11.11: there is no glory in war

Eleven people, on war.

*  *  *  *

Imprisoned for opposing U.S. involvement in the
war in Europe, Debs ran for President from jail.
He garnered 1,000,000 votes, at a time when
the US population was 103,208,000, and
only men could vote.
These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty, eager to apply the brand of treason to the men who dare to even whisper their opposition. . . . No wonder Sam Johnson declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people. . . .

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt.

And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.

-- Eugene V. Debs, from the Canton, Ohio speech, June 16, 1918 (Speech here; context here.)

*  *  *  *

War is methodical, organized, gigantic murder.

-- Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet, 1916
Rosa Luxemburg travels into the twenty-first century like a great messenger bird, spanning continents, scanning history, to remind us that our present is not new but a continuation of a long human conflict changing only in intensity and scope. Her fiery critical intellect and ardent spirit are as vital for this time as in her own. 
-- Adrienne Rich

*  *  *  *

Mohandas Gandhi, 1869-1948
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?

-- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

This photo is from the Salt March, a pivotal moment in the history of civil disobedience.

*  *  *  *

And Göring said, "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they're being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country."

I was interested in that last line: "It works the same way in any country." I mean, here, these are the Nazis. That's the fascist regime. We are a democracy. But it works the same way in any country, whatever you call yourself. Whether you call yourself a totalitarian state or you call yourself a democracy, it works the same way, and that is, the leaders of the country are able to cajole or coerce and entice the people into war by scaring them, telling them they're in danger, and threatening them and coercing them, that if they don't go along, they will be considered unpatriotic. And this is what really happened in this country right after 9/11. And this is happened right after Bush raised the specter of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and got for a while the American people to go along with this.

But the question is, how did they get away with it? What about the press? What about the media? Isn't it the job of the press, isn't it the job of the media, isn't it the job of journalism to expose what governments do? Don't journalists learn from I.F. Stone, who said, "Just remember two words," he said to young people who were studying journalism, he said, "Just remember two words: governments lie"? . . . .

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010
And the question is, why still did the people believe what they read in the press, and why did they believe what they saw on television? And I would argue that it has something to do with a loss of history, has something to do with, well, what Studs Terkel called "national amnesia," either the forgetting of history or the learning of bad history, the learning of the kind of history that you do get, of Columbus was a hero, and Teddy Roosevelt is a hero, and Andrew Jackson is a hero, and all these guys who were presidents and generals and industrialists, and so on. They are the great -- they are the people who made America great, and America has always done good things in the world. And we have had our little problems, of course -- like slavery, for instance, you know -- but we overcome them, you know, and, you know. No, not that kind of history.

If the American people really knew history, if they learned history, if the educational institutions did their job, if the press did its job in giving people historical perspective, then a people would understand. When the President gets up before the microphone, says we must go to war for this or for that, for liberty or for democracy, or because we're in danger, and so on, if people had some history behind them, they would know how many times presidents have announced to the nation, we must go to war for this reason or that reason. They would know that President Polk said, "Oh, we must go to war against Mexico, because, well, there was an incident that took place on the border there, and our honor demands that we go to war."

They would know, if they knew some history, how President McKinley took the nation into war against Spain and Cuba, saying, "Oh, we're going in to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control." And in fact, there was a little bit of truth to that: we did go in, we fought against Spain, we got Spain out of Cuba, we liberated them from Spain, but not from ourselves. And so, Spain was out, and United Fruit was in, and then the American banks and the American corporations were in. (It goes on... you should keep reading.)

-- Howard Zinn

*  *  *  *

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

A quote from a POTUS in an approving context: this may be a first -- and an only -- for wmtc. This man had great insight: he gave us this.

*  *  *  *

I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.

