boston red sox: 2007 american league east division champs

We did it!!!!

For the first time since 1995, the Boston Red Sox have won their division. This means I got half of what I wanted - the New York Yankees are still in the playoffs, having won the wild card - but it's the half I wanted most.

In order for Boston to clinch the division last night, they had to win and the Yankees had to lose. After Boston won, every Red Sox fan switched over to the Yankees game and rooted for the Baltimore Orioles. At Fenway Park, the Yankees game went up on the video screen, and the crowd that had just seen the first half the equation stayed for part two. In a dramatic finish, the Yankees blew a late-inning three-run lead, and lost in extra innings. And Red Sox Nation exploded.

Because of the wild card - in existence since 1995 - both Boston and New York have been in the playoffs many times in the last 12 years, something that was previously impossible in this age-old rivalry.

Those years include Boston losing the American League pennant to the Yankees in the most heartbreaking loss in the history of heartbreak (2003), and Boston winning that same pennant in the biggest comeback in baseball history (2004), after which they went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.

So, many things have happened since 1995, but one thing hadn't: Boston had yet to win the division. The Yankees always finished on top. But not this year. This year the Red Sox had been in first place since mid-April, and in first place they remain.

For celebration photos, videos and general jubilation, make Joy of Sox your destination.

Hey, guess what? WE DID IT!


q: do facts matter? a: it depends.

Does this ever happen to you? You see a news item and think, "This is something [name of blogger you read] would blog about." The item itself might interest you, but you think of it primarily in terms of how a particular blogger would approach it?

I just saw something on CBC News and thought, This is the kind of thing Impudent Strumpet would write about.

In fact, writing this - that I saw something on the news and thought, this is the kind of thing that Impudent Strumpet would write about - is the kind of thing Impudent Strumpet would write about.

This is getting very postmodern!

I was folding laundry (again with the laundry!), watching CBC News from Eastern Canada, because I must watch TV during laundry-related activity. The anchor was speaking with the editor of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald about a recent wave of violent crimes in that city, a time his paper has named "The Summer of Fear". I will paraphrase briefly; bold emphasis is mine.

Suhana Meharchand for CBC: The mayor of Halifax says statistics show that violent crime in Halifax is actually down. How do you respond to that?

Terry O'Neil of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: Statistics don't matter. What matters is if people feel safe, and they don't. If crime is down, why did the mayor convene a commission to study crime in Halifax, and why did a professor emeritus of criminology say that Halifax has a crime problem?

[a few questions later]

Meharchand: Some of these horrible crimes were committed by teenage girls. Now that school is in session, are parents wary of sending their children to school, where there are large numbers of teenagers?

O'Neil: Again Suhana, you have to look at the statistics. The numbers show that most crimes are committed between 2:00 and 5:00 a.m. and mostly by young men. They get drunk, stumble out of the pub, look at each other the wrong way, and a fight ensues. The girls in this recent attack knew each other, there was a history, we have reason to think it was a revenge attack. There's no real evidence to show that random crime is on the rise.

* * * *

This post brought to you by Impudent Strumpet, another ad-free blog.

yale unversity to return treasures of machu picchu to peru

From BBC News, via AW1L:
Yale University has agreed to return to Peru thousands of Inca relics that were excavated at Machu Picchu from 1911-15 by a history professor, Hiram Bingham.

Peru demanded the artefacts back last year, saying it agreed to their removal on condition they would be returned.

More than 4,000 pieces, including mummies, ceramics and bones were taken to the US university.

Under the agreement Yale and Peru will co-sponsor the first travelling expedition of the collection.

Yale will also act as an adviser for a new museum in the Andean city of Cuzco, close to Machu Picchu, where the exhibition will be installed after its tour.

The museum's opening is planned to coincide with the centennial celebration of Bingham's rediscovery of Machu Picchu in 1911.

During three trips to Machu Picchu, Bingham dug up thousands of objects, including silver statues, jewellery, musical instruments and human bones.

The agreement between Peru and the Connecticut-based university came after months of negotiations.

Initial talks broke down last year under the administration of former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo and Peru threatened to take its case before a US court.

Yale had offered to divide the items up but it now acknowledges Peru's title to all the excavated objects.

This is excellent news! The BBC story has good photos of some Incan treasures and a timeline of Yale University's involvement in Machu Picchu.

Our own photos of Macchu Pichu - a small sample of the hundreds we took when we visited the site in 2006 - are here.

freedom from fear (edited)

There's a gripping picture on the front page of today's Globe and Mail, and on newspapers and websites all over the world.


That's a Japanese news photographer lying face-up on the ground, holding his camera; a member of the Myanmar military stands over him with pointed gun. At least ten people (probably many more) were killed, including the cameraman in the photograph and several Buddhist monks, as troops fired into the crowd and clubbed protestors in the latest crackdown in Rangoon.

Newspapers and television stations have been shut down, internet access is cut off, hundreds of Buddhist monks and their supporters have been arrested and taken away.

The current round of protests has been going on since mid-August, but the struggle for a free and democratic Myanmar has been going on for decades.

China, Myanmar's largest trading partner - and its military government's leading arms supplier - could apply economic pressure to speed reform. Supporting democracy in Myanmar would gain China some international credit heading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But we won't hold our breath waiting for China to do the right thing.

I've been following the freedom struggle of the people of Myanmar since first learning about Aung San Suu Kyi in the late 1980s. Freedom fighter, resistance leader, symbol of hope and courage, Daw Suu Kyi still lives under house arrest, "detained" by the military government that fears her.

When Suu Kyi's husband, Michael Aris was diagnosed with cancer, international appeals to Myanmar - including those from the US, the UN, and the pope - to grant Aris a visa were rebuffed. Instead, Myanmar urged Suu Kyi to leave the country. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was temporarily free at that time, knew if she left, she would be unable to return.

Aris and Suu Kyi chose the movement over their last opportunity to be together in this lifetime. Aris died in 1999. During the final ten years of his life, he and Suu Kyi saw each other five times.

When Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, their son, Alexander Aris, delivered the acceptance speech.

We saw Nelson Mandela's imprisonment come to an end, and saw him recognized as the elected leader of his newly democratic country. I wonder if the people of Myanmar will see Suu Kyi do the same, if she will see freedom in her lifetime. In the US, the Myanmar movement lacks the high profile the anti-apartheid movement attracted, or even the celebrity status the movement for a Free Tibet sometimes holds. That international pressure can make a huge difference.

On the other hand, although support is important, freedom doesn't come from college campuses half a world away. Freedom comes from the people's own struggle. The people of Myanmar will not give up, so they will prevail.

For inspiration on courage and hope, I recommend reading Aung San Suu Kyi's Freedom From Fear (and other writings). For a Hollywood-version introduction to the Myanmar struggle, see "Beyond Rangoon".

and we wonder why the country is such a mess

We're home. It was lovely - altogether beautiful and relaxing. And now back to reality, which isn't so bad either. I have a bunch of odds and ends I've been waiting to post, so here we go.

Loyal wmtc reader and news source James sent me two random notes from the Can You Believe Anyone Is So Stupid Department. Both are related to race relations in TGNOTFOTE.

First, from Oliver Willis (yet another terrific blog completely despoiled with advertising), quoting a chat in The Washington Post, about the situation in Jena, Louisiana:
When did nooses become racist symbols? When I was a kid we'd always make nooses in scout camp in Virginia to "string up the rustlers." It was a Western symbol with roots in all the Western movies we grew up with -- something dangerous that knot-tiers could make, but always about the Old West. Later in high school depressed friends would make them for what you'd now call "Goth" culture, but back then it was more Alice Cooper. About five years ago an African American friend said that nooses are "always about lynching." I never thought that my entire life and it's totally news to me. Is this a symbol with strong meaning in the South?

What can you say? Really. What can you say. Note this person presumably grew up in Virginia. And he wonders when nooses became racist symbols.

Perhaps it was when black Americans were living in a constant state of terrorism, when tens of thousands of Americans of African descent were murdered by their countrymen, while their white neighbours attended their executions in a picnic atmosphere, buying souvenir postcards, while their own government turned a blind eye and did nothing to protect them? Perhaps then?

It's tempting to chalk this up to one exceptional idiot, but I think it's an illustration of the quality of the US education system.

We turn from the quality of US education to the quality of the media in that great country.

From the good folks at Media Matters:
Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia's, Bill O'Reilly reported that he "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." O'Reilly added: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'"

James sent me the quote with commentary from The Plank, a New Republic blog:
Other surprises from Bill O'Reilly's trip to Sylvia's:

* Chairs and tables were sturdy and four-legged.

* Napkins already on the table, leaving no need for them to be special-ordered.

* Menu actually printed on paper, suggesting widespread literacy of clientele, rather than selections being sung to him by kindly old black man playing the banjo as he'd expected.

* Meal served by waitstaff in a customary appetizer-entree-dessert order, and not out of a trough.

* Meatloaf made of ground beef, not ground welfare checks.

* No need to pay with food stamps--credit cards and U.S currency accepted.

* Money was collected through traditional handing over of a bill, rather than mugging.

* Widespread use of knives, forks, spoons.

