war on terror meets never-never land

Bob Herbert writes:
State Department officials know better than anyone that the image of the United States has deteriorated around the world. The U.S. is now widely viewed as a brutal, bullying nation that countenances torture and operates hideous prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in other parts of the world - camps where inmates have been horribly abused, gruesomely humiliated and even killed.

The huge and bitter protests of Muslims against the United States last week were touched off by reports that the Koran had been handled disrespectfully by interrogators at Guantanamo. But the anger and rage among Muslims and others had been building for a long time, fueled by indisputable evidence of the atrocious treatment of detainees, terror suspects, wounded prisoners and completely innocent civilians in America's so-called war against terror.

Amnesty International noted last week in its annual report on human rights around the world that more than 500 detainees continue to be held "without charge or trial" at Guantanamo. Locking people up without explaining why, and without giving them a chance to prove their innocence, seems a peculiar way to advance the cause of freedom in the world.

It's now known that many of the individuals swept up and confined at Guantanamo and elsewhere were innocent. The administration says it has evidence it could use to prove the guilt of detainees currently at Guantanamo, but much of the evidence is secret and therefore cannot be revealed.
Herbert notes that the administration tries for a little window dressing:
This is where the war on terror meets Never-Never Land.

President Bush's close confidante, Karen Hughes, has been chosen to lead a high-profile State Department effort to repair America's image. The Bush crowd apparently thinks this is a perception problem, as opposed to a potentially catastrophic crisis that will not be eased without substantive policy changes.

This is much more than an image problem. The very idea of what it means to be American is at stake. . . .

In much of the world, the image of the U.S. under Mr. Bush has morphed from an idealized champion of liberty to a heavily armed thug in camouflage fatigues. America is increasingly being seen as a dangerously arrogant military power that is due for a comeuppance. It will take a lot more than Karen Hughes to turn that around.
It's a good, concise summary of just how bad it's gotten, and who let it get this way. (Full column here.)

More background on how the US "thumbs its nose" at human rights here:
In coordinated broadsides from London and Washington, Amnesty International accused the Bush administration on Wednesday of condoning "atrocious" human rights violations, thereby diminishing its moral authority and setting a global example encouraging abuse by other nations.

In a string of accusations introducing the organization's annual report in London, Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general, listed the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the so-called rendition of prisoners to countries known to practice torture as evidence that the United States "thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights."
New York Times story here, Amnesty's 2005 Report begins here.

What do you want to bet some anonymous wingnut reminds me that other countries are worse? As if that's the point.


Does Stephen Harper scare you?

That's the question asked by this poll, which wmtc brings you via ALPF.

While not a majority, a significant number of Canadians replied "yes" to the questions "Would you say that Stephen HarperÂ’s position on social issues such as abortion, the death penalty, and same-sex marriage scares you or not?" and "Would you say Stephen HarperÂ’s pro-American position scares you or not?". In this survey, more Canadians were scared by Harper's pro-American stance than his position on social issues.

In WorldNetDaily - which isn't as loopy as it first looks, though obviously not my own editorial slant - Ted Byfield gives his take on why Canadians fear conservatives. In a word: religiosity.
. . . what price for all this conduct can the Liberal party expect to pay in an election?

The answer, according to the first poll made since the party survived a crucial parliamentary division by a single-vote margin nine days ago, is no price at all. Liberal support has not been reduced by a single percentage point, a Leger Marketing poll found. If the election were held tomorrow, 38 percent of Canadians would vote Liberal, only 27 percent Conservative.

Their reason for shunning the Conservatives, however, was a telling one. Was it Conservative leader Stephen Harper, the pollsters asked? Not at all, came the reply – the electorate think Harper has far greater integrity than Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. It's the Conservative Party as a whole they don't trust. They suspect and fear its "social" policies.

By this, of course, they meant the Christian influence. . .
Byfield notes that the in Canada, the "religious divide is also a geographic divide", as "the party which 38% of Canadians fear and distrust draws about three-quarters of its numerical support from the four western provinces." Then he seems to makeveiledled threat of Western secession/revolt/radical change:
If the Conservatives want to form a government, the Globe and Mail endlessly lectures, they will have to suppress and silence their "socially conservative" wing. That is, the Conservative Party can only be elected if on social issues it becomes identical with the Liberal Party.

A rather large assumption is implicit in this line of argument – the assumption that if people are made to choose between their country and their faith, they will naturally choose their country. The Globe and Mail could be mistaken about that.
Full column here. (Thanks ALPF.)

Feel free to discuss. I will be among the ancient Phoenicians.


what i'm watching: a reality show i just might watch

"It isn't Queer Eye," says Scott Thompson. "You've never seen anything like this before.
It is bound to be controversial. But then, Scott Thompson knows all about controversy.

Fortunately, he also knows all about entertaining and amusing, which is as much or more what "My Fabulous Gay Wedding" is about than pushing any sort of social/political agenda.

The daring six-part tryout series, debuting Wednesday night at 10 on Global, puts a same-sex spin on your basic make-a-wedding "reality" show, giving host Thompson and a crack team of planners, caterers and stylists a mere two weeks to throw together an elaborate thematic nuptial event, tailor-made to a particular male or female couple's tastes.

For example, the opening show, a Scottish-themed affair that had both bridegrooms, the show host, celebrity guest Ashley McIsaac and a chorus-line of muscled dancing boys all going commando in kilts.

Next week's episode, a lesbian wedding, features special guest comic/singer Lea DeLaria.

"There is one part they cut out that I'm really upset about," complains Thompson. "Lea comes in, and she's wearing this beaver hat, and she tells me, 'I always wear my beaver hat whenever I come to Canada.' And I go, 'Well, then what's your beaver wearing?'"
I love Scott Thompson!

Thanks, Scott. I needed that. Between Thompson and Whitman (two gay boys!) I can shake off the sadness and get to work.

my man walt

I think I could turn and live awhile with the animals,
They are so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them sometimes half the day long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Walt Whitman, from "Song of Myself"

the price of their lies


As he did last year, Garry Trudeau listed the names of the Americans who have been killed in Iraq in his Sunday "Doonesbury", to coincide with Memorial Day weekend.

The strip is called "Operation Iraqi Freedom - In Memoriam - Since 4/28/04 - Part 1." There are so many names that the listing will continue in next week's "Doonesbury."

As he did in 2004, Ted Koppel will read the names of the dead, and show their photos, on a special Memorial Day edition of "Nightline". But unlike last year, Sinclair Broadcasting will run the segment. Last year Sinclair ordered its eight ABC affiliates not to carry the broadcast, saying "the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq."

That "Nightline" episode garnered 30% more viewers than the show did the rest of that week. (Story here.)

I read Doonesbury every day during the war I grew up with. I'm so sad - and so angry - that it's happening all over again.


please sign, then post

John Conyers, excellent Congressmember from Detroit, MI, is circulating a petition, asking for answers about the Downing Street Memo.

His website is here; he also posted it at Kos, among other places.

Read, sign and post.

Don't ask whether or not it will do anything. Remember what Gandhi said. (And by the way, that's the correct quote. It is often misquoted as "...may seem insignificant to you". The original statement is not conditional.)

Please: read, sign and post.

why i'm leaving, part 3,547

Here's some fodder for fascism. I received this comment today from - big surprise - an anonymous commenter.
You are a disgusting vile traitor and have stabbed your country in the back! Our glorious armies who defend freedom across the world are shedding blood for the defense of the American homeland. President Bush in his infinite wisdom is defeating terrorism accross the globe. The United States is feared more than ever by the world and we have the President to thank for it. Fear and the threat of military anniliation keeps us safe and sound. This is the Pax Americana!!! We could crush Canada in one day if we so chose. All we need is some border incident and our northern neighbor is gone. I hope Canadians continue to keep their mouth shut and mind their own business. What we did to Iraq, we can also do to any other country in the world.
I wonder if this guy treats his children the way he wants his country to treat the world. Very sad.

