wishes for 2011: political and personal

When we state our wishes and dreams - out loud, in public - we open ourselves to ridicule and snark. So many people claim to know the future with great certainty - which is, of course, impossible.

Wishes and dreams are too important to scoff at. All positive change begins in our imaginations. If we can't imagine something, we can't create it. Our dreams may not become reality, but I'd rather work towards a dream than ridicule dreamers.

In 2011, I'd like to see...

1. The end of the Harper Government.

2. A provision enacted by Parliament allowing Iraq War resisters to stay in Canada - and for those now in the US to be allowed to move or return here if they wish.

3. The beginning of the re-building of a liberal Liberal Party and a truly progressive New Democrat Party.

4. A full withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. (Remember, I said "dream".)

5. Bradley Manning released from prison.

6. A widespread understanding of the difference between support for a free Palestine and anti-Semitism.

Personally, I'd like to get...

1. A better day-job, allowing me to:
1a. pay off debt, and
1b. have a little money to travel.

2. A part-time library job.

3. A new sister for Tala. (That one's easy!)

Here's hoping 2011 is good to almost everyone. I hope Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay, Lawrence Cannon, Vic Toews, Bev Oda, John Baird and the rest of them have a very bad year.

Happy New Year!

wmtc redesign is complete: goodbye L-girl

For anyone interested, the wmtc redesign is complete. All the tabs (static pages) along the top are now written.

Tonight at midnight, "L-girl" will be retired and "laura k" will take her place.

I've used the name L-girl since I first got online in the late 1990s, as part of a bisexual women's community. I feel a bit sad saying goodbye to that name. But it's time.


in which a woman draws a cartoon about sexism

In which we betray our gender, by gabby of Gabby's Playhouse.

Let me state unequivocally that I am proud to know many feminist (i.e. non-sexist) men. Indeed, any male I call my friend qualifies, by definition.

Gabby's observations are no less accurate because of this. A quick perusal of the comment thread will confirm.

Many thanks to James for sending this - long ago!


what i'm reading: history online

Disunion is a blog about the US civil war, the bloodiest, deadliest (to Americans) war in US history. The New York Times began running Disunion, as far as I can tell, on October 31, 2010, with this preamble.
The story of the Civil War will be told in this series as a weekly roundup and analysis, by Jamie Malanowski, of events making news during the corresponding week 150 years ago. Written as if in real time, this dispatch will, after this week, appear every Monday. Additional essays and observations by other contributors, along with maps, images, diaries and so forth, will be published several times a week.

A US history teacher writes about Disunion:
Imagine modern web coverage of the U.S. in the early 1860s, day-by-day! I often find that our history textbooks, even the really good ones like Brinkley and Foner, fail to provide students with a sense of the immediacy and uncertainty of the historical present, often because that is exactly what makes for quality history...the distance and perspective to see things more clearly (or at least more fully). Nevertheless, imagining the historical present is a valuable skill for teachers to develop in students. . . . It's a really great resource for students to see into the fog of war and the unpredictability of the future.

I'd very much like to read this, but I'm a bit intimidated. I would have to go back to the beginning - I can't do it any other way. I discovered the blog in early December, but still haven't read more than a few words. It feels like I've already missed too much to start now.

I'm still reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys online. Samuel Pepys was a 17th Century protoblogger: he kept a private journal chronicling both his personal life and the political and social goings-on if his era. It's one of a very few firsthand accounts of British or European history of its time, and the only one so richly detailed and wonderfully readable. The Diary contains eyewitness accounts of major events in British history, such as the Great Fire of London, the plague and a war with the Dutch. Equally important, it's a window - a sharply focused, vivid window - into the standards, values and mores of another world.

In 2003, a web designer and all-around creative guy named Phil Gyford started uploading a diary entry each day, beginning on January 1, 343 years to the day after Pepys (pronounced "peeps") began writing his diary. Hundreds of people read the The Diary each day, and a small, loyal group of readers annotate the entries for further edification.

I've been reading The Diary since the beginning. Although I'm no longer part of the commenting group, I know many of the annotators online and know them all through their copious and fascinating entries. Many in the Pepys crew are beginning to spy sadness on the horizon: Pepys stopped writing his Diary in 1669, which translates to 2012 for us.

[For more on Samuel Pepys Diary: I first blogged about it here (and have mentioned it several times since); here is Pepys' Wikipedia entry; and here's the "about" from the Pepys Diary blog.]

So I'd like to read Disunion - to get caught up, then read it daily or weekly, the way I read Pepys - but do I really need one more thing to do?

But can I resist?


we like lists: list # 6: five strengths

Our last list - alternate realities - didn't get a huge response. Perhaps the topic didn't resonate with many readers, or maybe the timing was off. Or it could have been a fluke, who knows. That thread is still open if anyone wants to chime in.

"Alternate realities" was our dreams of people we might wish to be. Today's list is the flipside: positive aspects of the people we already are.

I'd like you to list five things that you do well. Not the top five things you do best; just five things that you do well, things you are good at, qualities about yourself that you like. Five strengths.

And these are the rules: no apologies, no disclaimers, no qualifiers. No acknowledging that other people might do these things better. No telling us that others may disagree with your list or that our mileage may vary. Only this: five positive statements about yourself, affirming five personal strengths.

Here's mine.

1. I write good letters.

2. I'm a good organizer.

3. I am fully at ease with all kinds of people - a diversity of age, background, ethnicity, ability, and so on.

4. I deeply appreciate human creativity - music, writing, handwork, performance, visual arts, etc.

5. I love having new experiences.

Now you try. Mind the rules!


dear mr mackay and mr cherry: war is not a game. it does not save lives.

Further to my open letter to the CBC News of yesterday, it only gets worse.

The Ottawa Citzen reports that it was a laff riot in Kandahar on Christmas, as Don Cherry and Minister of Defence Peter MacKay yucked it up, war-school style. Cherry was allowed to launch a live artillery shell, shouting, "Taliban, here I come," as MacKay quipped, "Don, this is a different type of 'He shoots, he scores'."

MacKay also treated the troops to this Orwellian nugget.
The greatest gift you can give is the gift of life, which is what you are doing here -- you're saving lives. . . . Make no mistake, things are improving because of the heavy load you bear.

It should be illegal to deceive people in this way. Some truth-in-advertising laws must apply.

And "Taliban, here I come?" I expect that kind of slap-happy war talk from my country of origin. Which says a lot about Don Cherry and the war-loving government he supports.

Thanks to Sister Sage's Musings for the link to my earlier post and for this fresh insanity.

must-watch video: johann hari on why protest matters

Students at the University College London are - right now - engaged in a sit-in to protest the massive tuition increases announced by the UK government. Tuition will double and, in some cases, triple, as part of the government's overall program to force working people to pay for debts they had no hand in causing.

Journalist Johann Hari stopped by to address the protesting students. Here's what he had to say about the unforeseen effects of protest.

I would only disagree with one point: in my view, public protest against the war in Vietnam was not a failure. It ended the war. Likewise, protest is the only thing that will stop these wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many thanks to longtime wmtc reader deang for sending the video!


shame on you, cbc news

Dear CBC News:

In a story about Don Cherry's Christmas visit to Canadian troops in Afghanistan, I am disgusted by your description of Mr. Cherry as "one of their fiercest backers".

In what way does Mr. Cherry "back" the troops in Afghanistan? By ridiculing people who want peace? By unquestioningly supporting war?

By describing Mr. Cherry as one of the strongest supporter of the troops, you equate supporting war with supporting soldiers, thus implying that people who oppose war do not support the troops.

Those of us who want Canada and the US to withdraw from Afghanistan support soldiers in a way we believe is far more meaningful. We want as few of them injured and killed as possible. We want them safe. We want them home.

Your description of Mr. Cherry befits his publicist more than a news source. Shame on you!


Laura Kaminker

how do i hate christmas, let me count the ways

It appears that the tone of this post may be more angry and emotional than I intended. I wish everyone who celebrates Christmas a joyous day. I'm not ranting or raving, merely expressing my thoughts on this holiday's unique place in our world.

