3.29.2010

please email your m.p. about bill c-440

One more week until both my final papers are due. I'm on pace to turn in two beautiful papers, on time. Amazingly, to me, I'm even enjoying the writing.

Whatever extra time I can squeeze out, I'm choosing to put into the Campaign instead of blogging. I'll have a crazy-long list of things to blog about, beginning April 7!

Meanwhile, if you care about US war resisters in Canada - if you care about peace - if you want Canada to reflect your Canadian values - please do this today.

* * * *

E-mail your M.P. now to support Iraq War resisters and Bill C-440

In only a matter of a few weeks, Parliament could be debating and voting on Bill C-440, a bill that would make legally binding two motions that have already passed in the House of Commons in support of U.S. Iraq War resisters. Bill C-440 sends a message to the Harper government that the will of the majority in support of war resisters cannot be ignored.

In addition to the nearly 10,000 Bill C-440 postcards that supporters are gathering across Canada, we are asking you to take a few minutes today and directly contact your M.P. to ask them to support Bill C-440.

Here's the form online; it only takes a few minutes to e-mail your M.P.:

Canadians are proud of the fact that we refused to send our soldiers into an unsanctioned and immoral war. Even a majority of Americans think Canada did the right thing by not participating.

Canada has an honourable tradition of offering sanctuary to Americans who object to wars not sanctioned by the United Nations and want to live a life of peace, free from persecution. During the Vietnam War, Canada welcomed tens of thousands of American war resisters who have contributed greatly to our society.

US Iraq War resisters still face deportation and the threat of jail for doing the right thing. Take action today to make sure your M.P. knows you want Bill C-440 passed.

Send an e-mail to your M.P. here.

More information and updates on Bill C-440 here.

Organized by the War Resisters Support Campaign.

3.26.2010

kenney on the war path; war resisters campaign mobilizing to fight him

In the throne speech earlier this month, the Conservatives alluded to an overhaul of Canada's refugee system (emphasis mine).
To remove the years of uncertainty often faced by refugees in genuine need, while closing off avenues for those simply seeking a back door into the country, our Government will propose comprehensive reforms to the refugee system.

Immigration and Refugee Minister Jason Kenney plans to introduce a bill calling for blocking refugee claims from so-called "safe" countries. The War Resisters Support Campaign has information that the bill will be tabled as early as this Tuesday, March 30.

This is obviously linked to Kenney's campaign against LGBT refugees, US war resisters, Mexican people fleeing from government-backed violence, and an array of other claimants whose plights Kenney deems unacceptable to his right-wing vision of Canada.

The Campaign is mobilizing all our resources and our many allies to organize and fight against this.

We will join forces with the LGBT community, the refugee-advocacy community and everyone else who rejects the idea of a two-tiered refugee system - everyone who believes in justice and wants Canada to reflect those beliefs.

We will be shifting into a new strategy immediately. If you're in Toronto, join us for an emergency meeting this Wednesday, March 31, where we will outline our plans and you can learn how to help.

WHERE: United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street, east of Spadina, south of College

WHEN: Wednesday, March 31, 7:00 p.m.

WHY: Because we want Canada to be a refuge from militarism and a safe haven for people fleeing persecution anywhere in the world!

From the Globe and Mail:
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is warning that the type of refugee reforms the Conservative government has in mind need to be handled with an abundance of caution.

Antonio Guterres said streamlining refugee applicants according to their country of origin is a legitimate way to speed up the process, but authorities need to ensure this system takes into account that some countries generally assumed to be safe may actually be dangerous for some groups — especially women and homosexuals.

"There are certain areas where, even if you live in a ... political democracy, you have still a certain number of important grounds for a well-founded fear of persecution to be real," Mr. Guterres said.

The senior UN official, who was careful not to mention Canada by name, said countries adopting a two-tier triage for refugees need to make sure they don't block access for legitimate claimants. And they must couple the triage with a robust appeals system to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

Otherwise, they risk rejecting people who risk being subject to persecution such as genital mutilation, forced marriage or discrimination based on sexual orientation, Mr. Guterres said.

. . . "Asylum is not given to countries. Asylum is given to people," Mr. Guterres said. "And this must be in the centre of any asylum system."

Stay tuned. We will not sit by quietly while Jason Kenney guts Canada's refugee system.

3.25.2010

coulter in canada discussion thread

Many readers seem to want me to post about the Ann Coulter incident: her recent speech in London, Ontario, the cancellation of her appearance in Ottawa, her "human rights" (quotes necessary!) complaint with fellow wingnut Ezra Levant, free speech issues, and so on.

Of course I have no time to write anything, with two deadlines looming, but if you'd like to discuss it here, feel free!

I can only offer a huge cheer for the students at University of Ottawa who used their freedom of speech to say no to bigoted buffoonery.

I have no problem with Coulter being allowed in Canada. Why not? If there's no audience for her "ideas" (yeah, right), they won't be heard, as the students in Ottawa showed. But Ann Wright, George Galloway, and Amy Goodman should have no problem getting in either.

Okay, that's more writing than I should have done. Enjoy.

3.23.2010

citizenship update not

Several wmtc readers in various venues have asked about our citizenship applications. There's been no word yet.

The timeline so far is very brief. We applied in November 2008, the earliest date we were both eligible. In March 2009 we received notification that our application is in the queue. That form letter said processing time is 8-12 months. We're now at 12 months.

Here's something I wrote last summer:
I'd like to think the delay is down to an understaffed CIC and a slow-moving bureaucracy, rather than something more sinister. (CIC, what do you think??)

In the 1980s, many of my activist friends - who were all older than me - were paranoid about being spied on, even though nothing we were doing was even marginally illegal. They wouldn't talk our activities on the phone, and were always suspicious when a new person joined the group. My attitude was: Don't flatter yourself, we're not that important. Not that I knew we weren't being spied on. I just chose to proceed without fear, and not catch their paranoia, even if it might be justified.

Those friends had lived through the 1960s and early 70s, and they had seen ample proof that the US government did spy on activists - regularly and for no reason. And now I've lived through the early 21st Century, and I know it doesn't matter if my activism is legal or not. The government might take an interest anyway. No government can be considered free of that possibility.

It follows, then, that some wmtc readers have wondered if my writing critically about the Harper government, especially about Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney, could reduce our chances of getting citizenship, or at least delay the process. Especially since we know the CIC does read this blog. (Remember, we have proof of that.)

I'd certainly like to think that's not the case. I've done nothing illegal. In fact, I might be considered a model citizen, as I'm actively engaged in society. In my work on behalf of US war resisters in Canada, I stand beside the mainstream of Canadian society, including many Members of Parliament. But of course, I do actively oppose the current Government.

Is there something going on? We really don't know. Maybe our citizenship applications are taking the slow route through CIC channels because of my outspoken opposition to the head of that ministry. Or maybe "don't flatter yourself" is a more appropriate thought.

When the subject of Jason Kenney comes up, Campaign friends will joke, "How's that citizenship application coming, Laura?" The longer the delay, the more inclined I am to think our application is on the bottom of a pile somewhere.

But waiting isn't stressful; we're not impatient. It's not like 2004 and 2005, when we were still in living in New York, waiting to begin the next phase of our lives. I'm more anxious to complete grad school and begin my new career than I am about the citizenship application.

However long it takes, it takes.

3.22.2010

u.s. health care discussion in previous thread

Last night, in anger and frustration, I tossed up a post with a press release from NOW.

I'm trying to stay focused on writing my two final papers, both due on the same day, so I figured the press release plus a little venting would be a reasonable stand-in for coherent thinking of my own.

Now an interesting discussion has developed, and it's very revealing of the various (in my opinion, mistaken) impressions people have about the bill. Please feel free to join us here. I'm mostly staying out of it (focus, focus) so you're in little danger of having your head bitten off.

3.21.2010

to pass their pitiful excuse for health care reform, obama and congress say fuck you to women

It's no surprise, but it's still shameful and unconscionable.
Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women's Rights

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill

March 21, 2010

As a longtime proponent of health care reform, I truly wish that the National Organization for Women could join in celebrating the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It pains me to have to stand against what many see as a major achievement. But feminist, progressive principles are in direct conflict with many of the compromises built into and tacked onto this legislation.

