5.31.2007

uphold the constitution, get thrown in the brig

The U.S. Navy has begun its Court Martial of Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz, a 10-year veteran of the Navy. Diaz's crimes? Upholding international law, upholding the Constitution, and telling the truth. From Harpers:
Commander Diaz ... faces charges that he disseminated "secret national defense information" with "intent or reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation." The charges carry a possible prison sentence of 36 years. What exactly did Commander Diaz do? It appears from press reports that he mailed a New York law firm a list identifying detainees who were being held at Guantánamo.

The government had a legal obligation to disclose the names to the Red Cross — an obligation imposed by the Geneva Conventions, and followed by fifty years of military tradition. That obligation exists for simple reasons. Throughout human history, persons held in secret detention have been the victims of heinous abuse by their captors. They have been routinely tortured, abused and murdered . . . just as has in fact happened with detainees at Guantánamo, to our nation's lasting shame.

Holding persons in secret detention constitutes a jus cogens crime under international law, but it is also classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and under United States criminal law — the War Crimes Act of 1996. The Department of Defense, under the documented direction of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, decided to withhold the names of detainees seized in connection with the war on terror, including detainees seized in Iraq. Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School and one of the nation's leading authorities on the law of war, has argued that Rumsfeld's actions were a criminal act for which he should be prosecuted. Indeed, that may well be a consensus view among rule of law scholars and it is probable that Rumsfeld will be prosecuted at some point, though not by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who may well have been complicit in the crime.

The Associated Press responded to the Defense Department's decision to withhold information about the identity of the Guantánamo detainees by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) proceeding to compel their disclosure. The Pentagon mounted a number of increasingly absurd arguments in defending this suit, principally saying that it was entitled to withhold the names of the detainees because it would "invade their privacy" for this information to be disclosed. The federal court hearing the matter was not amused by these evasions, and ordered the disclosure of the data. Accordingly, under federal court order, the data was turned over to the AP and published.

So the names of the detainees were required to be disclosed. Their non-disclosure was a criminal act. A federal court compelled their disclosure. And now a Guantánamo JAG is being prosecuted for disclosing the names, with a claim that his action was "with intent to benefit a foreign nation." What is the matter with this picture?

Even on the growing list of absurd hyperventilations used by the Bush Administration in connection with the Guantánamo detainees, this case takes on a "now-top-this" quality.

Read more here. You can also read about Matthew Diaz's brave actions here, at Courage To Resist.

Also on the resistance front, an anonymous Iraq war veteran is walking - continuously - around the California state capitol building. The former army medic carries the name of every US soldier killed in Iraq, and he intends to complete one lap around the building for each of them. He's been walking for more than 60 hours. Others who have joined him carry the names of Iraqi dead.

On Memorial Day, the protestor, who insists on being unnamed, was joined by Patrick and Andy Sheehan, father and brother of Casey Sheehan. The circular, symbolic protest is also supported by Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Sacramento Coalition to End the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Courage to Resist. If you live in the Sacramento area, you can come out to support him, too.

this is getting really annoying

I am still unemployed.

The firm I originally called Crappy Firm is indeed crappy. After recruiting for this position since January, they've now decided to eliminate it. They're not hiring me or anyone else.

No other weekend spots are available right now at any of the big law firms. This means that I have to broaden my search and look for any job in my field, whatever the schedule.

This sucks in so many ways.

The consolation is that, despite several degrees of suckitude, I think it would have been worse to stay in the job that was making me so miserable. And of course, whether or not that's true, that's in the past, so why am I thinking about it.

Onward.

5.30.2007

please, cindy sheehan, consider canada

Thank you, Cindy Sheehan, for everything you gave us. Thank you for your strength and courage, for being a model of commitment, for channeling your pain into action.

Shame on so-called liberals who condemn this woman's decision. Shame, shame, shame.
Good Riddance Attention Whore
by Cindy Sheehan

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It's for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford, Texas? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too…which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America…you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It's up to you now.

"if you build it, they will shun"

This Saturday, June 2, the Royal Ontario Museum will officially open its new addition, the "crystal" designed by Daniel Libeskind.

The building is almost universally loathed in the Toronto area. I can only imagine what Canadians elsewhere, who already roll their eyes at Canada's largest city, think of it. Torontonians can't sneer loudly enough. They don't simply dislike it. They hate it. They're outraged.

There's little doubt that the new ROM addition is a fabulous building. It may end up being a Great Building.

But it's different, and most people don't like different. Bring us the same old thing, please. Bring us the comfortable. Don't move our minds in new directions. Don't expand our horizons.

Christopher Hume, urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote an excellent piece about this reaction, placing it in context of critiques of new buildings everywhere, always: "Build It, And They Will Shun".
Next Saturday, when Daniel Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, finally opens, a wave of anger and contempt will wash over Toronto. It has already started.

Shock and outrage will spew from the pages of newspapers, radio talkshows and blogs.

Never will people have beheld a building so ugly, architecture so appalling, design so bad – or such cheap-looking aluminium cladding this side of a post-war Scarborough semi.

You can see it now, the shaking of heads, rolling of eyeballs, wringing of hands, the frothing, spluttering and snorting.

It won't be pretty.

But if they know as much about history as they should, Libeskind and his clients at the ROM will be thrilled. This has been the reaction to new architecture since time immemorial.

The ROM is in good company. The list of buildings that were hated when they were first built includes the Eiffel Tower, Rockefeller Center and the Parthenon. The Parthenon, for godssake! Considered by many to be the perfect classical building. Toronto buildings that were once hated include BCE Place and the Sharp Centre at the Ontario College of Art, two of Toronto's great spaces.

I've been reading letters to the Star about the Crystal, decrying the heap of junk, the pile of garbage, the eyesore, the horror, oh the humanity. Soon after moving here, I took a little walking tour of downtown Toronto with someone I met through this blog. As we passed the ROM, I mentioned it was exciting that Toronto had several new good buildings going up, including the new museum additions by Frank Gehry and Libeskind. She wrinkled her nose: "No one here likes that thing." I know I'll sound like a New York snob, but I thought to myself, Hayseed.

Art is more than "I like that" and "I don't like that". A list of great books is not the same as a list of your favourite books. All the music you like isn't great, and all great music isn't to your taste. This is true for all of us, and for all art forms, including architecture.

Torontonians: aim higher. You complain that Toronto is not considered a world-class city; you wonder if it will ever stand beside New York, London, Paris and the other great cities of the world. Then a top architect builds you a great building and you are too philistine to appreciate it.

not so fast

I'm still not working.

This firm made an offer, but they can't get it together to give me paperwork or a start date.

Meanwhile I'm checking other possibilities. I like having more writing time, and I've got plenty to do. But the lack of income is starting to get a little creepy.

5.29.2007

another environmental question

I know that an important step we can each take towards reducing greenhouse emissions is buying locally grown produce. I want to know: how many of you do that?

Do you buy only locally grown produce? Where do you buy it? Do you not eat fruits or vegetables that have to be flown to your area?

How do you weigh locally grown vs organic but grown in a distant region in your shopping decisions?

Do you extend the locally-grown mantra to other products that can be imported without refrigeration?

I'll go first.

In recent years, I've been making an effort to buy more organic produce, knowing that the more people who buy it, the more supermarkets will stock it, and the more producers will use organic methods. I do this equally for labour (the effects of conventional pesticides on farm workers), health and environmental concerns. (My niece E should be proud that she has influenced me so much on this.)

I also make an effort to buy local produce, and I always have. Growing up, my family was able to buy produce from local farm stands all summer. I know the immense difference in quality. For a long time, I couldn't even eat certain fruits or vegetables (especially corn, peaches or tomatoes) from a supermarket; they tasted like cardboard to me. And I know first-hand how it helps the local economy and ecology.

That's the plus side.

On the downside, if I want to eat fruits or vegetables that are not available locally-grown, I buy them anyway. That is, at our local Loblaws, if there are apples from Ontario and apples from the US, I choose the Ontario apples.

But if the grapes look good and they're only grown in the US, I buy them. I buy pineapples and bananas that are grown nowhere near here, but are organically grown. Before the Ontario asparagus showed up, I was buying asparagus from Peru (purposely - in Peru we learned that asparagus is a new crop that's helping small farmers survive).

