1.31.2009

note to self

Do not read stories about abused animals at work.
Jasmine has come far, but she still has many fears. Around people she almost always walks with her head and tail down. She won't let anyone approach her from behind, and she spends most of the day in her pen, sitting quietly, the open door yawning before her. Stirling works with her endlessly. "I feel like what I do for her is so little compared with what she does for me," she says, welling up.

. . . .

"I used to think any dog could be rehabbed if you gave it food, exercise and love," she says, "but I know now it's not totally true. Jasmine's happy, but she'll never be like other dogs."

That was our Buster.

My older post about this is here.

thoughts on naomi klein's shock doctrine

As I mentioned, I'm finally reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. It's an excellent and important book, and my glacial reading pace is in no way attributable to Klein's writing, which is always lively and very accessible.

I'm learning a lot, especially about events that happened during my lifetime but of which I was only dimly aware, or aware of only through mainstream reports.

I'm finding it enormously depressing. I'm sure it isn't Klein's intentions to make her readers feel there is no hope of the majority of the world's peoples achieving real economic justice. But reading this book is making me feel hopeless and helpless.

Learning how the most successful people's movements of our lifetimes were hijacked by the hypercapitalist freemarketeers is just crushing.

I especially felt this when reading about South Africa. Divestment from the apartheid regime in South Africa was the burning issue on US college (university) campuses when I was in school. Divestment was my first real activism, apart from the anti-war and civil rights marches I attended as a child with my father. The end of apartheid has remained my clearest sense of the possibility of change, because it was the singular event I witnessed in my lifetime. Nelson Mandela's release from prison and his presidency were a dream come true for hundreds of millions of people all over the world. I was one of them.

I knew that with political justice realized, the dream of real justice - land redistribution, nationalized mines - was derailed. I know that there remains brutal inequality in South Africa, that the black majority remains very poor. But I never knew why or how that happened. While The Freedom Charter was being assassinated, my attention was elsewhere. And there was no internet. Unless you read The Nation every week (and I didn't), you couldn't keep up on the inner workings of a distant counter-revolution.

The other horror for me to read about was Poland. I remember wearing my Solidarnosc t-shirt, and thrilling to Lech Walesa leading a truly democratic worker's revolution. And then... capitalism in the extreme.

Why did the dreams die? Who killed them? Global capitalism didn't prevail because it was the best choice for the most people. It didn't triumph because the people demanded it. Why did the leadership of these countries - so recently liberated, and so full of hope - adopt a system that would lock most of its people into lifelong poverty?

Yesterday, reading The Shock Doctrine, I learned the answers.

The brilliant thing about the book is Klein's framework, the context in which she places dozens of disparate events.

The horrible thing is how it's making me despair. The majority of the world toils in factories, fields, mines and shops, living on the edge of poverty, while giant multinational corporations reap the profits of their labour, and control access to the food, water and fuel that should be their birthright.

Oppressive regimes can be toppled, at great cost. But real justice remains a dream.

chris jordan photographic arts

Check out Chris Jordan Photographic Arts. From "Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait":
Running the Numbers looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

Go here and scroll through. Kind of amazing.

1.30.2009

world's first openly gay national leader

This week, when Johanna Sigurdardottir is sworn in as Prime Minister of Iceland, she will become the world's first openly gay national leader.

According to this Independent (UK) story, Sigurdardottir has been one of the top politicians in small, "calmly progressive" Iceland for a long time. She is also a former flight attendant. Nice!

Thanks to James for sending.

canadians call for compassion, justice, democracy - and deporting stephen harper!

From letters to the Midland Mirror:
Sadly, this month, mercy is not reflected in the policies of our government.

For three weeks in December and January, the people of Gaza were pounded by Israeli air strikes and a ground invasion. Over 1,200 people were killed and thousands injured.

Canada justifies this attack as Israeli self-defence. Time was when Canada took on the cause of the underdog. Time was when Canada stood with the nations of the world to advance human rights and a decent standard of living for all.

And then there's the case of the war resisters. This month, four young men and one woman who sought sanctuary in Canada rather than serve with U.S. forces in Iraq have been ordered back to their country, where they face possible jail time.

A majority of MPs in the Commons last June voted that they should be allowed to stay. The present administration continues to deport them. Why?

Finally, to Guantanamo, where a young Canadian has been detained without trial for six-and-a-half years. He was arrested at 15 as a child soldier, but has been treated like a terrorist. Canada has made no request for his repatriation.

Is this how we treat our citizens? Does one have to have white skin and a Christian name to receive the full benefits of citizenship?

Shame on us!

Elizabeth O'Connor
Midland

From letters to the New Westminster Record:
Jason Kenney, the Conservative minister for citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, does not like U.S. war resisters. He thinks that "they are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection." Mr. Kenney is welcome to his private opinions, but when he expresses them publicly in his role as immigration minister (letter to the Toronto Sun, Jan. 2), it gives the strong appearance of political interference. The Immigration and Refugee Board is an independent tribunal, but re-appointments to it are made by cabinet. It is entirely possible board members might fear not being reappointed if they do not follow Mr. Kenney's interpretation of the issues and consequently adjust their judgments in their own interests. The Immigration and Refugee Board should determine who is and who is not a refugee, not Mr. Kenney.

The Iraq war, the occupation of Iraq and the human rights abuses used to force the compliance of the Iraqi population are all against international law. U.S. war resisters have followed their consciences by refusing to participate in these crimes. They deserve our admiration for choosing to leave the armed forces at significant risk to themselves rather than be a party to war crimes. By doing so they are following the judgments of the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War, which found that individuals must refuse to participate in crimes against humanity even if ordered to do so by a superior.

Mr. Kenney also claims that U.S. war resisters are "clogging up" the system. This is not the case because their numbers are far too small to have any appreciable effect on others in the refugee claim process. However, if the Conservative government were to appoint adequate members to the Immigration and Refugee Board, it would go a long way toward relieving the significant backlog of refugees.

Our Parliament, in June 2008, adopted a motion calling upon the government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and stop deporting them. This government should follow Canadian tradition and support war resisters who refuse to participate in wars that violate international law.

Andrew Phillips, Sapperton

From letters to EyeWeekly.com:
Deport Harper

What a cruel irony: as Americans celebrate the inauguration of a president opposed to the Iraq war, the Canadian government is deporting Iraq war resisters ("War resisters fight to stay," Toronto Notes, Jan. 21). Prime Minister Harper lost the vote on Canada's participation in the Iraq war, and has now lost his close ally in George Bush. Even though he admitted last election campaign that the Iraq war was "absolutely an error," he refuses to support troops who have come to the same conclusion.

Canada resisted the Iraq war, and a majority in the polls and in Parliament support Iraq war resisters. So Harper first ignored Parliament, and then started deportations while Parliament was prorogued. We need to deport Harper, not war resisters.

Jesse McLaren

while ignatieff-harper coalition sells out women, obama keeps his promise to working women

Many progressive Canadians are contrasting with rueful irony the spectacle of a Democrat in the White House with a mandate for change while a Conservative runs the Canadian Parliament with his Liberal house slaves. It's easy to contrast the two, but the irony doesn't hold up when you remember that US Democrats, in Canadian terms, are Conservatives. Some might be Liberals, but they'd be Ignatieff Liberals. That is, de facto Conservatives. A few individual Democrats would be comfortable in the NDP, but they have no power or influence within their party.

So in general I find these comparisons convenient rhetoric, but misinformed. However, there is one direct comparison that works right now: gender pay equity. Equal pay for women, and what women can do about it if they are the targets of discrimination.

Under the disastrous Conservative economic statement of last November, women would have no longer been able to file pay equity complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The chastened Conservatives pulled away from that, but by how much? The new budget promises to "modernize" federal pay equity, but narrows women's legal options to pursue justice. Here's what the budget says:
The existing complaint-based pay equity regime is a lengthy, costly and adversarial process that does not serve employees or employers well. Legislation to modernize the pay equity regime for federal public sector employees will be introduced. The new regime reflects the Government's commitment to pay equity. It will ensure that the employer and bargaining agents are jointly responsible and accountable for negotiating salaries that are fair and equitable to all employees.

Vague, political-speak about "modernizing" and reference to an "adversarial" process isn't fooling anyone. No one could reasonably expect this to be anything but an anti-worker, anti-woman, corporate-friendly giveback.

To our south, Obama has done something both practically and symbolically important. New York Times columnist Gail Collins explains.
President Obama is scheduled to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law today.

"I'm so excited I can hardly stand it," Ledbetter said recently after the bill passed the Senate.