The health care reform bill passed by Congress today offers a number of good solutions to our nation's critical health care problems, but it also fails in many important respects. After a full year of controversy and compromise, the result is a highly flawed, diminished piece of legislation that continues reliance on a failing, profit-driven private insurance system and rewards those who have been abusive of their customers. With more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths annually and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies each year due to medical bills, this bill is only a timid first step toward meaningful reform.

Fact: The bill contains a sweeping anti-abortion provision. Contrary to the talking points circulated by congressional leaders, the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion. It imposes a bizarre requirement on insurance plan enrollees who buy coverage through the health insurance exchanges to write two monthly checks (one for an abortion care rider and one for all other health care). Even employers will have to write two separate checks for each of their employees requesting the abortion rider.

This burdensome, elaborate system must be eliminated. It is there because the Catholic bishops and extremist abortion rights opponents know that it will result in greatly restricting access to abortion care, currently one of the most common medical procedures for women.

Fact: President Obama made an eleventh-hour agreement to issue an executive order lending the weight of his office to the anti-abortion measures included in the bill. This move was designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women's access to abortion. This executive order helps to cement the misconception that the Hyde Amendment is settled law rather than what it really is -- an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. It also sends the outrageous message that it is acceptable to negotiate health care reform on the backs of women.

Fact: The bill permits age-rating, the practice of imposing higher premiums on older people. This practice has a disproportionate impact on women, whose incomes and savings are lower due to a lifetime of systematic wage discrimination.

Fact: The bill also permits gender-rating, the practice of charging women higher premiums simply because they are women. Some are under the mistaken impression that gender-rating has been prohibited, but that is only true in the individual and small-group markets. Larger group plans (more than 100 employees) sold through the exchanges will be permitted to discriminate against women -- having an especially harmful impact in workplaces where women predominate.

We know why those gender- and age-rating provisions are in the bill: because insurers insisted on them, as they will generate billions of dollars in profits for the companies. Such discriminatory rating must be completely eliminated.

Fact: The bill imposes harsh restrictions on the ability of immigrants to access health care, imposing a 5-year waiting period on permanent, legal residents before they are eligible for assistance such as Medicaid, and prohibiting undocumented workers even to use their own money to purchase health insurance through an exchange. These provisions are counterproductive in terms of controlling health care costs; they are there because of ugly anti-immigrant sentiment, and must be eliminated.

Fact: The bill covers only 32 million of the 47 million uninsured in this country, does not contain a meaningful public option and provides no pathway to a single payer system like Medicare for all. Democratic negotiators crumpled before powerful business interests and right-wing extremists, and until they get a spine there will be no true competition to help rein in costs.

The bottom line is that everyone -- citizen and non-citizen, undocumented immigrant and visitor -- has a fundamental human right to health care. This right has been denied in the U.S. for far too long, while the rest of the industrialized world moved ahead to assure universal and affordable care for their people.

We call upon President Obama and elected officials in both houses to commit to a process of steady improvement of our health care system that will result in true reform with universal coverage, realistically affordable rates and no discrimination. We still have a lot of work to do before we can genuinely celebrate.

Thanks to Antonia Z for the press release.

informed consent for war: "do you know anyone in canada?"

This is a must-read for anyone who is pro-choice and anti-war - that is to say, anyone who is truly pro-life.
Informed consent
by William Blum

About half the states in the US require that a woman seeking an abortion be told certain things before she can obtain the medical procedure. In South Dakota, for example, until a few months ago, staff was required to tell women: "The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being"; the pregnant woman has "an existing relationship with that unborn human being," a relationship protected by the U.S. Constitution and the laws of South Dakota; and a "known medical risk" of abortion is an "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide." A federal judge has now eliminated the second and third required assertions, calling them "untruthful and misleading."

I personally would question even the first assertion about a fetus or an embryo being a human being, but that's not the point I wish to make here. I'd like to suggest that before a young American man or woman can enlist in the armed forces s/he must be told the following by the staff of the military recruitment office:

"The United States is at war [this statement is always factually correct]. You will likely be sent to a battlefield where you will be expected to do your best to terminate the lives of whole, separate, unique, living human beings you know nothing about and who have never done you or your country any harm. You may in the process lose an arm or a leg. Or your life. If you come home alive and with all your body parts intact there's a good chance you will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Do not expect the government to provide you particularly good care for that, or any care at all. In any case, you may wind up physically abusing your spouse and children and/or others, killing various individuals, abusing drugs and/or alcohol, and having an increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide. No matter how bad a condition you may be in, the Pentagon may send you back to the battlefield for another tour of duty. They call this 'stop-loss'. Your only alternative may be to go AWOL. Do you have any friends in Canada? And don't ever ask any of your officers what we're fighting for. Even the generals don't know. In fact, the generals especially don't know. They would never have reached their high position if they had been able to go beyond the propaganda we're all fed, the same propaganda that has influenced you to come to this office."

Since for so many young people in recent years one of the determining factors in their enlistment has been the economy, this additional thought should be pointed out to them — "You are enlisting to fight, and perhaps die, for a country that can't even provide you with a decent job, or any job at all."

Many thanks to redsock for sending.

u.s. tea-party wingnuts with their masks off

The supposedly anti-government, anti-public-spending crowd in the US shows its true face.
Representative Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, told a reporter that as he left the Cannon House Office Building with Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights era, some among the crowd chanted “the N-word, the N-word, 15 times.” Both Mr. Carson and Mr. Lewis are black.

“It was like going into the time machine with John Lewis,” said Mr. Carson, a large former police officer who said he wasn't frightened; he said he worried about the 70-year-old Mr. Lewis, who is twice his age. “He said it reminded him of another time.”

Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, said a protester spit on Representative Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who is black. Mr. Cleaver's office said the protester was arrested but said the congressman won't press charges.

Mr. Clyburn, who led fellow black students in integrating South Carolina's public facilities a half-century ago, called the behaviour “absolutely shocking.”

“I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus,” Mr. Clyburn told reporters.

Never doubt what is fueling these people's anger. According to a blog at Firedoglake (otherwise unsourced), "many protesters shouted "kill Obama 'pause' bill" ".

If the tea-partiers are so opposed to government spending, why aren't they protesting the two occupations the US is funding to the tune of at least $880 billion and as much as $1.03 trillion, this year alone? Because they don't give a crap about government spending. They're furious that a man with brown skin is living in the White House.

Although there's nothing funny about this incident, the Globe and Mail's headline was, perhaps unintentionally, amusing: "Washington turns ugly on eve of historic health-care vote". Turns ugly? You're too kind.

goodbye paralympics

The Big Picture does the 2010 Paralympic Games.

pardon me, sir, there's an ad on your banana



Yes, that's an ad for Wii. On a banana.

Is this really necessary? I mean, really. Come on.

Note to self: buy fruit without advertising on it.

3.20.2010

most canadians support the use of contraceptives, or, what were they thinking?

The majority of Canadians support the use of contraceptives, and Impudent Strumpet proves it.


What were they thinking?

jason kenney confronted by immigration activists in montreal

From No One Is Illegal - Montreal:

Subject: Jason Kenney disrupted and confronted over two days in Montreal

-> Jason Kenney is disrupted and confronted over two days in Montreal

-> Kenney intends to bring in Refugee Appeals Division to distract from previous and upcoming attacks on migrant rights

MONTREAL, Friday, March 19, 2010 -- Conservative Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Minister Jason Kenney was confronted and disrupted, over two days, during a visit to Montreal for the Metropolis Conference.

Today, two migrant justice and Palestine solidarity organizers were able to enter an elevator with Jason Kenney and his entourage as he prepared to make a policy address at the Sheraton Hotel. Immediately, the community organizers confronted Kenney about his pandering to racists and bigots in Canada with his comments and policies. They highlighted the prejudging of refugee claimants (such as recent claimants from Mexico, Sri Lanka and the Czech Republic) as well as highlighting two cases where a failed refugee claimant was murdered in Mexico, while another claimant committed suicide to avoid a deportation.

[More info about Grise, the Mexican woman who was murdered, is here.

More info about Habtom Kibraeb, an Eritrean refugee who committed suicide in Halifax is available here.]

