i have something in common with superman

Some months back, I learned I have something in common with Keith Richards: Keith wanted to be a librarian. Recently I've learned I have something in common with Superman, although the Man of Steel has gone a step farther than me.
Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of "truth, justice, and the American way," from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the "American way" is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.

The key scene takes place in "The Incident," a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President's national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

. . .

It doesn't seem that he's abandoning those values, however, only trying to implement them on a larger scale and divorce himself from the political complexities of nationalism. Superman also says that he believes he has been thinking "too small," that the world is "too connected" for him to limit himself with a purely national identity. As an alien born on another planet, after all, he "can't help but see the bigger picture."
I don't read comics, and I mainly know Superman as either George Reeves or Christopher Reeve. But eschewing nationalism for a broader, global perspective on justice, that I like.


watching the watchers: interesting work development

As of today, I have a part-time gig as a research assistant. For the month of May, and possibly for June and July, I'll be working on a very interesting project with some terrific people, and making decent money, too.

The project is spearheaded by Andrew Clement, a professor at University of Toronto who taught one of the core courses required in my first term at the i-School, "Information and Society". By coincidence, Dr. Clement knew my name from the War Resisters Support Campaign; he and his wife had housed a resister in the Campaign's early years.

Clement does really interesting, important work around privacy issues, some of it through IPSI, the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute. For example, he and a graduate-student research team convened a national forum on the enhanced driver's license that can be used in place of a passport at the US-Canada border.

The EDL, equipped with a radio-frequency identification chip, was supposed to save time at the border and increase security. It did anything but, and turned out to be readable from a very great distance, raising serious privacy issues. Clement's class is where I first heard the term "security theatre".

For me, the best thing about the course was the perspective that brings the academic and theoretical to bear on the practical, to use knowledge as an agent for change. How can this information be used to challenge the accepted power structure, to disrupt the status quo, to empower people against larger forces affecting or controlling their lives? That worldview guides all this work.

The focus of this specific project is video surveillance, which has crept into our public landscape without our input or consent. It's usually justified under the vague heading of "security," but there is no evidence that it makes us safer, either by deterring crime, assisting prosecution, or increasing personal safety. (The one exception to this, apparently, is in parking garages.)

This month, Clement will lead a Jane's Walk about video surveillance in downtown Toronto. If you're familiar with Jane Jacobs' excellent work, you may know the expression "eyes on the street," meaning, how neighbourhoods with street life keep urban spaces safe. The name of Clement's walk plays on that: "(Video) Eyes on the Street".

The following week, the senior members of the team will make a presentation to the International Association of Privacy Professionals' (IAPP) annual Canadian symposium. (At the meeting I attended today, we previewed the presentation.) A graduate student researcher collected information and took photographs of video surveillance in the private sector - in malls, banks and big box stores. Exercising his legal rights, he asked questions about the surveillance and requested information. His findings were interesting. Of 46 private-sector organizations - the largest corporate presences in the Greater Toronto Area - all used video surveillance. And exactly none were compliant with laws governing privacy. The researcher's requests for information were met with either complete cluelessness or, in some cases, cease-and-desist letters.

So here's a citizen standing in a public space taking a photograph of a video camera. The camera is employed by a private company to do surveillance of a public space with no warning or advance permission. And the company is threatening the citizen with legal action! (Some wmtc readers may enjoy this bit: security guards once threatened the researcher with "trespass," as in, "Watch out or I'll trespass you".)

This project assumes there are some reasonable questions we have a right to ask about this surveillance of public spaces. Am I being watched? By whom, and for what purposes? If this is for safety, will help come if I need it? Am I being recorded, and if so, who views those records? What is done with the records and how may I be affected by them? And of course, What are my rights?

Clement's team envisions warnings and disclaimers similar to those used for food-safety inspection or movie ratings, announcing to citizens what exactly is going on and what rights they have. Although right now such a system is a dream, the presentation raises questions that are not being asked and pokes holes in all the assumptions.

This work has spread through a network of like-minded people in other cities and countries. It's exciting to be a part of it in some small way. It also has relevancy to the public library, as librarians are on the front lines of resistance to government surveillance of citizens' information habits.

On a personal level, as you may know, I've been looking for work, almost constantly, for a very long time. My weekend job is inadequate income, putting us under constant financial pressure. Allan and I have both been picking up some freelance transcribing, but there isn't always work. The page job with the Mississauga Library System - which I need in order to get in the system there - has not materialized yet. I applied for a couple of jobs through school, but nothing came through. It's been frustrating.

Then this week, out of nowhere, one of those jobs re-appeared. This project is going into a particularly busy period and needs more research assistance. I was chosen for my organizational skills, to help them prepare for the Jane's Walk and the presentation. My political interests are a bonus. Whether it lasts one month or three, it will make a big difference.

pupdate: diego es muy bueno

Diego is terrific. Tala is terrific. Only the mud is not terrific.

This is without a doubt the easiest new-dog transition we've ever had. After adopting dogs, we've had near-fatal health problems (Clyde, Buster), serious behavioural problems (Gypsy, Buster), not life-threatening but still serious health issues (Tala), dogs not really getting along (Cody and Tala) and probably a few other headaches I've forgotten. This time, so far, the transition is as smooth as can be.

Diego is very well behaved. He's house-trained, and really tuned in to our expectations. And he's so eager to please! What a big galoot.

Tala and Diego are getting along great. They have the occasional squabble over a toy, but they quickly sort it out. They love to tussle and play-fight. Tala has met her match when it comes to chasing squirrels; I think Diego hates squirrels more than she does! Diego will actually jump straight up, all four paws in the air, and bark furiously at the little creatures, high up in a neighbour's tree, while Tala just runs insanely back and forth, usually with a ball in her mouth.

So things are going swimmingly. Sometimes it seems literally so: we are drowning in mud. The $%&#*?! mud.

It has been raining off and on for weeks. When it's raining, our backyard is our own private lake district. When it stops raining, the lawn is squishy and thick with mud. The track that Tala has worn out around the perimeter is now a canal.

Within two minutes of going outside, both dogs' paws, legs and bellies are covered in mud. Sometimes Tala looks speckled in black from mud splashes! It feels like we spend half our day wiping them off and doing the laundry full of dog towels. A few times we've sprayed them off with Tala's friend the hose, but that requires two people and creates a small flood on the patio. Mostly we just keep toweling them off.

Don't ask what our floors look like. Mostly we just ignore it, then every so often we sweep up a half-ton of dirt, vacuum and mop.

It's getting very old. We eagerly await some dry weather!

On the other hand, if we didn't have a backyard and a washer-dryer in the basement, I don't know if I could be doing this. It was much more difficult in an apartment - but I had a lot more energy in those days!

And fear not, I have not lost perspective. I'm sick of the muddy towels, but I'm very happy.

We don't have any new pics yet, because of the incessant rain, but we have the camera at the ready, should the sun make an appearance.


religious right watch: let's all call chapters and ask for the paperback of mcdonald's armageddon factor

Bene Diction at Religious Right Watch asks, "Is Chapters Indigo playing politics with paperback release of The Armageddon Factor?". The answer is: it's highly possible.
Chapters Indigo is owned by Heather Reisman (CEO). She is married to Gerry Schartwz who is the Board Chair, President and CEO of Onex. They are friends of Stephen and Laureen Harper, and have been Conservative Party backers since 2006.

Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, is on loan to Harper by the Onex Corporation. Wright’s appointment is noted in the afterword of the updated and revised trade paperback.

Given the paperback was updated and out in time for the election I have a question. Where is it? Is the revised edition sitting in Chapters-Indigo warehouses? The chain is in approximately 131 cities across Canada and I can appreciate delays, but the next obvious question is this.

Is Chapters Indigo holding back stocking this book until after May 2nd? As asked in the post headline. Is this bookstore chain playing politics?

How would you like to help out? Give the nearest Chapters Indigo store a call and ask if the paperback is in. If it isn’t ask why not. If you have an independent bookstore in your location, give them a call and see if they have it on the shelves, or if they can get it to you within the next few days and post your findings in the comment section.
Read the full post here, then call or visit your nearest Chapters Indigo location.

judith timson: why should women believe what harper says about abortion?

Further to my post here, Judith Timson in the Globe and Mail:
...But why should Canadian women believe Stephen Harper when he says he and his government won’t reopen the issue? Surely, by denying financial support to groups who support access to abortion, he already has reopened that debate.

The Tories deny that a funding decision has been made; indeed, the IPPF has been waiting for 18 months for word of its funding and so far, nothing. This stealth approach to withdrawing funds to any group that doesn’t fit the Tories’ ideological framework could have made for a pointed campaign slogan: “It’s about the defunding, stupid.”

The abortion debate took an intriguing turn this week when on the same day, both anti-abortion and pro-choice factions warned that a Harper majority may not have their interests at heart. (They can’t both be right, can they?)

In an interview with the Globe’s Jane Taber, Charles McVety, evangelical leader and Christian activist said: “Frankly, my fear for Stephen Harper is that being so overt standing against the pro-lifers, he risks not motivating Conservative voters.” In other words, come on Stephen, throw the base a few more bones or we may desert you.

Meanwhile, at a press conference organized by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), spokeswoman Carolyn Egan argued that, because “two-thirds of Harper’s caucus is anti-choice,” private legislation limiting access to abortion “could easily pass in a majority.”

In a subsequent phone interview, Ms. Egan outlined why 2011 is different from both 2006 and 2008, when her organization also warned the public that a Harper government could make inroads into curtailing abortion rights.

“We now have some concrete things to point to,” said Ms. Egan, detailing the Harper government’s controversial decision last year not to fund any groups that offered access to abortion in their global maternal health package, and a severely restricted access to abortion in New Brunswick that pro-choice advocates say violates the Canada Health Act – women have to pay out of pocket for abortions if they go to a private clinic. Then there is a succession of anti-abortion private member’s bills, one of which, Bill C-510, enjoyed support from 87 members of the Tory caucus and several cabinet ministers, even though Harper had asked his cabinet to vote against it.

If his MPs don’t listen to him in a minority situation, how will being solidly in power bring them to heel? Short answer, it won’t. Besides, depending on the outcome of the election, there is no iron-clad guarantee Mr. Harper would serve out his full term and after him, then what?

Ms. Egan added, “This issue may be a sideline for Mr. Harper but it’s not for some of his ministers,” pointing to Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, as perhaps the most ardent anti-choice minister presumably remaining in cabinet.

Mr. Kenney doesn’t exactly hide his views, but not every potential voter has seen the press clippings and a YouTube video provided by the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics, that show him in his student days at the Catholic-run San Francisco University (SFU) in 1989 and 1990: He so vigorously tried to shut down a pro-choice group from speaking on his campus that he made the CNN news.

Back then, Mr. Kenney also authored an editorial in a student newspaper that likened allowing pro-choice supporters to talk on campus to permitting the Ku Klux Klan or “the Church of Satan” to do the same.

So imagining Mr. Kenney at the helm of a Tory government makes Stephen Harper look like Jack Layton. Except he’s not. During this campaign, both the NDP’s Jack Layton and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff have reiterated their support for “a woman’s right to choose.” Mr. Harper, however, has never publicly affirmed he believes in a right that the majority of Canadians support. . . .
Read more here.

friday night in brampton: crash the big blue party and stand up for reproductive rights

In the last several years, Conservative MPs have submitted one anti-choice private member's bill after the next.

Prominent Conservative Jason Kenney has a long history as a self-described "anti-abortion activist".

In 2002 Harper boasted, "I'm not ashamed to say that, in caucus, I have more pro-life MPs supporting me than supporting Stockwell Day."

Last year, through the G8/G20, Harper imposed an international "maternal health plan" that excludes abortion.

Each year 70,000 women die from lack of access to abortion services.

It's not at all unreasonable to say that a Conservative majority will re-open the abortion question in Canada, to potentially disastrous results.

Tomorrow, April 29, Harper makes one of his last stops in the Federal Election, a huge blue rally. The majority of Canadians are pro-choice and pro-women's rights. Let's show him a little piece of our majority.

Please watch the above video, and come to Brampton if you can. And vote for the candidate in your riding most likely to beat the Conservative.

WHERE: Pearson Convention Centre, 2638 Steeles Avenue East, Brampton

WHEN: Friday, April 29, 6:00 p.m.

army holds annual bring your daughter to war day

Great headline, eh? Got to love The Onion.


my fervert hope: ekos poll, please be correct!

Globe and Mail: Poll projects 100 seats for surging NDP

Ekos Politics: Orange Crush: Are Jack Layton and the NDP redrawing the boundaries of Canada's political landscape?

Wouldn't this be amazing??? And wouldn't it be the biggest comeuppance to Michael Ignatieff ever?? And wouldn't the Liberals dump his sorry ass immediately? Plus Harper wouldn't get a majority, so the Conservatives dump him, too. There would be many reasons to celebrate!

Go, Jack, go!!

Ekos, please be right!!


¡bienvenido diego!

Meet Diego, the newest member of the Kaminker-Wood family! According to the people at Toronto Animal Services, he is about two years old. You can see Shepherd, Boxer, Rottweiler and Staffie in him, and who knows what else. In other words, he's a mutt! To satisfy the burning question at the dog park, we will say he's a Shepherd-Boxer mix.

Diego has a shiny, smooth, black coat, with a white blaze, white paws, and a white line down his head; the tip of his long tail looks dipped in white paint. If you look closely, there is some brindle on his legs, face and ears. One ear stands straight up, the other folds down at the tip.

He's male, big and strong. We haven't been to the vet yet, but judging from Tala's 58 pounds, I'm guessing Diego is a fit 75 pounds. Tala looks small-boned and delicate by comparison. I think the shelter staff probably named him after this cartoon character, but we like the name, so there's no reason to change it. I keep speaking Spanish to him, which is totally ridiculous, but I suspect he will soon answer to Señor Diego and Señor Cabeza Grande.

He is super friendly and affectionate, and kind of goofy. He's a big galoot, is what he is. We don't know much about his background. He was transferred from a shelter in London, Ontario to Toronto. He was clearly someone's dog, as he knows basic commands (sit, lie down, paw, come) and appears to be house-trained. He shows no signs of fear or abuse. I can imagine that he might have become too much - too big, too strong, too much dog - for someone who wasn't willing to be patient and work with him.

