not my prime minister

While we were listing the many reasons we don't want another Harper Government, we could have cheated by going here: Not My Prime Minister. Worth a look.

your small donation will make a big difference

Last year around this time, I blogged about Cathy Baskin. Cathy has stage 4 breast cancer. She lives in North Carolina, and she does not have health insurance.

Cathy chose to use her personal tragedy to shed light on the US's national, avoidable tragedy, the lack of access to affordable health care.

Cathy's husband, Tim Baskin, is a cherished member of our Red Sox community at Joy of Sox. JoS readers know him as SoSock.

I bring you this message from Tim and Cathy.
My name is Cathy Baskin. I've been married 32 years, have three children, all above the age of 26, and six grandchildren ranging from one year to age 17. In my former life I was an Oncology and Hospice Nurse.

In 1996, I was involved in a serious car accident that effectively ended my nursing career. My husband is self-employed, so, as a nurse, I had carried all our health insurance.

In 2002, I felt an egg-sized lump in my breast, and went to the doctor. Even though he felt it, too, the mammograms had come back clean, so he decided it was "nothing". He didn't even do a biopsy. I was 44, pre-menopausal, and had fibrocystic breast disease. Taken together, this means mammography results are all but useless. But I had no health insurance, so there was no follow-up.

By the following year, the lump had grown: my left breast was almost twice the size of my right. In February 2004, I was finally diagnosed with Stage 3b breast cancer.

Drug companies helped me pay for my initial treatments. After six months of chemo followed by radiation, then more surgery, I was clear for about six months. Then the cancer metastasized to my bones.

I am now in Stage 4, no longer considered curable. No more help from the drug companies.

After my doctor wrote a letter confirming that my cancer is terminal, I was able to get disability benefits and Medicare. This does help, as it covers 20% of my chemotherapy. But 20% of $50,000/month still leaves a lot.

We earn $200 more than what Medicaid allows, which means I must pay for most of my Medicare benefits. This leaves $700/month for all our personal and household expenses. I've come to realize that there is nothing I can do about the financial aspect of having cancer, so I don't worry about it anymore.

What I do worry about a great deal is keeping our house. Our mortgage payment is only $700/month. We couldn't rent a place in our area for less than that. My husband's work van has almost 400,000 miles on it. We have spent more than $600 worth of repairs on the van this month alone so that he can continue to work.

I spent the better part of August and September in the hospital. The very day I came home, my car's transmission crashed. Now I am stranded. There is no way I can afford to fix it, nor would that even be wise, as the car would still need another $500 to $1,000 in other repairs. So now I must find friends who can drive me to my doctor appointments and chemotherapy sessions.

I feel stuck. What little control I thought I had has gone up in smoke.

Please help me raise the $4000 we need to get a decent used car.

If I were being asked to donate money, I would want to check out the truthfulness of the story. So please feel free to visit my website.

Think of what a difference your very small donation can make. If 330 people donate only $10 each, Cathy can get her car.

By using Fundable, you pledge a donation. Your pledge only becomes a payment if and when this collection reaches its goal. If Cathy doesn't meet her fundraising goal, you pay nothing.

Let's make this happen. Click here to make a pledge.

harper exposed

From CBC: Liberals accuse Harper of plagiarizing 2003 speech on Iraq.

The progressive Canadian blogosphere is all over this. Go to Progressive Bloggers for many perspectives. Best way to search: go to the Affiliates pages and scroll down through the numbered pages.

also about last night

A personal note about going to see Naomi Klein last night.

First, I heard about the event through a comment on this blog. This is cool.

Then, waiting to get in and afterwards, I saw some great people I know through the Toronto activist community. This is very cool, and for me, it's a bit amazing.

And afterwards, Allan and I went to a pub, which is something I so love about Toronto: great pubs everywhere. It's very different from New York, in a good way.

These are the kinds of things that make me very happy, perhaps out of all proportion to what happened. It's a deep-down happiness of feeling so grounded and at home now.

naomi klein in toronto last night: become shock resistant

Allan and I went to hear Naomi Klein speak at Bloor Cinema last night. Thanks to a tip from friend of wmtc Lisa (yay!), I learned about the event before it sold out. The place was packed (850 people) and hundreds more were turned away.

Klein is a terrific speaker. She has such a beautifully relaxed, warm presence, she's so articulate, and her knowledge is truly impressive. Not every writer is also a good speaker and organizer, but she is all three.

The event was a fundraiser for the native communities of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. Some Toronto activists spoke about that, but Klein addressed our current social shock: the crisis of capitalism that is unfolding in North America right now.

Klein began by noting that in this famously ahistorical, even anti-historical society we here in North America live in, the US Congress saying "NO" to the massive transfer of funds means we actually managed to remember something. 95% of the US public opposed this so-called bailout, and Congress actually acted on their wishes. A democracy moment.

Klein then gave a historical perspective on what's happening, which is exactly what we all need.

In 1929, the stock market collapses. Massive unemployment, poverty, starvation, hopelessness. The political left - quite strong at that time - correctly sees this as an indictment of capitalism. People's movements rise up and clamour for change. They clamour for revolution. (If you don't know this, please read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.)

Roosevelt draws a compromise between socialism and corporatism, displeasing both sides - Klein quotes from Upton Sinclair's angry letter to FDR - but saving capitalism's bacon by restraining it. By regulating it.

In our era, said Klein, we have been living through a massive liberation movement: capital liberating itself from those restraints. Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney went about dismantling those barriers to unchecked profit-making - those regulations that protect people, labour, the environment.

Remember, corporations are designed to create profit. That's their sole raison d'etre. It's not the corporation's job to say, we shouldn't gamble with people's life savings, we shouldn't destroy the environment. Its only function, its mandate, is to create profit. The more profit a corporation creates, the more successful it is.

It's government's job to restrain those profit-making corporations, to create limits and protections, so that they cannot trammel over what is not theirs. These limits and protections ultimately end up helping corporations, too. Nobody was buying cars during the Great Depression. Society needs to be healthy if people are going to be good consumers.

So, Klein says, this massive liberation movement that began under Reagan, went unchecked through Clinton (I appreciated that!), and of course picked up renewed speed under the Bush junta, has been enormously successful. For 35 years we have been living through a counter-revolution, a "great unmaking" of all those gains that were so painstakingly fought for before and after the Great Depression.

I really appreciated this perspective, because too many progressive people don't seem to realize it. Too many USians and Canadians imagine that this era of unchecked capitalism began with Bush II and Harper in Canada. They imagine that during a Democrat administration or Liberal Government, there was increased regulation and protection. Check your history.

Klein's central metaphor - the shock doctrine - says that one of the most powerful tools of this capitalist counter-revolution is to create (or at least exploit) a crisis. A crisis exists when we suddenly find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. We have no narrative to explain and guide us through the difficult and scary times. We panic. Our panic is their opportunity. The counter-revolutionaries swoop in with their own narrative, and they tell us what needs to be done.

It's crisis as a giant democracy-avoidance tool.

The crisis of 9/11 brought us the USA Patriot Act. It was hundreds of pages long, and written mostly under Clinton. (Not "conspiracy theory". Fact.) The crisis of 9/11 let an unelected government bring in massive unconstitutional changes without discussion, debate or even public knowledge of what the changes were.

The crisis of 9/11 brought us the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Domestic surveillance, Guantanamo, the Military Commissions Act, and on and on.

Now they want to use this new manufactured crisis - itself caused by deregulation and unchecked capitalism - as a springboard to another great leap forward in this great unmaking.

[I haven't yet read The Shock Doctrine, although I will, but I have read long excerpts from it in places like Harper's, and I've quoted from it extensively in this blog. A good summary is this interview with Klein: "Why Capitalism Needs Terror". And it's now out in paperback, so read it!]

We are always told there is no alternative to capitalism. "It may not be perfect, but it's the only way that works." We have all heard this so many times that most people believe it, although they have little or no evidence to back up their belief. (The collapse of the Soviet Union is not evidence that unchecked capitalism is the only way!)

Klein related some of Linda McQuaig's excellent work, in her book Shooting the Hippo, when McQuaig interviewed the person responsible for Moody's credit ratings. Canada had always had a triple-A rating, A++. Canadians were scared into believing if they didn't have NAFTA, if they didn't merge their economic interests with those of the US, the country's credit rating would plummet and no country would want to do business with them.

