10.31.2009

halloween social experiment (without results)

We performed a little social experiment tonight, but we have no idea how it turned out.

Our neighbourhood is always very busy on Halloween. In fact, we saw the house for the first time on Halloween 2006, and seeing all the groups of kids traipsing from house to house in costumes gave us a good feeling about the neighbourhood.

We had to work tonight, but we didn't want to be unavailable for the kids, and we also didn't want the doorbell ringing all night, bothering the dogs. So we did Halloween in absentia. We left the light on, taped over the doorbell, put a bucket of candy on the doorstep, and taped this sign to the door.



But unfortunately, we had no way to videotape or otherwise spy on the proceedings.

When I came home tonight, all the candy was gone. That's not unusual. But how did it go? Did someone tip the whole bucket into their trick-or-treat bag? Did each child take just one or two candies? Most of the kids are escorted by parents, so I'm thinking everyone was well behaved. And the kids around here are so sweet and polite. I'd bet even the groups of teenagers would only take a few (although I could see them joking about taking all of it... then not doing it).

I think there was probably a fair distribution. Still, it would have been fun to watch.

a tale of two newscasts

Watch these two interviews with Afghan MP Malalai Joya, one from CNN in the US, one from CNN International.

A Tale of Two CNNs

This goes a long way in explaining much of the ignorance of the US population regarding their own government's policies. I'm not saying it excuses it. And I understand that other sources are available to all of us now - but we have to know there's a need for the sources, and have the time and motivation to look for them, and have some support for other worldviews, and... a lot of things that many people don't have.

But in any event, this is what passes for hard-hitting international news in that country. In between episodes of WTWWA and flying balloon boys.

Many thanks to DeanG for sending.

Also, reminder: Malalai Joya will be speaking in Toronto on November 18.

november 5 day of action for a poverty-free ontario

If you're a student in Ontario, I hope you're already aware of this important action, but just in case...

On Thursday, November 5, Ontario students of all ages and levels will take to the streets and campuses, calling for a poverty-free province. This diverse coalition of concerned citizens is asking for:
  • Reduced Tuition Fees
  • Affordable Child Care
  • Public Housing
  • A Living Wage
  • Quality Public Health Care
  • Employment Equity
  • Raise in Social Assistance Rates
  • Fair Employment Insurance Rates

    At the University of Toronto, the schedule is:
    11:30 a.m. - free pancake breakfast outside Sid Smith [these organizers are smart!]
    1:00 p.m. - meet up & rally at Sidney Smith Hall
    2:00 p.m. - city-wide convergence and march, starting at Con Hall
    4:00 p.m. - mass rally at Queen's Park

    Turnout is expected to be massive. Be there!

    Facebook group here.
  • "i'm a soldier, what's it going to look like if i can't get things straight in my head?"

    Another good story on PTSD. This one, from The New York Times, focuses on female soldiers.
    For Vivienne Pacquette, being a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder means avoiding phone calls to her sons, dinner out with her husband and therapy sessions that make her talk about seeing the reds and whites of her friends' insides after a mortar attack in 2004.

    As with other women in her position, hiding seems to make sense. Post-traumatic stress disorder distorts personalities: some veterans who have it fight in their sleep; others feel paranoid around children. And as women return to a society unfamiliar with their wartime roles, they often choose isolation over embarrassment.

    Many spend months or years as virtual shut-ins, missing the camaraderie of Iraq or Afghanistan, while racked with guilt over who they have become.

    "After all, I'm a soldier, I'm an NCO, I'm a problem solver," said Mrs. Pacquette, 52, a retired noncommissioned officer who served two tours in Iraq and more than 20 years in the Army. "What's it going to look like if I can't get things straight in my head?"

    Never before has this country seen so many women paralyzed by the psychological scars of combat. As of June 2008, 19,084 female veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan had received diagnoses of mental disorders from the Department of Veterans Affairs, including 8,454 women with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress — and this number does not include troops still enlisted, or those who have never used the V.A. system.

    Their mental anguish, from mortar attacks, the deaths of friends, or traumas that are harder to categorize, is a result of a historic shift. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has quietly sidestepped regulations that bar women from jobs in ground combat. With commanders needing resources in wars without front lines, women have found themselves fighting on dusty roads and darkened outposts in ways that were never imagined by their parents or publicly authorized by Congress. And they have distinguished themselves in the field.

    Psychologically, it seems, they are emerging as equals. Officials with the Department of Defense said that initial studies of male and female veterans with similar time outside the relative security of bases in Iraq showed that mental health issues arose in roughly the same proportion for members of each sex, though research continues.

    "Female soldiers are actually handling and dealing with the stress of combat as well as male soldiers are," said Col. Carl Castro, director of the Military Operational Research Program at the Department of Defense. "When I look at the data, I see nothing to counter that point."

    And yet, experts and veterans say, the circumstances of military life and the way women are received when they return home have created differences in how they cope. A man, for instance, may come home and drink to oblivion with his war buddies while a woman — often after having been the only woman in her unit — is more likely to suffer alone.

    Some psychiatrists say that women do better in therapy because they are more comfortable talking through their emotions, but it typically takes years for them to seek help. In interviews, female veterans with post-traumatic stress said they did not always feel their problems were justified, or would be treated as valid by a military system that defines combat as an all-male activity.

    "Some of the issues come up because they're not given the combat title even though they may be out on patrol standing next to the men," said Patricia Resick, director of the Women's Health Sciences Division at the National Center for P.T.S.D., a wing of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    While more men over all suffer from the disorder because they are a majority of those deployed, Dr. Resick added, "people underestimate what these women have been through."

    Indeed, at home, after completing important jobs in war, women with the disorder often smack up against old-fashioned ignorance: male veterans and friends who do not recognize them as "real soldiers"; husbands who have little patience with their avoidance of intimacy; and a society that expects them to be feminine nurturers, not the nurtured.

    Read more here.

    child labour in our own backyard, yet again

    What century will it be when the fruits and vegetables sold and consumed in North America are not the bitter fruit of exploited labour?

    Once again, the use of child labour in the fields has been exposed, this time children as young as five years old picking blueberries in Michigan. Wal-Mart and the Kroger supermarket chain have cut ties with the grower - after these human rights abuses were revealed, of course.

    I've been reading, thinking and agitating about this issue my entire life. The stories appear as regularly as the seasons.

    When Allan sent me this story yesterday, I wondered how so many reader comments could amass on such a non-controversial topic, something universally condemned, like slavery. Everyone opposes child labour, right? Obviously everyone doesn't oppose child labour, or it wouldn't exist. But I didn't think anyone would publicly support or justify it.

    Then I clicked, and my head nearly exploded. Apparently many people believe "we" have no right to criticize "them," "them" being the brown people who have large families to support. The whole family working together is how they can make ends meet.

    Here's an idea: living wages. Pay the parents a decent wage for their back-breaking labour, so they can support themselves and their children.

    And here's another: every child has the right to an education. Five-year-olds belong in school.

    Averting a stroke, I noticed that several commenters wondered how others would have felt if the working child in the photo had been blonde. Then again, some fondly remembered their days picking blueberries as children, a pleasant Sunday outing with their folks, and wondered what all the fuss was about.

    I know better than to even glance at comments, but this time I'm glad I did. Otherwise I might not have believed such relativism and rationalization was possible. Here's another idea: if it's not good enough for your children, it's not good enough for "their" children either.

    It occurs to me that the words "cruelty-free food" is usually associated with the treatment of farm animals. But all food is the product of human labour. When will our fruits and vegetables be cruelty free?

    United Farm Workers

    UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

    Global March Against Child Labour

    10.30.2009

    cbc on ptsd

    The CBC website is running quite a good story about post-traumatic stress disorder.

    In the ongoing worldwide read of the Diary of Samuel Pepys, we recently reached the historic Great Fire of London, which raged from September 2 to 5, 1666. Our man Sam was personally not directly affected by the fire - his house was not burned, although you can see from this map that he had reason to be afraid.

    But regardless of his personal good fortune, Pepys spent days and nights walking the streets, witnessing the fear and destruction. He is thought to be one of several people who urged the Lord Mayor of London to order that houses be pulled down to stop the fire from continuing to spread. He also spent many panicked hours removing his possessions - especially his books - by boat and wagon to safer ground.