I don't know what, if anything, to do about this. There's no farmer's market for us (there is a large farmer's market in Mississauga, but it takes place while we're at work), so there's no convenient alternative source for produce. And I'm not prepared to give up eating a variety of healthy produce that I enjoy. Not yet, anyway. I might get there.

These decisions bring further questions, that some of you probably know the answer to.

Does distance matter? Are grapes from California better than grapes from Chile or Brazil? Or once it's non-local, it's non-local, period?

I assume, also, that the product matters. I saw fresh salmon from Chile, and thought of the energy consumed in importing that fish, fresh, from such a distance. Where, say, olive oil imported from a Mediterranean country doesn't have to be kept cold and fresh during transport. So buying fresh salmon from Chile would be worse, environmentally speaking, than buying Greek olive oil. (Leaving aside the issue of the mercury in the fish...)

OK, your turn. What do you do? How do you do it? Be honest.

5.27.2007

fun pupdate


Tala and Cody
Originally uploaded by JnL

James took these amazing photographs of Cody and Tala.

I told James I wanted some good shots of the pups for some new frames I bought. Allan and I are decent photographers, but more so of scenery than moving objects. Plus, our digital camera is not very good, and we've been too busy (and money is too tight) to deal with our better film camera. I knew James would oblige, but these are even better than I anticipated. Have a look.

The photos were taken on Victoria Day, when James and Lori and their puppy Cobalt were at our place. We were supposed to take all the dogs to Jack Darling Park, the huge leash-free park in Mississauga, but we couldn't get in! We're usually there on weekdays when there are maybe 10 cars in the whole parking lot. That Monday, the lot was filled to capacity, and the overflow lot was also completely full. That's one of the benefits to working weekends: we never see those crowds.

We ended up just barbecuing and hanging out in our backyard. Tala is very possessive of us around other dogs, and very territorial about her backyard. I'm a little concerned about folks bringing dogs to wmtc2 (I'll be in touch about that), and Cobalt was a bit of a guinea pig for the party. Tala wasn't aggressive - no teeth, no violence - but she was seriously dominant. As the day went on, she relaxed and the situation improved, which is a good sign.

I love these pictures!

i hate money, part 2

In comments here, I mentioned the inconvenient truth of my and Allan's life in Canada: we now work full-time to earn what we used to earn in a 24-hour work-week.

In our last jobs in New York, we worked two 12-hour days. (Allan also worked the major holidays.) Now we work three 12-hour days and take home about the same income.

My friend Dean, a long-time wmtc reader, asked:
How does the lower salary affect your standard of living? Did you know before you moved to Canada that you would have to work longer hours to make as much money? Do you feel that this is a drawback to living in Canada?

We did know this before we moved to Canada.

Before our first visit to Toronto, I emailed people at the big legal staffing agencies there (here!), and set up appointments to meet them when we were in town. (Amazingly, this was after we filed our applications to immigrate!)

The most important things to find out were (a) were there jobs in our field, that is, do the large law firms in Toronto use word-processing or document-production specialists as they do in New York, (b) were there jobs with non-traditional hours, like evenings or weekends, and (c) what we could expect to earn. All our questions were answered, and we were thrilled.

However... the last jobs we held in New York City - which we never would have left, as long as we lived there - were very unusual. We had both (and my insistence, I will add) jockeyed our way into better and better jobs, until we were at the very top level of responsibility and pay scale for our positions. We knew we'd never see the likes of those jobs again.

And we had a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan. If you've never lived in New York City, it's difficult to understand what that means. A rent-stabilized apartment means you're renting at a rate far (huge emphasis there) below market value, and your rent can only increase a certain percentage each year. It's an incredibly coveted position to be in. It means you never move. I always said, we'll live in this apartment as long as we live in New York. If we leave this apartment, it means we're leaving the city forever.

What does this mean for our current standard of living, relative to our last years in New York?

We had a lot more disposable income then. We spent very freely, which in New York is way fun. For much of that time, we were also burdened by debt (because we didn't always have good jobs!), so a lot of our money went to the Black Hole of Visa.

But, when we decided to move to Canada, we were able to get out of debt and save money with very little hardship or inconvenience. We couldn't travel, which was tough for me, but how many working people can travel and save money at the same time? Other than that, and foregoing some theatre tickets and a few other luxuries, we paid off our debt and banked lots of money every month without too much sacrifice.

Now our budget is tighter, and we live closer to our income level. This is not a big deal, as we've really lost interest in a lot of the things we used to spend our money on in New York. We rent a three-bedroom house for only slightly more than we used to rent a large two-bedroom apartment, and we're much more interested in hanging out in our backyard than in going out for expensive dinners or buying tickets to shows. Money is not extremely tight. We're comfortable, we have fun, but we're on a budget.

Do I feel this is a drawback to living in Canada? I don't think it's a function of Canada versus the US. It depends on your field and where you live, on both ends. Nick, of Life Without Borders, is a social worker. I believe in Toronto he earns nearly double what he did in Denver. Many fields pay about the same. I don't know about anyone else, although I'd be interested to find out. Coming from New York skews the picture further, as salaries tend to be higher there, but for most people, the cost of living is also unusually high.

How did this affect our decision to move to Canada? It didn't.

Our day-jobs are on the support level. They're not career jobs for which one would move or not move. They're jobs that enable our lives, not jobs we live for. We knew we'd have to work more after moving, and we were dreading it, but that was a minor feeling compared to how much we wanted to leave the US.

The thing we were dreading most was possibly having to work a conventional Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule. So far, except for some very temporary situations, we've been able to avoid that.

I comfort myself with the idea - part probability, part rationalization - that my job in New York would not have lasted forever anyway. I worked for a notoriously cheap (although filthy rich) law firm. It's highly possible that at some point they would have saved money by letting me go and hiring someone else at two-thirds my pay rate.

I will say that working three long days instead of two long days was easier in theory than in reality. I'm almost 46 years old and I have a health condition that requires me to pace all my activities and get a certain amount of rest. I don't have the energy I once did to work, write and have a life outside of those two requirements. Most of the time, I feel pressed for time, and feel I'm not doing many of the things I'd like to. (I know many people share those feelings for various reasons.)

But the way I see it, if you really want to make a Big Life Change, there is always some down-side. No BLC is 100% positive. The negative might not bother you that much, but it exists to some degree. I wouldn't not make a BLC - one that I much desired, one that both my partner and I felt was right in so many ways - because I had a good word-processing job. One, that job may not last forever. But two, and more importantly, that job is just a way to earn a living. It's a portable skill (one reason I chose it in the first place), it's replaceable, and it can be done elsewhere.

One last thing, to answer an inevitable question: we will never find jobs in Toronto that pay what those New York jobs did. We're at the top of our pay scale right now, and that's not going to change.

* * * *

On this subject, I have a related pet peeve.

People often note that I am "lucky" because my job gives me the time and freedom to pursue my writing career. That irritates me, because it's not a function of luck.

Ever since, a few years after graduating university, I decided to give up a more conventional career* and dedicate myself more seriously to writing, I've held an array of different jobs. I've been a nanny, a proofreader, a house cleaner, a personal assistant to a crazy artist, a paid political organizer, a secretary, a data-entry operator, a teacher at a youth centre and at an alternative school, and probably a few other things I've forgotten.

I heard there was well-paid work for legal word-processors, I taught myself WordPerfect on a friend's home computer (the only person I knew who had one in those days!), I lied about my experience, and got temp work. From there, I became very good at what I did, and very ambitious, and jockeyed my way into better and better positions, always seeking more income for fewer hours.

Allan was waiting tables in a cafe and working in a deli. I taught him what I knew, we bought him some clothes, and he found a job as a legal secretary. As the years went on, I strongly encouraged him to also look for jobs with fewer hours. He was able to cut back from a five-day work-week to four, then to three 12-hour days, and finally to our last great two-day-week spots.

