Search string of the day:
brazil tribe never seen humans

They are humans, dimwit!

watch what you say, watch what you wear

From the Please Tell Me This Is A Parody department, Dunkin' Donuts has pulled online ads featuring Food Network personality Rachael Ray because fascist social critic Michelle Malkin is offended by Ray's clothing. Too much clevage? An exposed nipple, perhaps? Nothing that simple.

In the ad, Ray is wearing a black and white scarf. The hatemongering Malkin thinks that scarf looks like a kaffiyeh, which is worn in the Middle East. And to Malkin, that can only mean one thing: terrorism.

As quoted on the CBC website (you can be sure I'm not going to link to her blog, there's not enough valium on the planet), Malkin said, the kaffiyeh "has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad."

Equating a popular Middle Eastern garment with terrorism is bad enough, but Malkin doesn't stop there.
"Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant [and not-so-ignorant] fashion designers, celebrities and left-wing icons."

The scarf is worn by Arabs, Arabs are terrorists, therefore the scarf means terorrism. "Left-wing icons" wear the scarf, so... what's the only logical conclusion here? Progressive people are terrorists.

This is typical Malkin fare, but keep in mind it didn't end on her blog. After some attempts at damage control, Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad. This is the power these hatemongers have over present day popular culture.

I'll certainly tell Dunkin' Donuts how I feel about this. Please take a minute to do the same.

uncontacted people seen in brazil, peru

An amazing story has emerged from South America. One of the world's few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes has been photographed on the border between Brazil and Peru. Survival International, an international movement to support tribal peoples, says that more than half the world's remaining uncontacted tribes live in Brazil or Peru.

The group's director, Stephen Corry, says such tribes will soon be wiped out if their land is not protected. The people revealed in these photos are at risk from illegal logging. Corry described the threats to such tribes and their land as "a monumental crime against the natural world" and "further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the 'civilised' ones, treat the world".

The photos were first revealed by BBC News, but I thought the Globe and Mail did a better job with it today.
Brazil's government agreed to release stunning photos of Amazon Indians firing arrows at an airplane so that the world can better understand the threats facing one of the few tribes still living in near-total isolation from civilization, officials said yesterday.

Anthropologists have known about the group for about 20 years but released the images now to call attention to fast-encroaching development near the Indians' home in the dense jungles near Peru.

"We put the photos out because if things continue the way they are going, these people are going to disappear," said Jose Carlos Meirelles, who co-ordinates government efforts to protect four "uncontacted" tribes for Brazil's National Indian Foundation.

Shot in late April and early May, the foundation's photos show about a dozen Indians, mostly naked, wielding bows and arrows outside six grass-thatched huts. Mr. Meirelles said in a phone interview that anthropologists know next to nothing about the group, but suspect it is related to the Tano and Aruak tribes.

The foundation believes there may be as many as 68 uncontacted groups around Brazil, although only 24 have been officially confirmed.

Anthropologists say almost all of these tribes know about Western civilization and have sporadic contact with prospectors, rubber tappers and loggers, but choose to turn their backs on civilization, usually because they have been attacked.

The four tribes monitored by Mr. Meirelles include perhaps 500 people who roam an area of about 630,000 hectares. He said that over the 20 years he has been working in the area, the number of malocas, or grass-roofed huts, has doubled, suggesting that the policy of isolation is working and that populations are growing.

Remaining isolated, however, gets more complicated by the day. Loggers are closing in on the Indians' homeland. Brazil's environmental protection agency said yesterday that it had shut down 28 illegal sawmills in Acre state, where the tribes are located. And logging on the Peruvian border has sent many Indians fleeing into Brazil, Mr. Meirelles said.

A new road being paved from Acre into Peru will likely bring in hordes of poor settlers. Other Amazon roads have led to 50 kilometres of rain forest being cut down on each side, scientists say.

While uncontacted Indians often respond violently to contact - Mr. Meirelles caught an arrow in the face from some of the same Indians in 2004 - the greater threat is to the Indians.

"First contact is often completely catastrophic for uncontacted tribes. It's not unusual for 50 per cent of the tribe to die in months after first contact," said Miriam Ross, a campaigner with the Indian rights group Survival International.

More here, with some information about the people themselves.

It's almost overwhelming to think of uncontacted people surviving into the 21st Century - and possibly no further.

Illegal logging is not a simple issue. The loggers themselves are usually poor Andean people. They work for criminally low pay, under extremely dangerous conditions, reporting to a chain of middle-men that ends with a multinational corporation. But they themselves are offered few alternatives (if any) for their own survival. Because I met Andean people in Peru, I think about how stricter logging enforcement would effect them. It should be done, of course, but what will the Brazilian or Peruvian governments do for its victims?

For more information on tribal people - including these recently recently aerial photos - see Survival International. Survival's blog is here.

"an issue of international law"

These letters to the editor ran in the Toronto Star last week. All three letters were in support of allowing Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada.
U.S. Iraq war resister Corey Glass was told on May 21 that his application to stay in Canada has been rejected and he now faces deportation. Glass would be the first Iraq war resister to be deported from Canada.

This is not just an immigration or moral issue – it is an issue of international law. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Iraq war illegal, and the war crimes and crimes against humanity that have occurred throughout the war are well-documented.

Canada cannot pretend to support international law while denying sanctuary to those fleeing war crimes and crimes against humanity. If we expect individuals to uphold international law, then it follows that we must support them and provide sanctuary when they believe they are being asked to do something that violates international law.

If we fail to do so, then we lose all right to prosecute individuals for crimes they have committed, and the Nuremberg principles and the International Criminal Court will cease to have relevance.

I am saddened and ashamed by the failure of our current immigration/refugee system and our Supreme Court to understand this, and by their seeming insistence that languishing for years in a military prison is not persecution.

It is time for new legislation in Ottawa that clearly outlines our commitments and responsibilities under international law. Providing sanctuary to those fleeing from acts they believe are unlawful should be addressed as an immediate priority.

Jillian Skeet, Vancouver, B.C.

I am writing concerning the decision to refuse to allow U.S. Iraq war resister Corey Glass to stay in Canada. I am extremely saddened and angry to hear that our government has refused to grant him sanctuary. Did our country not refuse to participate in the Iraq war because we sided with the UN in declaring this to be an illegal and unjust war? Yet by sending Glass back to the U.S., we are basically giving a message to the United States that we agree that Glass and others like him should either have to go back to fighting this unjust and illegal war or be imprisoned for refusing to do so. That is pure hypocrisy on the part of our government. If we want to be consistent in our stance against the Iraq war, we must provide sanctuary for resisters like Glass.

Naomi Berlyne, Toronto

In refusing to provide a haven for Americans refusing to serve in Iraq, the government is violating the principles laid down at Nuremberg. The Iraq attack and subsequent occupation is a war crime. As stated at Nuremberg by the allied judiciary, it is the duty of armed services personnel to refuse to obey orders to commit a war crime. This government is betraying everything Canadian soldiers fought and died for in World War II. The Harper government is not only a disgrace to Canada, it is a disgrace to humanity.

Bill Prestwich, Dundas, Ont.


john hagan: let's provide a haven

John Hagan is the author of Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada. He spoke at our event in January, coming in from Chicago to support the cause of war resisters in Canada.

John brings an important historical perspective which should inform the debate over Iraq War resisters. As the Conservatives repeat ad nauseum "but they volunteered" and "Vietnam was different," they would do well to study what John Hagan can teach us.

This piece will run in Saturday's Globe and Mail. Please follow the link and click yes for "recommend this article?" at the bottom of the story. It can help increase visibility.
Let's provide a haven for those who chose not to fight in Iraq

John Hagan
May 30, 2008

The Liberals' Bob Rae recently joined the NDP's Olivia Chow and others in urging Parliament to pass a motion allowing American Iraq war resisters, such as Corey Glass, to stay in Canada. Last week, Mr. Glass was refused refugee status and became the first Iraq war resister to be scheduled for deportation.

Mr. Rae and Ms. Chow's plea for action recalled Pierre Trudeau and David Lewis's leadership at crucial moments of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, it took several years to build support and acceptance for American military deserters, as well as draft resisters. Beginning in the mid-1960s, war resisters who came to Canada before being drafted ("dodgers") readily received landed immigrant status. But until 1969, military resisters ("deserters") were treated differently – because they left the armed forces and faced charges of desertion.

