11.30.2005

now v. scheidler

Today the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in the NOW v. Scheidler case. From the National Organization of Women's website:
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 10 a.m., Scheidler et al. v. National Organization for Women et al. and Operation Rescue et al. v. National Organization for Women et al. will be argued before the Supreme Court. These cases relate to stopping illegal violence directed against women's health clinics, abortion providers and their patients. NOW initiated this case nearly 20 years ago in an effort to stop anti-abortion extremists from continuing to plan and organize violence at women's health clinics. The self-described "pro-life Mafia" planned to end abortion by closing every clinic that provided abortion services. Over the past 19 years, the violence has included invasions, violent blockades, arson, chemical attacks and bombings of women's health care clinics, assaults on patients, death threats and shootings of health care workers and administrators, including the murder of eight abortion providers.
I was part of the army of New Yorkers who fought Operation Rescue when they invaded our city in 1992. It was my first civil disobedience, aimed at keeping women's health clinics open and safe. It was exhilarating, and - in New York - successful.

Scheidler is the first of several cases involving abortion that will soon be heard by the Roberts court. It doesn't look good, but I'm always willing to be surprised.

More info, including the briefs filed by NOW and other groups, found here.

maple grief

I'm not responsible for the bad pun at the top of this post; blame Jon Stewart. Last night The Daily Show led with - guess what? - the Canadian election. It wasn't all that funny, really. They mostly played to the truism of Americans not knowing anything about Canada - including where it is - and closed with a lame "eh" and "aboot" joke. But it was still fun to see! I actually said, "Hey, we made The Daily Show!" Yes, I said we!

Which brings me to today's milestone: we've been here three months. What a lot has happened. Our lives in New York feel so long ago.

* * * *

On "The National" last night, they recapped the results of a poll of Canadians' top concerns for the election. Health care was number one. Number two, however, surprised both of us: trust.

I just don't get that. When I consider what's important to me in elections, trust doesn't even enter into the picture. On a list of 1 to 10, it's an irrelevant zero. Several people interviewed gave the expected responses: you can't believe anything they say, they'll say anything to get elected, politicians don't honour campaign promises. Yes? And?

Who cares what anyone says? All that matters is what they do. I don't have to trust my elected officials. I don't have to like them. I don't have to approve of their personal lives. I only have to approve of the way they vote, the priorities they advance, the budgets they create. Focusing on intangibles like trust and integrity in a national election seems to me immature and naive. I'm sure I've just offended half of you, but that's not my intention. It's just the way I see it.

"The trust issue" seems not unlike Americans who chose Moron over Kerry because "he's a guy you'd like to have a beer with". That was very big during the 2004 US election. I'll have an Export, and give my friend here a double arsenic with a cyanide chaser...

11.29.2005

vote

I wasn't going to mention this... but hey, I'm a writer, we like to be read, and we can't resist a prize, no matter how meaningless. In the spirit of "it doesn't mean anything if you lose, but it's still fun to win," perhaps you would like to vote for we move to canada for the 2005 Canadian Blog Awards. A kind reader nominated it in the Best Personal Blog category.

Right now, in Round One, you can vote once per day. You don't have to vote in every category, but you do have to make all your selections (one per category) before you submit your vote. Vote here.

Thanks.

i join the y

We visited the Mississauga YMCA yesterday. It is amazing - huge, sparkling clean, loaded with stuff to do, and as spacious as any decent health club. I never belonged to a really high-end health club in New York City - which you've really got to see to believe, they're more like luxury resorts than gyms - this Y is easily as nice as any gym I've ever belonged to.

The main thing, for me, is the pool. I swam for years in New York, slowly working my way up from not being able to swim for 5 minutes, to swimming 40 continuous minutes, several times a week. This solved a major issue for me: how to get enough exercise without brutalizing my weak joints. However, I haven't been in the water in more than a year, and it'll take some time to work my way back to speed.

The Y also had a complete range of all the other exercise equipment and facilities, so there's plenty of variety if the pool is crowded or I'm bored. It's about 10 or 15 minutes from our place. Having gone through great inconvenience to swim in New York, the whole thing seems very easy. I join today.

the vote

Last night Allan and I got our first view of parliamentary democracy, and it was fascinating.

Before we moved, people tried to explain the parliamentary system to me, but I never really understood it. But living here, reading the newspaper every day, and now, seeing a call for an election and the fall of a government, brought it all into focus.

Peter Mansbridge and the CBC team helped a lot, too. Few viewers could have learned as much as we did last night. We were chuckling over seven weeks being called "a long campaign". Of course, when a government is in power for 17 months, you can't have an eight-month election campaign. More generally, the CBC rocks. A news show with context: imagine that.

Here's a question we haven't had answered yet. We've heard (repeatedly) that this was the first time in 25 years that a government has fallen on a strict no-confidence vote. Got it. So how else does a government fall? What other circumstances lead to an election?

I don't have a lot to say about the personalities involved. Paul Martin is Clintonian in his constant jocularity, Stephen Harper is a talking mannequin, I continue to admire Jack Layton, and the longer I live here, the more negative my view of the Bloc Quebecois grows.

Unlike many Canadians, I'm looking forward to this campaign. It will be very educational.

11.28.2005

apb: alpf

Where have you gone, ALPF? Are you boycotting wmtc because it no longer accepts anonymous comments? Email me, eh?

t.o.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm an intrepid urban explorer. Since moving here, however, I haven't seen all that much of Toronto. I was more focused on our house and our own neighbourhood here in Port Credit. And who could blame me: our first house, first yard, first life in suburbia, our incredible proximity to the lake and the waterfront trail. There's been so much to enjoy right here.

Now, after three months, I'm feeling the urge to see more of Toronto. I've done a handful of things in the city, seen a few neighbourhoods, maybe more than many suburbanites do in a year. But for me, it's next to nothing. I'm ready to start.

By the way, I did get that Soulpepper subscription I mentioned earlier, so that guarantees a certain number of city days. But now I'll start flipping through my Time Out Toronto and randomly picking things to see.

As always, I'm open to all your suggestions. I may not hurry off to do them right away, but if they're on The List, I'll get there eventually.

low confidence

I'm excited about today's no-confidence vote. Only three months after moving here, we'll get to see a government fall, a campaign, and an election, in a system very different from what we're accustomed to. Even the expression "the government will fall" strikes us as oddly dramatic and revolutionary.

My sense of current Canadian politics, for what it's worth, tells me that very little will change from the upcoming election. I'd be surprised if the Liberals didn't win. So it's kind of cool to see this happening without a lot at stake.

On a semi-tangential note, have I mentioned I'm completely down with "Corner Gas"? Excellent show; I love the deadpan humour. (Great website, too; check it out.) So was that really Finance Minister Ralph Goodale ragging on Brent Butt's camera last Saturday night?

11.27.2005

apb: tresy

Tresy, are you there? A long time ago - before we even moved - I had some questions for you, but I didn't have your email address. I posted trying to find you, but you weren't reading. Now, every time you leave a comment, I leave a comment after you, asking you to email me... but you must not check back for replies.

So Mr Tresy, if you are reading this, would you please email me????

vancouver

My sister-in-law, who posts here as mkk, and my brother will be visiting Vancouver this spring, with an eye to possibly moving there one day. Yes, more of my family is considering emigrating to Canada!

I know several of you live in BC - Wrye, the Canadian Surfer, Cin, and Expat Traveler, for a start. Other friends of wmtc are originally from that area, among them teflonjedi. Of course mkk is doing research and will have a guidebook and all those sorts of things, but there's no substitute for local knowledge. Let's use this post as a place for thoughts and suggestions about their visit - and possible relocation - to Vancouver.

work

I have tons of writing work coming up. At this point it looks like I'll be on continuous deadlines from now until the beginning of April. The bestest part is I'll be writing full-time - no need for a day-job anytime soon. The months since we moved have been the first time in my life I've written full-time. I'm still amazed and thrilled about it.

As usual, it's feast-or-famine. If you freelance, you're undoubtedly familiar with this syndrome. I had a cute little plan to avoid a massive work pile-up, but Real Life looked at Cute Plan, laughed mockingly, and tossed it aside.

My second Ancient Civilizations book assignment was supposed to start in early September. The Plan was to keep my work for the Winter issue of Kids On Wheels very light, concentrate exclusively on Ancient Civs, then write a big chunk of the Spring KOW.

However... the Ancient Civs calendar was greatly delayed, and I'm only now getting my assignment, in late November. Meanwhile I'm committed to several big stories for Kids On Wheels, as well as some other magazine work, all due at the same time. This is going to take some fancy footwork and organizational skills, and still be very challenging.