It's easy to laugh at Bill O'Reilly, since he's a clown. But he's also a principal news source for millions of Americans. More from Media Matters on Bill O'Reilly's enlightened views on his fellow Americans.

would be canadians are in!

While I was purposely giving myself a break from news, a certain west-coast couple has received some Very Big News. Daniel and Alan of Would Be Canadians are in!

These men have had a long, anxiety-filled wait. But once again, the US's loss will be Canada's gain.

Many US-to-Canada-bloggers report that this leaves only West End Bound and "drf" to get their acceptance. (Any day now, guys!) While that's true of our little blogging community, there are at least two dozen more families emailing me progress reports - but not blogging - as they make their way to Canada. And obviously that's a tiny fraction of the whole.

One such family moved to the GTA in late August, just as Allan and I were celebrating our two-year mark. They've invited us over for Thanksgiving (the Canadian one), so we'll soon meet them in person for the first time.


a little slice of heaven (updated with photo link)

Yesterday we walked on some trails on the property here, a short, flat walk and enough activity for the day. Allan and I spent the rest of the day on lounge chairs overlooking the lake, either reading or being entertained by the pups. Cody spent the day lounging on the grass, chewing sticks. And Tala spent the day exploring or chasing tennis balls.

Tala was off-leash the entire day and did beautifully! She's established some territory for herself on the lake-front and seems content to stay within it. If she wandered out of sight, we'd call her - and she'd appear. It helps that we're the only family staying here this week, so there are no other people or dogs to distract her. But even so, she never could have done this even a few months ago.

Tala loved trotting out to the end of the dock and watching birds or canoes go by. She barked at motorboats, and "chased" them a little from the shore, but she seemed to know it was futile to really give chase.

A few times Tala convinced Cody to play with her, and Cody was dashing around like she was five years younger. That means the anti-inflammatory medication we're trying is working well. We still need to have her x-rayed, but if it turns out to be arthritis, I think we'll keep her on these meds.

Our game was at 5:00, so we set up the computer outside and followed the game as the sun set on the lake. Once it was dark, we were able to get the Connecticut station on the radio, and listen to another great Red Sox win.

Our magic number is down to two. I'm really hoping they clinch the division tonight (meaning they win and the Yankees lose), since it will be the last regular-season game Allan and I can watch together this year. I'll put champagne in the fridge, just in case.

We'll spend the morning here, then drive home. This has been a completely wonderful few days, truly a little slice of heaven.

Here are some photos from our stay.


hike + glyphs + pups + baseball = a perfect day

What made me think Tala would let me sit and read outside first thing in the morning? At home she'd be prancing around her fenced-in yard, but the smells and sounds of new territory - and the inconvenience of a tether - was too much for her adolescent brain to handle. She drove me crazy for a few hours, and then, at the end of my tether, I realized I was asking too much of her.

I woke Allan, and announced a change of plans: let's get the dogs a lot of exercise first, then relax afterwards. Should have thought of that in the first place.

We drove to nearby Petroglyphs Provincial Park and did a nice 5.5 kilometre hike. Cody did great, and she seems fine this morning, which could mean the new meds are agreeing with her. After the hike, the pups were sufficiently tired out that we could leave them in the car and go see the petroglyphs without worrying.

Being able to see these rock carvings is a real stroke of luck. As you might know, Allan and I both love ruins, carvings or any physical remains of ancient civilizations. I had no idea these glyphs existed, and certainly no idea that the cottage we chose was a short drive away. What's more, the exhibit closes for winter after Thanksgiving. Excellent timing.

The so-called Peterborough Petroglyphs are the largest collection of aboriginal rock carvings in North America. The carvings were made by several different peoples over a long period of time, from about 900 to 1200 AD. The carvings had spiritual significance to the people who made them, and the site is considered sacred by many First Nations people today.

In the early 1960s, an ignorant and meddling art historian coloured in some of the carvings with charcoal. I can hardly believe that kind of defacement was permitted as recently as the 1960s, even though I know it happened all the time. Because of her "work," a few dozen petroglyphs are very apparent, but there are actually hundreds at the site.

Around 1982, it was determined that the carvings were eroding and would disappear. After studying various options and in consultation with native peoples, Ontario Parks built a specially designed, climate-controlled building around the site. Five years ago, a beautiful learning centre opened, which teaches about the cultural and spiritual significance of the carvings.

We had a good chat with a guide and the park warden, who is a Native person (and who, incidentally, was educating his co-worker about MMP!). They told us how the carvings were protected - but still badly damaged - when the building was being erected around them, and also about how the charcoal-wielding art historian got the whole thing wrong.

The carvings themselves took my breath away. I'm always so moved in the presence of the work of ancient peoples, and knowing these images were created by the first people to live on this very land, where I now live, is very exciting.

Because of the sacred nature of the site, photography is strongly discouraged. A Google images search turns up lots of good pictures of the petroglyphs. Discount anything that says "sailing ship" or "Viking".

* * * *

Back at the cottage, it was a sunny and breezy afternoon. We walked a bit of the lake shore with the dogs off the leash. Allan had said the lake was really a pond, but now we realize it must be just a section of a larger lake system. There are boats here for guests' use, but we're not sure how Tala would take to that. Running in circles barking in the hatchback of our car is one thing. In a rowboat or canoe... maybe not.

Tala was suspicious of the water at first, but we coaxed her in, and she splashed about a little. Then she discovered: ripples! Remember Tala's obsession with the hose? As the water lapped on the shoreline, any tiny wave - not even a wave, just a ripple - that had a tiny whitecap: she attacked. It wasn't long before she was fixated on the water, stalking the ripples, ready to pounce and bite. It was very amusing.

Cody surprised us by wading into the water a bit, too. She was perfectly happy to let Tala hog all the attention with her crazy antics while she quietly cooled her paws.

We brought our corkscrew tether with us, which looks like a giant corkscrew, with two long tie-outs attached. We've used it for years - decades - to give our dogs safe outdoor time in the country. It gives them plenty of room to tussle and play, makes them good guests at whatever cabins or cottages we're renting, and gives us peace of mind.

Unfortunately, like a lot of dogs, Tala hates being tethered. As soon as we hooked her up, she wrapped herself around every available tree, and spent the whole time barking. We're fairly certain she wouldn't run off, but an exploring dog can roam far away in a short time. At home she has the safe confines of a fence. How would she do in a strange place with no apparent boundaries?

We decided to leave her off-leash and keep an eye on her, give her strong signals to create boundaries, and see how she did. She trotted happily along the shore, sniffing and exploring, and when she roamed too far, we called her sharply. And... she stopped in her tracks and headed back! Good dog!! There's no way she would have done that even a few months ago. It was really gratifying to see.

So we were able to relax in our lounge chairs and watch Tala play her new favourite game. Attack the ripple - jump onto the dock - trot to the end of the dock - bark once at the boat tied there - trot back - jump into the water - attack the ripple - repeat. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat. It was hilarious. (I'll post pictures in a few days.)

As Allan was cooking dinner (vacation for Mommy!), I looked up and saw no sign of Tala. I called and called - nothing. Still calling, I hustled over to the house where our hosts live. Their big white Shepherd-mix Floozy was on her balcony, and Tala was staring up at her, barking. Rehearsals for the canine "Romeo & Juliet"? Our host was keeping an eye on them, and when Tala realized Mommy had arrived, she forgot all about wooing Floozy and came right back.

* * * *

We had dinner outside, then got all set up to follow our baseball game on the laptop from our lakeside lounge chairs. Until it started to rain. We relocated inside, and just before game time, with a thunderstorm raging outside, our wireless signal disappeared. It wasn't the low signal I have right now; it was gone. As game time approached and we were still offline, Allan went to investigate. Bad news: our hosts need to turn off the router during any kind of electrical storms.

It's no big deal to miss a couple of baseball games in April or June. And if the Red Sox had already clinched the division, it would be no big deal in September, either. But in the final week of the season, clinging to a two-game lead with six games left to play, our division title hanging on every pitch, we cannot miss a game.

The wireless signal here is so low that we had already downgraded our expectations from actually watching the game live to just following a text version of pitches and plays. But if we thought we couldn't follow our games at all this week, we never would have gone away.

We have our portable CD player with us, and it has a radio, so we thought we'd give that a try. To our amazement, there they were, clear as a bell: the Red Sox announcers, coming to us from a station in Connecticut. I know you can often tune into far-off stations at night, and we've listened to many a long-distance game while driving somewhere, but we never expected this good fortune.

I love baseball on the radio. It's one of my great pleasures, and something I've really missed since I stopped following a local team. So finding the game on the radio last night was a huge relief, but it was also a little slice of heaven.

The reception was perfect, so we heard every pitch as the Red Sox decisively beat the Oakland A's. Then we found the Yankees game form an upstate-New York affiliate, and heard Tampa Bay beat our nemeses in a dramatic, extra-inning comeback.

The Sox are three games up with five games left to play, and I'm breathing again.


more east than north, but cottage country just the same

Ahhhh. The country. I just learned that even if you live in the suburbs and have a big backyard, getting away is as relaxing as ever. Even the drive here was lovely - once you're off the 401, it's all farmland, the same landscapes I've seen all my life in New York State.

