8.31.2012

kim rivera, mother of four. let her stay in canada.

From today's press conference, in the Toronto Star:

the saddest part of krista ford's tweet: women believe it

A few days ago, Krista Ford, daughter and niece, respectively, of Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford and Mayor Rob Ford, ignited a firestorm of anger and protest. Moments after Toronto police held a news conference warning women about a series of sexual assaults, she tweeted this:
Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don’t dress like a whore.

She has since issued one of those conditional statements meant to substitute for an actual apology and deleted the tweet.
I didn’t mean to cause such an alarm and I apologize if I did. I just want women to be safe.

Krista Ford, the problem with your tweet was not the alarm it caused. It's not that you said that women can avoid rape by dressing a certain way. It's that you apparently believe it. Many women do. It's the illusion of safety many of us use to exist in the world. If we don't do any of those things that cause women to get raped, we won't be raped. There. Now we can put aside this most primal fear, this thing too terrible to contemplate, and go about our day.

Trouble is, when women are raped, they remember these statements - they remember their own illusions. They heap blame upon themselves - blame they never deserve.

Trouble is, victims and survivors don't cause rape. Rape is a crime. Criminals cause crime. Rapists cause rape.

Krista Ford, "walking tall" and dressing conservatively are not rape defences. Nuns are raped. Little girls are raped. Boys are raped. Women are raped by strangers in their own homes, as I was. Women are raped by their dates, their coaches, their teachers, their neighbours, their husbands. Women are raped at gunpoint, at knifepoint, by fist and lead pipe. Women are raped by assailants using drugs, using brute force, threat of death, threat of harm to their children. Women are raped by men using all the weapons of terror.

Krista Ford, women can't prevent rape because we don't cause it. There are steps we can take to make ourselves a bit less vulnerable. None of it involves wardrobe. Most of it is luck.

Krista Ford, I'm not angry at you for this tweet. I'm sorry for you. I hope you never learn for yourself how the strategies you listed will not protect you. There's a much easier way to learn. Open your mind. Listen.

8.30.2012

stand with the riveras! emergency community meeting weds sept 5 in parkdale


Please attend an emergency community meeting to support U.S. war resister Kimberly Rivera and her family!

WHEN: Wednesday, September 5, 7:00 PM

WHERE: Parkdale United Church, 171 Dunn Avenue, Toronto

WHY: STOP THE DEPORTATIONS!


When Kimberly Rivera saw with her own eyes the devastation of war, and the trauma it inflicts on children and families, she followed her conscience and refused to go back. Instead, she and her husband and their (then) two children came to Canada.

Since that day in 2007, the Riveras have been fighting to live their lives in peace. But despite the widespread support of the Canadian people for U.S. war resisters, and despite two votes in Parliament calling on the government to let war resisters stay, the Harper Government continues to target war resisters for deportation. Kim and her family - which now includes two children born in Canada - now face deportation on September 20.

In the U.S., Kim faces court martial, jail time, and a felony conviction that will follow her for life. All for the "crime" of refusing to participate in the invasion, destruction, and occupation of Iraq.

Kim stood up for peace at great risk to herself. Now we must stand up for Kim, and for other war resisters who face the same struggle. Please join the War Resisters Support Campaign for an emergency community meeting to support the Riveras, and to call on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to stop the deportation.

Please share this information with your friends and neighbours. We hope to see you there!



harper government set to deport rivera family september 20

Canada Border Services Agency has declared that Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family must return to the United States by September 20.

Rivera came to Canada in 2007 to avoid re-deployment to Iraq. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband and four children.

If she returns to the United States, Rivera will likely face a court martial and significant jail time, as well as a felony conviction.

An emergency community meeting has been scheduled for next Wednesday, September 5, at the Parkdale United Church, 171 Dunn Avenue.

More details to come.

8.27.2012

war resisters campaign rebooted: resisters at risk: please donate if you can

After a period of calm in the cases of U.S. Iraq War resisters, things are quickly coming to a head.

War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family will receive a decision in their case in a few days and they face imminent deportation to the United States.

Another war resister has been told to complete all of the submissions for his case by September 20 and to expect a decision shortly afterwards.

Many other resisters are awaiting decisions on Humanitarian & Compassionate applications or spousal sponsorships. It appears that these decisions will now start coming in quickly.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is appealing to you for urgent financial help to assist with this crucial phase of the fight to win asylum for war resisters.

In spite of two motions passed in the House of Commons calling on the government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada, thousands of letters and petitions, and support across the country for war resisters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney continue to fight to have every U.S. war resister removed from Canada.

Minister Kenney has had Citizenship & Immigration Canada lawyers intervene in the individual hearings and court cases of war resisters. He publicly labelled them "bogus" refugees, biasing the decisions in their cases. And he took the unprecedented step of issuing a bulletin to all Immigration Officers requiring them to red-flag applications that involve war resisters, labeling them as "criminally inadmissible".

Faith communities, human rights organizations, refugee rights groups and thousands of Canadians have called on the Minister to implement the motions passed in Parliament, or, at a minimum, to allow the individual cases to be heard on their own merits – the same free and independent consideration that Minister Kenney insists was given to Conrad Black.

The only reason that U.S. Iraq War resisters have been able to stay in Canada as long as they have is because of the tremendous support they have received from Canadians for their courageous decision to stand up against a war that was internationally recognized as illegal and immoral.

In the coming days and weeks we will be asking supporters to once again take action to let the government know that Canadians still support the war resisters and believe as strongly as ever that they should be allowed to stay.

But we also urgently need funds. We are fighting a federal government that has unlimited resources, and they are dropping a deportation order on the eve of a long weekend, with Parliament not sitting, with possibly only days before the Riveras face removal. To build a public campaign in such a short period of time, we will need to pull out all stops to demand that the federal government not deport any war resisters.

Nobody deserves to spend even a single day in jail for making a conscientious decision not to participate in the Iraq War.

We hope you will give as generously as you can. A victory for U.S. war resisters in Canada will be a major victory for peace and justice, and for the kind of Canada we want this country to be.

Thank you, as always, for your past and ongoing support. To donate:

Donate online here

OR

Make a cheque payable to the War Resisters Support Campaign and mail it to:
War Resisters Support Campaign
Box 13
427 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
Canada

8.26.2012

rtod

Revolutionary thought of the day:
A voice cried out, I was killed in Maryland in 1877
When the railroad workers made their stand
Well, I was killed in 1963 one sunday morning in Birmingham
Well, I died last year crossing the southern desert
My children left behind in San Pablo
Well they left our bodies here to rot
Oh please let them know

We are alive
Oh, and though we lie alone here in the dark
Our souls will rise to carry the fire and light the spark
To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart

Bruce Springsteen
"We Are Alive"

8.25.2012

the reverend bruce springsteen and the hands-to-the-sky church: the boss in toronto

On Friday night in Toronto, Bruce Springsteen led the born-again E Street Band and his faithful flock in a rock-and-roll revival meeting. There was soulful rhythm-and-blues, and there was hard-charging guitar rock. There was political anger and there were elegies for lost friends. There was the wonder of mortality and the sheer joy of being alive. There was an intimate lullaby and a rocking house party. I've been trying to recall every Springsteen concert I've seen, and I've come to the conclusion this was the best show I've seen since the late 1970s.*

It was a night that made you shake your head in wonder. When I saw Springsteen as a teenager, we'd leave the concerts sweating and exhausted, and say, If we're this tired, how does he do it, night after night? Here we are 35 years later, asking the same question! At 62 years old, Bruce doesn't try to imitate his younger incarnation - he's not running around the stage nonstop, climbing amps, and dancing on the piano. But he's still performing at peak intensity, nonstop, for a minimum of three hours a night. (The Toronto show ran 3:37.)

