9.30.2006

remorse

A 19-year-old boy was sentenced to life in prison yesterday, for the brutal murder of his younger brother. He was 16 years old when he killed his brother, who was 12.

I can imagine few things worse for a family to live through.

Here's what's troubling me.
Kevin Madden has exhibited little or no remorse for his crimes or empathy for the people affected by them," [Justice David] McCombs told youth court yesterday.
This is a constant theme in the legal justice system: remorse. The public, through the court system, wants to see a display of remorse, and this display is taken into account during sentencing.

This strikes me as ridiculous, and blatantly unjust.

First of all, not everyone can articulate their emotions. Some people simply do not have that power of expression.

What's more, a person who has committed a terrible crime may have a huge conflict of emotions, perhaps too much to sort out and understand, perhaps well beyond his abilities of expression.

And what of the person who can disaply remorse? Does that mean he actually feels remorseful? What if he is feigning the emotion? If his sentencing depends on it, he's certainly got motivation to act the requested role, if he's able.

What of the person who is too shut down emotionally to reflect on his actions? I can well imagine that a boy who killed his little brother is not fully grasping the import of what he did. The human mind is an amazing thing. It will protect itself from destruction by any means necessary. I've seen people shut down over less.

I'm going to assume that a teenage boy who would stab his brother to death, punching the knife in his body 71 times, is mentally and emotionally ill. He may not be diagnosed, but he clearly has a disordered mental state. The Judge describes: "He has repeatedly stated that he has never loved anyone, nor felt love from anyone. He has stated that he doesn't know how emotions feel."

Clearly there is something very wrong with this young man. I'm not suggesting he be released into society with a prescription for Prozac. But wouldn't a mental hospital be more appropriate than prison? He's been receiving treatment in the youth prison where he's been living since the crime, but that will end when he is transferred to an adult facility two years from now.

If he had "expressed remorse," if he had said "I'm sorry," would he be any less sick? Would his victim be any less dead? The whole concept should be retired.

tmtc

Of known friends of wmtc...

They moved to Canada: (political defectors unless otherwise noted)
A&S (no blog) (arrived three days before us!)
Alex E of Canadian Yankee
Alex K of What does this win mean to the team (moved here for work, I believe)
CaliGirl in PEI, since August 2002
Diamond Jim of Worst Attitude (arrived June 2005)
Idealistic Pragmatist (the smartest of us all - here since 1997!)
Katrinka Bobinka of Katrinka Thinks (moved here when she married a Canadian)
Matt of This Nurse and partner YYZBoy of YYZ Life (arrived June 2005)
Mollie in Victoria (no longer blogging, and I miss her!)
Nick and Mason of Life Without Borders (arrived two days ago!)
Pearl of Notes To A Nameless Daughter
Tornwordo of Sticky Crows
Tresy in Victoria (no blog)
and of course
Yours truly and my esteemed partner (arrived August 30, 2005)

They're moving to Canada:
Daniel and Alan of Would Be Canadians
MSEH of Two Moms To Canada
John and Gito of Wondrous Canadian Renewal (approved!!)
Tom and Emilio of Canadian Hope
Riin of Riin's Rants (saving money - buy her yarn!)
West End Bound and drf of Moving To Vancouver
and
at least 50 other people who email me for information, but don't have blogs that I know of.

Canadians who returned from other countries, or are trying to:
Sassy Says
Andrea's Rambling Notes
Expat Traveler

Canadians in exile:
teflonjedi
htrouser, a Canadian who defected to the US and became an American, to stem the tide of lefties leaving the country (or so he claims!)

I'm sure I've overlooked somebody. If I have, my apologies, and please let me know!

9.29.2006

evidence

The great voting rights and fair election watchdogs Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman continue to dig for democracy. They've uncovered yet more evidence to throw on the already large mountain of dirt proving that the 2004 presidential election was stolen.
Ohio election protection activists have won a landmark court battle to preserve the ballots from 2004's disputed presidential election, and researchers studying those ballots continue to find new evidence that the election was, indeed, stolen. Among other things, large numbers of consecutive votes in different precincts for George W. Bush make it appear ever more likely that the real winner in 2004 should have been John Kerry. Meanwhile, indictments and prison terms are mounting among key players in that tainted contest.

. . .

So far, even the limited inspection of ballots has yielded astonishing results. Three precincts in two counties have shown consecutive runs of Bush votes that qualify as "virtual statistical impossibilities."

- In Delaware County, Precinct Genoa I, researcher Stuart Wright viewed and recounted 3 separate bundles of ballots. In the second bundle, there were 274 consecutive ballots for Bush. In the third bundle there were 359 consecutive ballots for Bush. Genoa I was not one of the four precincts recounted as part of a required official recount, conducted on December 15, 2004.

- In Delaware County, BOE officials told Phillips that after the votes were cast on Election Day, ballots were unloaded by a team of teenage volunteers including the Boy Scouts who carried them into the BOE building where they were then given to a "mentally retarded man" who scraped the chads off the punch card ballots. Dr. Phillips estimates that the "mentally retarded man" would have had to scrape four or five ballots per second on election night in order to comply with the posting of the results at 12:40am for the nearly 80,000 ballots cast there.

- In Delaware County, Ross Township precinct, Philips has discovered that the BOE certified that 70% of the ballots cast for C. Ellen Connally, an African-American woman from Cleveland running for the Ohio Supreme Court, were also counted for Bush. The implausibility of this outcome in a white, Republican suburb is underscored by the fact that Connally trailed both Bush and Kerry very substantially throughout the rest of the state. Some 60% of the Township’s ballots opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (which passed substantially) also were punched for Bush, an extremely implausible outcome widely branded as the "Gays for Bush" anomaly.

- In Butler County, Phillips found that in Monroe City precinct 4CA, Bush received 52 consecutive votes near the start of voting, and then another run of 212 consecutive votes.

- Also in Butler Country, in Ross Township Precinct 4JB, Philips found that Bush was awarded 547 votes to Kerry's 141 votes. In separate sequences, Bush received 41, 29 and 25 straight votes. Neither 4CA nor 4JB were involved in the recount.

- In Clermont County, which contributed significantly to Bush’s margin of victory, researcher Dr. Ronald Baiman discovered a suspicious use of replacement ballots, that are meant to be issued only if a regular ballot is somehow spoiled by a voter. In a random draw of one ballot from each of the 192 precincts, against huge odds, Baiman found a replacement ballot. Baiman asked that the next ballot from the precinct be drawn and it, too, was a replacement ballot. Continuing pulling ballots from that same precinct, Baiman witnessed 36 straight replacement ballots in a row, a virtual statistical impossibility. Dr. Philips recorded only five spoiled ballots in this same precinct, raising the question of where the other 31 replacement ballots came from.

- Also in Clermont County, Phillips found an opti-scan ballot with a white sticker over the Kerry-Edwards spot which would prevent the counter from recording a Kerry vote. During the December 2004 recount in Clermont County, witnesses swore out official affidavits that they saw several ballots with stickers over the Kerry-Edwards spot. The county prosecutor claimed there were "less than one hundred" of these, but was unable to explain why any stickers were there at all.

- In Miami County on Monday, June 19, 2006, Director Steve Quillan handed co-author Bob Fitrakis a print-out of what he called "freely amended results." Director Quillen said "You guys were right" regarding the voter turnout in Concord South West Precinct, which had been listed as 98.55% in the certified election results in 2004. Quillen also disavowed the alleged 94.3% voter turnout certified election results in Concord South. The Free Press has questioned those results, which would have meant that 679 out of 689 people successfully voted in Concord South West. Using a computer databank of voter history, Quillen now admits that the voter turnout was just 82.1% in Concord South West and 79.5% in Concord, discrepancies of more than 15%.

- In Miami County, BOE Director Quillen also says Boy Scouts who volunteered to help on Election Day mistakenly took Concord South West ballots to the Concord East precinct. Baiman found that the pollbooks and absentee ballots in Miami County "have little to no relationship to the voters who voted in the county." He also discovered that "At least 8% of precincts in Miami County have at least a 5% discrepancy between the number of voters who voted and the official certified number of votes." He also noted that there were two precincts that were off by more than 100 votes.

- In Miami County, both the chair and the director of the BOE admitted that the recount matched the official vote count only because they didn't use the certified results, but simply counted the ballots in the precinct and ran them through the tabulator. This is a valid tabulator test, but not a legally valid recount, since there's no benchmark.

- Also in Miami County, Diane L. Miley, the BOE’s former Deputy Director said the Director allowed "Republican friends" and "high school students to take ballots out to the polls on Election Day." Miley also says ten or more Republicans were allowed into the BOE on the evening of Election Day, when votes were being counted, which she says made her "incredibly uncomfortable." But in going public with her assertions, Miley says she was "abandoned by the Dems . . . when I stood up [to the Republicans] at the Board of Elections."

