best of wmtc, 2015 edition

I barely wrote at all last year, but my editor and partner managed to find a few (possibly) worthy of a best-of post. Thus, this page has been udpated.

I miss blogging.

I love my job and I love leading our union. I love having a steady paycheque, too! But I miss my old life. #CantHaveEverything #StopWhining #YesIKnowItsAFirstWorldProblem

a brief thought on ghomeshi (yoko ono was right)

In a country of 35 million
Jian Ghomeshi: was known to be a sexual harasser and a sexual assailant; was employed by the CBC; remained employed by the CBC until public allegations and public outcry forced them to fire him.

Jian Ghomeshi: is good-looking; was a popular radio personality; was immediately framed as a victim by media and members of the public who claimed not to understand why none of this had come to light earlier.

Jian Ghomeshi: was the subject of 23 separate allegations of sexual harassment or assault; was arrested and charged with seven counts of sexual assault, and one count of assault by choking.

Jian Ghomeshi: pled not guilty; was tried; was acquitted on all counts.

Next time you hear about a woman who was sexually assaulted and did not report, think of Jian Ghomeshi. Women put themselves through hell to help other survivors and hold rapists accountable. And this is the outcome. The wonder is that anyone reports at all!

This is like the Rodney King video: witness testimony so parsed and distorted and taken out of context as to lose the reality of its meaning.

This is like an African American on trial in 1960 Mississippi: no matter what the evidence or how great the cause, the outcome is certain. (In this analogy the survivors are the black defendant.)

Women in North America have achieved greater equality than in many places on earth. But even so, Yoko Ono was right: woman is the nigger of the world.

* * * *

Chatelaine: Lucy DeCoutere on the Ghomeshi disaster: The actress and Air Force captain speaks out about the crushing aftermath of the Jian Ghomeshi trial.

Also in Chatelaine: What I wish I’d known before testifying in the Ghomeshi trial, an interview with "Witness #1".

Vice: What the Jian Ghomeshi Trial Tells Us About Victim Blaming, Credibility, and Traumatic Memories


fascist shift: donald trump in context

Many years back, I used to blog about a phenomenon called fascist shift. I borrowed the term from Naomi Wolf's essential The End of America, but the concept was something I had been thinking about for many years. In brief, fascist shift asks, What if we're all looking for jackboots and Sieg Heil and tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, and while we're keeping our eyes peeled for a scene from a black-and-white newsreel, a different brand of fascism moves in and sets up shop? What if today's fascism is more insidious and less obvious - and what if it's dressed up in a democracy costume? What if while you're saying That can happen here and But they wouldn't do that, it already has, and they did.

When you scroll through Wolf's ten indicators of fascism, are there any not seen in the US? And have any of them been repaired or reversed under Obama? Not a one.

Now, though, Donald Trump's presidential bid and the many millions of Americans who support him bring America's fascist shift into better focus.

* * * *

It's difficult to analyze Trump on this level, because most people only want to talk about who will become the next US President. Whereas I think (a) it's incredibly obvious who will become the next POTUS, (b) it doesn't really matter, and (c) any pretense of democracy in the US is a complete sham. In this post from 2012 (which is a good read, by the way), I wrote:
As always, I am completely blocking out all US electoral politics. I don't know anything about the campaigns, because I already know everything about them, without knowing a single detail. If you've followed one US election campaign since 1980, you've followed them all. They only change by a matter of degree: they get worse and worse.
Nothing has changed in the intervening years. Including all the voters who seem not to understand what is happening.

I cannot understand - I mean, for the life of me, I cannot understand - how anyone of voting age could possibly think Bernie Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination. It is not even remotely possible. (For more on that, see my post "bernie sanders, the pope, and the politics of amnesia".)

Bernie Sanders running as a Democrat is ultimately a betrayal of everything Sanders says he stands for. And if he ran as an independent and tried to build a movement, he'd be vilified by the people who now praise him, and everyone who dared vote for him would be accused of electing the Republican. Such is the tragedy of the American left.

