refuse and resist

Two heartbreaking and inspiring views on the war in Iraq.

From the National Catholic Reporter, "What the Rest of the World Watched on Inauguration Day," by Sister Joan Chittister. I'm sure you saw the photo. I liked Sister Joan's description of Dublin commuters confronting their morning papers.

And on the growing war number of soldiers who are refusing to fight this immoral war, "'They Can't Throw Us All In Jail'", by Geov Parrish.

I am very attracted to these stories of dissenting servicepeople. I feel called to help. I have no idea yet what I'll do, but I have a feeling an opportunity will present itself.

bloomberg's boondoggle

A little closer to home, Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks our financially strapped city - where ancient subway signals are spontaneously combusting and neighborhood activists are chaining themselves to firehouse doors - should increase the net worth of his billionaire friend Robert Wood Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets.

New York doesn't need this stadium. It doesn't want this stadium. And the stadium plan itself is laughable. Who in their right mind would build a 75,000-seat football stadium without parking facilities?

No city in America has ever made money from building a stadium. People get rich all right, but it ain't us.

Bob Herbert recently wrote a nice screed against this insanity, in which he says:
To take the public's money, which should be used for schoolkids, for subway riders, for hospital patients - for any number of projects that might truly serve the public's interest - and hand it over to a billionaire who will use it as seed money to further his already fabulous interests is obscene.

I presume there will be naming rights for Woody's wonderful new playground. I can see the sign now: Bloomberg's Boondoggle.
For the 411 on stadium-building schemes in general, go to the source. Neil deMause will explain it all to you. His book Field of Schemes is essential reading, and not just for intelligent sports fans. Anyone interested in city planning issues should read it, too.

tribute to henry morgentaler

Continuing the abortion-rights theme here at wmtc, yesterday, January 28, was the 17th anniversary of the Morgentaler Decision. That decision by the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized abortion and effectively ended legal restrictions to abortion in Canada.

In 1969, in defiance of the law, Dr Henry Morgentaler opened Canada's first freestanding abortion clinic. After a series of trials where Quebec juries refused to convict him, Dr Morgentaler served time in prison. It won't surprise you to learn I admire people with that kind of courage and commitment. Like every movement for social change, this was a long, circuitous battle, culminating in the 1988 Supreme Court decision.

Thanks to ALPF, today I read about Dr Morgentaler's work and life (and about the Canadian reproductive rights movement). Morgentaler is also a survivor of the Nazi slave-labor camp in Dachau. He is still a leader in the struggle for equality and access to reproductive-related medical care; you can read something about his current work at his clinics' website.

Canadian women still face barriers to full reproductive freedom. I'm aware of some of these because Haven regularly helps women from Canada, mainly from Quebec, who take the bus to New York City for their procedures.

There are great differences among the provinces when it comes to abortion access and funding, which, I read, violates the Canada Health Act, which calls for insured medical services to be universal, accessible, portable, and comprehensive. From CARAL, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League:
Because different provinces and territories have different policies on funding abortions at hospitals and private clinics, women, particularly those who are poor and/or young, have limited access to the service. Too often, abortion-related costs, including travel, accommodation and sometimes child care, or simply the delays required by travel, prevent women from having this medical procedure.

Women in Atlantic Canada, as well as remote and rural areas throughout the country, are particularly hard hit. For example, in Prince Edward Island, the government refuses to provide abortion services at all six Island hospitals, forcing the 200 women who seek abortions each year to leave the province for the service. The minimum cost of the procedure is $450, and associated costs for travel and child care can easily push this to $600 or more. Labrador and Cape Breton also have no abortion services, and there is only limited access in Newfoundland.
The article goes on to detail the restrictions province by province. Another comprehensive article, which I'll be bookmarking and reading thoroughly, is here. It also gives some interesting details about Morgentaler's legal battle.

Canada is still miles ahead of the US on this issue, by virtue of having national health insurance, and not being controlled by religious zealots. But I see there is still work to be done, so maybe I can put my experience to use north of the border as well.


join the purple ocean

You may know that Wal-mart has launched a multi-million dollar advertising blitz to counter its well-deserved image as an enemy of the people. The company bought hundreds of TV and newspaper ads to spread its propaganda and defend its indefensable policies.

Purple Ocean, the political arm of the Service Employees Union (SEIU), is fighting back with a different sort of weapon. Through a grassroots, hand-to-hand campaign, people who care about workers, the environment and community life will help spread the facts about Wal-mart.

I encourage you to read the facts and invite your friends to read them, too. You can track who has accepted your invitation on an animated map that follows your fact sheet as it spreads across the country. Check it out here. I think it's an excellent opportunity to put the old activist's axiom in motion: each one, reach one.

The smart folks at the SEIU have also linked the campaign to a contest. From the original email:
Start the chain by passing on the facts, then see how from day to day, your individual influence spreads the word. If you're one of the first 25 people whose chain grows to 200, then you'll receive $1,000 towards your health insurance expenses—or, if you already have health insurance, we'll put it into a fund that will help provide health insurance for Wal-Mart workers who can't afford it. (The official rules are online at http://www.purpleocean.org/walmart/officialrules)
In launching their campaign, Wal-Mart's CEO H. Lee Scott recently said that he was tired of the criticism of the world's largest retailer - tired of the criticism about its poor pay, bad benefits, sexual discrimination, and poor working conditions. He said he was "tired of being nibbled to death by guppies." Let the nibbling begin!

diamond dreams

I woke up this morning thinking about baseball. Spring training is just around the corner!

quotes of the day

Second-term drinking game for ya: You chug a beer every time you hear the phrase "a contentious but futile protest vote by the Democrats". By the time Jeb Bush is elected, you'll be too wasted to notice the war in Syria.

Jon Stewart, on Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State

Can’t you see? You're not making Christianity better, you're making rock and roll worse!

Hank Hill, on Christian rockers

Do Canadian readers know Hank Hill?

Also, some LOTD from ALPF:

"U.S. Christian right leader urges Canadians to oppose same-sex marriage." Is Dobson really a Christian right "leader"? Or just a wacko with a great publicist?

A very smart man in Pakistan says: "George Bush is a very simple, very violent person with very extreme views, as well as being very much an ignoramus. This is a very dangerous combination."

And finally, why "they hate us". Hint: it ain't because we love freedom. A Saudi Arabian op-ed on Jihad, American Style.

It is very cold in New York. I'm just saying.


canada is so sane

In this wrap-up about the respective states of same-sex marriage in Canada and the US, I liked this bit:
Indeed, many Canadians have come to regard same-sex marriage as an affirmation of secular values that bind their diverse nation. Acceptance of minorities and respect for individuals' rights are paramount in national politics, even if they clash with moral and religious beliefs.
A Canadian woman is quoted as saying, "I think people will look back and feel bewildered that there was even an issue at all." I agree. One day the same-sex exclusion will seem as bizarre as "whites only" drinking fountains seem today.

The article also notes that the opposition backlash in Canada is getting a substantial helping hand from the American religious right. Not content to meddle in their own national affairs, they cross borders to spread their bigoted, exclusionary, pseudo-morality.

Thanks again to ALPF, scouring the web so we don't have to.


another 31 lives wasted

This was the single deadliest day for American forces in Iraq. Thirty-one human beings. Thirty-one people who presumably believed they were serving their country, and whose leaders utterly betrayed their trust.

Resist Fascism pays tribute to all the Americans who have died over there; you can follow it here, here, here, here and continued on.

This whole blog is excellent and well worth bookmarking. I share Resistance's rage and pain, and her/his call to resistance. Thank you for being a voice for peace and democracy.

what i won't miss

The MTA. That's Metropolitan Transit Authority. They suck. They so suck.

On Sunday night, a fire crippled a signaling system on a major subway line, causing a horrendous commute for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. This happens to be our main subway line. Working from home on Monday, I was blissfully unaware of the havoc raging all over the city, as an entire line went out of service, causing stranded commuters to jam onto already-crowded alternate lines.

On Tuesday morning, we awoke to the shocking news that the MTA estimates it will take three to five years to fix the signals. Three to five years?? That's longer that it took to build an entire subway line! How could it take that long to fix anything? What are people supposed to do in the meantime? And what about the ridiculous span of that estimate - they can't get any closer than a two-year difference?

We went out last night and took our "alternate line" home. It was disgustingly overcrowded at 11:30 p.m. I can't imagine what it looked like at rush hour. Yoo-hoo uptown folks, your already inhuman commute just got a little more inhumane.

