massive union presence to joins wall street occupation

The ongoing protest at New York City's financial district is receiving a huge boost from labour unions.

The Transit Workers Union voted unanimously to support Occupy Wall Street and the United Auto Workers is expected to do so soon. In addition, two professors with the City University of New York (CUNY) led a march to protest the abuse of protesters by police. Michael Moore is doing a local book signing, with royalties to support Occupy Wall Street.


Slate: Unions Set to Join "Occupy Wall Street" Protests

Village Voice: Transport Workers Union Votes Unanimously to Support Occupy Wall Street

Crains New York Business: Veteran agitators flock to Occupy Wall Street

Teamster Nation:
We quickly checked a few other cities and found Occupy Chicago protesters had camped out for seven days in front of the Federal Reserve Bank as of Thursday. Occupy San Francisco appears to be growing from the handful of occupiers in the city's Financial District. Occupy Seattle is up and running, preparing for a major action on Saturday.

On Saturday, October 15, the protests will come to Bay Street, Toronto.

ontario, vote three ways and pass it on

There's an excellent new democratic voting tool designed to show us what the upcoming Ontario election would look like under different voting systems.

Although we can reconfigure actual election results using different electoral systems, those "what might have been" scenarios are never fully accurate, as people might vote differently under a different system. Strategic voting, for example, might not feel necessary to many voters.

On the other hand, the pitfall here is that people who favour FPTP may not use this tool. Still, it's a useful exercise and the results may be enlightening.

Three Ontario Votes allows you to vote in the upcoming Ontario election under three different systems: first past the post, proportional representation, and the alternative vote. There's information about each system, descriptions of the voting system in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, and a short questionnaire.

If you live in Ontario, please visit Ontario Three Votes. Vote three ways and share widely! Many thanks to Imp Strump.


suggestions for movie season now being accepted, she says sadly

We now have an answer to the burning question: can a baseball team that wins seven games in September play in the postseason?

The Red Sox walked the razor's edge all week. Last night, a night of incredible baseball tension, we clung to hope, following two games at once. The Sox held a slim lead. The Yankees - we had to root for them this week, a grim reality - had a commanding 7-run lead over Tampa.

In five minutes, it was all over.

The answer is no.

[Huge sad face emoticon here.]

* * * *

So. Movies. Got any?

A bunch we never got to last season are still on the list, as always, including Made in Dagenham, The King's Speech and Barney's Version. For series, we're starting Sherlock and BBC's Planet Earth. People keep telling me to see The Bridesmaids, so perhaps my instincts are wrong and I'll put it on the list. If you've seen anything good in the last six months, fire away.


wolf puppies!

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When we visited the Haliburton Wolf Centre in March - our second time there, to see the wolves in their winter coats - the alpha female was pregnant. In April, four healthy pups were born: two males (one black, one gray) and two females (one black, one gray).

By June they were out of the den and coming into public view. My wolf-loving friend J and I went to see them in July. Once again, we were patient, waiting through many waves of visitors as the wolves relaxed in the sun. And once again we were rewarded. In the winter, we saw the wolves being fed; this time we saw the adult alpha pair join the pups, the whole pack nuzzling, vocalizing and playing.

All these photos are by J.

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I usually post only a sample of photos, but this time I've posted the whole lot: Flickr set here (all photos by J).

Older wolf visits:

First visit to Haliburton Wolf Centre, July 2009, some photos here.

Haliburton wolves in winter, March 2011.

Wolf pups at Jungle Cat World, more photos here. Jungle Cat World wolves a few months later.


wikileaks: mentally ill canadian citizen held in bagram prison for 18 months, and counting

This morning CBC News reports that WikiLeaks has exposed that a Canadian is being held at the notorious Bagram prison, the US-run torture camp and holding tank for Afghans who were either trying to defend their country from foreign invaders or were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The man, Khaled Samy Abdallah Ismail, is mentally ill. A citizen of both Canada and Egypt, he has been imprisoned in Bagram for 18 months. There is no evidence against him.

Omar Khadr, then, is not the only Canadian being held in deplorable indefinite detention. And the name Ismail gets added to the long and growing list of Canadian citizens that the Harper government has abandoned. As David Eaves says:
If you have the wrong colour skin, the wrong beliefs, if you do something that the Canadian government decides it doesn't approve of, or if you are simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time... you are on your own.
Read the CBC story on Ismail here.

See the Council of Canadians summary of how the Harper government has failed to protect Canadian citizens.


tomorrow in toronto: demand a toronto for everyone

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been forced to back away from some of his more egregious - and completely unnecessary - threatened budget cuts, claiming that library branches will not be closed. But let's not forget, in his mayoral campaign, Ford said he'd make no service cuts at all. So why should we believe him now? What's more, Ford has only backed down on cuts to the Toronto Public Library because of public outcry. Meaning: protest works.

If you can be in the GTA tomorrow, join a mass protest to defend public services and good jobs in our communities, outside the City Council meeting where the budget will be decided.

Even if you (like me) don't live in the City of Toronto, this should matter to you. If the mayor of Canada's largest city gets away with mass privatization and service cuts, it will be open season on public services in every city in the country.

WHEN: Monday, September 26, 5:30 pm

WHERE: Toronto City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square

More information on Facebook: Rally for Respect: Demand a Toronto for Everyone.

wall street occupation day 8 turns ugly: cops move on protesters

The occupation of Wall Street turned ugly yesterday when police moved on protesters, complete with pepper spray, kettling, random brutality, and mass arrests. Reading about this, it occured to me that I've neglected to blog about it at all.

So here's what's happening: OccupyWallStreet.

Here's how you can help: New York General Assembly donation page.

And here's why: war for profit, human-made famine, mass home forclosures, malnutrition, hunger and homelessness in the wealthiest societies on earth, death from lack of health care, poisoned air, water and earth for private profit, tar sands, mountaintop removal, white phosphorous, multi-million dollar bonuses... and so much more.

In short, capitalism leaves out 99% of us and is destroying the planet.

OccupyWallStreet is about the 99%.
See also: We Are the 99 Percent.
See also: the original call in AdBusters.

Yesterday's New York Times: 80 Arrested as Financial District Protest Moves North

war criminal coming to vancouver: ottawa won't prosecute, but you can protest

Vancouver, a war criminal will be in your midst tomorrow, promoting his book. Join the welcoming committee.

If you live elsewhere and don't see the evil man himself, you might see his book in a bookstore. Re-shelve for resistance!

It's nice to see this movement making headlines. Although the ruling class will always protect and defend itself, we can still remind each other that war criminals and mass murderers shouldn't be allowed to walk freely amongst us.
Prosecute Dick Cheney for torture, human-rights group tells Ottawa

A human rights group is urging the federal government to bring criminal charges against former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney, accusing him of playing a role in the torture of detainees during the years of the Bush administration.

Mr. Cheney will be in Vancouver on Monday to promote his book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, which outlines his views of the war on terror and other events during the administration of president George W. Bush.

Human Rights Watch claims that overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens, are grounds for Canada to investigate Mr. Cheney and comply with the Convention Against Torture.

In addition, the New York-based group said that Canadian law expressly provides for jurisdiction over an individual for torture and other crimes if the complainant is a Canadian citizen, even for offences committed outside of Canada.

It said in a news release issued Saturday that Canada had ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1987 and incorporated its provisions into the Canadian Criminal Code.

“The U.S. has utterly failed to meet its legal obligation to investigate torture by the Bush administration, but that shouldn't let other countries off the hook,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

“Cheney's visit to Vancouver is a rare opportunity to remedy this shameful failure to uphold the rule of law.”

