2.28.2009

in search of vietnam war resisters who came to canada

If you are a Vietnam War resister who came to Canada, you may be interested in this website the War Resisters Support Campaign is building: Let Them Stay.

Whether you are a Canadian citizen still living in Canada, or you returned to the US - whether you were a deserter, a draft resister, or simply an outraged USian - if you'd like to be part of this effort, you are welcome to join.

Click "add my name", fill out the form, and someone will contact you about getting your info up on the site.

If you know any Vietnam-era resisters, perhaps you will share the link with them. Thanks.

we dog jason kenney and make headlines

Yesterday's protest was noticed. From the Toronto Sun:
New Canucks see protest

Immigration minister Jason Kenney was dogged by a dozen noisy protesters yesterday as he presided over a formal swearing-in ceremony of 98 new Canadians.

Some of the new Canucks took photos of the sign-waving War Resisters Support Campaign, whose members want Kenney to stop the removal of draft dodgers to the U.S.

Kenney was in four areas of the GTA yesterday, handing out cash totalling $1.9 million to seven community agencies that provide resettlement services in 14 public libraries.

Protesters placed their placards against the windows of a Mississauga immigration office as Kenney spoke to new Canadians inside. [More here.]

iraq: a riddle

Q: When is a pullout not a pullout?

A: When 50,000 troops and more than 100,000 mercenaries are left behind.

The war may (or may not) end, but the occupation continues.

war resister legal defense campaign

I've started a Fundable campaign for war resister legal defense. We have until March 25 to raise $2500 or more.

Go here to read more, and please give if you can. A pledge can be as little as $10, and every bit helps.

You can also help make this happen by posting the link wherever you can: your blog, Facebook page, email contacts. If you belong to a peace and justice organization, please consider sending this to your mailing list.

Fundable faq.

We have 25 days to make this happen.

2.27.2009

war resisters and campaigners greet (but don't meet) jason kenney in mississauga

A small group of resisters and campaigners arrived at the Mississauga Citizenship and Immigration office just in time to see the limo pull up and Jason Kenney go inside. We learned of Kenney's appointment in Mississauga only last night, so gathering 10 or 12 people to come out on a weekday morning was a good showing. Resisters Patrick Hart and Kim Rivera were there, Kim with her baby daughter Katie.

We had great signs, all directed at Jason Kenney. While the festivities were taking place inside, we held our signs onto the big plate-glass windows so everyone inside could see them. Of course, the staff closed the blinds!

There was a fair amount of media there. There aren't usually protests at these innocuous events, so reporters were very interested in us, and did many interviews.

When the ceremonies ended, we spread out, trying to cover every possible escape route. For a while I was positioned in front of a door, behind which a bunch of media was gathered, possibly for Minister Kenney. Every time the door opened to let someone in or out, we shouted, "Minister Kenney, why are you deporting war resisters?" or "Minister Kenney, when will you respect democracy?"

A police car showed up, then another. At one point there were four police, which makes one cop for every three protesters.

I was under the impression - incorrect, as it turned out - that this was not a citizenship ceremony; for some reason I thought it was something else. An onlooker heard me say this, and angrily informed me that I had ruined her friend's big day. She said she respected my right to protest peacefully, but that "it wasn't all about me".

I tried to tell her I was sorry about her friend's day, but my friend's life is being ruined. And the issue isn't about me - it's about what kind of Canada we want to live in. Of course she wasn't listening.

I'm hopeless at that anyway. When someone confronts me at a protest, usually my adrenaline is so high that I'm lucky I don't attack them and get arrested. (Ask Allan about time I jumped out of a march, grabbed an anti-choice sign, ripped it up, threw the pieces at the counter-protester's feet and jumped back in the march! That was a long time ago...)

As I mentioned, I had to leave before Kenney appeared. And as it turns out, he never did appear - not through the front door, the side doors or the back door, as far as anyone could tell.

CIC staff left in the Minister's limo. According to a reporter, Kenney's Blackberry, papers and business cards were in the backseat, so he had clearly planned to be there, too! Campaigners don't know how he got out, or if he was really gone when they left, although reporters said he had. We also heard that Kenney was late to his next appointment - with our old pal Diane Finley.

This is not the first time the Campaign has gone to meet-and greet Minister Kenney. On the eve of Chinese New Year, thousands of people attended an event at Toronto's Rogers Centre (a/k/a Skydome). And about half of them received a gift from our campaign - a little red envelope with a candy, a New Year's wish, and a message telling them about the deportations, in both Chinese and English. Carrying bright, glittery signs, campaigners wished everyone a Happy New Year and called on Minister Kenney to Let Them Stay. I wish I could have attended that one, but I might have some video from it to share.

Minister Kenney, you can run, but you cannot hide from the people. Wherever you go, we'll be there.

From the Mississauga News; click through to the story for some photos.
Protesters confront minister about war resisters

Canadian supporters of U.S. Iraq war resisters gathered outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office in Mississauga this morning to demand the Canadian government let American war resisters remain here as permanent residents.

The message was directed at Jason Kenney, the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, who was at CIC to preside over a citizenship ceremony.

During the rally, organized by the War Resisters Support Campaign, U.S. Iraq war resisters were presented with the new Citizens' Citation for Peace.

Last June, the House of Commons passed a motion calling on the government of Canada to cease deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq War resisters and their immediate families and create a program to facilitate them staying in Canada as permanent residents.

The Stephen Harper government, says the War Resisters Support Campaign, ignored the motion when it deported Robin Long from British Columbia in July.

Since then, two other Iraq War resisters who had been living in B.C. have been returned to the U.S. after exhausting all avenues of appeal through the normal immigration channels.

A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies found that 64 per cent of Canadians agree with the House of Commons' call for a specific program to facilitate permanent resident status for the war resisters.

Also from the Mississauga News.
'Majority of Canadians' want resisters to stay

A dozen or so people protested today outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Mississauga, pleading with Ottawa to reconsider its decision to deport U.S. war resisters.

The group, comprised of American soldiers and their families, was hoping to catch the eye of Jason Kenney, the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, who was at the CIC office to preside over a citizenship ceremony.

Cooksville resident Laura Kaminker, who was at the rally, accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government of ignoring a motion passed in the House of Commons last June that called for Canada to cease deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq War resisters and their families.

"We want the Harper government to respect the will of the people," Kaminker said. "(The) majority of Canadians want U.S. war resisters to be able to seek refuge in Canada. Parliament voted for it, but the Harper government just ignores it."

A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies found that 64 per cent of Canadians agree with the House of Commons' call for a specific program to facilitate permanent resident status for war resisters.

Kaminker believes some 50 U.S. Iraq War resisters in Canada have, officially, filed applications seeking refugee status; unofficially, that number is 100 or more, she believes.

Patrick Hart, a former army sergeant with the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, is one of three people facing imminent deportation. Dressed in fatigues and holding a placard, Hart implored Kenney not to deport him and others.

If sent back to the U.S., Hart and others face prosecution and imprisonment. "The Canadian people want us here, the parliament wants us...it's not going to hurt anyone to let us stay here and live our lives in peace," Hart said.

Last July, Ottawa deported Robin Long from British Columbia. Since then, two other Iraq War resisters who had been living in B.C. have been returned to the U.S. after exhausting all avenues of appeal through normal immigration channels.

If you hear Minister Kenney is coming to your town, stop by to say hi.

jason kenney stake out in progress

Right now at the Mississauga CIC office, members of the War Resisters Support Campaign are staking out every possible exit, as local police and Ministry officials help Jason Kenney avoid facing the people.

I had to leave before the big moment, because Allan needed the car to go to work. I was already very late, and Allan wasn't too happy about it, until he heard why I was delayed. All I had to say was "cops" and "stake out," and he was grinning.

When I get the rest of the story from other campaigners, I'll tell you about our morning.

And PS, to the woman whose friend's citizenship ceremony was disturbed, I apologize. When you snapped, "You know, it's not all about you!", you took the words right out of my mouth. Of course you stomped off before any of us could respond, but yes, it's not all about me. Or you. It's much more important than that.

More soon!

war resister cliff cornell charged with desertion

Cliff Cornell, the second US war resister deported from Canada by the Harper Government, has been charged with desertion. There will now be an investigation which will determine whether or not he'll be court martialled.

Cliff is being represented by James Branum, a lawyer who works for peace and for soldiers' rights. Branum also represents Robin Long and other prisoners of conscience.

I'm not surprised to read that Cliff's commander considered him a model soldier. Cliff's employer and neighbours on Gabriola Island in BC loved and respected him as a valued member of the community.

Another war resister, who chose not to be public while he was in Canada, recently turned himself in to his US army base. He is being held in "restrictive custody," and has learned he'll be court martialled. I hope Cliff has better luck, but I fear for him.

* * * *

Until Cliff is sentenced, we won't receive direct word from him and he won't be able to speak publicly. But we can speak up for him.

