11.30.2008

wmtc is a 2008 cba finalist

The final round of voting for the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards has begun. Wmtc is one of five six (oops, sorry) finalists for Best Progressive Blog. And that's just what I wanted! Thanks to everyone who voted.

You can vote for wmtc or the progressive blog of your choice here.

Naturally, Allan's Joy of Sox is a finalist for Best Sports Blog. You can vote for it here.

Congratulations and good luck to every finalist!

december 3 in toronto: after the elections, stop the deportations

Meanwhile, U.S. war resisters in Canada are still threatened with deportation. Join us this Wednesday, December 3, for an update on the present situation, and to learn more about where we're headed.

Speakers will include war resisters Robin Long, speaking from jail in the US, Jeremy Hinzman and Nga Nguyen, Patrick and Jill Hart, and Dean Walcott, plus a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War speaking from the US.

When: Wednesday, December 3, 7:00 p.m.

Where: United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St (south of College, east of Spadina), Toronto

To be followed by: A benefit concert featuring Chloe Watkinson and the Crossroads, Grossman's Tavern, 379 Spadina Ave, 9:00 p.m.

As always, more info at the War Resisters Support Campaign website.

i leave the country for five days and democracy breaks out

Wow! Is this really happening? Did I actually see the words "negotiations for a coalition government" in a news story??

I have to laugh at how out of the news loop I've been. We were very busy with family and friends, and only seeing stories the New York Times considers front-page. You can be sure Harper's tottering Government wasn't one of them! We had internet access at both my mom's and my brother's houses, but when I'm having a great time with people I see only once a year, I figure the news can wait a few days. After all, it's probably the same old thing.

Yesterday, after driving for ten hours on very little sleep, I had no intentions of spending any time online. But imagine my surprise when I was blind-copied on emails to both the NDP and the Liberals about their negotiations for a coalition government! I ran downstairs to shout the news to Allan: the Harper Government is teetering on the brink, had to execute an about-face to survive, and is only guaranteed for another week. Be still my beating heart!

One hilarious - but scary - angle has Canadian wingnuts all over the internet using words like "palace coup" and "treason," apparently taking their marching orders from their fearless leader, now out of his sweater vest.

Can it be these Canadians don't understand the basics of Parliamentary democracy? Apparently so. In comments at several news stories, I've seen numerous claims that Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister, and neither Stéphane Dion nor anyone else has the right to "overturn that election".

Excuse me? Are you confusing one recent election with another? Do these people think they actually voted on a ballot showing Stephen Harper running for Prime Minister?

Earth to Conservatives: you voted for your party of choice by voting for a Member of Parliament. Whatever MP was elected in your riding is still sitting in Parliament. Your vote has not been changed; your MP has not been recalled; no election has been overturned.

The party that won the most seats was charged with the task of forming the Government. If that party can't maintain the Government, they lose that opportunity and become the Opposition.

Do you seriously not understand that? Or do you think continually repeating utter bullshit magically transforms it into truth?

* * * *

I've had a half-written post sitting in drafts for several weeks, expressing my frustrations - not unknown to you, I'm sure - at the political climate in Canada. We see the centre-right-very-right firmly holding together despite significant differences, and the centre-left-leaning-actual-left fracturing ever further.

I am utterly and completely opposed to any suggestion that this situation is the fault of the New Democrats, and that the NDP should simply disappear and leave the field to the Liberals.

But the prospect of successive Governments run by a party whose views represent a minority of Canadians is teeth-grittingly, fist-clenchingly maddening.

I've been obsessing on the idea of a coalition, but when I mention it to most Canadian-born Canadians I know, they give me one of several one-word answers. Never. Impossible. Unthinkable.

In this half-written post - now irrelevant?? - I quote my favourite political blogger, Idealistic Pragmatist. Here's a bit from that draft.

[In addition to being a keen political observer, she's lived under at least two other systems, so she brings a broader perspective to the table. When liberal Canadians talk about "uniting the left," I am ready with the broken two-almost-one-party system to the south as an example of what would likely happen. Idealistic Pragmatist has that, too, but she also has experienced a system that is more democratic and more representative than either the US or Canada.
Running to form government on their own may be the best the NDP can do within the current political culture, but Dymaxion World's axiom applies here as well as it ever has: Basic politics in a democracy: If you want to change the behaviour, don't change the actors, change the rules. Until we have proportional representation and the political culture that would result from it, partisan politics in Canada is always going to be more about how to get a bigger and bigger piece of the pie than it is about promoting good people and good ideas. And that's always going to limit the level at which I'm willing to get involved with my party of choice, no matter how good their candidates and their ideas are.

I'm familiar with the IP's basic themes, but now, having lived in Canada through two elections, I understand them in a deeper way.

Right now, as Canada faces a united front on the right, a weakened centrist party that abdicated its responsibility as the Opposition, and a party on the left trying to broaden its appeal to a wider sector of voters, we need these ideas more than ever.]

Now I can hardly believe that what I've been wishing for may come to fruition. Canada, you beautiful country you, make us all proud.

Meanwhile, while we await the outcome of these negotiations, we can do more than hold our collective progressive breath. Please go to the Progressive Coalition website and tell your MPs and the party leaders how you feel.
In 2008 the majority of Canadians voted for a prosperous, fair, and green Canada. Over 60% of voters cast their ballots for parties with progressive platforms. With 37% of the vote the Conservatives will effectively hold 100% of the power.

The Conservatives received 170,000 fewer votes than the last election, yet they won more seats. The Greens, who received 940,747 votes, are not represented at all.

Politics as usual is not working: the progressive majority in Canada is now ruled by a right-wing minority. If Canadians do not act we are going to watch Canada become more unequal, more irresponsible, and more out of step with a changing world.

We can change this. The Conservatives only secured 143 seats in Parliament while the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois secured a combined 165 seats. These seats give the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois the ability to form a coalition government. You don't have to give up your vision of Canada. The parties can work together to find common ground.

Canadians for a Progressive Coalition are asking the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois to form a coalition government that includes counsel from the Greens.

First, sign a petition calling for a coalition government.

Then contact your MP, the NDP, the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party. Tell them all that that you strongly support this idea.

The people at Progressive Coalition have many ideas of how you can get involved. Go here to find out more.

11.27.2008

good news about u.s. war resisters in canada

Here's an update I received from the War Resisters Support Campaign while I've been celebrating Thanksgiving in New Jersey.

  • Corey Glass, now living in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was supposed to have a hearing in Federal Court last Friday, November 21, concerning his appeal of his negative Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and Humanitarian and Compassionate applications. The hearing did not take place. Instead, the Ministry of Justice backed off, saying that Corey could file a new PRRA and a new H&C application, at no further cost.

    This means Corey was going to win in Court. Rather than have that happen, the Justice Ministry just let it go, for now. Corey now earns some time to submit new applications. And now that Corey is married to a Canadian citizen, he's also being sponsored for Permanent Resident status.

  • Jeremy Hinzman's application for "leave to appeal" to the federal Court in the negative decisions on his PRRA and H&C application has been granted. His case will be heard on February 10, 2009.

    The Hinzman family had been ordered to leave Canada by September 21, but that was delayed until the Federal Court could decide whether to hear Jeremy's appeal. Now they've agreed to do that, the Hinzmans can stay in Canada at least until that appeal is decided. If the appeal is successful, the Hinzmans can submit a new H&C and a new PRRA.

    Once again, they gain precious time, and the possibility of a good result in Court that would help them and others, like the Hart family.

  • Josh Randall's spousal sponsorship has been ruled eligible for processing, which means that it will proceed normally and probably be successful - in which case, Josh will become a Permanent Resident.

    Josh is one of several war resisters who have married Canadians, and who hope to obtain Permanent Resident status.

    It's all adding up: we are winning! Your continued support is greatly needed, and greatly appreciated, and we keep on keepin' on.

    Peace to all. See you soon!
  • 11.25.2008

    2008 canadian blog awards

    Greetings from New Jersey!