Toronto Animal Services requires everyone in the family - people and animals - to be present for an adoption, so Diego and Tala met at the shelter. They played in the enclosure together, and it was clear they'd have no real trouble. They're already tussling in the house, and running around the backyard together as if they've been friends for years.

I see Tala's demeanor and position in the pack changing before my eyes. It makes me a little sad, although I know that's my own feelings, not necessarily Tala's. Tala has been my own little girl. I've been babying her and lavishing attention on her, and now she's sharing my attentions with a big, demanding, insistent boy whose head appears whenever I go to pet her.

Tala seems more placid and calm now. I've seen this happen many times: when a new puppy enters the pack, the former baby becomes the older sibling.

I'm sure Tala has gained more than she's lost. Cody died at the end of August, and for at least a year before that, she wasn't interested in playing. We throw the ball for Tala, go on long walks, and Allan takes her to a dog park, but she had always lived with other dogs and I think she missed it.

Diego is our sixth dog. In many ways, he reminds me of our Buster, my special boy, but healthier and not psychotic! It's partly because he's male, has a shiny black coat and a big square head. But it's partly because he's super smart, and his intelligence is focused on only one thing: pleasing us.

We've had other very smart dogs, but different personalities will do different things with those big brains. Gypsy was a genius, one of the smartest dogs I've ever known, but she was wilful and defiant and always testing. Her intelligence was all about getting over, anticipating, deciding if she wanted to obey. Buster's smarts were all about obedience: how fast can I learn this and what's the next thing to learn and how can I be perfect? I sometimes wanted Buster to misbehave just to loosen up. I'm guessing Diego has the same tendencies.

More pics and Allan's perspective here.

* * * *

Gypsy, November 28, 1987 - November 12, 1998
Clyde, October 21, 1989 - August 4, 1999
Cody, April 19, 1999 - August 24, 2010
Buster, December 14, 1999 - November 16, 2005
Tala, January 29, 2007
Diego, April 26, 2011

The beginning dates are all adoption dates.

If you're procrastinating and feel like reading detailed dog stories, you can click on the dog label, and go back to the oldest post. The story of our family is all there. I wrote it in this blog to preserve it.

depending on where you live, strategic voting is not a joke, it is a necessity

In several wmtc threads over the last few weeks, there have been discussions of whether or not to vote strategically in this election: here, here, here and here. I've gotten into similar discussions both on Facebook (before I went on Facebook hiatus for the duration of the election) and in person.

I live in a riding where the NDP will not be elected, where the Conservatives made gains in the last election and are hoping - not unrealistically - to make more this time out. The 905s, traditionally Liberal, are now increasingly Conservative.

There's no doubt that I'm a natural NDP voter. They are the party whose values line up most closely with mine. Many times Jack Layton's NDP has been too centrist for me, and I am further to the left. Yet here I am, voting Liberal.

I've been feeling a strange peer pressure from my Toronto activist friends. It's not what anyone says; it's what they don't say. There's a chilly silence. A few people have told me, "I voted strategically once, and I regretted it." But they live in ridings that will be either Liberal or NDP. They're not actually facing the possibility of living in a Conservative riding.

Obviously this does not apply to everyone. Many people vote NDP or Green in ridings where those candidates will not be elected. Many of them have lived in Canada a lot longer than I have. They've lived under Liberal governments - something I have not had the opportunity to do! - and they know the party's reality to be very different than its rhetoric. Many others will not vote for a party whose foreign policy is essentially identical to that of the Conservatives. I respect that, and I don't disagree. I realize this is difficult for many people to understand, but I'm not trying to convince anyone to change their votes. I'm writing about my own choice.

One expression I keep seeing and hearing about strategic voting is that it's "self-defeating". The argument goes: people won't vote for the progressive party because they can't win, but how can that party win if people won't vote for them?

But my reason for voting Liberal is not because the NDP can't win. It's because the NDP can't win in my riding, and that's the only place I can vote.

I would never not vote for a party because that party is unlikely to form the government. That's not strategic; that's just stupid. All the parties elected to Parliament have an opportunity to influence the direction the country takes. The more opposition seats, the better. The greater the space on the political spectrum between the government and the opposition, the better.

If someone's mistaken idea of strategic voting comes down to "I don't vote for the NDP because they won't form the government," then yes, that is absolutely self-defeating.

But the definitions of defeat and success depend on what you're trying to accomplish. On the night of May 2, here's what I want to see.

As many Bloc seats as possible.

As many NDP seats as possible.

As many Liberal seats as possible.

As many Green seats as possible.

As few Conservative seats as possible.

In this election, my goal as a voter is two-fold: to help deny the Conservatives as many seats as possible, and to help prevent a Conservative majority. Thus, in my riding, the most self-defeating act would be to split the anti-Conservative vote among NDP, Green and Liberal, thereby electing a Conservative MP. Contrary to much of what I read, this is not "making a joke" of voting. This is using my vote as wisely as possible.

And when the New Democrat Party and the Green Party are denied their full share of support - when the number of seats they hold in the House of Commons does not accurately reflect their support among the citizenry - this is not the fault of strategic voters. It's the fault of the first-past-the-post system in which our votes only count in a lump sum as part of some artificially designated district.

Right now, this is the only system we have. And right now, I live in Mississauga. Therefore, I am voting Liberal.

here for canada = fear for canada

Oops! The Conservatives didn't register the name of their campaign slogan as a dot-ca website. Naturally, somone else did. Here For Canada: Fear For Canada.

I'm probably the last progressive in Canada to find this. It's the price I pay for giving up Facebook for almost a month. It's been very liberating, but I miss a lot.


women in london ontario are breaking up with stephen harper

And deporting US war resisters is the last straw!

Thanks to friends-of-wmtc Stephanie, Wendy and Beth.


harper and his supporters, shutting down opposing viewpoints at every opportunity

What a convenient little microcosm of the Harper Government™.
Tory crowd drowns out question about support from man acquitted in Air India
By Steven Chase

Conservative partisans deliberately drowned out a journalist’s question to Mr. Harper during a Greater Toronto Area campaign stop Saturday as he was being asked about a Vancouver candidate’s endorsement by a man acquitted in the Air India bombing.

The Tory Leader stood quietly while members of his staff and a crowd of about 500 at a Coptic Christian centre clapped and cheered loudly to prevent a CBC reporter from quizzing him further on his defence of Vancouver South candidate Wai Young.

The Liberals have complained about an early April parents’ meeting at Khalsa School in the Vancouver area, saying Ripudaman Singh Malik was present and urged attendees to vote for Ms. Young and not Grit candidate Ujjal Dosanjh.

Ms. Young has said she didn’t know of Mr. Malik’s background or his relationship with the Khalsa school, which he helped found.

Mr. Harper repeated this defence Saturday but ignored a follow-up question on the matter.

“She attended in good faith. She has been very clear. She and her campaign have no links and do not welcome in any way Mr. Malik into this party,” the Conservative Leader said.

“We’re absolutely clear about that.”

A reporter tried to press Mr. Harper on, this asking whether he “really believed” that Ms. Young would not know Mr. Malik, who’s been in the public spotlight for decades due to scrutiny on him after the 1985 airplane bombing that claimed 329 lives.

