10.31.2006

hunt

It's amazing how much housing is available in the GTA, both to rent and to buy. In New York, 30 people are fighting for every available space. Every move comes with two questions: what's the rent, and how'd you find it. I was never in this position myself, but people routinely resort to deceit, bribery and subterfuge to find a place to live.

Here, it's a buyer's - or renter's - market. I also don't think the rents are bad at all, contrary to popular belief. If you don't have to live in the hippest neighbourhood, there are plenty of decently priced places. (Obviously, that's if you have a decent job. Public housing for people without is still needed.)

We're seeing five houses today - one in the Mimico section of Etobicoke, one in the Beaches, two in the Guildwood section of Scarborough, and one in Mississauga. For non-Torontonians, Etobicoke and Scarborough were once separate suburbs, but are now technically part of Toronto - Etobicoke is the west end and Scarborough is the east end. The Beaches is a really nice neighbourhood right in the city, and a popular tourist destination, similar in that respect to Port Credit (where we live now).

We've never been to Scarborough, but are looking there on a tip from the ever-reliable James, along with some other friends of wmtc and some co-workers. There are many rental houses there in our price range. We'll check out the neighbourhood at the same time as we're seeing the two places.

Allan thinks I should post photos of all the houses we see, with the pros and cons of each, and you all can vote on where you think we should move. It might be fun. And, in the spirit of our native country, your votes will be counted only as we see fit.

10.29.2006

rally

A brief report on the Canada Out Of Afghanistan rally in Toronto, from the Star.

question

As you know, Allan and I work on the weekends. He works Friday, Saturday and Sunday; I work Friday, Sunday and Monday, but am trying and hoping to have my Monday changed to Saturday.

In New York, we both worked Saturdays and Sundays, and Allan worked all the Monday holidays, like Memorial Day and Labor Day. Here, because our salaries are lower, we had to add the third day. These are long days, 12 or 13 hours, so on days we work, we really only work.

Working the three-day week is very important to us - it's what enables us to pursue our writing careers, and write what we want. (And damn, do we ever miss the two-day week!) And the three-day week usually means weekends.

In New York, a 24/7 city, this was never a problem. We'd miss the occasional event that we might have wanted to attend, but generally, with five days and nights to work with, we could do anything we wanted.

But is working weekends going to be a problem in Toronto?

Theatre has weekday performances, so that's fine. And there are weekday baseball games, also not a problem. But I recently checked into three concerts I'd like to see, and they were all on Saturday nights. Afro-Cuban All Stars, Saturday, November 4. Los Lobos, Saturday, November 11. Sonny Rollins, Saturday, May 5. Is this a coincidence, or is it typical?

I guess I only noticed this now that baseball season is over. I can't remember if this happened last winter, or maybe all our money was going to fixing up the house.

Of course festivals and street fairs are on weekends, but I've seen enough of those for one lifetime. I've long-ago stopped caring about walkathons or charity events that are usually on Sundays. If there's the odd event that I feel I must attend, we can arrange some time off - although we have to use that very sparingly, because of travel.

But it never occurred to me that live music might only be on weekends. This would not be good.

whinge

I didn't go. I'm feeling stressed and anxious, and didn't want to be around people. With packing and unpacking looming, I need maximum time to do my own work, and to have some down-time to myself.

This week, we're going to check out south Scarborough, especially the Guildwood, Rouge Hill and Birchcliff Village neighbourhoods. If it seems like a good fit, there are lots of ads to answer. We'll continue to look in Etobicoke South (Long Branch, Mimico, Lakeview) and keep our eyes out for anything in Mississauga South (Port Credit, Lorne Park Estates, Clarkson). And, thanks to friend of wmtc Doug, I now know there are places in The Beaches we can afford.

I'm very sure we'll find something really nice in our price range. I'm not worried about that. I just positively dread the prospect of packing and unpacking. (Not so much the moving part, because I'm not going to be doing that work!) It feels like such an intrusion on my time.

Sorry for being so whiny. Thank goodness I can get some of this out of my system here.

10.28.2006

always

The more I learn about history, the more I know that it's the most reliable way to understand the present.

From Lord Arthur Ponsonby's, Falsehood in Wartime: Propaganda Lies of the First World War, published in 1928, in which he analyzes the making of war propaganda:
1: We don't want war
2: The enemy bears all the responsibility.
3: We are not waging war against a people, but against an evil leader.
4: We are fighting for a noble cause, not for material interests.
5: The enemy commits atrocities.
6: The enemy is using weapons that are not permitted.
7: Our losses are limited, the enemy's losses are high.
8: The artists and intellectuals support our cause.
9: Every war is a 'holy war'.
10: Anyone who calls the propaganda into question is a traitor.

Facts must be distorted, relevant circumstances concealed, and a picture presented which by its crude colouring will persuade the ignorant people that their Government is blameless, their cause is righteous, and that the indisputable wickedness of the enemy has been proved beyond question. A moment's reflection would tell any reasonable person that such obvious bias cannot possibly represent the truth. But the moment's reflection is not allowed; lies are circulated with great rapidity. The unthinking mass accept them and by their excitement sway the rest. The amount of rubbish and humbug that pass under the name of patriotism in war-time in all countries is sufficient to make decent people blush when they are subsequently disillusioned.
See also Arthur Ponsonby's Dream, by Stephen Gowans, written in 2002.
Ponsonby's efforts -- and those of others who've followed -- have failed, for two reasons: reach and credibility. Governments have both; people like Ponsonby have neither. Sadly, governments can spread lies widely, counting on the media to act as a largely passive and uncritical conduit between itself and the public (unofficial PR agencies for the government, or stenographers for those in power, as critics put it.) And the face of government is made up of those who have that much sought after quality, "credibility," something some people twist themselves into knots of endless compromise to acquire. But presidents need not comprise, for it's an article of faith that, on matters of foreign policy, the president has credibility; if he's caught making "dubious" assertions, it's because he slipped or exaggerated for effect or was imprecise, not because he lied or can't be believed; which is to say, those who are granted credibility as a matter of course, are the least deserving.

Incensed that "the press account of the 'terrible atrocities' (said to be committed by the enemy in WWI) were nothing but propaganda," The Nation predicted in March, 1929, "when the next war breaks out, statesmen will lie again; again deliberately set out to deceive and cheat the people in order to make them hate and fight." Yes, there is indeed a tradition of presidential lying in the service of war.

Ponsonby may have dreamed that someday, someone would be able to write, "when the next war breaks out, statesmen will lie again, and the people will call them liars, and will refuse to be cheated and deceived into going along."

After decades of being cheated and deceived, it's time we brought Ponsonby's dream to life.
More from Canadian blogger Stephan Gowans at What's Left.

10.27.2006

evicted

We have to move.

Our landlord's friend just gave him 90-day's notice, and our landlord, in turn, did the same to us. Although we knew this was a possibility, it still came as a shock.

Damn.

After the shock subsided a bit, we picked up our Toronto Star and started circling rentals.

If we wanted nothing more than a nice apartment or townhouse somewhere in Mississauga, we could choose from dozens of places right away. There's no shortage of housing here, which is certainly nice (and very different from New York).

And even with our somewhat more complicated criteria, we still called four or five places yesterday, and went to see one last night. So we're confident we'll find a nice place and we'll be happy there.

But damn. We don't want to move.

The worst part is the physical inconvenience - the packing, moving and unpacking. Last time we did that - after 13 years in the same place - it was with the excitement and expectation of moving to Canada. Now it's just a pain in the arse.

I look around this house, at all the little improvements we made - the sleek Ikea light fixtures replacing the dusty fake chandeliers, the white switchplates replacing the fussy brass ones, the clean, painted walls where there was grimy, peeling old paint, and much other expense and effort - and my heart sinks. I know I wouldn't have done it any other way. But damn.