But hey, who cares about us. We're not tourists. We're not the Olympics or a new sports stadium. We're not a corporation threatening to leave the city. And if you don't fall under one of those categories, the City says fuck you. You don't count. You only live here. Pay taxes. Keep this city alive on a daily basis. You are only the heart and soul of this city, why should we give a fuck about you. (OK, this is not the MTA. This is New York City under Giuliani and Bloomberg. And Koch. And...)

Now, guess what? This morning we are greeted with an about-face. Oh, did we say three to five years? We meant six to nine months. Sorry about that. And now we're supposed to be relieved. Like when they say they're raising the fare to $2.75, you're supposed to happy when it only goes up to $2.00. Try selling that to the tourists.

* * * *

From the New York Times this morning (emphasis added):
The new time frame for repairs will still mean months of confusion and inconvenience on two lines that have an average weekday ridership of 580,000, and hardly diminishes how the fire underscored the vulnerability of a signaling system based on electromechanical switches that were first developed in the 1870's.

Several former transit officials said yesterday that the agency has repeatedly acknowledged over the past 20 years that the signaling system was obsolete or unreliable, but nonetheless chose to devote the vast majority of its limited capital funds to other projects. Reports after two fatal crashes, in 1991 and 1995, recommended improvements in the signal system, though neither blamed the system for the deaths.
That would be luxurious new offices for MTA officials, inane, condescending ads telling subway riders how to behave, and American flag decals for all the trains.

These stories from the Daily News capture the mood around town. We are pissed.

they talk about us around the globe

ALPF (thank you!) has sent this interesting, though amusing, story from India, about Americans "ready to trade in their stars and stripes for the red and white maple-leaf flag". It says we fear that "America seems to be drifting towards conservatism away from liberal, progressive ideas". Say it ain't so!


we get a bad rap

Public hearings on the proposed ban of pit bull dogs in the province of Ontario began yesterday. Mothers of two children who were attacked by dogs testified.

One woman spoke in favor of the breed-specific legislation, but the mother of a child who was killed by a dog opposes the ban. I liken this to people who have had a loved one murdered and still oppose the death penalty, something I tremendously respect and admire.

Two things to note. One, contrary to what you may have heard, Ontario has not yet banned pit-bulls. It is still illegal for a landlord to deny residence on the basis of dog ownership, regardless of breed (though it might be very difficult to enforce).

Two, breed-specific legislation does not work. It simply does not reduce the incidents of attacks. For very good information on breed-specific legislation, and on pit bulls in general, see the good folks at BAD RAP, Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls. Click here for wonderful bully-boy photos.

what i'm watching: robert greenwald

If you haven't seen Robert Greenwald's DVD documentaries, you're missing some thought-provoking stuff. We've been working our way through them slowly, with lots of movies in between. Seeing them all at once could be hazardous to your mental health, or at least your blood pressure. I'm referring to "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election," and "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism".

We saw "Uncovered" last night. Former CIA, Pentagon, Military and Foreign Service officials systematically prove how BushCo mislead the public into the war. No left-wing conspiracy crazies needed; conservative, establishment white men (and the occasional woman) make the case themselves.

It's interesting to note how, in the run-up to the war, bringing democracy to Iraq was never mentioned. Now it's as if the search for WMDs never existed. We have always been at war with Eastasia...

everyone's got an opinion

Even people who don't know what they're talking about! My anonymous link-posting friend (ALPF?) sent me this. It's occasionally amusing, in a look-at-these-losers kind of way.

ALPF also sent this article illustrating the administration's utter inability to be anything but overbearing and dictating in its relations with other countries. A CBC story called "Bush Pressured Martin Over Missile Plan," refers to a Washington Post report:
The newspaper cites a "top Canadian official who attended the meeting between Bush and Martin" as saying Bush brought up the subject on Nov. 30 despite assurances that he wouldn't do so from Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

The official said Bush "leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, "Why are we paying to defend Canada?"'"

The White House is not commenting on the Washington Post report, which appeared Sunday. [ed: What a surprise!]

The source characterized Bush's approach as a lecture about Canada's duty to join the Ballistic Missile Defence program, which is designed to identify incoming weapons aimed at North America and shoot them down before they can hit their targets.

The U.S. president told Martin he couldn't understand why anyone in Canada would oppose the program.
Maybe because it's a complete waste of money? Or because they have no interest in enriching the US military industry? Because they have brains??


repeating myself

I turned my Roe v Wade day post into an article, and it now appears on CommonDreams.org. Or, if you're finding this later and it no longer appears on the front page, go here.

Apologies to loyal readers who are also on my email list. This must be getting boring!

playing to an empty house

Times Square, at night, completely empty. Imagine that. The neon billboards are flashing, the lights are whirling, yet only one or two people are hurrying by, hands in pockets, hunched against the cold. I saw this last night.

After my shift at the law firm, I am entitled to go home by car service, paid for by the company. That's pretty much standard for night support jobs at big companies in New York City. Let me tell you, after my 12-hour day, it is a nice perk.

But this weekend, the roads were dicey, I couldn't be sure if my street was plowed, and car services were as rare as atheists in the White House. Time to take the subway. I could have gotten a train right under the building where I work, but I decided to walk cross-town and take a different train, to avoid transferring (i.e., waiting) between train lines.

It was cold! (Yes, I know it is colder in Canada. Please do not write to tell me so.) The streets were almost empty. Some cross-streets were closed and had enormous piles of snow in the middle, with plows continuing to add to the small mountain. Three kids were climbing a pile, and a few people were taking their pictures.

And Times Square was utterly deserted, the tourists all gone, New Yorkers having no use for it on a freezing Sunday night.


the definition of fanaticism

I am amazed at how many people who opposed the US invasion of Iraq now believe that the US "cannot just pull out" of the war. These are not wingnuts. They are generally intelligent, good-hearted people. Yet they insist on this illogical non-reasoning: it was wrong to go there in the first place, but now that we're there, we have to stay.

This view ignores a near-certainty: the US will have to pull out eventually anyway. The "insurgency" will not be crushed. People fighting against an occupation are endlessly motivated and resourceful. Combine that with a willingness to die for their cause and you have a recipe for endless war.

Richard Nixon said, "I will not be the first American president to lose a war." Then Americans were airlifted off a roof in Saigon. 58,000 Americans and half a million Vietnamese died before it was over. Who knows how many were permanently maimed, physically and emotionally. What will the final tally be this time? This much we know: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld won't lose a wink of sleep over it.

In his recent piece in the Miami Herald, Howard Zinn says, "The definition of fanaticism is that when you discover that you are going in the wrong direction, you redouble your speed."

Zinn offers some historical examples and suggests a next step.

keep off the bandwagon

Linda McQuaig, a Canadian author, warns her country of the danger of cozying up to the W clan:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's dogged loyalty to Bush over Iraq has won him little more than the nickname "Poodle." Blair's loyalty didn't even protect British steel exports from punishing U.S. tariffs. Bush's only concession to Blair seems to be the repatriation of British prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Perhaps in the ghastly Bush era, this is the only concession a country can hope to win from the U.S. — a torture reprieve for its citizens.

In his inaugural address, Bush hinted he plans to attack Iran as soon as possible. This sort of lawlessness is offensive to Canadians and others. But, while no country can stop — or even influence — the Bush administration, it's important to steer clear of its bandwagon.

With scary times ahead, keeping a cool head and staying true to our values should be the goal — not trying to find a comfy but worthless niche inside the Republican tent.
The column is reprinted on Common Dreams.

the definition of courage

Support Operation Truth. I admire these men so much. Let's do what we can to help their voices be heard.

Here's a partial list of other veteran groups opposing the war.

what i'm reading: seymour hersh, buster olney

I finally finished Reading Lolita In Tehran, and can now concentrate on Chain Of Command. Because I expect the Seymour Hersh book to be difficult emotionally, I'm going to read The Last Night Of The Yankee Dynasty, by Buster Olney, at the same time.

Olney was The New York Times Yankees beat reporter during the years that I followed the team obsessively (as opposed to just constantly): 1996 through 2002. He's an excellent writer, and not a Yankee fan by birth or nature, so he tends to be more objective than other New York sportswriters. In the depths of winter, with single-digit temperatures and a foot of snow on the ground, it's definitely time to read about baseball.

Reading Lolita In Tehran was disappointing. I liked about half of it. Reading about the everyday lives of women living under a totalitarian regime - this particular one of the pseudo-religious variety - is very eye-opening. But the conceit that distinguishes this book from ordinary memoirs - the literary analysis Nafisi weaves in - didn't work for me. She's supposedly making connections between her life and the fiction she reveres, but I didn't get it.

