1.31.2011

th nxt bg thng (y i dnt twt)


I'm sticking fast to my resolve to not be on Twitter. I have no doubt that it would sometimes be fun and useful. On the other hand, do I need it? The answer is most definitely no.

My life is so full of distractions. I rarely have enough time to focus clearly and at length on the things that matter most to me. I want to read in-depth articles and hefty novels, not skim headlines - in both the literal and figurative sense.

I also want quiet space. I want space in my life not spent in front of a screen of any type.

This relates to my extreme aversion to the number one scourge of modern life, an even greater annoyance than inappropriate cell phone use: background music. The music played in every store, waiting area, coffee shop, mall, in every everywhere. Every moment of our lives must be filled with some form of entertainment. We must never be alone with our thoughts. This is how I see Twitter - as if we all must have a constant scroll, a feed, a zipper, at the bottom of our life screens.

I somewhat enjoy Facebook, and I find it very useful for activism. But Facebook is also a giant time-sucking machine, a potential addiction - another distraction. I have no reason to think Twitter would be any different.

Please note: this is how I feel. This is not Twitter Is Bad. Twitter is a toy, or a tool, or a means of communication, or a method of information delivery: neither inherently good nor bad. If you enjoy it and it works for you, that's what counts.

1.29.2011

best of wmtc, 2010 edition

Looking through wmtc posts for the annual best-of, I was amazed at how much happened in Canada and in the world last year. Another prorogation, and the anti-prorogue protests. The Collateral Murder video and the explosion of WikiLeaks. G20 government madness and police brutality. The Gaza Flotilla massacre. The demise of Bill C-440.

The following is best of wmtc 2010, the long list.

on becoming a writer, part four, final, for now

the harper attack on canadian democracy, the long version (I didn't write most of this, but it's a very important post!)

where is the outrage? and other thoughts on canadian disengagement

save a little outrage for the real criminals (vancouver)

intellectual freedom in the library: part 1 and part 2

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

therapists needed to treat quebecers' fear of headscarves

"discover canada": the harper government's vision of canada and of immigrants

report on george galloway in federal court: part 1, part 2, and part 3

we will not stfu: another look at nancy ruth, reproductive rights and the harper agenda

thoughts on george rekers: rent-boys, homophobia and self-hatred

choosing canada: how can self-imposed exile not be seen as resistance?

thoughts on her majesty's loyal opposition, such as it is

on giving up, believing, and what it means to be a fan

becoming canadian: today we take the final step

an all-or-nothing trap: the impossibility of moral purity

reproductive justice and the limits of polls: part 1 and part 2, women speak the fuck up

not all crimes are equal: humans and our rights are more valuable than windows (toronto)

open letter to g20 survivor: there is such a thing as being a victim

july 20 1985

"they didn't build a wall": is israel an apartheid state? a south african perspective: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5

once upon a baseball game: the corporate takeover of our brains continues

thoughts on roger ebert and transcending circumstance

it is so time to be over 9/11

science proves that men and women are from the same planet

1.28.2011

action alert part 4 of 4: the people vs u.s. steel

Tomorrow, January 29, labour and solidarity contingents from all over Ontario will pour into Hamilton for a major labour demonstration: The People vs. U.S. Steel.

Many of my friends will be on buses from Toronto, and I wish I could be there with them. But we can all show our support, because the fight for decent jobs is a fight for us all. A letter to your local newspaper, a letter to US Steel, an email to Stephen Harper's office, an email of support to Local 1005, can all make a difference.

Workers at the U.S. Steel plant have been locked out of their jobs for three months - and counting. Until recently, although they are involuntarily out of work, they were denied EI benefits!

These workers were once employed by Stelco, a Canadian company. When U.S. Steel took over Stelco in 2007, it negotiated terms with the Province of Ontario as a condition of sale. Surprise, surprise, U.S. Steel now reneges on those terms, seeking to deprive 900 workers and 9,000 pensioners of the pensions that were in their contracts. The lockout is an attempt to force the workers to concede.

To understand what's at stake, please read this piece by Ken Neumann, National Director, Canada, United Steelworkers union:
Louie Fiori worked in the Stelco steel mills and shops in Hamilton for 40 years. It was hard work, often in difficult conditions. But it paid an honest dollar and allowed Louie and his wife, Mary, to buy a home and build a life in Hamilton.

Over his four-decade career at Stelco, Fiori was involved in numerous contract negotiations, as well as four strikes, as a member of the United Steelworkers. In total, the Steelworkers negotiated 17 contracts at Stelco’s Hamilton operations from 1946 to 2007.

More often than not during those negotiations, Fiori and his fellow Steelworkers sacrificed wage increases and other gains in order to build a pension plan that would someday allow them to retire with dignity.

In other words, the indexed pensions received today by retired Stelco workers are not gifts bestowed by a benevolent employer. They represent deferred income, fully earned by workers over decades of sacrifice and hard-fought battles in collective bargaining.

When Louie Fiori died last year, his wife, Mary, began receiving a reduced widow’s pension, as provided under the plan negotiated by the Steelworkers.

Today, Mary receives a pension barely topping $500 a month. It’s a modest sum, to be sure, but it would be much less had Steelworkers not negotiated inflation protection for their pensions more than 20 years ago.

Without indexing, Mary Fiori’s pension today would be less than $400 a month. Other Stelco pensioners would be even worse off. As the real value of their pensions declined with each passing year, they would be fighting a losing battle to keep up with the rising costs of everything from food to home heating.

It is important to know this history, to better understand the travesty of U.S. Steel’s lockout of its Hamilton workforce and its disgraceful attack on the modest pensions of thousands of seniors like Mary Fiori.

It also is crucial to remember that, to secure government approval to buy Stelco in 2007, U.S. Steel made legal commitments that the takeover would produce a “net benefit” to Canada. U.S. Steel’s pension obligations were very well-known when it bought Stelco and made its commitment.

In the ensuing years, of course, U.S. Steel has infamously broken its promises, such as maintaining Canadian employment and production levels. It has imposed multiple shutdowns of Canadian operations, provoked labour disputes and thrown thousands of Canadian workers out of their jobs, all the while shifting production to American facilities.

Those broken promises were so flagrant U.S. Steel became the first foreign corporation (out of more than 1,600) to be taken to court by the Canadian government for breach of the Investment Canada Act.

Perhaps the most reprehensible betrayal of its net-benefit promise to Canada, however, is U.S. Steel’s attack on thousands of vulnerable senior citizens.

In fact, a major reason U.S. Steel locked out its 900 Hamilton workers on Nov. 7 was to try to coerce current union members to consent to the elimination of pension indexing for 9,000 pensioners.

If U.S. Steel had its way, pensioners such as Mary Fiori would lose the meagre annual inflationary increases to their pensions. With each passing year, they would find it harder and harder to make ends meet, and they would suffer accordingly.

The locked-out members of United Steelworkers Local 1005 have said no to U.S. Steel’s breaking of commitments to our pensioners. They also have said no to U.S. Steel’s attempt to deny future workers a secure pension plan.

The Steelworkers don’t believe a foreign multinational should treat our senior citizens so callously when they buy our industries and resources.

On Saturday, citizens of this city will converge on City Hall to support the pensioners of this community. Together, we will demand U.S. Steel meet its obligation to negotiate a fair deal with Hamilton’s workers.

This drama in Hamilton is playing out in many communities across Canada. Saturday’s action is standing up for Hamilton and every community being devastated by a foreign corporate takeover.

Our communities must come first. More and more, we Canadians must say no to broken corporate promises, and call on our government to ensure foreign takeovers provide real, lasting benefits to our families, pensioners and communities.

The People vs. U.S. Steel: Hamilton City Hall, 71 Main Street West, beginning at 1:00 p.m.

action alert part 3 of 4: support democracy movement in egypt

Today and tomorrow, there will be events all over the world to show solidarity with the Egyptian democracy movement. See below for information about events in Canada.

If you - like me - cannot demonstrate in person, you can still support the movement by calling the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa and demanding that protests be allowed to continue without bloodshed. The 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak has never seen this scale of protest. I'm told there is a very real danger that the government may fire on demonstrators as night falls.