    In the nights following the fire, and for weeks to come, Sam's sleep was troubled by visions of burning buildings and of houses being pulled down. Many readers immediately recognized his descriptions as post-traumatic stress.

    Perhaps the most amazing thing about that CBC story is that the comments are full of support and encouragement, and survivors sharing stories of hope. My own experience with post-traumatic stress is part of what draws me to the war resisters. I don't pretend to know what they've been through, but on another level, all trauma is related. And there is always hope.

    10.29.2009

    "conscience behind bars" at the mark

    I have a story at "The Mark" which I'd like you to read: "Conscience Behind Bars," about three Campaigners' visit to jailed war resister Cliff Cornell, and Bill C-440.

    If you go to The Mark today (and for the next few days), you should see the story as the top headline, rotating with 4 other stories.

    Front page here, story here.

    10.28.2009

    returning to normal on wednesday nights

    Guess what I did tonight? I went to a Campaign meeting for the first time since starting school. It was great to be back. I was so happy to see everyone, to get caught up on Campaign news, to be in touch with what matters most to me.

    A Campaign friend had very generously offered a spare bedroom for me to crash any time between or after classes. She lives right near U of T, in easy walking distance from our meetings at the Steelworkers Hall. J made this incredible offer as soon as I announced I would be going to school, and I finally felt ready to take her up on it. Now I have a key, and a place to put my feet up and turn my brain off for a while on Wednesday afternoons.

    It worked beautifully. I left J's house feeling refreshed; I never could have done it otherwise.

    I also realized that I've passed the halfway point of my first term. Cool.

    november 18: malalai joya speaks out against the occupation

    No nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.

    Malalai Joya, Afghan MP and peace activist

    Malalai Joya's new book, A Woman Among Warlords, is an account of Joya's fight to liberate Afghanistan amid 30 years of war. On Wednesday, November 18, Joya will speak in Toronto, an event sponsored by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and the University of Toronto Students Union.

    Joya has been a thorn in the side of NATO-supported government by being an outspoken critic of the human rights abuses of the warlords that dominate the Parliament of Afghanistan.

    She has been threatened and attacked for her stance. In 2006, President Hamid Karzai suspended her from Parliament and cut her security funding, proving that women's rights are not a concern for his government.

    Joya's intimate understanding of the situaiton of women in Afghanistan exposes the lie that Canada and the West are in Afghanistan to defend and protect women's rights.

    WHEN: Wednesday, November 18, 7:00 p.m.

    WHERE: Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street (west of Spadina), Toronto

    DONATION: $5-10

    More about Malalai Joya.

    10.27.2009

    "isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes?"

    Dennis Kucinich, as quoted by Chris Hedges.
    Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes? ... To have people have to make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I don’t vote to fund wars. If you are opposed to war, you don’t vote to authorize or appropriate money. Congress, historically and constitutionally, has the power to fund or defund a war. The more Congress participates in authorizing spending for war, the more likely it is that we will be there for a long, long time. This reflects an even larger question. All the attention is paid to what President Obama is going to do right now with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is the Democratic Congress could have ended the war when it took control just after 2006. We were given control of the Congress by the American people in November 2006 specifically to end the war. It did not happen. The funding continues. And while the attention is on the president, Congress clearly has the authority at any time to stop the funding. And yet it doesn’t. Worse yet, it finds other ways to garner votes for bills that authorize funding for war. The spending juggernaut moves forward, a companion to the inconscient force of war itself.


    Hedges:
    Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong. So is violence against people in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the bizarre culture of identity politics, there are no alliances among the oppressed. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first major federal civil rights law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, passed last week, was attached to a $680-billion measure outlining the Pentagon’s budget, which includes $130 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democratic majority in Congress, under the cover of protecting some innocents, authorized massive acts of violence against other innocents.

    It was a clever piece of marketing.

    "War Is A Hate Crime"

    republicans for bigotry

    Media Matters: After 6 Days, RNC Finally Removes "Repeal Loving v Virginia" poster from Facebook page.

    Loving v Virginia is the 1967 US Supreme Court decision striking down "anti-miscengation" laws, making it illegal for a state to forbid a black person from marrying a white person.

    Check out the poster. It shows President Obama eating fried chicken.

    I'm only posting a tiny fraction of the virulent, often violent racism swirling around in the US these days. But keep 'em coming. Thanks to James.

    And regarding Al Franken and Jamie Leigh Jones, a reader sent me this: Republicans for Rape. Thanks to Tripleman.

    "the youth in the gallery showed more leadership than the m.p.s"

    This was encouraging.
    A loud protest in the visitors gallery of the House of Commons resulted in several arrests and the brief shutdown of question period on Monday.

    Around 200 young protesters chanted slogans to support Bill C-311, an NDP private member's bill on climate change. Six people were reported to have been detained.

    The protesters yelled, "I say 311; you say 'Sign it'." ...

    This was not.
    Parliamentary security guards eventually cleared the public gallery by removing the demonstrators in small groups.

    Activist Jeh Custer, who was part of a group protesting the delay of a review of a climate change bill, says he was roughed up by security guards.Activist Jeh Custer, who was part of a group protesting the delay of a review of a climate change bill, says he was roughed up by security guards. With his face still covered in blood, environmental activist Jeh Custer told CBC's Power & Politics that once he was removed from the gallery he was taken to a stairwell by bodyguards and roughed up.

    "Once I was taken to a stairwell, my face was smashed on the floor," he said, adding that the incident was filmed by an unnamed person.

    Fellow environmental activist Eriel Deranger said she witnessed the incident and that she "watched four security guards jump on him" and "started to smash him into the floor."

    "There was blood all over the floor," she said. "And as they continued to drag him through the hallway, there was blood on the walls as they smeared his face on the walls." ...

    This even less so. (Emphasis mine.)
    Last week, the House voted to extend the deadline for the environment committee's review of the bill.

    C-311 would set strict targets for greenhouse gas emissions. The bill calls for Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also gives the government the authority to make regulations to meet the targets, including penalties for contravention.

    The NDP had wanted the bill to move to the next stage of the approval process in the hopes that it might become law and compel the government to act to address global warming before the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, which begins Dec. 7.

    The Bloc Québécois agreed with the NDP, but the Conservatives did not. The Liberal caucus was split, with 42 Liberals voting to extend the review and 14 supporting the NDP and Bloc.

    "The youth in the gallery showed more leadership than the MPs on the floor," Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said at a news conference on Parliament Hill on Monday afternoon following the demonstration.

    Which Liberals voted against?



    Three video clips of the protest also on CBC.

    10.26.2009

    percentage of smart canadians continues to grow

    A new poll shows that less than half of all Canadians support the war in Afghanistan.

    Quebecers are the smartest of all. Being less nationalistic is very healthy.

    on becoming a writer, part one

    Work was grueling this weekend, as is the norm now, thanks to staff cuts. Every weekend further validates my decision to change careers. In the short run, school leaves me very little bounce-back time, so I have to be really careful with what little I have. This morning we went for a walk on the lake, towards Rattray Marsh, and the dogs had a little run at Jack Darling Park.

    When I decided to get my Masters degree to become a librarian, the idea was to change my day-job as a legal document-production operator. Librarianship is one of the few career options (of jobs I could see myself doing) that can be done part-time and still pay well. I was thinking I would still work part-time, and write and do activism part-time, as I do now.

    But even now, in my first term of school, I find myself thinking about working full-time. Having a rewarding full-time job - and having decent pay and benefits for the first time in a long time - is appealing. The Mississauga Library System starts everyone as part-time, but if a full-time opening came up at a branch I liked, perhaps I would take it. And if we want to use my library degree as a way to live elsewhere in Canada, which we've talked about, then I'm probably looking at full-time work.

    Thinking along these lines, an inevitable question enters my mind. What would that mean for me as a writer? If I had a challenging and rewarding full-time job, would I still write? What form would that writing take? What role would writing play in my life?

    I realize the answers to these questions - and even the need to ask the questions - are many years away. I don't mean to give the impression that I'm stressing over this or even worried. But the thoughts are floating around in my head - persistently. And after all, that's part of what this blog is for.

    Many, many years ago, I made a conscious choice to identify myself as a writer, to disconnect the question "What do you do?" from "What do you do for a living?". In a sense it was the most important decision I've ever made as a writer, the choice from which everything else flowed.