Also, much of the literary criticism is incomprehensible if you haven't read the books. I've read some of them, but umpteen years ago, in college, and some I don't know at all. The book is on the Times's best seller list, and I wonder how casual readers understand this part. On the other hand, if Lolita In Tehran moves people to read Nabokov, Henry James, Saul Bellow and Jane Austen, then Nafisi is a genius.

Speaking of which, I noticed that Devil In The White City, which I mentioned in this "what i'm reading" post, is also on the paperback best seller list. This is probably the first time two books I've read are on that list at the same time; my reading tastes don't usually coincide with popularity. It's great to see well-written, substantial books are being read by that many people.

Heaven will wait. I was so excited when Handheld Evangelist emailed me a story about the digital collection at the New York Public Library. You can check out e-books online, from any computer. When they are due, the file will no longer open! Brilliant!

The idea of being able to check out books from home really jazzed me, since my goal in life is to do every errand from my computer. (I'm making good progress.) I sat down with my book list, ready to download a few titles, and found... nothing. Not one book from my very extensive to-read list was available digitally through the NYPL. Chain of Command is on the iPAQ, but I'll be reading Buster Olney the old-fashioned way.

exodus, or not

Dr Marco, who writes this very interesting blog, says:
I did a search in Google and was astonished by the amount of information and the number of people who want to go to Canada from the US. If things go the way they are going it might become a significant trend. Canada will really benefit from the arrival of the smartest American minds. I am worried about America.
I would be very interested to see how many people actually go. Of the many thousands who look for information, or who say, "It's time to move to Canada!" (the way we always used to), how many will actually plunk down a couple thousand dollars, fill out a big stack of forms, get all the documents together - go through the whole long process, with all the waiting - and make the commitment to leave.

I'm not worried about the US in terms of smart, forward-thinking people leaving. I think most are in "stay and fight" mode. Many consider leaving, but most won't go through with it. That's my sense of it, anyway. We won't know the answer for another year or so.

Of course I'm incredibly worried about the US for other reasons. But we know that already.


"was anyone ever so young?"

I am a writer and reader of personal essays. I've had a few published, and written many more that remain read only by me and a close friend or two.

My all-time favorite personal essay is "Goodbye To All That," by Joan Didion. It perfectly captures the feeling of looking back at youth - not simple nostalgia, but a kind of awe and sadness at our former selves. It is also a bittersweet love song to New York, written by a former New Yorker, who knows she can never recapture the wonder she once felt, but who remembers that wonder so clearly.
And then one morning in April (we had been married in January) he called and told me that he wanted to get out of New York for a while, that he would take a six-month leave of absence, that we would go somewhere.

It was three years ago he told me that, and we have lived in Los Angeles since. Many of the people we knew in New York think this a curious aberration, and in fact tell us so. There is no possible, no adequate answer to that, and so we give certain stock answers, the answers everyone gives. I talk about how difficult it would be for us to "afford" to live in New York right now, about how much "space" we need. All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.
I found the whole essay online. Treat yourself to a lovely read.

get educated

If you haven't been to this site, please GO. If you have a blog, you can post a "There Is No Crisis" banner; scroll down to see it.

roe day

Thirty-two years ago today, American women gained greater control over their bodies - and therefore, over their lives - when Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, became the law of the land.

The choice community celebrates the Roe anniversary as a kind of emancipation day, but it is unlikely we will see too many more of those celebrations. Roe will almost certainly be reversed soon. Abortion will be legal in some states and not others. State laws will vary widely in the circumstances under which a pregnancy may be terminated - as is now the case, only more so.

However, those of us involved in abortion access know that for millions of American women, Roe is already irrelevant.

Money. For a few years after the Roe decision, Medicaid paid for abortions; anyone could get an abortion regardless of her age or ability to pay. Only four years later, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which banned payment for abortions unless the woman's life was endangered. (In 1993, after much struggle, those exceptions were broadened to include cases of rape and incest.)

In most states, Medicaid rarely covers abortion. Yet the cost of a first-trimester abortion can be more than a family on public assistance receives in a month. In our Wal-Mart economy, many working women can't afford a procedure.

Low-income women and girls delay termination as they try to scrape together the money they need. These delays often force them to have second-trimester procedures, which are more complicated medically, more risky - and much more expensive. It is not uncommon for women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term because they cannot afford a simple medical procedure.

Laws. Then there are the other obstacles. With the Webster (1989) and Casey (1992) decisions, the Supreme Court upheld states' rights to restrict access to abortion in myriad ways. Women must jump through hoops and over hurdles before they can terminate a pregnancy. These laws run the gamut of idiocy, from 48-hour waiting periods, to parental consent and notification for minors, to mandatory "counseling," which often involves coercion.

These laws assume women are incompetent, irresponsible, and unable to make their own decisions. They also expose the anti-choice "abortion is murder" argument for the smokescreen that it is. If abortion was murder, these types of laws would be anathema to the anti-choice crowd: what good is delaying murder? However, if one's goal is to control women and punish them for having sex and getting pregnant, then these laws make perfect sense.

But wait, there's more.

Availability. In addition to the financial and legal obstacles, there is one last, often insurmountable obstacle: availability.

Because of anti-choice terrorism and political action, thousands of doctors have stopped providing abortions and thousands of towns have stopped leasing space to abortion providers. Right now, nearly 80% of American women live in a county with no abortion provider. Obtaining an abortion often means traveling long distances, which in turn means finding child care and transportation, and even more funds. Imagine if the state also has a mandatory waiting period, so the entire trip has to be made twice. A baby should not be born because a woman could not afford the price of a bus ticket or had no one to watch her children.

When Roe is overturned, I will mourn. But in a very real sense, Roe is already history and has been for a long time. Without access, legal abortion is meaningless.

For more information, and how you can help:

To make a donation that is only used to help a low-income woman obtain an abortion, and to read about the financial obstacles, visit National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF).

To learn more about the political side of this issue, or to make a donation to help organizing efforts, try these excellent organizations:
NARAL Pro-Choice America
the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

To learn more about reproductive rights, which includes access to sex education, family planning and contraception, you can't do better than the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

And to read about one grassroots effort to help women exercise their human, civil and legal right to control their bodies, check out these stories about the Haven Coalition of New York City (she says proudly):

"Shelter From The Storm", by Lynn Harris, from Salon (Salon.com free day pass needed)

"Emergency Landing", by Jennifer Block, from the Village Voice

"East Village Mameles Marching For Choice" by Marjorie Ingall, originally published in The Forward


Please note: this blog is not intended as a forum to discuss the morality of abortion.


do the math

Let's chip in and buy Condi a calculator. Maureen Dowd thinks the new Secretary of State needs some help with her math:
Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, has been pilloried for suggesting that women may be biologically unsuited to succeed at mathematics.

He may have a point.

Just look at Condoleezza Rice.

She's clearly a well-educated, intelligent woman, versed in Brahms and the Bolsheviks, who has just been rewarded for her loyalty with the most plum assignment in the second Bush cabinet.

Yet her math skills are woefully inadequate.

She can't do simple equations. She doesn't even know that X times zero equals zero. If you multiply 1,370 dead soldiers times zero weapons of mass destruction, that equals zero achievement for Ms. Rice, who helped the president and vice president bamboozle the country into war.
Read the rest here.

sarcasm from a very red state

An anonymous reader (thank you!) sent me two articles, both from Arizona.

Here a sarcastic law student asks:
OK, be honest: How many of you actually moved to Canada following the results of the presidential election? If you haven't yet, there is only one day left to pack your belongings and ship out because after today, you will have implicitly agreed to live another four years under the current administration. Two and a half months since Nov. 2 is enough time to exercise conscientious objection; after that, you're just moving. After all, shouldn't liberals try to overcome accusations of being indecisive this year?
Perhaps they don't teach you this in law school in Arizona, but journalists are supposed to investigate subjects before they write about them. One cannot just pack up and move to Canada, and no one who applied to emigrate after the election could have been accepted yet.

The writer doesn't examine why Canada might be preferred to the US. She only says, "It's tempting to romanticize our neighbors to the north and ironically to see the grass as greener even though most of the ground is covered in permafrost. But, we know better so we stay here."

We know better? It would be nice if she gave, say, one example to illustrate her point. But of course, that would require doing some work.

