thoughts from a ex-pat

Or a tripat. Something like that. BWV from It's Time has some interesting observations about one of his adopted countries (Canada). I'll comment on them tomorrow.

a little humor

I just found this funny blog in my referring links. Seems to be a Canadian with an odd sense of humor and good anti-war politics. Check out his pic of the Somerville Gates - it's one I hadn't seen: It's Time.

voice in the wilderness

Bob Herbert asks his fellow citizens a few questions. "As a nation, does the United States have a conscience? Or is anything and everything O.K. in post-9/11 America? If torture and the denial of due process are O.K., why not murder? When the government can just make people vanish - which it can, and which it does - where is the line that we, as a nation, dare not cross?"

Herbert recently interviewed Maher Arar, the Canadian who was abducted and tortured by the crime bosses in United States government, using Syrian thugs as their hit men. He notes:
President Bush spent much of last week lecturing other nations about freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It was a breathtaking display of chutzpah. He seemed to me like a judge who starves his children and then sits on the bench to hear child abuse cases. In Brussels Mr. Bush said he planned to remind Russian President Vladimir Putin that democracies are based on, among other things, "the rule of law and the respect for human rights and human dignity."

Someone should tell that to Maher Arar and his family.
Read more here.


Yesterday, I got nervous.

An unknown number of months from now, Allan and I will quit our jobs. Most of our belongings already will have been moved out of our apartment. We'll put our dogs and a few essentials in a car, and drive to our new home. Our new lives will start, with rent and all the other expenses that entails, but we won't have jobs.

Rationally, intellectually, I know the answer to this. We have a lot of money saved, and I have very good reason to believe we'll find good jobs without too much difficulty. Before we do, we can temp - which we plan to do shortly after arriving.

I have a lot of confidence that when I make changes in my life, I make them work. I've always landed on my feet. I have a wealth of experience to look back on if I need reminding of that. Ninety percent of me knows all this.

But there's that little 10%... and yesterday it woke up.

We'll have no jobs. We'll have to find a vet. A dogwalker. Get Buster his meds. Get our own meds. A new bank account. New driver's licenses. New...

Stop! That way madness lies.

Don't get me wrong, this has nothing to do with our decision to emigrate. I feel great about that, even more so as time goes on. And this nervousness doesn't stop me from doing anything. I just need to acknowledge the feelings, then move along. "OK, this is the part where I get panicky..."

My way of dealing with these feelings is to not look too far ahead. There's the goal, far in the future. Plan the next two steps, take those. Now you're two steps closer. Plan the next two steps. Take those. And onward.

great bumpersticker

jesus to bush


best of the best

This is a few months old, but it's a must-read.

Juan Cole, an historian at the University of Michigan, writes Informed Comment, and is a wealth of information about the Middle East. His post, "If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?" won the Koufax Award for Best Post of 2004:
The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.
Read it here and pass it on.


blog of note

I found this very good blog today. d from California poses the central question: Are we still a democracy?

Speaking of blogs of note, have you seen the Koufax Awards? It's the best of the lefty web. Naturally I love the title.

kansas and the tooth fairy

My candidate for President of the United States, Paul Krugman, writes:
The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the "Swift Boat" election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.
What's Kansas got to do with it? Read on.

is we or ain't we?

Forgive me for quoting someone I hate.

W said to Pootie-poote: "Democracies have certain things in common -- a rule of law and protection of minorities and a free press and a viable political opposition."

Hmmm, let's see... I suppose the US has a rule of law, but so much of that law is abhorrent to me, and whole sections of it are routinely ignored. And I suppose there is some limited protection of minorities, although that would mean America became a democracy post-1964, at best.

That's about all I can come up with. Good thing he didn't list free and fair elections.

get busy

The extremely savvy folks at There Is No Crisis have turned over some rocks and are about to reveal a wheelbarrow's worth of slime.

A few weeks ago, There Is No Crisis commissioned a research report that went through the public tax records of every group involved in the scheme to privatize Social Security, and wrote a report on who's doing it and funding it. The results ain't pretty.

No Crisis is releasing the first installment of the report to the media this Monday. From their email: "It's really worth reading, both for the pattern of deceit and the incredible top-down structure built over twelve years of partisan activism on the part of USA Next. The report can be read here."

They've done an amazing job, and a service to the country. Now it's our turn to help. From their email:
Now comes your part. We're releasing this to the mainstream media on Monday, after you've had a chance to go through it. Please tell us what the juiciest, most salient pieces of this are. Please do your own research based on what is in here. If you know the people involved and we're missing something, post it in our blog where the report is located. [Here].

We're going to incorporate this feedback and create a press release on Monday. It would be helpful if you would issue this press release to your local media outlet as a representative of Blogpac. In the press release, link to your blog so that your media market knows that you personally are involved in building this information.

Finally, this report cost money to put together, and we want to keep doing stuff like this. Our researcher is beyond awesome (as you'll see), but he has rent to pay and health care needs. We're trying to raise $25,000 so that we do more of this and really engage in effective PR. If you think this is a good use of money, please ask your readers to donate.
So, No Crisis summarizes, they are asking us for three things:

One, read the first installment of the report and offer comments. You can do that on the No Crisis site, right here.

Two, issue a press release or write letters to your local media outlets.

and Three, if you can, donate to this important work. Donate here.

I realize Canadian readers can't or won't want to be involved in this. I urge American readers to get moving.


stop this man

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who has made trying to control women's reproduction a staple of his career, is demanding doctors turn over medical files of women and girls who had second-trimester abortions in Kansas. Using supposed concern for child abuse as a smokescreen (if a 12-year-old is pregnant, she has been raped, and is likely a victim of incest), he claims he needs the information to prosecute criminal cases.

