rip studs terkel

Legendary oral historian, author and radio journalist Studs Terkel has died in Chicago at age 96.

Terkel was an early influence on my thinking, after I read his classic Working when I was a teenager. When I read he had been influenced by my hero Woody Guthrie, I felt a kinship with him. Since then I've read many of his oral histories.

I loved his work and I'll miss him.

From NPR.
For nearly half a century, Terkel crisscrossed the country interviewing people from all walks of life about war, their jobs and a variety of other subjects. His conversations with the prominent and the uncelebrated became books that chronicled much of the history of the 20th century.

Terkel often said that America suffers from what he described as a sort of national Alzheimer's disease. So he wrote books such as Working, Hard Times and his Pulitzer Prize winner, The Good War — oral histories of labor, the Great Depression and World War II, respectively — to help jog the nation's memory.

Born on May 16, 1912, in New York, Terkel's given name was Louis. But like "Scarface" Al Capone, he moved to Chicago and he picked up a tough-guy nickname — which he borrowed from the lead character in James Farrell's 1930s Studs Lonigan trilogy.

Author and radio personality Garrison Keillor said Terkel's nickname and his raspy voice were a good fit.

"He sounded like he was packing heat," Keillor said. "But he was a lefty, and that's an unsual combination. So that's what first fascinated me about him."

Early in his career, Terkel was an actor, and he actually played gangsters on radio shows before he became a disc jockey. He moved from radio to television, but he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era because his beliefs in workers' rights, rent control and Social Security were labeled "socialist."

His improvised ABC-TV sitcom, Studs' Place — a precursor of sorts to Cheers, set in a greasy spoon rather than in a bar — was canceled in the early '50s.

But in the wake of that setback, he landed a job that would launch him on the path he followed for most of the rest of his life — and he was known to say, jokingly, "Long live the blacklist!"

Much more here, including video and audio clips.

how will the u.s. election affect war resisters?

Before I write another word, here's a disclaimer and clarification.

This blog reflects my own opinions and views, not the official thought or policy of the War Resisters Support Campaign. I bring you news about the status of war resisters in Canada, and about our fight to Let Them Stay, but I'm not an official spokesperson and don't claim to be one. I use the first-person-plural "we" when speaking about the Campaign because I'm a working member.

One of the beautiful things about our Campaign - one of its great strengths, in my opinion - is its diversity. Campaigners and resisters represent a wide range of ages, backgrounds, politics and world views. There are people of many faiths and people with no religion, leftists, liberals and libertarians, people who oppose all wars and people who would support some wars. There are octogenerians and twenty-somethings, queers and straights, families with children and without. And on and on.

Many - perhaps most - of the war resisters were apolitical before deserting or refusing movement, and have been politicized by their momentous act. Almost by definition, they are in a state of flux, feeling out their politics as they go along. In some sense, that should describe every thinking person, but many of us have a clear framework that we've worked out over the course of our lives, a lens through which we see events. Many of the resisters I know are in the process of developing their own lens.

This diverse group of people come together around a single point of unity: military resistance to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and our belief that those who have resisted should be allowed to live legally in Canada.

* * * *

Many of my comrades in the Campaign are excited about the upcoming US election. They are hopeful that Obama will win, and feel the resisters have a lot at stake in this election.

I don't feel the resisters have any larger stake in the US election than the rest of us. I don't think their situation will be changed by the outcome.

First, I'm not expecting a fair election, and because of that, I'm not expecting Obama to win. (No matter who is declared the winner, there will not have been a fair election. That much is already known.)

Second, if Obama is declared the winner, there's no reason to believe he will end the US occupation of Iraq any time soon. "Because he says he will" is not a reason; it's a wish. Anyone who has been voting Democrat for a while should know that.

Obama's website says: "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased."

I wonder how "successfully" will be defined, don't you?

Obama has already said he wants to increase troops in Afghanistan, and he hasn't ruled out invading Iran or Pakistan.

The Democrats are not an anti-war party. Everyone should know that by now.

Beyond possible military action or inaction from Obama, there's another perspective to take into account. If Barack Obama is awarded the Presidency of the United States, he will be the new Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Can you imagine a Commander-in-Chief pardoning deserters during an ongoing war?

Remember, according to the US, the military are all volunteers. Every soldier signed a contract of his or her own volition. Now, we know this is not true, but it's the party line. So the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces will tell volunteer soldiers that it's all right to desert? And he'll do this while the war is still going on?

Some people are drawing comparisons to President Jimmy Carter's pardon of Vietnam draft resisters in 1977. It's not a valid comparison. The Carter pardon was made two years after the war had ended. It only applied to men who had been drafted - not deserters. And it came after 58,000 Americans had been killed and there had been massive, vocal and visible opposition to the war. And it was still a very unpopular decision!

If by some bizarre foiling of Republican plans to steal the election, Barack Obama does become President, he is not going to tell deserters from a volunteer military that they're welcome back - and in effect tell everyone in the military that it's perfectly okay to desert.

The fact that anyone believes he might strikes me as beyond ludicrous.

I guess the hope goes like this: one, Obama will win; two, he will end the war in Iraq; and three, he will recognize that through stop-loss, government lies and the poverty draft, the military is not really voluntarily, and apply that recognition to deserters.

And that, my friends, is what I call magical thinking.

wal-mart update

Here's the latest wmtc check-in on the US's largest employer. You'll find many Wal-Mart related posts on this blog, usually under the labour category.

A few choice bits on Wal-Mart's political influence...
With over $12 billion in profits in 2007, Wal-Mart is the biggest and arguably most influential corporation in America. The majority owners, the Waltons, are therefore also one of the most influential families with a net worth of more than $100 billion. Over the past year, we have conducted an exhaustive study of public records related to political giving by Wal-Mart and the Walton family in order to determine how this influence is used to affect politics. The conclusion is clear. The Waltons are strong supporters of an extreme right wing agenda.

Wal-Mart Profits Lead to Right Wing Influence

The Walton family's political influence around the country is truly remarkable. They exert it through four primary mechanisms: private Walton family political contributions; Wal-Mart's Corporate PAC contributions; corporate lobbying; and the Walton Family Foundation giving. The Waltons use these tools to affect a wide range of policy decisions and regulations. They have used the Wal-Mart PAC and its lobbying efforts to avoid paying taxes, weaken or block environmental regulations, resist corporate transparency, hinder workers rights, block enhanced port security; and tighter regulations on food safety. Through their own private giving, the family has opposed the estate tax, and supported charter schools. Many of our lives are affected by these efforts.

Their labour practices...
Meet Jane Doe

After working at Wal-Mart for nine years with a reasonable accommodation for her disability, Wal-Mart suddenly denied the accommodation. They required her to take a leave of absence and have yet to reinstate her. She has been essentially fired. This is her story. Video here.

No Slack for the Disabled

"I was amazed at all he could do despite his disability, Wal-Mart would cut him no slack."

S.P. and the Leave of Absence Trick

"I had a back injury, which was caused by the conditions of my job at Wal-Mart. They pulled the leave of absence trick on me. They said that I had been off work for too long, and that they could fill my position with a new associate." | Read More

Wal-Mart's Workers Compensation: A Pain in the Back

"I had to use an electric cart to get around. The cart was moved while i was at lunch or in the restroom at least seven times. One time Management even found it in the walk-in freezer. It is clear that I am being discriminated against and hazed because of my disability."

Wal-Mart's quest for a younger, cheaper workforce

"I have noticed that my store seems to schedule all the older people for late night duty...specifically the 2-11 shift. Some have successfully battled for early hours, but now we are being told that if we change our availability, we will be knocked back to part-time."

An employee discusses how Wal-Mart treats pregnant woman

"My heart goes out to AH at the loss of her baby. Shame on Wal-Mart."

A more detailed report on Wal-Mart's contempt for the Americans with Disabilities act...
In August 2007, Wal-Mart Watch began an exhaustive study of all federal discrimination lawsuits, open or closed, filed against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and its subsidiaries ("Wal-Mart") from January 2004 until the present. It is already widely known that Wal-Mart is the defendant in the largest workplace gender discrimination class action lawsuit in the history of the United States, Dukes v. Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart Watch's research reveals that Wal-Mart's discriminatory practices extend far be yond simply gender or race, and that the methods of discrimination overall are quite extraordinary. To date, we have found more than 700 discrimination cases filed against Wal-Mart since 2004.