Of course, we, all of us, are fortunate to achieve what we strive for, and you know I am grateful for good fortune. You can work hard at something and still not achieve it, through no fault of your own. (I ought to know that: I have two unpublished novels.) But I seriously bristle at the implication that I accidentally fell into my life. I didn't. I built it.




* The "career" I left was already an awkward step towards creating my own life. I was working in the Off-Broadway theatre rather than attending law school as I was "supposed to". (That is, I was rejecting certain family expectations.) I made no money, met great people, had a lot of fun, put up with a lot of bullshit, and ultimately realized that if I wanted to write, I had to make a BLC. I had to find a way to support myself that left me time and mental energy to do what I most wanted to do: write.

environmental questions

Impudent Strumpet, one of my Five Who Make Me Think, asks a type of question that I ask all the time, and for which I seldom see answers.
We know that fluorescent lightbulbs are better than incandescent lightbulbs. But does that mean you should throw out your perfectly good incandescents, or just replace them with fluorescents when they burn out? Does the heat generated by incandescents help in the winter when you need to heat your home anyway?

What about replacing your perfectly good old electronics and appliances with Energy Star ones? Is that worth the waste generated? Does that depend on the options available for disposing of them? What if you donated them to charity?

We know that locally-grown produce is better than imported produce. But how far is it worth driving to buy it? Is it worth driving to the local supermarket if it means you'll use fewer plastic bags?

Is it worth buying organic produce if it goes bad faster than I can eat all of it, thus requiring me to throw out some every time? Would it make a difference if my building had a composting program?

Is the extra energy required for a trip to the beer store worth it for the benefit of returning your bottles instead of putting them in the recycle box?

Is it worth washing your clothes in cold water if it reduces their lifespan (by making it more difficult for stains to come out)?

Is the energy saved by using the dryer on low temperature worth the energy spent by having it operate longer (because it takes longer to dry on cold)?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. I don't have the information to calculate any of this. But I really wish someone would. It's one thing to self-righteously say "X is better than Y" when you're talking about only one factor, but real life consists of a multitude of factors. Give us some cost-benefit analysis!

I ask questions like these all the time, and I make up answers for myself, and I have no idea if the answer is factually correct. For example, I don't throw out working incandescents light bulbs and replace them with CFLs, because it seems wrong to throw out something that's still functioning, when it's going to stop working eventually anyway. I keep a supply of CFLs handy, and when the old incandescent burns out, I replace it with a CFL. That seems like common sense to me. But common sense is often not supported by evidence. Some things are counter-intuitive.

Now, several readers are going to pose answers to the questions here, but chances are, they are also intuiting the answers. What we need is a website or other reference that pulls together evidence-based answers to these types of questions - an environmental footprint cost-benefit analysis generator, if you will.

5.26.2007

i hate money

I hate money.

I hate needing money, and I hate how the need for money so often controls our lives.

Some people who want to need money less consciously simplify their lives. Lower your expenses, lower your earning needs. That just doesn't work for me. I'm not a conspicuous consumer for whom shopping is a form of entertainment. But I'm also not willing to do without certain creature comforts that I'm finally able to afford. I don't crave more and more and more, but I'm extremely reluctant to do with less.

So where does that leave me? My new job won't start for at least another week, possibly later. New Firm won't pay me for some already-planned time off, as it's too soon after my date of hire. (My previous employer was letting me take the vacation time retroactively.)

This means that I really should go one more round with Kids On Wheels, even though I don't want to. I'm lucky I have this option, and I should take it. I'll have to work hard to not let that motivation show in my writing.

I hate money.

exploit our troops

Stephen Harper's recent visit to Afghanistan, and the fawning way most of the Canadian media reported on it, showed Harper at his US-wannabe best. I was going to wax sarcastic about it this morning, but this letter to the Star by a Guelph man saved me the trouble.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Afghanistan visit was no surprise. Boost morale? Please. As one commentator said, "Shania Twain would've been a better choice." To gain understanding of the situation? What could anyone learn in a 48-hour visit dominated primarily by press conferences. Conservative popularity waxes and wanes with support for the mission, so despite Harper's protestations, the polls are precisely what brought him there.

Now, I'm no Harper fan, but do I support our troops? If our soldiers must be in Afghanistan, I'd rather they do more humanitarian work. But I'd rather they not be there at all, considering they receive little attention from the rest of NATO, unwilling to shoulder more combat, or the United Nations, which won't buy Afghanistan's poppies instead of eradicating them and leaving farmers with no option to feed their families other than joining the Taliban. I support a debate on the mission to explore exactly why our soldiers are being killed and if the cause is worth it.

So do I support our troops? Not if you asked Harper. According to him, the ways to support our troops are by throwing more of them into the meat grinder of Kandahar without addressing the causes of the violence; convincing them to fight an endless (hopeless?) mission regardless of the costs; and exploiting them to generate good PR by snapping photos of them enjoying a Tim Hortons coffee.

That's what a real patriot would do. Or at least that's what our fearless leader would have us believe. -- Brandon Kidd, Guelph, Ont.

I'm not in complete agreement with Mr Kidd; I just want Canada out of there, and the troops home. But a debate about the goals of this so-called mission is a necessary first step, one that is long past due.

the federal surplus: where does it go?

The federal of Canada government has an estimated budget surplus of $13.7 billion. After some $4 billion in earmarked spending is deducted, the surplus will be about $9.7 billion.

Where is all that money going? The provinces could sure use some of it.

voting for democrats = magical thinking

David Sirota writes, "We Gave Them Our Hearts, And They Gave Us A Blank Check".
Democratic politicians, Capitol Hill staff, political consultants and all their lobbyist friends sitting comfortably tonight in their Northwest Washington homes believe the public thinks Democrats are "weak" because they don't more strongly support leaving American troops to be killed or maimed in the middle of a bloody civil war in a country half way around the globe that had no WMD and had nothing to do with 9/11. What they seem unable - or unwilling - to realize is that the public has believed Democrats are weak not because some in the party have opposed the war, but because many in the party refuse to wield the power the public entrusts them with on all sorts of issues. At least on Iraq - the biggest issue of the day - the public's perception has proven right. As I wrote to one congressional lawmaker in an e-mail correspondence we had today: "The spoils go to those who use the power they are entrusted with, while infamy goes to those who squander it."

In the movie "Say Anything," John Cusack famously laments after being dumped that "I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen." The American people gave Democrats their heart in November 2006. In return, Democrats gave George Bush a blank check in May 2007. We gave them our heart, they gave him a blank check. That will make May 24, 2007 a dark day generations to come will look back on - a day when Democrats in Washington not only continued a war they promised to end, but happily went on record declaring that they believe in their hearts that government's role is to ignore the will of the American people.

Read the whole thing here, it's good.

I won't be the first blogger - or the hundredth - to compare Democrat voters to battered women. If you've ever known (or been) someone - of any gender - who returned to a bad relationship, time and time again, imagining this time will be different, despite all past evidence that no time is ever different, despite his very obvious pattern of saying anything to get you back, then once you're there (once you've voted for them), it's the same old, same old... the analogy is pretty obvious.

Just keep voting for those cats.

Keep changing your shirt. (Thanks to Ferdzy for reminding me of this excellent grook.)

World Can't Wait says, "Congress capitulates, but we can't." Lots of excellent organizing ideas and tools on their website.

5.25.2007

diy impeachment

The Declaration of Independence, revered as a document but ignored as a guide to action, needs to be read from pulpits and podiums, on street corners and community radio stations throughout the nation. Its words, forgotten for over two centuries, need to become a call to action for the first time since it was read aloud to crowds in the early excited days of the American Revolution:

"Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government."

Our man Howard Zinn says if Congress won't ITMFA, then we the people have got to do it ourselves.
Courage is in short supply in Washington, D.C. The realities of the Iraq War cry out for the overthrow of a government that is criminally responsible for death, mutilation, torture, humiliation, chaos. But all we hear in the nation’s capital, which is the source of those catastrophes, is a whimper from the Democratic Party, muttering and nattering about "unity" and "bipartisanship," in a situation that calls for bold action to immediately reverse the present course.

These are the Democrats who were brought to power in November by an electorate fed up with the war, furious at the Bush Administration, and counting on the new majority in Congress to represent the voters. But if sanity is to be restored in our national policies, it can only come about by a great popular upheaval, pushing both Republicans and Democrats into compliance with the national will.