And despite Trump's performance in the primaries, I still believe, as I have all along, that the Republican National Party will not give the nomination to Donald Trump. I don't think the corporate oligarchs that control the duopoly parties want a clown as their figurehead. I don't know (or care) how they'll manage it, but my lack of imagination will not impede them.

It looks like the RNC has decided to sit this one out, as each party does from time to time. They can run a weak candidate, and simply let Hillary Clinton win. And why not? A Hillary Clinton presidency will be every bit as Republican as the Republicans. It's a win-win for the corporate masters.

* * * *

But this doesn't mean I don't recognize the significance of Trump's campaign. Trump - not the man, but the performance, and the audience's reaction to it - is a milestone of sorts. Trump is American fascism unmasked.

In a discussion on Facebook, a friend wondered when was the last time a presidential candidate from a major party spoke about hatred and bigotry in such bald, uncoded terms. The most recent example we could think of was George Wallace. (Todd Gitlin had a similar thought.) That's going back a ways.

I may have forgotten some gems from Michele Bachmann's campaign, but Bachmann never commanded the attention that Trump now enjoys, garnering a full 23 times the media attention given to Sanders. The US and Canadian media are enthralled. What will he say next? How far will this go? His entire campaign is one long vamp for the camera.

* * * *

The mainstream Canadian media (and Canadians who look to those sources) seem to take the US at face value. The skepticism and caution applied to Canadian politics ends at the (Democrat) White House door. Trump's open racism and bigotry shocks them, because Obama! They seem not to recognize that all the hatred of Obama and the worship of Trump are fueled by pure, undiluted racism. Much of the white working class - with no decent jobs, no bright future for their children, and no rescue in sight - cannot abide that a black man represents their country, and sits in a position of authority over them. The subtitle of this Barbara Ehrenreich piece says it all: "Downward mobility plus racial resentment is a potent combination with disastrous consequences."

Progressive USians know that both institutional and personal racism have never gone away. But, as someone said in that same Facebook conversation, for the last 40 years or so, most politicians have trained themselves to speak in code or to keep their mouths shut. But all the while, O'Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh, Beck (and so on) have been stoking that hatred, keeping their audiences primed and ready. Now Trump comes along to cash in.

For me the surprise is not that so many Americans rally around hatred, bigotry, xenophobia, and violence. The surprise is that so many people are surprised! How did you all not know this about the US? A country founded on the genocide of its original inhabitants, built by slavery, justified by conquest, and made rich and powerful by imperialism. The United States, where property rights and the rights of the ruling class are sacrosanct above all, including human life.

For all its fears of communism (then) and terrorism (now), the US has only ever been in danger of takeover from fascism.


u.s. iraq war resisters are still in canada. call on justin trudeau to let them stay.

Remember the war resisters I used to blog about all the time? It may surprise you to learn that many are still in Canada. And are still fighting to stay.

For these men and women, it's as if the recent change of government never happened. Of course I realize that a handful of people from the US are not Justin Trudeau's top priority. Still, they are people of peace and conscience. They make Canada a better country. Accepting them makes Canada a better country. Their cause is just, and the help they need can be so easily provided.

* * * *

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has made a decent start at reversing some of the immense damage wrought by Stephen Harper's Conservatives over the past decade. While the Liberals certainly will not rewind everything that needs undoing, Trudeau has taken (or announced he will take) some good first steps.

A November 2015 editorial in the Toronto Star noted three examples:
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould rang down the curtain ... on the Harper government’s unwarranted and unlawful attempt to prevent devout Muslim women from wearing face-coverings such as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

The Federal Court of Appeal rightly found the Muslim-phobic ban to be illegal, a violation of the Citizenship Act, which allows for the greatest possible religious freedom in administering the oath of citizenship. But the Tories, undeterred, decided to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the case. Wisely, Wilson-Raybould has now withdrawn that request.