Also very funny. Can you imagine thinking the Smirking Chimp has "infinite wisdom"?!


recovering neocon

Whew. It's been a crazy couple of days, flying up to see the house on Thursday, then being giddy with joy and exhaustion on Friday, trying to work but spending most of the day spinning my wheels. I should have recognized the low-concentration syndrome and thrown in the towel earlier; instead, I figuratively banged my head against the wall for hours.

Well, deep breath, back to reality - deadlines, blogs, a dog with eyedrops. If it's quiet at work this weekend - and it's Memorial Day weekend, you'd think all the attorneys could stay home - I can catch up on Ancient Civs and get paid for it, too.

I want to thank you all for your support and encouragement. It really means a lot to me. And thanks to Howard Kurtz - does anyone else think of Joseph Conrad every time they see that name? - I've received more welcoming email from Canadians, an email from another American couple making the move, and more page-loads than I've ever seen before.

I found today's entry on Common Dreams; if you frequent that site, you will discover the wellspring of many a post of mine. The original is from Lew Rockwell, a site I discovered through our Progressive Libertarian, Kyle_From_Ottawa.

Drew O'Neill writes:
Two years ago I was a neocon. I supported Bush's war on Iraq and I called everyone who didn't a liberal Kool-aid drinker. I voted for Bush in 2000 and I listened to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and just about any right-winger on the radio that I could get a four-word talking point from to use against liberals. I would say things such as "liberals won't defend America," "shut up and sing," "freedom is on the march," and "you're a great American." I supported the war at first because I bought into the lies and propaganda.

I no longer do. I'm a recovering neocon.
He closes with this:
And in the end it doesn't matter if we are liberals or conservatives because all that matters is that we are on the side of the U.S. Constitution and of international law. Both of which have been thrown into the toilet by this administration. At least the Qur'an has company.
Read the rest here.

It takes guts to change your mind, to leave the safety of the fold and think for yourself. Every American who speaks out against the war and the occupation brings us one step closer to the critical mass needed to end it. Here's to you, Drew O'Neill.


now we've been parodied

This is hilarious.

In Statcounter, I found this: Money, meet Mouth. Later he created we move to lynn, which I assume is Lynn, Massachusetts. This is all in good fun, and should not incite any riots here at wmtc.

It's not getting my book written, but it is making for an amusing Friday afternoon.

we're in wapo

Wmtc is in the Washington Post! Whoo-hoo!

I've had a big uptick in traffic, but didn't know where it was coming from (no thanks to Technorati), until a nice Canadian emailed to laugh at Howard Kurtz. Howie's take? It's not coercion unless I say it is - so there!

I give up. This is ridiculous. I am not getting any work done today so I might as well make a cup of tea and rest my brain.

i am a coward

Check out this comment I just received.
People who give up and move in the face of challenging problems are cowards. If you felt The City was getting "bland" and that the country is moving too far to the right, what did you do to try to change things for the better? Robert Dinero created the TriBeCa Film Festival - You moved to Canada.

We are probably better off without you. Please DO give your apartment to someone who understands there is something worth fighting for here.
Too bad I couldn't create a film festival. That would have really ended the US occupation of Iraq, stopped future US invasions, and gotten the religious right out of the government.

Comments from the yahoos on the right never bother me. In fact, I enjoy them. I like laughing at their ignorance; it's a good reminder of why I feel so out of place in the US.

But these comments, presumably from a progressive, sting. Not because I believe what they say, but because I've tried so hard, and I recognize the limitations, and I wish it weren't the case. Our move is exciting and wonderful, but it's sad that we to leave so badly. Thoughtless comments like this underscore that sadness.

Much has been said in wmtc about courage, and the lack of it. Some thoughts on it here.

we took it!

We took the house in Port Credit!!

It was a pretty crazy day yesterday. We left our place at noon, and got home at 1:00 a.m. - but were only in Port Credit for an hour! Most of the day was spent getting to and from the airports on both ends.

But we're so fortunate to be able to go to Toronto for a day, even to be able to see a place before we move in. Most immigrants don't have that option, and if we were moving to, say, Vancouver, we wouldn't have it, either.

We went to Port Credit predisposed to like the place, and assuming we would take it. (Hence one month's rent in Canadian currency in our backpack!) We both knew that unless there was something very wrong with the house, we weren't letting this location slip away.

We met the owner at his place, asked some questions, gave him some additional information about ourselves, then followed him over there. Walked around the inside and outside, murmured and consulted, shook hands all around, signed an agreement, and handed him an envelope of cash. Ta-da!

Very positive things:

The location is amazing. It's half a block from the Lake, on a cul-de-sac (no through traffic). At the end of the street there's a little park, an entrance to the walking and bike path - and the Lake. In the other direction, it's in easy walking distance to the Port Credit GO station and various stores. It's exactly the location I dreamed of, but I wondered if it was only wishful thinking on my part.

Since it's an older house, it's on a lot of land - almost a half-acre.

And it's a nice little house. Two decent-sized bedrooms, one tiny bedroom, good-sized living room and dining room, a nice big kitchen with new appliances, finished basement, new carpet.

We now know when and where we are moving. We don't have to break our lease, or ask for an extension, or deal with our current landlord at all. Our new landlord seems like a really decent guy - very friendly, and also very professional. He also lives in Port Credit, about 10 minutes away.

Not as positive things:

The bathrooms (one near bedroom, one in basement) are tiny, with very old fixtures. After sharing one small, old bathroom for all our time together, I thought Allan and I might graduate to a more luxurious bathroom arrangement. This is not to be.

There's not a lot of closet space, but on the other hand, there's a lot of storage space, with a basement and an attic-crawl space. We're not sure how we'll configure the space yet. We might put Allan's office in the basement, and use the tiny third bedroom as a big walk-in closet.

Hmmm... I can't think of anything else on the negative side! I'm sure they'll come up, but for now, it seems perfect.

So here's the plan. I spend all of June and July writing Ancient Civs. I spend the month of August sightseeing in New York and packing. We move at the end of August.

We are almost there.


was canada too good to be true?

That's the headline on this American perspective on Canada and Canadian self-image, a la sponsorship scandal. This line jumped out at me as wmtc material:
The discussion over what exactly is Canada's identity - and whether its favored definition is perhaps a piece of Liberal propaganda - is beginning to emerge in the political debate between the struggling Liberals and the challenging Conservatives.
Full story here. I must leave you now, talk amongst yourselves. The next time I post, I'll have a report about the house!

stop saying that!

These days, whenever I make brief forays into mainstream media, or when it jumps out at me and I can't avoid it, I see or hear the phrase "now-retracted Newsweek story," or "a story in Newsweek, which has since been retracted". That's the party line: the story was false, Newsweek retracted it. Even though the story was true, Newsweek wasn't the first to report it by any means, and the retraction was coerced.

This morning I find this on the front page of the New York Times:
Newly released documents show that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained repeatedly to F.B.I. agents about disrespectful handling of the Koran by military personnel and, in one case in 2002, said they had flushed a Koran down a toilet.

The prisoners' accounts are described by the agents in detailed summaries of interrogations at Guantanamo in 2002 and 2003. The documents were among more than 300 pages turned over by the F.B.I. to the American Civil Liberties Union in recent days and publicly disclosed Wednesday.
The story goes on to say that these are the unsubstantiated charges of prisoners (what, the guards don't won't corroborate? I'm shocked!), and that none of the newly released documents confirm the Newsweek report. Uh-huh. File this under "yellowcake from Niger," or perhaps "weapons of mass destruction related activities," or perhaps "this was a war of liberation".

By the way, those "newly released documents" are a product of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The FOIA that the government is trying to dismantle...


since you asked

Just a few quick posts this morning, then I have to get some work done before we leave for the airport. Funny, it's a very short flight, but still a long day of traveling and waiting.

A few people have asked about what's keeping me so busy these days. I'm writing a book on Ancient Civilizations for a kids encyclopedia series. The series is written for 9-12-year-olds, and I've got 3500 BC to 500 AD.