Selma to Montgomery, 1965
King came to believe that the civil rights movement
and the anti-war movement were inextricable.
It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every Vietcong soldier. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of the Vietnamese people when we have not even put our own house in order. And we force young black men and young white men to fight and kill in brutal solidarity. Yet when they come back home that can’t hardly live on the same block together.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., from Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, sermon on March 31, 1968, National Cathedral in Washington, DC

*  *  *  *

Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac. . . .

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

-- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.

-- George Orwell, 1984

*  *  *  *

For his refusal to be drafted, Ali was stripped of
his heavyweight title, his boxing license, and his passport.
He had no idea if he would ever box again. 
My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No. I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

-- Muhammad Ali, 1968

*  *  *  *

I no longer feel allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despite being one myself. I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences.

-- Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Collins: I was flipping though images on reality television where these young people were competing for a million dollars, then I was seeing footage from the Iraq war, and these two things began to fuse together in a very unsettling way.

*  *  *  *

He wrote the greatest anti-war novel of all time.
But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony. Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?

-- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929

*  *  *  *

Historically, the most terrible things -- war, genocide, and slavery -- have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.

-- Howard Zinn


what i'm reading: the birth of the pill by jonathan eig

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig was a fascinating and very readable look at how oral contraceptives -- otherwise known as The Pill -- came to be.

The Pill changed the world. It was the first contraception that was nearly 100% effective, easy to use, did not interrupt or alter sex, and crucially, controlled by the woman who used it. It was also the first option to be both effective and reversible; pre-Pill, the only completely effective birth-control was sterilization. The advent of oral contraceptives, and later, the availability of safe and legal abortion, liberated millions of women from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, and in doing so, lifted millions of children out of poverty, by giving women the ability to limit the size of their families.

Eig tells the story through the lens of four people -- all iconoclasts, all rebels, and none of them saints.

Safe, effective, reversible, female-controlled, non-barrier birth control was the dream and lifelong quest of Margaret Sanger. Sanger had dual motivations. She saw the effects of unlimited conception all around her, in families forced into poverty by the burden of too many children, and above all in women who were physically and mentally exhausted from breeding, women dying from too many births or unsafe abortions. Women from around the world begged Sanger to help them.

The ill effects of too-large families was a prime motivator, but Sanger wanted more than a limit to pregnancy. She wanted women to be able to fulfill their sexual potential, by freeing sex from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, and freeing birth-control from dependence on the male partner. She wanted women to know the liberating powers of joyful, consensual sex. She wanted women to be able to enjoy sex just because they could.

Contraception and sex for pleasure: both goals put Sanger directly in the crosshairs of the government and the Catholic Church. In 1950, when Eig's story begins, it was illegal to distribute birth control, or even to share information about it, in the U.S.

Sanger was arrested more than once, and served jail time for founding the United States' first birth-control clinic, in Brooklyn in 1916. Yet for all her feminism, Sanger is a hero. She found common cause with eugenicists, and favoured sterilization of "undesirable" people, which could mean people with disabilities or brown people -- or whatever else. Eig doesn't shy away from this, or try to sugar-coat it, but he keeps it in perspective. Sanger is a hero with a dark side.

Gregory Pincus held a similar position in the scientific community -- a passionate outsider. A biologist, Pincus had been bounced out of Harvard University for his experiments in in vitro fertilization. He founded his own foundation on a shoestring, going door-to-door in Worcester, Massachusetts for tiny donations.

Pincus was a cowboy scientist, with reckless ethical standards, a flare for public relations, and an ego that wouldn't quit. Eig's portrait of Pincus is amusing and head-shaking by turns.

The third iconoclast in the rebellious quartet was Katharine McCormick, a brilliant woman with a scientific background (she was one of the first women to graduate from MIT), an unshakable feminism, and a ton of money to give away. She spent vast sums on the project, without so much as a formal grant proposal. When Pincus said he needed funds, McCormick opened her checkbook.