This paper focuses on a subset of that list – cases of discrimination against individuals with disabilities – and highlights two important patterns:

* Wal-Mart's refusal to provide Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA")-mandated reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants with disabilities; and

* Requiring employees with disabilities who request a reasonable accommodation to take a leave of absence.

Wal-Mart's history with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC" or the "Commission"), the enforcement arm of the ADA, is littered with lawsuits, settlements, and broken promises to eliminate barriers for applicants and employees with disabilities. EEOC records show that, by June 2001, the Commission had filed sixteen lawsuits against Wal-Mart for violating Title I of the ADA, the most filed against any corporation since the ADA went into effect in mid-1992. Three additional cases were filed within the next four years. Another new case was filed in September 2008.

The largest settlement came in 2001 -- $6.8 million in total to be paid by Wal-Mart -- when a consent decree was reached resolving thirteen EEOC lawsuits filed between November 1998 and September 2001. This particular settlement required Wal-Mart to hire an ADA Coordinator, who has expertise in the ADA and personnel matters, to oversee Wal-Mart's compliance with and implementation of the consent decree.

Since then, Wal-Mart's ADA office has been busy. Since January of 2004, at least 108 cases have been filed under the ADA in federal district courts across the country. Twenty have already been filed in 2008. Many of these were filed by people who requested and were either denied reasonable accommodations and/or fired. Some were also "encouraged" to agree to take a leave of absence, from which they would never return to work. This paper will refer to the latter tactic as the "leave of absence trick."

This "leave of absence trick" is not restricted to employees with disabilities, as several cases involving use of the strategy with non-ADA medical issues also exist. Slight variations occur depending on the particulars of the case, usually related to the individual's awareness of their rights under the ADA and other laws. However, all cases cited in this report are filed under the ADA, and the general pattern of each is eerily similar.

And one of my special favourites, in case you missed it in the redsock link grab bag post.

Missouri mom Lori Howerton purchased a defective gas can from Wal-Mart.
In 2002, her 12-year-old son Justin tried to help her by using the gas can to burn some branches that had fallen during an ice storm. As he poured gas on the pile of wet branches, the vapors ignited, a flame leaped up and ignited the gas can nozzle. When he tried to blow out the flames, the can exploded and covered him in burning gasoline. Justin suffered third-degree burns over more than half of his body, was permanently disfigured and emotionally traumatized.

If the story ended there, it would be a tragedy. But, there's more. When the Howertons dared to sue Wal-Mart and Blitz, the gas can manufacturer, for selling and manufacturing a defective product, guess what Wal-Mart did? Wal-Mart countersued Justin’s mother, Lori, for negligence! Even more egregious is that the company was aware of the gas can dangers and accidents as shown in heartless videos of executives mocking gas can explosions. [Video clip from "Dan Rather Reports".]

Remember, Wal-Mart doesn't do this because they're greedy and powerful, although they are. They do it because they can. It's the corporation's job to increase profits. It's the government's job to protect citizens, the workplace, the environment and consumers.

When the corporation and the government are indistinguishable, this is what happens.

vote flipping = election stealing

Allan has been updating the most recent US election fraud thread regularly, so I hope you're all subscribing to that, or checking back for more news.

Recently from The Brad Blog:
Vote-Flipping Diebold Machine Removed, Quarantined in CO

Karen Long, Adams County Clerk Takes Action After Voter Sees Vote Flip Repeatedly to Republican Candidate in State With Long History of E-Voting Failures

Watchdog Group Issues Press Release Calling for No 'Recalibration', Immediate Removal, Impounding of Such Machines.

A county clerk in Colorado has finally done the right thing for the voters by removing a touch-screen voting machine from service, and quarantining it, after it was discovered to be flipping votes from one candidate to another. The failed machine in this case was a Diebold Accu-Vote, a frequent flipper.

More Vote-Flipping in TX by Machines Other Than Those Made by ES&S

Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems Made by Hart InterCivic and Diebold Also Reportedly Now Flipping Votes From Democratic to Republican in TX.

UPDATE: 7 TX Counties Now Reporting Vote-Flipping!

We've been reporting for the last week or so on the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines which are flipping votes from Democratic candidates to others in, so far, at least four states. We've showed you actual footage of it and how even after being "recalibrated" these machines still continue to flip votes. . . .

Unfortunately, it's not just the error-prone, hackable, wholly unverifiable iVotronics from ES&S which are failing. Error-prone, hackable, and wholly unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems made by Hart InterCivic, Diebold, and Sequoia Voting Systems are also having the same problems across the country. And the Democrats, who have the most to lose, continue to do nothing about it...

The Obama campaign has made much of the fact that it has thousands of lawyers on the ground to ensure that this election is fair and everyone's vote is counted. "Unfortunately, these lawyers, the lawyers for McCain and the lawyers for the DNC and RNC are AWOL and asleep at the wheel," continued Friedman. "We insist that they keep their promise to the voters by demanding that these machines be taken out of service immediately. We should not have to wait until after the election for a candidate to sue because voters were not allowed to properly register their votes."

See originals for links, and see The Brad Blog's special special coverage of touch-screen vote-flipping.

Comments are very welcome at the old thread.


james burmeister gets (slightly) early release

We've just learned that war resister James Burmeister was unexpectedly released from prison three weeks early. There is some hope that James's discharge may be upgraded from Bad Conduct to Other Than Honourable, and he may be able to keep his veteran's benefits. That part is still unknown, but he is home with his family in Eugene, Oregon. Good news indeed.

what any people will quietly submit to

In comments here, Gerry Condon, peace activist and organizer of military resistance, quoted Frederick Douglass. This prompted me to find a fuller version of the quote in the wmtc archives.

Always worth re-reading and contemplating, this is one of my favourite sources of inspiration.
Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

Frederick Douglass, 1857

More speeches by the great Mr Douglass here.

on being canadian-american

Speaking of cross-cultural observations, here's a post by Geoff, who is studying International Relations at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Geoff has Canadian roots, grew up in the US, and now has returned to Canada. His blog is here.

For the record, after I get Canadian citizenship, I'm not going to use the Canadian-American or American-Canadian tag. I'll follow the example of my Campaigner friends who came to Canada during the Vietnam War. If asked, I'll say I'm originally from the US, but I'm Canadian now. That works better for me.

your slogan here

It's been a very long time since I wrote a "difference between Canada and the US" post. I'm no longer constantly observing the subtle cultural differences the way I did when we first moved here, and no longer surprised by them like I used to be. You could say I'm assimilated now, for the most part.

But I did make one observation during this election season, something I have a feeling will resonate with USian readers and the US-to-Canada immigration community.

Bumper stickers.

Bumper stickers are a rarity on Canadian vehicles. At least that's the case in any part of Canada I've driven - all over southern Ontario, on the road to Ottawa and Quebec City, in Montreal, and all over Newfoundland. The occasional bumper stickers I do see are silly ("What if the hokey pokey is what it's all about?" "My other car is a..."). And I've seen only one exception to this.

But if you cross the border, every car is announcing the politics of the driver. Not just who she's voting for, although that's very common. But his or her stance on abortion rights, same-sex marriage, gun control, immigration, war, peace, global warming - you name it. You can drive around the highways of the United States and read slogans about every divisive issue of our era.

This is almost entirely absent in Canada.

In the US, everyone announces their political stance to everyone on the road. In Canada, it's just not done. It's not much of a stretch to put this in the category of bluntness vs politeness. People have strong feelings about important issues in Canada, but they don't feel the need to announce it to everyone everywhere they go.

Similarly, is there a workplace in the US where everyone doesn't know how everyone else votes? That may be an exaggeration - I'm sure readers will tell me so - but it's at least very commonplace to know how all your co-workers vote.

In the recent Canadian election campaign, I didn't know how anyone voted, except for one co-worker friend who I spoke to privately. (And may I add how refreshing it was to hear a sister worker say, "I vote NDP, because they're the party for working people"??) People are quieter about it here.

As I said above, in Canada I've seen only one exception to this bumper sticker observation. My friend Lone Primate and two other US-to-Canada immigrants I know have observed the same one. Lone Primate captured it on his blog. Revolting, isn't it?


"a canyon of misunderstanding": more replies to ms wente

Today the Globe and Mail ran this excellent Op-Ed.
Thomas Jefferson once remarked that those who don't read newspapers are better informed than those who do, even as the former may know nothing, the latter only know falsehood and error. This brings to mind Margaret Wente's recent column about Olympic official Dick Pound, who said, "400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages." Ms. Wente's Saturday column has likely set back the first nations' campaign for an accurate representation of native peoples in the mainstream media by 10 years.