However, Kline's subpoena covers "the entire, unredacted patient files of nearly 90 women who obtained abortions at two Kansas clinics in 2003" - and it is not limited by age or the absence of abuse reports.

His target is Dr George Tiller, a leader in the medical community for his courageous and stalwart support of abortion rights. Dr Tiller is well known in both the pro- and anti-choice camps for his willingness to perform second-trimester abortions as needed, and Kansas law does not interfere with his work.

Dr Tiller often wears a bullet-proof vest to work - even before he was shot by an anti-abortion terrorist outside his clinic in 1993. (He was not wearing protection that day and was lucky to escape with his life.)

Dr Tiller worked hard to try to defeat Kline's bid for attorney general in 2002.

Tiller's clinic, Women's Health Care Services, reports all suspected child abuse cases as required by Kansas law. Of course it is not necessary, and indeed would be highly unethical, to turn over medical files in order to do so. It's not just a smokescreen - it's a ridiculously transparent one.

This is a horrifying intrusion on so many levels. If a government officer can demand and receive confidential medical records - not with a limited scope for a specific person but on what is known in legal circles as a "fishing expedition" - we are in deep trouble.

The New York Times story is here. It's pretty good, although I object to the words "late-term" to describe abortions past the first trimester. For the women Haven serves, for example, 21 or 22 weeks is often the soonest they can obtain a procedure - and that's often because of state laws that block their access to earlier, safer abortions! To read more about that, go here.


germans are smart, too

Many thousands of Germans took to the streets to voice their disapproval of Bush during his recent visit to their country.

german w protest
smart germans

german w protest 02
more smart germans!

At least he didn't lay a wreath at a Nazi grave. That's about all I can say for this Moron.

september 12, 2001

A nice commenter asked: "Since you are a New Yorker and were there on September 11...what were your feelings on that day?"

I said:

My feelings that day... shock, fear, pain. Fear of the future, of where this was going, if it was over. Incredulity, disbelief, a feeling of surreality.

When I remember that day, I see myself sitting in front of the television with a box of tissues, unable to stop crying. Glued to the TV, watching our 24-hour NYC news channel (NY1), just crying and crying and crying.

Everyone was calling each other to make sure we were all there. Allan used to work in the World Trade Center, and several relatives, including my mother, forgot that he no longer did, so we got a few panicked calls, too.

A few hours into the day, I knew I had to go downtown, to be as close to the site (not yet called Ground Zero) as I could. Watching it on television, it could have been happening anywhere. I had to see for myself what was there and what wasn't.

The next day, we rushed out of the apartment to go downtown. Friends later told me they wouldn't go. They said it was morbid, or ghoulish, or somehow disrespectful, treating it like a tourist attraction. They said, "I can't stand to see it." I felt just the opposite. I felt it was somehow my duty to go, my responsibility. If those construction workers could put themselves in that hell all day, every day, if those families could somehow survive through their pain, the very least I could do was stand beside them and bear witness.

On the evening of September 12, 2001, I posted this to a discussion list:
I know you've all been reading and watching events unfold. I'm sure everyone knows all the same salient facts. I thought perhaps people might want to hear what it's like to be in NYC right now. And having just returned from a day walking the streets, having seen many things that moved me to tears, I'd love to share some of it, get it out of my system.

We live on the very northern end of Manhattan; the destruction, as you undoubtedly know, was at the southern tip of the island. We took the subway down as far it was going, then got out and walked.

We went to a Red Cross center to donate blood, but they cannot process all the people who have come to donate -- it could be an 8-hour wait til they get to you. Along with thousands of others, we gave our names, phone numbers and email addresses, and they will contact us later in the week as supplies run down. It was a very moving scene, so many New Yorkers trying to give -- literally -- of themselves.

We walked more. The streets of Manhattan are deserted. As everyone was instructed to only bring vehicles into the city for essential services, there are virtually no vehicles except police cars and a few city buses. The sidewalks are also empty. The bars, restaurants and cafes, however, are all full. Full, but subdued, quiet. People are gathered everywhere to talk and commiserate. Most places have the TV on, but some are just quiet, as if offering people a break from the relentless news if they need it. (I did.)

All the houses of worship are full, too. People are sitting on church and synagogue steps, drinking water and talking to strangers.

We walked for miles, moving southward, downtown, the enormous cloud of smoke hovering over the city coming into clear view as we moved towards it. We finally came to the huge recreation center that has been commandeered as a center for the Red Cross and volunteers. They cannot use any more volunteers, but were asking for specific donations -- first-aid supplies, towels, soap, clothes.

We continued walking downtown. There is a pedestrian and bicycle path along the Hudson River, which ends or begins at Battery, even further south than the World Trade Center. Hundreds of people were walking down it, some on bikes or rollerblades, everyone moving in the direction of the cloud. By this time we were staring at the gaping hole in the skyline where the twin towers should be. Every once in a while, people would just stop walking and start to sob. We couldn't stop staring. It still seems so impossible...

Meanwhile, in the street beside us, there was a convoy of trucks -- construction vehicles of all types, rescue vehicles, dumptrucks, every kind of truck you can think of. Hundreds of them, most flying small American flags, from New Jersey and Long Island and towns all over the metropolitan area. People lined up on the walkway were applauding and cheering and saluting them, giving them thumbs-up signs and raised fists, holding signs that said "Thank you" and "You are our heroes" and such. The people in the trucks would honk and wave and give thumbs-up or shake their fists back. It was really something.

On the other side of the street trucks were returning from the scene, covered in white soot, the people driving them looking like ghosts. People were cheering for them, but they didn't honk.

We walked as far as we could, until we reached the final barricades. It's a good 15 blocks from the scene. We could only look up at the vacant skyline and cry.