For some reason, I thought we were going farther north, so I imagined the fall foliage would be in full colour. It's actually the same here as in Mississauga, partially turned and partially green. I'm just glad there are leaves on the trees. I have a bad habit of planning drives and hikes too late and seeing mainly bare branches.

The cottage is larger than we expected, with a high peaked ceiling and whitewashed walls, and an open, loft-style design, making it feel very spacious. All the cottages are very close together, but it doesn't matter, because we're the only ones staying here this week. Nice!

Our big front window faces the little lake, which Allan says is a pond. Between the cottage and the lake there's just our lounge chairs and picnic table. We brought our corkscrew tether for the dogs, so they have a good 50 feet of room to explore without our having to worry about them - well, about Tala - running off.

Yesterday we got set up, did a little food shopping, then ate and drank the day away. After dinner we drank wine on the chaise lounges and watched the stars come out.

We'll probably spend the morning reading and relaxing, then go for a hike in the afternoon. I found out there are aboriginal petroglyphs in a nearby provincial park! I hope they are accessible to the average day hiker, because I'd really like to see that.


up north

We're heading out this morning to Lake Edge Cottages, near Peterborough, Ontario, for a few days in the Kawarthas.

First we're going to a local dog park, to work off a little Tala energy. Most of our stuff is packed, so Cody already knows what's going on. She's watching me expectantly: is this the kind of packing where I go with, or that other kind, where they leave without me? When she sees her bowl and food go in the car, she'll be ecstatic. The less experienced Tala knows something's up, but doesn't know what.

We really shouldn't be going. Money is tight, and I "should" be visiting family in New York and New Jersey, as I have done in previous Septembers. Plus, in our former, highly urban existence, our annual upstate trips were the only time we had any sizeable outdoor time, to sit in fresh air, grill our dinner, relax outside together. Now we do that almost every day! This feels like an indulgence.

But why not indulge? I'm feeling a bit frazzled from all the job craziness, and I could really use a change of scenery. I'm expecting it to be beautiful up there, which will be very refreshing. We'll hike, read, and watch baseball. (I thought we might celebrate a division clinch, but now that can't happen while we're away.) We purposely chose this place because it has wireless internet, so we can watch the game on a laptop.

Which means I'll probably blog, too. So see you soon.


drudgery for my hands, junk food for my brain

Does anyone else iron? You know, you take a piece of wrinkled clothing, put it on an ironing board, and use a hot metal object to smooth it out? Am I the only person left who does this?

A few times I have mentioned ironing, just in an offhand comment to a friend - I have to do the ironing, or, don't look at all the clothes hanging there, that's just ironing - and they've reacted with disbelief. "You iron?? Who irons anymore?!"

Me. I iron my own clothes, and those of my partner. (Allan and I split the household chores very equitably; this just happens to be my domain.) We wear cotton tees, both long and short-sleeve, and button-down cotton shirts, and they get wrinkled in the wash, and I iron them. I don't like how our clothes look without it.

Ironing is boring drudgery, and it helps to have something to watch on TV while I'm doing it. That's the problem: what to watch? I can't watch just any old crappy TV; it has to be something that holds my interest. That doesn't leave many choices.

I used to iron during baseball games. (That's an amusing image, isn't it?) But in recent years, I can't do any housework at night. I don't know if it's my age or my fibromyalgia, or some combination of the two, but I'm too tired for chores in the evening. Now I only watch baseball from the couch, with my glass of wine.

One day, about a year before we moved to Canada, I was flipping channels, trying to find something that would let me get the ironing done without calcifying from boredom. "Law & Order" re-runs work, as does "ER", but I couldn't find any. (Must have been the one hour a day when Law & Order re-runs are not on in the US.) And then: eureka. Some station was showing re-runs of "Dallas".

Dallas! The only soap opera I ever followed. In the early 80s, while I was living in Brooklyn and working in the off-Broadway theatre, my roommate was addicted to night-time soaps. If you've ever dabbled in soaps, you know a little exposure is all it takes. If we weren't busy on a Friday night, we would camp out in her room with popcorn and J.R. I had already missed the show's early years and many of its most famous episodes, but no matter. I got hooked, fast.

This was the heyday of cheesy night-time soaps. Many of my co-workers watched "Dynasty" (apparently there was a gay male interest), there was "Knots Landing" (the twins! the twins!), the forgettable "Falcon Crest" and a bunch of others. But for no apparent reason, there was only "Dallas" for me.

A few years later, when I was living alone and working as a nanny (and writing my first book), Allan would make fun of my Dallas craving - until he got hooked, too. On Friday nights, I would call my former roommate and sing the theme song on her answering machine. (Duuh, da-duh, da-duh da-da-da-da...)

And many years later, Dallas re-runs proved perfect for ironing. I rode that wave for a long time.

Then we moved to Canada. No more Dallas.

For the past two years, on every ironing day (either weekly or every-other week), I struggle to find a show to iron to. CBC News during the day will sometimes work, and there's usually a Simpsons re-run somewhere, but it's been tough. (Was it actually tough or am I exaggerating for effect? Here's a clue: how tough could it have been if I never blogged about it?)

That is, until my birthday. As part of this year's Incredibly Thoughtful Gift, Allan gave me the first four seasons of Dallas on DVD.

Everyone has a so-called "guilty pleasure". Not that you should ever feel guilty about pleasure, but something mindless and silly, something purely relaxing and enjoyable, with no other redeeming value. One smart, hard-working friend of mine reads dumb women's magazines. Another reads junky genre novels. I have Dallas.

I've never seen the whole show from beginning to end. But you better believe I'm going to own all 14 seasons before too long.


media matters

I've been accused of blaming the media for much of what's gone on in the US. They're surely not the only culprits, but their complicity in the Resident's agenda - no, their blind embrace and zealous salesmanship of it - cannot be overstated.

I often think Canadians don't, can't, fully appreciate what the US media is like. On our first trip to Toronto, we turned on the television in our hotel room and stared at CBC with our mouths hanging open. It's easy to bash Fox News, they're cartoons. But what of CNN, CBC, NBC, the supposedly liberal The New York Times and Washington Post?

If you have time and patience for a long, juicy article on Colin Powell, David Petraeus, the selling of war, the censure of MoveOn.org, and how the media keeps the ball rolling, I highly recommend spending some time at Media Matters: "Did that voice inside you say, 'I've heard it all before'?".
In August, Sidney Blumenthal noted similarities between Gen. David Petraeus and former Secretary of State Colin Powell:
As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to deliver his report in September on the "surge" in Iraq, he is elevated into the ultimate reliable source, just as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's sterling reputation was exploited for his delivery of the case for invasion before the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, a date that will live in mendacity, for every statement he made was later revealed to be false; Powell regretted publicly that it was an everlasting "blot" on his good name. ... He was Petraeus before Petraeus, the good soldier before the good soldier, window-dressing before window-dressing.

As Blumenthal observed, Powell, like Petraeus, enjoyed a "sterling reputation" that was used to enhance the credibility of his case and to discourage scrutiny.

It is impossible to overstate just how thoroughly the vast majority of the media bought what Powell was selling. Without pausing to examine his claims or the credibility of his evidence, they declared his U.N. address a home run. The media's swift and fawning reaction to Powell's speech is one of the true low points in their coverage of the Bush administration and the Iraq war -- and that is no small feat.

Eric Alterman, now a Media Matters Senior Fellow, explained in a September 22, 2003, column for The Nation:
When Powell went before the UN Security Council in February 2003, reporters treated his accusations against Saddam Hussein as if akin to tablets passed down by Moses from the mountaintop. A study by Gilbert Cranberg, former editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register, discovered a nearly perfect storm of wide-eyed credulity in coverage of the speech. We heard and read of "a massive array of evidence," "a detailed and persuasive case," "a powerful case," "a sober, factual case," "an overwhelming case," "a compelling case," "the strong, credible and persuasive case," "a persuasive, detailed accumulation of information," "a smoking fusillade ... a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," so that "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction." "The skeptics asked for proof; they now have it." "Powell's evidence," we were told, was "overwhelming," "ironclad ... incontrovertible," "succinct and damning ... the case is closed." "Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein." "If there was any doubt that Hussein ... needs to be ... stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."

Another Media Matters Senior Fellow, Paul Waldman, detailed more of that coverage in his 2004 book Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn't Tell You:
[S]ince they regard him so highly, the press declined to investigate the charges Powell made before the UN too closely. Instead, they hailed his appearance as having settled once and for all the question of whether we should invade Iraq. The editorials the following day were nearly unanimous. Speaking for many liberal commentators, the Washington Post's Mary McGrory wrote, "I don't know how the United Nations felt about Colin Powell's 'J'accuse' speech against Saddam Hussein. I can only say that he persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince." "Secretary of State Colin Powell's strong, plain-spoken indictment of the Saddam Hussein regime before the UN Security Council Wednesday embodies something truly great about the United States," said the Chicago Sun-Times. "Those around the world who demanded proof must now be satisfied, or else admit that no satisfaction is possible for them." "In a brilliant presentation as riveting and as convincing as Adlai Stevenson's 1962 unmasking of Soviet missiles in Cuba, Powell proved beyond any doubt that Iraq still possesses and continues to develop illegal weapons of mass destruction," said the New York Daily News. "The case for war has been made. And it's irrefutable." The Hartford Courant said Powell's presentation was "masterful," while the Portland Oregonian found Powell's presentation "devastating" and "overwhelming ... We think he made his case." The headline in the Dallas Morning News read, "Only the Blind Could Ignore Powell's Evidence." The editors of the San Antonio Express-News, who also found his presentation "irrefutable," thought you didn't have to be blind to disagree, but you did have to be an Iraqi sympathizer. "Only those ready to believe Iraq and assume that the United States would manufacture false evidence against Saddam would not be persuaded by Powell's case," they said.