In the "making the best of it" department - although we never would have chosen it - we're likely to find a much nicer house. Here, we're paying for location - steps away from the Lake, walking distance to the GO, walking distance to all the shops and restaurants of Port Credit. Everything being a trade-off, the bathrooms are small and old-fashioned, the warped, decaying windows don't open and shut properly, and we really have twice as much yard work as we need to bother with. We think it's likely we'll find a newer house with better amenities in a less convenient, but still manageable, location.

Adding to the stress, I have two little trips coming up (one alone, one with Allan and Cody) that can't be changed. So there's a chunk of time when we can't be looking, packing or anything else.

I'll be emailing friends in the GTA with what we're looking for, in case anyone hears of a possible match. If you think you can help, please email me and I'll put you on the list.

Damn.

10.26.2006

staythecourse

Have you seen this?

You might think in this media age, where every sound bite can be captured and preserved, those in power wouldn't have the audacity to do this sort of thing. But these guys are always pushing the envelope, testing what they can get away with. So far they've gotten away with everything. I'm astonished that people still call them incompetent. If there's ever been a more efficient and skillfully disguised dictatorship, I'm not aware of it.

There oughta be a new word for Orwellian. Something that would out-Orwell even Eric Blair's most Orwellian nightmare.

terrorism

Keith Olbermann on Republican fear-mongering:
'To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear'

By this definition, the people who put these videos together: first, the terrorists and then, the administration, whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking, they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaeda, but the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

...

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President? And thus, more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror. After last week's embarrassing internet hoax about dirty bombs in footballs stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described former CIA operative named Wayne Simmons cited the fiasco as quote "The, and I mean, the perfect example of the President's Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA Terrorist Eavesdropping Program-how vital they are."

Frank Gaffney, once a respected Assistant Secretary of Defense and now the president of something called The Center for Security Policy added "one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this is not only that they're gunning for us. Not just in a place like Iraq, but truly worldwide."

Of course, the "they" to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake. A kid trying to one-up some loser in an internet game of ‘chicken.'

...

Mr. Bush, this is the what–100th plot your people have revealed that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a waterboard in Eastern Europe? If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work your new ad implies that only you, and not the Democrats, can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions.

...

The real question, of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release that information in the first place? It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting strong skepticism. The kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.

So that leaves two options, Mr. President: the first option, you and your Department of Homeland Security don't have the slightest idea what you're doing here. Thus, contrary to your flip-flopping between saying, "we're safe" and saying, "but we're not safe enough", and contrary to the Vice President's swaggering pronouncements about the lack of another attack since 9/11, the last five years HAS been just an accident.

Or there's the second option: your political operatives leaked this nonsense for the same reason your political operatives put out that commercial. To scare the gullible.

Obviously, the correct answer, Mr. Bush, is: all of the above.
It's very powerful: watch it all here. Thanks, as always, to the incredible Crooks and Liars.

representation

Next year, Ontario voters will decide whether or not to adopt proportional representation for provincial elections.
Ontario voters could be casting ballots for more than just who represents them when they head to the polls next October.

They could be voting to change the election process.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Marie Bountrogianni is introducing legislation that would allow a referendum question on electoral reform to go on next year's ballots.

The question will depend on what recommendation, if any, is put forth by a citizens assembly tasked with reviewing the current system.

There's been a growing push across Canada to change elections so winners more closely reflect the popular vote.
MSS, our resident political scientist, blogged about Ontario, with links to his earlier posts on the topic.

A similar referendum failed not long ago in British Columbia. In Ontario, as in BC, a supermajority (60%) will be needed for the change to take place, although the vote would be binding. Details are here.

The mere fact that this referendum can take place is, for me, a sign of Canada's healthy democracy. I wish I could vote for it!

Many thanks to friend of wmtc Scott M for the tip on this.

connect

Nick and Mason came over for dinner last night. (Unfortunately for us, they didn't bring Athena and Cian, who we were hoping would romp around in the yard with Cody.) I had such a good time. We all talked endlessly, and once again - just as when we met Nick when he was here in August - I felt like I was among old friends. They are just great guys, and a really cool couple.

They're closing in on their first month in Canada, and we're beginning our second year. We compared impressions and observations of our new lives and our new country. Like any group of recent immigrants, there are some things that only people who lived there and now live here can appreciate, and it was really good to affirm them.

I also realized how Denver-to-Toronto was a far greater change than New-York-to-GTA. Nick and Mason have had a bigger culture shock, and so are going through a bigger adjustment, than we did. Even our urban-to-suburban change isn't as huge, as Allan and I both grew up in suburban areas.

It's still kind of hard to believe how far we've all come since that day in November 2004 when Nick bumped into Allan on DU, then emailed me. There we were, strangers with a sympathetic spirit, half a continent away. Now we're all legal residents of Canada. (And waiting for so many more of you to join us!)

We know other people in Toronto who made the same move - especially Diamond Jim, Matt the Nurse and John, and A&S. But Nick was the very first person who made that connection with me, the first person to find my blog and say, "We're thinking of doing this, too," and I feel a special bond with him.

In general, I feel so lucky to have friends here, to know people I feel so comfortable with. I know I say that all the time, but not nearly as often as I think it.

10.25.2006

motive

In a more important, and more sensible ruling, an Ontario judge has struck down part of the Anti-terrorism Act.
Justice Douglas Rutherford of Ontario Superior Court ruled that a section of the Anti-terrorism Act that defines "terrorism" violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling does not mean that Mohammed Momin Khawaja, the first person charged under the act, will be freed.

Khawaja has been in custody since he was arrested by police on March 29, 2004 in connection with seven criminal charges related to allegations he took part in and helped an extremist organization in Britain.

Khawaja, 27, a software developer who was living in the Ottawa area, was expected to face a trial in January.

Rutherford decided to sever a section in the law that defines ideological, religious or political motivations for criminal acts. The rest of the law remains in place.

"Motive, used as an essential element for a crime, is foreign to criminal law, humanitarian law, and the law regarding crimes against humanity," Rutherford said in his judgment.

"While the hate motive may be an aggravating factor at sentencing, in the traditional criminal law, motive — the reasons 'why' someone commits a criminal act — neither establishes nor excuses a crime."
Last week, a section of the Security of Information Act was thrown out, and now a highly questionable piece of the anti-terrorism law has been struck down. Canada continues to move in the right direction.

banished

Here's an item brought to my attention in comments. Friends of wmtc Scott M and Doug both noticed this craziness from a US judge. Why are so many judges in the US so damn stupid?
An American teacher convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old student has been exiled to Canada as punishment in an unusual case that has immigration experts divided over its legality.

A U.S. judge gave Malcolm Watson a choice between serving as much as a year behind bars or agreeing to a three-year exile at his home in Canada. Watson, a 35-year-old former teacher at Buffalo Seminary in New York state, chose Canada.

Under the sentence for sexual abuse imposed by Cheektowaga town court, Watson can enter the United States only to report to his probation officer. Watson lives in St. Catharines, Ont., with his Canadian wife and three children. His sentence started Monday.

Robert Kolken, a Buffalo immigration lawyer, told the Toronto Star that exiling a citizen is unheard of.

"I don't see how a judge sitting in a criminal court in the U.S. can lawfully banish a citizen as a condition of sentencing," he said.

"The real issue is whether it's legal or not," he told the paper, adding that he wonders whether the sentence can even be enforced.
Banish-ed, that banish-ed, that one word, banish-ed...

saturday

This Saturday, October 28, Canadians can join their neighbours in demanding: Canada Out Of Afghanistan. Demonstrations will be taking place all over the country: a list of events is here.