Allan MacEachen, as minister of immigration, initially directed immigration officers to refuse U.S. military resisters entry as landed immigrants. He reasoned that when such resisters left their units, they broke moral and legal contractual obligations to serve in their nation's armed forces.

Political and religious leaders ultimately persuaded Mr. MacEachen that distinctions between military and draft resisters were irrelevant for Canadian purposes. References to "dodgers" and "deserters" had no legal meaning in Canada. The Immigration Act made no reference of any kind to military service as grounds for prohibiting entry to Canada.

Canadians at the time questioned the Vietnam War, and Mr. Glass echoed those sentiments when he said last week "what I saw in Iraq convinced me that the war is illegal and immoral. I could not in good conscience continue to take part in it."

Ms. Chow and Mr. Rae recalled Canada's history of refuge and sanctuary when they spoke during a gathering in January at a United Church in Toronto. United Church, Mennonite, Jewish, Quaker, Unitarian and other religious groups support today's Iraq war resisters – just as they did the Vietnam War resisters 40 years ago. The gathering heard from such resisters as Kimberly Rivera, who brushed back tears as she expressed gratitude for her sanctuary with her young children in Canada. She explained that she joined the American military because she was jobless and needed health care for her children. It is tendentious to call her service a free or voluntary choice. Recruiters coaxed and lied to Ms. Rivera about a war she eventually concluded was immoral. U.S. government “stop-loss” orders have added and extended nearly 100,000 tours of service in Iraq, and this back-door draft is only one among many ways in which service in Iraq can be involuntary.

Late last year, Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis put forward a motion in Parliament's standing committee on citizenship and immigration to allow resisters of wars not sanctioned by the UN to stay in Canada. Opposition party MPs joined ranks to pass the motion, which should soon be brought to a vote in Parliament.

Minus such legislation, Iraq war resisters will be unable to legalize their status in Canada and will remain mired in the same bureaucratic process as Mr. Glass.

It's a never-ending story, as the Vietnam War migration to Canada shows. Even though president Jimmy Carter unconditionally pardoned American Vietnam draft resisters when he came to office, his pardon for military resisters required them to return to their units within six months to apply for a less-than-honourable discharge. Most Vietnam resisters in Canada refused the offer and remain here to this day. Stories of abuse in U.S. military prisons were rampant, and any who returned risked imprisonment. When retired Winnipeg mechanic Randall Caudill paid a short visit to his daughter in the U.S. in 1997, nearly 30 years after leaving the Marines and coming to Canada, he was arrested and held for trial. Following months of diplomatic inquiries by the Canadian government, he finally received a bad-conduct discharge and was allowed to return to his wife in Canada.

In an era of harsh interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and detention without trial, few American Vietnam or Iraq war resisters want to return to the United States. They just want to get on with their lives in Canada. Parliament can remedy the situation of Iraq war resisters by voting in favour of the motion recommending that a new generation of U.S. war resisters be allowed to apply for permanent residence so that they can stay in Canada.

I often wonder how things might have turned out differently in the spring of 1969. The government could have forced American Vietnam War resisters to leave the country; the RCMP could have forcibly delivered Vietnam-era resisters into the hands of American authorities.

Imagine today a YouTube video of the RCMP handing over Ms. Rivera and her young children to the U.S. authorities. Or worse, imagine this being done in secret. Yet this threat of deportation confronts Ms. Rivera and her fellow American Iraq war resisters. They could be turned over by Canadian authorities to the U.S. military for interrogation and punishment.

Ms. Chow and Mr. Rae, like Mr. Lewis and Mr. Trudeau before them, offer a leadership that rejects this fate while supporting the sovereign right of Canada to provide refuge and sanctuary to individuals who, like the UN and Canada, chose not to approve or join in the pre-emptive U.S. war in Iraq.

house of commons to vote on war resisters tuesday june 3

Yesterday's debate in Parliament is now available online.

We were glued to the TV set all morning - including, for a while, placing the phone in front of the speaker so Campaigners en route to Ottawa could listen! It was thrilling to hear our issue take front and centre stage, to see MPs standing up and reading the words of the war resisters in Parliament.

It was a little anti-climactic when the vote wasn't called, but we'll only have to chew our fingernails a few more days. Tuesday afternoon, June 3, the House of Commons will vote on the motion to allow US war resisters to remain in Canada.

Once again, the motion reads:
The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

Things are looking good, but our fight is not yet over. With your help, we have gotten this far; now we're asking for a little more, so we can push this through.

Today, Monday and Tuesday, please add two phone calls to your to-do list: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley.

As wmtc commenters have pointed out, these phone calls are not scary or time-consuming. Someone will answer the phone, you'll tell them why you're calling, say thanks and hang up. You may even speak to voice mail; that works, too. It will take less than a minute per phone call. But it may make a big difference in the lives of many people. It's a concrete action you can take to stand for peace.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley
phone 613.996.4974
fax 613.996.9749
email finley.d@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
phone 613.992.4211
fax 613.941.6900
email pm@pm.gc.ca

The them you want the Government of Canada to:
  • rescind the deportation order against US war resister Corey Glass, and immediately cease all deportation proceedings against all war resisters
  • support the motion to allow Iraq war resisters to remain in Canada, and
  • support the will of the Canadian people, and not the US's war agenda.

    You can also call your own MP with the same message. No matter what their party, they should hear from you.
  • don't like a ruling? get rid of the judge!

    When explaining why the Iraq War resisters should be sent back to the US, the standard Tory fallback position is that the US is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law. They say all the war resisters will be given due process.

    As I recall, that was Stockwell Day's excuse for not coming to the aid of Ronald Allen Smith, a Canadian citizen on death row in Montana.

    Today that supposedly democratic nation showed us yet again how their rule of law works.
    The U.S. military judge presiding over the trial of Canadian terrorism suspect Omar Khadr has been fired, said Khadr's lawyer.

    In a news release issued Thursday, Lt.-Cmdr. William C. Kuebler said the judge, Col. Peter Brownback, was replaced after threatening to suspend proceedings in the case earlier this month.

    Brownback told prosecutors they had to provide Khadr's defence lawyers with records of his confinement at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or he would suspend the proceedings.

    Kuebler, Khadr's U.S. military-appointed lawyer, said he learned Brownback had been fired in an email from the chief judge of the U.S. military commissions, Col. Ralph Kohlmann. Kuebler's news release also included an email sent Wednesday by lead prosecutor Maj. Jeff Groharing, which complained of numerous delays in trial proceedings.

    Kuebler told CBCNews.ca he believes the prosecution hopes the change will "speed things up."

    Brownback will be replaced by Col. Patrick Parrish, said Kuebler, who said he won't have a chance to talk to Khadr until later in June.

    Pick up a 15-year-old boy in a foreign country, throw him in prison without charges or trial, torture him, and deny him access to legal counsel for several years. If a judge challenges your right to do so, get rid of the judge.

    This is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law?

    And this is the country that the Government of Canada wants to suck up to?

    new york state will honour same-sex marriages

    My home state moves closer to justice!
    Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.

    In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere "should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union."

    The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.

    In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as "a strong step toward marriage equality." And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state.

    Nicely done, Governor Paterson!

    clarification: it's not too late to help corey glass

    In comments here, my blog-friend Impudent Strumpet asked if this motion came to late to help Corey Glass, the first U.S. war resister to receive a deportation order.

    The motion before Parliament calls for the Government to immediately cease all deportation proceedings against all war resisters.

    So if the motion passes, and the government honours it, it will include Corey.

    But even if the Government won't overtly agree to honour the motion - the will of the majority of Canadians - will they actually have Corey taken away, and risk such negative publicity, at a time when they can scarcely afford any more?

    They may just let the deportation order sit for a while, without acting on it, while they think of a way to save face.

    Many people don't realize that this issue was a political battle during the Vietnam era, too. Just like today, activists worked for years to try to convince the government to let the draft resisters and deserters remain in Canada. It took a deportation order to galvanize the movement. There was such a public outcry - there was such outrage - that the government finally acted. The resister was not deported, and Pierre Trudeau declared Canada "a refuge from militarism".

    * * * *

    A note on comments. After four years of blogging, I'm finally forced to use comment moderation. It seems the recent run of trolls is not a run at all, but one person with too much time and too little medication. I'd much prefer you all to be able to discuss and debate when I'm not around, but it's too much work to delete all his/her bile. Between us, Allan and I can usually get comments through pretty quickly. So comment moderation will remain in use, at least until the troll's mother takes away his computer privileges. Thanks for your understanding.


    liberal party supports u.s. war resisters

    From the website of the Liberal Party of Canada:
    The Liberal Opposition is calling on the Conservative government to support a motion that would allow conscientious objectors to apply for permanent resident status in Canada, said Liberal Citizenship and Immigration Critic Maurizio Bevilacqua.