But the Conservative Leader refused to answer this follow-up query, waiting as the crowd at the Coptic Christian Centre in Mississauga applauded and cheered him for about 60 seconds.

It’s the first time a Conservative crowd has purposely drowned out a reporter’s question of Mr. Harper during the 41st election campaign.

Tory staffers encouraged the crowd. Among those doing so was Marc-Andre Plouffe, who before the campaign was a senior advisor in the Prime Minister's Office. . . .

what i'm reading: the dead republic

Expect a lot of "what i'm reading" posts this spring and summer, because I am planning on doing a lot of reading! The thing I dislike most about being in grad school is not having time and energy to read what I want, only being able to read for school. Yet something good must be happening, because two books in my immediate future were inspired by my library and information classes.

Most of my top to-read list is non-fiction, but I began with fiction: The Dead Republic by Roddy Doyle, the third book in The Last Roundup trilogy, after A Star Called Henry and Oh, Play That Thing. With each book, the trilogy has gotten better: more meaningful, more layered, and even more enjoyable. With The Dead Republic, Doyle surpasses anything he has written before.

I don't say that lightly. I'm a huge Roddy Doyle fan. I discovered him with 1993's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, went back and read the Barrytown Trilogy - The Snapper, The Van and, of course, The Commitments - and continued with The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and later, Paula Spencer.

The Last Roundup trilogy is a departure for Doyle. It's technically historical fiction, but with several unusual twists. More than history, they're about how history is written, how myth is created, and where identity comes from - the struggle for self-definition that conflicts with the need for shared cultural identity. It's about Irish liberation, and the dream of Ireland kept alive by the Irish diaspora, and how myth surpasses and finally becomes reality.

Each book is funny, sometimes a little crazy, like a tall tale, but the hero, Henry Smart, grows and deepens and becomes more real than myth. In The Dead Republic, all the themes come crashing together in a wild crescendo which is both implausible myth and all too poignantly human. Both at the same time.

I won't reveal any plot. The way Doyle unfolds the stories is so delicious and should be experienced as he intended. After A Star Called Henry, I did wonder if a reader unfamiliar with Irish history would get enough out of it, but many people have told me that they learned what they needed from the novel and didn't feel lost. These are three terrific books, and the final instalment is a masterpiece.

My "what i'm reading" about Oh, Play That Thing! is here; a brief excerpt is here. This review in The Guardian puts the books in context, but plot spoilers abound. This reviewer for the New York Times agrees that TDR is the best of the trilogy.


mississauga east cooksville: is it really safe to vote ndp? and other election questions

1. Project Democracy now says my riding is "a safe Liberal seat" and advises, "vote your preference". If I could trust this, I'd be very happy to vote NDP. Can I trust it?

2. Is it possible the NDP will form the Official Opposition? The most recent Ekos poll suggests that is possible. Wow, wouldn't that be exciting! And wouldn't it give Mr. Ignatieff his comeuppance.

3. Why is Election Almanac projecting the Tories at 188 seats?? WTF?

this just in: i love new york city

I thought I'd blog while I was away, but never sat still long enough. I had a lovely visit with my mother, who is doing really well, and a terrific time with my sister, gabbing, drinking wine and touring her beautiful new home.

I spent one afternoon and evening in New York, a quick fix but a great one. The people, the noise, the grime, the energy, I was drinking it all in. It looks like much of the development that was driving me nuts in the late 90s and early 00s - the big box stores, the homogenization - has been halted, at least on the Upper West Side. Things looked as haphazard and disorganized as ever, and I mean that in the best possible sense. Taking the usual inventory of which restaurants and stores have disappeared and which ones have survived - this is not recession-related, just the normal flux of a constantly changing city - I thought my favourite diner had disappeared, but it turns out the owners renovated and changed the name. Whew.

I met NN at the Peacefood Cafe, a vegan cafe and bakery, then met AW1L and F at the Mermaid Inn, a terrific seafood joint. This was really my kind of place and I'd love to go back - excellent food in a relaxed, earthy atmosphere. It was so good to catch up with friends who I miss.

A, F and I were reminiscing about some of the bad good old days of New York. We all agreed we don't need to see any of that again, but we're glad we experienced it. We were laughing so hard at some of these stories. One of my favourites took place at the Jay Street-Boro Hall subway stop in Brooklyn. Both the F and the A trains stop on the same track; you have to check the train before you hop on. I was running down the steps to make a train, and there was one of those classic late 70s-early 80s creations: every car had a different letter. The first car was an F, behind that was an A, behind that an N or an R, then another F. A conductor was sticking his head out of the window, so I asked him, "What train is this?" He barked: "Can't you read??

At the table on Wednesday night, we all laughed so hard over this. Incidents like those were part of what forged your New Yorkerness, living in an environment where it was perfectly acceptable to speak and be spoken to this way. AW1L is originally from Iowa, and F is originally from Alabama. They have each traveled quite a bit and lived in many places, including London - not the one in Ontario - for several years. Talking about New York with New Yorkers who grew up elsewhere and know many other cities is great. They totally get it.

I was hoping - as I have been for the last six or seven visits - to check out The High Line, which was completed after I left. It was not to be. I did stay up on election news as much as possible. Things are exciting and so scary right now.


ssod double-header

Search string of the day the first:
Have ethnic persons in Canada started a movement against Conservatives since they asked Arabic perso
We can only hope that they d

Search string of the day the second:
could I move to Canada to live with my aunt?
Find out.

greetings from yyz

I'm on my way for my annual NY/NJ spring visit. Happily, I was able to fly from Toronto this time, rather than Buffalo, making Allan's life much easier and using a whole lot less gas.

And more good news: I breezed through US customs, the second consecutive trouble-free pass since the hassles began in late 2009. The real test will be the next time we cross at Buffalo or Lewiston. But this was very welcome.

My delayed flight means more time to follow the Patriot's Day game at Fenway! Now to find out who won the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon.


handwritten newspapers from japan

From Mediaite:
In the wake of Japan's recent massive earthquake and accompanying tsunami, the daily Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, based in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, found itself without power. So it produced new issues during a crucial time using what was available to editors – paper, and pen.

For six days, six of the paper’s staffers researched stories before passing them on to three others, who then meticulously hand-wrote the news on poster-size paper, using flashlights when natural light was not available. These “newspapers” were then published, so to speak, by pasting them at the entrances of various relief centers, so that survivors could keep up to date with the day’s headlines, free of charge.
What a beautiful throwback to a time when newspapers were the only source of information about the outside world. I found this not only extraordinary for its low-tech resourcefulness, but also moving - that journalists and editors, as providers of information, would take their roles so seriously. We all know that in times of crisis, if our basic needs are met - and sometimes even when they aren't - the thing we hunger for most is information.

if this knish could talk: some language-related thoughts

When I first moved to Canada, I could really hear my neighbours' "accent" - their Canadian-sounding speech. Now I no longer notice it. People still sometimes ask me if I'm from the US, and occasionally someone recognizes my speech as New York- sounding. Recently, though, I've noticed the sound of my own language changing. My "sorry" now sounds more like "sirry" than "sahry". The other day, I said "zed" without thinking. It's interesting to me how this just happens, some kind of linguistic osmosis.

As far as I know, I never sounded like this video, but some of it is irrefutable. "They're not usually quiet people."

