he refused to comply, since he had a broken spine.

I'm sure Canadian readers all read about the death by taser of a teenage boy in Winnipeg. His murderers, some Winnipeg police, visited his mother that night, but didn't even tell her that her son was already dead.

I saw a letter in the G&M saying that since the victim had used drugs and allegedly threatened officers with a screwdriver (originally reported as a knife), "he made his choice".

Apparently a teenaged boy chose to forgo arrest, charges, representation, hearing, trial and sentencing. He chose to skip all that bureaucratic nonsense and just be executed in the street. In a country which doesn't have the death penalty. An odd choice, but hey, who I am to judge.

That story was about as low as it gets, but James sent me one that would be even more outrageous, had the victim died. Police in Missouri tasered a 16-year-old boy who was lying on the ground with a broken back, having fallen from a bridge.

The original news story here is crazy slow to load, so I recommend this story at Boing Boing.

When will these lethal weapons be banned? How many more people will die before we take them out of cops' hands?

Truth, Not Tasers has some good news.

content alert: jargon ahead

I miss a lot of marketing-speak because I usually mute commercials. But sometimes, for whatever reason, the sound stays on, and some new bit of jargon slips through. Recently I learned that sports drinks - those brightly coloured beverages that are supposed to replenish all the precious bodily fluids you supposedly lost while supposedly working out so hard - are now marketed as hydrators.

Perhaps you can consume a hydrator in your luxury sports utility vehicle while expanding your skill set with other individuals in your demographic.

Now rewrite that sentence in English.

Today the excellent Globe and Mail columnist Russ Smith writes about jargon, and tries to articulate why writing is not content. I also reject that stupid word; as soon as a prospective editor refers to my work as "content", I know we're not on the same wavelength. As Smith says, it's difficult to explain why, but he does an admirable job.
I find it hard to explain to anyone in business why I can't stand the word "content." I've tried before and it annoys people. "Yes, yes," they say, "we're sure you're very clever and artistic and all that, but we need a word to refer to what you guys do as distinct from what the marketing people and the management people and the technical people do. Why does it bother you?"

From a literary point of view, the word "content" bothers me because it falls into the category of the pseudo-technical: It's like saying "individual" for man or woman, or "offline" for talk privately. It signals "business jargon ahead." It's a way of making old-fashioned things such as books and music seem archaic: In the speaker's brave digital world, these things become part of a streamlined, scientific system of exchange - platform, delivery system, partners, synergy, content.

I also just can't imagine Leonardo or Derrida or Jean-Paul Gaultier sitting down at the desk or studio and thinking, "Today I produce Content!" (What are you working on, Mr. Bob Dylan? "Oh, some Content.") The only people I ever hear using this word are non-creators. Every artist says I'm working on a play, a video, a novel, a sound experiment.

I don't think of my own work as content. I think of the whole newspaper - and everyone who works on it - as content. It seems strange to differentiate between the content and the product as a whole, as if anyone who buys a paper or goes to a website or buys a ticket to a concert is interested in anything but content. Yet this is the way producers of entertainment think. "You know what's great about this movie? It's got fantastic brand equity, a narrowly targeted and influential demographic, and it also has some solid content."

I have heard people who work in entertainment industries - record labels, cable-TV chains - plan new entertainment products. I have been privy to conversations about platforms and demographics and advertising opportunities that mention "content" as a necessary afterthought. "Of course," I have heard people say, "we'll have to have some really top-level content as well. We have someone who can handle that."

Most of these discussions are about new websites or Web magazines. They are conceived as platforms for advertising. You think up a target market first, then you think up a look or style you think they will appreciate. There is a lot of describing the ideal consumer for this advertising: He or she lives in this part of town, drives this kind of car and has these products in his bathroom. Printed proposals for new magazines or TV shows often have pictures of these fictitious people - usually, amusingly, cut and pasted from advertising in other magazines.

Then, once you have your ideal consumer described (you call them "Jenny" and "Aqbar"; they are smiling in the pictures, and drive hybrid cars, and drink merlot and sauvignon blanc, and know who Robert Lepage is), you talk to a designer about fonts and colours. Then you find someone with celebrity status to be attached as a host or figurehead. There is talk of A-lists and C-lists.

Once you have this juggernaut rolling, money starts to flow. It is only at this point that you can start to think about "content." You know some people who are fresh out of school to do that: They need the money and are not going to be too demanding about it. Make sure they don't get too weird with it, and you should be okay. (Their own private projects - their blogs, their bands - they tend not to call "content." They call them blogs and bands.)

Not surprisingly, projects launched this way don't all do terribly well. You know what does well? When a bunch of experts in some subject, say economics, get together and say, "Let's publish a magazine about economics that expresses our views. We'll call it, say, The Economist."

