5.31.2012

5.30.2012

and so to bed: thank you, phil gyford and thank you, samuel pepys


One of the oldest and most well-respected bloggers has brought his online journal to a close.

Since January of 2003 - 18 months before I began wmtc - I have been reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys online. Tomorrow night at about 9:00 UK time, the Diary will end. (The final entry is here.)

Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps") wrote a daily diary from January 1, 1660 to May 30, 1669. In it, he recorded a life both public and private - everything from the political machinations of the King and Parliament, to his theatre attendance and what books he was reading, to his new gadgets, clothes, and other luxury purchases, to - famously - his sexual exploits and related marital woes.

The Diary provides a rare, first-person view into the life of 17th Century London, including major events such as wars, the plague and the Great Fire of London. It's both a personal view of history, and a historical view of the person - truly a window into another world. It's also a fascinating lesson in how the English language has changed in 400-some-odd years.

Phil Gyford, who lives in London (UK), began posting The Diary of Samuel Pepys online in January 2003. He posted the diary in daily installments, each entry corresponding to its original date, 343 years earlier. A dedicated group of readers have annotated The Diary online, providing additional historical context, fleshing out a wide variety of topics, speculating on Sam's motives and meanings, and gossiping about his private life. And of course, many thousands of people have read the Diary online without annotating.

As the Diary dwindled into its last weeks, then days, many readers have been asking Phil if he would start the whole project again, from the beginning. I could scarcely believe the nerve - and the selfishness! Phil's answer is here. He's far too polite!

Even more frequent than the pleas to re-start the Diary have been the expressions of sadness that it's ending. Perhaps I'm just the only person to admit it, but I'm not sad - I'm relieved! I'm so happy to have read the whole thing from beginning to end, and now I'm glad to have one less thing to read.

Reading the Diary of Samuel Pepys in an online, collaborative environment has been a wonderful and enriching experience. It's one of the very best uses of the internet I know of, and it wouldn't have happened without Phil Gyford. Thank you, Phil! And thank you, Samuel Pepys!

5.29.2012

doc watson, 1923-2012


Bluegrass legend Doc Watson is dead at age 89. He was simply a great musician, with a great gusto for life.

I saw him perform at several festivals in my younger days. Bluegrass is meant to be heard live, and when you saw Doc Watson play, you felt like you could listen to bluegrass all day long.






New York Times obituary here.

what i'm reading: a long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier

I blogged about Dave Eggers' What Is the What, while I was still reading it. It turned out to be an extraordinary book, both in the ordeals the Sudanese refugees have survived and in the telling of the story. Proceeds from the sale of What Is the What support the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

Ishmael Beah, who narrates his own story in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, lived through a similar ordeal in a different country, Sierra Leone, with one crucial difference. Deng was never a soldier. Through a series of fortunate coincidences, or fate if that is your belief, he never held a gun and was never forced to kill.

Beah's story begins similarly to Deng's, in that he is violently torn from home and family, and everything he has ever known and loved is destroyed. Then it gets worse. From Beah we learn how ordinary children are turned into killing machines, and what it does to them.

First everything they have and have ever known is taken from them. Their parents are killed, often as they watch. Their homes and villages are burned. They are separated from their brothers and sisters and friends. They witness rapes, mutilations, murders. They are forced to survive on their own in the wild. They starve and they witness what starvation and chaos do to ordinary people.

Then they are told that those people over there are the ones responsible for everything that has befallen then. They are told - over and over and over - that they can get revenge on the people who did this, these people (the other side) who are evil and kill for no reason.

They are fed and given protection, along with massive amounts of drugs. They are taught how to use guns. Then they are used both as human shields and utterly expendable killing machines.

At first Beah is sickened by the task. He has blinding migraines. He is terrified. But as he is forced to continue - it is, quite literally, kill or be killed - he stops feeling anything at all.

The boy soldiers are kept completely isolated from all other society. At all times they are either in the forest killing people and torching villages, or at the soldier camps, watching war movies and taking drugs. Beah says, "It was as if nothing existed outside our reality."
The villages that we captured and turned into our bases as we went along and the forest that we slept in became my home. My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed. The extent of my thoughts didn't go much beyond that. We had been fighting for over two years, and killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone. My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen. . . . In my head my life was normal. But everything began to change in the last weeks of January 1996. I was fifteen.
After reading this book, I now understand the meaning of the word brainwash.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this incredible book is the story of the Beah's rehabilitation.

Eventually some boys in the Beah's squad are - to their minds - kidnapped by UN and UNICEF agency workers. They are bewildered, they feel abandoned, they rage with anger and violence. They want to kill the military police who guard them. They want to kill their teachers and counselors. They have come to believe that their families and protectors are the men who have turned them into monsters.

The rehab process is a new experiment. Agency workers believe that if the boys are put in a new, healthy environment, they will become normal again. It turns out to be more complicated than that. The boys are addicted not only to drugs, but to violence. They fight constantly - not harmless playground fighting, murderous fighting - and they viciously attack anyone who tries to help them.

Eventually, though, love and compassion break through. Only then, and when the drug withdrawal winds down, do the flashbacks, terrors and nightmares begin. The rehabilitation process is slow and very painful - but it works. They actually become boys again.

Then, almost unbelievably, Sierra Leone breaks down further into even greater, more widespread violence. I won't spoil the outcome. It is both wonderful and terrible.

A Long Way Gone is a story of hope, redemption, and the best of humanity, a story of how love and compassion and proper care can bring almost anyone back from the brink. But it is also a story of despair and the very worst of humanity. These children are said to be soldiers and victims of war. But can we really call this war? Men with machine guns and machetes forcing children to slaughter a civilian population. Gangs of drugged men and boys looting, burning, raping, killing completely defenseless victims, then terrorizing and starving any survivors. As the book jacket says, this is how wars are fought now. There are thought to be 300,000 child soldiers in the world.

A Long Way Gone is much shorter than What Is the What, and told in a simple, straightforward, almost stripped-down voice. In that sense the book is easy to read, but facing the violence and horror of the story is not easy. The way I see it, if Achak Deng and Ishmael Beah could live through this - if they survived and transcended and brought us their stories - the least we can do is bear witness.

manif casserole toronto: bang on a pot at dufferin grove park

Why should Quebecers have all the fun? If you're in the Toronto area, you can join a Manif Casserole tomorrow, May 30. People are gathering at Dufferin Grove Park, 875 Dufferin Street, around 8:00. Bring something to bang on and something to bang with (i.e. a pot and a wooden spoon).

There's a Facebook event here, but it's more important just to be there.

5.27.2012

marxism 2012 a smashing success


We've just returned from the Marxism 2012 conference, a weekend of inspiration, education, and revolution. I plan to transcribe all the talks that either I or Allan attended, either from notes or from audio files. And unlike last year, unless some crisis intervenes, I will make it a priority.

To come:

The global fight against austerity: from the ballot box to the street
Nikos Loudos (Greece), Judith Orr (UK), Andria Babbington, Monique Moisan (Quebec), Carolyn Egan

Egypt and the Arab World: the year of revolution
Member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists (by Skype), Yusur Al-Bahrani, Sid Lacombe

The 2012 Quebec student strike
Xavier Lafrance, Monique Moisan, Sibel Epi Ataoğul

Building rank & file resistance in labour
Carolyn Egan, Sung-Lim Kang, Jonathon Hodge, Jeff Ince, Pam Johnson

1965: Canada’s rank & file rebellion
Pam Johnson

'From each according to their ability': socialists & the disability movement
Melissa Graham, Michele MacAulay, Patricia Reilly

Too many people? The return of the population bombers
Ian Angus

Can we stop the Harper Agenda?
Brigette DePape, Tasha Peters, Ben Powless, Hadayt Nazami, Michelle Robidoux

'Never going back!' How women won abortion rights
Michelle Robidoux, Judith Orr

From Libya to Syria: revolution vs 'humanitarian intervention'
Jesse McLaren

Racism, Islamophobia & economic crisis
Nikos Loudos, Chantal Sundaram

What’s green about Marxism?
Bradley Hughes

Closing rally: global crisis, global resistance
Nikos Loudos, Judith Orr, Chantal Sundaram

5.26.2012

les casseroles de montreal

In case you have not yet seen this beautiful video, and even if you have: enjoy.


Merci, Quebec! Merci, merci, merci!

5.25.2012

b*tches in bookshops: don't let me forget this page

Books, bookstores, and New York City! Plus hip hop girls. This video has it all.