It takes in almost the whole world (Oceania [modern-day Australia and New Zealand] got dropped for space), highlighting 6 civilizations in each geographic region. Some of them I knew something about, like the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Maya and Celts. Others - such as the Ancient Japanese, Chinese, Korean or the people who lived in what is now India and Pakistan - are completely new to me.

The book is not "great moments in history," but rather "how people lived". It's about domestic life, as well as the innovations each civilization brought to the world, as opposed to rulers and battles. (Except for people who mainly ruled and battled.)

My central challenge is that I have very, very little space for each civilization - a very tight word limit. How to convey the life of Ancient Egypt in just a few pages - and those pages include lots of photos, maps and illustrations, not a lot of text. Yet it's expected to have substance, to not be a skimming overview, to be lively and entertaining and educational, as all good children's books should be.

I love history and antiquity, and I love writing for this age group, so I'm really enjoying the work. On the other hand, the books are being rammed through a ridiculous deadline, and I really could use more time.* There's still a chance my editor will get me an additional two or three weeks, but I have to proceed as if she can't.

I'd love to also write the book before and after mine, chronologically. Before are Neolithic peoples, the people who built Stonehenge and Newgrange, for example; after are the Aztecs and Incans, among other favorites of mine. But all the books are being written simultaneously, so some other harried soul is writing those.

*or to be a full-time writer!

hooray for jane jacobs!

I always forget that she's Canadian now. She used to be a New Yorker!
Toronto's planners favour developers over citizens, says urban affairs guru Jane Jacobs.

Called to give the Canadian Urban Institute award that bears her name, Jacobs stood before a room full of urban planners and policy-makers and harshly criticized Toronto's planning process.

"If citizens don't like it, you call them names (and say) that they're selfish and ignorant and that they're NIMBY — not in my backyard," Jacobs told planners.

"It's true that people don't want certain things in their backyard," she said. "But they're usually right.
Full story here.

And guess what?? We're going to see the Port Credit house tomorrow night! Yippee!

We've been making arrangements all morning and now I must get to work. Have a great day, everyone.

it was ever thus

The word feminism "had become a term of opprobrium to the modern young woman. [The word suggested either] the old school of fighting feminists who wore flat heels and had very little feminine charm, or the current speciies who antagonize men with their constant clamor about maiden names, equal rights, woman's place in the world, and many another cause, ad infinitum. If a blundering male assumes that a young woman is a feminist simply because she happens to have a job or a profession of her own, she will be highly - and quite justifiably insulted: for the word evokes the antithesis of what she flatters herself to be."

Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, 1927.

[As quoted in Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism by Susan Ware.]

Further proof - as if any were needed - that nothing is new under the sun. More proof, too, of why studying history helps us understand our world.

on hope

After the 2004 election, I was depressed. I don't mean I was sad. I fell into depression, which is unusual for me. It was caused, I'm sure, by emotional and physical exhaustion, after putting so much into the fight, and having believed so thoroughly, so completely, that we would win. (And by "we", I mean those of us trying to defeat Bush, not the Kerry campaign.)

Everything seemed so bleak. I felt as if someone had died.

By coincidence, I started reading Howard Zinn's memoir You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train. Zinn's incurable optimism, and his indefatigable activism, restored me to myself. (I started collecting all my Zinn-related posts on wmtc, but I found there are too many of them! You can go here, here, here, or here, and then I gave up!)

Shortly after that, Zinn wrote the column that I have permanently linked to; with that, my perspective was restored.

Anyway, this is all just to say that I feel a personal connection to this man, and I admire him no end. (I wrote him a note to tell him how reading his memoir helped me, and he answered me immediately.)

A few days ago, Zinn gave the commencement address at Spelman College, the historically African-American college in Atlanta, from which he was fired in 1963 because of his civil rights activities. His message: hope.
My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war -- still another war, war after war -- and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.

But let me tell you why, in spite of what I have just described, you must not be discouraged.

I want to remind you that, fifty years ago, racial segregation here in the South was entrenched as tightly as was apartheid in South Africa. The national government, even with liberal presidents like Kennedy and Johnson in office, was looking the other way while black people were beaten and killed and denied the opportunity to vote. So black people in the South decided they had to do something by themselves. They boycotted and sat in and picketed and demonstrated, and were beaten and jailed, and some were killed, but their cries for freedom were soon heard all over the nation and around the world, and the President and Congress finally did what they had previously failed to do -- enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Many people had said: The South will never change. But it did change. It changed because ordinary people organized and took risks and challenged the system and would not give up. That's when democracy came alive.

I want to remind you also that when the war in Vietnam was going on, and young Americans were dying and coming home paralyzed, and our government was bombing the villages of Vietnam -- bombing schools and hospitals and killing ordinary people in huge numbers -- it looked hopeless to try to stop the war. But just as in the Southern movement, people began to protest and soon it caught on. It was a national movement. Soldiers were coming back and denouncing the war, and young people were refusing to join the military, and the war had to end.

The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do -- to get jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life.

Remember Tolstoy's story, "The Death of Ivan Illych." A man on his deathbed reflects on his life, how he has done everything right, obeyed the rules, become a judge, married, had children, and is looked upon as a success. Yet, in his last hours, he wonders why he feels a failure. After becoming a famous novelist, Tolstoy himself had decided that this was not enough, that he must speak out against the treatment of the Russian peasants, that he must write against war and militarism.

My hope is that whatever you do to make a good life for yourself -- whether you become a teacher, or social worker, or business person, or lawyer, or poet, or scientist -- you will devote part of your life to making this a better world for your children, for all children. My hope is that your generation will demand an end to war, that your generation will do something that has not yet been done in history and wipe out the national boundaries that separate us from other human beings on this earth.

Recently I saw a photo on the front page of the New York Times which I cannot get out of my mind. It showed ordinary Americans sitting on chairs on the southern border of Arizona, facing Mexico. They were holding guns and they were looking for Mexicans who might be trying to cross the border into the United States. This was horrifying to me -- the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call "civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into two hundred artificially created entities we call "nations" and are ready to kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary, so fierce it leads to murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking, cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on, have been useful to those in power, deadly for those out of power.
There's more, and it's powerful, and beautiful. You can read it here (originally posted on TomDispatch).



I am hereby announcing - as much for myself as for anyone else - that I will be absent from comments and blog-chat during the day. I'd better be, anyway. I've been on a bit of a break between deadlines, as I waited for editorial feedback. Now I've got it, along with a series of deadlines between now and mid-July. Deadlines that I have no idea how I'm going to meet, though I know somehow I will.

For the next six weeks, I'm going to try to post in the morning, then forget my blog and everyone else's for the rest of the day. Please know that I will still be avidly reading comments. My lack of response should not be interpreted as lack of interest, merely lack of time.

Here's hoping that putting it in writing helps me stick to it.

the anti-sheeple

This post is dedicated to David Cho, one of the most open-minded and considerate people I've met on the internet, a Christian evangelical with an incredibly cute dog.

From yesterday's New York Times:
It's that time of year again when President Bush turns up around the country in sumptuous commencement robes, assures thousands of college graduates that a C average does not preclude the presidency and urges them to go forth and do good.

Calvin College, a small evangelical school in the strategic Republican stronghold of Grand Rapids, Mich., seemed a perfect stop on Saturday for the president's message. Or so thought Karl Rove, the White House political chief, who two months ago effectively bumped Calvin's scheduled commencement speaker when he asked that Mr. Bush be invited instead.

But events at Calvin did not happen as smoothly as Mr. Rove might have liked. A number of students, faculty members and alumni objected so strongly to the president's visit that by last Friday nearly 800 of them had signed a letter of protest that appeared as a full-page advertisement in The Grand Rapids Press. The letter said, in part, "Your deeds, Mr. President - neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the environment and misleading the country into war - do not exemplify the faith we live by."