    The Canadian Blog Awards are back, and the first round voting has begun. You can vote for wmtc or your blog of choice in these categories:

    Best Blog,

    Best Political Blog,

    Best Personal Blog, and

    Best Progressive Blog.

    I will not be voting for wmtc in all of those categories, but I won't dissuade you from doing so! I'd like to make the next round for Best Progressive Blog. Anything else would be gravy.

    Whatever you do, please vote for Joy of Sox for Best Sports Blog, because it is.

    One vote only. Enjoy!

    11.24.2008

    southbound

    We're off for our annual trip to New York and New Jersey for US Thanksgiving. We spend today driving, then have four days of seeing various family and friends, drive back Saturday, and go to work on Sunday.

    This trip is one of the highlights of my year. We see my mom, some good friends, including my siblings, and all our nieces and nephews and their partners. Plus my oldest friend, New York City.

    I didn't exactly grow up in "Father Knows Best" or "The Cosby Show"; enjoying family get-togethers is something newly wonderful to me. Make a few choice subtractions (death and divorce? you say that like it's a bad thing!), stir in some excellent additions, sprinkle with a lot of people who are at last happy with their own lives, and you have a completely changed experience. Throw in a road trip - to anywhere - and I'm happy.

    I'll check in every day, but meanwhile, please play the 56/5 game if you haven't already.

    11.23.2008

    page 56, sentence 5: a game

    Go to the book you're reading now. If you're not reading a book, go to the last book you read.

    Turn to page 56.

    Find the 5th sentence.

    Write the sentence in a comment here, along with the book title and the author's name.

    Don't dig out your favourite book or a book that you think sounds cooler. Use the book you're reading now.

    I'll start.

    "In his history of Plymouth colony, Governor Bradford himself provides one answer: robbing Indian houses and graves." 1491, Charles C. Mann

    Thanks to M@ for the cool game, slightly tweaked here.

    the kindness of "strangers": fundraising finale

    This is from Tim and Cathy Baskin, from our fundraising drive.

    * * * *

    On the Kindness of "Strangers"

    This is a personal thank-you note to many people whom I have never personally met.

    My name is Tim. In August of this year my wife, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, was hospitalized with severe build-up of fluid around her lungs.

    We spent almost the entire month in the hospital, and I say we because I was there with her almost the whole time. When the woman you've spent 31 years with has a terminal illness you are very reluctant to leave her at the hospital and go on about your business, assuming things will be fine.

    The day after she was released from the hospital her car broke down - transmission trouble. It would cost more to repair than the car is worth. I am self-employed, so there was practically no income while she was in the hospital. We have no insurance. We do receive assistance with her expenses, but we still pretty much just get by.

    After losing almost an entire month's income there was no way we could replace the car, meaning I would have to miss more time from work taking her to treatments. There was also the fact that someone fighting the battle she is fighting does not need to be stuck at home by herself all day every day with no way to get out and about.

    While I started setting aside money to go towards a new car, Cathy decided to try a novel approach. She had heard about an online fundraising site from a friend and started a drive in late September to raise money for a car.

    Shortly thereafter Laura learned of the effort [L note: by accident] and posted a link on her We Move to Canada site, then Allan put it up on Joy of Sox. Thanks to a lot of encouragement and prodding from Laura and Allan the donations soon started pouring in.

    Every time the total seemed to stop growing for a day or so, they would rebroadcast a call for action and you, the membership of these two sites, would respond. We reached our stated goal more than a week ahead of the deadline. Not only did you help us attain that goal, but there was interest expressed in continuing the collections even after the goal was reached, to help out with general expenses. Cathy, however, decided that we had achieved what we set out to, and had the collections stopped.

    In the meantime, a couple from our Temple learned of our efforts and donated a car to us to use while we awaited the results of the on-line campaign. Someone had given them a car when they moved here from Russia 20 years ago and they said it just seemed right. It was a '94 Taurus that sputtered and shimmied, but at least Cathy could get to the doctor's office or anywhere else when she needed to.

    We received a check for $2980 from Fundable around Oct. 25th, and started searching Craigslist and other similar sites for a car in our range. I had accumulated around another $1000 or so myself. We had owned both a Taurus and a Sable previously, and they had both been good cars. It also seemed to be a model that could be found in decent condition for around the money we had to spend.

    We almost bought an '02 Taurus that we had looked at before we even got the check but there were some questions about the "health" of the vehicle, and Cathy's intuition, which is remarkably accurate, said no. The last thing we needed was to empty the coffers on a car then have it break down with no money for repairs.

    We toyed with the idea of using the money to repair our Mazda, but it just seemed risky. We also thought about fixing up the Taurus that had been given to us, but it was literally falling apart.

    Two weeks ago my wife saw another '02 Taurus near us on Craigslist and called the guy. She called me after talking to him and said she had found her car. She knew it before she saw it. I didn't even go with her. A friend drove her to his house, about an hour away, and she drove the car home. She only test drove it because he absolutely insisted.

    He was asking $3400, she asked if she could give him $3200 and send the rest so she would have the money in hand for tags, title, insurance, etc. and he said not to worry about sending the rest.

    When I got home that Friday night it was sitting in the driveway, and she had already passed along the older Taurus to another family we knew was struggling, having one vehicle and a teenager in the house. It may not last them long but it will at least do the same thing it did for us, help out for a while.

    Our new vehicle, meanwhile, has only 110,000 [L note: miles, not kilometers] on it (that '94 was still going with about 300,000) and it is an absolute dream to drive. It has some very good features for her. The all-electric doors, locks, trunk, etc. make it much easier for her when she's out by herself.

    I cannot sufficiently express the gratitude we feel to each and every one of you who contributed to this effort. I am not sure exactly what percentage of the money came from We Move To Canada and Joy of Sox readers, but I am absolutely certain it was a very significant share.

    It speaks volumes about the type of people who are attracted to these two sites, which in turn speaks volumes about the two people who created them. Every time I get into that car I cannot help but think about the kindness that so many people showed that made it possible for us to have it. They did so without knowing anything more about us than the fact that we needed a hand, and they were willing to give one.

    There were around 90 different donations to the site. I'm sure there are some people among that group that I know but don't recognize their e-mail. However, I'm also sure that over three-quarters of those donations came from people whom I have never met personally. I would certainly hesitate to call them "strangers" though.

    It just goes to show - there are a lot of really good people out there. Now if we could just get some of them in charge.

    And who knows, if things go well this spring, perhaps I'll drive that Taurus to a certain event that's being whispered about in Boston during the upcoming baseball season, where I might finally meet some of those non-strangers.

    Thanks again.

    - Tim and Cathy, a/k/a SoSock and Mrs Sock/Sockette.

    * * * *

    Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this effort. Like Tim, I also can't sufficiently express my gratitude. So: thanks.

    howard zinn on war resisters

    Several readers have sent me this. I don't know what it's from or who is asking the question, but I love it!



    This seems very timely to me, as I've been thinking about involuntary military service as a form of slavery.

    I'd love to see the kind of civil disobedience Zinn imagines here! Unfortunately, resisters themselves can't risk arrest, and until I'm a citizen, neither can I. And I can't encourage people to do anything I can't do myself. But it's a beautiful dream, one I'm sure many of a Campaigner has entertained.

    11.22.2008

    discrimination = discrimination

    I didn't have a chance to blog about the idea Ontario is floating to discriminate against young adults, so I'd like to let Impudent Strumpet do it for me. Please go read her excellent post, "I'm glad Dalton McGuinty isn't my father". A teaser:
    These aren't children, they're young professionals just starting out. They are legally adults, they need to be treated equally to all other adults rather than put under specific restrictions just because of their age.

    While it is true that many, if not most, people under 22 haven't fully launched yet, that doesn't justify the law as treating them as less than fully adult. Their not having launched is between them and their parents, a private arrangement between family members.

    My mother does my taxes (Q: Why? A: Because she's a professional and I'm not.) but that doesn't mean it's reasonable for the law to require that people under 30 get their tax return signed by their mother. When my parents travel I help them find information on non-English websites, but that doesn't mean it's reasonable for the law to require that people over 50 get their travel arrangements vetted by a professional translator.