In Bill Moyers' Buying the War, former CBS anchor Dan Rather explained that he and his colleagues gave Powell's presentation to the United Nations extra weight not because of its content, but because of Powell himself:

RATHER: Colin Powell was trusted. Is trusted, I'd put it-in a sense. He, unlike many of the people who made the decisions to go to war, Colin Powell has seen war. He knows what a green jungle hell Vietnam was. He knows what the battlefield looks like. And when Colin Powell says to you, "I, Colin Powell, am putting my personal stamp on this information. It's my name, my face, and I'm putting it out there," that did make a difference.

MOYERS: And you were impressed.

RATHER: I was impressed. And who wouldn't be?

But journalists and pundits weren't just impressed with Powell. They uncritically treated what he said as gospel. They declared it "irrefutable." Not "un-refuted" -- irrefutable. Impossible to refute.

David Gergen, for example, declared on CNN that Powell had delivered "conclusive, compelling evidence" that "effectively destroyed" the arguments of "opponents of the president's policy." (If that sounds familiar, you may remember what Gergen said about his friend David Petraeus' testimony while serving as a CNN analyst last week: "[A]fter hearing him with that blizzard of facts and statistics and charts, it's going to be very hard for Democrats now to say, let's pull the plug.")

Worse, the media suggested that anyone who disagreed with Powell was a liar or a fool.

Powell's U.N. address occurred on February 5, 2003. A look at the editorials and columns that appeared in the next day's edition of The Washington Post makes clear how quickly the media ran to Powell's side.

The Post itself led things off with an editorial headlined -- what else? -- "Irrefutable" that declared, "AFTER SECRETARY OF STATE Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. ... Mr. Powell's evidence ... was overwhelming."

The Post's columnists took it from there. Four Washington Post columnists wrote on February 6 about Powell's presentation the day before. All four were positively glowing:

  • Richard Cohen, in a column headlined "A Winning Hand For Powell," declared that Powell's presentation "had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise." Cohen was careful to make clear that he based his own conclusion not upon an examination of Powell's arguments and evidence, but on Powell himself: "The clincher ... was the totality of the material and the fact that Powell himself had presented it. In this case, the messenger may have been more important than the message."

  • George Will, under the headline "Disregarding the Deniers," wrote that "Powell's presentation, its power enhanced by his avoidance of histrionics, will change all minds open to evidence. Thus it will justify disregarding the presumptively close-minded people who persist in denying ... what? What are people denying who still deny the need for force? That Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? Or that Iraq is resisting the inspections? No, they are denying only that force is needed." Will directly equated those who were not convinced by Powell's performance to "[p]eople determined to believe that a vast conspiracy assassinated President Kennedy." "People committed to a particular conclusion will get to it and will stay there," Will wrote -- and, hard as it is to believe now, he was referring to those who disagreed with the Bush administration.

  • Mary McGrory, in a column headlined "I'm Persuaded," insisted that she had been "as tough as France to convince" of the case against Saddam, but that Powell had done it. How had the great man won over this stalwart opponent of the war? "His voice was strong and unwavering. He made his case without histrionics of any kind, with no verbal embellishments." McGrory offered no critical assessment of the evidence Powell presented; she indicated instead that she was swayed by the performance.

  • Jim Hoagland, in a column headlined "An Old Trooper's Smoking Gun," lauded Powell's presentation as a "convincing and detailed X-ray of Iraq's secret weapons and terrorism programs" that "exposed the enduring bad faith of several key members of the U.N. Security Council." Hoagland wrote: "Speaking as 'an old trooper,' the ex-general showed, through technical detail, the illogic of Iraq's protestations that it has been importing aluminum tubing for short-range rockets and not for nuclear weapons. Nobody uses this kind of tubing for rockets, Powell said convincingly. ... To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you."

    Not only did all four buy what Powell was selling, they did so without an examination of the goods. The salesman's smile, his voice -- and his impeccable credentials as an "old trooper" -- were enough.

    Worse, three of the four directly attacked anyone who would dare disagree with Powell. You'd have to be a "fool" or a "Frenchman" to disagree with Powell's assertions, according to Cohen. Will added that such foolishness would require the closed mind of a conspiracy theorist. Hoagland concluded that skeptics were guilty of "enduring bad faith" and seemed to speak for the entire punditocracy when he observed that to remain skeptical of the Bush administration's case required the belief "that Colin Powell lied." And that, of course, was unthinkable.

    Even after it became clear that Powell's address was not only quite refutable, it relied on forgeries and supposed British intelligence dossiers that were in fact plagiarized from the Internet, many journalists steadfastly refused to criticize Powell. In his book Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, Eric Boehlert noted that ABC's Ted Koppel hosted Powell for three "in-depth interviews" on Nightline. In the first appearance, according to Boehlert, Powell "was not asked one question about his U.N. performance despite the fact that observers had already detailed the obvious errors in Powell's presentation. In fact it took the international press just one week to detail the holes in Powell's speech. But eight months later on Nightline, Koppel paid no attention to that fact." In what must surely be a coincidence, Koppel and Powell are, according to Boehlert, "good friends."

    Less than five years ago, America's news media enthusiastically embraced Powell's U.N. address -- an address that we now know was riddled with untruths and bogus "evidence." But the nation's leading journalists and commentators bought it and shouted down skeptics. They bought it not after examining and assessing the quality of Powell's evidence, but because "Powell himself had presented it." They shouted down skeptics not because of the quality of the evidence, but because of the quality of the man. To be a skeptic required believing "that Colin Powell lied"; thus, being a skeptic was unacceptable.

    Why dwell on that now? Because the media's coverage of David Petraeus in 2007 is depressingly similar to their treatment of Colin Powell in 2003.

  • Read more here. It's worth it.

    pupdate: our wild teenager

    Tala's doing really great. She's come such a long way since we brought her home at the end of January.

    Dogs are amazing creatures, so smart and adaptable, so tuned in to our every thought and action. It's been fascinating to watch Tala settle in - through a combination of training, time and consistency, how she's learned what's expected of her, what we want, how to get along with Cody. And it's been wonderful to see her bond with us strengthen, to feel her trust deepen and grow.

    Tala listens really well, but she's also a little devil. She likes to make mischief, knowing full well she's doing something wrong, laughing at me and waiting for me to tell her to stop. I like it.

    We had stopped crating her for a while, but then came home to destruction a few times. She doesn't have separation anxiety (thank goodness), but perhaps an evil squirrel was teasing her on her lawn, and the only way she could vent her frustration was by chewing up all the cables behind the VCR, DVD and stereo.

    So for our sanity and her own protection, she's crated again when we're not home. But we're never gone for long periods of time, and we have a dogwalker when we're at work on the weekends.

    Some months back, I had scheduled a lesson with a professional trainer, to get some pointers on how to move our training forward. Then I quit my job and Tala got sick, and we postponed indefinitely. I recently found the list I had made of "Tala trouble spots," and almost all of them have been resolved.

    All but two.

    When we walk on-leash, Tala goes wild for passing cars and bicycles. The bigger and louder the vehicle, the crazier she goes. It's clear that if she weren't on the leash, she'd be a car chaser - among the most dangerous habits a dog can have.

    If we can anticipate the coming car and put her into a sit-stay, she can hold steady as the car goes past. But how many times on a walk can you do that? And you can't always anticipate the cars.

    The other area is her in-car behaviour. In a word: insane. We have her in the hatchback, behind a dog barrier. She barks at every passing car - three times at each car - ruff-ruff-ruff, ruff-ruff-ruff, ruff-ruff-ruff - while running back and forth between the side windows, turning in circles, clawing at the windows...

    We can't talk, we can't listen to music, we can't do anything. Telling her "no" or "leave it" doesn't make any difference. We might as well not be in the car.

    We tried applying the general principles of positive dog training that we've learned so well over the years. I sat in the back seat with treats, rewarding her for sitting quietly. It worked while sitting on the driveway. Once we drove off, it's like I wasn't there. I'm dangling roast beef - roast beef! - through the barrier and she's ignoring it. Amazing.

    When we moved to our new suburban lives, we purposely bought a hatchback, thinking we'd put both dogs in the back seat and still have lots of room for all our gear. Through dozens of rental cars and four other dogs, our dogs have always shared a back seat with no problem. But there's no way quiet, easily annoyed Cody is going to share a back seat with a raving lunatic! And obviously, it wouldn't be safe to have Tala going nuts in the back seat without a barrier. So Tala's in the hatch, Cody's in the back, and goddess knows where our stuff is going to go when we drive to the Kawarthas on Monday.