I am quite sure that when that happened, the words brand and content were never mentioned. Nobody ever thinks of a good idea as content. They think, "I am really sick of fashion magazines that don't reflect my taste and life, and I would love to publish Dave's photos, and Gail could write her brilliant articles."

The idea of media as a vehicle for "content" is a virus. It's a subtle diminution of the importance of creative people and thinkers. To talk about your cultural artifact as a brand or a vehicle is to think of its creators as paid suppliers, as small cogs in a machine. If you start thinking about entertainment in terms of ideas - stories, strong sensations, provocations - rather than in terms of vehicles for ideas, you'll make entertainment that people might voluntarily absorb. If that works, you can sell advertising in it.

deadlines of all sorts

The MLB trade deadline is today at 4:00, and few Red Sox fans think Manny Ramirez will be in a Sox uniform tomorrow. I'm sad and pissed off about this, and the Sox being mired in a losing skid doesn't help.

Normally Allan would spend today glued to his computer, but we've had plans to get out of the house and I'm hoping to keep them.

I'm determined to give myself one day off each week - one day neither writing nor day-job. I may not be able to do this in September as my deadline approaches, but for now it's still possible. Last week my day off was spent doing household chores and reading in the backyard, not something I want to make a habit. And in keeping with my goal of a hike in a park once a month, an outing today would sneak July in under the wire.

But will Allan leave the house? I'm offering to bring a laptop and find an internet connection in the afternoon. We shall see.

If you're interested in the roller-coaster-soap-opera of Manny and the Sox, by all means visit Joy of Sox. I'm all talked out about it, and will resist explaining things in comments.

campaign alerts: how you can help

Members of the War Resisters Support Campaign have been taking road trips every Saturday, visiting ridings where Conservative MPs squeaked into their seats by small margins. They've been having great success gathering signatures on our petition and raising awareness - and almost always end up in the local paper on Monday morning.

This Saturday, August 2, they'll be visiting Guelph in advance of the upcoming by-election. If you can join them or know people who could, please pass this along and contact the Campaign at either resisters@sympatico.ca or 416.598.1222.

* * * *

Wednesday night, August 20 in Toronto, come out to Grossman's Tavern for music by Chloe Watkinson and the Crossroads. Music starts at 8:30, and all proceeds benefit the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Resisters have a huge amount of legal fees on the horizon, and every little bit helps. Admission is $10, or what you can.

Grossman's Tavern is at 379 Spadina, corner of Cecil Street, Toronto.

* * * *

Saturday, September 13 will be a National Day of Action in support of war resisters in Canada. If you belong to a group that will support our efforts - peace, environmental, spiritual, labour, justice, anything - please put it on your group's calendar and mobilize your membership for local action. You can choose the action. Just take action and be visible.

If you want to sign on as an endorser or otherwise get involved, contact the Campaign.

visit with robin long

Last night I heard some additional details about the arrest, detention and deportation of war resister Robin Long.

At our meeting, spirits were high, our determination is unwavering, but on the way home I cried. Not out of despair, because I know we're going to win this thing. It's just so painful to think of someone being harassed, mistreated, deported and incarcerated because they don't want to kill innocent people.

Robin's arrest was a total set-up; they wanted him in custody before he received his deportation order. The order itself ignored the recent rulings in both Joshua Key's and Corey Glass' cases, and has an air of vindictiveness around it. Robin was shuttled from jail to jail, first housed with a violent criminal who threatened his life, then assaulted by a group of inmates who took exception to his dreadlocks. (He cut them off before being transferred to the US.)

Lee Zaslofsky, a backbone of the War Resisters Support Campaign, visited Robin. Here's his report.
When we found out that Robin Long was to be sent to Fort Carson, Colorado, near Colorado Springs, I began to make arrangements to visit
him on behalf of the Campaign and his many supporters in Canada.

I flew to Denver on July 16. I had previously been in touch with the NBC affiliate in Colorado Springs, and they arranged to send a reporter from their Denver affiliate to interview me outside my hotel there. The interview, I understand, was shown that evening.

Visiting Robin

The next day, July 17, I rented a car and drove down to Colorado Springs. I had a n appointment at the El Paso County Jail to see Robin. I say "see", because the arrangement there is that you see the person on a screen, and he sees you, and you can converse, but there is no physical contact -- we are in different buildings!. You get exactly 30 minutes (timer is on the screen) to chat, etc.

I found Robin to be in excellent spirits. he has short hair and wears glasses (I had known him without glasses), and was wearing the orange inmate's suit. He said he gets along fine with the other prisoners, who call him "the professor' because he helps them out with crossword puzzles and the like.