McCormick figures in to the one of the book's best anecdotes, which gives a nice taste of Eig's lively writing.
"...Demand [for diaphragms] far exceeded supply. Diaphragms were smuggled into the country from Canada, but still the Bureau [the birth control clinic] couldn't get enough. Katharine proposed bringing in more from Europe and developed a plan for doing it. In May 1923, she sailed across the Atlantic with eight pieces of luggage, including three large trunks. While there, she bought more large trunks, explaining that she intended to purchase many of the "latest fashions" during her trip. She met with diaphragm manufacturers, placed her orders, and had the devices shipped to her chateau. Then she hired local seamstresses to sew the diaphragms into newly purchased clothing, put the clothing on hangers, and packed the exquisite dresses and coats in tissue. Eight large trunks were loaded, sent through customs, and carried aboard the ship as Katharine sailed for home, handing out generous gratuities at every station. Katharine McCormick, aristocrat, smuggler, rebel, arrived at the clinic by taxi trailing a truck containing the most exquisitely packaged diaphragms the works had ever seen -- more than a thousand in all, enough to last the clinic a year.
The fourth pillar in this odd quartet was, to me, the least interesting, but he played a key role that no one else could have filled. John Rock, a gynecologist, was the epitome of the trusted physician -- tall, silver-haired, elegant, formal, charming. He was also a devout Catholic. Rock had deep faith, but he didn't believe the institutional Church was infallible. He believed that a woman’s health was more important than that of her fetus. He believed that sex within a marriage, not necessarily for procreation, was a good and healthy thing. He believed in the potential of science to improve lives, and that, as he put it, "religion is a very poor scientist".

Rock became the public spokesman for The Pill. He wanted to convince ordinary Catholics -- and the Catholic Church -- to embrace birth control. Rock was never able to persuade the Church, but he helped soothe public fears, and he helped The Pill get FDA approval despite massive pressure from the Vatican.

Researching a bit for this post, I noticed several reviewers took exception to Eig's storyline. One thought he glossed over Sanger's involvement in eugenics. The book definitely does not do this, but it's also not a book about Sanger or eugenics. Another writer felt Eig didn't properly expand on the changing social mores that The Pill helped bring about. I thought he made a good case for that, but again, the book isn't about the "sexual revolution" itself. It's about, as the title says, the birth of The Pill.

As that, The Birth of the Pill is an entertaining and very readable account of a hidden history that deserves to be known.


listening to joni: #11: wild things run fast

Wild Things Run Fast, 1982

Front Cover
Wild Things Run Fast feels like the beginning of a new Joni era.

Mingus ended a trajectory. After Mingus, Joni toured, and took a break from recording. From now on she would release an album every three or four years, rather than annually as she once did.

For me, Wild Things is an easy album to enjoy. It's tuneful and accessible, Joni's voice velvety over well-honed pop-jazz. With the opening notes of the first track, "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody", you know you're in familiar territory, reminiscent of Hissing and Hejira, but simplified and streamlined.

Back Cover
I wonder if this lady has a hole in her stockings.

"Chinese Cafe" laments lost youth, and the lost landmarks of youth, the paved-over paradise, not with a deep sadness, just a wistfulness, an acceptance. Joni sings to an old friend, as she did in "Song for Sharon". Careful listeners, hearing My child's a stranger, I bore her, but I could not raise her, can flash back to "Little Green" from Blue. But Joni's reunion with her daughter is still 15 years away.

Joni weaves the "Chinese Cafe" tune into the classic "Unchained Melody", but without the deep despair that song is often given by singers, more of a straightforward reading. This is in keeping with the feel of the whole album. After all, a centerpiece is "Play It Cool", with the refrain, Play it cool, play it cool, fifty-fifty, fire and ice.