    "Five years ago, the Liberal government made a principled decision not to participate in a war that wasn’t sanctioned by the United Nations (U.N.). We should not now punish individuals and their families for making the same decision based on their personal principles," said Mr. Bevilacqua.

    The motion, which was passed by the Immigration Committee and is being debated in the House today, calls on the government to allow conscientious objectors, and their immediate family members, who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the U.N. and who do not have a criminal record to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada. The motion also stipulates that the government should not proceed with any action against any war resister who currently faces deportation.

    "The government has a choice: it is not compelled to force these people to go back to a country where they may face prosecution under military law, or may be permanently branded for making a principled decision," said Mr. Bevilacqua.

    "Stephen Harper has indicated that, had he been Prime Minister in 2003, Canada would have participated in the Iraq war. I hope that the fact that Mr. Harper got it wrong at the time will not prevent him from showing compassion for those who made the right decision."

    Thank you to Mr. Bevilacqua and our other Liberal supporters for doing the right thing.

    the road is long, but we are many

    One year ago, we didn't have the full support of the opposition members of the Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

    So we worked. We educated, and lobbied, and demonstrated. We made our case, with facts and with feeling.

    In December, our resolution passed in Committee.

    Then we didn't have enough support in the House of Commons to bring the resolution forward.

    So we worked more. We enlisted the support of the Canadian people. Across Canada, people wrote letters and made phone calls. We held events where we could educate the public and broaden our support. We worked with peace groups and church groups, labour and immigration. We blogged and we YouTubed and we Facebooked. We demonstrated, and we tabled, and we petitioned.

    Now we have enough support that our resolution should pass in Parliament.

    This has been, and continues to be, a lesson in how true democracy works. And I owe about a dozen people a huge "I told you so"!

    * * * *

    Technically, this resolution will not be binding. But as Jeffry House - who represented many of the war resisters in court, and who is himself a Vietnam-era resister - said in comments, the motion is morally binding.

    We will do everything in our power to ensure that the government of Canada is responsive to the will of the people.

    Stand with us! Stand for peace.

    Let Them Stay.

    oops, that was premature

    You may have seen an earlier post saying that we had won, that the motion had passed.

    We watched the Parliamentary debate and it looked like we carried the day... but then the vote was deffered until Monday or Tuesday of next week. This is a procedural delay, our side making sure that there are enough bodies in their seats to get this thing across.

    It's very nerve-wracking! But it looks very positive.

    Update: I'm now told that the procedural delay may have been from our side, but it may have been from the Tories. We aren't sure. Either way, everyone will have all their ducks in a row for the vote next week. What a tense weekend we have ahead!

    big breaking news!! motion in support of u.s. war resisters being read right now!!

    RIGHT NOW NDP Members of Parliament Olivia Chow and Bill Siksay are introducing our motion to the House of Commons.

    I haven't been able to say anything about this until it actually happened. But here we go!

    This is the motion that passed in the Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in December through a united opposition. It reads:
    The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

    Debate is going on right now. I will post more as I know.

    This motion is not binding on the Government: it cannot compel them to act. However, with a united Opposition voting for it, and a minority Government weakened and wracked by scandal, can they refuse to act? Will they blatantly thwart the will of the Canadian people?


    insite to remain open at least another year

    Good news from BC!
    North America's only sanctioned safe-injection site for drug addicts won a major court victory Tuesday, thwarting any chance of the federal Conservative government closing it down.

    Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield of the B.C. Supreme Court granted users and staff at the popular but controversial facility known as Insite a permanent constitutional exemption from prosecution under federal drug laws.

    Allowing addicts to inject their illegal drugs in a safe, medically supervised environment is a matter of sensible health care and they should not be under threat of being busted by police, the judge ruled.

    In so doing, Judge Pitfield also declared that sections of Canada's drug laws against possession and trafficking in illegal narcotics were unconstitutional.

    However, he gave the government until the end of June next year to redraft them in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The ruling is narrow in scope and not expected to lead to widespread loosening of the laws against heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs.

    But it was clearly a stunning reprieve for Insite.

    Friend of wmtc Jen is a long-time advocate for Insite. I'm hoping she'll come by with a comment or, if she'd like, a guest post.

    a note to wmtc commenters

    I have to turn on comment moderation when I'm away from my computer, and overnight. Nothing personal. Thanks for your understanding.

    scandals r us

    As you may have noticed, I generally don't blog about day-to-day politics, the strategies and scandals and who's-in-who's-out of government. It's not my thing, and there are zillions of blogs out there through which to follow all that.

    But may I just add how very much I am enjoying watching the Harper government melt down?

    Thank goodness they are so full of the accountability and transparency that were the centrepieces of their campaign promises.

    Oh, wait.

    Well, they're full of something.

    This is very entertaining.


    "to face unjust punishment for what I felt morally obligated to do"

    Corey Glass and other US war resisters in Canada on The Real News.

    Make those phone calls, people. We're making progress. We see it on many fronts. Help push us over the top.

    Stephen Harper: 613.992.4211

    Stéphane Dion: 613.996.6740 or 613.996.5789

    Urge them to:

  • support the motion to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada,

  • oppose the deportation of people of conscience who have resisted an illegal war, and

  • support the will of the Canadian people, not the U.S.'s war agenda.

    Let them stay!
  • the end of america, visual version


    Thanks to James.

    the end of america

    It took me a long time to finish Naomi Wolf's The End of America - Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. Not because it's long or difficult to read; it is just the opposite - short, clear and concise. It took me so long to finish because I kept starting to cry and would need to put down the book.

    It's overwhelmingly sad and frightening to think about what "the end of America" could mean - to all of us.

    If you're not familiar with this book, I blogged about it here (that includes an extended excerpt) and here. Wolf draws historical parallels to other times when democracies morphed into fascism - governments that were democratically elected, then systematically weakened, twisted and dismantled the structure of democracy through legal, legislative and executive means.

    Finally democracy became a mere facade, a hollowed-out shell, and the leap to fascism could be completed. Her most frequent examples are Germany, Italy, Russia and Chile. The similarities are unmistakeably, chillingly clear.

    Wolf calls that middle period - the phase when the country is not yet fascist, but when democracy is sputtering and faltering - when it is being dismantled - a fascist shift.

    I readily admit that one reason I loved this book is that it gives me evidence and ammunition to bolster my own world view. It strengthens my own observations and beliefs with further facts.

    Allan and I have both believed, for a long time, that democracy in America has been upended, supplanted, destroyed. That the country is now living under fascism. It's hard to explain this to people, because most people's idea of fascism looks like - to use a shorthand - tanks rolling down main street. Wolf's "fascist shift" is the missing piece in our observations. Looking at the last eight years as a bridge, a transition, it's very clear to me the US has been undergoing a fascist shift.

    I went back into the wmtc archives to see how long I've been writing about this fascist shift without using those words. The earliest post I found is from November 2004, while I was depressed after the stolen election. I wrote:
    I often think we're looking at something historically new here: a dictatorship dressed up as a democracy. No tanks rolling down Fifth Avenue, no government mass rallies, no junta, no putsch. We retain party conventions, campaigns, voting booths - but it's like a backlot movie set, a facade of props. The US democracy has been in trouble for a long time, controlled by corporate interests and a conglomerated media. But if voting is not legitimate, what makes it a democracy at all?

    One of Wolf's central points is that if we're waiting to see tanks rolling down the street until we admit to ourselves that the US is no longer a democracy, we'll miss what's happening under our noses. Because by that time, it's too late. And this regime won't need tanks. Wolf writes in her conclusion:
    I will say again that the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing down of the system that followed Mussolini's March on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our press, military and judiciary are too independent for a scenario like that.

    But there are erosions possible in all of our institutions, that could close down our experiment in democracy in ways that would look very American and familiar, but still leave us less than free.

    * * * *

    There's a wmtc category called "US regression", a multi-purpose shorthand for a country in decline. Massive, ever-expanding poverty; the collapse of the middle class; huge segments of the population with no access to health care, decent housing and education; the destruction of labour, health and environmental laws; fixed elections; the expanding police state and the crackdown on personal freedom; the rise of religious influence in government... "US regression" is my catch-all category that means the country is falling, has fallen, apart.