Afterwards, we walked to a Duane Reade (the NYC version of Rite Aid or Boots in the UK). We were one of a dozen people at this store alone buying hydrogen peroxide and gauze pads, soap and cotton balls. We trekked back to the volunteer center, and soon found ourselves in a caravan of donors. People wheeling handcarts with cases of bottled water and sports drinks; people pushing those big laundry carts you see in hotels, filled with clean towels, packages of socks and blankets; people with Duane Reade bags, filled with first-aid supplies, like we had. It was incredible. I was so proud of everyone. My eyes are welling up yet again thinking about it.

The subways are running again, and we went home, took showers, turned on the TV again. So, life goes on, for those of us lucky enough to still be living.

Thanks for listening, everyone.
Reading it over now, it doesn't seem like much. It doesn't capture the overwhelming emotions, the dream-like quality, of that day. Maybe words can't.

never more different

The new Canadian ambassador to the United States says, "I don't think I've ever seen the countries, in many ways, more different. We're going in a very different direction from the United States of America." That's not news, but it's good news!

He described Americans as "largely indifferent" to Canada. Of course, Americans are largely indifferent to all other countries and cultures unless they're specifically instructed to hate them. Read more here, and thanks, as always to ALPF.



Canadians are smart. Canada has officially declined the US's "invitation" to participate in the enormous waste of money erroneously called missile defense.

There's some confusion, however: "The news came just hours after ambassador-designate to the U.S., Frank McKenna, said Canada had effectively signed on to the U.S.-proposed missile shield when it amended the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) agreement last summer."

But a Canadian official said, "It is a firm 'no.' I am not sure it is an indefinite 'no.'" If you can figure out all those negatives, you're a better reader of politspeak than I.

gates gates gates

Ha ha, just kidding.

canadians are smart

It's like I keep telling you. You people up north have brains in your heads.

ALPF sent the results of a recent poll of 1,000 Canadians. It included:
More than three-quarters of Canadians said they didn't think the United States should try to promote the creation of democratic governments in other countries, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.

U.S. President George W. Bush said in his January inaugural address that the United States would work to end tyranny and promote democracy around the world. But only 22 per cent of Canadians polled thought that would be an appropriate role for the United States.
Apparently most Canadians aren't interested in boycotting American-made products to back up their political views. My question is, what are American-made products? Maybe they mean American companies making products in Mauritius and Indonesia.



Last Gates post, I promise.

If you ask one of the many paid volunteers who stand guard and answer questions about The Gates, they will give you a small square of fabric, the actual fabric used in the gates. It's cool to be feel the texture, and a neat little thing to take home.


The Gates is extraordinarily beautiful. That's it, really. It's a work of great beauty and grandeur, and I feel fortunate to be able to experience it.

I've read that Christo originally wanted to install it in autumn, when the color would have blended with the fall foliage, but the city would only agree to February. I actually don't know if that's true, but the February date worked brilliantly. The gates stand out against the bare trees and white snow, and when the wind lifts the fabric, it softens the landscape as if they are leaves.

The color, contrary to what you may have read, is not biohazard orange, but a soft, golden orange, not quite an earth tone, but autumnal, a color found in nature.

Because the view changes as you walk, and with the changing light, and the time of day, and depending on what path you choose, it's almost performance art, and each person helps create it for themselves as they walk along.

Sometimes the gates are ribbons of color. Other times they are fences, or frames, or entranceways. Sometimes they form a forest or a thicket. Sometimes they direct your path, pulling you along. Sometimes they offer an array of directions and force you to choose. Sometimes you walk up a small rise and see orange in the distance - through trees, on a hill, beckoning you - showing you the possibilities ahead.

My favorite part (so far) is the northern end of the Park. Above 96th Street, there are fewer people, and vast expanses of space - ballfields covered in snow. There's an area above the reservoir where the gates are very sparse, you might think you've come to the end, then you pick up a little orange, walk over a ridge, and there they are again, circling fields of snow, beckoning you further on. At the northernmost end of the Park is the Harlem Meer, a small lake with waterfowl and fish, surrounded by a rock outcroppings and woods. There, the gates are absolutely breathtaking, circling and climbing and defining the rugged landscape.

Searching the internet for for public comment, I found people declaring The Gates would be ruined by vandalism within days. What nonsense. Naturally they are spotless. There is not a piece of litter in sight.

I spent two hours walking through it this morning, purposely alone and camera-less, then left the Park to refuel. (I'm posting this from a Starbucks near Columbia University. Loving my iPAQ!) Now I'll walk down 110th Street, where you can see the orange greeting you at the end of the street (a Park entrance), and spend another hour or two. Later this week I'm going back with Allan - and my camera.

Oh also, I saw Christo and Jeanne-Claude walking around, too. Kinda cool.

what i'm reading: buster olney, james kelman, peter hedges, nadine gordimer, and others

I'm still reading Seymour Hersh's Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. I am absolutely in awe of Hersh as a writer and reporter. And absolutely horrified (and terrified) by what he reports.

The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, which I was reading as counterweight to Chain of Command, didn't hold my interest, and I quit early on. Why a book by one of my favorite baseball writers, about my most beloved teams (1996 through 2001 Yankees) didn't captivate me is inexplicable. But it didn't.

There are quite a few new novels that I want to read, such as Philip Roth's The Plot Against America and James Kelman's You've Got to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, but I'll wait for the paperback on both. I'm also about ready to dive into another nonfiction binge; I'm thinking of Robert Caro's LBJ books.

But first, I decided it's time to tidy up (as my British friends say). I dug deep into my to-read list for books that have been on it for a good ten or twelve years, still unread. Of course, some of those titles no longer interested me; that's why they've been on the list for so long. (Delete!) But others were just never available when I was in the library, and weren't books I wanted to own.