In her research, McQuaig learned that Canada was the only country where corporate interests would beg Moody's to lower the country's credit rating. Business leaders in other countries would try to convince Moody's that their country's credit was better than it was, to get a higher rating. Canadian corporate interests wanted the credit rating lowered, so they could prove that regulation, social spending, and caring for the public trust (i.e., higher corporate taxes) were indeed scaring investors away, making Canada less stable economically. Too bad it doesn't work that way.

Now Harper will use this economic crisis as a way to frighten people into believing they need a "strong leader". (Klein compared this to post-9/11 Giuliani.) Harper, Klein said, will use this economic crisis to try to dismantle everything that's worth saving about Canada.

In the US, the crisis may be used for something even worse. Naomi Klein didn't say that. I did.

Klein often quotes libertarain/neocon economist Milton Friedman, to demonstrate how the system works. (All over the internet, you can find trickle-down supplier-siders pounding their keyboards over how the "crazy commie" Naomi Klein is "defaming" Friedman. They go nuts when their religion is challenged.)

The two bits of Friedman that Klein has made most famous are these. The quotes are Friedman according to Klein.

"Our basic function [is] to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible" - radical deregulation, mass privatization, deep cuts to social spending - "becomes the politically inevitable."

And: "Only a crisis, real or perceived, produces real change, and when that crisis hits, the change that occurs depends on the ideas that are lying around.".

* * * *

Klein reminded us that an economic crisis caused by deregulated capitalism is a "naturally progressive moment". It's the time when our ideas shine the brightest - when the failure of unchecked capitalism is most apparent, and people need an alternative. There's a reason that socialism was so popular after the Great Depression, and why bits of socialist ideas became embedded in the capitalist system.

During this crisis - this moment of panic, when people lack a familiar narrative to ground them - is the time we most need to speak out: this didn't have to happen, and there is a better way.

We must become "shock resistant" by having our own ideas, our own narrative, on hand, lying around, ready to act.

A mere five years ago, no one running for political office in Canada or the US would have talked about climate change. It wasn't an issue. Now people vie for our votes with dueling climate-change plans. We did that. People in Canada, people the world over demanded that climate change and the environment become a political issue. Now it is.

Occasionally, Klein noted, we get a "weird outbreak of democracy". Let's use it.


to everyone whose blog i am following

"Following" blogs is not working for me.

Blogger's "Blogs I'm Following" function shows up on your dashboard page. I go to the dashboard a zillion times a day to check for comments awaiting moderation, for both wmtc and Joy of Sox.

Now when I do that, all the things I should or could be reading are staring me in the face. You can't change the default tab to Blogs of Note or Blogger Buzz. It's always the Following feed.

Seeing Blogs I'm Following a zillion times a day is contributing to my ever-present feelings of being overwhelmed, and the energy it takes to focus and manage my time. I need to return to my previous method of keeping track of people's blogs, through feeds on my iGoogle page, which I only see when I choose to see them.

So, dear everyone whose blog I am following, I am removing myself from your Following list. Not because I am no longer interested in your blog, and not because I will read your blog any less frequently. Trust me. It's a sanity thing.

democratic space, still making me feel slightly better

Two days ago I wrote:
Last week, when I started gluing myself to DemocraticSpace, their seat projections had the Conservatives at 150 seats, five shy of a majority. Two days later, that was down to 145. Two days after that, it was 144. Today they have the Conservatives at 142.

So everything's moving in the right direction. Now if we can just get the election postponed until December.

Today they are showing the Conservatives at 140 seats. Please move faster! Please!

gadget help revisited

Way back here, I asked for gadget help.

Then I postponed buying anything, as I've been so pressed for time, and I know that anything new requires time, especially if it's going to sync with my home computer via new software. So I decided to wait.

Now, one week from deadline, I'm anticipating more time on the horizon, so I'm starting to think about the phone again. (It looks like I'll have more writing work related to Spinal Network, but the huge project I've been working on since early July is coming to a close.) And I'm thinking myself in circles about this phone thing.

I really want a qwerty keyboard for texting. Although I don't text often, I do find it very useful, and I would text a lot more often if I didn't have to pick through my stupid alpha-numeric keyboard. I know many people like T9 but I find it maddening and useless.

As I looked through my qwerty-keyboard options, I saw this phone, a "Rumour" from LG. (Doesn't it seem like I should own a piece of LG?) I really like the look, but Rogers doesn't have it.

I'd have to switch to Bell in order to get the phone thrown in the deal. Do I want to change providers? I find Rogers super-easy to deal with. (Don't laugh! I really do). Any time we travel or I go to the US, I add on long-distance or US minutes for only that month. And since our we have cable and internet through Rogers, too, there's a discount. Do I want to take a chance on a new provider? Not really. But do I want to stay with Rogers so much that I spend $300 on a phone? No.

If I give up on the Rumour phone, and stay with Rogers, and I want a qwerty keyboard, I'm looking at a Blackberry.

If I get a Blackberry, I'll have mobile email. And I don't really want my email following me around. I'm at my computer practically all day and all night. When I'm away from it, I want to be away from it.

What's more, I would have to pay for that, right? There is just no way I can afford another monthly bill. I'm earning about half of what I was earning in 2006. Allan's earning slightly more, but the net result is way down. And even if I could afford it (which I can't), I don't want more expenses. I already wish we could simplify more, and we can't seem to. No need to add anything else to the pile.

But if I don't get mobile email, can I get an organizer that will sync with my computer? I've had that for so long, it would be strange to be without. Allan thinks I could wean myself away from it and eventually not miss it.

So now I'm coming around the other side. Maybe instead of ramping everything up, I should just get a new phone, not a pda, not a Blackberry, just a phone.

There is also this phone, a Samsung SCH-u740, which has a double hinge, for talk or text. Rogers doesn't have it, but it's inexpensive. I can't spend $300 for a phone Rogers doesn't have, but I can spend $30.

Or should I just give up on the qwerty? Get a cute little phone and pick my way through text messaging the way I do now? And can I give up a pda? I'm still vacillating.

And a tangential question, if I don't sync with a handheld device, how do I back up my Outlook data?

At least I've ruled one thing out. Higher monthly bills just to have mobile email and a data stream I don't need is out of the question.


we don't want another harper government because...

On September 19, I asked wmtc readers to finish this sentence: "We don't want another Harper Government because..."

Here are our answers so far.

[I omitted banter, and occasionally edited comments for grammar or sense. And thank you all so much for your contributions.]

L-girl: We don't want another Harper government because we want people of conscience who refused to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq to be able to stay in Canada.

PeterC: The SPP and harmonizing our food inspectors with the rest of North America. Then laughing about it with the rest of his party.

James: He's already fixed the date of Federal elections... How long before he takes a page from his pal Dubya's book and starts fixing the elections themselves?

Stephanie: No more militarization.

PeterC: First deficit in many years. Conservative track record at managing the economy poorly. I think those fit under poor economic management no matter what sweater vest says.

Lizt: No more downing everything to the Provinces, selling off our federal buildings, and dissolving Canada as we know it.

Ryan: "Kyoto is a money-sucking socialist scheme" - Steve

Canrane: Cutting the court challenges program (at a grand total of 300 million, or something like that) because we need to tighten our purse strings...yet we somehow have money for 20+ billion (*billion*) for military spending.

West End Bob: We want an immigration policy with rules and parameters, rather than one based on the whims of the Immigration Minister, Diane Finley in this case.

PeterC: Ritz's insensitivity to the families of whom the conservative policy of "producer inspect" has killed the loved ones.

The selection of campaign teams and managers who would insult Aboriginals with "drunken incest" comments, say comments from a dead soldier's father are politically motivated and otherwise drag us down in the the bully mentality.

I think this fits in a "MEAN" category.

Dale Landry: Here's a good one. He'll send me to jail.

Canrane: Hurting Canada's standing internationally by unilaterally reversing decades of standard operating procedure (and this crosses party lines. He's flying in the face of what was done even during Brian Mulroney's time).

For example, unequivocally siding with Israel during the Lebanon conflict, heavy-handed dealings with China to the point where we lose what little leverage we may have had, obstructionism in UN talks on everything from climate change to asbestos, failing to appeal on behalf of Canadians on death row in foreign countries, only appealing on the behalf of Canadians on death row in *certain* countries and thus exposing us to criticisms of hypocrisy...

Lisa: Axing funding to the Court Challenges Program.

What the hell is the point in having a Charter of Rights if people can't afford the lawyers!

Save the Court Challenges Program of Canada

[Dupe included for emphasis and link!]

JakeNCC: He will continue to gut arts and culture funding including the CBC. Who needs news and culture from a Canadian perspective when we can now watch FOX this and FOX that.

Impudent Strumpet: I'd kind of like a government that doesn't completely disregard me based on my demographics.