    That category has included the decline of democracy and democratic institutions. Now I've broken out a subcategory of US regression: fascist shift.

    Consider this, from the final chapter:
    If Fascist Germany - a medium-sized modern European state - could destabilize the globe in a matter of a few years, and it took a world war to overcome the threat, what force on earth might restrain an America that may have abandoned the rule of law - an America with its vastly greater population, wealth, and land mass; its far more sophisticated technology; its weapons systems; its already fully established global network of black-site secret prisons, and its imperial reach?

    * * * *

    Another aspect of this book I appreciate is Wolf's view of the founders of the US as revolutionaries. Here I often part ways with many of my sister and brother leftists. Of course the founders were all white men, many were slave owners, and they set up a system ruled by their own kind. They were not remaking entire social systems, and had they wanted to, their entire purpose would have failed.

    But there's no doubt whatsoever that the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were political revolutionaries. They set about to overthrow an authoritarian regime, with words and with arms. Had they lost, they would have all been executed for treason.

    There had been other historical experiments in democracy, but no society had ever ventured so far into those waters before. The framers of the United States Constitution were acutely aware of what tyranny looked like and the need for protection against it - the need to keep power from being too concentrated in the hands of one person or group of people.

    Right now in the US, much of their delicate and important work has been undone.

    * * * *

    The only place where I part ways with Wolf is that she has hope. At least in this book, she has hope that Americans of all political persuasions can rise up and reclaim their country. I understand why she needed to include that in The End of America. But I fear and believe it is too late. While everyone's attention is focused on a glittering distraction (Obama vs. Clinton, then McCain vs. Obama), I fear the sleight of hand will happen elsewhere, and that choice won't matter.

    Wolf says it's up to Americans to reclaim democracy before it's too late. I see Americans as too beleaguered - too apathetic - too busy trying to survive - too blindly nationalistic - too focused on the election - too focused on celebrities - too frightened - too cowed into submission - too overwhelmed - too deluded - too any and all of the above - to take up that fight in sufficient strength and numbers.

    * * * *

    I wish I could buy a few million copies of The End of America and distribute them to all the people who need to read it.

    I'll close with one more quote from this book, in which Wolf uses two of my favourite metaphors for what's happening in the US right now: the abused woman ("this time he'll change!") and madness (just voting Democrat one more time...!).
    Think again about 2008. Now think about human nature.

    We assume, with our habits of democracy, that we can simply "throw the bums out" in the 2008 election.

    But do people really change direction so dramatically? Is it reasonable - is it really a matter of common sense - to assume that leaders who are willing to abuse signing statements; withhold information from Congress; make secret decisions; lie to the American people; use fake evidence to justify a pre-emptive war; torture prisoners; tap people's phones; open their mail and e-mail; break into their houses; and now simply ignore Congress altogether - leaders with, currently, a 29 percent approval rating - will surely say, come 2008, "the decision rests in the hands of the people. May the votes be fairly counted"?

    In trusting that the "pendulum will swing" when it is time for the votes to be counted, we are like a codependent woman with an abusive boyfriend; surely next time he will do what is right.

    It's a truism that the definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. If for eight years this group has flouted other equally precious rules of the democratic game, aren't we rash to assume that this same group will see transparent, fair election as sacrosanct?

    Naomi Wolf: talk on YouTube, first chapter on Huffington Post, review in The Guardian, interview on Democracy Now!.


    the smiling coast of homophobia

    The Gambia calls itself "the smiling coast of Africa". Unless you're gay. Or care about human rights and equality.
    President Threatens Mass Beheading of Gays

    From Slap Upside The Head, one of my favourite activist bloggers. Scroll down to see more of his terrific artwork. The post on California is great.

    holding the bully's coat

    When I saw this...
    The Canadian military has established a special intelligence unit to do spy work on overseas missions, in places like Afghanistan, CBC News has learned.

    CBC obtained documents that show the Canadian Forces is spending about $27 million over the next three years to purchase equipment for the new unit, which is actively recruiting soldiers.

    Many details about the unit are considered classified, and not being released to the public, but the documents show that members analyze information gathered by other soldiers in the field, such as the information soldiers might pick up while interviewing motorists and searching cars at roadside checkpoints.

    The intelligence unit can also be tasked with recruiting and overseeing local intelligence agents who are already operating in a country.

    ...I thought of this.
    The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, officials said, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come.

    The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

    Until now, the Bush administration had signaled that it intended to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan. It had planned to transfer a large majority of the prisoners to Afghan custody, in an American-financed, high-security prison outside Kabul to be guarded by Afghan soldiers.

    But American officials now concede that the new Afghan-run prison cannot absorb all the Afghans now detained by the United States, much less the waves of new prisoners from the escalating fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

    . . .

    Military personnel who know both Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site, 40 miles north of Kabul, as far more spartan. Bagram prisoners have fewer privileges, less ability to contest their detention and no access to lawyers.

    Some detainees have been held without charge for more than five years, officials said. As of April, about 10 juveniles were being held at Bagram, according to a recent American report to a United Nations committee. [Emphasis mine.]

    I don't worry about Deep Integration. (Borders are less porous than ever.) But I do worry about "holding the bully's coat".

    Thanks to Allan for the links, and to Linda McQuaig for her great expression.


    let them stay: toronto star

    Just realized I didn't link to this story about the war resisters in the Toronto Star; it's also up on Common Dreams. A positive story with a nice picture of poor Corey.

    It's interesting that when my essay about the resisters was on Common Dreams, it garnered a barrage of negative comments. The comments this time are mostly very supportive of Corey and disgusted with Canada. Maybe just a coincidence, luck of the draw. Maybe a shift in understanding.

    Remember, this is crunch time. If you haven't called Harper, Dion and your own MP on this issue, now is the time. We've got to get this resolution passed. Keep hope alive: call today.

    Stephen Harper: 613.992.4211

    Stéphane Dion: 613.996.6740 or 613.996.5789

    For your own MP, Google for their website, then look for contact info.

    Non-Canadian readers: contact the Canadian Embassy in your own country.

    Urge them to:

  • support the motion to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada,

  • oppose the deportation of people of conscience who have resisted an illegal war, and

  • support the will of the Canadian people, not the U.S.'s war agenda.
  • "a whore would have demanded money"

    Ted Rall:
    Should the news media be patriotic? When a journalist uncovers a government secret, which comes first–national security or the public’s right to know?

    In the United States, reporters consider themselves Americans first, journalists second. That means consulting the government before going public with a state secret. "When I was at ABC," James Bamford told Time in 2006, "we always checked with the Administration in power when we thought we had something of concern, and there was usually some way to work it out."

    In a new book about the Bush Administration's efforts to expand the president's powers at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches, the assumption that the press shouldn't publish security-sensitive stories is so hard-wired that New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau accepts it as a given. But it's a very American concept, and one that relies on the presumption that the U.S. government may make mistakes, but is largely a force for good. In other countries, the relationship between rulers and the press is strictly adversarial.

    In Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice, Lichtblau unwittingly relates a depressing parable – his seeming obliviousness to conflict of interest is a bummer – describing the nation's most prominent newspaper's willingness to keep secrets for government officials, who turn out to be (shocker alert) lying. It's a cautionary tale about journalistic nationalism, one of many (Judith Miller, anyone?) in which the Times transformed itself into Bush's political slut.

    A whore, at least, would have demanded money.

    Read it here on Common Dreams, or scroll down on Ted Rall's blog. (I've never found a way to link to an individual post there.) Cartoon for May 24 is very good.

    immigrants everywhere are under fire

    All over the world, people are scraping together whatever they have and leaving their homelands, seeking a better life.

    It has ever been thus. My grandparents and great-grandparents were part of a mass migration from Europe to North America, masses of people hoping to find religious freedom and economic opportunity.

    In the first half of the 20th Century, millions of African-Americans moved from the southern United States to the north, which might as well have been a different country at the time, creating a sea-change in US history.

    Indeed, the United States and Canada were both founded by such seekers, first called colonists, then pioneers, later immigrants. (Leaving aside, for the present, the millions who were brought to the US by force, and the millions already there who were massacred or displaced.)

    Since its founding, the US has never been particularly welcoming to immigrants, each immigrant group, now settled, trying to bar the next one from "their" country. But at various times in the country's history, the need for cheap labour shaped a more tolerant immigration policy.