I recently read this review of You Are What You Speak - Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity by Robert Lane Greene.
Greene makes it his business to dispel popular misconceptions, large and small. (Politicians and pundits, please note: the Chinese word for “crisis” is not composed of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.”) To that end, he visits with the University of Pennsylvania’s Mark Liberman, a multifaceted scholar who serves as a one-man truth squad at the Language Log blog, of which he is a co-founder.

In her 2006 book “The Female Brain,” for example, Louann Brizendine reported that women average 20,000 words a day against just 7,000 for men. That came as no surprise to many in the media; as one TV reporter put it: “Here’s a news flash. Women talk more than men. Duh.” But Liberman tracked Brizendine’s figures to an unsourced claim in a self-help book and noted that the empirical research shows both sexes using about the same number of words in a day. Duh! yourself.

And when columnists including George Will and Stanley Fish asserted that President Obama’s frequent use of “I” and “me” betrayed his arrogance and self-absorption, Liberman did the counts and showed that Obama actually used those pronouns far less often in speeches and press conferences than did any of his recent predecessors.

. . .

In his view, the efforts of the French to purge their tongue of English words arise in part from a “dented self-image,” even though French is hardly a threatened language. And while Americans may bristle at the comparison, he sees the same unwarranted insecurity behind the English-only movement. As Greene notes, English doesn’t need protecting; modern immigrants are acquiring the language far more rapidly than immigrants did a century ago and, sadly, are rapidly losing their original languages in the bargain. But that’s unlikely to deter the sponsors of English-only measures, which presuppose that recent immigrants have resisted assimilation.

Greene’s abhorrence of linguistic meddling extends to the “grouches,” “scolds” and “vigilantes” who complain that English is going to hell in a Hupmobile and insist on imposing specious rules and crotchets on a language that is doing quite nicely on its own, thank you. In fact, he argues that the quality of this “declinism” has itself gone downhill over the last century. We’ve passed from the thoughtful homilies of Fowler to the pithy dictums of Strunk and White to the operatic curmudgeonry of modern sticklers like Lynne Truss, whose gasps of horror at the sight of a misplaced apostrophe are a campy cover for self-congratulation.

. . . Most of the usage questions that engage us daily have nothing to do with politics, race or class, and they almost never figure among the score or so of timeworn bugbears that people report as their pet peeves, like “irregardless,” “literally” and “I could care less.” (Doesn’t anybody know what “pet” means anymore?)

Not long ago I did a double take when I encountered the phrase “refreshingly simplistic” in a music review. When I looked it up on Google, I got hundreds of hits. It seemed to have sprung out of nowhere ­— these things always do — but it turns out people have been using “simplistic” for at least 40 years to mean something like “plain” or “unadorned.”

Well, language changes, and speakers in a generation or two will probably find my animadversions over “refreshingly simplistic” as tiresome and fusty as I find those by people who still grouse about using “nauseous” to mean sick. (As Greene succinctly puts it, “Yesterday’s abomination is today’s rule.”) Yet the prospect of future acceptance doesn’t allay my feeling that the phrase is a pratfall. It’s as if I’d tried to tell my parents when I was growing up that I shouldn’t have had to wear a jacket to a restaurant, since people a half-century later would be showing up in jeans and flip-flops.
I liked this bit because I have my own decidedly mixed feelings on this abomination-vs-rule debate. The avalanche of apostrophe abuse drives me insane. The quantity of quotation marks, same. I'm fond of saying "It's not ironic, it's a coincidence!" This surely makes me, in Lane's eyes, a grammar grouch.

But... there's a but. People who correct other people's grammar and usage bother me almost as much as bad grammar. My comment policy, for example, asks that we not correct each other in comments. We all have different backgrounds, different levels of formal education; what's important is that we communicate, not that we communicate according to a specific set of rules.

I sometimes email with a friend in Peru. My Spanish is abominable. But he encourages me to write him, and he always says my Spanish is fine - undoubtedly because he is too nice to say otherwise, and because he wants me to write. I always encourage people to express themselves, in whatever way they can.

Yet when one of my professors - a woman with a PhD, for crissakes - wrote it's for its, I was embarrassed for her. I wonder if I'm the only person in the class who noticed.

Somehow I subscribe to these two contradictory modes of thoughts at the same time.


i agree with michael ignatieff: canadians must rise up

File this under things I never thought I'd say: here I am agreeing with Michael Ignatieff again. Canadians must rise up against these dangerous, anti-democratic Conservatives, if this country is going to have a chance of staying a good and decent place to live.

I hate to see the Liberals appropriate the language of revolution - I doubt Michael Ignatieff would appreciate the rising up I have in mind - but I hate apathy and complacency a whole lot more. Macleans has a good story about Ignatieff's speech.

I've seen people say we must "vote red" in order to defeat Stephen Harper's Conservatives. This is just not so. In some ridings, a vote for the Liberals will help the Conservatives. By all means vote Liberal if that's the most likely party to beat the Conservatives where you live. Vote NDP if they have the better chance in your riding. If you live in Québec, you have even more choices.

But whatever you do, vote smart.

If you're unsure of which non-Conservative party has the best shot in your riding, consult Project Democracy. You can plug in your postal code or click on the map to get the latest projections for any riding, and the bullet version of how to "amp your vote".


shit harper did

In case you haven't seen this yet, have fun clicking: ShitHarperDid.ca.

right now, seals are being slaughtered

With everything that's been going on in the world, in Canada, and with me personally, I've neglected to post about something I usually touch on every year. On the ice off Newfoundland, seals are being slaughtered for their fur right now. It's called a hunt, but it's really an outdoor abattoir.

The excuses just don't add up anymore. The ice is melting; pregnant seals are having trouble finding places to give birth. The bottom has dropped out of the world market for seal fur. The EU has banned trade in seal products. But Canada is still subsidizing the slaughter. Indeed, the Harper government increased the legal kill limit by 80,000 seals.

There is an alternative. Many environmental groups are calling for a federal buyout of the sealing industry: pay a fair price for sealers' licenses and invest in economic alternatives for the communities involved. Polls have shown that a good half of Newfoundland sealers support this plan.

You can show your support for an end to commercial sealing by clicking here and signing a letter through the Humane Society International Canada.

Last year, the European Union implemented a historic ban on trade in seal products. This removed one of the biggest market for Canada's sealing industry, and likely saved thousands of seals.

It's no surprise that the Harper government tried to reverse the ban. The challenge to the EU ban would cost millions, even though the overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose the seal slaughter. Click here to add your voice to the call for Canada to drop the challenge to the seal trade ban.

I realize it's difficult to focus on this in the middle of the federal election. But the slaughter hasn't stopped. Your click adds one more voice to the growing chorus demanding an end to the seal slaughter.

And please, let's not argue about cultural traditions. Slavery was a cultural tradition. So was child labour. The government condemns "barbaric cultural practices" attributed to certain immigrant groups. Here's a barbaric cultural practice if ever I saw one: smashing the skulls of newborn animals so people can sell their soft, warm fur.