JakeNCC: Guns.

Jen: Insite*. Or lack thereof.
* In all possible meanings and spellings of the word.

Scott M: Harper changed the policy of asking for clemency for EVERY person sentenced to the death penalty, choosing instead to not ask for clemency from countries who have a "fair system".

Of course any country we ask for clemency from now, understandably, takes it as a diplomatic insult to be asked and considers us to have a double standard.

Harper has subsequently taken away our moral authority to request that our citizens not be murdered overseas as a result of EITHER a fair OR unfair justice system.

DeanG: He's caused people in other countries to think of Canada as allied with the US right wing exemplified by Bush and thus caused people to think less of Canada: Diminished Canada's international reputation.

Redsock: On June 3, the House of Commons passed a resolution stating that Iraq war resisters from the US should be allowed to stay legally in Canada.

However, Harper has given the finger to democracy. He has chosen to behave as a dictator, believing that his opinion rules above all others, willfully ignoring the wishes of Parliament and a clear majority of the Canadian people.

JakeNCC: If Harper had been prime minister in 2003 we would to this day have our soldiers dying in Iraq. He's never met an American war he didn't want to support with Canadian blood.

He has a hard-on for America and wishes to Americanize our country at every level.

Impudent Strumpet: I'd also prefer a government that doesn't interrogate or fire people for doing their jobs as required by law.

Scott M: Here's an economic one: Harper committed to NOT tax income trusts. Then, in his first year, he did a 180 saying that if they didn't tax income trusts major corporations like Bell Canada would get out of paying corporate taxes by converting to income trusts.

This, of course, is true but ignores that most people pay taxes when the distributions of the income trusts are removed from their RRIF/RRSP etc, resulting in MILLIONS of dollars of revenue.

So yeah, he stopped Bell Canada from becoming an income trust. Bell, who still needed to change it's corporate structure, was instead bought by a pension plan and turned private.

Now, Bell is not paying any taxes at all. The pension plan doesn't pay them either.

Oh, and don't forget, billions of dollars of equity was blown away by the markets when the taxes were announced. Who got affected? The senior citizens who bought income trusts in the last two years, egged on by Stephen Harper actively promoting them while promising he'd never tax them.

L-girl: Because $100/month - taxable - does not provide child care.

David Heap: Because of the obscene amounts they spent on military recruitment (the Canadian Forces seem to own all the bus shelter ad space in our city...). This includes making the best-funded federal youth training program a series of free "cadet camps" for teens (younger than recruitment age) to learn how much fun it is to be a soldier.
Not to mention the vast amounts spent on PR to "sell the war" in Afghanistan to a skeptical public.

L-girl: Because we don't want reproductive freedom chipped away by stealth, as bills supposedly about justice actually redefine a fetus as a legal human being. See C-484 and C-537.

Kim_in_TO: Because Harper doesn't care about cities - the economic engines of the country. Didn't he basically tell cities to go to hell? And he wonders why he doesn't have any support in Toronto...

John F: Under Harper, Canada has stopped insisting that people it extradites not be subjected to the death penalty. If he gets a majority, I think the government will start flying trial balloons about bringing back the death penalty in Canada.

Kim_in_TO: Because if Harper had his way, gays wouldn't be allowed to marry.

Mister Anchovy: My old pal Candy Minx posted the following quote from Harper back at my place, and I think it sums things up: "The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things."
- Conservative leader Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.

It seems some people think he's changed. Let's not be lulled into a false sense of security just because he's run an impotent minority government for a couple years.

Kim_in_TO: Because he has already stated that he will run the government as a dictatorship - oops, I mean "majority", even if he doesn't get a majority. This is essentially what he has been doing all along (note the refusal to honour the majority House vote on the war resisters), so we shouldn't have any doubts.

Jen: Because he puts in ministers who don't have even a basic handle on the areas they cover, then muzzle the ministers so Canadians can't hear how under-qualified they are (until they speak at some organization, like say, the Canadian Medical Association).

Lisa: We don't want another Harper government because Harper et al try to capitalize on the politics of fear, and, are apparently PROUDLY irrational:

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper has dismissed empirical evidence that crime rates are actually falling, suggesting that emotion is a more telling barometer. Harper has cast those who point to statistics to oppose elements of the Tory law-and-order agenda as apologists for criminals.

"(They) try to pacify Canadians with statistics," he told party supporters in January.

"Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong, they say; crime is really not a problem. These apologists remind me of the scene from the Wizard of Oz when the wizard says, 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."'

Sarah Gates: I don't want you guys to have another Harper Government because I don't want there to be ANY nations that enable my pathetic excuse for a government the way Harper likes to. If we're going to be the total assholes on the global block, we shouldn't have back up.

James: [snip from longer comment] Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong, they say

That's why science exists: because people's personal experiences and impressions are often wrong, and the only way to know what's really going on is to tests your impressions against reality to find out if they are actually right or not.

Harper (like Bush and like McCain) favours the "decisive, from the gut" style of decision making. And with our Arctic waters ice-free, this is not the time to to hand leadership to someone who trusts his intestines' decision-making abilities over scientific study.

Nicholas: The Conservative Party runs candidates that make fun of people's deaths and wish for their opponents to die; thinks that all Natives are disruptors and alcoholics; believes that gay people support promiscuity, drug use and prostitution...oh and that abortion should be banned, concealed weapons should be allowed and hate-crimes be abolished.

Kim_in_TO: Because Harper talks about transparency, but instead muzzles the press - restricting and decreasing reporters' access to politicians.

David Heap: Because he puts in ministers who don't have even a basic handle on the areas they cover

And Parliamentary Assistants, i.e., MPs who are supposed help ministers with their portfolios. Specifically (just for a few examples) his 2006 appointments included:

A P.A. for status of women who is a man.
A P.A. for La francophonie who doesn't speak French.
A P.A. for Fisheries from landlocked Saskatchewan.

So much willful incompetence adds up to deliberate slaps in the face for the many many constituencies which don't matter to Harper's government.

Mason: ...this beautiful country has taken decades and spent billions of dollars instigating policies and procedures encouraging the development of unique Canadian arts, broadcast and influence to protect itself from a cultural invasion from the United States and to throw that all away with the election of a mini-me George Bush and conservative party would rip at the very core of this country's foundation: Peace, Order and Good Government!

M@: The Harper government worked to reclassify lakes to enable private companies to turn them into tar sands tailing ponds.

As if our lakes -- and our fresh water supply -- weren't under enough pressure from pollution.

I'm not sure to what extent they have succeeded at this. The futures of many of the 16 lakes were in doubt, but I haven't seen anything about this in the media since the story originally broke.

M@: Harper provided a handbook to his MPs explaining how they could disrupt the work of parliamentary committees.

L-girl: Because his government will erode women's rights by stealth.

Stephanie: Because this Government is way too closely aligned with that other Conservative Government that brought us Free Trade during the era of Reaganomics.

Harper and his cronies are lining up at the trough smacking their lips at the promise of $$$.

Impudent Strumpet: Correct me if I'm wrong, I don't know a lot about economics, but if I'm reading this right he seems to think that the economy will collapse if you don't believe in it.

Also, speaking as an ordinary working person, I don't much appreciate being told what I do and don't want to see by someone who is never exposed to ordinary people.

L-girl: Because, although his 2006 campaign was all about government transparency and accountability, he governs the same way he campaigns: by stealth.

M@: One big reason here, and it has a lot of sub-reasons but I think it's worth describing in detail.

The appointment of Michael Fortier to the senate is one of the major reasons I would not vote for Harper in this or any election.

First, it was a cynical move to try to increase Quebec representation in his cabinet, despite having very few qualified MPs in Quebec.

Second, it broke a promise he made in 2005, that he would not appoint any senators without first enacting senate reform.

Third, he appointed Fortier as the Minister of Public Works. This is the very same ministry where the Liberal sponsorship scandal happened. And Harper's response was to appoint a minister who does not answer to parliament, and in fact never has to address parliament.

While we're on the topic -- like Harper's fixed election date law, his proposed senate reform actually does nothing; we would need a constitutional change to get any real senate reform, and no one is dumb enough to try that right now. But any reform Harper might propose just shows how cynically Harper used the existing system when it suited him.

(Side note: when I received a flyer from my (CPC) MP about the CPC plans for senate reform, I wrote his office, demanding to know whether they were serious, in light of the Fortier affair, or whether their pre-campaign had turned into some kind of satirical Dadaist art project. Turns out they were serious -- I hounded him till he answered and will keep the letter until he's out of office.)