    Right now, if all the illegal immigrants in the US suddenly disappeared - as so many Americans seem to want - the entire economy would shut down. Not a meal would be prepared in a restaurant. Not a room cleaned in an office or hotel. Not a blade of grass would be mowed. Professionals couldn't go to work because they'd have no one to watch their children. You get the picture.

    Vast populations the world over are trying to move from impoverished, resource-poor and repressive lands, to any place else. Any place they imagine they might be free, and not hungry. Many Americans think the whole world is trying to get into the US. Of course that's ridiculous. Much of the world is trying to get anywhere.

    It can't be easy in the best of times, but right now, it's sheer hell. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Canada and Europe, and raging almost everywhere else. Conditions are very bad - everywhere - for illegal immigrants right now. Only it's worse where they come from.

    From OneWorld.net:
    As thousands of immigrants to South Africa piled onto one-way buses home to escape widening anti-immigrant violence, civil rights groups in Texas deplored a new initiative they charge endangers the lives of immigrants and their families.

    The new procedure would place U.S. Border Patrol agents at hurricane evacuation sites in the Rio Grande Valley to check the documents of those boarding buses, with the aim of ferreting out illegal immigrants. Those who can't produce citizenship papers would be put on separate buses, bound for deportation.

    "This is a shocking and dangerous initiative, which will undercut the authorities' efforts to keep everyone safe during a crisis," said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), an immigrants rights organization based in Washington, DC.

    Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive cirector of the Asian American Justice Center, called the plan "unconscionable," since it may discourage immigrants from seeking protection during emergencies.

    If immigrants fear evacuation and remain in place, the plan will endanger immigrant communities, as well as placing an additional burden on local agencies charged with evacuation, rescue, and relief operations, Narasaki added.

    John Trasvina, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, pointed out that when emergencies strike many people don't have time to sort through their documents and bring them along. The Texas plan means that many U.S. citizens are likely to experience unwarranted harassment, he said.

    Marguia announced that the National Council of La Raza has written to Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff demanding that the new initiative be suspended immediately.

    Coincidentally, the United Nations' special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, DouDou Diene, is currently on a U.S. fact-finding mission, although Texas is not on his itinerary. Diene's visit is being welcomed by civil rights groups around the country; a report should be completed by early 2009.

    Xenophobia, defined by Webster's dictionary as "hatred of foreigners," is said to be behind the escalating attacks on Zimbabweans, Malawians, Mozambicans, Pakistanis and other foreigners in South Africa, along with the impact of sharp price rises for food and fuel.

    Tensions over the presence of large numbers of foreign immigrants, which have simmered in the past few years and occasionally resulted in violence, boiled over last week, leading to at least 42 deaths when armed mobs attacked residents of immigrant neighborhoods and looted foreign-owned stories in Johannesburg.

    The violence spread to Cape Town and Durban Thursday; at least one immigrant, a Somali, was killed.

    Not unlike the United States, South Africans complain that immigrants deprive local citizens of jobs and absorb precious public resources.

    A South African intelligence official Friday accused pro-apartheid elements of stirring up the anti-immigrant violence, suggesting a renewal of the pre-1994 alliance between far-right whites and Zulu workers to discredit the ruling African National Congress.

    From the US:
    Hundreds of legal and illegal immigrants in Arizona are being sent back to their home countries, sometimes against their will, for medical treatment because they lack insurance.

    In some cases, the FBI and police, responding to allegations of kidnapping, have been called in to halt such forcible removals, according to patients' lawyers. In one recent case, a sick baby who is a U.S. citizen born to an illegal immigrant was being transferred by helicopter to a waiting air ambulance for a flight to a hospital in Mexico when Tucson police intervened and brought the child back to the hospital.

    The forcible removals are the result of federal and state law mandating that only U.S. citizens and legal residents are eligible for Medicaid. As a result, state hospitals are pressured to transport noncitizens, even if they're legally in the U.S., at the hospitals' expense, back to their home countries, at a cost of up to $100,000.

    The alarming scenario has come to light in recent weeks with the dramatic case of Sonia Iscoa Del Cid, a house cleaner in the country legally under temporary protected status, who woke up from a coma last week only to realize that she was going to be forced back to her native Honduras because she lacked insurance for long-term care. The case galvanized the immigrant community in Phoenix.

    On May 9, hours away from being flown to a small hospital in Honduras, where Del Cid no longer has any family or friends except for an elderly father, her lawyer filed a temporary restraining order preventing the move. Family and friends raised money through car washes, and received significant financial assistance from dozens of trial lawyers in Arizona, to pay the $20,000 bond ordered by a local judge.

    Groups like No One Is Illegal (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, UK) offer a different vision for the future.
    No One Is Illegal (NOII) UK challenges the ideology of immigration controls and campaigns for their total abolition. We oppose controls in principle and reject any idea there can be "fair" or "just" or "reasonable" or "non racist" controls. We make no distinction between "economic migrants" and "refugees", between the "legal" and the "illegal". These are political categories invented by politicians. We campaign to break down these categories and support free movement for all and unity between all.

    First, we must share the bounty of what we have, and welcome contributions from every human.

    But the entire undeveloped world moving to the developed world is obviously not possible or practical. So until we view the world as one community and all people as humans - not identified by some accident of geography or birth - and address poverty on a global scale, these desperate attempts at immigration will continue.

    We need all societies to be open to immigration. But in the long term, we need all human populations to be properly sustained.


    veterans for peace barred from u.s. national memorial day parade

    In the US, this is Memorial Day Weekend, supposedly a time to commemorate war dead, but usually the unofficial start of summer. Towns and cities all over the country hold parades, and veterans are featured prominently. But not all veterans are welcome.

    From Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive:
    There is one group of veterans that isn't allowed to march in the national memorial parade in Washington on Monday.

    That's the Veterans for Peace, Delwin Anderson Memorial chapter, based in D.C. It's named after a World War II vet who fought in Italy and then worked for the VA for many years designing programs for injured veterans.

    The group had applied to join the National Memorial Day parade.

    And initially, anyway, it was accepted.

    But then, late last month, the group was told that it didn't meet the criteria to participate.

    The American Veterans Center, which runs the parade, told them "we cannot have elements in the parade that have any type of political message or wish to promote a point of view."

    But other groups, like the American Legion, will be participating in the parade.

    Its creed is to defend "God and country" and to "foster and perpetuate a 100 percent Americanism."

    And check out the list of major sponsors for the parade. They include: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, the nation of Kuwait, the U.S. Army, and even the NRA.

    "We're striving to keep political statements out of the parade," says Jordan Cross, communications director of the American Veterans Center.

    So god, country and "Americanism" are not political statements. But peace is a political point of view.

    From the American Legion's Wikipedia entry:
    In addition to organizing commemorative events and volunteer activities, the American Legion is active in U.S. politics. While its primary political activity is lobbying for the interests of veterans, including support for veterans benefits such as pensions and the Veterans Affairs hospital system, it has also been involved in more general political issues, generally taking a conservative position.

    happening tomorrow in canada. maybe.

    The New York Times put this story in the sports section. I'm not sure it's a sport if only one person is rich enough and brave obsessed insane enough to attempt it. This is sky-diving in the sense that the Gobi March is a stroll through a park.*
    He has spent two decades and nearly $20 million in a quest to fly to the upper reaches of the atmosphere with a helium balloon, just so he can jump back to earth again. Now, Michel Fournier says, he is ready at last.

    Depending on the weather, Fournier, a 64-year-old retired French army officer, will attempt what he is calling Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) on Sunday from the plains of northern Saskatchewan.

    He intends to climb into the pressurized gondola of the 650-foot balloon, which resembles a giant jellyfish, and make a two-hour journey to 130,000 feet. At that altitude, almost 25 miles up, Fournier will see both the blackness of space and the curvature of the earth. He will experience weightlessness.

    Then he plans to step out of the capsule, wearing only a special space suit and a parachute, and plunge down in a mere 15 minutes.

    If successful, Fournier will fall longer, farther and faster than anyone in history. Along the way, he can accomplish other firsts, by breaking the sound barrier and records that have stood for nearly 50 years.

    "It's not a question of the world records," Fournier wrote via e-mail through an interpreter on Friday from his base in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. "What is important are what the results from the jump will bring to the safety of the conquest of space. However, the main question that is being asked today by all scientists is, can a man survive when crossing the sound barrier?"

    In the past two weeks, Fournier's 40-person team has assembled at the launch site, about 90 miles northwest of Saskatoon. The remote Canadian plains were picked after French authorities denied permission because of safety concerns.