There's a demonstration in Mississauga, but I'll attend the one in Toronto, because I don't have a car on Saturdays. Plus, the first time I demonstrate in my new country, I want to march in front of the US Embassy.

Canadian readers, if you oppose your country's growing military involvement in Afghanistan, come out on Saturday, add to the numbers, make your voice heard.

Canadian bloggers, will you help publicize this?

Canadian Peace Alliance

Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

StopWar.ca (Vancouver)

Collectif Échec à la guerre (Montreal)

Halifax Peace Coalition

PeaceCalgary.ca

NoWar-Paix.Ca (Ottawa-Gatineau)

Peace Alliance Winnipeg

St. John's

There are also events planned in: Digby (NS), Antigonish (NS), Banff (AB), Charlottetown (PEI), Comox Valley (BC), Cornwall (ON), Edmonton (AB), Fredericton (NB), Grand Forks (BC), Hamilton (ON), Kamloops (BC), Kelowna (BC), Kingston (ON), London (ON), Midland (ON), Nanaimo (BC), Nelson (BC), Peterborough/Port Hope (ON), Quebec City (QC), Regina (SK), Saskatoon (SK), St Catherines (ON), Victoria (BC), Whistler (BC) and Windsor (ON).

Find your local demo here.

10.24.2006

law

Some good, some bad.

Last week, in a positive ruling for free speech and democracy, an Ontario court threw out parts of Canada's secrecy law.
An Ontario court has struck down sections of Canada's secrecy law in throwing out RCMP warrants used to search a reporter's home.

The Ontario Superior Court judgment released Thursday quashes three sections of the so-called leakage provisions of the Security of Information Act, passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The provisions were directly drawn from the decades-old Official Secrets Act, long criticized as archaic and poorly drafted.

David Paciocco, a lawyer for Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, says the ruling underscores the media's role in protecting democracy.

"It's a tremendous affirmation of the importance of freedom of the press and freedom of expression," Paciocco said after reading the judgment.

"This is also an ultimate vindication of Ms. O'Neill."

Squads of Mounties combed through O'Neill's home and office on a cold January morning in 2004 in an attempt to find the source of information about the Maher Arar affair.
On the other hand, this morning, the Liberals join the Conservatives in calling for an extension of Canada's version of the so-called USA-Patriot Act. (The law, as I understand it, is not nearly as objectionable as the Patriot Act.)
The lifespan of the most controversial anti-terrorism powers granted to police after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks should be extended to 2011 to safeguard national security, a parliamentary committee recommends.

The measures — preventive arrest and investigative hearings for material witnesses in terror cases — should be reviewed again once the country has had a decade of experience with them, the public safety committee said yesterday. Neither power has yet been used.
Here's the part that cheered me:
But the Bloc Québécois and New Democratic members on the committee issued a minority report, urging the immediate end to preventive arrest, calling it unnecessary and "most likely to give rise to abuses.
I was very encouraged to see the Bloc standing in opposition here, since it's their support of the Tories we have to worry about.

On a more local front, Toronto Mayor (in full campaign mode) suggests Permanent Residents should have the right to vote in local elections.
Toronto's estimated 200,000 landed immigrants should be given the right to vote in municipal elections because they deserve input into issues that directly affect their neighbourhoods, Mayor David Miller says.

"We allow people who don't live in Toronto to vote, simply because they own property here," Miller told the Toronto Star's editorial board yesterday. "And if we ask ourselves, 'How have we let neighbourhoods where there are often high proportions of landed immigrants deteriorate?' one of the reasons is they haven't had a vote.

"They haven't had a real say in the decisions that are affecting them," he said. "And if somebody who lives in Calgary but owns a piece of property here has a right to vote in municipal elections, I think somebody who lives here, committed to the city, has a right to vote."
I find it amusing that so many Canadians - including Miller and the Star still use the expression "landed immigrant". The CIC doesn't use it at all. There's really no such thing as a landed immigrant anymore.

10.23.2006

done

It finally slowed down at work, giving me an opportunity to do one last go-round on wmtc. Now all the photos are reposted, and every internal, self-referential link is working. I've been getting really sick of this ongoing project, and now it is done.

If you happen to find an old link that still points to the blogspot address, please let me know.

gap

No post yesterday and I don't know if I'll be able to write anything today. It's been annoyingly busy on my day-job, making me miss the days when I was paid 50% more to work 90% less.

I'm also missing last year's autumn weather, which was crisp, cool and clear through September and October. We had the luxury of not working for the first six weeks we moved here (courtesy of some very hard work the months before), and the lovely weather just enhanced our feelings of joy and good fortune. Looking back, it was one of the happiest times of our life together.

Not that I'm complaining now, mind you.

I'll leave this up for your own news and the inevitable off-topic comments. Hope you're all well.

10.21.2006

corpus

Corpus. The body.

Habeas Corpus. Produce the body.

Produce the dead body of democracy.

Habeas Corpus is a corner stone of a just judicial system. It's a cornerstone of democracy.

The ruling junta in the US has made it disappear.

If you're not up to speed on this, the Military Commissions Act is now law. Contrary to what (for example) the Globe And Mail says, this is not a "tough on terror" bill. This is a suspension of the democratic process, and a sea change in American law.

Here's the text of the law itself, and some important portions explained.

Human Rights Watch has a thorough analysis written in Q&A form.

From the Washington Post:
Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents.

The new law already has been challenged as unconstitutional by lawyers representing the petitioners. The issue of detainee rights is likely to reach the Supreme Court for a third time.

Habeas corpus, a Latin term meaning "you have the body," is one of the oldest principles of English and American law. It requires the government to show a legal basis for holding a prisoner. A series of unresolved federal court cases brought against the administration over the last several years by lawyers representing the detainees had left the question in limbo.

Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, which gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention before a U.S. court, and in this year's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court appeared to settle the issue in favor of the detainees. But the new legislation approved by Congress last month, which gives Bush the authority to try detainees before military commissions, included a provision removing judicial review for all habeas claims.
Note that this bill had support from both [sic] parties.
The signing ceremony was part political rally for a GOP that is struggling to retain control of Congress three weeks before pivotal midterm elections. Republican leaders said the legislation showed that they were a party of strength and assailed Democrats for not supporting the measure.

"The Democratic plan would gingerly pamper the terrorists who plan to destroy innocent Americans' lives," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said.

House Democrats had "voted in favor of new rights for terrorists," Hastert said, adding that the Democrats had "put their liberal agenda ahead of the security of America."

Both chambers of Congress approved the legislation last month in votes largely along party lines.

In the House, 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans in voting for the bill; 160 Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent voted against it.

In the Senate, 12 Democrats joined 53 Republicans in voting for it; one independent and one Republican joined 32 Democrats in voting against it.
Those who claim we are exaggerating the potential of this law either have not read the law, or do not understand the law, or are blind to history, or are naive to how power functions, or all of the above.

From Robert Parry (with many thanks to Redsock for helping compile these links):
History should record October 17, 2006, as the reverse of July 4, 1776.

From the noble American ideal of each human being possessing "unalienable rights" as declared by the Founders 230 years ago amid the ringing of bells in Philadelphia, the United States effectively rescinded that concept on a dreary fall day in Washington.

At a crimped ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 while sitting behind a sign reading "Protecting America."

On the surface, the law sets standards for harsh interrogations, prosecutions and executions of supposed terrorists and other "unlawful combatants," including al-Qaeda members who allegedly conspired to murder nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It is a rare occasion when a President can sign a bill he knows will save American lives," Bush said. "I have that privilege this morning."

But the new law does much more. In effect, it creates a parallel "star chamber" system of criminal justice for anyone, including an American citizen, who is suspected of engaging in, contributing to or acting in support of violent acts directed against the U.S. government or its allies anywhere on earth.