Thanks to Stephanie.

we movie to canada: annual wmtc movie awards, 2011-12 edition

Our 2011-12 Movie Season was a strange one, as we're gravitating towards watching more series and fewer films. I also didn't have a good source for quality movies on DVD for a while.

But we did see several good movies and even better series. A special shout-out to our friends M@ and S, who turned us onto the two best shows of the season, and two of the best things we've seen in ages: Justified and Sherlock.

I was completely stumped for this year's rating system. I've done Canadian musicians and comedians, my beverage of choice, famous people who died during the past year, and where I'd like to be. Now I am officially Out Of Ideas!

This year's awards are brought to you by... vegetables! A ranking of vegetables according to my preference. Hey, I said I was out of ideas.



Potatoes are the greatest. I've never met a potato I didn't like: baked, mashed, shoestring fries, chunky fries from a chip truck. The kugel and latkes of my youth! Sadly, potatoes are not something I can eat on a regular basis. They are a special treat. Like the movies on this list.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
-- Werner Herzog takes you on a journey into prehistory. This film will be the closest most of us will ever get to the cave paintings in Chauvet, France - the planet's oldest art. Absolutely magical.

Justified, Seasons 1 & 2
-- I often think of this series as the rural version of "The Wire". Based on the writing of Elmore Leonard, it sports superb acting, brilliant writing, compelling characters, crazy suspense - and laughs. Season 3 is slated for the All Star Break.

Sherlock, Seasons 1 & 2
-- A smarter, more suspenseful, more complex mystery/detective series can scarcely be imagined. Episodes are movie-length and there are only three per season. Fans are holding our breath for Season 3.

Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series
-- It's our world, it's awesome, and it's rapidly disappearing. Riveting, astounding, heartbreaking. I blogged about it here, and especially here, which appears to be a popular post.




Ah, asparagus. Fresh, young, thin asparagus, pictured here in my favourite form, grilling with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Asparagus are great, very special. They're just not potatoes.

Grizzly Man
-- As Werner Herzog peels back the layers, a seemingly simple story grows deeper and more enigmatic. An empathetic view of a troubled soul and his demise.

Meek's Cutoff
-- A western period piece about the punishing world of the pioneers. This is about survival, faith (in other people as well as in a higher power), racism, trust - and thirst. This excellent movie would be a potato, but I had one problem with it, which I cannot reveal without spoiling.

Manhattan
-- This 1979 Woody Allen film has aged beautifully.

The Illusionist
-- A beautiful little film by Sylvain Chomet, who made the incomparable The Triplets of Belleville, using Jacques Tati's never-produced screenplay. Sad, sweet, gentle, and so visually beautiful.




Red, ripe tomatoes are a delicious everyday standard. These are all very solid films that won't change your life but are well worth tossing in your salad.

St. Ralph
-- Director Michael McGowan's film "One Week" was my top movie of 2009. This earlier film is a teenage underdog drama. It's heavy on cliche and I could live without the all-Canadian soundtrack, but I found myself perfectly willing to suspend disbelief and lose myself in hope. Absolutely lovely (and thanks to M@ again!).

The Next Three Days
-- An excellent paranoid thriller from Canadian director Paul Haggis. It's a remake of Pour Elle, which I plan to see next year.

Made in Dagenham
-- Sisters doing it for themselves in 1968 England. A labour story, a feminist story, a story of solidarity and radicalization. Inspiring.

A Fond Kiss (Ae Fond Kiss)
-- Romance across a cultural divide, from Ken Loach and Paul Laverty. Not their best work by a longshot, but a decent movie.

It's Kind of a Funny Story
-- Friendship and romance in a psychiatric ward. Good young actors, funny, sweet. If only real mental illness was this easy and fun.

The King's Speech
-- Pity the royals, those isolated victims of circumstance who cannot enjoy life for the burdens they must bear. Despite my general disdain for the entire concept of royalty, and the hype surrounding this movie, it was very well done, especially the fine acting.

50/50
-- Friendship and cancer. Funny, sad, solid movie. Borderline tomato/asparagus.

Night at the Museum
-- I thought it was time to finally see this movie. A very nice, gentle, funny fantasy, plus New York City. I'm glad I saw it, and I will not be seeing any sequels.

TiMER
-- This movie is in the tradition of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Cold Souls," or "Shallow Hall" - a sci-fi premise grafted onto a romance/comedy/drama. How can we find certainty and control in a world that gives us neither? Is there only one path to happiness? Do we each have only One True Love? An interesting movie.

Barney's Version
-- I haven't read the Mordechai Richler novel this movie was based on, but the movie did make me curious about it. Paul Giamatti turns in a typically brilliant performance. It sometimes dragged for me, but in general, a good movie.

Moneyball
-- When we heard Michael Lewis' book was being made into a movie with Brad Pitt, we couldn't imagine how it was going to work, even though baseball fans loved it. Now that I've seen it, I'm still not sure how they did it. But it's really good!

The Wire: Season 2
-- We only saw the first episode of this! After blazing through and loving Season 1, we started Season 2. Same great writing, same great acting... but same everything. Perhaps we'll watch one season a year. NCF says Season 4 is the best thing ever to have been on television. That will be... 2015?

Midnight in Paris
-- A typically quirky magic-realism Woody Allen romance. Fun, lovely. Plus Woody shows you Paris the way he's shown you New York and Barcelona.




I can eat a little broccoli, stir fried in garlic or lightly steamed. It's edible, but I really don't enjoy it. These films won't kill you, but you won't miss anything if you don't see them. Just like broccoli.

Fair Game
-- If there's a protagonist I sympathize with less than royalty, this must be it: the CIA. Portraying CIA operatives as underdogs is a bit much for me. But the inside view of two lives being ruined by the government and the media is still watchable. Not bad.

Jack Goes Boating
-- PSH's directorial debut. Maybe this worked when it was a play. Most of it was painful and boring, but a hint of "hmm, this is interesting" saved this movie from the bottom rung.

Pirate Radio
-- Another PSH movie in the also-rans? I wanted to love this movie about the subversive power of rock and roll, and there were som really nice moments, but in the end... borderline broccoli/tomato.

Gunless
-- A comedy-western starring the appealing Canadian actor Paul Gross. I think we laughed once or twice, and we watched to the end, so it's not completely awful.

Disgrace
-- What did I used to love about John Malkovich, oh so long ago? He's become a simpering parody of himself. I'd be surprised if the novel by J. M. Coetzee is as difficult to sit through as this movie.

Toy Story
-- As I said last year about Up: maybe I just don't like Pixar. The toys-come-to-life theme is nice, but... shrug.

A Dog Year
-- A beautiful border collie and the seldom-seen actor Lois Smith salvage this nothing of a movie.

Stray Dogs
-- Homeless children in Afghanistan, trying to survive. Their mother is in prison, their father in Guantanamo. Relentless. I didn't finish it.

The Two Escobars
-- This documentary about the intersection of organized crime and futbol should have been gripping, but fell flat. Everyone else appears to have loved it, so don't go by me.




Ugh, cauliflower. Yuck. As inedible as these films are unwatchable.

Crossed Over
-- Consumed by grief for her son, who was killed by a drunk driver, the author Beverly Lowry (played by Diane Keaton) forms a bond with a woman on death row. Both the book and the movie suffer from stilted dialogue and heavy-handed expositions. If I don't finish a movie about redemption and forgiveness, you know it is a must to avoid.

Dean Spanley
-- The description said heartwarming, but perhaps that was a typo for heartbreaking. A man who spends his whole life unable to love because he cannot get over the loss of his childhood dog? Oh yeah, that's a real heartwarmer. As above, when I don't like a dog movie, you know something is wrong.

The World According to Monsanto
-- Subject matter is not enough. You have to think clearly, write clearly, and actually make a film, not just string together a collection of notes. Awful.

5.23.2012

a very important act you can take to "support the troops" and help a family in need

Click here to help the Brockway family adopt Buddha! Every donation makes a difference. Every dollar will move them closer to their goal.

* * * *

A US veteran commits suicide once every 80 minutes.

In the US, for every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans will die by their own hands. Nicholas Kristof writes:
An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year - more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.
Military suicides are on the rise in Canada, too. The Harper Government, so keen to send Canadians to war, is less enthusiastic about caring for them once they're home.

The Department of National Defence is cutting jobs of professionals involved in suicide prevention and monitoring PTSD.

After exposure to war, PTSD is all but inevitable. Indeed, it should hardly be called a disorder, as it's the natural response to such destruction, chaos, and carnage. (See Dr. J's excellent post about the medicalization of trauma.)

PTSD is inevitable, but suicide is not. PTSD is treatable and for most people, does diminish over time. But PTSD left untreated... that is a different story.