Cliff shouldn't be in the US. He shouldn't be treated like a criminal. He should be safe in Canada, his country of choice. And if the Harper Government believed in democracy, he would be.

Let's not forget Cliff. Let's pledge to redouble our efforts to honour the sacrifice he's made. Let Them Stay!

From the Sun papers, via AP:
U.S. army commanders have filed a desertion charge against a soldier accused of fleeing to Canada four years ago to avoid the war in Iraq, a spokesman for the Fort Stewart army post said Thursday.

Specialist Cliff Cornell, 29, will now face an investigation to determine whether his case should be handled administratively or sent to a court martial, said Maj. Lee Peters, a Fort Stewart spokesman.

Cornell, of Mountain Home, Ark., returned to the army two weeks ago after the Canadian government denied him asylum as a war objector.

Cornell acknowledges he left his unit with the army’s 3rd Infantry Division in 2005 and fled to Canada, where he found work at a grocery store on Gabriola Island in British Columbia. He returned across the U.S.-Canada border earlier this month.

Cornell has continued to perform regular duties with his new unit since he turned himself in at Fort Stewart on Feb. 10, and he was not jailed after charges were filed. Peters said Cornell’s commander has praised his performance since he returned.

“In his opinion, Cornell’s been a model soldier,” Peters said. “He’s shown up, performed his duty and done exactly what the company’s asked him to do.”

James Branum, Cornell’s lawyer, said he hopes his client’s good behaviour will persuade the army to show him some leniency.

Military law defines desertion as leaving the military with no intent to return or to avoid hazardous duty. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, compared to a maximum of 18 months imprisonment for soldiers convicted of being absent without leave.

"He did turn himself in, which is an important factor," Branum said. "Another important thing in Cliff’s case is why he left. He had really good reasons to do what he did, and those reasons should excuse part of the punishment."

In an interview before he returned to Fort Stewart, Cornell said he decided to flee because he didn't believe the war was helping Iraqi citizens. He also said he couldn't stomach the thought of killing.

"I'm just not a fighter," Cornell told The Associated Press on Feb. 9. "I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart."

Fort Stewart commanders have a wide range of options for handling Cornell’s case. They could opt not to punish him at all, punish him administratively or seek a prison sentence by prosecuting him in a court-martial.

Cornell is just one of the dozens of American soldiers who have fled to Canada in the wake of the Iraq war.

Michelle Robidoux, a spokeswoman for the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, says the group has worked with about 50 U.S. service members seeking refugee status or political asylum in Canada.

The group says more than 200 have fled to Canada, most of them hiding out illegally.

good morning, mr kenney, welcome to mississauga, not

From last night's press release:

This morning, Canadians will gather outside of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Mississauga to demonstrate the support of the majority of Canadians for the House of Commons' June 2008 motion that directed the Government of Canada to let US war resisters remain here as permanent residents. During the rally, US Iraq War resisters will be presented with the new Citizens' Citation for Peace.

According to a CIC advisory, The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, will preside over a citizenship ceremony in honour of the recipients of the 2008 Citation for Citizenship. Canadian supporters of Iraq War resisters will use this pubic appearance by the Minister to remind him that the majority of Canadians want the Harper government to immediately end its discrimination against war resisters from the US that has no basis in Canadian law.

On June 3, 2008 the House of Commons passed a motion calling on the Government of Canada to immediately cease all deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq War resisters and their immediate families and create a program to facilitate them staying in Canada as permanent residents. The Harper government ignored the motion when it deported Robin Long, who had been living in British Columbia, in July. Long was subsequently court-martialed, sentenced to 15 months in prison and given a felony conviction that will cause him hardship for the rest of his life. He has been separated from his Canadian partner and infant son and is currently imprisoned for being a conscientious objector.

Since then, two other Iraq War resisters who had been living in BC have been forced back to the U.S. after exhausting all avenues of appeal through the normal immigration channels. These deportations took place despite Parliament voting to stop the deportation of U.S. Iraq War resisters.

Last month, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney revealed the federal government's blanket opposition to U.S. Iraq War resisters by labelling them "bogus refugee claimants." The Minister’s blatantly prejudicial comments have been denounced by Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Council for Refugees.

A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies last June found that 64 per cent of Canadians, including a majority of voters in every region of the country, agree with the House of Commons' call for a specific program to facilitate permanent resident status for the war resisters.

EVENT: Rally in Support War Resisters and Citizens' Citation for Peace Presentation outside of Citizenship and Immigration Canada office

DATE: Friday, February 27, 2009

TIME: 10:00 a.m.

LOCATION: 75 Watline Avenue, Mississauga (south of the 401, east of Hurontario)

2.26.2009

let them stay: general update

There's a ton of stuff going on in the War Resisters Support Campaign, on all fronts - legal, political and otherwise. It's far too detailed to walk through in a blog post, but I can tell you the rough outline.

Three war resisters still are in immediate peril: Kimberly Rivera and her family, Patrick Hart and his family, and Dean Walcott. For all, safety in Canada is hanging by a legal thread. Many other war resisters will be in similar situations as their cases progress through the Immigration and Refugee Board and the courts.

Our job, as always, is twofold. We must do everything legally possible to keep the resisters in Canada, and at the same time, we must work for the political solution that the majority of Canadians and their democratically elected representatives want.

Your help is crucial in both areas - and it's making a huge difference.

For the legal fight, we need funds. Even at the most discounted, rock-bottom prices, we are spending thousands of dollars on legal fees. Every donation, no matter how small, makes a difference. And the large ones are great, too! For now, you can donate this way, but I'll post more soon about ways to give.

For the political fight, we need your support to be visible. We have clear evidence that letters to your MPs are making a difference. People have been persuaded. Minds have been changed. Our support in the House of Commons has grown, and strengthened. If you have already written to your MP about this, please, write again. If you have never contacted your MP about this, now is the time.

Three war resisters have already been purged from Canada. The next to go could be a family with two little kids and a nursing infant, or a family with a special-needs child. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know if we're going to win this fight. But I know that if we don't fight, we won't win.

2.25.2009

what i'm reading

After a run of some excellent nonfiction, it's time to give my brain a rest and read a few novels.

I love literature, adore novels, but in recent years am having a hard time finding novels that hold my interest. More and more literary novels are dissatisfying to me. I don't know if my standards have become unreasonably high, or if now I just prefer nonfiction. But I read book reviews, write down titles, go the library or a used bookstore with a list, and end up disliking most of them. I'm not proud of this, I don't like it, but there's nothing I can do about it.

This morning I went Mississauga's wonderful Central Library and came home with an armful of books. As always, I'll only write about the ones I like.

I'm finally reading Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, which has been recommended to me by many wmtc readers and Toronto friends.

I started it this afternoon and I'm devouring it. I've read many historical novels set in New York City - in fact, I read so many that I OD'd on the subgenre and had to stop reading them altogether - so I'm very familiar with this type of book. This one is very good.

I'm glad I didn't read In the Skin of a Lion earlier, that I waited (although not purposely) until I had more knowledge of Toronto. I'm getting a lot more out of it now than I would have three years ago. I'm also happy that a book that's been recommended to me so many times turns out to be so good. Everyone wanted me to watch Rick Mercer, and we know how that worked out.

naomi klein wins first-ever warwick prize

Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein has won the first Warwick Prize for Writing for her book The Shock Doctrine.

The new Warwick Prize, from the UK's University of Warwick, is "an international cross-disciplinary award which will be given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme that will change with every award". This year's theme was Complexity.

The award comes with £50,000 (about $90,000 Canadian), an opportunity to teach at the University for a while, and a whole lot of publicity.

Congratulations to Naomi Klein on this well-deserved recognition.

maybe it was a very big stapler

Yesterday we learned that the RCMP officers who murdered Robert Dziekanski never used their training to assess the situation, spoke to witnesses, or even spoke to each other. Apparently there was no time, because Mr. Dziekanski first held up his arms with his palms facing the officers, then fled, then... turned around with a stapler in his hand.

Well then. That explains it. The man was clearly out of control and needed to be tasered - training, common sense, and a human being's life be damned.

In December it was announced that none of the Mounties are facing criminal charges for this incident. The Crown decided that, although the RCMP officers "contributed to" Mr. Dziekanski's death, "their use of force was reasonable". In other words, they are getting away with murder.

I'm so hurt and disgusted by this story, I hardly know what to say anymore. The only good thing is that we don't let it die.

Robert Dziekanski's name has become well known, but let's never forget that he is not alone. I can't write about every taser death and its outcome, but here is someone who tries: Truth Not Taser is written "In memory of our brother and son, Robert Bagnell, who died after being tasered by police in Vancouver, British Columbia on June 23, 2004".