Thanks to the New York Public Library's online catalog system, I requested a small stack of books that I'll pick up at a local branch as they come in: High Cotton by Darryl Pinckney, The Sweeter The Juice by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, What's Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges, July's People by the great Nadine Gordimer, Patchwork by Karen Osborn, and Wildcat Falling and Wildcat Screaming by the Australian author Mudrooroo. If any of them are very good, I'll let you know.


I'm off (finally) to see The Gates today.

I must say, I am mystified by many people's reaction to it. Not that they don't care for it or find it ugly or uninteresting; that's perfectly valid. Reaction to art is highly personal, and especially non-representational art is not for everyone. What I don't understand is the general opposition to The Gates' existence or to Christo and Jeanne-Claude's installations.

The Gates are called self-indulgent, a massive waste of money, a blight, a travesty, a distraction from the beauty of the Park, a scam, and so on. Many people saying these things haven't seen it in person; they object to its very existence. Others live in New York and are opposed to the use of Central Park.

Many complaints focus on the $21 million price tag. It's a lot of money, no doubt. Yet big-budget Hollywood movies routinely cost double and triple that (and beyond), and the public gets nothing from them; they are purely commercial enterprises. Celebrities build homes that cost ten times $21 million, and they are regarded as royalty. Two artists raise private funds to build public art, for all to enjoy or criticize free of charge, and $21 million is beyond the pale. No comprendo.

Regarding the "ruining" of Central Park, that one baffles me completely. It's temporary. A week from now, there'll be no trace of The Gates.

On the other hand, that temporary quality is what some people object to most: "it's a lot of money and fuss for something that only lasts two weeks". Thus is the ephemeral nature of art. Performing arts exist only in the present moment. Surely there is no outcry when an expensive Broadway musical flops and closes after only a few weeks or months? (And no matter its worth, the public can never get free tickets.) Much visual art (sculpture, painting) is permanent, but Christo's work is not. It is visual, but it is experiential; it exists in the moment. Why is this a problem?

The worst reaction, to me, claims that anyone who likes The Gates is falling for a scam. We are all dupes of the great Post-Modern Art Hype. That's just plain offensive. It's also amazingly self-absorbed, as if one's own point of view is the only possible for intelligent, critical-thinking people. All others are dismissed as ignorant.

I wouldn't expect everyone to be jazzed about this event like I am. Again, that's down to personal interests and taste. But give me a little credit.


hawks redux

Beautiful photos of Pale Male and Lola here, and amazing bird photography in general by Cal Vornberger.

Vornberger's a cranky New Yorker if ever there was one - those awful dogs scaring off the birds and ruining his shots! hmpf! - and now of course he's complaining about The Gates. But the man makes beautiful pictures. I don't dare post one here, but pay a visit to his site. It's a side of New York that may surprise you.

brave new world

Frank Rich of The New York Times has a good essay about the White House fake journalism scandal. Or, what should be a scandal, but is not registering with a public already inured to the boundary-less blur between news and entertainment. Rich writes:
The inability of real journalists to penetrate this White House is not all the White House's fault. The errors of real news organizations have played perfectly into the administration's insidious efforts to blur the boundaries between the fake and the real and thereby demolish the whole notion that there could possibly be an objective and accurate free press. Conservatives, who supposedly deplore post-modernism, are now welcoming in a brave new world in which it's a given that there can be no empirical reality in news, only the reality you want to hear (or they want you to hear).
The whole thing makes my head spin. This country is turning fascist right before our eyes, and most people don't even notice. Those that are aware are overwhelmed by the rapidity of change and can't regroup fast enough to fight it. I believe very strongly in the power of people - organized people - to effect change, hence the quote at the bottom of your screen. But at the same time, I think things will get much worse before they get better.


The hawks are back! The specially constructed nest appears to be a huge success. Lola and Pale Male were seen mating (I must have missed that chapter) and are now preparing the nest for their young.


The birds won't actually sleep or mate in their newly rebuilt nest, but they'll deposit their eggs in March, and then raise their hawkettes there. (Note to self: look up name for baby hawks.)



This was The New Yorker's Cartoon of the Week last week.


I love it!

I've updated some posts below to include pictures - you might want to scroll down. I can't post pics from work, so those had to wait til I got home.

to toby from burlington

Attention Toby, RN from Burlington. I tried to reply, but the address on your email doesn't work. So here's a public reply, I hope that's ok.

If you really want to leave the US, I encourage you to work through the forms and the requirements. I understand it seems daunting, but like anything else, if you take that first step and keep walking, you will make progress. You didn't become a nurse overnight; the same goes for anything else you've accomplished. Very few things worth having come without work.

I've heard from several people, especially right after the election, who said they were leaving the US for Canada, then looked into the process more deeply, and decided to stay. Perhaps the change wasn't right for them at that time in their life. Fine. But if your gut or your heart is telling you it's the right thing for you, perhaps you should listen.

To answer your two questions, I don't know of any profession for which there is expedited emigration. I haven't seen that anywhere in the CIC information. Also, we are currently in the middle of the immigration process. Keep reading the blog and go back into old posts for more info.

And - forgive my unsolicited advice - dump the lawyer. A lawyer who only wants to correspond by email and doesn't return your calls does not deserve your business. Plus, you don't need it. You can do the whole process yourself and save thousands of dollars.

If you have more questions or want to chat about this, you are welcome to email me - but this time include a good reply-to address! Best of luck to you.

freedom and freedom and freedom

There are a lot of people in Congress who talk about freedom, freedom and freedom but, apparently, they do not really believe that the American people should have the "freedom" to make the choice about what they listen to on radio or watch on TV. There are a lot of people in Congress who talk about the intrusive role of "government regulators," but today they want government regulators to tell radio and TV stations what they can air.
Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Feb 16, 2005 floor statement in opposition to The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act 2005.