Obama told her story over and over when he campaigned for president: How Ledbetter, now 70, spent years working as a plant supervisor at a tire factory in Alabama. How, when she neared retirement, someone slipped her a pay schedule that showed her male colleagues were making much more money than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, to be really, really guilty of pay discrimination. But the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision led by the Bush appointees, threw out Ledbetter’s case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the first time Goodyear paid her less than her peers.

(Let us pause briefly to contemplate the chances of figuring out your co-workers’ salaries within the first six months on the job.)

Until the Supreme Court stepped in, courts generally presumed that the 180-day time limit began the last time an employee got a discriminatory pay check, not the first. In an attempt at bipartisan comity, the Senate decided to simply restore the status quo, rejecting House efforts to make the law tougher. Even then, only five Republican senators voted for it — four women and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who is currently the most threatened of the deeply endangered species known as moderate Republicans.

Ledbetter, who was widowed in December, won't get any restitution of her lost wages; her case can't be retried. She’s now part of a long line of working women who went to court and changed a little bit of the world in fights that often brought them minimal personal benefit.

Another was Eulalie Cooper, a flight attendant who sued Delta Air Lines in the mid-’60s when she was fired for being married. Not only did a Louisiana judge uphold the airline industry’s bizarre rules requiring stewardesses to be young and single, Cooper was denied unemployment benefits on the grounds that by getting married she left her job "voluntarily."

But she began a pattern of litigation that eventually ended the industry's insistence that women needed to look like sex objects in order to properly care for passengers on airplanes. Next time you talk about US Airways Flight 1549's spectacular landing on the Hudson River, remember that the three flight attendants who kept calm in the ditched plane were all women in their 50s and give a nod to people like Eulalie Cooper.

Patricia Lorance, an Illinois factory worker, went to court after her union and employer secretly agreed to new seniority rules that discriminated against the women who had been promoted in the post-Civil Rights Act era of the 1970s. Like Ledbetter, she lost her court fight because of a ridiculous ruling about timing, which had to be fixed by Congress.

Working at a series of lower-paying jobs after the factory closed, and then disabled by physical ailments, Lorance lost track of her case long before it finally wound its way through the Supreme Court. “But to this day, I am rather proud of myself because I was not a dumb person. I believe in just standing up and fighting for your own rights,” she said in a phone interview.

Ledbetter’s real soul sister is Lorena Weeks of Wadley, Ga. Weeks, now 80, had worked two jobs to support her orphaned siblings, then struggled with her husband to set enough money aside to assure their children would be able to go to college. A longtime telephone employee, she applied for a higher-paying job overseeing equipment at the central office. Both her union and the management said the job was unsuitable for a woman because it involved pushing 30-pound equipment on a dolly, even though Weeks regularly toted around a 34-pound typewriter at her clerical job.

Weeks v. Southern Bell helped smash employers' old dodge of keeping women out of higher-paying positions by claiming that they required qualifications only men could fulfill. But it was a long, painful fight during which Weeks was terrified that she might lose her job entirely. "I felt like I was so alone, and yet I knew I was doing what God wanted me to do. Going back to the fact my momma had died working so hard. And I knew women worked and needed a place in the world," she said.

It's a good day for the feisty working women who went to court to demand their rights and the frequently underpaid lawyers who championed them. They're strangers to one another; most of them made their stands and then returned to their ordinary lives. But they're a special sorority all the same. And Lilly Ledbetter got to go to the inauguration and dance with the new president.

"Tell her congratulations," said Lorena Weeks.

And thanks to AW1L for sending Collins' piece.

two years of tala

Another Redsock guest post - L

It's Tala Day! Tala has been the most entertaining member of our family for two years.

Here are some pictures, chronological for the most part.

The first photo is the one that started it all. About a year after we lost Buster, we decided we were ready to adopt another dog. At work, we would each look at dogs for adoption on Petfinder and email pictures to each other. But because we knew we were moving, we decided to hold off for a few months. ... But Laura kept looking.

One day she emailed me a link; subject line: "Where is Churchville, New York?" I took one look and replied: "I don't know, but that's where we're going!" Here are the pictures that stole our hearts.

tala from petfinder 01


tala from petfinder 03


tala from petfinder 02


Churchville turned out to be near Rochester, in Western New York - and we were going to be passing by on our US Thanksgiving road trip. We brought her a Maple Leaf bandana as a present. [L Update: these pics were taken at Husky Savers, the amazing Husky Rescue home in Churchville.]

meeting tala 04


tala013


We moved after New Year's, went to the Ice Hotel for our 20th anniversary, then brought Tala home at the end of the month.

Winter 2007

tala cody backyard snow 056


tala cody backyard snow 050


tala cody backyard snow2 017


tala cody backyard snow2 034


Summer 2007

tala cody backyard 03 105


tala cody backyard 03 054


tala cody backyard 03 136


dogs in the sun 10


dogs in the sun 01


dogs in the sun 04


Autumn 2007 (Cottage)

cottage sept 07 016


cottage sept 07 019


cottage sept 07 036


Winter 2008

backyard snow feb 07 08 009


backyard snow feb 07 08 010


tala & cody august 08


Summer 2008

halton hills 009


halton hills 012


Praying The Hose Will Suddenly Start Spraying Her

hose 002


Autumn 2008

cody dirt 004


bones 001


bones 014


tala cody autumn 2008 049


tala cody autumn 2008 040


tala cody autumn 2008 038


tala cody autum 2009 046


tala cody autumn 2008 023


Thanks to L's new phone, we now have video capability. We haven't gotten anything really great yet, but we'll post a bunch of videos sooner or later.

1.29.2009

excerpts from chomsky, "exterminate all the brutes"

Here are some excerpts from the Noam Chomsky's excellent article on Gaza, "Exterminate all the Brutes". There's much more than this; I hope you'll take the time to read the whole piece.
On Saturday December 27, the latest US-Israeli attack on helpless Palestinians was launched. The attack had been meticulously planned, for over 6 months according to the Israeli press. The planning had two components: military and propaganda. It was based on the lessons of Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which was considered to be poorly planned and badly advertised. We may, therefore, be fairly confident that most of what has been done and said was pre-planned and intended.

That surely includes the timing of the assault: shortly before noon, when children were returning from school and crowds were milling in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. It took only a few minutes to kill over 225 people and wound 700, an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee.

In his retrospective "Parsing Gains of Gaza War," New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner cited this achievement as one of the most significant of the gains. Israel calculated that it would be advantageous to appear to "go crazy," causing vastly disproportionate terror, a doctrine that traces back to the 1950s. "The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day," Bronner wrote, "when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Saturday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza." The tactic of "going crazy" appears to have been successful, Bronner concluded: there are "limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas," the elected government. That is another long-standing doctrine of state terror. I don't, incidentally, recall the Times retrospective "Parsing Gains of Chechnya War," though the gains were great.

. . . .

The reasons were explained by the distinguished statesman Abba Eban: "there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that affected populations would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities." The effect, as Eban well understood, would be to allow Israel to implement, undisturbed, its programs of illegal expansion and harsh repression. Eban was commenting on a review of Labor government attacks against civilians by Prime Minister Begin, presenting a picture, Eban said, "of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations in a mood reminiscent of regimes which neither Mr.Begin nor I would dare to mention by name." Eban did not contest the facts that Begin reviewed, but criticized him for stating them publicly. Nor did it concern Eban, or his admirers, that his advocacy of massive state terror is also reminiscent of regimes he would not dare to mention by name.

Eban's justification for state terror is regarded as persuasive by respected authorities. As the current US-Israel assault raged, Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained that Israel's tactics both in the current attack and in its invasion of Lebanon in 2006 are based on the sound principle of "trying to `educate' Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population." That makes sense on pragmatic grounds, as it did in Lebanon, where "the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians -- the families and employers of the militants -- to restrain Hezbollah in the future." And by similar logic, bin Laden's effort to "educate" Americans on 9/11 was highly praiseworthy, as were the Nazi attacks on Lidice and Oradour, Putin's destruction of Grozny, and other notable attempts at "education."

. . . .

Aggression always has a pretext: in this case, that Israel's patience had "run out" in the face of Hamas rocket attacks, as Barak put it. The mantra that is endlessly repeated is that Israel has the right to use force to defend itself. The thesis is partially defensible. The rocketing is criminal, and it is true that a state has the right to defend itself against criminal attacks. But it does not follow that it has a right to defend itself by force. That goes far beyond any principle that we would or should accept. Nazi Germany had no right to use force to defend itself against the terrorism of the partisans. Kristallnacht is not justified by Herschel Grynszpan's assassination of a German Embassy official in Paris. The British were not justified in using force to defend themselves against the (very real) terror of the American colonists seeking independence, or to terrorize Irish Catholics in response to IRA terror -- and when they finally turned to the sensible policy of addressing legitimate grievances, the terror ended. It is not a matter of "proportionality," but of choice of action in the first place: Is there an alternative to violence?

