Book Review: “The End of Growth” by Jeff Rubin

The former high level economist with CIBC Jeff Rubin‘s book “The End of Growth” approaches contemporary political and environmental issues from an economic perspective, focussing on the impact that rising energy costs has on the ability of various economies to sustain historical rates of growth. While accepting the basic tenants of anthropogenic climate change, Rubin rejects the political idealism of those who think we can respond to the threat of global warming by agreements and collective action. Rather, he believes that rising energy costs will spell the end of global economic growth, and as a result will be the reason humans do not burn enough fossilized carbon to cause disastrous levels of climate change.

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Defending the Portland Hotel Society

If you aren’t from Vancouver, you’ve probably never heard of the Portland Hotel Society (PHS) a non-profit started in ’93 to provide services and advocacy for the marginalized people of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The society operates many hotels which rent mostly single-room-occupancy (SRO’s) in that area, and specializes in harder to house populations. In conjunction with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), they opened insite, Canada’s first supervised safe-injection site for harder drugs.

Right now, PHS is under attack following two audits which raised some questions about the use of certain administrative fees. The audits recommended that “VCH and the PHS jointly develop requirements for record keeping and service evaluation plans”. However, instead what has happened is the two founding directors of the PHS have been sacked, and many of the programs PHS runs which were funded through administrative fees are in danger of being cut.

These programs include: paying veterinarian bills to keep their beloved pets alive when they can’t afford to; to continue providing residents with transportation, suitcases and pocket money for family reunification, or for presenting their work in harm reduction at the conferences to which they’re invited; to continue hosting dignified memorials and celebrations of life when residents pass away, with coffee, sandwiches and flowers for the bereaved; to continue the lunch program that feeds ~200 residents of the Sunrise, Washington and Stanley Hotels; to continue serving hot Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings at every project each year, and eggs and bacon breakfasts on Christmas mornings at the New Fountain Shelter.

In short, what is happening is the war on the poor is being waged in the name of the poor, in the name of transparency and efficiency, and in the name of holding non-profits to scrutiny. But don’t take it from me, the main purpose of this blog post was to provide a space where I could host a set of links by real journalists and writers who have something to add to the discussion.

“We should decry the cynical timing of the audits’ release — hot on the heels of the disgraceful DTES local area plan, which announces the imminent dispersal of hundreds of people who call the Downtown Eastside their home. We should reject the mainstream’s framing of this audit and note that it asks questions but says exactly nothing on corruption, longterm financial solvency of the PHS, or its ability to deliver public money to those who need it most.” The Portland Hotel Society should be defended. (Rabble)

“Patrick May works the front desk for the PHS at the Pennsylvania Hotel, site of the original Portland Hotel. “I feel a bit confused, kind of scared for the future, not only for myself but for the culture of the organization. We work in unorthodox ways and that is why we have been effective. It think it will be difficult for us if we have to be more bureaucratic.” Passionate former clients defend Downtown Eastside non-profit as audit reveals loose spending. (the Tyee)

“PHS staff work under extremely challenging and highly stressful conditions without pension plans, employee assistance programs or disability benefits. They are seldom, if ever, paid overtime, and they are rarely paid to attend staff meetings. The incredible commitment on the part of PHS staff is reinforced by kindness. They are a small army of dedicated people who are committed to doing hard work that is producing real change in peoples’ lives on a daily basis; work in which it is not uncommon to find a person who has overdosed or is otherwise traumatized. These are tough conditions that many would not chose to work in.” Mark Townsend: the Portland Hotel Society’s work must go on. (National Post Editorial)

“If [the founding directors] had paid themselves $40K per year more over the 3 years in question (a figure of approximately $500K- 4 people X $40k X 3 years) and paid the controversial excesses out of their own pockets 3 things would have happened. 1. Their wages would have still been lower than the top 4 BC Housing Execs. 2. They still would have been far more effective than any other organization, including BC Housing. 3. Nobody would have cared. But they screwed up and there are enough people in power who hate them for their activism and lack of bureaucratic process that have been waiting, salivating for this moment.” I work for the PHS. (blog)