In the title track, Joni touches on the love-vs-freedom conflict, this time from the perspective of "Coyote" or "Blond in the Bleachers". No sadness here either -- more of a bemused understanding: eating from her hand at last. But when it gets too cozy:
Fast tracks in the powder white
Leading out to the road
Winding from her tender grasp
Perhaps "Ladies Man" was inspired by the same dude, a man who can charm the diamonds off a rattlesnake. This is a wonderfully provocative line:
Why do you keep on trying to
Make a man of me
Couldn't you just love me
Like you love cocaine
"Moon at the Window" has the feel of a jazz standard, Joni's voice dipping and swooping into high and low registers, Wayne Shorter's soprano sax flying alongside, Joni's signature harmonies, once again her own backup singer.
Is it possible to learn
How to care and not care
Since love has two faces
Hope and despair
Inside Cover
Classic Joni lyrics, but with a cool sound, no angst here.

"This Solid Love" was and always will be about Joni's relationship with bassist and producer Larry Klein (who Joni has always called Klein). It's no small feat to write a happy, celebratory love song that isn't sappy or simplistic.
Love always made me feel so uneasy
I couldn't relax and just be me
More like some strange disease
Than this solid love
She also uses a bit of talk-singing to proclaim their love Un-believable and Hot dog darlin'.

"Underneath the Streetlight" is also a celebration of love. And the closing track is one of the most profound celebrations of love ever written: Corinthians 13. I love the cadences of the King James Bible, and am a huge fan of the poetry of Corinthians; Joni singing them is a rare treat for me. This is not a religious thing; I'm a Jewish atheist. But if you love Shakespeare, you've got to give King James a chance.

The woman whose heartweariness sang Maybe I've never really loved, I guess that is the truth, the woman who growled Love's a repetitious danger, now offers, If I didn't have love, I'd have nothing.

Wild Things Run Fast is a celebration of love in many forms.

Joni and Klein, from inside cover

Along with "Unchained Melody", there's another cover on this album, Leiber and Stoller's "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care". It's a bit of a throwaway track, but it works well with "Solid Love" and "Underneath the Streetlight".

Bad critic comment of the album

There are quite a few to choose from for this album. Although some critics praised Wild Things, most found it too simplistic, too pop, not pop enough, too unstructured, too this, too that.

Richard Cook, writing in NME, finds "nothing of consequence to remark on", pans the "distressingly simple" rock sound, and dismisses Wayne Shorter and certain production values as "a rich woman's indulgence". He damns-with-faint-praise Joni's voice, and sneers at past lyrics: "And there were always her diaries to look through, over and over."

The worst stab of the review, however, is a very low -- and ignorant -- blow: comparing Joni unfavourably to Rickie Lee Jones. Jones at the time was wearing a beret and smoking brown cigarillos, telling the music media how she wasn't influenced by Joni.

The album cover

I really like this album cover. On the front, Joni's given us another self-portrait, in a casual, jaunty pose, but with a serious or neutral expression on her face. She's leaning on a television, which is showing another of her paintings -- a herd of wild horses, running fast. In the same room, used on the back cover, are a pair of women's shoes, black heels that appear hastily kicked-off.

We get two other Joni paintings, too: one of Joni and Klein, which was a study for this painting, "Solid Love". Also on the inside cover, there's another black-and-white study, a little glimpse of Joni the painter at work, or perhaps her mind at work. There's an art book, open to a two-page spread showing Matisse's "La Danse", a wicker chair that looks straight out of Paris, paints and brushes, and a painting of the shoes shown on the back cover.

I love how so many of Joni's paintings include a frame of some type -- a picture frame, the TV, a painting in a painting.

Cacti or stockings?

I think we're done with references to cactus and stockings.

Other musicians on this album

Drums, John Guerin, Vinnie Colaiuta
Bass, Larry Klein
Electric Guitar, Steve Lukather, Larry Carlton, Mike Landau
Prophet Synth, Larry Williams
Soprano Sax, Wayne Shorter
Tenor Sax, Larry Williams
Baritone Sax, Kim Hutchcroft
Oberheim Synth, Russell Ferrante
Percussion, Victor Feldman
Background vocals, Lionel Richie, Charles Valentino, Howard Kinney, James Taylor, John Guerin, Kenny Rankin, Robert De La Garza, Skip Cottrell


bcgeu 100: six short videos about labour history in the province of bc

I love history -- the history of anything that I'm interested in. Music, baseball, science and technology, and of course, the history of people's movements. Women, peace, civil rights, LGBT -- and above all, I love labour history.