A spokesperson for Mr. Cheney could not be reached for comment, but in the past the former vice-president has been a staunch defender of the policies of the Bush years.

He frequently appeared on the U.S. talk-show circuit to say he's unapologetic about waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques. He has repeatedly insisted such tactics saved “hundreds of thousands of lives.”

The complaint from the human rights group came on the heels of a New Democratic Party MP's call on Friday for the federal government to bar Mr. Cheney from entering Canada.

Don Davies sent a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney urging the federal government to deny Mr. Cheney entry, also citing the treatment of detainees during the Bush administration years.

Mr. Kenney's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented the role of senior Bush administration officials in authorizing torture of detainees, including “waterboarding” and prolonged exposure to heat and cold.

The group further said the U.S. was directly responsible or complicit in the alleged torture of at least two Canadian citizens, Maher Arar and Omar Khadr.

U.S. authorities deported Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, back to Syria in 2002 when he stopped in the U.S. on the way home to Canada. He was jailed in Damascus and tortured into giving false confessions about terrorist links.

Mr. Khadr was convicted a year ago in Guantanamo Bay after pleading guilty to war crimes he committed as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan.

“Canada's own investigation into the Maher Arar case shows there is sufficient evidence to investigate Cheney for authorizing torture,” Mr. Roth said.

“Bush, Cheney, and others authorized the abusive detention regime that Canadians and thousands of others were subjected to. They should be held accountable.”

Antiwar activists are expected to protest in Vancouver during Cheney's trip.


racism and police brutality put london, ontario in the spotlight

Way to go, London, Ontario. Two days ago, most people outside Canada didn't know there was another London. Now everyone has heard of the one in Ontario, first from an ugly, racist incident during a hockey game, and then from an equally ugly - but far more typical - police tasering.

Students in London, Ontario, are angry, with good reason. They've had a painful lesson in what "serve and protect" too often means: abuse of power. With no verbal warning, a London police officer broke up a fight between two teens with a taser shot to the ear. The incident was captured on cell phone video.

Chris Tremblay, a youth who says he witnessed the incident, told CBC News he saw the fight and was surprised by the police response.

"He didn't even yell, 'Stop' and then he just Tasered the kid — like, just came up and Tasered him in the ear, and the kid was not all right," Tremblay said. "He was lying on the ground. He was not all right." . . .

Police said the teen was taken to hospital for injuries suffered in the fight, but not from the jolt of the stun gun. However, the boy's mother said he was treated for Taser-related injuries. . . .

Provincial guidelines state that a Taser should not be used in sensitive areas, including the head. . . .

The Special Investigations Unit, which probes police action that results in injury, sexual assault or death, has said the incident does not meet its criteria for an investigation. Instead London police will look into the matter internally.

Angry students, meanwhile, have said they are considering holding a demonstration against police on Monday, saying officers are supposed to serve and protect, not hurt citizens.
I suppose we should consider the kid lucky. After all, the police didn't kill him. Nothing to see here. I'm sure an internal investigation by the publicly funded organized crime syndicate police department will sort the whole thing out.

Meanwhile, international sports media is still buzzing over an earlier incident in London, Ontario, when a fan threw a banana at black NHL player Wayne Simmonds during a pre-season exhibition game.

Naturally the incident was widely condemned by the NHL. The mayor of London, Joe Fontana, apologized to Simmonds and his team, and called it a "a stupid and mindless act by a single individual".

Stupid, yes. Mindless? Not so much. It's safe to assume bananas aren't sold at the concession stands in London's John Labatt Centre. Some fan had tickets to a game, and knowing that Simmonds (who is Canadian) would be on the ice, brought a banana with him, just for this purpose. I won't pretend to understand the mindset at work here, but malice aforethought abounds.


green tomatoes, red socks, and a white dog, plus libraries of many hues

For those of you following...

First, and most importantly, Tala. She is doing really well! After our last trip to Guelph, we added on a second medication, one designed to specifically target nerve pain. We had to give that several weeks to kick in, with Tala confined to her pen except to relieve herself.

After a few weeks, we increased her activity a tiny bit - and the pain and lameness returned almost immediately. I was very discouraged, but the vet said we were on the low end of the dosages, and could safely increase. Et voila, that did the trick. With the increased medication, we've been able to step up Tala's on-leash walking time a tiny bit each week, and she's doing great. We're up to ten minutes, three times daily.

When I say she's doing well, of course that's in context of her overall condition. No off-leash play, no stairs, no squirrel-chasing. But given all that, this is a big improvement. She's in good spirits, except for those sad moments when Allan drives off with Diego to the dog park.

The gardenette. After harvesting almost 60 tomatoes from our two plants, we waited for the second tomato crop to ripen. And waited, and waited. It's autumn now in southern Ontario - the most beautiful time of year here - and the only thing turning red are the leaves.

We have about 40 or 50 green tomatoes on the vine. Does anyone have any green tomato recipes? I don't cook things that are breaded and fried, so fried green tomatoes are out. Most of the other green tomato recipes I've seen are for chutney, salsa, or pickles - not much interest in those. I did find one recipe for green tomato soup, made with ham. That's a possibility. Please let me know if you have any others.

Three reasons I love Whole Foods: raw kale salad with sundried tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cranberries and pine nuts, spinach sauteed in garlic with almonds and pine nuts, carrot-parsnip pan-fried cakes. Sure, I could cook these myself, but: (a) I won't, (b) if I did, they wouldn't taste as good, and (c) I would never spend the time and effort involved to make such a variety of vegetable dishes. The great variety really helps me eat healthier.

Trials of a student librarian. Both my courses this term aim for practical knowledge directly relevant to librarianship. There's theory involved, but only to the extent that it informs practice. This is great for me (and I won't be so lucky next term).

One course is a required: Introduction to Bibliographic Control, also known as cataloging, although it's broader than that. I expected this to be dry and boring, but for someone who's compulsively organized and loves to create systems, there's a definite appeal. Cataloging is apparently something people think is very easy and intuitive - until they try to do it themselves. That's when the complexities and challenges emerge. The assignments are designed for hands-on experience, which will be a nice change from research papers, essays or tests.

My other course is an elective: The Public Library in Culturally Diverse Communities. Although I confess I originally chose this class to make my schedule workable, it's obviously very relevant to my future work, especially since I have my sights on the Mississauga Library System. The professor is an expert in the field, and was a pioneer of multicultural library-service design in Canada.

The Red Sox. September has not been pretty for the Boston Red Sox and their devoted fans. On September 1, the Sox were 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East, and nine games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. Today, September 20, the Red Sox trail the Yankees by a full five games and are only two games ahead of the Rays in the wild card race, with eight games left to play.

What little winning the team has done has left fans elated; number of runs scored in September's five wins: 12, 14, 18, 4, 18. In between those crazy moments of happiness have been some terrible, dispiriting losses. Still, I remain convinced that the Red Sox will be in the playoffs, one way or the other.

breaking news: troy davis clemency denied - execution set for tomorrow - please help one more time

Unless there is a last-minute stay, the US state of Georgia will murder a man tomorrow, even though there is significant doubt that he has committed any crime. That's what passes for justice in TGNOTFOTE.

Clemency for Troy Davis has been denied.

Please join with hundreds of thousands of other people who rage and despair at this injustice. Click here to appeal to justice and reason in an attempt to save the life of Troy Davis. From Amnesty International USA:
Georgia's State Board of Pardons and Paroles has recently rejected Troy Davis' clemency petition. Davis continues to face execution on Wed., Sept. 21 at 7 pm EDT.

We demand that the Board reconsider its decision and demand that Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm seek a withdrawal of the death warrant and support clemency himself.