In Canada: Ottawa: 613.234.4931.
In the US: Washington DC: 202.895.5400.
In the UK: London: 44.020.7499.3304
In Ireland: Dublin: 353.01.660.6566
In Australia and New Zealand: Canberra: 61.(0)2.6273.4437
In South Africa: Pretoria: 27.(0)12.343.1590

You can also email Stephen Harper's office. Tell him Canadians stand for peace and democracy, something that clearly needs reminding. The government of Canada needs to speak up and support the Egyptian people. pm@pm.gc.ca

Solidarity demonstrations in Canada:

Montreal
Friday, January 28
1:30 - 4:00 pm
Consulat Général De La République D'Egypte
1000, Rue de la Gauchetiere Ouest
On Facebook

Ottawa
Friday, January 28
1:30-4:00 pm
Egypt Embassy
454, Laurier Avenue
On Facebook

Toronto
Saturday, January 29
1:00 - 4:00 pm
Yonge-Dundas Square
On Facebook

Vancouver
January 29
1:00 - 3:00 pm
Vancouver Public Library square, Robson & Homer
On Facebook

action alert part 2 of 4: send a letter of support for bradley manning

Bradley Manning is a prisoner of conscience. Accused of leaking the infamous "collateral murder" video that exposed the truth about the US invasion and occupation of Iraq - and vindicated what US war resisters have been saying all along - is not being treated like an ordinary prisoner.

Since July, Manning - without court martial or conviction - has been held in solitary confinement in a 6 x 12-foot cell. He is not allowed to read, to exercise or even to sleep during the day. This was supposedly for his own protection, an excuse the Army continues to use to persecute Manning. Last week, Manning was put on suicide watch - which meant he was stripped to his boxer shorts and his cell stripped of everything, even a blanket. Even his eyeglasses were taken.

At a White House briefing last week, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Manning. He said he was unaware of anything about him, but would check. If Gibbs needs information, let's give him some.

From WikiLeaks Is Democracy:
Some have perceived Manning as a traitor. Even if that were true it does not justify pre-trial torture. Others see Manning as a patriot. He is not accused of giving documents to Iran, China or Russia. He is accused of giving them to the media so Americans can see what US foreign policy is doing. He is not accused of trying to become rich by selling the documents. He gave them for free, allegedly, because he wanted to see a debate on U.S. foreign policy so the United States could live up to its highest expectations. He wanted to make the United States better. That is not treason, it is patriotism.

Click here to send a letter to President Obama in support of Bradley Manning. This is an area where public opinion can make a significant difference. Please add your voice to those of Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Cindy Sheehan, Col. Ann Wright, Kevin Zeese and so many others.

Click here and add your name.

action alert part 1 of 4: tell the crtc truth in broadcasting matters

Largely under the radar, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) has proposed changing its rules to allow the broadcasting of intentionally false and misleading information, as long as that information does not "endanger or [is] likely to endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public". These dangers are not defined further. See more on this below.

To believe this is mere coincidence as SunTV launches its news station - so-called "Fox News North" - strains credulity.

The CRTC is now accepting comments on the proposed rule change until February 9 only - and they don't make it simple. To learn more about how to submit a comment, go here; scroll down on that page.

Here is the link link to submit a comment online. Reference Notice number 2011-14.

You can also contact James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is responsible for the CRTC:
- by fax: 819.994.1267, and
- by phone: 819.997.7788.

Via Antonia Zerbisias, here is a letter you can use as a model for your own.
We object strenuously to any policy that permits intentionally false or misleading information to be broadcast in Canada.

We wonder why the CRTC would betray the public interest by protecting broadcasters of intentionally false and misleading information.

We cannot think of any false or misleading information that would not ultimately endanger the public in some way, whether it is misleading information on international affairs, on scientific information, on health or environmental information, or on other news. Broadcasting intentionally false or misleading information presumably reflects a corporate or governmental agenda that will in some way ultimately damage members of the public.

That intentionally bogus information is to be acceptable as long as it does not "endanger or likely to endanger the lives, safety, or health of the public" provides no protection to the public:

* Who will determine whether intentionally bogus material could "endanger" members of the public?

* Who will determine whether anyone has been "endangered"? If someone makes a lifestyle choice (such as joining the military) based on intentionally false or misleading information can they sue the source of the misleading information (or the CRTC) because they have become "endangered" because of that information?

* If people have been harmed or put at any risk by the broadcasting of intentionally bogus material, is that the same as "endangered" or will there be levels of damage that need to be defined in a court of law?

* If intentionally bogus information is found to endanger the public, will the CRTC's permission for the broadcasting of intentionally false or misleading information be revoked?

* How many people have to be proven to be harmed before this might be revoked?

The most basic question is why the CRTC, which is paid for by the Canadian taxpayers to represent Canadian public interests, is violating its mandate by protecting instead the anticipated broadcasters of intentionally false and misleading information. Whose agendas are the CRTC and James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, actually serving by this amendment?

From Stephen Bede Scharper, a professor at University of Toronto, writing in the Toronto Star:
A recent, little-noticed news item may result in a deep and indelible blemish on the Canadian mosaic.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), without fanfare, posted on its website a potential game-changer in the world of broadcast journalism. The CRTC is seeking to relax restrictions concerning the broadcasting of specious information on radio and television.

Currently, the law stipulates that broadcasters "shall not broadcast any false or misleading news."

Sounds reasonable enough — and straightforward — as it should, since it concerns the integrity of news reporting.

But not apparently to the CRTC. It is proposing to soften the regulation, banning "any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public."

In short, with the new wording, broadcasters could air false or misleading news with impunity, provided that it does not endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.

Unfortunately, the CRTC does not specify who will judge whether or not such disinformation poses a danger.. . . .

Write! Fax! Call!

Many thanks to both AZ and AW for bringing this to my attention. 

what i'm watching: don't miss edward norton in "leaves of grass"

I'm still in hell week here, two papers due next week, and no break in sight until two days after that.

Most nights, movies are giving me essential R&R, and last night we saw something I have to pass on to you: "Leaves of Grass," written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, and starring the great Edward Norton in a tour de force, playing two roles of identical twin brothers.

The movie weaves thoughts on philosophy, spirituality, family bonds, the search for self, and nothing less than the meaning of life into a funny - and deadly serious - story full of surprises. Like so many movies I love, "Leaves of Grass" is about redemption, and how it comes in ways we cannot plan.

Edward Norton, as always, is brilliant. He is truly one of the greatest actors of his generation. (If you have not seen him in Spike Lee's 2002 "25th Hour," run-don't-walk to rent it.) We haven't seen the other films Nelson has directed, but now I'm going to look them up: "Eye of God," "O" and "The Grey Zone". Nelson is also in "Leaves of Grass," and Susan Sarandon, looking resplendently natural as a woman of years and experience, plays the mother of the twins.

* * * *

I also really enjoyed "The Other Guys": Will Ferrell at his ridiculous best, a send-up of cop-action movies, very funny, a terrific New York City backdrop, and a decidedly anti-capitalist twist. Plus you get to see Derek Jeter get what you may think he deserves.

1.27.2011

webcam: living in the library, dreaming of a more just world


Remember those crazy Canadian kids, living in the library? Well, they're living the DREAM: they've set up shop, and you can watch them here, and they're blogging here.

More on DREAM here.

1.26.2011

tunisia, egypt, who is next? around the globe, revolutions

Revolution is spreading. On the heels of massive protests and demonstrations throughout Europe, Tunisians take back their country, and now Cairo rises up against Mubarak.

This morning the Canadian mainstream media is all agog with a speech out of Washington DC that will change absolutely nothing. CBC Headline: Obama urges people to create brighter future! ( Oh gosh, does he really?!) Meanwhile, much of the world is actually trying to do just that.

It's so exciting! I wish I had time to follow it all more closely. I'm filled with awe and more than a little envy.

1.24.2011

a successful meditation practice is one in which you show up

Do you meditate? Have you ever had a meditation practice?

I recently resumed meditating after many, many years. Ever since starting graduate school, I've had an increase in anxiety. I take anti-anxiety medication as needed, and I have no issue with that; as far as I'm concerned those babies are little medical miracles. But it's not safe to take them too often, and with my addictive personality - and having had a parent who was a substance abuser - I have to be careful.

I already know how to control my anxiety so it doesn't escalate into a full-fledged panic attack - how to slow my breathing, begin an inner dialogue - how to change the subject, so to speak. So while doing this a few weeks ago I suddenly realized that I could be doing more.