    Experience-based restrictions? If you must. Age-based restrictions? Completely inappropriate, arbitrarily treats younger adults as subhuman, and violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Please read the whole thing here.

    11.21.2008

    meet eri yoshida







    This week, 16-year-old Eri Yoshida became a seventh-round draft pick for the Kobe 9 Cruise, a baseball team in the independent Japanese League. The Cruise is a new team, opening its first season in April.

    Yoshida, a pitcher, has been playing baseball since the second grade. Yoshida says she began throwing her sidearm knuckleball after her father showed her a video of Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

    In a tryout earlier this month, Yoshida held male batters hitless for one inning, helping her become one of the 33 players picked in the draft. Yoshida's new manager said, "Her sidearm knuckleballs dip and sway, and could be an effective weapon for us."

    Upon hearing about Yoshida, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield said:
    Hope I can see her pitch one day. I'm honored that someone wants to become me. I wish her the best of luck. Maybe I can learn something from her. ... It's funny that I've reached that point in my career that people want to emulate me. I'm glad I had people like the Niekros, Charlie Hough and Tom Candiotti that I could look up to. I am deeply humbled that it is me this time.

    Baseball fans of a certain age remember Ila Borders' bid to make the majors, pitching for the St. Paul Saints. Since reading about Borders and the legendary Negro League second baseman Toni Stone, I have longed to see a female pitcher take the mound in an official Major League game. I hope so much to see this in my lifetime.

    Go Eri!

    Via Joy of Sox.

    corporate policy # 3

    Many bloggers mentioned the good news coming out of the corporate landscape when Google publicly opposed California's Proposition 8.

    Now Google has gone several steps further in marking Transgender Remembrance Day, which was yesterday.
    November 20th marks Transgender Remembrance Day, which takes on a special significance in a world awakening to the need for unity among all people. In observing this day, the Gayglers — the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group within Google — extend their wholehearted support to the LGBT community at large, as we reflect on the senseless violence perpetrated against transgender people around the world.

    People who identify or express their gender differently than the one assigned to them at birth usually call themselves transgender or transsexual. All too often, they are subjected to a range of not-so-subtle prejudices and transphobia, from verbal abuse to physical violence. Imagine walking into a public restroom in a state of dread over a confrontation about your appearance. Imagine visiting a doctor and worrying about how far to "out" yourself to receive appropriate care. Studies suggest that transgender people are 16 times more likely to be killed than the general population -- earlier this month, in fact, a transgender woman in Tennessee was murdered -- and this is just the most recent of many such cases.

    We're fortunate here at Google, where there are LGB and T people at all levels of the company, thanks to enlightened hiring and promotion practices that set aside sexual orientation or gender presentation. Ultimately, Google fosters a workplace where everyone has the ability to be themselves at work. For transgender employees in particular, that means everything.

    On this Transgender Remembrance Day, take just a few moments to remember the trans siblings, parents, friends and lovers who lost their lives to gender-based intolerance and hatred. Let's all share in a future where tolerance and understanding transforms the world. And let's work to create a better place for everyone to live peaceably in an all-inclusive world community that merits our deepest pride.

    It's good - and important - to support same-sex marriage, an idea which is mainstream and commonplace for millions of ordinary people of all different orientations. But many of those same people still consider transgendered people freaks and outcasts. Google's recognition of Transgender Remembrance Day is a helpful step on the road to understanding. This is good corporate citizenship, and they should be commended for it.

    If you would like to read a very good book about one transgendered person's experience, I highly recommend Crossing, by Deirdre McCloskey. I blogged about it here and here.

    Thanks to James for sending the Google post.

    corporate policy # 2

    As I've mentioned, this is Puppy Mill Awareness Week, a project of the Humane Society International Canada and the Humane Society of the United States.
    After an eight-month investigation, the Humane Society of the United States accused Petland, the national pet store chain, of selling dogs bred under appalling conditions at puppy mills around the country.

    Many Petland stores are being supplied by large-scale puppy mills, although customers are routinely informed that the dogs come only from regulated breeders, the Humane Society said Thursday.

    They are buying from puppy mills where these dogs are not treated like pets," Michael Markarian, an executive vice president with the Humane Society, told a news conference. "They're treated like a cash crop, where mother dogs live in wire cages, sometimes stacked on top of each other in filthy, dirty, cramped conditions, where they receive little socialization or human interaction or exercise."

    Dogs from puppy mills are sold at Petland stores for as much as $3,500 each, according to the Humane Society.

    Humane Society investigators visited 21 Petland sites and 35 breeders and brokers who sold puppies to Petland stores, according to a release on the group's Web site. Investigators reviewed interstate import records of an additional 322 breeders, U.S. Department of Agriculture reports and more than 17,000 individual puppies linked to Petland stores.

    Please don't shop at Petland! And let Petland know why you're making that choice.

    For more on the horrors of puppy mills, see Stop Puppy Mills and HSI Canada's Puppy Mills page.

    corporate policy # 1

    We recently (finally) saw "Who Killed The Electric Car?". I had a few minor problems with the movie, but it's very informative, and worth seeing.

    It was especially interesting to see this movie as the North American auto makers are asking the government - that is, the taxpayers - for enormous sums of money to save their dying business.

    Would this money be attached to guarantees to build and market more fuel efficient vehicles? We know the vehicles already exist, all they have to do is build and sell them - instead of suppressing and destroying them.

    Would this money even be attached to a guarantee of jobs in North America?

    Neither will happen, and neither should this bailout.

    Meanwhile, if you haven't seen this movie, please do. I felt it could have come down much harder on the US government and its connection to oil wealth, and I don't feel the consumer can be rightly blamed for the failure of the electric car, according to what we saw in the movie itself. But those are small disagreements. Overall, it's an important film.

    To learn more or to get involved, visit the website of Plug In America, the activist group pressuring the auto industry to bring back the electric car that they so loved.

    11.20.2008

    rant about rant

    There are few things that bug me more than someone who puts down people for supposed ignorance while displaying ignorance of their own. Maybe it's the kind of thing that should make me laugh. Unfortunately, it makes me grit my teeth.

    Following a few links, I found myself at a website called Read The Fucking Manual. It appears to be an IT person complaining about computer users who call for tech support earlier in the process than this person thinks they should.

    I have no doubt that some people who call companies for tech support might do more to solve the problem on their own before they call.

    On the other hand, tech support exists for a reason. Computers are available to all, including people with poor reading skills, people who have trouble learning from a manual, and people with zero computer experience.

    The tech support number doesn't say you must struggle in frustration for a certain number of hours or days before calling. If you've spent money on a product, and you can't get it to work, you should be able to call for help. Presumably the tech support person is being paid for her time. She's not doing you a favour. She's doing her job.

    In addition, many tech manuals are poorly written and decidedly non-user-friendly. It's unreasonable to expect someone with little or no computer experience to read an entire manual when trying to solve a problem, especially when the problem may be solved more quickly and efficiently by making a phone call.

    Most people don't like to wait on hold, identify themselves several times and, often, be spoken to like they're a moron. Meaning, many people avoid calling tech support unless they absolutely have to.

    But I understand that tech people don't always like their jobs or the people they are hired to help, and they need to vent. That's fine. Many an amusing email has been circulated with a punchline revealing that the caller hasn't plugged in the computer, and the hilariously sarcastic tech person tells them to send it back because "you're too stupid to own a computer".

    While you're venting, however, you might want to make sure you're not displaying some ignorance of your own.

    "...The first thing they will do when they experience a problem installing or using any computer hardware or software is panic, get angry and then run head-over-heals to the manufacturer and demand to be taught from scratch..."

    The correct expression is "head over heels", as in the heel of one's foot, not heals, as in a wound heals.

    I also question the use of "head over heels" in this context. From Dictionary.com:
    68. head over heels,
    a. headlong, as in a somersault: He tripped and fell head over heels into the gully.
    b. intensely; completely: head over heels in love.
    c. impulsively; carelessly: They plunged head over heels into the fighting.