    * * * *

    I've been writing as long as I can remember. On summer vacations with my family, from about age 6 to age 11, I wrote impressions on a yellow lined pad, my first travel diary. I wrote short stories, and bad poetry, and several times began a book, usually after reading a novel I loved.

    My favourite writer was Laura Ingalls Wilder, not because I loved the "Little House" series (although I did), but because we had the same name, and she was a writer. After I fell in love with S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, I knew I wanted to write the same kind of book. A little later, Steinbeck's Travels With Charley gave me the travel bug and confirmed that I had to write.

    My family - by which I mean my father, as he controlled us and attempted to direct our desires - said I was a good writer, so I should be a lawyer. So that was it. I was slated for law school.

    Once in university, I knew I had to resist taking even the first step in that direction. My father would say, "Just take the test [meaning the LSAT], and see how you do. Just take it." I knew after that was, "Just go to law school. Just go." And after that, of course, just be a lawyer. A career in constitutional law, a la the ACLU, might have been an option, but then, many things were options. None was what I wanted.

    I didn't know how to say, "I'm going to be a writer." I didn't know how to graduate university, and need to support myself, and simply write. Not use my writing to further a career, such as medical writing or technical writing or fundraising - worthy career choices, but not what I wanted.

    I couldn't even articulate that. I just knew I had to not go to law school. My father put me under a lot of pressure, and threatened to cut off my tuition, but I already knew I was living my life, not his.

    In university I started working in theatre administration, specifically marketing. I've always loved theatre and was a big arts appreciator, and it seemed like a good fit. Most importantly, it wasn't law school.

    After graduating and traveling in Europe with NN, I found a theatre job in New York, and began what I thought would be my career. I did well, and thought I wanted to be a managing director, meaning run a theatre company. But only a few years later, I was dissatisfied, because I wasn't writing.

    Work was demanding, requiring long hours and a lot of stress. I wrote scraps and snippets in notebooks, but I never had the focus and energy to sustain any ideas. I wanted to find a way to support myself that would leave me not only more time, but more creative energy. I thought about it a lot, and had no idea how I could make it happen.

    Then a whole bunch of things happened at once.

    One, I took what was supposed to be a really good theatre job, a big step up, and I was miserable.

    Two, I met Allan.

    And three, my roommate, a close friend, wanted us to have our own places, but I couldn't afford that.

    There's nothing like a bad job to bring your options to focus. I knew I had to leave. But I also knew there'd be another theatre job, and another, and I still wouldn't be writing. But what about my career?

    Allan wasn't from New York. He had no career. He didn't ask me what I did or talk about what he did. He talked about what he loved - music, books, baseball. He was a college-radio DJ - not a paying job, but something that helped define him.

    In our very first conversation ever, I heard myself say, "I always felt I was a writer. But I'm not writing now."

    His face changed. "Writer, really? I used to write."

    We were both writers, and neither of us were writing. Within months of that meeting, we were both writing again. We helped each other find it again.

    Meanwhile, my roommate introduced me to her close friend and boss, who needed someone to take care of her home and do steady child-care, in exchange for the rent on a separate apartment in her house. Another friend needed to find freelance proofreaders for a publishing company.

    In October 1985, I turned my life upside down. I started taking care of M, continuing my long-distance relationship with Allan, and began writing my first young-adult novel.

    And I decided I was a writer.

    My father said, "I didn't send you to an Ivy League school so you could be a babysitter." But my mother said, "I'm so happy for you. Let's go shopping to get what you need to move into your own place." By this time I was only listening to what helped. It was the beginning of the end of my relationship with my father.

    * * * *

    New York City is a place where people are identified with what they do for a living. But I made a conscious choice. I insisted that my identity was something else.

    It started out as a very practical matter. When people asked, "What do you do?", if I said, "I'm a proofreader" or "I'm a babysitter," I ended up answering questions I didn't want to answer, about boring stuff I didn't want to talk about. But if I said, "I'm a writer," people would ask what kind of writing I did, and what I was working on. Questions about something that absorbed me, questions about things I cared about.

    Soon it became more important than conversation. It gave my writing top priority.

    New York City is full of people doing work that is different from who they are. My friends were a photographer (postal worker), an artist (stay-at-home dad), director (fundraiser), dancer (fundraiser) actor (word processors, proofreaders, temps), musician (personal assistant), and on and on. So it certainly wasn't unusual to be a proofreader and babysitter who was also a writer.

    But deciding to call myself a writer, to identify myself that way to myself and to others, was liberating - and so focusing. Writers write. So if I was writer, let's get writing.

    Around this time, I also resumed the pro-choice activism I had done a bit in college. Working at home, it was a great way to meet people, and a necessary antidote to the Reagan years. I quickly realized that freelancing gave me more time and energy to be myself.

    My work in theatre, which I thought was going to be My Career For Life, became merely a stepping stone. It kept me from law school. It got me out into the world. I met lots of interesting people, established my independence, and figured out what I wanted to do. Which was write.

    [There may be a sizeable delay until part two.]

    10.25.2009

    endless war vs health care: greenwald on u.s. priorities

    Glenn Greenwald outdoes himself in this column, no small feat.
    Something very unusual happened on The Washington Post Editorial Page today: they deigned to address a response from one of their readers, who "challenged [them] to explain what he sees as a contradiction in [their] editorial positions": namely, the Post demands that Obama's health care plan not be paid for with borrowed money, yet the very same Post Editors vocally support escalation in Afghanistan without specifying how it should be paid for. "Why is it okay to finance wars with debt, asks our reader, but not to pay for health care that way?"

    The Post editors give two answers. They first claim that Obama will save substantial money by reducing defense spending -- by which they mean that he is merely decreasing the rate at which defense spending increases ("from 2008 to 2019, defense spending would increase only 17 percent") -- as well as withdrawing from Iraq. But so what? Even if those things really happen, we're still paying for our glorious, endless war in Afghanistan by borrowing the money from China and Japan, all of which continues to explode our crippling national debt. We have absolutely no ability to pay for our Afghan adventure other than by expanding our ignominious status as the largest and most insatiable debtor nation which history has ever known. That debt gravely bothers Beltway elites like the Post editors when it comes to providing ordinary Americans with basic services (which Post editors already enjoy), but it's totally irrelevant to them when it comes to re-fueling the vicarious joys of endless war.

    . . .

    So according to The Washington Post, dropping bombs on, controlling and occupying Afghanistan -- all while simultaneously ensuring "effective governance, economic development, education, the elimination of corruption, the protection of women's rights" to Afghan citizens in Afghanistan -- is an absolutely vital necessity that must be done no matter the cost. But providing basic services (such as health care) to American citizens, in the U.S., is a secondary priority at best, something totally unnecessary that should wait for a few years or a couple decades until we can afford it and until our various wars are finished, if that ever happens. "U.S. interests in South Asia" are paramount; U.S. interests in the welfare of those in American cities, suburbs and rural areas are an afterthought.

    As demented as that sounds, isn't that exactly the priority scheme we've adopted as a country? We're a nation that couldn't even manage to get clean drinking water to our own citizens who were dying in the middle of New Orleans. We have tens of thousands of people dying every year because they lack basic health care coverage. The rich-poor gap continues to expand to third-world levels. And The Post claims that war and "nation-building" in Afghanistan are crucial while health care for Americans is not because "wars, unlike entitlement programs, eventually come to an end." Except, as Bacevich points out, that's false...

    Read it here, it's great.

    maybe next year

    I'm disappointed that I didn't win one of these.

    Seriously. I am.

    10.24.2009

    jason kenney finally speaks the truth: "i am a racist"

    From No One Is Illegal Montreal:
    Migrant justice activists and organizers, with their McGill allies, confronted and disrupted Jason Kenney -- Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism -- before and during a closed function with Conservative McGill.

    At least 50 protesters, in an action called by No One Is Illegal-Montreal, were able to surround Kenney in the Arts Building as he tried to enter the private event. For about one minute, Kenney was asked about the report in today’s Toronto Star that a Mexican woman, who twice tried to apply for refugee status to Canada, was found murdered in Mexico [story here]. Kenney brushed off the question and didn’t answer.

    Kenney was also asked explicitly about his party’s blocking of a refugee appeals division, and again he didn’t answer.