Here are three excellent letters from today's Globe and Mail.
I am embarrassed as a Canadian that four trained and armed members of our national police force were so afraid of a confused non-English-speaking visitor that they had to taser and tackle him - without even discussing the situation among themselves.

I am outraged as a taxpayer at the defence given by their lawyers and at the 16 months that Robert Dziekanski's family has been suffering.

Heather Lundergan, Fredericton

*

So roughly 800 pounds of (supposedly) highly trained RCMP beef trembled in fear when confronted by the stapler-wielding, "unkempt" Robert Dziekanski. Perhaps these guys should be reassigned to stable duty for the Musical Ride, armed with shovels instead of tasers (due warning to the horses).

Steve Paul, Nancy Paul, Lansdowne, ON

*

If the armed, trained and protected RCMP officers who tasered Robert Dziekanski feared for their safety while confronting him, I suggest they pursue different careers - something less likely to put them in the line of fire of staplers and other lethal office supplies.

Dan Obradovic, Nelson, BC

Shame, shame, shame. Shame on the RCMP. Shame on Canada.

2.24.2009

need more reasons not to eat fast food?

McDonald's is bad for your health, bad for the environment, and bad for your community. It's not so hot for workers, either.

Twenty-one-year-old Nigel Haskett came to the aid of a customer who was being abused and beaten by another customer. Haskett forced the assailant, Perry Kennon, out of the store, even blocking the door to keep Kennon from returning. This being the US, Kennon returned with a gun and shot Haskett six times.

Haskett has had three abdominal surgeries, and racked up more than $300,000 in medical bills. What is McDonald's doing for this brave young man? Denying his claim for workers' compensation.

From The Raw Story, among many other places.
Fast food giant McDonald's has denied workers compensation benefits to a minimum wage employee who was shot when he ejected a customer who had been beating a woman inside the restaurant.

A representative of the administrator for McDonald's workers compensation plan explained that "we have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

Nigel Haskett, then aged 21, was working at a McDonald's in Little Rock, Arkansas last summer when he saw a patron, later identified as Perry Kennon, smacking a woman in the face. A surveillance video of the incident, which had been posted to YouTube, was taken down after McDonald's charged copyright infringement, but according to written descriptions of the video, Haskett tackled Kennon, threw him out, and then stood by the door to prevent him from reentering.

Kennon went to his car, returned with a gun, and shot Haskett multiple times. Haskett staggered back into the restaurant and collapsed.

Kennon, who has a long criminal record, was arrested a few days later and charged with first-degree battery. The judge at his arraignment praised Haskett as a hero.

Haskett has since undergone three abdominal surgeries and has incurred over $300,000 in medical bills. McDonald's has declined to comment on their reasons for refusing his claim, because the case is still pending before the Workers Compensation Commission, but according to Haskett's lawyer, Philip M. Wilson:

"McDonald's position now is that during thirty-minute orientation Mr. Haskett and the other individuals going through the orientation were supposedly told that in the event of a robbery or anything like a robbery . . . not to be a hero and simply call 911. Mr. Haskett denies that anything like that was even mentioned during orientation or at any time during his employment with McDonald's."

Here's some local news coverage of the story.


Some readers of AMERICAblog have posted good letters they sent to McDonald's. In the case of a corporate giant like this, I think the best defenses we can offer are publicity and boycott. I find it extremely easy to give McDonald's exactly none of my hard-earned dollars.

war resisters on common dreams

From the number of people who are sending me this piece, I realize I must have buried it at the bottom of my last post. From Sarah Lazare, of Courage To Resist, from Common Dreams.
Canadian Government Continues Ouster of US War Resisters

America's neighbor to the north is erecting barriers to Iraq War resisters seeking asylum

by Sarah Lazare

In the past weeks, the Harper Administration has moved swiftly to push U.S. Iraq War resisters out of Canada, issuing removal orders to five more resisters who had resettled up north. Two have recently been forced out of the country, and the rest continue their appeals through the Canadian Courts. This adds to the growing number of U.S. war resisters in Canada who are being threatened with deportation and eventually U.S. military court martials and imprisonment.

"According to the Nuremberg principles, people have the right to a free conscience," said Ryan Johnson, a former soldier who refused deployment to Iraq and resettled in Canada in June 2005. "We should be allowed to stay based on that."

Since the beginning of the Iraq War, dozens of U.S. troops resisting service in Iraq have applied for refugee status in Canada, on the grounds that, were they handed back to U.S. military custody, they would face persecution for refusing to participate in an illegal war. Several Afghanistan War resisters have also made Canada their home, with an estimated 200 U.S. war resisters currently residing in that country.

Cliff Cornell, who resettled in Canada after refusing to deploy to Iraq in 2005, returned to the United States when the Canadian government denied him a stay of removal. He was arrested by U.S. border police last week and taken to a county jail in Bellingham, Washington. Following a community vigil at the jail, Cornell was released and given five days to travel to Ft. Stewart, Georgia on his own accord. He is expected to face court martial, and supporters have set up a defense fund to cover his legal fees.

The 28 year-old from Mountain Home, Arkansas refused to go to war because "it just didn't feel right," he told his supporters at a 2005 rally in Canada. "I don't want to be killing innocent people."

Chris Teske, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and infantryman who refused recall to Iraq after serving two tours in Afghanistan, also left to the United States after receiving removal orders. Teske was not arrested crossing the border and is currently consulting legal counsel to turn himself in.

"It seems as hard as I try to forget the institution which enslaved me, they have not forgotten about me," Teske said in a January 2009 statement. "I have been denied at every turn in my immigration process. I have now been ordered to leave Canada."

Three other resisters - Kimberly Rivera, Patrick Hart, and Dean Walcott - were issued deportation proceedings in recent weeks, which they appealed through the Canadian judicial system. They have won temporary stays, which will likely delay deportation a few months and could possibly lead to successful appeals.

Several more war resisters - including Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, and Matt Lowell - have been fighting deportation orders for months and have thus far avoided deportation. In a remarkable legal victory, a Federal Court in Canada rejected the reasons given by the Immigration and Refugee Board for denying refugee status to Joshua Key and ordered a new hearing. Hinzman, who arrived in Canada with his wife and son over five years ago, will have an appeal hearing on February tenth. Last year his wife Nga gave birth to a baby girl, who is a Canadian citizen.

The flurry of removal proceedings follows the July 2008 deportation of Robin Long, a former soldier who resettled to Canada rather than deploy to Iraq with his unit. Long was handed over to U.S. military custody, where he was court martialed and sentenced to 15 months of confinement in August, 2008. He was the first resister to be deported from Canada since the Vietnam War.

The government's actions fly in the face of Canadian popular opinion. Canadians are overwhelmingly in support of allowing war resisters to stay, with 64 percent in favor of granting them permanent residence, according to a June 2008 Angus Reid Strategies poll. In June 2008, a resolution was passed in the Canadian Parliament to allow war resisters apply for permanent residence in Canada. Yet, the minority conservative Harper government has refused to implement this non-binding resolution, and the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has moved forward with issuing deportation orders to resisters who have applied for asylum.

Jason Kenney, Canada's new Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, has come under fire in recent weeks for referring to war resisters as "bogus refugee claimants." He stated in a January 2009 interview, "I don't appreciate people adding to the backlog and clogging up the system whose claims are being rejected consistently 100 per cent of the time."

"The Canadian Council on Refugees and other similar organization have spoken out, saying that Iraq War resisters are certainly legitimate refugee candidates and that this is government interference in the refugee process," refutes Carolyn Egan, of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada.

"The U.S. war and occupation of Iraq is now universally recognized as illegal, or at least plain wrong-even by President Obama," said Jeff Paterson, a Gulf War Resister and Project Director of Courage to Resist, a U.S.-based war resister support organization. "Canada as a nation saw this truth before many Americans did. There should be no question that resisters to unjust war are deserving of refuge from prosecution and deployment."

Once issued by the government, the deportation orders are being fought through the Canadian court system. "Recent legal decisions made by the federal courts have been influenced by Canadian popular opinion," said Gerry Condon, a Vietnam War resister and organizer with Project Safe Haven. "Support for war resisters has done a great deal to slow down the deportation proceedings."

Condon noted that even as these deportations are taking place, new war resisters are arriving in Canada. "It is still possible for AWOL GIs to go to Canada," said Condon. "They can apply for refugee status and expect at least a year of freedom in Canada. It is not easy, but it beats going to war or jail."

War resisters in Canada have been met with widespread support from anti-war activists in the U.S. and Canada. The War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada organized an emergency week of action in response to the deportation proceedings, and supporters from the U.S. and Canada appealed to Canadian authorities to allow war resisters to stay. Courage to Resist has helped coordinate solidarity efforts in the United States and is raising legal funds to help defend those who have already been deported.

"We certainly haven't stopped the deportations, and we may be seeing more in the coming months," said Condon. "But the struggle to support war resisters will continue on both sides of the border."

look at those melons

melons


Breasts, art and consciousness raising - a perfect combination.