Troy Davis was convicted on the basis of witness testimony – seven of the nine original witnesses have since recanted or changed their testimony. He has survived three previous execution dates, because people like you kept the justice system in check! Let Georgia authorities know you oppose the death penalty for Troy Davis!

NOTE: Due to high volume of supporters, please keep trying to sign this petition if your initial attempt does not succeed. Or try contacting the Chatham County's District Attorney's office by phone/fax: Telephone: 912-652-7308 Fax: 912-652-7328.
Petition here.

"if we can change walmart, we can change america for all workers"

Everyone reading this should know that conditions for working people at Walmart - the largest employer in the United States - are nothing short of criminal. We should also know that the only way working conditions at Walmart will ever improve is by workers organizing. And they are doing just that. This video from Walmart Watch takes a look at their efforts.

Meanwhile, a major study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California Berkeley shows that Walmart "could easily pay its workers $12.00 an hour". Even if Walmart passed 100% of the wage increase onto its customers - hardly necessary for a company with $6.7 billion in annual profits - it would only increase the average Walmart shopping by 46 cents. Read more here.


thinking about new york

New York City through the lens of Elliot Erwitt (and a few others)

You... can dress in pink and blue just like a child
In a yellow taxi turn to me and smile
We'll be there in just a while...


what i'm reading, squeaking under the wire fall edition

I managed to squeeze in one more book, a few last precious moments of reading, before the must-reads of the fall term descend on me. It was a goodie.

I read mostly nonfiction these days, and seem to find very few novels that rise to my standards - which, I grant, may be ridiculously high. Every so often, I think maybe I just don't like contemporary fiction anymore. Then I read something by Roddy Doyle, or A. L. Kennedy, or William Trevor, or Toni Morrison - among others, there are definitely others - and my marvel at great fiction is restored. Russell Banks is one such writer.

I've just finished one of his early novels, Continental Drift. It tells the stories of two people from totally different cultures and parts of the earth - the working poor of small-town America, and the grinding poverty and repression of Haiti. Each are groping and questing, trying to find a way out. The reader assumes the two stories will intersect at some point, but nothing unfolds in predictable ways.

Banks has a profound understanding of people's internal motivations - the complex, unstated, largely subconscious inner workings behind the choices we make. (His male characters, especially, from New England or upstate New York, are incredibly well drawn.) In Continental Drift, the life journeys of the characters call up complicated questions of moral confusion, identity, racism, love, attraction, and the definitions of success and happiness - what it means to be a good person, or a person at all - in a superficial, consumerist, materialistic world. It's tremendously ambitious, beautifully written, very moving and disturbing in all the right ways.

This is from "About Russell Banks" at the end of the Canadian paperback edition of Continental Drift. It's unsigned, so it may be written by the author himself.
The novel is the story of Bob Dubois, a burnt-out oil burner repairman from New Hampshire struggling to escape mediocrity, and Vanise Dorsinville, a refugee struggling to escape Haiti for the promised land of America, and the tragedy that ensues when they become involved in each other's destiny. The novel's title refers to the theory that the earth's continents were once a united land mass that broke up and continues to drift slowly apart. Banks, however, is referring to demographic, not geologic, drifting, as people all over the world flee their homes in search of new lives. He is also describing the drift that occurs between human hearts, leaving an unbridgeable gap between husbands and wives, families and friends.
Banks himself has an interesting history. From a working class and troubled background, Banks was an adult before he attempted any writing. He was 35 years old when his first book was published, and 45 when he achieved critical success. Those are the kinds of stories, like that of William Kennedy, that used to sustain me as a writer.

If you haven't yet read Russell Banks, his novel Cloudsplitter, about the radical abolitionist John Brown, is his masterpiece (so far). Rule of the Bone is one of the finest young adult crossover novels of our time. I think of it as grandchild to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which it consciously echoes, and child to The Catcher in the Rye.

war resister rodney watson in sanctuary two years today; leave a message of support

Today, September 18, 2011, is the second anniversary of the day Rodney Watson went into sanctuary in the First United Church of Vancouver.

Rodney, after serving his tour in Iraq, knew that he could no longer continue to participate in the immoral, illegal occupation of that country. He chose to come to Canada, where he applied for asylum and was denied. You can read more about Rodney's experience and his decision to desert here: "Why a resister chose Canada over the war in Iraq", published on Christmas Eve, 2009.

In September 2009, the Canadian government - against the will of Parliament and the wishes of the majority of the Canadian people - was about to deport Rodney to the US, where he would have been court martialed, imprisoned and likely given a dishonourable discharge, the equivalent of a felony offense that would restrict his life opportunities forever.

Reverend Ric Matthews of the First United Church of Vancouver offered Rodney sanctuary, and he accepted. He's been living in the church ever since.

Today, my thoughts are with this brave man, willing to live in a room in a church so he can live with his conscience.

If you would like to send a message to Rodney, please leave a comment here and I'll send him the post.

next weekend in toronto: conference on war resisters in north america

If you're interested in the issue of war resistance and the history of war resisters in both Canada and the US, you'll want to be at the Steelworkers Hall in Toronto next weekend, September 23 and 24. A major conference is taking place, organized by Historians Against War, and endorsed by some dozen peace, social justice and labour organizations.

People (although sadly, not me!) will be coming from all over Canada and the US to attend. I'm sure it will be a fascinating and energizing weekend. If you're in the area, you can stop by for any length of time, just to hear a presentation or two. The program listing is here.

For more information here: Looking Back, Moving Forward: War Resisters in North America.


400+ dogs rescued from giant puppy mill in québec, given new chance for happy lives

The Humane Society International/Canada announced this morning that it assisted in the rescue of more than 400 dogs and puppies from a huge commercial breeding facility - that is, a large-scale puppy mill - in Outaouais, Québec.

After multiple investigations revealed the dogs were not receiving even basic care, HSI Canada worked with the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) and local law enforcement to seize and remove hundreds of golden retrievers, chow chows, Chihuahuas and many other breeds from what HSI Executive Director Rebecca Aldworth called "some of the most inhumane conditions I've seen."

"By far, this was the largest commercial breeding facility, involving some of the most inhumane conditions, that our Animal Rescue Team has ever encountered in Canada," said Lauren Scott of HSI Canada. "Hundreds of dogs were denied their most basic needs and proper care and lacked adequate socialization."

The rescued dogs were taken to an emergency shelter in Québec, where they will be cared for, checked by a team of veterinarians, and given any necessary veterinary care. Animal welfare teams worked throughout the night to assess, examine and catalogue the animals.

The historic seizure came days before the government of Québec is expected to release the province's updated animal welfare (P-42) regulations. HSI Canada ranks Québec as the worst province for animals and has been lobbying for stronger animal protection laws. The new updates will - we hope - shut down the worst puppy mill operations in Canada, and greatly increased penalties for violations.

This is great news for the rescued animals, and maybe for the future, as well. Had the rescue come a few months earlier, we might have driven to Québec to adopt one of the lucky 400. But then we wouldn't have Diego, and what good what that be?

For more info on animal protection in Canada: No Puppy Mills Canada


xenophobia and racism, such an easy itch to scratch

Yesterday I purchased something from a small, independently-owned store near where I live in Mississauga. I was the only customer there; the only person working was the owner, a brown-skinned man who spoke thickly accented English. A business card on the counter displayed his long, multi-syllabic last name: Mr. K.

While he was helping me, Mr. K got a phone call which made him angry. He had hired the person on the phone to do a job, and it had been done improperly, and he was trying to withhold payment until the job was re-done. Every once in a while Mr. K would say, "I have a customer here, I'll talk to you later," then continue arguing.