Kenney was heckled all the way into the hotel ballroom, where he was intending to address a large group of conference participants. He was ushered away to a back room, and the two organizers (involved with the People’s Commission Network and Solidarity Across Borders) proceeded to address the gathering conference participants for up to 5 minutes. At various points, some members of the attentive audience applauded. Kenney’s attacks on immigrant rights, Palestine solidarity organizations, as well as his pandering to homophobes and racists were highlighted in some detail.

Later, other protesters also entered the ballroom. One protester succinctly expressed, as he was being expelled: “We won’t put up with this racist bullshit, fuck Jason Kenney!”

According to security officials, Kenney refused to come into the conference hall until any other potential protesters were removed from the ballroom. However, many participants in the Metropolis conference itself were intending to question Kenney vigorously.

Today’s disruption builds on a picket against Jason Kenney yesterday, at the same conference. Migrant justice, anti-racist, queer rights, feminist and Palestine solidarity organizers united together for a speak-out denouncing Kenney’s track-record. Members of groups such as the Migrant Workers Support Center, Dignidad Migrante, No One Is Illegal-Montreal, Solidarity Across Borders, Immigrant Workers Center, the Féderation des femmes du Québec, GRASPÉ-McGill and several Palestine solidarity organizations addressed the picket, including curious conference participants.

During the picket, some community organizers were able to enter the hotel. The picket and disruption were described accurately as follows in a Canadian Press report:

“Kenney's speech to the Montreal conference was interrupted briefly by a protester accusing the minister of racism. Kenney was confronted by a group of activists who accused him of harbouring extreme right-wing values. The same group confronted Kenney during his visit to Montreal in the fall. They accused him of a variety of affronts: limiting refugee rights, taking a one-sided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and working to keep references to homosexuality out of Canada's citizenship guide.

At a demonstration before the speech they chanted, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay; Jason Kenney go away.""

[The original article is linked here.]

While Kenney was being confronted at the Sheraton today, he remained silent, except to mention to the protesters, as an aside, that a Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) would be announced soon. This division was supposed to be implemented back in 2002, under the Liberal government, but has been delayed by successive governments.

Kenney’s upcoming announcement is cynical. His previous policies have made it more difficult to claim refugee status, and upcoming policy changes will make it that much more difficult. Kenney's policies have made it more difficult to even enter Canada to make a refugee claim. The RAD is being implemented at a moment when even initiating a claim is harder to do. Montreal-area migrant justice organizers urge vigilance, because Kenney’s announcement is a seeming concession to NGO and church groups who have asked politely for a RAD for almost a decade. Meanwhile, Kenney is intending to bring in even more regressive changes to immigration and refugee policies. In contrast groups like Solidarity Across Borders will continue to campaign and organize for a comprehensive regularization program for all non-status migrants, while supporting migrants who face deportation and detention.

war resisters fundraiser a great success; more ways you can get involved

The War Resisters Support Campaign had a great event in Toronto last night - good food shared with good friends, moving and enlightening talks, and a much-needed infusion of funds to continue our work.

Here's a report on the evening, but please see below for another important way you can help the Campaign.

War resister Robin Long chatted with us from San Francisco via Skype. Robin, you may recall, was the first war resister deported by the Harper Government. He reminded us how the specific actions of the Canadian government led to more aggravating charges being laid against him, and harsher sentencing. Robin served 15 months in a US military prison; a sentence of more than a year means he cannot return to Canada for 10 years, and he has a Canadian-born son. Robin's time in prison has left him with anxiety and agoraphobia, among other issues.

But Robin hasn't given up and walked away. Working with other Iraq War veterans and resisters, he formed Veteran Artists - a veteran-directed "VA" that will use art to help veterans heal. They're launching their first project at this year's Burning Man, going back to the desert, a landscape where they were once sent to kill and destroy, this time to create and to heal.

Next, war resister Phil McDowell talked about joining the US Army shortly after September 11, 2001, feeling it was an important and patriotic thing to do. He expected to fight in Afghanistan, but was deployed to Iraq. While in Iraq, from his own experiences and what he read in books and online, Phil had a growing fear - then a realization - then a certainty - that the entire war had been based on lies.

It was difficult for Phil to believe that his government would have lied about something of such import, where people's lives were at stake. At first the truth was difficult to believe - then it became impossible to escape. In Iraq, Phil saw horrible human rights abuses on a regular basis, and he knew his work as a communications expert was enabling those crimes.

Back in the US, Phil made no secret of why he wanted to separate from the Army, telling his fellow soldiers what they would - and wouldn't - find in Iraq. His commanding officers wanted to shut him up, but Phil refused to lie for their war.

When the term of Phil's contract was completely finished, he left the service for good. Or so he thought.

A few months later, Phil McDowell was ordered to re-deploy to Iraq. He was stop-lossed. He tried every legal means to get out of this involuntary service, only to learn that there is no legal way out. That's when Phil came to Canada.

Shortly after arriving in Toronto, he got a job installing solar energy systems, and has done that work since then. All he wants is to stay in Canada, do environmental work and activism, hike and explore Canada's awesome beauty. To live in peace and contribute to his new country.

Next Vietnam veteran and peace activist Ron Kovic addressed us briefly by video. You can see Ron's five-minute talk here. Tomorrow, March 21, Ron will participate in another event for US war resisters in Canada.

And finally, Alyssa Manning, the lawyer who represents most of the US war resisters, updated us on her legal research and strategy. I won't go into it here - too bad, CIC, you'll have to find out for yourselves! - but it was exciting and very hopeful. Alyssa's work could create a big breakthrough for military resisters, and for peace.

But these cases shouldn't be fought one at a time in court. We shouldn't be forced to raise thousands of dollars for legal defense, and people shouldn't be forced to live in limbo as they wait and wait for their cases to be decided. We need a political solution, and one is within reach: Bill C-440.

Another way you can help US war resisters in Canada

We spend a lot of time begging for money: money for Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications, money for work permits, for spousal sponsorships, for legal fees, phone bills, internet access. Most of our daily campaign costs like printing and transportation come out of our own pockets.

One way we can spend less time fundraising and more time lobbying and doing outreach is through pre-authorized monthly donations: supporters who commit to a monthly donation that is drawn directly from their chequing accounts. Right now our automatic monthly donations total about $750 per month, and we're trying to increase that by about $2,000 more.

I find the monthly automatic deduction is an easy and painless way to contribute. Depending on your income level, it may be impossible for you to donate $300, but $25 per month is do-able, especially when it's deducted automatically. You can set up a monthly donation of as little as $5 or $10; the Campaign has several automatic donors at that level. It's all valuable. It all adds up.

If this is something you would consider, you can download the form from this page (pdf form here).

3.19.2010

ron kovic salutes u.s. war resisters in canada

On the 7th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Ron Kovic - Vietnam veteran, author, peace activist and disability-rights activist - speaks to U.S. war resisters in Canada, and to all of us who support them.



Let Them Stay!

3.18.2010

war resister chuck wiley on the green zone; war resister events in vancouver and toronto

Listen to war resister Chuck Wiley, interviewed by John Bonnar, on the movie "Green Zone".

This weekend, two very special war resister events are taking place in Toronto and Vancouver this weekend.

Friday, March 19
Iraq War Resisters in Canada: WHY THIS FIGHT MATTERS


Fundraising dinner and campaign update
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street, Toronto

6:30 pm Dinner
7:30 pm Programme

Featuring lawyer Alyssa Manning and Iraq war resisters Robin Long (by Skype) and Phil McDowell

$20 suggested donation • raffle prizes • refreshments

* * * * * * *

Sunday, March 21
On the 7th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq: VETERAN RESISTERS SPEAK OUT AGAINST WAR

In Toronto

Friends Meeting House
60 Lowther Avenue (north of Bloor at Bedford – St. George subway)
4:00 pm

In Vancouver
Maritime Labour Centre
1880 Triumph Street
1:00 pm

Seven years ago, millions of people around the world protested the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died, as have thousands of US and other soldiers – all for a war based on lies. While Bush and Blair, the architects of this crime walk free, Iraq war resisters are still being jailed for their opposition to the war.

Join veteran US soldiers and war resisters Ron Kovic, Rodney Watson and Jeremy Hinzman for an interactive discussion on the campaign to allow US Iraq war resisters to stay in Canada.

Live from Los Angeles: Ron Kovic
Ron Kovic served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He returned home wounded and became an anti-war activist. Ron Kovic is the author and subject of the book and film, Born on the Fourth of July.

