How to dismantle conflicts abroad

Michael Ignatieff gave a simplified picture of a successful military intervention at a discussion about the often-controversial Responsibility to Protect policy with Janice Stein at the Munk Center on Monday.

“We have to take sides in what is usually an ongoing civil conflict ” said Ignatieff. “Let us remember Bosnia, 1994-5. We put the Croats together with the Muslims, armed the Muslims, made them stronger, pushed back the Serbs, and at a decisive moment, rained air power on the Serbs, forcing them to the table.”

The next example was Kosovo. “We intervened to make one side prevail.” The West did not want Melosovic to continue his war in the Balkans because this would fracture Europe, so they intervened to make one side win.”

Ignatieff said it was painful to watch the Serbs flee. But in intervention, he said, the interplay of means and ends were as complex as the politics involved. “You may not like [the means], but nobody’s died in Bosnia since.”

He spoke not as a the Liberal deputy leader but as a former commissioner on the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, an ad hoc organization that promotes humanitarian intervention. Ignatieff’s talk began with the “very unpopular notion” of preemptive war that the commission’s R2P policy is about.

Ignatieff recalled a meeting of the ICISS in Brussels that determined R2P did not apply to the terrorist threat behind the Sept. 11 attacks, not only because the policy is preemptive, but also because it involves threats abroad rather that at home.

Armed intervention in Kosovo and Bosnia was justifiable, Ignatieff said, because there had been a “just cause, legitimate authority, right intention, reasonable prospects, proportional means and last resort.”

The conflict in post-Sept. 11 Af- ghanistan, though not considered a case for R2P, fits the “just war” principle, invented by Saint Augustine. He stressed that the principle, which requires that a war be fought justly, “with one hand behind their backs.” even when the enemy followed no rules or wore no uniforms, should be followed in whatever actions Coalition forces there take.

Ignatieff aimed to show that the intervention in Afghanistan meets all of the just war criteria. He said there was adherence to a just authority, namely UN approval. It was a last resort, he added, because the U.S. had already been attacked. He saw trouble, however, in the Coalition assertion that the armed reaction was proportional to the threat posed by Afghanistan. “Those are acute moral issues which all citizens ought to be concerned about,” he said.

Ignatieff invoked another of St. Augustine’s concepts, the “reasonable prospect” principle. This is a jus ad bellum criterion, meaning it is to be considered before the use of force. Under the principle, use of force cannot be condoned unless it has a reasonable chance of succeeding in its goal.

“Reasonable prospect is something we’re in fact debating now when we think about whether to extend this mission [in Afghanistan].”

On the subject of a global leadership, he was asked whether “we need a (hopefully) liberal hegemony who can define the order and then police it,” Ignatieff clarified, however, that a hegemony was not what he wanted to live under. That in fact he did not want a liberal hegemony at all. Ignatieff envisioned a multipolar world, with power distributed across many centres worldwide.

Back in the groove

There’s a major comeback underway in the music industry, and I’m not talking about the Backstreet Boys’ latest sonic atrocity. With the commercial advent of the compact disc back in 1982, pretty much everybody expected that vinyl records were finally on their way out of the mainstream and into the history books. And while vinyl did suffer at the hands of new digital formats, the gramophone record has refused to die, and is now once again on the rise.

In an interesting twist, the compact disc may now be in danger of becoming obsolete. Now, when most people buy a CD, the first thing they do is slip the disc into their computer and import the songs into a music management program like iTunes. The next step sees the compressed song files transferred to an MP3 player for listening on the go. Just like that, in about three minutes, the job of the CD is finished completely. The disc and jewel case just sit around collecting dust.

So with the adoption of digital music players, and the personal-computer-as-your-stereo trend, the role of the once-mighty compact has been reduced to that of a temporary container, a way to transport music from the shelf at HMV back to your PC at home. In that case, why not just download the music instead (legally, or otherwise), and save yourself the trip to the mall?

This is the revelation that more and more music buyers are having everyday. Traditional music retailers have also realized this, which is why they’re either closing up shop (like Sam the Record Man) or devoting an ever-increasing amount of shelf space to hawking DVDs, video games, and electronics.