    I suppose you could make a case for (c), but I don't think so. I think it's just the wrong expression.

    "...without even considering the remote possibility of the problem lying with the user, and not the product."

    The problem isn't "lying with" anyone. Perhaps they haven't considered "the possibility that the problem lies with the user". Or perhaps the problem is just "with" the user.

    "...and it can also be found in a tiny file, inconclusively named "Readme.txt"..."

    If the name of the file is inconclusive, we can't draw a conclusion about its name. The name is ambiguous. I'm pretty sure that's not what the writer means.

    This may seem like nitpicking, and in another context, it would be. We all make grammatical mistakes, we all occasionally type the wrong sound-alike word. (Although presumably this person proofread this page at least once before posting.)

    I'm picking on this person's grammar and usage for a reason. He or she is yelling at other people for needing help, but clearly she sometimes needs help, too - with writing.

    It's all right to need help writing. It's also all right to need tech support, and not to read an entire computer manual when you need it.

    "dear president-elect obama", from robin long

    Robin Long, serving a 15-month sentence in military prison for refusing to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, has written a letter to President-elect Barack Obama. It's being circulated by Courage to Resist.
    Dear President-elect Obama,

    My name is Robin Long. I am currently serving a 15-month sentence at a Naval brig in California. I am locked up for refusing to participate in the invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq, a military action I felt was wrong and an action condemned by most of the international community.

    It was illegal and immoral.

    My sentence also includes dishonorable discharge. I was no doubt made an example, because not only did I refuse to deploy by going AWOL but I spoke out. I spoke out about the atrocities that are going on over there and also the extensive web of lies the Bush administration told us and Congress, to go over there. I did all of this very openly while AWOL in Canada, where I was making a life for myself.

    When I joined the Army in 2003 I felt honored to be serving my country. I was behind the President. I thought it was an honorable venture to be in Iraq. I was convinced by the lies of the Bush administration just like Congress and a majority of Americans. But just because I joined the Army doesn't mean I abdicated my ability to evolve intellectually and morally. When I realized the war in Iraq was a mistake, I saw refusing to fight as my only option. My conscience was screaming at me not to participate.

    I feel, like many others, that a government that punishes its citizens for taking a moral stand for humanity and against injustices will lose the faith of its people. The war in Iraq was a Bush administration mistake and my punishment is a product of that mistake and failed policy. Please see that I am being punished for my ideals and morals and for standing up to a giant so my voice could be heard. People can't be afraid to stand up and say "This is wrong, we need change."

    You may say I signed a contract. I'd like to quote from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington in April of 1793 on his thoughts of contracts and the French Treaties. And I quote, "When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non-performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self destructive for the party, the law of self preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of these principals I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the heart and head of every rational honest man."

    For me to continue to participate in my military contract would have been self-destructive to me at my deepest levels of self. It goes against everything I believe in, my ideals and morals. In the case of the invasion of Iraq, international law was broken, as well as violating our own Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty the US is signatory shall be the supreme law of the land. The invasion broke the rules set out for declaring war in the Geneva Convention. And according to the Nuremburg Principles laid out at the Nuremburg Tribunals, I had a higher international duty supported by our Constitution to refuse service in Iraq.

    While I was in Canada I had a child. This sentence will have a lasting impact not only on my life but also on the life of my son. My son and his mother are Canadian (not dual citizenship). With a felony conviction (a year plus a day), it will be very difficult for me to re-enter Canada. I would like to live there so I can be in my son's life. Every child needs a father. I want to return to my responsibilities as a father.

    This sentence is a great hardship because it has an impact on my life that could last well into the future. This would successfully separate a family. My family needs me, to be a father figure and a financial supporter. My son was born after the fact of me deserting. Please don’t punish him more than I already have by being gone now. I love and miss him and the thought of being reunited with him is helping me get through my time here. I feel I made the right decision by refusing and am more than willing to sit in the brig for my ideals. But I worry about the effect this has on my family.

    I ask you to please consider granting me presidential clemency or a pardon. I have given this to many different organizations and people to ensure that you receive a copy. I am so happy that you were elected President. I feel real change coming. You are the light after the storm, "Hurricane Bush," if you will.

    If you would like more information on me you can listen to an audio interview on Courage To Resist [scroll down], or read more at Free Robin Long, IVAW or Resisters.ca.

    -Robin Long

    There's a lot going on at Courage To Resist. Some highlights:

  • 19-year-old war resister Tony Anderson has been sentenced to 14 months in prison;

  • Daniel Sandate, a war resister who suffers from severe PTSD, depression and other mental illness, has been sentenced to eight months in prison and desperately needs funds for his legal defense;

  • the 15 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War member who protested peacefully outside the presidential debate in November, and were brutally attacked by police, need your support.
  • iraq moratorium # 15 tomorrow

    Tomorrow, Friday, November 21, is the next Iraq Moratorium day. The Moratorium is a series of personal, public actions taken to show opposition to the continuing US occupation of Iraq.

    Iraq Moratorium is a grassroots, decentralized movement. Everyone can participate: on your own, with a friend, or as part of a community or organization.

    Taking a Moratorium action can be as simple as wearing a peace button to work or hanging a sign in your cubicle. You can stand on a street corner during rush hour with a few people holding signs calling for peace and troop withdrawal. You can join a vigil. You can tape a sign in your car window.

    Here's a report on what Iraq Moratorium is doing in Wisconsin.

    The Raise Hell for Molly Ivins Campaign will be participating tomorrow.

    Litchfield County, Connecticut is part of the solution.

    You can find an event here, or look up your local peace and justice group, or you can do simply do something on your own.

    The idea is to interrupt your normal routine, to do something different, and public, that will show your opposition to the Iraq War, and your stand for peace.

    wmtc on the radio (updated)

    Today on Radio Humber, the radio station of Humber College, there'll be an interview with war resister Patrick Hart, talking about his experiences, and also with me, talking about the War Resisters Support Campaign.

    It will air sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 on a program called @Humber. You can listen online here. Click "listen live".

    Many thanks to my friend and co-worker Shauna for taking an interest and making this happen. Shauna's a student at Humber College's School of Media Studies & Information Technology, and no doubt will one day be a big-time radio personality.

    * * * *

    Update: I just found out the station is splitting up the interviews. Patrick's portion will air today, and mine will run tomorrow. I hope you'll tune in!

    11.19.2008

    puppy mill action week

    The Humane Society International of Canada is asking us to make November 16 to 22 Puppy Mill Action Week.

    Puppy mills are places of horrible cruelty and deprivation. Adult dogs are forced to breed until they die of exhaustion or complications, often bleeding to death. The puppies are raised under horrendous conditions, in tiny, overcrowded, wire cages, in which they can't stand properly, with no medical attention, no human contact and barely adequate nutrition. The puppies are then cleaned up - superficially, so they appear presentable - and sold to pet stores, usually the kind found in malls.

    Puppies from puppy mills have a laundry-list of medical and behavioural problems. They often die shortly after being brought home, or the people who buy them are overwhelmed and either surrender or abandon them, or have them put down. It's a short, miserable life of suffering for a dog who never should have been brought into the world.

    Although puppy mills violate all kinds of animal-cruelty laws, these laws are seldom enforced. Animal welfare groups like HSI Canada and the Humane Society of the United States believe that the best way to shut down puppy mills is by shutting down demand.

    We need to educate prospective dog owners about not buying puppies from pet stores. The smaller the market, the fewer dogs will be ordered by pet stores. As demand shrinks, supply will shrink. When the system is no longer profitable, it will shut down. But as long as there's a market, puppy mills will continue to exist.

    Even if you're not in the market for a puppy or kitten, you can help fight this cruelty by never purchasing anything from a retail pet store that sells puppies.

    And you can go one step further by telling the company - dropping an email or postcard to their customer service department - why you will never shop there. That's an important piece. They should hear from potential consumers, and know how much business they're losing.