Live from Vancouver: Rodney Watson
Rodney Watson completed his tour of duty in Iraq. When he was stop-lossed and ordered to return to Iraq, he came to Canada instead. When the Harper government ordered him deported, Rodney accepted an offer of sanctuary from the First United Church in Vancouver.

Live from Toronto: Jeremy Hinzman
In January 2004, Jeremy Hinzman became the first Iraq War resister to come to Canada Jeremy was a US soldier in the elite infantry division, the 82nd Airborne. He served in a non-combat position in Afghanistan and came to Canada when he learned he was going to be deployed to Iraq.

cons: birth control has nothing to do with family planning (updated)

L: I wanted to post about this, but school + war resisters = all my time.

[redsock guest post]

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon explains why contraception will be excluded from the Harper government's initiative (to be presented at June's G8 summit) to improve the health of women in poor countries:
[Contraception] does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives.

Mr. Cannon is a liar and a buffoon and supports the torture of innocent people, but I find it difficult to accept that he truly believes birth control has nothing whatsoever to do with a couple planning how many children to have and when to have them. It's like saying breathing has nothing to do with remaining alive.

Katherine McDonald, executive director of Action Canada for Population and Development: "This is really playing to the base in tractor-loads rather than with shovels." An editorial in the Globe and Mail wonders if the policy "stems from a fear of alienating a small base of extremely conservative voters who oppose birth control".

The opposition parties are incredulous. Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett stated during Question Period that, according to the United Nations, a "lack of adequate contraceptive services is responsible for 1.5 million deaths in developing countries every year."

Yes, but Cannon wants to "save lives", so taking simple actions that will prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths is quite irrelevant.

G&M columnist Jane Taber notes: "This was the first Question Period in a long time that the Liberals did [not] focus on the Afghan detainee issue." Hoping to run away and hide from the torture allegations by proroguing Parliament did not work, so it's extremely doubtful that this head-line grabber will succeed in permanently changing the subject.

Jay Gribble, co-author and vice president of International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau, states the obvious. Family planning:
permits the healthy spacing of births, prevents the spread of HIV, reduces the number of low birth-weight babies, allows for longer breastfeeding, prevents unplanned pregnancies and abortions, and averts deaths from childbirth that leave infants and their siblings motherless and poorly cared for.

A 2007 report by the Disease Control Priorities Project - funded by the World Bank and other groups - lists pregnancy planning as one of the "most effective and promising interventions" for reducing the death rates of mothers.

The United Nations Population Fund reports that 500,000 women die every year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, leaving more than one million children without mothers. Access to contraception could prevent around 40% of maternal deaths worldwide.

[L again with a reminder: women's rights are human rights. Without control of our reproduction, women can never be free and equal participants in the world. Contraception is integral to women's health and women's lives - but it is more than than that. Access to contraception is essential to human dignity, equality and freedom.]

* * * *

Update: Harper flip-flops: "We are not closing doors against any options including contraception." Yet another sudden change of belief, coming closely on the heels of backtracking on funding of Internet service for rural and low-income Canadians. And the National Post notes that on Wednesday, "the Conservatives held three different positions on the potential ban of '10-percenter' mailings in the space of three hours". Impressive!

two movie reflections, part two: capitalism, a love story

I recently heard a Canadian friend remark, "You'd think after a movie like 'Sicko' Americans would wake up and demand change."

What I should have said: "You'd think after a movie like 'Capitalism: A Love Story', Canadians would understand that Americans are powerless to demand anything."

Unfortunately, I hadn't yet seen Michael Moore's latest movie, so I wasn't able to make this clever juxtaposition. Instead, I said, "Millions of Americans have woken up, but they are powerless. Their representatives are controlled by industry, and don't listen to them."

I liked the movie a lot. It's not a perfect film, but it doesn't have to be. I felt, as I usually do about Moore's films, that it might be many people's first exposure to making connections between disparate events and the conditions of their lives, and to thinking about the alternatives.

The pieces Moore chooses to illustrate the evils of unchecked capitalism are excellent. Corporate-government fraud scams like the one that sent innocent Pennsylvania children to prison for other people's profit - corporate insurance schemes where companies' benefit from employees' deaths (while the families of those deceased employees are left with medical bills that can bankrupt them) - commercial airline pilots who can't make ends meet - the unconscionable sin of exchanging higher education for a lifetime of debt - all were excellent, concrete examples of how the system benefits the few at the expense of the rest of us.

The icing on the cake, of course, is the back-room deal cut for the banks, the eye-popping "financial coup d'etat" that forced the impoverished American people to fund the compulsive gambling debts of the super-rich. I can't use the word "bailout". That glib moniker doesn't come close to describing the magnitude of this crime. Moore's depiction of this organized crime syndicate illustrates - beautifully and tragically - how fully corporatized the US government is.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that I was unconvinced there would be an election in 2008. I thought it distinctly possible that certain war- and financial- related powers would find it more useful to cause an incident that would give them an excuse to "postpone" the election. "Capitalism: A Love Story" shows why such a move isn't necessary. They can accomplish everything they want without breaking down the stage set of US democracy.

On the other hand, it was brilliant to see the battle at Republic Windows and Doors (although those workers lost their jobs anyway) and a few worker-owned businesses. There is another way.

Some years ago, I read a book called It Didn't Happen Here - Why Socialism Failed in the United States, by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks. There was a time when working-class radicalism was strong in the US, when socialism might have reached a tipping point of public demand. Yet the US is alone among developed nations in not having a viable socialist party.

Lipset and Marks identify several trends in US history and sociology that cumulatively prevented socialism from taking root: the two-party system that enabled strong parties to co-opt the ideas of weaker ones (i.e. people could vote for FDR and get "socialism light" plus clout, instead of voting for a socialist party and getting socialism) and made it virtually impossible for alternative parties to succeed; American individualism and anti-statism, so much a part of the American psyche; the decision of socialist organizers not to work with the labour movement; the diversity of the American working class, and the ease in which that diversity can be exploited into divide-and-conquer; even the US's lack of feudal history figures in.

Looking at this frustrating snapshot of US history, we can also take Howard Zinn's approach. We can view a "reverse negative" image of the US, and look at all the working people who have organized on behalf of themselves, and the changes that work has forced. Capitalism wasn't pre-ordained to become The American Way. It didn't happen here. Yet.

3.17.2010

two movie reflections, part one: precious

We watched "Precious (based...)" last night. I haven't read the book yet, and I purposely stayed away from reviews, as I always do before I see a movie. I found the film compelling, convincing, and very authentic. "Precious" is a story of self-emancipation from degrading and soul-destroying experience. It's hopeful, but still realistic.

"Precious" is not the standard-issue heroic-teacher movie, where the iconoclastic teacher never quits on the toughest rebel cases, and together they forge a bond to pass the big test and change their lives. The character Precious makes her own decision to change her life. That is, indeed, the only way change happens.

Of course she has help. No one ever does it alone. No one of any age gets out of a trapping situation without support and assistance, and certainly not a teenager. It can't be done. But the will to accept help and explore options must come from within. I thought the movie showed that. Precious decides to try the alternative school, she decides to let people into her life, decides to share her story (often the focus of liberation), decides to say, "Enough!" to being her mother's slave. Decides to break the cycle and love her baby.

Coming to the movie relatively cold, I didn't know it contained a portrait of an alternative inner-city school. This was exactly the kind of centre where I tutored and taught, and those were exactly my students: Adult Basic Education (ABE) for young people who had already dropped out of school. My students faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, but they hadn't given up. They were still reaching out for help.

The classroom scenes were dead-on. I laughed with the accuracy and authenticity - and I hurt a little, because I loved that work and I sometimes miss the unique joys it brought. The only hint of inauthenticity that I found in "Precious" was that lovely tiny classroom with maybe eight or ten students. There may be programs like that, but they are rare.

This was the mid-90s. A social worker told me that one-third of the students in my class were HIV-positive.

In a comment on an earlier thread, a reader found "Precious" contained that racist Hollywood cliche where the white hero swoops in to save the poor darkies. To my relief, I didn't find that in this movie at all. Although the social worker played by Mariah Carey may be white - or may not be - the movie doesn't cast her in a saviour role. Precious has to disclose her burden in order to get help, and she has to make the decision to go back to the familiar hell or face the vast unknown.