    Speaking of which, Our Wonderful Vet gave us a slight sedative for the trip. It's not a solution: it's a survival technique.

    So this week we finally had that lesson with the trainer, for these two ongoing issues.

    As I suspected, we were on the right track, but we hadn't broken down the training into small enough units. She gave us a game plan - but she also warned us that this can take a very long time to solve - many months, possibly a full year, and that's only if we really put in the time. I'm a little concerned that we won't be as diligent and consistent as we should be. I'll let you know.

    dogs in the sun 10

    pupdate: our senior citizen

    We had an interesting trip to the vet this week.

    I used the occasion of going up north next week to get Tala microchipped. Our local Animal Services is really pushing the microchipping, by giving a huge reduction on licensing fees.

    This also seemed like a good occasion to talk to the vet about several changes we've noticed with Cody.

    For a while now, Cody has seemed stiff and uncomfortable (perhaps in pain?) after getting a lot of exercise, such as at the dog park or a hike. I'm familiar with this, as arthritis and hip displasia is very common in large dogs.

    I've been giving Cody an aspirin when she seems uncomfortable, something I learned to do with our first dog Gypsy. We've also been giving her Cosequin - glucosamine/chondroitin developed specifically for animals - as a preventative for several years. Cosequin gave Gypsy at least another two years of life, so we swear by it. But I didn't want to keep medicating Cody without at least talking to the vet.

    More disturbing, Cody has developed fears and anxieties that she never had before. If the windows are open and a breeze is blowing the curtains, she's afraid - really afraid. If a blind is banging against a window frame, she's frightened. A few times when it was very breezy and I had all the windows wide open, she was so fearful she couldn't stay in the house. She begged to go outside, frantic, and then ran to the farthest corner of the backyard.

    The worst is when a storm is coming in. As the sky grows dark and the humidity increases, she becomes extremely anxious. Several times she's woken me up at night, asking to be comforted. This is extremely different for Cody, a dog who generally doesn't ask for a lot of affection.

    She's taken to spending most of her time in the basement, where there are no windows. That means walking stairs more often, and steeper stairs than if she slept in our bedroom. Is she so frightened that she is putting herself through discomfort in order to feel safe?

    So we talked to Our Wonderful Vet about both of these issues.

    After examining Cody and watching her walk, OWV is fairly certain Cody has arthritis and probably some displasia, too. There are several good meds we can give her to reduce the pain and inflammation. But OWV wants us to have Cody x-rayed, too. If something else is going on there - like a bone tumour - the drugs would mask the pain while a serious condition was getting worse. We're going to start the anti-inflammatories and get the x-rays done soon.

    That part was not surprising. But I was surprised when OWV said that anxieties, fears and phobias are very common in aging dogs. If a dog is already fearful, it will often get worse with age; and it's not unusual for dogs to develop phobias in their senior years, even if they've never had them before.

    We're going to try some anti-anxiety meds, if we can anticipate the rainy weather. It might work, it might not.

    Ah, Cody. Sweet, gentle, quirky, steadfast Cody. She's been through so much in her life. It's very hard for me - for both of us - to think of her growing old and failing.

    We've had her 8 years, and she was about 1½ when we adopted her. So we figure she's around 10, although that's only an educated estimate. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. She might have several more good years to come. But realistically, no more than that. Plus none of our dogs have lived to advanced old age, so perhaps that makes my fears stronger.

    fork of the credit 09


    Red Sox fans are breathing again. I am happy. I am confident. The division is within reach.

    wmtc, the recap

    Judging from the emails I'm receiving, while I was babbling about CNAMEs and URL forwarding, I obscured the most important part of the change to wmtc, from a reader's perspective. So here it is again.

  • The site is no longer redirected using frames. Those of you who had problems with frames will no longer have those difficulties.

  • If you have wmtc.ca bookmarked, it should automatically redirect to wmtc.blogspot.com.

  • If you use Google Reader or other feed service, http://wmtc.blogspot.com/atom.xml will probably work best.

  • Any of these URLs should get you to my scintillating blather: wmtc.ca, www.wmtc.ca, wmtc.blogspot.com, www.wmtc.blogspot.com.

  • I'm still using Blogger; it's all I've ever used. I've tried WordPress, but neither the online version nor the downloadable version works for me, for very important reasons.

    Any other questions, ask away.
  • 9.21.2007

    second tallest

    As everyone in the Toronto area knows, the CN Tower is no longer the world's tallest freestanding structure, bested by the Burj Dubai, which is still under construction in the United Arab Emirates.

    I can't say this mattered to me, as I have no great love for the Tower, an ugly concrete mass that only looks good at night. I do like the distinctive shape it gives the Toronto night skyline. But I don't know about the whole "structure vs building" argument. It seems sliced pretty thin just to get the bragging rights.

    But the CN Tower's dethroning was a good excuse for newspapers and websites to break out graphics of skyscrapers all over the world, and to compare tall buildings through history. I really enjoyed that, both for the architecture lesson, and for the New York City memories.

    Many of the former world's-tallest-buildings have been in New York, and those remain some of the city's most beautiful and treasured places.

    tallest buildings001

    Click for a larger image. The older buildings are in the lower right corner.

    let them stay, the video

    The Red Sox were off last night (at least they couldn't lose), so after $5.00 martinis at our new local spot, we finally watched "Let Them Stay," the video produced by the War Resisters Support Campaign. If you want to support US war resisters in Canada and educate yourself about the issue, this is the best $20 you can spend.

    Parts of the video are extremely disturbing, as former US soldiers attest to the horrors they saw in Iraq, and what they were forced to do.

    The common expression "war crimes" seems like a pale euphemism when faced with the reality of these atrocities. I often say this about the expression "domestic violence". Those words seem a pale stand-in for being beaten up by someone who is supposed to love you.

    Similarly, can the words "war crime" convey the horror of a pile of decapitated (civilian) bodies, with US soldiers running over them with jeeps? Of a soldier being exhorted to fire into a car at a checkpoint, then, seeing a family with two small children in the car, hesitating - and being ordered to shoot anyway? (He did not.)

    I am so ashamed of my former country, and so grateful to be out of there. Now I look to Canada to do the right thing.

    People who have courageously stood up to the military establishment, who have said No, I will not take part in this - and who have risked so much to do that - do not deserve to be court-martialled and imprisoned. They deserve to live out their lives in peace. They deserve refuge in Canada.

    Canada, you must let them stay. Canadians, you must help your country do the right thing.

    iraq moratorium today

    Just a reminder: Iraq Moratorium today. Make your mind visible.


    iraq moratoriums begin tomorrow

    In one of my earliest political memories, I am in the car with my mother, driving around to local stores. We have the AM car radio on, listening to updates about an anti-war demonstration in Washington DC, because my father is there with his union.

    My mother tells me that, even though it is daytime, we are driving with the lights on: it's The Moratorium. She explains that everyone who is against the war in Vietnam is driving with their lights on today.

    As we do our errands, my mother and I look for other lights-on cars. I feel proud and happy that my mother has her lights on, and that my father is in Washington. And although I couldn't have articulated it at the time, I feel a proud solidarity with all the other lights-on people.

    That was part of the famous Vietnam Moratorium.

    The Iraq Moratorium begins tomorrow.

    On the third Friday of every month, Americans (and Canadians, too!) will engage in local, decentralized, personal actions against the war and occupation of Iraq.

    Tomorrow, September 21st, is the first day of this growing movement.

    Moratoriums are built around the most basic principles of activism. You, as an individual, can make a difference. You can use your brain, your body, your creativity, and most of all, your belief in justice, to make a statement. You can unite with others who share your beliefs, and you can all make a statement together. The statements get louder, and more frequent, and more urgent, and that is how we work for peace.

    Every one of us, wherever we are, can do something to publicly say: "I am against this war. I want it to end now!"

    Here are some ways you can join the Iraq Moratorium.

  • Wear an antiwar button or sticker to work or school.

  • Wear a black armband to let people know you mourn every person killed in this senseless war.

  • Wear an anti-war t-shirt to school or to the mall.

  • Keep an anti-war bumper sticker on your car.

  • Hang an anti-war sign in your window or put one on your lawn.

  • Call a local radio talk show and explain why you want this war to end.

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

  • Make a large antiwar sign or banner and hang it from a busy overpass or another highly visible location.

  • In the US, put together a small group to stand vigil in front of a military recruiting station, your local federal building, or the office of your senator or representative in Congress. It's not that hard to do: email and call five people, ask each of them to invite one other person.

  • Also in the US, call the Washington, DC, offices of your senators and your representative.

  • Blog about the Moratorium, encourage others to join in.

    Do you have other Moratorium ideas? Post them here.

    While you're thinking about peace, mark your calendar: October 27, massive international mobilization against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Canadians, see the Canadian Peace Alliance for details.

    Iraq Moratorium, third Friday of every month. Get on board!
  • vote mmp

    Vote for MMP

    In a few weeks, Ontario voters have a chance to do something historic, and to increase democracy in our province, and in Canada. (I wish I could vote!)

    In the provincial elections on October 10, there'll be a referendum on the ballot, asking if Ontario should retain its first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, or change to a form of proportional representation called Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP).