The Liberal government has also asked the Federal Court to suspend proceedings in cases involving stripping people of citizenship, as Ottawa consults on a new policy.
In January 2016, CBC reported on some other issues that are in progress:
Among the measures expected to be dealt with through new legislation:
- Repealing the Conservatives' Bill C-24, which allows the government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism-related offences.

- Repealing two other Conservative laws that the Liberals argue weaken the rights of trade unions. They are Bill C-377, which requires unions to disclose how they spend members' dues, as well as Bill C-525, which makes it harder for unions to organize in federally-regulated workplaces.

- Introducing parliamentary oversight for Canada's national security agencies, though the commitment to repeal parts of the previous government's anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, is expected to come later.
Trudeau has said he will withdraw Canada's CF-18 fighter jets by the end of March from the US-led bombing missions in Iraq and Syria.

It's not all good news. Trudeau continued Harper's policies when he stood by the Conservatives' $15 billion agreement with Saudi Arabia's brutal dictatorship, selling it military equipment. I expected no different. The West doesn't stand up to Saudi Arabia, and Canada isn't about to go it alone.

But for the war resisters, the reversal that would be extremely easy. Trudeau can and should take a quick, multi-pronged approach: rescind Operational Bulletin 202 that singles out US war resisters for deportation, cease any deportation proceedings against US war resisters, implement a provision that would allow them to apply for permanent resident status, and discontinue litigation that defends the decisions and policies of the previous government. For an extra helping of justice, the Liberal Government could allow those war resisters who were deported or forced out to apply for permanent residence status, too.

Please take a few minute to write to your MP about this important issue. You can use handy backgrounder.

It is well past time to Let Them Stay.


diego is on tv! (and dogtopia is amazing.)

When we dropped off Tala and Diego for their vacation, a film crew from Breakfast Television was there. The results are here, and Diego is all over that video! (There doesn't seem to be a way to embed it, so please click!)

If you look carefully, you can see Tala in her crate, behind all the happy mayhem. Poor girl, she can only watch. That may seem unfair, but it's wonderful to know that the staff was taking care of her properly.


last day and home

We spent our last day in Oregon poking around downtown Ashland, looking at scarves and jewelry and used books. We don't shop much when we travel, but there were a few things I was looking for on this trip, and I found them all. We also picked up this very amusing guide to New York City etiquette, and had a second great lunch at Brothers'. If you're ever in Ashland, go.

We also walked around a beautiful neighbourhood with the lovely Sophia in the stroller and her mom happy to be out of the house on a gorgeous spring-like day. The trees are in full blossom and daffodils are out. In early March?

We also enjoyed another dinner with D&E and Sophia. I swear she's grown since we've been here. I'm sad that I won't see her again for a long time. In fact, with my mother relocating to Oregon, and so many of my favourite people on the left coast, I find myself wondering why I'm living in the Toronto area. It's especially easy to feel that way after coming from the beautiful green of southern Oregon into the ugly gray of Mississauga. I like living here, but at the moment I'm not sure why.

The first few hours driving north from Ashland were beautiful. The interstate is only two lanes there; it winds through green mountain passes, with many cows and sheep grazing on the open range. We stopped at a truckstop diner for lunch, and it felt like we were still on vacation.

But what made me think the drive from Talent, Oregon to the Vancouver Airport was 10 hours? It was a bit more than 12 hours, and it rained for the last four. Then it was a slog through the rental car return to the marginal but overpriced airport hotel, take out food that ended up being enough to feed four people, and another 4 a.m. wake-up. Kind of a crappy ending to a great trip. But good music in my ears, plus a lot of coffee and (surprisingly good) airport food were very soothing, at least for me.

Something interesting we saw on I-5: huge signs from the libertarian right. "WAKE UP AMERICA OBAMA IS KILLING US". And another one we only partially saw as we drove by: "...DICTATOR OBAMA...". These were professionally made signs, not handwritten.