Robin spoke realistically about his situation. but he was waiting to speak with his lawyer before deciding how to plead, etc. I won't go into detail about what he said, but he is aware of what he might have to face, and is prepared to face it with courage and without bitterness.

This is completely consistent with his character as I have known it for several years. I continue to admire his peaceful moral strength.

I passed on to him some loving words of encouragement from Renee, his former partner, and her mother, and that made him very happy. Apparently they plan to send him some pictures, probably of his son Ocean, who turned two on July 8, while Robin was in Jail in Nelson, BC.

I told Robin about the wide media coverage that his case had been receiving both in Canada and the US, especially in Boise, ID, his home town. He was pleased to learn that the Toronto Star had published a lead editorial, "Stop Deportation of War Deserters", the day after he was deported. He was also happy to know that there were demonstrations protesting his deportation in Vancouver, Toronto, and elsewhere.

He asked me to arrange to get him some books -- especially Joshua Key's "The Deserter's Tale", which he admitted he hasn't yet read. Prison rules say that books can only be sent via the publisher or a company like Amazon, so please don't try to send him any directly. I deposited some money in his prison account, which will allow him to buy some necessities and some fruit etc, which seems not to be supplied

Local Peace Folks

Colorado Springs is a military town, with Ft. Carson, the US Air Force Academy, and several Air Force bases nearby. But "The Springs" also has a good number of peace activists, whom I was able to contact through Bill and Jean Durland, Quakers whom I was told about by Orion Smith of the Canadian Friends Service Committee.

Bill and Jean's place was my first stop in The Springs, and it was great to meet them and learn about their lifetimes work for peace through the Quakers, through Bill's law practice and political involvement, and through their involvement with Christian Peacemaker Teams, which has an office next door to ours in the Steelworkers Building in Toronto. Bill helped Conscientious Objectors in the
military, and continues to help them in semi retirement. He will be consulting with Robin's lawyer, James Branum, and hopes to get recognized as an official advisor to Mr. Branum, which will allow him to visit Robin in person.

The Vigil

Bill and Jean invited me to attend a meeting at the Colorado Springs Justice and Peace Commission (J & P). There we planned a vigil for the next day, Friday, July 25 Peter Hadley, the director of the Commission, is a good organizer, so the next day we made signs "Free Robin Long"; "Support the Troops Who Resist", etc, for the vigil.

Before helping with the signs, I went to my second appointment with Robin at the jail. When I arrived I was upset when they told me he had been moved to Fort Carson. I thought they might be trying to rush through his court martial, so I quickly went over to the J & P office and began making calls -- to media, to the Fort, to his military lawyer.

Finally I got hold of his lawyer, who told me that Robin had been taken to Ft. Carson in order to meet with him and his military lawyer, and that he would be back in El Paso County Jail later on. It's a bit sad to be relieved that Robin would be back in jail, but at least I knew he was OK.

The vigil that evening took place outside the Pioneer Museum, across the street from J & P. Robin had asked that we not demonstrate outside the jail, and it isn't a good idea to do so near Ft. Carson, so we picked a prominent location near J & P. The event drew about 20 people, as well as two local TV channels, and was well covered on the evening news, I'm told. [Note: this is a very heavily military area, with several military bases and a large military contractor nearby. For 20 people to show up at a peace vigil for a "deserter" is significant.]

The turnout included Bill and Jean, of course, as well as Garrett Rippenhagen, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Mark Lewis, whose website, Springs Action Alliance, is a great resource for progressive folks in that area and beyond. (He made videos of me, James Branum and the vigil, which you can see on his website.)

The next day I left for Denver to get my plane back to Toronto.


I would like to thank all the good people I met in Colorado Springs, both for their advice and support, and for arranging to house me (thanks, Steve and Mary Lynn). feed me, and point me in the right direction.

I was very impressed with James Branum, both because of his legal knowledge and his deep commitment to peace. With him, and Bill Durland, Robin will benefit from the best legal representation and advice available. Thanks to Courage To Resist for helping to fund James's legal work, and to

Final Word

I told Robin, and everyone who asked, that I had come to Colorado to show Robin that we stand with him and support him, and that we still regard him as a member of our war resister family in Canada. We will continue to remain in touch with Robin, and to support him as he is punished for the "crime" of refusing to take part in an illegal, immoral, and disastrous war.

It will be very difficult for Robin to return to Canada, given his new status as a Deported Person. But we will keep hoping that one day we will see him again living in peace among us in Canada.


Lee Zaslofsky
War Resisters Support Campaign

My deepest thanks to Lee for making this trip!

Please remember, you can write to both Robin Long and James Burmeister, and I know they will both really appreciate your support. The addresses are below, and the rules for writing federal prisons are here.