“Did the PHS board need to quit/ be let go? That depends…, did they lose confidence within the eyes of front-line workers or service users?  From what I’m seeing in social media and some news that bothered to talk to people directly affected, the answer is ‘no’.  People remain confident in the services, programming and overall harm reduction mission that PHS facilitates.” The Facts on PHS Scandal and Following Reactions of critics, Boards and Jenny Kwan. (blog)

Samah Idriss speaks at Israeli Apartheid Week 2014

Samah Idriss spoke on a panel along with Carrie Lester and David from CAIA at Israeli Apartheid Week tonight. It was a historically significant event for two reasons. First because we don’t hear a lot of voices from the Arab world outside Palestine in relation to the boycott Israel movement, and second because of the analytical links he made between armed and civil struggle in the Lebanese context.

Lebanon is a very different environment in which to do organizing for the boycott of Israel than North America. The first reason is, boycotting Israel is already the law. This would seem to be a large advantage. However, Israeli and Israeli linked companies have found ways to circumvent the anti-Normalization legislation and penetrate the Lebanese market. The fact that so many apologists for normalization exist in Lebanon, especially among intellectuals, is according to Idriss evidence that the laws that prescribe the boycott of Israel are no replacement for consciousness-organizing. Another reason is Idriss campaign is not actually part of BDS – his “Campaign to boycott supporters of Israel” began before the BDS call, and was motivated from watching the Israeli massacre Palestinians in Jenin. Idriss’ campaign is not opposed to BDS, however, but rather that the specific context of Lebanon requires a different approach than is appropriate in countries where boycotting Israel is not already a state law.

Idriss is a key link between boycott organizing and the Arab League boycott of Israel. Despite the fact that Syria is in the grips of an uprising, the Arab League boycott of Israel committee is still meeting once or so per year, and the presence of his movement at these meetings has caused the Arab League Boycott to adopt this boycott of several new companies including cosmetics companies operating in Lebanon, as well as to re-instate Nestle to the boycott list, which seems to have only been removed because of some corruption inside the Syrian regime.

Idriss is a key figure also because he edits an important cultural magazine. Imagine if a major editor of a significant cultural magazine in North America was pro-BDS! This publication is a major opportunity to call out collaborators with Israel, including perhaps business people working in North America on projects which are subject to Boycott but who have personal ties to the Arab world such that it would be embarrassing for their business dealings with Israel to be widely known. This is my own speculation, however, Idriss did not address this in his talk, or speak about any of the implications of editing an important magazine.

Idriss affirmed that organizing to boycott Israel is not opposed to armed resistance, or even a way of avoiding armed resistance, but rather that boycotts as civil resistance, and armed resistance must work together to resist the Israeli entity. He affirmed that without the use of armed resistance, Lebanon would still be occupied partially by Israel, and Israel would have colonized Lebanese lands up to the Litani river. He also pointed out that the resistance was initially secular and leftist. Lebanon is a key example of resistance, and successful resistance, against the Israelis, however paradoxically the success of armed resistance is sometimes used to dismiss the importance of civil resistance such as boycotts. However precisely because Lebanon is seen as a beacon of the resistance, convincing Lebanese people that boycotting Israel could have knock-on effects throughout the Arab world. For example, Idriss’ movement campaigned to prevent the screening of a film made in Tel Aviv by a Lebanese director (entitled “The Attack”) was successful, and subsequently it was banned in many other Arab countries.

In the question period, Idriss affirmed that his organization is committed to protecting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon from racism and bad treatment. He in fact claimed that in Lebanon there is Apartheid against Palestinian refugees. He dismissed the claim that granting Palestinians normalized status, i.e. the rights to study and work, would somehow work against their right of return. He also spoke about the direct work his organization has been doing to protect the rights of a Palestinian worker who was recently fired for having a Palestinian accent.