In fact, a brief survey of the original peoples of this continent illustrates an array of accomplishments that rival civilizations around the globe, including those in Western Europe. Yet today, in North America, the ancestors of those from both continents live side by side, separated by a canyon of misunderstanding. To gain insight, we need only turn to indigenous oral traditions, wampum belts, birchbark scrolls and Tsalagi and Aztec texts. In addition, scholars of all stripes from all corners of the globe have contributed to a greater knowledge of indigenous cultures.

Perhaps most impressive among their findings is that indigenous peoples were adept farmers, originally cultivating and harvesting two-thirds of the foodstuffs the world consumes today. These include the tomato, peanut, potato, chili peppers and corn. In fact, at the time of contact, and long before Gregor Mendel's experiments with pea plants, the Huron in Ontario had genetically engineered 17 different varieties of corn. Not quite the Stone Age hunter-gatherers of Ms. Wente's column.

But the achievements don't end there. And because Ms. Wente uses European-inspired standards of success when measuring first nations "savagery," a comparison is in order. At a time when the Anishinabek had societal codes forbidding incest, the crowned heads of France and England were as inbred as poodles. While Christians were burning "heretics" at the stake for suggesting the Earth wasn't the centre of the universe, the Mayans were charting the movement of the stars, creating a calendar within seconds of modern-day atomic clocks. The Wet'suwet'en practised a matriarchal society, while on the other side of the Atlantic, women were the property of men.

In addition, and contrary to Ms. Wente's assertion, the Haudenosaunee did influence the U.S. Constitution. American "founding fathers," including Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, explicitly recorded the first nation contribution. John Rutledge even articulated the structure of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and their "Great Law of Peace" to the drafting committee. (He spoke of a complex federalism whose leaders included executive, legislative and judicial branches — the latter of which were generally a group of elder women). The Haudenosaunee actually practise a 900-year-old democracy and the longest lasting peace between nations in recorded history.

Yet another disturbing aspect of Ms. Wente's column was the dismissal of traditional ecological knowledge — this is the sum knowledge of a given first nation or Inuit community that has been accumulated and amended for thousands of years. Dismissing it reduces us to conclude, for instance, that the Inuit have survived in the world's harshest climate by sheer luck. Of course, this is nonsensical. Sophisticated knowledge of ice flows, animal migrations, wind patterns and temperature fluctuations ensured their success in the past and educates scientists, the military and resource companies in the present.

In fact, such traditional ecological knowledge also significantly contributes to Western medicine: essiac is a cancer treatment, evanta cures leprosy, foxglove aids heart care, kava kava reduces stress, and quinine treats malaria. All of the above are indigenous inventions. Not only can such ecological knowledge save lives, it may also help save the world. First nations peoples have lived sustainably in North America for tens of thousands of years, respecting all life, however small, putting an emphasis on reciprocity and understanding that their relationship with ecosystems is one of life and death. At a time when first nations peoples can teach us so much, Ms. Wente would have us ignore them.

Indigenous cultures were and are diverse and vibrant.

They lived in cities larger than those in contemporary Europe, had greater populations, taller buildings, sophisticated governance structures, varied art forms, tested scientific knowledge and on, and on. What is truly savage is the perpetuation of a false representation of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, particularly when they've worked so hard to overcome racism and stereotypes. But perhaps Jefferson was right all along, we shouldn't expect much from newspapers anyway.

Hayden King teaches indigenous studies at McMaster University and is a member of the Beausoleil First Nation on Chimnissing.

I thought that was pretty great. Also, yet more letters in response to Wente.
My ancestors were savages: We were Ancient Britons. We painted ourselves with woad (it is said), fought stark naked, and the spiky club was still the preferred negotiating tool. We were adapted to the chilly island (cold) and did not know we were savages until the Romans (hot) came along and said something that sounded like, "Vos es barbarus." This was meant to be pretty insulting, I suppose; but we didn't understand Latin, so we just grinned foolishly. The thing is, the Romans did do things a bit better. We copied them and eventually produced Margaret Thatcher.

I myself do not know any savages, but I know a guy who has a friend, who is a Primitive Methodist, and he knows one.

Allen Strike, Port Hope, ON


Having read Margaret Wente's article on un pays de sauvages, and the numerous letters it provoked, I'm reminded of Mahatma Gandhi's response to a question put to him by a journalist. When asked, "What do you think of Western civilization?" he replied: "I think it would be a very good idea." How true.

Michael J. Hewitt, Kamloops, BC

Original Wente column here, letters here and here.

"don't let other young people grow up afraid"

I thought this message from Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, was very moving. I love that he's thrown his personal perspective into the political fight.

Please read, and if you know anyone in California, please contact them. Urge them to VOTE NO on Proposition 8.
Dear ACLU Supporter,

I'm angry and heartsick about what may happen in California on November 4th.

In the most personal way possible, I'm writing to ask you for a favor: help us ensure that gay couples all across California keep their fundamental right to marriage -- the basic right to be treated just like anybody else.

I hope you will forgive the indulgence when I speak from the heart and tell you my personal story.

You see, I grew up in a loving and supportive household, where my family believed I could be anything I chose -- anything except being an openly gay man. Neither of my parents finished high school, and yet, they believed I could accomplish all I set out to do as I went off to Princeton University and Stanford Law School.

They got me through the toughest of times, scrimped and saved, and always believed that failure wasn't in the cards for me. They had more faith in me than I often had in myself. Whenever my parents visited me at Princeton, my Dad would slip a $20 bill in my pocket when my Mom wasn't looking. I never had the courage to tell him that the $20 wouldn't go very far towards my bills, books and tuition. But, it was his support and belief in me that sustained me more than the tens of thousands of dollars I received in scholarships.

When I finished college, they were hugely proud of my -- and their -- accomplishments. That was until I told them I was gay and wanted to live life as an openly gay man.

Though I always knew I was gay, I didn't come out to them for many years, as I was afraid of losing the love and support that had allowed me to succeed against all odds. When I did tell them, they cried and even shouted. I ended up leaving their home that night to spend a sleepless night on a friend's sofa. We were all heartbroken.

When my Mom and I spoke later, my Mom said, "But, Antonio (that's the name she uses with me), hasn't your life been hard enough? People will hurt you and hate you because of this." She, of course, was right -- as gay and lesbian people didn't only suffer discrimination from working class, Puerto Rican Catholics, but from the broader society. She felt that I had escaped the public housing projects in the Bronx, only to suffer another prejudice -- one that might be harder to beat -- as the law wasn't on my side. At the time, it felt like her own homophobia. Now I see there was also a mother's love and a real desire to protect her son. She was not wrong at a very fundamental level. She knew that treating gay and lesbian people like second class citizens -- people who may be worthy of "tolerance," as Sarah Palin asserts, but not of equality -- was and still is the last socially-acceptable prejudice.

Even before I came out to them, I struggled to accept myself as a gay man. I didn't want to lose the love of my family, and I wanted a family of my own -- however I defined it. I ultimately chose to find my own way in life as a gay man. This wasn't as easy as it sounds even though it was the mid-1980s. I watched loved ones and friends die of AIDS. I was convinced I would never see my 40th birthday, much less find a partner whom I could marry.

As years passed, my Mom, Dad and I came to a peace, and they came to love and respect me for who I am. They even came to defend my right to live with equality and dignity -- often fighting against the homophobia they heard among their family and friends and in church.

The right to be equal citizens and to marry whomever we wish -- unimaginable to me when I first came out -- is now ours to lose in California unless we stand up for what's right. All of us must fight against what's wrong. In my 43 short years of life, I have seen gay and lesbian people go from pariahs and objects of legally-sanctioned discrimination to being on the cusp of full equality. The unimaginable comes true in our America if we make it happen. But, it requires effort and struggle.

One of the things I love about the ACLU is that it's an organization that understands we are all in this together. We recognize that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Given what's at stake in the outcome of this election, I am personally appealing to you for help to fight the forces of intolerance from carrying the day in California next Tuesday.

If you have friends and family in California, please contact them right now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 8. You can send them a message here.

We need to make sure people keep in mind that gay people are part of every family and every community -- that like everyone else, gay people want the same rights to commit to their partners, to take care of each other and to take responsibility for each other. We shouldn’t deny that, and we shouldn’t write discrimination into any constitution in any state. Certainly, we can't let that happen in California after the highest court in the state granted gay and lesbian people their full equality.

Unfortunately, due to a vicious, deceitful $30 million advertising blitz, the supporters of Prop 8 may be within days of taking that fundamental right away.