And it's not just physical intensity, although there's a crazy amount of that. It's emotional intensity, as it always has been with Bruce. At each phase of his career, Bruce's songwriting and his performing has reflected different themes; right now the theme is spirituality. Not religion, of course. It's never as specific or as crass as that. It's all the searching questions that come with growing older, with surviving loss, with relishing every moment of life because you fully grasp how finite and very brief it is. Often I thought Bruce's stage presence, his gestures and his postures, projected a kind of awed reverence.

The Rogers Centre Skydome is a ridiculous venue for music. It's way too big and the acoustics are horrendous. But the man makes it work. (It didn't hurt that the dome was open, and lovely breezes were wafting by.) One of Bruce's current shticks is a great example of how he works his magic. People in the pit - close to the stage is always standing room, no chairs - hold up signs with song titles, and Bruce chooses some to play. So not only is the set list different every night, but the audience has a hand in creating it.

* * * *

On to some specific highlights from Friday night's show.

First, and always, Thunder Road, a song tied to the deepest recesses of my heart, the lyrics of which I still carry in my wallet. I used to hate the crowd singalong on this - it ruined some of the specialness for me - but now I love the shared moment.

When we saw him in 2007 (during playoffs!), I was blown away to hear the opening notes of Thundercrack. The song is legendary among older Springsteen fans, a number he used to perform in his club days, but never played in big venues, and never released on an album. I couldn't believe it! And I seemed to the only person in our section who knew the song. This time, then, it was a bit less special - is he playing it all the time now? - but still a thrill. Also, it came through a fan's amusing sign: a lightning bolt emanating from someone's bare bottom, which also sported a Springsteen tattoo. Bruce said it must be some Canadian humour.

Much later, Bruce teased the audience, holding a long cardboard sign facing him, until he flipped it to reveal the word so many of us long to see: ROSALITA. Wow. Never thought I'd hear that song again live. It made me miss The Big Man even more.

Other highlights for me were: Incident on 57th Street (Bruce playing solo on the piano), everything he played from Born To Run (Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, She's The One, Born To Run, and of course Thunder Road), the new Death To My Hometown, and The Rising. Jake Clemons on sax brought tears to my eyes several times. He's filling some mighty big shoes, and he's doing a really good job.

Another highlight wasn't musical. Bruce always reaches into the audience for a female fan to dance with. (I've been thinking it's way time for him to dance with a guy.) Lately he's been picking out very young children to sing or dance with. After he danced with a little girl, I thought, he should dance with an older fan! As I'm having that thought, Bruce picks up a sign and holds it to the camera: "BRUCE, DANCE WITH MY WIFE FOR OUR ANNIVERSARY". He pulls the woman onstage, and they dance - a real dance - and hug. He helps her back into the pit, and hugs her husband, too. It was amazing. Then, later, as he and the band are saying goodnight and the usual "You've been a great crowd" stuff, Bruce looks over towards the couple and says, "Happy Anniversary"! The last words he says before he leaves the stage!

* * * *

Set list:
1. Working on the Highway
2. Hungry Heart
3. Sherry Darling
4. We Take Care Of Our Own
5. Wrecking Ball
6. Death To My Hometown
7. My City Of Ruins
8. Spirit In The Night
9. Thundercrack
10. Jack Of All Trades
11. Murder Incorporated
12. Prove It All Night
13. Candy’s Room
14. Mona – She’s The One
15. Darlington County
16. Shackled and Drawn
17. Waiting on a Sunny Day
18. Incident on 57th Street (Solo Piano)
19. The Rising
20. Badlands
21. Land of Hope and Dreams
22. We Are Alive
23. Thunder Road
24. Born To Run
25. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
26. Dancing in the Dark
27. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
28. Twist And Shout
29. Glory Days

Actual Toronto footage!


Review from the Toronto Star: Bruce Springsteen makes us believe in rock ’n’ roll again.



* 1978 (back-to-back nights), 1979 (No Nukes concert), 1980 (also twice), 1982 (June 12 No Nukes Rally, Central Park), 1988, and 2007. I skipped a few tours when I was no longer into arena shows, and because of the musical low of "Born in the USA".

8.24.2012

another thing you should know about wikileaks, assange, and bradley manning

Further to this post, one more thing we should all know. Not one war crime exposed by WikiLeaks has been investigated. Not one war criminal has been prosecuted. Only Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, who brought the truth to light, have been imprisoned - both before they were even charged with crimes.

Thanks to Bradley Manning Support Organization.

greenwald + women against rape = what you should know about the julian assange case

I've been avidly following the strange tale of Julian Assange, Ecuador, Sweden, extradition, the lying UK media, and people who suddenly care so much about prosecuting sexual offenders. (This has been an excellent use of Tala's Twitter account.) One of the biggest takeaways has been the constant lies, distortion, and misrepresentation of the facts of this story by the mainstream media. The other is how little this has to do with protecting women from sexual assault.

On the latter, I highly recommend reading a piece in the Guardian written by Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, of the group Women Against Rape. I urge you to read the whole thing. For me, it answers every question about what's really going on.
We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited

When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.

It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction.

Justice for an accused rapist does not deny justice for his accusers. But in this case justice is being denied both to accusers and accused.

The judicial process has been corrupted. On the one hand, the names of the women have been circulated on the internet; they have been trashed, accused of setting a "honey trap", and seen their allegations dismissed as "not real rape". On the other hand, Assange is dealt with by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged. It is not for us to decide whether or not the allegations are true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don't have all the facts and what has been said so far has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims' right to anonymity and defendants' right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.

Swedish and British courts are responsible for how the women's allegations have been handled. As with every rape case, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.

Whether or not Assange is guilty of sexual violence, we do not believe that is why he is being pursued. Once again women's fury and frustration at the prevalence of rape and other violence, is being used by politicians to advance their own purposes. The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange's extradition or even rendition to the US. That the US has not presented a demand for his extradition at this stage is no guarantee that they won't do so once he is in Sweden, and that he will not be tortured as Bradley Manning and many others, women and men, have. Women Against Rape cannot ignore this threat.

In over 30 years working with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. We are currently working with three women who were raped again after having been deported – one of them is now destitute, struggling to survive with the child she conceived from the rape; the other managed to return to Britain and won the right to stay, and one of them won compensation.

Assange has made it clear for months that he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step to their investigation? What are they afraid of?

In 1998 Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London following an extradition request from Spain. His responsibility for the murder and disappearance of at least 3,000 people, and the torture of 30,000 people, including the rape and sexual abuse of more than 3,000 women often with the use of dogs, was never in doubt. Despite a lengthy legal action and a daily picket outside parliament called by Chilean refugees, including women who had been tortured under Pinochet, the British government reneged on its obligation to Spain's criminal justice system and Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile. Assange has not even been charged; yet the determination to have him extradited is much greater than ever it was with Pinochet. (Baltasar Garzón, whose request for extradition of Pinochet was denied, is representing Assange.) And there is a history of Sweden (and Britain) rendering asylum seekers at risk of torture at the behest of the US.

Like women in Sweden and everywhere, we want rapists caught, charged and convicted. We have campaigned for that for more than 35 years, with limited success. We are even having to campaign to prevent rape victims being accused of making false allegations and imprisoned for it. Two women who reported visibly violent attacks by strangers were given two and three year prison sentences.