I waited until Mr. K finished his angry conversation and hung up. We completed our transaction, I wished him a nice day, and was about to leave when he began his rant.

"Do you see what is happening to this country?" Mr. K. yelled. "Anyone can come here, the government does not even know who these people are!"

I looked at him with confusion and surprise.

"Did you see this in the paper today?" He waved a Toronto Star in my direction. "Did you see this? These men came from Sri Lanka, they made this deal, they left the customers high and dry, and they took the money out of Canada! Did you see this?"

I said tentatively, "People born in Canada make dishonest deals, too."

"That's not the point!" he yelled. "The government just lets them in, we don't know anything about them! They come to Canada to cheat us!"

"But you came," I said. "I came."

"That was different! I have been here since 1973! 1973, I got here! Things were different then! Now anyone can come here."

"Actually, that's not so," I said. "It's more difficult to get into Canada than it once was."

It's no surprise that a man who would rant like this in his place of business was not listening to a word I said. "You hear me on the phone? That man, he did a terrible job, he wants me to pay him, what happens if I don't pay him, he wants to rip me off! He is from Somalia! Why is he here trying to rip me off? All these criminals want to come to Canada!"

I say quietly, "Someone could say that about you, no?"

"That's different! Nowadays the government just lets in anybody!"

I took my package and left him to his rant. I felt so discouraged.

If I hadn't completed my purchase when he began his tirade, I would have said, "Thanks anyway, I'll shop somewhere without the racism." We certainly won't go back to that store. But it's a purchase I make less than once a year. Mr. K will never know that his inappropriate remarks drove me away.

But Mr. K is hardly the point. I hear similar sentiments on a regular basis from an acquaintance of mine: a woman born in China, who lives mainly within a Chinese-Canadian community. She also believes "they let the wrong people in now". Her evidence? "Everyone knows it! A bad element comes here now."

How easy it all is - the scapegoating, the stereotyping, the myths. How it must seethe, barely contained, to surface so quickly and often.

It's bad enough to hear xenophobia and racism from the old guard of Mississauga - the descendants of European immigrants who cleared someone else's land for their farms. But hearing it from a member of the vast mosaic of newer Canadians, former immigrants, who make up modern Mississauga... it's just so sad.

mandatory, warrantless internet spying coming to canada, unless we stop it

If Stephen Harper has his way, mandatory, warrantless, universal internet surveillance will be the norm in Canada. Once upon a time, I would have thought that statement was hyperbole; now it is the simple truth.

If you already know about this, please sign this petition and share it widely. If not, read on.

From OpenMedia.ca:
The government is trying to ram through an anti-Internet set of electronic surveillance laws that will invade your privacy and cost you money. The plan is to force every phone and Internet provider to surrender our personal information to "authorities" without a warrant.

This bizarre legislation will create Internet surveillance that is:

* Warrantless: A range of "authorities" will have the ability to invade the private lives of law-abiding Canadians and our families using wired Internet and mobile devices, without a warrant or any justification.

* Invasive and Dangerous: The laws leave our personal and financial information less secure and more susceptible to cybercrime.

* Costly: Internet services providers may be forced to install millions of dollars worth of spying technology and the cost will be passed down to YOU.
From the Official Opposition:
NDP gears up to fight Conservatives’ snooping law

OTTAWA – New Democrats are gearing up to fight the Conservative’s proposed snooping law at every level this fall in order to protect the rights and privacy of Canadians.

“What we have been hearing from experts and citizen is that this new law gives the government and police way too much power to snoop into our lives,” said New Democrat Privacy and Digital Affairs Critic Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay). “Canadians are right to feel that the Conservatives are not protecting their privacy and that we need to curb this bill.”

Over the summer Angus has been putting in place a team of MPs to work with civil society groups, stakeholders and citizens to fight against lawful access legislation both in and out of parliament.

Conservatives have indicated that "lawful access" provisions will be included in their omnibus crime legislation this fall. Experts warn this would legalize widespread snooping on average citizens – all without a warrant.

Telecom providers would also be forced to install surveillance software giving police the ability to track internet and mobile phone activity.

MP Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne-Blainville), who will be spearheading this fight at the Justice committee, agrees with Angus and points out that while the party supports modernizing policing powers to deal with digital issues, removing the requirement for warrants altogether opens the door to all manner of abuse by security officials.

“This access is anything but lawful,” said Borg. “This isn’t a question of whether abuse will occur, it’s how extreme the abuse will be.”
From Michael Geist, from before the federal election:
While there are good and bad with each party, the Conservatives new commitment to lawful access - new laws that would establish massive Internet surveillance requirements and the potential disclosure of personal information without court oversight - is incredibly problematic for the Internet, privacy, and online freedoms. It requires real debate yet seems likely to slip under the public radar. . . .

There are several concerns with the Conservatives lawful access plans. First, it bears noting that these bills have never received extensive debate on the floor of the House of Commons and never been the subject of committee hearings. . . . Federal and provincial privacy commissioners have expressed deep concerns about these bills, yet they have never had the opportunity to air those concerns before committee. Internet service providers, who face millions in additional costs - presumably passed along to consumers - have never appeared before committee. . . .

Second, more important than process is the substance of the proposals that have the potential to fundamentally reshape the Internet in Canada. The bills contain a three-pronged approach focused on information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers.

The first prong mandates the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight. Under current privacy laws, providers may voluntarily disclose customer information but are not required to do so. The new system would require the disclosure of customer name, address, phone number, email address, Internet protocol address, and a series of device identification numbers.

While some of that information may seem relatively harmless, the ability to link it with other data will often open the door to a detailed profile about an identifiable person. Given its potential sensitivity, the decision to require disclosure without any oversight should raise concerns within the Canadian privacy community.

The second prong requires Internet providers to dramatically re-work their networks to allow for real-time surveillance. The bill sets out detailed capability requirements that will eventually apply to all Canadian Internet providers. These include the power to intercept communications, to isolate the communications to a particular individual, and to engage in multiple simultaneous interceptions.

Moreover, the bill establishes a comprehensive regulatory structure for Internet providers that would mandate their assistance with testing their surveillance capabilities and disclosing the names of all employees who may be involved in interceptions (and who may then be subject to RCMP background checks).

The bill also establishes numerous reporting requirements including mandating that all Internet providers disclose their technical surveillance capabilities within six months of the law taking effect. Follow-up reports are also required when providers acquire new technical capabilities.

. . . Having obtained customer information without court oversight and mandated Internet surveillance capabilities, the third prong creates a several new police powers designed to obtain access to the surveillance data. These include new transmission data warrants that would grant real-time access to all the information generated during the creation, transmission or reception of a communication including the type, direction, time, duration, origin, destination or termination of the communication. . . .

While Internet providers would actively work with law enforcement in collecting and disclosing the subscriber information, they could also be prohibited from disclosing the disclosures as court may bar them from informing subscribers that they have been subject to surveillance or information disclosures. . . .
This is not an anti-crime bill. This is an anti-freedom of association, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-civil liberties, and anti-internet bill. Fear of crime - stoked by the Conservatives at every turn, despite low and dropping crime rates throughout the country - cannot be used as an excuse to spy on all citizens and pass the cost of the technology back onto us.

If enough of us speak out on this issue, the government may be forced to retreat. Sign this petition opposing warrantless internet surveillance of law-abiding citizens - and please share it with everyone you know.


toronto public library update with great videos

The winners of the My Library Matters to Me contest - offering a walking tour and lunch with the likes of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and other prominent Toronto authors - have been posted: You can read them here.