To stop the forces of discrimination from succeeding, we have to win over conflicted voters who aren't sure they're ready for gay marriage but who are also uncomfortable going into a voting booth and stripping away people's rights. With the ACLU contributing time, energy and millions of dollars to the effort, we're working hard to reach those key voters before next Tuesday.

If you have friends and family in California, please contact them right now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 8. Share this email with them. Call them. Direct them to our website for more information.

Don't let other young people grow up to be afraid to be who they are because of the discrimination and prejudice they might face. Let them see a future that the generation before them couldn't even dream of -- a future as full and equal citizens of the greatest democracy on earth.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." As we strive to defeat Prop 8 and the injustice it represents, the ACLU is trying to make that arc a little shorter.

On behalf of my Mom and family, and on behalf of all the people who will never face legally-sanctioned discrimination, I thank you for being part of this struggle and for doing everything you can to help.

It is a privilege and honor to have you as allies in this fight for dignity and equality.

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

P.S. All the polls show that the vote on Prop 8 could go either way. By making just a few calls or sending just a few emails, you could help make the difference. Please, don't let this fundamental right be taken away. Send an eCard to everyone you know in California.

medals are good, equality is better

I had been saving this story for a time when I could write some insightful commentary, but rather than grow old waiting, I'll let the story speak for itself. It ran in the New York Times a few days before the start of the Beijing Paralympics. I hope you'll read the whole thing. (Emphasis mine, of course.)

I've covered this lawsuit and similar actions before for a disability audience, and I was thrilled to see a major mainstream story on it. Many thanks to Alan Schwarz for his excellent coverage of the Paralympics for the Times. Schwarz really gets disability sports. Too bad the United States Olympic Committee doesn't.
When he rolls to the starting line for the 1,500-meter wheelchair race at the Paralympics, the Olympics for disabled athletes that begin Saturday in Beijing, Tony Iniguez will wear his Team USA uniform with pride. He will compete for the United States's Olympic program. He is also suing it for discrimination.

Iniguez is one of many Paralympians who criticize the United States Olympic Committee for providing less direct financial assistance and other benefits at lower levels to Paralympic athletes than to Olympians in comparable sports. The committee awards smaller quarterly training stipends and medal bonuses to Paralympic athletes. Benefits like free health insurance, which help athletes devote more hours to training, are available to a smaller percentage of Paralympians.

The United States is no stranger to disputes over discrimination against various groups and the provision of benefits for citizens, as the battle over universal health insurance indicates. But in this case the Paralympians are emphasizing their needs as athletes as much as their needs as citizens. They claim that races have been lost and medals squandered by their having to compete against athletes from nations like Canada and Britain that support their disabled athletes and Olympians virtually equally.

Iniguez, a 37-year-old high school art teacher here, says that because he has had to work full time to provide his family's health insurance and has received almost no assistance from the U.S.O.C., he will race in Beijing relatively unprepared for the serious competition.

"I'm going to do my best over there, believe me — but I can't help but wonder what I could do if I'd been able to fully train the last four years," he said. Iniguez added that equal support to disabled athletes was as logical as the reforms that have opened equal sports opportunity to women: "Male and female, are you going to discriminate on the basis of sex? It's unfathomable now. We don't give different support to women."

The sprinter Kortney Clemons, one of many injured Iraq war veterans who have become elite disabled athletes, agreed with Iniguez's frustration.

"I thought that when I was protecting this country, we had the best," said Clemons, a former combat medic in Iraq who lost his right leg in an explosion. "We do things right, we do things the best way. And just to know that other countries can man up and support their Paralympic athletes, and we're not, it's disappointing."

Other disabled athletes said they viewed the situation differently. Marlon Shirley, a champion amputee sprinter, said that benefits for Paralympic athletes had improved but could not reach Olympic equality.

"On paper, it looks absolutely atrocious — I'm aware of that — but the Olympics is big business," Shirley said. He added that when an American sprinter wins a gold medal at the Olympics, "compared to when Marlon Shirley wins the gold medal in the Paralympics, commercially, it's a hell of a lot greater."

In hearing the lawsuit brought by Iniguez and two retired wheelchair racers, the United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals have ruled that the U.S.O.C. has the legal discretion to finance able-bodied and disabled athletes differently. (The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.) But even the District Court judge who ruled against Iniguez in 2006 wrote: "Do I decry a culture that relegates Paralympians to second-class status in the quantity and quality of benefits and support they receive from the U.S.O.C.? Emphatically yes."

A Bump in Financing

The U.S.O.C. contends that equitable support to Paralympic athletes is unrealistic because the agency receives almost no government assistance, and Paralympic success does not generate enough increased revenue.

Darryl Seibel, the U.S.O.C.'s chief communications officer, also emphasized that the agency’s support for Paralympic athletes has grown markedly: to $11.4 million this year from $3 million in 2004, in contrast with a relatively modest bump in Olympic funding.

"I see $3 million going up to $11 million and say that's not too bad — that's a good direction," Seibel said. "We care more about the Paralympics than we ever have before."

He added, "We're much closer to the beginning of our support and involvement in the Paralympic movement than we are to being a finished product."

Olympic-caliber athletes in the United States are generally financed by two agencies — the U.S.O.C. and the national governing body of their sport. Paralympians are supported almost exclusively by the U.S.O.C.

While line-by-line comparisons are difficult because programs have different designs, almost every form of support that a Paralympic contender receives is considerably less than that given to a similarly situated Olympian.

For example, in 2007, members of the United States Paralympic track and field team were given either $1,000 or $2,000 in stipends to help defray the cost of training; similar Olympic hopefuls received $10,000 to $15,000. Slots for athletes to receive room and board for full-time training at centers in Colorado Springs and Chula Vista, Calif., were also more open to Olympic athletes than Paralympic athletes; wheelchair athletes had no live-in program at all.

Over all, the rules covering which athletes qualify for U.S.O.C.-paid health insurance are considerably more strict for Paralympians than Olympians. According to the U.S.O.C., in 2007 there were 174 insurance policies given to Paralympic athletes vying to make the 200-member Beijing team; Olympic hopefuls had 1,150 policies, enough for the entire 600-member team in Beijing and almost another full team. Most athletes interviewed said that securing health insurance without a full-time job was the primary avenue to effective training.

Gaps in Bonuses

The most striking difference between the funding of Paralympic and Olympic athletes, some contend, is in the cash bonuses given for top performances. Olympic gold medalists in Beijing received $25,000 from the U.S.O.C. and often additional money from their national governing body; Paralympic gold medalists will get $5,000 from the U.S.O.C. For 2007 competitions, the U.S.O.C. distributed $1.85 million in performance bonuses, none of it to Paralympic athletes, the U.S.O.C.’s Seibel confirmed.

Two women United States Paralympians who because of their family roots could compete for European countries said that they had strongly considered competing for that other nation because training would be more affordable. (They asked not to be identified for fear of backlash from the U.S.O.C. and their teammates.) One prominent American coach did switch affiliations — Peter Eriksson, now a consultant for Canada's Paralympic track and field program, said he resigned as coach of the United States Paralympic track and field team two years ago because, "I couldn't do my job," he said.

"In the United States, the athletes are as determined, but they can't access the services they need to compete at the elite level," Eriksson said. "A lot of their athletes never developed out of the gate. They had humungous potential, and it just evaporated."
[Ed note: Eriksson is Chantal Petitclerc's coach.]

Iniguez said he wondered if he was one of those athletes. Unable to walk without crutches since polio ravaged his legs at age 2, Iniguez was a rising star in wheelchair racing during the 1990s. He missed the 2000 Paralympics because he could not afford to leave his job at Aurora East High, his alma mater.

In the years that followed, Iniguez squeezed in whatever training he could on mornings when it was warm enough, and occasionally after school. But he slipped from internationally elite status to a virtual hobbyist. By the time the U.S.O.C. started offering health insurance and $250 to $500 quarterly training stipends to some of its top Paralympic contenders several years ago, Iniguez was no longer enough of a medal hopeful to qualify.

Iniguez said he attended the United States Paralympic track and field trials this year "just to see what I was still capable of." He won the 1,500-meter sprint — one of wheelchair racing's marquee events — to earn a place on the United States team.

Iniguez and two other top American wheelchair racers, Scot Hollonbeck and Jacob Heilveil, filed their discrimination suit against the U.S.O.C. five years ago. The committee successfully argued in United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals that the Olympic and Paralympic programs are distinct — and that anyone capable of making the Olympic team receives premium support, regardless of disability.