M@: Another one -- also from Harper's first day in office: the courting of David Emerson.

Again, Harper contradicted his previous stand against floor-crossers (although of course he never said he'd forbid it or anything). However, to court someone from the opposition to join your party -- before they had even taken their seat in the new parliament -- is outright opportunism and a complete lack of ethics.

It has also led to the citizens of Emerson's ridings being all but unrepresented in the last parliament, because Emerson ended up being so afraid of them that he refused to meet with them and rarely was in his riding office.

A clear and complete lack of honesty and ethics on all sides. What's more, it shows how little confidence Harper had in his caucus, when he was forced to go outside it -- twice -- to find people qualified to be ministers. And people like Rona Ambrose just showed him how right he was.

M.: ...because if this election is won by borrowing from the Republican playbook, we may never have another that isn't.

M@: Yet another reason: Harper's attempts to thwart elected opposition MPs in representing the citizens who elected them.

An MP in British Columbia issued a news release telling the citizens of an NDP riding that they should go to an unelected CPC representative to get their issues brought up in parliament.

Harper isn't interested in parliament, and he's willing to subvert the will of the people at every turn if it gets him what he wants.

M@: In 2006, the CPC cut funding for Status of Women Canada.

The government rewrote the statement of purpose for the organization, too, and removed the word "equality" from the updated statement.

A shameful attitude of contempt for women is pervasive in this government. To think the minister responsible for SWC at the time was a woman!

M@: The CPC is using the RCMP as its election campaign bodyguards -- not just for candidates' safety, as is the RCMP's mandate, but to control the access of reporters to those candidates as well.

With the many problems in the RCMP on display these days (corruption, tasers, refusal to testify to parliament, etc), a responsible government would be working to rein in the organization and reform it so that it has an appropriate mandate, and fulfills it on the behalf of Canadians.

This government is using the federal police force as a private security force.

Winston Churchill once said that the truth is so precious, it must travel with a bodyguard of lies. With this government, the lies are so important they must travel with true bodyguards.

Lisa: "because if this election is won by borrowing from the Republican playbook, we may never have another that isn't" is one of my biggest fears. Attack ads, weird focus on leaders, wedge issues, insane and insaner partisanship and hardened ideological perspectives...this is why, as much as I would like to see the Cons dumped, I am not really enjoying this election.

We don't want another Harper government because we don't want this negative shift in how politics is done here to become permanent. This ideological narrowness and partisanship is limiting intelligent dialogue, and more practically, Harper seems hellbent on eliminating political choices!

Uniting the right may have been a good strategic move, but I totally mourn the loss of the Progressive Conservatives, not because I'm on the left and uniting the right has worked against us, but because I actually appreciated the PCs. I kills me that Joe Clark feels politically homeless. And now that they've taken care of the Progressive Conservatives, all they apparently care about is decimating the Liberal Party.

That's their vision?? Is that all they've got? We hate the Liberals, that's our platform.

I know a lot of the Canadian left won't be crying many tears if the Liberals fall apart, but this radically fast dismantling of our traditional political parties is unsettling me!

Lisa: I'm going to cheat and post a list I totally stole from a Globe and Mail comment (of all places!) a few months ago, but still worth mentioning:

"Stephen Harper:

FIRED the president of CNSC

FIRED the president of the Wheat Board

FIRED the ambassador to the Environment

FIRED the Ethic Commissioner

FIRED the Law Commissioner

FIRED the Director General of Elections Canada

FIRED the Information Commissioner

FIRED the Defense Ombudsman

FIRED the Language Commissioner

FIRED the Immigration Board president

FIRED the Chief Electoral Officer

FIRED the National Science adviser"

If you look into the backstories of all of these examples, they are all ultimately: partisan, partisan, assuming all bureaucrats are as partisan as you, ideology, partisan...SCARY!

Deb Prothero: Harper has abused the future right or ability of parliamentarians to communicate effectively with their constituents by overusing and abusing the 10% flyers with partisan messages to the extent that Canadians are outraged and will expect the next government to curtail their use.

Deb Prothero: Harper deliberately lies to the electorate repeating these lies directly to Canadians even though they have been refuted by the opposition parties and the media.

Deb Prothero: Harper has refused to respect the process of a Canadian election by putting forth any plan for discussion.


democratic space is making me feel better. a little.

Last week, when I started gluing myself to DemocraticSpace, their seat projections had the Conservatives at 150 seats, five shy of a majority. Two days later, that was down to 145. Two days after that, it was 144. Today they have the Conservatives at 142.

So everything's moving in the right direction. Now if we can just get the election postponed until December.

to vote strategically or vote your conscience

There's been a lot of dialogue in the Canadian progressive blogosphere about strategic voting, whether it's more important to vote for something (vote your conscience) or to vote against something (vote for the non-Harper candidate most likely to win).

For me, Idealistic Pragmatist's post on the subject says it all. She's even saved me the trouble of gathering the top links from the different perspectives.

Please go read her excellent post: My two cents on strategic voting.

why we don't want another harper government: last chance to contribute

If work is slow this weekend, I will gather all the comments and links from this thread and promote it to a post. So this is your last chance to finish the sentence, "We don't want another Harper Government because...".

That is, your last chance until the post goes up and people leave comments there.

updates on robin long and james burmeister, how to write them

I've been meaning to post this for ages, and finally a nudge from M Yass, who wants to write Robin Long, got it out of draft. (Thanks!)

From an email from James Branum, Robin Long's lawyer, to Robin's supporters.
I found out that Robin has moved to Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego (the Army is running out of space to put all of their AWOL's and Deserters).

He can receive letters at:

Robin Long
PO Box 452136
San Diego, CA 92145-2136

More info on mail, visitation, etc. is here.

I also talked to the brig today. Books can only be sent commercially by a publisher or book store. I have about a dozen books sent to Robin that he couldn't take with him to Miramar, so I'm going to sell those on Ebay (I'll let folks know the address) and use the funds to buy him new books that he hasn't read yet. [Ed note: "couldn't take with him" means the Army trashed Robin's books".]

Also someone earlier sent Robin an amazon gift card at the jail, which would have been great except they don't have internet access at the jail. In the future, if folks want to just buy him amazon credit, then send the card either to me or to Courage to Resist and we'll buy books for Robin with it and have them shipped to him.

Lastly, I'm going to travel to San Diego later this month to visit Robin and possibly put together a support protest in the area. I'll be in touch soon with more details.

James Branum (Robin's lawyer)

P.S. Please pass Robin's address on to folks who would write him.

And an old update from James Burmeister's support team.
It has been some time now since our last update on James and this is due only to the fact that things move slowly when one is on the inside.

As many of you may already be aware, James has been held in a medium security military prison on AWOL charges since his Special Court martial,, which took place at Fort Knox (KY) on July 16th. James was given a 6month sentence and a bad conduct discharge.

News from James has been sparse. He tries to be in touch with his family when he can.

Those of you who know James or who have had the fortune of meeting him will be happy to hear that his strong character, his patience and honestly are all serving him well as he awaits the end of his sentence. James was adamant about his resolve to not commit war crimes and take part in actions he deemed to be unnecessary, illegal and immoral. He was well aware that his non-compliance with orders may complicate his life and end his military career but this was a price James was willing to pay if it meant not promoting unnecessary violence and inhumane acts.

James was caught in a firestorm of controversy for having been outspoken with the media and we believe this to be part of the reason for the severe steps the military ended up taking against him.

James voluntarily turned himself in to the gates of Fort Knox earlier this year, on March4th and since that date has gone through unimaginable challenges to progressively put this experience behind him.

James continues to suffer from PTSD.

He is in a 15-person cell. He continues to have difficulties sleeping and has taken on shifts of labour to stay occupied and show good behaviour. He works long shifts every week, either dish washing or doing janitorial duties.

He has a few odd health ailments due to the lack of easy medical attention but he is hanging in there overall.

James can receive mail and loves to hear from everyone. He has received much mail already and these letters continue to give him the encouragement he needs to pull through.

If you are considering writing, or sending more correspondence please do:

James Burmeister
Box A
Building 7741 PMB 15
1158 Gold Vault Rd.
Fort Knox, Kentucky

If you write to James:
-please do not include anything but the paper you yourself have used to write.
-do not send stamps, envelopes, writing paper, stickers or anything other than a simple letter.
There are very strict rules about what inmates can and cannot receive. Anything more will not make its way to James.

We also know that James' Defense Counsel is preparing a Clemency package to represent James' case to the Commander and see whether or not a softening of the sentence and discharge is possible. This is a standard procedure in a case like this, but our hopes are very realistic and as such, barely there. Still, all of you who have submitted important letters in support of James' clemency, we sincerely thank you. They have all been received and are now in the hands of James' attorney.