The law strips "unlawful combatants" and their alleged fellow-travelers of the fundamental right of habeas corpus, meaning that they can't challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, at least not until after they are brought before a military tribunal, tried under special secrecy rules and then sentenced.

One of the catches, however, is that with habeas corpus suspended these suspects have no guarantee of a swift trial and can theoretically be jailed indefinitely at the President's discretion. Given the endless nature of the "global war on terror," suspects could disappear forever into the dark hole of unlimited executive authority, their fate hidden even from their families.

While incarcerated, the "unlawful combatants" and their cohorts can be subjected to coercive interrogations with their words used against them if and when they are brought to trial as long as a military judge approves.

The military tribunals also could use secret evidence to prosecute a wide range of "disloyal" American citizens as well as anti-American non-citizens. The procedures are similar to "star chambers," which have been employed historically by absolute monarchs and totalitarian states.
More from Parry:
The New York Times lead editorial gives false comfort to American citizens by assuring them that they will not be victims of George W. Bush's new draconian system for prosecuting enemies of the U.S. government in military tribunals outside constitutional protections.

"This law does not apply to American citizens," the Times editorial stated, "but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening." [NYT, Oct. 19, 2006]

However, the Times analysis appears to be far too gentle. While it's true that some parts of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 target non-citizens, other sections clearly apply to U.S. citizens as well, putting citizens inside the same tribunal system with resident aliens and foreigners.

"Any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission," according to the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in September and signed by Bush on Oct. 17.

"Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States . . . shall be punished as a military commission . . . may direct. ..."

If the Times is correct that "this law does not apply to American citizens," why does it contain language referring to "any person" and then adding in an adjacent context a reference to people acting "in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States"?

Who has "an allegiance or duty to the United States" if not an American citizen? That provision would not presumably apply to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, nor would it apply generally to foreign citizens. This section of the law appears to be singling out American citizens. [The whole piece is excellent.]
I've been reading what various bloggers and pundits have to say about this terrible turning point, and I've seen no one who says it more powerfully and more truly than Keith Olbermann. I've got two Olbermann pieces for you today.

In the first, which I implore you to watch, Olbermann interviews law professor Jonathan Turley.

In the second, Olbermann gives us a much-needed history lesson.
We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived - as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid - of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before — and we have been here before led here — by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use those Acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote, about America.

We have been here, when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as "Hyphenated Americans," most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said, about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9-0-6-6 was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Order to imprison and pauperize 110-thousand Americans -

While his man-in-charge -

General DeWitt, told Congress: "It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen — he is still a Japanese."

American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did — but for the choices they or their ancestors had made, about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And each, was a betrayal of that for which the President who advocated them, claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.

Many of the very people Wilson silenced, survived him, and -

- one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900-thousand votes - though his Presidential campaign was conducted entirely - from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt's internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States, to the citizens of the United States, whose lives it ruined.

The most vital - the most urgent - the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been, only human.

We have let Roosevelt's "fear of fear itself" overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said "the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass."

We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets, was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute: the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And, always, always - wrong.

"With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?"

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly — of course — the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously… was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

But even within this history, we have not before codified, the poisoning of Habeas Corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital - the most urgent - the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that "the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values" and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens "Unlawful Enemy Combatants" and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria - ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.

And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?

"These military commissions will provide a fair trial," you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. "In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them."

'Presumed innocent,' Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain "serious mental and physical trauma" in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

'Access to an attorney,' Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

'Hearing all the evidence,' Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies, that imperil us all.

"One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," - you told us yesterday - "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be "the beginning of the end of America."

And did it even occur to you once sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 — that with only a little further shift in this world we now know — just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died —

Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a "competent tribunal" of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" for - and convene a Military Commission to try - not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, sir, all of them — as always — wrong.
If you take away one thing from this post, please watch the Olbermann clips.

10.20.2006

filepile

Would one of the many people visiting wmtc from filepile.org please share the post where I'm linked? I'm curious. Usually when I find wmtc on a forum or message board, I can join and see what's being said. But this place is locked up tight.

Update. Now I'm receiving nasty emails from this filepile crew. Apparently I had the audacity to mention their secret sandbox in public and it made them cry.

Updated update. Now filepilers are emailing to apologize on behalf of their community, and to explain the confusion, and to attempt to taunt me. It's quite bizarre. From one of the emails:
Some other members are trying to figure out who sent you the nasty e-mails, but I wanted to apologize on the community's behalf. Most of us are pretty nice people, I swear, but like any online community, there are a few jerks out there.

We're fairly secretive -- it's one of our quirks -- but harmless. (Your commenter "Stewart" was in error: we're not an offshoot of SA, and forging UA strings isn't what we do.) We don't like our own members to mention File Pile, and evidently someone overreacted bigtime.

Again, my apologies for any distress that our more thoughtless members may have caused you.
We don't like our own members to mention File Pile?! Oy.

I quoted the apology and nice parts of this email to be fair to the person who sent it. He asked me not to quote from or publish his email. Too bad.

campaign

Several people have asked why I haven't written about the Liberal leadership race. Oh, a lot of reasons. I'm not into critiquing campaigns and theorizing on what might happen. It's just not my thing.

Of course, just because I don't blog about something doesn't mean I'm not paying attention to it. But at this point, my thoughts on the leadership race and the next election are pretty brief.

First, I recall how, after the last election, so many people were absolutely convinced that Harper's Conservatives would win the next election with a strong majority. Many acted as if it were an absolute certainty. But there are no certainties in politics, especially before a government even has a record.

I fully appreciate how important it is to prevent a Conservative majority government. I think it looks pretty unlikely at this point, and, at the same time, I'm anxious to see the Liberals run a strong candidate and a strong campaign.

I was pleased to see a recent survey showing Bob Rae as having the best chance against Harper. Of the four remaining leadership candidates, Rae would be my pick. (I say that with the understanding that when I can vote, I won't vote Liberal, but NDP.)

I'm aware that many people dislike Rae based on his record as premier of Ontario, but having heard such mixed things about his term, I have to put aside those opinions and base my judgments on what he says right now. He seems to me clearly the most progressive candidate, as well as the strongest campaigner.

On the other hand, if the Liberals choose Michael Ignatieff to lead their party, they will confirm my beliefs of how very un-progressive they are. I've been reading Ignatieff's writing in the US for many years, and he disgusts me. I see him as an apologist for US foreign policy. If you want that, you might as well stay with Harper.

I hope the Liberals will realize, in a way the Democrats never have, that their best shot against Conservatives isn't playing Conservative Lite. Faced with real Republicans or fake Republicans, people take the real thing every time.

I also think Ignatieff is open to criticism in that he seems to have returned to Canada solely to try to take the helm of the Liberal party. The accusation of being out of touch with Canada and more American than Canadian is a pretty big Achilles heel.

Those are my thoughts, however mundane. I'll expect to hear yours as well.

10.19.2006

mayor

If you want to see Hazel McCallion resplendent in her sari, I've added a pic.

neutrality

Bill Moyers has co-written, with Scott Fogdall, an excellent piece about the corporate takeover of the internet.
Now we have an Internet infrastructure that is rapidly evolving, in more ways than one. As often occurred on Rome's ancient highways, cyber-sojourners could soon find themselves paying up in order to travel freely. Our new digital monopolists want to use their new power to reverse the way the Internet now works for us: allowing those with the largest bankrolls to route their content on fast lanes, while placing others in a congested thoroughfare. If they succeed in taking a medium that has an essential democratic nature and monetizing every aspect of it, America will divide further between the rich and poor and between those who have access to knowledge and those who do not.