Robin Long, CJC
2739 East Las Vegas
Colorado Springs, CO 80906

James Burmeister
Box A
Building 7741 PMB
1158 Gold Vault Road
Fort Knox, KY 40121-5184


denied treatment, they took their child home, and she died

A while back, I posted an ethics question about a confidence an online friend had shared with me. Wmtc readers gave me a good perspective and offered excellent advice.

Shortly after, the person in question gave me liberty to speak openly about what had happened to him and his wife. Turns out that's what he wanted all along.

Last September, our friend Andy and his wife Audra lost their two-year-old daughter, Fianna.

Fianna had a cold. Her conditioned worsened, and she was having trouble breathing. Her parents took her to the emergency room. Kaiser Permanente, the largest health insurer in the United States (net income, $1.3 billion), wouldn't approve treatment. They took their child home, and she died.

Andy wrote the story on a site where people chronicle horror stories about Kaiser Permanente: you can read it here.

I've always thought losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. People survive, and they go on, because that's what people do. They even go on to have happy lives with their surviving family, or to create a new family. But I imagine the loss never goes away. And I can't imagine how much pain they suffer, every day.

I wish there was something I could do for Andy and Audra. Andy asked me to help publicize the story, so there it is.

* * * *

I actually did mention Andy's tragedy, although not by name, earlier on wmtc. About a month after it happened, I posted this.
Just among our little group [Joy of Sox community], one person is losing his wife to cancer because they could not afford adequate treatment and cannot afford to keep her alive any longer. Another lost his child because an HMO did not approve treatment, and sent the family home from the emergency room. Their two-year-old daughter died that night.

And those are just two people who have disclosed their tragedies to us. I can almost guarantee there are others.

Something about Cathy Baskin's story is here. If you haven't seen this video, please watch.

I admire Cathy Baskin, not only for being public with her story, but for relating it to the larger political picture. She's not just saying cancer is a tragedy. She's saying cancer treatment only for the wealthy is a crime, and we need health care for all.

Last we heard, Cathy was doing really well, which was wonderful news. But it doesn't change the larger picture.

Neither the Democrat nor the Republican candidate for US President supports universal, single-payer health insurance. Neither one of them supports removing profit from the health care structure.

* * * *

This was a big week in southwestern Virginia: health care week. Thousands waited for hours, some through the night, for their annual opportunity for health care, brought to them by a charitable organization.
They walk through the gates of the fairgrounds, give their most personal information to complete strangers and are ushered off for a battery of tests and procedures.

An expected 3,000-plus residents of Southwest Virginia and neighboring states are here through today for one reason -- to get basic medical care they couldn't otherwise afford.

A crowd began lining up in the wee hours of Friday morning for a coveted spot inside the fences at the Remote Area Medical clinic. Some would wait days for the free service. Some would never get in.

For the majority though, organizers and doctors said, this would be the only time all year they would get medical treatment of any sort.

Remote Area Medical, based in Knoxville, Tenn., has provided medical care for the poor and uninsured in the United States and around the world since 1985.

Since Friday, volunteer doctors, optometrists, pharmacists and dentists have been helping patients during 14-hour days.

Charles Sizemore, a 68-year old retired machinist from Wise County, got in line Friday about 2 a.m. for a basic physical and to get two fillings replaced.

Sizemore raised four children in the area but never had health insurance until he got Medicare when he retired three years ago.

"I wanted to," he said, leaning against bleachers where patients were being registered as the sun rose over the mountains. "There just wasn't enough money. I had to take care of my family, and I never made more than $10 an hour."

All his children have left the area for better-paying jobs, but he's too old to move, he said playfully.

Turning serious, Sizemore said, "I don't mean to be ungrateful. I'm glad RAM comes out and does this. But it's just damned sad that this is the only time most of the people around here are going to see a doctor. It's a damned shame."

. . .

Teresa Gardner said the RAM event is vitally important.

Gardner is executive director of The Health Wagon, a nonprofit organization that provides health care for the uninsured and underinsured in Southwest Virginia. It is the local organizer for the RAM event.

"The main problem is that these people don't have access to even the most basic health care because they can't afford it," she said. "And those that can afford the insurance, or get it through their companies, can't afford to pay the co-pays or the prescriptions." [The story continues here.]

My brother, an oral surgeon, works with an organization that goes into impoverished areas and performs surgeries that local residents otherwise would not have access to. He's been to Kenya, Guatemala, Ecuador and several other places. He's told us harrowing stories about the conditions under which they work, and heartwrenching stories about the gratefulness of the patients.