As new technology forces the whole paradigm of music consumerism into weird, uncharted territory, some record labels are now trying to stake out a new middle ground between the CD and the 99-cent download. A good example is EMI/Parlophone, who recently made their deceptively timed Radiohead box set—not to be confused with Radiohead’s own box set of their brilliant new independent release In Rainbows—available on a customized USB key (ironically in the shape of Kid A’s greedy-looking, killer teddy bears). This choice highlights not only the fact that CDs are now viewed as glorified file-transfer devices, but also touches on one of the downsides of downloading: the lack of a tangible artifact to accompany the purchase.

A lot of people really like collecting music in an easily discernable form, just to have a copy of the album artwork, or to feel they have a real connection to the band or artist. Amongst people who enjoy music the most—audiophiles, DJs, nerdy fans, and collectors— vinyl records are actually making a comeback as the tangible companion to digital downloads, compared to the sliding sales of compact discs.

The long and resilient history of the gramophone record should humble those who thought the format dead and gone. Only the third major music format ever invented, the record made its predecessor, the phonograph cylinder, obsolete way back in 1929, became commercially available as vinyl in 1948, and later successfully fought off format coups by reel-to-reel tape and the campy eight-track. With the introduction of the compact disc, it looked like the end of the line for vinyl records, but even before digital formats began to threaten the CD, a protective niche emerged. Audiophiles claimed that CDs sounded too sharp and tinny (likely caused by vinyl mastering techniques being used to prepare music for CDs), and preferred the warmer, fuller sound of records. At the same time, professional DJs relied on their ability to directly manipulate the sound source on a record to slip-cue, beatmatch, and scratch—something which wasn’t even possible (let alone stylish) with CDs until the recent invention of CDJ technology. So while compact discs took over the store shelves, the vinyl presses kept running— albeit in a much more limited capacity.

The 1990s saw another niche take an interest in vinyl: independent artists and record labels. While electronic, hip-hop, and dance artists still continued to issue some vinyl for DJ purposes, mainstream rock music was largely relegated to compact disc and cassette tape. Luckily, punk and hardcore bands still had an affinity for pressing seven-inch records, and as punk music merged with indie-rock styles in the American mid-west during the early nineties, this tradition endured, and flourished in indie culture.

All of this created the necessary groundwork for an emerging trend: the people buying the most vinyl in today’s resurgence are the young music fans, not the old and nostalgic. Indie labels convinced a whole new generation to adopt this seemingly defunct technology. These young consumers are attracted the classic design of records, their aforementioned sound quality, and a considerable “retro cool” factor. Bands also like to have their music released on vinyl, and many of them see it as a badge of honour to have their music cut into a hot slab of wax.

What’s really interesting are the many ways vinyl and digital are teaming up to cut CDs out of the loop. Indie bands and labels—major labels have largely slept on the vinyl resurgence— now often issue free digital downloads with the purchase of a vinyl record. For example, when local indie-label Dead Astronaut released a split 12-inch featuring music by militant post-punk outfits Anagram and Creeping Nobodies, they also included a slip of paper with a secret URL, username, and password that the customer could use to download high-quality MP3s of the record.

But leave it to DJs to find the ultimate combination of vinyl and digital. On the market for about three years, programs like Scratch Live by New Zealand software company Serato Audio Research, allow DJs to combine the control of vinyl with the ease of selecting and editing tracks in a digital environment. The setup includes two classic turntables, a laptop, the DJ software, and two specially-printed, time-coded vinyl records. Once the two records are spinning on the turntables, the DJ can manipulate digital audio files stored on their laptop using the time-coded vinyls as controllers— just as if the music on the hard drive was actually on the record.

So while CDs aren’t down-and-out just yet, vinyl’s numbers are clearly on the rise. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl sales have doubled as the percentage of music sales since 2000, to become a $110- million industry. In that same time period, overall music sales have dropped from $14.4 billion to $12.2 billon. Conversely, according to figures from the British Phonographic Industry, the number of seven-inch singles sold rose from just under 179,000 in 2001 to over a million in 2006, marking the first time seven-inch sales reached that figure in the U.K. since 1998.