The next day, Mr. Bush was greeted by another letter in The Press signed by some 100 of 300 faculty members that objected to "an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq" and policies "that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor."

At first glance, it seemed as if a mainstay of Mr. Bush's base, the Christian right, had risen up against him. At second glance, the reality was more complex. The protests at Calvin showed that Mr. Bush's evangelical base was not monolithic and underscored the small but growing voice of the Christian left.
My deepest gratitude to these students and their teachers. The struggle for peace and justice encompasses people of every faith and people of no faith; I'd be very proud to march beside these Christian soldiers.

Full story here.



Several people have emailed to thank me for posting Bill Moyers's recent speech at the National Conference for Media Reform, and mentioned they hadn't caught it before. So, working on a basic tenet of political organizing - "each one, reach one" - I once again urge you to read this formidable piece of writing and thinking.

It's long, and I suspect many of us have skimmed it, but not read it cover to cover. I'm guilty of that more often than I'd like to be; we're all pressed for time, with too much to read.

But please. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes of your life for this man's thoughts.

For me, it's easy: Moyers quotes Orwell, and Steinbeck, and calls Judith Miller a government stenographer! I'll give him 15 minutes on my busiest day.

As further proof, I offer you some excerpts.
I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn faith based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.

That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.

One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn't play by the conventional rules of beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.

. . .

These "rules of the game" permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.

I decided long ago that this wasn't healthy for democracy. I came to see that "news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity." In my documentaries – whether on the Watergate scandals thirty years ago or the Iran Contra conspiracy twenty years ago or Bill Clinton’s fund raising scandals ten years ago or, five years ago, the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products from its workers, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.

. . .

Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s "1984." They give us a program vowing "No Child Left Behind" while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily calling for "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" that give us neither. And that’s just for starters.

In Orwell's "1984", the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist Winston, "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?" "Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought," he said, "will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy – or worse.

. . .

I told our producers and correspondents that in our field reporting our job was to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth. This was all the more imperative in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. America could be entering a long war against an elusive and stateless enemy with no definable measure of victory and no limit to its duration, cost or foreboding fear. The rise of a homeland security state meant government could justify extraordinary measures in exchange for protecting citizens against unnamed, even unproven, threats.

Furthermore, increased spending during a national emergency can produce a spectacle of corruption behind a smokescreen of secrecy. I reminded our team of the words of the news photographer in Tom Stoppard's play who said, "People do terrible things to each other, but it's worse when everyone is kept in the dark."

I also reminded them of how the correspondent and historian, Richard Reeves, answered a student who asked him to define real news. "Real news," Reeves responded, "is the news you and I need to keep our freedoms."

. . .

The point of the story is something only a handful of our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson Moyers, and I knew at the time -- that the success of NOW's journalism was creating a backlash in Washington.

The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican party became. That's because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.

This is the point of my story: Ideologues don't want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can't be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn't, God forbid. Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn't the party line. It wasn't that we were getting it wrong. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. The problem was that we were getting it right, not right-wing -- telling stories that partisans in power didn't want told.

. . .

This letter came to me last year from a woman in New York, five pages of handwriting. She said, among other things, that "After the worst sneak attack in our history, there’s not been a moment to reflect, a moment to let the horror resonate, a moment to feel the pain and regroup as humans. No, since I lost my husband on 9/11, not only our family’s world, but the whole world seems to have gotten even worse than that tragic day." She wanted me to know that on 9/11 her husband was not on duty. "He was home with me having coffee. My daughter and grandson, living only five blocks from the Towers, had to be evacuated with masks -- terror all around... my other daughter, near the Brooklyn Bridge... my son in high school. But my Charlie took off like a lightening bolt to be with his men from the Special Operations Command. 'Bring my gear to the plaza,' he told his aide immediately after the first plane struck the North Tower... He took action based on the responsibility he felt for his job and his men and for those Towers that he loved."

In the FDNY, she continued, chain-of- command rules extend to every captain of every fire house in the city. "If anything happens in the firehouse -- at any time -- even if the Captain isn't on duty or on vacation -- that Captain is responsible for everything that goes on there 24/7." So she asked: "Why is this Administration responsible for nothing? All that they do is pass the blame. This is not leadership... Watch everyone pass the blame again in this recent torture case [Abu Ghraib] of Iraqi prisons... ."

She told me that she and her husband had watched my series on "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth" together and that now she was a faithful fan of NOW. She wrote: "We need more programs like yours to wake America up... . Such programs must continue amidst the sea of false images and name calling that divide America now... . Such programs give us hope that search will continue to get this imperfect human condition on to a higher plane. So thank you and all of those who work with you. Without public broadcasting, all we would call news would be merely carefully controlled propaganda."

Enclosed with the letter was a check made out to "Channel 13 – NOW" for $500.
Moyers closes with this:
"There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great store by," John Steinbeck wrote. "It was called the people."
If you've made it this far, you've read about half. Now please go read the rest.

the perfect place

The Perfect Place, if and when we find it, will be in Port Credit.

We found Port Credit completely by accident on our first trip to Toronto. We were driving in from Buffalo, got hungry, saw an exit sign and pulled off the highway, had lunch at a pub. The town looked so nice, and from that we got the mistaken impression that the Toronto suburbs were all cute little towns.

Only after further exploring did we find out that Port Credit is fairly unique in Mississauga, having been an actual town before it was subsumed into the larger sprawl. The other areas of Mississauga we saw, though they seemed very nice, lacked that. The "town center" is a big mall.

After a series of coincidences kept taking us back there, I said, that's it, we have to live here.

We're definitely not moving to downtown Toronto, but what I would miss most in the urban/suburban trade-off is the "urban village" - the main drag with shops and restaurants, where you don't have to drive to every single thing you need, where there's some little street life. Port Credit has that.

The other major selling point for us is the public transportation. Upon examining GO train schedules more closely, we were shocked to see that most lines only have weekday rush hour service, and only in the standard rush-hour direction (to the city in a.m., to the suburbs in the p.m.). We are very much hoping to work nontraditional hours, as we do now. If we lived in Meadowvale, for example, it would be very inconvenient.

The Lakeshore line seems to be full-service. Though it doesn't run often, at least it runs all day and on weekends. It's also much closer: Port Credit is only 20 minutes out of downtown.

So, first choice Port Credit. Second choice, other stops on the Lakeshore line: Long Branch, Clarkson or Oakville.

The Perfect Place has three bedrooms, so we can each have our own office, and a little yard, no matter how tiny.

If we're going to be super-perfect, it has a fireplace, but that's pushing it. Location is more important.

So. We already know that very few houses become available for rent in this location in our price range. We're on a realtor's list, and although he does get things with our specs - before we heard from Immigration, so we couldn't actually take any of them - they are very infrequent. I think the last one was in March. And I never see houses in Port Credit advertised in the Star.

Until this weekend.

There it was: PORT Credit - 3 bedroom house, large lot, near lake, near GO, July 1.

I spoke to the landlord this morning. He sent some photos and we looked up the address in our trusty map book.

It's a detached house (not a townhouse) on a large lot, steps from the lake and a five-minute walk from the GO station. The current tenant's lease is up July 1, but she'd like to stay til August 1. Our lease is up September 1, and our security deposit covers our last month rent. Too, too perfect.

Can't work. Too easy!

The landlord is going to run a credit check, and we'll go up to see it when he's done, probably next week.

Allan feels we're moving too quickly, but based on a year and a half of looking through Star classifieds, plus the realtor's emails, I know this is a rare opportunity.

25 elmwood
the perfect place?

you're not going to believe this

I may have just found the Perfect Place - a house that may be exactly what we're looking for. We're going for a very specific location, and we don't see many things available there (hardly any). This may be It.

I've spoken to the landlord, and I think we'll be going up to see it soon.

If it works out, we'll move at the end of August.