The organizers received more than 500 submissions - and they certainly would have received one from me, had I been eligible. The contest wasn't open to all members of the Toronto Public Library, but to all Toronto residents. Boo!

You may have heard that library branch closures are off the table. Don't be fooled: the public library is still at risk for reduced services, user fees and, down the road a bit, closure of smaller branches. We must continue to speak out, loudly and often, opposing the unnecessary slashing and privatizing of our public services.

For now, check out Melissa Cederqvist's prize-winning video, sure to be an internet favourite.

And please listen to the great British novelist Zadie Smith, on the importance of libraries in her life, and the real meaning behind the attacks on public services. It's one of the more eloquent appeals I've heard yet.

September 26 at City Hall: be there!


straight goods, advertising and propaganda

In case you missed it last week, my post on advertising and propaganda is running on Straight Goods. I hope you'll give it a read.

Comments are best posted on the original thread.

back to school

My classes resume today, my third year of four, fifth term of eight. I've been dreading this for weeks, but for the past few days, the dread has been overwhelming. I'm halfway done with the program, but for some reason, the start of this school year feels particularly awful.

Making me feel even worse, the only course on the schedule that I needed this year is only being offered on Wednesday night - when I'm usually at war resisters meetings. So I have to take off from the Campaign until December. I can do some work for the Campaign by email, but the only way to stay updated and connected is to attend meetings. Also, meetings are a large part of my social life - and during school, meetings are my social life. So it's a real drag to miss three and a half months of something I love for a required course I don't even want to take. Whine, whine, whine.

Thirteen weeks to go... starting now.


this just in: racism in the u.s. now less obvious

wrongly convicted man to be executed, please click to help

My opposition to the death penalty is absolute. I have always opposed capital punishment, but reading Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking moved me from an opposition with certain conditional exceptions to an absolute position.

The more I learned about capital punishment, the more I was moved to the position that no state, no government, no authority, has the right to execute any human being. The more I learned, the more the exceptions and conditions faded away. The more I learned, the more the simple fact of the state's authority to kill appeared bizarre, barbaric, inhumane and unjust. For this reason, I highly recommend Prejean's excellent book.

Over a wide range of opinions on capital punishment, most of us agree that a person who has not committed the crime of which he or she is accused should not be executed! Most reasonable people agree that if there are serious doubts about someone's guilt, we must err on the side of doubt. That seems pretty clear.

Yet for many people, it isn't. If the state says a man must die, then die he must, whether or not he's committed the crime. That's the same state that the very same people are happy to condemn as lying, incompetent "elites".

I'm sure you've heard about the "death penalty cheer" at the recent Republican Convention. This column by Peter Catapano in the New York Times is a good round-up and analysis of some reaction to that chilling cheer. It includes quotes from (and links to) Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Marie Diamond, as well as some right-wing apologists. Worth reading.

* * * *

The purpose of this post isn't to argue about the death penalty. The purpose is to try to help save a man's life. Click here, or read more below.

From Amnesty International Canada:
The state of Georgia is preparing to execute a man despite serious doubts that remain about his guilt.

A Georgia judge has signed a death warrant in the case of Troy Davis, authorizing the state to execute him in the week of 21 to 28 September. Doubts persist about Troy Davis’ guilt in the crime for which he was sentenced to death two decades ago.

The county judge signed the death warrant of Troy Davis on 6 September. The Georgia Department of Corrections will set the actual date and time for the execution. The Department’s usual strategy is to set it on the first day authorized under the warrant, in this case 21 September.

Troy Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia in 1989. No physical evidence directly links him to the murder – no murder weapon was ever found. The case against Troy Davis primarily rested on witness testimony. Since his trial, seven of nine key witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony, some alleging police coercion.

In 2009, the US Supreme Court ordered a federal evidentiary hearing to review Troy Davis’ innocence claim. At the 2010 hearing, US District Court Judge William Moore addressed whether Troy Davis could show “by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new evidence” that had emerged since his 1991 murder trial. Under this “extraordinarily high” standard, Judge Moore wrote in his August 2010 opinion, “Mr Davis is not innocent”. Elsewhere in his ruling, he acknowledged that the new evidence presented by Troy Davis cast “some additional, minimal” doubt on his conviction, and that the state’s case was not “ironclad”. In 1991, the jury had found Troy Davis guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” Judge Moore noted, “but not to a mathematical certainty”.

In 2007 Troy Davis was less than 24 hours from execution when the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay. The Board said that it would not allow an execution to go ahead “unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused”. Since then Troy Davis has faced two more execution dates, both in 2008, which were stayed by the courts.

Click here to send an urgent message to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency to Troy Davis and commute his death sentence.


honeyboy edwards, 1915-2011

Honeyboy Edwards died two weeks ago, just shy of his 96th birthday. He was the last survivor of the first generation of Delta bluesmen.

Born David Edwards to parents who were sharecroppers on a cotton plantation, for nearly 80 years Honeyboy played his "intricate fingerpicking and slashing bottleneck-slide guitar" with a long list of blues greats, including Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and earlier, the legendary Delta bluesmen Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. Edwards was the last known link to Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, and is said to have been present at Johnson's death.

Edwards was recorded by Alan Lomax in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1942; those Library of Congress recordings are the only record of his earlier work. In 2008, Edwards was still playing 100 shows a year, and on August 29, 2011, the day he died, was scheduled to perform in Chicago.

A very nice obituary from The New York Times is here.


9.11.11: an anti-remembrance

Ten years on.

Ten years of Islamophobia, endless war, the open rationalization of torture and massacre.

Ten years of surveillance, insidiously creeping police state, witch hunts, shredding of personal freedoms.

Nine years of torture, medical experiments, indefinite, illegal detention, and massive human rights abuses in the US-run concentration camp known as Guantanamo Bay.

Ten years of the escalation of a brutal sleight of hand that advances western corporate interests above the basic human rights of millions while pretending to be a force for world peace and security, known as the War on Terror.

I'm not reading one single reflection, not watching one commemoration, not answering one "where were you" question, and certainly not listening to anyone else's boring, inconsequential story of where they were when they heard the news.

It makes me want to shout: Go away! Go the fuck away! All of you fixating on this one event, the whole world expected to stand in hushed silence because a bad thing happened to Americans. How many war crimes have been committed since then, excused away because of 9/11? How many unrelated massacres and acts of terrorism and personal tragedies? Get over yourselves!

Some earlier wmtc 9/11-related posts:

2010: it is so time to be over 9.11.

Who is responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001, and why do you think you know the answer to that question? A 9/11 discussion part one, part two, part three, part four. If you're interested, don't miss the comments.

Thoughts and conversation on the expression "conspiracy theory": part one, part two.

My thoughts on some great 9/11-related art: In the Shadow of No Tower by Art Spiegelman.


most insane nation on earth bars entry to mentally ill canadians

This story is disturbing on so many levels! Why are health records of some Canadians being given to the US Department of Homeland Security??? Read it here: Canadians with mental illnesses denied U.S. entry.

In this story, Stanley Stylianos, program manager for the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, says Canadians should be outraged that people’s mental health information is shared across the border. Yes. We should be. I am. I hope you are.

I have a vague memory of an unrelated story that tangentially mentioned a database of people who use anti-depressant medication. If anybody remembers that story, please leave a comment or email me.

desmogblog: open letter to oprah winfrey on so-called ethical oil and women's rights

Unlike many of my peers, I truly do respect and in many ways admire Oprah Winfrey. She's used her massive popularity and celebrity to raise awareness of difficult issues, not just feel-good reunions or uncontroversial medical research, but issues of equality and justice, especially for women and girls. Sure, her show is thickly padded with celebrity fluff and nonsense tearjerkers, but if it wasn't, she wouldn't reach half as many eyes and ears.