    The big pet-supply chains such as PetCo, PetCetera and PetSmart have been a great turning point in this battle. Not wishing to be the target of animal welfare activists, and wanting pet-friendly publicity, these stores don't sell puppies or kittens at all, and instead work with local rescue groups to promote adoption. This has been a huge milestone.

    HSI Canada lists the actions you can take for Puppy Mill Action Week.

    That include, for Canadians, writing to your MP. If you live in Quebec, unfortunately you live in the puppy mill capital of Canada, perhaps of North America. So it's even more important that you write your MNA and Premier Jean Charest. HSI Canada has a petition you can sign, and download and circulate our petition [French; English].

    Everyone can sign the pledge to not shop at stores where puppies are sold.

    And if you really want to make a difference, you can visit your local retail pet store where puppies are sold, and talk to management about how they can help. HSI Canada has tips for speaking to pet store owners.

    Pet store owners who sign a pledge which declares that they will discontinue selling puppies by the end of 2008, or who "make official" a current policy of not selling puppies, will be listed on the HSI Canada website. HSI will give them promotional material to announce their decision and to educate future customers.

    See the HSI Canada website to learn what else you can do to help stop puppy mills. Please sign the pledge, and ask others to do the same. You can email your own contacts, post about it on your blog, circulate it in your workplace.

    11.17.2008

    involuntary military service is a form of slavery

    While I was reading Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes (post here; interview with the author here), I thought a lot about what freedom means. What it means to be a free person.

    Hill's novel explores slavery, the slave trade, and the journey of the African peoples to North America and beyond. In one part of the book, some slaves are able to earn money through their own skills; their owners allow them to hire themselves out for day labour. So for a tiny portion of their life, they are paid for their work.

    But they are still slaves - because the condition of involuntary servitude isn't only determined by whether or not a person gets paid for his work.

    Although these people are temporarily earning money, they are not free to make the decisions that determine the course of their own lives. They are not free to marry as they choose. Not free to raise their own children. Not free to refuse to have sex with their owner. Not free to get up and leave.

    They are still owned.

    In those days, some people rationalized slavery by pointing out that slave owners provided slaves with food and shelter. But it's clear people would rather starve "on their own bottom," as a character in The Book of Negroes says, than eat and be sheltered but be owned.

    So if slavery is not only about being paid for one's labour, what is it about?

    What is freedom?

    When I tried to answer that question for myself, two things came to mind: bodily integrity and freedom of conscience.

    Bodily integrity is the freedom to own one's own body. It includes reproductive freedom, sexual freedom, and the freedom to form relationships. It includes freedom from rape, and from torture. It includes freedom from the fear of death by execution.

    Bodily integrity includes freedom not to be killed, and from knowingly putting oneself in a situation where there is a great likelihood of being permanently disabled or killed. It also includes freedom from being forced to kill.

    If bodily integrity is freedom of the physical body, freedom of conscience is freedom of mind. Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of belief. Freedom of religion or the absence of religion. Freedom of moral judgement.

    Refusing to participate in war is the intersection of the two. People have the right to refuse military service both for reasons of personal conscience and for reasons of bodily integrity.

    Every human should have the right to refuse to kill, or to be in a position where she or he may have to kill. If at one point in life, that person felt that military service was the right course, but later changes his mind, he should be allowed to do so.

    How can a government compel a person to fight a war against his will? Conscription, whether written in law or done in practice, is a completely inappropriate intrusion of state into our bodies and our minds.

    * * * *

    Long ago, I wrote about the moral illogic of supporting peace, but not supporting war resisters.

    The claim that a signed contract - no matter how many times it was broken by the military, no matter what lies were told to compel the recruit to sign, or under what conditions the contract was signed - should take precedence over a moral decision to not participate in an invasion, war and occupation is sheer lunacy.

    Yet the most frequent argument we hear from Canadians who oppose allowing US war resisters to stay in Canada (a minority of Canadians, to be sure), is "but they volunteered".

    So they volunteered. Even if I concede that highly questionable point, if they volunteered, should they never be able to un-volunteer?

    How can a government compel a person to fight a war against his will?

    * * * *

    Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of a war resister's IRB hearing. (I was transcribing it for his lawyer.) I heard about what the resister experienced in Iraq, and what the Iraqi people are experiencing at the hands of their US occupiers. Then I heard how the US soldier was abused and persecuted by his own military when he tried to get out.

    Then, as one of my sister Campaigners said, to cheer myself up, I went to see the film "Body of War". I cried through the whole movie, and only later realized that part of my sorrow was from the story I'd been listening to for two days.

    This morning, I heard another resister's story. And I thought, this is a form of slavery.

    The US won't let these people exercise their human right to refuse to kill or be killed. The US will put them in prison. Canada must let them stay. It's the only humane thing to do.

    11.16.2008

    speaking of hate crimes...

    From The Telegraph (UK), during the US election campaign.
    The Republican vice presidential candidate attracted criticism for accusing Mr Obama of "palling around with terrorists", citing his association with the sixties radical William Ayers.

    The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling "terrorist" and "kill him" until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.

    But it has now emerged that her demagogic tone may have unintentionally encouraged white supremacists to go even further.

    The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin's attacks.

    And now, from AP.
    Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

    Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

    From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

    There have been "hundreds" of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

    One was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: "I hope Obama gets assassinated." That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law's front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said.

    She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear.

    "I can't say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it," said Millner, who is black. "But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking."

    Potok, who is white, said he believes there is "a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them."

    Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old white Georgia native, expressed similar sentiments: "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.

    "If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama's) church being deported," he said.

    Change in whatever form does not come easy, and a black president is "the most profound change in the field of race this country has experienced since the Civil War," said William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. "It's shaking the foundations on which the country has existed for centuries."

    "Someone once said racism is like cancer," Ferris said. "It's never totally wiped out, it's in remission."

    If so, America's remission lasted until the morning of Nov. 5.

    The day after the vote hailed as a sign of a nation changed, black high school student Barbara Tyler of Marietta, Ga., said she heard hateful Obama comments from white students, and that teachers cut off discussion about Obama's victory.

    Tyler spoke at a press conference by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP calling for a town hall meeting to address complaints from across the state about hostility and resentment. Another student, from a Covington middle school, said he was suspended for wearing an Obama shirt to school Nov. 5 after the principal told students not to wear political paraphernalia.

    The student's mother, Eshe Riviears, said the principal told her: "Whether you like it or not, we're in the South, and there are a lot of people who are not happy with this decision."

    Other incidents include:

    _Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

    _At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."

    _Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

    _Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.

    _University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

    _Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

    _Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

    _A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

    _In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

    Note the states, just in case any wmtc readers still subscribe to stereotypes about the US South.

    I can't help but think what an easy cover this would provide for powerful people who perhaps aren't so keen on giving up all that power they've amassed.

    on hate crimes

    Two friends of mine, along with many other bloggers, have written about a horrendous incident that took place recently in Toronto. Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou, a couple, were attacked and beaten. Their assailant, Mark Scott, spewed homophobic filth at them, spat in the face of one of them, and punched them, while the couple's child watched, screaming.

    Onlookers intervened, pushing the assailant away and calling the police. The man was charged with assault, but not with a hate crime. From what I understand of Canadian law, this was obviously a hate crime and the charges should reflect that.

    My problem is I don't think there should be a type of crime called a hate crime.

    (I understand that bigotry is considered an aggravating factor, reflected in sentencing; the words "type of crime" may not be legally correct. Nevertheless, I hope you'll understand my meaning.)

    Of course I think this kind of violence is horrible. Every normal person does. In addition, I've been a victim of violent crime, so I know something about how Ms. Currie and Ms. Dimitriou will suffer, how traumatized they will be. And although I'm not a parent, I can imagine with horror the extra layers of suffering they will endure because their child was forced to witness this attack. The child of the assailant, who was also present, is also a victim. I also have no doubt that there was a special horror for the two women and their child because of what their assailant yelled.

    And, for the sake of clarity, I repeat: according to Canadian law, this was a hate crime, and the charges should reflect that.