Details as they develop.

free press

Last week, a huge National Conference for Media Reform was held St. Louis. Danny Schechter, "blogger-in chief" of the amazing MediaChannel, filed this report, called "Why We Need A Media and Democracy Act".
My idea: A Media and Democracy Act to package proposals for an anti-trust program to break up media monopolies; a funding strategy for public broadcasting and the independent producing community (perhaps financed with a tax on advertising); reinstatement of an updated fairness doctrine; free broadcasts for political debate across the spectrum; limits on advertising and monitoring for honesty and accuracy; guarantees for media freedom in the public interest; media literacy education in our schools; provisions for free wireless; media training and access centers; more support for media arts, etc.

This list is endless. No one group has the clout to put its priorities on the agenda without support from others, so why not make everyone a stakeholder in the process? Politics is the art of compromise. That's why a Media and Democracy Act that incorporates all these concerns can have appeal across the partisan divides of politics as well as the political divides within the media and democracy movement.
Read his whole argument, it's worth your time. Democracy can't be restored in the United States without media reform, and it has to start somewhere.

Schechter also links to Bill Moyers's speech on the closing day of the conference: "Take Back Public Broadcasting". If you haven't heard it yet, read it here.


what i'm watching: question for canadians

I have a practical - totally non-political - question for the Canadians among us. Do you use a DVD rent-by-mail service? If so, which one, and do you like it?

I am a complete Netflix addict. We both love movies - especially enjoyed without stupid people talking behind us. (Perhaps Canadian audiences are more considerate?) I love Netflix's great selection, the service is speedy, and if you watch a lot of movies, you can't beat the price ($17.99/month for unlimited rentals).

Last year I read that Netflix was going to expand into Canada by early 2005, but apparently those plans have been postponed indefinitely. Checking around online, I found several competing Netflix-type services in Canada. I'm wondering if anyone has feedback on selection, speed of delivery, price, and so forth.

"you want old stuff? go to europe."

I learned today that CBGB, that Bowery institution where I discovered... oh, a lot of stuff... will likely close next year. It's a complete wonder that Hilly Kristal's palace has managed to survive so long, and it's not surprising that it has finally come to the end of the line after 32 years. (It does make me feel a little old, but that's ok.)

I gleaned this NYC tidbit from an Op-Ed in last week's New York Times City section, called "Go To Brooklyn, Punk", which I traced back to Tony Fletcher, who I confess I had never heard of before.

Fletcher's piece is about New York's ever-changing - some would say ever- disappearing - music scene, forever forced to discover new neighborhoods as areas become too pricey.
And then there's CBGB. When Hilly Kristal opened his Bowery bar in December 1973, the neighborhood was too dangerous to draw an audience for the club's promised country, bluegrass and blues. Instead, a new generation of downtown rock musicians, attracted by the neighborhood's cheap loft rents, talked their way onto his stage. The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Television duly started punk rock and made CBGB internationally famous; the club has continued to champion underground music ever since. CBGB's lease expires this summer, and Mr. Kristal says he won't meet a proposed doubling of his rent to $40,000 a month.

Mr. Kristal doesn't glorify the days when the club, below a flophouse, was among the neighborhood's only functioning storefronts. A recent Village Voice story about the Bowery's gentrification found him remarkably sanguine. "A lot of this neighborhood could be nicer and cleaner," Mr. Kristal said. "So things are gone, places are gone. You want old stuff? Go to Europe. This is New York."

Precisely. Besides, as Mr. Kristal knows, success does not guarantee survival in this city. The factors that enable a music club to become a going concern - cheap rents, low prices, a poor but avid customer base - are certain to change when the neighborhood becomes popular, the venue makes money or the lease is up.
He's right, of course, in one sense. New York is all about change. New York is change. The city exists for profit, not to subsidize fledgling art and music scenes.

Yet I wonder if New York risks losing the constant influx of young adventurers that add so much to the city, as the slum-to-art-to-gentrification cycle turns faster and faster. One day I read that Red Hook, Brooklyn is the new frontier, and it seems the next I'm reading about development in that neighborhood that only the very rich can afford.

Yet... the next day I read about an arts boom in the South Bronx. Yes, the South Bronx. And it just keeps spinning.

shea stadium, 1:05 est, pavano vs petey

The Yankees are playing the Mets this weekend (boo, interleague!), and today's the game everyone's been waiting for: Pedro vs the Yankees. Here's how it looks from my little corner of the world:

1. I hate the Mets. I love to hate the Mets! Hating the Mets is like a national pastime for me.

2. I love Pedro Martinez. He's one of the many attractions that ushered me into Red Sox Nation.

3. I really like Willie Randolph, former Yankee, now the Mets manager. I've liked Willie from his playing days in the late 1970s, when I first got into baseball. Plus he's the first African-American manager in New York and I want him to do well.

4. I want the Yankees to lose. The more they lose this year, the happier I am.

5. I especially want the Yankees to be bested by Pedro, for reasons that should be obvious to most baseball fans. (And if you're not a fan, I won't bore you with the explanation.)

6. But I hate the Mets!

What to do?!

"the confinement even of an attractive cage"

Sometimes as children, we admire certain people, we have heroes, but when we grow up, we learn those people weren't very heroic. It turns out their public images were mainly myth, or their private lives were hateful, or worse, they didn't really achieve the feats they are credited with.

But sometimes, the reverse happens: someone we admired as a child turns out to be even better than we imagined, and the more we learn, the larger their stature grows.

I've had that experience with two of my childhood heroes: Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart. I was always fascinated with both these women. I read kids' biographies about them, saw documentaries, collected quotes, and just generally loved the idea of them, in a kid way. Imagine my joy and amazement when I learned that my idol Joni Mitchell identified with her, too.

Now that I've learned much more about them, as an adult, I can truly say they are heroes. (If it seems I'm always referring to people as heroes, it's because I have a lot of them - my famous role models for what's important in life.)

Roosevelt and Earhart had much in common, as both women were consciously, radically feminist. (Roosevelt, if she lived today, would still be a radical. The world has yet to catch up with her vision and her brilliant open mind.) And I've recently learned that they were friends! They flew together several times; their friendship made Roosevelt want to take flying lessons. (FDR said no!)

In my last "what i'm reading" post, I was about to start Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism by Susan Ware. And the more I learn about "Amelia" - as I still think of her, from childhood days - the more I love her. Earhart, the aviator - and Earhart the feminist, writer, public speaker, clothing designer, and towering public figure.

Earhart was overtly, consciously feminist. She used every opportunity - and there many, as when she wasn't flying, she was writing, speaking, giving interviews and otherwise trying to raise money for more flights - to champion women's rights, to talk about women's achievements, to place her own accomplishments (and those of other female aviators) in a larger context, as proof that women were capable individuals, and deserved equal opportunity and treatment.

Like my favorite baseball player, Lou Gehrig, Earhart's death overshadows her life. Her disappearance has become what she's best known for, the way that Gehrig's farewell speech overshadows his incredible career.

Earhart's personal life is very interesting to me, too. She had an innate understanding of what came to be called "the personal is political". She was highly skeptical about marriage, which for middle-class women in those days, meant the death of individuality and achievement. After much reluctance, she eventually married her manager and publicist, G. P. Putnam. They had a modern marriage by any standards, one based on mutual respect, friendship and a working relationship. (Also one purposely without children.)

Before she would agree to marry Putnam, Earhart wrote this:
There are some things which should be writ before we are married - things we have talked over before - most of them.

You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which mean much to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations, but have no heart to look ahead.

On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or in passing) with anyone else.

Please let us not interfere with the other's work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinement of even an attractive cage.

I must exact a cruel promise, and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.

I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.

I relate to this letter in many ways. I'd love to talk to Earhart and find out how it really worked out.

I wish I could meet Amelia, hang out with her. Maybe she would let me borrow a scarf.

Here is Amelia Earhart, as she should be remembered.


the other war

"Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him."

When I first read this story, I assumed you all saw it, too, and didn't need my take. And it was so sickening, I caught myself looking the other way. But after taking a few deep breaths, I feel an obligation to post it, just in case someone stumbles on it for the first time on this blog.