. . . .

The reactions to crimes of an occupying power can be condemned as criminal and politically foolish, but those who offer no alternative have no moral grounds to issue such judgments. The conclusion holds with particular force for those in the US who choose to be directly implicated in Israel's ongoing crimes -- by their words, their actions, or their silence. All the more so because there are very clear non-violent alternatives -- which, however, have the disadvantage that they bar the programs of illegal expansion.

Israel has a straightforward means to defend itself: put an end to its criminal actions in occupied territories, and accept the long-standing international consensus on a two-state settlement that has been blocked by the US and Israel for over 30 years, since the US first vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a political settlement in these terms in 1976. I will not once again run through the inglorious record, but it is important to be aware that US-Israeli rejectionism today is even more blatant than in the past. The Arab League has gone even beyond the consensus, calling for full normalization of relations with Israel. Hamas has repeatedly called for a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus. Iran and Hezbollah have made it clear that they will abide by any agreement that Palestinians accept. That leaves the US-Israel in splendid isolation, not only in words.

. . . .

Today, Israel could have security, normalization of relations, and integration into the region. But it very clearly prefers illegal expansion, conflict, and repeated exercise of violence, actions that are not only criminal, murderous and destructive but are also eroding its own long-term security. US military and Middle East specialist Andrew Cordesman writes that while Israel military force can surely crush defenseless Gaza, "neither Israel nor the US can gain from a war that produces [a bitter] reaction from one of the wisest and most moderate voices in the Arab world, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who said on January 6 that `The Bush administration has left [Obama] a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza...Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza'."

One of the wisest voices in Israel, Uri Avnery, writes that after an Israeli military victory, "What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet. In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel."

There is good reason to believe that he is right. Israel is deliberately turning itself into perhaps the most hated country in the world, and is also losing the allegiance of the population of the West, including younger American Jews, who are unlikely to tolerate its persistent shocking crimes for long. Decades ago, I wrote that those who call themselves "supporters of Israel" are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction. Regrettably, that judgment looks more and more plausible.

Meanwhile we are quietly observing a rare event in history, what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called "politicide," the murder of a nation -- at our hands.

"canada's national newspaper," feeding the legendary inferiority complex

On the day after the Harper Government survives and the NDP-Liberal coalition is officially declared dead, what gets the most real estate on the front page of the Globe and Mail, the self-proclaimed "Canada's National Newspaper"?

Harper?

Ignatieff?

Budget?

Bzzzzt.

Obama.

And what is Obama doing? Walking in the cold!

Yes, it's true! He walks in the cold, and he doesn't complain! And do you know why? He's from Chicago! Yes, it's true!

Wait, there's more!

When Obama comes to Ottawa on February 19, he will be unfazed by the cold! Because he's from Chicago!

Wow! What a story! Thanks, Globe and Mail!

daily dose of remembrance

Daily Dose of Imagery captures a vigil in support of Tamil people terrorized and massacred by the Sri Lankan government.

please act to keep cliff cornell in canada

War resister Cliff Cornell got a brief extension on his removal date. I knew about this, but wasn't sure if it was public until last night's Campaign meeting.

Cliff has given up his fight to stay in Canada, and resigned himself to leaving next week. I can understand that. But we don't have to give up fighting for him.

Please - today, tomorrow, and Monday - call and email Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and your own MP.

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper
613.992.4211
pm@pm.gc.ca

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
613.954.1064 (Ministry office) or 613.992.2235 (Parliamentary Office)
minister@cic.gc.ca or Kenney.j@parl.gc.ca

Please cc the opposition party critics if you email Jason Kenney, and please note the new Liberal critic:
Liberal immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua: bevilacqua.m@parl.gc.ca
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow: chow.o@parl.gc.ca
Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr: st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca

Cliff's MP is Jean Crowder (NDP). It couldn't hurt to email her and let her know you also support Cliff. Please be respectful and bear in mind that she is already on our side.

It only takes a few minutes to make these calls or send the emails, and it demonstrates our ongoing support for US war resisters in Canada.

Cliff may end up leaving next week, but we shouldn't go down without a fight, and without raising our voices in protest.

1.28.2009

chomsky on gaza

In case you haven't seen it, I highly recommend reading Noam Chomsky's lengthy piece on Gaza: "Exterminate all the Brutes".

When I want to read an article of this length, I generally print it. (I save the paper for lists and memos.) Reading on paper helps me focus without the temptation to click and move on. I printed this last week and finally found the time to read it today.

So now I join the chorus of people saying that if you read one piece on Gaza, make it this one. Chomsky is completely reliable, impeccably informed, and gives the full just, humanitarian perspective without resorting to overheated rhetoric.

I hope US readers are looking beyond CNN and the New York Times for their news on the crisis in Gaza. On this issue, it's particularly necessary.

Noam Chomsky: Exterminate all the Brutes.

pissed off round-up

I wanted to do a round-up of progressive bloggers on this latest Liberal capitulation, but I don't have the time. Fortunately, Allan does. Here's another Redsock guest post to help keep us informed. Thanks to Accidental Deliberations for doing this first. - L

From various progressive blogs:

Disaffected Lib:
Puffing himself up as perhaps no one else can, Iggy said, "We are putting this government on probation." Gee, Mike, I thought a minority government with an unruly opposition was always on probation. Was I missing something? ...

Let's get this straight. The interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, our nation's Official Opposition, is content to allow Canada in the face of this fiscal emergency to wallow haplessly under the weight of Harper's visionless bailout budget. ...

If you support this budget, Mikey, you're saying "okay" to everything that's in it - and that's anything but okay to me.


To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth:
[I]t's business as usual: the Liberals will talk a good game about opposing the Conservatives, but won't do anything of significance to actually oppose them. Harper has shown, repeatedly, that he can't be trusted. And what the Liberals have come up with is "regular reports" -- from the guy who can't be trusted.


blogging a dead horse:
But by walking away from the historic Liberal-NDP coalition today, Ignatieff is perversely showing confidence in Harper ... [and] showing non-confidence in himself to be Prime Minister in these tough times.

Ignatieff has failed the very first test of his leadership. ... Michael Ignatieff, the first Leader of the Liberal Party who didn't want to be Prime Minister.


Stageleft:
The budget falls short, but we're gonna support it, and require reports, and then watch them like hawks, and if it doesn't work the way we think it should we'll bring them down — I think Dion wrote his text for him.


Firebrand:
Is that it? Is that seriously Iggy's only condition for passing the budget? Despite broad-based demands the budget does nothing to rectify the absurd qualification regime for EI which excludes over 60% of unemployed Ontarians from the program. ... [B]ut the Ignatieff Liberals have balked at holding Harper's feet to the fire and insisting that the budget be amended to broaden EI eligibility as a condition for Liberal support. ...

This is leadership? This is using your political advantage to leverage concessions?


liberal catnip:
As for the budget, what can you say about a finance minister who lied to the public about an upcoming surplus and who now says that the economy should show a turnaround by July? ...

Throwing financial crumbs out to a starving public is no way to ensure a solid, timely recovery but that apparently doesn't bother the Liberal party enough to bring down this government. It's politics first. What else is new?


CuriosityCat:
By supporting the Tory government, Ignatieff has joined himself to Harper at the hip, and has in essence entered into a de facto coalition with the Tories, instead of becoming the prime minister of a Liberal-NDP coalition government. ...

Canadians who lose their jobs because the stimulus package did not cover the items set out in the Accord, or amount to the proper sum (at least 2% of GDP for now), should blame not only Harper when they lose their jobs, their homes and their livelihoods, but more particularly, each and every Liberal MP, and vote accordingly at the next election. ...

At a time when courage was called for, the Liberals offered cowardice.


James Laxer:
Explaining himself in answer to questions from the media, the Liberal leader was embarrassingly sophomoric. The Liberal-NDP coalition had been useful, he said, because it had forced the government to put many useful measures in the budget. On the other hand, he said the budget remained a "Conservative" budget that likely would not work. Nonetheless, he said he intended to vote for it. ... By turns, Ignatieff sounded like Demosthenes, thundering down condemnation on a government that has repeatedly failed Canadians, and then like an apple-polishing pupil asking for a report card from the head master. ...