* * * *

I hate seeing consumer capitalism on overdrive.

I hate that a Christian holiday is a national holiday in nation where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, atheists, Shintos and pagans - and whoever else - are supposed to be equally welcome.

I hate being told that Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday, that it's now a secular holiday. I don't know if that's wishful thinking or amnesia or maybe guilt, but as far as I'm concerned, it's bullshit.

I hate the assumption I need to substitute some other holiday or tradition for this holiday that I don't celebrate. I know people mean well, but asking me what I celebrate instead of Christmas makes as much sense as asking my Christian neighbours what they do instead of Rosh Ha'shana.

I hate being asked "Did you have a nice Christmas?". And when I answer, "I don't celebrate Christmas, but I had a nice winter break, thanks," I hate being told, "I don't mean the holiday, I just meant the whole winter holiday season." If you meant how was my winter break, why didn't you say so?

I hate hearing about other people's Christmas shopping.

I hate being asked if I've finished my Christmas shopping.

I hate hearing Christmas muzak.

I hate people remembering food banks and other charities once a year.

During the last US presidential election, many of my Canadian friends were sick of hearing about the campaign for so long, disgusted by the volume and the omnipresence. That's how I feel about Christmas. It wouldn't be so bad if you could just tone it down. Just go have your holiday. Stop expecting everyone else to care.

I know there's no war on Christmas, only the rantings of aggrieved entitlement, people so accustomed to wielding all the power and holding all the cards that the slightest murmur of the minority viewpoint causes them to claim endangered species status. If there were a war on Christmas, I'd think about signing up.

To everyone who is celebrating today, have a happy day. Could you be a little quieter next year?


bradley manning speaks about his incarceration, and how you can help

Please read these two important pieces by David House, who regularly visits Bradley Manning, and by Glenn Greenwald. But more importantly, please see below for information about the public campaign to alleviate the inhumane treatment of Manning. Please don't assume the Pentagon is immune to public pressure; many examples prove otherwise. Manning needs our support. Sending a letter is the least we can do.

David House on Firedoglake:
In my visit to see Bradley at the Quantico brig, it became clear that the Pentagon’s public spin from last week sharply contradicts the reality of Bradley Manning’s detainment. In his five months of detention, it has become obvious to me that Manning’s physical and mental well-being are deteriorating. What Manning needs, and what his attorney has already urged, is to have the unnecessary “Prevention of Injury” order lifted that severely restricts his ability to exercise, communicate, and sleep.

My Visits to Manning in Quantico

I am one of the few people allowed to visit Bradley Manning while he is detained in the Quantico brig.

Manning is held in “maximum custody,” the military’s most severe detention policy. Manning is also confined under a longstanding Prevention of Injury (POI) order which limits his social contact, news consumption, ability to exercise, and that places restrictions on his ability to sleep.

Manning has been living under the solitary restrictions of POI for five months despite being cleared by a military psychologist earlier this year, and despite repeated calls from his attorney David Coombs to lift the severely restrictive and isolating order. POI orders are short-term restrictions that are typically implemented when a detainee changes confinement facilities and these orders are lifted after the detainee passes psychological evaluation.

Our conversations, which take place in the presence of marines and electronic monitoring equipment, typically revolve around topics in physics, computer science, and philosophy; he recently mentioned that he hopes to one day make use of the GI Bill towards earning a graduate degree in Physics and a bachelors in Political Science. He rarely if ever talks about his conditions in the brig, and it is not unusual for him to shy away from questions about his well-being by changing the subject entirely.

When I arrived at the brig on December 18th I found him to be much more open to lines of inquiry regarding his circumstances, and in a two and a half hour conversation I learned new details about his life in confinement. [Read it here.]

Glenn Greenwald:
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning's detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a "Maximum Custody Detainee," the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

From Courage to Resist:
The Marine Brig at Quantico, Virginia is using “injury prevention” as a vehicle to inflict extreme pre-trial punishment on accused Wikileaks whistleblower Army PFC Bradley Manning. These “maximum conditions” are not unheard-of during an inmate’s first week at a military confinement facility, but when applied continuously for months and with no end in sight they amount to a form of torture. Bradley, who just turned 23-years-old last week, has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest in late May. We’re now turning to Bradley’s supporters worldwide to directly protest, and help bring a halt to, the extremely punitive conditions of Bradley’s pre-trial detention.

End the inhumane, degrading conditions of pre-trial confinement and respect Bradley’s human rights. Specifically, lift the “Prevention of Injury (POI) watch order”. This would allow Bradley meaningful physical exercise, uninterrupted sleep during the night, and a release from isolation. We are not asking for “special treatment”. In fact, we are demanding an immediate end to the special treatment.

Quantico Base Commander
Colonel Daniel Choike
3250 Catlin Ave
Quantico, VA 22134
phone: 703.784.2707

Quantico Brig Commanding Officer
CWO4 James Averhart
3247 Elrod Ave
Quantico, VA 22134
fax: 703.784.4242


we like lists: list # 5: alternate realities

Our last list recounted fantasies that money can buy. Today we'll list the ones money can't buy. (I promise the next list will be less wistful and more affirming, but let's do this one first.)

Name five things you wish you could do but can't or won't. Not something you can't afford - that's the lotto list - but something outside your capabilities or your life path - activities or lifestyles out of your reach, but that you would love to be able to do.

Here's my list. Only the first item makes me sad. The rest are just dreams.

1. Write a truly great novel, something read for generations.

2. Sing with a band. When I was younger I wanted to be Chrissie Hynde. Now I'd go for Lucinda Williams.

3. Be athletic enough to play any sport reasonably well. I'm not talking elite-level here. Just to be competently athletic, enough to have the confidence to try any sport or physical activity without fear or embarrassment.

4. Have no fixed address. Be a perpetual traveler, living wherever I set down for a few months, then moving on.

5. Run an animal sanctuary. Have a huge plot of land where dogs, horses and other animals that were going to be killed could have a safe, loving home - especially dogs considered unadoptable.


wikileaks: u.n. to investigate manning jail conditions, panic over michael moore

What happens when people speak truth to power? Sometimes power hunts them down, locks them up, draws on its various arms to cut off their resources. And once in a while, power reveals its weak, petty core.

Bradley Manning has been in solitary confinement for seven months for allegedly showing the world a bit of truth about the occupation of Iraq. This latest development shows why it's vitally important that we keep Manning's story in the news and on our blogs as often as possible. The Guardian:
The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning's supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.

Also from The Guardian:
After a leaked cable from US diplomats in Havana falsely claimed Cuba had banned Moore's documentary Sicko – when in fact it was shown on state television – another cable reveals US officials flying into a panic after hearing a rumour that a New Zealand cabinet minister was hosting a screening of Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11.

Labelling the event a "potential fiasco", the classified cable from the US embassy in Wellington in 2003 reads like a failed plotline for an episode of In the Loop, breathlessly reporting a series of calls to the New Zealand prime minister's office and to the minister involved, Marian Hobbs.

Michael Moore, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday night, said the New Zealand cable uncovered by WikiLeaks showed the unsettling reach of US influence. "If they were micromanaging me that much, if they were that concerned about the truth in Fahrenheit 9/11 that they have to go after a screening in a place I don't even really know where it is – I know it's way too long to sit in coach for me – I want to know. Because I think it speaks to a larger issue: if they have the time for that, what else are these guys up to?"

The US government is afraid of Michael Moore. They're afraid of peace-activist veterans demonstrating at the White House (why else the news blackout?). In other words, they're afraid of us - our power - getting out there.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we get to see the fear behind the curtain - which can only energize us to keep speaking.


current war resister fundraiser ends tomorrow

This is the last day to donate to the current ChipIn campaign to help US Iraq War resisters stay in Canada. Please give if you can.

Click here to donate or for more info.

one arrest is not enough: demand a public inquiry into g20 police violence

Columnist Rosie DiManno has intelligently and independently told the truth about police violence at the G20 summit (see my posts here, here and here). So I'll let DiManno begin for me, writing about the arrest of one police officer in the assault of Adam Nobody.
And then there was . . . well, just the one.