* * * *

Many people believe incest to be a bizarre and rare phenomenon. It is anything but. A history of childhood sexual abuse is extremely common among low-income and homeless populations - not because poor people are more likely to commit incest, but because sexual abuse easily creates the conditions that lead to a lifetime of poverty. A child who grows up with sexual abuse and never gets help is extremely likely to drop out of school, live on the street, do sex work, become a drug addict, have inappropriate relationships resulting in lots of children for whom she is unprepared to care, end up in prison, or any combination of these. One of the few places I've seen the link between poverty and sexual abuse made visible, outside of social service settings, is in David Shipler's book, The Working Poor (a very good book, worth reading).

The key is getting help. I've shared "survivor panels" - public speaking about personal experience surviving sexual assault - with incest survivors; there were several in my Model Mugging group. In all honesty, I am in awe of them. To grow up in a home where you never feel safe - to be sexually assaulted on a regular basis - and to be utterly dependent on your assailant for survival - yet to survive, recover and transcend - is truly to live a heroic life. The women and men I met who had done this were all living "normal" lives - relationships, careers, the works. But they had done a lot of work. It's definitely possible - but not alone.

3.15.2010

international lobby day to oppose seal hunt

I have a presentation due tomorrow, so I can't write anything new today. Which is fine, because what can I possibly say about this issue that hasn't been said hundreds and millions of times?

If you oppose the slaughter of seals for fur (not for sustenance), please take a moment of your day to contact your MP and Senators about it. From the Humane Society International / Canada:

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Lobby Day for Seals
March 15, 2010

On March 15th, Humane Society International/Canada is asking you to help save the seals.

The overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose the commercial seal hunt — yet our government ignores our views, using our tax dollars to prop up the sealing industry. In their shameful pandering to this marginal industry, Canadian politicians are arrogantly turning their backs on the very people they expect to vote for them in the next election.

We need to send a clear message to our government. Tell your officials that they need to represent the views of all Canadians, not just those who slaughter seals.

Please contact your Member of Parliament and Senators and demand an end to the cruel commercial seal slaughter. Help us show the Canadian government that the overwhelming majority of Canadians will not tolerate the continuation of this needless killing.

There are four ways you can take action today:
* Visit your MP or Senators in person.
* Call your or MP or Senators.
* Write a handwritten letter and fax (or mail) to your MP or Senators.
* Send an email to your MP or Senators.

And here are five things to ask for:

* Ask your MP and Senators to call on Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to immediately cancel the 2010 commercial seal hunt.

* Ask your Senators to support Senator Mac Harb’s historic bill to end the commercial seal hunt.

* Ask your MP and Senators to work in the longer term to end the commercial seal slaughter by promoting a fair buyout of the commercial sealing industry.

* Ask your MP and Senators to work to stop a Canadian WTO challenge against the European Union in retaliation for its prohibition on seal product trade.

* Ask your MP and Senators to work to remove federal subsidies to the sealing industry.

There are so many things your representatives can do to end the commercial seal hunt. Please take the time to lobby for the seals — never have they needed our help so much.

Let's make March 15th count for the seals. Together, we can end Canada's commercial seal slaughter for once and for all!

Background Information: (pdfs)
* Inherently inhumane
* Myths and facts about Canada's seal slaughter
* Fast facts on Canada's commercial seal hunt
* Seals and fisheries interactions
* Seals, sea ice and climate change

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Go here for lobbying tips and more actions you can take.

3.14.2010

federal court asked to rule on kenney's influence on refugee cases

Pogge has it.

I would like to leave a comment at Pogge, but can't seem to get past the new moderating system. A commenter wonders why Master Harper doesn't reel in his loud-mouthed CIC Minister. I've always assumed that Kenney does Harper's bidding (a possibility the commenter also notes), or we wouldn't see so much of him.

What's more, many people think Kenney is positioning himself for a run as future Leader, and he's putting himself on display with that in mind.

Regardless, a federal court review of his undue influence could be very interesting.

texas textbook massacre: as texas goes, so goes the nation

I've seen quite a few bloggers alerting people to the recent work of the Texas Board of "Education" - and if ever there was a need for scare quotes, this is it.

If you haven't heard, the radical right, radical white, faction of the Texas Board has succeeded in re-writing US history.

What many people may not realize is that the implications of this classroom coup reaches far beyond the Lone Star State. Because Texas is the second-largest buyer of textbooks in the US, and purchasing decisions are made at the state (not local) level, textbook publishers can't survive without the Texas seal of approval. To guarantee that approval, they adopt Texas Board of Ed standards as their own. In other words, what young Texans read, young people all over the country read, too.

In my freelancing days, I had some work editing textbooks. Copy-editors kept the Texas Board of Education requirements on-hand as a checklist, and everything we turned in had to meet that checklist. I haven't been able to find reliable figures on what percentage of US textbooks conform to Texas standards, but I recall it being greater than half.

So what will - and will not - be in these books?

From Think Progress: Thomas Jefferson is out, replaced by John Calvin and St. Thomas Aquinas. (Did I just write that? Did you just read that? Thomas Jefferson will not be included in US history textbooks.)

Freedom of religion is out, along with "transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else"; that is, the concept of gender and race being social constructs.

The word "democratic" is out, replaced by "constitutional republic."

From HuffPo: Judeo-Christian influences of the Founding Fathers (minus Jefferson, that is), in. Separation of church and state, out.

From the New York Times: Hispanic Americans, out. All-white history, in.

Black Panthers, in. (To "balance" the view that the civil rights movement was non-violent.)

Supposed vindication of Marthyism, in.

The word "capitalism" is out, replaced by "free-enterprise system". Also in, Milton Friedman. Somehow I don't think children will read about his role in overthrowing democratically elected governments and subsequent torture and massacres.

Also in: Phyllis Schlafly, Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, the NRA. (The NRA wasn't there already?)

Washington Monthly reminds us that "no historians, sociologists, or economists have been consulted. The ideologues simply decide what kind of "truths" they like best, and then shape the state's curriculum accordingly."

For details, the Times story is best.

Today I am really missing Howard Zinn.

ambassador sam sullivan on why the paralympics matter

I love the Paralympics! For me, this is the real Olympics - amateur athletes, ordinary people who compete because their talents and drive compels them to. Inevitably, some of the problems I have with the Olympics have crept into the Paralympic Games, but to much lesser and more tolerable degree.

Shortly after we moved to Canada, I watched much of the Torino Olympics, and first learned that "Olympics" in Canada means the winter Games. It was also my first live exposure to a country that understands the Paralympics as great sport, not a giant pity party. I had always heard from athletes that this was the case in Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, and other countries, but seeing it for myself was very exciting. (Another thing I discovered during those games: Newfoundland! It was the advertising blitz during Torino that eventually led to our trip to The Rock in 2008.)

At the 2006 closing ceremonies, I was awed to see Sam Sullivan, then mayor of Vancouver, wave the Maple Leaf. I had interviewed Sam a few times when he was forging new ground for people with disabilities with assisted sailing, hiking, gardening and music-making. I was proud to live in a country where he could be mayor of a major city, and no one cared about his disability one way or another. I still am.

CBC's Ian Hanomansing interviewed Sullivan, now Ambassador to the 2010 Paralympics, about the Games. It's very good: watch it here.

I've blogged a lot about the Paralympics, what they mean to me, why I love them, why I want everyone to see them, so I'll try not to repeat the whole spiel here, and just let Sam talk.

3.13.2010

vancouver peace people, take note: very special event sunday march 21

I'm always posting about war resister events in Toronto, but next Sunday's event is taking place in Vancouver, Toronto, and L.A.

On the 7th anniversary of the Iraq War: Veteran Resisters Speak Out

WHEN: Sunday March 21, 1:00 PM

WHERE: Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph Street, Vancouver. [Toronto info here.]

Seven years ago, millions of people around the world protested the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died, as have thousands of US and other soldiers – all for a war based on lies. While Bush and Blair, the architects of this crime walk free, Iraq war resisters are still being jailed for their opposition to the war.

Join veteran US soldiers and war resisters Ron Kovic, Rodney Watson and Jeremy Hinzman for an interactive discussion on the campaign to allow US Iraq war resisters to stay in Canada.