I remind myself that while I was writing the first Ancient Civs book, I was coping with my upcoming BLC, a critically ill dog, and a part-time day-job. And it was my first project for the series - there was a steep learning curve. Now I have none of those stressful distractions, and I already know how to do the work. So if I'm super-organized and make good use of my time, I should be able to get it all done. I hope.

Of course this means I'll be less available in comments and by email, but please don't let that stop you from chattering. You folks will help keep me sane.

return

We got back yesterday evening. There was snow over all of upstate New York, and a light covering here, just enough to turn the lawns white. Very pretty.

We had a lovely time in New Jersey - saw lots of family (some people several times, which was a real treat), ate, drank, hung out, told stories. The large gathering was also a little bittersweet, as we won't all be together again any time soon. With my mom spending the winter in Florida, two nephews and a niece living in the western US, and my sister touring universities with another niece, there isn't a lot of family visiting on the horizon. All the more reason to enjoy it when it's possible.

Cody is the perfect traveler - easy-going, well behaved and always up for a road trip. That's a little bittersweet, too, of course, since traveling with her is made possible by Buster's absence. Although Buster was extremely well behaved, his anxiety and aggression issues made traveling with him impractical. And even without those issues, I'm not about to invite myself to someone's home with two dogs. But one quiet dog, without her playmate, is no trouble to anyone. She was a big hit, everyone really enjoyed her. So it was great to have her with us, but also tinged with a little sadness. As the cliche goes: such is life.

I was only able to briefly skim comments while I was gone, so I'll be reading through them more thoroughly today. I look forward to catching up with y'all. Check out our sweet Canadian Cody.

canadian cody 002

11.24.2005

i am thankful

Today is Thanksgiving in the US.

Here are the headlines on the front page of the New York Times from Tuesday, November 22, the morning after we arrived.

"G.M. Set To Drop 5,000 More Jobs And Shut Plants"

"Louisiana Sees Faded Urgency In Relief Effort"

"Cheney Sees 'Shameless' Revisionism On War" (My pick for Irony of the Year Award)

"Iraqi Factions Seek Timetable For U.S. Pullout"

* * * *

I am thankful I don't live here anymore. I am thankful for Canada.

11.21.2005

road trip

Allan, Cody and I are heading down the highway this morning, sleeping tonight in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The change of scenery and the time with family will do us good. We're back on Saturday night.

Since we didn't take a sizeable vacation while we were saving for the Big Life Change, I believe this will be the longest I've been away from blogging since I started posting regularly. I could blog from my mom's house, but I don't think I'll have anything interesting to say. (Like that's ever stopped any of us before.)

Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves while I'm gone. It will only further my education when I return.

11.20.2005

what i'm reading

After too many distractions and not enough time spent reading, I've just finished the final book in Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, World Of Wonders. Although the second and third books in the trilogy occasionally felt like essays on Jungian psychology and performance theory shoe-horned into novel form, the subject was so compelling that I didn't mind. I found these books extremely engaging, and I loved Davies' writing. I'll definitely read more from him.

Next up is something by Pierre Berton. You know I love history, and I've gone on several historical odysseys in my reading: Ireland, 19th Century New York City, the civil rights movement. The first two, especially, became somewhat of a reading obsession, to the point where I can't read another book about either for a long time. (Since someone will ask, no, I am not of Irish descent. I just have a thing for Ireland.)

Now I want to learn about Canadian history, and from what I know of Pierre Berton, he's the obvious choice to take me there. Plus, I saw all his books in these beautiful editions in Chapters. It made me want to own them all! And once books are on my bookshelf, they must be read. (Now you've learned my other material weakness, besides Home Outfitters and Linen 'N Things.)

The slightly obsessive-compulsive inside me wants to start with the two 1812 books and work my way through in chronological order. The teacher and literary-enabler inside me says, pick a topic that most interests you, start there and read in any order you please. And the insane compulsive inside me berates, What about your already-full reading list? Those books aren't on it! (I know she's insane; I just nod and smile.)

Sitting on my shelf right now is The Last Spike, one of two books Berton wrote about the building of the trans-Canadian railroad. (The other is The National Dream.) The second half of the 19th Century is "my" era, dating back to my university years. More recently, the World War I era has begun to rival that. But in any case, The Golden Spike seems like a good place to start. Unless I succumb to mild OCD and begin with 1812.

Whenever I read a lot of nonfiction, I always read novels in between, for a change of pace, and to give my brain a rest. The next novel I want to read is Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, which imagines Charles Lindbergh defeating FDR in the 1940 presidential election.

11.19.2005

i'm just saying

If huge numbers of Canadians are not around at Christmastime, that's one thing. And I realize that my perspective is different because I don't celebrate Christmas. But I don't come from Mars, I come from a country that goes insane during the Christmas season, and I still have trouble envisioning people actually getting too busy to vote.

When discussing the voter intimidation and disincentives in Ohio in the 2004 US "election," Canadians told me it takes them 10 or 20 minutes to vote. We can all find 20 minutes. We're not talking 20 minutes a day, just 20 minutes, once.

And how much time does anyone really spend reading up on the issues? If you follow the news all year, you probably continue to follow it during the holiday season. If you don't, then the holidays aren't making any difference.

Some people said voting was just one more thing to do when they should be spending time with their family. One more thing to do? You are talking about voting as "one more thing to do"? That's positively shameful. Watch one less sitcom, and you've got the time.

"I don't like any of the candidates," "No one is doing anything," "They're all crooks and liars": those are different issues. It may be true, it may be an excuse for apathy, it may be some of both. But if that's your beef, it's true no matter when the election is held.

This man agrees with me, and he knows a lot more about it!
If you believe the bull-roar coming out of Ottawa these days you'd think a federal election campaign during the Christmas holidays is like poking an ice-pick into one ear and out the other.

The operative word in that sentence is "Ottawa." Who else but the politicians, their aides and the Ottawa press corps regards a Christmas election as a thing of horror?

I welcome a Christmas election. A good dose of mud slinging would be a welcome break from the saccharine sentiment and suicidal commercialism that have infiltrated, saturated and ruined what used to be and what should be a short and simple winter celebration of joy.

A Christmas election campaign seems to me like a fine diversion from a perverted Christmas holiday campaign that now begins the day after Halloween. We're barely halfway through November, the Grey Cup's still weeks away, there's no snow on the ground where I live, and already three times I've had to withstand the vicious assault of The Little Drummer Boy.

With a Christmas election campaign I'd have an excuse to say, "Sorry, can't be merry today, must read up on the issues." It's like the wonderful English expression: "Thank God the sun has gone down and I don't have to go out and enjoy it."
He goes on to talk about Ottawa. I don't pretend to know diddly about Ottawa, but it sure sounds a lot like Washington DC. Later, he writes:
I mean, how disruptive is a federal election for the average non-politician, non-press corps Canadian? One day you take 20 minutes off to visit a polling booth and mark your X upon a ballot. Then you go home for an early scotch and an early dinner.

It's not as if we're cruelly inundated with extra election news at Christmastime. There are always pages of murders and rapes and wars and tortures and sports scores to reward our hungry Yuletide eyes. What makes Christmas any different? Someone once said you don't get fat from eating all the rich food between Christmas and New Year's; you get fat from eating all the rich food between New Year's and Christmas. [Martin O'Malley CBC column here.]
Well, call me a clueless immigrant, but I still don't get it. Could this be the famous Canadian complacency I've heard so much about?

shame

As I'm sure you all know, last week the US Senate voted to cut off habeas corpus petitions by prisoners being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. The amendment they passed, sponsored by one Senator Lindsey Graham (R - SC), nullified the 2004 Supreme Court decision that said, because the Guantánamo base is under American control, the prisoners could challenge their detentions in federal courts.

The Senate passed John McCain's proposal to outlaw inhumane treatment of prisoners, by the wide - but not unanimous - margin of 90 to 9. However, the Graham amendment to that proposal effectively neuters that vote.

Put more simply, the majority of US Senators said: it's not ok for the US to torture prisoners, but if we do, there's nothing they can do about it.

Here are two perspectives on those votes.

The first is from Anthony Lewis, a former New York Times columnist and a Constitution historian. Lewis, via Common Dreams, offers a relevant history lesson.
Prisoners of the Senate
by Anthony Lewis

Boston - After the Northern victory in the Civil War, laws passed by Congress during the era of Reconstruction imposed military governments on the former Confederate states. A Mississippi editor, William H. McCardle, was arrested by the military and charged with publishing incendiary and libelous articles. He was held for trial before a military commission. But he went to a federal court and sought his release on a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that military rule of civilians was unconstitutional.