Out of all the police officers behaving badly during the G20 protests — swinging batons recklessly, kicking, punching — a single cop was charged on Tuesday by the Special Investigations Unit.

Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani — you da man.

Assault with a weapon is the charge.

Perhaps somewhat unfairly, Andalib-Goortani is the only law enforcement member to wear the scandal of overzealous and allegedly criminal protester-pounding from that chaotic week last June.

He made the mistake of lifting his face-shield, which rather defeated the purpose of removing his epaulet badge number. In videotape obtained by the Star, Andalib-Goortani is clearly recognizable — Mr. Policeman with a Goatee. It was this footage, which the Star publicized nearly two weeks ago, that helped SIU investigators put a name to a face.

You’re welcome.

But just the one name and just the one face, despite a veritable deluge of videos and still photographs that was offered by the public after SIU director Ian Scott had originally claimed there was insufficient evidence to lay charges in the most notorious police pile-on incident — the tackling of Adam Nobody, a man who insists he was beaten not once, but twice, the second time around by plainclothes officers behind some police vans, a purported assault that was apparently not captured by any probing candid camera, if it indeed occurred.

Public, take a bow. If not for the unwillingness of ordinary citizens to let this matter alone, to simply accept the SIU’s frustrated and no-outcome investigation, to stand down when Police Chief Bill Blair stood up and ridiculed the veracity of earlier videotape evidence, to go along with that absurd applause-applause commendation that city council invested on police for their handling of the G20 clashes — this result, however small, would likely have never come to pass. [Read more here.]

This is all true, but it is also horribly inadequate. It took an enormous public outcry to achieve a paltry, token result. This is the way learned helplessness sets in: people see their efforts accomplish nothing or very little, so they don't bother speaking out.

Let's not forget the larger picture. The G20 itself is an undemocratic body whose autocratic decisions benefit a privatized economy to the extreme detriment of the public good. The "security" of their meetings was used as an excuse to grossly curtail basic civil liberties and to violate basic human rights. When citizens peacefully challenged both the G20 agenda and their self-appointed "right" to fashion the economy for the benefit of the few, they were brutally repressed. And when even greater numbers of citizens spoke out against that repression, they were given a token result.

We shouldn't settle for this. We must renew our calls for a full public inquiry. There will be a rally at Queen's Park in Toronto on January 8, 2011, but Canadians all over the country can and should get involved.

To stay updated, join the Facebook group Canadians Demanding a Public Inquiry into Toronto G20 or follow the group on Twitter.

from the u.s. third-world country files

In the US, one in seven people - and in some states, one in five - are now receiving food stamps.
The use of food stamps has increased dramatically in the U.S., as the federal government ramps up basic assistance to meet the demands of an increasingly desperate population.

The number of food stamp recipients increased 16% over last year. This means that 14% of the population is now living on food stamps. That's about 43 million people, or about one out of every seven Americans.

In some states, like Tennessee, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon, one in five people are receiving food stamps. Washington, D.C. leads the nation, with 21.5% of the population on food stamps.

Some months ago, Maclean's ran a story called "Third World America" - subtitled: "Collapsing bridges, street lights turned off, cuts to basic services: the decline of a superpower". It was interesting to see a theme I've written about for so many years tackled by mainstream media, especially Canadian media, which consistently views the US through the country's own press releases.
In February, the board of commissioners of Ohio’s Ashtabula County faced a scene familiar to local governments across America: a budget shortfall. They began to cut spending and reduced the sheriff’s budget by 20 per cent. A law enforcement agency staff that only a few years ago numbered 112, and had subsequently been pared down to 70, was cut again to 49 people and just one squad car for a county of 1,900 sq. km along the shore of Lake Erie. The sheriff’s department adapted. “We have no patrol units. There is no one on the streets. We respond to only crimes in progress. We don’t respond to property crimes,” deputy sheriff Ron Fenton told Maclean’s. The county once had a “very proactive” detective division in narcotics. Now, there is no detective division. “We are down to one evidence officer and he just runs the evidence room in case someone wants to claim property,” said Fenton. “People are getting property stolen, their houses broken into, and there is no one investigating. We are basically just writing up a report for the insurance company.”

If a county without police seems like a weird throwback to an earlier, frontier-like moment in American history, it is not the only one. “Back to the Stone Age” is the name of a seminar organized in March by civil engineers at Indiana’s Purdue University for local county supervisors interested in saving money by breaking up paved roads and turning them back to gravel. While only some paved roads in the state have been broken up, “There are a substantial number of conversations going on,” John Habermann, who manages a program at Purdue that helps local governments take care of infrastructure, told Maclean’s. “We presented a lot of talking points so that the county supervisors can talk logically back to elected officials when the question is posed,” he said. The state of Michigan had similar conversations. It has converted at least 50 miles of paved road to gravel in the last few years.

Welcome to the ground level of America’s economic crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is 9.5 per cent. One in 10 homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments. Home sales are at record lows. While the economy has been growing for several quarters, the growth is anemic—only 1.6 per cent in the second quarter of this year—and producing few new jobs.

Maclean's doesn't quite get it right, unaware or uninterested in how bad things were in the US before the current economic crisis, and just how bad things truly are right now.

Paul Krugman and others - such as those radicals at the Wall Street Journal - put the true unemployment rate at around 17%. A recent "60 Minutes" report showed unemployment in California at 22%, more than one out of every five; of those, one in five is university educated. Krugman has shown that long-term or permanent unemployment is at the highest rate ever recorded.

At the same time:

• In 2010 US businesses earned profits at the highest rate since statistics have been kept, totaling $1.66 trillion in the third quarter alone.

• The economic policies of the last 30 years have benefited the very few at the expense of the many.
[Economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez] found that from 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to everyone but the rich increased from 64 percent to 65 percent. Because the nation's economy was growing handsomely, the average income for 9 out of l0 Americans was growing, too – from $17,719 to $30,941. That’s a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

But then it stopped. Since 1980 the economy has also continued to grow handsomely, but only a fraction at the top have benefited. The line flattens for the bottom 90% of Americans. Average income went from that $30,941 in 1980 to $31,244 in 2008. Think about that: the average income of Americans increased just $303 dollars in 28 years.

• Between 1979 and 2006, the bottom 20% of the US population had real income growth of 0.3%, the middle 20% income growth of 0.7 percent - while the top 1% enjoyed income growth of 260%.

• The US just cut taxes again for the wealthiest Americans.
...an environment in which their tax rates on income and investments remain at historic lows. . . .

"The climate we'll have after this legislation is extremely favorable for wealthy families," says Jeffrey Cooper, a professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a former estate planner who has studied the history of U.S. tax law.

The good news for the rich starts with income tax rates, which for top income groups would remain 35 percent, a rate enacted by former President George W. Bush in 2003. Except for a period from 1988 to 1992, the top tax rate has never been this low since 1931.

• Most US corporations pay no taxes.

• A full 54% of the US federal budget feeds the military-industrial complex, which is mostly privatized. Meaning, working USians' income taxes not only support two foreign wars and a military presence in 75 countries; those same taxes continue to transfer wealth upwards.

My thoughts on where Canada figures into this, coming soon.


wikileaks, facebook and time magazine for adults

I happened to see this on Saturday night, and have been waiting to find it on YouTube. The show pretty much sucks, but once in a while it has a moment.

"What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me? Let's take a look. I give you private information on corporations for free and I'm a villain. Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he's man of the year."

When I was a kid, my family subscribed to Time and I thought "Man of the Year" - as it was called then - was a real thing, an actual award with meaning, like a Pulitzer, rather than a promo for the magazine. In 1975 Time named a dozen women Women of the Year. Doesn't everyone know the conversion rate of female to male achievement is 12:1?

"Tonight I want to congratulate Time magazine on the excellent selection of Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year. Time magazine - always on the cutting edge; discovering Facebook only weeks after your grandmother."

The Onion says it best.

TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults

what i'm reading: apex hides the hurt

I'll probably write a combined "what i'm reading" post for everything I read on my winter break. But right now I'm reading a novel I love so much, that I just couldn't wait to tell you about it: Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead.