Live from Los Angeles: Ron Kovic
Ron Kovic served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He returned home wounded and became an anti-war activist. Ron Kovic is the author and subject of the book and film, Born on the Fourth of July.

Live from Vancouver: Rodney Watson
Rodney Watson completed his tour of duty in Iraq. When he was stop-lossed and ordered to return to Iraq, he came to Canada instead. When the Harper government ordered him deported, Rodney accepted an offer of sanctuary from the First United Church in Vancouver.

Live from Toronto: Jeremy Hinzman
In January 2004, Jeremy Hinzman became the first Iraq War resister to come to Canada Jeremy was a US soldier in the elite infantry division, the 82nd Airborne. He served in a non-combat position in Afghanistan and came to Canada when he learned he was going to be deployed to Iraq.

Presented by the Vancouver War Resisters Support Campaign

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As you may imagine, Ron Kovic is a very special hero of mine, as he brings together the ideals of peace activism, military resistance and disability rights. He always makes the explicit connection between Vietnam and Iraq, and he's long been an ardent supporter of Iraq War resisters in Canada.

I don't know if I'll be able to leave work to attend this event, but I'm so excited that it's happening. We're hoping that it will be streamed live on Rabble TV; stay tuned for more info on that.

bob herbert: big brother in blue

There's something very disturbing going on in my hometown. Here's Bob Herbert to tell you about it.
The speaker of the New York City Council and the head of the Council’s Public Safety Committee are calling on Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to get rid of his huge, noxious database of completely innocent New Yorkers who are stopped, questioned and often frisked by the police.

The stops themselves are an outrage and a continuing affront to black and Hispanic New Yorkers, who are the ones most frequently singled-out by the police for this public humiliation. But Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., the committee’s chairman, are focusing on the computerized files that the Police Department is keeping on people who are stopped but found to have done nothing at all wrong.

This is not a small problem. The cops are making more than a half-million of these stops every year. A vast majority of the people targeted — close to 90 percent — are completely innocent. They are not arrested. They are not given a summons. After enduring a mortifying public encounter with the police — which frequently requires the targets to sprawl face down on the sidewalk or spread themselves against a wall or over the hood of a car to be searched — they are sent on their way.

What they’ve left behind, however, if they’ve shown their identification to the cops or answered any questions, is a permanent record of the encounter, which is promptly entered into the department’s staggeringly huge computerized files. Why the Police Department should be keeping files on innocent people is a question with no legitimate answer. This is Big Brother in Blue, with Commissioner Kelly collecting more information than J. Edgar Hoover could ever have imagined compiling.

Ms. Quinn and Mr. Vallone believe it should stop. In a letter this week to Commissioner Kelly, they said that his intent to keep a permanent record of all the information gathered during the stops “raises significant privacy right concerns and suggests that these innocent people are more likely to be targeted in future criminal investigations.”

They bluntly urged the commissioner “to end this policy.”

In an interview on Friday, Ms. Quinn told me: “They should stop keeping the database on people who are not charged, who are not summonsed, and people who may be charged and then go through the judicial system and are found not guilty.”

She said the idea that a permanent database would be kept on people who “basically just got asked some questions” by the police is “extraordinary.”

Ms. Quinn does not oppose the tactic of stopping and frisking people, but said, “I have concerns that we have become overly aggressive in our use of it.” She said additional guidelines or regulations are needed. “I wouldn’t eliminate it from the Police Department toolbox,” she said, “but I would like to find a way to better monitor it and limit its use.”

It should be drastically limited. More than 575,000 stops were made last year, a record. But in 504,594 of those stops, the individuals had done absolutely nothing wrong. They had not violated any law but nevertheless were put through the anxiety and humiliation of a public encounter with the police.

From 2004 through 2009, according to Police Department statistics, an astounding 2,798,461 stops were made. In 2,467,150 of those encounters — 88.2 percent — the people were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

Groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York Civil Liberties Union are fighting this wholesale mistreatment of innocent New Yorkers by the police. Blacks and Hispanics, and especially those who are young and those who are poor, are disproportionately singled-out for this peculiar form of police harassment. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly and other top leaders in this town would never tolerate this kind of systematic abuse of middle-class or wealthy, white New Yorkers.

The overwhelming majority of the stops yield no law-enforcement benefit whatsoever. An analysis of the stops in the first three quarters of 2009 showed that contraband, which usually means drugs, was found on just 1.6 percent of the blacks who were stopped, 1.5 percent of the Hispanics, and 2.2 percent of the whites (who are stopped far less often than the other groups).

The weapons yield was even lower. Weapons were found on just 1.1 percent of the blacks stopped, 1.4 percent of the Hispanics, and 1.7 percent of the whites.

The reasons given by the cops for deciding which unfortunate New Yorkers will be stopped are beyond bogus. A “furtive movement” is the most popular. Walking down the street in broad daylight qualifies. And then there is always the bulge in the pocket. A cellphone, maybe. Or an iPod.

The truth — and many police officers will tell you this privately — is that the stops are often made first and the justification is dreamed up later.

3.12.2010

sarah palin, down syndrome and a loaf of french bread

I don't know the back story to this, but I love it. I like it so much, I'm breaking my usual shunning of all things Palin to post it.
Andrea Fay Friedman, the voice actress who played the role of "Ellen" -- the character depicted as having Down syndrome on the Valentine's Day episode of Family Guy, has responded to the criticism of sometime-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Of special significance, Friedman herself has Down syndrome. Palingates has Friedman's complete response:

My name is Andrea Fay Friedman. I was born with Down syndrome. I played the role of Ellen on the "Extra Large Medium" episode of Family Guy that was broadcast on Valentine's day. Although they gave me red hair on the show, I am really a blonde. I also wore a red wig for my role in "Smudge" but I was a blonde in "Life Goes On". I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line "I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska" was very funny. I think the word is "sarcasm".

In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.

Oh man, I love it!

Thanks to DCeiver. Also from the HuffPo link, an interview with Friedman on a New York Times blog. Very nice.

therapists needed to treat quebecers' fear of headscarves



The Montreal Gazette calls the debate over whether Quebecers and Canadians should tolerate a woman wearing a niqab "the new flashpoint".
As a devout Muslim who wore a hijab, or head scarf, Miriam Abushaban was used to having strangers tell her: "Go back to your own country!"

But when she started wearing a face-covering niqab a year ago, the insulting remarks escalated into aggressive confrontations.

"One person said I look like I'm going to slit someone's throat," says the 22-year-old Concordia University student who comes from New Jersey, where she was raised in a Muslim home by a Palestinian-American father and a Hispanic-American mother who converted to Islam when Miriam was two.

Another time, a woman cursed and shoved her, accusing her of being an "underdeveloped monkey."

Men and women alike have accused her of promoting oppression.

"French Québécois women come up to me and say, 'We really worked hard to get our women's rights and now you're going to take them away from us,' " says Abushaban, a third-year student in early-childhood education.

Of course that attitude doesn't stop at the Québec border. The usually-sensible Heather Mallick says, "Women in niqabs look like scary black crows as they flutter along a Canadian sidewalk." She fights urges to "hustle over to women in niqabs and whisper, 'You don't have to wear that here.'"

What revolting condescension - what myopic assumptions. Our own choices - forged by family, culture, worldview, personality - are not universal. Mallick's secret niqab-busting urge reminds me of people who assume I was unable to have children, or that all single women are lonely spinsters. Chances are high that the niqab-wearing woman knows she doesn't have to wear her veil in Canada. But she didn't think she had to give up her freedom of religion to live here!

Recently a friend told me about a convention she attended in Egypt, where many of the participants wore niqabs. Some were university students, some published authors, engineers, scientists. This doesn't exactly square with Mallick's evocation of Handmaid's Tale and self-injury with scissors.

France, where the hijab is banned in schools, is considering making publicly wearing a niqab illegal. The full-face headscarf is already illegal in Belgium. Switzerland has banned the building of new minarets; the Netherlands may follow. And all over Europe, Muslims are being harassed, threatened and attacked on the streets, in their schools and workplaces. It's not a coincidence.

Has Europe forgotten its own history? Where does intolerance of religion lead?

Does Quebec want to go there?

I understand requiring the face to be exposed for a driver's license or to vote. But for French class? The "pedagogical objectives" of French immersion is a pretty lame excuse for violating freedom of religion.

Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James says "the majority supports these values" and the media can always find Muslims that agree.

So?

Is an individual's religious choice to be subject to majority approval? Shall we convene a panel to vote - thumbs-up, thumbs-down - on what our neighbours' place in their trays in the spiritual cafeteria?

To the oft-mentioned excuse about French culture being eroded by such religious displays, I ask, is your culture so fragile that it cannot withstand a woman covering her face?

For shame.

war resister marc hall writes from jail in kuwait

The following is an open letter from Marc Hall. Hall, a US Army veteran, spoke out about the Army's "stop-loss" (involuntary re-enlistment) policy, and was forcibly taken to Kuwait for court martial and either jail time, or deployment, or both. (My most recent post about Hall is here.) He wrote this letter through Courage to Resist.
I never thought that I would join the Army only to one day be incarcerated by the Army. I have never been to jail in my life, until now. The Army is charging me with Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, "communicating threats" towards my chain of command. Yet I was only communicating how I felt about what I have experienced in the Army and how I felt about the Army’s "Stop-loss" policy. That policy meant that I could not leave the Army when I was supposed to, and after I had already served in Iraq for 14 months.

I guess this all started with a hard core "rap" song I made about the Army’s very unpopular "Stop-loss" policy back in July 2009. Like any "rap" or rock song, I was expressing my freedom of expression under the US Constitution. Being that the Army’s "Stop-loss" policy was a Pentagon decision from what I had heard on the news, I decided to send a copy of my song directly to the Pentagon.

I don’t know if anyone at the Pentagon listened to my song, but somebody in Washington DC mailed the package back to my chain of command. My First Sergeant called me into his office to discuss it. I explained that the rap was a freedom of expression thing. It was not a physical threat, nor any kind of threat whatsoever. I explained that it was just hip hop. He told me that he kind of liked the song, that it sounded good.

1st Sgt Chrysler and Capt Cross, our company commander at B-CO 2-7 IN [Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment] at that time, just recommended me for mental counseling and evaluation. I attended mental counseling at the behavioral health clinic on Ft. Stewart from late July 2009 through November 2009. I had about four visits to the clinic, but I couldn’t attend all the appointments because we were always training in the field. In the end this counseling still left me feeling the same way about Army life, “stop-loss” and war in general.

I spoke to our chaplain and told him my feelings, including all of the domestic things I had gone through with my estranged spouse and my three-year-old daughter over the last four years. I let him hear the "Stop-loss" song and I explained that he shouldn’t take anything in the song personally. He said he liked the song but wished it was not "gangster".

Later, when we trained in the field in Georgia and at the National Training Center (NTC) in California, I was made to train without a weapon due to the song and my ongoing counseling. However, during that time of training without a weapon I felt a surprising sense of peace for the first time.

At NTC, in October 2009, I spoke again to our chaplain after attending services one night. I explained to him how I still felt hurt by the Army policies. He replied that my chain of command had already "forgiven" me about the song. But that didn’t really help me with what I was going through and trying to deal with.

After we came back from NTC, in November 2009, I got to go on leave. I thought maybe two weeks leave would do me some good. But during my leave, from November 21 to December 7, a deep depression sunk into me. I just wanted to be alone. I did not want to be around people. I stayed at home alone. My friends and family were worried that I had turned my phone off. I did not feel like talking to people. I barely made it to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving. I thought about all the depressing things that brought me to this state of mind. I thought about how it all pertained to war. I thought about the times I spoke to the chaplain at basic training at Ft. Knox, and the legal assistant at Ft. Stewart, about my divorce and the safety of my daughter and my rights as a father, and how neither of them could help me. I thought about "Stop-loss" more and more. I started drinking hard every day to help me forget the hurt and pain I was feeling. I thought about how war brought me to this war, and the war I would have to face to remove myself from the presence of war in order to keep my sanity.

When I returned to Ft. Stewart, on December 7, 2009, I really felt from that point on that I did not belong there. I realized that I was not fit for war anymore. I was burnt out and war was the cause of it. I was feeling a little unstable and shaky and I didn’t know what to do about it. The very thought of holding and being around a loaded weapon again gave me the chills. I did not know who my enemies were anymore.

About a week later I spoke to my commanding officer, Captain Wynn of F-CO BSB, about how I am still feeling. I explained to him that I felt a little unstable, angry and depressed about war and how unfit I was for war. I said I did not want to get anybody hurt in this war—being that my battle buddies might have to depend on me. I did not want to be a misfortune to anybody. I explained that I had made an official I.G. complaint (with the Army Investigator General) about the treatment I felt I had not received from my last visit to behavioral health, and the unfair treatment and words that came from my direct NCOs. Behavioral health just rushed me out the door and left all decisions up to my chain of command to decide if I was fit or not.

I know my behavior health treatments were pushed aside so that 2-7 IN could have more bodies for this deployment. I believe that this was not fair to me, and it’s not fair to my battle buddies to put a troubled solder on the battlefield knowing that I still have issues.

Capt. Wynn got me in to speak to the Lt. Colonel about my mental state. I tried to explain about the indirect way I might hurt other soldiers in uniform due to how I was burnt out. But he took it as a threat, basically read me my rights, and put me in the Liberty County Jail in Hinesville, Georgia.

I realize now how going to war can bring unwanted results. Now I sit in jail at the hands and mercy of our US Government vs. little old Marc A. Hall on a charge that was not a threat before, but all of a sudden became a threat now. I communicated an extended need for mental evaluation — not a threat.

The negative sworn statements used to jail me are false. One of the Soldiers who wrote a negative statement told me that same day that he did so because he thought it was a way to "help me out" as he knew what I was going through. Another Soldier who wrote a statement said that I was "his hero" because I stood up for what I believed. These negative statements were also the results of jokes that my battle buddies said about me — and I had played along with them at the time when the jokes were presented — while passing long boring hours at the NTC in California. I do appreciate the "help" guys, but the Army is now saying that talk were real threats, and now they have me in confinement awaiting court martial.

I have to say that I have never been so humiliated in my entire life. I’m in jail with and next to people who have committed real crimes, including murder. And I’m in here for trying to get real treatment, voicing my feelings, and for asserting freedom of expression through my art.

Sincerely,
Marc A Hall

3.11.2010

two important war resisters event, including appearance by ron kovic

Iraq War Resisters in Canada: WHY THIS FIGHT MATTERS
Fundraising dinner and campaign update

Friday, March 19
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street, Toronto

6:30 pm Dinner
7:30 pm Programme

Featuring lawyer Alyssa Manning and Iraq war resisters Robin Long (by Skype) and Phil McDowell

$20 suggested donation • raffle prizes • refreshments

* * * * * * *

On the 7th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq: VETERAN RESISTERS SPEAK OUT AGAINST WAR

Sunday, March 21
Friends Meeting House
60 Lowther Avenue (north of Bloor at Bedford – St. George subway)
4:00 pm

• Live from LA: RON KOVIC, Vietnam veteran and author of Born on the Fourth of July
• Live from Vancouver: RODNEY WATSON, US Iraq war resister in sanctuary
• Live in Toronto: JEREMY HINZMAN, first US Iraq war resister to seek asylum in Canada

Followed by Q&A.

Admission by donation, pay what you can.

War Resisters Support Campaign

Support Bill C-440

3.10.2010

wmtc the obsession

You remember this post, a brief history of wmtc trolls? It was reprinted in shorter (better) version at The Mark.

Many of the trolls featured in that story are still around, continuing to post comments that I reject, unread. Some of them have been doing this for years. Hard to believe, but true. I still wonder about the psychology behind this, but anything I come up with is pure conjecture.

There's another species of obsession that I find through Statcounter. In "came from" I will find the URL of a forum, where someone has shared a wmtc link and is slagging me. The wmtc-hating post is completely off-topic; it never has any connection to the thread. The poster clearly has taken more than a passing glance at wmtc, although he's not one of the regular trolls whose coments I reject. He knows the topics I write about, whatever I share of my personal life, my opinions on various things. He (I'm sure he's male) claims to hate me and everything I stand for. So why is he reading my blog?

I recently posted this.
Did you know Allan and I are ...
Fucking hippies, thinking they're so smart and all by being anti-everything except promiscuos sex, indie music and converse sneakers. oh and leftist lesbian poetry too.
...?