Members of the Quilters of South Carolina have created some unique bras, to raise awareness of breast cancer, to memorialize victims and to honour survivors. You can see their entertaining and imaginative efforts here and here. Seriously, go click, you'll enjoy it.

The exhibit is touring South Carolina, then the bras will be auctioned to support the Best Chance Network, a program that provides care and treatment of uninsured women who are diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer.

It's estimated that 18,000 USians die every year because of lack of health care. Imagine what that number would be without the work of organizations like Best Chance.

I've heard people say we shouldn't support groups like the Best Chance Network, as they give the government an easy out, showing health care can be financed by private charities. There's a similar argument food banks: by supporting them, we allow the government to allow people to go hungry. So while they exercise this political principle, people go hungry.

It's not an either-or choice. While some activists continue the fight for universal health insurance in the US, other activists try to provide the missing services. We don't need to increase the statistics to dramatize the point. Behind every one of those 18,000 deaths is a person, a family, a loss. A preventable tragedy. We can fight it from every angle.

The Best Chance Network doesn't seem to have a website, but I found this video.

Click here and here to check out the whimsical lingerie.

fifimimi

2.23.2009

updates on war resister suzanne swift, former guantánamo guard brandon neely

Suzanne Swift, war resister and sexual assault and harassment survivor, has finally been discharged from the military. Swift was court martialled and spent almost a month in a military jail rather than redeploy to Iraq. She continued to serve in the military, but successfully resisted redeployment. She is now a proud member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Courage to Resist has an excellent audio interview with Swift. If you're interested in the treatment of women in the military, and in military resistance in general, find 17 minutes of your day and listen here. [I've written about Swift several times; you can find updates in old posts in the "war resister" category.]

* * * *

Brandon Neely served in Iraq and was also a guard at the US concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay. When the Army tried to reactivate him through the Individual Ready Reserve, Neely refused to go. He's now the president of the Houston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Neely participated in the Guantánamo Testimonials Project at the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, part of the University of California at Davis. You can read his testimony here.

I haven't brought myself to read it yet, as my stomach is still knotted from trying to watch "Taxi To The Dark Side". Here's the intro.
In this interview, Specialist Neely provides testimony of the arrival of the detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, possible isolation regime of the first six children in GTMO, utter lack of preparation for guarding individuals detained during the War on Terror, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed.

This update on US war resisters in Canada, by Courage To Resist's Sarah Lazare, also ran on Common Dreams.

2.22.2009

the best job in the world

Did you hear about this? Did you apply?

"The best job in the world" is the tagline for a contest being sponsored by Tourism Queensland, in Australia. The "job" is to be caretaker of a home on Hamilton Island, one of the larger inhabited islands above Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The job includes round-trip air fare, six months accommodations in the house. . . and $100,000 (US). The caretaker is expected to take care of the house, enjoy the Great Barrier Reef, and blog about it once a week.
The Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef is a newly created position. There are a few minor tasks that need to be taken care of, but the most important duty is to report back to Tourism Queensland (and the world) and let us know what's taking place on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

To apply, contestants submitted a video of less than one minute saying why they'd be good at the job and demonstrating knowledge of the area.

As of three days ago, 19,000 videos had been submitted, but I'm sure there was a mad rush at the end. (They had to take the whole thing offline recently, then said they hired more staff and cranked it back up.) I'm looking forward to seeing how many people ended up applying.

How could I not apply? My video is in there somewhere if you can find it. It wasn't easy! First, whittling a statement down to less than one minute. Then, figuring out how to record something even halfway "entertaining and engaging" (their words) on my cell phone, with no ability to edit. Allan and I did it together, and we managed to come up with something that didn't totally suck. I have no chance of winning, but I'll be damned if I would miss the opportunity to apply!

You might wonder why I never mentioned this before. Therein lies a story, of course.

When I was in university, I applied for a unique scholarship offered by an alumnus of my school. The scholarship paid for two years of graduate study at any university in the UK. There was a long, complicated application process, including a written application, an essay, and several interviews.

Up to that point in my life, I had never wanted anything as much as I wanted this. I spent high school in a haze of pot smoke, and my only motivation for applying to university at all was to get out of the nightmare that was my parents' home. So being motivated to go after anything was a new experience for me, and for this, I was highly motivated. I worked on the application like I had never worked on anything before.

I made the finals.

Finalists - I don't remember how many, perhaps a dozen - were taken for a weekend at the benefactors' estate in Pennsylvania. There, we each made a five-minute presentation to the group and defended it against debate, had a personal interview with the benefactor, and participated in planned social events. No more than six people would win the scholarship.

The weekend was very stressful for me. I had confidence in my academic abilities and somewhat in my interview abilities, but socially, I felt like a misfit. I also put enormous pressure on myself and never fully relaxed. It was a great experience, and I returned to campus happy and buoyant, but thinking back, my best self never shone through my nerves.

I didn't get the scholarship.

But that wasn't the worst part.

At the time I lived on campus in a high-rise apartment with a strange bunch of women with whom I got along, but wasn't friends. I refer to them as my Nazi roommates. Diehard neocons. Strange life I had.

One of my roommates heard about the scholarship through me. She wasn't completely sold on the idea, and I talked her into applying. You see it coming, right?

She won.

She was very careful not to celebrate or act wildly happy in front of me, and I was very careful to heartily congratulate her and act as happy as I could. But still. Ouch. Mega ouch.

I felt like a complete idiot for having helped her apply. I'm generally not a competitive person. I like to share information, and I like to be helpful. I don't think of the people in my life as my competition. But looking back, I ask myself, what was I thinking? Why did I do that?

When I heard about TBJITW, of course my first impulse was to blog about it. Then I thought: Thouron Award. What if, by some one-in-a-zillion chance, someone heard about TBJITW on wmtc, applied, and won? Or even was a finalist? Call me selfish, but I decided that anyone who applied for TBJITW wouldn't hear about it through me.

Here's what happens. From the tens of thousands of video applications Tourism Queensland has received, 50 will be shortlisted. Those 50 people will go through online testing, submit a more detailed application, and their videos will be on the website. There'll be online voting on the videos.

From the short list, 10 people will be chosen by Tourism Queensland, and a 11th Wild Card will be chosen through the online voting.

These 12 people will be flown to Islands of the Great Barrier Reef for a "Final Interview Event" over a week in May. The winner is chosen on the last day of the Interview Event, and starts "work" on July 1.

* * * *

What if I had won the Thouron Award? I would have studied British literature at Oxford. I would have never met Allan. I would have lived a completely different life. Who would I be now? I can only wonder. It makes me laugh to think of it.

The Best Job In The World

2.21.2009

in which our hero remains unbowed

In case you missed it.
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. president George W. Bush did not apologize as his trial began yesterday, and instead struck a defiant tone, telling the judges he wanted to hit back at the humiliation Iraq had suffered at American hands.

It was Muntadhar al-Zeidi's first public appearance since he was arrested in mid-December for hurling shoes at Mr. Bush during a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The act turned the obscure 30-year-old reporter into a cult hero in much of the Middle East.

"What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people," Mr. al-Zeidi told the court. "I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons."

He also said he had been tortured, with beatings and electric shocks during his interrogation, allegations the Iraqi government has denied. The trial was later adjourned until March 12.

Dozens of cheering supporters greeted Mr. al-Zeidi as he arrived at the courthouse in western Baghdad in an Iraqi army Humvee. As the journalist walked into the courtroom, his aunt handed him a scarf imprinted with a red, black and green Iraqi flag, which he kissed. He wrapped the scarf around his neck and wore it proudly during his 30-minute testimony to the three-judge panel.

Many people in the region - angry over the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq - have embraced Mr. al-Zeidi. They have staged large street rallies calling for his release, and one Iraqi man erected a sofa-sized sculpture of a shoe in his honour that the Iraqi government later ordered removed.

Mr. al-Zeidi told the court yesterday that he did not intend to harm Mr. Bush or embarrass Mr. al-Maliki, but he did not apologize for his actions.

He conceded he had recorded himself planning to insult Mr. Bush at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, two years ago but he ended up not going to the neighbouring country.

"And, yes, I said that to the Prime Minister's guards after I was beaten and suffering from electric shocks," he added.

My earlier posts about this are here, here, here and here. The Launch A Shoe At Bush Game was one of wmtc's highest traffic posts, ever.

"should the continuity of authority trump ... justice and personal morality?"

Here's an outstanding letter in support of US war resisters in Canada, from the Sarnia Observer.
War resisters deserve chance to flourish

I would like to thank Jon Sanderson for his letter regarding war resisters ("Not Canada's business to interfere," The Observer, Feb. 7, 2009). Though I disagree with Mr. Sanderson, I appreciate his willingness to take action on what he believes in.