    When Kenney was told by a member of No One Is Illegal that his policies scapegoat migrants and pander to racists, Kenney replied (with a hint of sarcasm): “I plead guilty, I’m a racist.” At that point, Kenney’s handlers and security pushed through protesters to get Kenney inside the venue.

    For the next hour and more, protesters chanted and made noise to disrupt the event from outside. The protest was partially a teach-in as demonstrators gave speeches about Kenney’s track-record, highlighting in particular:

    - the murder in Mexico of Grise, a woman who twice tried to claim refugee status in Canada but was refused
    - the Conservatives continued refusal to implement a refugee appeals division;
    - the recent treatment of Sri Lankan migrants who are currently detained in British Columbia;
    - Kenney’s introduction of visas for Mexicans and Czechs while falsely misrepresenting their refugee claims as bogus;
    - Kenney’s role in US-style mass raids on migrant workers in Ontario this past April;
    - Kenney’s unapologetic defense of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon;
    - Kenney’s attack on free speech by preventing the entry of George Galloway into Canada;
    - Kenney’s involvement in cutting the funding of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF);
    - Kenney’s proposed changes to the status of migrant workers, which makes their situation more precarious;
    - the trend under Kenney and the Conservatives to push migrants into temporary worker categories;
    - Kenney's defense of Conservative policies justifying rendition to torture and security certificates;
    - the lifting of the moratorium on deportations to Burundi, Rwanda and Liberia, while making it harder for other migrants to make refugee claims;
    - Kenney’s record of comments that pander to racists, by inaccurately portraying migrants as abusive of the immigration and refugee system.
    - and more (!).

    Members of Solidarity Across Borders, active in support work with local migrants facing removal, also spoke to the day-to-day reality of deportation and detention in Montreal, citing examples of local individuals and families fighting for status, in defiance of removal orders.

    At one point, two members of Conservative McGill – Gregory Harris and Derek Beigleman -- began chanting “We love Kenney, we love Kenney.” Protesters stayed silent for at least a minute, and then asked the Conservatives about their view on the murder of Grise, as well as Conservative immigration and refugee policies that allowed the tragedy to happen. The two Conservatives laughed throughout the narration of Grise’s deportation and eventual death.

    "And more": Kenney prejudicing the refugee claim process for US war resisters by publicly referring to them as "bogus refugees," his refusal to stop the planned deportation of war resisters, his refusal to implement the two motions passed by a majority of Members of Parliament to stop the deportations and allow the war resisters to stay in Canada.

    But at least occasionally he can speak the truth.

    black-box voting vs closed minds

    Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing has an eye-opening post about a source-code leak at Sequoia, a company that makes electronic vote-rigging voting machines used in the US. His information comes from the Election Defense Alliance, whose goal is to "review and improve voting system technology and operations". They've set up a Wiki for easier examination: Sequoia Study.

    Apparently the code doesn't show a definitive smoking gun, but it might point to areas of questions and concerns. Isn't that what we could expect? In any complex and controversial investigation, evidence is generally found in bits and pieces which, taken together, present a picture from which logical inferences are drawn. If people are waiting for a signed confession - "I, Dick Cheney, planned, authorized and paid for the results of the 2004 election" - then they'll never be satisfied. Which may be their intention.

    What I found most interesting at the BoingBoing post were the comments. I'm amazed that intelligent people are still writing off US election fraud with that convenient, catch-all slur: conspiracy theory. As if conspiracies don't exist. As if we shouldn't concern ourselves with trivialities like fair elections. As if asking why private, for-profit companies should own proprietary code that counts votes with no independent oversight is to be a paranoid Luddite living in a Montana cabin or an internet geek living in mommy's basement. Or, as one commenter suggests, is it that a Democrat in the White House makes it all okay?

    A huge percentage of the comments take Doctorow to task for what they see as a sensational headline, not borne out by the story. Perhaps that's a fair criticism and the headline is an unnecessary bit of sensationalism. Or perhaps readers should understand that headlines are eye-catching devices, and articles say what they say. Or perhaps people shouldn't obsess on a headline, especially in light of Doctorow's impressive body of work, but it's easier to take pot-shots at a headline than to think about rigged US elections. Or the headline was convenient for diversionary tactics, and if the headline wasn't there, diversion-trolls would find something else to pick on.

    But commenters dismissing the possibility of US election fraud! That I find simply mind-boggling. They must realize that Doctorow, and indeed the EDA, is not implying that this one scrap of information is definitive evidence. Is it wilful ignorance? Knee-jerk denial? Simple disagree-with-everything trolling?

    These sample comments don't reflect the general tone of the comments on this piece; it was much more negative. I just found these interesting.
    Anonymous | October 21, 2009 1:45 AM

    Please tell me somebody's going to get the death penalty over this.

    pelrun | October 21, 2009 1:49 AM

    Careful about jumping to conclusions here - "influence the logical flow of the election" just means there appears to be code for the election machine in the SQL statements (against federal laws prohibiting interpreted code). As yet there isn't any evidence of vote rigging.

    Anonymous | October 21, 2009 2:22 AM

    WHY THE FUCK ARE WE ALLOWING CLOSED SOURCE MACHINES TO DETERMINE THE LEADER OF OUR COUNTRY?

    I'm sorry, but what. the. fuck.

    Every minutae of the process should be wide open to public scrutiny. It should be put into law that any machine that is directly used to determine our president should not have an ounce of closed source code in it.

    yish | October 21, 2009 2:28 AM

    Are you listening, Karzai? We told you you should go for mechanised voting. but no, you wanted hand counting. now look where that got you!

    siliconsunset | October 21, 2009 6:58 AM

    Story about Yahoo! hiring strippers... 58 posts.

    Story about the machines that effect the leaders of our government... 5 posts.

    And we wonder why these things are allowed to happen? No one really seems to care!

    Anonymous | October 21, 2009 7:50 AM

    "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." -Joseph Stalin

    Chrs | October 21, 2009 7:52 AM

    Looking forward to actual analysis of this code. I appreciate the heads up that it's out there.

    TheNewModern | October 21, 2009 8:10 AM

    Please remember Occam's Razor. "Election-rigging" is a far cry from the evidence here or elsewhere.

    Personally, with the birthers, truthers, and anti-vaxxers, I've grown extremely weary of conspiracy thinking. I don't want to see more of it at this wonderful website.

    Anonymous | October 21, 2009 12:35 PM

    If you look at the way elections are done, the voting machine's don't get the say, the electoral college does. For the conspiracy theorists out there, isn't that conspiracy enough, and for the sheep. Gov't's have been rigging elections since it became profitable, like when taxes were invented (you know way before everything else, and if you read douglas adams i believe they've been around since before the dawn of man ;) lol). [There's much more, but I won't subject you to it. I had trouble getting past "machine's".]

    Thebes | October 21, 2009 3:42 PM

    Love all the vote-theft apologists... Yes, go back to sleep, its all a "conspiracy theory" and at least "our man" in in the Whitehouse now so its cool.

    AirPillo | October 21, 2009 5:19 PM

    Please don't be so sensationalist and conclusive with headlines.

    News is a living, breathing thing. I can think of several times lately where further evidence in the case you are mentioning with a very bold headline has surfaced and made that headline factually false.

    I know you're too busy a person to carefully redact and edit every post that infers things that turn out to be wrong... so perhaps just be more careful with hyperbole?

    Genuinely outraging news is easy to water down when it comes from a source who has a problem with attaching emphatics and outrage and hyperbole to things which turn out to be quite benign. That's the sort of road that leads to tabloid-style writing.

    Anonymous | October 21, 2009 5:58 PM

    I would think the question mark in the headline would be enough for people to conclude that maybe Cory was not stating a fact, but I guess that's too subtle for all the budding journalists here. Cut him some slack or go away.

    A sensationalist headline with a question mark! Horrors! This can't possibly be true! After all, machines don't fix elections, people do.

    Thanks to James for the heads-up on the post.

    senator franken kicks more butt

    Here's Al Franken again, this time on medical bankruptcies. For Canadians who are unfamiliar with that term - since it doesn't exist here - this refers to people who exhaust all their credit and savings, and are forced to declare bankruptcy, in order to pay their medical bills.

    Franken is making a point we all know well, but he's just so much fun to watch. Plus I'm finishing a story and writing a paper, and of course working all weekend, so I need fallbacks like this.