The companies point out that there have been few Internet neutrality violations. Don't mess with something that's been working for everyone, they say; don't add safeguards when none have so far been needed. But the emerging generation, which will inherit the results of this Washington battle, gets it. Writing in The Yale Daily News, Dariush Nothaft, a college junior, after hearing with respect the industry’s case, argues that:
Nevertheless, the Internet's power as a social force counters these arguments….A non-neutral Internet would discourage competition, thereby costing consumers money and diminishing the benefits of lower subscription prices for Internet access. More importantly, people today pay for Internet access with the understanding that they are accessing a wide, level field of sites where only their preferences will guide them. Non-neutrality changes the very essence of the Internet, thereby making the product provided to users less valuable.
So the Internet is reaching a crucial crossroads in its astonishing evolution. Will we shape it to enlarge democracy in the digital era? Will we assure that commerce is not its only contribution to the American experience?

The monopolists tell us not to worry: They will take care of us, and see to it that the public interest is honored and democracy served by this most remarkable of technologies.

They said the same thing about radio.

And about television.

And about cable.

Will future historians speak of an Internet Golden Age that ended when the 21st century began?
You can read "Against An Imperial Internet" on TomPaine.com.

Last night, Moyers's documentary "The Net At Risk" aired on PBS. I didn't see it, but I hope to catch a rebroadcast. There's lots of great info about net neutrality, including clips from the Moyers special, here.

size

Allan, Cody and I drove up to Forks of the Credit provincial park, for a hike and supposedly to see foliage - but all the tree were completely bare! According to this post from the same park, almost exactly one year ago, there were plenty of colours this time last year. A function of the warmer autumn, perhaps? Fortunately, there are plenty of beautiful colours here in Port Credit.

We had a nice hike, though, and I'm (again) reminded that this is something I want to do more of. There are many reasons we haven't - we were in Peru in the spring, we hide from the heat in the summer, I've been exploring Toronto, writing deadlines - but I want this to be more than an annual tradition.

On the way up Highway 10, I was looking at the map of Ontario, noting how completely huge it is. (Cross-ref Arrogant Worms, I know. Although I can't find the lyrics with the famous phrase anywhere.) I was wondering about the relative sizes of the larger US states compared with the large Canadian provinces. If all the provinces and states were ranked by size, where would Ontario fit in? What about Texas, supposedly so huge? Would Alaska - which clearly should be part of Canada - seem as completely gigantic as it does now?

So here we are, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Wyoming - 253,348 square kilometres / 97,818 square miles
California - 410,000 / 158,402
Saskatchewan - 651,900 / 251,700
Alberta - 661,848 / 255,287
Texas - 695,622 / 268,581
Ontario - 1,076,395 / 415,598
Alaska - 1,717,854 / 570,380
Having visited Alaska - where you drive for an entire day and cover no distance at all on the map, where you visit the largest National Park in the U.S., which seems immense, but represents a fraction of nothing relative to the entire state - I fully appreciate its enormity. Alaska is two and a half times the size of Texas, and a full 20% of the size of the lower 48. If Alaska was the separate nation many Alaskans believe it to be, it would be the 19th largest country in the world.

But look! Ontario is not that much smaller. You could say Ontario is about a California smaller than Alaska.

10.18.2006

leaves

It's leaf-raking time in Port Credit.

Last year at this time, our first months in a house, we had to start from scratch. We had to buy rakes, work gloves, a wheelbarrow, snow shovels - everything. This year it's a little easier.

In our neighbourhood, full of big, mature trees, the town comes by with a huge leaf vacuum. This is apparently pretty common now, but neither of us had ever seen it before. On the advice of our neighbours, we bought a tarp. You rake the leaves onto the tarp, then drag it to the curb, dump out the leaves, and they get vacuumed up on designated Leaf Vacuum Weeks.

We have so many leaves, we couldn't wait for a Leaf Vacuum Week. Last week, raking only the front yard, we filled five huge trash barrels, packed down with leaves.

This week we did just the backyard, and filled five tarps like this:

cody raking leaves 003


It's so nice to work outside and have Cody with us. Last year at this time, Buster was still alive. Since he couldn't be off-leash, he'd stay inside, watching us from a window, howling and crying. So we kept Cody inside, too, just to be fair and not drive Buster completely insane.

But now Cody can hang out with us, trotting to the front as we drag the tarp, then back to her backyard for more raking.

Cody is mad for sticks. She adores them. She likes to carry them around, or break them into pieces, or just chew them until they're soggy, then find another. Sticks are all over the lawn, and as we pick them up and put them in the wheelbarrow, she comes over to investigate, looking for the best one to steal from the pile.

One spot on the lawn is Cody's special hang-out. From there, she can see if her favourite people next door are outside. It's also where she keeps her stick collection. I think of it as her toy chest. When Allan mows the lawn, he moves the sticks, mows, then puts them back.

cody raking leaves 008
Cody says: the bigger the better.
You can see the garage with the back door open.
We drag the tarp through the garage and out to the curb.


cody raking leaves 010
Bringing it to her toy chest.


cody raking leaves 002
Stick heaven.


cody raking leaves 006
Guarding her stash.


cody raking leaves 012
While we are raking, Cody hangs out among the piles and keeps an eye out for choice sticks.


cody raking leaves 014
Our girl is getting old! She's gotten very gray over the last year.

10.17.2006

local

In today's Star, I notice that Ontario liquor laws will be modernized a bit. When I saw the headline, I naturally wondered about our recent LCBO discussion. But that doesn't appear to be up for debate.

These are a few obscure laws such as making it legal to drink a glass of wine while on a winery tour, or for makers of beer, wine and liquor to sell samples of their drinks on their premises. That one's odd because they appear to do that now.

The central idea of the changes, however, is rape prevention. New laws would make it legal for people in bars to take their drinks into the washroom with them, rather than leave their drink unattended. Anything that brings awareness to the terrible problem of Rohypnol-induced rape is a good thing. I would hope by now women (especially college-aged women) know not to leave their drinks unattended, and if anything prevents them from taking drinks into the washroom, they are either flouting the law or throwing away their drinks.

I'm sorry, though, to see the Star consistently use the phrase "date rape" as if it's something other than rape. Letter-writing time. Information on Rohypnol here.

Also in this morning's paper, I saw a terrific photo of Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion decked out in a gorgeous purple sari.
At Trillium Health Centre's Maharani and Maharaja Gala, an extravagant evening featuring indoor fireworks and South Asian food and entertainment, an 85-year-old gori (white woman) named Hazel was belle of the ball.

As in Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, a.k.a. the Energizer Bunny. Arriving fashionably late, she made a grand entrance, drop-dead gorgeous in a fuchsia chiffon sari edged with silver thread, complete with a bindi dot on her forehead and matching silver bangles. All night long, people were coming up to the mayor to offer compliments and request photos.
Talk has already started in Mississauga about who will possibly follow - for no one will replace - the mighty McCallion. She's 85 years old, on her 10th term as mayor, and she runs Mississauga like a well-oiled machine.

Although I had my fears about living in the suburbs, Mississauga is a great place to live in many ways. Services are amazing, and property taxes are among the lowest in the GTA, thanks to all the corporate headquarters here. I love that our mayor was a pioneer of women's hockey.

hazel sari

10.16.2006

punk

An elegy for CBGB, by one of my favourite writers.
In some ways CBGB, which opened in December 1973, ended its life as it had started. It never moved from its initial location, which was originally under a Bowery flophouse, now a homeless shelter. It never changed its floor plan, with a long bar lit by neon beer signs on the way to an uneven floor, a peeling ceiling, a peculiarly angled stage and notorious bathrooms. Through the years, the sound system was improved until its clean roar could make any power chord sound explosive. Mostly, however, CBGB just grew more encrusted: with dust, with band posters stuck on every available surface, with bodily fluids from performers and patrons. Ms. Smith did some casual spitting of her own during her set.