I am a United States citizen and one of the protesters referred to in Mr. Sanderson's letter regarding war resisters. I agree that commitments must be met with responsibility and steadfast resolve. At times, however, commitments conflict, and during those times, each of us must determine what we value and honor most. Should the continuity of authority trump the values of justice and personal morality?

It is honourable and courageous to recognize something that is wrong and to risk freedom, earned benefits and the esteem of others by removing oneself from a corrupt system. Most of the war resisters have faced life and death situations and did what was necessary to protect themselves and those around them in moments that they cannot take back. They have then had the courage to face a deeper reality of the injustice and human sacrifice resulting from this war they have taken part in.

I believe these individuals honour the oath they took to our Constitution, but like numerous Iraqi civilians, they are victims of an administration and Congress that did not uphold their own oath to the same.

Veterans have made sacrifices of self that most of us cannot fathom. According to Army officials, 24 U. S. soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January 2009, compared to the 16 soldiers who died in combat during the same time period.

Please allow U. S. war resisters to stay in Canada. They deserve the opportunity to flourish in a just and free society.

Kathy Berry
Port Huron, MI
Bluewater Peace Initiative

2.20.2009

bus slogan generator

Redsock guest post - L.


Remember the fuss over the bus/subway ads (in both the UK and Canada) promoting atheism? You can now create your own bus ads, as I did above, by clicking here.

newfoundland heroes rescue trapped dolphins

After thinking about the worst kinds of cruelty - against humans and non-human animals - it was a relief to remember humanity's better side. This is a great story about people going the extra mile to help creatures in need.
It was a chilly day off school for Brandon Banks.

The 16-year-old's town of Seal Cove, N.L., has had a harrowing week. Mr. Banks and his neighbours have gone to bed each night to the wails of five dolphins, who'd been trapped in a small and closing gap in the ice of the community's cove since the beginning of the week.

"You could hear them, and see them going around in circles, and the circle just kept getting smaller and smaller," Mr. Banks said.

The town had called for an icebreaker to free the white-beaked dolphins, only to be told that none were available, and even if one was, that it could push broken ice into the weakened mammals, further injuring or killing them.

On Thursday, one of the dolphins had disappeared, feared dead. Four remained in the morning; by midday, it was three.

"They wouldn't have survived another night," said Lydia Banks, Brandon's mother.

And so it was yesterday that the young Mr. Banks and four other locals hopped into a 17-foot fibreglass boat — with stainless steel propeller blades, it was a do-it-yourself icebreaker — to take the situation into their own hands in a five-hour rescue. They launched the boat into the icy cove, and set about clearing a way out for the dolphins.

They rocked back and forth against the ice, breaking it apart and working a small path 250 metres long into the enclosure while the three remaining dolphins circled around.

Once near them, Mr. Banks donned a red dry-suit and hopped into the frigid February ocean waters, face to face with the trapped dolphins to free them.

"It was real cold, but we didn't feel it because of the suits," he said.

In the boat, they carved out their path into the free ocean water. Two of the dolphins followed without trouble. The other two had left earlier — presumed freed or dead — and only one was left in the cove, weakened.

"Two got out through, and the next one was too tired," said the young Mr. Banks, who leapt into the water to hold onto the 180-kilogram dolphin, called a jumper by the locals.

"I kept him up with my legs, keep his head up from under the water."

Meanwhile, many people from the town lined the cove, taking in what was happening a couple hundred metres out onto the ice.

"The dolphin just kind of attached to him and wrapped his flippers around him, more or less like a friend or a mate," Mayor Winston May told The Canadian Press.

Mr. Banks wrapped a rope around the jumper, and tied the rope to the boat. They towed him slowly through the ice, and once they hit open water, the weakened mammal caught its second wind.

They freed him from the rope, and the dolphin swam off.

"He was just getting his energy back, and he was swimming around," Mr. Banks said. "It was pretty good seeing him go off free like that, in the open water."

White-beaked dolphins are year-round visitors to the waters around Newfoundland, including in Seal Cove, a town of 300 about 600 kilometres northwest of St. John's.

Experts say many animals get trapped and die in the province's many coves.

In 1983, a particularly bad year, some 300 were trapped in more than a dozen separate incidents around Newfoundland.

Earlier in the day, Wayne Ledwell, a whale-rescue expert who went to Seal Cove, said he believed at least two of the dolphins had died after being frightened off by the initial rescue attempt.

"I can understand why they did it," he said. "I wouldn't have approved of attempting to do that."

But on Thursday, after saving the three dolphins, the crew came back heroes. Mr. May called it "a real nice ending." Mr. Banks, who had the day off his Grade 10 classes from school, was exhausted and immediately had a warm bowl of soup, "something me grandmother made," he said.

The phone at the family home was ringing off the hook while his friends posted dozens of their photos online. A reticent Mr. Banks took it in stride, while his mother seemed to be bursting with pride.

"It's something you'll always remember."

"sometimes i feel that i should have gone with my own morality"

We watched "Taxi to the Dark Side" last night, or tried to, anyway. I only got about halfway through.

Torture is the one deal-breaker for me. I watch and read about and hear about all manner of horrors, but anything about torture will give me nightmares and worse. Even the suggestion of torture in a fictional film is enough to make me leave the room. Descriptions of torture perpetrated by the United States, funded by USian taxpayers' dollars, is too much. (One of those invasions and subsequent torture chambers is staffed by Canadians, too.) Twice I had to pause the movie to unclench my stomach and cry, then finally I told Allan he should watch the rest on his own.

I'm going to assume there was nothing in the second half of the movie that I don't already know. Bagram, Abu Ghraib - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Gonazales - the Torture Memo - the Nuremberg Trials - the Geneva Conventions - the United States Empire. It's an excellent and important movie, but on the other hand, I wasn't learning anything, only remembering. We need to remember. I know that. But I also know my limits.

About a third of the way through, a US soldier who participated in the torture in Bagram Prison says: "Sometimes I feel that I should have gone with my own morality, more than what was common."

Sometimes I feel that I should have gone with my own morality...

Look how we punish soldiers who go with their own morality! They are not allowed to leave the military, they are hounded and beaten up and persecuted, they are court martialled, they are imprisoned. They are treated like criminals, when they should be welcomed as heroes!

A soldier who finds his own morality against the pressure of violent groupthink is society's only bulwark against the horror of torture.

Canada, Let Them Stay!

torontonians, mark your calendar to support war resisters

The War Resister Support Campaign is hosting a Sunday film event to raise awareness and much-needed funds for legal defense.

Please join us on Sunday, March 15 to see three short films about military resistance:

  • "Parallels," a 10-minute film featuring Iraq War resister Joshua Key and a Vietnam War resister,

  • "Deserter," a 24-minute film featuring Ryan Johnson and Jennifer Johnson, who live in Toronto and are active in the campaign, and

  • "The Conscience of a Nation: Winter Soldier," a condensed version of the Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan event, featuring 30 veterans' voices in 30 minutes.

    When: Sunday, March 15, 2:00 p.m.

    Where: Innis College, 2 Sussex Drive on University of Toronto campus

    Suggested Donation: $7 to $20, or more if you can

    Why: As the Harper Government ignores the will of Parliament and the Canadian people, we are forced to defend resisters individually in court. Our legal costs are outstripping our ability to pay, and we need your help. See some good movies, get educated and throw some money in the bucket.
  • 2.19.2009

    is the harper government erasing canadian history to justify attacks on war resisters?

    Media Release from the War Resisters Support Campaign:

    CIC Website Tries to Erase Canada's History of War Resisters

    Both Draft Resisters and Deserters Welcomed During Vietnam War

    OTTAWA — Until very recently, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website included a page that accurately presented Canada's history of accepting Vietnam War resisters during the 1960s and 70s, some of whom were draft resisters and many others who had signed up voluntarily and later deserted as conscientious objectors.

    Within the last two weeks, this history has been removed from the ministry's website, but evidence of its existence still appears on popular Internet search engines such as Google.

    "Just because this part of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website has been removed does not mean that the history of Vietnam War deserters coming to Canada can be dismissed," says Dick Cotterill, a former U.S. Marine and a successful businessman in Truro, Nova Scotia. "I am evidence that it did indeed happen. I enlisted voluntarily and served three years before I came to the moral decision that the Vietnam War was unjust and I could no longer participate. Many of the Iraq War resisters enlisted in good faith, have served in combat, and have chosen to oppose this war by coming to Canada. They, too, should be allowed to stay."

    In January, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney revealed the federal government's blanket opposition to U.S. Iraq War resisters by labelling them "bogus refugee claimants." The Minister's blatantly prejudicial comment was promptly denounced by Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Council for Refugees.