Learning about how working people organized and fought for justice in the workplace is thrilling to me, especially the ground-breakers, the pioneers, the courageous women and men who defied unjust law and immoral authority, who risked everything.

Those people are my heroes. I feel a kinship, a solidarity with these historical figures. I feel the chain of labour battles stretching out across the ages, the torch passed from their hands to ours.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era. I dream of the time when workers would "down tools" and walk out, shutting the whole factory down. I dream of general strikes, of the IWW crossing class and colour lines, of the "mill girls" of Lowell and Laurence, Massachusetts (my all-time favourite moment of labour history) -- the radical edge of movement of risk and reward.

Of course I know those were brutal and dangerous times. Coming from working-class immigrant roots as I do, I would not have had a privileged life. But I know something about how alive those activists must have felt, how passion must have infused their lives with deep meaning. The power they must have felt, however briefly. The difference they made.

My own union, the BCGEU, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. These six short, beautifully made videos describe the history of our union. I'm proud to carry its tradition.

BCGEU100 Series #1: Neither Servant Nor Civil
A strong beginning, a dip and almost death... and renewal.

BCGEU100 Series #2: From Begging to Bargaining
Things get militant. The NDP forms the BC govt,
and provincial workers win collective bargaining rights.

BCGEU100 Series #3: Defending Public Services
How we fight for public services and public good.
Plus wildcat strikes and workplace takeovers! Be still my heart.
(But a general strike was called off... to great detriment.)

BCGEU100 Series #4: Growing the Union
The union adapts and changes as times demand.
It decides to continue to represent members who have been
driven into the private sector -- and by doing so, gains diversity and strength.

BCGEU100 Series #5: Diversity and Equity in our Union
Diversity, equity, representative leadership, and equal pay.
"We still have a long way to go, but each step forward makes us stronger."

BCGEU100 Series #6: Campaigning for Justice
How we fight for justice.
Unions do more than fight for members. When unions win, we all win.

#elxn43: my (completely mundane) thoughts on the results

Since I posted my useless blather just before the recent Canadian federal election, I feel like I should weigh in on the outcome. My thoughts are not trenchant or incisive, but then, neither are the thoughts of 95 percent of the pundits out there, whether employed by CBC or writing independently on their own blog.

The NDP.  I'm sorry to see the party lose so many seats. We'll never know how much of that was attributable to racism, how much to the NDP's lack of preparation, and how much to Singh's weak performance in the House of Commons. Based on what I know of people and voting, I would say more of the first and second, and little of the third. But my completely nonscientific tiny-sample-size polling tells me many disaffected Dippers are going Green, and Jagmeet has to wear some of that.

I'm not into party politics, but I do want to have a strong choice on the left -- not just on climate change, but on all issues. I ask only two things of the NDP. One, be consistently and strongly in opposition to the Liberals and Conservatives, from a democratic socialist point of view. And two, invest resources in ridings other than the few enclaves already considered safe. This should not be an impossible dream. And yet.

Minority all the way. There was some good news in this election, for sure. I assumed we'd see a minority Liberal government, and I'm relieved that we did. I'm relieved to not have a majority government of any kind, and not a Conservative government of any kind.

Goodbye Mr. Bernier. The racist, xenophobic, radically regressive PPC did not win any seats, and Maxime Bernier is no longer an MP. Excellent news. I also support the party's right to exist and to speak freely. I'm disgusted by attempts from the left to shut the PPC out of the debate.