The Declaration of Independence, revered as a document but ignored as a guide to action, needs to be read from pulpits and podiums, on street corners and community radio stations throughout the nation. Its words, forgotten for over two centuries, need to become a call to action for the first time since it was read aloud to crowds in the early excited days of the American Revolution: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government."

The "ends" referred to in the Declaration are the equal right of all to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." True, no government in the history of the nation has been faithful to those ends. Favors for the rich, neglect of the poor, massive violence in the interest of continental and world expansion—that is the persistent record of our government.

Still, there seems to be a special viciousness that accompanies the current assault on human rights, in this country and in the world. We have had repressive governments before, but none has legislated the end of habeas corpus, nor openly supported torture, nor declared the possibility of war without end. No government has so casually ignored the will of the people, affirmed the right of the President to ignore the Constitution, even to set aside laws passed by Congress.

The time is right, then, for a national campaign calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Representative John Conyers, who held extensive hearings and introduced an impeachment resolution when the Republicans controlled Congress, is now head of the House Judiciary Committee and in a position to fight for such a resolution. He has apparently been silenced by his Democratic colleagues who throw out as nuggets of wisdom the usual political palaver about "realism" (while ignoring the realities staring them in the face) and politics being "the art of the possible" (while setting limits on what is possible).

I know I’m not the first to talk about impeachment. Indeed, judging by the public opinion polls, there are millions of Americans, indeed a majority of those polled, who declare themselves in favor if it is shown that the President lied us into war (a fact that is not debatable). There are at least a half-dozen books out on impeachment, and it’s been argued for eloquently by some of our finest journalists, John Nichols and Lewis Lapham among them. Indeed, an actual "indictment" has been drawn up by a former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, in a new book called United States v. George W. Bush et al, making a case, in devastating detail, to a fictional grand jury.

There is a logical next step in this development of an impeachment movement: the convening of "people's impeachment hearings" all over the country. This is especially important given the timidity of the Democratic Party. Such hearings would bypass Congress, which is not representing the will of the people, and would constitute an inspiring example of grassroots democracy.

These hearings would be the contemporary equivalents of the unofficial gatherings that marked the resistance to the British Crown in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The story of the American Revolution is usually built around Lexington and Concord, around the battles and the Founding Fathers. What is forgotten is that the American colonists, unable to count on redress of their grievances from the official bodies of government, took matters into their own hands, even before the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

In 1772, town meetings in Massachusetts began setting up Committees of Correspondence, and the following year, such a committee was set up in Virginia. The first Continental Congress, beginning to meet in 1774, was a recognition that an extralegal body was necessary to represent the interests of the people. In 1774 and 1775, all through the colonies, parallel institutions were set up outside the official governmental bodies.

Throughout the nation’s history, the failure of government to deliver justice has led to the establishment of grassroots organizations, often ad hoc, dissolving after their purpose was fulfilled. For instance, after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, knowing that the national government could not be counted on to repeal the act, black and white anti-slavery groups organized to nullify the law by acts of civil disobedience. They held meetings, made plans, and set about rescuing escaped slaves who were in danger of being returned to their masters.

In the desperate economic conditions of 1933 and 1934, before the Roosevelt Administration was doing anything to help people in distress, local groups were formed all over the country to demand government action. Unemployed Councils came into being, tenants’ groups fought evictions, and hundreds of thousands of people in the country formed self-help organizations to exchange goods and services and enable people to survive.

More recently, we recall the peace groups of the 1980s, which sprang up in hundreds of communities all over the country, and provoked city councils and state legislatures to pass resolutions in favor of a freeze on nuclear weapons. And local organizations have succeeded in getting more than 400 city councils to take a stand against the Patriot Act.

Impeachment hearings all over the country could excite and energize the peace movement. They would make headlines, and could push reluctant members of Congress in both parties to do what the Constitution provides for and what the present circumstances demand: the impeachment and removal from office of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Simply raising the issue in hundreds of communities and Congressional districts would have a healthy effect, and would be a sign that democracy, despite all attempts to destroy it in this era of war, is still alive.

5.24.2007

keith olbermann, we love you.
please be careful.

lay the dead at their feet

First the Democrats hand the Resident almost $100 billion of their constituents' money so Dick Cheney and his friends can continue to reap mammoth profits off the occupation of Iraq.

They try to disguise this increased funding as a plan to end the war! How can you end a war by funding a war? By throwing a deadline for troop withdrawal into the sack of money. As if we expect the White House to give a shit about a Congressionally imposed deadline.

But wait, the Resident doesn't like the deadline! He doesn't want a deadline! So what do the Dems do? They get rid of the deadline! What else?

With an opposition party like this, who needs elections? Oh wait, they're not having real elections either. It all ties up so neatly.

Democracy Rising and United for Peace and Justice are urging Americans to express their outrage.

I sympathize that it's very difficult to continue to express that outrage, and continually have it ignored. But please. Do so. Please do not give up without a fight. Please be part of the resistance. Please stand up for peace.
From Democracy Rising & UFPJ-Legislative Action Network

"Let them hear your outrage!"

The Democratic leadership have shamed themselves. Instead of standing up for us, they are bowing to pressure from Bush. He will get full funding for his war, including the escalation of troops -- unless the rank and file members of Congress vote this outrage down.

The vote in the House could come as early as today. Although they have heard from us over and over again -- we owe it to ourselves, our troops and the Iraqi people to make sure they hear from this before they make this vote. Below is a draft alert you can use to alert everyone you know!

. . . .

Call your Senators and Representatives Now. Congress will vote at any time in the next 48 hours to give Bush a blank check to pay for continued war and occupation: 202.224.3121

Tell them: Vote NO on the war funding bill to continue and expand the war and occupation of Iraq.

Ask them: How many more fallen soldiers will we have to mourn next Memorial Day?

Congress is getting ready to vote on another $95 billion for the war in Iraq. It sure looks like the Democratic Congress has decided to buy Bush's war and make it their own.

Instead of holding the Bush administration accountable for their failed policy in Iraq, Congress is choosing to blame the country we invaded and continue to occupy. That's right -- the Iraqi government needs to pass the laws we want them to pass in order to prove to us that they are a democracy -- or we will withhold funding for reconstruction (to rebuild the country our bombs and policies destroyed). That's the way the Congress has decided to hold Bush accountable.

After months of promising us a change in Iraq, promising us they will hold Bush accountable, promising they will not give Bush a blank check -- the democratic leadership has caved in to Bush -- instead of standing up for us. They are writing him a check for $95 billion to continue and EXPAND the war. That surge they all claimed they don't like -- the money for it is right here!

Make your calls today, and ask five friends to call their members of Congress also.

And liberal Americans are voting for these people! And they say if you don't vote for them, you're "throwing your vote away". How can you throw your vote away any more than this??

* * * *

Update. I was in a rush this morning, and so angry and disgusted, I omitted some key points. Keith Olbermann reminded me.

The 2006 midterm elections were a mandate to end the war. The Democrats were elected specifically to do so.

I was strongly criticized for not voting in those elections, but I felt I could not participate in what I believed to be a sham. I was certain that the elections would change nothing.

Canadians often ask why Americans "allow" the war to go on, why they chose this evil, corrupt government, and now that it has been thoroughly revealed as such, why they don't dismiss it.

Canadians who believe the New Democrats should merge with the Liberals: behold how a two-party system becomes a one-party system.

that was fast

Well, I got another job, with the hours I wanted.

One of the places where I first interviewed (after Dissolving Firm gave us notice) still hadn't hired anyone. At the time I thought this was Crappy Firm, but since Very Nice Firm turned out to be Crappy Firm, who knows. It's slightly (although not significantly) less money, but everything else is the usual. Allan and I will have the same hours, so we'll commute together, which saves Allan from having to get up early to drive me to the bus, after working late the night before.

I'm feeling a bit stupid about this whole thing. I had a job that paid more with the hours I wanted. Why did I leave? Well, because I was miserable. It's easy to have doubts after the tension and anxiety of a hateful job has been lifted. It's like when you end a bad relationship, then later on some lonely night, you think, why did I let him go? He would have been here now. Well yes, he'd be there, and you'd be miserable, remember?