Sometime in the mid-90s, Allan and I took a meditation class together. I had a lot of trouble sleeping in those days (undiagnosed fibromyalgia), and found that regular meditation helped. Once or twice I even felt I had entered some kind of different level of consciousness, neither awake nor asleep. But once the class ended, I didn't continue the practice. Allan stayed with it longer than me, but eventually we both lost the habit.

That was a long time ago, and I wasn't sure I remembered how to go about it anymore. I found a wealth of meditation resources online, and that served as a good refresher, enough that I felt I could get started. Then it was just a matter of taking the plunge - always a little more difficult than we think.

This is my third week. I'm finding it much easier to do now, compared to my mid-30s. In those days, I had to be busy every moment. I had a packed calendar of work, writing, social life and activism. As I mentioned in the "on becoming a writer" series, I had to be writing one story, pitching another, and following up on three query letters at all times. Sitting still and letting my mind empty was very challenging. It's much easier to sit still now!

What is challenging this time around is approaching meditation without judgment. I am so accustomed to mentally assigning a grade to everything I do. "I had a great swim today." "We had a great meeting." "I had a terrible writing day today." To carry that approach to a meditation practice would be self-defeating.

There is one bit from that meditation class that I remember very clearly, one phrase from the instructor that has always stayed with me. When I said this to Allan, he knew immediately what it was. (Kudos to that teacher, wherever he is.) He said: "A successful meditation practice is one in which you show up."

A successful meditation practice is one in which you show up.

Not how long you sat there. Not whether or not you entered any particular state of consciousness. Not if conscious thoughts popped into your head. Not how you did today compared to how you did yesterday.

The idea is not to judge or analyze or evaluate or improve or refine.

Just show up.

And something occurs to me, something I completely missed back then. This approach of No Judgment could be applied to many other areas of one's life, with potentially healthful results.

So now I am going to sit in a darkened room and breathe.

1.23.2011

citizen's arrest: dick cheney, officer bubbles, you're coming with me

So the Harper government thinks we need a a vigilante law. Since tough-on-crime legislation, no matter how silly and unnecessary, is always popular, let's assume this will pass handily. How can we make this law work for the greater good? Will it be easier to arrest Tony Hayward? Dick Cheney? Tony Blair? All the taser-happy cops?

The fact that the NDP and the Liberals have put forth similar private member's bill only proves that pandering is nonpartisan.

Food for thought: a different kind of citizen intervention. Imagine if governments took this approach to crime.

1.22.2011

blog for choice 2011: back alley abortions happening right now, thanks to anti-choice movement and the govts it controls

I hear people say, "We can't go back." And I think, We are back. We have gone back.

Not all of us. We're hanging on in Canada, and in some places in the US. But how many American women must lose access to safe abortion services before we are officially "back"?

Today, the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we see, once again, that the Constitutionally protected right of US women to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term has been gutted and rendered useless. And when there are no safe, legal services, women will resort to unsafe, illegal ones, because bearing an unwanted pregnancy is torture, and an unwanted person is a tragedy, and women will go to any avoid that.

Daniel Denvir, AlterNet: Back-Alley Abortions in 2011: How Anti-Choice Zealots Force Women to Go to Dangerous Clinics Like Dr. Kermit Gosnell's

Jill, Feministe: What Kermit Gosnell tells us about late-term abortion

And me:

The real - seldom-seen - face of third-trimester abortion (Roe v Wade Day, 2009)

The US as anti-abortion backwater

Roe Is History (Roe v Wade Day, 2005)

1.21.2011

father of uk soldier killed in iraq calls blair war criminal, international terrorist

Please watch Reg Keys, who stood for election as an independent candidate against Tony Blair, and whose son was killed in Iraq.


Related: Blair 'gung-ho' on Iraq war a year before invasion

creskey: a government of "too many deals and not enough ideals": let them stay!

Jim Creskey, an editor of Embassy magazine, has written an excellent piece linking Martin Luther King, Jr., Dwight Eisenhower's prophetic retirement speech, the shamefully US-centric Canadian government, and the plight of courageous Iraq War resisters seeking refuge in this country. This is a brief excerpt; please click through and read the whole piece. It deserves our attention.
Today, both Eisenhower and King would be dismayed by the rampant and excessive militarism of America. The total for military-related spending in the US for 2010 exceeds a trillion dollars.

Canada, allowing itself to be linked to American military adventures, has doubled its direct spending in recent years. The excuses haven't changed since Eisenhower and King's time. The courageous sacrifices of soldiers are still used as justification for bad political decisions. The threat of terror in various forms is still raised and the dangling of military-related jobs in high-unemployment constituencies is still part of the soft-sell.

Martin Luther King would also have a hard time understanding why today's government of Canada is determined to deport American conscientious objectors back to military jails even though most Canadians believe they should be offered asylum. Would he still believe that Canada was another name for heaven?

Too many deals and not enough ideals on both sides of the border have brought both countries to this regrettable place in modern history. The idealistic but profoundly practical words of a former US Republican president and a martyred champion of non-violent resistance could be applied today to good effect.

Thank you, Mr. Creskey! Supportive letters can be sent to letters@embassymag.ca.

london ontario supports war resisters


On Sunday, January 16, Michael Ignatieff came to London, Ontario, to skate with Liberal supporters in Victoria Park. An organizer tells me that most of the attention was on the mining accountability legislation, another Liberal private member's bill which died when their party leader and a few others failed to support it. Thus the chants:

"C-300, C-440: absent Liberals vote like Tories"

and

"Hey Mike, what's the story, why're you acting like a Tory?"

Thank you, London! Let Them Stay!

1.20.2011

winnipeggers say let them stay; torontonians to hear stories of forgotten veterans


From Metro:
American war dodgers and their supporters wrap up a week of small protest events Saturday — part of a years-long fight to persuade the federal government to grant the deserters refuge in Canada.

Despite numerous court battles, protests and even pressure from the House of Commons, the campaign has proven barely a thorn in the side of an unyielding Harper government.

"We're feeling the wear and tear of the government's intransigence," Michelle Robidoux, of the War Resisters Support Campaign, conceded Thursday.

"We're very aware that (Immigration Minister) Jason Kenney is counting on a process of attrition to try to defeat the movement to let the war resisters stay."

Saturday's event in Toronto — which will feature a short film and the wife of one U.S. soldier who refused to redeploy to Iraq — ends a week of gatherings in a dozen cities and towns across Canada.

On Wednesday, for example, about a dozen people protested outside the constituency offices of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in Steinbach, Man.

Among them was Iraqi war veteran Joshua Key, who said the rally aimed to remind both the government and Canadians that the war dodgers and their issues had not gone away.

Scores of American soldiers, many with spouses or children in tow, fled to Canada starting seven years ago rather than fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

They argued the U.S.-led war on Iraq was illegal under international law, and that American soldiers were committing atrocities against civilians.

"It's just like nobody in the military really cared what happened," Cpl. Jeremy Brockway, 26, who served in Iraq with the Marines in 2006 and 2007, has said.

"It's just disregard for human life."

Supporters of the Minnesota-born Brockway say he has extreme post-traumatic stress disorder but was ordered to redeploy to Iraq despite objections from military psychiatrists.

He and his wife Ashlea — who will speak for him in Toronto on Saturday — live in Port Colborne, Ont., with their two Canadian-born children.

The tormented Brockway, who arrived in Canada in early 2008, can barely talk about his experiences and seldom leaves his apartment.

Still, neither the refugee board nor government has viewed the soldiers' requests for asylum or residency with much sympathy.

In ruling after ruling, the Immigration and Refugee Board has nixed their applications for protection on the grounds they would be prosecuted, not persecuted, if returned to the United States.

Kenney himself has referred to the American soldiers as "bogus" refugee claimaints.

"We reject the ridiculous notion . . . that President Barack Obama is persecuting deserters from voluntary military service," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in October.

Kenney's spokesman Alykhan Velshi confirmed Thursday that "nothing" had changed in the government's position.

A majority of MPs has called on the Conservative government to let the war dodgers stay, and polls have suggested most Canadians are sympathetic to their plight.

Still, at least two of the soldiers have been deported to the U.S. to courts martial and prison terms for desertion.

Most others — some with children born in Canada — have quietly hung on.

One, Jeremy Hinzman who came to Canada in January 2004, won a Federal Court of Appeal ruling last year that sent his case back to the refugee board.

The court found his sincerely held beliefs and motivations for coming to Canada should have been considered.

Supporters say that kind of court victory has helped keep their campaign energized.

let them stay week 2011: events across canada

Still plenty of events to come!