If you vote for the Conservative budget, it becomes your budget Mr. Ignatieff, no matter what font the government uses to print its reports for you.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton has become the real leader of the opposition. He showed courage when he reached out to the Liberals to form a progressive coalition ... Michael Ignatieff has walked away from that option. Layton has retained his integrity and his clear understanding of what the country needs. Progressives now have one party and one party only available to them: the NDP.


Tiny Perfect Blog:
An update? Seriously? This is going to be different from the quarterly budget updates how?


James Curran:
And What Do You Think The Reports Will Say Mr. Ignatieff?

The reports will say nothing. Just like they always do in the realm of Stephen Harper. Hidden truths not revealed is what they'll be. Just like when Harper told Canadians there would be no deficit a mere 90 days ago. ...

Say what you want about Stephane Dion, he died fighting for the environment and some sort of principal attached thereto.

While we're at it, let me ask what the hell the rest of the 76 Liberal MPs were thinking over the last 24 hours that would lead their leader to the undramatic decision he made today? What the hell are you thinking? You think that you're doing justice for your constituents? ...

We just sold out our convictions to keep this evil, vindictive Conservative government in power.


CuriosityCat:
Watching Michael Ignatieff chortle with delight at his smartness, and congratulate himself for "putting the Tories on probation", a thought struck me. ...

This morning, he held the balance of power in Canada. ... [N]ow he is asking for report cards every 3 months ... don't hold your breath that Ignatieff will show any intestinal fortitude in 3 months time. He showed none today, so what will suddenly put a spine into this sad Liberal Party caucus?


Northern BC Dipper:
If the Liberals pass up the chance to govern and support the Conservative budget, then later complain about how things would be better under their rule, are we supposed to listen? Or, you know, vote for them?


Blevkog:
The conservatives get to continue destroying our future, while the liberals will continue to make weak noises in the corner. We will continue to see corporate welfare for irresponsible financiers, but no welfare for unfortunate individuals. Ignatieff has just given Harper the green light to continue as though he won a majority. ... This is Liberal leadership. Why do people still vote for these spineless weasels?

ignatieff talks tough but the liberals are still spineless

Shorter Ignatieff:

The budget is very bad, it's very bad, it's kind of bad, it's bad. But... it's not so bad. I'm going to live with it anyway.

* * * *

These goddamn Liberals. They get to act tough, showcase Ignatieff's tough-talking leadership, and then defeat the Government and have an election when they're good and ready, and when they feel Canadians are amenable to it.

And we're stuck with this bullshit Government and their unfocused, grab-bag budget that does more for wealthy folks remodelling their kitchens than working people thrown out of work and barely hanging on.

It's no big surprise, we knew Ignatieff wasn't really into the coalition, but it still sucks.

1.27.2009

even through the biting wind, you can hear them say: let them stay

It was too cold in Ottawa yesterday for the traditional 21-gun salute to mark the Opening of Parliament. But that didn't stop Iraq War resisters and their supporters from bringing their message to Stephen Harper and all the returning Members of Parliament.

war resister dean walcott gets stay of deportation

YES! Dean Walcott got a stay! Our goddess Alyssa Manning still undefeated in federal court! Hallefuckingluyah!

great dogs with a bad rap get some great coverage

You may remember an old wmtc post about BAD RAP, or perhaps you've seen the badge on my sidebar. BAD RAP is an extraordinary animal rescue, rehabilitation and education organization focusing on the American Pit Bull Terrier, or as we call them, Bully Boys.

There is a very special place in my heart for BAD RAP and the work they do. Our Buster, whose picture is my Flickr icon, was an abused and abandoned pit-mix. We found him on the street, near death. It's likely he was either trained to fight or used as a "bait dog" for other dogs to attack.

Our six years with Buster were nothing less than an odyssey. I liken it to having a child with a disability: our lives revolved around him. And through Buster, I found BAD RAP.

Two years ago, BAD RAP was involved in rescuing and rehabilitating the "Vick Dogs" - the survivors of the torture chamber owned and operated by NFL player Michael Vick. I've just discovered that the incredible and heroic story was a Sports Illustrated cover story! For magazine coverage in the US, you can't get any bigger than that. If I read the BAD RAP blog more consistently, I'd have known this. Since I don't, I had to wait for Allan to see it at a doctor's office. (Note to self: subscribe to feed!)

This SI story must be the largest, most far-reaching pit-bull public education effort in history. I'm thrilled and amazed that Sports Illustrated ran it - and on the cover, too!

Please, check out the BAD RAP blog, even for a moment. The SI story is linked on the sidebar, and there's a great
photo gallery here.

I hope you'll set aside some time to read this story, both heartbreaking and heartwarming, about the worst and the best of humanity, and true princes of the animal world.

Warning: bring tissues.

vicky cristina barcelona

I don't know if any of you are Woody Allen fans, but Allan and I see each new movie of his without fail. Once out of the tabloid headlines, Woody Allen has continued to quietly make great little movies. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is no exception. It's about love and desire, passion versus stability, and the longings that drive our dissatisfaction. In other words, the human condition.

For me this movie had a few extra attractions. It's set against a backdrop of Barcelona, a place I haven't been and very much want to go, high on my list right now. And there's a special nod for us polyamorous and bisexual folks, as the healthiest, most stable and productive relationship in the movie is also the least conventional.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is not a departure for Woody Allen; it's typical Woody fare. The casting, writing and direction are all perfect. I'm really amazed how he can keep creating these wonderful little movies, somehow completely typical of his aesthetic yet not tired or predictable.

If it's been a long time since you've seen one of his films, this would be an excellent re-introduction.

1.26.2009

prominent canadians say let them stay

This appeared in the Hill Times this morning, a full page ad on the back page, greeting all the returning MPs. Pdf - please click!

You can see the full list of signatories here.

from vietnam to iraq: let them stay

Here's an excellent article from the Truro (Nova Scotia) Daily News, about a Vietnam War resister, now a Canadian, and his strong support for the Iraq War resisters in Canada.

We frequently hear that Vietnam War resisters were different. Supposedly, the Vietnam resisters deserved to stay in Canada, because they were conscripts, i.e., they were drafted. In reality, many of the Vietnam-era war resisters did volunteer for military service. When they saw the reality of the war, and realized it was illegal, immoral and futile, they deserted. And many of those deserters came to Canada. They were let in, and allowed to stay.
LET THEM STAY

Dick Cotterill didn't want to fight in the Viet Nam war so he came north, as have a handful of deserters from the war in Iraq

Instead of deporting American military deserters, Canada should be welcoming them as potential immigrants, believes a former U.S. Marine, who himself deserted here during the Viet Nam war.

"I have a lot of respect for the military," said Bible Hill resident Dick Cotterill, who made his way to Canada in 1972 after "skipping out" on his marine squadron, stationed in Hawaii. "My son's a member of the Canadian air force today. I'm very proud of him. And I certainly support our troops and all that."

Five American deserters currently face deportation from Canada by the end of this month (two deportations are scheduled for today) and Cotterill believes that is wrong, given that the conflict in Iraq "... is an illegal and immoral" war.

"This war in Iraq," he said, "never was sanctioned by the United Nations and it is a war of aggression..."

When Cotterill enlisted with the U.S. Marines in 1969, he did so under the same sort of fervor that many other young Americans displayed shortly after the 9-11 attacks. While today’s young recruits are bent on chasing down terrorists, in his day, the enemy was Communism, and like so many of his peers, Cotterill accepted the call of his government and willingly took up arms in the belief that was his patriotic duty.

Three years into his service, however, those views began to change and he began looking at ways to get out.

"As I got closer to my deployment in Viet Nam and as I met the men and women who were coming home from Viet Nam and talking to them and so on and getting a clearer picture of what was going on over there, it became a moral decision for me ... that I didn't want to participate in that war. And it finally came to the point where I couldn't complete my enlistment.

"So I began proceedings to apply for a discharge as a conscientious objector."

When that failed, he hopped a plane for home and went AWOL. "It was a moral and ethical decision."

After returning to Ithaca, N.Y., to inform his parents, Cotterill became acquainted with some anti-war protesters at Cornell University and eventually found his way to Nova Scotia. He ultimately gained landed immigrant status (is now a dual citizen), married, had a family and is co-owner of a successful business.

Now, watching the deportation battle underway with today's deserters, Cotterill believes they should "be welcomed" and given "the opportunity to apply to become Canadian citizens."
Making the decision to leave your home and family behind, go into hiding and escape to another country is not done lightly, he said, and comes only after someone decides they can no longer support the war effort on ethical grounds.

And while Cotterill does not believe soldiers can pick and choose the wars they fight, "... every soldier has the responsibility to refuse to obey orders that are illegal, unjust and immoral," as he feels is the case in Iraq.