But does anyone really believe that extraditing Julian Assange will strengthen women against rape? And do those supporting his extradition to Sweden care if he is then extradited to the US and tortured for telling the public what we need to know about those who govern us?
On the media's gross and purposeful distortion and outright lies about the Wikileaks-Assange case, we can turn first to Glenn Greenwald, now also writing in the Guardian.
The bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for Julian Assange

It is possible to protect the rights of the complainants in Sweden and Assange's rights against political persecution, but a vindictive thirst for vengeance is preventing that

Earlier this week, British lawyer and legal correspondent for the New Statesman David Allen Green generated a fair amount of attention by announcing that he would use his objective legal expertise to bust what he called "legal myths about the Assange extradition." These myths, he said, are being irresponsibly spread by Assange defenders and "are like 'zombie facts' which stagger on even when shot down."

In addition to his other credentials, Green – like virtually the entire British press – is a long-time and deeply devoted Assange-basher , and his purported myth-busting was predictably regurgitated by those who reflexively grasp onto anything that reflects poorly on western establishmentarians' public enemy No1. It's really worth examining what Green argued to understand the behavior in which Assange detractors engage to advance this collective vendetta, and also to see how frequently blatant ideological agendas masquerade as high-minded, objective legal expertise.

But before getting to that, let us pause to reflect on a truly amazing and revealing fact, one that calls for formal study in several academic fields of discipline. Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies ) depends just so happens to have become – long before he sought asylum from Ecuador – the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class and the British "liberal" intelligentsia?

In 2008 – two years before the release of the "collateral murder" video, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and the diplomatic cables – the Pentagon prepared a secret report which proclaimed WikiLeaks to be an enemy of the state and plotted ways to destroy its credibility and reputation. But in a stroke of amazing luck, Pentagon operatives never needed to do any of that, because the establishment media in the US and Britain harbor at least as much intense personal loathing for the group's founder as the US government does, and eagerly took the lead in targeting him. Many people like to posit the US national security state and western media outlets as adversarial forces, but here – as is so often the case – they have so harmoniously joined in common cause.
And finally, also from the Guardian, what lies beneath.
Don't lose sight of why the US is out to get Julian Assange

Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history, you might imagine there would be at least some residual concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business. But the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.

This is a man, after all, who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything. But as far as the bulk of the press is concerned, Assange is nothing but a "monstrous narcissist", a bail-jumping "sex pest" and an exhibitionist maniac. After Ecuador granted him political asylum and Assange delivered a "tirade" from its London embassy's balcony, fire was turned on the country's progressive president, Rafael Correa, ludicrously branded a corrupt "dictator" with an "iron grip" on a benighted land.

The ostensible reason for this venom is of course Assange's attempt to resist extradition to Sweden (and onward extradition to the US) over sexual assault allegations – including from newspapers whose record on covering rape and violence against women is shaky, to put it politely. But as the row over his embassy refuge has escalated into a major diplomatic stand-off, with the whole of South America piling in behind Ecuador, such posturing looks increasingly specious.

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

To get a grip on what is actually going on, rewind to WikiLeaks' explosive release of secret US military reports and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables two years ago. They disgorged devastating evidence of US war crimes and collusion with death squads in Iraq on an industrial scale, the machinations and lies of America's wars and allies, its illegal US spying on UN officials – as well as a compendium of official corruption and deceit across the world.

WikiLeaks provided fuel for the Arab uprisings. It didn't just deliver information for citizens to hold governments everywhere to account, but crucially opened up the exercise of US global power to democratic scrutiny. Not surprisingly, the US government made clear it regarded WikiLeaks as a serious threat to its interests from the start, denouncing the release of confidential US cables as a "criminal act".

Vice-president Joe Biden has compared Assange to a "hi-tech terrorist". Shock jocks and neocons have called for him to be hunted down and killed. Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old soldier accused of passing the largest trove of US documents to WikiLeaks, who has been held in conditions described as "cruel and inhuman" by the UN special rapporteur on torture, faces up to 52 years in prison. [Read more here.]

8.23.2012

things i heard at the library: an occasional series: # 5

"Where can I find book number 285?"

The boy's face was so earnest and so excited.

"What book are you looking for?" I asked.

"Book number 285."

"Is that the title of the book?"

"No, it's the book's number. The title is 'Quick and Easy Cooking'".

"You want a book about cooking?"

"Yes!"

"Ok, I'll show you where those are."

I walked him over to the kids' cooking section. "These are all the cooking books for kids. You can look through these books, or if you want a specific book, we can ask at the desk."

"I already know the book! Book number 285!"

Hmm. I stood for a few moments considering the possibilities. I figured he had a partial call number.

Before I could answer, he said, "I'll show you on the computer!"

"OK, great, let's look."

We went to the computer he had been using. He opened the catalogue and chose "search by a word in the subject". Then he typed in "cooking" and clicked to search.

I said, "Too many books will come up in that search. You might want to..."

"No! Look!" He scrolled through the listings to "Quick and Easy Cooking". And... there are 285 books under that category. "See? Book number 285!"

8.22.2012

remembering jack: a friend to war resisters

One year after the passing of NDP Leader Jack Layton, the War Resisters Support Campaign joins with Canadians across the country to mourn our collective loss and to remember his great contribution to building a more just world. Jack has left a tremendous legacy and his support for social justice, equality and peace live on in so many different ways.

In this video, Jack and Olivia Chow joined US Iraq War resisters on June 3, 2008 to celebrate the Canadian Parliament's adoption of a motion that would – if it had been enacted by the Conservative government – have allowed war resisters to stay in Canada.

It was a day filled with joy and hope for all of us who believe that soldiers have a right to conscience and a right to refuse to participate in illegal and immoral wars.


In light of the many dimensions of this war which are contrary to the fundamental precepts of international law that we would want all countries to be adhering to, we felt that it was important to support those courageous individuals that stepped forward like the generation before them did…to come and help us build our country and find friends here with a different vision of the world’s future.
Jack Layton

Iraq War Resister Kimberly Rivera, Katie Marie Rivera, Jack Layton

8.20.2012


informed citizens vs. enbridge: misleading pipeline ads must go

What's wrong with this picture?

Lori Waters knew what was wrong. Waters, who lives in BC and designs scientific graphics, recognized that 1,000 kilometres of island coastline was missing from the map, giving the appearance of a broad, clear channel - one that might accommodate oil supertankers with a degree of safety that does not exist. Waters' media release:
Enbridge Pipeline and Tankers: Competition Bureau Asked to Investigate Deceptive Northern Gateway Marketing by Enbridge

Company Quickly Alters Widely Distributed Ads That Show Hundreds of Kilometres of BC Islands Missing From Tanker Route

A BC woman who designs scientific graphics for a living today filed a formal complaint with the federal Competition Bureau claiming Enbridge is misleading the public with promotional videos that have erased the numerous and intricate web of more than 1000 square kilometres of islands along the proposed Northern Gateway tanker route. Since the Vancouver Island resident made a corrected graphic two days ago showing Enbridge's omission, it has gone viral with over 8,000 shares. The graphics have been remixed by citizens and community groups into videos, infographics and photos.

The original video advertisements appeared on Enbridge's website and YouTube and are among the company's key promotional pieces for their pipeline project and have been used by several media outlets in stories since late last year. Since the controversy broke in the media yesterday, Enbridge hastily beat a partial retreat, removing the offending image from one of their videos, and making the existing disclaimer more prominent in another. The offending video remains a prominent feature on the company's website, and is being widely shared on the Internet and through social media. The controversy comes amid shaken public confidence in Enbridge as a result of a scathing US National Transportation Safety Board report that concluded Enbridge's pipeline operations showed a "culture of deviance" on safety procedures.

"What Enbridge has done is to distort the maps in its promotional videos to erase numerous islands and twisting passages so that tanker route appears much safer than it is," said Lori Waters, who has a graduate degree specializing in scientific animation and owns a biomedical communications company. "Enbridge continues to offer this misleading video to the public, and it can't be trusted. Quickly pulling their fake map out of one ad, and slapping a disclaimer at the front of the other ad confirms for me that something weird is going on, and I've included that in with my complaint."