Support US Iraq War Resisters: Join Let Them Stay Week, January 15-22, 2011

From January 15 to 22 people across Canada will participate in a national "Let Them Stay Week".

Join Canadians from coast to coast to show support for Iraq War resisters, who are currently threatened with deportation by the minority Conservative government.

Events planned so far:

Fredericton

Film screening: "Winter Soldier"

Friday, January 21
7:00 p.m.
Conserver House
180 St. John Street
Fredericton, NB

Cinema Politica Fredericton and the Fredericton Peace Coalition present a film screening of Winter Soldier, a documentary of Vietnam War veterans speaking out against the atrocities they witnessed.

For more info: fredericton@cinemapolitica.org or info@frederictonpeace.org.

Grand Forks

Film screening and discussion

Friday January 13th
7:00 p.m.
Room 8
Selkirk College
Grand Forks, BC

Sponsored by Boundary Peace Initiative, USCC Working Groups, KRUNA, Canadian Peace Alliance and War Resisters Support Campaign.

For more info: L4peace@telus.net.

Halifax

Information Picket outside Passport Canada Office

Wednesday, January 19
12:00-1:00 pm
Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, NS

Join a peaceful information picket to hand out literature, hold signs and stand in solidarity with US war resisters who have sought refuge in Canada.

and

Film Screenings: "War Resisters Speak Out" and "Parallels"

Wednesday, January 19
7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Sobeys 260
Sobeys Building
Saint Mary's University
6136 University Avenue
Halifax, NS

Free public film screenings, all are welcome. Watch two recent films about war resistance: "War Resisters Speak Out", and "Parallels: Iraq and Afghanistan". These films tell the stories of courageous Americans who have left the US military, refused to serve in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have fled to Canada for refuge.

Organized by the Halifax Peace Coalition and SMU PIRG.

For more info: Halifax Peace Coalition.

Newmarket

Video and discussion

Sunday, January 16
1:00 pm
Yonge Street Quaker Meeting House
17030 Yonge Street - north of Mulock Drive, south of Eagle Street
Newmarket, ON

Discussion will feature Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Hosted by Yonge Street Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
For more info: 416.824.8421 or danpoisson@yahoo.ca.

Peterborough

Film screening of "War Resisters Speak Out", followed by discussion with US Iraq War resister Dean Walcott

Saturday, January 22
2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Peterborough Public Library
345 Aylmer Street North
Peterborough, ON

For more info: stewart.britney@gmail.com.

St. John's

Film screening and art show

Monday, January 17
5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
LPSU Hall (Second Space)
3 Victoria Street
St. John's, NL

For more info: 709.726.6163.

Sudbury

Letter-writing day in support of US Iraq War resisters

For more info: ashandro@laurentian.ca.

Toronto

Film, speakers, letter writing, refreshments.

Saturday, January 22
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street
Toronto, ON

Speakers:

Ashlea Brockway, who came to Canada with her husband Jeremy, after he refused to redeploy to Iraq

Alyssa Manning, legal counsel to many US war resisters in Canada

James Loney, member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, former hostage in Iraq

Jeremy Brockway, Iraq War resister, appearing via video

Fore more info: resisters@sympatico.ca or 416.598.1222.

Vancouver

Soldiers Shining the Light on the Truth: GI resistance - Vietnam / US Iraq War Resisters / Bradley Manning - Wikileaks

Film Screening of "Sir! No Sir!" and discussion with Rodney Watson, Iraq War resister living in sanctuary

Saturday, January 15
2:00 p.m.
First United Church
320 Hastings Street East
Vancouver, BC

For more info: samhouse.sarah@gmail.com.

and

Welcoming American War Resisters: A Canadian Tradition: Film Screening of "War Resisters Speak Out" and panel discussion

Thursday, January 20
7:00 p.m.
Langara College
100 West 49th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

Forty years ago, tens of thousands of American soldiers and draftees who refused to join the war against Vietnam were welcomed in Canada. Today hundreds of soldiers who refused to deploy to Iraq have come to Canada. While they have been warmly welcomed by Canadians, our government has made strenuous efforts to send them back to the US to face prison sentences.

Join us for a panel discussion about defending the Canadian tradition of welcoming American war resisters.

The panel will include:

Ujjal Dosanjh, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South

Peter Prontzos, former US Marine, and Vietnam war resister, instructor of Political Science, Langara College

Rodney Watson, decorated Iraq war veteran, living in sanctuary in First United Church (via video conference)

For more info: 605.764.2580 or vanresisters@yahoo.ca.

Victoria

War Resisters Write-In

Sunday, January 16
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
629 Toronto Street
Victoria, BC

Please join us to let Harper and Kenney know they must not depart war resisters, Americans who have left the military because they refuse (re)deployment to Iraq! Snacks and beverages will be provided.

For more info: vlannon@pacificcoast.net.

Windsor

Information picket in support of US Iraq War resisters

Saturday January 15 and Saturday January 22
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Ottawa Street, across from Market Square
Windsor, ON

Info: windsorpeace@hotmail.com

Winnipeg

Iraq War resister Joshua Key speaks

Monday January 17
7:00 p.m.
McNally-Robinson Booksellers
Grant Park Shopping Centre
1120 Grant Avenue
Winnipeg, MB

and

Picket federal MP Vic Toews' office

Wednesday, January 19
1:30 p.m.
8-227 Main Street
Steinbach, MB

Info: 204.792.3371 or keepresisters@mts.net

let them stay week 2011: toronto event

As part of the pan-Canadian actions for Let Them Stay Week, a special event will take place in Toronto this Saturday. The meeting includes the first Toronto speaking appearance by Ashlea Brockway. Ashlea's husband Jeremy served in Iraq. He was denied a medical discharge despite suffering from severe post-traumatic stress and other combat-related mental health issues.

Ashlea and Jeremy came to Canada seeking refuge; they have two Canadian-born children and live in Port Colborne, Ontario. Ashlea now speaks publicly on behalf of her family and in support of all veterans who lack proper support after serving their countries.

Toronto-area supporters, you will not want to miss this very special opportunity to hear and support the Brockways.

Saturday, January 22
1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street (near College & Spadina)
Toronto

With special guests:

• Ashlea Brockway: Ashlea and her husband Jeremy sought refuge in Canada with their family after he refused to return to fight in Iraq.

• Alyssa Manning, legal counsel

• James Loney, member, Christian Peacemaker Teams; former hostage in Iraq

Also featuring:

• video interview with Iraq War resister Jeremy Brockway

• mass letter-writing

• refreshments

how to save the public library (a fry truck experience)

I have two papers due on the same day, and one of them is the most dreaded assignment for the most dreaded class of my entire degree. At least that will soon be over with! Unfortunately, though, this leaves me with little brain or time to blog.

I will use this as an opportunity to post one of my papers. The last time I posted a paper, it sparked some interesting discussion. At the very least, this will help me feel like my blog is not a total waste of pixels. Plus, this paper earned me fries! I got them yesterday. They were just the way I like them: super well-done, crispy.

This was my final paper for the course Foundations of Library and Information Science. From a choice of topics I chose this:
Select one type of library or information centre. Discuss the most serious challenges facing that institution today, paying particular attention to its foundational values, principles and assumptions. What kinds of activities (research, services, education, staffing, funding, etc) might turn these challenges into opportunities?
I've removed the citations or turned them into links where possible.

* * * *

Privatization, Digitization, and How the Public Library Can Survive:
the Four Rs

The most serious challenges facing the public library today are unchecked capitalism, the disintermediation brought by digital technologies, and the intersection of the two. This paper explores the present and potential effects of those challenges on the health and future of public libraries in North America. With a nod to the Canadian Library Association's President’s Council on the 8Rs, this paper proposes the 4Rs needed to turn these challenges into opportunities: relevancy, reinvention, raising awareness, and resistance.

The dominant economic model and social spending priorities

When discussing the challenges facing public libraries, funding generally tops the list. Funding, however, is a symptom of an underlying disease. First-world societies around the globe are suffering through drastic cutbacks of public-sector spending. In the United Kingdom, 500,000 workers will be jettisoned from public payrolls in the next four years. Widespread library closures are expected; as many as one out of every four librarians may lose her job over the next year. In the United States, cities and states cannot afford adequate public services; public libraries have resorted to charging fees, reducing hours and closing branches to survive. Although the situation is Canada is not as dire, Canadian municipalities have never recovered from the spending cuts of earlier decades. At the same time, in 2010 U.S. businesses earned profits at the highest rate since statistics have been kept, totaling $1.66 trillion in the third quarter alone. The tax structure ensures that the public coffers enjoy no corresponding rise in wealth, and a full 54% of the U.S. federal budget feeds a military-industrial complex that is largely privatized. Viewed through this lens, the public library suffers not from a mere lack of funds, but from an economic system that privileges private-sector profit over public welfare.