"These young men and women who are deserting today from the war in Iraq, is a very similar situation. Some people say that these people weren't drafted, they volunteered. Well, I wasn't drafted. I volunteered and a lot of these people, the same thing that happened to me is happening to them.

"Because of my own experience, to me, they appear to be fine young people who would make wonderful Canadian citizens. And it just kind of rips my heart out to see them deported from Canada and locked up in a U.S. military prison. Because when you end up in a military prison as a deserter, you don’t have an easy time."

Thank you, Mr. Cotterill!

holding our breath as parliament reopens

January 26 has finally arrived.

On that awful day when the Governor General allowed Stephen Harper to suspend democracy to avoid a no-confidence vote, January 26 seemed so far away. Our hopes had been raised so high, thinking we'd have a new government, then crushed.

Now here we are - minus two war resisters - on January 26.

For non-Canadian readers, today is the Throne Speech, the day the Government, through the Governor General, outlines its goals and how it plans to accomplish them. Coming after the unprecedented events of last November and December, this must be the most anticipated Throne Speech in Canada in a very, very long time.

Tomorrow, Harper brings his budget to Parliament. After that, we hold our breath. Either the Government will fall and the Liberals and NDP will form a coalition government, or the Government will survive. It's theoretically possible an election will be called, but no one expects that.

Most insider-politics people believe the Harper Government will survive. And given what I know of the Liberals - that their only concern is what's good for the Liberal Party - I am inclined to agree.

Leader Michael Ignatieff probably wants more time to solidify his leadership and demonstrate himself as Opposition Leader to voters. At some point there'll be an election and Ignatieff will hope to form a government on his own terms, without a coalition. He's been able to use the idea of a coalition as a weapon, a threat, but it's unlikely he has real intentions of forming a government with the NDP.

And Harper probably has tempered his budget enough so that Ignatieff will have a plausible out. Ignatieff will be able to say he can live with it, for now.

It makes sense.

Yet still I hope.

I don't care how chastened Stephen Harper is since he got the scare of his political life last November. I don't care how many bones he's thrown the Opposition in the new budget. The economy is paramount, but it's not the only issue. I want this Government to fall for so many reasons.

Of course the future of the war resisters is foremost in my mind. Our supporters in Parliament have promised us that if there is a coalition government, the war resisters will be safe - that they will not be forgotten among the pressing economic concerns.

And although I strongly dislike Ignatieff and his right-wing values, I'll take an Ignatieff-led government tempered by an NDP coalition over this Harper Government any day.

Like tomorrow, or next week.

liberal m.p. gerard kennedy says let them stay

From our community meeting in Parkdale last week.

1.25.2009

let them stay week: a round-up

People all over Canada helped make Let Them Stay Week a tremendous success.

The offices of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney were flooded with phone calls, from both Canadians and USians.

Hundreds of people wrote to their Members of Parliament.

Letters denouncing the deportations and supporting war resisters appeared in newspapers from coast to coast to coast.

In towns and cities all over Canada, people circulated petitions, handed out leaflets, held vigils and rallies, and gathered in public meetings to support the war resisters.

In many towns, people met with their MPs to discuss the issue.

The list of events on the War Resisters Support Campaign website is only a very partial listing of all the events and activities that took place.

And we're not finished yet. Tomorrow, when the MPs return to Parliament, they'll be greeted by a full-page ad in the Hill Times, the newspaper they all see daily, signed by many prominent Canadians in support of allowing war resisters to stay in Canada. Not to mention demonstrators...

It's making a difference.

The coming week is crucial. We are waiting to hear if Patrick Hart and Dean Walcott will get a stays of their scheduled deportations. And while we try to keep everyone else here, we continue to work for a political solution.

I still believe we are going to win this thing. Keep the pressure on.

toronto star: "we should be able to find room for 200 more people"

Editorial in today's Toronto Star:
To U.S. President Barack Obama, the invasion of Iraq was "a dumb war" and "a rash war." Despite George Bush's claim, Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction. And now that he is president, Obama plans to get most American troops out, as fast as he can.

This recalibration of U.S. policy offers Prime Minister Stephen Harper a chance to adopt a more humane approach to the 200 or so American war resisters who have sought refuge in Canada. Now they face deportation and prison.

One resister, Robin Long, already has been deported, and got a 15-month jail term. The U.S. military regards resisters as deserters because they voluntarily signed up to serve but then fled. A handful more have been ordered out of Canada, including Chris Teske, who planned to leave Friday, Cliff Cornell and Kimberly Rivera, a mother of three.

Others still have their cases pending before the immigration and refugee board. But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has seriously prejudiced those hearings by calling the resisters "bogus" refugees. "The position of the government is that they don't face genuine persecution," says a spokesperson for Kenney. Apparently 15 months in jail don't count.

In light of the shift in Washington, Ottawa's inflexible stance is hard to justify. The House of Commons in 2008 passed a resolution calling on Harper to stop deporting resisters. And an Angus Reid survey last year found that 64 per cent of Canadians feel the resisters should be allowed to take up permanent residence here.

Canada took in 50,000 American draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War, another dubious conflict tainted by war crimes. We should be able to find room today for 200 more people who share their new president's view that targeting Iraq was a huge mistake.

1.24.2009

joy of sox is a finalist in 2009 bloggies

Joy of Sox, the excellent blog written by my partner, Allan, is a finalist in the 2009 Bloggies. We didn't even know he was nominated! These awards are quite extensive, and there are only five finalists, so he's pretty pleased.

If you want to vote for Joy of Sox, or any of the Bloggies finalists, here's what you do:

Click here.

Scroll to the right to find the sports category. Neat horizontal scrolling!

Click the circle next to Joy of Sox.

Then scroll all the way to the right, type the word verification and your email address, and click "submit".

You'll receive an email. Click on the link to validate, and you've voted.

It's a bit of a complicated procedure, but it really goes very quickly. Thanks for voting!

sad update on war resister cliff cornell

Vancouver Sun:
A U.S. army deserter living on Gabriola Island has abandoned his fight to stay in Canada.

Cliff Cornell lost his bid to quash a deportation order in federal court in Vancouver last week, and friends says he is now packing his belongings and preparing to return to the U.S., where he could face imprisonment.

Cornell is said to be too distraught to talk to the media about his ordeal.

"He told me he doesn't want to do any more interviews at this point," said Steve Watters, a former draft dodger and Canadian resident since the 1960s. He is acting as a spokesman for Cornell.

"He's in a more sombre mood, I guess you would say."

Watters said the Arkansas man plans to turn himself in to the U.S. government.

"He doesn't want to seek refugee status, he doesn't want to run, he doesn't want to hide."

Cornell grew up in Mountain Home, Ark.. In 2002, after leaving high school and with few employment prospects in sight, he accepted a $5,000 signing bonus for a career in the U.S. Army.

A few months later, the U.S. went to war against Iraq.

Cornell deserted and came to Canada in 2005 to avoid combat. He spent a few months in Toronto before moving to Gabriola Island. He has spent the past two years stocking shelves at an island market. The community of some 4,500 people has made him feel welcome.

"A lot of people are taking it pretty hard indeed," Watters said. "They're anywhere from crestfallen to extremely angry at their government."

A glum mood hangs over the Village Food Market, where Cornell worked until Monday.

"I'm having a hard time talking about it," said cashier Angela Burnett. "I guess we hoped it wouldn't happen, but it's very disappointing.

"Canada accepts a lot of people who are less worthy than him."

Watters said Cornell's plan is to return to Fort Stewart, Ga. and to turn himself in "in a matter of days or weeks."

New Democrat Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder said she was disappointed with the news. She wrote a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in December asking for Cornell to be allowed to stay in Canada.

"I think it's a sad comment on Canada's approach to allowing war resisters to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds," Crowder said.

rivera family's final appeal to stephen harper



Please spread far and wide.

thoughts on obama's first days

Yesterday I was thrilled to see that President Obama lifted the much-hated "global gag rule" on family-planning organizations.

Originally instituted by Reagan in 1984, formerly known in the movement as the "Mexico City Decision," the gag rule has been the scourge of reproductive rights and population control from Reagan to Bush I, with a break during the Clinton years, then again for the past eight years. The law denied funds from the US Agency for International Development to any organization that even mentioned abortion. That is sometimes referred to as "organizations that provide or promote" abortion, but "promote" meant even communicating to women that abortion was an option.

It was a horrible law that caused much pain and suffering throughout the world, suffering most of us never saw or knew about. Its demise is very welcome news.