Identity and Community as Interpretive Limits

“You end up creating your identity by defending the thing people think you are.”

“People still think I’m Jewish….I look and act like a person they know, but deep inside I’m the person they hate.”

“In the end, well, people say it’s just because I’m Edward Said’s daughter.”

-comments by Najla Said, left out of context

This essay is not a normative critique of anyone’s identity. Rather, I want to bracket the questions we ask about identity: questions about details, dynamics, relationships with discourse and power, about our own identities and those of others. Placing these (questions about identity) in a bracket, I want to ask: what is signified by these questions? Why is ‘identity’, even a specific person’s identity, considered a legitimate object of interest, of discussion, of questioning? Following along this line of thinking I will question the implicit effects of framing questions in terms of identity rather than community in relation to a recent presentation by Najla Said and Spivak’s essay on the subaltern.

If we de-familiarize ourselves from the normalcy, the average-everydayness of such questions in the humanities, we might notice that there is a slight feeling of taboo that accompanies these questions. Perhaps feeling that we are straying a little too close to something private, perhaps also a sense of vanity – why, after all, is this ‘identity’ so important?  Continue reading

Toad Lane 20th Anniversary Reunion Party

Greetings Toads of the past 20 years! We (the current Toads) would like to officially invite you all to the 20th anniversary gathering of Toad Lane that we will be hosting at your former home!



WHEN: March 22 at 3:00pm until March 23 at 3:00pm

WHAT: A chance to catch up with past housemates and gather across generations to reminisce and celebrate 20 years since Toad Lane’s creation in 1994 as a vegetarian (and in 2008 a vegan) co-op/collective house.

DATES: Saturday, March 22nd and Sunday, March 23rd 2014

LOCATION: Toad Lane, 429 Brunswick Ave

GUESTS: Past and current Toad Lane residents. Partners and children welcome too! To be able to comfortably accommodate everyone, we are not extending the invite further e.g. Tony from 397 Huron in 99’.

DO I NEED TO RSVP? – To help us in making arrangements, please RSVP here:

**Please invite your past housemates from Toad Lane to this fb event or have them e-mail us at**



3pm – We’ll give tours of the house. Come see what has and hasn’t changed! Your artwork may still be on the wall! Let’s have coffee and tea, and we’ll have some other ongoing activities.

4pm – Introductions (potentially with recorded videos from those unable to make it), followed by a slide show of pictures from over the years

5pm – chill time

5:30pm – a vegan dinner (menu coming soon!)

7:30pm – storytelling. Share your favourite stories from Toad Lane!


10:30am – vegan brunch at Toad Lane

– ice skating at Jean Sibelius Park (the park just 20 metres north! Pending weather.)
– alternative neighbourhood walk (potentially)
– rest and relaxation


– We have room for up to 10 people to sleep at Toad Lane for Friday and/or Saturday evening. We will also check with our friends and neighbouring co-opers for more space.

– Either ourselves and/or experienced and vouched for friends of ours will be providing childcare

In advance, please let us know your housing and childcare needs, as well as any dietary restrictions. We will do our best to accommodate any specific access related requests (communicated in advance). Unfortunately, as you may recall, Toad Lane is not wheel chair accessible.


– If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute with some rad skills please let us know at

– To help us in making arrangements, please RSVP here:

Looking forward!
Lots of Toad love!

The problem with [class] privilege

“The problem is that people [from the privileged economic classes] see [class privilege] as [intentional greed], when [class privilege] is bigger than that. [Capitalism] is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of [capitalists] at other people’s expense, whether [well meaning middle class investors] know/like it or not. [Capitalism] is an insidious cultural [and economic] disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a [economically privileged] person who likes poor people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t [earn] like you. Yes, [class oppression] looks like [intentional selfishness], but [selfishness] is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is [guilty for being] born [into an economically privileged family], it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-[capitalist] certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

Interpreted and adapted from Scott Wood’s statement on white privilege, which I whole heartedly endorse.