Speaking to mainstream audiences about subjects they'd rather not face, while giving people hope and optimism about their ability to create change, is a worthwhile enterprise. Throw in a nationally televised reading group, and there's a lot for me to like.

That's why when I read that Oprah was running ads on her network for the astroturf tar sands shills EthicalOil.org - and that the ads conflated tar sands oil with global women's rights - I felt so disappointed.

I tried to write a post that conveyed just how wrongheaded and hypocritical Oprah's tar-sands support is. While struggling with it, I found this post by Emma Pullman at DeSmogBlog. I stopped writing, because Pullman says it all. Please read.
Dear Oprah,

I just don't know where to begin.

I can't find my words because I respect you so much. You're a woman pioneer who has done much to advance the status of women globally. You've donated millions of dollars to various organizations, and have used your talk show to raise the profile of women's issues. Your philanthropy has funded projects like The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, and Women for Women International. You've also used your celebrity to raise awareness of environmental causes, notably the efforts to rebuild the Gulf.

That's why I'm so stumped right now by your choice to feature ads from EthicalOil.org on your television network.

I'm all about the work that you do, but the logic of promoting tar sands oil by appealing to our desire for women's liberation, our desire to help protect women in despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia, is deeply flawed and misguided.

The ad [below], which is airing exclusively on your network in Canada, claims that strict rules in Saudi Arabia prevent women from driving, from leaving their homes or working without their male guardian's permission. With those sad facts firmly established, the ads powerfully appeal to our deep emotions about women's rights, human rights and fundamental political freedoms by implying that by buying "conflict oil", we are supporting oppression.

The ad presents Canada's tar sands as an "ethical oil" alternative to "conflict oil". At the end of the ad the viewer is told "It's a choice we have to make".

So, to be clear, the argument being put forward on your network is that expanding tar sands production will help liberate women from oppressive petrocracies like Saudi Arabia. It also appears to imply that we must support the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would massively expand tar sands production, because it will decrease our reliance on conflict oil.

Let's unpack this argument a little further.

I agree with you that Saudi Arabia abuses women's rights. But let's be perfectly clear: the link that this ad campaign tries to make — that expanding tar sands production will somehow liberate Saudi Arabian women — doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Read it here: Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey.

* * * *

You can sign a petition calling on Oprah to renounce this ad. If you don't live in the US, use five zeros for a zip code. Petition here.

tar sands pipeline arrests now total 1253: naomi klein among them

In case you missed it, this past Monday, September 5, Canadian author Naomi Klein became one of the more than 1,200 people to be arrested at the White House this summer, as part of the ongoing protest of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

You may be surprised to learn it was Naomi Klein's first arrest. Although she has given people's movements so much, from what I gather, Klein has has seen her role as a educator, researcher, commenter, writer - but not as a public demonstrator. This time, she was moved to put her body on the line.
“I wasn’t planning to get arrested,” Klein told the Star minutes after she was sprung.

“It was a last-minute decision. I was sitting there with several indigenous leaders from Canada. And when it became clear they intended to stay where they were and expose themselves to arrest, well . . .” She did the same.

For Klein, it was a first-ever arrest. “I write. And I’m an activist. But I’m not a chanter, not a marcher. I’ve never been arrested before.

“But that’s what’s been happened for two weeks. Climate scientists, landowners, a wide range of people who all feel this same sense of urgency. The feeling is that we can’t just talk about the stakes on Twitter and leave it at that. If we mean what we say then we have to act like it.”

Klein is unsure yet whether the bust will come back haunt her in future cross-border travels. For now, her speedy release means she will be free to fulfill plans to address Saturday’s campaign-ending protest in Lafayette Park opposite the White House.
The 166 people arrested on Monday brought the total arrests to 1,253. From Tar Sands Action:
By now you know what you accomplished: 1,253 arrests, according to some journalists the biggest civil disobedience action since 1977, and the most sustained since the epic campaigns of the civil rights movement. That was enough to take a regional issue and make it a national and even global one (many thanks to our friends, who picketed American and Canadian embassies on every continent).
While the tar sands campaign focuses on Obama, the US President demonstrates just how much he cares about the environment and the health of citizens, and where his priorities lie. From It's Getting Hot In Here:
In a sickening (literally) move, President Obama has told the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon their plans to protect kids from toxic air pollution, siding with big polluters like Exxon, Koch Industries, and their sock-puppet the US Chamber of Commerce over the health and safety of America’s youth.

The EPA did their job, following scientific advice, hearing from impacted communities, environmental justice, and health organizations. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson worked to set new standards for communities, which would have helped protect kids and keep people working instead of out of work sick or in the ER taking care of their kids and likely spurred investments in scrubbers and pollution control equipment manufactured here in the United States.

Instead, the President sided with the US Chamber of Commerce, echoing the very language they used in their letter scrambling to find justifications for why these polluting corporations wanted to put off essential protections for the lives and health of kids and seniors exposed to toxic air pollutants. The Chamber of Commerce, reveling in the power they are exercising in a post-Citizens United world of unlimited corporate cash in US elections. . . .

This is after over a thousand people have been arrested in front of the White House, desperately trying to get President Obama to halt the Keystone XL pipeline that the nation’s top climate scientist said would be ‘game over’ for the climate, if built. A White House conspicuously without solar panels, that the Administration had promised to install by this spring. Another in a string of promises broken and priorities downgraded on the environmental front. As the protesters outside the White House have been singing, “Pick a side Obama”, and it appears that he has.
Many in the US are pledging to stop supporting Obama because of this disgusting (and completely predictable) about-face. But will they? Or will they - fearing a takeover that's already happened, confusing the present with the future - dutifully vote Democrat as they usually do? As if I don't know the answer to that question.

When my US friends ask me, "But what choice do we have?", I say, Exactly. You have no choice but to build a movement on the left, outside of the duopoly.

Continuing to cling to the belief that the Democrats are the lesser of two evils, rather than the same exact evil in slightly different packaging, has brought you to this place. Now, if you care about your country's future, you have no choice but to abandon the Democratic party and begin to build an alternative, and also to try to build a fair election system. It may not work. It may be too late. But it definitely will not work if you don't.

For reasons unknown to me, you thought Obama was different. You thought he was bigger and stronger than the system itself. I don't know why you thought this, but you did.

But now you know you were wrong. So wake up, put away your magical thinking, and try something else.

* * * *

You can see the day-by-day photos of the White House tar sands protesters and arrests on this Flickr page.

Naomi Klein on her arrest, September 5, 2011:

Actor Daryl Hannah, arrested at the White House on August 30, 2011:

Bill McKibben speaks to Keith Olbermann about the pipeline. Terrific stuff, well worth your time.

New York Times editorials McKibben refers to (newest to oldest):

Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers

Wrong Pipeline, Wrong Assessment

No to a New Tar Sands Pipeline

And finally, to save for when you have time to read the whole thing, an excellent column by La Zerbisias on civil disobedience for climate change - the need, the precedent, who's doing what.


it's not about the money money money: all out september 26 at toronto city hall

Things you can to do save public services in Toronto:

1. Watch this amazing video!*

2. Share the video with everyone you know.

3. If you live in the GTA, come to City Hall on Monday, September 26, 2011 for the Rally to Save Toronto. Rally begins at 5:30, outside the city council meeting that will decide the quality of life in Toronto for years to come.

More information on Facebook: Rally for Respect: Demand a Toronto for Everyone.