    My problem with designating an attack as a hate crime is it's a form of thought control. No one should be punished for thoughts, no matter how repulsive those thoughts are, no matter how wrong. It's Mark Scott's right to think anything he wants. It's not his right to harass anyone, or hit anyone, but there are already laws against that.

    * * * *

    To some extent, most violent crime could be said to be motivated by hate, at least in part. Men's hatred of women is the bottom line of so much rape and other violence against women. But rape itself is not considered a hate crime, unless it's paired with some specific reference to the victim's background.

    If a man attacks me and never says a word, or if a man attacks me while screaming I am a dirty bitch Jew, I've been attacked, either way. I'm not convinced the crime is actually worse because of the words that flew out of his mouth in his twisted rage.

    This is related to my basic disagreement with some of the definitions of human-rights violations recognized by Canadian law. Speaking or writing hateful things about people because of their background, orientation, religion, and such, is morally wrong, but I don't think it should be legally wrong.

    I don't think there's a human right not to be hated.

    I understand that the path to genocide, in many instances, has been paved with inflammatory words, both written and spoken. But I don't think the way to combat dangerous words is to outlaw them. That only serves to drive the words underground, and may well strengthen the bonds of hatred with the perception of a shared persecution.

    I'd rather those dangerous thoughts be exposed to the light of day, where they can be countered with truth. And if nothing else, I'd rather we know the hatred is out there than imagine we live in a world of peaceful tolerance, while hatred seethes below the surface.

    I also disagree with hate-crimes laws because I feel they bestow special status on some crime victims by punishing their assailants more harshly. Wingnuts often claim to oppose equal rights laws because they supposedly confer people with special protection. (That's not true, of course; they oppose equal rights because they are bigots.) But equal rights are equal rights. Equal must be equal. Not "some are more equal than others".

    When I was trained as a volunteer phone counselor at a rape-crisis centre, the instructor was determined to show us how a rape in which race or ethnicity was a factor was worse than a rape in which it wasn't. I just couldn't see it. I still can't.

    11.15.2008

    conservatives take another step down the slippery slope

    When Conservative MP Ken Epp was trying to get C-484, the so-called "Unborn Victims of Crime Act", passed, I heard him reveal his true motives in public.

    In a debate with abortion-rights activist Carolyn Egan on the TV show "Legal Briefs", Epp finally admitted that the point of the bill was not, as the Conservatives claimed, to protect pregnant women from domestic violence.
    Throughout the debate, Epp repeatedly claimed that this bill has nothing to do with granting legal status to a fetus, is not anti-abortion, could not be used to prosecute pregnant women... on and on.

    Carolyn and others (it's a call-in show) were insisting that if the goal truly is - as proponents of the bill claim - to bring harsher penalties for attacks on pregnant women, why not put forth a bill that would make pregnancy an aggravating circumstance which would automatically trigger a harsher sentence? Why put the emphasis on the fetus?

    Honickman asked Epp if he would support such a bill. Epp claimed he would - in addition to this bill. And why would his bill still be necessary? When Honickman posed this question directly to Epp, for the first and only time on the show, Epp had no immediate answer. There was a long pause.

    Finally, he replied, "Because we want to recognize the humanity of that unborn child. Whether that child was killed three months before birth or three months after birth, it was still a child, there was still a loss of life. The other side might wish to deny the humanity of that unborn child, but we want the law to recognize it."

    This is not a direct quote. I wasn't taking notes, because I was waiting to get on the air, and wanted to stay focused. But I assure you, it's a very close paraphrase.

    They want to recognize the "humanity" of the "unborn child".

    Now the Conservatives have nailed this dangerous plank into their party's platform.
    Delegates to the Conservative party's first policy convention in more than three years have kept the party largely in line with the direction taken since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office in 2006, while veering right on a couple of controversial issues.

    Voting on policy amendments Saturday saw the party, which had nearly 2,000 delegates at the convention, embroiled in some heavy debates.

    Among them was a proposal to extend additional charges against a person who kills or injures a fetus while committing a crime against a pregnant mother.

    The sponsoring delegate from Saskatchewan said the motion "recognized the unborn child as a victim of crime in the event of deliberate injury or death to the mother and child."

    "You are essentially saying that the unborn child is a person," responded the first delegate to speak against the motion. "Therefore you are re-opening the way to that slippery path that will take away a woman's right to choose. This is the thin edge of the wedge."
    [Emphasis added.]

    Despite a raucous exchange of boos and cheers from delegates with differing view, the resolution was passed.

    This is very bad.

    Please, Liberal Party, get your shit together.

    matthew rothschild: what is northcom up to?

    Remember this?
    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.

    I posted about it back here, and spelled out a few of my fears here. Well, I'm not satisfied that we're out of the woods yet. From The Progressive:
    This week and into next, NorthCom and NORAD are conducting a joint exercise called "Vigilant Shield '09."

    The focus will be on "homeland defense and civil support," a NorthCom press release states.

    From November 12-18, it will be testing a "synchronized response of federal, state, local and international partners in preparation for homeland defense, homeland security, and civil support missions in the United States and abroad."

    NorthCom is short for the Pentagon's Northern Command. President Bush created it in October 2002. (The Southern Command, or SouthCom, covers Latin America. Central Command, or CentCom, covers Iraq and Afghanistan. And the new AfriCom covers, well, you get the picture.)

    Vigilant Shield '09 "will include scenarios to achieve exercise objectives within the maritime, aerospace, ballistic missile defense, cyber, consequence management, strategic communications, and counter terrorism domains," the press release states.

    NorthCom's press release also says that other participants in the exercise include the U.S. Strategic Command's "Global Lightning 09," which is a plan to use nuclear weapons in a surprise attack.

    The Pentagon's "Bulwark Defender 09" is also involved in the exercise, and it is a cyberspace protection outfit of the Pentagon.

    Something called the "Canada Command DETERMINED DRAGON" also is participating, as is the California National Guard and California's "Golden Guardian."

    California's involvement appears to center around planning for a catastrophic earthquake.

    "Under the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger and direction of his Office of Homeland Security, the nation's largest state sponsored emergency exercise will take place November 13-18," a press release from the governor's office states.

    "Golden Guardian 2008 tests California's capability to respond and recover during a major catastrophic earthquake. The Golden Guardian 2008 full-scale exercise scenario focuses on a simulated, catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault."

    NorthCom is being shy about giving out additional information about Vigilant Shield '09. When I called for a fact sheet on it, I was told there was none.

    But the Pentagon did issue such a fact sheet for Vigilant Shield '08.

    Last year's exercise included "the simulated detonation of three nuclear dispersal devices." The fact sheet stressed the need to support a "civilian-led response" and to "exercise defense support of civil authorities," including involvement in "critical infrastructure protection events" and coordinating "Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection activities."

    That fact sheet ended by saying: "There will be minimal deployment of active duty forces and no crossborder deployments. We anticipate little to no direct impact on local communities."

    NorthCom has been in the news lately, after the Pentagon designated to it a battle-tested fighting unit from the war on Iraq. This appears to be against the law, according to the ACLU, since the army isn't supposed to be patrolling our own country. [Emphasis added.]

    On top of that, NorthCom was up to its eyeballs in getting peace groups spied upon.

    "The security people at USNORTHCOM . . . had begun noticing some trouble at a few military recruiting events in 2005," Eric Lichtblau recounts in Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice. "Military officials at NORTHCOM asked their counterparts at CIFA [the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity] to ping their powerful new database—do a broader study and find out how many episodes of violence and disruption were actually imperiling their recruiters."

    And NorthCom even was in the loop at the Republican Convention in St. Paul.

    Is it too much to ask Congress to look into NorthCom?

    Pardon my language, but what the fuck is this about?

    usians for equality

    Thank you to all my US friends who were part of this.

    If anyone has reports or pictures, please send them along.

    rosetta reitz, 1924-2008

    A hero of music and feminism has died. Rosetta Reitz, who rescued female jazz and blues giants from the trash heap of history, died in Manhattan at at the age of 84.