    The government webpage about Vietnam War resisters (a cached copy of which is available as a PDF file) was part of a section of the CIC website called "Forging Our Legacy". It was based on a book of the same title (ISBN 0-662-28983-8) that was published in 2000 by Public Works and Government Services Canada, in conjunction with private-sector partners, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Citizenship Act (1947). The book and section of the CIC website traced the evolution of Canadian citizenship and the role played by immigration in the development of Canada from the end of the nineteenth century until 1977. The information about war resisters was still available on the CIC website as of February 4, 2009.

    Last June a motion was adopted by Parliament directing the Government of Canada to establish a program to facilitate permanent resident status for American Iraq War resisters and immediately stop removal proceedings against them. Since then, three resisters have been forced back to the U.S. by the Harper government to be punished for their conscientious objection to the illegal war. The resisters' objections are notably similar to Canada's refusal to participate in the war, and polls that show a large majority of Canadians oppose the Iraq War and support Iraq War resisters. On Thursday, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration passed a motion reaffirming Parliament's June 2008 vote in support of letting Iraq War resisters stay in Canada.

    * * * *

    PDF copy of CIC page two weeks ago. Scroll down for section on "Draft-age Americans in Canada".

    Same page today.

    ny post cartoon depicts obama as chimpanzee

    The New York Post has published a cartoon that appears to depict Barack Obama as a chimpanzee, or at least links a dead chimp - shot by police - to Obama. You'll find the cartoon here and a million other places.
    At first glance, the main editorial cartoon in today's New York Post seemed like just another lurid reference to the story that the tabloid had been covering with breathless abandon for two days running - the shooting by Connecticut police on Monday of a pet chimpanzee that viciously attacked his owner's friend.

    But the caption cast the cartoon in a more sinister light. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," it read, prompting accusations that the Post was peddling a longstanding racist slur by portraying president Barack Obama, who signed the bill into law yesterday, as an ape.

    In a statement issued today, Al Sharpton, the Baptist minister and civil rights activist, called the cartoon "troubling at best, given the historic racist attacks [on] African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys".

    He added: "Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama ... and has become synonymous with him, it is not a reach to wonder: are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?... The Post should at best clarify what point they were trying to make, or in fact reprimand their cartoonist."

    David Paterson, the governor of New York state, told a local television station that it was "very important for the New York Post to explain what the cartoon was intended to portray".

    In response, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Col Allen, noted Sharpton's love of media attention. "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut," he said. "It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

    T-shirts portraying Obama as the children's book character Curious George, a monkey, made occasional appearances among audience members at Republican rallies during last year's election campaign, and a similar stuffed doll continues to be advertised online.

    The Post's cartoonist Sean Delonas, meanwhile, has frequently been accused of bigotry: the New York gossip blog Gawker once nicknamed him "the Picasso of prejudice".

    The criticism has centred on his portrayals of gay characters, which have linked homosexuality to bestiality. The pressure group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has repeatedly called his work "juvenile" and "immature".

    The Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, but John McCain in the general election.

    I heard about this from Color of Change, who are calling for an apology and the firing of an editor. I don't think people should lose their jobs because of their racism (except when racism renders them incapable of doing their job). The wingnut politics of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post are well known; I think it's good when they expose themselves for the fascists that they are.

    But for anyone who thinks Obama's election proved the end of racism in the US, here's Exhibit A.

    ohmygodenoughalready

    The Canadian media is a 14-year-old going on her first real date, and she thinks the boy is way out of her league. He's soooo hot, and ohmigod he's like the President of the United States! I can't believe he even knows my name!

    From the letters in today's Globe and Mail:
    The media, like the throngs of greeters, singers and bell-ringers who await the arrival of "you-know-who" in Ottawa, ought to be denounced as mere sycophants reflecting the kind of colonial mentality Canadians once reserved for monarchs. At least the current monarch is ours - well, sort of. He, however, is definitely not ours, and thank God it still is so.

    Frankly, ever since the start of the U.S. primaries, all the hype heaped upon the man in Canada was absolutely "obaminable."

    L.W. Naylor, Stratford, Ontario

    Last night I heard someone say that the extreme hype over Obama's first visit to Canada is because "they rule us, and we don't get a vote". Maybe "we" would feel less ruled if "we" didn't act like the servile class. Note to Canadian media: grow up!

    2.18.2009

    bad rap update

    It's very, very sad. Click if you can take it.

    man on wire

    Have you seen the movie "Man On Wire"? This is truly a must-see.

    "Man On Wire" is a documentary about Philippe Petit's high-wire performance between the towers of the World Trade Center. It recounts the years of preparation that preceded it, Petit's performances that led up to his New York adventure, and the execution of the astounding act itself. The movie is beautifully done, especially the inventive re-creations and the music. The DVD extras include an enlightening interview with Petit, and an animated film about the event.

    One of the many things I loved was how some of Petit's greatest performances - between the spires of Notre Dame de Paris, between the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and of course between the Twin Towers - couldn't be publicized or advertised in advance. The acts had to be planned surreptitiously, and performed with absolutely no hype. The audience was whoever was lucky enough to be there. To me, there is something so beautiful about that, and so pure.

    Petit gave passers-by an opportunity to witness something astonishing, something fantastical. The audience wasn't people who could afford tickets, or who could fly to Paris to be at the right place at the right time. Just whoever was there. A piece of living art thrown into a universe of random chance, for ordinary people to collect and treasure.

    In the movie, there's a clip from some news footage after the World Trade Center event, from one of the police who was on the roof trying to get Petit to come in. He says (something like), "I felt like I was seeing something that no one will ever see again. Really a once in a lifetime thing." You can see and hear how moved he was by the moment, this ordinary man, witnessing the extraordinary.

    Of course his words have another layer of meaning now. He could never have known how ephemeral that event would be. For some people - for me - the movie has an added poignancy because those buildings are gone.

    More than anything, "Man On Wire" is about a man's obsession, his boundless creativity, and in the end, the human creative spirit. The movie is - Petit is - breathtaking.

    2.17.2009

    bad rap alert: help save dogs lives

    I don't have time to post the whole story, but if you care about animal rescue, and believe dogs should be judged as individuals, not by breed myths and stereotypes, please go to the Bad Rap Blog and follow links to the alert. Make a phone call: help save dogs' lives.

    ALERT - Wilkes County Dogs Ordered Destroyed and Updates.

    Some background here: The High Cost of Being a Victim.

    acupuncture update, plus more thoughts on privilege (updated)

    I am extremely happy (and somewhat amazed) to report that the Chinese medicine treatments are having a positive effect on my fibromyalgia symptoms. I have more energy, better concentration and more mental clarity, less of the "brain fog" that characterizes this condition.

    It's a subtle change, but noticeable. At first I thought I might be having a good day, then a good week. But the changes have lasted. It's been three weeks since I noticed the difference, and it's still here. I'm really encouraged.

    Now comes the tricky part. Thanks to Allan having a job with benefits (USians and others: this is extra health coverage not covered by our provincial insurance), $400 worth of treatments was reimbursed. The doctor I've been seeing has very reasonable rates, much lower than many practitioners, so for that $400, I was able to give it a decent try.

    Now that I've used the entire acupuncture benefit, I can't afford to go for weekly treatments, unless my employment situation changes. My nephew who is in acupuncture school advised that if I have to scale back on the acupuncture itself, to keep up with the herbs. I think I can afford to get the herbs every week and the herbs plus needles every-other week. Whether that will be enough to retain this change... there's no way to know.

    I often remember that if I were still employed at my old job, or had the kind of position I need, I'd also have benefits, and I'd have $800 of coverage instead of $400.

    Then I reflect on that thought, and I admonish myself.

    When we first moved to Canada, and for a long time after, we were completely amazed and thrilled at being able to see a doctor and take care of routine health care at no cost. Our taxes here are about the same as we paid in New York. But here, we don't have enormous (and ever-increasing) insurance premiums deducted from our paycheques, we don't pay significant (and ever-increasing) co-pays, and we don't have to fight for coverage for routine care. Yay Canada. Yay normal, modern civilization.

    Then when Allan first got his job, and we saw what was covered under his company's insurance plan, we were completely knocked out. Dental and prescription coverage, wow! Plus some coverage for massage, acupuncture, podiatry, chiropracty, and other related treatments, double wow! This was better than anything we had had before. We were both so pleased.

    Eventually I went back to a day-job and very quickly found good employment. With Allan and I both having benefits, all our coverage was doubled. Our prescriptions were covered 100%, our coverage for glasses doubled, and we had a full $800 worth of each of the professional treatments. Not that we used them, but it was incredible to have the option.

    Then the firm I worked for tanked, and I haven't had benefits since. And ever since then, I've thought, damn, if only I had benefits...

    When I got my orthotics, I thought, damn, this would have cost me $200 less out-of-pocket if we both had coverage. When I ordered new glasses, I thought, boy, I could really use an extra $200 towards these expensive lenses. Whenever I pick up our prescriptions, I think, damn, this would be free. And so on.