Waters is the mastermind behind a corrected graphic that has gone viral on social media over the past two days. She put together a few simple slides showing Enbridge's depiction of the tanker route along with the same graphic that includes the islands that were erased and a Google Earth version of the same views.

As a result of the negative attention, Enbridge responded yesterday afternoon by partially altering the ads and stating to the media that the video was meant to be "illustrative" and that other videos, and their regulatory filings, contained accurate maps.

"I thought it was important to set the record straight", said Waters. "It's not acceptable to make a misleading video and then hide behind a claim that it's just an illustration, or that the map is not to scale. The rest of the coastline is drawn fairly accurately - they've just deliberately eliminated all the islands. Frankly, it's ridiculous that Enbridge is now suggesting that the viewer should scramble around and look at documents they've filed in a government registry or in other videos to find a true picture, when the most prominent image that they've provided is false. The fact is that the illustration is deceptive and that's why I'm asking for a formal investigation."

The graphic was picked up by groups opposed to the tar sands development project and rapidly went viral. SumOfUs, a world-wide, citizen-driven campaign organization dedicated to watchdogging corporate practices, posted the graphic online with a petition to Enbridge asking them to take the videos down from their website. As of this morning, over 12,000 people had signed the petition in about 12 hours.
This comes on the heels of a steady stream of strikes against the Northern Gateway pipeline, including a report by the US National Transportation and Safety Board calling Enbridge the "Keystone Kops" of pipeline safety, for their bungling response to the leak in the Kalamazoo River wetlands. More recently, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said the pipeline is "a non-starter". Naturally, Mulcair takes the politically safer (i.e. spineless) route and supports the tarsands generally, but suggests the oil be refined in Canada.

The petition to "tell Enbridge to pull its misleading ads" is here.

This excellent video gives a simple, visual explanation of the insanity of the pipeline and the extent of Enbridge's lies.


8.19.2012

some stuff i saw on facebook

A collection of stuff I saved from Facebook, courtesy of Snipping Tool.



























If only this were true! Then it might be a little more difficult for governments to sell people wars.












In my usual way of getting sucked into Facebook trends that I dislike, I created this card because I love this saying. Now can the whole quote-card thing go away?



This is not from Facebook, just a good item by my favourite cartoonist, Charles Barsotti. (I love The Pup!)



And finally, an enduring image, and an insane injustice.







8.18.2012

why is "entitled" a dirty word? some thoughts on what we are all entitled to.


When did "entitled" become a dirty word? Why do we hear "entitled" being used as catch-all slur, a derogatory description to be thrown at progressive people working for change? And why should we permit this word to retain such a heavily negative connotation?

Here are some people I have seen called entitled in this negative sense by bloggers and commenters. Brigette DePape. Occupy protesters. Refugee claimants. Quebec student protesters. People opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Voters who believe they were defrauded by the Conservative Party of Canada.

Here is a synonym for entitled: deserve.

Here is another synonym for entitlements: rights.

Some of our entitlements are specified in national documents, such as the US Constitution or the more comprehensive and inclusive Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

Other entitlements are specified in international documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are rights that most people in the world lack. Nevertheless, there is widespread agreement that these rights - these entitlements - should exist for all human beings, regardless of where they were born, what they look like, and their individual beliefs.

Other entitlements are those of custom, part of the aspirations and traditions of the so-called developed word, rights and privileges which many in our society already enjoy, and that many of us believe should be available to all.

Here are some of the things all human beings are entitled to.

Democracy. Human beings are entitled to self-governance. In countries claiming to be democracies, citizens are entitled to vote without encountering undue obstructions or restrictions. They are entitled to the assurance that their vote will be counted fairly and meaningfully, and that no system exists that negates the concept of "one person, one vote".

Dissent. Human beings are entitled to voice their grievances against governments without fear of harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, or abuse. Humans are entitled to access mechanisms by which we can meaningfully affect government policies and practices.

Clean air and water. Human beings are entitled to breathe air and drink water that is not toxic at no substantial cost and without generating private profit for others.

Healthcare. Period.

Affordable housing. Same.

Bodily integrity. Human beings are entitled to be free from torture, forced or coerced military service, forced or coerced reproduction or sterilization, state-sponsored death, and the fear of any of these. Human beings are entitled to express their sexuality in any way they choose with any other consenting adults.

Education. As formal education is often a requirement of meaningful participation in society, all people in society are entitled to participate in that education, without being unreasonably burdened by debt for years or decades to come. This right has been established by custom and tradition by previous generations, many members of whom now deny the right to younger generations.

A means of support. We are entitled to jobs by which we can support ourselves and our families, without fear of hunger, homelessness, or poverty. If we are unable to work or if no such work exists, we are entitled to an alternate means of support.

Expression. Human beings are entitled to express their thoughts through discussion, debate, writing, music, art, and any available media without fear of intimidation, harassment, imprisonment, or other reprisals.

Spiritual beliefs and cultural traditions, and the expression of those. This includes the right to wear what we choose.

Protesters who are engaged in struggles to retain these human rights, or to make meaningful rights that exist only in theory, are not entitled in some new negative use of the word. They are entitled because they are human beings and they have rights - rights that their detractors should also enjoy and exercise.

Fighting these struggles does not make us whiners, or spoiled, or lazy, or selfish. Indeed, if detractors and critics would put aside their preconceived notions and join us, however experimentally, even for one day, I believe they'd find it's exactly the opposite.

8.17.2012

democracy 24/7: citizens vs cons gets a court date

In case you haven't heard, a date has been set in Federal Court for hearings on the Conservative Party's vote suppression during the 2011 federal election. The hearing will begin on December 10.

The Cons have done everything in their power to scuttle this case, putting forth motion after motion to have evidence - and the entire case - thrown out. They've stalled and sidetracked and invented obstacles, but the court have taken seriously this threat to democracy. So on December 10, the citizens represented by the Council of Canadians will begin to be heard in federal court.

The most recent Conservative roadblock was a motion to require each side to put up a $250,000 security deposit against the other side's legal costs. (Meaning, the losing party will pay the other party's legal fees, and this $250,000 is proof that they can do so.) This crazy motion will be heard in about a month, on September 18.

The Council of Canadians is funding this challenge through donations from ordinary Canadian citizens: the Democracy 24-7 Legal Fund. You can donate online, or by phone or mail: information about how to donate is here. So far they've raised $200,000 of the $240,000 needed.

It's important when we talk and write about this, we call it what it is: vote suppression and election fraud. Despite what the mainstream media insists, this is not a "robocall scandal". Real people, employed by the Conservative Party of Canada or one of their subcontractors, were attempting to confuse voters and prevent them from voting. Period.

To stay updated, go to Democracy 24/7. On Twitter, it's #Democracy247.

rest in peace: jack layton after passage of historic 2008 motion on iraq war resisters

In a few days, on August 22, it will be the one-year anniversary of Jack Layton's untimely death. I want to share one my most enduring memories of Jack. It took place in Parliament, in June of 2008, although not on the floor of the House of Commons.

8.14.2012

from the archives: paralympics integration with olympics, the athletes' perspectives

Oscar Pistorius' historic run as the first double-amputee Olympic athlete has revived the ongoing discussion of whether or not the Paralympics should be integrated into the Olympics. (Stories in The Guardian, Slate, and on CBC's The Current.)

Integration sounds like a great idea, and on the surface, the fierce opposition of many athletes with disabilities may seem purely self-interested. The issues, however, are far more complicated than most mainstream media is willing to take on.