The story I'm referring to is the details of the deaths of the Afghan prisoners, by torture at the hands of the US military, in the Bagram prison. And how the military tried to cover up those deaths.
In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.
The army even admits that "most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar [one of the men tortured to death] was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time." New York Times story here.

How do the neocons and fascists - the O'Reillys and Coulters of the world - defend this? Maybe it's the one bad apple defense. Maybe it's breaking eggs to make omelets. Or perhaps it's the media's fault, for reporting it.

The tortured prisoners lost their dignity, then their lives. Their tormentors lost their dignity, and their souls.

I would never compare what a murderer and his victim suffer. No matter how much the perpetrator one day regrets his actions, the hammer hurts less than the nail. I'll only conjecture that the American torturers may run from their demons for the rest of lives, and no amount of alcohol or drugs will let them run fast enough.

And what of the people who put them there, who created a climate that allowed such horror? What of those defenders of freedom? What will happen to them?

good question

G alerted me to an excellent post at Are We Still A Democracy?. Apparently the White House press corps recently borrowed some courage and did their jobs. (You know I won't say the journalists found their balls. But anyone with evidence suggesting a correlation between testicles and courage is welcome to email me.)

While over at AWSAD, you can read a wonderful quote from Ben Franklin, one of the US's more enlightened founders: "They that give up an essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

a boondoggle of breathtaking proportions

With threats of losing the 2012 Olympics (as if we're getting them anyway!), New Yorkers are being held hostage to backroom brokering among Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Robert Wood Johnson IV (known as "Woody"), the mayor's good friend who owns the Jets football team, the MTA, and the construction industry.

What they are railroading us into is outrageous, even in this town. It's like something out of Tammany Hall days, but this time it's happening in public.

The Stadium plan is insane. The city can't afford it, doesn't need it, will lose money from it, won't benefit from it in any way, and will suffer long-term problems because of it. But it will create some temporary construction jobs and will make Bloomberg and Woody very happy, so who cares.

Please read what Bob Herbert has to say.
Trust me, it's going to be a boondoggle of breathtaking proportions.

Here's the first thing you need to know about the insanely expensive football stadium ($2.2 billion and counting) that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki want to build on Manhattan's West Side for Robert Wood Johnson IV, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets.

The rail yards on which the stadium would be built are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the development rights have been valued by the M.T.A.'s own appraisers at $923 million. But the M.T.A. has agreed to sell the rights to this publicly owned property to Mr. Johnson and the Jets for a mere $250 million. That's a subsidy of nearly $700 million for the mayor's fabulously wealthy buddy.

When you add that subsidy to the $600 million in public funds that the mayor and the governor had pledged from the beginning to hand to Mr. Johnson, we're talking about a giveaway of $1.3 billion. The rascals used to do this sort of thing in back rooms, while worrying about headlines, indictments and handcuffs. Now they've figured out how to do it legally.

. . .

That the M.T.A., which is hemorrhaging cash, is ready to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Jets is beyond absurd. Over the past couple of years it has raised fares, reduced service on subway and bus lines, closed dozens of subway token booths, cut back on maintenance and cleaning, and treated its riders to a long succession of major fires, foul-ups and breakdowns.

That's the first thing you need to know.

The second thing is that hardly any of the ordinary taxpayers and transit riders subsidizing this glittering playground on the Hudson will be able to see the Jets play there. This is not like Yankee Stadium, where you can actually go to a game. Unless you've already got season tickets (or unless you're wealthy and can afford one of the staggeringly expensive luxury suites), you're out of luck.

The Jets' Web site couldn't be clearer about this. Under the heading "Waitlist Policy," it says: "The New York Jets are sold out on a season ticket basis. There are NO individual game tickets available. If you are not a season ticket holder, you may join our Waitlist. There are currently over 10,000 people on our Waitlist."

You have to pay $50 a year just to be on the waiting list. The wait is approximately 10 years. And after waiting 10 years, the maximum number of tickets you can buy is four. Does this sound like a good deal for a stadium that you're helping to pay for?
Full column here; all emphasis mine.

A real David and Goliath story is at work here, with Gene Russianoff, the heroic public interest attorney, filing lawsuits on the people's behalf, the residents of Clinton/Hell's Kitchen, whose already beleagured neighborhood would be completely destroyed by the proposed stadium, organized and fighting, and, oddly, another Goliath throwing in with them: the owners of Madison Square Garden seeking to protect their franchise. (That strange bedfellow has helped pay for some great TV ads, all of which are true.)

This is all Mike Bloomberg cares about these days. The rest of us can all go to hell, as long as Woody gets his stadium.

doing ok, should be doing better

That was the conclusion of the UN committee against torture about Canada. Canada and six other countries were up for review at the committee's latest session. The committee monitors compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Citing extradition and torture victim Maher Arar, the UN committee said Canada should do more to prevent extraditions where torture is a likely outcome.
The committee also criticized Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002 for what it described as a blanket exclusion of refugees and other people in need of protection. The new law, enacted almost a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, allows for the removal of foreign nationals who constitute a danger to the public or the security of Canada.

However, the Canadian report to the committee said "this is to be done only in exceptional circumstances and after the risk to the individual has been carefully balanced against the risk to Canadian society ... To date, Canada had not deported anyone to a country where the person was determined to face a substantial risk of torture."
On the positive side, the panel praised Canada for using the UN's broad definition of torture in its own criminal code (which, as we know, the US does not), and for deeming evidence obtained by torture inadmissible.
It also welcomed Canada's application of criminal standards to its military personnel wherever located worldwide. Under this stipulation, soldiers cannot use the argument that they were following orders or plead exceptional circumstances -- including armed conflict -- in their defence.
This is heartening, and it makes sense for Canada to examine its own role in Arar's ordeal. (There is an ongoing inquiry in Ottawa.)

Unfortunately, the countries who most need the panel's review are the least likely to heed their recommendations, but that will always be the problem with an international body of any type. Article here, thanks to ALPF, of course.


to the new commenter

...whose comments have been deleted: If you need to insult me, please do so from your own blog. As for liberals attacking conservatives, you won't find that here either.

Since you've started off on the wrong foot, your comments will always be deleted.

eliminate the middleman

Redsock posted this excellent excerpt from Greg Palast:
Was there a problem with the [Newsweek] story? Certainly. If you want to split hairs, the inside-government source of the Koran desecration story now says he can't confirm which military report it appeared in. But he saw it in one report and a witness has confirmed that the Koran was defiled. Of course, there's an easy way to get at the truth. RELEASE THE REPORTS NOW. Hand them over, Mr. Rumsfeld, and let's see for ourselves what's in them. ...

Despite its supposed new concern for hidden sources, let's note that Newsweek and the [Washington] Post have no trouble providing, even in the midst of this story, cover for secret Administration sources that are FAVORABLE to Bush. Editor Whitaker's retraction relies on "Administration officials" whose names he kindly withholds. ...

As with CBS's retraction of Dan Rather's report on Bush's draft-dodging, Newsweek's diving to the mat on Guantanamo acts as a warning to all journalists who step out of line. Newsweek has now publicly committed to having its reports vetted by Rumsfeld's Defense Department before publication. [Emphasis mine.] Why not just print Rumsfeld's press releases and eliminate the middleman, the reporter?
That pretty much sums it up for me.


For a time, I wrote about adoption issues, a topic that fell into my lap, not one I was led to from personal experience. I am not personally involved in any side of the "adoption triad" - as adoptee, birth mother or adoptive parent - but I spent a lot of time listening to people on all sides of the triangle, as well as professionals in the field.

So this headline in yesterday's Toronto Star -"Adoptees vow to fight for access to records" - jumped out at me.
Adults who were given up for adoption as children say they have an inherent right to know their birth name, and are vowing to fight any restrictions added to a bill that would unseal adoption records.