This was the latest of Obama's immediate steps after taking office. As you know, he signed an order to close the concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay within the year, close the secret CIA prisons, and make a full review of US detention policies and procedures. He also delayed the trial of Ali al-Marri, which the ACLU has been fighting for, under a review of the indefinite detention policies. The ACLU is asking us to thank President Obama to show our support for these decisions.

Beyond that, Obama has put an immediate hold on all of the Resident's last-minute power grabs - including the one that would have led to the slaughter of wolves.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Tuesday sent a memo to the heads of all executive departments and agencies, ordering a stop to all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.

A rule that would eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains except for those in Wyoming was scheduled to be published on January 27. Now it will fall under review with the new administration.

Among others, the Bush administration recently finalized rules that significantly weaken the Endangered Species Act, allow for mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams and exempts large-scale factory farms from notifying government officials when they release unsafe levels of toxic emissions into the community. Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, filed suit against all of these rules.

Obama imposed new rules on government transparency and ethics, freezing the salaries of senior White House aides, putting new limits on lobbyists and requiring the federal the government to disclose more information more easily.

He is rolling back the expanded powers of the imperial presidency.

I know I'll dismay my most cynical readers when I say this, but to me this signals that Obama is keeping his promises.

We've all wondered and feared, and perhaps expected, that the changes wrought by the Cheney Administration would become the new normal. (Even worse, I wasn't convinced Obama would actually take office, so I breathed one hell of a huge sigh of relief over that.) Now I see there actually will be change.

Of course it will not remake the US completely. Why would it? Obama is a product of the system, not a socialist messiah. Foreign policy will be much the same. Although the rhetoric will soften, the US will not break its addiction to foreign invasions and overbloated military spending. Whether or not the US adopts a rational and humane health care system is a huge unknown. Whether or not lesbian and gay USians become fully equal citizens also remains to be seen.

But that doesn't mean there won't be significant change. The world is not all good or all bad.

These changes, and those we'll see in the coming weeks and months, are important. I would hate to be so locked into my own world view that I can't see the improvement.

Then there's the emotional difference.

Everyone who I'm in touch with in the US, all my family and friends, say the same thing: "We have hope again". People use nearly identical words, noticing the hopefulness and optimism around them, and say, "If nothing else, that feels so wonderful."

To relate, I have to think how I would feel if I had stayed in the US. Although we moved to Canada in 2005, we were preparing to leave - psychologically, emotionally - ever since making the decision in 2002, then filing our applications in 2003. I was still angry and frustrated and sad about the US, but I was also mentally distancing myself from it - a self-preservation mechanism, I think.

So to really empathize with my friends in the US, I have to imagine what it would have been like to not have had that internal escape hatch all those years, and be living there still. I can scarcely imagine how overjoyed and relieved I'd feel - and yes, how hopeful.

I watched the Obama inauguration with joy and wonder because of the historic occasion of the first African American President. But how would I feel if I had still been living in the US all this time? I wonder if I would have succumbed to Obamamania and, as so many of my very progressive friends there did, work for his election. I might have. Who knows, I might even have voted for him.

I'm happy for the US, and for the world.

Now to work on getting Canada a new government.

1.23.2009

good news! war resister kim rivera granted stay of deportation

Thank every god and goddess you can think of. Kimberly Rivera and her family have been granted a stay of deportation.

The stay is a little strange.

When Kim first learned her deportation date, she asked for a deferral, and that request was denied by the Immigration official.

Now the Federal Court may want to hear an appeal of that decision not to defer, because it did not take into account the needs of the Rivera children. While it considers whether to hear that appeal, the Riveras will be allowed to remain in Canada.

However, the Court did not indicate whether it will hear Kim's appeal of the negative decisions on her Humanitarian and Compassionate application. We await further news on this.

Today's decision is very welcome, especially after what happened to Cliff Cornell and Chris Teske this week. But the danger of deportation still hangs over Kim, over the Hart family, and over Dean Walcott.

Thank you to everyone who has sent emails, made phone calls, and otherwise put pressure on the Harper Government to Let Them Stay. We urge all our friends and supporters to keep up that pressure until we achieve the victory that the war resisters deserve.

And a huge round of applause to lawyer Alyssa Manning for her fine work in court!

fighting, by kim rivera

I want to share with you something from the event we attended last week in Parkdale, a Toronto neighbourhood where many US war resisters live - Kim Rivera and her family, Dean Walcott, Ryan and Jennifer Johnson, Dale Landry, Steve Yoczik, and before he moved away, Corey Glass, and others. It's a very diverse, working-class neighbourhood, full of immigrants, many of them refugees.

The event was held at a community centre; many of Kim's mom-friends from her children's school and health centre attended with their kids. The evening began with a Maya healing and prayer ceremony, conducted by a Parkdale resident in her native Spanish, with another friend translating. That set the tone of hope and peace, and also urgency.

Speakers included Geraldine Sadaway, a lawyer from Parkdale Legal Community Services, whose help has been so vital to the resisters and the campaign; actor and playwright Steven Bush, a Vietnam-era resister; City Councillor Gord Perks; a woman from Oakville who housed the Riveras when they first came to Canada; a few other resisters; and Parkdale Member of Parliament Gerard Kennedy.

In a very strong speech, Kennedy reminded us that this issue is not about a handful of Americans who will be treated badly if they are sent back. It's about the character of Canada. That's because we want Canada to go beyond mere tolerance, to fully welcome and respect all people who act on conscience and have had to leave their countries because of it.

He emphasized that the majority of Canadians, the mainstream, want war resisters to be able to stay; that it's not Kim Rivera's fight, it's our fight.

The main reason I wanted to write about this event was to share with you Kim Rivera's own words. In the community centre this week, she read a poem that she wrote. I found it very moving, and perhaps you will, too.
Fighting

I was fighting your kind for killing my kind.

I was fighting to find weapons that could wipe out large populations of people.

I was fighting to free you from the bad men, that harmed you and your family.

I was fighting for your liberty.

I was fighting for peace.

I was fighting to keep my family safe from you and your family.

But in reality I was fighting to destroy everything you know and love.

I destroyed the land you live on.

I crushed your spirit.

In fighting I kept you silent.

In my fighting I oppressed your family.

In my fighting I kept you out of sight and out of the way so everything of value could be taken.

In my fighting I found that I was fighting to stay alive.

In these last thoughts of reality I find that I was becoming something that wasn't me, and that I didn't stand for as a person. In my heart everything I was fighting for wasn't great enough to give up any life.

All of my battles were very true to me.

I know from my heart through my change, that I can't fight with violent means for peace.

That peace only comes through non-violent means and humility.

My fight for peace is with my pen to share my thoughts without fear of being locked up in a deep dark place so no one can hear. Being silent doesn't help anybody and lets the people hurting many get away with hurting more.

Canada I am here.

Will you take the time and the heart to understand what I am now fighting for, with words and not a gun.

X PFC Kimberly Rivera
July 11 2008

emergency vigil for u.s. war resisters tonight at rogers centre

Tonight, Friday, January 23, 7:30 sharp

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will be at a Chinese New Year event at the Rogers Centre (i.e., Skydome). We will be there to greet him.

Meet promptly at 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of Blue Jay's Way (south end of Peter Street) and Front Street.

As Minister Kenney and Stephen Harper prepare to deport five US Iraq war resisters and their families, we will be present to remind the Minister that he must implement the June 2008 motion to let them stay, and stop the deportations of our US Iraq war resisters.

If you can, wear red for luck and in celebration of peace and prosperity for Chinese New Year and the Year of Ox.

If you can do more, join folks at the War Resisters Support Campaign office, in the Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street, at 6:00 p.m. to make posters, placards and signs.

community and political support for chris teske

From the Vancouver Province:
U.S. army deserter Chris Teske is expected to surrender to U.S. authorities at the Rossland border crossing today after losing a Federal Court appeal to stay in Canada.

"I'm completely shocked that this is happening," he said from his Castlegar home at a news conference held by supporters in Vancouver yesterday.

"I hope everything goes well when I cross the border tomorrow."

Speakers, including B.C. MPs Bill Siksay and Libby Davies, urged the Canadian government to grant Teske and seven other known U.S. deserters refugee status to remain in Canada.

Among them is Ryan Reed, 23, an infantryman who deserted and entered Canada by walking over the border near a Lyndon casino last August and has filed a refugee claim to stay in Canada, a process that typically takes a year or more.

His wife and 19-month-old son joined him later in Vancouver after filing their refugee claims at the border.

Reed, who said he joined the army at age 20 in Ohio rather than take an $8-an-hour factory job, is on welfare until he can get a work permit, a right available to any refugee claimant. "I'll take any job I can get," he said.