I wrote about this issue when I covered the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996, and I thought some readers might be interested. I uploaded one story through Google - Change, Growth and Exclusion: A Paralympic Identity Crisis - and a second story I found archived on the New Mobility website: Where are the Paralympics going? Both are written from the perspective of athletes with disabilities.

canadian health care professionals still protesting cuts to refugee health care

Canadian doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals continue to mention refugee health care at every public media opportunity. In this case, a student nurse takes advantage of Lisa Raitt's appearance at KidSport to remind the Government that Olympic medal-winning wrestler Carol Huynh came to Canada as a refugee - and that all people, including refugees, need health insurance.


8.13.2012

dispatches from post-racial america: stop-and-frisk on a national level

Remember when Barack Obama was elected, how international media declared that racism in the US had been vanquished? How academics and pundits started using the term "post-racial" to describe US culture?

Was that before or after the tea-partiers paraded around with pictures of monkeys and openly called for assassination?

Before or after US cities made practice into official policy with "stop-and-frisk"? That's the racism-based method of urban policing, in which police stop, frisk, interrogate, and otherwise harass millions of African-American and Latino men who are simply walking down the street. (The NYPD seems to be succumbing to pressure and cutting back - although of course not abandoning the tactic.)

Now we have some hard evidence of what many of us have known all along: in US airports, the Transportation Safety Authority performs stop-and-frisk on a grand scale. Bravo to the TSA workers who came forward with this.
More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

In interviews and internal complaints, officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavior detection” program at Logan International Airport in Boston asserted that passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for “suspicious” behavior.

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one white officer, who along with four others spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. . . . .

At a meeting last month with T.S.A. officials, officers at Logan provided written complaints about profiling from 32 officers, some of whom wrote anonymously. Officers said managers’ demands for high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals had led co-workers to target minorities in the belief that those stops were more likely to yield drugs, outstanding arrest warrants or immigration problems.

The practice has become so prevalent, some officers said, that Massachusetts State Police officials have asked why minority members appear to make up an overwhelming number of the cases that the airport refers to them. . . .
One of the comments on this story says:
Let's see--if you are black and dressed casually, you look suspicious. But you are also suspect if you are black and wear expensive clothes and jewels. And if you dress practically and casually for a flight (i.e, in sweatpants and t-shirt) and you're black, well, you're still suspect. What should black folks wear that won't make them suspect? Why am I even asking?
Now about that whole post-racial thing.

8.11.2012

update: buddha is certified, fundraising is nearing goal

I have great news. Buddha, the dog adopted by Jeremy and Ashlea Brockway, is now an officially certified PTSD Service Dog! And we have raised slightly more than $6,000 towards our goal of $8,000. Thank you to everyone who made this possible!

Jeremy writes this about the certification and adoption.
Buddha is now a certified service dog! I will share with you some stories from Buddha's certification.

The certification test is comprised of several small tests. The first part of the test was how well I could load Buddha into and out of our car. We passed that easily, since we have practiced that one quite a few times - basically every time we go somewhere.

Next we went to a store to do some distraction tests. Buddha and I walked around and Beth, the trainer, walked some distance behind us to observe our behavior and give the tests.

We did a sudden turn, a complete 360, various sit, heel, and down commands, and walked past several people. Buddha was perfect on those.

Next, Beth introduced some distractions by rolling a ball past Buddha as we were walking, and rolling a ball directly into his paws when he was sitting. He ignored it both times, remaining calm and alert to my commands, and staying pressed against my leg at all times.

The last test at the store was two parts. First, I gave Buddha the command "stay" and walked out of his line of sight. He stayed until I gave him the command "come."

For the second part, he had to do the same thing but with a stranger holding his leash. Beth asked a kindly store clerk to help with this part. Buddha was a bit shy of the store clerk, but he sat obediently and passed.

For the last part, we went to a Tim Horton's so Beth could observe us with all the distractions of a restaurant. Buddha ignored all the noises and smells, and obediently sat under my chair exactly like he is supposed to. Beth then put a piece of cheese right next to Buddha, which he ignored. As we were getting up to leave, Beth put the cheese right in Buddha's path, and he continued to ignore it and stepped over it.

Then we were done, and fully certified! Beth gave me Buddha's service dog badge, which is like his ID card and goes on his vest, and his license is in the mail. We can go anywhere now. It is such a good feeling.

Buddha is so much more than a dog. He is a life-saver. Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible. The kindness and show of support has been nothing less than amazing.

I had no idea that anybody cared, let alone all of you. It gets me all choked up. I cannot thank you enough for this. I had almost given up, but you have changed me and made it possible for me to begin to reclaim the life that was stolen from me. I am eternally grateful for all you have done. Thank you.

Now we need to raise another $2,000 to secure Buddha's home with the Brockways and help them meet expenses associated with adopting a dog. Can you help push us over the top? Please share this link with your local peace organization, your faith community, your union, your friends, your family, your Facebook contacts.

To donate online, go here and click on the orange "ChipIn" button on the right side. (Donations go to my PayPal account and are converted to US funds for processing.)

To donate by cheque or money order, please make payment to "War Resisters Support Campaign" and write "Service Dog" on the memo line. Send your donation to:
War Resisters Support Campaign
427 Bloor Street West, Box 13
Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
Canada

Please watch this video of Jeremy, his children, and Buddha frolicking in their backyard. Only a short time ago, this simple happiness was beyond Jeremy's reach. The transformation for the Brockway family has been truly remarkable.


8.10.2012

now at summerworks in toronto: the hearing of jeremy hinzman

If you're in Toronto, you have a unique opportunity to hear the voices of war resisters as you have never heard them before.

The Foundry Theatre Company has taken the transcripts of Jeremy Hinzman's hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board, and statements by members of the War Resisters Support Campaign, among others, and forged them into a play. "The Hearing of Jeremy Hinzman" will be presented as part of Summerworks, in six performances, beginning today.

WHERE: The Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St West (at Dovercourt), Toronto

WHEN: See performance schedule.

Members of the War Resisters Support Campaign will be on hand at every performance, circulating petitions calling for Operational Bulletin 202 to be rescinded. OB202, in the words of former IRB Chair Peter Showler, "sets a basic principle of refugee law on its head", by singling out US war resisters as being inadmissible to Canada.

If you can, join us for a performance of "The Hearing of Jeremy Hinzman". Whether or not you can do that, please be sure to sign the petition and join the fight opposing OB202.

deadline to comment on northern gateway pipeline is august 31: add your voice to the opposition

Please watch this beautiful video from Pacific Wild, featuring former NHL goalie (and Hall-of-Famer) Mike Richter, and more importantly, featuring the Spirit Bear Coast.

In less than four minutes, you will understand the utter madness of bringing an oil pipeline and supertankers to this area. Madness, that is, unless you're one of the few who will profit from the destruction.


The Northern Gateway pipeline is now open for public comment. We have until August 31 to add our voices to the opposition. Here's how.

1. Sign a message from the David Suzuki Foundation. It will be sent to the relevant elected officials.

2. Register your opinion with the National Energy Board Joint Review Committee on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project website. Hearings on the pipeline continue into 2013, but the deadline for public comment is August 31, 2012.

Please sign, comment, and share widely. Many thanks to Mike Richter, the NRDC, and Pacific Wild for the video. It's great to see a former professional athlete get involved in this. As always, many thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation for leading the way.

8.08.2012

immigration lawyers to jason kenney: your attempt to intimidate us is "reprehensible" and "we will not succumb"

This story is a bit dated, but many people may have missed it.

You may recall that a few months back, Conrad Black, a convicted felon who renounced his Canadian citizenship, received a temporary resident permit from the CIC. This allowed Black to enter and live in Canada despite his prison record; indeed, the permit was arranged while Black was still scrubbing toilets in a Florida pen.