The next logical step, should James not obtain Clemency, would be to proceed to the Courts of Appeal. I am not sure if this is something that James, his family or appellant lawyer will suggest or want to carry on with.

I will try to keep you all posted as details emerge.

In the interest of not going on too long, I will cut it at that.

Thanks again to all of you, you know who you are, for your words of support, your letters, your time.

We expect James to be released before the new year.

In peace and friendship,


I'm sorry that it took me so long to post this. I'm going to write them both this weekend.


where stephen harper is today

Tonight, September 26, Stephen Harper is in Toronto.

Where: Etobicoke Centre campaign office, 317 Burnhamthorpe Road

When: People will be gathering around 6:30 for an estimated 7:00 arrival

Why: Many reasons, but for now, for me, the message is "Stop The Deportations".

By Public Transit from Toronto: Subway westbound to Islington station, then #50 bus on Burnhamthorpe towards Martin Grove. Bus leaves every 15 minutes. Ride will be about 10 minutes.

* * * *

We won a big victory, with the Federal Court staying the removal of Jeremy Hinzman and his family. But another war resister family waits in the wings, and after that, another and another and another, all potentially facing the threat of deportation if Harper continues to ignore democracy by refusing to implement the June 3rd motion.

After my recent post announcing Harper's appearance in Courtenay, BC, a reader wrote:
Also, it's interesting that neither of the local newspapers here had any firm info about the Harper visit, just that he is "expected" or that local Conservatives "have been advised" that he will visit but that few or no details were available. There are no further details on the newspaper websites either.

This morning's paper, for example, has this headline over a small item on the front page "Harper visit coming today?" (note the question mark) with the statement that "No confirmation was given from the local Conservative office about the visit."

"Security issues" were cited for all this secrecy. Guess they don't want anyone showing up except the party faithful.

They'll be very disappointed, won't they?

michaelle jean wanted to bring omar khadr home

From Impolitical: Michaelle Jean sought the repatriation of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay.
A report in La Presse today that the Governor General asked Harper to seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay. Apparently this happened after the videotapes of Khadr being interrogated were released.

Further, Jean consulted with legal advisors prior to consulting Harper. In response to her request, Harper, it is reported, stated that his caucus and the base of his party would never accept it. Which, if all this is being reported accurately, would just confirm that such significant decisions made by Mr. Harper are not taken in the interests of the Canadian nation nor having regard to the relevant legal considerations that are involved.

What Mr. Harper apparently disclosed to Jean about his decision making calculus were purely partisan considerations that would properly be irrelevant when making a decision about our foreign policy and more importantly, about the fate of a Canadian citizen. It's a very damning disclosure about the Prime Minister.

Many thanks to Impolitical (and Progressive Bloggers); I would have missed this.

state murder of anthony davis stayed, for now

About two weeks ago, I blogged about Anthony Davis, a man on death row in Georgia (US). Davis has been on death row for 15 years, and is almost certainly innocent. At the very least, there are huge questions surrounding his conviction.

He was scheduled to be executed in three days when the ACLU began a huge public-outreach campaign, in addition to petitioning the US Supreme Court in his defense. For more details about Davis's case, please go back and read this post.

Here's the latest from the ACLU.
Rarely have the actions of ACLU supporters like you made such a powerful and tangible difference as they have in the life of death row prisoner Troy Davis.

Over the past two weeks, tens of thousands of ACLU activists have demanded justice for Troy. Without that outcry, a man who is most likely innocent may well have been killed by the State of Georgia without any court ever hearing the compelling evidence of his innocence.

Yesterday, in a dramatic turn of events, the United States Supreme Court saved Troy Davis's life just two hours before his scheduled execution.

His fate is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. They’ve stayed his execution. But, unless they now decide to hear his case, that stay will soon be lifted. And then only Georgia officials can stop his execution.

Troy Davis's case is far from unique. Sadly, it is a very public demonstration of what can go wrong when courts and legislatures use procedural barriers to block persuasive claims of innocence and other constitutional violations. And he is only one of the thousands of others on death row.

We must increase the public outcry. Write a letter to the editor now.

130 innocent individuals have been released from death rows across this nation after having been wrongfully convicted. Will Troy Davis join the ranks of the other men and women who have been killed by the state in spite of compelling evidence of their innocence?

We must increase the public outcry about the death penalty -- and you can help. Write letters to the editor. Call your local radio station. Post your personal call for justice on blog sites. Do everything you can to highlight this case and the fundamental unfairness of the death penalty.

Keep the public pressure on.

If we want an America where we don't need the highest court in the land to have to step in to stop innocent people from being put to death, we all have to get involved.

Don't let it happen. Not to anyone. Help bring the plight of Troy Davis to public attention and save the lives of innocent Americans on death row around the country.

I can think of no greater injustice than the execution of an innocent person. I can think of no greater intrusion of the state into lives of citizens - no greater violation of bodily integrity - than the state being allowed to kill a citizen.

I didn't think I could do much to help save Anthony Davis's life, but it seems like what little we can do may be working. The ACLU is making it very easy. Click on this link to write a letter to a newspaper.

naomi wolf on the rove-palin fear state

Naomi Wolf asks, "Has Sarah Palin Been Picked as the Titular Head of the Coming Police State?". A lengthy excerpt follows.

This is easily dismissed, but should not be. And in Canada, we have to make sure our country stands as a free nation, an altnerative to the fear nation to our south.
. . . You have to understand how things work in a closing society in order to understand "Palin Power." A gang or cabal seizes power, usually with an affable, weak figurehead at the fore. Then they will hold elections -- but they will make sure that the election will be corrupted and that the next affable, weak figurehead is entirely in their control. Remember, Russia has Presidents; Russia holds elections. Dictators and gangs of thugs all over the world hold elections. It means nothing. When a cabal has seized power you can have elections and even presidents, but you don't have freedom.

I realized early on with horror what I was seeing in Governor Palin: the continuation of the Rove-Cheney cabal, but this time without restraints. I heard her echo Bush 2000 soundbites ("the heart of America is on display") and realized Bush's speechwriters were writing her -- not McCain's -- speeches. I heard her tell George Bush's lies -- not McCain's -- to the American people, linking 9/11 to Iraq. I heard her make fun of Barack Obama for wanting to prevent the torture of prisoners -- this is Rove-Cheney's enthusiastic S and M, not McCain's, who, though he shamefully colluded in the 2006 Military Tribunals Act, is also a former prisoner of war and wrote an eloquent Newsweek piece in 2005 opposing torture. I saw that she was even styled by the same skillful stylist (neutral lipstick, matte makeup, dark colors) who turned Katharine Harris from a mall rat into a stateswoman and who styles all the women in the Bush orbit -- but who does not bother to style Cindy McCain.

Then I saw and heard more. Palin is embracing lawlessness in defying Alaskan Legislature subpoenas -- this is what Rove-Cheney, and not McCain, believe in doing. She uses mafia tactics against critics, like the police commissioner who was railroaded for opposing handguns in Alaskan battered women's shelters -- Rove's style, not McCain's. I realized what I was seeing.

Reports confirmed my suspicions: Palin, not McCain, is the FrankenBarbie of the Rove-Cheney cabal. The strategy became clear. Time magazine reported that Rove is "dialed in" to the McCain campaign. Rove's protege Steve Schmidt is now campaign manager. And Politico reported that Rove was heavily involved in McCain's vice presidential selection. Finally a new report shows that there are dozens of Bush and Rove operatives surrounding Sarah Palin and orchestrating her every move.

What's the plan? It is this. McCain doesn't matter. Reputable dermatologists are discussing the fact that in simply actuarial terms, John McCain has a virulent and life-threatening form of skin cancer. It is the elephant in the room, but we must discuss the health of the candidates: doctors put survival rates for someone his age at two to four years. I believe the Rove-Cheney cabal is using Sarah Palin as a stalking horse, an Evita figure, to put a popular, populist face on the coming police state and be the talk show hostess for the end of elections as we know them. If McCain-Palin get in, this will be the last true American election. She will be working for Halliburton, KBR, Rove and Cheney into the foreseeable future -- for a decade perhaps -- a puppet "president" for the same people who have plundered our treasure, are now holding the US economy hostage and who murdered four thousand brave young men and women in a way of choice and lies.

How, you may ask, can I assert this? How can I argue, as I now do, that there is actually a war being ramped up against US citizens and our democracy and that Sarah Palin is the figurehead and muse for that war?