The Brockways, June 2010

I've blogged about the Brockway family several times, but I have not updated their story on wmtc in a very long time. Jeremy Brockway was a US Marine. He volunteered proudly for service in 2005 and served honourably in 2006 and 2007.

Jeremy was forced to participate in some terrible things in Iraq, and he witnessed many more brutal war crimes and horrors. When his anxiety and depression started to surface, he was told it would pass. As his condition worsened, he was given drugs that put him in a zombie-like state.

Jeremy requested a medical leave. It was denied. His application for Conscientious Objector status was shredded in front of him. He was ridiculed and persecuted by the military. Then he was ordered to redeploy. Returning to Iraq, or serving prison time for refusing, surely would have killed him. Instead, he and his young wife Ashlea came to Canada. They now have two children, both born in this country, and are expecting a third child this summer.

Jeremy was a Marine. The Marines' motto is semper fidelis, Latin for Always Faithful. Jeremy took this very seriously. He had great loyalty and great faith in the Marines. But he learned that loyalty was a one-way street.

Jeremy returned from Iraq a changed man, suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Help through any official channel was closed to him, because he deserted. As Ashlea said in a speaking engagement, "Jeremy has already sacrificed for his country," she said. "He has already served loyally. He can't ever take that back. And now that that sacrifice has been made, the Marines have turned their backs on Jeremy."

This is so often forgotten about war resisters. Many of the resisters are veterans, men and women who followed orders and served honourably. But because the military denies them the right to follow their conscience, their status as veterans is denied, too.

You can read more about Jeremy's story here.

The Brockways today

Right now Ashlea is trying to adopt a service dog for Jeremy. She is working with the Thames Service Dog Centre, a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs from pounds and shelters and trains them for service work. A donation from the War Resisters Support Campaign covered the deposit for the dog. Now the Brockways are trying to raise the remainder of the money.

You might also want to read this excellent feature about a veteran with PTSD and how a service dog is changing her life: "Loyal Companion Helps a Veteran Regain Her Life After War Trauma"


Click here to help the Brockway family adopt Buddha! Every donation makes a difference. Every dollar will move them closer to their goal.

I interviewed Ashlea Brockway about why she wants to adopt the dog, what she hopes to achieve, and how far they've come.

LK: What made you start thinking about getting a service dog for Jeremy?

AB: I knew that there are therapeutic benefits to having a dog or cat. Having the companionship, someone to pet. I wasn't thinking of a service dog in the beginning. I didn't know they had them specifically for PTSD.

LK: You were thinking of getting a dog for the family?

AB: For Jeremy, to help him relax more and have that companionship. I started looking online, and ended up searching "PTSD animals". Senator Al Franken from Minnesota [Ashlea's home state] pushed to get a bill passed to make it easier for veterans to have service dogs. So I knew that there was some kind of connection between veterans and animals, but I didn't know what. I found out that there are specially trained dogs to help with symptoms of PTSD, and they can be trained to do all kinds of different things.

LK: What did you do from there?

AB: I contacted a couple of places that had service dogs, just to get some information. Some charged around $40,000 for a trained service dog. I wasn't sure how to go about getting one, or if there was funding, or anything like that. I contacted two or three different places. The next day, Thames Centre called me back. I never heard back from anyone else.

Thames understands a lot more about PTSD than I've encountered in a lot of people, even home health aides. Home health nurses have said, "Oh, you just need to get out more," when actually going out in public is almost like re-traumatizing him. But Elizabeth Baker from Thames really understands PTSD. She will travel to the servicemember, even if it means she has to get on a plane. Many of the other places said you had to come to their facility for a month or a couple of months. That's difficult for someone with PTSD - to travel, and to be an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. She came here, to our apartment, and brought the dog that she thought would be a good fit for Jeremy.

LK: And that's Buddha, right?

AB: Yes.

LK: Was Buddha a puppy at the time?

AB: He's a young dog, about a year old.

LK: When she came over with the dog, was that part of the training process, training for the dog and also for Jeremy and the family?

AB: At that first meeting, she wanted to see if Jeremy and Buddha would be a good match.

Buddha is a black dog. She had previously brought him to another family, for an autistic child, and the mom was nervous about having a dark dog because it didn't look as friendly. So Elizabeth wanted to make sure I felt comfortable with the dog, and that I wasn't worried about the kids or anything.

Elizabeth has done research with different colours of dogs, and how people perceive them, how approachable people think they are. The lighter the colour of dog, the more approachable people think they are. If a dog is out in public with its person, more people will be interested in and want to pet a lighter dog. Because Buddha is dark-coloured, people will be less likely to approach - which is good for Jeremy. And it's better for Buddha, too, because he can focus on his work with fewer distractions.

LK: What was it like when she brought the dog over for the first time?

AB: She answered a lot of questions and she wanted the whole family involved. Other people had told me that a service dog can't be a family dog -other people in the family aren't supposed to interact with the dog. I was nervous about that, because how do you keep two little kids away from a dog? But when Buddha is at home, he's just like a regular part of the family. Everybody can interact with him, everybody can pet him. At that first meeting, the kids pet him, gave him treats. It was really nice for them.

LK: Were the kids excited about the dog? Did they like him?

AB: William had a bad experience with a dog once, at our apartment building, when he was pretty young. The elevator doors opened and a dog jumped on him and knocked him over. So he's been more reserved towards animals, whereas Wesley completely loves them.

So Wesley [now age 2½] went right up to Buddha and was very happy. But as Beth and Buddha stayed there, William [now age 4] started to get used to it, started to enjoy his company. And finally he was able to give Buddha a treat. Ever since we had that meeting, I've noticed William has been more at ease with animals and other dogs. It's made a big difference.

LK: Tell me about what Buddha will do for Jeremy - what kinds of jobs he will have, how you anticipate Buddha will help Jeremy.

AB: One of the major issues with PTSD is that people have a hard time being grounded - knowing that they are here, in the present, that they're safe, without their mind taking them back to the traumatizing experience. This dog will be trained in something called "deep pressure therapy". He'll push up against Jeremy's legs, pretty much all the time. When they're walking outside in public, or when they're home together, he will be pushing on Jeremy, and that physical feeling will help Jeremy focus and be present, help ground him.

Also, Buddha will sleep in the same room as Jeremy. If Jeremy starts to have a night terror, Buddha will help to wake Jeremy, and then he'll crawl up onto Jeremy and provide the deep pressure therapy - and be there for support, so Jeremy can pet Buddha to help himself calm down.

Out in public, Jeremy can feel overwhelmed. And if you're overwhelmed and in a crowd, everything can go blurry, and you can start to have a panic attack. Buddha will be trained with a one-word command, to find a route out of the crowd, and lead Jeremy to a place that's quiet, so Jeremy can get refocused and calm down.

Service dogs do other things for people with PTSD may not apply to Jeremy. Some people are really hypervigilant. They want to check the perimeter of their house all the time. The dog can be trained to do that, or to clear a room for people who are afraid that people are hiding. I don't think Buddha will be trained to do that, because I don't think those are Jeremy's issues. But it is a possibility if Jeremy feels that is something he needs.

Buddha is a fully trained service dog. He'll have a certificate, and he'll wear the vest. It's like a guide dog - he can go anywhere in public, restaurants, all of that. A therapy dog stays at home and works only in the therapy settings. But Buddha will go everywhere with Jeremy. We're actually not allowed to leave him at home. He'll be with Jeremy constantly.

LK: It sounds like you and Jeremy have a lot invested in getting a service dog.

AB: Yes, we do. In the past, doctors told him PTSD is a chronic condition and he will never get better. It always made me so angry to hear that. How can you possibly say that to someone? That just sucks all the hope out of your life.

LK: But even chronic conditions can get better and become livable.

AB: And it was especially painful at the time they were saying this. We're a lot better now than we were a year ago. But when we were hearing this from a doctor, it was in the darkest of times. He had made no progress. And then you hear that it's going to be permanent! It was devastating.

LK: You said things have gotten better over the past year. Is there anything in particular you attribute that to?

AB: After I did my speaking engagements, Bruce Beyer from Buffalo arranged for us to meet Dr. William Cross, a psychiatrist and a therapist. Dr. Cross was a Vietnam War veteran, and came back with PTSD, and he overcame it, and when on to become a psychiatrist. He does family and relationship counseling.