I don't see a whole lot of difference between those stories and this one from Virginia.


jeannie's sunrise b&b, port au choix, newfoundland

We do have photos from Newfoundland, I promise. I am under the gun on the Spinal Network project, and struggling to maintain some down-time (exercise, reading) and my sanity. Getting photos organized and online is usually my department, but this time it's Allan's. So you'll see the photos... at some point.

Yesterday I started reading John Gimlette's Theatre of Fish, a memoir - travelogue - meditation on Newfoundland and Labrador, so this seems like a good time to cross something off my long to-write list.

If you visit the west coast of Newfoundland, I highly recommend spending a day or more in Port Aux Choix, especially if you're interested in native peoples, ancient history and archeology. And while you're there, you'll want to see if Jeannie's Sunrise B&B has any vacancies.

In Newfoundland, we stayed in both bed-and-breakfasts and motels. The B&B's were all lovely, and some were outstanding. The nightly crabfest put on by our wacky host in Bonavista was an experience we won't soon forget, although at our next stop, Twillingate, we were ready for the bland anonymity of a motel. There's such a thing as too much local flavour.

But among all our accommodations, one stands out: Jeannie's Sunrise B&B. If I were going to dream up the perfect little B&B, this would be it. (I wrote a little about Jeannie herself here.)

Some B&B's are stuffed with over-the-top attempts at charm and elegance. I don't need to be surrounded by priceless antiques and rugs; I don't even prefer it. On the other hand, some B&B's really feel like you're staying in someone's spare bedroom (because you are). I definitely prefer the spare bedroom to the overly ornate house, but it's sometimes a little too cozy. You can feel like you're in the way. Jeannie strikes the perfect balance - homey and comfortable, with just a touch of pampering.

The house is beautiful, full of colour and light, which pours in through skylights and picture windows. There are several breakfast options (not the case in all B&Bs), and whatever you choose, Jeannie will whip it up fresh in her immaculate kitchen. Guests can share tables and sitting areas and get to know each other, but if you prefer a quiet breakfast, Jeannie will respect your privacy.

Next door, Jeannie has a beautiful cottage for an astoundingly inexpensive rate. It's quite large, with a spacious kitchen and sitting area. The B&B also has wireless internet access.

And, in a place where friendliness and warmth is the norm, Jeannie stands out as the friendliest host of the trip.

yet another u.s.-to-canada blog

Last week I interviewed Eric Eales, a wheelchair curler from Kelowna, and the man behind the best wheelchair curling website online. We were emailing some follow-up questions, and apparently I forgot to delete the blog URL my signature line, something I usually do when working on certain projects.

Eric must have clicked, and fortunately, he replied with some encouraging words about wmtc. He mentioned that I might be interested in his wife's blog. And she is - what else? - an American with a blog about living in Canada! Cate Eales writes Fahrenheit To Celsius: An American In Canada. I don't think Cate's blog is especially political, but she has joined Canadian culture in a way most of us never will: she curls.

I have something else in common with Eric and Cate. They have a rescue dog, too, who has his own blog. (I hope my dogs never want their own blog!) The dog blog describes Kelowna as "one of the least dog-friendly places on this planet," which sounds awful. I think I'd rather be a dog in Kelowna than, say, Bangkok, or in Michael Vick's backyard. But I'll be interested to see what makes Kelowna such an unfriendly place for dogs.

And since someone will ask... I delete the URL from my signature line because I'm working on an unrelated project, and many people I'm interviewing might find my politics - or my choice to leave the United States - offensive, or at least controversial. I'm representing a publisher and a project, not my own writing. There's no need to bring potential controversy into the picture, nor for self-promotion. Wmtc is best left out of the picture.


what one community did to support u.s. war resisters in canada

Many of the Toronto-area war resisters live in Parkdale, where they enjoy strong support from their neighbours, including their MP, Peggy Nash. Earlier this month, local residents held an event to show that support, to speak out on behalf of their war resister friends and neighbours, and to urge Canada to Let Them Stay. I was unable to attend, so I was very happy to receive this video.

Did you ever wonder why the War Resisters Support Campaign has so many great videos? We are incredibly fortunate that one of our core Campaigners is the talented activist filmmaker Alex Lisman.

Alex films every Campaign event and produces huge numbers of special projects (like Corey Glass' appeal to Stephen Harper). He also made the Campaign's outreach and promotional film, Let Them Stay, among other films.

I can't imagine how the Campaign would have gotten this far without Alex's filmmaking talent and unflagging hard work, along with his ideas and organizing skills.

You can see a whole slew of Alex Lisman videos here on the War Resister Support Campaign YouTube channel.

u.s. male veterans twice as likely to commit suicide than non-vets

More than 22,000 veterans have sought help from a special suicide hot line in its first year, and 1,221 suicides have been averted, the government says.