* * * *

We were supposed to meet Tom and Emilio today, but our schedules didn't end up connecting. It sounds like they had a fabulous time in Toronto, and are really excited about the city. Yet another family of American defectors - a Jewish mom and dad and their Chinese-Jewish daughter, now living in North Carolina - are landing today. (They don't blog, but I email with the mom.)

Hey, does anyone know other moving-to-Canada folks who are just starting their application process? After all the "Vancouver Boys" (as Nick calls them), Tom & Emilio, and Two Moms get here, who will we follow??

5.23.2007

james loney: "i won't testify against my abductors"

This is a brave man. This is a hero of justice.
"I cannot participate in a judicial process where the prospects of a fair trial are negligible, and more crucially, where the death penalty is a possibility," writes James Loney, who was kidnapped in Iraq in 2005.

May 23, 2007
James Loney

On Nov. 26, 2005, I was kidnapped in Baghdad. My associates and I, all members of a Christian Peacemaker Teams' delegation, were held by Iraqi insurgents for four months. Tom Fox, a 54-year-old American, was found dead on the streets of Baghdad on March 9, 2006, of multiple gunshot wounds. Two weeks later, Harmeet Singh Sooden, 34, and myself, 42, both Canadians, were rescued along with Briton Norman Kember, 75, by British and American soldiers.

In November last year, we were told that an unspecified number of men alleged to be our kidnappers were in U.S. custody.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Scotland Yard want us to testify in a trial to be conducted in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI). An RCMP officer told us, "The death penalty is on the table."

Faced with a momentous, life-and-death decision, we learned everything we could about the central criminal court.

The New York Times offered a rare glimpse into the opaque world of the CCCI. In one day of observing the court's proceedings, journalist Michael Moss witnessed five 15-minute trials in which all of the defendants were found guilty and handed harsh prison terms.

Many of the defendants who appeared in court never saw a lawyer. The court's proceedings are normally closed to the public and there are instances where the U.S. continued to detain people even after their cases were dismissed.

A recent report from the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq says the criminal court "consistently failed to meet minimum fair trial standards." Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark calls the CCCI a "meat grinder."

"It reminds me of the reign of terror in Paris," Clark says. "You guillotine some, imprison others – it's unclear who's more fortunate."

Amnesty International says at least 100 people have been executed and up to 270 more have been condemned to death by the Iraq criminal court. But, as in the days of Saddam Hussein, nobody knows how busy Iraq's gallows are.

According to Time magazine, "Hangings are conducted in secret, at a heavily fortified location in Baghdad ... Only a few officials are notified beforehand and the vast majority of the names of those executed are never made public."

Citing the lack of transparency around the death penalty, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has requested that all death sentences be commuted. The Iraqi government has refused, arguing capital punishment is a "public deterrence" and its suspension would "undermine our policy on crime."

Many of those sentenced to death did not receive fair trials. Citing televised pre-trial "confessions," some procured through torture or ill-treatment, and insufficient access to lawyers, Amnesty is calling for an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in Iraq, and for the United States and Britain to refrain from handing over any condemned prisoner to Iraqi jurisdiction.

One criminal court case that has received public scrutiny involves Mohammed Munaf, an Iraqi-American sentenced to death by the CCCI on Oct. 12, 2006, for orchestrating the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in 2005.

According to Munaf's Baghdad attorney, Badie Arrief Izzat, the trial was attended by two American officers. The judges were ready to dismiss the case because no one was coming forward to press charges.

Lt. Robert Pirone told the court he had been authorized by the Romanian government to make a formal complaint on behalf of the kidnap victims, all Romanian. The other American officer, a general, insisted the men were guilty and should be sentenced to death.

After a private meeting demanded by the two officers, the judges imposed the death penalty on Munaf and five other defendants in the case. According to lawyer Izzat, the entire proceeding lasted 90 minutes; no evidence and no witnesses were presented to the court.

In a subsequent statement, Romanian Justice Minister Monica Macovei said, "The (Romanian) embassy has not authorized any American official to represent the Romanian government during the Iraqi judicial procedures, with respect to Mohammed Munaf."

Pirone is the same liaison officer managing the case against our alleged kidnappers.

A classified Pentagon report says, "Iraq's judiciary is technically independent but unable and unwilling to assert itself or provide a balance to Iraq's powerful political parties."

Or its powerful occupier, it seems.

I recently informed the RCMP that I will not testify.

I cannot participate in a judicial process where the prospects of a fair trial are negligible, and more crucially, where the death penalty is a possibility.

The death penalty is the legalization of blood vengeance. It is a cruel, degrading and irrevocable judgment.

Take away the fancy legal rationale and the dignified court proceedings and what remains is an act of murder, plain and simple, no different than what was done to Tom Fox. Capital punishment is a manifestation of the very violence it claims to deter.

Those who kidnapped us and murdered Tom were swept into a vicious cycle of violence and retribution for violence that was put in motion in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq and its continuing occupation.

"What would you do," the captors asked me, "if the Americans invaded Canada? Would you not fight back, become a mujahideen?"

The U.S. entered Iraq with guns saying Iraq was a threat. Insurgents took up guns in turn to get rid of the U.S. and its guns. Both sides are caught in a blind death spiral where the only options are to kill or be killed.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu liked to say there is no future without forgiveness.

Norman, Harmeet and I have forgiven our captors. Our reason is very simple. We've had enough with bombs and guns and gallows.

We want to see an end to all killing, regardless of the reason. Capital punishment is simply the legal face of the dead-end cycle of violence and retribution for violence that is destroying Iraq.

We want to see something genuinely new and different, a future that begins with the power of forgiveness.

no homes, no peace

I saw this on the CBC website this morning and was moved to learn more.

Three members of the Anti-Poverty Committee were arrested Tuesday after protesters trashed the provincial cabinet office in downtown Vancouver.

An APC spokesman said the symbolic "eviction" was aimed at Ken Dobell, an adviser to Premier Gordon Campbell and a lobbyist for the City of Vancouver, who is helping plan the 2010 Olympic Games.

The action — in which furniture, vases, flags and other property were thrown into a hallway — occurred while the APC was holding a news conference at another downtown location, called to outline the group's campaign to evict senior Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee officials.

"As we speak, we are evicting Ken Dobell from his office," APC spokesman David Cunningham told the assembled reporters.

Two men and a woman were arrested in the incident.

As he was led away by officers, Thomas Malenfant promised the group would raise the stakes in confronting those profiting from the the Games.

"This is going to continue to escalate, from evictions to property damage," he said, adding the APC was "doing this on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Downtown Eastside that are getting evicted from their homes every day — not their offices, their homes."

Last week, Cunningham promised to target homes and businesses of VANOC officials as part of the committee's campaign to focus attention on housing and homelessness as Vancouver prepares to host the Games.

I confess I was not aware of this at all - my head spins from all the news I haven't been following - except in the most general sense.

Olympics are almost always the wrong priorities for cities and their residents. Cities sweep their homeless out of view, daub a little make-up on their blemishes, and put on a show for visitors. Millions of dollars are spent, the tourism industry and real estate developers profit, while the real issues - housing, jobs, education, transit - are ignored.

But until this morning, I wasn't aware of the escalating activism going on in British Columbia.

I admire direct action tremendously and I'm always thrilled to hear about it. The usual rejoinders about how "this won't solve anything" don't matter. Of course the Anti-Poverty Committee won't stop the 2010 Olymipcs. But it's incredibly difficult to focus attention on the issues of the poorest and weakest members of society. The middle class sets the agenda. Those without jobs, without homes, without proper documentation, are usually invisible. Anything that shines a light on those dark corners of society is welcome - especially in North America, where too many people believe those dark corners don't even exist.

Radical direct action like this can soften the reception for more conventional forms of activism. It's the threat that makes working with ordinary advocates more palatable. It gets headlines, it expresses the anger, it puts issues on the map. And you know what? It makes change. Not directly, not the day it happens, but cumulatively, over time. I saw a related headline on Common Dreams this morning: the world needs more people willing to get arrested for their cause.