    And a related note that's been sitting in my inbox for too long: in eight states, plus Washington DC, getting beaten by your partner is a pre-existing condition - a legal reason to deny insurance coverage. This jumped out at me from the HuffPo story: "During the last health care reform push, in 1993 and 1994, the industry similarly promised to end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions." Just ask the insurance companies nicely. I'm sure they'll reform themselves. That's generally the way things work, right?

    Thanks to James for sending both.

    And in case you missed the Senator kicking the butts of rapist-protectors: here.

    10.23.2009

    ignorance abroad

    To visitors from Little Green Footballs:

    Just because you personally don't know any Americans who have moved to Canada, doesn't mean it isn't being done. In 2006, 11,000 USians emigrated to Canada, and that number continues to increase.

    Please note that my partner and I applied to emigrate to Canada in 2003. We didn't care who won the fraudulent 2004 "election". We'd had enough. It takes about two years to go through the Canadian immigration process, thus we moved in 2005.

    Through this blog, I hear from dozens - by now, hundreds - of Americans asking advice on how to come to Canada. Sadly, I also hear from so many Americans who desperately want to come to Canada, but don't meet the requirements.

    Stay in the US if you like, but don't assume everyone else is. Many people think a country with high-quality health care and equal rights for all is a better place.

    supporters of rodney watson speak out

    Three letters to the Vancouver Sun in support of Rodney Watson, who is living in sanctuary in a Vancouver church.
    Rodney Watson, a U.S. citizen, came to Canada because he didn't want to be punished for choosing not to hurt anyone. He was sent to Iraq as a cook and ended up looking for explosives. He didn't want to find out what he'd be ordered to do next.

    Watson is a real refugee. Parliament has twice voted to affirm that war resisters are welcome in Canada. Canadians affirm in opinion polls that war resisters should be allowed to remain here. Our government needs to give Watson refugee status and stop harassing him.

    Ian Weniger, Vancouver

    *

    The churches are more and more taking the lead in harbouring war resisters before the Conservative government forcibly deports them, despite the express wishes of the majority of Canadians and the will of Parliament. Have churches found a way to stop the government? Don't hold your breath. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is busy looking for a way to get his way, and churches may be his next victims.

    Janet Hudgins, Vancouver

    *

    There will come a time when those who choose to refuse to fight in the immoral and misguided war in Iraq will be hailed as brave heroes.

    The fighting in Iraq does nothing for Americans' safety. Its beginning was political and bogus. Key people in the U.S. government had called for the invasion of Iraq in the early 1990s, maybe earlier. The 9/11 attacks gave these people their excuse, even though it was well known that the bombers were Saudi Arabians and Saddam Hussein hadn't been involved.

    I ask that my voice be counted with those of others who feel Watson should be allowed to stay in Canada. Historically, general Canadian support is there for providing sanctuary for war resisters. Remember Vietnam?

    Vennie Yancy, Fairfax, Calif.

    Your letters make a difference. The Conservatives are watching. Let them know how Canadians feel.

    war criminals at large in montreal



    From Canadian Press, in Metro.
    As George W. Bush cracked jokes with a business crowd inside a hotel ballroom Thursday, hundreds of people outside the building cheered while he was being burned in effigy.

    Police in riot gear and others on horseback held back a crowd of hundreds, including many people who tossed shoes at Montreal's historic Queen Elizabeth Hotel in a demonstration of disdain for the man speaking inside.

    Protesters who tried forcing their way through the line of shield-and baton-carrying police were wrestled to the ground and arrested.

    Montreal police said several officers were hit by flying objects, but none were injured. Five people were arrested for mischief and disturbing the peace.

    Ironically, this demonstration took place outside the same hotel where John Lennon's antiwar anthem "Give Peace a Chance" was recorded in 1969.

    Chants of "George Bush terrorist" echoed in the street as protesters lashed out at the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal for rolling out the red carpet for him.

    Some of the 300 protesters said he should have been arrested and charged with war crimes instead.

    Inside the hotel, nearly 1,000 spectators paid as much as $400 to hear Bush speak during the latest stop on his Canadian tour.

    He got a standing ovation when he first took the podium to address the eager audience.

    "I believe in free speech - except not today," he quipped, drawing laughs and a huge applause.

    Many in the highly supportive crowd guffawed at most of Bush's jokes. The first 10 minutes of his 37-minute speech could have been mistaken for a standup routine.

    In his first visit to Montreal, the former U.S. president warmed up his audience by referring to local hockey legends Maurice and Henri Richard.

    "I was an avid sports fan (growing up) and I actually knew who the Rocket and the Pocket Rocket were," Bush recalled of his childhood days in the "deserts of west Texas."

    Other cracks were more of the self-deprecating kind.

    "Look, I hope you can understand me - I can't understand you," Bush joked through his thick Texas accent.

    "As you might remember, during my presidency some of my critics made it clear that English was not my long suit." [More here.]

    the art of resistance

    Click here to see a painting of war resisters Kim Rivera, Josh Key, Robin Long and Rodney Watson. Beautiful work - thanks to Gerry Condon for sending the link.

    10.22.2009

    rodney watson in his own words

    This is war resister Rodney Watson, now living in sanctuary in a church in Vancouver.



    Some coverage about Watson and the church: Macleans, CBC, Vancouver Province, Vancouver Sun.

    How you can help:

  • Write a letter in support of Rodney to your local paper. The Council of Canadians has a great tool to find addresses. Your best shot at getting a letter published is to keep it under 200 words. But even if your letter doesn't run, it helps other letters get published.

  • Donate if you can; no amount is too small (or too large!). Whether or not you can donate, circulate the link to support our fundraising campaign for legal defence of war resisters facing deportation. Donate here.

  • Contact your MP. Ask her or him to support Bill C-440, which will give the weight of law to two motions already passed in the House of Commons.
  • 10.21.2009

    my absence and the start of movie season

    I hate not being able to blog every day. All day, I have that nagging feeling that I've forgotten to do something, a loose end that hasn't been properly tied.

    I have one week between papers for school, and I'm trying to use the time to write something for myself, and for the Campaign. I'll soon find out if this is a realistic goal or if I'm crazy.

    Allan is transcribing someone's IRB hearing, and I'm assisting with that, too. It's a bit crazy.

    But I insist on carving out a little down-time. It's the only way.

    So after a few annoying delays, Movie Season is finally underway here. We began with "Doubt". Everyone told me how great Meryl Streep was and how great PSH was, and of course that is true. But the real star of this movie is John Patrick Shanley, who wrote the play, wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. Streep and Hoffman are amazing, but their roles are so complex and so subtle; they had so much to work with. It's as fine a piece of writing as you'll ever see on screen.

    Doubt was running on Broadway as were leaving New York. Several theatre friends of mine urged me to see it, but I never did. Coincidentally, it originated at Manhattan Theatre Club, where I worked a few lifetimes ago.

    10.19.2009

    statement from war resisters support campaign on situation of rodney watson

    From the War Resisters Support Campaign:

    Subject: Statement regarding the situation of Iraq War resister Rodney Watson

    October 19, 2009

    VANCOUVER—The War Resisters Support Campaign is a network of volunteers working together to provide assistance to members of the U.S. military seeking refuge in Canada as a result of their opposition to the illegal war in Iraq. Groups exist in many centres across the country and include a wide diversity of age and origin including many former U.S. citizens welcomed to our country during the Vietnam era.

    The Campaign was initiated following the arrival of Jeremy Hinzman in 2004, the first of the new generation of conscientious resisters. Our work has focused primarily on assisting these young men and women in the legal aspect of their search for refuge in Canada, and in lobbying for a provision to be enacted that would ensure that U.S. Iraq War resisters are allowed to remain in Canada rather than face imprisonment or forced participation in an illegal war.

    The War Resisters Support Campaign works within the Canadian legal and political systems. We also work in consultation with, and respect for, each individual resister with regard to their wishes and choices. With respect to Rodney Watson's decision to request and accept sanctuary from the congregation of the First United Church we are appreciative of the church members' courageous moral stance.

    We are also in agreement that this choice, by both Rodney and the church, is consistent with Canadian traditions and values of peaceful resistance to unjust decisions by government. We reiterate that through two majority votes, Parliament has called on the Government of Canada to stop the deportation of these war resisters. This reflects the majority view in this country as expressed in public opinion polls. Yet the Government of Canada has chosen to ignore both Parliament's direction and the will of Canadians.