    Fournier faces plenty of perils. Above 40,000 feet, there is not enough oxygen to breathe in the frigid air. He could experience a fatal embolism. And 12 miles up, should his protective systems fail, his blood could begin to boil because of the air pressure, said Henri Marotte, a professor of physiology at the University of Paris and a member of Fournier's team.

    "If the human body were exposed at very high altitude, the loss of consciousness is very fast, in five seconds," Marotte said. "Brain damage, in three or four minutes."

    Fournier's gondola will be sealed, pressurized and equipped with oxygen. He will be in communication with a ground crew on the climb and will be tracked by G.P.S. He will wear a pressure suit and a sealed helmet supplied with oxygen.

    More here.

    * I'm not pleased with that analogy, but I can't seem to come up with a better one. Consider it up for grabs.

    bouchard-taylor commission tells quebec to grow up

    I like this column by Jeffrey Simpson about the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report. I was appalled by the hearings while they were happening; Simpson helps me see a positive side.
    Quebec is an existential kind of place; always has been, always will be.

    Issues get debated there differently than elsewhere in Canada – not better or worse, necessarily, just differently. "Who are we?" lies at the heart of a great deal of Quebec public discourse. Who are we here, in Quebec? Who are we in Canada? Who are we in the French-speaking world? And who, by the way, are "we"?

    Are "we" everyone who lives in Quebec? Everyone who speaks French in Quebec, regardless of ethnicity or mother language? Everyone whose ancestors were French-speaking?

    These sorts of debates swirl (much less among younger francophones than older ones) within a society that speaks a minority language in North America, and therefore can sometimes be prone to seeing slippery slopes, erosion, threats, lack of respect, slights, dangers; actual, past, possible or imaginary.

    Into such a society have arrived immigrants, who dress and act differently from the majority. Overwhelmingly, the arrivals and the existing population co-exist harmoniously. They have established, in other words, "reasonable accommodation."

    Not perfect, but reasonable. And that state of affairs is a triumph, at least relative to the struggles and nastiness in so many other places. (For confirmation, check what's been happening recently in South Africa, Sudan, Italy, Kenya.)

    There were, however, a handful of incidents of intercultural conflict that got a raging debate going over Quebec's identity – the "we" questions. That debate led Premier Jean Charest's government to appoint the Bouchard-Taylor commission into how to deal with diversity.

    It was a very, shall we say, French or Cartesian gesture, beyond the sheer politics of appointing the commission, since in the existential world of Quebec, digging down to first principles and then debating them is the preferred course of action, as opposed to the case-by-case incrementalism of the Anglo-Saxon tradition.

    What led up to the commission's creation was bizarre: a series of little insignificant incidents, blown out of proportion by elements of the media.

    Most startling were municipal councillors in a backwater village called Hérouxville who passed resolutions warning Muslims not to try anything funny, such as stoning women. The fact that no Muslims had ever settled in Hérouxville, or would dream of settling there, and that no Muslim had ever been stoned in Canada, ought to have made Hérouxville a laughing stock – except that other little towns without immigrants, or prospects of ever having any, got inspired by Hérouxville's defiance in the face of phantom foes and passed resolutions of their own.

    Once begun, the commission's hearings produced the "open microphone" syndrome, whereby half the crackpots, ideologues and nut cases in Quebec appeared. Their "testimony" made great media fodder and deformed the essential reasonableness of the majority of Quebeckers. Prof. Gérard Bouchard (an eminent sociologist) and Prof. Charles Taylor (one of the world's greatest philosophers) produced a report of sustained analytical common sense, the essence of which suggested that everyone calm down. What happened was a clash of perceptions, they found, fuelled by the two villains of the piece: elements in the media, whose coverage of most of these incidents the commission shows to have been false, biased and inflammatory; and politicians trolling for votes in the dark waters of fear and prejudice. (Step up and be noted: Mario Dumont of the Action Démocratique du Québec, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's friend, and of course the braying nationalists of the Parti Québécois.)

    Get over the fear of learning English, the commissioners say. Learning it won't cause French to disappear or slip toward oblivion. Don't be silly and set up a separate school for only blacks youths (are you listening Toronto school authorities?) since that mocks the idea of a public school system.

    The share of Quebeckers who speak French at home hovers around 80 to 81 per cent, where it's been for a very long time. So much for the slippery slope toward assimilation.

    Fear, in other words, can lead to intolerance, and there is no reason for French-speaking Quebeckers to fear their disappearance, the arrival of "others" or to be ashamed of their own record of "intercultural" relations. By and large, that record has been a commendable one. They should be vigilant about their language – how it is spoken, the laws that govern its use, its role in Quebec. The government has a proper role in being supportive of French.

    To say the Bouchard-Taylor commission was much ado about nothing is true in the sense that the incidents that gave rise to the commission's creation were exaggerated to the point of deformation by journalistic sensationalism and political opportunism, but false in the sense that Quebeckers did talk these tricky matters through, and by the prism of this report, and its generally positive reaction, may have slain certain demons.

    One of Prof. Taylor's most magnificent books is entitled Sources of The Self. The commission he co-chaired led Quebeckers to reflect on the sources of themselves. The result was educative and salutary.

    To some extent the Commission's findings tell Quebec to grow up. I appreciate that.

    At the same time, the findings also say that multiculturalism needs to be re-imagined, or at least tweaked, in order for Quebeckers to maintain their distinct culture. I don't like the idea of a majority culture to which minorities must acquiesce, and I wouldn't advocate for it. But on some level I can appreciate the need for it.

    khadr ruling is mostly symbolic

    When it comes to Omar Khadr, any positive news is very welcome. But I think our jubilation over yesterday's Supreme Court ruling was out of proportion to its reality.
    Omar Khadr won a limited victory in the Supreme Court of Canada Friday, but his lawyer had hoped for more.

    In a 9-0 ruling, the SCC said that Khadr has a constitutional right to material related to interviews conducted by Canadian officials in 2003 at Guantanamo Bay.

    But the ruling allows the government to object to releasing some documents for national security reasons. The SCC ruling also said that Khadr does not have the right to access some of the documents that Ottawa holds regarding the case.

    Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Nathan Whitling, told Canada AM that the ruling contained both "good and bad news."

    Whitling said that he won't get many of the documents he wanted.

    A Federal Court judge will review the materials and decide which ones to disclose.

    An analysis in the Globe and Mail notes:
    Yesterday's Supreme Court decision came as no surprise, and likely does little to help Mr. Khadr's legal case in Guantanamo Bay; defence lawyers had already seen much of the information deemed releasable.

    Instead, the ruling's importance lies in the fact that it represents another setback for the Canadian government, which has so far strongly resisted acting on Mr. Khadr's behalf. Indeed, for a defence team that readily admits that Mr. Khadr's only hope is for the Canadian government to act, a Supreme Court ruling that says Guantanamo Bay was essentially an illegal operation is a significant coup.

    Defence lawyers were quick to note the symbolic significance of the ruling yesterday, rather than its practical effect.

    "I think the most important aspect of it is that the Supreme Court has said that Guantanamo Bay is illegal," said Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, Mr. Khadr's U.S. military lawyer. "And yet the Canadian government continues to do nothing to intervene on behalf of Omar Khadr."

    . . .

    With only a small practical victory to draw from the Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Khadr's defence team must now wait to see if this latest development further tips public perception in favour of their client.

    Myriad human-rights and legal groups, as well as all three federal opposition parties, have already called for Mr. Khadr's repatriation. Weighing against that, however, is Mr. Khadr's hugely unpopular family.

    It remains to be seen whether yesterday's Supreme Court ruling is enough to persuade the Conservative government that the pros of not acting to bring Mr. Khadr home are now outweighed by the cons.

    This is sickening.

    Omar Khadr was 15 years old when his alleged crimes may or may not have taken place. He is a Canadian citizen. He has been abused, imprisoned illegally, and denied due process. For seven years!

    And he is the only westerner still imprisoned in Guantanamo, because the governments of every other developed country moved to bring their citizens home.

    Can you imagine if any other country except the United States was holding Omar Khadr?? The outcry that would ensue? The horror and condemnation, the demands for his release?

    The Harper government's inaction on this is shameful and inexcusable.

    the new menace to society: "fraudulent" immigrant marriages

    The Tory anti-immigrant fervor continues.

    Sweeping changes to immigration policy without debate, screaming headlines about illegal immigrants lost to the system, now another alarm bell: so-called fraudulent marriages.
    The Harper government is deploying clandestine teams to fan out across foreign countries and gather raw information about elaborately staged phony weddings aimed at duping Canadian immigration officials.

