, each house with the capacity to feed
approximately 100 people, adults as well as
street children who Chavez called
´´Children of the homeland´´. 
The food used for preparation will come from the
Mercal supermarkets and staff will be in charge
of cooking and serving the food.  Those that will
most benefit from the program are pregnant
women, seniors, and children who live on the
street, Chavez said.
Four thousand food houses are scheduled to be
built to serve the needs of 600 thousand people
in extreme poverty.  Chavez explained that the
new program is temporary until that number of
 people can be taken out of
´´that abyss of misery´´ permanently.
Chavez said that 700 houses will be opened in
September, one thousand in October and 500 in November. 
Yesterday Chavez also expanded the Mercal program
by opening 18 ´´Supermercales´´ in 14 states throughout
the country.  Chavez said the Mercal program already
benefits more than 8 million Venezuelans a month,
offering more than 3 thousand tons of food daily at
discount prices. 
According to the President´s press office,
one Supermercal, opened in San Cristobal,
a city near the border with Colombia, has a
capacity to store 450 thousand metric tons
of provisions, 5 tons of fresh produce, and
5 metric tons of frozen food.  The San Cristobal
Supermercal has created 48 direct jobs for
35 men and 13 women.  
According to the press release, Mercal functions
in all 24 states of the country, offering more
than 3 tons of food daily, benefiting more
than 8 million people per month.
In the country there are 7, 287 small Mercal stores,
565 mid size Mercales, 207 large size mercales,
221 mobile Mercales, and 82 warehouses.

Friday, July 16, 2004

A Parkdalian in Venezuela

Hi Folks,
This is your friendly neighbourhood Robin.
While I´m in Venezuela, I have not forgotten
my friends in Parkdale.
I can tell you that here the number of social changes
taking place in neighbourhoods is phenomenal which
is not to say that things here are any easier than in
I will write to you about these changes in the following
weeks leading up to the presidential referendum that
will take place on Aug.15.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about things
down here, write to me.

Take Care,

P.S: I hope PAC is still meeting!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Did You know?

Lets Not Forget: Bush Planned Iraq 'Regime Change' Before Becoming President

The link

A Scheme to Cancel the U.S. Elections?

Here's your dose of scaremongering
As for the constitutional implications, Soaries' concern is vastly understated. Since there are no provisions in the U.S. Constitution providing for the cancellation of elections by the federal government, Soaries is asking us to consider "under what circumstances" the Constitution ought to be overthrown. His proposal amounts to a usurpation of power: in effect, a coup...Short of nuclearizing every major American city, Al Qaeda, in and of itself, is powerless to "disrupt" our electoral process:...

Think Kerry's gonna change things if he gets electd? Read this, and think again... Might be pulling a Dalton McGuinty Stateside...

Posted this because some things on the other side of the border affect us here.

The link

Stupid White Movie

Not that anyone who's lived for any period of time outside North America doesn't know this, but still a good read.

Here's an article:- "Stupid White Movie What Michael Moore Misses About the Empire"

Snippets from Counterpunch's website:-
The claim that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a conservative movie may strike some as ludicrous. But the film endorses one of the central lies that Americans tell themselves, that the U.S. military fights for our freedom. This construction of the military as a defensive force obscures the harsh reality that the military is used to project U.S. power around the world to ensure dominance, not to defend anyone's freedom, at home or abroad...

...Instead of confronting this mythology, Moore ends the film with it....

...but Moore's narration implies that somehow a glorious tradition of U.S. military endeavors to protect freedom has now been sullied by the Iraq War...

The millions of dead around the world -- in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia -- as a result of U.S. military actions and proxy wars don't care which U.S. party was pulling the strings and pulling the trigger when they were killed. It's true that much of the world hates Bush. It's also true that much of the world has hated every post-WWII U.S. president. And for good reasons...

...It is quite another to pander to the lies this country tells itself about the military...

...It's hard to understand how we can do that by repeating the lies of the people who plan, and benefit from, those wars....