Hello Green voters. It's good to see the Greens gain ground, even though they are not my party of choice. I want to see more people vote for more parties that are not Liberal or Conservative.

Welcome back, Bloc. I also think the resurgence of the Bloc is healthy for democracy (although bad for the NDP). When I listen to the Bloc leader in translation -- not just now, but throughout my time in Canada -- I always admire them. With one important exception, of course: their racism and Islamophobia, hardly disguised by the label "secularism". I'd love to see the NDP represent democratic socialism as clearly and strongly as the Bloc Quebecois represents its constituents.

Electoral. Reform. Now. When I look at the colour chart and look at the popular vote, I have a renewed resolve to work on electoral reform in some way. I don't know what I can do, beyond supporting Fair Vote Canada, but there must be something.

We moved to BC in the middle of a referendum on election reform, and weren't eligible to vote in it. Now I've seen two referenda of this kind, one in Ontario and one in BC. Both were massive campaigns, and both failed. I believe we should keep trying. Huge electoral change won't happen overnight. We must keep working for this. But how?

Thank you, Vancouver Island. And finally, I am grateful for the good people of Vancouver Island, where we remain staunchly orange with a touch of green.


#elxn43: the choice is clear, as always: progressives who vote liberal are not progressive at all

Jagmeet Singh marching with striking hotel workers
in Vancouver.
For weeks now, I've ignored all commentary and punditry about the upcoming Canadian federal election. I feel that literally no one has anything new or interesting thing to say.

I ignored polls for weeks, too, knowing that they are pretty much proven to be bullshit every time out. But a few days ago, I caved, and now anxiously check seat projections daily, as if they mean anything -- but knowing they do not.

It's all beyond predictable.

Calls for us to vote so-called strategically, casting blame and shame on anyone who wants something different. Dire warnings about so-called vote splitting -- the term itself worthy of derision, as if Liberal and NDP voters all want the same thing, as if the parties are actually the same. As if we're somehow divvying up the votes, as opposed to, you know, voting. Perhaps we should talk about vote-splitting between the Tories and the Liberals.

In BC, where everyone hates the Liberals, the Conservatives are scaremongering about the NDP. In all provinces, the Liberals are scaremongering about the Conservatives, while they peddle their false centrism.

And so many people spending their precious, measly little vote by trying to predict what other people will do! So many people not voting for what they want, and instead falling for the biggest self-fulfilling scam of them all.

Our awesome MP
I don't know if we're about to see a Liberal minority or a Conservative minority. And although I don't want Andrew Scheer to become Prime Minister, I cannot and will not vote for the pipeline-buying, corporate-loving, environment-killing, indigenous-hating, lying, duplicitous, unprincipled Trudeau Liberals.

Most right-thinking Canadians don't want Canada to mimic the United States. Yet they continue to believe that there are only two parties worthy of their vote, rather than building a movement for something better.

Not this voter. Not now, not ever.


"at your library" in the north island eagle: awil'gola open house: celebrate first nations communities at the library

On Thursday, October 24, the Port Hardy Library will host Awil'gola Open House, a celebration of local Indigenous cultures.

Awil'gola is a Kwak'wala word loosely translated as "in celebration", "being with one another", or "all being together". We will be celebrating beautiful new Cultural Literacy Kits focusing on the Kwakwaka'wakw, the Kwak'wala-speaking peoples.

At the Awil'gola Open House, we'll unveil and launch these new kits. Members of the Kwakiutl Nation will demonstrate button-blanket making and cedar weaving, and students from the Gwa'sala-Nakwaxda'dw School will perform traditional drumming and dancing. There will be refreshments and prize draws – 10 children will each win a Kwak'wala-themed colouring book.

Cultural Literacy Kits are a learning experience in a box. Along with books, they may contain DVDs, CDs, or learning games and puzzles. Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has many Cultural Literacy Kits in our collection, celebrating languages and cultures from around the world, all of which have helped shape Canada, and who continue to contribute to our multicultural world.