    I know Reitz's name as the founder of Rosetta Records, but I've learned from this obit about her richly varied life.
    Ms. Reitz (pronounced rights) came by her interest in jazz through her husband and male friends, but as the feminist movement gathered steam in the 1960s, she noticed something was missing: the music's women. So she started collecting old 78s of performers like the trumpeter Valaida Snow, the pianist-singer Georgia White and a bevy of blues singers who had faded from memory.

    At the same time, she unearthed lost songs by more famous artists like Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Ma Rainey.

    "In that decade of the 1920s, when jazz was really being formulated and changing from an entertainment music to an art form," Ms. Reitz said in an interview with The New York Times in 1980, "these women were extraordinarily important and instrumental in accomplishing that."

    She continued: "Louis Armstrong was a sideman on records in the '20s with singers like Sippie Wallace, Eva Taylor, Hociel Thomas, Virginia Liston and Margaret Johnson. These women's records were made as their records. But when they come out now, they're reissued as Louis Armstrong records, when actually he was not that important on them."

    These women "had the power," she told The Christian Science Monitor in 1984. "They hired the musicians and the chorus line, a lot of them wrote the music themselves, and they produced their own shows. They were more than just singers; they were symbols of success."

    Music was at first just one element in a busy life. Ms. Reitz was at different times a stockbroker, a bookstore proprietor and the owner of a greeting card business. She was a food columnist for The Village Voice, a professor, a classified-advertising manager and author of a book on mushrooms. She was a founding member of Older Women's Liberation. She reared three daughters as a single parent.

    Ms. Reitz also wrote "Menopause: A Positive Approach" (1977), considered one of the first books to look at menopause from the viewpoint of women and not doctors. She listened to her recordings of women while she wrote the book, many of them celebrating the strength of women rather than treating them as victims.

    "I was so alone and needed to be nurtured, and I found I was getting it from them," she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992.

    Ms. Reitz started Rosetta Records in 1979 with $10,000 she had borrowed from friends. Her routine was to scout out lost music, usually through record collectors. She then supervised the remastering of records that were often severely damaged; researched and wrote detailed liner notes; and designed graphics and found period photographs for the album covers. She personally wrapped each order and took it to the post office for shipment. (Around a dozen stores later carried the Rosetta label.)

    Over the years Ms. Reitz went from vinyl recordings to tapes to CDs. She refused to give sales figures, but she did tell The Los Angeles Times that the four titles in her "independent women's blues" series of compilations — including "Mean Mothers" — sold around 20,000 copies each. Some albums centered on themes like railroads or prisons.

    Much of the music she recorded was in the public domain, but Ms. Reitz said she had devoted time and energy to tracking down the rights to some songs and to paying artists royalties when she could. Her label had not issued a recording in at least 13 years, but previous releases are sometimes sold on the Internet. And a number of mainstream labels have also reissued albums of the artists Ms. Reitz admired.

    Rosetta Goldman was born in Utica, N.Y., on Sept. 28, 1924. She attended the University of Wisconsin for three years, moved to Manhattan and got a job at the Gotham Book Mart. She negotiated a loan to buy her own bookstore, the 4 Seasons, in Greenwich Village, where literary figures like Ralph Ellison were celebrated.

    For years Ms. Reitz lobbied for a postage stamp honoring Bessie Smith, which was issued in 1994. She produced concerts by longtime female blues singers for the Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

    She married Robert Reitz when she was 23, and they divorced in the late 1960s. Besides her daughter Rebecca, of Manhattan, Ms. Reitz is survived by two other daughters, Robin Reitz of Tucson, and Rainbow Reitz of Manhattan; and a granddaughter.

    Ms. Reitz did not always finish what she started. She had planned to make 26 albums, she said, but completed only 17. She never finished a book on women in jazz. And even her success with the Rosetta label had left her with a conviction that more work still had to be done.

    "My hope and dream," she said, "is that there won’t be a need for a women’s record company."

    harper blocks public hearings into war crimes - again

    For the third time, the Harper Government is trying to block public hearings on whether it knew that Canadian Forces were transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities, despite knowing they could be tortured.
    The hearings, which would be conducted by an independent federal policing watchdog, the Military Police Complaints Commission, were due to begin Dec. 4.

    The Justice Department filed an Oct. 30 application seeking a Federal Court order "prohibiting the chairperson [of the MPCC] and the commission from investigating" the allegations, the Globe and Mail reported Friday.

    Government lawyers have argued that the commission should only be allowed to investigate specific cases of torture, not all prisoners that were under a torture risk, according to the Globe and Mail.

    The government has issued two previous calls to the Federal Court to stop the public hearings — the first occurred in April, the second in September.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had previously pledged the government's co-operation in the probe, said in April he believed the commission was acting outside its jurisdiction.

    Government lawyers argued in April the handling of detainees is a military operation — not a policing issue.

    Both review applications are still in the procedural stages and are yet to be heard in court.

    It is now unclear when — or if — the MPCC hearings will be held.

    Report suggests government knew of possible abuse

    In February 2007, the MPCC received a complaint from Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Union over the treatment of transferred detainees, saying Ottawa was violating the Geneva Conventions.

    Under the conventions, it is a war crime to turn over prisoners to a party who might abuse them.

    In April 2007, the Globe published a report it had received under the Access to Information Act that suggested the government knew prisoners in Afghanistan jails could be subject to poor conditions.

    Although parts were blacked out, the newspaper said it was able to confirm that these blacked-out sections showed that the Canadian Embassy in Kabul had alerted the government last year that prisoners could be tortured once transferred to Afghan detention centres.

    What is Stephen Harper afraid of? Why can't the public hear the evidence?

    Harper won his first minority government by repeating the words "transparency" and "accountability" over and over. Apparently that only applies to Liberal governments. For Conservatives, secrecy and lies are standard operating procedure.

    It is sickening to think that Canadian Forces are complicit in war crimes. But it's the reality we must face, as long as Canada stays in Afghanistan.

    Canada out of Afghanistan now.

    free movies

    Recently in comments, M@ mentioned that the movie "Why We Fight" is now available for free online.

    If you haven't seen this great documentary, it goes a long way towards explaining the US war machine - why it exists, and who benefits from it. I personally couldn't sit through a full-length movie on my computer, but if you can deal with the format, it's well worth your time. It's here.

    M@'s tip reminded me that I never posted about another free movie opportunity. Michael Moore is giving away downloads of his new movie, "Slacker Uprising". You only need to be a resident of Canada or the US. Sign up is here; you enter your email address and receive a link to a free download.

    For a mere $9.95, you can purchase "Slacker Uprising" on DVD. We always buy Michael Moore's movies, to help support his important work, and because we love them. The extras are usually great. For ten bucks, this is a no-brainer for me.

    11.14.2008

    wolf slaughter imminent. you can help stop it.

    Remember the gray wolves that were threatened by Republicans, who tried to strip the animals of Endangered Species Act protection? Recent background to this story (and photos) are here, here and here.

    A federal judge restored the wolf's protected status, and the government dropped their efforts to de-list them.

    Well, they're at it again. Here's the most recent update from the NRDC Action Fund, the lobbying arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council. It's not pretty.
    As the Bush Administration rides off into the sunset, it's taking a deadly parting shot at the wolves of Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies.

    This 11th hour attack would strip wolves of their Endangered Species protection and leave them vulnerable to mass slaughter by Northern Rockies states. Those states have plans that could kill nearly 1,000 wolves in the first year alone.

    We need to fire back 100,000 Official Citizen Comments and fend off this life-threatening attack.

    We don't have a moment to lose, because the Bush Administration is racing to put a new wolf-killing plan into effect before it leaves office.

    Your Official Citizen Comment could be the last, best hope for the wolves, so please submit it right now. The Administration is taking public comments only until November 28.

    We've protected Yellowstone's wolves before. And with your help, we will do it again.

    It was just two months ago that our partner organization, NRDC, won a huge legal victory in federal court when it forced the Bush Administration to withdraw its original wolf-killing plan.