    It would be unconscionable to deport Rodney Watson, separating him from his Canadian fiancée and son, after Canadians and their political representatives have spoken so clearly. The punishment faced by resisters who have already been forced back to the U.S. by the Conservative minority government has been exceptionally harsh because they spoke out against the war – a war that Canada chose not to participate in. This is the fate that certainly awaits Rodney if he is forced back to the U.S. against his will.

    We call on all Canadians who agree with Rodney's decision not to participate in the Iraq War, to support the stand that he and the First United Church have taken. Write, email, phone or personally contact your Member of Parliament and urge them to call on the Government of Canada to respect the will of Parliament and end the threat of deportation against Rodney Watson.

    We urge Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to halt all efforts to deport Rodney Watson and all of the other resisters who are facing persecution if forced back into the United States.

    breaking news: rodney watson becomes first iraq war resister to enter sanctuary

    There was a media conference in Vancouver today, revealing the whereabouts of US war resister Rodney Watson. From the Ottawa Citizen.
    U.S. army deserter Rodney Watson has become the first fugitive from service in Iraq to enter church sanctuary in Canada.

    Monday morning, the 31-year-old told reporters he has been living in refuge at the First United Church in Vancouver since Sept. 18.

    "I don't believe it will be just for me to be deported," said Watson, flanked by church ministers and supporters. Watson lost his refugee claim on Sept. 11, and was expecting to be deported back to the U.S., where he faces jail for refusing to do a second tour of duty in Iraq.

    The main reason Watson wants to stay is to be with his 10-month-old son and fiancee, who live in Vancouver. Watson said his son is currently in foster care, but wouldn't say why. He said he plans to get married and settle in B.C.

    Ric Matthews, minister with the First United Church, said Watson has an apartment at the church, and is fed on-site. Watson cannot leave the grounds of the church.

    Matthews said the church agreed to let Watson take refuge because it doesn't support the Iraq War, or the way the U.S. military treated Watson — who signed up to be a military cook, but was ordered to find explosives.

    "We expect the authorities will continue to respect this place as a place of sanctuary," he said.

    Sarah Bjorknas of the War Resisters Support Campaign Vancouver said three out of the five military deserters who have been deported from Canada since 2008 have been jailed.

    A statement by Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies said she'll continue to ask the Tory government to honour two non-binding votes in Parliament to allow army deserters to seek asylum in Canada.

    "The government has chosen to ignore the will of the majority view of Canadians," said Bjorknas.

    This man can stay in Canada legally. Canadians can make this happen. Tell your MP to support Bill C-440!

    local menu at canyon creek

    Last week, Allan and I went out for dinner for his birthday, and he picked Canyon Creek as his restaurant of choice.

    We discovered this local chain last year when craving steak, but not wanting to drop a ton of money on a high-end steakhouse. The food is good - not amazingly great, but quite good - and the atmosphere is subdued. We've tried Outback a few times before we found this place, but your red-meat craving has to be pretty strong to counteract the cloying, theme-park atmosphere. Canyon Creek is going for classy, as opposed to hilarious.

    Good food, good service, a traditional steakhouse menu with some other more modern touches, and very affordable for this kind of food - definitely a nice treat for us while we're on a tight budget. And this time, something extra: a local menu.

    Canyon Creek is featuring an Ontario-grown-and-produced fall menu, highlighted separately from the standard menu, and emphasized by the server. You can see a pdf of the menu here. Local products include mushrooms, potatoes, cranberries, a variety of autumn vegetables, chicken, beef, fish, and of course, Ontario wine.

    I was so pleased to see this in a chain restaurant! It really shows how local eating has pierced the public consciousness, and this can go a long way to further that. I don't know if they also have a local, seasonal menu in the spring or summer, since in the warmer months, we're grilling our Ontario-raised beef on our patio.

    Canyon Creek definitely fills a niche in the mid-price chain-restaurant market. While we were there, there were four or five tables full of an after-work, men-only crowd, with their ties loosened and their Blackberries on the table, several female-friend pairs, and a few tables of families with well-behaved children. It's not loud or bright or kitschy, the food is good, and it's a very good value. I recommend it for GTA omnivores.

    10.18.2009

    ontario public library week



    It's Ontario Public Library Week. The Mississauga Library System E-news tells me:
    This annual fall event focuses on promoting public libraries in Ontario. A strong library system is the foundation of a strong community. With more than 1,100 service points throughout the province, public library members make 66 million visits to local libraries across Ontario each year. And now virtually every library branch provides access to electronic information through the Internet.

    You know, I'm really excited about being a librarian one day. How that's going to work with being a writer, I don't know. That's a topic for another day, a post I'm trying to write, on which I probably won't be able to concentrate until winter break. My list of Things To Do Over Winter Break is becoming unrealistically long, considering I'll also be in dire need of down-time. [I repeat: a topic for another day.]

    James sent me this, via BoingBoing.



    It's from a PATRIOT Act protest t-shirt. The Latin translates as:
    We know what you read, and we're not saying.

    That's something I'm excited about, too: being part of a profession that actively stands up for privacy and intellectual freedom. In the US, librarians are on the forefront of resistance to government surveillance of citizens' research and reading materials; the ALA has been fighting the so-called PATRIOT Act since its inception. [In case you thought the PATRIOT Act was history: think again.] The piece most near and dear to librarians' heart is Section 215, but the whole thing needs to be - and probably won't be - drastically overhauled scrapped.

    Erica Olsen of Library Avengers explains "why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian":
    Ok, sure. We've all got our little preconceived notions about what librarians are and what they do. Many people think of them as diminutive civil servants, scuttling about "Sssh-ing" people and stamping things. Well, think again buster.

    Librarians have degrees. They go to graduate school for Information Science and become masters of data systems and human/computer interaction. Librarians can catalogue anything from an onion to a dog's ear. They could catalogue you. Librarians wield unfathomable power. With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines. They can find data for your term paper that you never knew existed. They may even point you toward new and appropriate subject headings.

    People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the
    masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise.

    watch senator franken cut through bullshit and stand up for justice

    This is a beautiful thing. Thank you, Jamie Leigh Jones. Thank you, Al Franken.

    Please watch.



    The Jamie Leigh Foundation

    10.17.2009

    let them stay reason # 5: because iraq is an environmental disaster

    The sixth of a ten-part series: top ten reasons why US Iraq War Resisters should be allowed to stay in Canada.

    Reason # 5: from Rex Wyler, ecologist, author and Vietnam War resister.





    Reason # 6 from Naomi Klein, award-winning author, filmmaker, activist, Canadian. Daughter of war resister.

    Reason # 7 from Olivia Chow, Member of Parliament.

    Reason # 8 from Bill King, musician, producer, Vietnam war deserter.

    Reason # 9 from Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians.

    Reason # 10 from Alex Neve of Amnesty International.

    Here's 85,000 more reasons. The Iraqi government has released its first official death toll report. It says 85,000 Iraqis were killed from 2004 to 2008.

    Other ongoing sources for civilian death tolls: Iraq Body Count, invasion of Iraq casualties on Wikipedia.

    supporters of u.s. war resisters confront harper in toronto public library

    Stephen Harper, there is no escape. Even at an invitation-only function - on taxpayer-supported, public property - we are there to remind you.




    Tell your MP: Support Bill C-440!

    10.16.2009

    "a bill that will let iraq war resisters live here is long overdue"

    From the Hamilton Spectator.
    Canada as haven for war resisters; We should not be U.S. 'enforcement agent' for those who won't fight in Iraq

    by Ed Corrigan

    Members of Parliament Gerard Kennedy and Bill Siksay introduced a private member's bill last month in support of Iraq War resisters. Bill C-440 would make binding on our government very specific directions -- to immediately stop the deportation of Iraq War resisters and to allow them to apply for permanent resident status from within Canada.

    Since then, conservative pundits have likened veterans of the Iraq War who have refused to participate in atrocities on Iraqi civilians, and conscientious objectors who cannot morally let themselves kill another human being, to anti-abortion extremists who shoot doctors. Some have even suggested the bill should be contorted to include sanctuary for the criminally indicted U.S. financiers that caused the current recession.