For 78 years, adopted children have had no right to access basic information such as their name and birthday, and that must change, said Wendy Rowney, an adoptee and president of the support group Adoption, Support, Kinship.

"This is a human right, and we will keep fighting until we have access to our own original birth information," Rowney said today before presenting her case to the committee examining the proposed legislation.

The bill, introduced by the government in March, has come under intense scrutiny this week.
I was sorry to see that Canada lags behind the UK on this, though encouraged that BC, Newfoundland and Alberta have unsealed records (though with the controversial "contact veto").

I'm not saying this is a simple issue, but I will say that the more I learned about it, the simpler it became. Every person should have access to basic information about themselves. It's a right every person who was not adopted takes for granted, but one denied to adoptees based on antiquated social norms. (The silence surrounding adoption was originally intended to protect women and children from the double stigma of birth without marriage.) How can a legal system decide that an adult is not allowed to know where she or he came from?

I wish the Canadian adoptees good luck in their battle. I hope they fare better than their American counterparts, who are still struggling.


So there won't be an election yet. Talk about a squeaker. Feel free to tell us how you feel about this, unless it's all been said already, then feel free not to.

ALPF mustered his courage and sent more links, so I have some good commentary to post. I found this Macleans story on the Conservative party's reaction to Stronach's decision - and public reaction to that reaction - very interesting.

Canadians seem almost universally turned off by the name-calling and sexist slurs. On the other hand, when a certain governor made his "girly men" pronouncement, his constituency howled with glee. (Which is not to say the rest of us weren't appalled.)

The Macleans article also notes that not all the sexism came from politicians:
Some of the most sexist characterizations of Stronach didn't come from her political adversaries, but from media.

Montreal's La Presse newspaper ran a cartoon of Martin leaning out his car window to solicit a street-walking Stronach.

Columnist Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail wrote that if Stronach's perfidy "isn't politically slatternly behaviour, what on earth is?"

"Blond Ambition" headlines sprouted across the country.
I can't even express how beyond sick of this I am. It is the 21st Century. Women are astronauts, soldiers, surgeons, heads of state. And they are still being characterized in terms of hair color, sexual habits and reproductive capacities. (You know the one: "Grandmother Chases Thief". Turns out she's a 50-year-old former track star. I don't think I've ever seen the male equivalent.)

The mainstream media is so far behind! In the US, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed every story about political protest began with "It was like the 1960s all over again...", as if public protest began and ended in that decade. That kind of laziness and ignorance just drives me nuts.

Elsewhere, military historian, writer and thinker Gwynne Dyer held court on, among other things, Canadian-American relations.
"Any politician in Ottawa understands how to say 'no' to the Americans without getting hurt too much, but also they have to calculate how many times they can say 'no' before they've got to say 'yes.' If the present two administrations (Paul Martin's Liberals and George Bush's Republicans) continue, we can probably manage it without getting the Americans too cross."

"Of course, if [pro-U.S. Canadian Conservative leader] Mr. Harper became Prime Minister we'd all be effectively under the same government wouldn't we?" Dyer chuckled.
Dyer also talked about the war in Iraq, terrorism, and US military power.
Interestingly, Dyer predicted that Islamic terrorism would peter out due to a lack of success on its part. Dyer said the war is all about a panicky America worried about losing its status as the world's only superpower trying to reassert its might by making Iraq an example of what it means to tangle with the U.S.

[interesting military predictions based on historical precedents . . . ]

Dyer predicts that by 2045 the U.S. will have lost its sole superpower status and be one of several great powers, including the two awakening Asian giants - China and India. That said, Dyer believes the U.S. must become multilateral in its thinking and adhere to the United Nations efforts in striving for a more harmonious world.

"What we need to do is hang on to that multilateral world and not slide back into military confrontations and alliances, which the current American strategy risks driving other countries into."

"America has to stop trying to take over."
As the Irish say, Can't say fairer than that. Article here. I don't know what L-TV is, but I like the name!


paging linda blair

Check out this gif file!

This is also a cool pic from the same blog, though only with the post title and commentary. Alone, and without irony, it's beyond nauseating: it's terrifying.

Seems like an interesting Irishman, though I wish I read Gaelic.

newsweek again

Two quick links on the Koran desecration story and the Newsweek retraction: in The Progressive and the Boulder Daily Camera (original requires registration, so thank you Common Dreams).

Good stuff.

book slut

You know I love books. I also have a thing for reference books. (Am I a geek, or what?) So naturally I love libraries. I always have. When I was a kid, when I walked into a library, I would sometimes get that spine-tingly, awed feeling that some people get when they walk into a church. If I have the chance to visit a really old or really vast library, like the one we saw at Trinity College in Dublin, I still will.

As if this wasn't enough love, in these days of government censorship and spying, librarians are now also freedom fighters, leading the battle against the so-called Patriot Act. And so I dedicate this post to wmtc's resident librarian, who keeps the flame alive while battling bunheads on a daily basis.
Librarian's brush with FBI shapes her view of the USA Patriot Act
By Joan Airoldi

It was a moment that librarians had been dreading.

On June 8, 2004, an FBI agent stopped at the Deming branch of the Whatcom County Library System in northwest Washington and requested a list of the people who had borrowed a biography of Osama bin Laden. We said no.

We did not take this step lightly.
Read Airoldi's story here.

overheard elsewhere

Whew! That was quite the discussion we had going on. Thanks for all your thoughts, your patience with each other, and your page views.

However, you may have scared away ALPF! I will await your return, my friend.

Back in the discussion about racism (notice how the post wasn't even about racism?), Sassypants - who I believe is Sassycat wearing trousers - said: "I started to write a response about some of the stuff discussed here, and it really just sort of snowballed into a blog entry. A really really long one. So, go read it there, if you'd like." "There" is here. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I will, as soon as I post this.

Which reminds me: the rampant commenting and replying has taken me away from the blogs I try to read regularly. So if I've been absent from your discussions, it's your own fault! I plan on catching up at work this weekend.

Also, someone left an interesting comment about breed-specific dog bans, way back here. I don't know who wrote it and can't verify her/his credentials, but there it is. Anything that helps educate about pits is worth linking to.


in labor we trust

A liberal Texan brings us This Day in Alternate History. I'm kind of amazed. A lot of thought and creativity goes into this.

don't blame newsweek

The right is falling all over themselves blaming the you-know-what media, and the government has Newsweek backed into a corner. I'm sure I don't need to link about this, commentary and innuendo is all over the internet.

But Molly Ivins reminds us that the retracted story is essentially true.
Uh, people, I hate to tell you this, but the story about Americans abusing the Koran in order to enrage prisoners has been out there for quite some time. The first mention I found of it is March 17, 2004, when the Independent of London interviewed the first British citizen released from Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner said he had been physically beaten but did not consider that as bad as the psychological torture, which he described extensively. Jamal al-Harith, a computer programmer from Manchester, said 70 percent of the inmates had gone on a hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy of the Koran. The strike was ended by force-feeding.

Then came the report, widely covered in American media last December, by the International Red Cross concerning torture at Gitmo. I wrote at the time: "In the name of Jesus Christ Almighty, why are people representing our government, paid by us, writing filth on the Korans of helpless prisoners? Is this American? Is this Christian? What are our moral values? Where are the clergymen on this? Speak up, speak out."
Read more here.

On the same theme, here is the transcript of James Galloway's statement to the US Senate. (The original is here but it takes forever to load.) Some snips:
As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.
“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.
Read. Seethe. Organize. Write, call, take to the streets.

better now than never

kuwaiti women get vote
Why are these women smiling?

I've been reading some heart-wrenching stories lately, tales of human cruelty that defy comprehension. This victory in Kuwait is welcome and soothing. I can only imagine the celebration among the Kuwaiti activists!

The story linked above is also a tale of human strength and survival. I read it in the New York Times Magazine a couple of weeks ago, and it's been captured here. Once again I say to myself: geography is destiny.

brain trust

This blog sometimes morphs into a discussion board for intellectual and political discussion. I love it! I never imagined this would happen and couldn't have planned it if I tried.