Bruce brought Dr. Cross to Ontario to meet us. And since then, we've been doing counseling sessions by Skype for almost a year and a half now. We speak with him every week. We've done one-on-one counseling with him, and also couples counseling, because there's a lot of communication difficulties. He talks to each of us every-other week, we switch off. Dr. Cross has done all this for free. He doesn't charge us at all. This has made the hugest difference in our lives. Before, we were in this black hole, feeling that we might never get out. It was very dark. Now we feel like we've overcome the worst of it. There were times when we didn't know if we'd make it. Now we know we've already made it, and it will keep getting better. It's still hard, there are issues, but we no longer question whether we will even make it.

Dr. Cross has done all this for free. He doesn't charge us at all.

LK: How do you feel about adopting Buddha?

AB: I am very hopeful. Through this whole ordeal, whenever we talked about it, Jeremy has often said, "It's going to take a miracle to make me better. Only a miracle will get me out of this." After the first time we met Buddha, Jeremy told me that maybe this dog is his miracle. That really had an impact on me. It made me think this is what Jeremy needs and will respond to.

* * * *

Jeremy has been given an incentive and a challenge. If he can walk, alone, from their apartment to the end of the street, every day, Buddha will come to live with the Brockways at the end of May. Then Jeremy and Buddha will begin advanced training together.

If you are able, please help us give Buddha a permanent home with the Brockways, and give Jeremy Brockway the opportunity to heal.

Click here to help the Brockway family adopt Buddha! Every donation makes a difference. Every dollar will move them closer to their goal.

5.22.2012

montreal, nous t'aimons! show us how it's done!



On the 100th day of student protests, 250,000 people take to the streets! Supporters bang on pots and pans from their windows! Solidarity rallies in New York and Paris!


Montreal, we are with you!


ten things everyone should know about the quebec student movement

From Coop média de Montréal:
1. The issue is debt, not tuition.

2. Striking students in Quebec are setting an example for youth across the continent.

3. The student strike was organized through democratic means and with democratic aim.

4. This is not an exclusively Quebecois phenomenon.

5. Government officials and the media have been openly calling for violence and fascist tactics to be used against the students.

6. Excessive state violence has been used against the students.

7. The government supports organized crime and opposes organized students.

8. Canada’s elites punish the people and oppose the students.

9. The student strike is being subjected to a massive and highly successful propaganda campaign to discredit, dismiss, and demonize the students.

10. The student movement is part of a much larger emerging global movement of resistance against austerity, neoliberalism, and corrupt power.
Extended thoughts on each of these points can be found here.

solidarity with striking quebec students. shame on charest and all supporters of bill 78.


I haven't blogged much about the enormous, sustained and absolutely brilliant student strikes and demonstrations in Quebec. I've just been watching them from afar with admiration and deep respect.

Now that the Quebec government has adopted the draconian Bill 78, the stakes are raised even higher. The students and unions of Quebec are doing the heavy lifting for all of us, fighting not only for the right to affordable education, but for basic rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

From Jessica Squires at Socialist Worker:
Upon adoption of Bill 78 on Friday, May 18, 2012, Quebec is now, in terms of democratic rights, in its worst situation since the War Measures Act of 1970. The Charest government is seeking to ban student strikes altogether—a tactic used by the Quebec student movement on a regular basis, and tacitly accepted, by administrators and government, since 1968.

The law is a direct attack on student unions, their right to organize, collect fees, and demonstrate. It imposes severe fines on anyone either organizing, encouraging, or participating in demonstrations on campus or within 50 metres of a campus, and anyone impeding access to classes.

Worse still, it requires all protest organizers, no matter where in Quebec or what reason, to notify police eight hours in advance of any gathering of more than 50 people. And it requires unionized workers to deliver classes, no matter the working conditions. It holds demonstration organizers responsible, legally and financially, for any “misbehaviour” by participants—effectively requiring organizers to police their own ranks.

The law has a sunset clause of just over a year, thus ensuring it will be in force during the next Quebec general election, which must be called between now and next spring.

But it is already clear that the people of Quebec, students in particular, are not ready to take this lying down. “When laws become unjust sometimes you have to disobey them and we are thinking seriously about this possibility,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, head of the CLASSE student union, during a media conference with all three major trade union leaders.

Unions were quick to denounce the law, as were the bar association and many other important social movement groups. Although it is now technically illegal to do so, some, including left-wing Québec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir have begun talking publicly about massively organized civil disobedience.

If Charest was seeking social peace through this law, or hoping to distract from the scandals dogging his administration, he is sadly mistaken. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on the evening of May 18, in the 24th consecutive night-time demonstration since a brutal police crackdown almost a month ago. The demonstrations, expected to continue daily across Quebec, have taken on a new tone: jubilant, determined, defiant.

Charest may be hoping the summer will cool things down. But Quebec’s spring shows no end in sight.
The story gives context to both the student strikes and the government's reaction. Read more here.

montana board says canadian man should die. harper government does nothing.

Five years have passed since Stockwell Day, then Minister of Public Safety, announced that the Harper Government would not intervene to help save the life of Ronald Allen Smith. Smith is a Canadian citizen on death row in the US state of Montana.

The Harper Government later backpedaled, saying it would intervene - but did not. Earlier this month, a representative from the Canadian Consulate General in Denver was supposed to appear at Smith's clemency hearing. She did not. Instead, the Harper Government submitted a statement that was so bland and unemphatic that they might as well have said, "We don't care. Do what you want."

Current news reports claim that the Harper Government recommended clemency for Smith, but that is not really true. They technically supported clemency because a the Federal Court of Canada forced them to. But they did not go to bat to save Smith's life.

Now the Montana Parole Board has recommended that Smith be denied clemency and executed.

In my 2007 post about Ronald Smith, "stockwell day uses de facto death penalty against alberta man", I wrote:
Harper and Day are reversing 30 years of policy in Canada with no public debate or citizen input. At a time when increasing numbers of Americans are withdrawing their support for the death penalty, this Canadian government is allowing a Canadian citizen to be executed.

Do you see the connection between this and what happened to Maher Arar? Does Canada think it can keep its hands clean while it allows other countries to do the dirty work? It doesn't work that way. The government's refusal to intervene on behalf of Smith amounts to a de facto death penalty in Canada.

I've seen some blogs by Canadian wingnuts with the predictable spew: the Liberals and NDP support murderers, and Ronald Smith did these really bad things, who needs him in Canada.

These transparent pseudo-arguments only further prove the point.

In not using capital punishment, Canada aligns itself with the civilized world. There is no death penalty here. Period. It doesn't matter what the man did. And no one is asking for Smith to be released. He can live the rest of his life in prison in Canada - his natural life, that is.

I don't know if Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day would really try to re-open the death penalty debate, or if they are just kissing up to the US and won't do anything to cross them.

Either way, this is very frightening. Heaven help us if these people ever get a majority government.
And here we are.

There is some slim hope to save Smith's life, as Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer cannot run for office again (term limits), and so doesn't have to worry about political fallout from granting clemency. Imagine that the life of a human being depends on such considerations. What barbarism.

When the Montana government kills Ronald Allen Smith, it is no better than Ronald Allen Smith. Smith, at least, has tried to make amends for his actions, by helping other prisoners, working hard to educate himself, and professing his deep remorse for his actions. The Montana government - and the Harper Government - will murder in cold blood and declare it legal and just.

5.21.2012

jean craighead george, 1919 - 2012


Jean Craighead George, author of some classics of children's literature, died a few days ago.

In one of those eerie coincidences that seem to happen so often, I was just talking about George. At the library, I noticed that one of my favourite childhood books, My Side of the Mountain, was written by author of Julie of the Wolves, a book I loved when I was slightly older. I wondered if I knew that as a child, or if my love of My Side of the Mountain pre-dated my interest in authors. (That seems unlikely, as I worshipped Laura Ingalls Wilder, and knew the names E. B. White and John Steinbeck as a very young reader.)

George wrote more than 100 books, and I'm sure I read several of them. But My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves remain in my heart to this day. Thank you, Jean! I'm glad you lived a full life.

This excerpt from the New York Times obituary captures some of what made George's writing so meaningful.
“My Side of the Mountain” tells the story of Sam Gribley, a youth who forsakes a life of quiet desperation in New York City to live on his own in the Catskills wilderness. There, he survives by virtue of the deep sympathy with nature that animates all of Ms. George’s protagonists, until the modern world closes in again.

The novel was made into a 1969 feature film of the same title, starring Teddy Eccles and Theodore Bikel.

“Julie of the Wolves,” which was also a finalist for the National Book Award, centers on a 13-year-old Eskimo girl, Miyax, or Julie as she is known in English. Fleeing an oppressive arranged marriage, she strikes out to live alone in the Alaskan wild. Her survival is aided by a family of wolves, with whom she learns to communicate via sound and gesture, much as Ms. George did during a trip to the Arctic to research the book.