Digitization leading to a perception of obsolescence

The public library is also challenged by digitization and the disintermediation of the internet. In information school classes, professional journals and library blogs, one constantly encounters the question, "Can Google replace the library?". Titles such as "Where is the librarian in the digital library?" and "Competing with Google in a special library" abound. While many professions grapple with the encroachment of technology on jobs once thought to be immune to automation, librarians are unusual in the persistent gap between the librarian's understanding of her job and the public's understanding of it. Class discussions and student field reports demonstrate that library users underestimate and under-value the work of librarians, observations supported by research. While citizens may research medical or legal questions online, they still see a doctor when they are ill or hire a lawyer to represent them in court. After gathering information online, how many people consult a librarian? Indeed, our profession's core values may unintentionally contribute to our own demise, as we encourage independent information-seeking.

The perception that the internet has rendered librarians obsolete creates an easy, if mistaken, budget solution: their expensive professional salaries become a logical target for the budget axe. Without professional staff, the library becomes a mere book repository run by clerks. In several U.S. cities, human interaction has been eliminated entirely with the introduction of automated "book lockers," which resemble vending machines. The demise of the public library speaks to issues much larger than protecting our profession; it widens the digital divide. Many people depend upon the library for both computer use and internet access. Inadequate funding decreases public access to education and information – an injustice to the community, and a danger to democratic values. If we want a society that values education, inquiry, self-government and freedom of information for all citizens, regardless of socioeconomic status, then we must protect the public library as an essential service.

Four Rs: relevancy, reinvention, raising awareness, resistance

Public libraries can address this challenge with a four-pronged approach:
* relevancy – stay relevant to the community,
* reinvention – make the library an indispensable community centre,
* raising awareness – promote the reinvented library, and
* resistance – fight for a society that values public services.

Relevancy. If libraries are to continue to receive public funding, they must remain relevant to the communities they serve – a seemingly simple statement, but a complex, controversial, and sometimes contradictory mandate. Relevancy may focus on collection development, with a robust collection of popular novels and movies. Or relevancy may be framed in educational terms: Baldwin feels the "'give 'em what they want' philosophy" is a dangerous mistake, and proposes librarians become "knowledge provocateurs," helping users access "real information" through alternate news sources. For Birdi, Wilson and Tso, relevancy presupposes empathy – the human touch that distinguishes the library from an internet search engine. Not only will relevancy be defined differently by different libraries, that definition should evolve with each community's needs. Relevancy should be an ongoing conversation – a process more than a product – that includes input from users, gathered through surveys, usage tracking, focus groups, and other methods. In an era when the need for the public library is being questioned, librarians cannot afford to ignore or dismiss this discussion.

Reinvention. This paper proposes that the best way for libraries to remain relevant is to reinvent themselves as community centres – a one-stop shop, so to speak, for a variety of services tailored to the needs of its community. Free computer classes, high-speed internet access, resume workshops, education and career research, and space for book clubs are only a few obvious possibilities. McKenzie et. al study libraries that offer storytime for parents and toddlers, and a meeting space for a knitting group. Fisher, Durrance and Hinton describe the rich programs of New York City's Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL), aimed at the borough’s burgeoning and diverse immigrant population. The QBPL's workshops in language, literacy, employment, and cultural understanding offer tremendous potential for users, and position the library as an indispensable resource. In the Mississauga Library System, users can join an English conversation circle, research their ancestry, or borrow a pedometer as part of a program to encourage physical activity. The possibilities are limited only by imagination and budget, and creative programming may result in increased funding.

Raising awareness. Programs are useless if people don't know they exist. Libraries must exploit every means available to promote their programs – social networking media, community newspapers, outdoor signage, email alerts, public school visits, brochures. The QBPL, for example, distributes millions of multilingual brochures annually and taps into ethnic media outlets. We must be alert to new and creative ways to trumpet our services and present libraries as the essential service we believe they are. Combining the first three Rs – reinventing the public library as a community centre with an emphasis on relevancy, then promoting those programs in the community – will ultimately translate into more library users. More users help justify continued funding.

Resistance. The final "R" in the 4R plan is resistance, used in the political sense: actively opposing government policies that destroy public services. Rather than see ourselves in competition with other public-sector employees for a slice of a shrinking public-sector pie, we should strive to make a larger pie. Author Philip Pullman made this connection when speaking out against the massive cuts to library services announced in the U.K.:
Those who think that every expert can be replaced by a cheerful volunteer who can step in and do a complex task for nothing but a cup of tea are those who fundamentally want to see every single public service sold off, closed down, abolished. . . . [T]he delusion that has gripped every politician in the western world for 30 years or so now is that when you lower taxes, the commercial world will take care of everything. The destruction of the library service is part of a wider malaise.
This activism can take many forms – lobbying the government, working to elect representatives committed to the public sector, writing letters to newspapers, blogging, leafletting. Resistance should especially include supporting other municipal workers in their struggles – teachers, transit workers, nurses, sanitation workers. We must look beyond the issues of our own profession, and help create a society that is willing to support public services. If we want a world that values public libraries, we have to create it.

Conclusion

While it may appear that the greatest challenge facing public libraries today is a shortage of resources, the developed world has sufficient wealth to maintain stellar libraries. However, the dominant economic system impedes the adequate funding of libraries and other essential public services. If libraries are to survive and thrive, librarians must keep libraries relevant and must raise awareness of library programs within their communities. This paper proposes a reinvention of the public library as a multifaceted community centre. From a broader perspective, librarians must join the struggle to create a society that values and maintains healthy public services.

[references not linked above]

Abram, S. (2005). Competing with Google in a special library. Information Outlook, 9(11), 46-47.

Baldwin, M. (2006). Librarians as knowledge provocateurs. Verso, 11(4), 11-14.

Birdi, B., Wilson, K., & Tso, H. M. (2009). The nature and role of empathy in public librarianship. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 41(2), 81-89.

Borgman, C. (2001). Where is the librarian in the digital library? Communications of the ACH, 44(5), 66-67.

Fisher, K., Durrance, J., & Hinton, M. (2004). Information grounds and the use of need-based services by immigrants in Queens, New York: A context based, outcome evaluation approach. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 55(8), 754-66.

Harris, R. (2008). Their little bit of ground slowly squashed into nothing: Technology, gender, and the vanishing librarian. In G. J. Leckie & J. E. Buschman (Ed.), Information Technology in Librarianship: New Critical Approaches. (pp. 165-180). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

McKenzie, P., Prigoda, E., Moffatt, K., & McKechnie, L. (2006). Behind the program-room door: The creation of parochial and private women’s realms in a Canadian public library. In J. E. Buschman & G. J. Leckie (Eds). The Library as place: History, community, and culture (pp. 117-134). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

1.18.2011

"looking for eric" and "h2oil": a feel-good comedy and its opposite

Movie Season (the opposite of Baseball Season) is in full swing. We've been seeing a lot of good movies, as well as plowing through our The Larry Sanders Show box, but for now I want to mention only two titles.

For a feel-good, intelligent comedy, I highly recommend Ken Loach's "Looking for Eric". And if your heart knows the joy and pain of a deep love of a sport or a team, you will appreciate this even more. No spoilers here. Just see it. (Although it's an English film, you might want to watch it with English subtitles. It helped us enjoy the movie considerably.)

And for exactly the opposite... "H2Oil" is a documentary about the abomination that is the Canadian tar sands. Writer-director Shannon Walsh brings you to a First Nations community who are slowly being wiped out by the tar sands, and their efforts to fight the governments of Alberta and Canada, and oil industry giants.

We meet the community's doctor, who spoke out about what he saw and was charged with professional misconduct. He is actually a hero with the full support of the community.

We see the connection between the oil industry and the government of Alberta - and now, of course, the government of Canada.

We see the inextricable connection between this dirtiest, most destructive resource-extraction practice on the planet and the ongoing and future crisis of fresh water.

It's an excellent film - short, clear, compelling, heartbreaking. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the tar sands, please see it.