- In Warren County, punch card ballots were also shifted from precinct to precinct, which again, due to ballot rotations, could have reversed the intent of thousands of voters. Warren County was also key to the Bush margin of victory. Its BOE declared an unexplained Homeland Security alert when the polls closed, and the county’s ballots were diverted to an unauthorized warehouse, amidst a media blackout. Bush emerged from the county with a very large margin over John Kerry. Warren County also used a chad scraping crew.
More here. As always, thanks to Redsock, this time via Canonfire.

noise

From today's Toronto Star:
Anger driving honk-for-peace protest
Soldier's father fights for suicidal son
Back in Iraq despite stress disorder

By Dietland Lerner

In August 2005, Staff Sgt. Bryce Syverson was in a military hospital on 24-hour suicide watch. Three months later, back at his base in Germany and on antidepressants, he learned that his tour of duty had been extended by 15 months.

Last month, the U.S. military, desperate for soldiers, sent him to Iraq. He recently wrote to his father from the war zone to say he'd gone off his meds. What's a concerned parent to do?

Honk for Peace.

Standing in front of the Richmond, Va., courthouse for his 217th solo demonstration with a sign reading "Iraq's Oil Isn't Worth My Son's Blood," Larry Syverson knows vitriol.

"At first I was called a communist, a traitor and even a homosexual. ... People told me to get a job, get a life, some people even yelled, `Go back to France!'" he says. The insults were a shock to a man whose use of profanity is limited to "golly."

"I was never a flower child or a peacenik," he explains of life before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Indeed, when each of his four sons (Branden, Brent, Bryce and Brian) decided in turn to join the military, he recalls being "very honoured and proud."

And when Bryce was sent to the Kosovo-Albania border in March 1999, it was with his father's blessing. "I backed it 100 per cent and supported him being there because of the ethnic cleansing that was going on with the Muslims," Syverson recalls. "They needed us to be there."

But when U.S. President George W. Bush's claim that Iraq was a threat because it had weapons of mass destruction was proved false, something in Syverson snapped.

"I think we invaded Iraq this time because Bush was settling a vendetta, and also I think Iraq was about getting access to oil and that's not what my boys signed up for. Golly, that's not worth their lives."

An environmental engineer for the Virginia government, Syverson protests daily when one of his sons is in Iraq, and on Fridays and days he feels "particularly blue."

"I figure standing out here is nothing compared to my sons getting shot at in Iraq," he says.

Some pro-war motorists began honking their horns at Syverson. "That drove me nuts," he says, "so I made a sign saying `honk for peace' and confiscated their honk. All of a sudden it was very quiet!"

From the sidewalk, Syverson watched support for his anti-war stance grow.

"I think the first sign that things were really changing was in April 2004, when in one week two (U.S.) helicopters were shot down over Afghanistan. All of a sudden I started getting more approval honks. ... Last week while the cars were stopped at the light, one car started honking, then a second car joined in. Then a third. Then a fourth. Finally, there were so many cars honking all at once, it was deafening. It was such an exciting and spontaneous event."

Bryce served two tours of duty in Iraq before being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in April 2005. That August he had what his father said was a nervous breakdown and was transferred from his base in Germany to the U.S. for four weeks of intensive psychiatric treatment.

"He was a completely different person — very bitter, very mad and sure everyone was plotting against him," recalls Syverson.

Bryce was sent back to Germany, but the Syversons thought he'd return home for good last November, when his tour of duty officially ended. It never occurred to them he might be "stop-lossed" — ordered to remain in the armed forces though his enlistment was over.

Bryce Syverson's unit, the 1st Armoured Division 1st Brigade Combat Team, is having its tour in Iraq extended by six weeks.

"It just shows how desperate the situation is in Iraq for them to have to send in soldiers like Bryce," his father says. "The administration is more interested in the quantity of soldiers, not in the quality of the soldiers."

Then he heads out for lunch-break protest number 218.
I will be trying to write about a war resister, so seeing this in the Star is good for me personally, too. Plus, the story was written by a freelancer. Good good.

On the same page, U.S. army 'coming to end of its rope'.

lear

I asked them to surprise me, and surprise me they did. Lear was great.

The performances were understated and powerful. The staging flowed effortlessly on a bare thrust stage. The language was clear and riveting.

Did Soulpepper stop rehearsing everything else and save it all up for Shakespeare? Do they secretly dislike Tom Stoppard and David Mamet? I'm kidding, of course, but I was impressed and frankly amazed. This was far and away the best Soulpepper production of the season.

We actually had seen several of the actors before, including the actor playing Lear, who had a medium-sized part in Gogol's The Government Inspector, and both of the actors playing Regan and Goneril. Each turned in performances that dwarfed anything else we saw this year.

By coincidence, the performance we attended was designated for school groups. The students looked high school age, or maybe older middle school. Before curtain, a few actors gave a talk, highlighting some key words, major themes and staging concepts. It was very well done.

The audience - and I say this with admiration and respect - was stellar. We've been trapped in much noisier, more poorly-behaved audiences chocked full of experienced theatre-goers. I assume the kids were getting it, too, because I heard several people around me sniffling and wiping away tears.

As I mentioned yesterday, I find Lear the most tragic of all tragedies. Hamlet is riveting, but I doubt most audiences relate to it on a personal level. But the pain of a broken family, and of blind, stubborn mistakes, is something many of us have felt. As the third and youngest child, estranged from a dictatorial father for much of my life, it's not hard to figure why this play hits home for me. Which is really something to say about a 400-year-old piece of writing.

A few scenes were especially devastating. The opening scene, when Lear disowns and banishes Cordelia; the scene where Lear curses Goneril with infertility; and the scene where Lear wakes and begins to recognize Cordelia. Some "lesser" scenes were extremely effective, too: Edmund's soliloquy on bastardy and fate; France's declaration of love for the dowry-less Cordelia; Lear's first recognition of his terrible mistake.

By the time the lights came up, I was emotionally wrung out. Damn, I love good theatre.

9.28.2006

final

Received at 1:02 p.m.
entering gta :-)
End of report!

message 6

It's the big one!!
the americans have landed!
They're over the border, and tonight they sleep in their new home. This is so cool.

will

Today we're seeing Soulpepper's production of King Lear. Allan reminded me that the cast is comprised fully of actors we haven't seen yet, so I'm a little more hopeful for a good show. I couldn't imagine anyone we've seen so far raving on the heath.

In preparation for the play, we both read King Lear over the past week. For me it's the most tragic of all Shakespeare's tragedies. Positively heartbreaking.

A few years ago, I decided I would read one or two Shakespeare plays a year, re-visiting what I read in college or reading some for the first time. I am always utterly floored by the beauty and genius of the language. I've been buying these great little Pelican editions. They have very well written introductions, easy to use footnotes, and these terrific matching covers that make me want to collect them all. And they're only five bucks!

The re-reading plan was inspired by one of our Netflix festivals, as we call it when we gorge on movies by one director or with one actor, this one featuring Kenneth Branagh's adaptations of Shakespeare. I believe we've seen them all - Hamlet, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V and As You Like It. I don't know if Branagh plans to make more. I hope so.

Another memorable movie was Michael Almereyda's production of Hamlet, featuring Ethan Hawke. The action was transposed into New York City at the end of the 20th century, with a multinational corporation standing in for a kingdom. Allan and I both thought it was brilliant. Only original language was used, but the reconception brought additional power and immediacy to the action. I related to the action in a personal way, which I don't always find with Shakespeare.

Purists hate this kind of thing, but I see no reason why Shakespeare must be performed by men in tights. So-called purists don't seem to mind women playing Juliet or Desdemona, even though in Shakespeare's time those roles were played by boys. The way I see it, the language is Shakespeare, the rest is theatre, and open to interpretation.

So today, King Lear! I'm going in with an open mind. Soulpepper, surprise me.

9.27.2006

message 5

Entering michigan and our new time zone. This will be the last state we are in...tomorrow canada :)
If you're a new reader and these messages are leaving you confused, see Life Without Borders. More fed-up Americans on their way north!

message 4

Received at 1:17 p.m.
Indiana baby!

message 3

Good morning from illinois! Just crossed the mississippi river.
Eastward ho, pioneers!

uninformed

Here's a great example of how the US media helps keep the population docile and ignorant. Check out Tennessee Guerilla Women's post (via Rising Hegemon) showing Newsweek magazine covers around the world.

I remember blogging about a similar occurrence when the rest of the world woke up to photos of bleeding children in a bombed-out Fallujah and the US media was chattering about, I don't know, was it JonBenet Ramsey? (I'm trying to find my old post, but haven't yet.) This is even more startling because it's the same magazine.

cuts

Here's a bit of Canadian politics that looks all too familiar to me: conservative government = budget cuts.

Whether it was New York State's Teflon governor George Pataki or the massive Reagan-era budget cuts - for which funding was never restored - I've seen first-hand what that looks like. A tiny savings that taxpayers will never notice in their wallets, a freebie for voters who vote against "government handouts", or are biased against people who benefit from them, and for the programs themselves, devastation.