Look at the RNC. This is supposed to be McCain's America. But you see the unmistakable theatre of Rove's S and M imagery -- and you see stages eight, nine and ten of the steps to a dictatorship as I outlined them in The End of America. Preemptive arrest? Abusive arrest? "Newly released footage, which was buried to avoid confiscation, shows riot cops arresting and abusing a giant group of people for nothing."

Journalists were arrested -- for reporting. Amy Goodman and ABC producers were arrested. Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake and others were forced to lie face down as armed agents tied their hands behind their backs. The riot police wore the black S&M gear of the Rovian fantasy life and carried the four foot batons cops carry in North Korea. All this is not John McCain's imagery or strategy: it is Karl Rove's.

In McCain-Palin's America, citizens who are protesting are being charged as terrorists. This means that a violent war had been declared on American citizens. A well known reporter leaked to me on background that St Paul police had dressed as protesters and, dressed in Black -- shades of the Blackshirts of 1920 -- infiltrated protest groups. There were also phalanxes of men in black wearing balaclavas, linking arms and behaving menacingly -- alleged "anarchists." Let me tell you, I have been on the left for thirty years and you can't get three lefties to wear the same t-shirt to a rally, let alone link arms and wear identical face masks: these are not our guys. Agent Provocateurs framing protesters and calling protest "terrorism" constitutes step ten of a police state...

. . . .

Almost everyone I work with on projects related to this campaign for liberty has been experiencing computer harassment: emails are stripped, messages disappear. That's not all: people's bank accounts are being tampered with: wire transfers to banks vanish in midair. I personally keep opening bank accounts that are quickly corrupted by fraud. Money vanishes. Coworkers of mine have to keep opening new email accounts as old ones become infected. And most disturbingly to me personally is the mail tampering I have both heard of and experienced firsthand. My tax returns vanished from my mailbox. All my larger envelopes arrive ripped straight open apparently by hand. When I show the postman, he says "That's impossible." Horrifyingly to me is the impact on my family. My childrens' report cards are returned again and again though perfectly addressed; their invitations are turned back; and my daughters many letters from camp? Vanished. All of them. Not one arrived. Try explaining that to a smart thirteen year old. Try explaining it in a way that still makes her feel secure and comfortable.

I am not telling you this because it's about my life. I am telling you this because it is about your life -- whoever you are, Conservative or Liberal, independent or evangelical. Your politics will not protect you in a police state. History shows that nothing protects you in a police state. This is not about my fear and anxiety: it is about what awaits you and everyone you love unless you see this for what it is:

Scharansky divided nations into "fear societies" and "free societies." Make no mistake: Sarah "Evita" Palin is Rove and Cheney's cosmetic rebranding of their fascist push: she will help to establish a true and irreversible "fear society" in this once free once proud nation. For God's sake, do not let her; do not let them.


two things for you to do

First, read Margaret Atwood's beautifully strong and clear defense of "ordinary people" and the arts in today's Globe and Mail.
To be creative is, in fact, Canadian

Mr. Harper is wrong: There's more to the arts than a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants

by Margaret Atwood

What sort of country do we want to live in? What sort of country do we already live in? What do we like? Who are we?

At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we've been punching above our weight on the world stage - in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it's a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada's cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada's GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an "estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined)."

But we've just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called "ordinary people" didn't care about something called "the arts." His idea of "the arts" is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand: I'm one of them, and I'm no Warren Buffett. I don't whine about my grants because I don't get any grants. I whine about other grants - grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity – not because they think they'll be millionaires.

Every single one of those people is an "ordinary person." Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. "Ordinary people" pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for "the arts" in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. "The arts" are not a "niche interest." They are part of being human.

Moreover, "ordinary people" are participants. They form book clubs and join classes of all kinds - painting, dancing, drawing, pottery, photography - for the sheer joy of it. They sing in choirs, church and other, and play in marching bands. Kids start garage bands and make their own videos and web art, and put their music on the Net, and draw their own graphic novels. "Ordinary people" have other outlets for their creativity, as well: Knitting and quilting have made comebacks; gardening is taken very seriously; the home woodworking shop is active. Add origami, costume design, egg decorating, flower arranging, and on and on ... Canadians, it seems, like making things, and they like appreciating things that are made.

[Read the rest here.]

When you're finished reading, think again about the "why we don't want another harper government" thread. We've covered arts and culture budget cuts, but I'm sure we haven't yet covered everything else.

how to submit a question for the leader debates

On October 1 and 2, the leaders of five Canadian political parties will participate in a televised debate. You can submit questions for any of the leaders by sending an email to question@electiondebate08.ca.

My question for Mr Stephen Harper:

Mr. Harper, on June 3, the House of Commons passed a motion calling on the Government to stop all deportation proceedings against US war resisters and implement a motion allowing them to stay in Canada. All three opposition parties united to pass this motion.

In 2005, referring to the Paul Martin Government, you said, "The Prime Minister has the moral responsibility to respect the will of the House."

As head of a minority government, don't you have that same moral responsibility? How can the head of a minority government not follow the clearly stated will of the majority?

send a progressive to canada

Courtesy of James, Jillian at Sadly, No! has figured out the solution to both the US and Canada's problems: Buy A Progressive. We're clearly unwanted in the US and badly needed here in Canada.

There were many amusing schemes like this on the internet in 2004, including a movement to make Vermont Canada's 11th province.

I especially love Sadly, No!'s reference to the monorail, one of The Simpsons' finer moments.

wolves win, we win too

You may remember I've blogged about the plight of wolves in the US: they were going to lose protected status, then the US did "de-list" the wolf from the Endangered Species Act. The slaughter began immediately, and got worse. 110 wolves were killed outright, and others surely starved to death when the animals they depended upon for food were exterminated.

In July, a US judge restored the wolf's protected status: a major victory.

And now, an even bigger victory. The Cheney Administration has announced that it is withdrawing its plan to strip gray wolves of their endangered species protection in the Northern Rockies. This from Natural Resources Defense Council:
Last March, the Bush Administration declared the Northern Rockies' wolf population "fully recovered," then it handed off responsibility for the wolves to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Just as we predicted, a bloodbath ensued, with 110 wolves slaughtered by state agents and hunters in as many days.

NRDC, Earthjustice and 11 other conservation groups raced to court and won an injunction that put a temporary halt to the killing until the full case could be heard. We fully expected to fight a drawn-out courtroom battle in order to win a permanent victory.

But thanks to the Bush Administration's surrender, that battle will NOT happen. Instead, the wolves of Yellowstone and the surrounding region will remain protected by federal law.

That means Wyoming, Montana and Idaho will NOT be allowed to begin the extermination of hundreds of wolves this fall as part of a massive public hunt -- the first in more than three decades. Instead, those wolves will continue to roam the Rockies -- wild and free -- as nature and the law intended!

Why did U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials throw in the towel? They had to face up to the fact that their case against wolf protection would never hold up in court. Above all, they ignored the best available science showing that wolf populations had not fully recovered.

In the end, the Administration had little choice but to put its tail between its legs and beat a hasty retreat.

Make no mistake: the fight doesn't end here. You can be sure the federal government will be back soon enough with a new plan. And the states will learn their lessons and return with yet another scheme for killing wolves.

But you can be equally sure that, with your help, NRDC will stand vigilant, fully prepared to meet and turn back any new and deadly threat.

In the meantime, please join me and all of us here at NRDC in celebrating this red-letter day in the storied history of the Endangered Species Act. It happened because you and thousands of others chose to stand up in defense of embattled wildlife. Thank you!

It's nice to celebrate a victory now and again.




More photos on some of the earlier posts, linked above.

i fear my fears are coming true

The US Government has seized control of the largest, most powerful insurance company in the country, along with the entire mortgage industry and large portions of the financial services industry.

The US Army is in training for domestic operations.

The Republican candidate for president suspends his campaign.

And all this must be seen in context of a Government that has been systematically expanding its powers and operating as an autocracy, a Government that was not elected by popular vote in the first place, then fixed elections to maintain its power.

I've been amazed - dismayed, horrified - as progressive people cheer on Obama seemingly without a thought to this context, as if the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another, based on a fair election, is a certainty. When that's not what we've seen for the past two elections, and nothing has been corrected. And those in power have continued to shut down the Constitution.

For a long time, I've been wondering if the White House junta would cancel the 2008 elections. Reading Naomi Wolf helped solidify the whole picture for me. (The archived wmtc posts I'm linking to are just samples. You could click on the category "election fraud" or "fascist shift" to see a lot more.)