I have only one issue with this movie. One of the people interviewed is Andrew Nikiforuk, who wrote the book Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent. He is clearly an expert on the subject; I respect his part in the film and I look forward to reading his book. The bit I'm highlighting may have been a function of editing - what the filmmakers wanted to say - or may be a difference in our worldviews.

Towards the end of the movie, Nikiforuk ties the horrors of the tar sands to the developed world's appetite for oil. In this view, our unsustainable consumerist culture drives tar-sands production.

I do not dispute that consumer culture and the lust for material things is unsustainable. I acknowledge that, as individuals, we have a role to play in reducing our society's dependency on oil. But our individual lifestyles are not what drives environmental nightmares like the Alberta tar sands. Similarly, our individual lifestyles did not cause the BP gulf disaster.

What drives it is profit.

What drives it is capitalism.

Under a capitalist system, the earth's resources - which rightly belong to all of us and should be shared according to our needs - are controlled for profit by a few, at the expense of the many.

A small segment of society reaps vast riches from the tar sands, while the most vulnerable - in this case the First Nations people who live downstream, and the land and animals they depend on - die horrible deaths. The rest of us will suffer later, as the glacial ice fields are quickly depleted so the shareholders of Suncor and BP and Exxon Mobile can buy a new Porsche.

You and I can shop less, use public transit when it's available, reuse and recycle. And we should. But no matter how green our lifestyle, none of it will make a significant difference as long as the resources of our earth are controlled by private companies for speculation and profit.

Pointing fingers at people forced to drive to work because their town built sprawling roads instead of investing in public transit is another form of victim-blaming. What's driving the tar sands - and what's killing the planet - is capitalism.

what i'm reading, winter break edition

Enough of school today! I must blog!

Here are the books I read over my break from school, thanks to the amazing Mississauga Public Library System.

I actually read Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels, in New Jersey over Thanksgiving. It's well known to Canadians, and was made into a very good movie, but doesn't seem to be as widely known in the US.

As I've mentioned in other contexts, I don't generally read anything Holocaust-related, as I was forcibly overdosed on Holocaust education as a child. But having seen the excellent movie adaptation of this novel, I wanted to read it, and I'm very glad I did. It's a novel about memory, generational bonds, generational conflicts and family secrets. It's also a view into what it might be like to live in an occupied town or village. What is it like for people who are not rounded up, but who are forced to live under the thumb of their oppressors, in their own homes, in their own town, every day? The deprivations, the daily humiliations, the constant fear. Michaels really brought this home for me. Fugitive Pieces was her first novel, quite an amazing debut. Even if you've seen the movie, the book is different enough that I highly recommend it.

A type of book that I love but seldom indulge in - my literary "junk food" - are what I call intelligent thrillers, spy or murder or legal thrillers with something extra, something deeper. Generally that means the author has a keen eye for human motivation, and the characters have depth beyond the stock items of genre fiction. If this appeals to you, one of the best of its kind is Donald Westlake's The Axe.

Over winter break I read two novels of this variety: The Legal Limit by Martin Clark and The Finder by Colin Harrison. Clark's was good - I would have made it about a third shorter - but Harrison's was brilliant. You may know Harrison as the former editor of Harper's magazine; he is married to the writer Kathryn Harrison, best known for the controversial memoir The Kiss. But Colin Harrison writes sharp, insightful New York City thrillers. His plots are intricate and unpredictable, his characters are complex, his dialogue rings true, and his New York City is a the real deal. The Finder was the best of his I've read so far.

I read Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead and wrote about it here. I loved this book and I love Whitehead's writing. I'm quite in awe of his ability to write something so simple, yet so complex.

And I read The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams, which I mentioned (along with Fugitive Pieces) in my recent post about resistance. This is an excellent young-adult novel about a teenage girl's rebellion against the polygamous religion-turned-cult her parents belong to and her impending forced marriage. Reading and the public library figure into her liberation. The Chosen One speaks to the need for young people to have in their lives caring adults who are not their parents - what a vital resource that is - and is a reminder to us all to be that resource whenever we have the opportunity.

1.17.2011

let them stay week 2011: please write a letter this week


It's time to show Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney that we have not given up. We have not gone away. We will continue to fight for the Canada we want to live in - the Canada that stands for peace, the Canada that is a "refuge from militarism". Canada said NO to the invasion of Iraq, and we should welcome people who - at great personal sacrifice - have done the same.

Tell Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney why you think Iraq War resisters should be allowed to stay in Canada.

Add your name to the Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney. (Scroll down to click on "add your name".)

And please take a few minutes to write your own letter:

The Right Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
pm@pm.gc.ca

The Hon. Jason Kenney
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Kenney.j@parl.gc.ca

Thanks!

congratulations from one new canadian to another

Nick, the very first person to find wmtc and ask me about moving to Canada, becomes a Canadian citizen today.

Nick's last appearance on wmtc was his It Gets Better video.

Congratulations, Nick! Canada is very lucky to have you.

1.16.2011

resistance is not futile: resistance is everything

I think a lot about resistance: about what it means when ordinary people refuse to yield to powers much stronger than themselves. I've been thinking of the many forms acts of resistance can take, why people resist, what it means.

Last summer in Toronto, groups of people walked the streets of their city to show that they could, to defy the sudden existence of martial law that claimed they couldn't.

All over the UK, students are in the streets and occupying buildings, resisting massive cuts to education funding. The situation in the UK and throughout Europe is very dire - but the people whose system caused the pain are not suffering. A friend who lives in London and I were emailing recently, and she summed it up this way:
...they are closing libraries, cutting everything, raising university tuition fees by 200% and sales tax is now 20%! Bankers are getting huge bonuses still. We work with quite a few financial services firms and it's like they are living in a different universe. Although of course they are taking the opportunity to lay off as many as they can as well even though they are continuing to make huge profits. Barclays doesn't serve tea anymore at meetings to 'cut back'.

Some of my friend's British compatriots are employing a brilliantly creative strategy of resistance to library closures. (Many thanks to Deang for sending this story.)
A town has emptied its library in a bid to fight plans to close it down.

People in Stony Stratford, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, have spent the week withdrawing their maximum allowance of books in protest against council plans to close it as part of budget cuts.

And today they said the plan had been a success, with all 16,000 books withdrawn from the library.

Today, as they celebrated the empty shelves, Emily Malleson from Friends of Stony Stratford Library (FOSSL) said they were amazed at how everyone in the town had pulled together.

She said it was calculated that books were being checked out at a rate of around 378 per hour - smashing the usual rates.

"A local resident mentioned the idea, maybe as a bit of a joke, but we thought it was a great idea so we put it to FOSSL," she said.

"I went home, put it on Facebook and emailed everyone I could think of and it's just gone absolutely mad."

They planned to start the campaign on Wednesday, but keen supporters of the library started taking books out the week before.

And in just over a week, the shelves were emptied, with the final books withdrawn yesterday.

"People were going in last night to get books and there weren't any left, "she said.

"I think it's a very simple but clever idea and it's given something that people can act on and make their voice heard.

I love this for so many reasons: how this town values and protects its library, how people united can fight back, how a few organizers with a good idea can spark rebellion. I also love the story because it's about reading as resistance.

Reading has been used as act of political resistance through the ages. Countless books and movies depicting ordinary people struggling against totalitarianism will bring you to hidden books, an echo of children secretly reading books forbidden by their authoritarian schoolmasters, now with potentially fatal consequences.

I recently saw this connection in two differnt novels. (Still in the works: a winter-break "what i'm reading" post.) In The Chosen One, an excellent young-adult novel by Carol Lynch Williams, a young person's resistance to her parents' oppressive religion - and a forced marriage to a man four times her age - begins with reading. Her rebellion begins in the library, until the library becomes - literally - her means of escape.

In Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces, after a man risks his life to save a Jewish boy, they read together, working their way through the man's vast library, the education of that boy becoming an ongoing act of resistance.

Reading as resistance isn't about beating the enemy: it's about maintaining some human dignity, stubbornly clinging to a shred of one's own humanity. That has been the case for all the subjugated peoples of the world who have refused to speak the language of their oppressors. At least in private, and often at great cost, people the world over will insist on speaking the language of their own people. It's a way of saying: we still exist.

Also in Fugitive Pieces, a shopkeeper in the Nazi-occupied Greek village hides oranges, saving the scarce fruit - and their desperately-needed nutrition - for the neediest families. The shopkeeper could be killed on the spot: hiding an orange as an act of courageous resistance.