    MMP is more democratic, offers more choice, and results in governments more representative of voters' preferences.

    One of the best FAQs I've seen on the subject is from Vote For MMP. It addresses all the major concerns about the MMP system, which are largely based on myths and misunderstandings. For example:
    Won't the new system lead to perpetual minority or coalition governments that won’t be able to get things done?

    Since a majority of voters seldom support a single party, fair election results mean that seldom will a single party have majority control of government. Instead, two or more parties will have to negotiate, compromise and cooperate to form government and pass legislation.

    Under the current voting system, minority governments are always unstable because parties know they can gain majority control with as little as 40 per cent of the popular vote. A small shift in voter preferences is enough to collapse a minority government under first-past-the-post, so stable and cooperative working relationships among parties are seldom formed. Mindless bickering and confrontation are more typical.

    Under proportional voting systems, parties know they will gain no more or no fewer seats than deserved. The incentive is to find long-term coalition partners and work productively within a culture of negotiation and compromise.

    But what about Italy and Israel?

    Critics often point to these two countries as "proof" that proportional voting systems create political chaos. Let's apply some perspective. With 81 nations using proportional systems, critics can find only these two extreme examples. To say Italy and Israel are typical political cultures under proportional representation is like saying Zimbabwe and Nigeria are typical political cultures under first-past-the-post. Critics don't like to talk about Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, or the many dozens of stable governments and healthy economies with proportional voting systems and coalition governments.

    In fact, a landmark comparative study on effective government demonstrated that countries using proportional systems readily match and often exceed the economic and social performance of nations run by single-party governments (usually false majorities). This is not surprising, as proportional voting systems create governments that are more representative and accountable.

    Can't a small party dictate policy because it holds the balance of power – doesn't it let the tail wag the dog?

    The reality is almost the exact opposite.

    Research has shown that coalition governments tend to be better than single party governments at producing legislation more in line with public thinking. But that's only logical. Coalition majority governments are formed by representatives of the majority of voters – unlike Canada's "majority" governments put in power by only 40% of the voters.

    Generally, two or more like-minded parties, who together represent a majority of voters, agree to form a coalition government. Their compromise agenda will generally focus on areas of policy agreement, not the most radical positions of the smaller party. If two parties representing a majority of voters have common policy interests, that often indicates majority public support for those policies.

    Another important safeguard is that any major party or political leader adopting an agenda out-of-step with its own support base will be severely punished at the next election. In fact, the logic of coalition-building is the opposite of the tail wagging the dog. It's more like the dog choosing the tail that fits.

    If you have questions about how MMP works, what changes would likely be seen from its adoption, and whether or not you should support it, I recommend Vote For MMP and Vote for MMP's FAQ page.

    If that sounds too biased, the Ontario Citizen's Assembly was a representative group of voters charged with studying the province's electoral system. They spent months gathering information, deliberating the issue from all sides, and considering several different options. Their recommendation: Mixed Member Proportional. Click here for a simple, straightforward explanation of their recommendation, or here to see the full report.

    The Citizen's Assembly has an excellent website with FAQs and videos that explain the issues very clearly. (The videos may be easier to access from the Vote MMP site: click here.)

    Bloggers for MMP has some badges, banners and other resources you can use to help spread the word.

    Here in North America, we are all accustomed to an FPTP system. Most of us never questioned this, because we never knew there was any other method. When faced with new choices and possibilities, many people cling to the familiar. "We've been voting this way for hundreds of years. Why change now?" But tradition alone is not enough reason to maintain the status quo when there are better alternatives.

    Between now and October 10, I hope my neighbours throughout Ontario will take the time to educate themselves, and take care to keep their minds open. And I hope they'll go to the polls - and vote for more democracy.

    Vote for MMP


    red sox rookie hazing

    Baseball has an old rookie hazing tradition. Before the last road trip of the season, the veteran players pick out outfits for the rookies, which the kids have to wear while traveling to the next city. It's mostly women's clothing, but sometimes silly Halloween-type costumes, too.

    Every year I look forward to pictures of this. There are always one or two players who really seem to enjoy it. I thought maybe a few non-baseball folks here would enjoy it, too.

    Here's some video of my 2007 Red Sox getting dressed, and another short clip here.

    "Hey, you look nice."

    "Thanks, man."

    I'm digging my boy Jacoby in that red dress. Great legs!


    i'm back, but i'm not happy

    Wmtc.ca is dead. Long live wmtc.blogspot.com.

    Damn. I loved that URL. But I can't get it to work with Blogger anymore. And Blogger is still my best alternative for blogging. So here I am.

    Here's the longer version, for those who like these things.

    A while back, when Blogger announced they would support custom domains, they recommended using a CNAME to redirect your domain to Blogger. I already had been using my wmtc.ca address through FTP publishing, but that was problematic, and wouldn't support the new Blogger features, which I wanted. The new custom domain support seemed to address this.

    However... Blogger didn't mention that using a CNAME means readers will not see the custom domain, but will see a Blogspot.com address. I thought that defeated the purpose of having a custom domain.

    Many hosts suggested using URL forwarding as a way to work around this issue. I did that. It's been working perfectly for months. The URL forwarding uses frames, which most readers can't see, though some people experience problems from this.

    Now it appears that a few days ago, Blogger choked off the workaround: they stopped supporting URL forwarding.

    They didn't announce this, and apparently they don't think they had to, because they never said anyone could use URL forwarding in the first place. That is, we weren't "playing by the rules".

    I discovered the problem on my own, through much trouble, and through a Blogger employee who I've dealt with before.

    Now I'm really stuck. Frustrated and stuck.

    I talked it over with Allan, and we agreed that my least worst alternative is to return to a Blogspot address. I won't use my original address of wemovetocanada.blogspot.com; instead I'll use what has been my "ghost" address, wmtc.blogspot.com.

    I've set my server so that wmtc.ca will redirect to wmtc.blogspot.com.

    This means:

  • Those of you who had problems with frames will no longer have those problems.

  • If you have wmtc.ca bookmarked, it should automatically redirect to wmtc.blogspot.com.

  • If you use Google Reader or other feed service, http://wmtc.blogspot.com/atom.xml will probably work best.

  • I'm not at all happy about this. But I can't fight it anymore. I'm whipped.

    * * * *

    In other news, the Red Sox have lost their last two games (which we've attended here in Toronto) and 4 of their last 5. The Yankees have been winning and are now only 2.5 games behind us. Our magic number (any combination of Red Sox wins and Yankee losses) is holding at 9 , with 10 games left to play.

    I still believe we'll win the division. But my stomach will be in knots until we do.

    free argos tix

    I have two free passes to a Toronto Argonauts game. I can't use them, and I'd be happy to give them to a wmtc reader.

    They are for your choice of one of four games: September 23 (Winnipeg), October 6 (Edmonton), October 12 (Montreal) or October 27 (Winnipeg).

    Email me at the address in the sidebar.

    land of the free

    The video is hard to watch, in more ways than one.

    I just want to cry.

    Thanks to my researcher-in-chief.

    welcome to toronto, where everything is 1½ hours away

    This is my favourite time of year in the GTA. The August humidity has cleared, the air is light and breezy, the sun sparkles during the day and you need a light jacket at night.

    It brings me back to our first month in Canada. After a pressure-cooker of a summer, we spent our days unpacking and leisurely taking care of business, then sat in our first-ever backyard and enjoyed the peace, both outward and inner. Sheer bliss.

    Next week we're off to our first-ever Canadian cottage experience, which I anticipate being much like our old upstate New York cabin experiences, hence wonderful. Looking at the map, the Kawarthas have to be at least 3 hours from Mississauga. But predictably, the Lake Edge Cottages brochure and website say it's an hour and a half.

    Ask anyone how long it takes to get anywhere from Toronto, and that's what they'll tell you: an hour and a half.

    I don't know if this is peculiar to the Toronto area, or if it's generally Canadian, but why does everyone tell you everything is closer than it really is?

    OK, it's not always an hour and a half. But when we ask people how far away any given town or city is from Toronto, and the answer is almost always considerably less than the reality.

    Orangeville? Half an hour.

    Wasaga Beach? An hour and a half.

    The Buffalo airport? Forty-five minutes to an hour.

    Windsor and Detroit? An hour and a half.


    We've driven back and forth between the airport in Buffalo and Mississauga (closer than Toronto!) more times than I care to remember, and you cannot do it in an hour. As your plane is taking off, you'll be lucky if you're crossing the border.

    Detroit is almost 400 kilometres from Toronto. That is not a 90-minute drive!

    We've never driven to Wausaga Beach, but if Orangeville took 2 hours, how can you make Georgian Bay in 90 minutes?

    I grant you, we don't drive as fast as possible. We're still waiting for our last speeding ticket to come off our ridiculously expensive car insurance, and we're determined never to get another one. On the highway, we'll put on 110 km/hr cruise control and relax.

    But still. Is everyone else driving 200 km/hr? Are they using some alternative highways that we haven't found yet? Is it a tesseract?

    still down

    Well isn't this lovely, posting to a blog that no one can read.

    Wmtc has been down since Saturday, September 15. URL forwarding is working properly, and my DNS host says everything's fine on their end. That means it's a Blogger problem, so good luck getting it fixed - or even acknowledged.