Senator Mac Harb is the first elected official in Canada to propose a law banning the seal slaughter. The Harb Seal Bill and the Senator's tireless public support has been a significant turning point for this movement. Here's an email update from Senator Harb, and below, a video from when he first tabled the bill.
I have recently tabled a Notice of Motion directing the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to find specific ways to help support Canada’s Inuit and aboriginal hunters affected by the European Union ban on commercial seal products. I am pleased to report that the motion was seconded by Senator Charlie Watt, who represents Northern Quebec in the Senate. Senator Watt also sits on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Along with looking at ways to help these Canadians take advantage of their unique exemption as subsistence hunters, I believe that this motion will compel the government to move past its futile efforts to challenge the EU ban on commercial seal products at the World Trade Organization. As we know, this challenge will take several years, will cost millions of dollars and is unlikely to overturn the carefully drafted EU ban.

Senator Watt and I will need the support of our colleagues in the Senate to ensure the motion passes and this issue is studied at the Committee. I would therefore encourage you to contact the members of the Senate, by email or letter using the link and address below, urging them to support Canada’s Inuit and aboriginal communities by voting in favour of the motion.

Canadians living in Canada’s Northern and Atlantic communities expect and deserve a proactive, viable strategy from their government as the commercial seal hunt comes to an end once and for all. I thank you for your interest and contribution to achieving this goal.


Senator Mac Harb

List of Senators (English

Mail may be sent postage-free to any Senator at the following address: The Senate of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0A4.

Updates on the Harb Seal Bill can always be found here.


another tool for strategic voting: project democracy

The predictions of a Conservative majority on the front page are a bit out of date (she says optimistically), but this is a very useful organizing tool: Project Democracy.

Put in a postal code (or click on a map) to see projections for a riding, broken down by party. From there, you can see the projections from all different polls, plus past voting. It's quite an extensive tool.

Project Democracy.

Many thanks to James for sending, and to Margaret Atwood for tweeting!

avaaz petition: release the final report on g8 spending!

To Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe, Elizabeth May and Auditor General Sheila Fraser:

We call on all party leaders to urgently file an official request with the Auditor General to publicly release the G8 spending report before election day on May 2nd, and we call on the Auditor General to comply with that request. There is no legal barrier to this release, and Canadians have a right to know the truth about G8 spending before we choose our next government.

Sign here.

From Avaaz:
This week, a leaked report alleged that the Harper Government illegally handed 50 million taxpayer dollars to a single Conservative riding – and then covered it up as G8 summit spending. With Canadians heading to the polls in mere weeks, we need to know the truth about Harper and his loose-fisted ministers.

Parliamentary experts say that no law bars the Auditor General from immediately releasing this report to the public. In fact, it would serve our bruised democracy to reveal the facts about G8 spending before Canadians are asked to choose the next government. We need to know if Harper illegally doled out public money to his supporters before we cast our votes.

Let's raise a massive public call to the AG and all 5 parties to agree immediately to release this report. If enough us join, our outcry will compel the AG to protect democracy by revealing the truth before the vote. Sign the petition below - we'll deliver it when we hit 75,000 signatures.

This is the first time in Canadian history that an AG draft report has been leaked. Members of Parliament knew that the alleged illegal conduct documented in this report was outrageous - they had no choice but to violate the tradition of confidentiality surrounding draft AG reports.

Since the scandal broke, the AG has been "sent" to Nunavut. But she cannot escape a public outcry – nor an official request from all political leaders demanding that the truth be revealed before election day.

A fair and informed vote depends on exposing the truth about Harper and his G8 spending to the Canadian public. Let’s send a flood of messages to the leaders of all five major political parties calling on them to file an official – and immediate – request with the Auditor General for the release of the G8 spending report. Then we'll bring our call directly to the AG.

The Harper Government fell because it was the first in Canadian history to be found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to tell the truth about public spending. This election is in large part about accountability, and if there is yet another massive misappropriation of taxpayer money, we have a right to know. Let’s fight for the chance to make an informed choice at the polls.

Sheila slams Tory G8 spending (Montreal Gazette)

G8 spending: Did taxpayers get their money’s worth? (Toronto Star)

Will auditor’s G8 report postpone Speaker Peter Milliken’s retirement? (The Globe and Mail)

calling all "ethnics": stephen harper invites you to a costume party in etobicoke today!

The first invitation
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2011 22:26:47 -0400
Subject: Opportunity - Thursday night with the Prime Minister
From: zzidaric@gmail.com


On Thursday night, the Prime Minister will be in Etobicoke for a big rally.

Here is the link for the event


We, at the Etobicoke Centre riding, are trying to create a photo-op about all the multicultural groups that support Ted Opitz our local Conservative candidate and the Prime Minister. The opportunity is to have up to 20 people in national folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds. These people will sit in front row behind the PM – great TV photo op.

We are seeking representation from the Arab community. Do you have any cultural groups that would like to participate by having someone at the event in an ethnic costume? We are seeking one or two people from your community. Please let me know by Wednesday afternoon – 5:00 pm at the latest.

I apologize for the short notice.

Thanks again for your help!

Zeljko ‘Zed’ Zidaric
Ted Opitz Campaign Team

And the second invitation...

Stephen Harper's 'Ethnic Costume' Party & Rally
Thursday, April 14
5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Double Tree by Hilton Hotel
655 Dixon Road, Etobicoke


Event on facebook (Directions from downtown Toronto on that page or email me.)

Stephen Harper is coming to Toronto this Thursday, April 14!

In a leaked e-mail message from the local Conservative candidate's campaign team in Etobicoke Centre, the Conservatives invited various "ethnic" groups in the riding to dress up in their "ethnic costumes" so they can stand behind Stephen Harper in a photo-op.

In response to this patronizing and offensive event, we are calling on all "ethnics" to join us for a counter-rally that will take place outside the Conservative rally. Please come dressed in your traditional "ethnic costume" - whether you're Chinese, Arab, Portuguese, Italian, South Asian, Irish, Vulcan, Klingon, Zombie, or Ewok. Let's show the Conservatives that "ethnic voters" are not props for photo-ops.

Bring placards, too!

The Conservative rally will take place at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, 655 Dixon Road, near the Toronto Airport. The Conservative event is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. We're asking that you be there for 5:30 p.m. so we can be sure to greet Harper when he arrives.

Organized by community organizations, anti-racist groups, and "ethnics" across the Greater Toronto Area

Make your own Harper "Ethnic Costume"!


wolf post 2: haliburton wolves in winter

HaliburtonWolves (36 of 153)

Haliburton Wolf Centre, March 27, 2011
Photo by JH

Story and more photos below

* * * *

In the summer of 2009, Allan and I and two friends went to the Haliburton Forest Reserve Wolf Centre; my post about it is here and a small sample of photos from that day are here.

We all love animals, but J is extremely knowledgeable about animals and shares my fascination with wild canines. (These are the same friends with whom we've visited Jungle Cat World more than once.) Driving back from Haliburton that day, we vowed to return in winter, when the wolves are more active and sporting their gorgeous winter coats.

Last year we were all set to go, when we discovered that the Wolf Centre is only open on weekends through the winter, when I'm working. Well, this winter I couldn't stand it anymore, and used a vacation day. Allan and C couldn't make it, but J, CB and I had a great day - driving and talking, and marvelling at the wolves.

There are only four wolves now. Smudge, the old alpha male we saw in 2009, has died. Citka, the former alpha female, died carrying a litter of pups. Now Granite is the only female in the pack, and the alpha female by default. Cedar and Haida are the alpha and beta males, and Grisham (who I thought was named Grissom, until I saw the name on the website) is the omega.