But in a historical long shot, CBGB got lucky. The concepts of bands booked there turned out to be durable ones: Ms. Smith's blunt, visionary and primal songs; Talking Heads' nervously oblique funk, and especially the Ramones' terse, blaring, catchy rockers, which came to define punk-rock. Having nurtured bands like those--and later post-punk bands from Sonic Youth to Living Colour--CBGB became a rock landmark. Its reputation grew strong enough to coast on. Even as its regular bookings grew far less selective through the 1990's and 2000's, every now and then a big-name band would play there as a pilgrimage.

Yet CBGB remained a neighborhood joint. The club's last show wasn't some stage-managed, all-star sendoff destined to be a television special (although it was broadcast live on Sirius satellite radio.) It was just two sets by Ms. Smith with her band and two guests: Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Richard Lloyd, one of the two guitarists in Television, the band whose early gigs defined CBGB. Ms. Smith's sets included Television's "Marquee Moon," with Mr. Lloyd, and songs from other CBGB bands: Blondie's hit "The Tide is High," the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" and a Ramones medley sung by her guitarist, Lenny Kaye, who changed the lyrics of "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?" from "It's the end of the century" to "It's the end of CBGB." Ms. Smith was ignoring one of Mr. Kristal's early conditions for CBGB bands--that they only perform their own songs--but forgivably.

Punk-rock never promised that it was built to last. The songs always seemed ready to self-destruct; simple and brief, they were often just three chords and a burst of frustration or pugnacity or humor. Some of the musicians were self-destructive, too. Yet punk, as codified by the Ramones, has turned out to fulfill some perennial adolescent need, and it persisted.
Read the whole thing, you'll enjoy it. Plus a few pics.

destiny

If you haven't yet seen the documentary "Born Into Brothels," please put it on your list. The DVD hung around our house for half the year, but we finally watched it last week. It's well worth your time.

Zana Briski, a photographer based in New York, went to India to live with and photograph the women in Calcutta's red light district. Briski became friends with the women's children, and began to teach them photography. From this, an idea was born. Briski became determined to get the kids a decent education and help change their future.

"Born Into Brothels" is much more than your standard "get out of the ghetto" story. These kids were absolutely destined to live the same lives as their parents. The outside world shuns them. Good schools will not accept them, because their parents live illegally. There is literally no choice. For the girls, it is only a matter of time before they become sex workers, too. They know this, and they dread it, but they are powerless to avoid it. Here, the phrase that rings constantly through my mind and on this blog - geography is destiny - is painfully and inescapably chiseled in stone.

It begins with a photography class, and it grows. Later, Briski arranges to have the kids' photographs shown in a gallery in New York. There's a Sotheby's auction, all the proceeds going to fund the kids' education. (The kids watch the auction on a webcam. Great stuff.) Eventually, Briski starts a foundation: Kids With Cameras.

There are chapters in Calcutta, Haiti, Jerusalem and Cairo. Their mission:
Kids with Cameras is a non-profit organization that teaches the art of photography to marginalized children in communities around the world. We use photography to capture the imaginations of children, to empower them, building confidence, self-esteem and hope. We share their vision and voices with the world through exhibitions, books, websites and film. We are committed to furthering their general education beyond photography either by linking with local organizations to provide scholarships or by developing our own schools with a focus on leadership and the arts.
Whenever you see a story about impoverished kids discovering art - be it photography, music, dance, singing, writing - inevitably, one or two very talented young people emerge. It never fails. How much talent is out there in the world, undeveloped? How many potential artists will never know what's inside them, because they aren't exposed to art?

Despite "Born Into Brothels" winning the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary, this is one film that should really be seen DVD; it's the DVD extras that make the movie. There's a follow-up with the kids, which fleshes out their stories, a mini-movie of the kids watching and commenting on the finished film, and a Charlie Rose interview with the filmmakers.

The Kids With Cameras website has lots of great info on the program and the kids it works with. Here's more about the movie and the DVD. See this movie!

humiliation

Why is there terrorism? What conditions help produce a terrorist? (We're using the conventional definition of terrorists here. The Resident and the US don't count, just for the sake of this discussion.) There are a lot of theories floating around, but few of the theorists have actually spoken to anyone who engages in political violence.

In yesterday's Toronto Star, there was an interview with someone who has.
Talks began last week to restore self-rule to Northern Ireland after the Independent Monitoring Commission, the body charged with, among other things, monitoring paramilitary activity in the province, said in a major report that the Irish Republican Army was no longer engaged in terrorism. It was a major step to a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, which has suffered under 30 years of conflict between Catholic Irish Republicans and pro-British Protestants, during which 3,600 people have been killed.

John Alderdice, a psychiatrist, former member of the Northern Ireland assembly, and a member of the House of Lords, is a commissioner with the IMC. A Protestant, he has also worked tirelessly to bring the sides together over the years. It has meant he has had to talk to, and try to understand, terrorists — something most authorities and governments engaged in the war on terror today seem unwilling to do.
Some excerpts:
You have some theories about the pathology of terrorism.

One thing that came out for me as I started to talk to people in Northern Ireland, those involved in violence and those who were sympathetic to the violence, was a strong feeling that their community had been humiliated, and it was historical and it had been deeply felt.

And when I went to other parts of the world — the Balkans, Middle East, Latin America in Peru, Nepal, Sub-Saharan Africa — I discovered this was a widespread phenomenon, the feeling that their community was not treated with respect. They responded in an angry and very violent way.

That's not to say that economic disadvantage and other political issues are not of importance. But this is something that has kept coming out to me as a common feature of countries and communities where terrorism emerges.

. . . .

What is it that IRA leader Martin McGuinness said during peace talks that struck you so deeply?

He told the story of wanting to be a motor mechanic and asking to be taken on for a job. And the guy said there was no job available. He said, "Keep me in mind." But the guy explained to him that he'd never have a job there because he's a Catholic. He became really humiliated with that.

But he also said, "Sometimes I wonder if I'd ever have got involved in all the subsequent things if I'd gotten that job." That was a powerful thing for those of us listening to hear. And I wonder if that garage owner had heard that, would he feel any sense that maybe he played a part in it?

But is giving someone a job enough to stop him from becoming a terrorist?

It's not a question of giving him a job. It was the emotional reaction to the reason for not giving him a job.

. . . .

Why have you been so willing to embrace those that have been behind so much terror in Northern Ireland?

It hasn't been at all easy. I've had to struggle both emotionally and intellectually, my colleagues advising me not to do it. For a long time I felt that to get moderate people working together we had to marginalize those responsible for the violence. But we tried it and it didn't work. Repression was tried, and it didn't work. So should we continue with something that wasn't working? Or take a risk? It was very difficult, and it took a very long time, but it made an enormous change. If we didn't try to engage with people who supported the use of violence and involved the use of terrorism, then you can't come to understand why they did it.

The conventional wisdom nowadays is to never talk to, or negotiate with, terrorists.

Well, it may be the conventional view, but it's not wisdom.

What about terror in the name of Islam?

Hamas and Hezbollah, they have clearly identified origins and a political agenda they want to achieve, different from the global jihadists. I've gone and sat down with people in Hamas and Hezbollah, not because I agree with their positions or their methods, but because I don't agree with the way they've done things and want to find a way in which disagreements can be handled in a different way. People don't see a way out without resorting to violence. Then they go down the democratic road, Hamas gets elected, and then people say we don't want to do business with you.

What does that have to do with humiliation and disrespect?

Because if you talk to those people, they will tell you how profoundly they feel disrespected and humiliated. Some of it is current, some historic. It's not difficult to find reasons why they feel this way. And again, like our situation, there are two sides of it. There's a profound insecurity and despair and long history of disrespect and humiliation of the Jewish people. You've got to understand the profound depth of feeling there. You can't just deal with Palestinian feelings.