And in this case, the Harper government cuts programs while while there's a budget surplus! Paying down national debt is important. But how much money could Canada save if it stopped killing people in Afghanistan? (Some opinions here.)

These are the kinds of programs many people love to mock - funding for groups mounting court challenges that test constitutionality, or stop-smoking programs for First Nations people - as wasteful or catering to "special interests". But if you've ever worked in public health, or education, or the arts, you've seen the important work these programs do, and seen the vacuum their absence will cause. Funny how few, if any, of these budget cuts effect social programs in Quebec, where the Conservatives most need votes.

Star columnist Thomas Walkom, one of my favourite local reads, has an interesting take on this. He says the Tory spending isn't significantly different from Liberal spending, and that the differences are superficial. This is not to say the Conservatives are really more liberal than we think. Rather, that the Conservatives are not the great fiscal managers, and the Liberals are not the wasteful spenders, that the Tories would have you believe.
If there is a theme to the spending cutbacks announced by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty yesterday it is a familiar one: The Stephen Harper government wants to get re-elected.

How else to make sense of an exercise in alleged fiscal restraint that, on the face of it at least, is much less than it seems?

There are the usual ideological bows to the Conservative base. The $5.6 million court challenges program, for example, is history. That's the federally funded program that gave money to so-called disadvantaged groups who wanted to mount constitutional challenges. It's been used as evidence by some Conservatives (including Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie) to prove that women and gays now have more clout with the courts than rich white guys.

In fact, Brodie's thesis is untrue. The bulk of Supreme Court decisions, most of which do not make the front page, favour corporations. But that's beside the point. A good many in Harper's Conservative base believe that the country is run by women, gays and other undesirables. They'll be thrilled to have this shocking state of affairs addressed. The government clearly hopes they will be so thrilled they won't notice how paltry the spending cuts are in total.

And paltry they are. The federal government spends roughly $210 billion annually. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's $1 billion in spending reductions are to be phased in over two years, which means his cutbacks amount to about one-quarter of one per cent annually.

Even then, the cuts aren't always exactly cuts. About $256 million of the total is to be accounted for by greater efficiency. Statistics Canada, for instance, is supposed to save $15 million by being more efficient. How is it to do this? By firing staff? Cutting back on what it does? Re-using paper clips?

So far, we don't know.

In many areas, the government is counting as savings money that was simply never spent. But here, too, we know too little to say whether the cutbacks mean anything.

For example: Flaherty includes $11.7 million that was supposed to have gone to fight the pine beetle infestation in British Columbia but in the end was never disbursed. Is this good public policy? Bad? Was the money not spent because it wasn't needed? Or is it simply that Stephen Harper's Conservatives like pine beetles? We don't know that either.

What is clear is that the Conservatives are trying their best not to offend too many people - a sensible strategy for a minority government that may soon have to go to the polls. So there aren't many real cuts aimed at the broad middle classes. Program spending is down this year, for instance, largely because a one-time $4.3 billion expenditure in 2005 to deal with medical wait times wasn't repeated.

But even that is of little real significance since the former Liberal government had not planned to repeat this particular bit of spending.

Where the government has unequivocally cut, it has done so to make a political point - or, to use the language of marketers, to brand itself.

For instance, it has eliminated the medical marijuana research program. Clearly, the hope here is that this cutback will lead the television newscasts, thereby reinforcing in voters minds the notion that Stephen Harper's law and order Conservatives don't toke up.

The reason for Flaherty's lackadaisical attitude to spending cuts is that he didn't need to make any. Like the Liberals before them, the Harper Conservatives miraculously ended up with much more in the kitty than they predicted - $5.2 billion more, to be exact.

They'll put that, along with the $8 billion surplus they did predict, to paying down the debt. This is not a terrible idea given the strong economy. But the very fact that the government has the luxury of putting $13 billion into debt repayment only serves to underline that Flaherty's spending cutbacks are three parts perception to one part reality.

It is not that the Harper Conservatives aren't different. They are. Their early decision to kill the national child-care program demonstrates that. But yesterday's announcement demonstrates that in fiscal terms, they are no more tight-fisted than their Liberal predecessors.

And like the former Liberal regime, they are using the annual economic update primarily to make a political point - about who they are and who they are not.

9.26.2006

message 2

Entering Iowa...Whoo Hoo

olbermann again

This man is my new hero.

Watch Keith Olbermann. (Transcript is there, too.)

Jon Stewart, this is what you should be doing. Stephen Colbert, this is why I can't watch you. For me, it's too serious for satire. It's too awful.

Watch.

message 1

At 12:50 PM today, I received this text message from a Denver area code:
entering nebraska and central time zone

home

Man, did the Red Sox stink last night, making some nobody pitcher named Shaun Marcum look like the second coming of Cy Young.

The game started out as an unlikely pitching duel, both pitchers taking a no-hitter into the 5th. But if I'm ever going to see a no-hitter, it's not going to be thrown by Tim Wakefield. The Jays had two good innings, but one run would have been enough to put the game out of reach. The Sox eeked out only two measly little hits - neither left the infield - and got one runner to second base, all night.

Our last game at Skydome, Josh Beckett threw batting practice for Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus. Better luck next year, eh?

In a year where Sox fans expected to be neck-and-neck with the Yankees all season, in serious contention for the division, finishing third behind the Blue Jays is too much to contemplate.

However...

I had a really good time last night. It felt great to be at a ballgame with new friends. ("New" meaning friendships made in Canada.)

It's a wonderful feeling, very hard to describe. Something perhaps most people take for granted, just going out with friends, watching a ball game, hanging out. But we came here with only each other.

I used to organize ballgame outings all the time, sometimes as a way to get together with friends we didn't see often. I might have imagined that was a thing of the past. But here we are, one year later, and we know people - people we like and respect, whose company we enjoy, and some of them even like baseball! (One was even cheering for the Sox!)

You know what it is? A feeling of belongingness. Very cool.

9.25.2006

apology

The final chapter in the Maher Arar case provides a stark contrast between Canada and the US. (Some background here.)

Canada acted abominably in this instance, and has now changed its tune. As I'm sure you already know, the House of Commons voted unanimously to formally apologize to Arar after he was cleared of any suspicion of terrorist ties.

Meanwhile, the US government looks for "compromises" that will make it technically legal for them to violate the Geneva Conventions.

Canada hands over one man to torturers and it makes national news - overwhelmingly in support of the victim. The US continues to torture who knows how many victims on several different continents, and hides, justifies and defends its actions.

Arar, however, still waits for an apology from Mr. Stephen Harper.

From Star columnist Thomas Walkom:
In the Arar affair, the worm has truly turned.

When the Canadian computer engineer was arrested by U.S. authorities during a stopover in New York four years ago and deported to Syria to be tortured, he had almost no champions here in Canada. Some MPs demanded to know why this dangerous man hadn't been arrested earlier.

In those days, there was nothing but praise for the RCMP and its efforts to battle terror. Flash forward four years. Today it's hard to find anyone in public life who doesn't laud Arar.

Yesterday, the Commons voted unanimously to apologize to him — although the government warned that this doesn't mean it is admitting any legal liability.

And now conventional wisdom holds that the Mounties acted like a bunch of dopes. There are calls for RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli to be fired. In the Commons, opposition MPs say the government should move quickly to discipline those RCMP officers responsible.

Still others question the idea of allowing the RCMP any role in national security cases. The implication, never explicitly stated, is that the Mounties are just big, dumb cops — too unsophisticated to deal with tricky issues of terrorism and security. But does this focus on the RCMP's role in the Arar affair let everyone else off the hook?
And what happened to accountability, Mr. Harper? Does that only apply to Liberals? We shall see. Another Star columnist asks, Is stealing taxpayers' money more evil than robbing an innocent man of his freedom?
Hanging on Stephen Harper's answer is his election promise to make the federal government accountable.

It's this capital's habit that those in high places are rarely punished for sins spanning the spectrum from negligence and incompetence to greed and malfeasance. If in doubt, consider that gun registry costs spiralled into the stratosphere without much career damage, and multiple Quebec sponsorship investigations only netted bottom-feeders.

Harper's campaign commitment was to replace a culture of entitlement with the discipline of accountability. Voters listened and a Conservative minority government now faces turning easily mouthed words into tough-to-take actions.

In his unusually unambiguous report this week, Justice Dennis O'Connor found one of the country's foundation institutions sadly wanting. Precipitously pressed back into the anti-terrorism business, the RCMP recklessly slipped the U.S. fanciful information about Maher Arar leading to his illegal deportation and then imprisonment in Syria, an authoritarian state notorious for torture.

Along with wrongly connecting Arar and his wife to Al Qaeda, the fabled horsemen sapped efforts to secure his release, smeared his reputation, and then obscured a hapless investigation from their political masters.

O'Connor's damning report was released Monday and by now heads would be rolling in any normal organization. But the federal government and the RCMP are, well, different.

Accepting responsibility is alien to both. Their reflex response is to sniff the political winds and wait until the storm inevitably gives way to the calm of public indifference.

So, Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli hasn't resigned or been fired and Harper's young administration is sounding old, paying the usual lip service to reform.

game

It's taken me just over one year, but now I know this place is really my home: I've organized my first baseball outing.

Tonight, we'll see the Red Sox play the Blue Jays - sadly, a battle for second place - with friends we've met entirely through wmtc. Attending along with me and Redsock, will be Diamond Jim, James, his partner Lori, Matt of This Nurse and his partner YYZBoy. Five American defectors and two Canadian sympathizers!

The game is the Blue Jays' last home game of the season, and our last glimpse of our Red Sox before the long baseball-less winter. But I look forward to the winter. Following baseball is a full-time job, and I need a vacation.

This was an extremely disappointing season for Red Sox fans, the team starting out so strong, then being utterly decimated by injuries. And I do mean decimated - at times, nearly the entire starting lineup and a fair portion of the pitching staff were all hurt at the same time.

Because of my strange team history, and the religious conversion I underwent during the summer of 2003, this is the first time my team won't be in the playoffs since 1995. It's a lesson in humility: how the other half lives.

If you're in Toronto, let me know if you'd be interested in going to a game next season. (M@, you're already down.) Two things to note, if I plan it: it will be a weeknight, and it will be the Red Sox.

journey

Tomorrow, Nick and Mason begin their drive across the continent, from Colorado to Toronto. Their three-day journey is the end of a long road - and a new beginning.

I will always remember our drive from New York City, and the days that preceded it, with a great turbulence of emotion. I know something about what Nick and Mason have been going through this past week, and what the next week will be like. (Nick recommends Tums, but I needed Klonopin!)

Here's wishing Nick and Mason, and their furry family, a safe, speedy journey, a happy border crossing, and most of all, a loving welcome to Canada.

9.24.2006

ssod

Search string of the day:
do moose attack moving cars in canada

scary

File this under the "Harper is acting moderately to gather support, then after he wins a majority, he will show his true ultra-conservative colours" school of thought.

As you know from my past posts, although I dislike Harper's Conservatives, I'm not overly concerned about their effect on Canada at this stage of the game. However, I emphatically recognize the need for them not to get a majority government. I'm very clear on that.

Thus when I saw the cover of the current issue of The Walrus, I flinched. It shouts: "Jesus in the House: Is the religious right taking over Stephen Harper's government?" The cover story, by Marci McDonald, is titled Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada's religious right.

I haven't read the article yet. I've been avoiding it, as the prospect of said rising clout is so sickening. But I can't dismiss the question. When the religious right in the US started consolidating its power through the courts and state legislatures in the early 1980s, under Ronald Reagan's approving gaze, most Americans paid no attention. And look what happened.

I'll try to read the story soon and report back. You can do the same.

And just so we're clear, the problem isn't religion, or religious people. It's religion in government. The only way for all of us to be free to practice our respective religions or practice no religion, as we wish, is through a strict separation of religion and government. In other words, do what you please, just stay out of my business. The vast majority of Canadians recognize this, and want a secular state. Is there a stealth campaign going on to undermine that?

resource (updated)

I received an email from an author of another "how to move to Canada" book, asking for a plug. Terese Loeb Kreuzer and Carol Bennett have written How To Move To Canada: A Primer for Americans.

I thought about turning wmtc into a how-to book, and was excited about the idea for while. But I wasn't motivated to do the additional research that would make a book applicable to situations other than my own, and - more importantly - wasn't interested in doing the publicity that would be needed to get it out there. I've done book publicity, and I'm pretty good at it, but I'm not really interested in doing it again.

Then there's the fact that a book like this can become obsolete by the time it hits the shelves. CIC changes procedures often, and they don't check with writers to see if they mind. So I decided against it.

However, other people decided differently! I hope Americans find their resources helpful. The other current book I know of is Jo Davenport's The Canadian Way.

* * * *

UPDATE. Wmtc always has new visitors looking for information on emigrating to Canada, so I'd like to clarify something about this post.

A reader informs me (in comments, below) that the book "How To Move To Canada" actually gives scant attention to the immigration process. What's more, we Americans already here, and those of us on the way, all managed to figure out how to get the job done on our own, and by sharing information and comparing notes with each other. I haven't seen the book, and I don't want to discourage its sales, but it's obviously not essential. I'm living proof of that.

If you think you might want to emigrate to Canada, the place to start is at the CIC website. Happy reading!

9.23.2006

ssod

Search string of the day:
2006 email addresses of thirty-five years of age and above of all AISLING
According to Statcounter, many people seem to believe there are lists of email addresses online, arranged in odd categories. "Email addresses of Japanese people who live in Canada" or "2004 email addresses of 40 year old women from Alabama" are typical.

dog river

Did anyone see the new Corner Gas this week? Is it still funny? I'm watching the repeat on Comedy tonight.

Please tell me it's still funny. Of all the shows Canadians told me about, this is the only one I really liked. It would be nice if we got another full season before the inevitable decline.

local

Right after I asked about visiting Niagara region wineries, I saw a story in The Star on the Niagara Wine Festival, going on now through October 1st.

We're planning to go out there a few days after the festival ends. Does anyone know if wineries are still good to visit that time of year? Will everything still be open? I'm also going to call to see if their "passport" - one-price admission to all the wineries - will be honoured when the festival is over.

* * * *

A few days ago we had some business in Etobicoke, the western edge of Toronto. Instead of taking the QEW and Gardiner, we drove down Lakeshore.

Lakeshore was once Highway 2, the Hamilton-to-Toronto highway, the main artery into Toronto. Heading west on Lakeshore (alternately called Lakeshore Boulevard and Lakeshore Road) from Toronto, you pass through a string of neighbourhoods that are truly anachronisms. It's clear they were once the main streets of little towns, now pockets of mom-and-pop stores, holding on for dear life.

Some, like Mimico, Lakeview, and Long Branch, look pretty run-down. It's astonishing to me that these areas, so close to both Toronto and to the Lake, haven't been developed and gentrified yet, but I imagine it's only a matter of time.

Slightly further west, in our own Port Credit, gentrification threatens to overwhelm, and the village struggles between identities. West of us, Clarkson is still a town, but by the time you get to Oakville, you're back in suburban sprawl.

Driving on Lakeshore in Etobicoke, we passed a string of old motels, so clearly from another era that it's like driving through a movie set.

The following day, serendipitously, the Toronto Star ran a feature on Motel Strip. Indeed, it turns out that some of these motels do survive by being rented out as movie sets.
Well over 100 films, big-screen and TV, have shot scenes at the Hillcrest and North American motels, side-by-side on Lake Shore Blvd. W.

They have that classic era-spanning, on-the-road look that turns Etobicoke into Anyplace, U.S.A. Even the wallpaper in the office has a Route-66 motif.

"You see ABC's 'movie of the week' and there's a battered woman running from her husband or a drug dealer being chased by the cops ... there's a good chance they shot it here," says Dave Gadzala, who runs the motels with his father Ed.

. . .

Back in the '50s, there were about 30 motels on this stretch. Now there are five. Before the QEW, "this was the only way into Toronto," says Ed. "Like a funnel ... a captive audience."
Just north of where I grew up, in New York State's Catskill region, there was a similar strip on Route 17. These were the resorts once known as "the Borscht Belt" for their Jewish clientele. When the New York State Thruway was built, Rt. 17 became irrelevant, and the resorts lost much of their sparkle. A few still hang on; several have reincarnated as Buddhist monasteries.

Here's a good photo that shows the motel strip, along with the condo towers that are replacing them. This is a nice photo of a motel sign at night.

I've also learned that this section of the Waterfront Trail is called the Motel Strip.

9.22.2006

example

As if on cue, a comment from a wingnut! It's the first wmtc has received in quite a while. I deleted it, but here it is without attribution:
Thank you for leaving the United States. The fewer "progressives" that infest it, the better it's chances for survival.

Great nations do not die, they commit suicide. And the leftwing is the knife with which Uncle Sam slits his wrists.
This wingnut and I agree on a major point. I also think the United States has committed suicide. But seriously, can you imagine believing that the left in the US is what killed it? Whoa, baby.

I thank him or her for the misused apostrophe. What would a troll comment be without at least one good grammatical error?

I guess the wtmc comments and deletion policy, like everything else in my life, comes down to what feels right. I just can't leave crap like this on my blog, except in this form.

ellsberg

Whew. Already 6:00 p.m. and it's my first opportunity to post. My day-job has been very busy on Fridays, I can't find the time or focus to write anything. Instead, I bring you Daniel Ellsberg on why The World Can't Wait: why Americans must act now.
Time to Drive Out the Bush Regime
By Daniel Ellsberg

The man who gave the world the Pentagon Papers delivers an impassioned plea to a new generation of activists to heed the lessons of Nixon and even Hitler when taking stock of the Bush administration’s nuclear ambitions.

What follows is a slightly edited version of a speech Ellsberg gave on Sept. 7 at a "World Can't Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime" rally in San Francisco — one of 50 meetings held that night to plan national protests in cities and towns across the country on Oct.5.