When McCardle lost in the trial court, he appealed to the Supreme Court, as the statute allowed. The Supreme Court agreed to decide the case and heard argument on it. Critics of the Reconstruction system thought, on the basis of recent decisions, that the court was about to return the South to civilian government.

But before the Supreme Court could hand down its decision, the Radical Republicans who controlled Congress repealed the law that allowed McCardle to bring forward his habeas corpus appeal. The justices then held that they had no power to decide the case. They dismissed the appeal. Military rule of the Southern states continued.

Ex Parte McCardle, as the case is called, was decided in 1869. Ever since, most legal scholars have regarded it as a terrible blot on the constitutional history of this country: a decision that Congress could thwart a test of an imprisonment's lawfulness even after the Supreme Court had taken the case.

The ghost of the McCardle case was brought to life last week when the Senate, by a vote of 49 to 42, approved an amendment to cut off habeas corpus petitions by detainees at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, would nullify a June 2004 Supreme Court decision that, because the Guantánamo base was under American control, the prisoners there could challenge their detentions in federal courts.

The Graham amendment echoes the McCardle case closely. It threatens to cut off the Supreme Court's jurisdiction in a case that the court had just agreed to review. The issue in that case is the lawfulness of trials by military commission for certain Guantánamo prisoners whom the Bush administration has decided to prosecute.

That Senator Graham pressed to end what is often the Guantánamo prisoner's only chance for an unbiased look at his claims of innocence was something of a surprise. He has been a staunch supporter of the effort by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to forbid cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in American custody.

The McCain proposal passed the Senate by a vote of 90 to 9. But the Graham amendment would make its enforcement difficult if it became law. Without habeas corpus, there would be no meaningful forum to deal with mistreatment. [Read the rest here.
The other perspective is from Molly Ivins, writing in the Miami Herald, also brought to you here by Common Dreams, as I can't access the original piece. Ivins writes:
I can't get over this feeling of unreality, that I am actually sitting here writing about our country having a gulag of secret prisons in which it tortures people. I have loved America all my life, even though I have often disagreed with the government. But this seems to me so preposterous, so monstrous.

Maybe I should try to get a grip -- after all, it's just this one administration that I had more cause than most to realize was full of inadequate people going in. And even at that, it seems to be mostly Vice President Cheney. And after all, we were badly frightened by 9/11, which was a horrible event. "Only" nine senators voted against the prohibition of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control the United States." Nine out of 100. Should we be proud? Should we cry?

"We do not torture," said our inarticulate president, straining through emphasis and repetition to erase the obvious.

A string of prisons in Eastern Europe in which suspects are held and tortured indefinitely, without trial, without lawyers, without the right to confront their accusers, without knowing the evidence or the charges against them, if any. Forever. It's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Another secret prison in the midst of a military camp on an island run by an infamous dictator. Prisoner without a name, cell without a number.

Who are we? What have we become?
Ivins answers her sad question with this conclusion:
Why did we bother to beat the Soviet Union if we were just going to become it? Shame. Shame. Shame.
Read her excellent essay here.

On a personal note, Allan and I have been doing a lot of reflecting on our lives together, brought on by the loss of our beloved friend. We both said how happy - how relieved and how proud - we are to have removed ourselves from the madness that is the United States.

11.18.2005

here's my question

What is the big deal about a Christmas election??? Will someone please explain this to me?

continue

I won't put you through a blow-by-blow of our grief. Everyone knows: it just sucks. But I would like to share a few thoughts.

It amazes me how much the support from family and friends, most definitely including all of you, has helped. It doesn't take the pain away, but it makes living with the pain easier. That's something to remember every time someone we know is hurting. Your little gesture, your reaching out - it's important. It's worth it. I thank every one of you for the caring and understanding you've shown us.

Because of Buster's fear and anxiety, very few people really knew him. We had to keep him away from most people. It took repeated contact in a controlled setting - and the special training we learned - for Buster to gradually trust. It was a time-consuming process, and the person had to be highly motivated to bother. So mostly, when someone Buster didn't know was in our house, we kept him on a leash, and one of us would always take care of him. As long as the "stranger" stayed a distance from him - we called it "his comfort zone" - it was ok. It wasn't a typical arrangement, but nothing ever was with him.

Because of this, the only people who really knew Buster were the dogwalkers and dogsitters who went through this training process with us. And, amazingly, their partners. Buster accepted two different boyfriends of two different dogwalkers, almost instantly. When our friend David K came over for dinner with his partner, during dinner, Buster lay down at that man's feet and put his head on his foot. At their first meeting. We were dumbfounded. How did he know?

In my email to my family and non-blog friends to announce Buster's death, I wrote this:
Because Buster was fearful and anxious, and because people were afraid of him, most of you never knew the Buster that we loved so dearly. He was incredibly intelligent, loyal, obedient, funny, sweet, affectionate, and above all, loving. Even by canine standards, Buster's love was intense. He was a true prince of nature.

Everyone says we did a lot for Buster, but he repaid us every moment of his life. We never gave him as much as he gave us.
Here are two beautiful comments from people who knew him, one quoted by me.

Sharing our lives with Buster was the canine equivalent of having a child with a disability. His care was very labour-intensive, and very expensive, and he became the focus of our lives. This somehow just made us love him more, because we had so much invested. The loss of a beloved animal is never easy, and should never be underestimated, but Buster's absence leaves a particularly large and painful void.

At the same time, our lives have just became easier. Our expenses have gone way down. Cody's life just expanded widely, too. She loves people and other dogs. Now we no longer have to avoid other dogs on our walks, and she can come with us on errands and trips. It's a huge loss to her, of course. She adored Buster and now he's disappeared. I can't imagine what she's feeling or thinking. But there's some compensation for her, too.

One more thought, if you're still with me.

Every night, since the day we found Buster, Buster slept next to me, on a cushion on the floor beside my side of the bed. And every morning - every single morning of his life with us - he greeted me with wild exuberance. As soon as I stirred in bed, his tail would start to thump against the wall, a loud thwack thwack thwack. He would wiggle and wriggle with happiness, and kiss my face like crazy, as if I had been gone for a week. He did this every single morning. "I'm still here, Mommy's still here, hooray, another day, joy joy joy."

Yesterday morning was so empty.

Cody came to the bedside, and put her face next to mine and gave me a few gentle kisses, in her typical low-key way. I thought my heart would break in two.

Trying to end on a more positive note here, we're still going to New Jersey for US Thanksgiving, but now we're taking Cody! We can't leave her alone with a dogsitter so soon after losing her best friend. She'd feel abandoned. She's a great traveler and loves people, so she'll have a great time. My mother has generously offered to have all three of us stay with her. We're driving down this Monday and driving back on Saturday.

11.16.2005

b

buster_floor
December 14, 1999 (adopted) - November 16, 2005

thank you

Allan and I both thank you all so much for your heartfelt comments. The outpouring of support - understanding, sympathy, kindness - from this community has been tremendous, and we are deeply appreciative.

Last night we spent the evening alternating between sobbing, reminiscing, laughing over stupid things, and stroking and loving B. We drank wine, and stayed up late.

J, our former dogsitter from New York, one of Buster's best friends, called. We all talked for a long time. She loves him very much and was full of support for our decision, and praise for our efforts all these years. It was good to talk to her. (DK, I know you're there, too. You are in our thoughts.)

Allan and I are both sick with grief. I'm very aware that I am doing this earlier than many people might. (Not that that matters.) But my gut, my heart, my bottom line, says: don't let him go through surgery, especially surgery that has a less-than-50% chance. The little voice, the guiding light, whatever you want to call it, is saying that it's too much for him. Buster would do it, he would tough it out if he had to, he would do whatever we asked of him - so let's not ask him to suffer. He's been through so much. Let him be happy, free of struggle.

This morning we're all going for a walk together, then giving B a big fat rawhide - his favorite, which he hasn't been able to eat since he got sick in the spring - before we go over to the vet's.

I'm going to take a short break from blogging, then I'll be return to my usual routine. I actually have a political question to ask, but I don't want to mix it in with the Buster posts.

Again, thank you. It's amazing what a difference you've made.

11.15.2005

tuesday afternoon

buster & allan 11.15.05 003


buster & allan 11.15.05 004


buster & allan 11.15.05 006
He does that spontaneously, by himself -
just puts his paw or chin on us.


buster & allan 11.15.05 009


buster & allan 11.15.05 011

end

We've just made the arrangements for Buster. Tonight is our last night with him.

We're both wrecks. The pain is very intense.