The best news is that Granite is now pregnant. The pups are expected in April, so yet again, we came home promising to return. We will be watching the Wolf Centre website closely. If all goes well and healthy pups are born, we'll return in June to see them.

* * * *

Our visit in late March was amazing! The wolves were spectacular in their thick, full coats, but what we were most hoping for was to see them fed. The wolves are fed only every 7 or 8 days, to more closely mimic their diet in the wild, and at irregular intervals, so they don't anticipate feeding time the way domestic and zoo animals do. (The irregular schedule is also so visitors don't anticipate feeding time and mob the centre on those days.) So if you visit, feeding time may or may not fall on a day when you're there. J and I were so hoping to see it... and we did!

Here's some of our day, with photos by J. CB had her video camera, so I hope to post a clip, and you'll be able to hear the wolves vocalizing.

When we arrived, the four wolves were lounging in the viewing area, enjoying a lazy morning in the sun. Every once in a while, one would get up, stretch, yawn, and find a different spot. As soon as one got up, the others would follow, so there'd be a kind of slow-moving musical-chairs as the wolves changed positions.

HaliburtonWolves (16 of 153)

The Centre guide pointed out how the female was walking gingerly on the snow, careful not to slip because of the pups growing inside her. He said that in a few weeks she would start to show thickening around the middle.

We watched this for a while, took a walk through the Centre's little exhibit space, then patiently sat and watched the wolves some more. When we first arrived, we were the only visitors there, but during the day several groups came in. (Once we had to retreat to an unheated viewing corridor, to escape obnoxious snarky comments.) Every time cars would pull up or when the Centre door opened, the wolves would become more active - playing a little, prancing around, nuzzling each other, vocalizing - then eventually settling down.

As the day went on, these spurts of activity lasted longer and longer. Each time, the wolves would get a little more active and noisier, and take longer to settle down. We started thinking that they sensed they were going to be fed.

It was really interesting to watch Grisham, the omega wolf, during these times. The other three would squeeze their snouts together and prance around. Grisham would keep his distance, paw at the snow, get a little frisky - but always by himself.

HaliburtonWolves (71 of 153)

At one point, Granite climbed a little further up the slope, lay down on a big boulder from which she could survey the whole area, and waited. The rest kept prancing around. The vocalizing got really noisy! (There are microphones on the outside of the building.) They weren't howling; it was more like sustained whining, a chorus of all different pitches. Sometimes the whining would almost become a howl, but not quite. It was a sound you'd never hear in any other context - something altogether wild.

HaliburtonWolves (138 of 106)

HaliburtonWolves (136 of 106)

The activity kept increasing - the wolves growing noisier and more active - and then all movement stopped. All four wolves stood still, staring, completely focused on the building's basement windows. The Centre has two-way glass - so you can see out, and the wolves see a reflection of the woods. But when the light changes inside, the reflection decreases, and the wolves are very sensitive to it. They obviously know that a certain pattern of movement in the basement means food is on the way.

Two men - the guide we had been talking to and one other - entered the enclosure, each holding one huge, red hunk, roughly cylindrical. We already knew these were beaver carcasses, caught by trappers, stripped, and sold to the Centre, where they are kept frozen. Beavers make up 75% of the wolves' diet.

It was fascinating to see how the wolves reacted to the men in their enclosure. The wolves left a buffer zone between themselves and the men; when the men took a step forward, the wolves stepped back. One man dropped a carcass and went back inside for another, and even with the food on the ground, the wolves would not approach and eat, as long as the human was standing near it. The alpha and beta wolves would stand a few feet back from the men, while Grisham trotted back and forth, even further away.

The men secured two carcasses with wire to some tree stumps. When Granite trotted off with a big hunk of beaver, we understood why. Without that, visitors would see the wolves eat for about 30 seconds!

We watched three of the wolves tear into the meat, gulping it down, faces and forelegs getting bloody, loud munching and gulping noises coming over the mics. Grisham trotted back and forth, not approaching any of the carcasses while other wolves were busy with them. After some time, Granite disappeared with her prize, Haida trotted off with a tail - they love the tail! They walk around with it sticking out of their mouths, very amusing - and Ginger was occupied with a large bone. Only then could Grisham eat.

Almost as soon as the beaver carcasses appeared, ravens swooped into the enclosure, waiting impatiently on branches for their moment. They looked exactly like crows, but way larger. The guide told us that ravens are the wolves of the bird world, the top of the food chain. They will chase away any other bird, even gang up on a hawk, picking at its tail feathers until it gives up and flies off.

Later, when the wolves are asleep, raccoons, mice and other small animals will tunnel under or climb over the enclosure fence to pick the bones clean.

With any luck, my next Wolf Centre post will include puppies!

All photos by JH.

wolf post 1: terrible wolf news from the u.s.

From the NRDC:
I am dismayed -- and heartbroken -- to report that the last-minute budget deal agreed to by Congressional leaders on Friday night will strip endangered species protection from gray wolves across most of the Northern Rockies, leaving them at the mercy of states that plan to kill hundreds of them.

This stealth attack on wolves -- which circumvents the will of the courts and good science -- was inserted by Representative Mike Simpson (R, ID) and Senator Jon Tester (D, MT). It was approved by the leadership of both the House and the Senate, and it was okayed by the White House.

It is a shameful day for this nation when both parties unite behind the slaughter of an endangered species -- without public hearing or debate.

And there is another victim here as well: the Endangered Species Act.

Congress has never before removed an animal from the endangered species list. By replacing scientific judgment with political calculation, the House and Senate have struck at the very heart of wildlife protection in America.

We have to make sure that the political door is not thrown open to new attacks on other imperiled species.

Send a message to your Senators and Representative right now, expressing your outrage at this attack on wolves and telling them to keep their hands off the Endangered Species Act.

In the meantime, I urge you to keep faith with our shared dream of a sustainable future for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Tens of thousands of you made your voice heard over the past six months as we tried to stave off this worst-case outcome in Congress.

We fought the good fight but, in the end, we could not overcome the Beltway politics of cynicism and deal-making. We are left feeling terrible sorrow for the wolves that will now die as a result.

But make no mistake: we have fought too long and too hard for wolf recovery to give up. We always knew that achieving our goal could take years, perhaps decades. And as I write this, NRDC is already preparing for the next phase of this fight.

Wolf post 2 is must cheerier, and only makes this one more heartbreaking.

ignatieff shines in leaders' debate; cbc does not

Last night's leaders' debate, in my view, was no small triumph for the Liberal Party.

If I didn't know anything coming into the debate - if I didn't know that liberals always sound progressive at election time - if I didn't know how weak Michael Ignatieff has been in Parliament - if I based my vote only on the debates - and with the one very significant exception of their support for the war in Afghanistan - I would be voting enthusiastically for the Liberal Party.

Ignatieff was strong, articulate and effective, while still seeming warm and human. For the first time, he seemed to me Prime Ministerial. I particularly liked him denouncing Harper's characterization of Parliamentary opposition as "bickering".

Although there's always a risk when three people gang up on one - Stephen Harper is not exactly an underdog! - Harper seemed on the ropes through much of the debate. Whether or not the public will believe his responses lies is another question.