I keep looking at that date on the calendar – Oct. 5. I think of 1969 — I was copying the Pentagon Papers with Tony Russo in that month, starting Oct. 1. My intention, however, at that time was to bring them out in connection with something called the Moratorium on Oct. 15, 1969 . . . because on that day . . . across the country 2 million people marched. Not in any one place; they were counted up and added up because they all walked out, it was a weekday, out of school, out of businesses on that weekday. They met in rallies, heard many speakers — in those days there was great tolerance (well, there still is to some extent) for a lot of speeches. But it was a weekday and they called it the Moratorium because people thought the word "general strike" was too provocative, but that’s what they had in mind.

It was a walkout; in other words it was not business as usual. The president was watching it in the White House, hour by hour, while pretending that he wasn’t. In fact he was in the situation room getting half-hour reports on how many people. They were being counted, in Washington and New York, from a U2 [plane] above.

I see in this crowd people who are not all a lot younger than I am. How many people were in the moratorium; look around (applause). Let’s see the hands. I want to ask—how old were you? Often if I ask that questions, some people will say 10 or 2. They were there with their mothers, in toddler strollers and backpacks on their parents’ backs, and they were doing the same job their parents were. Being counted from the air, from reconnaissance vehicles to add up to a number of 2 million.

What they didn’t know was that in fact they were stopping nuclear war. The president had made threats of nuclear war secretly several times starting in May and in August and September, saying that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons on Vietnam. They said that to the Russians and the North Vietnamese directly in Paris. And with 2 million people in the streets, he had to conclude that an ultimatum which was dated for Nov. 1 — he was going to carry it out on Nov. 3rd but the date that he gave to his adversaries was Nov. 1st: "If by that time you haven’t met my terms" (which they did not meet and never did meet) "we will take measures of the gravest consequence," including total bombing of North Vietnam, mining of Haiphong (which he didn’t do in the end until 1972), going into Laos and Cambodia.

There were plans and target folders for the use of nuclear weapons at that point. I know somebody, Roger Morris, who actually read those target folders with photographs of the targets selected. None of us knew that. That’s not why I was copying the Pentagon Papers those nights in October, or marching with my kids who were 10 and 13 at that time on Oct. 15. … My son one night was actually copying the Pentagon Papers on a Xerox machine and I was collating them, and my daughter who was the 10-year-old was cutting "Top Secret" off the top and bottom of the pages with scissors. (Applause) That was about Oct. 5, somewhere in there, and then we all marched on Oct. 15. But we weren’t doing that because we knew that nuclear war was imminent; we just knew the war was going on unacceptably, that the country had to change course. There was no clue that we were on the verge of massive escalation.

Now I’ll give you something from 1969 that has come out now — 37 years later. Look at National Security Archives — I think it is at nsarchive.com. Look at one of their latest releases, on documents finally declassified last November, now published for the first time on, I think, July 1 -- their latest release on Nixon’s nuclear alert of 1969. This was first found out by Seymour Hersh, mainly with anonymous sources some years ago, but nobody believed him. And now the documents have become available that on Oct.13, 1969 — two days before the scheduled Moratorium — SAC, Strategic Air Command planes went on an unprecedented secret alert around the world, the intention of which was to show the Russians by their electronic means and their radar and their surveillance that the U.S. was on a nuclear alert—but not let the American people know. They actually dispersed planes with nuclear bombs aboard to airports like Boston airport, Los Angeles, and elsewhere as they might do on the eve of a nuclear war. They weren’t planning a first strike against the Soviet Union, although the Soviets were made to worry about that. This was meant to show the Soviets, who Nixon had threatened that we would use nuclear weapons against North Vietnam. And there was of course the possibility that the Russian nuclear weapons might be used in response. This alert was to let them know, don’t even think of it. Not because they would have worried about the Soviets really doing that, but to make it as clear as possible "we’re going to do this and we’re prepared for anything" — to make the threat as strong as possible.

By the way, if you look at nsarchive, the people who wrote that up—it’s a good account by Burr and Kimball — in my opinion they make a mistake. . . . They are under the belief that Nixon had turned off his plans for the escalation just before that alert went on. That’s mistaken; they don’t have a clear reference for that and I believe they are wrong. They think this was simply bluffing. Part of the bluff, by the way, was to put planes in the air on airborne alert with nuclear bombs aboard for the first time in over a year. (The airborne nuclear alert had been discontinued in early 1968, when one of those planes crashed, releasing a couple of its bombs in Newfoundland, I think that was, one of which has never been found. They went into the water … it didn’t go off as a nuclear explosion, but they released radioactive material.

So, the reason [the airborne nuclear alert] had been stopped was because it was dangerous. On another occasion which I remember very well — I was in the Pentagon actually - two planes bumped into each other with these bombs and four bombs were released. So they were doing something with a genuine risk to make this threat plausible. But in those days, it didn’t pay to tell the American people you were making nuclear threats, because the American people would have felt less confident than Nixon that the Soviets would not respond. They would have worried. They would have been very worried and very nervous. And you would have seen the kind of reaction you did get when Ronald Reagan seemed lighthearted about nuclear war in 1981. The reaction to that was 1 million people in Central Park protesting Reagan’s nuclear policy at that point. So in those days you had to keep the threats secret. What’s changed is that people no longer do worry that Russia will respond to a nuclear weapon going off somewhere. They’ll sit tight. We aren’t just number one, we’re the only one now. . . .

Historical analogy here: The fact is that when people did march in October and November 1969—without even realizing that a crisis was imminent, they just saw the war was going on—they in fact stopped a massive escalation of the war. Which did take part sequentially— Laos, Cambodia, Haiphong—over the years, but the nuclear part, no. Even though Nixon was still discussing that on April 25, 1972—three years later. I’ve heard this on the tape. Nixon says, "I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?" Kissinger tells him, "About two hundred thousand people." And the president reflects, "No, no, no . . . I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?" And Kissinger, the great Nobel Prize winner, earns his Nobel Prize on this one afternoon by saying, "That, I think, would be just too much." And Nixon says — he sounds a little surprised, and disappointed —"The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? I just want you to think big, Henry, for Chrissakes."

We are in a crisis right now. It’s known to us, more than it was known to almost anyone outside the White House in 1969. A genuine crisis. We are looking at a very high likelihood, I believe, as I read the Seymour Hersh articles about a new war, a new attack on Iran which could involve nuclear weapons — it has been explicitly described as having the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The president, Rice, Rumsfeld — they have all been asked specifically: Do we rule out nuclear weapons? They answer, "All options are on the table, nothing is ruled out." And Hersh reveals that plans have been made for the use of nuclear weapons. This would be a new war in addition then to Iraq, quite possibly much, much worse than Iraq in all of its consequences.

This is too crazy to imagine with any other administration. If Hersh were giving those stories about some other administration, whether it’s George Bush Sr. or Gore or whoever it might be, I would say "impossible." The costs of this are too obvious, too horrific, they couldn’t really mean that. You can’t say that about this administration, [though] many people do. The ones who say that it’s too crazy even for these guys I think they are on the wrong foot. It’s not too crazy for these guys. The people who did get us into Iraq are — according to Hersh — on the same kind of "reasoning," prepared to do that to Iran.

But, that’s not all that’s abroad. The Boston Globe editorial on Aug. 31, which criticizes the World Can’t Wait, along with criticizing Rumsfeld in the same terms, links them together—saying that both of them engage in hyperbole and in fact the same hyperbole. Actually Rumsfeld has a quote here that, taken by itself, is the first sentence that I can remember that I agreed with by Donald Rumsfeld. He said that "before America entered WWII was a time when those who warned of a coming crisis—the rise of fascism and Nazism—were ridiculed and ignored."

That’s now, that’s us he’s talking about—I would say. We are warning about a coming crisis, and the crisis I’m warning about is Hitler-like aggression such as we’ve already seen from this administration. The attack on Iraq is legally indistinguishable from Hitler’s attack on Poland or France or Norway or Russia. Same aggression—pure crime against the peace—for which people were hanged back in Nuremberg. Critics of the Iraq war, says Rumsfeld, "seem not to have learned history’s lessons." Well, I would take the "not" out of that. It’s only the critics of the Iraq war who seemed to have learned history’s lessons.

We do face a crisis. To do as the Boston Globe editorial does in criticizing World Can’t Wait for analogizing Hitler’s regime to the present, is, I would say, very mistaken — [the Globe] is very mistaken in dismissing that. Look at the aggression that has already happened and is looming again. Holocaust—this is not planned in terms of gas chambers. But nuclear weapons will bring the gas chambers to the people. Every nuclear weapon is a portable Auschwitz. The first one that is used may kill only hundreds, depending on where they are used, which would be extremely ominous. People would say, "Ah, they can be used easily." The use of nuclear weapons even in a deserted field against an underground site by this country would bring us into a new era of history—the consequences of which would so dwarf the Holocaust there would be simply no comparison. The nuclear wars in our future — that would be started by an act now being planned by this country — are Hitler-like to the hundredth degree.