These new Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kits have an interesting history. In recent years, VIRL has been proud to participate in reconciliation, through programs like Read for Reconciliation and the Indigenous Voices series.

In Port Hardy, we reached out to members of the Indigenous community, especially those involved in literacy and education. We asked how we could better serve these communities, and we got together to discuss the possibilities.

VIRL already had two Kwak'wala kits. The local group thought they were great, and recommended ways we could make them even better.

VIRL was excited about the possibilities. It was decided not only to update the materials in the kit, but to increase the number of kits from two to nine. We consulted with educators and publishers to choose books, puzzles, puppets, and other materials. The new kits celebrate the history, strength, and resiliency of the Kwak'waka'kw. It also walks the path of reconciliation, teaching about the Residential School System, the trauma it caused, and the healing that continues.

Each Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kit features a selection of relevant books, a puppet, a wooden puzzle, and an educational card game, plus a colouring book, a CD of traditional music, and a DVD of "Potlatch – To Give", a movie by the celebrated Indigenous filmmaker Barbara Cranmer.

The U'mista Cultural Centre generously donated copies of the Kwak'wala-language edition of Love You Forever, by Canadian children's author Robert Munsch.

I hope that families from all backgrounds will borrow a Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kit to learn and explore. And I hope you'll join us for the Awil'gola Open House – all celebrating together.


"at your library" in the north island eagle: computer help in port alice, woss... and everywhere

These days, basic computer skills are as essential as knowing how to boil water. Whether it's sending an email, using Skype to chat with a grandchild, or taking care of banking, computers have great potential to make our lives easier. Sometimes, computer use is a necessity. When the residents of Port Alice learned that their bank branch was closing, many people realized they should learn how to bank online.

But how are we expected to acquire these skills? Despite what you may hear, no one is born knowing how to use a computer. If you're already an adult, finished with school, and perhaps retired, who is going to teach you?

The public library, that's who.

The Port Alice branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) is offering a special opportunity for computer education. Working with the Mt. Waddington Health Network, Mt. Waddington Community Futures, and the Village of Port Alice, the Library is holding free computer learning sessions for adults.

Adults who register in advance will work on either a desktop or laptop computer, or a tablet, and get hands-on instruction from our Community Support Technician. We'll focus on whatever that individual wants to learn. For some people, that will mean setting up an email account to stay in touch with family. For others, online banking is the most pressing concern. Someone else may want to write a letter using a basic word-processing program.

Each person will set their own goals and learn at their own pace. Learning can be stressful, but we try to make it as stress-free and fun as possible. Remember, at the Library, there are no stupid questions. Ask, ask, ask.

These computer learning sessions take place in the Port Alice Community Centre. The Village of Port Alice has generously allowed us to use the space at no cost. We're using the Community Centre's computers, plus more laptops and tablets supplied by VIRL. The good folks at Community Futures are handling the registration. And thanks to the Health Network, we're all moving together in the same direction.

If you live in Port Alice and feel that you would benefit from some computer learning, get in touch! The Port Alice Library can give you all the information. We're beginning a similar program in Woss, too, at the town's Community Hall. Ask at the library and we'll get you started.

If you already have some computer skills and you want to learn more – or you can't make it to any of the classes -- the Library can help in two different ways.

First: books. Some people learn best by reading. VIRL has dozens of titles that can help you learn more about using a computer. There's even a whole series of books written specifically for seniors. Check out the catalog at virl.bc.ca > learn > learn computers or ask any of our friendly and knowledgeable staff.

If you're more of a visual learner, try Lynda.com. Lynda contains hundreds of instructional videos taught by professionals and experts. You can work at your own pace and build up to more advanced skills as you go along. Like everything in our Library, it's free to use with your library card. You find it in the same place: virl.bc.ca > learn > learn computers, then scroll down for Lynda.com.

Have fun and good luck!