The wheelchair racers contended that federal law forbade a university from fielding an all-male track team by claiming, "A woman can be on it if she runs fast enough." They said that similar logic should require that disabled athletes under the U.S.O.C. umbrella receive equal support to able-bodied athletes.

Going Unprepared

With his suit awaiting consideration by the Supreme Court, Iniguez now finds himself in the awkward position of racing on behalf of a team he is also suing.

"I am not doing it for personal gain," said Iniguez, who is not seeking financial damages. "I'm doing it to make the sport better for other future athletes."

Iniguez is one of many United States Paralympians who said they would attend the Beijing Games relatively unprepared, compared with their competition. Tyler Byers, a 26-year-old wheelchair racer who works full time as an engineering analyst in Washington and squeezes in training in his free time, said, "There's no reason someone like me should be representing us in the Paralympic Games."

The United States's performance at the Paralympics has decreased markedly over the last 20 years. It won about 12 percent of medals in the Summer Games of 1988 and 1992, but in 2004 won just 5.6 percent of medals, well behind China (9 percent) and in a pack that included Australia (6.4), Britain (6.1), Germany (5.0), Canada (4.7) and Spain (4.5) — nations with far smaller populations.

Liz Nicholl, Britain's director of elite sport, said that the manner in which the United States supported its disabled athletes was a top cause of the decrease. "I would say that this a nation that is choosing to underperform," she said.

The British wheelchair racing champion David Weir said competitions were marred by the United States's approach. "It's the sort of thing you'd expect from a third-world country in Africa — I think it's quite disgusting, actually," Weir said. "They've got talented athletes coming from there that could bring back medals from Beijing and London, and it looks like they don’t really care."

Every nation has a different mix of Paralympic services and financing plans. For example, Britain and Canada provide living and training support from the equivalent of $18,000 to about $50,000 annually based solely on the athlete's standing internationally, not on whether he or she is an Olympian or a Paralympian. Athletes competing for nations like Canada do not have medical-insurance costs because of nationalized health care. Britain offers a special health-insurance program to Olympians and Paralympians.

"The principle is you're a member of the same organization with the same goals and performance targets, so of course there will be an equivalent level of services provided," said Rob Needham, the senior manager of high performance for the Canadian Paralympic Committee. "The Paralympians are on the same team as the Olympians. They are siblings, not step-siblings."

'Slower to React'

Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, called the United States "slower to react" to Paralympic support than nations well beyond Canada and Britain, citing Brazil, Iran and France. "I find it strange in the 21st century," he said. "We would expect of the U.S. to be one of the leading nations when it comes to this sort of principle."

Marlon Shirley, the amputee sprinter, said he understood the principles at play but that he also felt like saying, "Shut up and race." Shirley won his first Paralympic gold in 2000 when he had virtually no financing from the U.S.O.C., and emphasized that "programs are much better now than they've ever been." He said that market forces played a greater role in the United States — where the Paralympics have almost no television coverage — than in other countries, whose sports fans have shown interest in disabled athletics.

Many Paralympians interviewed said a chicken-and-egg dynamic now exists: the U.S.O.C. is waiting for Paralympic sports to generate more revenue, but that revenue will not grow without greater support for disabled athletes. Only then, the athletes said, can they truly compete internationally.

"We are very much focusing on growing the Paralympic movement in the United States," said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the U.S.O.C. "That is no doubt complicated. The reality is that we also don't have unlimited resources."

If resources remain fixed, at least one Olympian has come to support giving up some of her financing to create more equality with Paralympians. Simi Adeagbo, a triple-jumper who did not make the Olympic team, said that after spending most of this year training with the amputee sprinter April Holmes and several other Paralympians at the Olympic center in Chula Vista, her view of disabled athletes had changed.

"Before this experience, maybe just as a general American, I didn't have access to know the Paralympians," Adeagbo said. "You don't know them. You don't know their stories. You don't know how they train and try to win medals on behalf of their country. You don't even know, really, that they exist.

"So to ask an Olympian would you want to lose benefits because of something you've never heard of or doesn't exist sounds crazy. But if you gave them an opportunity to see what I've seen and experience what I’ve experienced, I think they'd change their mind."


aclu demands more information on u.s. domestic military deployment

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, demanding more information about the reports that the US military is being deployed for domestic operations.
The American Civil Liberties Union today demanded information from the government about reports that an active military unit has been deployed inside the U.S. to help with "civil unrest" and "crowd control" – matters traditionally handled by civilian authorities. [FOIA request here.] This deployment jeopardizes the longstanding separation between civilian and military government, and the public has a right to know where and why the unit has been deployed, according to an ACLU Freedom of Information request filed today.

"The military's deployment within U.S. borders raises critical questions that must be answered," said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "What is the unit's mission? What functions will it perform? And why was it necessary to deploy the unit rather than rely on civilian agencies and personnel and the National Guard? Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, it is imperative that the American people know the truth about this new and unprecedented intrusion of the military in domestic affairs."

According to a report in the Army Times, the Army recently deployed an active military unit inside the United States under Northern Command, which was established in 2002 to assist federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities. This deployment marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command.

Civilian authorities, not the military, have historically controlled and directed the internal affairs of the United States. This rule traces its origins to the nation's founding and has been reaffirmed in landmark statutes including the Posse Comitatus Act, which helps preserve the foundational principles of our Constitution and democracy.

"This is a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law," said Mike German, ACLU national security policy counsel and former FBI Agent. "Our Founding Fathers understood the threat that a standing army could pose to American liberty. While future generations recognized the need for a strong military to defend against increasingly capable foreign threats, they also passed statutory protections to ensure that the Army could not be turned against the American people. The erosion of these protections should concern every American."

In order to assess the implications of the recent deployment, the ACLU requested the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense today to immediately make public all legal opinions, executive orders, presidential directives, memos, policy guidance, and other documents that authorize the deployment of military troops for domestic purposes.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Department of Defense has dramatically expanded its role in domestic law enforcement and intelligence operations, including the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping programs, the Department of Homeland Security's use of military spy satellites, and the participation of military personnel in state and local intelligence fusion centers. The ACLU has repeatedly expressed concern about these incremental encroachments of the military into domestic affairs, and the assignment of active duty troops to Northern Command only heightens these concerns.

Blogger Antifascist Calling writes:
ndeed, senior NORTHCOM commanders have repeatedly dodged these questions. During an emergency, they claim JTF-CS "supports" the "Primary Federal Agency [PFA] ... designated to coordinate the government's response to a disaster or emergency situation." But "support" to a civilian agency is not the same as playing a subordinate role to civilian leadership. This is stated unambiguously by NORTHCOM: "Although the JTF-CS supports the PFA throughout a CBRNE [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive] consequence management operation, the unit operates within a clear Department of Defense chain of command."

In other words, the "chain of command" followed by JTF-CS begins and ends with the Executive Branch and the President in his role as leader of the "unitary executive branch" and Commander-in-Chief. As former FBI whistleblower and senior ACLU national policy counsel Mike German states, "This is a radical departure from separation of civilian law enforcement and military authority, and could, quite possibly, represent a violation of law."

To facilitate an open and public assessment of recent "homeland" military deployments, the ACLU demanded that the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense "immediately make public all legal opinions, executive orders, presidential directives, memos, policy guidance, and other documents that authorize the deployment of military troops for domestic purposes."

Such a demand arises precisely because of the unprecedented expansion of the U.S. national security-surveillance complex since the 9/11 attacks.

. . . .

Attentive readers will recall that "The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007," included a section that permitted the President to deploy the armed forces to "restore public order" or to "suppress any insurrection." As Democracy Now's Amy Goodman reported earlier this month, "while a later bill repealed this, President Bush attached a signing statement that he did not feel bound by the repeal."

. . . .

While the state justifies this deployment as a response to "terrorist threats," what other scenarios are being contemplated?

With daily reports of voter suppression drives by the Republican Party in multiple "battleground" states hitting the corporate media, and a major exposé of these antidemocratic operations by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast published in Rolling Stone, Washington's plans for the use of military force at home is a dagger aimed directly at the American people--and what remains of a democratic republic--by a thuggish and bankrupt ruling elite.

See the original post for more info and links.

reports of vote suppression continue to surface

When I worked on voter registration before the 2004 US "election", one anti-voting tactic we encountered from the other side was very memorable. Republican operatives in Pennsylvania were circulating postcards saying that Republicans were to vote on November 2 (election day) and Democrats should vote on November 3. They blanketed rural areas with this disinformation, and if it strikes you as naive or foolish of the residents to believe it, you haven't studied how propaganda works.