    I warned you at the time that the Administration could still return with yet another assault on wolves.

    Now they're back and they're going for broke -- with a plan created to slaughter wolves en masse -- at the bidding of powerful ranching and hunting interests.

    Their new "License to Kill" plan, if put into effect, would lead to a state-sponsored massacre of wolves in Greater Yellowstone and Central Idaho.

    They couldn't have picked a worse time. Scientists are predicting a crash in Yellowstone's wolf population this year -- and wolf pups are dying from an outbreak of a yet-to-be-determined disease.

    With the population below the 2,000-3,000 wolves that experts believe are needed for long-term health, the Bush Administration's scheme could push the gray wolf back to the brink of extinction.

    That's why we must fight back with the force of at least 100,000 Official Citizen Comments in favor of wolf protection. But we have less than three weeks to mobilize before the November 28 deadline.

    Right now, the states of Idaho and Montana are awaiting "Open Fire" orders to unleash a deadly public hunt as soon as this winter, if the latest Bush proposal goes through as planned. And Wyoming could also start a hunt this winter if it succeeds in rushing through its latest plan.

    That's why I urge you to click to send your Official Citizen Comment right now -- before the Bush Administration has a chance to pull the trigger on this deadly scheme and slaughter the greatest wildlife icon of the American West.

    Please submit your citizen comment now.

    more u.s. military recruitment lies

    An addendum to my last post. We won't be seeing anything resembling an amnesty for Iraq War resisters any time soon, but that doesn't stop US military recruiters from using Obama's election as a selling point. Vet Voice reports:
    Within 24 hours of Barack Obama's election, an Army career counselor sent out a recruiting e-mail promising that the new president would "get us out of Iraq," reports VetVoice's Brandon Friedman. "What are you waiting for?" the e-mail asks, arguing the election of Obama makes now the perfect time to join up.

    . . .

    The relevant text says:

    "24 Month Mobilization Deferment. A President Elect who says he'll get us out of Iraq. What are you waiting for? Stop taking your chance's [sic] in the IRR and be safe from deployment for 2 years. By that time our new President will have gotten us out of these other countries."

    See the VetVoice post for screen shots and commentary.

    Throw this on the already giant heap of lies and false inducements used by US military recruiters.

    Thanks to A for the tip.

    reality check: there is no amnesty. canada must let them stay.

    There's a dangerous misconception out there about how the recent US election affects the US war resisters in Canada. Two words: it doesn't.

    Put aside all thoughts of amnesty or pardons or any help from the United States.

    The war is still going on.

    In case you missed it: the war is still going on.

    The US still occupies Iraq. Is the new Commander-in-Chief going to tell troops during an ongoing war that it's all right to desert?

    If Obama begins a troop pull-out it will be at least a year before the US is out of Iraq.

    And Obama has already said he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan.

    Can anyone really believe that during an ongoing war, the Commander-in-Chief is going to welcome home deserters?

    And a Democrat, already perceived as weak on "defense" [sic!], the first African-American President, under beyond-intense scrutiny, is going to defy the laws of his own military and alienate at least half the population, in order to help people the military doesn't even want the public to know about?

    Jimmy Carter didn't dream up amnesty for Vietnam War draft resisters over dinner one night. It was fought for and brokered by the peace movement on both sides of the US-Canada border. The war had already ended - the amnesty was hugely controversial - and it didn't include deserters.

    I have no doubt that the US peace movement is beginning discussions around a possible future amnesty. There are thousands of war resisters - AWOL soldiers - in the US, and they will need an amnesty in order to qualify for veterans' benefits.

    But that is a dream for the future. If it comes to pass, it is many years away.

    Our guys are being threatened with deportation NOW. If they are deported from Canada, they will be court-martialled, imprisoned and given dishonourable discharges. That is a fact.

    For war resisters in Canada, the solution can only come from Canada.

    At our meeting this week, war resister Jill Hart, spouse of former sergeant Patrick Hart, said that a reporter asked her about whether Obama will give Pat a pardon. The Harts were given a temporary deferment to stay in Canada while their son finishes the first term of Grade 1, but their deportation goes back into effect on January 15.

    Asked about the pardon, Jill said, "Pat doesn't need to be pardoned. He hasn't done anything wrong!"

    The reporter asked her, if there was a pardon, would she go home. Her reply: "I am home."

    * * * *

    Canadians, if you believe, as I do, that Canada should continue its tradition of welcoming people who have refused to fight in immoral, illegal wars - if you believe these good people should be allowed to stay legally in Canada - it is up to you to make it happen.

    While the federal courts continue to rule in favour of the war resisters, we cannot fight this on a case-by-case basis. It will drain our resources, and we will lose by attrition, exactly what the Government hopes and expects to happen.

    We need a political solution - a policy - and it's within our grasp to get it.

    We need your help. We need money, and we need hands. If you've ever thought about getting involved in this issue, now is the time.

    11.13.2008

    practical question for wmtc readers

    Wmtc readers are incredible when it comes to suggesting where I can find exactly what I'm looking for. Among the many great tips I've gotten from you guys are Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, now our number one spot for birthday lunches, and the Red Room, where I've conducted several interviews before Campaign meetings. So once again, I appeal to readers who know Toronto.

    I need two spots in the King-Dufferin area. It's for an interview, but I need a two locations because I don't know if we're meeting for breakfast or dinner. For an interview I need someplace: not outrageously loud, inexpensive enough that I can pick up the tab, relaxed and friendly, and someplace where we won't be rushed if things go well and my victim really starts talking.

    Whadda ya got?

    ancestry.ca: a mistake, but not an outrage

    Canadian readers all heard about a mistake made by Ancestry.ca in a photo used for a Remembrance Day ad. US and other readers probably didn't hear about it, so here's the story.
    Call it a Remembrance Day story that a leading genealogy website would rather not remember.

    To honour the memory of the Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War, Ancestry.ca was offering, until the end of the month, a free Web search of military databases that contained the records of this country's soldiers.

    A half-page ad that ran in a Toronto newspaper on Sunday, adorned with a large red poppy, was titled "My Grandfather. My Hero," with details of how to do the search.

    But the colour ad featured a photograph of a German, not an Allied soldier, a blunder that angered some veterans and historians.

    The above story shows the ad with the blunder.

    I saw the headline, skimmed a paragraph or two, thought "Oops," and moved on. So I didn't realize that veterans and others quoted in news stories were saying things like, "It's an outrage to the memory of those who died fighting for this country."

    No, it's not an outrage.

    Today, the Globe and Mail ran two letters with a more enlightened perspective.
    More than a few Germans have emigrated to Canada since 1918, many with ancestors who fought in the First World War.

    Although Ancestry.ca accidentally used a picture of a German soldier in an ad honouring the memory of Canadian soldiers, the controversy speaks to the ambiguous nature of wars waged long ago. The German soldiers whom Canadians so bravely fought in the Great War were not monsters. They were young men, much the same as their enemies.

    Should any Canadian with a German First World War vet as an ancestor be ashamed of that fact?

    Surely not.

    Julian Reid, Ottawa

    *

    I was disappointed to read this story just a day after the country commemorated the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day. The website made a very unfortunate mistake, but the rhetoric in response - calling a photo of a German soldier "an outrage" - was all out of proportion.

    Don't German soldiers who died also deserve our respect and remembrance? Or are we now blaming young conscripts for the crimes of their leaders?

    Nov. 11 has never been about celebrating only the winners, but remembering all the lives lost in war.

    Eva Holland
    Verona, ON

    These letters point to the fallacy of Remembrance Day. If we honour veterans only from our own country, with no reminder of how completely useless and insane war is, no reminder of all of war's victims, military and civilian, then it's all just so much flag-waving. No matter what the official spin, at bottom it's just another glorification of war.

    It's horribly sad to think that in the 21st Century, some Canadians could still think of any soldiers as "the enemy". They should be required to read All Quiet on the Western Front.

    The enemy is war and the governments who prosecute it, spending other people's lives for their own gain. Everyone forced to partake in it, no matter where they were born, is a victim.