[Correction. Shortly after I wrote this, I realized that my thoughts and fears about the United States becoming a fascist state were solidified long before I read Naomi Wolf's The End of America. In fact, it's fair to say that was the bottom-line reason we emigrated to Canada. Reading that book, however, gave me a clear historical context for thinking about how democracies become autocracies, and what it looks like when they do. It gave me better language to describe it. It helped me sum up my thoughts in a more concise form, and most importantly, it gave me something to recommend to others that would explain what is happening.]

In the history of civilization, has any powerful group of people consolidated and expanded their power, shut down and/or falsified all legal avenues of opposition, then willingly and peacefully handed over power to others?

Last night we were watching the Red Sox with our laptops in front of us. I saw the headline "McCain Suspends Campaign" in my CBC feed, and my heart froze. I read it to Allan and we looked at each other in shock. What is happening?

I fear my fears are coming true.

lovely hike in hilton falls

There is nothing like walking in the woods to clear my head. Swimming makes me feel much better, too, but this brain-fry was too big for the Mississauga Y.

I found this very good resource: Toronto Hiking. It has a list of hikes in and around the Toronto area, and a separate list of waterfalls along the Niagara Escarpment. There are detailed descriptions of each hike, so you can judge in advance the terrain, degree of difficulty, or whatever features are important to you. Every hike is linked to a road map, a trail map, photos and other info.

Although all the Ontario parks and conservation areas have good websites, I haven't found a good way to judge the appropriateness of any given area until we're there. We're not into climbing, and we have a senior dog to think about, so if we feel like a nice long walk in the woods - as opposed to just getting out in the country - it's nice to be able to plan.

Yesterday we went to Hilton Falls, part of the Conservation Halton system. It's a beautiful area, with several overlapping loops (none very strenuous) and a small waterfall. At the falls there are remnants of an old mill that was constructed around it in the 1840s. It may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad... or not. The park is a big destination for mountain biking and cross-country skiing, too.

I love how the Escarpment forms these little waterfalls all over the area. I never knew about the Escarpment before I moved to Ontario, although I've intersected with it several times before. Most famously, of course, through Niagara Falls. Imagine the little Hilton Falls we saw yesterday is related to the mighty falls of Niagara. But I've apparently encountered the Escarpment at the Genesee River in Western New York State, where it forms waterfalls and gorges, and through the New York State town of Lockport. I knew a series of locks were built there for the Erie Canal - I love my New York State history - but I didn't know they were needed to get the Canal over the Niagara Escarpment.

In general, I'm still amazed at how quickly you can reach farmland in this area, how the sprawl ends like a knife edge and "the country" begins. In the New York metro area, you have to drive much greater distances to find the country (although there are pockets of country within the city and suburbs, same as the Greater Toronto Area). Here, you can practically see the sprawl pushing at the farmland in place like Oakville, Milton and other towns.

Hilton Falls is really very nearby, which is nice when you have a barking, spinning dog in your car. Tala barked the entire way there, walked around 10 kilometers, barked most of the way back, then wanted me to throw her ball in the backyard.

Allan and I are much more like Cody. She's content to relax in the car, go for a walk, then return to relaxing.


where stephen harper is tomorrow

On Thursday, September 25, Mr Harper will be in Edmonton. I hear that many people and a few polar bears will be on hand to greet him. If you can join them, here's when and where to go:

Between 5:30 and 6:00, Ramada Inn, 11834 Kingsway NW, Edmonton

Bring friends, bring signs, bring your voice. Come early, stay late, have fun.

where stephen harper is today

This morning:

Vancouver: Remarks and media availability, 9:30 a.m., Oceanview Suite, Pan Pacific Hotel, Suite 300, 999 Canada Place.

This evening:

Courtenay, BC: Rally, 6 p.m., Westerly Hotel, 1590 Cliffe Avenue.

Have fun!

day off, day out

As you may have noticed yesterday, I'm feeling a little fried. I'm taking the day off, and we're heading out with the dogs for some hiking on a glorious autumn day.

Some of our hikes have ended up more driving around and exploring towns than hiking, which is fine if it works out that way. Last month (on my once-monthly goal) I was too busy to plan, and we just walked on a local stretch of Waterfront Trail. Today should be a real hike in a new location. But you never really know.

And guess what happened last night? The Red Sox clinched the wild card! We're going to the playoffs again.


october surprise? u.s. army unit to deploy for domestic operations

Further to my last post, James has sent me this, from Democracy Now!.
Army Unit to Deploy in October for Domestic Operations

Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.

random, frightening thoughts on the u.s. economic crisis

It can be very hard to focus on what's happening in the world. There's a lot of it, and it comes at us from all sides and all angles, and we're already trying to focus on our own lives, and if those lives are very busy, the whole thing can turn into an overwhelming noise.

My mind has felt overloaded lately. Overloaded with my own work, and my desire to help the war resisters, and the political situation in Canada. Baseball playoffs are about to start, and I'm usually completely obsessed by now, but right now I barely think about baseball unless I'm watching a game. This is not my preferred mode of being.

But I focus on issues and events more than most people, as, probably, do you. I don't have children, and I'm a very political person, which compels me to keep up with current events to the extent that I can.

How do people whose lives are taken up with work and children, who don't necessarily have political priorities, keep up? How do people who are struggling with their health, or with trying to figure out how to keep children clothed and fed on their Wal-Mart paycheque, keep up?

They don't.

At best, they get a vague sense of things from a mainstream media outlet. That sense of things has been reduced to tiny, predigested sound bites, it mixes local "human interest" stories with major world events, it offers no context, and it doesn't represent the many forces effecting the person's life and their future.

At worst, they tune out altogether, exchanging news for celebrity gossip.

* * * *

Wmtc has a lot of new readers now, so you may not be familiar with my sense of what's going on in the US. You may have the mistaken impression we left the US "because of Bush".

Sometimes people still ask me about absentee ballots, or want to talk about Obama. I just shrug. I'm done. I've checked out of that system. I can't participate in it anymore. It's too corrupt, too bankrupt. It's broken beyond repair.

But it's beyond that. Two presidential elections were stolen, 2000 and 2004. Massive questions surround the midterm elections of 2002 and 2006. And nothing has changed. No, that's not true. It's gotten worse. So why would the 2008 election be fair?

I'm not trying to prevent anyone from voting. I'm just doing what I feel I must.

Several people have told me that if anyone will fight for a fair election, it's Barack Obama. I don't know why that would be true, why "this time it's different" makes any more sense now than the last 50 times the Democrats slammed their dutiful abused wives - the voters - against the wall. But if it's true, it will be an unprecedented wonder, and I'll cheer it all the way.

Beyond fraud - which is a big thing to be beyond - I'm actually unconvinced there's going to be an election in the US.

I'm not in the business of predicting the future. But I won't be altogether surprised if no election takes place. In the history of the world, has any group of powerful people ever accumulated, expanded and consolidated so much power, only to hand it over peacefully to someone else? (And to a black man, no less!)

If I'm wrong, I'll be inexpressibly relieved.

We didn't leave the US because of Bush. We left the US because we don't think it's a democracy any more.

* * * *

I'm writing this off the top of my head, in the middle of my work day. My blogging is usually very methodical - I often know the subjects of my next three or four posts in advance - but right now I'm just banging out my thoughts. Maybe later I'll go back and add links. For now, you can click on the categories "fascist shift", "election fraud" and "US regression" for that.

What brought all this on? The US financial crisis, the "bailout" and Glen Greenwald.

Who in the US can focus on this? What ordinary person can understand it, let alone complain about it? Who would they complain to and what would happen? And besides the overwhelming realities of everyday life, the quadrennial circus is in town. How can anyone hear anything else above the din?

My friend and long-time wmtc commenter James sent me a piece from Good Math, Bad Math, written by Mark Chu-Carroll, part of ScienceBlogs. Chu-Carroll attempts to explain what's going on to the non-economist, which is most of us. Here's an excerpt from the end of his post.
Once upon a time, banks had to keep the bank money (i.e., deposits) separate from other things. In fact, they had to keep the entire business of banking separate from the investment business. There were rules about what they could invest in. And so on.

All of this was torn down by the conservatives in our government. And as new financial products came onto the market, instead of making rules to make sure that people were being fair and honest, they insisting on maintaining a strict hand-off policy.

Free markets are great things. But the big catch is that like anything else run by human beings, they're easy to abuse if you're not honest. The purpose of regulation is to try to limit the kinds of abuse people can get away with. If someone sells you an investment and tells you that your principal is absolutely safe, then damn it, it should be safe. If it's not, they should be required to tell you what the risks are.