With high-quality MP3s (that never skip) and software like iTunes quickly surpassing the utility of compact discs amongst casual music listeners, and with audiophiles and hardcore fans taking a newfound interest in the classic, analogue world of vinyl, the CD’s days could be numbered, and the biggest twist in the audio format wars could already be in play.

Cut-off grads seek CUPE counsel

A massive expansion of graduate schools, spurred by a provincial decision, is leaving some of U of T’s most senior graduate students crowded out. The university greatly expanded its graduate enrolment this year, upping enrolment by about 30 per cent. Budget tightness has forced at least one department to take jobs from their PhD students and give them to a large new cohort of masters students.

U of T guarantees funding to all graduate students during the first year of a master’s program and the first four years of doctoral studies, or for the first five years of a doctoral program. Students who earn their PhD within five years are a rarity, and those outside the five-year guarantee often rely on teaching and teaching assistant jobs to make ends meet.

CUPE 3902, which represent TAs at the U of T, has filed a grievance with the Department of Anthropology on behalf of upper-year PhD students. The grievance claims the department violated at least four sections of the collective agreement between CUPE and U of T regarding TA hiring preference, job advertisement, rehiring, and “equitable and consistent” adherence to the agreement.

“We don’t blame [the Department of Anthropology], they’re only getting what they get handed down from the Dean of Arts and Science and the Provost,” said CUPE staff representative Mikael Swayze, who called the huge grad surge an “adventure,” being unprecedented and therefore hard to judge.

The McGuinty government has called for universities provincewide to expand their graduate schools, and set funding incentives to encourage schools to meet expansion targets. The current graduate expansion follows a period of great undergraduate growth prompted by the double-cohort.

Swayze noted that CUPE would have filed the grievance earlier but a server crash affecting the union’s email records caused a three-week delay.

So far, Anthropology is the only department with students filing grievances through CUPE, but Swayze said he has heard “rumblings” from others. Typically, individual students may take a long time to discuss their situations with other students and realize they share a common, systemic problem, he said.

Classes will not be disrupted during the grievance process, Swayze said.

The Department of Anthropology must respond to the complaint by next Friday. If they do not or cannot address the grievance to CUPE’s satisfaction, the union will go to the Dean of Arts & Science, then the university’s VP human resources, Angela Hildyard. If no satisfactory outcome is reached, the issue could go before an arbitrator for a binding resolution.

At press time, Dr. Janice Boddy, chair of the anthropology department, could not be reached for comment. The graduate program administrator, Natalia Krencil, was away from office due to illness, and graduate program coordinator Dr. Daniel Sellen was traveling and not reachable for comment. Asked to comment by The Varsity, Roger Bulgin, department manager for anthropology, said the issue had just been brought to his attention and he was not prepared to comment.

Swayze added that the grievance, when resolved, will not cost any of the current MA students their TAships, though he said next year the TA hours should be re-allotted to fit the collective bargaining agreement.

“The union is not in the business of getting people out of work,” he assured The Varsity.

Breakfast with Laurie Lynd

Laurie Lynd, a Toronto-based director whose film Breakfast with Scot is opening in limited release, is an interesting interview. He is thoughtful, articulate, and insightful about the place of gay culture in film. Breakfast with Scot is a gay-themed comedy, and one of the few positioned for mass appeal.

“We are very much hoping that it will play to a mainstream audience,” he says. “Of course I hope it will reach the gay audience, but that’s a bit like preaching to the converted— although it’s good for people to see their stories on screen. So I’m really hoping that it can cross over […] I think if people have seen the trailer, they really will go.”

In Breakfast with Scot, based on a novel by Michael Downing, macho hockey player and closeted homosexual Eric (Tom Cavanagh) is seriously injured during a practice. Five years later, he’s a popular colour commentator, and his romantic relationship with Sam (Ben Shenkman) is still a secret. Things get complicated when Eric and Sam unexpectedly become temporary legal guardians of Scot (Noah Bernett), a swishy, flamboyant child who is likely gay.