* Several friends of mine were involved in the making of this video. I think it's a masterpiece! As a big fan of Bob Dylan, I especially love the Dylan/Ginsberg homage. The opening sequence is also an allusion.


war is peace, freedom is slavery, and bp is listening: more tales of corporate propaganda

You all know how I feel about advertising. Usually it's not the ads themselves that drive me nuts, but their massive proliferation: that everything in our field of vision and seemingly every moment of our time is filled with corporate logos and catch-phrases and exhortations to buy, buy, buy, more, more, more.

Sometimes, though, it is the ads themselves I hate. Two years ago, I wrote "you can't find inner peace in a bottle (of iced tea)," about the co-opting of the language of people's movements and of spirituality in advertising. These days, a certain fast-food chain (owned by a corporation with $11 billion in global sales) exhorts us to "join the revolution" by eating a crappy burrito instead of a crappy burger.

The ads I hate most, however, aren't trying to sell us anything - make that "any thing". They're selling ideas. Associations. Lies. These ads are politely called public relations, but more properly called propaganda.

Only rubes listen to environmental alarmists

Take this one, paid for by the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

This is one of a series of ads in which we're invited to eavesdrop on some gullible rubes, people stupid enough to fall for any scam. We can scoff at those dummies, knowing we are smarter, more savvy than they are.

The ad doesn't offer a single fact about farmed salmon, nor describe any controversy. We see no fish, no fishermen, no grilled salmon anchoring a healthy, delicious meal. The people too smart to be deceived - you and I, viewers of the ad - are invited to learn more at a website.

The website is full of statements termed myths and facts. In a clever design, when you arrive at the page, only facts are visible. You have to click to see the myths.

Who sponsors this website? At the bottom, there are six logos. They represent: the BC Salmon Farmers Association, a fish-food supplier ("Knowledge Makes the Difference"), a corporate seafood producer, an aquaculture engineering company, plus two organizations whose names sound like environmental groups, but are, respectively, "the second largest producer of farmed salmon in British Columbia" and "the largest aquaculture company in British Columbia". In other words, all six sponsors of this site have a potent economic interest in salmon farming.

On the other hand, the people and organizations who oppose current methods of salmon farming have no economic interest; their interest is the health of our oceans, animals and people. For another perspective on farmed-raised salmon, see "How Farm-Raised Salmon Are Turning Our Oceans Into Dangerous and Polluted Feedlots", "Farmed Salmon Are Really Bad News – For Us, for Wild or Captive Orcas, and for the Environment", and an excellent, nuanced article offering viable alternatives, from the David Suzuki Foundation: "Salmon farming: A grave concern, a great hope".

Oil is life

Another ad from my propaganda collection touts "a different kind of oil sands". On YouTube, this company's ads are not embeddable, but you can watch one here.

Seen through aerial photography, the tar sands production field looks like a small city nestled in a lush, green forest. We're told the oil is being "recovered" - an amazing bit of semantic propaganda right there - by "a Canadian company," appealing to our love of all things Canadian.

There's no sense of scale - we don't know how big that city is - and we certainly don't see it close-up. We don't see how much water it consumes and pollutes, the toxic mess it leaves behind, the poisoned food chain, the First Nations communities with skyrocketing rates of rare cancers. Just a distant city surrounded by deep forest, with the corporation profiting from that city claiming, "It's a different kind of oil sands".

Another Cenovius ad is even more insidious, and more brilliant. Thirty seconds, no voice over, so even with your TV audio muted, you'll get the message.

First we hear a whooshing sound, the opening piano chords pulse, and we see a blurry image, possibly of a face. "125 years ago, it illuminated a room".

The camera pulls back as the stirring chords rise. Now we see that the blurry face is actually on a TV screen - no, not a TV, some other kind of high-tech screen. The camera pulls back further, revealing a woman in a white coat and a man, vaguely brown-skinned. It's an ultrasound! "Today, it illuminates a life."

Finally, the music swells, pulsing piano joined by shimmering cymbals, and we see the white-coat and the brown man are gathered around a woman, her pregnant belly fully visible. The man and pregnant woman clutch hands, exchange looks of wonder, then turn back to the screen. "Oil is more than just a source of fuel. It's an essential part of product innovation." We are invited to "discover the connection" at a website.

What is this ad selling? Obviously not happy expectant couples or medical technology. It's selling an idea - or even more tenuous, an association. Oil, so beneficial. Oil, important to science. Oil, health care, life-saving. Oil, birth, joyous new life.

Nothing to see here: deadly bacteria is invisible

Please watch this 30-second ad.

Again to the strains of stirring piano, an ad invites us to "fill your plates" with "tender meat, succulent taste, health, and love". People of various ethnic backgrounds recount the events of their days over a meal, one of the most universally shared experiences of human cultures. A father places his hands on his daughter's shoulders as she tries her hand at the barbecue. From a backyard, we see a house lit from within, a powerful image of safety and warmth. Inside, a family gathers for a meal. Maple Leaf Prime.

No outright lies here, merely an association: Maple Leaf Prime is associated with the love, warmth and safety of family. Maple Leaf hopes this will replace the association of its company name with two listeriosis outbreaks that caused the agonizing deaths of 23 people, and serious illnesses of another 34 who survived. Conservative Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz had a good laugh at the victims' expense; the Harper government continues to dismantle food safety regulations, leaving the corporations to police themselves - or not. Take a peek at this website: Stephen Harper waves goodbye to food safety.

In case the ads don't work - if consumers persist in remembering Maple Leaf as the deli of death - the company also hides its besmirched name. Next time you're in a Canadian supermarket, check out the processed meats sold under the brand name "Natural Selection"; spot the tiny Maple Leaf brand logo. You won't see that logo on the brand name "Artisan"... but keep looking. When you find the company name and address, you'll know that those "artisans" are actually Maple Leaf processing plants.

"Research suggests most people cannot distinguish between sponsored links and actual news sites"

I started collecting examples of televised propaganda after the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico disaster.

I hope you will recall that BP's then-CEO Tony Hayward inflamed an already disgusted public, first by denying the magnitude of the disaster (a "relatively tiny" spill in a "very big ocean") and by disowning BP's culpability ("this was not our accident ... This was not our drilling rig ... This was Transocean's rig. Their systems. Their people. Their equipment"). Then in a stunning display of arrogance and disconnect, he sailed off on his yacht, complaining about personal inconvenience: "You know, I'd like my life back."

This played badly, to say the least. Hayward apologized, and was forced out of the company with one year's salary - £1 million ($1.6 million Canadian) - and a pension reportedly worth more than £10 million ($16 million Canadian). Then BP went to work. Wikipedia:
On 30 May BP hired Anne Kolton, former head of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy and former spokesperson for Dick Cheney, as head of U.S. media relations. BP established a new division, headed by board member and managing director Bob Dudley to handle the company's response. On 4 June BP began running TV ads featuring CEO Tony Hayward as he apologized for the disaster, adding "We will make this right." The company also ran print ads in newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Washington Post. . . . BP spokesperson Toby Odone told ABC News that BP had successfully bid for several search terms related to the oil spill on Google and other search engines so that the first sponsored search result links directly to the company's website. This is "a great PR strategy" commented Kevin Ryan, CEO of an internet communications firm, and one not used before by other firms facing similar public relations "nightmares," adding that research suggests most people cannot distinguish between sponsored links and actual news sites.
In the BP propaganda ads, "community outreach" employees - often brown-skinned, and always with Louisiana accents - tell us that BP was taking "full responsibility for the clean-up in the Gulf, and that includes keeping you informed". While the gentle music swelled, the compassionate, knowledgeable, down-to-earth BP rep clutches hands with ordinary people (you can tell they're ordinary, because they're overweight) and tells them, "BP is listening." People gut fish, men in rolled-up khakis (presumably tourists) cast off in the surf, weathered faces nod sagely at a community meeting. There's a whole series of these ads, the gentle music designed to lull you into dreamland.