    The teams, which comprise up to five people, are part of a wider bid by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to crack down on marriages of convenience as immigrant communities warn that thousands of foreign fraudsters are leaving lonely Canadians broke and broken-hearted.

    The wedding spies report back to their colleagues staffing Canada's visa desks about particular regions or communities where lavish parties and convincing photos are little more than a front for getting a passport. "It's a serious issue. That's why there are fraud teams around the world now," a government source said.

    Officials are loath to identify which countries have been targeted for added fraud measures for fear of upsetting diplomatic relations. They also say that providing too much detail would undercut their effectiveness.

    For Conservatives eager to build support among Canada's ethnic communities, the measures approved by Immigration Minister Diane Finley require some political balancing, as well.

    Vocal complaints of fraud by Indo-Canadians, for instance, must be addressed in a way that avoids triggering a backlash in such communities, where overseas arranged marriages are common. Critics warn that large numbers of genuine marriages arranged by relatives are being mistakenly rejected as fraudulent because Canadian officials misunderstand the tradition.

    "Thousands of foreign fraudsters are leaving lonely Canadians broke and broken-hearted"? The federal government needs to intervene because lonely Canadians are broken-hearted?

    Maybe this is a public education issue. Maybe it's a fraud issue, on the level of Nigerian email scams. But a serious immigration issue? Why? To give the anti-immigrant crowd another bullet in their arsenal.

    Here's a companion story from the Globe and Mail.
    In the fall of 2005, the love story of Toronto's Ramesh Maharaj was splashed on the front page of this newspaper.

    "The bureaucracy is destroying my family," he fumed at the time, expressing his outrage at Canada's immigration system for refusing to allow his new wife, Sudha Arora, to immigrate to Toronto.

    The target of his fury was a Canadian official in New Delhi, who had concluded the marriage was motivated primarily by immigration purposes rather than love: a marriage of convenience.

    Mr. Maharaj appealed the decision, spending $30,000 to win his bid to bring his bride to Canada.

    Now, at 57, he is again rallying against the federal government as vice-president of a new group called Canadians Against Immigration Fraud. The bureaucrat, it turns out, had been right.

    Mr. Maharaj's wife arrived with her mother and daughter in June of 2006. After a few tense months in which the three women kept to themselves in a separate bedroom, they were gone by October.

    Mr. Maharaj said he supports new federal efforts to root out the latest fraudulent-marriage trends by using Canadian personnel overseas, such as anti-fraud squads that keep tabs on phony wedding ceremonies.

    It's hard to know what to make of this. Maharaj fought the immigration system tooth and nail, and won, and now says it should have been stronger and not permitted him to win? If anything, this might point out the impossibility of screening for such marriages in the first place.

    When I Googled "immigration fraud canada", a bevy of websites turned up. Some are clearly the work of xenophobic bigots, pounding the table about all those foreigners overrunning Canada. Others purport to be support sites for "victims" of fraudulent marriages. All the language looks suspiciously similar. They all point to the UK, Australia and the US as countries that supposedly have more stringent immigration rules to prevent fraudulent marriages. They all repeat this, but the only evidence is a link to those countries' immigration websites (the same could be done for Canada), and in the case of the US, not even that. Using the US as a model for immigration is cause of skepticism in itself.

    Government spies infiltrating weddings and backyard barbecues are bound to make mistakes. In forcing people to prove the legitimacy of their marriages, the government undoubtedly will make errors and break up legitimate families. And for what?

    For the institution of marriage? Arranged marriages and marriages of convenience are as old as civilization itself. The world over, marriage is an economic and social contract. Canada cannot change that nor exempt itself from the equation.

    To prevent "broken hearts"? That's hardly an issue for the CIC.

    To reduce or prevent immigration? That's an issue for the xenophobes.

    Meanwhile, the refugee system encourages marriage. It's thought that the war resisters who have families are much more likely to be accepted than the single men. Naturally we want them all to be accepted. But why should Corey Glass be deported because he is single? Why is his future less important because he doesn't have a family?

    It's distressing to see the Tories pander to anti-immigrant sentiment in Canada. I can only hope it backfires on them badly in the next election.


    resisters to parliament: let us stay

    The War Resisters Support Campaign has been trying for months to meet with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Campaigners and resisters have met with MPs all over Canada, but Mr. Dion's office has consistently dodged our efforts.

    Where does Mr. Dion stand on this issue?

    Will he sit and watch as people of conscience - law-abiding, tax-paying people of conscience - are deported from Canada, to face military trial and prison?

    Or will he stand up in the tradition of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and say, Let Them Stay?

    Mr. Dion, which side are you on?

    "let not canada become an enforcement arm for the pentagon"

    If you haven't called yet, please do so today!

    Stephen Harper: 613.992.4211

    Stéphane Dion: 613.996.6740 or 613.996.5789

    Urge them to:
    - support the motion to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada,
    - oppose the deportation of people of conscience who have resisted an illegal war, and
    - support the will of the Canadian people, not the U.S.'s war agenda.

    made in canada label: good enough for food, but not for war?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced changes in food labeling.

    I saw a segment on CBC Marketplace once about the "made in Canada" label on food. (I see they have re-run the show and are highlighting it on the website.) Some frozen fish sticks that were labelled "made in Canada / produit du Canada", with a company address in Newfoundland, were in fact made with fish from New Zealand, processed in China, then sent to Newfoundland for a bit of final processing.

    Under new guidelines, food won't be labelled "Made In Canada" unless it actually is made in Canada, and country-of-origin labels will be much stricter.

    This is a very positive development for our health and for the environment.

    Now, Mr. Harper, can we get some foreign policy that is made in Canada, too? (Canada out of Afghanistan!)

    How about some domestic policy made in Canada? (Let Them Stay!)


    let them stay: event report and update

    Last night's event at Innis Town Hall was fantastic. Fourteen US war resisters were interviewed by CBC host Andy Barrie, himself a Vietnam War conscientious objector. Andy helped the resisters talk about why they joined the military, why they left, how going AWOL has impacted their lives, what they hope for in Canada. Cumulatively, this is a remarkable and moving story. I'm sure I wasn't the only person in the audience moved to tears, more than once.

    One of the people Andy highlighted is Chuck Wiley. Chuck is older than most of the other resisters, having served almost 20 years in the military. He comes from a military family, where he is - was - the pride and joy, the "good son" who chose the route considered right and proper. Chuck was an officer, and served in a position where he was in no personal danger.

    He saw young men - kids, really - joining the US military based on lies and false promises. He felt he owed it to his men to tell them the truth as he saw it. His superiors called that mutiny and sedition.

    Going AWOL is not easy for anyone, but Chuck has paid an especially high price. He gave up a military career and pension. He gave up - at least for now - his family, who no longer speaks to him. If he's sent to prison, Chuck will give up his career. He's trained in highly specialized work that requires a security clearance; with a Bad Conduct Discharge, his career will be over.

    Andy asked the resisters, "Well, what did you expect to find? War is hell, right? You saw people dying, losing limbs, homes destroyed, so you just left?"

    Chuck answered, "I think if you ask people to kill or to be killed, there has to be a better reason than 'Because I said so'".

    For more on Chuck, here's a piece written by someone who heard Chuck Wiley speak at his university.

    * * * *

    The Campaign was able to help Josh and Brandi Key come in from Saskatoon. It was the first time I had met the Keys; I was grateful for the opportunity to tell Josh how much his book meant to me, and to hang out with Brandi in the pub after the event. They are both extremely caring, good-hearted people.

    I was also so happy that Tom and Emilio (Canadian Hope) attended the event! They know what it's like to live with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads every moment. This connection has led Tom to talk to people about the resisters' cause, painstaking "each one, reach one" personal activism. I can't thank them enough.

    And special bonus, we got to meet new friend of wmtc Kim_in_TO. Kim knows Tom and Emilio, and is good friends with several Campaigners. My worlds are coming together!

    * * * *

    Corey Glass was also there. He looked despondent, and who can blame him. Why should he face prison and a life burdened by a criminal record? He joined the National Guard to help people during national emergencies. He says, "I should have been in New Orleans, not Iraq."

    Olivia Chow, NDP Member of Parliament and Patron Saint of the War Resisters, was at the event, of course, urging the crowd to action. One of our Liberal supporters, MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, also attended. He disappointed the audience by making excuses for his party, but I'm not sure what else he can do. He personally supports our cause, but what is he supposed to say? "Sorry, our party leader is too spineless to make a stand"?