In a real Arizona newspaper, a writer looks at the numbers of Americans inquiring or applying to live in Canada and talks to a few people on various sides of the issues. (Ms Wang, are you getting this?) Still, she can't stay away from terms like "disgruntled liberals," "bellyaching Yankees" (hey! Redsock resents that!) and ends with the old tired quote from someone who is "happy to help them pack". I can't wait til this gang of neocons shows up at my door with bubble-wrap and twine! Do I have to pay them? Is minimum wage OK, or since that's a liberal scam, would fifty cents an hour do?

It's not a bad story. But someone should tell Barbara Yost that "disgruntled liberals" don't move to Canada. Anyone willing to uproot their life like this is way left of liberal and way beyond disgruntled. Heartbroken, more like.


a minor nation borne of compromise

Discussing our respective Constitutions, Rob says:
I think one big difference between Canadians and Americans is that we lack sentimentality about ourselves and our country. That is reflected in our constitution. It is essentially a legal document. It would be nice to have stirring language and a vision for the ages, but quite frankly, if we did that, most Canadians would find it silly and pretentious. We just don't take ourselves very seriously. We are a minor nation borne of compromise and surely destined to fail at some future date, so we just try to muddle through and make the best of the hand we were dealt.
Do you have any idea how comforting that sounds?? What a relief it will be to live in such a place.

And now I must get to work! So long for now.

we are not alone

Not that we thought we were. A reader sent this story from The Independent.

These articles always focus on people moving to Canada (or claiming they will) after the election. Our application was signed, sealed and delivered six months before I cast my vote.

new zealand was my second choice

A reader writes:
I just found your blog, and can quite understand why you're moving to Canada. I'm in Australia and would love to move to New Zealand except I have ageing parents to look after here. My reasons are the same as yours. We have a moron Prime Minister who follows the bush like a puppy on a leash, and most of the population don't seem to care about anything.

Martin Luther King was a hero and an inspiration.
New Zealand sounds like a wonderful place to live. We know people there and I would seriously consider moving there one day. Now, however, it's not possible for reasons similar to Linda's - it's too far from family.

I didn't know that the Australian PM was a poodle along the Blair model. Interesting.

Re King, I get annoyed at the way the word "hero" is used these days. Most people popularly called heroes are either victims (who either survived or did not by chance), or just rich and famous. King, however, deserves the label. The more you learn about his life and work, the more you'll know this to be true.

we are the ones we are waiting for

More from Jon Stewart. Two nights ago (I watched the re-run last night), his guest was Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners, the magazine of Christian justice and peace.

Wallis is funny and biting, noting his surprise that Jesus would be so interested in dropping bombs, sending kids off to war or preventing people who love each other from getting married. He also spoke adamantly that morals and values can guide all people, be they of any religion or of no religion.

Wallis's new book is God's Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. He feels the next great movement in the US will arise from progressive evangelicals who are fed up with the twisted, one-sided representation of Christianity being foisted on us by the religious right.

He told a story of an organizer who said she's tired of hearing how we need another Martin Luther King, how we're waiting for great leadership to move us forward. She said, "We are the people we are waiting for."

the democrats' new slogan

Riffing on the Condoleezza Rice confirmation hearings last night, Jon Stewart outdid himself. John Kerry - who, with Barbara Boxer, was one of only two Senators to vote against Rice - noted that the confirmation was a done deal. Stewart added, "...launching the Democrats' new slogan: A moment of resistance, a lifetime of capitulation."

I swear it's the best thing he's ever said!

some criminals are having themselves a party

From yesterday's New York Times, letters to the editor:

To the Editor:

Re "Laura Bush Defends Gala in Time of War and Disaster" (news article, Jan. 15):

While I agree with the first lady's assertion that "there's a symbolic aspect of the inauguration that ... you never want to - for any reason - cancel it," I think that she and the president are missing the real point.

It's not the inauguration that people are shaking their heads at. It's the fact that while this administration asks so much of our citizens, it is unwilling or unable to demonstrate any moral leadership during this time of war and natural disasters.

How refreshing it would be to see a scaled-back inauguration, with a significant portion of the money raised for the celebrations going to charities that desperately need additional funds. Such an action would, at the least, indicate that the president and his friends were aware that we are living in difficult times.

We, the people, are being asked to be patriotic, support our troops and increase our charitable contributions, while our leaders are being asked ... to party. That's the issue.

Jacqueline F. Dorfman

New York, Jan. 15, 2005

To the Editor:

Re "The Sophomore Slump," by Ronald C. White Jr. (Op-Ed, Jan. 15): If President Bush wants to make his second Inaugural Address historic, I have some simple advice: Include the phrases "I was wrong," "we miscalculated," and "I'm sorry."

Robert J. Inlow

Charlottesville, Va., Jan. 15, 2005
We constantly hear how this party's 40-million-dollar tab is being picked up by "private contributions". We're supposed to be happy that we're not paying for it. But private contributions means industry and corporations. They expect much in return, and we can be sure they'll get it.

out of darkness

This week, Bob Herbert says he feels the absence of Dr King more than ever. On what would have been King's 76th birthday (he was only 39 when he was murdered), Herbert attended a reading at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, "the spiritual home (and primary safe house)" of King and the early civil rights movement.

The reading, by Martin Sheen, Lynn Redgrave, Alfre Woodard, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson and others, was Ariel Dorfman's "Speak Truth to Power: Voices From Beyond the Dark," which is based on the book "Speak Truth to Power," by Kerry Kennedy and the photographer Eddie Adams.

The book and the play are excerpts from interviews with people who have defended human rights all over the world. Herbert writes:
The most hopeful thing to be drawn from Mr. Dorfman's play and Ms. Kennedy's book is that effective leadership can come from anywhere, at any time. From my perspective, this is a dark moment in American history. The Treasury has been raided and the loot is being turned over by the trainload to those who are already the richest citizens in the land. We've launched a hideous war for no good reason in Iraq. And we're about to elevate to the highest law enforcement position in the land a man who helped choreograph the American effort to evade the international prohibitions against torture.

Never since his assassination in 1968 have I felt the absence of Martin Luther King more acutely. Where are today's voices of moral outrage? Where is the leadership willing to stand up and say: Enough! We've sullied ourselves enough.

I'm convinced, without being able to prove it, that those voices will emerge. There was a time when no one had heard of Dr. King. Or Oscar Arias Sanchez. Or Martin O'Brien, who founded the foremost human rights organization in Northern Ireland, and who tells us: "The worst thing is apathy - to sit idly by in the face of injustice and to do nothing about it."


celebrating king

It occurred to me that I was so focused on Moron's inauguration that I didn't properly acknowledge the holiday that celebrates one of the very greatest Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s purpose and message have been sanitized for public consumption, as is the way of things. A kind of feel-good, we're-all-in-this-together spirit of volunteerism defines the current popular image. This is not in the spirit of King's life and work.

King was not just a brilliant orator and an organizer of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. He was a revolutionary. He understood - and acted on - the connections between human rights, poverty, segregation and war. He steadfastly opposed US involvement in Vietnam. He knew that justice must come hand in hand with jobs, and that democracy on paper is not good enough.

King was persecuted by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which went after him with a fervor unrivaled for actual criminal conspirators. And Hoover was able to act with impunity, because he was blackmailing the President. He had so much dirt on Kennedy - including that one of his many girlfriends had turned out to be a Soviet spy - that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was helpless to stop the wiretapping, surveillance and, yes, death threats.

For more about the life and legacy of the great Reverend King, I highly recommend the two massive books known as "the King books": Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize- winning Parting the Waters and Pillar Of Fire. (They are the first two books of a planned trilogy; I eagerly await the third.) They are absolutely fascinating histories of the American civil rights movement, told through the prism of a biography of King.

These books are both epic in scope and rich in the details that make history vibrantly alive. Among its many eye-openers, these books will demolish your image of Kennedy as "the civil rights president", not because the author has an ax to grind against Kennedy, but because he cares about historical accuracy, as opposed to myth.

JFK did everything he could to ignore the entire civil rights movement, since championing it would cost him the precious Southern vote. As civil rights workers were attacked with bombs, shotguns and bullwhips, and an entire population lived in daily terror, the Kennedy Department of Justice turned their backs, interested only in appeasing the white Dixiecrat vote. JFK was dragged kicking and screaming into the civil rights era, and only because he could no longer count on the press to keep a lid on what was boiling over south of the Mason Dixon line.

If you haven't truly imagined what life was like for African-Americans living under Jim Crow, these books are endlessly revealing. You will come away filled with admiration and wonder at the moral (and physical) courage of ordinary citizens challenged to find their greatness against impossible odds.