Many people were appalled by this spectacle of double standard and hypocrisy. After all, Kenney deports US war resisters - who face imprisonment for refusing to kill innocent people - and claims they are criminals, although they have not been tried or convicted of any crime, but he lays out a red carpet for an actual felon, convicted of criminal fraud and obstruction of justice.

What's more, we were supposed to believe that Canada's illustrious Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who opens and closes the Canadian border according to his own politics and whims, had nothing to do with this decision - that the CIC was simply following its usual procedures.

Among the incredulous was Guidy Mamann, an immigration lawyer.
Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann said Ottawa is supposed to take into account whether a temporary resident permit applicant has demonstrated the ability to live outside prison without reoffending.

“How on earth do you prove that a guy has rehabilitated when he hasn’t even finished his sentence?” he said.

Mr. Mamann said he’s not saying Lord Black doesn’t deserve to be allowed back into Canada, only that if he had a client facing the same challenge, “I wouldn’t even have taken money from him.”

He said he thinks it’s unlikely the Conservative government had no role in the decision.

“The idea that the minister didn’t wink or nod in favour of this thing is impossible to imagine.”
This criticism was apparently too much for Kenney, a typically thin-skinned bully. He pursued a formal complaint against Mamann, seeking to have him investigated for a violation of the Law Society of Upper Canada's code of conduct.
“The idea that the minister didn’t wink or nod in favour of this thing is impossible to imagine,” Mr. Mamann said in comments published at the time.

Kasra Nejatian, a staffer in Mr. Kenney’s office, specifically mentioned this quote in the May, 2012 complaint he filed with the Law Society of Upper Canada, a self-governing organization for Ontario lawyers.

Mr. Nejatian charged in his letter to the law society that Mr. Mamann was quoted in media “as implying corruption or malfeasance by our office in our dealing with matters related to Conrad Black.”

The law society answered the complaint in July by saying it found insufficient evidence to warrant an investigation into Mr. Mamann. It closed the file.

A lawyer for the law society told the Kenney staffer in a reply letter, provided to The Globe by Mr. Mamann, that his allegations offered no evidence of “conduct unbecoming a barrister or solicitor.”

The Ontario governing body also said it had to ensure Mr. Mamann’s right to freedom of expression “is not overridden by what might be characterized as a minor regulatory contravention.”
Shortly thereafter, more than 80 immigration lawyers wrote this open letter to Kenney. The text was published in the Globe and Mail.
Dear Mr. Kenney:

We, the undersigned, all members of the Ontario Bar, agree with the statement of Guidy Mamann when he asserted that it was not credible that the decision taken in relation to the Conrad Black Temporary Resident Permit was made without any input from yourself. Given the high degree of control which you exercise over your department, we do not believe that you did not give your consent, either express or tacit, in relation to the request.

The use by an official of your office, of the Law Society of Upper Canada complaint process, in order to try to silence a critic for his opinion was rightly rejected by the Law Society. However, if you believe that our statement violates the Law Society of Upper Canada Rules please feel free to report us to the Law Society.

We find the attempt by you and your officials to muzzle freedom of expression to be reprehensible. We will not succumb. [See signatories here.]
"We find the attempt by you and your officials to muzzle freedom of expression to be reprehensible. We will not succumb." Words to live by, eh?

we should all miss gore vidal

I've been looking for some fitting tribute to Gore Vidal, who died last week at age 86, to post here. The internet is full of Vidal's aphorisms and his cutting wit, but those are the easiest and least meaningful tributes.

Vidal was a great thinker, and a great writer, with a ceaselessly open and curious mind. He was also a man who lived by and on his own terms, always. People often refer to Vidal as gay, but he did not identify himself that way. He was openly bisexual, and polyamorous, and he and Howard Austen, Vidal's life partner of more than 50 years, were open about separating their love life from their sex lives. In a society intent on binaries, that's a greater risk to be out about, unless you're Gore Vidal. He relished fame, loved publicity of any type, yet that somehow did not diminish his talents.

The obituary in The New York Times, written by the excellent Charles McGrath, is very good. But the best tribute I've read was written by Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque, a blog Allan reads and recommends. You can read it here: Listen to the Lion: The Enduring Legacy of Gore Vidal.

It's a tribute to Vidal the writer, especially the novelist, but Floyd closes with this moving personal reflection.
On a personal note, it would be hard for me to overestimate Vidal's influence on how I see the world, in so many different areas. His death is like losing a spiritual father. (If I can be forgiven for using such an outrageous term for a man so entirely worldly!) His work schooled me and sharpened me and, in the words of Henry Miller (another writer he once wittily skewered, albeit with more affection than bile), "inoculated me with disillusionment" -- a task which Miller called the highest purpose of an artist. Vidal made me see the world -- and myself -- with new eyes, and taught me how to keep on seeing in this way: relentlessly, fearlessly, unsentimentally casting "a cold eye, on life, on death." I've fallen short of this teaching -- woefully, continually -- at nearly every turn, but it is still there, a lodestar in a night sky that is now a bit more lonely, more harrowing than it was.

8.07.2012

montreal and massachusetts, polar opposites on animal welfare: please take action

This post is a classic case of "Which do you want first, the bad news or the good news?" But unfortunately for dogs and the people who love them, this is no joke.

Last week, a dog named Wicca was put to death in Montreal. I was too upset to write about it or even face many of the details. The dog, a pitbull, was accused of biting someone, yet there was credible evidence the dog had not done so. An animal behaviourist confirmed that Wicca was not dangerous, but the judge would not consider that evidence.

The dog was taken from the owner, and killed. I include the link to the CBC News story with a trigger warning. I can't look at it.

But this is not even the worst news. The city of Montreal is now proposing a by-law that should horrify every dog owner, dog lover, and sane person. It would require automatic and mandatory euthanasia in any case where a dog bite breaks the skin - no matter what the context or severity. From the SPCA:
The SPCA is Deeply Concerned by the Proposed By-law Dealing with Dangerous Dogs in the City of Montreal

On July 26, 2012, Wicca, a dog deemed dangerous by the City of Montreal, was put to death at Le Berger Blanc pound, after the City refused to consider a report prepared by a certified veterinary behaviorist who had assessed Wicca. Wicca’s story, which caused indignation both locally and worldwide, highlights the inherent flaws in Montreal’s current animal control by-law.

However, the new proposed by-law to be put forward by the City raises even bigger concerns, as it would provide for automatic and mandatory euthanasia in cases where a dog causes a skin laceration, regardless of the context or the severity of the injury. If a dog were to superficially scratch another dog while playing at a dog park, or bite someone in self-defence, the City would be required to sentence that dog to death. The new by-law could thus potentially result in hundreds or even thousands of dogs being killed, many of whom pose no real threat to public safety. Though the proposal establishes a review process for dog owners who wish to contest a euthanasia order, owners would only have 24 hours to obtain a behavioral evaluation, which is insufficient given the wait list for canine behaviorists in Montreal.

The Montreal SPCA is asking citizens to contact the Mayor’s office to express their concern over the current by-law and proposed new by-law and to ask that these by-laws be amended to appropriately ensure for public safety without imposing undue consequences on the animals and citizens of Montreal.
Animal lovers, I urge you to contact the City of Montreal and voice your opposition to this unjust and wrongheaded law. You can download two model letters: here for residents of Montreal, and here for those who live elsewhere. (They download in Word.) Send your letter to maire@ville.montreal.qc.ca or:
Mr. Gérald Tremblay
Mayor of Montreal
Hôtel de ville
275, Notre-Dame East
Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1C6
Canada

You can also contact the mayor of Montreal through this link.

* * * *

Only a few hours drive from Montreal, in the state of Massachusetts, a shining example of responsibility, kindness, and justice for animals is unfolding. Yesterday Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill that makes breed-specific legislation illegal in the state. BSL illegal! This is joyous news indeed.