I don't want to give too much plot away, because I love the way the novel unfolds, but here's enough to go on. A "nomenclature consultant" is hired to help a town re-name itself. This is a man who dreams up the names that brand our world - the popular pharmaceuticals, the cell phones, the toothpaste, household cleaners and video game systems. Now he's going to judge which name best suits an old town with a new look - new money and new computer-related jobs.

But the town already has a name. Gentrification and job growth are important, but what about tradition? Which leads to the question... whose tradition? Turns out, the town's current and historic name was itself a re-naming, not unlike "America" or the "West Indies". History is written by the conquerors - and the definition of "traditional" depends on where we start.

History, race, class, advertising, language, and consumer culture converge. Yet somehow this all happens in a slim, wryly funny, wonderfully readable, little miracle of a book. I am fascinated by - and so envious of - how certain writers can do so much in so little, layers of meaning packed into so few words.

Apex Hides the Hurt skewers marketing, advertising, and contemporary consumer culture. It's a commentary on the pervasiveness of marketing in our lives, and how marketing reduces everything to its demographic parts. It's about language, and how language is exploited to sell - products, ideas, people, history, anything.

The novel also plays with the contemporary penchant (or obsession) for naming every phenomena of the world around us, the kind that Urban Dictionary collects, but perhaps with a biblical reference, as a man continues to name the animals.
What do you call that terrible length of time between when you see that your food is ready and when your waitress drags her ass over to your table with it? He saw Regina emerge from the back of the restaurant. His eyes zipped to the plate sitting on the kitchen ledge. Tantalasia. Rather broad applications, Tantalasia, apart form the food thing. An emotional state, that muted area between desire and consummation. A literal territory, some patch of unnamed broken gravel between places on a map.

Apex Hides the Hurt even contains a wry send-up of libraries and librarians. A town librarian has written the official history of the town.
Winning over the town librarian for sympathetic press wasn't too much of a task, he figured. A set of leatherbound Shakespeare would do it.

Later, the narrator tries to visit the town library, only to find it has been displaced by a big-box clothing chain, a fictional version of Old Navy.
On the rare occasions that he entered libraries, he always felt assured of his virtue. If they figured out how to distill essence of library into a convenient delivery system - a piece of gum or a gelcap, for example - he would consume it eagerly, relieved to be finished with more taxing methods of virtue gratification. Helping little old ladies across the street. Giving tourists directions. Libraries. Alas there would be no warm feelings of satisfaction today. The place was a husk. The books were gone. Where he would usually be intimidated by an army of daunting spines, there were only dust-ball rinds and Dewey decimal grave markers.

Whitehead writes the hipster librarian with a perfect eye for detail. As she chats with the nomenclature consultant, he thinks, "Slimpies: Ready-to-Wear Shrugs for When You Just Don't Have It in You."

* * * *

Before the digital era and the explosion of activist creativity, before YouTube and viral marketing - and before the shelf life of taglines had been reduced to nanoseconds - there were some standard activist slogans you'd always see. The same dozen sayings would emblazon the t-shirts, bumper stickers and postcards sold at demos and folk music festivals. "I long for the day schools have a surplus and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale" and "Why doesn't Crayola's flesh-coloured crayon come in 52 shades?". In those days, there was something called a "flesh-coloured" crayon, a pinkish-beige hue.

Now we live in an era where flesh-coloured crayons come in many shades. Our TV screens are populated by people of all colours. But is that multiculturalism promoting equality, empathy and understanding among all people? Or is the appearance of diversity merely a tool used to induce more people to buy more products? This is a central question of Apex Hides the Hurt. It's about, among other things, what I wrote about here: "you can't find inner peace in a bottle (of iced tea)".

With this brilliant little book, Colson Whitehead becomes one of My Favourite Writers.

* * * *

I've also read Whitehead's wonderful, unusual debut novel The Intuitionist, in which ideas about race and how we perceive the world converge and double-back on themselves in a world of skyscrapers and elevator inspectors. Whitehead is also the author of some of the greatest words ever written about New York City, a collection called The Colossus of New York, the cultural grandchild of E. B. White's classic Here Is New York.

I blogged about Colson Whitehead after a terrific essay of his ran in the New York Times: "I write in Brooklyn. Get over it." And I included him in a trio of Great Writers on the Great City: please go here and especially here. (New York City fans: click on that last link.)

I have not read his novels John Henry Days (2001, shortlisted for Pulitzer Prize) or Sag Harbor (2009), but I will.


name change, or not

In this thread, there is some discussion about a possible name-change: L-girl becoming laura k. I thought I would try "laura k (aka L-girl)" for a while, then drop the parenthetical.

But now I see that if I change my blogging name, it changes on all posts on the entire blog. I should have realized that, since the new, more stable Blogger templates also appear on all posts - meaning, from the beginning of the blog until the current post.

I like the idea of being laura k in the present and future, but I don't want to erase L-girl from the past. I may change back.

disappointing ruling from european court on ireland's abortion ban

From the Abortion Support Network:
December 16, 2010

Abortion Support Network disappointed by the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the challenge to Ireland’s abortion ban

Abortion Support Network is extremely disappointed with today’s ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the challenge to Ireland’s abortion ban by three women who underwent considerable hardship and trauma by being forced to travel to England in order to access a safe and legal abortion. As an organisation that provides support to women who are forced to make this journey, we know the significant distress, worry and financial burden that women in Ireland are made to bear by being denied an abortion in their own country.

Every year thousands of women are forced to make this journey, and do so under extremely difficult, often desperate, circumstances. They face the struggles of finding the money to pay for the cost of the trip and procedure, of taking time off work, and sometimes the additional costs and difficulties of finding child care. These costs can range from anything between £400 and £2000. Women face the additional burden and stress of maintaining secrecy about their abortion back home. As a result, these women are incredibly isolated and many travel alone.

Abortion Support Network’s Director, Mara Clarke said:

“While we are encouraged by the ruling that woman “C”, who was undergoing chemotherapy when she fell pregnant, had her human rights violated, we are deeply saddened that the Court chose not to recognise the hardships faced by the two other claimants in the case.

The sooner the Irish government rectifies this long-standing injustice, the sooner women will be able to make their own decisions about abortion and make choices that are right for them.

Every week we hear from pregnant women living in Ireland who are in a state of crisis, with no other place to turn. As long as women in the Republic of Ireland do not have access to safe and legal abortions in their home country, Abortion Support Network will offer them immediate, practical support in the form of confidential, non-judgemental information, accommodation and financial help towards the costs of their abortion.

We will also continue to offer our support to women in Northern Ireland, and other countries where women’s rights continue to be violated by the denial of access to safe and legal abortions in their home countries.

We will help women irrespective of circumstance as it is our belief that women are capable of making their own decisions.”

In the words of one of the women that we have supported, a 37 year old mother of three:

“It was a very hard decision and I wouldn’t wish anyone to find themselves in this situation … I felt vulnerable, alone and upset. I felt I could contact ASN, that they cared and they were there to support me while in another country and alone … I will forever feel grateful for the help and support I received.”

The "ABC" case was heard on December 9, 2009 before the Grand Chamber of the Court, a 17-judge court reserved to hear cases of special importance touching on the interpretation of the European Human Rights Convention.

The woman known to the court as "A" had children in the care of the state, and thought having another child would jeopardize her chances of being reunited with her kids.

"B", the second applicant, was not prepared to become a single parent.

Woman "C" was in remission from cancer when she became pregnant. Before discovering her pregnancy, pregnant she had a series of procedures, but could not get clear advice about the risks to her health and to the fetus if she continued to term.

These women's rights to control their own bodies, their reproduction and their futures were blocked because of where they happen to live. For women around the globe, geography is destiny.

For more on the situation in Ireland:

Irish Family Planning Association

Bpas Ireland

FPA (Northern Ireland)

For more on the group assisting them: Abortion Support Network

the people vs george galloway: documents finally on wmtc

Earlier this year - and more than once - I promised to upload the documents submitted by the applicants (our side) in the suit against the federal government for refusing to allow George Galloway into Canada. Finally, for those interested, here they are:

• the brief itself, and

• the timeline of the email chain between CIC and CBSA, which the government sent to the applicants by mistake!, but which the court ruled could not be suppressed.