Of course the Republicans denied any responsibility. The perpetrators were acting on their own.

The strategy must have been somewhat effective, or at least worth another try.
A phony State Board of Elections flier advising Republicans to vote on Nov. 4 and Democrats on Nov. 5 is being circulated in several Hampton Roads localities, according to state elections officials.

In fact, Election Day, for voters of all political stripes, remains Nov. 4.

The somewhat official-looking flier - it features the state board logo and the state seal - is dated Oct. 24 and indicates that "an emergency session of the General Assembly has adopted the follwing (sic) emergency regulations to ease the load on local electorial (sic) precincts and ensure a fair electorial process."

The four-paragraph flier concludes with: "We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause but felt this was the only way to ensure fairness to the complete electorial process."

No emergency action has been taken by the General Assembly. It is not in session and lacks the authority to change the date of a federal election.

State Board of Election officials today said they are aware of the flier but disavowed any connection to it.

"It's not even on our letterhead; they just copied the logo from our Web site," said agency staffer Ryan Enright, noting the flier has been forwarded to State Police for investigation as a possible incident of voter intimidation.

Election officials did not specify in which Hampton Roads localities the flier had been spotted.

State Police are aware of the complaint and are looking into it, said spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

In 2007, the General Assembly passed a law making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly communicate false information to registered voters about the date, time and place of the election or voters' precincts, polling places or voter registration statuses in order to impede their voting. The measure is one of the few such deceptive voting practice laws in the country, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.

more letters replying to margaret wente

Since I posted yesterday's letters in the Globe and Mail responding to Margaret Wente's offensive column, I'll complete the picture with today's letters. There was one in agreement with Dick Pound, here. And then these.
Margaret Wente is judging first nations, and all societies, by the wrong yardstick. Almost six decades ago, anthropologists stopped measuring races on a crude evolutionary scale, recognizing that culture rather than race was the basis of society. What distinguished societies was not their place on an evolutionary scale but their adaptation to their local circumstances. Those that lived in arable areas developed horticulture, as the Iroquois did. Those who lived in subarctic regions depended on hunting and fishing, as the Innu of Quebec did. And, by the way, environmental historians have found that Iroquois farmers were more productive than settlers during the first period of colonization.

Moreover, first nations had developed political, diplomatic and social systems that suited their various circumstances. The Iroquois political system internally and diplomatic practices externally were marvels, as newcomers recognized when they adopted Iroquois diplomatic practices. First nations' social systems were based on kinship and were successful in achieving their purpose: deterring intragroup violence.

First nations were neither inferior nor superior to French and English newcomers. They had cultures that were adapted to their environments. The smart newcomers borrowed many of their features.

J. R. Miller, Canada Research Chair and professor of history, University of Saskatchewan


Margaret Wente's article can only help perpetuate the ignorance and mistruths that exist today about first nations people. Ask yourself who wrote the history that teachers such as Frances Widdowson rely on to call first nations people savages. It was not first nations people who know our governance, culture and knowledge who wrote about ourselves. It was non-first nations people who thought they knew about us who wrote these books.

In B.C., the Minister of Education is working to correct these so-called histories to properly reflect the true role of first nations in shaping this country. There are documented cases where explorers arriving in Canada would never have survived if they hadn't traded with first nations people, and artifacts that show the technology that existed in communities dating back more than 9,000 years. The need to be superior by certain races over others is still prevalent in this country, so it's no wonder discrimination still exists.

Judith Sayers, Chief, Hupacasath First Nation
Port Alberni, B.C.


If European culture was superior to indigenous cultures, as Dick Pound, Frances Widdowson and Margaret Wente espouse, how come the moment Europeans set foot in the Americas, they went about murdering, raping and pillaging in the name of God and gold?

Armand Garnet Ruffo, Ottawa

These three sum up all the angles.


war resister matt lowell has received a stay of deportation

After a long day - and evening - of waiting, we've learned that US war resister Matt Lowell will not be deported tomorrow. WHEW!

As in the cases of Jeremy Hinzman and Corey Glass, a federal court has ruled that Matt should not be forced to return to the US at this time. Matt can now ask the court for leave to appeal. If granted that leave, he can then appeal the decision of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Many, many thanks to the wonderful Alyssa Manning for successfully arguing Matt's case, and to all Matt's supporters, especially the crew in London who has spearheaded the fight.

Another victory! Let them stay!

redsock on colin powell

Allan has a letter in today's Toronto Star.
In her letter of Oct. 24, reader Patricia MacKay calls Colin Powell "a man of great honour."

Does Ms. MacKay know that in 1968 then-Major Powell, while stationed in Chu Lai, Vietnam, was instrumental in the first actions to cover up the My Lai massacre, during which the U.S. Army killed between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians?

Allan Wood, Mississauga

"attempted disorderly conduct"

olympia protest

The sign on the ground says "Choose Peace".

Olympia, Washington (AP) - Thurston County prosecutors have filed misdemeanor charges against 26 of the 42 anti-war demonstrators who were arrested at the Port of Olympia protesting Fort Lewis-Iraq war shipments.

Each of the 26 was charged Friday with one count of attempted disorderly conduct and one count of obstructing a law enforcement officer. Most of those charged were women.

For one week in November, protesters blocked shipments of Stryker vehicles and other military cargo from the Port of Olympia to Fort Lewis. The military equipment was used in the Iraq war.

Larry Hildes, a lawyer, said he was angry the charges were filed so close to the one-year statute of limitations running out.

Hildes said some of the women who were arrested Nov. 13 were forced to disrobe in plain view of policemen at the Olympia City Jail.

An increasing number of stories like this are appearing in my inbox. The incidents are either unreported in the mainstream media (as in the recent incident of Iraq War veterans being beaten by police) or, like this one, a tiny wire-service story that very few people see.

globe and mail readers respond to margaret wente

There are a lot of letters in today's Globe and Mail about Margaret Wente's recent column, and they're all from one side. It's safe to assume that if the newspaper had received even one letter in support of Wente's bigotry, they would have run it. G&M readers are not shy to express unpopular or antiquated opinions, nor does it seem the newspaper is reluctant to print them.

Wente's column here, my post about it, with reader comments, is here. Today's letters:
While there is much that is objectionable in Margaret Wente's crudely provocative and blandly Eurocentric piece, as an indigenous Canadian I must commend her candour in going public with some sensitive, and indeed sensational, family lore: "We robbed and mistreated aboriginal people for a very long time..." Kudos to Ms. Wente for shining a brave light on the dark underbelly of a troubling family history.

Greg Pruden, Winnipeg


I would suggest that Margaret Wente avail herself of the views of several experts in addition to Frances Widdowson before declaring "the truth is different" about aboriginal culture. She might want to expand her horizons by reading Charles Mann's 1491, which says aboriginal civilization in the New World was more advanced than previously thought.

One only has to look at the civilizations of the Mayan, Aztec and Inca to appreciate that one cannot make simplistic opinions such as the one put forth by Dick Pound regarding aboriginal peoples.

Nor should journalists make simplistic declarations of what is the truth while citing the views of one so-called expert.

Joel Weinstein, Toronto


Margaret Wente claims that what Dick Pound said about native peoples was accurate. Mr. Pound has since apologized, making the point that his understanding of the term "sauvage" was deficient. Perhaps he recalled that 400 years ago, judicial torture, burning at the stake and inhumane warfare were widespread in "civilized" Europe. His apology was heartfelt and should be accepted.

However, Ms. Wente says his remarks were accurate and quotes at length from a book by Frances Widdowson in a general anti-native rant. Imagine the impact such views have on the self-esteem of native youth trying to make a go of it today.

James Bartleman, Perth, ON


In arguing that European culture was more sophisticated and developed than North American indigenous cultures, Margaret Wente reveals just how unsophisticated and undeveloped her own ideas are. Alongside advances in technical capacities, European culture has introduced the world to nuclear arms, the Holocaust, countless wars of conquest, environmental destruction and an ever greater unequal distribution of wealth.

Perhaps Ms. Wente could gain some insight by engaging the "savages" that are only too knowledgeable of the "sophistication" of European culture.

Doug Nesbitt, Ottawa


As a physician who has worked in first nation communities in Saskatchewan and Ontario, I have seen the inhumane conditions that persist, including a lack of clean water, exposure to pollutants and crushing poverty. These predictable outcomes were the result of such enlightened European ideas as forced conversion, the sale of alcohol, residential schools and the reserve system.