It's also confusing because Buster, right now, seems happy and well. To look at him, you would think he's totally fine. But glaucoma has no outward symptoms. According to the readings, he'll soon be in serious pain. The surgery doesn't seem like a viable option, given the chances of recurrence and complications, and given Buster's general health. In my head, I know it's the right thing to do. My heart, however...

Here's a story. In all my years with our dogs, through all their health care and surgeries and recoveries, there was only one thing I ever regretted. When our little terrier Clyde got sick, we were away on vacation. We never learned the seriousness of the illness, and didn't come straight home. By the time we returned, she was desperately ill. She was hanging on til we got back. We rushed her to the hospital, and she never came home.

I wasn't there for her. I wasn't there to alleviate her suffering. I let her down.

Everyone told me all the right things, all the things I would tell anyone else. You made the best decision you could at the time, given the information you had. You couldn't have known. You did the best you could. I listened and nodded. But I never really forgave myself. I just lived with it.

That experience colors my view of what's happening now with Buster. If the choices are letting him go a little earlier, before the inevitable pain and suffering (from the glaucoma or from the surgery) begins, or a little too late, once he has already suffered, I can only choose the former. I can't let him suffer.

So. There it is.

I thank you all for your thoughts and prayers and wishes.

pain

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and sympathy. It really means a lot.

We've been treating Buster for two chronic eye conditions, glaucoma and uveitis, for about 15 months. It was a stroke of luck that we caught the glaucoma at all; the disease usually has no symptoms until it's in the very advanced stages. Usually by the time someone brings their animal in, it's too late to save its eyesight. Buster was having a problem with his eyes that kept recurring, no matter what our family vet tried. We took him to a specialist, a veterinary ophthalmologist, and she discovered the glaucoma. The original problem turned out to be unrelated.

This began a long series of trips to the eye doc, tests and various medications. Every trip was very stressful for Buster, and expensive and labor-intensive for us. In New York, we had to rent a car each time, although finding Zipcar did help a lot. At first the visits were weekly, then every-other week, then monthly and finally every-other month.

Throughout, we've been giving Buster three different kinds of eye drops, several times a day. He doesn't mind at all, in fact, he's used to getting a hug and kiss after a drop, so he wags his tail and gives us a kiss in return. He's such a good boy. The medications are incredibly expensive, but they were working.

Simply put, glaucoma is high pressure in the eyes. Left untreated, it becomes extremely painful, and leads to blindness. Painful blindness. The vet eye doc have always stressed that the disease is not curable, only manageable. As long as the medications are working, you just monitor the eye pressure, and continue the treatment. We've always known that the condition could worsen at any time, that at some point the medication wouldn't work anymore, and there's no way to know when that might occur.

Our last few check-ups have been status quo. We've had to increase the dosages of the meds to bring the pressure down, but the meds were still working.

The eye doc in New York gave us the name of someone in the GTA, and he seems to be the most well-known veterinary ophthalmologist in the area. Yesterday was our first re-check since we moved.

Buster's eye pressure has skyrocketed. We were shocked.

This means the medications are no longer effective. Which brings us to my breaking heart.

There is laser surgery that can be done, and the doctor wants to do it immediately, to prevent horrible pain and blindness. His job is to save an animal's vision. But my job is to think of Buster. I have to look at the whole picture. If Buster were a normal dog, or if the surgery had a good prognosis, it would be different. But neither of those things are true.

The surgery is a crapshoot. It has an approximately 40% so-called success rate, but even within that 40%, the glaucoma can return at any time. It can return the next day, the next week, in a few months or in a year. Within the 60%, it can do nothing - or it can lead to serious complications that actually make things worse. It would also mean more frequent visits for follow-up care and pressure checks.

Buster is an animal with a compromised immune system. This is why he has glaucoma, why he has inflammatory bowel disease, and why he was dying from mange when we found him. All these conditions are related to his ill-functioning immune system. In addition, he has a serious anxiety condition. Even with all daily medications (yes, our dog takes Prozac, thank you very much), doctor visits and procedures are even more stressful and frightening for him than they are for most animals.

We've never hesitated to treat him for anything he needed. We never even considered doing otherwise. Not only do we love Buster with all our hearts, but we believe strongly that it's our responsibility. In for a penny, in for a pound. Sometimes you adopt an animal and they're easy-going and healthy (Cody, Clyde). Sometimes they're more challenging and high maintenance (Gypsy, Buster). Buster's re-written our definition of high-maintenance several times over, but we never considered not doing what was needed.

But I also believe strongly that our responsibility is to him, not us. I have to think of the overall quality of his life, not of my desire to reach beside my bed and feel him sleeping beside me.

I've always felt that as long as the medications were working, we'll just keep on keeping on - but also, that surgery is a different story. Especially surgery that may do nothing or may make things worse.

We've come to a sharp turn in the road, and down that road lies pain and suffering for my boy. I don't want to take one step in it. I don't want Buster to endure six months of suffering, and then eventually we'd have to put him down anyway, just so we can have him with us another six months. I don't want his last weeks or months on earth to be wracked with fear and pain. I'd rather (stupid word, I don't rather) lose him now.

There's an alternative surgery, too. They remove the dogs eyes and put in prosthetic silicon (fake) eyes. No more glaucoma, no more pain, no more vision. I know this sounds extreme, and maybe gross, but many people do this, and their dogs go on to live happy lives, despite blindness.

But Buster is not just any dog. His life is already very small and restricted. He's extremely happy, that's obvious, but I don't want to restrict his life any further by taking away his vision. What's more, we don't know how an anxious animal would react to blindness. Perhaps it would make him even more anxious and stressed, the last thing I want. Or perhaps the surgery itself would tax his poor immune system too much and trigger his IBD or other problems. With a normal dog in robust health, eye-removal might be an option. But that's not Buster.

This is the really awful part of sharing our lives with animals. Every animal-lover knows it going in, but it never gets any easier. And everyone draws the line at a different place. We've seen people put their dogs down for conditions that seemed highly treatable to us. But I've always known so many people who kept their dog or cat alive in the saddest, most reduced circumstances, simply because they couldn't say goodbye. I'm not making a judgment here, just an observation. I have vowed to myself that I would never do that, that I would always put my dogs needs before my own love for them.

It's killing me. But I know in my heart it's the right thing to do.

Making this even harder, Allan and I are in different places on this. I don't want to speak for him or go into the whole history here. We spent yesterday afternoon talking, arguing, crying, arguing, talking and crying over it. It's very hard.

Right now we're just loading Buster up on meds to keep the pressure below the pain threshold, but that's a very temporary respite.

This sucks.

* * * *

Here's the story of how we found our boy, and some history even further back for those who are interested. Here are some old photos, and some older photos of the first gang.

11.14.2005

very bad news

It's Buster. His glaucoma has taken a sharp turn for the worse. I think it may be the end of the line. I'm too upset to write much more. Be back with the full story when I can.

Thanks in advance, I know you are pulling for us.

risk, selection, justice

Remember back in the old days, when I used to post Paul Krugman columns all the time? Lest you think I've abandoned my columnist-hero, today our friend Mr Krugman is writing about health care.

But first, a few statistics, brought to you by the World Health Organization, courtesy of James, in comments.
WHO Core Health Indicators, US/Canada

US: $5,274 on health care / $2,368 is government spending
Canada: $2,931 on health care / $2,048 is government spending

US: Infant mortality rate, both sexes (per 1000 live births) 7.2
Canada: Infant mortality rate, both sexes (per 1000 live births) 5.1

US: Under-5 mortality rate, both sexes (per 1000 live births) 8.0
Canada: Under-5 mortality rate, both sexes (per 1000 live births) 6.0

US: Adult mortality (per 1000) males 139
Canada: Adult mortality (per 1000) males 93

US: Adult mortality (per 1000) females 82
Canada: Adult mortality (per 1000) females 57

US: Life expectancy at birth (years) total population 77
Canada: Life expectancy at birth (years) total population 80
And now back to the Krugman Show.
Health Economics 101
By Paul Krugman

Several readers have asked me a good question: we rely on free markets to deliver most goods and services, so why shouldn't we do the same thing for health care? Some correspondents were belligerent, others honestly curious. Either way, they deserve an answer.

It comes down to three things: risk, selection and social justice.

First, about risk: in any given year, a small fraction of the population accounts for the bulk of medical expenses. In 2002 a mere 5 percent of Americans incurred almost half of U.S. medical costs. If you find yourself one of the unlucky 5 percent, your medical expenses will be crushing, unless you're very wealthy - or you have good insurance.

But good insurance is hard to come by, because private markets for health insurance suffer from a severe case of the economic problem known as "adverse selection," in which bad risks drive out good.