In addition, I personally came away with disgust that such conditions were allowed to thrive in the United States well into the second half of the 20th Century. King is now hailed as a hero, but let's not forget he was denounced from the floor of the US Senate as the most dangerous man alive.


we hear from buffalo

Our letter came today!!!

Our initial assessment has been completed, and now we take the next steps. This includes FBI clearance (proof that we are not felons), medical exams, tax forms and sworn statements of our common-law partnership.

For people following the process and wondering about timing, here's the timeline thus far:

March 22 - applications submitted for first time

April 3 & 23 - corrected applications resubmitted

June 3 - applications declared correct and placed in queue

Jan 18 - initial assessment complete, request for add'l documents

My original estimate, based on length of processing time last time I was able to check, was correct: eight months.

Now I estimate we will be out of here by September. Fingers crossed.


"something's gone wrong south of the border"

Kyle says:
Regardless of whatever bias the media itself has, usually they're always looking for the government to slip up. At least, that's how it works here. Even the Globe and Mail would go for the Liberal party jugular if it smelled blood. A flailing government is news, and the media is far more loyal to the dollar than it is to any political preference.

But somethings gone wrong south of the border. The media is now trying to defend and explain the government's actions, which seems opposite to what they're supposed to do. It seems wrong to have the media in bed with the government, regardless of what your political preferences are.
Exactly. Something has gone drastically wrong. The media is supposed to have an adversarial relationship to government. Yet these days mainstream media functions as government publicists.

This is what happens when giant multinational corporations gobble up media outlets, conglomerating them into fewer and fewer hands. And those hands are profit-driven, stockholder driven - not information-driven or (god forbid) truth-driven. They know which side their bread (and their access) is buttered on. Lately we've been finding out just how connected to government they are.

Some good people to read on this subject are Eric Alterman and Danny Schecter and his Media Channel. The Nation also publishes an annual (is it annual or occasional?) "media family tree" which clearly illustrates the danger. I haven't been able to find one to post, but maybe a helpful reader will. I'm sure there's a .pdf of one somewhere out there.

Before someone protests that the Internet makes up for mainstream media's failings, I think that's seriously disingenuous. Thank goodness for the Internet, it's an activist's dream. But when working people come home from their stressful, low-paying jobs and have to get dinner together before helping the kids with their homework, they can't be expected to hunt down alternative points of view among the kazillion websites out there. They should be able to flick on their TV and get some accurate reporting, which means media that questions government, not parrots it.

future lessons

Kyle gives a civics lesson here. This is interesting stuff. Well, to me, anyway.

I look forward to learning more about Canada's political system, and especially Canadian history, since I love history. It's on the Very Long-Term List of Things To Do Eventually.

Oh! And look at this! Scary!!


an excellent question

Redsock asks this burning question.

Check out that list of statements. Thank you for providing me with additional incentive to get off my ass and join the anti-war organizing efforts.

a walker in the city

I enjoyed this column in the Star: Toronto Mayor David Miller takes a stroll with the journalist. I don't know anything about Mayor Miller. But the first thing I learn is that he cares about streetscapes, the urban landscape, street furniture, cities you "experience through your feet". You might already know I care about those things, too. I like this:
David Miller's views of Toronto do not extend to making the city "world-class." He loathes the term. "It means you're trying to be something else," he says. "Like you're trying to be New York. Well, I don't think we should be. We should be us, and just do it brilliantly."


reclaim january 20!

It's not Inauguration Day - it's Happy Birthday Nancy Day!

Great people and great couples born in January:



Camden Joy

me and Allan

Alan and Frederick

Judy and Mark

former friends Beth and Cary (who knows, they might see this)

and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

january 20 approaches

I've decided against going to DC to protest the inauguration. I think it's a great thing to do, and I hope hundreds of thousands of people turn out, but I can't be among them.

I love big marches. I love the powerful feeling of unity, the comfort of being part of a huge crowd of people who all feel strongly enough to demonstrate. I love the spirit of community it fosters.

It can be a very emotional experience, as when the mall was blanketed by the AIDS quilt, the last time it was displayed in its entirety. (It became too big.) Allan and I were both overcome with the enormity of it, each square representing a life cut short. Not usually given to public displays, we could only stand and hold each other.

And it can also be a joyous experience, as when we reclaimed our city streets from the Republican convention, then reclaimed our park from government hacks.

But now I am so angry. So angry and sad and sometimes despairing about the fraudulent election and all it implies. And all the horror that will be visited on the world from it. I feel I can't go to Washington in a wholly negative state, all seething fury and grief. It will just make me feel worse. And because I'm so angry, I don't have the energy for it.

Some years back I would have felt guilty about not joining my fellow travelers at the barricades, but thankfully I've grown away from that. We can't all do everything. What counts is that we each do something.

the scariest thing

Of all the frightening specters looming above us in the brave new world of Bush II - and there are many to choose from - I think the scariest is the privatization of Social Security. If you're not reading Paul Krugman's series on this, please do. The two most recent parts are here and here.


i am orange, i think

Kyle says:
A minor bit of trivia. In Canada, Red and Blue are the opposite to what they are in the U.S.

Liberals are red, Conservatives are blue, NDP are orange, and Green is, um, green.
This is useful to know! I'm glad I'll have orange. It would be strange being red.

Truth be told, I don't know the difference between the NDP and the Greens. I'll check it out.



Satisfying a niece's jones for some city life, we trekked out to Brooklyn yesterday to eat the best pizza I've ever had. DiFara is a little nondescript joint in a nice little neighborhood, nothing you'd ever notice if it wasn't pointed out to you. There, Dominick DeMarco has been crafting pizzas the old-fashioned way for more than 40 years: boiling fresh tomatoes, importing three kinds of cheese from a certain town in Italy, growing his own basil on the window ledge.

Where to find the best pizza is a topic of endless debate in NYC, and you can't go wrong with any of the top five or seven places people will argue for. But for my money, DiFara is the best, both for the taste of the pie, and the very satisfying experience of eating in Dominick's homey little joint.

In recent years DiFara has built up a huge following, having been featured in several high-profile reviews, including Mr DeMarco pictured on the cover of The Village Voice. Yesterday I overheard a walking Brooklyn stereotype yelling into his cell phone: "Yeah, I'm in Brooklyn! Eating pizza! It's the fuggin greatest pizza evah!"

We also went to the Brooklyn Museum, to check out the new (to me) entrance that is being touted as Great Public Space. Um, okay. Nice modern glass public space apparently stuck on to old classical building. Interesting building, strange effect.

We didn't end up seeing anything at the museum, not being in a patient or artsy mood. But from there, we wandered into Park Slope, where I lived when I first moved to the city, and where Allan and I first lived together. We drank coffee and walked around looking at the beautiful houses.

Then back into the city to meet a nephew, brother of aforementioned niece, both in town for a family event, for more wandering, plus eating and imbibing. A nice day, plus two Things To Do Before I Leave New York checked off the list.

Great Expectations. My last few "goodbye" excursions were a little disappointing, but that was a function of sights being overhyped, or over-anticipated in my own mind.

The Merchants House Museum is an interesting place, a rare opportunity to visualize how wealthy 19th Century New Yorkers lived. But after intending to go there for 15-some-odd years, then seeing it in all of 30 minutes, I was bound to be a little disappointed.

That was my own fault. But the Frank Gehry-designed Conde Nast cafeteria somehow looked better in photographs than it did in person. It's an extremely unusual and cool-looking room, no doubt about it, but these photos are more eye-popping than it is. Same for the Brooklyn Museum entrance. Nice, interesting, but... where's the greatest public space to be built in New York in 25 years? Hype ruins so many experiences.

Regardless, I'm glad I'm checking out these things and checking them off my list. I don't want to leave New York with a long list of things I meant to see.


to the banned commenter

So it was you commenting anonymously! Good to know my sense of that was correct. Had you made yourself known, I wouldn't have allowed your comments in the first place. As you know, hence the anonymous cover.

You already blew it by harassing me in our first go-round. Banned is banned.

Sheesh, I'm only an itty bitty blog, it's not like I'm Kos or Xymphora. Please find some other folks to harass. And have a nice day.

common ground

Two Canadian readers have sent me some interesting reading lately.

In one, which unfortunately I can't link to, a Globe and Mail columnist disputes a colleague's claim that Canadian society is as religious as American. In "My Canada Doesn't Include Religiosity," Michael Adams, who has written extensively about Canadian social values, writes, "It is neither elitist nor 'out of touch' to state that Canada is becoming increasingly secular. It's accurate."