Andrew Pinto, MD, Ancaster, ON


Margaret Wente believes that Canada's indigenous cultures were less evolved than our industrialized Western society - you know, the one that has produced global warming, nuclear bombs, mass extinctions and MTV's The Hills. More complex, perhaps. But superior?

Dave Patterson, Parksville, BC


In dismissing the claim that first nation people were more ecologically minded than Europeans, Frances Widdowson says, "It's hard to damage the environment with a stone axe." Exactly. That is the point.

Devin McCarthy, Halifax


Margaret Wente's use of Frances Widdowson's work to defend Dick Pound's description of natives 400 years ago as "savages" heaps insult upon injury. Throughout Canadian history, aboriginal peoples have been at pains to remind governments and citizens that they were self-sufficient and self-governing societies before the Europeans arrived, whose status as autonomous peoples, and as military and commercial powers, was recognized, and with whom treaties were entered into by the British.

Ms. Widdowson's work has been roundly criticized by other scholars in relying on a long-discredited theory of evolutionary stages of development through which every society must pass in the long march of "progress." This kind of thinking underpinned Canadian Indian policy from the mid-19th century and led to such disastrous policies as residential schools in attempts to "civilize" and assimilate Mr. Pound's savages.

Such Eurocentric theories, cloaked in the language of science and rationalism, have been rightly rejected by indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world in their struggles for life and land - indeed for their very survival - in the face of modern forms of colonialism.

Janet Conway, Canada Research Chair in Social Justice, Brock University
St. Catharines, ON


Margaret Wente argues that North American natives were in fact savages because "they had not developed broader laws or institutions, a written language, evidence-based science, mathematics or advanced technologies." Yes, but the problem is these are all measures derived from our own cultural practices. The "savage" argument essentially rests on measuring a different culture according to our own image, whilst claiming, without foundation, this measure to be universally valid.

This is exactly the same argument that for centuries has justified the use of power against native peoples.

Bjorn Ekeberg, Ottawa

By coincidence, the book mentioned above, 1491, by Charles Mann, is on my shelf waiting to be read. I've been planning on reading it if I finish this prison-journalism book. (It's very good, I just don't set aside enough time to read.)


stella marie soaps

I have a great gift idea, for yourself or someone you want to pamper. Stella Marie Soap Company is the passion of Kim Gonzaga of Providence, Rhode Island.

Kim lives with Jere, who writes this Red Sox blog, and is a mainstay of the Joy of Sox community. (I recently blogged about Jere's book, Dirty Water.)

* * * *

First of all, I love the look of the Stella Marie website - the funky names with movie, rock or baseball themes, the bright colourful layouts, the almost edible look of the soaps themselves. When we travel, we always walk through the local markets; I really dig all the different colours and shapes and textures, the visual array. The Stella Marie website gives me that same feeling.

I ordered some products, which arrived in a funky red lunch-baskety cardboard container full of beautiful but minimalist wrapping. Fun! It's the kind of package you want to leave on your kitchen table to admire for a few days before diving in.

But I finally did unwrap my Stella Marie, and I am hooked.

I've been using Big Poppy soap - for those who don't follow baseball, the name is a pun - and it is as refreshing as it is beautiful. I dislike products that are heavily scented, and in fact normally buy everything unscented. But the fragrances of Stella Marie products are natural, light and fresh, not perfumey or overpowering. Much to my surprise, I'm really enjoying taking mango-scented showers.

I've also got some fizzy bath salts and a salt scrub. I was afraid the scrub might be too harsh for my sensitive skin, but it's gentle and invigorating, and also smells yummy.

But the most wonderful item in my order was the whipped shea body butter. I have super dry skin (age + winter + swimming in chlorine), and it's hard to find something that soothes the dryness without leaving a greasy residue. This is it. The ginger-verbena variety I chose has a clean, citrus smell. I'm positively addicted to it.

If I haven't intrigued you yet, how's this: Stella Marie prices are extremely reasonable.

I associate specialty bath and skin-care products, especially those made with natural ingredients, with indulgent prices that I really shouldn't give into. But these babies are bargains.

I know ordering things online can be problematic for Canadians. Kim says she'll be glad to send Canadian orders by regular mail to avoid those ridiculous UPS fees. Of course shipping fees add to your total, but on the other hand, I doubt you'd find products this cool at such low prices in Canada, at least not in Toronto.

On the Stella Marie website, there's a page about the women behind the company name: Kim's two grandmothers. I was curious about the woman behind the whole company. I asked Kim a few questions by email, and here's what she had to say.

Why soap?

I have always loved big, chunky bars of old-fashioned soap. My grandmother (Stella, the Polish one) had a few lingering around in her bathroom. They were not heavily perfumed and they were slightly imperfect.

With the exception of a friend who had a bar of oatmeal soap that I thought was the bee's knees, I didn't see bars of soap like that again until I became an adult, wandering around little boutiques and fancy shops.

Knowing that the soap was made by hand seemed really special to me. Many came individually wrapped with pretty paper and ribbon and claimed to be all natural. This was especially appealing.

How did you learn how to make soap and other skin-care products?

My obsession with these soaps made me curious about how they were made. It was a big mystery to me. I started making soap using what is called, "Melt and Pour." This method is rather easy and safe.

Basically, you go to your local craft store and buy pre-made, unscented commercial soap base, cut it up into cubes, put it in the microwave until it liquefies, then add a few drops of soap dye and fragrance before pouring it into molds. I did this for quite some time as a hobby.

After a few years, I was ready to explore soapmaking from scratch. This involves the use of lye (yes, just like "Fight Club") and it intimidated me some at first. But after my first batch - and lots of safety equipment - I was totally hooked.

I learned the steps by reading all of the soapmaking books I had collected. I use the Hot Process, which is similar to the traditional Cold Process, but I cook the soap to speed up saponification. This link summarizes both processes.

I was directed to some really good online resources for my other body care products through the awesome community of soapmakers I became part of. I am always experimenting with new product recipes and additives. Soapmaking is really a wonderful hybrid of science and art.

What makes Stella Marie soaps different from commercial soaps?

No detergent. I use very simple ingredients: distilled water, olive oil, coconut oil, lye (you can't make soap without it), cosmetic dyes, and fragrance and essential oils. I sometimes add ground oats, poppy seeds, turmeric or shredded coconut, depending on the kind of soap I'm making.

I have several customers who use my soaps to manage their pre-existing skin conditions. Commercial soaps are cheap, but you get what you pay for, and those of us who live through bitter cold winters need to retain the moisture in our skin.

Grocery store detergent bars (they aren't allowed to call themselves "soap") strip our skin of its natural oils and lead to flaking and itching. They exacerbate conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Stella Marie prices are very reasonable, especially considering you use all natural, high-quality ingredients. How are you able to sell your products at such low prices?

I go by the industry standards for handmade soap which is one dollar per ounce. I think there are a few big chains who overcharge their customers (I won't mention any names!). Some tend to overdo with fragrance and dye which could contribute to the price tag.

What are your goals for the company?

My ultimate goal for the company is to open a real brick and mortar store. I'd love to get up in the morning, grab some coffee and start soaping. For now, I am just trying to get the word out and build upon on my customer base.

Being featured in Daily Candy Boston in September really opened some doors. The bridal market is my next focus. I just signed a contract with theknot.com for a year-long feature in their catalog.

I am hoping that no matter what direction the company goes in, I am able to remain true to the quality of my products and the things that inspire me - baseball, pop culture, punk rock. Tish and Snooky of Manic Panic fame are huge role models for me.

What would you most like people to know about Stella Marie?

I would like people to know that when they purchase my products, they are really getting a little part of me. That sounds pretty corny, but it's true. I put so much thought and love into my line and I just hope that they provide a relaxing experience for the bather, without all the commercial chemicals. I incorporate as many personal touches as possible, including little handwritten notes. I try to present my products to my customers in a way that I would want to receive them.

bad news for good dogs

Ontario's highest court has upheld the province's unreasonable ban on any breeds classified as pit bulls. Irresponsible owners of dogs of other breeds can do what they please, yet any dog that anyone thinks is a pit bull can be confiscated and killed.

If it weren't for some kind Mississauga Animal Services worker, our Buster might have met that fate on our third day in Canada. The dog whose life we worked so hard to save, the dog of my heart, could have been taken from us and killed - because a nosy neighbour saw him react to another dog, while on a leash.