One thing I am continually impressed with is the quality and tone of discourse among the Canadians who post here. Why is it I've never had to delete and banish a Canadian poster? And the answer is not because I always agree with them. Julia B says:
I have no interest in a leader who spends more time firing insults than promoting a platform, and no respect for a party whose members refer to a departing member (no matter the circumstance) publically as a "dipstick" and a "whore".
And G concurred:
Add to it the many members of the CPC party's insult-laden attacks on Belinda Stronach's decision to leave. No high road there. Far too often these guys sound like they belong in the playground - every day they prove themselves to be mere boys among men with the personal attacks that are anything but issue-related. And Canadians will not respect that in their votes.
Americans say they don't go for this stuff, yet election results don't bear that out. The guy with the dirtier campaign usually wins.

I am really enjoying all the craziness that's going on in Canadian politics right now. I hope I don't offend you all when I say I'm finding it very entertaining, and I'm learning so much.


a path northward

And there's a very interesting Canadian history lesson going on here. Someone called loneprimate said this:
When I say that (English) Canada was founded by Americans, I don't mean the people you meet in, say, Kentucky today. I mean people with a certain set of experiences and assumptions, in common with others who lived in places that are today the United States, but had a different opinion of the necessity of the Empire, and moved to another part of North America to live in accordance with those opinions. In a way, that is exactly what Laura is doing, though not, I think, because she has some attachment to the Crown... but rather, to values being given the force of policy here, but not currently in the United States. In that, she is very much a Late Loyalist... the object of her loyalty may be different, but the tradition is a long and honourable one, and she and Allan are treading a path northward well-worn by the feet of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen over the centuries.
I love that image of treading a well-worn path. It especially resonates with me as an activist who believes we are all part of the same struggle, across time and all cultures.

Who are you, mysterious loneprimate?

blogs of note

Procrastinating - no, letting my work sit before editing! - I found this very cool blog: Canadian Cynic. Through CC, I found Skeptico, who has some amazing links.

Warning: contains material offensive to the reverent. Atheists, agnostics and skeptics, enjoy!

gorgeous mosaic

There's a great discussion of racism going on here.

I really appreciate the different perspectives people bring to the table. Sassycat has a particularly interesting take, having grown up in Canada and New Hampshire, currently living in Florida.

not so fast

Not everyone thinks the Conservative government is a lock.
Canada's opposition Conservative Party, which is set to bring down the minority Liberal government later this week, was hit by a new opinion poll on Monday that showed it was trailing in the country's most vote-rich region.

The Leger Marketing poll for the Sun chain of newspapers put support for the Liberals in the powerful central province of Ontario at 43 percent compared with 31 percent for the Conservatives.

Ontario, a Liberal stronghold at the federal level for the past 12 years, accounts for 106 of the 308 seats in House of Commons, and no party can hope to form a government without doing well there. . . .

Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberals have been badly hurt by a corruption scandal and Conservative leader Stephen Harper says the government must be defeated as soon as possible. The Leger figures, however, suggest there is no guarantee Harper can end 12 years of Liberal rule.
Thanks, ALPF! I must say, I'm finding this Parliamentary system fascinating. I still don't have a very clear understanding of it, but a lot seems to be seeping in through osmosis.


hostage crisis

I know I'm blogging out of control today. Maybe I'll skip tomorrow, but right now I've got to bring you Paul Krugman, because I know you can't find him without me!
Is there any point, now that November's election is behind us, in revisiting the history of the Iraq war? Yes: any path out of the quagmire will be blocked by people who call their opponents weak on national security, and portray themselves as tough guys who will keep America safe. So it's important to understand how the tough guys made America weak.
Krugman links to the Downing Street Memo and says:
In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats."

So what's the plan?

The people who sold us this war continue to insist that success is just around the corner, and that things would be fine if the media would just stop reporting bad news. But the administration has declared victory in Iraq at least four times. January's election, it seems, was yet another turning point that wasn't.

Yet it's very hard to discuss getting out. Even most of those who vehemently opposed the war say that we have to stay on in Iraq now that we're there.

In effect, America has been taken hostage. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the terrible scenes that will surely unfold if we leave (even though terrible scenes are unfolding while we're there). Nobody wants to tell the grieving parents of American soldiers that their children died in vain. And nobody wants to be accused, by an administration always ready to impugn other people's patriotism, of stabbing the troops in the back. . . .

So we need to get beyond the clichés - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout, but we have to tell the Iraqi government that our stay is time-limited, and that it has to find a way to take care of itself. The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.
Twice a week, I am grateful for Paul Krugman, my favorite voice in the wilderness.

apples and oranges

A friend and loyal wmtc reader sent me two Canada-related items from The Economist. (Thank you!)

The first is a letter to the editor, in reply to a story on the EU. A man in Toronto writes:
Canada Belongs In Europe

I believe that the citizens of the European Union would be best served if the next expansion of the EU was not to the east but rather to the west, to incorporate Canada ("Now that we are all bundled inside, let's shut the door", April 30th). While this notion might seem odd at first, a little investigation would show that the vast majority of Canadians claim ancestry from the nations of the EU and Canada's cultural, social and economic policies are very similar to those of Europe. Access to NAFTA as well as Canada's natural resources, such as oil and gas, holds obvious advantages for our European brethren. Equally, Canada's easy access to Europe would be just as beneficial to Canada. It is time for Canada to petition the EU for membership. The advantages for both parties are too significant to ignore.

Dan Taylor
Canadian readers, please weigh in?

The other is an interesting perspective on the new War Museum in Ottawa. The article is here, but you need an Economist subscription to read it.
Don't Even Memorialise It

A new war museum sparks a typically Canadian row

Historically, the 160-acre LeBreton Flats, just upriver from Ottawa's Parliament Buildings, has been a place of both war and peace. On its slopes, Irish canal builders and French-Canadian lumberjacks used to camp and brawl. For the past four decades, it has been a toxic wasteland. Now, after a C$100m ($80m) face-lift, it has become home to Canada's spectacular new War Museum, opened on May 8th, the 60th anniversary of VE-Day.

But the C$136m museum is already mired in a typically Canadian row over whether it presents too bellicose an image for a peaceloving country. The museum's purpose "is not to celebrate hostility", Canada's governor-general (and commander-in-chief), Adrienne Clarkson, insists. While it is not easy to find a peace motif among all the traditional artefacts of war, a message of regeneration does emerge.

The museum's grass-covered roof tilts up towards Parliament's Peace Tower. Its chief architect, Raymond Moriyama, is a Japanese-Canadian who was interned in Canada during the war. And among its 13,000 works of art are some strikingly frank portrayals of the underside of war: a portrait of a disgraced Canadian peacekeeping soldier who tortured a Somali boy; another of a despondent General Romeo Dallaire, head of UN troops in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

But if the museum does not glorify war, does it sufficiently project Canada's self-proclaimed role as international peacemaker? Ever since Lester Pearson, then Canada's top diplomat, helped end the 1956 Suez crisis by replacing the Anglo-French invasion force with the world's first international peacekeeping contingent, Canadians have headed such blue-helmet units, taking part in some 45 UN missions from the Sinai peninsula to Afghanistan.

Although the new museum does reflect some of this, many Canadians would like it to do more. Why not celebrate, they ask, years of Canadian diplomatic efforts culminating in the creation of the International Criminal Court (now headed by a Canadian), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines? Or the unsung exploits of the multitude of Canadian humanitarian groups working abroad? Probably because war is more exciting than peace, and perhaps because the proper subject of a war museum, even in Canada, is war.
This piece is very fitting, given my recurrent attempts to explain some basic differences between Canada and the US. In a recent comment, Mollie, an American ex-pat in Canada, said:
Apples and oranges. "Liberal" in Canada means something so different than "liberal" in the U.S. Likewise with "conservative."
Perhaps you can see the connection.