Food can become an instrument of resistance. The movie "Hunger" depicts the refusal of food as the ultimate resistance: the 1981 IRA hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands in 66 days of self-inflicted torture. First we see an earlier form of protest, as the political prisoners in Northern Ireland refuse to wash or change their clothes, covering the walls of their cells in their own excrement, making their captors' jobs as disgusting and difficult as possible.

When the guards haul off the men for forced bathing - heavy accent on forced - the prisoners lash out with feet and fists and teeth, individual naked men fighting back against a small army decked out in face shields and batons. It's a stunning scene. I thought: this is what resistance means. Never going quietly. Never being docile. Fighting every inch of the way. Resistance means: we will not go quietly.

Michael Fassbender's harrowing, incredible performance as Sands causes you to question the very nature of human survival and sacrifice. Watching the effects of starvation on the human body and brain, you wonder, how could a human being choose this? Where do they find the strength? Inevitably, even a believer like me may be led to ask, what good does this do?

Then in the postscript you learn that 10 more men made the same choice - that the prison ultimately met all their demands - that during the hunger strike, Bobby Sands was elected to Parliament, opening the door for political recognition of Sinn Fein.

And suddenly the movie's title isn't about the needs of the body: it's about the human hunger for freedom.

1.14.2011

this is just in: if you're gay, you cause birds to die

Please use your gayness for niceness, not evil!

reasons for rejoicing, reasons for activism: the quiet death of bill c-49

...and speaking of victories, there was a huge one in December that I don't think I properly acknowledged: Bill C-49 appears to be dead in the water.

Bill C-49 was the so-called anti-human-smuggling bill that was, in reality, an anti-refugee bill. It was vehemently opposed by the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International Canada, leaders of a half-dozen faith groups, and every human rights group you can think of. I wrote about Bill C-49 here and here.

At first reading, then Liberal immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua acted as Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's publicist, praising the bill from the floor of the House of Commons as if his political life depended on it. Which indeed it did. I have it on good authority that Bevilacqua cut a deal with the Conservatives, trading his support of C-49 for their endorsement in his campaign for mayor of Vaughan. So much for serving the public.

But in early December, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff actually did some leading, and announced that the Liberal Party would oppose the bill. I can't confirm whether or not the Conservatives have actually dropped the bill, but it seems very unlikely that it will go forward.

Lives have been saved - innocent people kept out of prison - families able to remain intact - because this bill did not become law. This would not have happened without citizen activism.

The next time you wonder if Parliament ever responds to public pressure, please remember Bill C-49. It doesn't always work, but you never know until you try. Gandhi said it best: "You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result."

Two related articles well worth reading: from Hans Smedbol in Digital Journal, Despite Ministers' claims, Canada's Bill C-49 likely toast, and from Jason Kenney vs the Catholic bishops by Jim Cresky, in Embassy.

victory for bds campaign and thank you to the bay!

The Bay, a major Canadian retailer, acknowledged yesterday its unannounced decision to no longer carry cosmetics produced by the Israeli company Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. Although parent company HBC says this was purely a business decision, and was not in response to any organized boycott, it is nonetheless a victory for the Boycott Divest Sanction movement.

HBC is under pressure to reverse this decision, so those of us who support Palestinian autonomy and human rights should thank them. You can thank The Bay for dropping Ahava products by clicking here.

Ahava has been the subject of an international boycott campaign since June 2009, because the company manufactures its products in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. (All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law.) Ahava is partly owned by two settlements, so the company's profits subsidizing the illegal colonies.

Although its goods are manufactured in the West Bank, Ahava labels them as "products of Israel," a practice that is illegal under European Union law and is currently being investigated in the UK and Holland.

Read more at Code Pink's Stolen Beauty Campaign.

support archbishop desmond tutu

There are a few public figures in the world with impeccable human rights credentials, and one of them is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu has spent his life speaking truth and fighting injustice. He has publicly criticised Israeli policy towards Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians.

Because of his criticism of Israeli government policy, Tutu is being labelled a bigot, an anti-Semite and a racist by some Zionist supporters. These groups are calling for Tutu to be removed as Patron of the Cape Town and Johannesburg Holocaust Centres of the South African Holocaust Foundation.

It's horrifying to see the Holocaust invoked in this way. The words "never again" have to mean something more than "never again to us".

Please read more here, and if you agree, please sign this petition, and share it with friends. Thanks.

let them stay week 2011: events

Support US Iraq War Resisters: Join Let Them Stay Week, January 15-22, 2011

From January 15 to 22 people across Canada will participate in a national "Let Them Stay Week".

Join Canadians from coast to coast to show support for Iraq War resisters, who are currently threatened with deportation by the minority Conservative government.

Events planned so far:

Fredericton

Film screening: "Winter Soldier"

Friday, January 21
7:00 p.m.
Conserver House
180 St. John Street
Fredericton, NB

Cinema Politica Fredericton and the Fredericton Peace Coalition present a film screening of Winter Soldier, a documentary of Vietnam War veterans speaking out against the atrocities they witnessed.

For more info: fredericton@cinemapolitica.org or info@frederictonpeace.org.

Grand Forks

Film screening and discussion

Friday January 13th
7:00 p.m.
Room 8
Selkirk College
Grand Forks, BC

Sponsored by Boundary Peace Initiative, USCC Working Groups, KRUNA, Canadian Peace Alliance and War Resisters Support Campaign.

For more info: L4peace@telus.net.

Halifax

Information Picket outside Passport Canada Office

Wednesday, January 19
12:00-1:00 pm
Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, NS

Join a peaceful information picket to hand out literature, hold signs and stand in solidarity with US war resisters who have sought refuge in Canada.

and

Film Screenings: "War Resisters Speak Out" and "Parallels"

Wednesday, January 19
7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Sobeys 260
Sobeys Building
Saint Mary's University
6136 University Avenue
Halifax, NS

Free public film screenings, all are welcome. Watch two recent films about war resistance: "War Resisters Speak Out", and "Parallels: Iraq and Afghanistan". These films tell the stories of courageous Americans who have left the US military, refused to serve in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have fled to Canada for refuge.

Organized by the Halifax Peace Coalition and SMU PIRG.

For more info: Halifax Peace Coalition.

Newmarket

Video and discussion

Sunday, January 16
1:00 pm
Yonge Street Quaker Meeting House
17030 Yonge Street - north of Mulock Drive, south of Eagle Street
Newmarket, ON

Discussion will feature Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Hosted by Yonge Street Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
For more info: 416.824.8421 or danpoisson@yahoo.ca.

Peterborough

Film screening of "War Resisters Speak Out", followed by discussion with US Iraq War resister Dean Walcott

Saturday, January 22
2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Peterborough Public Library
345 Aylmer Street North
Peterborough, ON

For more info: stewart.britney@gmail.com.

St. John's

Film screening and art show

Monday, January 17
5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
LPSU Hall (Second Space)
3 Victoria Street
St. John's, NL

For more info: 709.726.6163.

Sudbury

Letter-writing day in support of US Iraq War resisters

For more info: ashandro@laurentian.ca.

Toronto

Film, speakers, letter writing, refreshments.

Saturday, January 22
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Steelworkers Hall
25 Cecil Street
Toronto, ON

Speakers:

Ashlea Brockway, who came to Canada with her husband Jeremy, after he refused to redeploy to Iraq

Alyssa Manning, legal counsel to many US war resisters in Canada

James Loney, member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, former hostage in Iraq

Jeremy Brockway, Iraq War resister, appearing via video

Fore more info: resisters@sympatico.ca or 416.598.1222.

Vancouver

Soldiers Shining the Light on the Truth: GI resistance - Vietnam / US Iraq War Resisters / Bradley Manning - Wikileaks

Film Screening of "Sir! No Sir!" and discussion with Rodney Watson, Iraq War resister living in sanctuary

Saturday, January 15
2:00 p.m.
First United Church
320 Hastings Street East
Vancouver, BC

For more info: samhouse.sarah@gmail.com.

and

Welcoming American War Resisters: A Canadian Tradition: Film Screening of "War Resisters Speak Out" and panel discussion

Thursday, January 20
7:00 p.m.
Langara College
100 West 49th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

Forty years ago, tens of thousands of American soldiers and draftees who refused to join the war against Vietnam were welcomed in Canada. Today hundreds of soldiers who refused to deploy to Iraq have come to Canada. While they have been warmly welcomed by Canadians, our government has made strenuous efforts to send them back to the US to face prison sentences.