    It's wrong. It's ridiculous. I'm very fortunate to have any benefits; plenty of people don't. And often the people who do have benefits are often those that can best afford the services without those benefits. If you have a job good enough to offer benefits, you're more likely to be able to afford extra expenses for glasses, massage, chiropracty or other similar needs. I know it's wrong... yet I keep thinking this way.

    This is what happens when you are exposed to privilege. You get accustomed to it. You think you deserve it. You think you need it.

    I'm not suggested health care should be a privilege, as it is in the United States. And surely we should all have prescription coverage and dental insurance. I mean only to reflect on the process through which want becomes need, through which isn't this amazing becomes where's mine.

    When I first moved to Canada, I chuckled at many Canadians' reluctance to pay for any health care costs out-of-pocket. My co-workers, for example, will get massage therapy up to the maximum benefit from their insurance, and not a penny more. If they spend a week in Florida, they'll buy travel health insurance rather than risk out-of-pocket medical costs. They complain about any minor prescription charges that aren't covered by their insurance. To me it seemed silly, even a bit spoiled.

    But now that I've lived here for a few years - and now that I've enjoyed supplemental health coverage - I'm heading more in that direction. I will pay for the acupuncture myself, to the extent I can, but I keep thinking of how nice it would be not to - thoughts I never would have had three years ago.

    Twenty years ago, Allan and I lived on half the income we have now. And we had fun. We had a good life. Over time, our income grew quite a bit. We've never been well-off, but we had more breathing room, and some discretionary income. But in 2007, our income decreased by a third, and it's been a difficult adjustment.

    It's very easy to adjust to more comfort. It's hard to go back.

    These thoughts reminded me of a piece from "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," the title story of the great collection by the late great (and so missed) David Foster Wallace.

    Wallace is on a cruise, an experience that he's writing about for Harper's magazine, at the magazine's expense. When he arrives, and for several days after, he is goggle-eyed at the sheer excess of food, amenities and attention lavished on the guests. It sometimes repulses him, sometimes embarrasses him, always amazes him.

    But Wallace quickly adjusts. Before long, he notices that the same amenities that originally left him awestruck now seem downright paltry. When another cruise ship docks next to the ship Wallace is on, he notices it looks a bit nicer than his...
    Because the Dreamward is lined up right next to us, almost porthole to porthole, with its Deck 12's port rail right up flush against our Deck 12's starboard rail, the Dreamward's semi-agoraphobic shore-shunners and I can stand at the rails and sort of check each other out in the sideways way of two muscle cars lined up at a stop light. . . . The Dreamward has more pools on Deck 11 than we do, plus what looks like a whole other additional pool behind glass on Deck 6; and their pools' blue is that distinctive chlorine-blue - the Nadir's [Wallace's fake name for his cruise ship] two small pools are both seawater and kind of icky, even though the pools in the Celebrity brochure had sneakily had that electric-blue look of good old chlorine.

    On all its decks, all the way down, the Dreamward's cabins have little white balconies for private open-air sea-gazing. Its Deck 12 has a full-court basketball set-up with color-coordinated nets and backboards as white as communion wafers. I notice that each of the myriad towel carts on the Dreamward's Deck 12 is manned by its very own Towel Guy, and that their Towel Guys are ruddily Nordic and nonspectral and have nothing resembling withering neutrality or boredom about their mien.

    The point is that, standing here next to Captain Video, looking, I start to feel a covetous and almost prurient envy of the Dreamward. I imagine its interior to be cleaner than ours, larger, more lavishly appointed. I imagine the Dreamward's food being even more varied and punctiliously prepared, the ship's Gift Shop less expensive and its casino less depressing and its stage entertainment less cheesy and its pillow mints bigger. The little private balconies outside the Dreamward's cabins, in particular, seem just way superior to a porthole of bank-teller glass, and suddenly private balconies seem absolutely crucial to the whole 7NC Megaexperience I'm expected to try to convey.

    I spend several minutes fantasizing about what the bathrooms might be like on the good old Dreamward. . . . I experience a sudden rush of grievance against Harper's magazine for booking me on the m.v. Nadir instead of the Dreamward. . . .

    I am suffering here from a delusion, and I know it's a delusion, this envy of another ship, and still it's painful. It's also representative of a psychological syndrome that I notice has gotten steadily worse as the Cruise wears on, a mental list of dissatisfactions and grievances that started picayune but has quickly become near despair-grade. I know that the syndrome's cause is not simply the contempt bred of a week's familiarity with the poor old Nadir, and that the source of all the dissatisfactions isn't the Nadir at all but rather plain old humanly conscious me, or, more precisely, that ur-American part of me that craves and responds to pampering and passive pleasure: the Dissatisfied Infant part of me, the part that always and indiscriminately WANTS. Hence this syndrome by which, for example, just four days ago I experienced such embarrassment over the perceived self-indulgence of ordering even more gratis food from Cabin Service that I littered the bed with fake evidence of hard work and missed meals, whereas by last night I find myself looking at my watch in real annoyance after 15 minutes and wondering where the fuck is that Cabin Service guy with the tray already. And by now I notice how the trays sandwiches are kind of small, and how the wedge of dill pickle always soaks into the starboard crust of the bread, and how the damn Port hallway is too narrow to really let me put the used Cabin Service tray outside 1009's door at night when I'm done eating, so that the tray sits in the cabin all night and in the a.m. adulterates the olfactory sterility of 1009 with the smell of rancid horseradish, and how this seems, by the Luxury Cruise's fifth day, deeply dissatisfying.

    But the Infantile part of me is insatiable - in fact its whole essence or dasein or whatever lies in its a priori insatiability. In response to any environment of extraordinary gratification and pampering, the Insatiable Infant part of me will simply its desires upwards until it once again levels out at a homeostasis of terrible dissatisfaction. And sure enough, on the Nadir itself, after a few days of delight and then adjustment, the Pamper-swaddled part of me that WANTS is now back, and with a vengeance. By Ides Wednesday I'm acutely conscious of the fact that the AC vent in my cabin hisses (loudly) . . . [read on for about 20 more examples] . . . and it's impossible to get really numbingly cold water out of 1009's bathroom tap.

    If you haven't read this, I can't recommend it highly enough, along with one of the book's other masterpieces, "Ticket to the Fair", a report on attending the State Fair in Wallace's home state of Illinois.

    Update. I was so busy beating myself up for wanting more than I have that I missed the larger context. It's healthy to be grateful for what we have and not always craving more, more, more. But that shouldn't apply to health care, including the health care that we Canadians or our employers pay for privately. For more on this, please read comments. Thanks to my wmtc friends for seeing this from a different point of view.

    But I still hope everyone reads "A Supposedly Fun Thing...".

    2.16.2009

    family day

    It's "Family Day" in Ontario, the poorly named but very welcome mid-February holiday recently invented for this province. Ontario joined several other provinces and a few countries that already had the holiday.

    Our family is meeting another family just like ours - two humans, two canines - at Toronto's High Park for a morning romp. (Their family also includes felines, but they don't come to the park.)

    My mind is very heavy with worry about two families at risk: the Harts and the Riveras. Both resisters are barely clinging to their residence in Canada. I'm trying to take the day off from blogging about this and worrying about this. I guess I already failed!

    It's cold and sunny today, and James will have his new video camera to capture all the park action. Should be great.

    2.14.2009

    happy birthday, mayor mccallion

    Happy 88th birthday to the mayor of my sprawling city, the Honourable Hazel McCallion.

    Contrary to what's been reported in the past, McCallion says she is planning on running for mayor for yet another term. I'm glad! Every year on Canada Day, McCallion presides over a ceremony for a group of new Canadians. When our citizenship comes through, I want our ceremony to be here in Mississauga, and I want Hazel to be there!

    Happy Birthday, Ms. McCallion. You rock.

    hazel sari

    even death can be resistance: awol marine commits suicide in nova scotia

    A U.S. Marine wanted by the military for abandoning his unit, who fatally shot himself after sneaking across the border into Canada, had served two terms in Iraq, officials said Saturday.

    Timothy Scott, 22, turned a gun on himself Thursday at his mother's home near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    A statement released by the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Saturday said Scott had been deployed to Iraq for eight months in 2007 and for seven months in 2008.

    The Marine rifleman, who was assigned to headquarters and the support battalion at Camp Lejeune, had joined the Marine Corps in 2005, said the statement.

    Police said Scott, who left his unit sometime around Feb. 10, entered into Canada from Woodstock, New Brunswick, on Feb. 11. He arrived at his mother's home the next day, where he initially threatened her before turning the gun on himself, said RCMP Staff Sgt. Mark Furey.

    The Marine Corps. statement said Scott lived in Alexandria, Virginia, close to where Furey said his parents owned another home in Norfolk, Virginia.

    Furey said the handgun the soldier used on himself was reported stolen from the Norfolk home.