According to a recent RAND Corp. study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans. [Emphasis added.]

. . .

The VA teamed up with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to launch the hot line last July after years of criticism that the VA wasn't doing enough to help wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, two veterans groups sued the VA, citing long delays for processing applications and other problems in treatment for veterans at risk for suicide. The department has spent $2.9 million on the hot line thus far.

The hot line receives up to 250 calls per day — double the average number calling when it began. Kemp said callers are divided evenly between veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. Richard McKeon, public health adviser for SAMHSA, said 10 to 20 of the 1,575 calls received each week have to be rerouted to high-volume backup call centers throughout the country.

The VA estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. The mental health director for the VA, Ira Katz, said in an e-mail last December that of the 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, four to five of them are under VA care, and 12,000 veterans under VA care are attempting suicide each year.

This month, the hot line began an advertising campaign in Washington area subway stations and buses featuring the slogan, "It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask for help."

The veterans hot line, which is linked to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, received 55,000 callers in its first year, including both veterans and people who are concerned about them, according to figures being released Monday.

Military resistance saves lives.

We are still in this fight. Please make sure your MP - and Stephen Harper - know how you feel.


please, i beg you: retire this expression

Can we declare a moratorium on the use of the words "um" or "uh" in mid-sentence to denote irony, sarcasm or the writer's supposed delicate search for the correct word?

It was cute when it started, lo those many years past. I'm sure I've used it myself, and I probably thought it was cute at the time, too. But now it is just another over-used cliche, devoid of meaning, carrying no humour or any element of surprise.

To those of you who enjoy using said "uh" and "um" in this manner: a suggestion. Consider writing those words as you always do, then going back and editing the sentence to more accurately reflect your meaning without that qualifier. Example:

I would offer my opinion, but Laura might, uh, object.

can become

I would offer my opinion, but Laura would bite my head off.

Why not just say what you mean? What would you have written before "um" and "uh" were used this way? Write that!

If this post irritates you, you should see what I've got saved in drafts! Should I unleash the wmtc grammar and spelling class? (I think not. That's why it's in drafts.)

Previous expressions I have begged for retirement are found here.

Now cue all the comments using "uh" and "um" this way, all you readers who are so, um, clever!

fewer starbucks in the world is not a bad thing

Further to our recent discussion of the pleasures and pitfalls of iced coffee, I note that Starbucks is closing 600 US outlets. That represents about 6% of the company's 7,200 US stores.

This is very bad news for 12,000 people who will find themselves unemployed. So I say this with great sympathy for those workers: I told you so! And so did everyone else.

There are 235 Starbucks in New York City alone. There aren't enough people to drink all that coffee, or to spend their hard-earned dollars on over-priced non-essentials in such difficult economic times. We all wondered why they wanted to open an identical store on every block. We wondered how long it would last. Apparently, this long.

It won't be easy for those 12,000 newly unemployed people, and I shouldn't be jubilant about anyone losing work, especially a decent-paying, union job. So the labour activist in me is poking the New Yorker in me with a sharp stick.

But as someone who loves New York City, I can only hope that at least half of those 235 stores are destined to get the ax. Hooray and hurrah. Shutter those babies and grow weeds in their place if you have to.

The Starbucks closing story is actually about three weeks old - two weeks older than the last iced coffee post!


james jenkins, 10/25/81 - 9/28/05

two science q's

I have two questions for you science-y types out there. I can't find a good way to Google or Wikipedia this, and asking wmtc readers is my third choice for random factual information.

1. It is said that if you throw a coin from a great height, it picks up so much force as it falls, that it can do great damage. Where I grew up, we heard that if you threw a penny off the Empire State Building, it would bore straight through someone's skull into their brain and kill them.

If this is true, why do raindrops not bore into our skin? Rain is falling from a great height. Is it because rain is liquid so it has different properties? Then shouldn't hail kill us?

Or maybe that old story is not true?

2. Long ago, people believed in the spontaneous generation of life. The example I remember is that flies arose from rotten fruit, or that spoiled meat gave rise to maggots. Now we know that is not true.