Embarrassed by his own homosexuality, Eric is downright humiliated by Scot’s, and tries to get the kid to tone down his personality by signing him up for hockey. But Eric must, of course, learn to accept Scot—and himself—for who he is. Despite its gay subject matter, Breakfast with Scot’s slick comedy aims for a broad audience.

The film has made a few headlines for being the first gay-themed movie made with the cooperation of a major North American sports league, in this case the NHL, a process that Lynd says was easier than anticipated.

“Whenever they’re asked about it, they always say the same thing, which is that basically they just really liked the script and liked its message of what it is to be a good parent and loving your kids for who they are.”

Breakfast with Scot is likable, and its heart is in the right place, though it has its flaws. I like its dramatic content more than the comedy, which is too dependent on Scot’s outrageous flamboyancy— a joke that eventually wears out its welcome. I also worry that a character as stereotypical as Scot panders to a homophobic demographic who can laugh at the gay jokes and grudgingly accept a message of tolerance at the end, Chuck and Larry-style (although there’s little basis for comparing Breakfast with Scot to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry).

The drama, while uneven (the climactic scene is a little melodramatic for my tastes) and fairly predictable, is interesting in the way it shows a gay man coming to terms with his own homosexuality.

“I’m gay, and I think coming out is a lifelong journey,” says Lynd. “I think there are a lot of stages to it. And that’s one of the things that I think is really interesting about the film, is that, first and foremost it’s an entertaining comedy about misfit parents and an odd kid, but it’s also about the later steps of coming out. It’s almost like a second coming-out for that character.”

Unlike most gay-themed films, Breakfast with Scot is being marketed to appeal to a crossover audience, with posters and trailers similar in tone to the kinds that a big-budget American comedies would have.

But can homosexuality have a more consistent presence in mainstream film? Comparing to twenty years ago, Lynd says, “there are tons of gay movies, it’s just that most of them tend to be independent, smaller ones. The big mainstream ones tend to, I agree, be exceptions. I still think we’re a long way from being able to see a romantic lead actor being able to come out, or even a hockey player who can come out while he’s still playing. But, I do think, given Will & Grace and the greater gay presence on television, a mainstream audience is definitely more comfortable with it.”

“I think it’s all moving in the right direction. In a way, what I like best about our film is that it’s very nonchalant about the gay subject matter, and the writer of the novel, Michael Downing, said that when he saw it he felt is was the first time he saw himself as a gay man onscreen, because these are just guys who have a life who just happen to be gay.”

Breakfast with Scot opens in limited release on November 16.

Voices from a ravaged continent

Asad Ismi has gone so far as to suggest that the Munk Centre for International Studies should instead be called the Munk Centre for Global Plunder and Pillage, “because that’s what they do!”

Canada’s involvement in the mining industry, and that industry’s destructive practices, were recurring themes at the launch ceremony on Nov. 1 for The Ravaging of Africa a radio-documentary by Asad Ismi and Kristin Schwartz. Ismi pointed out that Peter Munk, whose $6.2- million donation helped establish the Munk Centre in 2000, is also the founder and chairman of Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest gold-mining companies in Canada, and holder of a dubious environmental and human rights record.

Barrick’s Dirty Secrets, a May 2007 Corpwatch report, investigated water depletion, heavy metal pollution, and cyanide spills caused by the company’s mining operations in Tanzania, Peru, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, and several other countries.

In their most recent documentary, Ismi and Schwartz caught up with activists and politicians at the World Socialist Forum in Nairobi, Kenya to shed light on what they argue is the West’s imperialist strategy to siphon as much of Africa’s natural resources as possible.


The Varsity: You referred at the launch to the U.S. imperial strategy. What does that mean?

Asad Ismi: The imperial strategy of the U.S. has been to launch a two-front war in Africa: the military war and the economic war.