Read his whole statement here. It's worth reading in its entirety.

the anti-christo

Have you seen The Somerville Gates? I don't know if this guy is a serious Christo hater, or just having a good time, but I thought this was very amusing.

somerville gates
the somerville (massachusetts) gates

Let it be noted that The Gates of Massachusetts are decidedly small-time as compared with The Gates of New York.

Also, Allan just alerted me to this masterpiece. Yum!

cracker gates
cheese cracker gates

immigration update

I forgot to include this in my previous post, and since everyone has been asking... We are now waiting on the FBI. As soon as our fingerprints and certificate comes back, proving we are not felons, we'll send the whole package to the CIC: financial information, proof of common-law domestic partnership, employment verification and a few other assorted documents. After that, more waiting.

C, in Montreal, feels that Americans emigrating to Canada can only be a positive thing for Canadian society. She noted that the more typical "brain drain" is to the US, as Canadian professionals leave for greater income potential. This northward migration, such as it is, is comprised of employable, stable, progressive-minded people who are engaged in the world around them. She feels Canada can always use more of those.

A commenter who posts at the Moving To Canada, Eh? blog said something similar here.

Certainly no one has made me feel anything but welcome.

we're back

Thanks for all the nice comments while I was gone. I'll reply to everyone today.

We had a very good trip, did a lot of visiting and even managed to have some time to ourselves. There was some sadness, as an elderly relative is not doing well. Not unexpected, but still disturbing to see. Other relatives are doing great, and our old friend R (Allan's longest-running friendship) is terrific. It's so nice when someone you've known forever grows up to be a good guy.

Montreal is as lovely as I remembered, although we were only there for 24 hours, mostly spent in various cafes and bistros gabbing with people. Allan's uncle, now a Montrealer, is still after us to move there. We never seriously considered it, but after having dinner with another friend, we feel especially vindicated. C - the founder of the Haven Coalition - is French Canadian, and her boyfriend is American, trying to become a Permanent Resident. He applied directly to Quebec; that's what you do in order to live there, as opposed to our "federal" application, which covers all of Canada excluding Quebec. The American boyfriend has been waiting on Immigration for a very long time, encountering various hassles, and C believes it's because he doesn't speak French.

For the weather hounds out there, we lucked out with good weather and dry roads, and even some crystal clear days. We heard we just missed some really awful weather in Montreal, and it was turning bad again as we were leaving.

Allan's heading out of town again tomorrow, this time to Boston. He'll be joining his compadres for a celebration of all things Red Sox, and having his picture taken with The Trophy. That's the World Champion Boston Red Sox, in case you've forgotten.

Spring Training camps opened this week, and the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is already at full throttle. With the teams opening the season against each other, home and away, there'll be no lack of drama this April. I can't wait.


heading north again

We leave this morning for Burlington, Vermont (and one day in Montreal!), to visit family and friends. We're back on Friday night, so I'll see you all bright and early on Saturday. Have a good week.


shaken to my core

"Brutalization doesn't work. We know that. Besides, you lose your soul." -- Former FBI agent who has worked on successful counter-terrorism operations


I am trying to read Jane Mayer's "Outsourcing Torture," the article in the New Yorker that I referred to a few days ago (here). It's so sickening, and shameful, that every so often I have to put it down to catch my breath and clear my eyes.

I am Jewish. I have often wondered what it would have been like had I lived in Europe in the 1930s. I think, for example, of the great film "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis". The family - prosperous, educated Italian Jews - accept one indignity after another. The special registration. The signs forbidding them to enter. All the hallmarks of second-class citizenship. But they don't, they can't possibly, add up the signs and imagine what is coming.

At the film's end, they are queuing up for trains.

We watched the movie about halfway through Bush's first term. I was deeply shaken. Not long afterwards, we started talking about leaving the country.

When I read about the United States government abducting and torturing people, behaving in these shockingly brutal and heinous ways, I can't find a substantive difference between this and the Holocaust. Fewer people, yes. Different philosophical underpinnings, of course. But the end result, on an individual basis...? People are seized, kidnapped, taken forcibly. They are told nothing, charged with nothing. They have no access whatsoever to the outside world. From there, a nightmare begins.

This is happening now.

"art is never necessary...

... it is merely indispensable."

New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman writes about The Gates. Once upon a time, and that time is now.

why i care

The other Kyle, a/k/a Galileo, asked me to explain the significance of The Gates. I'm no art critic, and I don't want to wade into waters that are better left for others. (Michael Kimmelman writes an appreciation of it here.) But I can tell you why I'm excited about it.

I love public spectacle and public art. I love the communal nature of it, the idea of thousands of different people coming together to experience something joyful or celebratory, or even something solemn. I love the shared aspect of it, the way it binds us to strangers, the way we find ourselves exclaiming to no one in particular. A more typical example of this would be fireworks. The best example I've personally experienced was the Statue of Liberty's birthday party. The best I've ever read about was the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Modern life causes a lot of alienation and disconnection. Opportunities for shared public experience are limited, much less than they were, say, 100 years ago. (This is not nostalgia, just an observation.) So a shared experience of public art is, I think, especially meaningful now.

I love creativity. I love someone conceiving of something new, figuring out how to achieve it, then taking the risk of bringing it out into the world. They face certain criticism and ridicule, as well as the possibility of bringing pleasure and joy. They are willing to risk the former to arrive at the latter.

They don't do it primarily for commercial gain - though it's fine with me if the creator benefits financially, and I always hope they do - but for its own sake. They do it for the challenge of creating, for what they will learn about themselves through the creative process, they do it because they have the need and impulse to create, and for the joy or challenge or emotions it will bring others.

I love big stuff that uses big spaces. Christo, then, is a natural for me.

I love Christo's work, and you know how I feel about New York. So Christo in New York... it's tailor made for me to love.

Christo and Jeanne Claude have been trying to create a work in NYC for decades. (Central Park, our communal backyard, is a natural space for them.) I feel very fortunate to be here to see it. I think of it as a great gift that Christo and Jeanne Claude give to anyone willing to receive it.