Join us for a panel discussion about defending the Canadian tradition of welcoming American war resisters.

The panel will include:

Ujjal Dosanjh, Member of Parliament for Vancouver South

Peter Prontzos, former US Marine, and Vietnam war resister, instructor of Political Science, Langara College

Rodney Watson, decorated Iraq war veteran, living in sanctuary in First United Church (via video conference)

For more info: 605.764.2580 or vanresisters@yahoo.ca.

Victoria

War Resisters Write-In

Sunday, January 16
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
629 Toronto Street
Victoria, BC

Please join us to let Harper and Kenney know they must not depart war resisters, Americans who have left the military because they refuse (re)deployment to Iraq! Snacks and beverages will be provided.

For more info: vlannon@pacificcoast.net.

Windsor

Information picket in support of US Iraq War resisters

Saturday January 15 and Saturday January 22
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Ottawa Street, across from Market Square
Windsor, ON

Info: windsorpeace@hotmail.com

Winnipeg

Iraq War resister Joshua Key speaks

Monday January 17
7:00 p.m.
McNally-Robinson Booksellers
Grant Park Shopping Centre
1120 Grant Avenue
Winnipeg, MB

and

Picket federal MP Vic Toews' office

Wednesday, January 19
1:30 p.m.
8-227 Main Street
Steinbach, MB

Info: 204.792.3371 or keepresisters@mts.net

1.11.2011

let them stay week 2011: and now a word from mp mario silva

Next week, from January 15 through January 22, the War Resisters Support Campaign will be holding our third Let Them Stay Week. (Got that, CIC spy?) Supporters all over the country will be holding events in support of US Iraq War resisters in Canada, demanding that the government respect the two motions passed in Parliament to Let Them Stay.

I'll be posting details of events in many cities, but for now, please watch this short message from Member of Parliament Mario Silva. He very rightly links Canada's failure to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council to the Harper's government's shoddy record on human rights, which includes the harassment and deportation of US war resisters.

another cool date

I had this post scheduled to go up at 11:11 a.m.... but it did not. Thanks, Blogger.

Yay, it's 1.11.11!



Isn't this fun?



No? Not really?

politically motivated violence in the u.s. ... and you are surprised?

I understand that some people are amazed at the recent massacre and assassination attempt in Arizona. I'm amazed that anyone is amazed. As the activist Rick Telfer said on Facebook, "Gee, why would anybody get the idea to gun down a political opponent in the USA?!" He posted a link to Sarah Palin's now infamous target map, but obviously that is but a tiny shred of evidence of the huge violent tapestry. It's a wonder this hasn't happened sooner, and more often. (And of course, in a less overtly political context, it does.)

In case you missed these:

Paul Krugman:
Climate of Hate

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate. [Read more.]

And Keith Olbermann, strong as ever, generously including himself as he calls on both right and left in the US to denounce violent rhetoric, rightly calling out those who don't as complicit in violent acts.

1.10.2011

a kinder, gentler huck finn and the sound of samuel clemens spinning in his grave

I suppose you've heard that there is a new, bowdlerized edition of Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Alan Gribben, an editor with the temerity to call himself "a Twain scholar" - although Judas or Jack the Ripper might be more appropriate - has removed every instance of the words "nigger" and "Injun," and replaced them with the word "slave".

I find this anti-intellectual wallpapering sad and discouraging beyond measure. As if purging a classic of an offensive word will somehow reduce the incidence of racism in the world. As if anyone has the moral right to rewrite an author's - any author's - work!

I don't have time to write about this as fully as I'd like right now, but will expand on it at a (much) later date. For now, a few other good pieces can stand in for me.

From a discussion in The Atlantic, Jamelle Bouie:
Taking the History Out of 'Huck Finn'

. . . Maybe I spend too much time in the political blogosphere, but this reminds me of Rich Lowry's most recent column for the National Review, where he channels his preschool self to brag about America's complete and undiminished greatness. The similarity comes in the mutual urge to purge the ugliness from American history. Jim Crow and neo-slavery makes Lowry uncomfortable, so he glosses over it as he spells out America's unadulterated raditude. Likewise, "nigger" makes people feel bad, so it must go, according to NewSouth and Alan Gribben.

But erasing "nigger" from Huckleberry Finn — or ignoring our failures — doesn't change anything. It doesn't provide racial enlightenment, or justice, and it won't shield anyone from the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. All it does is feed the American aversion to history and reflection. Which is a shame. If there's anything great about this country, it's in our ability to account for and overcome our mistakes. Peddling whitewashed ignorance diminishes America as much as it does our intellect.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, also in The Atlantic, responds:
I'm obviously not Mark Twain, but having written a book, I can only imagine how hard Twain worked. I would be incensed if someone went through my book and took out all the "niggers" or "bitches" or "motherfuckers." It's really just a hair short of some stranger, in their preening ignorance, putting their hands on your kid.

To me that's the worst part; surely we are, as Jamelle says, peddling whitewashed ignorance, but much worse we're actually peddling it at Twain's expense. I think the worse part of censoring Twain, is that it's a shocking act of disrespect toward the writer, executed by people who claim to hold up his legacy.

I am remembered to the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who aptly noted that when people whitewash Robert E. Lee, and claim he was anti-slavery, what they are implicitly claiming is that the actual Robert E. Lee — one of the greatest generals of the past two centuries — isn't good enough.

This is actually much worse, because the invocation of nigger by Twain is not a moral failing. But because of our needs, Twain isn't good enough. Because we can't handle the story of who we were, and evidently who we are, Twain must be summoned up from the dead and, all against himself, submitted before the edits of amateurs. This is our system of fast-food education laid bare: Children are roaming the halls singing "Sexy Bitch," while their neo-Confederate parents are plotting to chop the penis off Michelangelo's David, and clamoring for Gatsby and Daisy to be reunited.

Let us all live in a world of warm snugglies. Let the air-conditioning anesthesia sprawl free. May the flowers of happiness multiply out. May Mark Twain's ghost haunt us all.

Globe and Mail:
To delete the word “nigger” from its 200-plus appearances in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and replace it with “slave,” is to evade the problem of education. It is to falsify a world as a precondition for teaching about it.

. . . .

The problem of education is to teach impressionable and sensitive young people about a sometimes harsh world. The world as it is, in other words. And very much the world of Huck Finn.

That world is rendered in Huck’s vernacular that has preserved, for all times, the inner truth of the antebellum South. “Nigger,” used so frequently, reveals a reflexive, unthinking degradation of black people. In counterpoint is Huck’s own slow-emerging recognition that Jim is a human being worthy of respect. Huck is a creature of his time and place. His transformation is the subversive moral core of the book. If he spoke like a civil-rights activist, the essence would be lost.

Words wound, words enlighten. Satire often features a kind of bravura cruelty. It doesn’t flinch from exposing how stupid and horrible people can be. (People are exceptionally stupid and horrible in Huck Finn.) Readers do flinch; and so they should, if the satire is sharp enough.

Huck Finn is just that sharp, and touches on the sorest spot in United States life: race. “It is a book that puts on the table the very questions the culture so often tries to bury, a book that opens out into the complex history that shaped it,” an English professor in Texas wrote. Are high school teachers up to the challenge? If not, it makes more sense to strengthen them than to weaken the book.

To tame Huck Finn, to soften its voice, does no favours to young people.

Robert Hirst, the curator of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley, via Gothamist:
When Pat Finn, in his drunken tirade about meeting a “nigger” who could vote and was educated, the whole strength of that depends on feeling how bigoted Pat Finn is. If you soften his words, you’re not helping the point. I teach Twain once a year and I tell my students, I’m not going to euphemize this word. I’m not going to say N-word. You’ve totally destroyed the music of it and the point of it. [Twain] is well aware of the uneasiness this would cause. He lets Huck use this word exclusively. The uniformity of it shows you that he doesn’t want the pressure to be let up.

Gothamist himself announces an even newer edition: The Hipster Huck Finn, in which satirist Richard Grayson writes "an edition of Huck Finn that New Yorkers from Bushwick to the Lower East Side can all enjoy". Gothamist predicts a future edition which will "replace the word 'devil' with 'Wal-Mart'."

But the appearance of this book leaves me in little mood for joking.