Beginning in the 1980s, U.S.’s agents, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have carried out the economic war through structural adjustment programs that they have imposed on 36 countries in Africa. And these structural adjustment programs destroy the economies of African countries. They destroy industry, therefore employment, they destroy the medical and educational systems, so they break down all forms of social progress in those societies. They make it impossible for people to function, to be employed, to be productive. If you don’t have medical care, you can’t do anything. If you have to pay too much for treatment, you will just die. Education has been taken away so there is no possibility of getting employment in the formal sector. There is no possibility of social mobility: improving your lot, or improving your family’s lot. Improving the next generation or this one. So there is no future at all for people. That’s the economic war that the US has launched on African countries, that has broken down the economies of most of the African countries.

They destroy the countries through military invasion and war, then they send in the WB and the IMF to destroy the economies. All this facilitates the corporate plunder of the economies.

V: What motive drives this “imperialism?”

AI: To loot the natural resources of Africa.

A very good example of the 14 wars is the biggest one, which is in the Congo. The U.S. encouraged the invasion of Congo, in 1998, by Rwanda and Uganda. They are the main arms supplier to both countries, who are the U.S.’s staunchest allies in the region according to Human Rights Watch.

The Congo has the world’s biggest deposit of copper, cadmium and cobalt. It has manganese, uranium, oil, gold. It has everything. A stable government would demand royalties in return for its resources, the setting up of some way to process the minerals so that they can benefit the country. Now, if you invade a country and occupy its land, then you can loot it as much as you want. And bring the resources to the West for free.

That is what they’ve done with Rwanda and Uganda in the Congo, where planes fly out filled with copper and cobalt and another very valuable resource called coltan. You cannot have a cell-phone or computers without coltan. This society will grind to a halt without that mineral, which the Congo is the main source of.

Suddenly we’re seeing the proliferation of cell-phones. How did that happen? How come it’s so cheap? How is it that everybody can have a cell-phone anywhere in the world? Because since the invasion, the price of coltan went down the tubes. Coltan is actually a very expensive mineral. And we should pay for it. We should pay the people of Congo a fair price. But we’re not paying royalties or taxes for it. Rwanda and Uganda are just looting it.

This war in the Congo has killed more than four million people since 1998. It is a Holocaust. And yet, it is not talked about in the Western media at all.

V: What they do often talk about in the media, however, is this outcry for “more aid, better aid.”

AI: I don’t see any aid from the West going to Africa. All I see is looting and plundering for the last 500 years. That these plunderers and looters and killers of Africa can talk about aid is totally obscene.

$148 billion are taken out of Africa every year by multinational corporations of the west paying hardly any taxes. The last time I heard about any aid being talked about, it was something like $6 billion.

Even that aid is not even aid. Seventy per cent of that aid is tied aid, meaning comes with the stipulations that all of it must be spent on goods or services provided by companies of the countries providing the aid. They are effectively export subsidies.

V: There was a big deal about the G8 canceling Africa’s debt.

AI: Africa has already paid more than four times the amount of the debt it owed in 1980. Between ‘80 and ‘84, they were paying compounded interest rates of 20 per cent. Yet, the debts just seem to keep piling on.

“Structural adjustment programs” are meant to expedite payment of debts. But they tell all of the countries to increase the export of raw materials and cash crops. The prices collapse, because all the countries end up exporting more. So they actually end up making less money. So these crippling debts just never go away.


V: Is it possible to fit a 500-year-old issue on a vast continent into two hours?

AI: Editing is traumatic. For example, Kristin and I had agreed that the first episode would have three wars: Congo, Somalia and the war in Western Sahara. When Spain withdrew from the Western Sahara, Morocco invaded and occupied it. Western Sahara has lots of oil. Morocco wants it. If it were an independent country, it would be rich. The U.S., they’re behind Morocco, because Morocco’s monarch is a U.S. puppet.

We thought it was an important story to tell, because hardly anyone knows that there has been a war going on there for more than 20 years.

KS: But when I put the entire episode together, it was eight minutes over. So we had to take the Western Sahara section out.

V: You must have been ambitious to go overseas to work in Africa.