So where do the maggots come from? (From other maggots, yes.) I mean, specifically, when a piece of flesh is rotting - whether it be a creature's untended wound or a dead animal - maggots appear and contribute to the process of decomposition. Where do the maggots come from? Where were they before? How did they "know" there was rotten meat to be eaten? Where do they go when they're finished? Why do we only see them when they are writhing around a piece of dead flesh?

rally for omar khadr today

I forgot to post a reminder yesterday. If you're in the Toronto area and believe, as I do, that Canadian citizen Omar Khadr should be brought back to Canada and treated as every other Canadian in the same circumstances would be treated, perhaps you will join the rally and march. Details here.

the customer is not always right

Have you seen this website? Those of us who have worked in any service industry will appreciate it. Thanks to James. Great stuff.


what i'm reading (updated for clarification)

As I finish up Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow, I want to again recommend it as a must-read for understanding US foreign policy. And that means understanding it in a way that most USians will never do.
On the evening of March 19, 2003, shortly before announcing that the United States was about to launch its long-expected invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush sat behind an antique desk in the White House and practiced reading his speech. It struck all the appropriate notes, including a declaration that the purpose of this invasion was "to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger." Some would later point to it as the speech that ripped the United States away from a long tradition of cooperative diplomacy, turning it into an arrogant power that assumed the right to determine which foreign governments could live and which must die. The man who looked down on Busy from a large oil painting on the wall behind him would have understood better than anyone how wrong that was.

Bush rehearsed this speech in the Treaty Room, at the same desk from which he had announced the invasion of Afghanistan seventeen months before. It was one of his favorite rooms in the White House, at least in part because of the imposing painting that is the first thing visitors see when they enter. It depicts President William McKinley, the first great American practitioner of "regime change," watching as diplomats sign the protocol that turned Cuba into a protectorate and Puerto Rico into a colony. . . .

Bush's decision to invade Iraq was no break with history but a faithful reflection of the same forces and beliefs that had motivated McKinley and most of the presidents who would later sit in his shadow beneath Chartran's historic painting.

Read this book. It's fascinating and absorbing, and chances are you will learn a lot.

* * * *

I've been disappointed in how little time I make for reading books now. Although I read more books than most people, I also love books more than most people. When I think of what interests have most absorbed me over my entire life, books must be first on the list, even before travel and dogs, and well before baseball and music.* Yet reading books takes up less and less of my time, as I spend more and more of it in front of a keyboard and monitor.

A month ago I determined to make time for a book every day, a modest goal of one hour per day. No matter how busy I am, no matter what I'm doing, I decided I can set aside one hour of uninterrupted reading. So far it's working beautifully. I feel better for it.

Next up, Theatre of Fish: Travels Through Newfoundland And Labrador, by John Gimlette. I guess I should have read this before we went to Newfoundland, but I'm sure it will still be very enjoyable.

* * * *

* Apparently this can be misinterpreted. I'm saying that my interest in books pre-dates my love of dogs, or of anything else in my life - that I have been reading and loving books for more years than I have been loving dogs, travel, music or baseball, my other abiding interests. I am not implying that books are more important to me than my dogs!

hey, look what I found!

Troll update! Scrolling through some stories in the Toronto Star, look who I found commenting.

This guy is a better chameleon than I thought. Here, he appears to be an articulate liberal.

canadian m.p.s support war resisters

Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua, Citizenship and Immigration Critic, says Let Them Stay!

NDP MP Olivia Chow, Citizenship and Immigration Critic, says Let Them Stay!

Bloc Québécois MP Thierry St-Cyr, Citizenship and Immigration Critic, says Let Them Stay!

And they all say: respect democracy. Stephen Harper, you are not Canada. Respect the will of the Canadian people.

amnesty international opposes deportation and imprisonment of war resisters

Amnesty International statement at the War Resisters Support Campaign on June 25.

Being forced into military service is a violation of human rights. No one should be forced to kill or be killed.

We all have the right of conscience.


Search strings of the day:
can i move to canada and still be a us citizen?

how to sneak into canada for health care

how to screw the air miles

1. Yes.
2. If you sneak in, you can't get health care!
3. ??

london supports war resisters

That's London, Ontario, of course. US and Brit readers may not realize that around these parts, "London" means a city in Ontario. The other London is called "London, England". This took some getting used to!

I would like to highlight the website of the London chapter of the War Resisters Support Campaign. You can see photos from some of their events, there's a blog, and most importantly, you can get in touch with them and get involved.

By coincidence, the first Iraq War resister in Canada I ever spoke with is London's Tim Richard. Longtime friend of wmtc (and friend of Allan and Laura!) James had a connection to him, and thought I might write about his story. I interviewed Tim, but quickly learned that Canadian editors were completely uninterested. (This was in early 2007.) Through Tim, I found Lee and the Campaign, and vowed to myself that when I was stopped writing for Kids On Wheels, I would join.

Now two London Campaigners read wmtc, at least when they're procrastinating.

even the onion says let them stay!

We have arrived! Iraq War resisters make The Onion!