Throughout her career, Ms. George was praised by reviewers for her lyric prose, vivid descriptions and meticulous research. (Until she was in her mid-80s, she routinely visited the wild locales about which she wrote.)

Her other books include sequels to “My Side of the Mountain,” among them “On the Far Side of the Mountain” (1990), and two to “Julie of the Wolves”: “Julie” (1994) and “Julie’s Wolf Pack” (1997), both illustrated by Wendell Minor.

Jean Carolyn Craighead was born in Washington on July 2, 1919. Her father was an entomologist for the United States Forest Service, and the family often accompanied him on trips into the field. (Her brothers, John and Frank, grew up to become prominent naturalists who studied grizzly bears.)

It was not until she started school that young Jean realized that her first pet — an eminently reasonable presence in the Craighead home — was not strictly conventional.

“By the time I got to kindergarten,” Ms. George told The Journal News of Westchester in 2003, “I was surprised to find out I was the only kid with a turkey vulture.”

. . . .

In 1944 she married John George, an ornithologist, and settled into a domestic routine that included writing, motherhood and wildlife management. Over time, as she recounted in her memoir for children, “The Tarantula in My Purse” (1996), the household grew to include 173 pets, not counting cats and dogs.

Among them were a crow that gathered coins and deposited them in the rainspout of the local bank and an owl that adored taking showers in the family tub. (Overnight guests at the George home were met with a cautionary sign: “Please remove owl after showering.”)

Also in residence, for a brief, nervous time, was a “darling beaver,” as Ms. George later recounted, adding, “We didn’t keep him long because he cut down the furniture.”

. . . .

For all her honors, perhaps the greatest index of Ms. George’s appeal could be found in the mail she received from her readers. Again and again, she said, they homed in on the truly salient thing about the wilderness lives she so often portrayed.

As she told The New York Times in 2003, “Children will often write, ‘We love your books because there are no adults in them.’ ”

5.19.2012

a trip down memory lane with wmtc

Combing through some old files, I found this lovely bit: a comment from "GarySTJ", a former troll who was obsessed with me for a time. I used to delete his comments, then paste them into posts so wmtc readers could have fun kicking him around.

After being banned from wmtc, he started appearing at other blogs where I commented, hijacking the thread with insults directed at me. One blogger noted (a paraphrase), "I don't know L-girl or GarySTJ, but L-girl has an internet presence, has written a blog for several years, and is commenting on this post. GarySTJ has an anonymous profile, has never commented here before, and is posting personal attacks on another commenter. End of discussion."

After that, GarySTJ must have gone into rehab, and we never heard from him again. This old email really brought me back.
From: GarySTJ [noreply-comment@blogger.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2006 12:45 PM
To: movetocanada@gmail.com
Subject: [we move to canada] 7/19/2006 12:45:10 PM

Returning to the Blog this afternoon, I thought I might see some reasonable responses. Instead I've yet again been drenched in a tidal-wave of masturbatory, nationalistic, verbal diarrhea - and in only its most stench-filled, nauseating form.

Laura,

I have stated my purpose here quite plainly, and on a number of occasions. I have given you every opportunity imaginable to do the simple research I've requested and
prove to me (and the readers) that, yes, you did make an informed decision emigrating to this country and that, no, you didn't come for aesthetic, self-aggrandizing, self-congratulatory purposes. I have pleaded with you to demonstrate with even the smallest shred of evidence that you have even the most basic understanding of the political, military, social, cultural history of this country. On each and every one of these accounts you have failed to deliver, cementing my suspicion that you are an ignorant, all-talk, narcissistic blowhard. You have moved from the cutting edge of leftist activism to the centrepiece of a nationalistic circle-jerk. Congratulations, as this is no small accomplishment.

Laura, you are a typical liberal. You are a liberal in the purely American sense of the word. You are an embaressment to a long tradition of left of centre, progressive socio-political thought. You are ignorant to history, you are ignorant to the movements of people, you are ignorant to anything outlying the myopic trope of the impotent American liberal movement. You are, simply put, the personified reason why the American left is a walking train wreck.

You fancy yourself to be a modern day Harriet Tubman, ushering in fellow politically disenfranchised Americans (and other white, middle classers) to the "great white north". Realistically you are the contemporary equivalent of a UEL. In other words, you are the unwitting descendent in long line of historical, Tory losers.

Every single advancement of the average Canadian has been won by fighting tooth and nail against complacent shitbags such as yourself. And the shit runs deep in this country. This community serves as an example of that as its complacent, complicit nationalism is equate-able to a less literate, less articulate, less self-reflective version of the O'Reilly Factor. Laura, the people you've stumbled upon here are not leftists, they are not progressives, they are not academically or personally motivated towards the critical analysis of this country. This community is, Laura, typical of mainstream nationalists found all over Canada. You are as likely to find honest, critical perspectives about Canada here as you are about George W. Bush at a Republican convention. You have tapped into a demographic whose heavily biased outlook will not serve you in any truthful understanding of this country. This is evidenced in the mountains of one-liner, cliched platitudes that have apparently, and in your mind only, passed as "answers" to my very pointed question.

Now, you claim to have done your homework before moving to this country. You claim to have come to the intellectual conclusion that Canada is a fundamentally more innocent country in which to live. You've come to the conclusion that so different are the United States and Canada in this respect that a massive, expensive and time consuming international relocation was warranted. In the face of evidence, in the face of fact, in the face of a hundred years worth of objective studies you've stuck by this conclusion. This does, however, rely on the fact that you've actually done more than a surface level, superficial analysis of this country - and to be honest, I think thats an overly-generous assumption.

I've said it before and I'll say it now, I'm not going to do your research for you. I will, however, concede to give you a brief list of topics to look up on your own. This is no small task and will take a great deal of effort - an effort which you've presumably (though implausibly) already exerted. You're going to need to use strong primary sources. You're going to need to research current events such as Canada's direct role in the war in Iraq, including the JTF2, the manning of AWACS, the escorting of the US Gulf Fleet, involvement with CENTCOM, the supplying of uranium to the US, the refueling of aircraft in Canadian air-space, the commitment of over $20 million to the training of Iraqi police and $400 million to running the occupation regime, and the effort to replace US troops abroad so as to make more available for service in Iraq. You'll need to research recent events in Haiti, such as the Canadian aided 2004 coup, the training of HNP forces, the July 6th massacre, the Duvalier Policy, assisting in regime change and propping up the new, un-elected puppet government. In Afghanistan we have the PTA, the breakdown of the third GC, the willing transfer of Canadian held POWs to Guantanamo Bay, non-compliance with AIHR, Kandahar "POW" camps, the 1 in 2 chance of an Afghan being shot with Canadian munitions and the slaughtering of over 75,000 civilians. In Israel we have Government complicity in IDF actions, the IAI (including Whitney Canada, Pratt, NMF, etc.), the CHIC, the Trans-Israel Highway, Raytheon Canada, the en-masse deportation of Palestinian refugees in Canada and the 45% share Canadian companies have in the manufacturing of IDF military equipment. Domestically we have Maher-Arar, the security certificate five, the deportation of war resisters and the smashing of the democratic Quebec sovereignty movement. And we can go further down the line to the Pinochet Junta, commitment in 1991 Iraq, Iraqi sanctions, the 1999 bombing of Kosovo....

In a couple of minutes I've just scratched the surface of questionable Canadian foreign and domestic involvements during the last few years ONLY. And to scratch the surface is an understatement, as there are mountains and mountains of information available for those who care to look. To go back even further is to bring on another deluge of highly researched, and publicly available, allegations. Now, can you honestly tell me that you had even the foggiest notion of even one thing which I've mentioned above? Can you truthfully say that in the face of these things (which you've apparently already researched) you can still tell me and the rest of your readers that the conclusion you came to was based on objective, researched fact. Can you tell me with even one shred of self-respect that your choice to relocate was based on a strongly educated conviction that this country was guilty of so few transgressions on humanity so as to make them able to be excused and overlooked. This suggests either gross apathy or wide scale ignorance, the latter being most likely, as any bit of research sees your flimsy, liberal-American stereotypes of this country fall flat.

Laura, I think we the readers deserve something. I think we deserve to hear that your move to Canada was prompted not by research, not by a complex understanding but rather a selfish desire for attention - as evidenced by this blog, as evidenced by your G&M article and most fittingly by your reactions to me. To do otherwise, Laura, is most plainly and most simply an intellectual dishonesty.

Thanks.