In addition, the law calls for the creation of a statewide spay-neuter program, additional training for animal control staff, the prohibition of gas chambers as a method of animal euthanasia (another problem in the province of Quebec: petition here), the inclusion of pets in domestic violence protection orders, and other positive steps for animal welfare. The entire bill can be read here.

* * * *

Massachusetts offers us an example of what is possible when people use common sense and compassion to make laws. Montreal offers us the opposite: an animal law based on ignorance and expedience. Putting an animal to death with no regard to context and no meaningful opportunity for appeal should be a thing of the past. Please use the links above to contact the city of Montreal and tell them so.

8.05.2012

we like lists: list # 17: conformity and its discontents


Allan is in the midst of a giant Stephen King reading and writing project, and in honour of that, I'm reading my first ever book by Stephen King.

From this post, I was moved to read the novella The Body (which was adapted into the movie "Stand By Me"). Allan's description of the novella made it sound like a very good young adult story, so I decided to give it a go.

This made me think: why have I not read one single book by - as the book jacket tells me - the world's best selling novelist? I have nothing against best sellers per se. I just never care about reading them. The books that I want to read will seldom (if ever) have wide popular appeal.

Sometimes people who are avid readers say they read a hugely popular book because they were curious - they want to see what all the hype is about. The Da Vinci Code and Bridges of Madison County are two that come to mind in that category. Right now that book is Fifty Shades of Gray. Yet nothing I have heard about any of these titles piques my curiosity. My reading time is rare and precious; I can't spend it lightly. I did start to read The Da Vinci Code once, while waiting for someone in a bookstore. I thought it was truly terrible. End of experiment.

So this brings me to today's list. What do you like that's quirky or oddball or completely non-mainstream? What does the rest of the world seem to love that makes you shrug or run the other way? And where do your tastes coincide with mass appeal?

This isn't only about books. Books are just what inspired the post. It could be anything.

This list has three parts.

A. Name three things that you really like which most dislike or don't care about.*

B. Name three things that large numbers of people enjoy or are obsessed with that you have no interest in.

C. Name three things that you like that are also very popular.

* These days, thanks to the internet, most of us have found others who share even our quirkiest fascinations. For part A, I think we have to imagine a pre-internet or internet-less world. Imagine the people you physically see on most days.

Here's mine.

A. Three things I like that most people seem to hate or not care about.
1. The novels of Charles Dickens
2. Origins of words and phrases
3. Beets

B. Three things many people care about that I spend zero time thinking about. (Very tough to limit myself to three!)
1. Celebrity news/gossip
2. Football
3. U.S. elections

C. Three loves I share with millions of fans.
1. The Rolling Stones
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Baseball

Your turn.

how prisons work, by brian mcfadden


Don't forget to visit Big Fat Whale for more McFadden funnies. Even better, subscribe to his feed in the New York Times' Sunday Review: The Strip.

please sign daniel ellsberg's petition to free bradley manning

Daniel Ellsberg, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Bradley Manning Support Network are asking for our help.

Please sign the petition to free Bradley Manning, and share it as widely as you can.

8.03.2012

marxism 2012 program notes: the 1965 postal workers strike

One of the best talks I attended at this year's Marxism Conference was given by my friend Pam Johnson. I know little about Canadian labour history; my knowledge of labour struggles is mostly about the US. Learning about the 1965 postal workers strike was thrilling, both in the discovery of history, and in the possibilities for the present and future

* * * *

The 1965 Postal Workers Strike
May 24, 2012
Pam Johnson, dancer, educator, union member, labour activist

The 1965 postal workers strike was a milestone struggle in the history of the Canadian labour movement, leading to unionization of public sector workers. It was a militant strike that was organized and led by rank-and file postal workers.

The story of the 1965 postal workers strike is important right now. This is a volatile moment. On the one hand, there are harsh austerity attacks by employers and governments. On the other hand, we see the wonderful response of the Arab Spring, Wisconsin, the Occupy movement, and now Quebec students.

We are also beginning to see workers willing to fight back in Canada: Air Canada's wildcat strike, solidarity for locked-out and striking workers, a pushback against Rob Ford in Toronto. Will these actions reach a tipping point? We don't know. But we may be moving out a period of a low level of working class struggle to something new.

But there are huge questions about the state of the Canadian labour movement. Will it fight or are workers still too comfortable? And what is the role of the labour leadership, which has come under fire for not leading a fightback.

This is critical for socialists, and the heart of Marxist theory: that the working class must fight for itself, and we must do this at the sharpest point of exploitation - the workplace. And it is through this struggle that ideas about the way the world works evolve. It is also through the struggle that we get the skills, build the networks, and build the confidence to develop the struggle to emancipate ourselves.

The question is: how does this begin?

We can look back to a historical struggle when the postal workers in 1965 - without the right to collective bargaining and against their employer, the government, and their unions (which were really associations) - organized a nationwide strike and won.

The 1965 postal workers strike has a lot to teach us.

- It was organized by rank-and-file.

- It was organized nationally, all across the country, despite a huge obstacle - geography: the sheer size of Canada! The technology available was only the telephone; there was no email, no texts.

- The strike was organized across traditional political divides: French and English. Organizing centred in both Vancouver and Montreal.

- The strike was the spark for public sector unionization for all in Canada.

- The strike involved women, who were part-time workers - the first inclusion of part-timers in an industrial union in Canada - and this was before a widespread women's movement in Canada.

- The strike was a success because the rank-and-file leadership had the confidence of the workers who were willing to go on strike with no pay and no rights. This led to a confidence among postal workers. They fought militant strikes, including a 42-day strike for maternity leave in 1981.

Of course this has to be seen in the historical context of Canadian labour.

The 1965 postal strike occurred in the middle of a fairly long period of gains for workers, starting in the 1930s and continuing through the 1970s. This coincided with the expansion of capitalism after World War II, when workers made gains in unionization, wages, benefits, and pensions.

In the 1930s, workers faced the hardship of the Great Depression and began to organize, particularly in the auto sector, similar to their American counterparts, and with support especially from the United Auto Workers.

The Oshawa 1937 GM strike was the first significant push toward industrial unionism in Canada.

With WWII, in 1939 Canada shifted to a 'war economy,' in effect a partial nationalization of the industrial sector - but there were still strikes. Immediately after the war, with Canada's industrial output hugely developed from the war, there was an attempt to continue the 'war economy' for workers - that is, low wages and bad working conditions, even though profits were soaring. Veterans, especially, returning from putting their lives on the line, refused to accept this. With the support of the UAW, workers had massive strikes, including the 1945 strike at Ford in Windsor, which eventually solidified the labour movement. The Ford strike gave rise to the closed shop, and to a significant judicial victory, when Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand ruled that gains made by unions benefited all workers.

This was followed in 1946 with steelworkers, after a militant strike at Stelco in Hamilton, and the 1949 Asbestos strike in Quebec.

The post office was part of the post-war boom. There was an increased volume of mail in the early 1960s, but the government, instead of hiring more people, initiated mandatory speed-ups, and kept workers at poverty wages.

At this time, industrial unions had not come to the public sector. In some cases, such as the postal workers, there were company unions or association. They had no collective bargaining rights, so they had no teeth. As conditions worsened, these company unions did nothing to defend workers, and by the early 60s, rank-and-filers - inspired by examples of militant actions by workers in the private sector - started to organize.

* * * *

[Here Pam showed a clip from the 1995 film Memory and Muscle, about the 1965 postal workers' strike. It is based on interviews with the people involved, including some of the Montreal and Vancouver organizers. The clip we saw was amazing! I highly recommend, when you have the time, watching the whole thing: "Memory and Muscle" on YouTube.]