    Cpl. Melissa McCoy at Camp Lejeune said he had been listed as leaving the unit in what the military deems an "unauthorized absence," meaning he had been away from the base for less than 30 days. After that, he would be considered a deserter.

    Scott's death represents a larger trend of rising rates of suicides within the U.S. Army as the strained military wages war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army had its highest rate of suicide on record in 2008 and is investigating a spike in the number in January.

    The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in upstate New York recently addressed the growing rate of suicides after a four cadets took their own lives earlier this month. In the last seven months, two cadets, a faculty member and a staff member at the academy have taken their own lives at the school.

    Top Veterans Affairs Committee Sens. Daniel Akaka and Richard Burr have asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to convene a joint oversight committee meeting to address military suicides.

    How can a man who served two tours in a war, and has had enough, be a deserter?

    How can the desire to leave the military and lead a new life be against the law?

    How can we turn our backs on people whose pain is this great?

    How can we live with a government that won't listen to the people?

    in which your correspondent stops crying and breathes a massive sigh of relief

    The story is so convoluted I only half-understand it myself, so I won't try to explain. Suffice to say that last night, I thought Patrick and Jill Hart had exhausted all legal avenues to stay in Canada. Their application for leave to appeal the negative decisions in their PRRA and H&C were dismissed; they are only resisters this has happened to, to date.

    I was told that was the end of the line.

    To make it worse for me (because you know it's all about me!), I thought this information wasn't yet public. So I spent the evening sniveling and depressed, and unable to share. I'm not very good at that!

    Earlier this evening, I learned that Jill Hart has filed a second Humanitarian and Compassionate application. I don't know how or why she was able to do that, but it's done. Hope lives.

    There is some other resister news in the works - very strange and very disturbing. It's still in process; I await an update. On top of that, the news from the Harts - or what I was told was the news, or what I thought was the news, or something - was just too much. I thought the whole thing was slipping away.

    But no. Hope lives.

    I had a temporary lapse of optimism, but tonight I'm back in fighting trim.

    Stay tuned, and make sure Stephen Harper knows how you feel.

    stephen harper: "becoming just another pebble on the banks of the Ottawa River"?

    I usually don't post about party politics, but my anger at Stephen Harper and his government is so intense right now, that I'm grasping at straws for relief.

    First, an item Allan spotted from our (un)friends at the National Post.
    Inner-circle exodus spells trouble for Tories
    Don Martin, National Post
    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    When the Prime Minister's Office starts hemorrhaging senior staff with proven loyalty, something is amiss.

    Then again, as Freud allegedly noted, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    But strange things are happening in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's close-knit office. A senior advisor and at least one strategist are moving on, which has some Conservative observers concerned about internal morale and questioning the operation's top official.

    MPs confide there's a darkening mood in the big guy himself, hardly surprising given the stormy economic challenge Mr. Harper faces. One source says there was a blowup between a furious Prime Minister and key players last week. And PMO chief of staff Guy Giorno is now plotting the second major internal shuffle in eight months.

    What does all this mean? Search me. But some who orbit just outside Mr. Harper's innermost circle speculate that a Conservative party with no heir apparent could lose its leader before the next election.

    Next, a similar idea through a wider lens, from The Martlet, from the University of Victoria.
    The end of Harper's conservative rule
    by Cody Willett

    After January's load-blowing, deficit-spending budget, conservative pundits are furiously harping on about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's betrayals of conservative dogma — he might as well be a Liberal for all they care.

    At least back in the day when Brian Mulroney was PM, he could be excused for flip-flopping this way. But Harper? His career was born out of the anger that "true" conservatives from the Reform and Canadian Alliance Parties felt toward Mulroney. In their minds, Mulroney screwed up so badly that it destroyed his party and ushered in almost a decade and a half of Liberal rule.

    Harper used to be the evangelical poster boy for the most "admirable" of conservative stances — restricting immigrants from transforming Canadian culture, reforming the Senate, free votes for MPs, supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq — to name but a few.

    And then he won his first election, albeit with a minority in Parliament. Out the window went the rhetoric about gay marriage. Talk about revisiting the abortion issue was hushed.

    Now Harper has appointed Senators en masse, kicked MPs out of his party for voting their conscience, challenged the U.S. foreign policy on the Arctic and gone on a deficit spending spree to save Canadian jobs — most notably his.

    So is the Right Honourable Stephen Harper now a Liberal? When you size up the new Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, you get the sense he and Harper could've been buds in another life.

    Harper's duplicitous talk about balanced budgets, no recession and finding deals on the stock market sure doesn't sound like the maverick-esque straight talk you'd expect from such a clean-cut heir to the conservative movement's throne — just another reason to conclude that Harper is a fraud, deluded and seduced by attaining and retaining power in Ottawa.

    "The West Wants In" used to be Harper's rallying cry. When he won the election in 2006, he declared his own version of "Mission Accomplished." Now that his pal George W. Bush is soaking up the sun, clearing brush on a ranch somewhere deep in the heart of Texas, Harper and his western "conservatism" are all alone — the Coalition of the Willing's last bastion of pseudo-conservatism that Bailout Bush's last acts as President exposed as hollow.

    Clearly, this all points to Harper being the wily strategist all his subordinates once feared him for: if at first your ideals don't succeed, try the opposite, try again.

    This is Canada of course, glorious and free — home of legalized gay marriage, ethnic inclusiveness and universal health care.

    Harper can deport American war resisters and ignore climate change all he wants to pay lip-service to conservatism, but he's gradually becoming just another pebble on the banks of the Ottawa River — subject to the forces of erosion that Canada's cherished progressive identity has on hard-hearted conservatism.

    "it is profoundly hypocritical that we refuse to recognize the natural rights of the war resister"

    War resister news is still in process. I will update you as soon as I can.

    Meanwhile, here's an excellent essay written by an Iraq War veteran, originally published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Thank you, Evan Knappenberger, for speaking out - and for your moral clarity.
    Acknowledge soldier's right to object
    by Evan Knappenberger

    When I joined the Army shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, my friends and family raised many serious questions that, after almost four years on active duty and two years of college, I have only now started addressing.

    As an 18-year old, I deferred answering morally charged questions like "are you ready to kill human beings?" and "what if you change your mind?" partly because the Army recruiters claimed that I would not kill in my chosen occupation. As easy, however, as it is to blame faulty recruiting practices for the dysfunctional ethics of my past, honesty dictates a more thorough self-disclosure now.

    As a high school senior I was unaware of the potency of the moral dilemmas to which my community was attempting to alert me. Neurobiology tells us that the capacity for reasoning is not fully developed in the human brain until the mid-twenties or later. It was illogical for my elders to expect me -- as an 18-year-old -- to be capable of comprehending the moral complexities of the war I was eager to join; just as today it is unreasonable to expect any teenager to be capable of understanding death, violence, the codes of military justice, or military obligations. It is an irresponsible society that binds its sons and daughters to a lifestyle of military discipline and the rigors of combat without acknowledging the imminence of their natural cognitive and moral development.

    Considering this, as well as our nation's foundational principle of individual self-determination, it is profoundly hypocritical that we refuse to recognize the natural rights of the war resister. In an "all-volunteer" military, refusal to serve for any reason should be honored and recognized as the milestone of a mature mind, just as refusal of any voluntarily violent civilian occupation would be honored.

    It should be noted that refusal to serve can take forms other than conscientious objection. The praxis of personal experience is a powerful teacher, especially to soldiers who believe that the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan is unjustifiable in itself. Though they volunteered, they retain the right to change their minds, just as they retain the right to change political and religious affiliations.

    Soldiers objecting to specific wars should be given the same conscientious objector status as those who stand against all war, and honorably discharged without prejudice. Were this doctrine fairly practiced, perhaps political-military expeditionism would become as militarily impractical as it is financially unrewarding. And, if the soldiery was able to exercise an independent and informed judgment, maybe military operations would be more successful than they have been at times.

    In the years since I was first asked those challenging questions, I have come to a hard-won conclusion that conventional values do not follow the rules of conventional wisdom. I believe now that the mistaken equation of war-resistance to cowardice is an outdated and primitive notion, as barbaric and uncivilized as racism and patriarchy. In fact, true cowardice often hides behind a weapon, a flag, a uniform, or a particular shade of skin, and rarely behind matters of conscience.

    I know now that there is no ethics that can balance the right of individual self-determination with the subjective pragmatics of military law. It is illogical to believe that an Army that does not recognize the right of its soldiers to object can defend the right of dissent at all. I did not earn the prerogative of social protest, as some tell me, through my service. It was there all along.

    Until our country accepts and affirms the rights of war resisters, teenagers will continually be forced (as I was) into choosing between the unjust consequences of breaking the silence, or committing injustices themselves. Our young soldiers deserve better than this catch-22.

    Evan Knappenberger is an Iraq War veteran and a Davis-Putter Scholar at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.