More on the The Anti-Poverty Committee on their website. More power to them.

end interleague play

I got tired of complaining to other baseball fans and decided to complain to management.

If you are a baseball fan, please read the petition to end interleague play. If you agree, please sign it and pass it on, especially to any baseball blogs or message boards you may know. Thanks!

5.21.2007

this is why i am so happy today

It's spring, the weather is beautiful, I love where I live, my dogs are both healthy, I love my partner, we are happy, we are in Canada.

Those things are all true. But this is why I am so happy today: the Red Sox are 10.5 games up. It's the largest lead Boston has ever held at this point in the season. I believe that this year, this year, this is the year that Boston will finally win the American League East and the Yankees will not even make the playoffs.

This is filling me with such joy, I simply had to share it.

Enjoy your day!

5.20.2007

thought for the day

I graduated from college (university) 25 years ago today.

One of the many great things about the internet is making friends of many different ages, more so than you probably would in your regular life. I have blog-friends and online friends who think I'm very young, and others who look at me as a senior. Today I'm inclined to feel senior-ish.

Twenty-five years ago today. Wow.

ashley was not treated, she was abused

Once in a while, something fills me with such revulsion and horror that I can hardly read about it, and can't respond in writing at all. I mentally peek through my fingers, coming at it from an angle, absorbing little bits of information until I can summon the intestinal fortitude to look at it straight on. The so-called "Ashley Treatment" was one of these events.

"Ashley X," as she is known, has a congenital disability called static encephalopathy. She cannot walk or talk; she cannot sit up or raise her head. She must be tube-fed, and although alert, she is, and always will be, developmentally an infant.

Ashley's parents, who call her their "pillow angel," wondered what would happen to their daughter when she was too large for them to carry, or when they were too old to care for her themselves.

They decided to keep Ashley forever young. Beginning when Ashley was six, her parents administered hormones to stunt her growth and prevent the onset of puberty. When she was 12, at Ashley's parents' request, doctors removed Ashley's uterus and breast buds.

Ashley's parents did not only chose this route for their own daughter. They promoted it to other parents of similarly disabled children, calling it the "Ashley Treatment". They discussed the reasons for their decision, and the reaction to it, on this blog.

When this news reached the public at the beginning of this year, the disability community reacted with nearly universal horror and condemnation.

As time went on, and discussion and debate continued, some people in the disability community spoke up to defend Ashley's parents' decision. Seen in context, they said, it made sense.

Interviewing parents, my editors at Kids On Wheels discovered a lot of gray area. One woman said, "It's easy for us to sit here and judge, but until you've seen your child suffer.... There are not enough services, not enough money, not enough equipment, not enough resources." This person felt that ruling out "the Ashley Treatment" could lead parents to infanticide, or euthanasia, or murder - different terms for the same act.

An essay by Kids On Wheels parent and writer Lorna Catford explores the issues. Catford, who says she would never take such actions with her own daughter, writes "I know first hand the dilemma they are confronting. The worry we have about the care for our children in the future is intense, real, and as far as I have seen, pretty incomprehensible to most parents of 'normal' kids, or even kids with less severe disabilities."

I am well-versed enough in these issues to understand this gray area, at least on an intellectual level. (I would never claim to know what parents of severely disabled children go through.) There is, without question, an unconscionable lack of services and assistance. I don't know how people cope. Many do not.

Despite this, I feel we must draw a bright line between what is acceptable and what is not.

Easy for me to say. But still, I say it.

There is a long, terrible history of involuntary sterilization of people with developmental disabilities, defended in no less an august institution as the United States Supreme Court, where Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously wrote that, "three generations of imbeciles are enough."

In the US, involuntary sterilization has been used a method of controlling and punishing African-Americans, sex workers, low-income women and people with disabilities. Worldwide, it has been used against Romani people (Gypsies), indigenous people on every continent, sex workers, political dissidents, and of course, people with disabilities. (That's probably not an exhaustive list of victims.) Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights recognize involuntary sterilization as a human rights abuse.

People with disabilities are people. They are not objects to be manipulated for the convenience of others.

Children are humans. Their powerless condition is painfully underscored every time an adult abuses or neglects them. Ashley's parents had no more right to medically manipulate her in this way than they would to sexually abuse her.

* * * *

What led me to finally blog about the Ashley Abuse was the news, last week, that an investigation by a protection and advocacy agency determined the surgery was illegal.

Seattle Children's Hospital, where doctors performed the surgery, has admitted that they violated the child's rights: no one independently represented the child's interests and advocated on her behalf, and the surgery was not court approved. Indeed, there are laws against this already. Parents can't just do whatever they want to their children and claim its in their best interests.

Although the hospital's medical director apologized - "We deeply regret that a court order was not obtained and that an independent third party was not sought to represent Ashley. We take full responsibility." - he also said he believes the treatment Ashley received was right for her situation. He also added that the hospital is considering similar requests from two other families. (From Helen Henderson's excellent "Direct Access" column in the Toronto Star.)

There's no shortage of opinions out there on this issue; Google "ashley treatment" for a sample. I recommend F.R.I.D.A.: Feminist Response In Disability Activism, a group of women with disabilities who have been speaking out about this issue from day one.

5.19.2007

long weekend, or not

Monday is Victoria Day, reminding me that this begins my second summer in Canada.

Working weekends for so many years, these long weekends have never meant to me what they do for most working people. But right now the gorgeous spring weather, and the trees and flowers all coming to life, are bringing floods of memories.

Two years ago at this time, our long wait ended, we found the house in Port Credit and signed the lease, and the clock started ticking on our crazy final months in New York.

Last year at this time, we had just returned from Peru, and I started a new job. Every day brought another "my first ____ in Canada".

Now we're not the new kids on the block anymore. We're just living our lives, here in Canada.

* * * *

Last year someone at work told me that everyone calls this holiday "May Two-Four Day," but wmtc readers disagreed.

Just in time for the Queen's birthday, a court has cleared the way for Toronto man to file a class-action lawsuit challenging the requirement for new Canadians to pledge allegiance to the Queen. (I shared my feelings about this oath a while back.) Although this lawsuit stands little chance of prevailing, I can't help thinking how nice it would be to become a Canadian citizen without this anachronistic requirement attached.

* * * *

Next weekend is Doors Open Toronto, the city's annual architectural landmark event. This is the kind of thing I would love but normally wouldn't be able to attend. Right now, however, there's a chance I could!

My current round of writing assignments is due soon, and between baseball, the great weather and job-hunting, I'm not getting all that much done. So unfortunately, I might not be able to go anyway.

But if I do, do you have any favourites to recommend? Must-sees I should get to? I'm generally pretty down on Toronto architecture, so this could be an opportunity to have my eyes opened. I'll see how the work goes.

But even if I don't end up attending Doors Open, I'll keep the list from the Star for future walks.

5.18.2007

a sparkling gem in the muck of mainstream media

Occasionally the liberal Hollywood media elite, or whatever the hell they're called, can actually be found on TV. James sent me this clip from "Boston Legal", which I understand has a distinct liberal bias. I don't watch the show but everyone says I would love it.

In a note probably only interesting to me, this clip features the lovely Bernadette Peters appearing as the judge. During my theatre days, I worked at Peters's Off-Broadway home. Everyone loved Bernie, and I was no exception.


Thanks, as always, to James for thinking of wmtc. Check out his excellent photographs of the continuing adventures of Cobalt The Puppy.

tom tomorrow: what they said

This has been sitting in my inbox for a few weeks. Enjoy.

Great Moments In Punditry: Four Years Later, a Huffington Post exclusive from the great Tom Tomorrow.

jessica lynch and pat tillman: the truth is out there

This is old news, but I've wanted to blog about it for ages, and I'm guessing many of you have not seen it.

In late April, a US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held hearings into the source of misleading information about the supposed rescue of Jessica Lynch and the death of Patrick Tillman.