Adams acknowledges that "Most Canadians categorize themselves as Christian when asked to tick a box on their census form. . . . Many of us will even claim to be religious." But he reminds readers that although 61% of Canadians say they believe in god, only 28% say religion is very important to them, and just 16% attend religious services at least weekly (with another 21% attending monthly).

After analyzing an extensive Pew Center poll, Adams finds "no evidence of a religious revival in Canada of the sort we see south of the border." He says "Canadians are about half as religious as Americans, and Canadians' and Americans' divergent views of religion are one symptom of a growing disparity between the two cultures."

To which I say: yeah, baby!

Another reader from the north sent me a cool column from the conservative site I quoted a few days ago.

In this column, Fred Reed takes a look at the Bush administration's single biggest strategy and weapon: fear. After visiting Washington DC, he writes, "Fear seemed to be everywhere, or at least to be promoted everywhere, but I wasn't sure who was afraid. Nobody I met was afraid. Nobody talked about terrorism or paid the least attention to Mommy Metro. Maybe just the government is afraid. Or maybe it wants us to be afraid. Maybe it's afraid of us."

To anyone who followed the 2004 campaigns, this is nothing new. Bush's speeches basically ran along the lines of: "9/11 9/11 9/11 fear fear fear fear the gays are coming to get your children terra terra terra fear fear fear".

Reed later writes:
A burly federal cop of maybe thirty slid my passport through a scanner and examined the results on a screen carefully placed so that I couldn't see it. You are not allowed to know what the government knows about you, or thinks it knows.

This blue-suited renta-a-bozo started with the rapid-fire questions. I figured he had watched too much television. "Where are you coming from?" Mexico. "Why were you in Mexico?" I like Mexico. "What were you doing in Mexico?" I live there. "Why are you going to Washington?" "Why, to blow it up, Charlie, with tiny little nuclear bombs concealed in my shoes. Gee, you caught me."

I didn't say this or I'd be hanging by my thumbs in Guantanamo. I pictured the Gulag fleeing Russia and oozing across the bottom of the Pacific, pseudopodia groping, to its new home in the Land of the Free. Lunch.

The new America. No checks, no balance. There's no restraint on the power of these people, and they know it. If you suggest that it is none of their business why an American citizen is going to his country's capital, at the very least you miss your flight. You could easily end up in jail, and nobody would know where you were.
While this is hardly new to me, it is a new source. The libertarian right and the libertarian left do have a lot in common, as someone recently said here.

I have to remember to call the loathsome people in Washington neocons - or better yet, fascists - as opposed to conservatives, since they are not interested in conserving anything.


nuts and bolts

People's generosity never ceases to amaze me. In this case, people is Kyle From Ottawa, who writes the Progressive Libertarian blog.

For people emigrating to Canada, specifically (but not only) Ontario, Kyle posts this useful information. I hope others who are applying (or considering doing so) find them helpful.

I doubt I'll ever win the lottery, but it's more fun to do it Canada. Go figure.


"don't move to canada, move to [your state here]"

This is pretty funny. If you search for "move to Canada" on the web, you'll find various blogs and essays imploring you to move to Ohio, Iowa, Oregon and other battleground states.

Hey, yeah. Instead of compiling my life savings, spending $2,500 in fees, filling out a zillion forms, waiting for more than a year and uprooting my entire life, I think I'll just pack up and move to Ohio. That way, my one vote (if counted) can help the state go Democrat in 2008. Why didn't I think of that sooner!

I feel like Lewis Black here. "Funny, last time I looked, Oregon, Ohio and Iowa were still PART OF THE UNITED STATES!"

glory days

In the local "City" section, the New York Times recently ran some famous New Yorkers' responses to the question "What was New York's Golden Age?"

Elaine Kaufman, owner of Elaine's, named the 1940's, Reverend Al Sharpton voted for the late 1960's, when he was a teenager, writer Fran Lebowitz and photographer Mary Ellen Mark nominated the '70s ("when the city was a wreck") and the late '60s, early '70s, respectively.

Choreographer Bill T. Jones said "Right after 9/11," citing how "we were vulnerable and open to the rest of the world, and we were ready for a change. There was a chance to ask questions, and it was a time when we were forced to do so. But it didn't happen. There wasn't a true conversation about what American means to the rest of the world or about why New York was chosen. It was an opportunity. And then the politicians took it."

Caleb Carr, author of New York City historical novels The Alienist and Angel of Darkness, made an interesting choice:
The 1890's. It may seem odd, to those living in a city sterilized by the Giuliani years, that anyone would feel fascination with or nostalgia for a decade that was almost as filthy, violent and degenerate as its predecessors.

But not only did the 1890's witness attempts at the kind of meaningful reform that eluded Mayor Giuliani - of the Police Department, labor laws, and living conditions for the poor - it also saw the blossoming of culture both high and vulgar: the dominance of the Metropolitan Opera and establishment of the city's great museums, along with the Bowery music halls, Broadway, and the proliferation of artists' communities throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. We should remember, too, that a New York scrubbed clean of prostitution, adult entertainment, drugs and other dark phenomena is a city that has lost its original dynamic, and therefore its meaning.

Like a troublesome child taking Ritalin, New York may be more manageable now, but it has also sacrificed its personality. That personality was crystallized during the 1890's, by a collection of idiosyncratic gang leaders, plundering corporate barons (who, while as vicious as any today, nonetheless lived in and tried to improve the life of their city) and reformers more concerned with improving sanitation on the streets and in hospitals than they were with minimizing the amount of annoyance caused the well-to-do by beggars.
Well, why bother blogging if people are going to write things like that?? Bravo, Mr Carr!

Laurie Anderson, consummate New Yorker, said there were a lot of golden ages. Oscar de la Renta said "Now," and Yoko Ono said, "Always".

a true conservative

Here is a conservative I respect and admire. Mr Roberts and I will disagree on certain principles, like the uses and role of government, but we will agree on many basic truths.

This clear, concise and hard-hitting essay explains why Bush, Ashcroft, et al, are not conservatives at all.

My favorite bit: "Apparently, Rush Limbaugh and National Review think there is a liberal media because the prison torture scandal could not be suppressed and a cameraman filmed the execution of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a US Marine." But go read the whole thing, you'll be glad you did.

(Thanks to Redsock for pointing it out to me, of course.)

replies to wretched

I recently received this comment from a disgruntled Trontonian. He says, in part:
Though your reasons for coming here seem somewhat vague and idealistic to me, and not really related to what will be everyday life, they're not really my business.

But, a couple of points on your comment "... it all adds up to a very different attitude about government, society and a nation's place in the world."
For sure! Ppl here still have that sort of British/socialist attitude that Gov't knows best and will take care of us.

And Society? Well, the mind-blowing immigration rate will change it by tomorrow or the next day, so don't get too comfy with whatever it is today!

As for their "place in the world", well they're not sure yet. They cannot actually define what they *are as a people, only what they are *not - i.e. "we're not Americans." How original.
And I reply:

Re my reasons seeming unrelated to everyday life: I'm an American every day. I have to live in this disgusting, shallow, militaristic, jingoistic, undemocratic culture and support it with my taxes. Can't get much more every day than that.

Anywhere I live, everyday life is going to be pretty much the same. We're going to write, work, watch baseball, love our dogs, go out to dinner - we're going to live our lives. In that sense, the pros and cons of New York City vs Toronto could be argued in various ways. Our reasons for moving are the larger picture, which doesn't seem at all vague to me.

Re government taking care of people: as you may have noticed, I have that attitude, too. No one says "government knows best" - that's ridiculous. But yes, progressives do feel the role of government and of our taxes is to help people live better lives. Given the choice between paying high taxes so that every person can have health care or paying high taxes to kill people in other parts of the world, I'll take health care every time. I'm not anti-government per se, but government has got to have a function other than making extremely rich people extremely richer.

Re society rapidly changing from immigration: excellent. It's something I am accustomed to from NYC, and something I look forward to in Canada. But if you read what I wrote, my reference to society isn't about that.

Re Canadians' place in the world not being American: perfect. That's the whole point. But what I meant - obviously - was that Canada is not bullying and conquering and exploiting the rest of the planet.