And dreamland it is. When the shrimpers whose livelihoods had been ruined were hired to work on the cleanup, they were required to sign contracts forbidding them to speak to media. Meanwhile, dead animals will eventually decompose and wash away, so BP threatened, harassed and intimidated photographers. Out of sight, out of collective memory.

This year, on the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon crime, Democracy Now! ran a series of stories, including: Deepwater Drilling Resumes Despite Unclear Impact of BP Spill: "It is All about Hiding the Oil, Not Cleaning It Up", Death Toll from BP Spill Still Rising as Residents Die from Spill-Related Illnesses, Five Million Barrels of Oil Do Not Disappear, Naomi Klein on how climate change could be exploited by disaster capitalism and militarization, and many others. So what are these BP ads selling? A Big Lie.

The ad campaign reportedly cost BP $50 million, pocket change for the world's fourth-largest company. But it might save itself even that much, while reaching a new generation of consumers who might not watch TV or pick up a newspaper: BP now has a hand in developing California's schools' environmental curriculum.


what happens to a child who is hungry?

What happens to a child who is hungry?
And here's what I learned: being hungry makes me slow, stupid, and clumsy.

It took me about four or five days of not being able to get enough solid food down my throat to come up with the glaringly obvious idea of getting some liquid meal replacements. I read more slowly than usual, made more typos than usual, and often lost my place when proofreading. I spilled things on myself about three times as frequently, so that at any given time I'd have a wet spot or a stain on my shirt. I walked more slowly than usual. I got more easily distracted and frustrated by co-workers in other cubicles having ordinary conversations. I'd sometimes forget myself and scratch or pick my nose while in my cube or walking down the street where other people could see me.

Basically, I turned into one of the dumb kids in school. Not just the ones who got bad marks, but the ones who were slow and loud and messy and didn't follow instructions well and didn't listen to the teacher and did things like fall out of their chairs. The ones that my classmates, in the ignorance and cruelty of childhood and the language of the 80s, would have called "retards".
Impudent Strumpet: On Being Hungry.

Every so often a study comes out showing that hungry or homeless children don't perform as well in school as children who are properly sheltered and nourished. One might be tempted to complain: we have money for studies of the obviously obvious, but not enough money to feed every hungry child.

But of course it's not so. There's enough money and enough food so that no child - or their parent - should ever be malnourished. We're a radical shift of priorities and a redistribution of wealth away from that future.


update on ontario mega-quarry: environmental review to go forward, battle continues

The Council of Canadians has an update on the mega-quarry that the Highland Companies (owned by a US hedge fund) tried to sneak into Ontario's Melancthon Township.

You'll recall that this company posed as a potato farming operation in order to quietly buy thousands of acres of land from local farmers. After purchasing a huge plot of farmland, they suddenly revealed their intention to convert the land into a massive limestone quarry, deep enough to threaten the region's ground water system in the region.

In response to public outcry, Ontario Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson has announced that the proposed mega-quarry will be subject to an environmental assessment. This doesn't mean the battle is over, but it's a crucial step.

From the Council of Canadians:
The proposed mega-quarry would border the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, be deeper than Niagara Falls and destroy more than 2,316 acres of prized Honeywood Silt Loam, a rare type of soil that is particularly suited to potato cultivation. It would also require the removal of some 600 million litres of water per day in perpetuity to prevent massive flooding as the headwaters of five rivers are found in the vicinity.

You’ll recall, for months the Council has been actively campaigning for both a provincial and federal environmental assessment of the project to expose its evident hazards. And when we reached out to you and tens of thousands of fellow Council members in Ontario for your voice and support, you responded in droves. Thank you!

Without a doubt, the tireless efforts of local groups, farmers and First Nations – bolstered by tremendous public opposition – was a key factor in the province’s decision.

Our work here isn’t over though. Winning an environmental assessment does not mean that the quarry will be turned down, nor does it mean that the government has quashed the company's application, as we have demanded.

We must build on this momentum. Ontarians go to the polls on October 6th and we have an opportunity to make the proposed mega-quarry a key election issue. As Maude Barlow highlights, “The fact that such a massive and destructive project is normally exempt from an EA shows that the regulations are far too favourable towards big business. Whoever wins the election must reform the Aggregate Resources Act.”


kenney's canada: paralyzed woman to lose independence if caregivers are deported

Just another story of more undeserving immigrants trying to sneak into the promised land. This one is a particularly sneaky ploy. Here's how you do it.

First, emigrate to Canada, a process that takes a minimum of two years, often twice that or longer.

Then, live in Canada long enough to become a citizen, a minimum of three years.

Then have a car accident in order to become quadriplegic. Yay, free health care! That was easy!

Next, find two family members willing to uproot their lives and start over in a foreign country in order to be serve as your full-time caregivers. Can't you just see them high-fiving? "Whoo-hoo, we're scamming the system, taking care of our quadriplegic cousin!"

I suck at this satire stuff. Al Weisel, a/k/a Jon Swift, is sorely missed.

All I can say is: Really, Jason Kenney? Really?
A Toronto woman paralyzed from the chest down is worried she will be forced back into a nursing home if immigration officials go ahead with plans to deport her cousin and his wife, who she relies on for primary care.

Hallima Idan, 47, was left paralyzed after a car accident six years ago.

A wheelchair user with limited use of her arms, Idan requires around-the-clock care to help her eat, bathe and dress.

Idan, a Canadian citizen who immigrated from Guyana in 1997, spent months in hospital after the accident then stayed in a nursing home for about a month. Idan said her nursing home care was inadequate.

"It was so awful," she told CBC News. "They don't shower you, they don't give you nothing proper to eat. Nothing. If I stayed there any longer, I might commit suicide because I can't take it."

Idan said her husband was unwilling to care for her and "abandoned" her. Other family members stepped in to look after her as best they could but could not be with her the 24 hours a day that she required.

Idan's cousin, Mohamed Arpha, and his wife, Zarine, came to Canada in 2007 and began to provide full-time care for Idan in her Toronto apartment.

The couple applied for refugee protection on humanitarian and compassionate grounds but the application was rejected and they were ordered deported.

. . . .

Judith Pilowsky, a Toronto psychologist who specializes in treating people who have suffered acute trauma, wrote a letter in support of the Arphas staying in Canada for compassionate reasons.

In her letter, Pilowsky said if the Arphas are deported, "Ms. Idan is highly susceptible to a complete psychological breakdown from which she will not recover."

Unable to afford private home care, Idan fears she will have to a return to a nursing home if the Arphas are sent back to Guyana.

"I'd rather die than go back [to a care home]," she said.
This story raises several questions, among them: why was this woman's nursing home care so sub-standard? Is that the norm in Toronto-area long-term care facilities? Almost everyone speaks of nursing homes with dread: institutionalization, lack of privacy, lack of independence. Those issues are very real. But the quality of care can still be excellent. Is the woman (understandably) exaggerating because she dreads returning to a facility, or was the care really that bad?

On the main point, why is Canada in such a rush to deport her caregivers? I have read that applications to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds - referred to as "H&Cs" - used to be granted in about half of all cases, but that now, under Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's watch, the success rate has dropped to less than 20%. (I haven't been able to locate my source for this, but I'll continue to look.) Not for nothing NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow calls Kenney the Minister of Censorship and Deportation.

From the government's point of view, what could be more desirable than family caregivers? Unless, of course, the government is hostile to immigration.