To understand adverse selection, imagine what would happen if there were only one health insurance company, and everyone was required to buy the same insurance policy. In that case, the insurance company could charge a price reflecting the medical costs of the average American, plus a small extra charge for administrative expenses.

But in the real insurance market, a company that offered such a policy to anyone who wanted it would lose money hand over fist. Healthy people, who don't expect to face high medical bills, would go elsewhere, or go without insurance. Meanwhile, those who bought the policy would be a self-selected group of people likely to have high medical costs. And if the company responded to this selection bias by charging a higher price for insurance, it would drive away even more healthy people.

That's why insurance companies don't offer a standard health insurance policy, available to anyone willing to buy it. Instead, they devote a lot of effort and money to screening applicants, selling insurance only to those considered unlikely to have high costs, while rejecting those with pre-existing conditions or other indicators of high future expenses.

This screening process is the main reason private health insurers spend a much higher share of their revenue on administrative costs than do government insurance programs like Medicare, which doesn't try to screen anyone out. That is, private insurance companies spend large sums not on providing medical care, but on denying insurance to those who need it most.

What happens to those denied coverage? Citizens of advanced countries - the United States included - don't believe that their fellow citizens should be denied essential health care because they can't afford it. And this belief in social justice gets translated into action, however imperfectly. Some of those unable to get private health insurance are covered by Medicaid. Others receive "uncompensated" treatment, which ends up being paid for either by the government or by higher medical bills for the insured. So we have a huge private health care bureaucracy whose main purpose is, in effect, to pass the buck to taxpayers.

At this point some readers may object that I'm painting too dark a picture. After all, most Americans too young to receive Medicare do have private health insurance. So does the free market work better than I've suggested? No: to the extent that we do have a working system of private health insurance, it's the result of huge though hidden subsidies.

Private health insurance in America comes almost entirely in the form of employment-based coverage: insurance provided by corporations as part of their pay packages. The key to this coverage is the fact that compensation in the form of health benefits, as opposed to wages, isn't taxed. One recent study suggests that this tax subsidy may be as large as $190 billion per year. And even with this subsidy, employment-based coverage is in rapid decline.

I'm not an opponent of markets. On the contrary, I've spent a lot of my career defending their virtues. But the fact is that the free market doesn't work for health insurance, and never did. All we ever had was a patchwork, semiprivate system supported by large government subsidies.

That system is now failing. And a rigid belief that markets are always superior to government programs - a belief that ignores basic economics as well as experience - stands in the way of rational thinking about what should replace it.
Of course, beliefs that ignore rational thinking are staples in the US. But that's a post for another day.

11.13.2005

the rick mercer report report

I just watched the season opener of The Rick Mercer Report that Allan taped for me. The nicest thing I can say is that I'll give it several episodes, and not make up my mind based on this one. It was just... nothing.

As far as Mercer's famous rant segment, you folks who post here at wmtc are at least as smart and funny. Hell, Lone Primate and G could whip Rick's ass from here til next Tuesday.

But don't worry, I'll keep watching and see how it goes.

Some observations unrelated to quality.

The "My Riding" segment actually went somewhere I've been, the Danforth, which is an amazing coincidence, because I've mostly only been within a few blocks of my house. Mercer and Jack Layton also had a beer at a pub Allan and I have been to (and really enjoyed), thanks to a great recommendation from Marnie. We've been to like four places in all of Toronto, and this show goes to one of them. I thought that was great. (Thanks for not giving that away, you guys.)

Certain soon-to-be-Canadian-resident reader, please note, Mercer and Layton also visited the Oxi Parade on the Danforth, which Layton described as commemorating "the day the Greeks said no to the fascists". (Soon we will celebrate the day Canada said yes to Nick and Mason!)

And my final observation on the Rick Mercer Report: I understood all of it! Yay me.

pioneers

Two Israeli same-sex couples who were married in Canada are petitioning the Israeli high court to recognize their marriages.

In the Globe And Mail story about it, the couple credits Canada with lighting the spark in their quiet revolution.
It's a court fight that has already caused a kerfuffle in the more conservative corners of Israeli society and one that is sure to cause a much larger uproar should they win.

Thanks to the liberal leanings of Israel's Supreme Court, the two men expect to do just that, and they are looking forward to the fallout. They credit Canada for giving them the chance to battle for their rights.

The court challenge touched off a heated call-in debate on Voice of Israel radio last week, with all agreeing that Canada had set something big in motion.
Lawyers for both couples "praise Canada's decision to allow gays of any nationality to marry in Canada as "inspired" and something that will end up advancing gay rights around the globe."

huge, frustrated, hopeless

"The riots have done for France what Hurricane Katrina did for the United States: They have revealed the existence of a huge, frustrated and hopeless underclass. What is most shocking is that France's social divide is, in some ways, worse than the one in the U.S."
* * * *

The American right, which hates all things French, and the right in general (including Canadian), which hates all things Muslim, has been foaming at the mouth about the Paris riots. Apparently they are "Islamofascist" in origin (love that word! can we call the Cheney junta Christofascists?) and if the media isn't telling you that, it's because they're a bunch of liberal pansies afraid of offending the Muslim world. Or some bullshit like that.

Naturally the right (and most of the center) must automatically condemn riots of any kind, and immediately demonize the rioters. There couldn't possibly be anything to their anger. Nah. They're just trying to take over the world, but they're too stupid to see that burning cars is not a clear path to world domination.

Or something.

I hesitate to even link to the blogs I saw with this kind of bullshit. I don't want those bloggers over here. So Google yourself silly, or just trust me on this one.

I've been reading different perspectives on the French riots, especially seeking to understand if race or religion contributed much, if anything, to the situation. I've learned that, as is often the case, race is an issue, but more as a stand-in for class. Religion has nothing to do with it.

I found this column in Saturday's Globe And Mail particularly instructive. It's available online by subscription only, so I'm reprinting the whole thing here. It's worth reading. The Bill O'Reillys of the world, still boycotting France for reasons only known to them (and maybe not even that), might be surprised to see how much the US and this supposed enemy have in common.

Paris is burning, but race wasn't the real spark
By Doug Saunders

Paris - To see the future in any European city, you need to travel to the last stop on the subway, then drive a few kilometres farther. If you're in Paris, it is in these distant outskirts that you will discover the fatal computational error in that impressive formula -- capitalist wealth with generous social spending -- that makes up the fiercely defended "European social model."

This was plainly visible as I strolled through the bleak, featureless, concrete emptiness of the Cité des Trois Mille, a high-rise ghetto that was built as a socialist-utopian housing project for the new French working class of the postwar years, which exploded into the headlines this week as one of the first sites of paralyzing rioting. This charmless 'hood, whose population is more than 10 times the 3,000 suggested by its name, is a 180-degree inversion of the European success story.

The French dream, the one most visitors see on trips to Paris, combines the best of capitalism (high productivity and wages, job security, months of paid vacation) with the best of socialism (superb pension and maternity benefits, short working hours, excellent public education and health).

But life for the millions of young people in these blighted banlieues combines the very worst of capitalism (mass, permanent unemployment, exploitative casual work, no purchasing power) with the worst of socialism (hideous housing, oppressive police state, no choices).

"The kids here are fully French, they speak the language perfectly and consider themselves fully French, but they have nothing of the nicer things of French life -- the cafés, the culture -- none of that is available to them," my guide, a former resident of the area, said as she introduced me to the hollow-eyed young men who spent long hours "holding up the wall," staring into the middle distance and taunting any authorities who happened by. "For recreation in the evening, all they have to do is burn cars."

What is surprising is that this conversation took place not this week but more than a year ago, in the summer of 2004. The car-burning was already well under way: On Bastille Day, 2002, more than 90 cars were burned here; at New Year's in both 2003 and 2004, hundreds were burned. On most weekend nights, at least one plume of smoke can be seen. In many respects, the people in les Cités, as the high-rise slums are known, have been rioting for years. This season, they finally got noticed.

The riots have done for France what Hurricane Katrina did for the United States: They have revealed the existence of a huge, frustrated and hopeless underclass. What is most shocking is that France's social divide is, in some ways, worse than the one in the U.S.

This, after all, is the country that has fought the most aggressively to preserve its generous system of social benefits and its very expensive welfare state against threats from the European Union and the U.S.-influenced countries. It was in the name of "the social Europe" that France rejected the EU constitution this summer. No other major nation spends as much on social programs as France does: At least 52 per cent of the country's annual economic output is devoted to social spending. Canada spends about half that much.

So it has come as a huge shock, to French and foreigners alike, to discover that this system has produced so little value for the money. It has increased poverty and produced a huge and deeply unhappy permanent underclass of perpetually unemployed, poorly housed young people, most of them with brown or black complexions. How on earth can that be?