Do you remember Jessica Lynch? Lynch was the object of much US flag-waving and chest-thumping in 2003, after she was (supposedly) rescued by a team of US Special Ops soldiers from an Iraqi hospital where she was (supposedly) being held prisoner. Americans were told that Lynch, a 19-year-old clerk, had stumbled into an attack during routine convoy travel, and bravely fought back against her attackers as her unit was surrounded and her comrades were killed and injured.

Too bad for the creators of that fiction that when Lynch returned to the US - after she recuperated from broken arm and leg bones, kidney damage, and a head wound - she spoke out about what really happened.

She never fired a shot, and the Iraqi hospital was caring for her, not imprisoning her. There was no need to stage the dramatic, Rambo-style rescue: the US could have just knocked on the door. When Iraqi nurses tried to return Lynch to the Americans, the nurses were fired upon by the US, and had to retreat back to the hospital.

What's more, Lynch testified that US could have "rescued" her from the hospital a day earlier, but they were too busy organizing camera crews and other details, so they could film the staged rescue as a documentary.

Lynch's testimony is here, and excerpts from a Newsweek interview about her experience is here.

These days Lynch says she no longer feels used and exploited by the military, but she did for a long time. She's says she's not political, but chose to testify to help the Tillman family learn the truth about what happened to their son and brother.

Tillman's story is far sadder, because he is not around to tell it.

Patrick Tillman was a professional football player who gave up a lucrative career in the NFL when he volunteered to go to Afghanistan after 9/11. He joined the company in which his brother Kevin was already fighting, and Kevin was nearby when Pat was killed. The cover-up began immediately.

The facts about Tillman's death were concealed from the Tillman family, and replaced by a heroic fictional tale. In reality, Tillman was mistakenly killed by US forces, in that offensive Orwellian euphemism, "friendly fire".

Although Tillman was killed in April 2004, his family was not told what really happened until the end of May. In the intervening weeks, the military continued to say that Tillman died under enemy fire, and even awarded him the Silver Star for heroic battlefield action.

Tillman's family has spoken publicly about being lied to and exploited by the US government, about the cover-up, and about both George W Bush's and Donald Rumsfeld's complicity in their pain.
For weeks after his death, the Pentagon maintained that Pat Tillman was killed in an enemy ambush, even after a top general tried to warn President Bush that the NFL star-turned-soldier likely died by friendly fire, a memo obtained by the Associated Press shows.

Saturday, Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, said the newly disclosed document demonstrates Bush was complicit in deceiving her family.

"He knew it was friendly fire in the very beginning, and he never intervened to help, and he essentially has covered up a crime in order to promote the war," Mary Tillman said. "All of this was done for PR purposes."

During the Congressional hearing into the disinformation surrounding Tillman's death, Kevin Tillman spoke publicly about Pat's death for the first time. He broke his three-year silence to testify that military's heroic recounting of his brother's death was "pure fiction": "We appeal to this committee because we believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family, but more importantly, to deceive the American public."

Sometimes an ordinary news story can be very moving. If you're interested in this, I recommend reading this AP/CBS story.
Tillman's Fellow Ranger Admits Cover-Up

An Army Ranger who was with Pat Tillman when the former football star was cut down by friendly fire in Afghanistan said Tuesday a commanding officer had ordered him to keep quiet about what happened.

The military at first portrayed Tillman's death as the result of heroic combat with the enemy. Army Spc. Bryan O'Neal told a congressional hearing that when he got the chance to talk to Tillman's brother, who had been in a nearby convoy on the fateful day, "I was ordered not to tell him what happened."

"You were ordered not to tell him?" repeated Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Roger that, sir," replied O'Neal, dressed in his Army uniform.

The revelation came as committee members questioned whether, and when, top Defense officials and the White House knew that Tillman's death in eastern Afghanistan three years ago was actually a result of gunfire from fellow U.S. soldiers.

Tillman's death received worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge contract with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

His family was initially misled by the Pentagon and did not learn the truth for more than a month. Tillman was awarded a Silver Star based on fabricated accounts — who fabricated them still isn't clear after several investigations.

"We don't know what the secretary of defense knew, we don't know what the White House knew," Waxman said. "What we do know is these were not a series of accidents, these stories. They were calculatedly put out for a public relations purpose. ... Even now there seems to be a cover-up."

Kevin Tillman was in a convoy behind his older brother, a former NFL star, on April 22, 2004, when Pat Tillman was mistakenly shot by other Army Rangers who had just emerged from a canyon where they'd been fired upon. Kevin Tillman didn't see what happened. O'Neal said he was ordered not to tell him by then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman's platoon.

"He basically just said, Sir, that uh, 'Do not let Kevin know, he's probably in a bad place knowing that his brother's dead,"' O'Neal testified. "He made it known that I would get in trouble, sir, if I spoke with Kevin."

O'Neal said he was "quite appalled" by the order.

Bailey's superior officer, then-Col. James C. Nixon, has testified to the Defense Department's inspector general that he ordered that information on the facts of Tillman's death be shared with as few people as possible so that the Tillman family would not learn those facts through news media leaks. That, in turn, shaped Bailey's guidance to his troops.

The Army said initially that Tillman was killed by enemy gunfire while trying to help another group of ambushed soldiers. The family was not told what really happened until May 29, 2004, a delay the Army blamed on procedural mistakes.

Kevin Tillman and Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, also testified Tuesday but were not in the room when O'Neal spoke.

After the hearing, Mary Tillman approached O'Neal, introduced herself, embraced him and sobbed.

Kevin Tillman, in his testimony, accused the military of "intentional falsehoods" and "deliberate and careful misrepresentations" in the portrayal of his brother's death.

"Revealing that Pat's death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster in a month of political disasters ... so the truth needed to be suppressed," the brother said.

"Our family will never be satisfied. We'll never have Pat back," Mary Tillman testified. "Something really awful happened. It's your job to find out what happened to him. That's really important."

Last month the military concluded in a pair of reports that nine high-ranking Army officers, including four generals, made critical errors in reporting Tillman's death but that there was no criminal wrongdoing in his shooting — a conclusion the family has disputed. The Army is reviewing the actions of the officers.

The committee also heard Tuesday from Jessica Lynch, the former Army private who was badly injured when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq in 2003. She was later rescued by American troops from an Iraqi hospital, but the tale of her ambush was changed into a story of heroism on her part.

Still hampered by her injuries, Lynch walked slowly to the witness table and took a seat alongside Tillman's family members.

"The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate lies," Lynch said.

People are always telling me I shouldn't be surprised, and I'm always replying: I'm not. I'm not shocked or even mildly surprised by anything that spews from the maw of the US war propaganda machine. But when we have proof of what we believe to be true - when our beliefs are confirmed by verifiable facts - we should share that information.

More on Pat Tillman and the Congressional Hearings: video of Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, interviewed by Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, and Robert Scheer on Truthdig, "The Pentagon Cowers Behind Wordplay".

Thanks, as usual, to my researcher-in-chief for gathering the links.

agustin aguayo: home and still resisting

A few days ago, war resister Agustin Aguayo landed in Sacramento, California, to a joyous, emotional greeting from his wife, Helga Aguayo, and hundreds of well-wishers and supporters.

Aguayo had been held in prison in Germany by the U.S. Army for the last nine months. He was convicted of desertion for refusing to redeploy to Iraq last year and for publicly speaking out against the war.

Only a few hours after landing, Aguayo made his first appearance in a multi-city speaking tour of California. From Courage to Resist:
"Before I left for Iraq I searched deep within me, I concluded that if I go over there I can't take a life. I ultimately say I'll go, but I'm definitely a conscientious objector. I'm not willing to cross that line, no matter what I can't take a life." Two years later, after his application for discharge was a conscientious objector was denied by the Pentagon, Army Spc. Agustin Aguayo went AWOL in order to resist redeploying to Iraq.

. . . .

Since then, Agustin has shared his story of resistance at community gatherings in Sacramento, Carmel, and San Francisco. Highlights of Agustin's first week as an anti-war activist also included presentations to day labors, farm workers, and their families in Stockton, and high school and college students in Watsonville.

At the Mexican Community Center in Stockton, Agustin joined community members in brainstorming about ways to counter the influence of military recruiters among immigrant communities in California's Central Valley.