But in terms of the domestic situation, of course this country is not Germany in 1938 or 1939. It’s not Germany in 1934. Let me be very specific. It’s not the Germany of July 1933 under Hitler, who had become chancellor as a minority candidate. They were the largest party, but a minority — 36% of the vote in January 1933. But by July there was a one-party state; nearly every leader of the social democrats, which had by then been banned, had been jailed or put in a camp. They hadn’t put many Jews in camps yet. The first people put in camps were labor union leaders, especially social democrats and communists in 1933. Thousands, even tens of thousands, had been killed and put in camps by that time. Six months afterwards, Hitler was in power. . . . I’ll be very specific. Hitler was a fascist, a term that came out of Mussolini really, but Hitler was a proud fascist and his party was a fascist party, a minority—although it came to be a large party during the Depression in December 1932 and January 1933 when he became chancellor. Hitler was a fascist, and signaled what he wanted to do pretty clearly.

But Germany was not a fascist state in January 1933 under Hitler. He had only two ministers in the cabinet. He had Goering — who became his number two man later and was, I believe, minister of the interior in charge of the police in Prussia, the key state in Germany. Hitler had two ministers in the cabinet; it was not a fascist cabinet and it wasn’t a fascist state. It was a fascist state two months later. In between was the Reichstag fire on Feb. 27, which Goering and Hitler blamed on the communists. Whoever did it — and it may have been the Nazis — it was not the communists. That is clear. There is no historical controversy about that, but it was totally blamed on the communists. And that night the Communist Party leaders were imprisoned, scattered, killed—many, many killed, thousands killed — along with the social democrats, who were still for the moment legal.

The next day the Reichstag fire decree was signed by Hindenburg, which explicitly suspended all provisions of the constitution providing for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press. It was a social democratic constitution. One other thing the decree ended was the privacy of the postal system and telecommunications. Very interesting — this ended here four years ago, it turns out, but we didn’t know that. We haven’t had the full — despite the Patriot Act, despite other things that have come along — we haven’t had the Reichstag fire decree yet, which was followed by an election in which Hitler banned the Communist Party, banned demonstrations, banned any public meetings by the social democrats. And even so, he could only get 42% of the vote. It’s the highest he ever got in an election. But weeks after that he had an enabling act which gave him power to rule without benefit of the Reichstag. He became a dictator by constitutional act, by vote, everything constitutional up till that time. Over the period of the next month, the other parties were banned, the camps were set up. It was too late for mass resistance. The social democrats could have pulled off a general strike up until the Reichstag fire. After that it was too late.

The situation now, I think, demands of us not business as usual; it demands what was available in this country in 1969. I’ll characterize that very briefly: 5,000 young people went to prison rather then go into the Army (under the draft)—rather then collaborate with the war. I met some of those people on their way to prison. They put in my mind the thought: They’re doing everything they can, nonviolently—they were followers of Martin Luther King, of Thoreau, of Gandhi. Truthfully and nonviolently they are changing their lives, they are giving up their future, their career, they are doing everything they can to avert this war. That’s the right thing to do. What can I do now, what can I do if I’m ready to go to prison? Among other things, I started copying the Pentagon Papers — which did confront me with a possible prison sentence of 115 years — at that point. Was that too much to take on?

I’d been in Vietnam; I’d seen people in combat there. Maybe people here have had that experience. In combat it’s very common to see people risking their lives—giving their lives, giving their bodies, becoming paraplegic like my friend Ron Kovic—for a lie. Bravery and a bad cause are not uncommon—you see it on both sides. Very often, both sides are bad causes, in fact. Doesn’t take a good cause for people in combat to risk their lives for the other people in the squad and for what they have been told is a good cause.

What’s needed at home of course is people who will change their lives and risk their careers and their jobs and their relationships with their families, their bosses, with their church groups, whoever—by taking a stronger stand than those people are ready to take. And by saying truths that those people don’t want to hear. Without that courage, policies like this can’t be changed. With it, they may not be changed, we may fail. But, without that kind of courage and that mass mobilization, there is no chance.

When the time came to distribute the Pentagon Papers, the FBI was searching for me and my wife. For 13 days we were underground, working with a bunch of students mainly, many of whom I’d never met. I knew one person and she knew other people. I didn’t know the other people. And each one of those people was asked — not by me, by some of the others — "we are doing an action that may be very useful. It might shorten the war, but it could be very dangerous legally. Put you in great jeopardy. Are you willing to help?" We couldn’t broadcast what it was beforehand. Not one person said no. That was a time when all you had to do … in those days you could tell who you could count on, except for a handful of informers. You went to someone with long hair, or young. That’s all it took. And we said, "Will you help end the war, [even though] it may put you in prison?" "Yes." And we went from house to house. The FBI was searching for us, people gave us their rooms. People distributed those papers, everybody did. During that time, 19 newspapers published the Pentagon Papers. Not just The New York Times and the New York Post, who were enjoined, but the St. Louis Post Dispatch, also enjoined for the first time in our history. The Boston Globe enjoined.

There had never been an injunction against a newspaper before. In the face of the president and the attorney general saying every word being published here endangers American lives, endangers our troops in the field, endangers national security—that’s what the president was saying. And every one of those newspapers that had the chance, everyone—nobody turned it down. They looked at it, they read it for themselves. "It doesn’t look that way to us, that’s not our judgment of the national security, and we don’t agree with the president." So, they all did it. (Applause).

It was a wave of civil disobedience by corporations, profit-making corporations—newspapers that had more of a sense of being a newspaper than is common today. They weren’t owned by conglomerates the way they are so much now. It was a wave of civil disobedience across the country.

I remember two years after the Moratorium, the war was still going on. This war may last a long time but it will not ever be ended without people acting in the spirit of 1969 and 1968 and 1965. So thank you for being here. (Applause).
For more info, see World Can't Wait.

Canadians and other non-US readers, if you support this action, think about what you can do to help it succeed. If you blog, publicize it. If you can afford to, help it financially. If you have friends in the US, ask them if they are going, and send them info.

If you can be there: go.

9.21.2006

slippery

Long-time wmtc reader Dean, a progressive living in Texas, has the uncanny ability to read my mind. He's forever leaving comments today about tomorrow's posts. Yesterday Dean noted:
Barbara Ehrenreich maintains a website that she apparently doesn't make off-limits to hate-filled, sociopathic right-wing commentors. You Canadians might want to check out some of their comments on Ehrenreich's recent posts to get a taste of the obsessions and hatefulness of the American right-wing.

For example, one from a few days ago declares that he doesn't care anything at all for those who suffered and died from Hurricane Katrina, that it's every man for himself and he wouldn't want to live around poor people anyway. And this in response to an Ehrenreich essay on how the unemployed in the US too often blame only themselves for their predicament. And even that comment is pretty mild compared to what you can hear on the street here or on many other sites any day of the week. Laura's probably received much worse.

When I read comments like that, attitudes that are all too familiar and widespread here in Texas, I am so glad Laura deletes them. At the same time, as Laura says, I don't think the rest of the world really realizes just how aggressively hateful many in the US are.
"Aggressively hateful" - that's exactly how I think of it.

A new wmtc reader, going through our backstory, recently emailed me about a nasty comment that I left up. (It was snarky, but not hate-filled, so it didn't meet my standard for deletion.) His email and Dean's comment reminded me of just how many of those comments wmtc used to get, especially right after the 2004 "election". Out and out hate mail. The comments I have deleted could fill a large, hate-filled book.

There were the angry right-wingers, furious that someone could actually choose another country over TGNOTFOTE, that anyone would dare suggest there was a better place to live. (Of course they all claimed to be happy we were leaving, along with the ubiquitous offers to help us pack.)

There were the angry left-wingers who said we were giving up and abandoning our country. They were certainly less mean-spirited, and there were fewer of them.

The third type of comments - a subset of the angry wingnuts - were intent on telling us how awful Canada is, and how much we would hate it there. How our (non-existent) children would be forced to speak French, how we would be arrested - dragged out of our beds at night, I think was the expression - if we disparaged the queen of England, how we would die while we waited for health care. That is, if the cold didn't kill us first.

Sometimes I would delete the comment, but copy it into a post so the wmtc crew could kick it around some. That was fun, and had the added benefit of making me feel welcomed and accepted.

Everything calmed down a lot after we moved. The last spew wmtc received was actually from a Canadian left-winger who thought I moved to Canada for stupid, uninformed reasons, and just had to tell me about it. But it's a pretty rare occurrence now, where it used to be fairly common.

It was always very clear to me that I couldn't leave that stuff on my blog. It felt like a violation of my personal space. I think of this blog as my online home. Someone came to my home to insult me, and I had to ask him, or force him, to leave.

Deletion is inevitably followed by accusations of censorship and "echo chambers". But I'm not the government, I'm not preventing anyone from getting their own blog (although we move to canada sucks is already taken, ha ha!), and not everyone who posts here shares the same opinions. But deleted commenters always whine about the same things, and I just continue to delete them.