--
Posted by GarySTJ to we move to canada at 7/19/2006 12:45:10 PM
After finding this file, I treated myself to the history of GarySTJ at wmtc. The posts are minor - it's the comments that illuminate: one, two, three, four, five. And to complete the picture, here's where I turned on comment moderation, and here's the essay I got out of the experience.

5.18.2012

good news all around: etobicoke centre results thrown out, montreal students and unions stand united

The 2011 federal election results for Etobicoke Centre have been thrown out. Yes! We're still waiting to hear the details.

and

Unions and students are standing united against Charest's attempts to punish them and shut them down. Quebec students are fighting for all of us. If only the students of Ontario learn from them and rise up in similar fashion.

what are you doing next saturday night? join the discussion: "can we stop the harper agenda?" featuring brigette depape


On Saturday, May 26, Brigette DePape, the former parliamentary page who disrupted the 2011 Throne Speech, will speak on a panel discussing how we can make her two-word protest a reality. The panel also includes:

• Tasha Peters, an Ottawa-based organizer, activist, and member of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. With others in her community, she facilitates popular education on direct action and anti-oppression.

• Ben Powless, a Mohawk citizen from Six Nations in Ontario who works with the Indigenous Environmental Network and Defenders of the Land, and is a founder of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.

• Hadayt Nazami, a human rights and immigration lawyer who has defended George Galloway, the Canadian Arab Federation, and Ahmad El Matti and Muayyed Nureddin, two Canadian citizens deported to torture.

• Michelle Robidoux, founding member of the War Resisters Support Campaign, a long-time pro-choice activist and organizer in Toronto.

WHEN: Saturday, May 26, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Ryerson University Student Centre, 55 Gould Street, Toronto [TTC: Dundas]

WHY: We need every idea and every bit of energy we can find. We must work together to stop the Harper agenda of militarism, eliminating social services, and turning back the clock on what we value about Canada.

$10.00 donation or pay what you can. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. More information here.

avaaz petition: new plan to save the planet

Avaaz has a new petition out, which they're calling "a new plan to save the planet". I'm more than a tad skeptical about Avaaz petitions, but it only takes a click, it can't hurt, and it's worthwhile if only to see the vast numbers of people who agree. And who knows, I might be totally wrong on this. Perhaps these petitions are vital to the larger picture of creating change.
It’s crazy, but right now, our governments give nearly $1 trillion a year of our taxpayer money to Big Oil and coal to destroy our planet. Key leaders, including President Obama who is hosting the G8, have already agreed to stop these polluter payments. Now, if we demand they act on their word and divert this huge sum into renewable energy, experts say we could actually save our planet!

. . . .

The only reason we shovel cash into the coffers of Big Oil is their lobbyists have a stranglehold on our governments. But if we demand that our leaders green our tax-money, we’ll increase total global green investment by 400% making solar and wind energy cheaper than oil and coal -- in the process saving the planet by putting Big Oil out of business!

We’re rapidly reaching a point of no return on climate change and a treaty to prevent catastrophe is years off. Fortunately, momentum behind this new planet saving plan is building. New Zealand, Mexico and Switzerland are calling for an agreement now, and policy makers from 20 countries including the US, Brazil, and China have just voiced their support. All G8 leaders have publicly committed to ending these dirty subsidies, and right now President Obama is pushing for US legislation to stop them.

Our planet is being destroyed at a terrifying rate and this is our best chance to stop it. Now is the time for action, but without massive public support, the powerful polluters could stall the proposal. It's up to us to counter the lobbyists with extraordinary people power. We have three days left to get Obama to lead. Sign the petition:
Click and share.

5.17.2012

the whole world is watching: veterans to return medals in nato/poverty protests this weekend

All eyes will be on Chicago this weekend, as thousands of protesters from all over North American converge on the the NATO summit. The symbolism could not be more trenchant, as Chicago was the scene of protests and rebellion against an earlier US war, and famously out-of-control police violence.

Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and other veterans' and peace groups will march under the banner of Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda, co-sponsored by a long list of peace and social justice organizations, including ADAPT, a radical disability-rights organization (people I love), Michael Moore, the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Military Families Speak Out, and Occupy Chicago, among others. At the end of the march, veterans will ceremoniously return their NATO service medals to denounce the disastrous 11-year war in Afghanistan.

In Toronto, US war resisters and their supporters will hold a solidarity demonstration in conjunction with Afghans For Peace and the Canadian Peace Alliance.

The IVAW statement:
We, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, from around the country have united with CANG8 Coalition against NATO/G8 war and poverty agenda to converge in Chicago on May 20th for a unity march to the NATO summit and ceremoniously return our service medals to NATO generals. We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed polices. This endless war has killed hundreds of thousands, stripped the humanity of all involved, and drained our communities of trillions of dollars, diverting funds from schools, clinics, libraries, and other public goods.

Iraq Veterans Against the War calls on fellow service members, veterans, Chicagoans, and everyone who believes in justice, dignity, and respect for all peoples to join us in the streets on May 20th. On this day, we will hold a nonviolent march to the site of the NATO summit where we will ceremoniously return our military service medals. We will demand that NATO immediately end the occupation of Afghanistan and relating economic and social injustices, bring U.S. war dollars home to fund our communities, and acknowledge the rights and humanity of all who are affected by these wars. We wish to begin a process of justice and reconciliation with the people of Afghanistan and other affected nations, fellow service members, veterans, and the American people.

The city of Chicago will host the NATO summit from May 20th-21st. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an organization of western military superpowers whose combined military might is the world's largest and most powerful military force. The NATO mission in Afghanistan has dragged on for over a decade, to the detriment of the people of Afghanistan, military service members and their families, and our communities.

The recent news that the G8 summit, originally set to take place in Chicago this May, has been moved to Camp David shows that the world's large economies fear the mass mobilization and collective organizing of the people of Chicago. NATO should also be advised that the world's military superpowers, responsible for unjust wars, occupations, and militarism, are also not welcome in our hometown. We are emboldened by the knowledge that Chicagoans' call for popular mobilizations was enough to move the G8 out of our city. We must now harness this same people power to send the message loud and clear to NATO that they too will be met with resistance. Furthermore, even though the G8 and NATO will now be held apart from each other, we know that these two summits, and the interests they represent, are linked. War, austerity, poverty, and economic exploitation by the 1% go hand in hand.

It is time for us to take a stand and make our voices heard. We stand in international solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and all the people of the world who are demanding their right to self-determination, their human rights, and economic justice.
Afghan peace and justice activist Malalai Joya writes in Rabble about this weekend's demonstrations.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to travel to attend the protests against NATO. But from here in Kabul, I can tell you that the whole world will indeed be watching Chicago this weekend.

The protesters remind us all that the government of the United States is not representative of the people of the United States. It's encouraging to see so many people willing to take action and stand up against this unjust and disastrous war.

Recently U.S. President Obama travelled to Kabul to meet Afghanistan's so-called President Hamid Karzai. Both leaders used this meeting to pretend that they are ending this war when they are really trying to continue it even longer.

Obama knows that the U.S. people are turning against the war, and both men know that the Afghan people are against this war and reject the foreign occupation of their country. So on one hand they claim the war will end in 2014, while on the other hand they say that U.S. troops will remain in some capacity until 2024.

When 2024 comes closer they will probably say they plan to remain in Afghanistan until 2034. The reality is that the U.S. and their NATO allies plan to dominate Afghanistan and the larger region militarily for the next generation. They need this for geostrategic reasons. They want to control the energy and mineral resources of our countries, and they want to maintain military superiority against China and other competitors.

No one can believe the words of Obama and others who say they are working for peace even while they continue to make war and to kill our people in bombings, night raids and now more and more drone attacks that kill civilians every week and sometimes every day in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

This weekend's protests will likely face repression. But it's vital that people take to the streets to raise their voices. Here in Afghanistan, many peace and women's rights activists literally risk their lives to hold protests against the occupation and against the fundamentalist warlords.

I know Chicago is something like President Obama's "hometown," because he lived there many years and it was in the state of Illinois that he was first elected. My hometown is in Afghanistan's remote Farah Province. I was elected in 2005, when I was only 26 years old, to represent Farah in Afghanistan's Parliament. Because I spoke out and denounced the occupation, the warlords and the Taliban, I faced threats, assassination attempts -- and then they even kicked me out of Parliament in 2007. [Read more here.]