In Carmel, Agustin was joined by fellow Iraq War resisters Camilo Mejia and Pablo Paredes at the local Unitarian Church. Students from nearby Hartnell Community College raised hundreds of dollars for these resisters with a bake sale for peace.

In San Francisco, with the help of Veterans for Peace and CodePink, a hundred supporters packed a large meeting room in the Veterans War Memorial Building to hear these courageous resisters.

Earlier in the day, these war resisters were joined by Iraq veteran Sean O'Neill at a large Mother's Day ceremony and press conference to declare the San Francisco Unitarian Church a peace church. Agustin was joined by California State Assemblyman Mark Leno in urging the congregation to support war resisters.

The resisters also introduced screenings of the documentary film "The Short Life of José Antonio Gutiérrez" at a theater in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District. Marine Lance Cpl. Gutiérrez was a Guatemalan immigrant, a "Green Card" soldier, and was the first US casualty of the Iraq War.

Also at Courage to Resist, read about the US Army's ban of MySpace and other blogs by servicepeople, and other attempts to control the bad news coming out of Iraq.

5.16.2007

u.s. elections, via family guy

"a hand clenched"

I love the blogosphere. A reader named Lee just sent me this.
2007_05_04_hand_clenched

Doodle by Lee. The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles.


In her email, Lee said: "It strikes me that you've just let go of something negative. It's only a matter of time before something positive comes by for you to grab on to!"

Beautiful, eh? I appreciate what it says, but more than that, I appreciate receiving it from a stranger.

PS: I also love Lee's method of copyright-protecting her work, while remaining blog- and net-friendly. Nicely done.

the patriotism police

Friends of wmtc have discussed and debated the role of the media in keeping the US public acquiescent in the crimes of its government.

From readers' comments, I've come to soften my hard-line view of the American people as unwitting dupes. Clearly they must bear some responsibility. But I cannot, as some do, blame the people of the United States entirely, as if they are actually in control, as they would be, say, in a democracy.

Here's an item that's been sitting in my inbox for nearly a month, from the terrific blog Attytood, sent to me by Allan. Read it carefully: The Patriotism Police.
Isaacson notes there was "almost a patriotism police" after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and "big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.'"

just what toronto needs: more condo towers

Now that the knot in my stomach is finally gone, I can blog about something other than myself.

I was very disappointed, but not at all surprised, to see that the City of Toronto is handing over one of the last undeveloped pieces of prime waterfront property to condo developers. Frankly, it would have been shocking if they had done otherwise.

Most of Toronto's lakefront is blocked by a wall of condo towers, growing ever denser and uglier every year. The City Council claims they are powerless to stop the project, a unusually frank admission that the real-estate developers actually control the city.

It takes a powerful and forward-thinking city government to bring about true public waterfront development. Toronto can find a model for such urban planning in the city of Chicago, where the lakefront has been preserved and developed for the use of the people, thanks to Mayor Richard M. Daley. On our last visit to Chicago, we were astounded by the lakefront's elegant, people-friendly design, and the numbers of Chicagoans out enjoying it. And this was before Millennium Park was built. Millennium Park is now said to be one of the world's great urban oases. (And its presence guarantees me another trip to Chicago!)

If Chicago is a shining example of how a city's great natural resource can be nurtured for the public, Toronto is a lesson in short-term gain for private use.

I saw this in a recent letter to Star. I haven't been able to verify it, so I'll use it here with a caveat: someone said this happened.
Several if not many years ago, a group of architects, developers, city planners and various other government officials from South Africa toured various waterfront cities around the world to explore the best and the worst. They wanted to see what worked and what didn't before they began the revitalization of what is now the spectacular city of Cape Town. We were in the "what-not-to-do" category, in case anyone had any doubt. If that is what they thought then, can you imagine their horror now? -- Linda Dowds, Toronto [excerpt]

I've read about plans to build parks and modest, middle-income housing on the lower Don River. There is also endless discussion about the waterfront to the east of downtown, with talk of parks, recreation, and natural beauty. Why do I doubt those plans will ever become reality?

I've been visiting and reading about this city only since 2003, and living in the GTA only since September, 2005, and I already know that this is a shell game. Somehow the plans for those lovely parks will morph into plans for tall glass towers, and the city government will say, "We had no choice."

5.15.2007

working without a net

Well, I just did something foolish, although not rash. After much thought and much conversation with my partner, I have quit my job at Crappy Firm, without another position lined up.

I kind of can't believe it myself.

I'll get other work. We'll make it work.

I hope that's true.

All day today, I thought, how can I quit a job that pays decently, that many people would be thrilled to have, when there are so many people toiling in horrible, low-paying jobs, or suffering under truly awful conditions, or unemployed?

Then I would think, if I stay in this job and continue to be miserable, will that help those people?

There's a slight possibility that Crappy Firm will want to negotiate in order to keep me. If they do, I will try. But I'm (obviously) not counting on that. They seem pretty rigid. So far their answer to everything has been, "This is Firm policy."

Well, well, well. Here's an adventure.

5.14.2007

thanks. this helped.

Reading comments in this post really helped me out.

You guys reminded me that we've all had bad jobs, jobs that annoyed us or demeaned us or drove us nuts, but we had to suck it up, and go to work, because we need the paycheque. Most of us are worker bees. It's nice if we can love our jobs, but even if we don't, working is not optional. It's required.

I'm lucky that it's been a long time since I seriously hated a job. I'm out of practice! Now I have to get back in touch with the coping mechanisms that get us through those stretches, while I send my resume like crazy.

Funny, just hearing other people relate a little of their own experiences brought me back to reality.

pupdate

Hookworms again. $%&?@ hookworms. Those buggers do an enormous amount of damage.

This is actually a huge relief to me. Hookworms are serious, but curable. Inflammatory bowel disease is forever. IBD now looks unlikely. Hurrah.

Tala had whipworms and hookworms when we first brought her home in January. It's possible that the deworming was incomplete: a negative test is only 70% accurate. It's also likely that our yard is contaminated. Apparently if that is the case, it's nearly impossible to decontaminate.

The doc is putting both dogs on a very aggressive deworming schedule, and Tala can begin to transition back to a regular diet. Hurrah hurrah.

Folks who are (or might be) bringing your dogs here, I will be in touch with the risk-benefit analysis.

My interview with Steven Fletcher - the one I was supposed to do in Ottawa - is tomorrow, so I'd better go prepare.

Thanks for all the support, you all.

i hate my job

My new job sucks.

I wasn't going to blog about this, in case someone at my workplace is spying on me. (HR definitely Googled me before I was hired.) But I don't even care anymore. I just hate it.

What a disappointment. New Firm is Crap Firm.

There's no one thing. It's a lot of smaller issues, and cumulatively, they form a very unpleasant work environment. Perhaps I didn't investigate the firm thoroughly enough. I was so happy to get an offer with my unconventional hours, I just snapped it up. But most of these issues couldn't have been known in advance.

Intellectually, I know I'm lucky to have a job that pays decently, has good benefits, blah blah blah. But every day I have to go there - every day I have to think about going there - it wears me down.

I've contacted the other firms who made me offers during my job search, and of course those positions have been filled. I've also emailed my HR contact from Dissolving Firm, at her new firm, to let her know I'm available. All these people know I'm good and will call me if anything opens up.

I'm resuming my job search today, and I'm also contacting former editors. On the writing side, freelance work is slow to come in, and even slower to pay. You can't count on it to live on. On the law firm side, weekend shifts don't open up frequently.

Even so, I'm seriously considering quitting without another job lined up. I've never done that before. It's ridiculous. It's not like we can live on one salary. I have some writing income due in, and we have some savings, but that would disappear mighty quickly. I'll need to work stat.

We have increased expenses right now from vet bills, I was hoping to save for a trip next year, and I'm determined to never be in debt again. So what am I doing??

I know I should be responsible and suck it up. It's not the first sucky job I've had. But I was younger then, I had more tolerance for crap. Mostly, I didn't know any better.

Perhaps my strong sense of always landing on my feet has gone to my head. I can land on my feet, but I can't control the job market. I need this job. I need the paycheque. Yet I'm on the verge of quitting. Holy shit.