    Blogger is good at a lot of things, but communicating with users is not one of them.

    Please, when and if you read this post, I beg you, I implore you, I beseech you, don't ask if I've considered switching to WordPress or TypePad or anything else. I've explored everything. Blogger is my best (least worst?) alternative.

    I guess I'll just keep writing. Maybe one bright day in the future, the words will appear on the internet.


    the exploitation of courage

    In my last "what i'm reading" post, I wrote about Siegfried Sassoon's memoirs, and their connection to Pat Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy".

    Did I forget that Sassoon was a deserter? I only remembered that he was hospitalized for what we would now call post-traumatic stress, and tortured under the guise of cure. But I didn't remember how Sassoon got to that hospital in the first place. From the back of Regeneration:
    In 1917, Siegfried Sassoon, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified "mentally unsound" and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon's "sanity" and sending him back to the trenches.

    These books have been on my shelf since Allan bought them for me in 2003. (No coincidence that it was the year the US invaded Iraq. I was reading about war all the time.) Then just as I begin to work with war resisters - also something I've wanted to do for a long time - I decide to finally pick them up. At least my subconscious mind is still working.

    The memoirs are excellent. I've just finished the first in the trilogy and started the second. In Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Sassoon relates his idyllic childhood and adolescence, seen through the lens of a wiser, but still sympathetic, adulthood. His ability to capture the feeling of youth and of a vanished England is remarkable. (I didn't understand a lot of the fox-hunting and cricket lingo, but it didn't matter.)

    Through most of Fox-Hunting Man, the world outside the young man's immediate concerns never makes an appearance, as he is completely oblivious to it. Then, towards the very end, a slight mention. A war is coming. A war is here. It is far off, and no one recognizes that it will have much of an effect on anything. Then the first mention of Sassoon's later politics.
    There was, however, one discordant element in life which I vaguely referred to as 'those damned socialists who want to stop us hunting'. Curiously enough, I didn't connect socialists with collieries, though there had been a long coal strike eighteen months before. Socialists, for me, began and ended in Hyde Park, which was quite a harmless place for them to function in. And I assured Denis that whatever the newspapers might say, the Germans would never be allowed to attack us. Officers at the barracks were only an ornament; war had become an impossibility. I had sometimes thought with horror of countries where they had conscription and young men like myself were forced to serve two years in the army whether they liked it or not. Two years in the army! I should have been astonished if I'd been told that socialists opposed conscription as violently as many fox-hunting men supported the convention of soldiering.

    In officer's training:
    Many of us believed that the Russians would occupy Berlin (and, perhaps, capture the Kaiser) before Christmas. The newspapers informed us that German soldiers crucified Belgian babies. Stories of that kind were taken for granted; to have disbelieved them would have been unpatriotic.

    It is ever thus.

    Then a bit later, and suddenly:
    Captain Huxtable was therefore the epitome of all that was pleasant and homely in the countrified life for which I was proposing to risk my own. And so, though neither of us was aware of it, there was a grimly jocular element in the fact that it was to him that I turned for assistance. It may be inferred that he had no wish that I should be killed, and that he would have been glad if he could have gone to the Front himself, things being as they were; but he would have regarded it as a greater tragedy if he had seen me shirking my responsibility. To him, as to me, the War was inevitable and justifiable. Courage remained a virtue. And the exploitation of that courage, if I may be allowed to say a thing so obvious, was the essential tragedy of the War, which, as everyone now agrees, was a crime against humanity.

    Permit me: And the exploitation of that courage, if I may be allowed to say a thing so obvious, was the essential tragedy of the War, which, as everyone now agrees, was a crime against humanity.

    Then officer's training, then the Somme. He's at the front; his two dearest friends and the mentor of his youth perish. The book starts out in paradise and ends in despair, the change both sudden and seamless.


    busy, down, bruce. use them all in a sentence.

    I had tons of stuff to blog about, I was snowed under at work and wmtc was down, all on the same weekend. What are the odds?

    Now I have to try to fix the site, plus...

    I don't know if there are any Springsteen fans among us, but I've been listening to the new album - "Magic," in stores October 2 - and I love love love it. It's warm and familiar, but still new and delicious: comfort food for E-Street fans.

    We stopped going to big arena concerts many years ago, but I really want to see Bruce this time around. Really really want to.

    He'll be in Toronto October 15. (It's a Monday, I don't even have to take a day off!) Tickets go on sale today, so I'll be refreshing like mad.

    I'll see you as soon as I can!


    "thanks for your support" by roy zimmerman

    I don't usually go for this type of thing, but this song is very good. I found it quite moving.

    More info at the singer's website, and thanks to James for sending.

    tales of the freewayblogger

    Every once in a while I like to check in on the exploits of the freewayblogger.

    This stuff is brilliant. Talk about "each one, reach one". A word in the landscape - a flash, a thought, an entry into consciousness. It's like staging a mass protest for every morning commute, every single day. Each one, reach millions.

    I love the semi-vandalism, quasi-graffiti quality - the same idea and feel of political graffiti, without actually damaging or defacing anyone's precious property.

    I love the stealth it must entail.

    I love the low-budget, do-it-yourself sensibility.

    I love the simple messages.

    I love that people care enough to do this, and that they go out and do it.

    I love this blog that captures and records these acts of resistance, then combines them with further food for thought, to continue the process.

    Thanks to all the freewaybloggers out there.


    "overall picture one of an increasing diversification of our families"

    The 2006 Canadian census figures were released yesterday, and the statistics show the continuing and increasing diversity of the Canadian family.

    While some decry this as the end of civilization, I see it as a beautiful, progressive advance. Increasing numbers of people are living lives they create for themselves, on paths of their own choosing, rather than forcing themselves into the narrow confines of a few pre-determined molds. A wider range of choices have (finally) become socially acceptable, and I think we'll see that range widen even further as time goes on.

    In many ways, Canada is a model of a diverse society, which can only thrive when people value tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
    The redefinition of family continues apace in Canada, with the latest household figures from the 2006 census showing a significant increase in the number of same-sex couples and a first-ever count of same-sex marriages.

    At the same time, there are more common-law families, more childless couples, more people living alone and a greater number of single-parent households in Canada than ever before.

    The census counted 45,345 same-sex couples, up 32 per cent from 2001, representing 0.6 per cent of all couples in Canada. Not surprisingly, half of these couples lived in the three largest census metropolitan areas: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

    Statistics Canada allowed census respondents for the first time to indicate if they were in a same-sex marriage. A total of 7,465 couples said they were.

    About nine per cent of Canadians in a same-sex relationship had children under 24 years old living in the home.

    The census also found:

    • There were 6,105,910 married-couple families, an increase of only 3.5 per cent from 2001, accounting for 68.8 per cent of all census families.

    • In contrast, the number of common-law-couple families surged 18.9 per cent to 1,376,865, or 15.5 per cent of all census families. Only two decades ago, that proportion stood at 7.2 per cent.

    • The number of lone-parent families increased 7.8 per cent to 1,414,060.

    • The number of one-person households increased 11.8 per cent, more than twice as fast as the 5.3 per cent increase for the total population in private households.

    • The number of households consisting of couples without children aged 24 years and under increased 11.2 per cent from 2001.

    "The overall picture certainly is one of an increasing diversification of our families and households," said Doug Norris, senior-vice president and chief demographer at Environics Analytics.

    "For the first time ever, we've got more couples without children than with children, we've got over a quarter of our households with one person only," he said.

    Globe and Mail story here.

    geography is destiny

    We've talked about the role of luck in our lives, how any success is down to some combination of luck and effort, with the balance shifting in either direction, depending on the circumstances.

    Although I credit my own hard work and determination (with some luck thrown in), for many good things in my life, in the large picture, I feel my entire life is down to sheer random chance.

    My relative good health and the ability (so far) to use all my limbs and senses can only be chalked up to good luck. More than anything, to be female and able to live a life full of choices and autonomy is nothing short of the best luck in the world. If you are female on this planet, geography is destiny.

    Ellen Goodman, columnist for the Boston Globe, gives a global report card on gender equality. The column - "A Year of Notable Setbacks for Women" - ran for August 26, Equality Day, which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. An excerpt:
    We begin by looking to Japan where Shinzo Abe's government wins the Knights in (Tarnished) Armor Prize. There, the prime minister refused to apologize for the Japanese Army's use of "comfort women" as sexual slaves in World War II. That was after his health minister called women "baby-making machines." And finally, the bodyguard for his gender equality minister was arrested for molesting a college student on a train. We send the land of the rising sun a sunset clause.

    What can we give the winner of this year's International Ayatollah Award? Our man is Ezzat Attiya, the creative Egyptian cleric who issued a fatwa saying that there was one way around the religious taboo against unmarried men and women working together. Women can breast-feed their male co-workers and legally become family. We would offer Attiya a special breast pump to accompany his fatwa, but we don't want him to milk the idea.

    Ah, but in some pockets of the Middle East, there is progress toward gender equality. Take Iran, winner of our Dubious Equality Award. Why, just last month a man was stoned to death for adultery. We send the judges there an engraved citation for equal brutality.