Thanks for stopping by. And p.s., if you're reading, we have traffic in New York, too.


let them go

On the subject of Quebec separatism, brought up by new reader Beausejour, RobfromAlberta says:
The whole Quebec separation thing does not seem to have the same urgency that it had 10 years ago. I lived in Montreal at the time of the last referendum (vote on separation) and there was a very real fear that the separatists would win. Nowadays though, it is just not a dominant issue in the national agenda. Of course, I have no doubt we will have another referendum some time in the next decade.

Also, now that I live in Alberta, I find I just do not seem all that concerned about it. If Quebec votes for separation next time, I say we just let them go.
At the risk of opening up a can of worms, I ask, Why not? If most people in Quebec wanted to secede from the rest of Canada, why would that be A Bad Thing? Is it any different than independence movements anywhere else (which I would generally support)? Shouldn't people have as much autonomy and self-rule as possible?

I'm asking these questions in ignorance of the issues. Canadian readers are welcome to weigh in with arguments on either side.

justice delayed

Two days ago, Edgar Ray Killen was indicted for his role in the murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. These were the three civil rights workers who were abducted and murdered in 1962 near Philadelphia, Mississippi, while registering black people to vote.

The State of Mississippi never brought murder charges against any of the men. They were charged with federal civil rights violations; several Mississippi sheriffs and deputies obstructed the investigation.

Nineteen men, including Killen, were indicted. In 1967, seven of them were convicted of federal civil rights violations and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years. Killen was freed after his trial on federal conspiracy charges ended in a hung jury. None of the men convicted served more than six years.


Andrew Goodman's mother, Dr Carolyn Goodman, lives in New York City, and the local media visits her regularly. Now 89 years old, having outlived two husbands and her only child, she honors her son's memory by continuing his work. She says, "I'm not looking for revenge. I'm looking for justice."

James Chaney's mother, Fannie Lee Chaney, now 82, left Mississippi shortly after her son's death, when shots were fired at her home. Like Dr Goodman, Mrs Chaney has established a foundation in her son's memory, and is involved in civil rights work.

The Schwerner family does not usually discuss the case, but Stephen Schwerner, Michael's brother, explains why these three murders are so famous: "If three black men had been killed, it might not have made the inside pages, let alone the front page." He urges people to "realize that this was not ancient history, people still alive were involved in this, and that we still have a long, long way to go."


we heart democracy

Check out Joy of Sox for a rundown of how our democracy fares. Recent posts here and here.

two reasons to read the new york times

Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert. From Herbert's column today:
It's a measure of the irrelevance of the Democratic Party that a man who played such a significant role in the policies that led to the still-unfolding prisoner abuse and torture scandals is expected to win easy Senate confirmation and become attorney general. The Democrats have become the 98-pound weaklings of the 21st century.
We thought we couldn't get a worse Attorney General than John Ashcroft, but Alberto Gonzales may soon prove us wrong.

save it

Things you do not need to tell me:

1. It is cold in Canada.

2. Canada is not perfect.

3. National health care is not perfect.

4. Toronto sucks. (Applies only to Canadians.)

5. It is cold in Canada.

I am aware of all these things. Thank you.

thank you, jon stewart

My man Howard Zinn was on "The Daily Show" last night! If you missed it, try to catch the re-run today. Zinn seemed a little hesitant at first, but once he got going he was awesome.

In comparing George W Bush to Christopher Columbus, Zinn noted that at least while Columbus was pillaging and annihilating, he was right there beside his men. We seldom hear such truth-telling on television, and I thank Jon Stewart from the bottom of my heart.

the limits of empathy, part 2

When I was a kid, I used to fantasize about a magic potion that would change me into a different person. Not because I was trying to escape my own life, but so I could truly know what it was like to be someone else, from inside their skin. The potion would turn me into that other person for a set amount of time, then wear off and I'd be me again, but I'd remember everything I experienced and felt.

I didn't dream of being specific people, just people essentially different from me, or with extremely different lives. A man. A black person. A coal miner. A rock star. Often these mental exercises revolved around someone who had suffered great hardship. A slave. An abducted child.

I still do this to some extent - and you probably do, too - just without the hocus pocus. We imagine what it's like to be an Iraqi. Or a stranded tsunami survivor.

While walking my dogs this morning, watching them sniff a bit of brick wall as if it contained the Secret Of Life, I remembered this childhood fantasy. I'd love to be a dog for a day. Experience the world through canine eyes, ears and nose. Feel the world with a canine heart. What does it feel like to be Buster? What trauma is imprinted in his memory that makes him so anxious and fearful of the world? What does it feel like to love someone the way Buster loves me? (My standard joke is that if any man loved me the way Buster does, I'd have to get a restraining order.)

Trying to empathize with animals can be a heartbreaking exercise, as so many of them are caged, hunted, experimented on or otherwise abused.

Empathy is painful, but human society can't exist without it. In some sense, people like me want empathy to be a more powerful force than nationalism or other archaic forms of tribalism. Recognizing our common humanity has become a cliche, but it's really all we have.


not subject to debate

If you read the comments here, you'll know this isn't the first exchange where people with political philosophies radically different than mine want to discuss and debate here.

These folks were pretty polite - Eraserhead is downright sweet - and didn't say anything offensive. Nevertheless, I ask them to not discuss their views here. This surprises some people, and I am invariably accused of being close-minded or engaging in censorship.

I will attempt to explain - though I caution that it may not make sense, as it springs from a personal and emotional place.

This blog is my private space, my little oasis. That would seem contradictory, since it exists on the internet and anyone can read it. But it's a private space that I choose to share. I don't blog about my most personal feelings; you'll never read about my relationships, or family issues, or details about close friends. Those exist in an even more personal realm. But this blog is my soapbox: a place to tell my story, a place for my voice.

I find reading certain political views very unpleasant. For me, political ideas aren't just concepts on paper, they aren't theoretical. They are the underpinnings of policies that shape and change people's lives. Muslim Americans rounded up after 9/11. Teenagers unable to obtain confidential, accurate medical information and care. The quality of the air we breathe. Unnecessary war. Government-subsidized corporations. Millions of people without health care. I feel so passionately about these things. And they all spring from political theory.

There are a multitude of places I can read opposing viewpoints. I don't live with my head in the sand. I know what's out there. But if I were to allow this blog to be a forum for debate, I would spoil my little oasis. Blogging would become combative, stressful, annoying - hardly the point of something I do for enjoyment.

Everyone has a right to his or her opinion. Everyone has a right to make that opinion known. But I'm under no obligation to rent them a billboard in my own backyard.

Ask me a question, I'll try to answer. Post your opinion, if it's not morally offensive to me, I won't delete it. But try to engage me in debate on this blog, and you'll end up frustrated.

One further note. Since starting this blog, I've enjoyed writing it far more than I thought I would. If you've read from the beginning, you know my topics have expanded. I'm much more likely to see things around me as "blogworthy" than I once did. I remain utterly amazed that anyone wants to read this, but I'm really glad you do. I feel connected to you all, this mostly silent community that occasionally makes itself known to me.

what i'm reading

I'm still slogging my way through Reading Lolita In Tehran. I'm not crazy about Nafisi's writing, but it's an excellent view into another world. What does it look like when a reasonably democratic state turns totalitarian, in this case via theocracy? What is it like, especially for women, to live under fundamentalist Islamic rule? Nafisi gives you some answers to these questions, and they are deeply frightening.

This book reminds me (not that I need reminding, I think of it constantly) how much personal freedom I have, as a woman, as a Jew, as a thinker. But it also shows me how our great personal freedom works against us in a superficial consumerist society. We are free to shop, free to fill our lives with junk. We are less alert. More docile, more controllable.

I'm also about to start Chain Of Command, by Seymour Hersh. For those unfamiliar with the book, the subtitle is The Road From 9/11 To Abu Ghraib.

what i'm watching: c-span, barbarian invasions, tsunami

Big C-Span Day. We can watch John Conyers stand up for democracy today. Barbara Boxer might stand up with him. John Kerry, however, won't be joining them. Don't want to look like a sore loser, eh Mr Kerry? Got to keep that political skin intact.

Life, Death and the Movies. We saw an excellent Canadian film last night called "The Barbarian Invasions" (French with English subtitles). It's about a man facing death, a celebration of his life, and one person who loves him enough to give him the best death possible - about people connecting with one another in surprising ways that make up life's little miracles. It's funny and sad without ever being sentimental or manipulative. Highly recommended.

Death on our TV Screens. Let's not let the tsunami victims fall out of our thoughts. The survivors must be suffering in unimaginable ways.


stand up

For those of you who don't read the comments, Redsock posted this.