In their post-debate analysis, CBC included a segment that could have been fascinating, but instead was useless. They hosted a focus group of young adults watching the debate in a Toronto pub. The young voters were given photos of each party leader, and when asked who they liked best in the debate, the overwhelming majority revealed Jack Layton's smiling face above his blue collar. Young people choosing the NDP platform is a wonderful thing to see, apart from any one election. Unfortunately, we learned almost nothing about why the young voters chose Layton. CBC Fail.

One of the young people in the pub said of choosing Layton, "That doesn't mean it will translate into voting for that party"; the same guy later said Stephen Harper was great. Whether he was already a confirmed Conservative voter (my guess) or whether his view was formed during the debate, again, we don't know.

If you missed it or are further interested in Canadian politics, you can watch video of the debate here.

galloway takes kenney to court; will donate damages to canadian peace movement

Go, George, Go!
Outspoken former British MP George Galloway has made good on his threat to sue Canada's immigration minister.

A statement of claim served on Jason Kenney and his assistant Alykhan Velshi alleges they abused their official powers by banning Galloway from Canada in 2009.

The document, which asks for $1.5 million in damages, also claims that Kenney and Velshi defamed Galloway in British newspapers.

Galloway, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian people, had been planning to stage a cross-country speaking tour about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kenney barred him from the country for his alleged financial support to the Palestinian group Hamas, which Ottawa considers a terrorist organization.

A lawyer representing Galloway says the former MP will argue that the allegations of terrorism lost him his long-held seat in the British House of Commons.

This Canadian Press story doesn't say that Galloway has repeatedly pledged to donate any judgment from this suit to the anti-war movement in Canada. Seems like that's an important detail to omit.

I attended the court hearing challenging Galloway's inadmission to Canada; my notes on it are here: part 1, part 2, part 3, and court documents.


how do we feel about the conservatives being caught with their pants down on the eve of the leaders' debate?

How happy are we about yesterday's leak of the Auditor General's report and the revelations that the Conservatives lied about Sheila Fraser's statements?

Hurrah for Joan Bryden and double hurrahs for whatever partisan angel leaked the Auditor General's report. And a special hurrah for the Conservatives' unlimited hubris and appetite for deception, which gave them the temerity to recycle and misuse Sheila Fraser's quote! Yes, chalk one up for Mr. Transparency and Accountability. This one is a bit difficult to spin away.

Joan Bryden, Canadian Press:
[Auditor General Sheila] Fraser's confidential Jan. 13 draft says the government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on questionable projects in Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding.

And it suggests the process by which the funding was approved may have been illegal. ...

Among the questionable projects funded were:

* $274,000 on public toilets 20 km from the summit site.

* $100,000 on a gazebo an hour's drive away.

* $1.1-million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 km away.

* $194,000 for a park 100 km away.

* $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 km away....

Steve Russell, Toronto Star:
The Star already revealed ahead of the twin summits last summer that much of the $50 million meant to spruce up the Huntsville location of the G8 went to irrelevant projects like gazebos and to raise sidewalks high enough to bury a fire hydrant far away from where the world leaders met.

Now comes word that Fraser concluded the Harper government misinformed Parliament, and skirted legal guidelines to approve the flow of $50 million into the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund. That fund lavished money on dubious projects in a riding held by Conservative cabinet minister Tony Clement (Parry Sound—Muskoka). ...

[T]here was no apparent regard for the needs of the summit or the financial guidelines laid down by the government.

The report provides campaign fodder for opposition critics who've long maintained the legacy fund was a thinly disguised slush fund for Clement. ...

"[P]arliament was misinformed," Fraser writes.

Kenyon Wallace, Toronto Star:
Much of the $50 million the Conservative government allocated to the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund went to projects in Hunstville, Ont. that had nothing to do with the summit, according to newly released documents. . . .

The 32 projects that received funding, many of which appear to have no connection to the needs of the G8 summit, were chosen by Industry Minister Tony Clement, the mayor of Hunstville, and the general manager of Deerhurst Resort.

Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star (June 8, 2010):
On the shores of Georgian Bay, an hour west of the big world leaders' summit in Huntsville, the downtown sidewalks and fountain built with federal G8 funding are finished. . . .

Construction crews didn't raise a fire hydrant when they raised the level of a main downtown street and sidewalk ... the bright yellow hydrant sticks only about a foot out of the ground. A little low. ...

On a day when a $1.9 million "fake lake" in the G20 media centre in Toronto had opposition MPs and taxpayers crying foul, a quick spin north of the city revealed that almost everything north of Barrie was getting an upgrade — or so it seemed — for a summit that will last a matter of hours.

New sidewalks, trees, gazebos, paved roads, fresh coats of paint, gardens and all manner of buffing and polishing, all compliments of federal largesse, much of it for tiny towns well off the beaten track. . . .

Liberal MP Siobhan Coady: "(Taxpayers paid) $1.1 million for a sidewalk that is 84 kilometres from the summit site."

Daniel Leblance, Campbell Clark and Anna Mehler Paperny, Globe and Mail:
Ms. Fraser criticizes the government for a lack of openness toward Parliament, which unwittingly voted for the program as part of a border infrastructure initiative. . . The draft report also leaves the Harper government exposed to charges of financial mismanagement in the $50-million program, which had a budget 10 times higher than the funding allocated to major summits in Quebec City and Kananaskis, Alta. ...

The Auditor-General found no one in government who could explain how the funding was allocated.

Mark Kennedy and Amy Minsky, Vancouver Sun:
[T]he Conservative government failed to adequately keep records to explain how the 32 projects were chosen for Parry Sound-Muskoka, the southern Ontario riding represented by Tony Clement, the industry minister.

The federal campaign was hit with a bombshell in media reports that said Sheila Fraser concluded in a draft audit prepared in mid-January that the government had misinformed MPs and perhaps had even broken the law through the way it sought funds in late 2009. ...

[Conservatives] folded the $50 million into a larger, $83-million category, which was described as a Border Infrastructure Fund ... with no mention made of how much of the money was actually going to Parry Sound-Muskoka, which is nowhere near the border.

Les Whittington, Toronto Star:
Auditor General Sheila Fraser is rebuking the Conservatives for using an old quote of hers praising the Liberals as proof she approved of last year's G8/G20 spending by the Tories.

In another twist in the summit spending uproar, Fraser is demanding that the quote cited by the Tories be removed from a recent report by a Commons committee that studied how the Harper government spent $1.2 billion on the Muskoka and Toronto summits.

"We found that the processes and controls around that were very good and that the monies were spent as they were intended to be spent," Fraser is quoted as saying in the dissenting report written by Conservative MPs on the committee.

But Fraser says bluntly in a letter to former chair and Liberal candidate John McKay that the quote had nothing to do with last year's summits. It was taken from a 2010 media report referring to the auditor general's assessment of national security spending by the Liberal government in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, she says. ...

[Fraser also pointed out] that she did not give testimony before the Commons government operations committee during its investigation of G8/G20 spending ...

All this happiness over what may or may not be a turning point in the election? Yes, and why not! Imagine how we'll celebrate on the night of May 2 if we've seen the end of the Harper Government™!

Allan and Laura co-post - thanks to Allan for the gifs