    Unfortunately, we must return home for the Patriarch of the Year Prize. It goes with disappointment to US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose opinion restricting abortions rested on the retro notion that women needed to be protected from "regret," "grief," and "sorrow," even if it meant protecting them from their rights. We send the paternalistic justice a hook to bring him back to the 21st century.

    So many judges, so few blindfolds. The Blind Justice Award is winging its way to Carson City, Nev., District Judge Bill Maddox. While sentencing a man on kiddie porn charges, he opined: "It's my understanding that most men are sexually attracted to young women. . . . I mean women from the time they're 1 all the way up until they're 100." That blindfold should be placed carefully over his mouth.

    Read the column here.


    the sutras of abu ghraib

    The Sutras of Abu Ghraib is a new book by Iraq War veteran and objector Aidan Delgado. From Courage to Resist:
    'The Sutras of Abu Ghraib' is the story of a soldier who refused to succumb to violence. In chronicling the struggles of military life and the dehumanizing effects of war, Aidan Delgado examines the attitudes that make prisoner abuse possible and explores his own developing Buddhist beliefs against a brutal backdrop. It is a tale of physical bravery, moral courage, and the cost of holding on to your identity while everyone around you is losing theirs.

    The book is available for a $25 donation to Courage to Resist.

    two more ready to cross the border

    Tom and Emilio of Canadian Hope have gotten The Letter they've been waiting for.

    Once again, the US's loss is Canada's gain. Plus they're moving to the GTA so we get to meet more friends. Yay.

    jailed for peace

    Much is being written about what the US anti-war movement lacks and what it needs; why, despite the overwhelming public opinion against the war, the movement itself sits mostly under the radar.

    I try not to sit from a distance and prescribe "shoulds" to a movement I'm not fully engaged with. When you're an activist, few things are more irritating than non-activists telling you what you should do. In my days of heavy pro-choice activism, I took to saying, "That's a really interesting idea. If you want to start organizing it, I'll be happy to send people your way." That usually shut them up. Suggestions are great, but only when they come paired with time and energy.

    Still, I can't help but think about why peace activism is not more visible.

    Of course the media is a huge obstacle. The US mainstream media's ties to government and war profiteering machine give it an an active interest in keeping peace protests off the small screen.

    That's a reality, but not an excuse. If demands for peace are loud enough, and large enough, and sustained enough, even CNN will have to report them. And the internet makes organizing so much easier, so much less expensive, and provides so many alternate ways to reach people, that these factors might just balance out. Having done serious activism both before and during the existence of the internet, the difference cannot be exaggerated; it's simply mind-boggling.

    From where I sit, it's difficult to think the peace movement will ever balloon into the necessary groundswell of popular support until the middle class is directly affected by the war. That is, until there's a draft.

    Of course the warmongers know this, and they know how utterly politically untenable the draft is. That's why they've done everything possible to avoid it.

    That's why we've got this de facto draft for anyone unlucky enough to have volunteered in the first place - ordering everyone back to Baghdad, whether they're 50-year-old reservists on their third tour of duty or 21-year-olds grappling with PTSD.

    On his recent speaking tour, Daniel Ellsberg said before he took the actions that sealed his fate and helped end the Vietnam War, he asked himself, Am I willing to lose my job, to end my career, to go to prison, to help end this war? Ellsberg felt guilt and responsbility at having helped perpetrate the war in Vietnam, and he had within his grasp a tool to help end it - and a very high personal cost.

    Now, Ellsberg says the US peace movement needs more people willing to go to jail for the cause. If you want to read more about Ellsberg, and some of his current writing and speaking, I blogged about him here and here. He's a true hero of the peace movement, and we can learn a lot from his advice.

    The Reverend John Dear has put himself on the line for peace. Dear, a Jesuit priest, author and lifelong peace activist, recounts how he and six others were arrested for trying to talk to their Senator about ending the war.
    'Guilty!' — Of Trying to See Our Senator
    by Rev. John Dear

    On Thursday, September 6th, 2007, six of us were found guilty in Federal court in Albuquerque, NM by a Federal judge for trying to visit the office of our senator. We will be sentenced in a few weeks. The message? It is a Federal crime to attempt to speak to an elected Republican about the U.S. war on Iraq. Don't visit your senator. Don't get involved. Don’t speak out. Don’t take a stand for peace – or you too may end up in jail.

    It all started one year ago, on September 26, 2006, when nine of us entered the Federal Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and tried to take the elevator to the third floor to the office of Senator Pete Domenici to present him with a copy of the "Declaration of Peace," a national petition campaign aimed at stopping the U.S. war on Iraq, bringing our troops home, and pursuing nonviolent alternatives and reparations. Over three hundred seventy five similar actions took place across the nation that week.

    The Senator's office manager came downstairs, said she would only allow three of us upstairs, and after forty five minutes of waiting and negotiations, we nine just decided to go upstairs, figuring we had a right as group of constituents to deliver our petition to the Senator's office.

    As we stepped onto the elevator, a policeman put his foot in the door, and the next thing we knew, the power was turned off. So there we stayed–for some six hours. At one point, a police officer brought over a chair for one elderly member of our group who uses metal crutches. It seemed the officer was inviting us to make ourselves at home. He even said he supported our anti-war stand.

    By the end of that memorable day, with over twenty police officers, SWAT teams, and FBI officials standing in the lobby, the Homeland Security director told us we had the choice to be arrested, jailed and tried, or cited and tried. He never gave us a warning, never told us to leave, never read us our rights. We took the citations, and for the past year, have been in and out of court, waiting to testify about our attempt to visit the Senator's office.

    The prosecution would hear none of it. As far as the prosecutor was concerned, we went there to disrupt the Federal Building and shut down the elevator. He seemed to think we liked being in an elevator. He, of course, had been a marine for decades, and now commands a national guard unit, and was just back two days before the trial from directing military operations in Colorado Springs. He called the police and the senator's assistant to testify against us. They said we had plenty of warning, said we threatened to do a sit in, and said we disrupted the government’s office work.

    Then it was our turn. One by one we took the stand – Philip, Michella, Sansi, Ellie, Bud and me. Our excellent pro bono lawyers, Todd Hotchkiss and Penni Adrian, asked us why we went to the Federal Building and what happened. We each testified that we intended to bring a copy of the "Declaration of Peace" statement to the senator's office, in the hope that it could be faxed to him, that he would sign it, and that he would work to stop this evil war.

    During my testimony, I was asked about the lists of names I brought with me that day. I had printed out the name of every U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, and some ten thousand Iraqi civilians killed, and said I thought they would help remind us why we were there, that perhaps we might leave them with the Senator's staff. The judge interrupted me and asked if I carried those names around with me all the time. While unfortunately it's now all too common for many of us to spend our time at demonstrations reading the names of the dead, I held back from saying, "Yes, don't you? Don't you care about the U.S. soldiers who've been killed, and the countless, innocent Iraqi civilians killed?" Instead, I said I always carried with me information about the war and how to stop it.

    It was a grueling, exhausting eight hour day. At the end, the judge returned with his verdict but then launched into a speech explaining why he believed the police and the senator’s staff person, and not us, particularly, not me. He said the fact that I carried with me the names of every U.S. soldier killed and some ten thousand Iraqi civilians killed proved I intended to be there a long time, and shut down business in the Federal Building. He basically called us all liars, and defended the government's evil war.

    I'm not so sure that on the day one year ago I did intend to shut the Federal Building down, as noble a nonviolent act that might be in such times. Only a few months before, I brought a group to meet with Governor Bill Richardson, and he received us warmly, and let me speak for twenty minutes about why he should work to end the war on Iraq, disarm Los Alamos and abolish our nuclear weapons, and end the death penalty in New Mexico. I didn't rule out the possibility that in fact Domenici's staff might be willing to hear us. In the end, however, the police themselves disrupted business as usual. They turned off the elevator. They shut down the Federal Building. They prevented us from visiting our elected representative's office.

    So what do we learn from this experience? What is the message from Federal Court in New Mexico? I suppose it's this: Anyone who dares visit their Republican senator to speak against this evil war is liable of a Federal crime. Don't presume you have any rights in this so-called democracy. Those days are over.

    The judge said he would sentence us within thirty days, so there's more to come. He asked each of us to submit a statement to him. We face 30 days in jail and a $5000 fine, which I certainly won't pay.

    Meanwhile, the real crime continues, and the real criminals get away with mass murder, with the crucial, full backing of our courts. The war goes on, the killings go on, and the lives of our sisters and brothers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere are shattered. Our government, in its race to become a global empire, has sunk to all new levels of corruption, lying, repression, and old fashioned hubris. Our task is permanent nonviolent resistance against the culture of war, nonviolence as a way of life, full-time non-cooperation with violence, war, and empire.

    All things considered, then, it's a great blessing to be found guilty of speaking out against this evil war. I hope more and more people will write their senators and congress people, especially Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, and demand that they end this war; that more and more people will sign up at www.declarationofpeace.org and keep building the movement against this war; that more and more people will march for peace, vigil for peace, organize for peace, agitate for peace, speak out for peace, fast for peace, cross the line for peace, pray for peace, and find themselves guilty of pursuing a new world without war.

    In such times as these, there may be no greater blessing.