Please, contact your Senator. If you have a blog, ask others to do the same.

coffee with frank gehry

New York City may not have a single building designed by America's preeminent living architect, but we have a cafeteria!

I've been determined to find someone who works at Conde Nast to walk me into this private space sometime before I leave. What amazing luck: someone I had to meet on Haven-related business is on a freelance assignment there. And at just the right time!

This afternoon we're having coffee there. Check out photos of the eye-popping room here.

recipe for democracy

Basic ingredients: universal suffrage and fair elections.

What makes this a democracy? At this point, to think the 2004 elections were fair and correct, can only be ignorance, whether willful or otherwise. Here's a good wrap-up of the situation in Ohio.

If you saw the movie Unprecedented - and if you didn't, rent it now! - you'll vividly recall the heartbreaking scene where Congressperson after Congressperson - all African Americans, by the way - were not allowed to object to the Florida vote count.

Who will object to the Ohio count?

Tomorrow, January 6, Representative John Conyers of Detroit will rise and object to the vote count in Ohio. He will not be allowed to speak unless at least one member of the Senate agrees to let him have the floor.

Who will let him speak?

It takes only one member of the House and one member of the Senate to stop the acceptance of the Electoral College vote and force a legitimate debate and investigation. Just two officials out of 535 can halt the final acceptance of the election. The law was written that way because nothing is more important than the integrity of the vote.

Will anyone rise from the Senate floor to second Congressman Conyers?

I ask again: If we don't have fair elections, what makes this a democracy?


questions of scale

New York large and small. Christo's Gates are coming! Christo and Jeanne Claude tried for years to gain clearance for a project in New York's Central Park. I was so happy when I learned they finally obtained it - and now I'm thrilled that The Gates will happen while I'm still here to experience them. I'll try to check it out several times during the construction, then see the installation itself a few times. These frequent errors from Christo and Jeanne Claude's website are amusing.

Board's Head Ham. Washington Hights Convinence. Frist Wok. Allan and I love the funny typos, misspellings and misapplied idioms that grace the signs of our polyglot city. We used to talk about walking around the city photographing crazy signs and doing a story on it, but lacked sufficient motivation in those pre-digital camera days. The Times has a piece on it today.

Lies large and small. Paul Krugman explains the Social Security privatization scam. This is the first piece in a series, one worth following.

And Gina Kolata explains the diet industry scam. Short answer: they don't work. They just make other people rich.



I've created a new menu linking to people who are regular visitors to WMTC. If you read my blather and you have a blog or website, send me the link and I'll include you.

another obituary

Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to serve in the United States Congress, died this weekend at the age of 80. She was also the first woman to seek the nomination for President.

Chisholm was a smart, tough, liberal maverick, and a feminist from head to toe. She said, "When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men."

Many people I like or admire have died recently. I am not at all superstitious, but it's creeping me out.

happy anniversary to us

January 3, 1987. The previous day, a blizzard dumps a couple feet of snow on northern Vermont. My flight from Newark is the last one to land before the Burlington Airport is closed down. We spend one last night in the house on George Street, then hours the next morning digging out the U-Haul.

Eighteen years ago today, Allan and I drove that U-Haul, packed with everything he owned in the world, from Burlington, Vermont to Brooklyn, New York. The adventure continues.


take the test

I just took it. I'm proud to say there are only a handful I haven't done, mostly because I don't own a bicycle, and they're not serious about the apartment-raised tiger.

closet canadians?

Interesting comment here, though I'm not entirely sure I understand it.

More than closet Canadians, we are alienated Americans. I'm familiar with the anti-Toronto bias; all non-Torontonian Canadians seem to need to tell me how bad Toronto is. But that's one of the reasons I feel I'll be happy there: New York is hated by the rest of the US, and all the New Yorkers I know who have spent time in Toronto like it a lot. The main reason for choosing Toronto, though, is jobs.

To Beausejour: you lived in Washington Heights? Wherebouts? That's where we live. Why was your cross-country drive awful?

you know you're really a new yorker when...

Looking for fun stuff to do tomorrow, I found this Time Out New York piece from November, 2003. It's long, but it's wonderful. The last one - feel a great sense of relief when your plane flies into JFK or LaGuardia - got to me. I think I'll feel that for the rest of my life, no matter where I live.

barry corbet, 1936-2004

More death. Barry Corbet, a talented writer and filmmaker, former pioneering mountain climber and skier, my former editor, and an altogether terrific person, died on December 18.

Barry ran my work in New Mobility when all I had to my name was a big pile of research and an unpublished novel. I learned a lot from him - about crafting a magazine article, and about how a real professional works.

He was a model editor: sensitive, encouraging, with just the right balance of freedom and direction. In a messy incident involving Chuck Close, Chris Reeve, and my own slip-up, Barry backed me up, let the magazine apologize, and continued to trust me.

The entire disability community will miss him. A tribute site has been set up for anyone wishing to know him better.

a big question answered

Mollie of Greener Pastures wins the prize! The first person to answer our last unanswered question about the immigration process.

Once we're approved by Canadian Immigration, we'll be issued a visa, which has an expiration date, by which time we must take residence in Canada in order to get our Permanent Residence status. We know the visa has a time limit - but up to now we've had no way of knowing what that time limit is. The information is not on any official CIC information, presumably because it varies by country and under different circumstances.

Americans who have been living in Canada for many years don't know, because the process has changed a good deal since they left. But the Greener Pastures family moved in early 2004, and became Permanent Residents very recently.

The envelope please? Six months.

In other words, once we're completely cleared for take off, we'll have six months to get the hell out. That should be more than adequate. I'm thinking we can do it in three.


Also it took Mollie's family 14 months from application acceptance to visa issuance, not 18 as I previously reported. Four months better.


what i'm listening to

It occurred to me that I blog about what I'm reading, but never about what music I'm listening to - a testament to the tiny and inadequate claim music now makes on my life. As someone who once lived as much for music as for books, I feel this as a loss. Music doesn't fit naturally into my life as it used to. I have to make a special effort to listen, and too often, I don't.

Ever since Allan discovered the joys of file sharing, he's been announcing finds that might appeal to me and asking if he can download them for me. (Nothing right now on the mixed ethics of free downloads. I am a writer very concerned with copyright issues; suffice to say I have seriously mixed feelings.) In all the many reports of what was available, the first that really made my eyes light up was a 1978 Springsteen show: all 3.5 hours of it on DVD.

I'm coming to liberate you, confiscate you...

I was among the legions of high-school fans who impatiently awaited the resolution of The Boss's legal troubles, which would bring our first opportunity to see him. Sure, the critics and older folks had seen him in now-legendary club dates, but the kids were still waiting. I saw everyone in those days, concerts were a regular part of my life, but a Springsteen show existed on another plane entirely.

Watching the DVDs the other night, I was transported back to those breathless days... barefoot girls sitting on the hood of a Dodge drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain... and reminded how music can never again speak to us the way it does at that age. I don't ask - or expect - music to give me solace or guide me through or fill a void or offer escape the way I knew it could then.

Bruce's wild exuberance onstage was transporting. But of course I was never just a party girl, and his songs of loneliness and alienation and searching reached deep down. I was known to be a Stones fanatic, and Joni Mitchell will always be my idol, but only Springsteen brought those feelings together - the excitement and release of rock and the poetry that seems to spring from our own souls. How many 40-somethings do you know who carry the lyrics to Thunder Road in their wallet?

It's a town for losers, I'm pulling out of here to win...

When Allan and I met in 1985, I had no one in my life with whom to share my intense love of music. (No one to go to baseball games with, either.) Allan was doing college radio, caught up in REM (still very young and on the indie-college circuit) and other '80s roots-revival bands like The Blasters, Jason And The Scorchers and Los Lobos. He brought me those and I, from a slightly older sensibility - having been raised musically by my older siblings - brought him Dylan and The Band. And we had a lot of common ground in The Stones, especially Keith, Talking Heads, The Clash, The Ramones. From there, we explored blues, country, bluegrass, cajun, and any other traditional sounds we could find.

I understand nothing will ever feel like Springsteen did in those early days - not because the music isn't as good, but because I've grown up. But I'd give anything to stumble on new music that hits me the way REM did in 1985. The only thing close has been, maybe, Aimee Mann.

There's a lot of new(er) music that's very good and that I enjoy, but I'm hungering for something more. I want to hear something new that makes me want to shout from the rooftops, to annoy my friends by insisting they listen to this great new band. To run to my computer to announce it to you.