[From the clip we watched:

The "company union" said, "You can’t strike the government! Christ, they’ll have the army in here, they’ll have us all in jail!" And we said, "We’d rather be in jail than work under these conditions!"

"We were French and English Canada together. We speak different languages but we have the same ideas and goals. Vancouver and Montreal would walk out at exactly the same moment."


They won all their wage demands. And they gained strength and self-respect, and the knowledge of how struggles are created and how they can be won.

* * * *

There were some twists and turns, but the postal workers held their lines, won their demands on wages, and opened the door for public sector unionism.

Now we can look at the lessons to be drawn and how, as socialists, we understand the dynamic of workers' struggles and intervene to help build them.

Workers' consciousness is mixed, but not static, and it changes in struggle. The consciousness of workers makes the difference between whether they struggle for change or accept their situation. This is one of the most powerful ideas in Marxist theory.

Workers' consciousness is mixed; people can hold both progressive and regressive ideas at the same time. But, these ideas are not static. The material 'objective' conditions and the 'subjective' conditions, the ideas in workers heads, can and do change, and that change impacts how workers will act.

Most critically, it is when workers move into struggle to better their own conditions that their consciousness changes, especially their class relation to their employer and the role of the state. They also see that their allies are other workers, and that the divides of race, religion, gender, and sexuality that are often held up as divisions are much less significant than the commonality of class. They see their own potential for power.

It is often some significant change in material (objective) conditions or ideas (subjective) conditions that kicks off action. In the case of the Canadian postal workers, there were real material conditions - speed-ups - and the contradiction that some workers in the private sector had bettered their condition through unionizing.

The postal workers in the video say the choice was between a bad situation and the unknown, and they chose the unknown.

If we look at the Arab Spring, and particularly the overthrow of Mubarak, it was a subjective condition: people in the Egyptian revolution talked about losing their fear of fighting against the regime that had held power and oppressed dissent for 30 years - although the material conditions of the economic crisis helped push forward the struggle.

The Quebec student movement is also posing the subjective question, 'Can we fight austerity in Canada?'. And of course material conditions are also pushing this question forward.

The significance of consciousness changing in struggle - and that it is through the process of struggle that greater class consciousness, confidence, and skills are gained - cannot be overstated. At the end of the film, a female former postal worker says, "We gained respect for ourselves". We've heard a leader of the Quebec student movement talk about how within Quebec, there is no longer talk of the students as spoiled elites, because so many people are having to choose sides between the government or the students, and have chosen the students, thus broadening the debate. This helps build and legitimize the fight against austerity. So often people report that being on strike, even with loss of pay and uncertainty, feels like a powerful thing.

* * * *

A very big issue for all labour activists right now is the nature of the trade union bureaucracy. Many activists blame the low level of labour struggle and militancy on labour leadership. I don't disagree, but I think we need a very clear understanding of the role of the labour bureaucracy or we will not be able to build effective struggles. The 1965 rank-and-file postal workers had to move past their
leadership in order to make change.

Today, trade union bureaucracy is no longer working in the same jobs with the same conditions the workers have. They are often well-paid, and insulated from lay-offs and benefits concessions. Their job is to negotiate with the employer - to negotiate a greater or lesser degree of exploitation.

So the union leadership is inherently compromised. They don't automatically (or possibly ever) see themselves as the leaders of militant workers struggles. They see themselves in a more paternalistic role of negotiating on workers behalf.

Yet... it is not an either/or situation. There are some traps for activists and socialists to navigate. One is to conflate the leadership with the membership - assuming that the leadership represents the workers or that the workers won't move without the leadership. Workers will move independently when they are confident, but questioning the leadership may not be the first instinct of workers moving toward struggle. The first instinct is to assume that leadership is looking out for your best interest.

Rank-and-file organizing and networking within unions is the key. Who will start this? In the case of the postal workers, a few people in Montreal and a few people in Vancouver starting to talk to workers about the situation. They begin to coordinate, and they raise a demand: wage increase. In other words, this struggle was rooted in the workplace. It wasn't people preaching from the outside or creating a vanguard group of class-conscious workers.

Often workers' uprisings appear to be spontaneous, but in fact grow out of years of organizing in workplaces. The Egyptian revolution came out of years of organizing in workplaces. The Quebec protests grew out of a history of student organizing, and more than a year of organizing specifically against Charest's attacks. They only appear to come "out of nowhere" to the media and public who don't know the context.

* * * *

The current situation is different than that of the postal workers in 1965. They struck in a time of expanding capitalism, when the struggle to gain a union was not easy. In the 1930s, capitalism was in crisis, so organizing was, in some respects, easier. Yet in the 1930s, the bosses hired thugs, and the police and national guard were called in to brutally attack strikers.

While the situation now is not exactly the same as the 1930s, this is a time when capitalism is in crisis, and we are seeing the dual attacks of austerity and a reduction of democracy.

* * * *

Building workers' confidence and consciousness is a process - a long process - and there are no shortcuts. But it can be done.

8.01.2012

what is it about love?

I was looking my dogs, thinking about how each came into our lives. How one day a dog is living in a shelter, and that's its pack and its life, and then one day it is put in a car and taken somewhere else, and now it has a new family, and a new life.

The dog loves its new people and its new packmates, because that's what dogs do. That's what it's programmed to do, so to speak. That's its dog way of being. Even if the dog is stressed from the huge change, or depressed over the loss of its old family, after a period of adjustment, the dog will grow to love its new pack with the same loyal, intense dog-love, because that's what dogs do.

And for us, the day we bring the dog home, we're excited and we like the new dog, and we anticipate is life with us. But the longer the dog lives in our home, the longer we take care of the dog, the longer it depends on us, the deeper the bond becomes, and the more we love the dog. Because, I think, that's what humans do.

I like all animals, especially all dogs, but when I look at my own dogs, I feel a unique and profound love. And if another dog were to appear in my home, and it depended on me and I took care of it, I would eventually feel a deep and special love for that dog, too. One day a dog is just a dog, and another day, it's part of your family and part of your heart.

And that's the way it is with people, too.

How do we love, where does love come from?

People talk about "maternal instinct," the drive of a mother to love her children. I don't doubt that a mother's love for her biological child can be a unique force. We've only to check YouTube for all those animal mothers nurturing orphaned babies of other species to see how that works.

But that's a partial explanation at best. "Maternal instinct" doesn't explain a father's love, or the love of adoptive parents for their children. Or how I took a job as a nanny, and grew to love the boy in my care, how he came to be part of my heart's family. Or why I love my dogs.

We could say it's caring for another being that forges that special bond - but that, too, would be but a partial explanation. It wouldn't explain the protective love of a young child for its new infant sibling. Or my love for my nieces and nephews. Or, for that matter, our love for our partners.

It's a mysterious force - so powerful, intrinsic to us, and beyond our control.

On the one hand, love keeps replenishing itself: the more you give away, the more you have. The more you love, the more you can love. There's limitless room for love in our hearts.

And on the other hand, the more we love, the more potential there is for loss, and for pain. The loss can be devastating. But knowing that, most of us continue to love and to seek love. Those who don't - people who try to avoid love, in order to avoid pain - are seldom happy.

I recently finished reading this excellent book, the literary zombie novel. In the end, I saw the whole story as a search for human connection, the human's relentless search for love. In a world filled with misery and death, with the knowledge that whoever he connects with will soon die or disappear, our hero keeps searching. He keeps telling himself he's through, that he wants nothing further to do with other people, yet he continues to make those connections, in spite of himself. He can't help it. It's what humans do. I can't rightly call this a metaphor for life: more like a simple description.

When I was a teenager, and avidly collected quotes and sayings that felt profound to me, I loved the poetry of Kahlil Gibran. All these years later, I re-read The Prophet and the verses still speak to me.
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.


Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet, On Love