. . . .

This is not to justify terrorism; it's appalling, reprehensible. But you can't say that you can't find a way of understanding it if you think only a military approach is usable. You'll find it gets worse and worse.

birthday

Happy Birthday to my best friend!

More later.

10.15.2006

end

More than a year ago, I blogged about the impending demise of CBGB, the seminal punk club in New York City's East Village. It was no surprise that it was closing; the wonder was it had survived that long. The club's owner, the one and only Hilly Kristal, wasn't in mourning. "You want old stuff?" he said. "Go to Europe."

And now, the end is here. Tonight is CBGB's last night. Patti Smith will grace the stage one last time. I saw her play CBGB in 1970-something, my first time in a New York club, and was instantly smitten.

After this last show, Kristal will pack up everything movable, and cart it all to Las Vegas, where he plans to set up shop anew. Las Vegas. Think of it.

AP story, via the Toronto Star, here.

reverse

Here's a perfect example of why I couldn't stand being in the US anymore. I know this is hyperbole, but I felt sometimes like I literally could not take it anymore, like I had reached my limit, and could only either live in a permanent state of anger and depression, or leave.

So many good Americans are working so hard to raise the alarm about stolen elections, to rectify the problems in the voting system - to restore democracy. And meanwhile, the system is getting worse.

A report from Common Cause shows that Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin have made it more difficult for people to vote.

* * * *

Our hero Keith Olbermann is sounding the alarm again. Watch (or read) him on "the Bill of Right". Thanks to Crooks and Liars for making this available.

10.14.2006

international

Anyone read Italian? Check out this blog entry, which links to wmtc and a few others in our little community.

I ran it through the Babelfish translator, but you know how that goes. It sounds odd at best. The title comes out as "Why to move itself in Canada". It is to laugh. We could use a human translation.

The last sentence, via Babelfish:
All persons who apparently have completed one chosen on the base of the quality of the life, rather than on the economic necessity.
This is true.

advice

I'm writing this for the "how to" column on the right, which I haven't updated in more than a year. People interested in emigrating email me very frequently, and many of them ask the same questions. With the usual disclaimers*, here are some answers.

1. During the application process, after you complete your medical exam, you may be asked for more medical information. This seems to happen to a huge number of applicants, including me.

It's very disconcerting. You receive a sealed envelope which you are instructed not to open. You must bring the envelope to the doctor who performed your medical exam, and await further instructions. Chances are there'll be some lag time after you receive the letter but before the doctor can speak to you, and your imagination will run wild with worry and fear.

Try not to panic.

The doctor who did my medical told me, "Ottawa always wants something else. So we give them more information, and that is that." He said that in 30 years of doing medical exams for CIC, he's never seen anyone rejected for a medical reason. Many other people have told me their doctors said the same thing.

I've never solved the mystery of the medical portion of the application. On the one hand, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that immigrants cannot be excluded based solely on medical condition or disability, including HIV status. On the other hand, the medical portion of the application stands, and "Ottawa always wants something else".

All I can say is: don't worry. No one is denied Permanent Residence status because of ordinary medical conditions such as hypertension, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, depression, allergies, glaucoma, and such.

2. Once you get your visa, how long do you have until you have to take residence in Canada? This is The Big Question. Unfortunately, it's the Big Question That No One Can Answer. (I've blogged about it so many times, I don't even want to go back to collect all the posts.) It's not, as some people will tell you, one year from your medical exam. It appears to vary widely, which is probably why they don't publish the information anywhere.

We had nine months. We know people who were given six months, three months, fourteen months, one year, and, believe it or not, sixty days. Worse comes to worst, if you didn't have enough time, you could enter Canada, take temporary housing, get your Permanent Resident card, then go back, wrap things up, and move permanently when you're more ready. As long as you meet the residency requirements, your Permanent Residence status won't be compromised.

3. Many people are concerned because they are self-employed or freelancing, and there doesn't appear to be a place for them in the application process.

I don't think being self-employed is an obstacle. If you are applying under the Skilled Worker class, you should be able to find the employment code that most fits your line of work, and proceed like anyone else.

On the application, you won't be apply to provide a letter from your current employer. I would write a statement explaining that you are a freelancer, give a list of clients, including addresses, and perhaps attach a copy of your recent tax returns to prove that you have income.

I would also ask one or more of your clients to sign a letter (which you can write for them), attesting that you've done work for them, on such-and-such dates, have been paid such-and-such amount.

If you meet the minimum points requirement, can show "proof of funds", and have a profession or skill, I can't imagine that freelancing or self-employment would count against you.

4. The application asks for letters of reference from past employers. Obviously, most of us can't get letters from all our past employers. We provided proof of employment from our current employers. I was also able to get proof of employment from the job just previous to my then-current job; Allan could only get it from his then-current employer. We also included a letter explaining why this was all we could provide.

In general, anytime you deviate at all from the instructions, or if the instructions are unclear and you are responding with your best-guess effort, I would include a letter, stating as clearly as possible what you've done and why.

5. Many people ask me about moving to Canada while waiting for Permanent Residence status. I do know of several families who moved before their PR status came through. They all received it eventually, or else they're still waiting because it hasn't been enough time yet. So it's possible to do.

However, during that time - unless you have a temporary work visa, which is a separate process - you won't be able to work legally, and you won't be able to get health insurance.

My personal opinion? Why chance it. You'll be here a long time and have plenty of time to get established once Canada gives you the green light.

If you can afford to live without working legally, or if you're self-employed and the move won't effect your business, the equation might add up differently for you. (In comments, a reader mentions another option.) For us, not being able to work was not an option. My advice is hang tight. You'll get there.

6. This is something I've told many people, but I'm not sure if I've written it anywhere on this blog. Keep in mind that Canada needs immigrants. If you are a working, productive citizen who will contribute to Canadian society, CIC is predisposed to let you in. I didn't realize this when we first applied, but I've since come to understand it. The odds are in your favour. If you really want to move to Canada, and you've taken the self-assessment test and meet the minimum requirements, I encourage you to apply.



* I'm not an immigration lawyer, and I don't have any inside knowledge of CIC. My answers are based on my own experience and the experience of people who have contacted me through this blog. It's not official information; it's one person's best guess.

revisit

You might want to check back on the thread called "freedom". Some good comments were added after we'd moved on.

inclusion

Each year, the US-based National Organization on Disability rates the most inclusive cities in the US, in a contest called Accessible America. We're not talking curb cuts and prime parking spaces here. From their website for the 2006 contest:
The winning cities or towns designated in the Accessible America 2006 competition will be places where citizens with disabilities have opportunities for full and equal participation in the life of their community, including access to education, jobs, voting, transportation, housing, religious worship, and a full range of social, recreational, cultural, and sports activities. Another area that NOD is giving special focus to is emergency preparedness for people with disabilities. The competition highlights community-wide progress and inspires replication of best practices programs and ideas.
The 2005 winners were (in order, first to fifth): Cambridge, MA, St. Paul, MN, West Hollywood, CA, Miami Beach, FL and Austin, TX. The cities are profiled in the new issue of New Mobility magazine.

Also in this month's New Mobility is my story on Brooke Ellison, who is running for State Senator in Suffolk County, New York, an eastern suburb of New York City. (The story's not online, although a snippet of it is here.)

I've written about Ellison before, a remarkable woman who I admire tremendously. Here's a little something about her; also her book and the TV movie about her life. Brooke would make an excellent State Senator, and perhaps one day a US Senator. She's smart, determined and tenacious, all to the nth degree, and has a generous, liberal worldview to match. I wish I could vote for her. I'll be watching the outcome with great interest.