Different bloggers have different takes on this. Jere, the reader who I mentioned above, reading some old posts, said he leaves all the hateful comments in, bad spelling and all, to expose them. I recently read Crooks and Liars's comment policy and thought it was brilliant. My own ground rules for commenting are here. Many bloggers don't monitor comments and don't seem to care what goes on in them.

A recent comment war on one of my favourite blogs confirmed for me that my instincts were right. (Right for me. Each to her own.)

Egalia, of the great Tennessee Guerilla Women, posted a powerful, emotional piece, when her daughter was beaten up by her then-boyfriend. (Daughter's boyfriend, not mom's.) Egalia's post, which includes photos of her daughter's bruised and swollen face, was called "Men Are Scum Until Proven Otherwise".

It's a provocative title, to be sure, and taken in context, an excellent one. Egalia explains it was actually a quote from her daughter's father, from when their daughter first started dating. In our violent world, women must be on guard and distrustful, until it's clear that the man in question is worthy of trust.

Egalia and her daughter were engaged in "naming and shaming": refusing to be silent and let abusers slip under the radar, masquerading as normal men. Other bloggers joined the campaign; Egalia posted a round-up here.

Although I missed the opportunity to name and shame Matthew Allen White, Egalia's daughter's assailant, I applaud their campaign with all my heart. It seeks justice, and it puts the blame where it belongs. I know from personal experience how powerful it is when you own your story enough to lift your head proudly and say: This was done to me. I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Now, go back and scroll through the comments on those two TGW posts. Look what people wrote.

A woman posts photos of her daughter's battered face, and people yell at her for casting aspersions on men. They say she's as bad as the man who beat up her daughter. And worse.

Egalia has many friends and defenders, and many readers came to her defense. The comments devolved into a shouting match.

I'm sure Egalia has her own reasons for leaving up all the comments. Maybe it's to expose the hate. Maybe she finds it easier and less upsetting to ignore comments altogether. Maybe it's some combination of the two plus other reasons I haven't guessed at.

But for me, the comments at TGW are the cautionary slippery slope. That's where wmtc could have ended up if I didn't nip it early on. Instead of the interesting discussions we have here, we'd have one big ugly shouting match.

* * * *

Although this post is about blogging and comment policy, I hope you'll take a few minutes to check out the TGW posts I linked to (one, two and especially three). Powerful stuff.

9.20.2006

report

Here's a report from World Can't Wait on yesterday's protests and civil disobedience in New York. Scroll down for some powerful pictures.

I've heard some concern about the October 5 action, because it's during the week. "I have to work." "I have school." "I can't go on a weekday."

Please consider using a sick day or a vacation day, going in late, or walking out altogether. Work will survive one day without you. Think of it as a small sacrifice to the cause of preventing many much larger sacrifices. Think of it as a donation.

I know it's an inconvenience. Activism does not always fit neatly into our lives. It's just one day.

Allan and I skipped several (unpaid) days of work, at great expense, to attend massive rallies. I say that not because I think we're "better" or more committed than you or anyone else, but because I wouldn't ask anyone to do anything I haven't done myself.

From World Can't Wait:
Here is What You Need to Do on October 5

Demonstrate – take off work, don’t go to school or leave early, and congregate at rallies being planned in cities across the country. The rallies will be informative events where people can learn more about the analysis of World Can’t Wait that there is a coherent program represented by the Bush Regime that is a remaking society and changing all the rules in a fascist way and for generations to come. This movement is not “protest as usual” but a movement setting its sights on driving a sitting president from office before 2008.

After the rallies we will march through the streets calling on others to join us! Rallies are being held at central civic places, federal buildings, city halls, and rural post offices. If there is not an organized rally in your town go to the city hall at 12:00 pm with signs and meet people who feel like you do. Together, you can organize the next demonstration.

Here is What You Can Do to Make October 5 a Success

It depends on you. Make the commitment and get involved in the movement to change the course of history.

A basic plan for the next 15 days: funds, get the word out, volunteer

1. Raise funds to keep our Call and what to do on October 5 in the public eye and in the mainstream of the mass media, fueling the necessary discussion and debate and challenging people to act on what they know to be right. We plan to immediately follow up the USA Today ad with ads on Air America Radio, on MySpace.com and FaceBook.com (internet sites very popular with high school and college students), Spanish radio and newspapers. Keep up with worldcantwait.org for details.

2. Get the word out! There needs to be a visible wave of mass publicity through flyers, signs in store windows and bulletin boards, and spreading lawn signs. Send out announcements to your e-mail lists and have the organizations and associations (political, social, athletic, religious, professional) get involved in getting out the word to be there on OCTOBER 5.

3. Volunteer! Call the national office or the World Can’t Wait committee in your town (or form one if it does not exist) to join the many committees working at an urgent pace to take up all the different elements that go into making this movement what it needs to be to drive out the regime. Many people doing this have never been active politically before, so don’t hesitate to get involved. All you need is the passion of caring about the future and the political will to make a difference.

As the Call The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime concludes:
"The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US."

grapes

I am planning a little day trip to the Niagara wine region, for winery tours and tastings.

We've done that in the Finger Lakes region in New York State and really enjoyed it. We were young and poor and the prospect of free wine was irresistible. For some reason we've never visited wineries when we've been in California, although I'm not sure why.

For more than a year now, we've been driving past the signs for the wineries on our way back and forth from the Buffalo airport. It's kind of hard to forget they're out there.

Tips, recommendations, favourites? As always, opinions are welcome.

report?

Can anyone tell me how the protest went, yesterday in New York?

More later.

9.19.2006

blueprint

Last week I posted Daniel Ellsberg's plea, published in Harper's magazine, for a government insider with a conscience to reveal the US's plans to invade Iran - and not anonymously, through Seymour Hersh, but with verifiable proof, while they are still employed.

If you haven't read that, please do. It's great. It's important.

Today, to partially compensate for my violation of fair-use standards, I'm making another pitch for you to buy the new issue of Harper's. In it, George McGovern, the UN Global Ambassador on Hunger, who was the Democratic candidate for president in 1972, and William Polk, Middle Eastern Studies expert and author, have written "The Way Out Of War: A blueprint for leaving Iraq now". It's an excerpt from their new book, Out Of Iraq.
Staying in Iraq is not an option. Many Americans who were among the most eager to invade Iraq now urge that we find a way out. These Americans include not only civilian "strategists" and other "hawks" but also senior military commanders and, perhaps most fervently, combat soldiers. Even some of those Iraqis regarded by our senior officials as the most pro-American are determined now to see American military personnel leave their country. Polls show that as few as 2 percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. That is the reality of the situation in Iraq. We must acknowledge the Iraqis' right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.

We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.

Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic requirement. As many retired American military officers now admit, Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.
That's the intro. Here are the pullquotes:
"Stay the course"? When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for an abyss, it is a bad idea to "stay the course".

. . .

We should not, as we are currently doing, encourage the growth of an Iraqi army at a cost of billions to the American taxpayer.

. . .

The 25,000 armed mercenaries employed in Iraq as "personal security detail" now make up a force larger than the British troop contingent.

. . .

We should be generous. Generosity will go a long way toward repairing the damage to our reputation caused by this war.

. . .

Assuming 50,000 unjustified deaths, and the compensation per person to be $10,000, our outlay would be only two days' cost of the current war.

. . .

A respected international body should be appointed to process the claims of, and pay compensation to, those Iraqis who have been tortured.

. . .

It is sobering to think that the cost of rebuilding Iraq's public-health system would amount to less than we spend on the war every twenty days.
A single issue of Harper's costs $7.95 US, but you can subscribe for $15 a year, $24 in Canada. An excellent deal.

neighbours

When we moved first moved here, there was a health-food store called Alternatives right up the street. It used to have another location in Oakville, which had just gone out of business, and our local Port Credit location was clearly struggling.

By November, their shelves were almost bare, and there were drastic reductions on anything that was left. The owner said they had bought by a Canadian health-food store chain, and the new store would be opening by February.

Since that time, the store has been vacant and shuttered. There were only two other stores in that little strip, and one was a cafe that went out of business, too. The family-owned meat market, which features organically-raised, pesticide-free products, was all by itself, and I wondered how it would survive. Garbage occasionally piled up in the parking lot. It was starting to look a little grim. It stayed that way for a good six months.

Then a new restaurant moved in where the cafe had been, a nice, pub-type place. A good sign.

And now, finally, the wraps have come off of the big store window. There's a big sign out front: "Coming Soon, Planet Organic".

It sounds like they're a health-food store chain based in Western Canada. This will be their first store in Ontario.

This could be really good news for Port Credit and Mississauga, and the folks at the organic meat market must be thrilled. It certainly has the potential to keep me away from Whole Foods in Oakville. (More about my Whole Foods obsession here.)