...if we beat Bush and go back to "normal," we're all in trouble. Normal is empire building. Normal is U.S. domination, economic and military, and the suffering that vulnerable people around the world experience as a result...

...feelings are not analysis, and the film's analysis, unfortunately, doesn't go much beyond the feeling: It's all Bush's fault...

...Rallying around the film can too easily lead to rallying around bad analysis.

The link

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Did you know?

The International Defence Exhibition, or IDEX, held in 2003 in Abu Dhabi, is considered one of the world's premier arms shows.

I'll be posting a summary of the demonstration held on June 30th, as soon as I confirm the companies the demonstration went to confront.

Robin will be posting what happened at Sylvia Watson's meeting earlier tonight.


The link

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The New Parkdale

By Robin Nieto

I was interviewing people at last Saturday's
Parkdale Farmers Market outside the Parkdale
Library about the proposed weekend closure
of the Masaryk-Cowan Rec Centre. This was after
interviewing folks using the rec centre earlier in the

A Parkdale woman selling her art said to me,
"You are the New Parkdale," referring to a breed of
Parkdalians who care enough about the neighbourhood
to attend the Famer's Market and to rally around
local issues like the weekend closure of the
Masaryk-Cowan Recreation Centre.

"The Old Parkdale wouldn't come to this
(the Farmer's Market) even if you drove them here,"
the woman said.

The day before the Famer's Market,
I went to our local city councillor's office to speak
with Parkdale's new representative, Sylvia Watson,
about the weekend closure of our rec centre.

The councillor's response spoke volumes of her
attitude towards the "New Parkdale."

When I informed Watson that the Parkdale Action
Coalition (PAC) had organized a public meeting
so that the community could discuss the weekend
closure of the rec centre, she became defensive.

"Do you use the rec centre yourself during the
weekends?" Watson asked. "No." I answered
truthfully. To that she judged firmly, "then I don't think
you or the members of your organization can speak
to the issue since you don't use the rec centre."

To that I replied that if it were only my own
personal interests as an individual I was talking
about, then that wouldn't make me much of a community
member (much less a community activist).

As to her judgement about Parkdale neighbours
who participate with PAC, I told her that I did not
speak for everyone in the organization about using
the rec centre and that neither her nor I knows how
much our members use the rec centre.

As for her comment about speaking
about the weekend closure of the rec centre,
I said that that PAC does not speak for the entire
neighbourhood of Parkdale and that's exactly why
we are calling the public meeting, to hear what the
people of Parkdale have to say about the issue.

Despite Councillor Watson's condescension,
I invited her to PAC's meeting this Tuesday, July 6,
since I had information that she was making decisions
about the weekend closures at City Hall.
Again she became defensive.

"Where did you get that information and who
told you that?," she asked. To that I responded
someone from the rec centre told me and that I
wouldn't tell her who because I did not want
to threaten their job.

"You're getting tid bits of information from
here and there," Watson said dismissively.
To that I replied finally that I wouldn't need to be
getting these tid bits of information from here
and there if she would clarify what exactly is
happening at PAC's community meeting
this Tuesday in order to avoid

Watson said she could not make it and
that she would send a representative.
She then went back into the tiny office
she rented on Queen St. W, not far from
the rec centre.

PAC has distributed hundreds of flyers
throughout Parkdale inviting our neighbours
to attend a public meeting which will hopefully
become a monthly public forum for the
neighbourhood to get involved in the
decision-making process of Parkdale.

For too many years, the people of
Parkdale have allowed councillors like
Watson to exclude us from the
decision-making process in our own
neighbourhood. Watson is particularly
offensive since she doesn't even live in

Watson lives in Toronto's most affluent
neighbourhood, Rosedale, yet she has
been given the public trust to represent
one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the

Councillor Watson should start getting
used to the "New Parkdale" as more and
more young, educated, socially conscious
people move into the neighbourhood and
begin asking questions about Parkdale and
how they can get involved.

Rather than get defensive, Watson should
be getting proactive with the people of
Parkdale, the people she is supposed to
be representing at City Hall.