They open as read-only Word documents. Sorry for the delay, and enjoy.

afghans for peace

This video was made by an Afghan-American woman, and although it is about the US, it certainly applies to Canada in equal measure.

There's only one thing missing: the real reasons for the continuing occupation of Afghanistan. No mention of oil, no mention of pipelines. No mention of strategic regional control of resources.

Excellent video, though. Please share.


131 veterans and other peace protesters arrested at white house

A Veteran Being Arrested at the White House, December 16, 2010

Yesterday, 131 people, about 100 of whom were veterans, were arrested in front of the White House. Veterans for Peace staged the civil disobedience, protesting the war in Afghanistan on a day President Obama invoked 9/11 to justify the continued killing there. Daniel Ellsberg, Ann Wright, Ray McGovern and several members of Code Pink were among those arrested; there were solidarity rallies in New York and other cities.

I'm very heartened by this action. I hope it's the beginning of a trend. For more about these and other committed peace actions, see Stop These Wars. Read their Call To Action here. Read, join, support.

bradley manning: 7 months (and counting) in solitary confinement for showing the world the truth

Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking the Collateral Murder video that brought WikiLeaks to the spotlight, is now enduring his seventh month of solitary confinement. He is being held in deplorable conditions. His health is deteriorating. His supporters are being threatened and harassed.

We must never forget Bradley Manning. We must do everything we can to help him know he is not alone, although physically he is very much alone.

From The Guardian:
As Julian Assange emerged from his nine-day imprisonment, there were renewed concerns about the physical and psychological health of Bradley Manning, the former US intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the diplomatic cables at the centre of the storm.

Manning, who was arrested seven months ago, is being held at a military base in Virginia and faces a court martial and up to 52 years in prison for his alleged role in copying the cables.

His friends and supporters also claim they have been the target of extra-judicial harassment, intimidation and outright bribery by US government agents.

According to David House, a computer researcher from Boston who visits Manning twice a month, he is starting to deteriorate. "Over the last few weeks I have noticed a steady decline in his mental and physical wellbeing," he said. "His prolonged confinement in a solitary holding cell is unquestionably taking its toll on his intellect; his inability to exercise due to [prison] regulations has affected his physical appearance in a manner that suggests physical weakness."

Manning, House added, was no longer the characteristically brilliant man he had been, despite efforts to keep him intellectually engaged. He also disputed the authorities' claims that Manning was being kept in solitary for his own good.

"I initially believed that his time in solitary confinement was a decision made in the interests of his safety," he said. "As time passed and his suicide watch was lifted, to no effect, it became clear that his time in solitary – and his lack of a pillow, sheets, the freedom to exercise, or the ability to view televised current events – were enacted as a means of punishment rather than a means of safety."

House said many people were reluctant to talk about Manning's condition because of government harassment, including surveillance, warrantless computer seizures, and even bribes. "This has had such an intimidating effect that many are afraid to speak out on his behalf," House said.

Some friends report being followed extensively. Another computer expert said the army offered him cash to – in his words – "infiltrate" the WikiLeaks website. He said: "I turned them down. I don't want anything to do with this cloak and dagger stuff."

When the Washington Post tried to investigate the claim, an army criminal investigation division spokesman refused to comment. "We've got an ongoing investigation," he said. "We don't discuss our techniques and tactics."

On 3 November, House, 23, said he found customs agents waiting for him when he and his girlfriend returned to the US after a short holiday in Mexico. His bags were searched and two men identifying themselves as Homeland Security officials said they were being detained for questioning and would miss their connecting flight. The men seized all his electronic items and he was told to hand over all passwords and encryption keys – which he refused. The items have yet to be returned, said House. He added: "If Manning is convicted, it will be because his individual dedication to human ethics far surpasses that of the US government."

House, who met Manning through friends but came to know him only after his detention, said he was committed to his cause. "Like many computer scientists, I identify with the open government issues at the core of this case."

Bradley Manning Support Network: please do what you can. You can write to Bradley care of Courage To Resist:
Bradley Manning
c/o Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave #41
Oakland CA 94610

trying to save wolves, close the tar sands, and not lose hope

Of all the email alerts I get about various important causes, I find the updates from NRDC's Save Biogems the most alarming and depressing. Taken together, the subject lines read like chapters in a book entitled "How Humans Are Killing the Planet". Or, more accurately, "How Capitalism is Killing the Planet, since, globally, most humans are the victims, not the culprits, of these crimes.

Sitting in my inbox from NRDC from the last few weeks: mountaintop removal, the continuing war on wolves, tar sands, polar bears, oil and gas exploitation of the Rocky Mountains, energy exploitation in Patagonia. Of course the emails all contain action alerts, easy clicks to contact representatives, speak out and donate. But with energy and financial interests controlling the governments of the world's major nations, it's difficult to feel hopeful.

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre, Ontario, 2009

I haven't posted any updates about the terrible situation regarding wolves in a while. After an excellent ruling in August which restored federal protection for the gray wolf, wolves in the US are once again threatened by "delisting" - removal from the endangered species list. This time it's something called the "Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Recovery and Sustainability Act of 2010," known as the Baucus-Tester bill, sponsored senators from Idaho and Montana. If passed, the bill would sidestep that positive ruling, strip wolves of federal protection and throw wolf "management" back to the states. That will almost certainly translate into mass wolf kills in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The Baucus-Tester bill is being heavily lobbied; many senators who appear to care about the environment are expected to vote for it. If you're in the US or have friends who are, you can help by contacting your senators or circulating this link: go here. If you can't participate in the campaign, but you love wolves as I do - or if you simply care about wildlife - click through for info and some great photos.

Readers on both sides of the Canada-US border can raise their voices against the tar sands expansion that threatens millions of migratory birds.
All four major flyways in North America -- the aerial migration routes traveled by billions of birds each year -- converge in one spot in Canada's boreal forest, the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northeastern Alberta. More than 1 million birds, including tundra swans, snow geese and countless ducks, stop to rest and gather strength in these undisturbed wetlands each autumn. For many waterfowl, this area is their only nesting ground.

U.S. demand for tar sands oil is causing Canada to ramp up tar sands oil extraction in the boreal forest just south of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, including sites upstream on the Athabasca River. Water extracted for tar sands mining could reduce flow into the delta, killing fish -- a food source for birds -- and disturbing habitat. Wastewater discharge could also contaminate the river, creating a toxic food web and leading to reproductive problems in wildlife. In 2008, 1,600 ducks died after landing in a tar sands waste pond.

Tar sands oil development also contributes to global warming, which is reducing ecologically important flooding in the delta. A number of developments are threatening the Peace-Athabasca Delta, including the Bennett Dam on the Peace River. Tar sands oil extraction exemplifies how our addiction to oil is causing loss of critical bird habitat in the delta and throughout Alberta’s boreal forests and wetlands.

The U.S. State Department is on the brink of approving a new trans-boundary pipeline that would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, leading to additional mining and drilling for tar sands oil in the boreal forest. NRDC and our BioGems Defenders are fighting to stop the expansion of tar sands oil extraction and to protect bird habitat in the boreal forest. We are calling on the State Department to say No to new tar sands pipelines in the United States and encouraging a switch to cleaner forms of energy production that would reduce global warming and protect North America's last great forests.

In the US, click here to contact representatives about the tar sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, 2008

In Canada, one of the best groups fighting tar sands expansion is the Indigenous Environmental Network. I've heard Clayton Thomas-Muller, who chairs the IEN's Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign, speak a few times. The group makes clear the connections among human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, labour conditions and the health of the planet. More information on the campaign here.

The Council of Canadians is another group leading the fight against tar sands expansion; their tar sands section is here.