Regarding The Gates itself, specifically, I haven't experienced it yet, so I can't say. From photos, I think it looks spectacularly beautiful. But I'll have to wait more than a week to see it first hand, because we'll be out of town next week.



gates in central park
view of "the gates"

gates map
central park, gates marked by red lines

I'm not getting a good photo of the map. It looks much better if you go here and click on the word map. That is Central Park, 59th Street at its southern end, 110th Street at its northern end. There are 7,500 gates - 23 miles of them.

I know this stuff is everywhere on the web. I'm just so psyched about it.

welcome back dr dean

Howard Dean is the new chairman of the Democratic Party. This can only be an improvement. Granted, almost anyone could improve on Terry McAuliffe, but I was a Dean supporter throughout the primaries.

RIP Arthur Miller. He was a great playwright, and a good man, never shy about speaking out for justice. I had the very good fortune to see Dustin Hoffman play Willy Loman on Broadway in 1984, one of the truly great theatre experiences of my life.

the gates are here!

Christo and Jeanne Claude's Gates - officially called "The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005" - was finished and opened this morning. I am very excited about it!

I meant to go to Central Park while it was being constructed... and then, kept forgetting. Now I'm thinking maybe that was a good idea, even if unintentional. When I do see them, it will be the full effect, all at once, rather than in preparatory stages.

Unfortunately, the installation coincides with a trip we're taking next week, so I'll have to wait til the following week to see it. (Damn!) There's tons of stuff online about it if you want to see pictures. Christo's official site is here - it's very slow right now, probably completely overloaded, but worth coming back to. The official Central Park website has a webcam and some other good info.

I think it's wonderful! Can't wait to see it.


this great nation of ours

I'm repulsed, and angry, and sad, and ashamed. How could this country have sunk so low? How could the great divide between its rhetoric and its actions have become so completely disconnected?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. The answers are complicated and simple, obscure and all around us. They all add up to... we move to canada.

If you can't read Jane Mayer's article "Outsourcing Terror," in this week's New Yorker, you can read Bob Herbert's column about it. Mayer reports on "an increasingly common nightmare, courtesy of the United States of America":
It's a detailed account of the frightening and extremely secretive U.S. program known as "extraordinary rendition."

This is one of the great euphemisms of our time. Extraordinary rendition is the name that's been given to the policy of seizing individuals without even the semblance of due process and sending them off to be interrogated by regimes known to practice torture. In terms of bad behavior, it stands side by side with contract killings.
On the other side of the coin, today Paul Krugman writes about the Bush tax code, and wonders if the Dems - who have recently found their spines to save Social Security - will be vertebrates about this too.
It may sound shrill to describe President Bush as someone who takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends. Yet his latest budget proposal is top-down class warfare in action. And it offers the Democrats an opportunity, if they're willing to take it.
Both of these issues are indefensible. That's why the neocons can only attack critics as unpatriotic. The last resort of scoundrels.

Lucky Guys. Inspector Lohmann and Steve the Shameless Antagonist both left comments that turned me several shades of envious green. They've both been able to live and work in Canada while their Permanent Resident applications were (and still are) being processed. That is so cool! If that were possible for us, we'd have been long gone. But we can't work without our PR cards, and Buster's gotta have his biscuits.


courage and the lack of it

I hope I'm not overdoing on this topic, blogging too frequently about it and boring you all to death. But I know that not everyone reads comments, and I wanted to point this out. I received this comment recently:
I must say, seeing your blog was refreshing. It's nice to know that someone such as yourself, with such a grand viewpoint, has moved on to Canada. Good riddance! Instead of staying in your own country, working with the rest of the citizens to rectify our problems, you run to Canada with your tail between your legs. And you are probably reading this saying that you went there with your head held high. Please. You may think so, but it's a good thing you're gone, because we don't need cowards like you in this country. Enjoy your stay, and please, make it a permanent one.
Readers Dr. Marco and Linda wrote in support, which I appreciate very much. My own response, in a series of comments (why can't I think of everything at once?!) ran along these lines:
Please explain how staying in the US is an act of courage and moving to Canada is an act of cowardice.

I am moving for the same reasons as all immigrants: for a better life. Canadian society is more in tune with my own values. Instead of always being an outsider, and always angry, I can join the mainstream and find some relief.

In any case, yes, my head is held high. Yours should be, too. Each to her/his own.

I hope you'll comment again to explain your accusations. I really don't understand how staying put - not changing your life - is a brave act. . . . Please explain to me why Americans leaving for Canada makes other Americans so angry. [Though many people have accused Allan and I of cowardice,] no one has answered this question yet.
Dr. Marco said:
I cannot withdraw myself from commenting the incredibly stupid first comment to this post. Is leaving a country an act of cowardice? Is searching for a better life or a better future an act of traitors? He obviously lacks the experience of living below his or her own expectations. [Ed note: excellent point! If this is the best you can do or imagine doing, then sure, stay put!] I had that problem, and I moved to the US. A coward? No way. I left my family, my friends, my culture. I decided to start again. An act of a coward for sure. And, but the way, the guy/girl signs as Anonymous, do you see the paradox?
Another great point! That person is so brave that s/he doesn't leave a name! And that reminded me...
Here's another paradox inherent in the stupid comment above. Are all immigrants cowards? If immigration is cowardly, then America is populated by cowards and their descendants, cowards from Ireland, Italy, Russia, Poland, Germany, Korea, Pakistan, Mexico (etc. etc. etc.). In fact, unless you're Native American or your ancestors were forced to come here as slaves, you or your parents or grandparents or their parents [dating back to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock] were cowards!

Why does immigrating to America make one a brave pioneer, but emigrating from it makes one... You get my point.
Again, apologies if this is repetitious. It's something I think about a lot, and maybe you're just tuning in for the first time.