Nobody knows how many such people there are -- estimates claim there are 9.5 million fully disenfranchised, impoverished people, in a nation of 60 million. But they are a small part of a larger social problem: About 40 per cent of citizens of working age (18-64) have not had a job in the past year, and are entirely dependent on government support. More than 40 per cent of those jobless are permanently unemployed. (In Canada, the figure is around 10 per cent.)

This week, the headlines have emphasized the fact that the rioters are not white, and mostly are children or grandchildren of North African immigrants. Commentators on the right have been quick to blame the rioting on immigration and "multiculturalism" (a concept that effectively does not exist in France), while those on the left have blamed racism and the failure of integration.

Yet this does not quite add up: The rioters are not immigrants (even if their parents were); they are culturally assimilated and live their lives in fluent French. They do not want a separate cultural identity -- there has not been any sign of any Islamic or African cultural dimension to the protests. These are angry French people.

While it is undeniable that French society has a sharp and largely unspoken racial divide (you really do not see brown-skinned people with respectable jobs in France), the identity of the rioters is overshadowed by their very existence: Yes, the vast underclass is dark-skinned. But why should a country like France have a vast and unhappy underclass at all?

That question was posed this week by Agnès Poirier, a writer with the left-wing Paris newspaper Libération. She pointed out that those who attribute the crisis to matters of race are correct "only in part."

She asked: "What do we see when we look at the 'burning suburbs'? Dissatisfied youth with little education, hardly any job prospects, from poor and often broken families. Their misery is first of all social and economic. They are the French people who feel they are not represented by any political party, and especially not by the French left."

That is the core of the problem: In France, there is not a single political party, not even the radical branch of the opposition Socialist party, that represents the interests of this huge lumpenproletariat class. Quite the contrary: The agendas of all the parties appear harmful to the Cité-dwellers, and almost entirely designed to bring increasing comfort to the established working and middle classes.

While France redistributes more of its wealth in social spending than almost any nation, almost all of that money goes to the middle class and the better-off, employed branch of the working class -- the workers who get the 35-hour weeks and maternity packages, and don't live in the outskirts.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 27.6 per cent of France's social spending goes to the poorest third of the population. We can hardly gloat: In Canada, that number is only 22 per cent. In northern Europe, where such underclasses have not formed, it's around 40 per cent. And that spending, in France, is funded by regressive taxes that take proportionately more from the poor than from the better-off.

In effect, French voters have elected to build a huge concrete wall across their nation, said Parisian commentator Philippe Manière: "Those inside the wall have very good lives, and have good benefits, and guaranteed jobs. But their gains all end up hurting the millions of people who are kept outside the wall -- they have protected themselves and given themselves comforts at the expense of the other group of French citizens, who get nothing."

The 60 per cent of French citizens who live extremely well -- French "insiders" with perhaps the highest standard of living in the world -- are waking up this month to realize that their system is built on the shoulders of the deeply underprivileged 40 per cent.

The French right, under the Gaullist leadership of president Jacques Chirac, has been in power since 2002. Its reaction to this outsider class has been to brand its members criminals, making their lives more miserable. In his first six months in office, Mr. Chirac increased the French prison population by 12 per cent, spent nine billion euros more on the police and justice system, set up special, heavily armed squads in les Cités, and added 11,000 prison spaces.

This week, France's Interior Minister, the presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, reacted to the riots by cracking down violently. Dismissing the protesting youth as "riff-raff," he imposed the equivalent of a War Measures Act, responding with mass arrests and deportations. Such laws have effectively turned les Cités into more dismal prisons, driving their residents further from French society.

But the French left, even the radical branch of the Socialist party, is equally uninterested in the fate of the millions of people who are neither workers nor middle-class. Its accomplishments, during its periods of power in the 1980s and 1990s, made life enormously better for those who have lifelong work -- and functioned equally well to keep the underclass imprisoned in their concrete canyons.

The left's chief accomplishment in its last period in power was the 35-hour work week, which effectively gave the employed classes of France an extra month or two of fully paid vacation each year, on top of the five weeks or more that were already mandatory.

That policy also effectively prevented further jobs from being created, especially the sort of low-wage, but permanent, service-sector jobs that could have helped people in the suburban slums. Small- and medium-sized businesses almost immediately stopped adding extra staff. Large foreign companies lost interest in opening plants -- direct foreign investment in France plummeted.

Dozens of similar laws have created two classes of workers. Both Socialists and many Gaullists have become devoted to the rhetoric and policies of anti-globalization -- which, in practice, help to protect the middle classes and the comfortably employed, and harm the sub-proletarians on the outskirts of town, for whom trade and "McJobs" could only be beneficial.

"Above all else, French public policy has been designed to protect and improve existing jobs, rather than toward anything that could cause any new jobs to be created," said Timothy Smith, a professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., whose prescient 2004 book France in Crisis has suddenly become a much-studied volume among the French elite.

France, he argues, believes itself to be a social-democratic, anti-American state, while its policies have led to the opposite of social democracy, and a race-and-poverty divide comparable only to that in the U.S. "The gap," he writes, "between the protected, the well-vacationed, and the unwanted on the outside grows wider each year."

In a country famous for having a revolutionary explosion every generation, this one has come as a complete surprise. It is hard not to feel strong admiration for the rioters: Spilling a minimum of blood, they have managed to awaken a myopic French society to the existence of a non-working class that had no name and no identity, that was ignored in the self-obsessions of the left and the right.

Perhaps France will one day be able to realize its revolutionary principles of liberty, equality and brotherhood, under the historic symbol of the burning car.

11.12.2005

the old lie

More thoughts on sacrifice.
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

-- Wilfred Owen.
Read the whole poem here.

Many thanks to orc of This Space For Rent.

fooled again

Every so often, someone says I moved to Canada because I couldn't accept that the Democrats lost the 2004 election, that I am a "sore loser", and that no one should leave a country over who is president. Occasionally they throw in that they didn't like Clinton, but didn't leave the country when he was president. (How nice for them.)

I am forever explaining that we made the decision to emigrate long before the 2004 election, we filed our applications in early 2004, and we were leaving no matter who won. Liberals who briefly contemplated leaving the US after the last election - but who feel the election of John Kerry would have solved the problem - didn't go anywhere.

With that preface, I also say that the 2000 and 2004 "elections" figured prominently in our decision - but not solely because of the outcomes. Allan and I both believe that the US does not have fair and free elections. And if you don't have fair elections, what makes it a democracy?

(I used to blog about this all the time. There are lots of old posts if you feel like digging them up. Search for Black Box Voting.)

Through reading and observing, I've come to believe that the US is governed under a new form of fascism, one that retains the superficial appearance of democracy. We don't see tanks rolling down the street. There's no assassination or military coup. Elections aren't suspended - in fact, they're intensified. So the rest of the world, even the majority that knows the Cheney White House for what it is, is not unduly alarmed.

The citizens continue living their lives relatively undisturbed. They work, or try to, they struggle to support their families, they shop, they follow sports, they go to church, they watch TV. Ordinary life gets harder for many, softer for a few, but it continues. Activists, both left and right, continue to work on individual issues, judicial appointments or pending legislation. Sometimes they win, and are encouraged, and keep working.

Every four years, the circus comes to town. It appears to be an election. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent, thousands of hours of air time used, untold words written and speeches made. About half the eligible population trots off to the polls, thinking they have voted.

But it's a sham. It's a stage set. And not just because neither party is working for real change. Because it's not really an election.

In Mark Crispin Miller's new book, Fooled Again, John Kerry says he knows the 2004 election was stolen, but feels that political expedience demands he keep quiet. As you probably know, Kerry has denied saying this. Those of us who know Miller's work know that Kerry absolutely must have said exactly what Miller says he did.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman wrote How The GOP Stole America's 2004 Election And Is Rigging 2008, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, What Happened In Ohio (to be published in the spring). Read their most recent story in The Free Press.

a first

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has become the first female elected head of state in modern African history. Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president of Liberia yesterday. New York Times story here.

Liberia is a very poor country, only beginning to recover from decades of civil war. Charles Taylor, the former Liberian dictator, lives in exile in Nigeria. He has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

11.11.2005

eleven eleven

Of course it's November 11, Armistice Day, Veterans Day (US), Remembrance Day (Canada). It's understandably a much bigger holiday in Canada than in the US, since Canada really fought that nightmare war, not just popped in for a quick appearance at the end.

