The Electric Pencil

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Wade Rathke: Healthcare, Neo-McCarthyism and the need for a progressive pushback

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Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to hear Wade Rathke speak at Concordia University, as part of the Too Cool for School alternative orientation, and organised by the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy and the School of Community and Public Affairs. I’m not a student there anymore, but I’m glad I can take advantage of these kinds of events.

Rathke is the founder and former chief organiser of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now; he stepped down after 38 years at the helm in 2008. Like any organisation, it has had it’s fair share of ups, downs and scandals*; but it has also had some pretty major successes, including working to ensure living wages in at least 15 cities across the US, and on issues such as housing, immigrants rights, and voter registration.

I was curious to hear Rathke speak; I didn’t know much about him, except for his long tenure at ACORN, or much about ACORN, except what little I had heard during the last presidential election around their efforts to sign up voters.

He gave an interesting, wide-ranging talk on everything form the history of ACORN, to voter registration reform, to housing laws and protections, to areas where Canada is lagging behind the US in social policy (there are a few). He also highlighted that there is, in fact, ACORN Canada, which I had never heard of, and that they are campaigning for a living wage in Ottawa, which is great to hear.

I’m being intentionally vague here – I recorded the talk for CKUT 90.3FM radio, and we’ll be playing it next Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm when the Avalanche Collective hosts Off The Hour. But to give you a sneak peak, I thought I’d put up this short, 4 minute clip:

It’s a response to a question that came up a few times: how is it the right-wing seems to be more organised and mobilised around health care? And is anything being done about it? Wade was at times more positive, at times more negative, but he was clear: the left became to complacent after Obama’s election, and it needs to stand up – together – or right-wing, anti public health care forces will definitely win on this one – and who knows what else. In particular, he took called out the Neo-McCarthyism he sees in the media, and called for progressives rally together in a pushback, or be ready to loose on this.

*Those scandals have erupted recently with the posting of ‘sting’ videos allegedly showing ACORN employees in several offices providing income tax advice to a prostitute and her pimp. The two were in face undercover right-wing activists. I won’t post directly to the videos here, but Bertha Lewis, Chief Organizer with ACORN, responded to the allegations on Democracy Now yesterday. She makes it clear that while ACORN takes these issues serieously (they have fired the employees involved) there’s a lot more to this story than the media is saying. Watch her response here. Wade has also written a bit about this on his own blog.


Written by Tim McSorley

September 18, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Back from Caraquet and the Grand Tintamarre

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Been off for a little while, but getting back into the swing of things. Funny how even just a week offline can really push you back from all things blogging & tweeting.

At the Grand Tintamarre

At the Grand Tintamarre

I was away on a little road-trip to l’Île d’Orléans, Tadoussac (to see the whales, of course), and Caraquet, NB, for the August 15th Acadian celebrations. It’s the Fête nationale d’Acadie, and they know how to celebrate. Caraquet is a small town of 5,000 people in north-eastern New Brunswick on the shores of the Baie des chaleurs. It’s a beautiful spot, and the hub for Aug. 15th celebrations in the area. On a normal year, the populatin swells to some 10 to 15,000 people. With the Congrès Mondial Acadien in town this year though, 50,000 people filled the main street of Caraquet to celebrate together.

The highlight was definitely the Grand Tintamarre, which roughly translates as The Big Ruckus or Racket. It was in 1755 that thousands of Acadians were deported from their homes in the Bitish colony where Nova Scotia stands today. While thousands died or never returned, some snuck back in, to the area that is now New Brunswick; many more came back when the deportation was eventually lifted, also to settle in New Brunswick.

Since returning, Acadians vowed to never again be forgotten or dismissed, so at 6pm on August 15th they gather in their streets with pots, pans, whistles, horns, and anything else that can make noise, and make the largest ruckus you’ve probably ever heard – for an entire hour. There’s definitely no way you can ignore that noise, and even just experiencing it and the 15th of August celebrations – even once – you’ll never doubt that Acadians are there to stay.

There’s so much history there – and so little of it known outside of the area – that myself and my travel-mates, Philippe and Danielle, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to record parts for the show we co-host on CKUT, Le lendemain de la veille. The result was an hour-long special broadcast that we produced a couple weeks ago. You can listen to the final product (about and hour long) below:

PS – We also had the chance to see the awesome group 1755 in concert. A truly amazing party band – if you ever have the chance to see them live, don’t pass it up. You can hear some of their music and an interview with their fiddler in the clip above, or look them up on Youtube to get an idea of them live…

Written by Tim McSorley

August 31, 2009 at 5:08 pm