* * * *

ALPF found this bizarre reaction from our friends at Fox. I agree with that commenter who asks, What are these people so angry about?

"human rights for minorities not up for bargain"

A good friend who is both gay and Muslim - and who appears in this blog with some frequency! - has alerted me to the Muslim Canadian Congress, a grassroots, progressive Muslim association. If you have a moment, check out their website for their impressive (and impeccable) set of beliefs. Similar to the progressive Catholic website I cited recently, I am always heartened to see religion used in the service of peace, tolerance and humanity.

The MCC welcomes the legislation that re-defines marriage to include same-sex partners, and urges Muslims and other minority groups to stand in solidarity with gays and lesbians. In a recent press conference in Ottawa, MCC president Rizwana Jafri, said:
It is incumbent upon us, as a minority, to stand up in solidarity with Canada’s gays and lesbians despite the fact that many in our community believe our religion does not condone homosexuality. . . . This legislation is not about religion; it is about fundamental and universal human rights that are a guarantee that all Canadians, irrespective of their religious or ethnic background, feel part of the same family. While, within this family, we may agree to disagree we must respect each other and treat others with dignity that is a hallmark of civil society.

[The press release continues:] Ms. Jafri appealed to social conservative Muslim organizations to stop being used by the Conservative Party who are using this controversy to score political points by spreading fear among racial minorities.

She appealed to Prime Minister Paul Martin to make sure his caucus supports the legislation and are not allowed to wriggle out of their responsibility to respect Human Rights and the decisions of majority of Provincial Courts.
Tarek Fatah, host of the CTS-TV show "The Muslim Chronicle", criticized the fear mongering by some religious institutions against same-sex marriage:
The religious institutions who are spreading fear among their congregations are not being honest about this law. No mosque, church, temple, or synagogue will ever have to conduct a same-sex marriage if they don’t wish to. The guarantee of the freedom of religion in our constitution and the legislation presented today ensure that every Canadian will continue to have the right to practice their religion as they deem fit. However, freedom of religion cannot come at the cost of limiting the rights of other groups in society. . . . The hate mongering against gays and lesbians must be stopped. Places of worship should never be permitted to demean a section of the community who are a minority.

year of the rooster

Happy Chinese New Year!


others like us

From today's New York Times, a story on Americans who are voting with their feet by emigrating to Canada:
Yet immigration lawyers say that Americans are not just making inquiries and that more are pursuing a move above the 49th parallel, fed up with a country they see drifting persistently to the right and abandoning the principles of tolerance, compassion and peaceful idealism they felt once defined the nation.

America is in no danger of emptying out. But even a small loss of residents, many of whom cite a deep sense of political despair, is a significant event in the life of a nation that thinks of itself as a place to escape to.
Thanks to Marcie for pointing it out.

"that crazy woman" meets the cbc

In light of a recent post by my pal ALPF and the subsequent conversation (see the comments for details), I thought this might be of interest. Doug Ireland speaks the truth when he says:
Ann Coulter is a loudmouth ignoramus who spouts her outrageous nationalist inaccuracies on American television with little challenge from the empty talking heads who interview her. But she finally found someone to stand up to her, in Canada--and she was exposed for the arrogant fool she is. Interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Bob McKeown for the investigative TV broadcast "The Fifth Estate," which devoted an hour-long January 26 special to how U.S. media have been highjacked by conservative bullies, Coulter was berating Canada for not sending troops to Iraq when she displayed her empty-headedness in the following exchange:
Click here for more fun.

Also, Bob Herbert helps expose the national disgrace at Guantánamo Bay.


go eagles

I live in a football-free universe.

Though at heart I am a one-sport woman, and following baseball is practically a full-time job, I can enjoy most other sports when they come into my field of vision. Hockey, women's basketball, soccer, track - all OK. In Ireland we discovered rugby, and I loved it. But American football? Bleh. I hate it. If it wasn't for those incessant games chewing up time on ESPN when I'm waiting for Baseball Tonight (how long can it take to play 10 minutes??), I wouldn't even know it existed.

But one of my nephews is an avid Eagles fan. The man himself - peace-loving poet, musician, massage therapist - is 180-degrees from a stereotypical football fan. And right now he has something in common with his uncle Allan: when it comes to their respective teams, they both live in enemy territory. David lives in Massachusetts. Not a lot of Eagles fans there today.

So for David, I say: Go Eagles. John Kerry was not inaugurated last month, so this didn't turn out to be the Year of Massachusetts after all. One spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime, beyond-imagination, never-been-done-before win should hold New England for a while.

stand strong, canada - and toronto

Yesterday the Toronto Star reported that W is expected to ask Paul Martin to send troops "to help with the post-war reconstruction of Iraq" when they meet later this month. According to the Star, "highly placed sources say Canada is preparing to discuss the sensitive issue during the NATO summit" on Feb 22.

Today I read that opposition on both sides of the aisle (US expression there) is warning Martin against what would be a very unpopular decision. Conservative leader Stephen Harper is ringing the flip-flop alarm, while NDP's Jack Layton said a slightly longer version of "no way".

* * * *

Also in The Star, Trontonians wonder why the rest of Canada hates them. Toronto should borrow a page from New York's playbook. We don't wonder why Americans hate us. We know it's because they're jealous, or ignorant, or both. And we enjoy it.

But the article is instructive to me, as far as Canadian stereotypes and self-images go. Comments welcome.


sotu summarized

The great Plaid Adder ran a contest at Democratic Underground (DU) asking people to summarize Moron's recent SOTU Address in two words. Thanks to Redsock, who spends a good deal of his life at DU, I was able to see the results. And so should you.

The winner is great. The second-place finisher is also great, in a different way. There is a line that stopped us both dead in our tracks. I won't give it away; see if it hits you the same way.