He was stationed in Texas before he went absent without leave to avoid being deployed to Iraq. He said he was worried about leaving his wife, who he said has a "history of self-destruction," because the army has refused to medically treat her.

It was Reed's second desertion, but the first time he came to Canada.

Supporters argue that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should reverse his refusal to grant amnesty to the 50 or so known deserters across Canada because they're deserting the Iraq war, which the U.S. entered into without UN permission.

U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq and redeploy them to Afghanistan and supporters said it's unlikely the U.S. would object to the amnesty.

Seattle-based Project Safe Haven -- which has a 10-page document called "How to Go AWOL in Canada" on its website -- yesterday called on Obama to grant immediate amnesty to all U.S. war resisters who have refused to serve in Iraq.

Cliff Cornell, who has been living on Gabriola Island, is also facing deportation.

let them stay week, day five: call or visit your mp day

By all reports, yesterday's national phone-in day was a huge success, fueled, no doubt, by anger at the deportations of war resisters Cliff Cornell and Chris Teske. We've heard that people in Stephen Harper's office told a caller "we're being bombarded with phone calls today" in support of Iraq war resisters. This is the kind of bombardment we can get behind.

If you forgot to call or didn't have the time, it's not too late. Call today! Click here for all the contact info.

Today, we are taking a different approach. Members of Parliament are in their constituency offices on Fridays: let yours know how you feel about this issue. Call, or if you have time, drop by the office.

It doesn't matter what party your MP is from, or how you vote. If you believe that Canada should allow people who refuse to participate in immoral, unjust and illegal wars and occupations to come here and live here legally - if you believe Canada can be and is a refuge from militarism - share that with your MP.

If you don't know how to contact your MP, go here and type in your postal code.

Allan and I have been amazed and impressed at how accessible Members of Parliament are to their constituents. It's one of the big differences between the Canadian and US political systems. So I'm thinking most of you have called your MPs before, but if you haven't, it's a very easy process and not intimidating.

Every phone call, every email, every personal visit is vital. Kim Rivera - a mother of three, a nursing mother, a person of peace, my dear friend - faces the prospect of being separated from her infant because Stephen Harper has refused to heed the will of the majority of Canadians and the majority of Parliament.

If this outrages you half as much as it does me, please tell your MP today.This is a travesty. Your message:
• stop the deportation proceedings against all US Iraq War Resisters, and
• implement the Parliamentary motion from June 2008 to allow war resisters to apply for Permanent Resident status in Canada.

Today I am joining a group meeting with a Conservative MP! This is a first for me. I'm excited and a bit nervous.

Later today I'll write about this week's event in Parkdale. I was waiting for Kim's permission to publish her poem. More later.

Update! Read the first comment on this post, from M@.

1.22.2009

let them stay letters in the toronto star

In today's Toronto Star, there are six letters in support of US war resisters in Canada - and none against. Thank you to each and every one of you who wrote a letter in support. Whether or not it was published, it made a difference, because the more letters the paper receives, the greater their obligation to print some.
Deporting war resisters un-Canadian

Re:War resister ordered out, Jan. 8

Parliament votes to let American war resisters stay, yet Stephen Harper is expected to force more to go back to the U.S. this week and next. Even the Americans have realized the war in Iraq is wrong. Why do we still follow the Bush/Cheney lead? As an ex-American who came as a Vietnam War resister, I am appalled at what we have become.

Mary T. Hynes, Toronto

I protest the government's deportations of the U.S. war resisters who have sought sanctuary in Canada. These actions are against the will of Canadians for several reasons: Canada has always provided refuge for war resisters; the Canadian Parliament passed a motion in the summer of 2008 to allow the war resisters to stay; and the majority of Canadians believe the war resisters should be provided sanctuary in Canada.

The media is the first and last line of defence for the public and the sovereignty of our nation. Please do all that you can to bring attention to these unjustified deportations.

Andrew Arrigo, Woodbridge

Canada and the U.S. were once havens for refugees from centuries of conflict in Europe and Asia. Many young men came here to avoid conscription during the Vietnam War, which was based on a huge Cold War red scare and a cooked up rationale, just as the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been "cooked." It is a sad day when Canada's federal police and courts act as agents for the Bush regime and deport conscientious objectors to those tragic farces in the Middle East. If they want to suck up to their "friends" south of the border why don't they recruit Canadian "volunteers" to join the various mercenary "security" organizations that provide about half of the manpower for America's military empire? At least they would be paid well for risking their lives for a false cause.

Malcolm Levin, Toronto

I have had the good fortune to meet and get to know several of the American soldiers who have come north because they refused to occupy Iraq. Some are now threatened with deportation to near certain jail sentences. They are ordinary people who have made very difficult decisions at great personal cost to refuse to participate in a blatant war of aggression that was condemned the world over. They represent the best of us and I can only hope that I would have the same courage as them in similar circumstances. The world will be a more peaceful place when more people follow their noble example of non violent resistance to wars of conquest based on lies. Canada can and must encourage this by letting them stay.

John Dimond, Toronto

I am writing in support of the U.S. war resisters the Conservative government of Canada wants to deport. These people object to the illegal and immoral wars that their country, the U.S., is carrying out in the guise of "the war on terror." I would like the Canadian government to do the right thing and let the war resisters stay in Canada and encourage as many U.S. deserters as possible to come and seek asylum here as possible. Perhaps this will help bring peace across the world.

Arshad Khan, Montreal

There is already a political precident in Canada to accept U.S. war resisters dating as far back as the 1700s when we accepted United Empire Loyalists. In the 1860s we accepted civil war resisters, and in the 1960s, opponents of the Vietnam war. This Canadian trend should now continue for the Rivera families and other war resisters.

On June 3, 2008, the Canadian Parliament voted in favour of allowing Iraq war resisters to seek permanent resident status in Canada. This non-binding motion called for the creation of a special government program to, "allow conscientious objectors and their families ... who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations to apply for permanent resident status." A total of 137 MPs from the Liberal party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of the motion, while 110 Conservative MPs voted against. While the motion was passed by a majority in Parliament, the minority Conservative government under Stephen Harper has yet to enact it.

Resisters face prison time and felony convictions if deported to stand trial in the United States under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A poll released by Angus Reid last summer showed that almost two-thirds of Canadians want U.S. Iraq war resisters to stay in Canada; while another recent poll showed 82 per cent of Canadians oppose the Iraq war. Historical precedent marks it. Our Parliament voted for it. Our public wants it.

The message is simple: Stop the deportation of Iraq war resisters.

Krystalline Kraus, Toronto

I hope you're all making those phone calls!

blog for choice day: providing a safe haven

In 2002, in New York City, I joined a network of activists and volunteers called The Haven Coalition. I worked with Haven in some capacity until a few months before we moved to Canada.

My work with The Haven Coalition was by far the most challenging, exciting, exhausting, and rewarding activism I have ever done. For me it was the culmination of 25 years in the pro-choice movement.

What did The Haven Coalition do? We helped women who were forced to travel to New York City for second trimester abortions.

At Deliberate Life, I saw a post referring to my Haven work, and my work with the War Resisters Support Campaign. Although the blogger disagrees strongly with me about second-trimester abortion, she wrote a thoughtful post, coming from a place of compassion, which I appreciate. Her post brought back a lot of memories, and it reminded me of the common threads I see in these two very different issues.

I often refer to The Haven Coalition on this blog, but I thought I would use Blog For Choice Day - the anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision in the US - as an opportunity to write about it at length. And so, a Haven FAQ.

When I talk to pro-choice friends about Haven, they are often surprised that women needed to come to New York City for a procedure.

Why is Haven needed?

In US states, myriad obstacles stand between a woman who needs to terminate a pregnancy and her ability to do so. None are more pervasive and more dire than availability and income.

  • In 2000, 87% of US counties had no abortion provider. Thirty-four percent of women aged 15-44 live in those counties. Eighty-six of the US's 276 metropolitan areas had no provider.

  • In some states, a first-trimester abortion can cost more than a family of four receives in public assistance in a month.

  • Twenty-six states fund abortion in cases of threat to life, rape, or incest only. All must be proven in court.

  • Three US states prohibit the use of any state funds for abortion whatsoever. They have refused to comply with a federal law requiring states to provide Medicaid funding for abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.

  • Four states will fund abortion where there is threat to a woman's life or health, rape, incest, and some other reasons, such as verifiable abuse or mental health issues. All require several court appearances.

  • Four states prohibit private insurers from covering abortion.

    For a longer list of obstacles, and sources, see my post here.