KS: We were initially just planning on interviewing people from the [African] diaspora in Toronto, or Africans who came touring around, to bring their issues forward. There are quite a lot of people in Toronto, so it’s not completely unreasonable. But it wouldn’t have been the same kind of documentary as we were able to make. That plan came about last year when we learned that the World Social Forum was to be held in Nairobi.

AI: We realized we could do this because we have different from many African countries coming to one place, so all we needed then was the airfare to Nairobi and back. Then we started applying for funding in September.

We had already been funded by the left-wing unions for the first two docs, so we just applied to the same ones, and they all gave us money. We raised twice the money we raised for the fair trade documentary.


V: Tell us a little about your times at U of T.

AI: I did my MA in international relations in ’82-’83. At that time the university and the student body were politically very apathetic. But I had some really good teachers. Robert Accinelli’s course on the history of U.S. policy from 1890-1975 actually got me interested in U.S. policy towards the Global South.

That course and another on the third world had a lot to do with radicalizing me. It’s ironic, because the U of T was not a radical university. And since then, it’s gone completely downhill. It’s gone completely to the right.


V: What was your encounter with Kenyan media like?

AI: KOCH FM is the first radio station in a slum in Nairobi. Sixty per cent of Nairobi’s population lives in slums. The station is actually located inside two shipping containers.

The Kenyan media have to be very careful about what they say. Just a couple of weeks before we got there, [internal security] invaded the offices of the Nation, which is critical of the government, they pulled all their files out, they threw all the papers on the floor, they took their computers, and said next time, we’ll kill you.

The internal security minister in Kenya, John Njoroge Michuki, was a torturer under the colonial administration. We were told he was known as the “crusher” for crushing the testicles of resistance fighters. He has given orders to the Kenyan police, to shoot first anyone they don’t like or anyone they think is making trouble, and ask questions later.

V: What do you suppose would happen if you have your documentary to the commercial media?

AI: I hate them. I despise the CBC. They backed the invasion of Iraq. They justified it and called the U.S. liberators, and they are complicit in the genocide of almost a million Iraqis. [A 2006 Lancet study estimated between 393,000 and 943,000 Iraqis were direct casualties] I refuse to collaborate with them in any way whatsoever.

Through community radio stations in the UK, the Americas, and South Africa, and various websites it’s available on, we are reaching out to more than 50 million people worldwide. I’d say that makes us bigger than the CBC.

That’s why I say, you can be as radical as you want, and you should be. So you don’t need commercial media.

Leafs need to change

Mats Sundin is one of the greatest players to ever suit up in the blue and white Leafs gear. With all of the toughness and technique the big Swede showcases each season, one can only wonder why he wants to stay with a team that has proved time and time again its inability to put a contending team on the ice.

Granted, the team had its share of success before the 2004-05 lockout. Those successes, however, came along with Leafs rosters that lacked a natural scorer to play next to Sundin on the first line. Sundin’s linemates played off him for much of the time, with the roles reversed only on the odd occasion.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been unable to make the playoffs since the introduction of a new collective bargaining agreement. Yet Sundin remains loyal, recently signing a one-year contract for the 2007- 08 season. Sundin ensures his future options by signing on a short-term basis while also giving himself the opportunity to become the all-time leading scorer for the Maple Leafs. He has something to talk about for his time in Toronto, other than how Leafs brass denied him a superior supporting cast to play with.

With that said, Maple Leafs management gave in to signing Sundin this past summer without any regard to fixing the inept qualities of this team, destined for perpetual mediocrity. They did not trade Sundin at last year’s deadline in order to proceed with the inevitable rebuilding process, and are now facing a similar situation this year. Luckily, all the stars are aligned for a second opportunity at blowing the team up.

The fact that the Maple Leafs have begun a more youthful line-up suggests that they are on the right track, but if they traded their most valuable and only asset, new talent could contribute to a professional-level game. Furthermore, Sundin has a high value that the team should cash in on before unforeseeable injuries or slumps take over his game.

There is an understandable sense of loyalty owed towards Sundin, but when the team has continuously played catch-up with the likes of the Ottawa Senators, the GM needs to make major changes. Without any significant players within the system, the Maple Leafs must demonstrate a paradigm shift in the organization by using any current value to obtain youthful talent. Unfortunately, management has yet to rid itself of players that do not coincide with the new landscape of the league, even more regrettable considering there are no fiscal problems on the balance sheet.