* * * *

It's hard for me to feel hopeful about these issues. The interests we're up against are so huge and so powerful. I need to remember a story I heard Thomas-Muller tell earlier this year. I'm sure some of you have heard this before, but it was new to me.*

The blue whale is the largest animal on earth. It's so large that it can take 10 minutes to turn 180 degrees. A school of sardines - a great mass of tiny creatures - can be nearly as big as a blue whale. But an entire school of sardines can completely change directions in a matter of seconds. First a few sardines swim in the opposite directions, then a few more... and if only 15% of the sardines turn around and swim the other way, the entire school will follow.

Thomas-Muller said:
You don't have to convince everyone. You don't have to turn around a whale by yourself. No one should have to carry that burden. But if each of us reaches a few others, we can be that 15%, enough to change the direction of the world.

Long ago, I used to love these words made popular by Martin Luther King, Jr., originally written by Theodore Parker: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." I still love the sound of that sentence, but now I recognize it as magical thinking. I don't believe in a moral universe. And I don't believe that justice is in any way inevitable or preordained.

But I struggle to have hope, and to believe that change is possible. I remind myself that whether we are pessimists or optimists - whether we are filled with hope or filled with despair, or see-sawing between the two - none of us knows the future. The future is still unwritten. And I know one thing. To paraphrase Gandhi on the sidebar of this blog: if we take no action, there will be no change.

* The blog The Committed Sardine takes its name from this parable.

michael ignatieff hearts rob ford

Michael Ignatieff thinks Rob Ford's election as Mayor of Toronto bodes well for the federal Liberals: "The same people who elected Rob Ford elected me."

Good lord. The federal Liberals imagine they can refashion themselves as populist bullies who oppose public services, immigration, and "elites" - that is, the Michael Ignatieffs of the world?

Yet in the one area the Liberals could benefit from Rob Ford's experience - tough talk and strong campaigning - they are utterly bereft.

Michael Ignatieff, you will never get it right. And your party will never form a government until it dumps you.


wmtc redesign

I've wanted to do this for a very long time! It was the one thing on my summer to-do list that didn't get crossed out. So now at last... the new look. I think it's clean, readable, simple but with a bit of a personal look, and kind of classy.

As you can see, I've retired the artwork in the masthead. I've also officially changed the blog's name to wmtc, since that's what I call it, and I've kept "we move to canada" as the subtitle.

I'll be populating the tabs over the next few days and weeks. Most of what was in the sidebar will now be in tabs.

I'm also considering retiring the name "L-girl," which has been my name since I first got online in 1996. The alternative would be "laura k," which I also post under. I have mixed feelings about letting L-girl go. But it might be time.

Two CSS questions for you experts out there. How do I change the titles on the sidebar to all lower case? (Got it!) And how can I reduce the space between the blog name (wmtc) and the "blog description" (we move to canada) in the header?

Update. Done and done. Figured one out myself and got the other from a helpful reader.


naomi wolf: typical responses to rape and the global collusion in silencing dissent

Naomi Wolf, HuffPo:
How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden's treatment of Julian Assange is a form of theater? Because I know what happens in rape accusations against men that don't involve the embarrassing of powerful governments.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison in advance of questioning on state charges of sexual molestation. Lots of people have opinions about the charges. But I increasingly believe that only those of us who have spent years working with rape and sexual assault survivors worldwide, and know the standard legal response to sex crime accusations, fully understand what a travesty this situation is against those who have to live through how sex crime charges are ordinarily handled -- and what a deep, even nauseating insult this situation is to survivors of rape and sexual assault worldwide.

Here is what I mean: men are pretty much never treated the way Assange is being treated in the face of sex crime charges.

. . . . [Continue reading for Wolf's recounting of sex crimes globally and in the Western world and what typically happens to men who rape.]

In other words: Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world have I ever heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary confinement without bail in advance of being questioned -- for any alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven. In terms of a case involving the kinds of ambiguities and complexities of the alleged victims' complaints -- sex that began consensually that allegedly became non-consensual when dispute arose around a condom -- please find me, anywhere in the world, another man in prison today without bail on charges of anything comparable.

Of course 'No means No', even after consent has been given, whether you are male or female; and of course condoms should always be used if agreed upon. As my fifteen-year-old would say: Duh.

But for all the tens of thousands of women who have been kidnapped and raped, raped at gunpoint, gang-raped, raped with sharp objects, beaten and raped, raped as children, raped by acquaintances -- who are still awaiting the least whisper of justice -- the highly unusual reaction of Sweden and Britain to this situation is a slap in the face. It seems to send the message to women in the UK and Sweden that if you ever want anyone to take sex crime against you seriously, you had better be sure the man you accuse of wrongdoing has also happened to embarrass the most powerful government on earth.

Keep Assange in prison without bail until he is questioned, by all means, if we are suddenly in a real feminist worldwide epiphany about the seriousness of the issue of sex crime: but Interpol, Britain and Sweden must, if they are not to be guilty of hateful manipulation of a serious women's issue for cynical political purposes, imprison as well -- at once -- the hundreds of thousands of men in Britain, Sweden and around the world world who are accused in far less ambiguous terms of far graver forms of assault.

Anyone who works in supporting women who have been raped knows from this grossly disproportionate response that Britain and Sweden, surely under pressure from the US, are cynically using the serious issue of rape as a fig leaf to cover the shameful issue of mafioso-like global collusion in silencing dissent. That is not the State embracing feminism. That is the State pimping feminism.

Thanks to James for sending.

mcquaig: creeping authoritarianism, vindication of protesters and forcing us to pay for their financial crisis

Please read this excellent column by Linda McQuaig, which ran in yesterday's Toronto Star:
In the aftermath of the G20 fiasco here last summer, one thing Torontonians agreed on was that such summits should be held in isolated venues — on military bases, on ocean-going vessels, on melting glaciers — anywhere but where lots of people reside.

But beyond being upset with the expense and disorder that weekend, many Torontonians (and city council) sided with the police, assuming that the arrest of 1,105 people must have somehow been justified, given the rampage of a small group through the downtown core.

What is now unmistakably clear — with the release of a searing report by Ontario Ombudsman AndrĂ© Marin and startling new video evidence of police beatings obtained by the Star’s Rosie DiManno — is that the vast powers of the state were unjustifiably used against thousands of innocent protesters, as well as against others doing nothing more subversive than riding a bike or picking up groceries.

Unbeknownst to citizens who had gathered for a peaceful march through downtown Toronto — similar to marches frequently held without incident in the city — the provincial cabinet had resurrected police powers from the 70-year-old Public Works Protection Act, enacted when the country was at war with Nazi Germany.

This, according to Marin, triggered "extravagant police authority" which the police went on to exercise outside the intended area, leaving citizens vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and detention far from the G20, and creating "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history."

If one were trying to dream up scenarios of overarching police powers, it would be hard to invent anything more lurid than the real-life tale of police yanking the prosthetic leg off 57-year-old Revenue Canada employee John Pruyn, after he was unable to move quickly enough from the designated Queen's Park "speech area" where he was sitting with his daughter.

The war measures powers only compounded the problem created by the massive police presence assembled by the federal government. Harry Glasbeek, professor emeritus at Osgoode Hall Law School, notes that, with almost 20,000 police to monitor some 10,000 demonstrators, there were two "guardians of the peace" for every unarmed demonstrator.

All this not only alerts us to the dangers of creeping authoritarianism, but amounts to a vindication of the demonstrators, who were often dismissed as troublemakers.

On the contrary, we need more these sorts of citizens, who take seriously the notion that dissent is essential to freedom, because it keeps political leaders in check.

Indeed, while police were arresting the one-legged man on the lawn at Queen’s Park, a few kilometres away the G20 leaders were quietly scrapping a proposed tax on financial speculation, promoting an agenda of austerity, and generally assuring that the horrendous costs of the financial crisis would be paid for by the world’s citizens — not by the banks that brought it on.

The important role of protesters — so well appreciated by iconic Western thinkers like John Stuart Mill — is denigrated these days, perhaps because it fits uneasily with our society’s narrative about everyone being driven purely by greed and self-interest.

We seem to have trouble understanding people willing to spend hours marching in protests without the slightest prospect of personal gain, just a commitment to justice.