I'm not much for honouring veterans, although my heart is filled with sympathy for what they've endured. I've read a lot about World War I, mostly in novels like All Quiet On The Western Front, and Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, among others. The war commemorated on November 11 is the perfect example of the utter futility of war, the utter horror it inflicts, planned by a ruling elite for their own purposes, but shouldered by working people, on both sides. (Remember Geoffrey Palmer scooping up those tin soldiers in Blackadder Goes Forth? The most heartbreaking bit of comedy I've ever seen.)

The best thing we could ever do to honour veterans to stop creating them. Work for peace.

new rule

As of right now, we move to canada will no longer accept anonymous comments.

I'm sick of these stupid anonymous comments. I used to enjoy responding to them, and didn't mind deleting them if I found them early enough, but now I'm just finding them tiresome and irritating. I'm sorry if this inconveniences anyone. ALPF, please register! As ALPF, of course.

I'll see how this goes, and if I don't like it, I'll change it back. Thanks for understanding.

home

New York City is still there. It's still big and noisy and dirty, and I still love it, even though New Yorkers re-elected a mayor who seems to have nothing but disregard for them.

It was great to see friends and family. Everyone is doing well and I had fun all around. But I loved coming home. Home to our cozy little house, home to my loving partner and our wonderful dogs, but also home to Canada. I like showing my Permanent Resident card at the border, seeing the Maple Leaf, driving back on the QEW. Nice.

Two good things happened while I was gone.

V, our new dogsitter, had another successful Buster session. She came in while no one was home, leashed up the dogs and took them for a walk, all with no problems. This means Buster has fully accepted her - which means we're all set, we can go away for US Thanksgiving. Hooray! Patience, plus the advice of our great trainer in New York, paid off.

It's important for us to be able to go away without the dogs, but it's also wonderful for Buster to make new friends. I always felt bad that he lost his human friends when we moved. Cody will make friends with everyone and anyone, but Buster's circle is so small, his life is so restricted - I hated to take him away from anything that made him happy, from anyone he loved. So I'm very happy that he now has a new friend, a wonderful person who cares deeply about animals and really wants to bond with him. Plus we can get out of the house!

And it looks like my editors and publishers have gotten it together, and I can finally begin the next Ancient Civs manuscript. I haven't finished my Kids On Wheels assignment yet, because people I have to interview are lame and won't call me back, but I purposely kept my work for this issue very light. It shouldn't be a problem to juggle both until the KOW is finished, then concentrate exclusively on Ancient Civs. More about that as it develops.

Allan taped Rick Mercer, but - uh-oh - said it wasn't funny. I haven't watched it yet, but will soon. Was the season opener typical?

11.07.2005

southbound

I'm off this morning for my first trip back to the Old Country. I'll be staying at my mom's, also seeing my sister and her family, my dear friend NN and a certain dog-loving fan of wmtc.

Poor Allan, after working a 14-hour shift yesterday (and that after two 11-hour days) now has to drag himself out of bed to drive me to Buffalo. When I made the reservations, he didn't have the job yet.

So what will Redsock do while I'm gone? Will he (a) paint the accent wall in the bedroom, (b) attach the blades to the ceiling fan, (c) rent every episode of South Park on DVD, or (d) never leave his computer except for dog-walks? My guess is some combination of the above, involving South Park, computers and maybe, just maybe, a can of paint. We have a love-hate relationship with South Park. He loves it. I hate it.

Have a good week, everyone. I'll be back Thursday afternoon - and Allan is taping Rick Mercer.

11.06.2005

unpopularity, no contest

"The last time Canadians so disliked a U.S. president, the Americans were shooting at us," says pollster-author Michael Adams.

Lone Primate sent me this link about some smart Canadians.
America and the U.S. government are less popular in Canada today than any time since polls were first conducted in this country in the 1930s. To find similar anti-American sentiment, you'd probably have to go back to the federal election of 1911, when Wilfrid Laurier's espousal of trade reciprocity with the United States cost him re-election.

The public-opinion trends do not augur well. In 1981, the year Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, seven per cent of Canadians told us they had an unfavourable opinion of the U.S., while 10 times that proportion (72 per cent) reported a favourable impression of our southern neighbour. Today the proportion reporting an unfavourable impression is 48 per cent, and the proportion reporting a favourable opinion is down to 50 per cent.

We are talking here of America as a country, not the administration of George W. Bush. Favourable opinion of the United States has been eroding gradually over the years, but its decline accelerated sharply when W. was first elected in the fall of 2000. And if his Republican administration was unpopular in 2000, it was anathema in 2004.

In 2000, 29 per cent of Canadians would have voted for Mr. Bush had they had the opportunity. Forty-eight per cent would have voted for Democratic candidate Al Gore. By 2004, Mr. Bush was down to 15 per cent in Canada, and John Kerry would have garnered 70 per cent of the Canadian vote. George W. Bush is probably the least popular president of the United States in Canada since James Madison led his country in the War of 1812.
Back in February, I posted a photo of smart Germans, and of course I used to blog about smart New Yorkers all the time. Today, here are some smart Argentinians, protesting against W before the fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

argentina

If you look carefully, you might catch a glimpse of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez among the crowd. Chavez promised to leave the summit in between sessions to participate in an alternative People's Summit. Along with the former Argentinian football star Diego Maradonna, Chavez will lead a protest march against W. Story from The Independent (UK) via Common Dreams. The Independent writer asks, "Can you imagine one of the leaders at the G8 summit slipping out between sessions, through the security cordon, to join in a street demonstration of bearded anoraks against the summit's most powerful participant...?"

The People's Summit was held from November 1 through 5; it ended yesterday. You can read some reports about it here (a Canadian site).

11.05.2005

november

Still no sign of that famous Canadian winter. Yesterday it reached a balmy 17 degrees here in the GTA. For you Fahrenheit readers, that's about 62 F, lovely weather for November. (Lovely weather for any time if you ask me!) I went for a long walk, this time following the Waterfront Trail west instead of east.

I've just about reached the limit of Waterfront Trail I can explore in comfortable walking distance from our house, making a one-hour loop. Soon I'll have to start driving to different spots on the trail and walking from there. Depending on the weather, this might happen next Spring.

I bought a whole set of trail maps from the Waterfront folks. Yes, I know you can print out sections from .pdfs, but I wanted the entire trail. It would cost more in ink cartridges than it would to purchase them, and the quality wouldn't be as good. They came in a spiral binder with a plastic cover.

As the leaves fall, I'm making plans for winter exercise, either buying a treadmill or joining a pool. I can exercise at home with no problem, and if I'm just going to walk on a treadmill and use weights, I'd just as soon skip the driving and do it at home. Only one thing could sufficiently motivate me to get in my car to exercise, and that's swimming.

I'm in the midst of investigating my swimming options. The Mississauga YMCA has a pool, and it's not far from me; there are also pools at two nearby high schools that have some public hours. I'll be checking those out soon.

Meanwhile, here are some scenes from yesterday's walk.


waterfront trail 11.05.05 001


waterfront trail 11.05.05 002


waterfront trail 11.05.05 003


waterfront trail 11.05.05 004


waterfront trail 11.05.05 005


waterfront trail 11.05.05 006


waterfront trail 11.05.05 007


waterfront trail 11.05.05 009


waterfront trail 11.05.05 014


waterfront trail 11.05.05 011


waterfront trail 11.05.05 015


waterfront trail 11.05.05 016


waterfront trail 11.05.05 018
Many streets in Port Credit end at little parks like this,
and the parks connect with the Waterfront Trail.


waterfront trail 11.05.05 020
I love cute little houses like this.
They're plentiful around here, scattered among the McMansions.

11.04.2005

opinion

This Hour Has 22 Minutes is funnier than Royal Canadian Air Farce.

So far I've seen three episodes of 22 Minutes, and they've all made me laugh. Air Farce is batting .000. I haven't laughed once.

I hope this means I can still be Canadian? Please don't send me back there.

zealotry

In a recent comment, Kyle_From_Ottawa posted a link to an essay examining anti-Americanism, nationalism and the difference between hating what a government does and hating its people. The author also looks at how the rabid right uses that confusion to its advantage.

As we frequently discuss anti-Americanism here at wmtc - how to define it, whether it's plentiful in Canada - you might want to take a look. It's worth reading.

"quietly imploding"

I get so tired of hearing the Canadian health care system slandered by Americans who don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's not like they make valid points that can be discussed and debated. They simply don't know what they're talking about, because they are informed solely by myths.

As onomatopoeia said (I recently quoted him here): "Sure the Canadian system has its own problems, but if you want to know what those problems are, ask any Canadian, not an American."

The way most Americans talk about Canada's health care, you'd think everyone south of the 49th parallel had affordable, accessible, expert care. We know far too many lack the first two criteria. What about the third?