10.13.2006

firsthand

Wmtc readers who are interested in the recent plane crash in New York might want to visit A Red Sox Fan In Pinstripe Territory. Our friend Jere, who was five blocks away from the site, has pictures and in-the-moment commentary.

I'm mentioning this because some of you posted about it in comments. I'm not particularly fascinated by this event, nor does it remind me 9/11, nor do I think it's a shattering blow for New York or the Yankees. It's a tragedy for two people and their families, and a small miracle for everyone in the building and on the ground, as no one else was killed.

But I'm not there, and Jere was. Check out his blog for an on-the-scene account. There are several posts, so scroll down a while to get them all.

10.12.2006

tastings

The Niagara wine region is lovely. It reminded us both of upstate New York, which makes sense, since it's pretty much the same land mass. The foliage, the country roads, the farm stands, small towns and old churches - it was all very familiar, in a very good way. And so nearby! That's extra nice. We can pop down there to buy some wine any day, and I'm sure we will.

Yesterday it was gray and off-and-on drizzly, but not too prohibitive, and today it cleared up and got cold. The foliage was beautiful. This is my favourite time of year, and I love to be outside, drinking it in. (I guess that's another unconscious pun?)

On Wednesday we went to many wineries and sampled many wines, enough that my ordinarily great navigational skills took a nap and we got lost a few times. Nothing major, just a few missed turns and some extra back-and-forth driving. But enough that I was proving myself all day today with extra back-road short cuts.

Most of the wineries we visited were in the Grimsby/Beamsville/Vineland area (Hi, Vera!). By the time we got out to Niagara-On-The-Lake, we were three sheets to the wind and in need of a nap.

The inn was very nice, but the town itself, which everyone says is so great, is just too touristy for us. We prefer the towns no one talks about. We had dinner at Strewn, a winery with a good restaurant.

This morning we took in Fort George, complete with musket demonstration and tour. It's so different to hear history from a Canadian point of view! ("The Americans were preparing, and we could see them across the river...") As you know, I love history, and I generally find the interpretative guides fascinating. Imagine fighting with a weapon that takes 15 seconds to load, blackens your hands, can't be used in the rain, and has only a slim chance of hitting its target.

After the Fort, we drove on a beautiful stretch of the Wine Route right along the Niagara River. Passing an old stone building, I saw a sign: "Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum". Newspaper museum?? Screeech, one-eighty, where do we park. A newspaper museum other than the one Allan keeps in the basement! It's this place. Like most early newspapers, this one was used for political reform and rebellion, so we want to know more.

Unfortunately it was closed for the season, but we'll get there one day. Which means I've begun my list of little out-of-the-way historic places to visit, just as I always had in New York. Very cool.

After lunch in a converted fire hall, we did one last winery, then wound eastward on the country roads until hooking up with the QEW again.

At several wineries, we heard a lot of resentment, even anger, at the LCBO. Most Ontario wineries don't produce enough to meet LCBO minimums, so they can't get stocked there. The wines are only available at the wineries themselves. Yet the wineries are still regulated heavily, or, as they put it "controlled by the government".

I don't know the story from the LCBO's point of view, but it seems like they should do more to support Ontario winemakers. From a consumer's point of view, the wine selection at LCBOs sucks. The fact that it's the largest importer of wine in North America only means that it's a single entity that buys wines in huge quantities. It doesn't mean that it buys a great variety of wines. Even the "Vintages," the LCBOs that feature more wine, wouldn't come close to satisfying true wine lovers. We buy very basic table wines, but people we know who are serious wine lovers would be aghast at what Ontarians have to settle for.

The Niagara region wineries themselves are all pretty laid-back and unpretentious. The wines are all fair, nothing tremendous, nothing awful, drinkable and affordable. We bought something in almost every winery we visited, and we certainly couldn't do that in most wine regions. The only semi-pricey bottle we bought was a Reisling Icewine that just knocked my socks off. Allan didn't love it as much as I did, but it may be my new best friend.

Here are a few pics. The weather prevented any really spectacular views. We did see Fort Niagara across the water from Niagara-On-The-Lake, but we never caught a glimpse of the Toronto skyline which is supposedly visible from there.

niagara wine pics 006


niagara wine pics 003


niagara wine pics 005


niagara wine pics 018
We loved this logo!


niagara wine pics 016
This is the same winery.
The wine was fine, the graphics were terrific.


niagara wine pics 008
You should never be too jaded for an interpretative talk, especially from Parks Canada or the National Parks Service (US). They know their stuff, and they make you think.

10.11.2006

niagara

We're off today to the Niagara wine region. We'll visit a winery or two in Beamsville, then head to Niagara-On-The-Lake for more tasting, and stay at a historic inn in that town.

The weather is being extremely uncooperative. It's raining here and looks to stay that way all day and tomorrow. I guess we'll spend less time outside walking and more time inside tasting.

10.10.2006

telly

Another high-minded post from me this morning. We are really enjoying the new season of "Corner Gas". The most recent episode (height, thermostats) was very funny. I've started to think of this show as the rural "Seinfeld".

I also like "Jeff Ltd". It has a "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-like vibe, with a not very likeable central character for whom everything goes wrong, because of his insistence on being who he is.

We also like "Puppets Who Kill", if only because we're not used to seeing so much sex, violence and profanity on TV. Great stuff. US readers, think a seriously R-rated "Greg The Bunny".

These shows, to their credit, eschew that vile scourge of sitcoms, the canned laugh track. Canadian comedy is doing well in this house.

On the other hand, I've already confessed to not liking "Trailer Park Boys". I just don't laugh.

dominos

We're one step closer to finding out if we can stay in this house or not.

As you may know, we rent a small, old house, in an neighbourhood where property values have skyrocketed. Most owners have torn down the original houses and built McMansions, but our landlord doesn't seem inclined to make that investment.

LL lives nearby, in a larger, more modern house (but not one of the monstrosities), the home of friends of his who are living and working in the US. Each year, his friend's contract is extended, the family stays in the US another year, LL remains in their house, and continues to rent out the one we live in.

We've known all along that the friends might come back from the US, in which case LL would move back into his little house, and we (especially I) would be very sad. On the other hand, the friends might stay in the US indefinitely, LL could buy their home, and keep ours as a rental. This idea has become more appealing, now that he has such excellent tenants. I.e., us.

I can't tell you how much I love where I live. The location and the house are perfect for us in every way. We've always known about this one potential glitch, that it might not be available long-term. We knew this as we painted, we knew this as we ordered custom-made shades. We decided to proceed with optimism. Allan's very good at not worrying, but for me, it's been an exercise in living in the present. A healthy challenge, and one I couldn't have coped with, say, 15 years ago.

Last night, the first domino fell. It appears to have fallen in the right direction, but it's too soon to tell.

LL's friend has been offered a permanent position in the US, and his company is pressuring him to take it. His family is homesick for Canada, but they might have to stay that way.

The next question is whether LL will buy their home. It's in one of the most desirable sections of Port Credit, and his friends might make a killing on the open market. Or they might not, and LL could buy it. LL knows we want to live here long-term, and he'd like to buy his friends' house and keep us as tenants if he can afford it.

Our agreement is 90-day's notice on either side, so we're not worried about being kicked out with nowhere to go. But I so do not want to move. Oh boy do I not want to move. We are very settled in here, and very happy. We lived in our last apartment in New York for 13 years. After a young-adulthood of moving constantly, I've put down roots.

Fingers crossed.

moving in 013
our little house


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the end of our street


And since someone is guaranteed to ask, no, we're not looking to buy a house ourselves. Can't afford it, and not interested.

* * * *

Restoring the photos to this blog is a breeze, thanks to Flickr, and to my being so organized. I did about half the blog yesterday. I won't have time to work on it again until next week, but next time I do, I should finish the whole thing. Whew.