Also on I-5, you are told that JESUS DIED FOR SINNERS and other such statements. Create your own!


random observations on southern oregon, great kitchens, family love, and absent eagles

This morning we woke up at 3:45 a.m., packed up the car with binoculars, cameras, sandwiches, and coffee, and drove two hours in the dark. According to our guidebook and a few websites, we were heading towards an opportunity to see dozens of bald eagles on their migratory path.

Short version: we drove a lot and saw very little.

The scenery was lovely, and we did see many birds in a wetlands area, including one young bald eagle for a moment or two. But the "50 to 100" bald eagles dining on a "smorgasbord of small animal life" - so said the guidebook - did not materialize. Ah well. Nature sightings are like that.

We had breakfast at a classic roadside joint, and on the way back.... In-N-Out!! My B+SIL didn't know what the fuss was about, and probably still don't, but Allan and I were in food bliss.

* * * *

B+SIL's new life is amazing. They've got 45 acres of land, on which they plan to grow grapes, raise bees, and possibly graze goats (with the help of local experts in each of those areas). The house itself is a knockout, with a huge open kitchen and stone hearth, four bedroom suites, each with a full bath, plus a full gym, and an enormous deck. They've worked hard all their lives, and I'm so happy they can enjoy this reward.

Our nephew and niece-in-law's house and the office where they practice is also amazing. Everyone seems to have great kitchens and fireplaces. When we visited the apartment where my mother will live, we were three-for-three on beautiful kitchens, and I had major kitchen envy. I like our new apartment a lot, but the kitchen is its least attractive feature.

Longtime wmtc readers may remember that the whole happy-family thing is a more recent development for me. I grew up in a family where love was mixed with heaping doses of fear and abuse. We all acquired a lot of scars, but almost everyone has been determined to heal and reconnect. Now there's a tremendous amount of love, respect, and friendship among us all. This week - and especially last weekend, when more family members were here - we've had so much fun talking, cooking, drinking, eating, and laughing together.

And there is nothing like a happy baby to turn a group of adults into a gaggle of idiots! We are all so in love with Sophia, and ooh and aah at her every move and facial expression. I've always loved being an aunt, and now seeing my nephew step into fatherhood, and B+SIL enjoy grandparenthood is very special.

* * * *

D&E (nephew and niece-in-law) live in Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a year-round crunchy, hippie vibe. Oregon wine is a burgeoning new part of the scene, too. It's similar to Ontario's wine region, in that most wineries are small, unpretentious, family-run concerns, except the scenery is way more beautiful. I like the Niagara Region, but it doesn't compare.

Another thing that's different here: legal marijuana. On our way down, we passed highway billboards advertising suppliers. In every strip mall, there are "wellness centers" and "green houses". More and more farms are converting to this new crop. Although I stopped smoking weed many years ago, I love that this state is willing to be a pioneer, and I love how it resonates through the local economy.

Oregon is a mixed bag of new-age hippies and anti-government rednecks, but that's not unusual in many US states. Everyone is super friendly, a bit too friendly for my tastes.

Some years back, Allan and I drove the whole Oregon coast, which I highly recommend, but we had not seen this area at all. On future trips, we'll go to Crater Lake National Park and to Portland.

* * * *

As I mentioned, we visited the retirement complex where mom will live, beginning this summer. Her apartment is huge - two bedrooms and two full baths, tons of closet space, all the comforts - with a view of rolling hills, grazing cows, and mountains. There's a gym, a pool, a dining room and bar, even a library run by retired librarians. She has a certain number of meals included in her rent, which is important, since she won't be driving, and could miss the sociability she enjoys now. But she has her own full kitchen, which is also very important.

If I live to be 84 years old, I hope I have the spirit and courage to move to the other side of the country if I want to!

* * * *

The only negative part of this trip is the upcoming US election. Although we are all on the same side politically, some of our family members have, like us, lost all belief in the system and regard it as a sham and a sad joke, and others still take it seriously. I practice being quiet and patient during daily updates on the various circus performers.