From the Washington Post, with thanks to Redsock:
Americans pay more when they get sick than people in other Western nations and get more confused, error-prone treatment, according to the largest survey to compare U.S. health care with other nations.

The survey of nearly 7,000 sick adults in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and Germany found Americans were the most likely to pay at least $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. More than half went without needed care because of cost and more than one-third endured mistakes and disorganized care when they did get treated.

Although patients in every nation sometimes run into obstacles to getting care and deficiencies when they do get treated, the United States stood out for having the highest error rates, most disorganized care and highest costs, the survey found.

"What's striking is that we are clearly a world leader in how much we spend on health care," said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president for the Commonwealth Fund, a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit foundation that commissioned the survey. "We should be expecting to be the best. Clearly, we should be doing better."

Other experts agreed, saying the results offer the most recent evidence that the quality of care in the United States is seriously eroding even as health care costs skyrocket.

"This provides confirming evidence for what more and more health policy thinkers have been saying, which is, 'The American health care system is quietly imploding, and it's about time we did something about it,' " said Lucian L. Leape of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The new survey, the eighth in an annual series of cross-national surveys conducted by Harris Interactive for the fund, is the largest to examine health care quality across several nations during the same period. The survey was aimed at evaluating care across varying types of health care systems, including the market-driven U.S. system and those that have more government controls and subsidies.

The survey, published in the journal Health Affairs, questioned 6,957 adults who had recently been hospitalized, had surgery or reported health problems between March and June of this year.
Read the article here.

secrets and lies

This is another post in my periodic series about Wal-Mart, and the disgusting, anti-human business practices of the US's largest employer. (My first Wal-Mart post was here, here's one that started a discussion, and here's a recent JibJab cartoon. There's a bunch of others, too. If you're a Wal-Mart Watcher, you can search the archives.)

Last week, I received this email from Wal-Mart Watch:
On Wednesday, the New York Times broke the story of a secret Wal-Mart Board of Directors memo obtained by Wal-Mart Watch. Today, just 24 hours later, millions of people around the world are discovering the true ruthlessness of Wal-Mart's business practices.

Wal-Mart tries hard and spends an unbelievable amount of money to make us believe that they treat their workers like family. We've all seen the television commercials and will see many more in the days and weeks ahead. But we've shattered this myth once and for all.

The secret memo reveals the complete disregard - if not outright hostility - with which Wal-Mart's executives view their more than 1.3 million employees in the US. It confirms facts that Wal-Mart has long denied, including that 46% of the children of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees are uninsured or on Medicaid.

To remedy Wal-Mart's healthcare crisis, the memo lays out plans to:
- Cut spousal benefits
- Hire more part-time employees and encourage faster turnover
- Discourage older and unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart by requiring more jobs to require physically challenging tasks such as collecting carts and stocking shelves

Read the secret Wal-Mart memo here and join the discussion about it on our blog.

We leaked the memo to the New York Times on the heels of a media blitz by Wal-Mart about its latest plan to offer more affordable employee healthcare benefits. But as this memo proves, yet again, Wal-Mart is ignoring the true crisis of their uninsured and underinsured employees. It's more than a moral crisis, it's one that costs you and all American taxpayers billions each year.
Here's how to get involved. And of course, spread the word.

11.03.2005

missing pieces

Hey, it's wmtc's second hockey-related post! (I'm counting my Don Cherry post.)

I read in today's Toronto Star that a former NHL coach and general manager has made what are usually called "startling revelations" in his new autobiography.
Jacques Demers, a coach and later a general manager in the NHL for 15 years, admits he is illiterate.

That and other revelations about the life of one of the NHL's more colourful coaches is revealed in a biography in French released yesterday called Jacques Demers En Toutes Lettres, which roughly translates as "Jacques Demers From A To Z."

The book was written by Journal de Montreal desk editor and former Montreal Canadiens beat writer Mario Leclerc.

Demers said at a gala book launch that his inability to read and write resulted from an impoverished childhood. His father beat and psychologically abused Demers and his mother.

"All I wanted from my father was to treat me with love," Demers said. "Not to beat me up when I did something wrong. Not to beat up my mom. It really hurt me because he took away my childhood.

"The other thing I wanted to say was that if I could not write or read, it was because I had so much of a problem with anxiety because of the things going on in the family. I couldn't go to sleep at night. I'd go to school and I couldn't learn anything.

"So the message is, leave the kids alone. Don't beat them up. They're defenceless. Don't beat up their mom in front of the kids."

It is remarkable that Demers was able to coach the Quebec Nordiques, the St. Louis Blues, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was also general manager in the late 1990s, without being able to read or write.

Only a few people knew of his problem. He finessed his way through most of it, he says in the book, by asking secretaries and media relations people to write letters for him, saying his English wasn't good enough.
Hidden illiteracy among adults is more common than you might think - at least in the US it is. Taking a quick look online, I found lots of sites promoting adult literacy, so it must be an issue in Canada, too.

More significant, to me, is Demers's admission that he and his mother were abused by Demers's father. Every adult - especially every man - who speaks out about childhood abuse helps to fight domestic violence. Demers, whether he realizes it or not, is reaching out to other abuse survivors, as well as to abusers. Making the overlooked connection between abuse and educational success is positively brilliant.

I especially admire and appreciate this openness when it's found in the world of professional sports. It's a priceless opportunity to reach men, and to make a small crack in the armour of traditional masculinity that causes abuse.

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre has also spoken openly of the abuse he and his mother survived. Torre has made domestic violence his own cause, starting a foundation that raises awareness, does outreach, and helps survivors.

To people involved in the anti-violence movement, Torre's work is monumental. Forty years ago, no one ever spoke openly about childhood and familial abuse. Only twenty-five years ago, it was still often referred to as "wife-beating," and regarded as aberrant behaviour of the lower classes. Athlete foundations generally raise money for non-controversial causes like cancer research. That Torre can use his high profile to join the fight against domestic violence is both a sign that our world has changed, and a great leap forward.

Never doubt the courage it took for Torre and Demers to admit they were beaten - and to ask other men to check their own violent impulses. Never doubt how much it means to other male survivors who are listening. I promise you the stadiums are full of them.

For more information on domestic violence, try here, here and here.

11.02.2005

open

Congratulations, Ontario, on taking a big step towards basic equality and civil rights. Adopted people in Ontario now have the same right to know their background as everyone else.

My old post about this is here. From today's Star:
Supporters sobbed, cheered and embraced one another yesterday as the Ontario government finally passed controversial legislation to unseal the province's adoption records after what proponents of the bill consider 80 years of secrecy and shame.

New Democrat member Marilyn Churley, a birth mother and long-time champion of changes to Ontario's adoption laws, bowed her head and wiped away a tear as the votes were counted, aware that her 10-year battle for change was at an end.

"This is a very emotional issue, partly because it's an issue that we've been working on for so long and it's finally come to pass," a flushed and beaming Churley said after the legislation passed third reading by a substantial 68-19 margin.

Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello, the principal architect of the legislation, walked across the floor of the legislative chamber after the vote to embrace her NDP rival, whose own numerous efforts to get a similar bill passed always seemed to fail on the cusp of a vote.

"We worked a long time to get it right," Pupatello said later.

But it will take months to spell out the mechanics of how adoptees and birth parents alike will be able to access original or current birth certificates and the vital details they contain.

There have been 250,000 adoptions in Ontario since record-keeping first began, with nearly 73,000 names listed on a voluntary provincial registry.

In several months, the province will launch an intensive ad campaign across Canada and in neighbouring U.S. states to alert people to the changes to adoption law, Pupatello said. The new bill won't be proclaimed into law for another 18 months.

The changes will allow adoptees to learn their original name and birth parents the current name of the child they gave up. Such details can prove to be key information to tracing their ancestry and ultimately locating and reuniting a long-lost parent and child.

All 19 votes against the legislation came from the Opposition Conservatives, who want a so-called disclosure veto allowing anyone to keep their records sealed if they so desired.

The passage makes Ontario the fourth province to open its adoption records, joining British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland. But Ontario remains the only province in Canada without a disclosure veto.

The legislation allows parents and adoptees alike the option to request they not be contacted, but to keep their records sealed they would need to prove to a tribunal that unsealing their files would cause harm.

Conservative Leader John Tory, who voted for the legislation in principle when it came to second reading, said the privacy measures in the final bill simply aren't enough.

"They're wholly inadequate in that they force people in extraordinary circumstances to come forward and beg and plead for their privacy rights," he said.

One adoptee has vowed to fight the law in court, saying it violates his Charter right to privacy.