Instead, oddly, we accept as normal governments that squander $1 billion on "security," turning the country’s largest city into a pseudo war zone and locking up hundreds of its finest citizens.

i hate christmas 2010

"The Profit," by Mr. Fish, used with his kind permission.

Friend of wmtc Joe Grav sent me the official Fuck Christmas rant, taunting me with the notion that my annual "i hate christmas" post cannot compete. He's right, of course, so I won't even try.*

Instead, enjoy this excellent video, finally available online for Canadians.

I'm actually expecting a brilliant December 25 and 26 this year, involving humour from The Larry Sanders Show, food from President's Choice, beverages from grapes, and company from my favourite person. Plus - an extreme rarity in our home - paid time off. And if that particular magic can only be conjured through an ahistorical mashup of ancient pagan rites and hollow Christianity and out-of-control capitalism, then so be it.

* Although I still need the mall for one thank-you gift. I reserve the right to rant if necessary.


we like lists: list #4: you've just won the lottery. now what?

We did ordinary joys, and ordinary irritations. Now we move to the stuff of fantasy.

You hit lotto. It's a huge jackpot, enough to afford anything money can buy for the rest of your life. What do you do? Top 10.

1. Travel. Go everywhere. Travel for three or four months a year.

2. Fully fund the War Resisters Support Campaign so we never have to fundraise again. (If this no longer applies, fully fund other grassroots military-resistance/peace organizations.)

3. Fully fund pit bull education, advocacy and rescue programs, like this one.

4. Create a foundation to support progressive grassroots activism. Hire great administrators to give the money away.

5. Give a ton of money to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

6. Adopt a whole bunch of dogs. This appears to clash with travel, but I'll figure it out.

7. Drop money on various friends and family who need a mortgage or school loans paid off.

8. Buy a small house on a lake, to live in quiet semi-solitude when not traveling. Nothing huge, just a comfortable, rustic-style house with a deck, a view and two fireplaces. Fill it with pottery, rugs and art from native peoples of the Americas.

9. Write. Set up a luxurious writing discipline to frame the rest of my life.

10. Travel.

And you?


jack todd: don cherry is nothing but a phoney

Jack Todd, a sports columnist in Montreal whose book I wrote about here, has some thoughts on Don Cherry.
When Cherry dives in to right-wing politics with both feet firmly in his mouth, he is over the line - the line that separates commentary on hockey from such complex issues as public transit, health care and the war in Afghanistan.

Shameless to the core, Cherry has even devoted one entire segment of Coach's Corner to his own self-aggrandizement as Canada's self-appointed No. 1 soldier. But Cherry the soldier is as phoney as Cherry the bluecollar guy. I know someone who has held the same bluecollar job for at least the past 15 years. Cherry has walked past this person on a regular basis for all those years - and never once said hello.

Still, Cherry wants us to believe that he is blue-collar, while guys like me are the elite, bicycle-riding columnists.

You want a tough, blue-collar guy, Don? A real one, not a phoney? Well, I grew up with one. A father who was a combat veteran of the First World War. An ex-boxer with his hands all smashed up, his nose broken, his brain addled after 70 pro fights as a light-heavyweight and more amateur bouts than he could count. A guy who would drive a spike with his bare fist, then lick the blood off his knuckles.

My father had just about every fault in the book, but he was real. He voted solid Democrat. He stood up for the working man and the little guy. When he had almost nothing, he would give part of what he did have to a family that had nothing at all.

And he would have spotted a phoney like Cherry a mile off.

Read his great column here.

In case you missed it, Cherry recently finagled some media attention by doing his shtick at Toronto City Hall. Toronto was not impressed.

Thanks to The Galloping Beaver.

in which i successfully clear another hurdle

Another term down! That's three down, five to go - or six of 16 classes completed. I just submitted a totally rockin' final paper. I am tired but happy!

Winter break begins right now. Last year I had four weeks of break, but this year only three. On the other hand, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's Day all fall on the weekend, so it will be a true vacation.

There's the possibility of some very well-paid overtime from my weekend job during my break. We really need the money, so if I'm offered it, I must say yes. But I dread the thought of spending any of my precious time-off working. I'm both hoping I get called and hoping I don't.


wmtc is canadian weblog award top-five finalist

Well, this is a surprise. Wmtc is a top-five finalist in the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards, in two categories: Political and LGBTQ.

Schmutzie, who coordinates this effort, uses some kind of jury system, not an online vote. Details here.

It's nice to see blogs listed that aren't the usual suspects. However - with much respect to my friend Tornwordo, whose excellent blog Sticky Crows also made the top five - for my money, the best Canadian LGBTQ blog can only be Slap Upside The Head.

In any case, many thanks to Schmutzie and company for the honours.

nixon, war resisters, and anti-semitism both real and imagined

Students of US political history know that Richard Nixon was a virulent racist and antisemite. Nixon famously hated a lot of people, but there was a special place in Nixonian Hell for Blacks and Jews. But who knew there'd be a war resister connection mixed in the bigotry?

New tapes released this week by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum show that one reason Nixon vehemently opposed any sort of amnesty for Vietnam War resisters was because so many of them were Jewish.
Nixon also strongly hinted that his reluctance to even consider amnesty for young Americans who went to Canada to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War was because, he told Mr. Colson, so many of them were Jewish.

"I didn't notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam on any of those lists; I don't know how the hell they avoid it," he said, adding: "If you look at the Canadian-Swedish contingent, they were very disproportionately Jewish. The deserters."

If you're wondering where these tapes came from, they came from Nixon himself. Nixon had a secret recording system installed in the White House. It now provides a fascinating and rare window into the paranoid, obsessive, megalomaniac White House of a pre-digital era. Here's another nice bit.
An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel.

But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.” [Ed. note: Kissinger suggested using nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia. Apparently there were some things worth blowing up the world for!]

In his discussion with Ms. Woods, Nixon laid down clear rules about who would be permitted to attend the state dinner for Meir — he called it “the Jewish dinner” — after learning that the White House was being besieged with requests to attend.

“I don’t want any Jew at that dinner who didn’t support us in that campaign,” he said. “Is that clear? No Jew who did not support us.”

Nixon didn't hate all Jews: Israeli Jews were okay, American Jews were not. He might even have praised today's Jewish bigots from the "who is a Jew" crowd. They believe anyone who criticizes Israeli government policies cannot be considered Jewish. Antisemitism, jingoism... they actually have a lot in common with Nixon.

rosie dimanno agrees with us redux: thoughts on strange bedfellows

Can hell freeze over twice in one week? Again, I thank conservative Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno. First DiManno called for Chief of Police Bill Blair's resignation over G20 police abuse. Now she announces that a newly acquired video corroborates key portions of Adam Nobody's account of his beating by plainclothes police officers - after he had been assaulted by uniformed cops.

DiManno's balanced column weighs the available evidence and acknowledges the possibility of doubt. But she is clearly inclined to believe Nobody's story.
Those images — a handcuffed Nobody being led out of camera range by uniformed officers, in the process of being arrested last June 26, not a drop of blood on him — support the 27-year-old’s formal complaint that he was immediately afterwards subjected to another vicious beating by a couple of plainclothes detectives behind two parked police vans.

After this second purported assault, Nobody's face was left bloodied, he says, his cheekbone shattered.

Within a week, he would undergo surgery to repair the damage.

Over the 31 hours that Nobody spent in custody — including about 13 hours when officers accompanied him to Toronto East General Hospital, where he underwent a CAT scan while still bound at the wrists and ankles — he was never out of police sight. He was their responsibility.

. . . .

In an interview with the Star last night, Nobody was sticking to his original accusations about the plainclothes officers.

"My cheek was already swelling when they got me. But they definitely put the boot to me."

Actually, he believes they were wearing running shoes. And they became angry when, after demanding he give his name, he obliged and said: "Nobody."

"The one guy, the blond guy, threw me down. He was grinding my face into the ground. He was holding me down with his foot on the back of my head, while the other one went through my backpack. Then he started kicking me too.

"I was in handcuffs already and they kept kicking me in the head, harder and harder.

"It wasn't until they put me in the van that I even realized my eye was bleeding."

Not one beating but two.