    For any rational Canadian, these comparisons are ludicrous at best. Along with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's spokesperson's hyperbole about "rapists and murderers," they are part of a campaign by the Harper minority to distract from, distort and deny the reality that Bill C-440 responds to a demand by the majority of Canadians in every part of the country, reflected in a similar motion that has already been debated and passed twice in Parliament.

    Nonetheless, these criticisms have been levelled and they deserve a response.

    The term "conscientious objector" doesn't refer to anyone who objects to anything for any random reason; conscientious objector specifically and only means a member or former member of the military holding certain sincerely held beliefs.

    The bill only covers soldiers who refused to participate in wars not sanctioned by the United Nations. Iraq is such a war.

    There are good reasons why the majority of Canadians, including Conservative voters, supports these U.S. soldiers who are opposing the Iraq War.

    Please read the essay here, and send supportive letters to letters@thespec.com.

    louisiana judge refuses to marry interracial couples

    Good to know racism is dead in the Obama era! This is worth reading just for the laughs. I've bolded some particularly funny bits. From AP via HuffPo:
    A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

    "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

    Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

    Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

    "There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

    If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said. "I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

    . . .

    "It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009," said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann. She said the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 "that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry."

    That last bit is particularly amusing. Or not.

    happy birthday redsock

    Happy Birthday to my best friend! He's no longer Pedro age, now he's Lyndon age.

    10.15.2009

    in which i turn a corner

    I've just completed week five of my first term of graduate school, and I feel as if I've turned a corner. I no longer feel like I'm living someone else's life.

    * * * *

    My debate went really well, much better than I could have anticipated. That had as much to do with my opponents as anything else. They both read from prepared statements, barely looking up or addressing the room. In their concluding remarks, instead of responding to points raised during the class discussion, they read another prepared statement. They were full of citations and academic jargon, but short on real-life application, and wholly without engagement or passion.

    But even without that contrast, I felt good. I had a good command of my material, I moved smoothly from point to point, I was able to amend my statement to address new points raised in the discussion.

    In the pre-debate poll, the class was split: 15 agreed with the statement "copyright is obsolete", 11 opposed, and five were on the fence. After the debate, 11 people agreed, one person was on the fence and 19 opposed. So I had a modest win in those terms, too.

    This "win" was a bit more impressive. There are two open-source activists in the class, who came fully prepared to argue against copyright. What my debate opponents lacked in practical application and passion, these two young women supplied. It was really four against one.

    I am thrilled to get this over with! And I actually now see the value in the debate format. It does stimulate valuable discussion that the other class lacks. It connects the theoretical concepts to their practical application in our lives. I still dislike the format, but now I can just relax and participate for the rest of the term. Whew!

    * * * *

    I also got my first paper back: a B. It's only the first paper of my first term, so it's possible my grades will improve as I go along. However, I've decided that if they don't, if I go through grad school as a B student, that will be fine.

    I'm unwilling to - absolutely, firmly, will not - put any more time into classes than I'm doing right now. So if that means getting Bs, Bs it will be. As or Bs, I'll graduate, I'll get my Masters degree, and I'll start a new career.

    I was mostly an A student in university, and that was before the days of grade inflation. I worked hard for those As - the first time I had ever worked at school in my life - and I enjoyed it. But that was long ago, a different person with different goals, needs, priorities. If the same amount of reading and writing now yields As, that will be fine. If it yields Bs, I'm fine with it.

    * * * *

    And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I feel comfortable with my classmates now. I feel a part of things - as much as I want to, anyway. This reminds me that some of my feelings of outsider-ness are my own doing. I have a tendency to move through worlds without being fully part of them. But I'm friendly with a few classmates, I feel comfortable chatting a bit before and after class, and the whole experience is becoming integrated for me.

    Next week I'm going to try to attend a Campaign meeting, and see if I can add that back in. I really miss it, but I'm not sure my energy level will permit it.

    In the coming weeks, I may be even more absent from wmtc than I have been. I have another paper to write, and when that's done, I want to write an essay, for here and elsewhere. I have a little break between papers and I'd like to see if I can still write.

    10.14.2009

    "he only raped one little girl"

    Calvin Trillin: "What Whoopi Goldberg ('Not a Rape-Rape'), Harvey Weinstein ('So-Called Crime') et al. Are Saying in Their Outrage Over the Arrest of Roman Polanski".

    Many thanks to JohnGoldfine for sending.

    interview with war resister skyler james

    AutoStraddle - "News, Entertainment and Girl-on-Girl Culture" - has an excellent interview with war resister Skyler James.
    Skyler James grew up believing that joining the military "was the best thing you could do to make your parents and your country proud." Now 21, James was denied the DADT discharge she expected and wants you to know the true story of her appeal to Canada for asylum.

    When Private Bethany Smith, now known as Skyler James, 21, was outed as a lesbian by her comrades, she expected her "Don't Ask Don't Tell" discharge to follow shortly afterwards. It didn't. Instead, James, who was 19 at the time, was told they'd "deal with the paperwork" following her next turn in Afghanistan. In the ensuing time, James endured so much harassment and persecution in the US Army that she went AWOL and fled for Canada, where she wants to stay and is seeking refugee status.

    Read the interview here.

    10.12.2009

    movie season, way too soon

    I didn't think movie season would begin before the ALCS! This morning I'm still cursing and sulking about the Red Sox. Seriously, you have no idea how difficult it is to write this post as anything but an incoherent string of profanities.

    Moving on...

    Last night I reactivated my Zip account. Zip still is but a pale imitation of Netflix, but it's also still the best of my options. And this is my annual post where you tell me what movies you loved over the last six months or so.

    Baseball season started just as Waltz With Bashir and Slumdog Millionaire came out, so those are first and second on my Ziplist right now.

    I'm behind one Futurama movie, and I have to check if any of our favourite filmmakers came out with anything new: Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach, John Sayles, Walter Salles, Woody Allen... others.

    Food Inc is due out on DVD soon. Other titles I saved from last year: Sugar, Tulpan, One Week, Adventureland, Stone of Destiny, Anvil. Allan's been adding to the list all winter, so most of it will be a surprise.

    For what I like, or perhaps to compare your list to mine, here are the "we movie to canada awards": the movies I liked best for 2008, and the two previous years.

    10.11.2009

    i hate baseball

    Dear Everyone I Told I Would Be Busy Watching Baseball In October:

    I will now have plenty of time.

    The Red Sox were down two games in a five-game series to start the day. We knew - we absolutely knew - they would come back to win. They have done it so many times before, against better teams than this.

    The Sox took an early lead, added to it, and held it with ease. Posting in our gamethread, I was all set to type (referring to Game 4), "IF NECESSARY??? IT'S NECESSARY, BABY!!!"

    Then, in a repeat performance of the JoS1 game in July, Jonathan Papelbon, our once-reliable closer, allowed two runners to score in the eighth. Our lead was down to one run, but we would have still won the game.

    Then in the ninth, needing only one more strike for the Red Sox to win, Paps allowed three more runs.

    The Angels move on to the ALCS.

    And I start movie season.

    Go Dodgers.

    shministim letter 2009-10

    I've blogged before about the shministim, Israeli youth who are refusing to participate in the Palestinian occupation. What I didn't know is that the word shministim is Hebrew for twelth graders - high school seniors - the age at which Israelis are required to serve in the military. In a sense, the name shministim equates war resistance with coming of age.

    This year's crop of shministim has a new public letter. You can sign to show your support. An excerpt:
    Out of sense of responsibility and concern for the two nations that live in this country, we cannot stand idle. We were born into a reality of occupation, and many of our generation see this as a "natural" state. In Israeli society it is a matter of fact that at 18, every young man and woman partakes in military service. However, we cannot ignore the truth - the occupation is an extreme situation, violent, racist, inhuman, illegal, non democratic, and immoral, that is life threatening for both nations. We that have been brought up on values of liberty, justice, righteousness and peace cannot accept it.

    Our objection to becoming soldiers of the occupation stems from our loyalty to our values and to the society surrounding us, and it is part of our ongoing struggle for peace and equality, a struggle whose Jewish-Arab nature proves that peace and co-existence is possible. This is our way, and we are willing to pay the price.

    Sign here.

    Also: Why We Refuse.