5.16.2012

canadian council of churches calls on jason kenney to let u.s. war resisters stay in canada

This letter was hand-delivered to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, from the Canadian Council of Churches. The Council is the largest ecumenical body in Canada, representing 23 churches, comprising 85% of the Christians in Canada.
15 May 2012
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1

Re: International Conscientious Objectors Day

Dear Minister Kenney,

Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day. On this occasion and on behalf of
the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches, I am writing
to you to express our support for the American conscientious objectors to the war in
Iraq (commonly called the “war resisters”) who have sought refuge in Canada.
Several member churches of the Canadian Council of Churches have provided care and
support for the war resisters since January 2004 when the first US war resisters came to
Canada.

More than eight years on, our concern deepens as this matter remains unresolved,
leaving the US war resisters and their families, now well-established in Canada and
contributing to their local communities, in limbo.

On July 22, 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada sent a directive (Operational
Bulletin 202)1 to all immigration officers in Canada, focusing on the processing of
military deserters who claim refugee status in Canada. The first paragraph of the
directive implies that military deserters from other countries who are seeking refugee
protection in Canada may also be serious criminals and therefore inadmissible to
Canada, as desertion is a serious crime in some countries. When this effort to
discourage military personnel prevents them from exercising conscientious objection
rights guaranteed in the UN Handbook for Refugees then this is not in accord with
respect to Canada’s adherence to the norms of universal human rights.

Conscientious objection to military service, whether by draft resisters or deserters, is a
widely recognized ground for granting refugee protection, both in Canada and
internationally. As churches, rights of conscience and religion hold a particular
significance for us as we seek to encourage people to live faithful lives. We are of the
opinion that when they have followed their conscience in the decision they made to
refuse to serve in war and to come to Canada then their circumstances warrant
humanitarian and compassionate relief. Their beliefs are protected under domestic and
international law, and facilitating their punishment by returning them to the United
States, in our opinion, is regrettable (a backgrounder on theological and legal
arguments in favour of conscientious objection is appended).

We ask the Government of Canada to either allow the US war resisters to stay in Canada
on humanitarian and compassionate grounds or to create a mechanism, perhaps a
revision of Bill C-440 that would enable them to apply for status from within Canada.
We look forward to your response and would welcome an opportunity to meet regarding this concern.

In Christ,
Joy Kennedy
Chair
Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches

cc:
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Jinny Sims, Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Critic (NDP)
Kevin Lamoureux, Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Critic (Liberal
Party)
André Bellavance, Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Critic (Bloc
Québécois)

open letter to jason kenney: "history is tapping our shoulders"

Last night in Toronto, supporters of US war resisters in Canada honoured International Day for Conscientious Objection with a group letter-writing session.

This letter was written by Nicole Marie Burton, the partner of war resister Jules Tindungan. It affected me deeply, and I asked Nicole for permission to share it with you.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To the Right Honourable Minister Jason Kenney,

I join many others in writing you today, a day that is known as the International Day of Conscientious Objection.

I write you as a Canadian citizen, a worker and taxpayer, and a voter. I write to you further as the partner of a U.S. Iraq War Resister--an Afghanistan veteran who, upon returning home was offered a simple choice amid difficult circumstances: "volunteer" to go to Iraq--go back to a combat zone within months of a 15-month tour of duty--or be stop-lossed* and sent on the second deployment anyway.

As fortunate citizens of a relatively peaceful society, many of us go through our entire lives without so much as facing a single difficult circumstance as might require an objection on the basis of conscience--saying "No" in a time when everyone around you is saying "Yes".

That is why, when we are presented with such cases--as rarely as they may be presented--we must listen. The reasons these circumstances were difficult are the reasons that they apply to conscientious objection. They pertain to entire policies, practices, and cultures happening now within the U.S. Army that violate sections of the Geneva Convention--policies like "Recon by Fire," where my husband and his fellow unit members were instructed to fire mortars blindly into Afghan moutainside (a herd of sheep or nearby village be damned); practices, no-where dumb enough to be written as policy, like strapping the dead bodies of Afghan combatants on the hood of your humvees and then driving them through the nearest settlements (to show the locals what happens to people who work with the Taliban); and finally, cultures, like the culture of silence and shame surrounding post-traumatic stress... one that sees symptoms (including suicidal tendencies) un-diagnosed or treated with the wrong substances. My husband was personally given medication to help him sleep in Afghanistan that was deliberately left off of his record, setting him up for disaster when he returned stateside and realized that there was no record or prescription--nothing at all--to help him cope, on a very basic level, with the horrible things that he had witnessed.

Having a stressful job is one thing. Having a stressful job because you were instructed to do things that are illegal is another. Fortunately, there are international legal precedents that are in place to support these individuals if and when they have the courage to resist the wrong orders.

This is why we listen. But furthermore, it is why we also must act.

No one wants to believe that they are a part of history--right now. But these are the circumstances when history is tapping our shoulders, reminding us that we've seen things like this before--and learned hard lessons.

History is not on the side of the Harper Government in this matter. And, if it is of any empirical consequence, neither are the Canadian people.

War Resisters have a right to stay in Canada, and Operational Bulletin 202 must be rescinded now. If the Conservative Government wishes to deny what is historically and democratically correct in this matter, it has already relegated itself not to Canada's future, but to its past.

History has a way of revealing everything.

Yours Most Truly,
Nicole Marie Burton,
Toronto

Cc'd to Immigration Critics Jinny Sims (NDP) and Kevin Lamoureux (Liberals);
Cc'd to my Minister of Parliament, Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina, NDP)


* Stop-loss is a term primarily used in the United States Military. In the U.S. military, it is the involuntary extension of a service member's active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date and up to their contractually agreed end of obligated service (EOS).
If you haven't emailed Jason Kenney yet, asking that OB202 be rescinded, you can do so here. The email will also be sent to your MP and the Opposition Immigration Critics.

5.15.2012

today is international day for conscientious objection - call on the govt to let them stay!

Celebrate International Day for Conscientious Objection by calling on the government to rescind Operational Bulletin 202

Today, May 15, is the International Day for Conscientious Objection. Please join us in calling for the elimination of Immigration Minister Kenney's Operational Bulletin 202. OB202 directs immigration officers to refer the cases of all U.S. war resisters to their superior officers, and it has stopped the progress of war resisters' cases, even when the courts have ruled in their favour.

*** Email Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and your own Member of Parliament. Click on this link to do this in one step! Your email will also be sent to the relevant Opposition leaders and critics. You may edit and personalize the letter if you wish.

*** Download the OB202 petition - sign it - and fax it to Minister Kenney's office at 613.957.2688. Download the petition here.

*** Tweet @kenneyjason: repeal #OB202 support #WarResisters on #COday #cdnpoli

*** If you're in the Toronto area, join us tonight, Tuesday, May 15 for an evening of letter-writing at the United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street, 7:00 p.m. We will write, email, fax, and tweet Jason Kenney. We'll have a campaign update and light refreshments will be served.

*** Please spread the word to your own networks! Today, May 15: International Day for Conscientious Objection: Rescind OB202!

5.14.2012

healthy eating costs more. fact or fiction?

Conventional wisdom has it that healthy foods cost more than junk food, that buying and preparing nutritious food is more expensive than eating processed food. How many people bemoan the supposed fact that low-income people cannot afford to eat healthfully: "When carrots are less expensive than chips, then everyone will have access to a healthy diet."

There's only one problem with that. It's wrong. Carrots are less expensive than chips. Brown rice and lentils is way cheaper than McDonald's. I'm not talking about the difference between organic and conventionally grown produce, just the difference between processed foods or fast-food and buying basic ingredients and cooking them yourself. It's almost always cheaper to shop, cook, and eat at home than it is to buy processed food.

So why don't more people do it?

In September of last year, Mark Bittman asked, "Is junk food really cheaper?"
The “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Besides, that argument, even if we all needed to gain weight, is not always true. A meal of real food cooked at home can easily contain more calories, most of them of the “healthy” variety. (Olive oil accounts for many of the calories in the roast chicken meal, for example.) In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.

“Anything that you do that’s not fast food is terrific; cooking once a week is far better than not cooking at all,” says Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University and author of “What to Eat” [and author of the excellent Food Politics blog]. “It’s the same argument as exercise: more is better than less and some is a lot better than none.”

The fact is that most people can afford real food.
This an excellent article that I highly recommend saving and reading. Bittman acknowledges and addresses several other factors of why so many people, particularly low-income people, don't eat healthfully. He addresses those factors - but in my opinion, he minimizes or even dismisses the issues that exert great pressures on people's lives. For example:

** Food deserts. Imagine having to take multiple forms of public transit to shop in a supermarket. Such is the insanity of a profit-driven food system, when a community is seen as a marketing opportunity, rather than a collection of people who need access to nutritious food. Living in a food desert is an enormous obstacle to healthy eating, and for some people, an insurmountable one.