And no charges.

About a month after the G20, I hailed Conservative MPP Randy Hillier for speaking out against G20 police violence. One progressive blogger and a few of my Facebook contacts ripped me for this: how could I support this man, a bigot, a homophobe, a redneck?

First of all, I don't support Randy Hillier (or Rosie DiManno) in any larger sense. But if someone breaks out of conservative knee-jerk thinking and publicly takes a stand contrary to the party line and in support of justice, I think it is only logical and just that we praise them for doing the right thing.

In most activism I've been involved with, there are natural allies, and there are "strange bedfellow" allies. Natural allies are your base, your core support. You can't form a movement without them. But those allies that join your cause less naturally - the ones you win over from the other side, or who, for whatever reason, see the issue differently than most of their colleagues and are willing to say so - are equally valuable. Without them, your movement will never have mainstream traction. It will never move beyond "the left" or "the fringe" or however your opposition characterizes you.

If you put your supporters to a litmus test, you'll forever be shouting in the wilderness, speaking only to the converted. As redsock pointed out in that earlier post, a conservative columnist or representative speaking out accomplishes something most of us cannot: they reach people normally opposed or even hostile to our point of view.
Hillier's fans are not going to read our blogs and they are not going to subscribe to Socialist Worker. They will not attend our rallies and listen to speeches. But they listen to Hillier -- and in this case, he has done our work for us (and then some).

Maybe 95% of the people who pay attention to him ignored it outright, but I'll bet some of those other 5% got a seed planted in their brain. They might be more open to hearing about establishment abuses the next time they happen.

So thanks, Rosie DiManno, for doing the right thing, and also for inspiring this post.


tuesday december 14: morning vigil for war resister dean walcott

If you're in Toronto on Tuesday morning, please join supporters of peace and conscience in a show of support for US Iraq War resister Dean Walcott. Details below.

Dean has served two tours of duty in Iraq, but it wasn't until he was stationed at a US military hospital in Germany that he saw the true cost of war.
Dean joined the United States Marine Corps in 2000, a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, hoping to get a college education and some structure in his life. Dean knew if the US went to war, he would be expected to fight, and he fully accepted that risk. In 2003, he was involved in the United States' invasion of Iraq, and was deployed to Iraq a second time in 2005.

Between those two deployments, Dean was stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a US military hospital in Stuttgart, Germany. There, families of mortally wounded US soldiers are flown in to see their loved one for the last time.

Alarmed by the high suicide rate among Landstuhl patients, military brass assigned soldiers to act as liaisons for both patients and visiting families. Dean, who had no training in either health care or counselling, was charged with that duty.

He was totally unprepared for what he saw – US soldiers, as well as Iraqi civilians, blown to bits, but somehow still clinging to life, burn victims dying in unimaginable agony.

"That was the only time I ever saw Marines drop the tough-guy act," says Dean. "I would hold someone in my arms – a mother, father, son or daughter – who was losing a person they loved, and we would cry together."

Dean began having nightmares and became severely depressed. He eventually came to feel that "if people are going to suffer this much, there has to be a better reason than 'because the president said so'."

Back in the US, Dean found his disgust at the futility of the Iraq War didn't go away. The Marines obstructed his efforts to get help for his depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but there was no legal way for him to leave the military.

Frustrated, trapped and heartsick, in December 2006, he walked away from his base in North Carolina and boarded a Greyhound bus for Toronto.

Since that time, Dean has built a life in Canada. He now lives in the Peterborough area with his partner and their children, and continues to speak out on behalf of peace.

On Tuesday, December 14, the Federal Court will hear Dean's appeal of the negative decisions on his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and his request to be allowed to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.

Canadians have spoken out overwhelmingly in support of Iraq war resisters being allowed to stay in Canada. These young men and women made a difficult decision to not participate in the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. They have shown tremendous courage, leaving behind their homes, their family, friends and careers.

Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney - who both wanted Canada to participate in the Iraq War - continue to deport Iraq war resisters. War resisters Robin Long and Cliff Cornell were sentenced to long prison terms in US military prisons because the Harper government refused to respect two House of Commons motions (passed June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009) to stop deporting war resisters and to let them stay. Many war resisters are living under the threat of deportation.

Join a vigil to support Dean and to demand that the Harper government respect Canadian democracy and the will of the Canadian people. It is time to let the war resisters stay!

WHEN: Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 8:00 - 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Federal Court Building, 180 Queen Street West, Toronto west of University Ave, Osgoode subway)

WHY: Let Them Stay!


is the path to peace paved with tax resistance?

In celebration of International Human Rights Day, the Toronto Friends House is holding a banquet and fundraiser tonight in support of Iraq War resisters in Canada (details below*).

We attended this dinner last year. It was a wonderful evening, and among other joys, I learned about Conscience Canada, a war tax resistance group. For more on what members of Conscience Canada do and what they work for, I encourage you to read this older post.

Shortly after that, I found that wmtc post linked on the website of a US tax resister. David Gross, who writes The Picket Line combines tax resistance with a more general resistance to consumerism, acquisitiveness and capitalism at large. He has withdrawn his support for the military-industrial killing machine by deliberately living below the threshold for paying taxes.
Like most Amer­i­cans, I sup­ported the gov­ern­ment and its wars — I can look at an old W2 form to see just how much. I didn't want to sup­port the gov­ern­ment, but my op­po­si­tion was only an opin­ion while my sup­port was in dol­lars and cents.

Finally I decided that re­fus­ing moral sup­port isn't enough. To fol­low my con­cience I have to put my money where my mouth is.

When the in­va­sion of Iraq began, I stopped pay­ing fed­eral in­come tax and started work­ing for my val­ues instead of against them. I quit my job and de­lib­er­ately reduced my in­come to the point where I no longer owe fed­eral in­come tax. I transformed my life, con­cen­trat­ing on what really mat­ters, so that I can live well and se­curely on a lower in­come. (I ac­tu­ally found that my lower-in­come life­style was more fun, ful­fill­ing, and in­ter­est­ing than the one I had been lead­ing before.)

I have such tremendous admiration for this. It's something I've always wondered about and been attracted to, but don't know if I could ever do.

Compared to the dominant culture surrounding me, I'm not very materialistic. I don't shop for recreation, I don't buy more than I can use, I don't buy for the sake of buying. I don't want a big home or an expensive care. Beyond what's necessary, I couldn't care less about 95% of the consumer goods that are constantly pushed in our faces.

On the other hand, I like a comfortable living space, with separate work areas for me and my partner. I like filling our home with books and music and movies. I want to be able to take care of our health - whether that be expensive supplements or higher quality food - and I have a commitment to the health of our animals. And of course, I want to travel. I hesitate over that word "want," as travel feels more like a deep need.

In my 20s, when I was struggling to create a life that would allow me time to write, I wondered why I couldn't live closer to the bone. If I could be satisfied with earning less, I could have more time to write. I knew people who did that, and I admired them, but I didn't follow their path. On the other hand, I didn't choose a path of potentially much higher earning which would have precluded writing, such as law school. Eventually I stopped beating myself up about it. I realized that I had a basic comfort level, below which I wouldn't be happy, and that being unhappy wouldn't make me a better writer.

So I made peace with it. But I still wonder about a simplified life, and I still envy people who are able to strip down their life to the basics.

One of those people, David Gross, has written an excellent How To on tax resistance and an faq about his own brand of tax resistance. There's also a best-of that's well worth reading.

Our tax resistance took the form of leaving the US. It is one of the great joys and accomplishments of my life that I no longer financially support US imperialism. Of course, I know my taxes in Canada support the war in Afghanistan, and it galls me, and it's my duty to help bring an end to that.

But my taxes also support health care, and libraries, and social housing, and day care, and so on - although not enough of any of those. I'm not opposed to paying taxes. If we all paid our share - including the very rich, the banks, and the corporations - think of what an excellent society we could create.

* International Human Rights Day banquet with music and a silent auction
Benefit for U.S. war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Kim Rivera
When: Friday, December 10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Friends House, 60 Lowther, Toronto, 416.596.7328
Admission: $20 to $50 donation