Breed-specific legislation is bigotry. "Punish the deed, not the breed." For facts on "bully boys," see Bad Rap.

monday: emergency rally for war resister matt lowell

Tomorrow, October 27, US war resister Matt Lowell and his lawyer will appear in federal court to request a stay of deportation. If they succeed, Matt will have more time in which to request "leave to appeal" from the court. If unsuccessful, Matt will be ordered to leave Canada on Tuesday, October 28.

Join your neighbours in Toronto, London and Ottawa to protest this deportation order and the potential deportations of all Iraq War resisters in Canada. If Matt gets a stay, we will celebrate - but we will still be protesting the Harper Government's decision to ignore the will of the Canadian people. Let Canada not be an enforcement arm for the US military!

You may recall that the day before Matt Lowell received his deportation order, war resister Patrick Hart also received his. The Harts have been granted a temporary extension so that their six-year-old son can finish the school term. In January - unless we have secured a political solution by then - Patrick's order will go back into effect.

Monday, October 27
4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue (Subway: Osgoode)

Monday, October 27
4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
Corner of Richmond & Central by Victoria Park, in downtown London

Monday, October 27
Vigil at 7:00 p.m.
Human Rights Monument, on Elgin Street just South of Laurier Street

You can make a secure, online donation in support of Matt's legal expenses here.

* * * *

On Monday, October 27, the Federal Court will decide whether US Iraq War resister Matt Lowell will be deported to the US, where he would face harsh punishment. Join us to show your support for Matt and the other war resisters, and to demand a halt to the deportations.

Matt, 24, has lived in London, Ontario for the past three years. He came to Canada from his home state of Michigan because he refused to take part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Matt is a computer support worker.

Matt joined the U.S. Army in April 2002, while still in high-school. He believed that the Army was a noble institution, but changed his mind when Iraq was invaded. "The invasion of Iraq was not only immoral and wrong, but clearly illegal," he says. "I would never want to be in the position of taking an innocent life as part of an invading and occupying power."

For his decision, Matt endured harsh treatment in the US Army. If he is deported, he faces severe punishment similar to the heavy sentence imposed on Robin Long.

On June 3, Parliament voted to STOP THE DEPORTATION of war resisters. The Harper Government paid no attention. Please join us in calling on Harper to uphold the will of Parliament and of most Canadians.


amnesty international says let matt lowell stay in canada

From Amnesty International's Urgent Action file:

If Canada sends a conscientious objector to the Iraq war back to the United States and he is imprisoned, he would be a prisoner of conscience.

Matthew Lowell (m) 24, conscientious objector

On 28 October, the Canadian authorities are scheduled to deport US serviceman Matthew Lowell to the USA. He fled to Canada in October 2004 because of his conscientious objection to the war in Iraq and his objection to serving in the United States army. If deported to the USA, he risks being court-martialled and imprisoned for between one and five years and would therefore be a prisoner of conscience.

Matthew Lowell enrolled in the US army in April 2002, when he was 17 years old and still in high school. He joined his military unit several months later, when he was 18 years old.

In his affidavit, submitted to the Canadian authorities as part of an application for a stay of removal, Matthew Lowell explained that he had concerns about the legality of the war in Iraq following the US invasion. As he developed further objections to the war he reported his concern to his superiors and tried to gain a discharge from the army; at that time his unit had not been ordered to deploy to Iraq. As he could not obtain a discharge nor apply for conscientious objector status, he went 'absent without leave' (AWOL) in October 2003. In discussions with his family he was persuaded to return to his unit, where he was informed that he would be discharged and in the meantime assigned to non-combat duty.

His discharge was however cancelled and shortly after, his unit was ordered to deploy to Iraq. As he still did not want to participate in the war nor serve in the US army he again went AWOL in October 2004. He was arrested at his grandmother’s home in September 2005 and sent back to his former unit.

Matthew Lowell said that when returned to his unit he was subjected to verbal and physical abuse by his superiors and fellow soldiers. He again went AWOL and fled to Canada in November 2005. He applied for refugee status but was rejected in December 2006. Other applications for him to be allowed to remain in Canada on various humanitarian grounds are still pending even though he is scheduled to be deported on 28 October.

US law only recognizes the right to conscientious objection on grounds of 'opposition to war in any form'. Matthew Lowell would not qualify, because his objection is specifically to the war in Iraq. Other US soldiers with similar objections, who have sought to register their conscientious objection and apply for non-combatant status, have been turned down.

While in Canada, Matthew Lowell has spoken out publicly about his objection to the war in Iraq. In two other conscientious objector cases, one of the grounds on which the Federal Court of Canada had granted a stay of removal was the apparent harsher treatment to some individuals who have publicly expressed their objection to the war have suffered different and harsher treatment than others.


Amnesty International believes the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is inherent to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as recognised in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Canada is a state party.

Amnesty International considers such a person to be a prisoner of conscience if they are imprisoned as a result of having been denied or refused the right to register their conscientious objection or to obtain release on conscientious grounds from their military obligations. This includes such individuals imprisoned for leaving the armed forces without authorization, if they have taken reasonable steps to obtain release from their military obligations.

Amnesty International opposes the forcible return of any person to any country where he or she would face a substantial risk of becoming a prisoner of conscience.


Using your own words, please send appeals immediately

- urging the authorities to cease any removal or deportation proceedings which may have been commenced against Matthew Lowell;

- pointing out that US law recognizes the right to conscientious objection only on grounds of opposition to war in any form, and Matthew Lowell would have been unable to apply for conscientious objector status because his objection was specifically to the war in Iraq;

- explaining that, according to his affidavit, before he went absent without leave, Matthew Lowell tried to obtain a discharge from his military obligations,

- stating that if Matthew Lowell were imprisoned on his return to the USA he would be a prisoner of conscience.

- expressing concern that if returned to his former unit Matthew Lowell may be subjected to further verbal and physical abuse by his superiors and fellow soldiers.


The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2
Fax 613.941.6900
Harper.S@parl.gc.ca or pm@pm.gc.ca

The Honourable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Fax: 613.996.9749
finley.d@parl.gc.ca or Minister@cic.gc.ca

on election fraud

In the "reminder: obama can't win if they don't count the votes" thread (the second thread by that name), there's an ongoing discussion of US election fraud.

I posted many old links, and Allan is posting links to many current stories detailing what is happening right now.

I encourage you to read further.

calling all anthropologists

In today's Globe and Mail, La Wente defends Dick Pound's recent statement calling aboriginal cultures "savagery".
Was Canada once a land of savages? And is saying so tantamount to racism? Many people would answer no, and yes. That's why Dick Pound, the high-profile Olympics figure, is in a heap of trouble for describing the Canada of four centuries ago as "un pays de sauvages." He was talking to a reporter from La Presse about the Beijing Olympics and the issue of human rights. "We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European descent, while in China, we're talking about a 5,000-year-old civilization," he said.

Wente says Pound was stupid for saying this, but that he spoke the truth.

Because I have an abiding interest in ancient cultures, it's impossible for me to think of any ancient peoples as savages. On the contrary, I'm generally in awe of how much they knew, what they were able to accomplish, and the technology they invented out of nothing. The people who built Machu Picchu had no metal tools or written language. The people who sewed themselves into sealskin kayaks and survived Arctic winters, while their European visitors starved and froze to death, didn't prevail by accident. To me there's no question.

Meanwhile, Wente says of neolithic people, "Other kinship groups were regarded as enemies, and the homicide rate was probably rather high." Well now! Good thing we civilized people have evolved since then. Hiroshima says hi. The Somme says hi. Savagery or civilization? You make the call.

But here's my question.

Wente says, "Until about 30 years ago, the anthropological term for this developmental stage was 'savagery.'" Is this true? Was "savagery" an actual anthropological term? Or merely a descriptive term that lay people used in ignorant condescension?

Now, if anthropologists did use the word "savages" to describe neolithic people, that proves nothing. You can read newspapers or scientific papers from the late 19th Century that are laced with racist stereotypes and Eurocentric bias - and assumption based on zero evidence. It was the conventional mode of thought, but still not factually correct. There are scientific treatises about why slavery is proper. You can make fake science support anything.

But beyond that, is this statement - "Until about 30 years ago, the anthropological term for this developmental stage was 'savagery.'" - true? Was there a technical, anthropological term "savagery", and was that term used until the late 1970s?

I have another question: what is Margaret Wente's problem? But no one can answer that one, so please stick to the question above.


congratulations to all my gay friends

Congratulations to all my gay friends. Your cunning plan has finally paid off: you have succeeded in taking over Canada!

Alright! Way to go.