    10.10.2009

    the red menace

    I hope by now you've all seen the sarcastic piece from SF Gate making the obvious point that public libraries are hotbeds of radical socialism.
    For far too long, this menace has undermined the very foundations of our economy. While companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble struggle valiantly each day to sell books, these communistic cabals known as libraries undercut the hard work of good corporate citizens by letting people read their books for free. How is the private sector supposed to compete with free? And just what does this public option give us? People can spend hours and hours in these dens of socialism without having to buy so much as a cappuccino. Furthermore, not only can anyone read books for free in the library, they can take them home, too. They get a simple card that can be used at any library in town. No checking on the previous condition of books they've read. No literacy test. Nothing. Yet, do these libertines of literature let you choose any book you want, anytime you want it? No. Have you ever tried to get the latest best-seller at a public library? They put you on a waiting list for that, my friend. And if you do ask these government apparatchiks a question about a book, they start talking your ear off, and pretty soon they're telling you what to read.

    But have you thought about that other red menace, the US Congress? "Socialized Medicine is Good Enough for Congress," from Matthew Yglesias:
    What's noteworthy here isn't just the existence of the perk, it's the specific form. Congress could have voted itself higher salaries. Or better travel benefits. Or larger appropriations so the congressional cafeterias can serve better food. But or just more generous health insurance. But what they wanted here was socialized medicine — health care that's not only financed by the state but directly provided by government employees. This kind of state-provided health care is basically universal in the UK, it accounts for an important chunk of the health care in Sweden, and it's what we give to our veterans in the United States. But most members of congress claim regard it as a horrifying prospect. And yet in practice they appear to like it just fine.

    Thanks to Joe Grav.

    you call this legal? new oklahoma forced-pregnancy law

    It's not the first time this has come up, and it won't stand up in court, but this time it actually got passed into law. See JJ on Oklahoma's attempt to intimidate women into self-induced abortions.

    I'm reminded of Margaret Wente's characterization of "Except for a few backwaters in the United States...". That's some swamp you got there.

    fear less. live more.

    Marge Simpson on the cover of Playboy is getting a lot of attention, but here's something even hotter.

    Sarah Reinertsen, an amputee athlete, is one of six athletes featured - nude - on different covers of ESPN Magazine's "Body Issue". See Sarah's cover here.

    I wrote about Sarah a long time ago for Sports Illustrated for Kids, and blogged about her disability pride. Many people know her from "The Amazing Race," which I've never seen.

    Here's her website. "Fear Less. Live More." I like it.

    why are my tax dollars being used to prop up canwest?

    The CBC and the National Post newspaper have announced a deal to share sports and financial coverage across their media platforms.

    Effective immediately, CBC.ca will feature financial stories and podcasts from the Financial Post while nationalpost.com will include daily stories from CBC Sports.

    The print version of the paper will also periodically include CBC Sports material, the two organizations said in a joint statement issued Thursday afternoon.

    Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of CBC English Services, described the deal as "an attractive arrangement for both organizations.

    "As Canada's national public broadcaster, we have an unsurpassed reputation in the field of sports reporting, which will be available to more Canadians through the Post's readership. CBC.ca's financial news content will be enhanced by one of Canada's most trusted and respected sources of business news," he said in a statement.

    Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    "This partnership builds on key strengths of two great news organizations," said National Post president and CEO Paul Godfrey. "Together, we will provide Canadians the best in business and sports news."

    "An attractive arrangement for both organizations"? As a CBC "shareholder" - i.e., taxpayer - I disagree! Why are my tax dollars being used to prop up this right-wing media rag? And why wasn't the public consulted?

    Here's another laugher: ""This partnership builds on key strengths of two great news organizations". CBC can't be two great news organizations, can it? Who's the other one?

    the price of the olympics? free speech

    I used to love the Olympics. Now I see the Games for the corrupt, nationalistic, sycophantic, hypocritical, corporate boondoggle that they have become. I love celebrating human achievement and athleticism, but this is not how to do it.

    Note how in this story, those of us who value freedom of expression and the right to dissent are referred to as "civil libertarians".
    A proposed B.C. law would allow municipal officials to enter homes to seize unauthorized and possibly anti-Olympic signs on short notice, civil libertarians say.

    Violators could be fined up to $10,000 a day and jailed up to six months, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said Friday.

    The proposed law was introduced Thursday as a bill to amend the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act.

    The government said in a statement that the changes will "provide the municipalities of Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler with temporary enforcement powers to enable them to swiftly remove illegal signs and graffiti during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games."

    "The legislation does not change the existing scope of authority to regulate signs and graffiti. Rather, it provides, on a temporary basis, a faster way of removing signs and graffiti that violate municipal bylaws during the short period the Games are underway."

    Bill Bennett, the minister of community and rural development, said that given the short duration of the Olympics, the cities of Richmond, Whistler, and Vancouver must be able to enforce their own bylaws quickly.

    "That to me seems like a reasonable thing to do when you've got the Olympic games lasting 20-odd days," Bennett said.

    "You've got the potential for some businesses to try and exploit the games logo without having paid for the rights to do that. I think its a reasonable thing for communities to want to remove those kinds of signs, and to remove them before then end of the Olympic Games."

    Civil rights group concerned

    But that explanation didn't sit well with civil liberties advocates, who said that if the law passes, municipalities would need to enact their own bylaws to take advantage of their new powers, and that the new powers go further than the government suggests, particularly in Vancouver.

    The city passed the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bylaw in June to restrict the distribution and exhibition of unapproved advertising material and signs in any Olympic area during the Games.

    City officials have said the law is intended to clamp down on so-called ambush marketing, and it includes an exception for celebratory signs, which are defined as those that celebrate the 2010 Winter Games and create or add to the festive atmosphere.


    . . .
    Court challenge launched

    Earlier this week, the association helped two anti-Olympics activists launch a legal challenge of Vancouver's 2010 Olympics bylaw in B.C. Supreme Court, claiming it was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

    Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says he's still studying the issue.

    "Certainly, groups such as civil liberties have the right to challenge the laws, the bylaws that are made, so we'll respect that process and hopefully it makes those laws stronger and more reasonable," Robertson said.

    The association is suspicious of the timing of the provincial bill's introduction so close to the Olympic games, which have been planned for years.

    "We've seen them timing things so that they don't put in place laws that are special to the Olympics until the last minute," Holmes said. "And part of that leads to the suspicion that they've done it in a calculated and deliberate way, to remove the ability of the courts, and people who might want to take it to court, to have their rights protected."

    Anti-Olympic activists involved in the legal challenge have also said they and their family and friends are being subject to unreasonable harassment and surveillance by the Olympic security unit.

    10.09.2009

    stunned and appalled, but there is precedent (updated)

    I've rarely been more surprised than I was to learn that US President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    The award would be more fitting if Obama actually took a few major steps towards ending either of the current US wars of aggression. Or one major step. Or one step.

    Then again, Henry Kissinger was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, the award that caused Tom Lehrer to famously say, "It was at that moment that satire died. There was nothing more to say after that."

    I don't know if a famous quote will emerge from this year's award, but it again tarnishes the Nobel Peace Prize.

    One might hope Obama would feel an obligation to live up the potential of the Prize. But it's perhaps better to hope for Santa Claus.

    Update. Please see comments for important links, plus the presidential precedent.

    ankle update and info

    I'm posting this because it may be useful to anyone searching for information related to ankle injuries.

    A while back, a kind reader (a former librarian) sent me a story on exercises to improve balance and strengthen the ankle. Another reader kindly offered to lend me an ankle brace that she wore after surgery. I posted about it here.

    Yesterday I had a physio appointment for my ongoing repetitive-stress injury (neck, shoulder, upper back, chest muscles, collar bone), and I thought I'd ask her about my ankle. She suggested I continue doing my shoulder and neck exercises on my own, and we spend the session on the ankle.

    The most important thing I learned is that those balance exercises aren't intended for a recently injured ankle. If the ankle is still painful and swollen, you don't do any weight-bearing exercises. I'm not suggesting the helpful reader said otherwise, but I was all gung-ho to begin.

    The physiotherapist gave me some very subtle but difficult exercises to strengthen the muscles, things like crunching a towel with your toes, and pretending to write the alphabet with your big toe.

    She also nixed the idea of a brace, as she doesn't want to immobilize the joint. The elastic-support sock that I'm already wearing is the way to go.

    This therapist is amazing. Doing manual manipulation, she uses such subtle motions, I hardly feel a thing, but the results are dramatic. I wish I could afford to go more often.