But for now, they don't. There's no legal framework for creating or enforcing rules. No one can be punished for the damage they've done. No one loses the huge rewards that they pocketed by screwing people over - because there's no rules, no legal mechanism, that says that they can't. As I'm finishing this article, I just came across a news story. Lehman Brothers is one of the big investment firms that was involved in this. They were forced into bankruptcy as a result. As they're starting to liquidate and sell off their assets, we learn that one of the last things they did before filing for bankruptcy was setting aside two and a half billion dollars for performance bonuses for the staff of the New York office. The very people who put the firms money into worthless investments, who ran a hundred year old company into the ground, made sure that before they filed for bankruptcy, they squirreled away more of their investors money to pay themselves bonuses. And that's legal - they can take that money out of the pool of liquidated assets to pay themselves, instead of leaving it to pay back the people who are owed.

Then read this, by Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald opens with a series of quotes, which I'll skip, but you might want to go back and check the original. I'm using the Common Dreams link because a lot of people have trouble accessing Salon.
First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don't say "no" to anything. They say "yes" to everything. That's what they're for.

They say "yes" regardless of whether they understand what they're endorsing. They say "yes" regardless of whether they've been told even the most basic facts about what they're being told to endorse. They say "yes" anytime doing so is politically less risky than saying "no," which is essentially always and is certainly the case here. They say "yes" whenever the political establishment -- meaning establishment media outlets and the corporate class that funds them -- wants them to say "yes," which is the case here. And they say "yes" with particular speed and eagerness when told to do so by the Serious Trans-Partisan Republican Experts like Hank Paulson and Ben Bernake (or Mike McConnell and Robert Gates and, before them, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell).

So nothing could be less reassuring or more meaningless than the fact that the Democratic leadership has announced that what they heard scared them so much that they are certain all of this is necessary -- whatever "all this" might be (and does anyone think that they know what "this" even is?). It may be "necessary" or may not be, but the fact that Congressional Democrats are saying this is irrelevant, since they would not have done anything else -- they're incapable of doing anything else -- other than giving their stamp of approval when they're told to.

Second, whatever else is true, the events of the last week are the most momentous events of the Bush era in terms of defining what kind of country we are and how we function -- and before this week, the last eight years have been quite momentous, so that is saying a lot. Again, regardless of whether this nationalization/bailout scheme is "necessary" or makes utilitarian sense, it is a crime of the highest order -- not a "crime" in the legal sense but in a more meaningful sense.

What is more intrinsically corrupt than allowing people to engage in high-reward/no-risk capitalism -- where they reap tens of millions of dollars and more every year while their reckless gambles are paying off only to then have the Government shift their losses to the citizenry at large once their schemes collapse? We've retroactively created a win-only system where the wealthiest corporations and their shareholders are free to gamble for as long as they win and then force others who have no upside to pay for their losses. Watching Wall St. erupt with an orgy of celebration on Friday after it became clear the Government (i.e., you) would pay for their disaster was literally nauseating, as the very people who wreaked this havoc are now being rewarded.

More amazingly, they're free to walk away without having to disgorge their gains; at worst, they're just "forced" to walk away without any further stake in the gamble. How can these bailouts not at least be categorically conditioned on the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from those who are responsible? The mere fact that shareholders might lose their stake going forward doesn't resolve that concern; why should those who so fantastically profited from these schemes they couldn't support walk away with their gains? This is "redistribution of wealth" and "government takeover of industry" on the grandest scale imaginable -- the buzzphrases that have been thrown around for decades to represent all that is evil and bad in the world. That's all this is; it's not an "investment" by the Government in any real sense but just a magical transfer of losses away from those who are responsible for these losses to those who aren't.

And all of this was both foreseeable as well as foreseen -- see the 2002 grave warnings from Warren Buffett on pages 14-15 of his shareholders letter (.pdf), among many other things -- and it's also happened before, when the Federal Government bailed out the S&L industry that (with John McCain's help) was able to gamble recklessly and then force the country to protect them from their losses. The people who did this have no fear of anything -- they completely lack the kind of healthy fear that impedes reckless behavior -- because they know how our Government works and that they control it and thus believe that their capacity to suffer is limited in the extreme. And they're right about that.

What's most vital to underscore is that the beneficiaries of this week's extraordinary Government schemes aren't just the coincidental recipients of largesse due to some random stroke of good luck. The people on whose behalf these schemes are being implemented -- the true beneficiaries -- are the very same people who have been running and owning our Government -- both parties -- for decades, which is why they have been able to do what they've been doing without interference. They were able to gamble without limit because they control the Government, and now they're having others bear the brunt of their collapse for the same reason -- because the Government is largely run for their benefit.

If there is any "pitchfork moment" -- an episode that understandably would send people into the streets in mass outrage -- it would be this. Nobody really even seems to know how much of these losses "the Government" -- meaning working people who had no part in the profits from these transactions -- is undertaking virtually overnight but it's at least a trillion dollars, an amount so vast it's hard to comprehend, let alone analyze in terms of consequences. The transactions are way too complex even for the most sophisticated financial analysts to understand, let alone value. Whatever else is true, generations of Americans are almost certainly going to be severely burdened in untold ways by the events of the last week -- ones that have been carried out largely without any debate and mostly in secret.

Third, what's probably most amazing of all is the contrast between how gargantuan all of this is and the complete absence of debate or disagreement over what's taking place. It's not just that, as usual, Democrats and Republicans are embracing the same core premises ("this is regrettable but necessary"). It's that there's almost no real discussion of what happened, who is responsible, and what the consequences are. It's basically as though the elite class is getting together and discussing this all in whispers, coordinating their views, and releasing just enough information to keep the stupid masses content and calm.

Can anyone point to any discussion of what the implications are for having the Federal Government seize control of the largest and most powerful insurance company in the country, as well as virtually the entire mortgage industry and other key swaths of financial services? Haven't we heard all these years that national health care was an extremely risky and dangerous undertaking because of what happens when the Federal Government gets too involved in an industry? What happened in the last month dwarfs all of that by many magnitudes.

The Treasury Secretary is dictating to these companies how they should be run and who should run them. The Federal Government now controls what were -- up until last month -- vast private assets. These are extreme -- truly radical -- changes to how our society functions. Does anyone have any disagreement with any of it or is anyone alarmed by what the consequences are -- not the economic consequences but the consequences of so radically changing how things function so fundamentally and so quickly?

Other countries are debating it. The headline in the largest Brazilian newspaper this week was: "Capitalist Socialism??" and articles all week have questioned -- with alarm -- whether what the U.S. Government did has just radically and permanently altered the world economic system and ushered in some perverse form of "socialism" where industries are nationalized and massive debt imposed on workers in order to protect the wealthiest. If Latin America is shocked at the degree of nationalization and government-mandated transfer of wealth, that is a pretty compelling reflection of how extreme -- unprecedented -- it all is.

But there's virtually no discussion of that in America's dominant media outlets. All one hears is that everything that is happening is necessary to save us all from economic doom. And what's most amazing about that is that the Natural, Unchallenged Consensus That Nobody Questions can shift drastically in a matter of days and still nobody questions anything. This is what Atrios observed as I was writing this post:

It's fascinating to watch how easily consensus is manufactured. A few days ago elite opinion seemed to be cheering Paulson's "no bailout" line, and now they're cheering a trillion bucks thrown down the crapper. All the Very Serious People will spend their days coming up with their pony plans, oblivious to the fact that the pony plan is not an option. The Bush administration's plan is the option.

The way it works is that Bush officials decree how things will be, and then everyone -- from Congressional Democrats to the Serious Pundits -- jump uncritically and obediently on board, even if they were on board with the complete opposite approach just days earlier, and then all real dissent vanishes. That's how the country in general works. As Atrios says: "We've seen this game played before."

I don't pretend to know anywhere near enough -- in terms of either raw information or expertise -- in order to opine on the necessity or lack thereof of The Latest Plan in terms of whether the alternatives are worse. But what I do know is that an injustice so grave and extreme that it defies words is taking place; that the greatest beneficiaries are those who are most culpable; and that the same hopelessly broken and deeply rotted institutions and elite class that gave rise to all of this (and so much more) are the very ones that are -- yet again -- being blindly entrusted to solve this.

UPDATE: Here is the current draft for the latest plan. It's elegantly simple. The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8].

Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.

And finally, a link from Allan, a piece by Larisa Alexandrovna, who agrees with Naomi Wolf: it's the end of America. Welcome to the Final Stages of the Coup.