    For a woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy, the further the pregnancy advances, the more complicated - and expensive - the procedure. If a woman of very limited means is trying to scrape together the $500 she needs for a first-trimester abortion, by the time she has $500, the procedure might cost $800. If she can manage to get her hands on that princely sum, the procedure now costs $2,500 and requires an overnight stay. This is known in the movement as "chasing the funds".

    Anti-abortion terrorism and intimidation have blown a gaping hole in medical education and experience. In many states, there are simply no abortion providers experienced in second-trimester abortions. In the few states where some doctors perform the procedure, the fee might be $4,000. But in New York City, the same procedure will cost between $1,500 and $2,500. Even throwing in the cost of a bus ticket, that's a substantial difference.

    But how is the woman going to manage in New York City? Where is she going to stay? That's where we came in.

    What does Haven actually do?

    I haven't been active in Haven in more than three years, so protocol may have changed substantially. But when I was there, this is the basic outline of what we did.

    The Haven coordinator gets a phone call from the clinic with some basic information about the patient. Is she alone or with a partner or friend? How old is she? Can she stay at a home with a dog or cat?

    Then the Haven coordinator on duty - the person who "has the phone" that week, as we would say - consults her calendar of hosts, and her list of emergency hosts, and she makes phone calls. (I'll skip all the fun stuff that made us tear our hair out.)

    Usually the clinic social worker was also calling a different, related group that raised money for the procedure itself.

    When the Haven coordinator finds a host, the host goes to the clinic and picks up the patient. Sometimes the host can't do this until later, so a different Haven volunteer goes to the clinic, and brings the woman to a coffee shop, where they'll hang out and wait together, or perhaps the second volunteer delivers the patient to the host's apartment. The idea is that the patient - pregnant, and in the middle of a medical procedure - isn't alone, and certainly doesn't have to negotiate New York City public transportation on her own.

    The host feeds the patient dinner, and puts her up for the night. In the morning, the host brings the patient back to the clinic to finish her procedure.

    Some nights we had no patients. Some nights we had 3 or 4 patients, doubled up in a host's home, or spread out all over the city.

    Who are our patients?

    Low-income women. They came from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine, and many other states. They came by bus, over 10- and 20-hour rides. They usually already had children.

    Our youngest patient was 11 years old. She was impregnated by her father. She didn't even know she was pregnant until an aunt noticed her belly.

    One woman I hosted told me she had been raped. I have to assume there were many others in the same situation.

    Many patients simply had all the children they could possibly afford and manage.

    But you know what? It wasn't my business.

    Birth control fails, women become pregnant, and a blob of cells is not as important as a living woman's life and the life of her family. Period. For various reasons, in women's difficult lives, unwanted pregnancies can advance longer than the woman wants them to. But that's no reason to force a woman to bear a child, or to bring an unwanted child into the world.

    I can think of few things more horrific than being forced to bear a child against my will. It was these women's Constitutional right - and, much more importantly, their human right - to control their bodies. I was there to help them to do that, not to pry into their lives and judge how they ended up in this desperate place.

    People who oppose abortion love to tell stories about how they, or their moms, or someone else they know, had a baby under difficult circumstances. Such stories abound. But they don't negate another woman's right to not have a child. First of all, most of these women already had children under difficult circumstances. And second of all, so what?? What does anyone else's story have to do with this woman, who wants and needs to terminate this pregnancy? You might do differently, but you ain't her.

    Remember my post, thoughts on privilege? This is where we have to think about privilege.

    Why is Haven necessary?

    Before Haven existed, pregnant women in the middle of a termination procedure had spent the night in the bus terminal or McDonald's. End of discussion.

    * * * *

    Haven was founded by Catherine Megill, a Canadian, who has since returned to Montreal, where she is studying at McGill University and (last I heard) plans to become an abortion provider. She worked at a clinic in New York City, and when a patient had no place to spend the night, Cat invited the patient to her home. That's how Haven was born.

    Cat passed the torch to Shauna Shames, and Shauna ran Haven single-handedly - one woman, a cell phone and a rag-tag group of volunteers. I found Haven in 2002 through this story in the Village Voice. So did a lot of other people, and Haven's hosting roster expanded from 8 to 15.

    I hosted a few times, and sometimes picked women up at the bus station (after they had spent the night on a bus), took them out for breakfast and brought them to the clinic. After a few experiences like that, I realized I wanted to help coordinate the growing volunteer network.

    The organization was now too large and successful for one person to run, especially one person who had a full-time job and a life to live. Shauna passed the phone to a coordinating team, which included me.

    When I left Haven leadership, we had 30 hosts. At that time, Haven had served a total of 378 women for 474 nights. I notice according to the little Haven website, the organization has now hosted 700 women for more than 800 nights. It's also now an official nonprofit organization - a move I opposed during my tenure, and I hope it's worked out well for them. I will send this post to some current Haven people, and maybe they'll come by to tell us how they're doing now.

    While writing this post, I looked through some of my old Haven files. Here are excerpts from two "case histories" I collected.

    Helping "S", from Massachusetts and on crutches, was a huge team effort involving a small army of transportation, coffee-shop, and hosting help. S and I were in a cab stuck in traffic, so I got to hear a piece of her story.
    Being pregnant and not wanting to be was the most sickening, horrible feeling in the world. I thought I was only 3-4 weeks along, I would take that pill. When they told me I was 19 weeks – too far along for an abortion in my state – I almost threw up from fear. I felt like I had been told I had an incurable disease, like I was dying. And then, when I heard about Haven and found out I could come to New York City, it's like I had been told a cure has been discovered.

    The town where I go to school is very wealthy, but one town over, it is dirt poor. You go to the mall there and see 16-year-old girls pushing baby carriages. Girls with no future. Girls with these dull looks on their faces, as if their lives have already hit a dead end, and they're only teenagers. And what about the baby? Being unwanted every day while it's in the womb, being hated, being despised – it's got to affect the child when it's born. How horrible to be brought into the world unwanted and unloved!

    I didn't tell my ex-boyfriend. I knew he'd want me to keep it. He couldn't make me keep it, but I thought he would tell my parents, to get back at me. My parents are Catholic and very conservative. I could never tell them.

    The clinic did the procedure at a huge discount. They basically took what I had as payment. When I have more money, I'm going to make a donation to them. I actually have private health insurance, but I can't use it, since my parents might find out that way.

    But more than the money, everyone at the clinic was so nice to me. Everyone from Haven was so generous and kind. And people were so trusting! [Host] left me alone in her apartment! They say if you want to find a crazy person, come to New York City. But here you all are, doing this amazing work. It shows you what stereotypes are worth.

    "D", in her early 40s, was originally from Guatemala. She has been living in Rhode Island for several years with her two sons, then 8 and 12, and with her elderly mother. She does not have a green card or any legal status in the US. She uses a friend's name and ID to work and support her family of four. D's host told us this.
    D had been with the same boyfriend for three years. When she told him she was pregnant, he left her. She was too far along for an abortion in Rhode Island.

    D struggled long and hard with the decision, especially because her mother is very religious and doesn't believe in abortion. Finally she decided it was the right thing to do for herself and her family.

    D came to the clinic we usually work with, where it was discovered that she had a medical condition making the procedure too risky for them. They referred D to [a hospital clinic that Haven occasionally works with], where they take the riskier cases.

    D traveled from Providence to [the first clinic] to [the hospital] herself, getting very lost, frustrated, and scared. Then she spent all day at the hospital getting run around. No one knew what procedure she was supposed to have, who was paying for it, or anything else.

    Finally [a Haven host] brought her home for a good meal and a night's sleep. They returned to the hospital together the next day. She had her procedure, then spent the night at a different host's home.

    Throughout both days she kept worrying about and calling her sons and her elderly mother to make sure they were okay. She told her mother she was visiting a sick friend in NYC.

    D needed a doctor's note for work, but it couldn't use the word abortion and couldn't use her real name! [The Haven host] helped D find a doctor willing to do this. Then the host took D back to the bus station, insisting she call from Providence to let me know she made it all right.

    For more examples, click here, and go to "stories".

    * * * *

    Although my current activism seems so different from this past experience, the War Resisters Support Campaign and the Haven Coalition have more in common than you may think.

    One link is right there in the name: haven. The Haven Coalition offered refuge - a safe port in a storm. Exactly what I want Canada to be for war resisters.

    The other common thread is personal autonomy, or you can call it bodily integrity. No one should be forced to bear a child against her wishes. No one should be forced to kill or to knowingly put themselves in grave danger of being killed, disabled, or traumatized.

    Every person should be free to live life as she or he sees fit. Period.