    * * * *

    To the war resisters, this is a personal issue of conscience versus blind obedience - freedom versus servitude. To Canadians, this should be a question of national identity. What kind of Canada do we want to live in?

    The rest of the world still believes in the Canada that welcomed runaway slaves, that embraced Vietnam War resisters, and that now welcomes same-sex couples rejected by their own countries. That's the image of Canada internationally: a safe haven. Does that Canada still exist?

    Do we want to live in a Canada that dutifully salutes the US's war agenda? Or a Canada that is - in the words of Pierre Trudeau - a "refuge from militarism"?

    There is still hope. Please call Prime Minister Stephen Harper (613.992.4211) and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion (613.996.6740 or 613.996.5789). Tell them:
    - to support the motion to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada,
    - to oppose the deportation of people of conscience who have resisted an illegal war, and
    - to support the will of the Canadian people, not the U.S.'s war agenda.


    breaking news: canada to deport u.s. war resister - your action urgently needed

    US Iraq war resister Corey Glass was told today that his application to stay in Canada has been rejected and he now faces deportation.

    Glass, 25, came to Canada in August 2006 after serving in Iraq as a Military Intelligence Sergeant. "What I saw in Iraq convinced me that the war is illegal and immoral. I could not in good conscience continue to take part in it," said Glass. "I came here because Canada did not join the Iraq War. Also, I knew Canada had welcomed many Americans during the Vietnam War," Glass stated.

    It is estimated that several hundred Iraq War resisters are currently in Canada, many of them living underground.

    "Corey Glass would be the first Iraq War resister to be deported from Canada. He would face imprisonment and severe penalties in the US," said Lee Zaslofsky, coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign and a Vietnam War resister. "This goes against Canada’s tradition of welcoming Americans who disagree with policies like slavery and the Vietnam War."

    On December 6, 2007, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration called on the Canadian Government to "immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members...to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and...the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions ...against such individuals."

    "The Government should implement that recommendation immediately," said author Lawrence Hill. "Corey Glass had the courage to listen to his conscience. He is working hard to build a new life in this country. He should be allowed to stay."

    "We must not forget that the invasion of Iraq was a war justified only by lies, greed and stupidity for which permission was not sought nor granted to the Bush administration by the United Nations," said Alexandre Trudeau, son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and director of the documentary film Embedded In Baghdad. "This outlaw war has ravaged the Iraqi landscape, destroyed tens of thousands of lives and sorely sapped the American treasury all while filling the coffers of profiteers."

    "Those Americans who served in Iraq and have come to Canada to avoid being pressed into further participation in the indignities of the American occupation there are brave men and women of principle who should be given a chance to become landed in Canada. Like many Vietnam draft dodgers before them, their heightened sense of morality and truth can only be a benefit to our nation," Trudeau concluded.

    * * * *

    Tonight, please join us to hear from Iraq war resisters in their own words, a forum moderated by CBC host (and Vietnam war resister) Andy Barrie. (Innis Town Hall, University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Avenue at St. George Street & Sussex, just south of Bloor St. St. George subway.)

    But right now, call Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion: 613.996.6740 or 613.996.5789. Tell him you want the Liberal Party...

  • to support the Parliamentary motion to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada,

  • to oppose the deportation of people of conscience who have resisted an illegal war, and

  • to support the will of the Canadian people, not Stephen Harper’s decision to deport war resisters, and not the US's war agenda.


    Please circulate this widely!
  • mates burilados from huancayo, peru

    When we were in Peru in 2006 - actually on the last day of the trip - we met a young man from Huancayo named Cristian Alfaro Nùñez. He was selling the most amazing craft work we had seen in our three weeks in his country.

    The Nùñez family makes mates burilados, which translates literally as "engraved gourds". Here's what I wrote the day after we met him.
    In an alcove to the side of one of the exhibits, a young man sat in a room full of a kind of handicraft we have not seen anywhere else. He gave us a beautiful description (in Spanish, dumbed down for me, I believe) of how they are made and what they mean.

    They are gourds, meticulously engraved in the most painstaking detail, then rubbed with the black ash of a certain plant, then cleaned with another solution (all from plants found in the rainforest), so the inky colour stays only in the engravings. The drawings are playful and light, depicting festivals, music, work, family life, and other aspects of rural life in Peru.

    I cannot begin to describe the intricacy of the drawings. We were positively flabbergasted. Some of the engravings were huge, on giant horn-shaped gourds. Others were small, about the size of a pear, or even smaller, the size of a small egg. The workshop of artists who make them are entirely the young man´s family.

    Off to the ATM we went! We simply could not resist buying these unique figures from the artist themselves. After much decision-making - they were all so beautiful - we bought one medium pear-sized gourd, and a very small egg-shaped one. (They were priced according to how long they took to make.) When I asked the boy for his photo in front of his work, he gave me his email address and asked if I would send him the photo. Great!

    I don't know if there's anything about this work online. He called it Mates Burilados. (I asked him to write it down with his email address.) Mates are the gourds; the etching instruments are burillas.

    . . .

    Allan took several close-ups of the amazing mates burilados, but, engrossed as I was in trying to communicate with the artist, I forgot to tell Allan about the close-up setting on the digital camera. So unfortunately, most of those are too blurry to post, and I'm still kicking myself over it. However, you can see the artist himself, Cristian Alfaro, and a few of his family's creations.

    Here is Cristian holding one of the huge gourds, with a selection of them behind him. Please click to enlarge.

    Lima, part 2

    But to appreciate this work, you must see it up close. The intricacy and detail is mind-boggling. Here is one that we own; I placed it next to an apple to give you size perspective.

    mates burilados 003

    And here is some detail.

    mates burilados 002

    Cristian and I have stayed in touch since then. Sometimes I stop writing to him, not because of lack of interest, but because my written Spanish is so bad. It takes me forever to compose a simple email, and it's such a painful process, that I become frustrated and quit. Sometimes I use an online translator, but those are suspect. When I run Cristian's email through the translator, it sounds ridiculous, so my email must sound the same to him.

    * * * *

    When we were in Windsor last week, we went with Gito to a Ten Thousand Villages store to find a gift he needed. I have been to a Ten Thousand Villages in Toronto, but I didn't realize that it's a chain.

    From the Ten Thousand Villages website:
    Men and women around the world have a simple dream – to earn an honest living, provide a home, food and education for their children, and to be gainfully employed in a job that brings dignity and joy. Ten Thousand Villages partners with thousands of talented artisans in a healthy business relationship.

    Often referred to as 'fair trade,' our philosophy of helping to build a sustainable future is based on the principle that trade should have a conscience. Through 'fair trade,' artisans receive respect, dignity and hope from working hard and earning fair value for their work.

    Ten Thousand Villages is a not-for-profit, self-supporting Fair Trade Organization (FTO). FTOs are non-governmental organizations designed to benefit artisans, not to maximize profits. They market products from handicraft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries, providing consumers with products that have been fairly purchased from sustainable sources.

    Ten Thousand Villages is a member of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), a global network of Fair Trade Organizations. IFAT's mission is to improve the livelihoods and well-being of disadvantaged producers by linking and promoting fair trade organizations and speaking out for greater justice in world trade. Over 270 FTOs in 60 countries form the basis of this network.

    There are TTV stores all over Canada and many in the US as well.

    One of the many great things about this organization is that the artists are paid up front for their work, not on consignment. If the work doesn't sell, TTV takes the loss, not the craftspeople. TTV teaches business practices so the craft community can set up a sustainable collective and work with other buyers.

    * * * *

    In the store in Windsor, I suddenly remembered Cristian and the gourds. I asked the owner if TTV carries engraved gourds from Peru, and he looked it up: they don't. I got some information on how to suggest a work to the head office, and I tucked it away to deal with later this summer. I thought I would take some photos of the gourds we have, and also send some links to photos online, although there isn't much.

    Then yesterday - great coincidence! - I got email from Cristian. Someone has created a website for his family's work! It's not finished yet, but it is really well done.

    Mates Burilados y Bordados: La familia Alfaro Nuñez de Cochas Grande, Huancayo, Perú

    Now I have great incentive to speak to Ten Thousand Villages, and a way to showcase the work.

    Please check out the Alfaro family's website. I'm going to put them on my sidebar, and I'll keep you posted if I make any progress with Ten Thousand Villages.