I lifted that from one of these forum posts. (This wasn't him, it was a response to the link. He knows I don't write poetry!) In the span of a week, I found similar postings at four different forums. The guy uses different names and different avatars, but it's fairly obvious that it's the same person. It seems like he is always at the ready with a wmtc post to paste and deride.

Why?

That's all I keep wondering. Why?

He is prone to saying that everything about me and wmtc "makes me rage". There are countless blogs out there that would make me rage, too. So I don't read them.

Why would someone who hates everything I write come here, and why would they share my posts with all their communities?

I'm not implying wmtc is unique in being the object of obsessive wingnuttery. This must be a common phenomenon. But why? Why?

each one, reach one: waterloo war resisters edition

In January, I co-organized a war resisters event in Mississauga. We had a small turnout, but a very engaging discussion, we got a little local media coverage, and felt it was a successful event. There were three surprise attendees: a friend we know through our Red Sox community, his girlfriend, and a friend of theirs.

The two women were so moved by what they heard at the Mississauga meeting, that they decided to organize their own event at the University of Waterloo. This was very gratifying to me as an organizer, and it speaks to the power of the war resisters' stories.

If you're in the K-W area, you can hear many of these stories for yourself tomorrow night. Two war resisters will be there to speak and answer questions, and there will be a screening of "War Resisters Speak Out," a film of a past event, in which (former) CBC radio host and former Vietnam War deserter Andy Barrie interviews a dozen war resisters.

Details here - a cool website to check out whether or not you can attend.

WHEN: Thursday March 11, 6:00 pm

WHERE: University of Waterloo Campus, Tatham Centre Room 2218

WHY: Support Bill C-440! LET THEM STAY!

3.07.2010

a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies

All right, boys and girls, put your thinking caps on. There will be a quiz.

Jews are people.

Whether they are adherents to the religion of Judaism, or identify as ethnically Jewish, or both, Jews are people.

Advocating harm, discrimination, or the infringement of rights of Jewish people = anti-Semitism.

Hatred of people because they are Jews = anti-Semitism.

Pre-judging people because they are Jews = anti-Semitism.

Characterizing a person one does not know as having certain traits because he or she is Jewish = anti-Semitism.

Israel is a country, a modern nation-state.

That country is run by a government.

That government has policies.

Criticism of those policies is no different than criticism of the policies of the US, Canada, France, South Africa, the Netherlands, or any other country.

You see? It's actually very simple. Here's the quiz. Let's do it together.

"Death to Jews" ? Anti-Semitism.

"Jews are cheap and will try to swindle you." ? Anti-Semitism.

"Jews control the US government." ? Anti-Semitism.

"But you're OK, you're not one of those real Jew-y Jews." ? Anti-Semitism. (This has been said to me.)

"Palestinians deserve equal rights." ? Not anti-Semitism.

"I oppose Israel's policies towards Palestinians." ? Not anti-Semitism.

"I believe Israel's policies towards the Palestinian people constitute an apartheid regime." ? Not anti-Semitism.

"Boycott, divest, sanction against Israel to help the Palestinian people." ? Not anti-Semitism.

You may disagree with the characterization of Israel as an apartheid regime. But the belief that Israel is an apartheid regime is not anti-Semitism. Because Israel is a country. It is not "the Jews".

Why is that so hard to understand?

It's not.

The political posturing of various Canadian politicos is a self-serving crock of shit. They know perfectly well that opposing Israel's policies regarding the Palestinian people is not anti-Semitism. But they care infinitely more about their political careers than they do about justice. They won't go up against the US, the Israel lobby, and what is maddeningly, condescendingly called "the Jewish vote".

One day, when Israeli apartheid is dismantled the way South African apartheid was, this condemnation of anti- Israeli apartheid activity will be exposed, then forgotten.

Until then, we can only continue to speak out.

I am Jewish.

I condemn anti-Semitism.

I condemn Israel's apartheid policies.

I am not anti-Semitic.

I am pro-justice.

[Two excellent pieces linked above, by the way: Siddiqui and Dr. Dawg.]

jungle cat world

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Earlier this week, we visited Jungle Cat World, about an hour east of Toronto, with our friend J. Last summer, J and I discovered we shared a love of wild canines, and when I told her there was a wolf centre in driving distance from Toronto - long on my to-do list - we immediately started making plans.

In July, J and her partner C (who are both war resisters) and Allan and I had a great day at the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre, and we all vowed to return in the winter, when the wolves' coats are thick and the animals are much more active. Since then, I had been planning on doing this - we started to make plans - then learned the Wolf Centre is only open on weekends in the winter. I was sooo disappointed. There's no way I can take a day off work for that.

Somewhat as a consolation prize, J suggested we go to Jungle Cat World. J is a regular visitor there - the staff knows her by name, and she knows all the animals' names, their histories, and their personalities. It was pretty amazing to see two wolves trot over to the fence and greet J with obvious signs of canine happiness! J has known the male wolf since he's a cub - she has cuddled with him and rubbed his belly more than once. But now that he's in a breeding pair, no play allowed.

First we walked through the park and saw all the animals, then we did another walk-through to watch the daily feeding. The keeper, dragging a sled full of raw meat behind her, told us about the different animals, both the individuals we were seeing and their species, which are all at high risk for extinction. She is clearly very attached to all the animals and committed to their welfare.

When we were walking around by ourselves, before the feeding, we spent a long time admiring the magnificent arctic wolf. She's alone right now, as the park works on finding her a partner (apparently it takes a very long time to transfer an animal from one facility to another).

Suddenly, Bianca, the white wolf, threw her head back and started to howl. The other wolves in separate enclosures all picked it up and began to howl, too. The three of us looked at each other in amazement, and just stood there drinking it in for as long as it lasted. The sound was so beautiful; it gave me chills. When they finished and I could breathe again, J said, You guys have seen something special. That doesn't usually happen.

After the animals ate, we had our "meet-and-greet", which J arranged in advance. You can interact with your choice of three animals. (That is, three of those that are available for human interaction. I don't think they let you in the enclosure with full-grown lions.) We chose the tiger cubs (which counts as one), the fox and the bobcat.

The tiger cubs are about 5 months old and weigh around 60 pounds. J played with these same cubs when they were only six weeks old, and the size of housecats! We saw a pair of tigers that are about one year old, and look pretty big... until you see the full-grown pair, which clock in at about 600 pounds each. The female is pregnant again, and J and I are going back as soon as the babies are old enough to handle.


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Even though I had a great day, I still have mixed feelings about seeing wild animals in captivity. These animals are very well cared for, they have interaction with other animals, and with humans. Most of them were hand-raised, and they clearly enjoy the stimulation of human interaction. Some were rescued from neglect or abuse; our fox friend was rescued from a fur farm. The rest were all born in captivity in zoo breeding programs. All their species are heavily endangered. Jungle Cat World does outreach and education about endangered species, especially big cats. All good.

But still, there's something painful about seeing a captive wolf. This is the main reason I haven't yet been to the Toronto Zoo. I used to love zoos, and I hear the Toronto's is a wonderful place, but... I don't know. It makes me a little sad.

On balance, I think it's a great place and I'm definitely going back to play with baby tigers.

Not least of why this was such a great day: I took a day off. A real day off, not a "day off" getting my hair cut or going to the dentist. It was heavenly - and my last one until my term ends on April 6.

A selection of our photos is here. We only had our crappy digital camera, so they're not great, but you'll get the idea.

A few of J's photos are here.

3.06.2010

facebook survey

I'm still working out my own Facebook friend policy. I'm also curious about yours. Facebook users, I have three questions for you.

1. How do you deal with friend requests on Facebook?

a. I confirm all friend requests.

b. If I don't know the person, I try to find out why they are friending me (how they know me, what circles we have in common). Depending on their answer, I might confirm or might ignore.

c. If I don't know the person, I always ignore the request. I only friend people I know.

d. I ignore all friend requests.

e. Some other answer. Which is...?

2. To whom do you send friend requests?

a. I friend anyone I know.

b. The above, plus anyone who my friends know.

c. The above, plus I look at the friend suggestions and may send requests to some of those.

d. I am very selective about who I friend.

e. Some other answer. Please share!

3. Have you ever ignored a friend request from someone you know or used to know?

a. Yes.

b. No.

Thanks for sharing.