See the contest results and some reaction here.

Apologies to friends who might be reading this twice.


star quote

Which is not to say a quote from a star, but my quote in The Star.

In a January 29 article called "Abortion Anxiety Mounts in U.S.," you will find a quote from a certain "New York pro-choice activist". C'est moi.

Thank you to Shauna, former Haven one-woman-show, currently keeping things hopping at NOW and elsewhere.

paging george orwell

Because I am unable to watch or listen to W without becoming physically ill, I didn't see the recent State of the Union address. So I just learned that Moron closed with a quote from Franklin D Roosevelt. You know, the Roosevelt whose legacy he is attempting to dismantle? The legacy that shelters elderly people from poverty?

Paul Krugman continues his series. If you need some quick facts to talk about this around the virtual water cooler, the good folks at There Is No Crisis can help you out.

myths and facts

Over at TBNNT, Redsock has linked to an excellent site called Think Progress. It gives factual refutations of W's most egregious lies. Their mission is straightforward:
What We're Fighting For:
Social and Economic Justice
Healthy Communities
Global Leadership
A Secure America
What We're Fighting Against:
Corrupt Establishment
Incompetent Establishment
Braindead Media
Radical Right-Wing Agenda
In The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel offers an alternative to the Bush Doctrine.

Arianna Huffington puts the Iraqi "election" in perspective. I never thought I'd be quoting Huffington, but these criminals in Washington have forged some odd coalitions of opposition.

If you can stand it, Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan was killed in Iraq, explains why she works for peace. Ms Sheehan was supposed to speak her piece on Larry King, but was bumped for - you guessed it - the Michael Jackson trial.

It's vital that we remember the Cindy and Casey Sheehans. Anyone who supports this war should volunteer to be one of them. Either go and risk your life yourself, or volunteer to lose the person you love most in the world.

For those determined to fight the good fight here in the old US of A, the Principles Project is trying to bring the Democrats back on course. It's a project of 2020 Democrats, who call themselves "a national network of young Progressives".


purple fingers notwithstanding

I find the US government's and many American citizens' self-congratulatory clamor over the Iraqi election baffling and ridiculous. Lest we forget - though apparently we already have forgotten - the United States invaded Iraq for two reasons: to find weapons of mass destruction and to break the Iraqi link to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We now know definitively what many of us knew all along: both were nonexistent.

An election does not a democracy make. There are elections in Haiti, fer chrissakes. If there is to be a real democracy in Iraq (and not an American-backed puppet regime), did the United States need to kill tens of thousands of Iraqis and 1500+ of its own citizens to establish it?

I'm not enabling comments for this post, because frankly, I'm not interested in debating these ideas. This war makes me sick, and Americans' goopy awe at this phony election is even sicker.

healthy enough to cross the border

A few people have asked how the medical exams went, so I might as well tell everyone. It might be informative, or perhaps entertaining.

The doctor was an ancient man with a strong Eastern European Jewish accent and a slight tremor, in a bizarre, almost Dickensian office bursting with boxes, papers and all kinds of assorted junk, and in bad need of a fresh coat of paint. A not-quite-ancient office assistant herded us around. Allan and I looked at each other skeptically, a tad weirded out.

I went in first, and my discomfort grew to mild freak-out when the doctor - hands trembling slightly - couldn't find a vein on my arm for a blood test. (I get my blood drawn regularly and have never had a problem.) As he shone a light on my arm and peered and tapped and puzzled, I imagined jumping up, grabbing Allan, announcing "We're leaving!" and hurrying out. But the doctor finally found his quarry. It turned out not to be so bad, though today, two days later, my arm looks like a topographical weather map.

Despite this unpromising start, it turned out fine. The doctor, though quite elderly, was perfectly sharp and focused. Working from, as Allan said, 20th-generation photocopies, he asked questions from a list - have you ever had this, have you ever had that, do you smoke, how many glasses of alcohol do you drink per week - then did an extremely basic exam (blood pressure, height, weight, a scrap of paper for an eye chart). We signed releases for our blood to be checked for HIV, then we were sent elsewhere for chest x-rays.

We each need a letter from our respective doctors confirming some medical conditions and prognoses. Then we bring those letters and the x-rays back to the doctor's lair, he packs them up with the questionnaires (our extra passport photos attached) and exam results, and sends the whole shebang on to the Consulate.

We're waiting on our doctors' letters now, and expect this hurdle to be cleared by early next week.


i always get those confused

Years, months, days - it's all the same to our friends at the MTA. From this morning's New York Times:
At first, the estimate was grim, a subway rider's nightmare. It could take up to five years to get the A and C trains running normally after a fire in an underground signal relay room last month.

Then the forecast improved: transit officials said it would take only six to nine months to fix the disruptions.

Now the estimate has come down once more. The new prognosis for restoration of most service on the subway lines?

Today. Just nine days and 15 hours after the fire.
Don't you love it?

The dopes at the MTA have also backed away from their original claim that the fire was started by a homeless person. No evidence of an unauthorized person, homeless or otherwise, was found at the scene of the fire. It's now being labeled "mysterious". It's not farfetched to guess the fire was caused by the MTA's own antiquated, poorly maintained equipment.


the next hurdle

We go for our medical exams today. As with everything else in the immigration process, there's a specific procedure that must be followed to the letter - we choose a doctor from a short list, we bring our passports, two extra passport photos each, forms to fill out, and so forth.

There was a huge range in fees among the doctors on the list, and the one we chose (the least expensive, of course) only takes cash! Seems a little odd, but whatever. It's not my business if he doesn't pay his taxes, or maybe he's just been ripped off by personal checks.

We're also getting together financial information, affidavits of our status as common-law partners and other documents, while we wait for the FBI to send back our fingerprints. Onward.