Mats Sundin has earned the right to take care of his immediate future by signing on for this season. Regrettably, this means that Leaf Nation will continue to watch Sundin play with a group of ordinary forwards in a corporate system filled with ordinary decision-makers.

Montreal students tasered at tuition riot

The Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante has angrily accused Montreal riot police of “police brutality” and “savage intervention” after learning that police used taser guns and pepper spray to control crowds of student demonstrators.

Over 40,000 students across Quebec launched a three-day strike on Tuesday in protest of the provincial government’s decision to increase tuition fees by $500 per semester for the next five years. Thousands of students staged an anti-government rally yesterday at Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal, led by ASSÉ.

After failing to get the support it needed to launch a full-scale strike ASSÉ, known for advocating free tuition in Québec, eventually opted for a three-day walkout. Small groups of students illegally stationed themselves outside Université du Québec à Montréal and the CEGEP Vieux-Montréal.

On tuesday morning, 105 people were arrested for barricading a street with plywood, vending machines, and a toilet. The protesters, who used fire hoses and extinguishers on riot police, face charges of assault, assault and battery, and public mischief.

“Police brutality is no way to treat those who dare to fight for social change,” said ASSÉ official Hubert Gendron- Blais to the Montreal Gazette.

Ferguson on thin ice

For the sake of all that you hold dear, stop buying Maple Leafs tickets!

It’s the only way Leafs brass will get the message. Ponder this: why should people pay ridiculous amounts of money for a woefully sub par product? The only way to send a message is to hit them where it hurts—the wallets.

With only seven wins in 18 games, the Leafs are dropping faster than the American dollar. Yet, people continue to fill the Air Canada Centre to capacity. This year loyal fans have repeated the time-honored tradition of welcoming their beloved Maple Leafs, in anticipation of a successful season.

But like every year previous years the euphoria fades two months into the season, by which time the playoffs have already become an unrealistic goal. Scapegoats are made of inept defensemen and clumsy goaltenders, but for some reason fans refuse to abandon their team—or their season tickets. It is a process the continues into the summer, typified by endless rounds of golf and the introduction of the latest geriatric free-agents to don the blue and white; all overpriced and underachieving.

Since a absolute boycott by Leaf Nation is about as likely as Bryan McCabe winning the Norris Trophy, the only alternative left is to shake up the administration. This team will not deviate from this foolish course until a some ground shaking changes are made.

The person responsible for this mess cannot be expected or trusted to clean it up. John Ferguson Junior, the Maple Leafs’ general manager insisted that he had built a winning team by signing Pavel Kubina, Mike Peca and Hal Gill for a combined $ 9 million. So, what was the return on this investment?

A grand total of 17 goals and 56 points.

A cursory observation shows that 17 goals for $9 million is not exactly getting your bang for your buck. It’s possible that John Ferguson Junior never learned about cost efficiency in his previous roles as a player agent, and an amateur scout. Perhaps there is some method to his madness. It’s possible, if not likely, that players that score two goals in 18 games really are worth $5 million per year, despite being thirty-four years old and having a small track record of high-performance.

To make matters worse. Over the summer, Ferguson attempted to solve the team’s goaltending crisis by trading for Vesa Toskala. The goaltender was promptly awarded with an $8 million dollar contract without having played a single game for Toronto. Results thus far have been far from encouraging, as the Leafs currently posses the worst Goals-Against rating in the league, having allowed 65 goals.

On the bright the signing of imposing Kazakh winger Nik Antropov has given Mats Sundin a legitimate winger to play alongside with. His creative play and relentless drive are a definite asset to a team with a lot of liabilities. Yet his inability to stay off the injured list draws comparisons to former Toronto forward Dave Andreychuk.

The question still looms: does Ferguson have sufficient hockey acumen to build a solid supporting caste around blue-chip up-and-comers like Antropov and Wellwood? The jury is still out on that question.