** Who's doing the shopping and cooking? Although many couples and working families share domestic work equitably, a shockingly high percentage of women still pull the "second shift," working all day, then coming home to 100% of the home care and child care. A recent CBC story about the inequities women face both in the workplace and in the home cites women spending more than twice the time doing unpaid child care than men, and "even when government supports exist to encourage men to do their share, they don't always do so".

In Canada in 2009, women spent an average of 13.8 hours a week on domestic chores, while their male counterparts spent 8.3 hours. (Soon none of these facts will be available, thanks to Stephen Harper killing the mandatory long-form census. Then we won't have to trouble ourselves with bothersome reality.) Michael Pollan frequently acknowledges that it is unfair to admonish families to cook more if the burden for healthy eating is thrown on one already overburdened person: mom.

** Cultural norms and generational habits. Habits we are born into and raised with can be very difficult to break. We must first recognize these habits as contributing negatively to our lives, and then be powerfully motivated to learn new ones. When I taught inner-city teenagers, the teenage moms gave their kids the same snack: soda and chips. In their world, a snack meant soda and chips. That's what their own young moms gave them when they were hungry, that's what they eat, and that's what their kids eat. Once in a great while I'd meet a young woman who gave her child a snack of raisins or cheese, and I immediately recognized her as a world apart. How do you educate that young mom and break that cycle?

** Exhaustion. I saw this recently in an essay called "Black Women and Fat".
When the biologist Daniel Lieberman suggested in a public lecture at Harvard this past February that exercise for everyone should be mandated by law, the audience applauded, the Harvard Gazette reported.

A room full of thin affluent people applauding the idea of forcing fatties, many of whom are dark, poor and exhausted, to exercise appalls me. Government mandated exercise is a vicious concept. But I get where Mr. Lieberman is coming from. The cost of too many people getting too fat is too high.
What jumped out at me was the word "exhausted". Exhaustion from the stress of never having enough, from worrying about how you will stretch your food budget to the end of the month. Exhaustion from working two jobs and having full responsibility for unpaid domestic work. Exhaustion because your health is poor, from (in the US) a lifetime of inadequate or nonexistent health care. Exhaustion because whatever work you can find is hard on the body and numbing to the mind. Exhaustion from doing everything the hard way.

Because if you are low-income, you cannot afford any of life's little conveniences; none of the time-vs-money tradeoffs that many of us make without a second thought are available to you. You do your laundry in a laundromat, rather than dropping it off or doing at home while you accomplish other tasks. You wash clothes by hand rather than have them drycleaned. You use public transportation in areas designed for the car, so you spend a lot of time waiting and riding on buses. In many areas, you live farther from your workplace than middle-class families. And when it comes to cooking and eating, you can't afford shortcuts, such as pre-washed lettuce, ready-to-cook vegetables, or salad bars.

Preparing healthy meals may cost less money, but it might cost more energy than we have in the bank. Perhaps shopping and cooking is just too exhausting to consider. That may seem like a poor excuse... to someone with enough money and energy to make better choices.

Bittman highlights two other factors that make junk food a difficult habit to break: its constant presence in our cultural landscape, and its built-in addictive quality.
The ubiquity, convenience and habit-forming appeal of hyperprocessed foods have largely drowned out the alternatives: there are five fast-food restaurants for every supermarket in the United States; in recent decades the adjusted for inflation price of fresh produce has increased by 40 percent while the price of soda and processed food has decreased by as much as 30 percent; and nearly inconceivable resources go into encouraging consumption in restaurants: fast-food companies spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009.

Furthermore, the engineering behind hyperprocessed food makes it virtually addictive. A 2009 study by the Scripps Research Institute indicates that overconsumption of fast food “triggers addiction-like neuroaddictive responses” in the brain, making it harder to trigger the release of dopamine. In other words the more fast food we eat, the more we need to give us pleasure; thus the report suggests that the same mechanisms underlie drug addiction and obesity.

This addiction to processed food is the result of decades of vision and hard work by the industry. For 50 years, says David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of “The End of Overeating,” companies strove to create food that was “energy-dense, highly stimulating, and went down easy. They put it on every street corner and made it mobile, and they made it socially acceptable to eat anytime and anyplace. They created a food carnival, and that’s where we live. And if you’re used to self-stimulation every 15 minutes, well, you can’t run into the kitchen to satisfy that urge.”

Real cultural changes are needed to turn this around. Somehow, no-nonsense cooking and eating — roasting a chicken, making a grilled cheese sandwich, scrambling an egg, tossing a salad — must become popular again, and valued not just by hipsters in Brooklyn or locavores in Berkeley. The smart campaign is not to get McDonald’s to serve better food but to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life.

As with any addictive behavior, this one is most easily countered by educating children about the better way. Children, after all, are born without bad habits. And yet it’s adults who must begin to tear down the food carnival.

The question is how? Efforts are everywhere.
This article mentions a few, like The People’s Grocery in Oakland, zoning laws in Los Angeles that restrict the number of fast-food restaurants in high-obesity neighborhoods, and FoodCorps, a farm and food education program. They seem like tiny, isolated examples - but how else does a movement start?

On the other side of the spectrum, some people focus on reforming the present system. That may seem like sleeping with the enemy, but reforms can have an immediate and large impact, as when McDonald's was pressured into changing its frying oil, or when Whole Foods stopped selling live lobsters.

Almost one-third of the food sales in the US is controlled by - guess who - Walmart. This excellent article at Grist reports on an event where Michael Pollan interviewed Jack Sinclair, the executive vice president of grocery merchandise for Walmart. Believe it or not, Pollan sees an upside to the Food Inc. found at Walmart.
“I’m actually of two minds on this question,” Pollan said: sure, he’s excited by the tremendous energy behind food alternatives like organic farming, food co-ops, and farmers’ markets — but he also believes we’ll need larger changes to make good, healthy food accessible to everyone.

“The upside — if there is an upside — to having a highly concentrated food economy where a very small number of corporations exert tremendous power is that when they move, everything changes,” he said. He pointed to McDonald’s decision, following years of complaints from customers and animal rights groups, to stop tolerating inhumane livestock slaughter. “The way the whole industry slaughtered animals changed overnight,” he said. “You don’t have to love McDonald’s to see that engaging with them might actually produce some positive results.”

Of course, the downside — and there is a downside — to engaging in conversations with representatives of powerful corporations is that they will spend the bulk of the time telling you what their company is doing right. And later, if they do make changes based on external pressure, they’ll frame it as if they’ve simply discovered a new way to be right.

The key, then (and I’m sure Pollan could teach a course in this, too, by now) is to watch your opponent as you would a dangerous animal in the wild. Let him move around at will. Let him feel proud of those talking points. But keep watch for the smallest fissures in his argument, the cracks that illustrate when he has heard your opposition and might just be forced to agree in retrospect.
This doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. We can - we should, and we must - pressure Walmart and McDonald's to adopt better practices, so that people who depend on their products can poison themselves and the environment less. And we can - we should, and we must - create alternatives to the industrial food chain, so that more people can actively withdraw from it.

Peter Rothberg of The Nation highlighted the Occupy Movement's connection to the Food Movement.


Joining Food Democracy Now! is an excellent way to stay informed about the movement against industrial food.
Food Democracy Now! is a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system that protects our natural environment, sustains farmers and nourishes families.

Our food system is fundamentally broken. A few companies dominate the market, prioritizing profits over people and our planet. Government policies put the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families. Farm workers toil in unsafe conditions for minimal wages. School children lack access to healthy foods--as do millions of Americans living in poverty. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, air and water pollution, worker's rights and global warming, our current food system is leading our nation to an unsustainable future.

Food Democracy Now! members have a different vision. We know we can build a food system that gives our communities equal access to healthy food, and respects the dignity of the farmers who produce it. We believe in recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment. We value our children's health, worker's rights, conservation, and animal welfare over corporate profits. And we believe that working together, we can make this vision a reality in our lifetimes.
The industrial food chain poisons our water with pesticides and antibiotics, it poisons our bodies with E. coli and carcinogens, it impoverishes farmers, it sickens and kills workers, it causes massive and unnecessary suffering to animals, it keeps us unhealthy and obese but undernourished - and it makes corporations and their shareholders stinking rich. Many of us will never be completely free of it, but any small break is meaningful.

Ultimately, the only way to ensure that all people can afford healthy and nutritious food is to eliminate poverty - which means dismantling capitalism. You didn't think I'd miss an opportunity to say that, did you?