So, Planet Organic. Anyone know them?

reform

MSS of Fruits and Votes, who writes about elections and electoral systems around the world, has two interesting posts about Canadian electoral reform - in New Brunswick and in Ontario.

Go. Read. Learn.

9.18.2006

quiet

I can't remember the last time wmtc was this quiet for this long. Statcounter says about the same number of people are still reading every day, but maybe they're different people. Maybe most of the talkative people have drifted off and been replaced by non-commenting readers?

Many people have been emailing comments. It's nice to hear from you all, but why not post, and possibly start a conversation?

precipitous

Today's Toronto Star reports that, for the first time, a majority of Canadians oppose Canada's continued military presence in Afghanistan.
Public support for Canada's military role in Afghanistan has dropped "precipitously" as more and more Canadians thinks troops are fighting an impossible mission, a new poll shows.

. . .

Currently, 49 per cent of Canadians oppose the Afghanistan mission, 38 per cent support it and 12 per cent have no opinion, according to an EKOS poll done for the Toronto Star.

"There has been a precipitous decline. For the first time we see more Canadians opposed to the mission than in support of it," Graves said in an interview.

In December, 2001, support for Canadian participation in military action in Afghanistan was at 62 per cent, with only 18 per cent opposed. By December, 2002, 50 per cent supported the mission, with 30 per cent opposed. And support has dropped more than 10 percentage points since early this year, the same time that Canadian troops took on a more dangerous and high profile role in southern Afghanistan.

Surprisingly though, opposition isn't driven by concerns about mounting casualties — 16 soldiers have been killed in the last three months alone. Rather, opponents say the mission is unlikely to bring stability and democracy to Afghanistan and fear that it is bringing Canada uncomfortably close to American foreign policy, the poll indicates.
This bit is infuriating:
Graves [the pollster] said pessimism is infecting Canadians' outlook on the world and fuelling an "incipient isolationism."

"There's a growing sense that problems in places like the Middle East, in Iraq, in Israel are things not tractable, not solvable, that our best interests will (not) achieve real progress in our lifetime," Graves said.

"That's a very depressing sense of futility and hopelessness that seems to infect our outlook."
Mr Graves, could it be that a growing number of Canadians recognize that the way to solve the world's problems is not through the sights of a tank?

In any case, what does this mean in practical terms? Both the Conservatives and the Liberals support "the mission" - love that euphemism - and I'm sure most voters are not so adamantly opposed to it that they will vote NDP. Where does this leave Canadians who don't want Canada in Afghanistan? From the same story:
Despite the public unease about Afghanistan, Harper and his Conservatives don't appear to be paying a political price.

"There's a real sort of paradox here," Graves said. "Despite this precipitous decline in support for the mission, it doesn't appear to have had any deleterious impact on Harper's approval ratings or the prospects for this party."

Indeed, while Harper visited troops in Afghanistan in the spring and his government endorsed a two-year extension of mission, Canadians recognize that it was the Liberals who dispatched the troops on the more difficult Kandahar mission in the first place.

On a similar note, public opposition hasn't produced any political return for the New Democrats, who have called for troops to be brought home.
In yesterday's Star, columnist Haroon Siddiqui writes:
You didn't have to go any further than the blanket coverage of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 to know the great divide between the United States and the rest of the world, and also between those Americans and Canadians, like Stephen Harper, who support George W. Bush's geopolitics and those who don't, namely, the majority of Americans and Canadians.

While each of the 2,973 victims of 9/11 needs to be remembered, no less worthy of commemoration are those sacrificed in the failed war on terrorism:

- The 2,670 Americans, and the 42,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq.

- The 16 Canadian soldiers killed since May in Afghanistan.

- The tens of thousands of Afghan civilians killed, maimed or displaced since the toppling of the Taliban five long years ago.

- The hundreds of Palestinians killed and the hundreds of thousands starving in the Israeli-occupied territories, now with Canadian complicity.

These Muslim victims were, and are, not all terrorists. Not to see the connection between their tragedy and the Muslim anger around the world is to be obtuse or ideologically blind.
In closing, Siddiqui sums up what many of us are thinking:
Standing by the U.S. and Israel is not the same as standing with Bush and some Israeli politicians. Israel has a right to exist and thrive but so do the Palestinians. Our presence in Afghanistan is legitimate but not as the B team of the American war machine. Canadians understand this, as recent polls show. But our government doesn't.

9.17.2006

pup story, part 3

Puppy was a really good dog, and if we hadn't already had two, we certainly would have kept her. But as it was, she was not a good match for our family. We were determined to find a home for her, but it had to be a good home.

Someone who saw the flyer called to say she needed a dog, and she had a lot of room in her basement. I said, "You can't keep her in a basement, she'll be miserable, she'll bark all day - she needs to live with your family." To which the person replied, "Oh, she's a family dog?" - the way you'd say, "Oh, you have three heads?"

At work, that became the catch-all phrase for bad dog-parenting and bad dog adoptions: "Ohhh, she's a family dog?"

A month went by. We managed.

A co-worker (not someone I knew, someone from a different shift) wanted Puppy. After much discussion, Second Foster Mom came uptown and took Puppy away. I cried.

It didn't work out.

SFM's husband didn't really want a dog, and he wasn't patient enough for a pup. Puppy needed more house-training, and the family wasn't home enough to be consistent. It was a classic illustration of why so many dogs end up homeless.

I was ready to take Puppy back and continue our search, when SFM struck gold. A family who had recently lost a beloved dog and was on their way to a shelter to adopt a new one - a great sign - saw the flyer. We were told that when they went to SFM's house, Puppy was going nuts, running around like a maniac with SFM's son's friends. New Family saw Puppy at her worst, but fell in love. New Family renamed her "Maggie", and took her home.

Despite my best efforts, I never heard from anyone about Puppy/Maggie again. New Family was experienced with dogs, and with rescues, so I was hopeful. But I never knew for sure.

Here's the last thing I heard about Puppy. New Family's mom was a little person - a dwarf. Dad was a regular sized guy. Puppy slept in their bed, in the space below Mom, next to Dad's legs.

I hope she had a good life.

* * * *

Here are Clyde and Puppy watching squirrels in the nearby parkette. Clyde is the black and white one. They were almost the exact same size.

puppy time001

puppy time002

puppy time003

puppy time004

pup story, part 2

Things at home were a little tense, and a little crazy, but we knew we had to keep Puppy while we searched for a home for her. We gave her a bath, took her to vet for shots, and started spreading the word. Someone at work made us flyers.

flyer 001

flyer 002


The person who made the flyers said it looked like we had performed some kind of evil experiment, cloning Gypsy and Clyde to produce a cross between the two.

We briefly considered keeping Puppy ourselves, but three dogs in an apartment was just too much. Most importantly, it didn't seem fair to Gypsy. She was older, and slower, and the presence of an energetic, playful pup was clearly irritating her. Puppy would approach Gypsy where was relaxing, and nip and bat at her, trying to get her to play. "Play with me, play with me, play with me, play play play play play."

Gypsy would drag herself up, somewhat painfully by that time, walk to the other side of the room, and flop back down again.

Puppy would bounce over there. "Play with me, play with me, play with me, play play play play play."

Gypsy would never growl at Puppy or otherwise tell her to back off. She would just drag herself up again, and try lying somewhere else.

I put Puppy in another room and shut the door, and we ran out to buy a crate.

It was the only way to be fair to Gypsy. Puppy wasn't completely house-trained anyway, so a crate was a good idea. Puppy loved her crate, and it gave the other dogs more security, and more peace.

Puppy was very smart, a fast learner - and she was also a dominant dog. The alpha dog in our home had always been Clyde, ever since we found her (two years after we adopted Gypsy). Clyde was the sweetest dog in the world, always happy and carefree, loved all people - but was definitely dominant, although not aggressive, to other dogs.

In the small-scale world of domestic canines, dominance is often expressed in small ways, such as who starts eating first, and who enters or exits a room first. Clyde always had to go through a door before Gypsy. If Gypsy - three times Clyde's size - got ahead of Clyde, Clyde would give a quick turn of the head, a snarl, a nip, and continue on ahead. This happened so quickly, if you weren't aware of it, you would never see it. Clyde's expression would change instantly - happy-snarl-happy - Gypsy would be checked back, no one missed a beat.

One day, in kind of a confined space between our bedroom and bathroom, Clyde tried that on Puppy - and Puppy snarled back. In an instant, they were at each other, teeth bared, scary growling and barking noises, and suddenly Clyde was screaming, high-pitched cries of pain and submission. Puppy had Clyde by the ear and didn't immediately let go. Allan was furious to see his his little girl hurt; he grabbed Puppy and half-tossed her into the bathroom and shut the door.

Clyde was bleeding, with a nip to the ear. But more than that, she was shook up. She was dethroned.

From then on, whenever Puppy was in the room, Clyde would position herself between us, or stand between Allan's legs. If I was at my desk, she would lay under my legs. She was a pretty tough cookie, and had never been fearful, so it was really something to see.

We stepped up our efforts to find Puppy a home.