Many thanks to my blog-friend Impudent Strumpet. Elsewhere, she suggests I ask for a refund of my immigration-related expenses, because the Harper Government is playing bait-and-switch.


how to write to james burmeister and other u.s. federal prisoners

I received this from James Burmeister's support campaign. Perhaps you'll take a few moments to write to both James and Robin. Even if you don't, this information might come in handy one day.

The guidelines come from the Lacey Phillabaum website.

Googling, I learned that Lacey Phillabaum is an Oregon woman who served time in federal prison for participating in radical environmental activism. Rather than link to stories about Phillabaum, I will give you something in her own words, about the Bush administrations war on our planet.

BOP = Bureau of Prisons

+ + + + +

Mail sent into and out of any correctional facility will be read. Don't send letters that reference criminal activity, business affairs or escape plans.

• Letters must include a full name and return address for the sender.

• Use the inmate's full name and UPC code or register number.

• Small water stains or dirt on a letter can cause it to be rejected. No tears, damnit!

• Stationery and cards are allowed, but artwork with glue, glitter, paint, felt pens, crayons or markers will be rejected. Hallmark should make a prison-approved line of cards because they'll stick glitter on anything and glue in the most surprising places. Check cards closely. The basic rule of thumb is that the BOP is inimical toward art and beauty.

• Correspondence using code or is not allowed. Not even pig Latin. No porn either.

• A single photocopy of an interesting news or magazine article may be sent. Originals from the newspaper or magazine cannot. Multiple copies of an article are not allowed (no propagandizing in prison).

• Inmates are only allowed a limited number of photos and no Polaroids. It's better to send color copies of photos than originals, as copies don't count against the limit (go figure).

• Don't send uncancelled stamps, blank paper or cards. Inmates are sometimes limited in how many stamps and envelopes they can buy so responses may be slow.

• All publications must be received directly from the publisher or distributors like Powells or Amazon.

• No message can be sent on the outside of the envelope so no clever notes.

[From James Burmeister's campaign]

Don't be discouraged by the BOP's "culture of no"! Trying to get a letter into a prison is a window into the intense bureaucratic rules that govern every aspect of a prisoner's life. The rules can seem daunting but a simple, heartfelt letter can breach the walls and makes a huge difference to those inside. Mail is the single most important aspect of many prisoners' lives. Please try.

James Burmeister can be reached at this address:

James Burmeister
Box A
Building 7741 PMB
1158 Gold Vault Rd.
Fort Knox, Kentucky 40121-5184

"war is over if you want it..."

a plea from owen sound: they let us stay. let them stay, too.

This appeared in today's Owen Sound Sun Times. I've corrected what appears to be a typo.
Almost 40 years ago, being young and idealistic, we came to this beautiful country to escape the demands that the U.S. military and government were placing on its citizens and society.

We knew little of the country we came to but soon learned how important it was that people in Canada cared to help U.S. conscientious objectors.

In 1968, with the help of the Mennonite, Quaker and United Church communities, the Canadian government agreed to allow U. S. deserters and draft evaders to stay in Canada and not be forced to return. This is not true for the current illegal Iraq war, where the Americans continue to send troops.

There are hundreds of American Iraq war resisters in Canada. In spite of the fact that a majority of Parliament voted to allow the resisters to stay, the Conservative Harper government has stated that resisters will be deported and returned to the United States to face prosecution. Only Harper's Conservatives are supporting this deportation, but they get to decide.

While this small deportation may look unimportant to most Canadians, Vietnam era immigrants remember the feeling of arriving in a country that cared about its citizens; a country that believed in aspiring to fairness and justice.

We know that most Canadians do not agree with Prime Minister Harper's order for deportation -- recent national polls indicate that 64 per cent of Canadians support granting permanent residency to U. S. war resisters -- and we also know that Harper is not about to change without significant pressure.

We ask that you remember and recognize the value that Vietnam war resisters brought to this country over the last 40 years and that you recognize the same potential in these new young U. S. resisters asking for the same opportunity.

If we help them stay, they will contribute their efforts to Canada as we did then and they will remember your kindness as we do now.

Please contact your local MP, Prime Minister Harper, Immigration Minister Diane Finley and Public Security Minister Stockwell Day to add your voices to the many other Canadians who are saying "let war resisters stay."

Andrew Armitage, Leigh
Donald Holman, Traverston
Robert Hope, Owen Sound
Terri Hope, Owen Sound
Tony McQuail, Lucknow
Elizabeth Zetlin, Traverston

Thank you, all!!

"the solution is simple: heed the will of parliament and canadians"

On July 17, this Op-Ed appeared in the Halifax Chronicle, in opposition to allowing US war resisters to stay in Canada. The writer's point of view is the usual "but they volunteered," a specious, inaccurate, non-argument.

Yesterday, the Chronicle ran this excellent piece in response. The writer is an organizer with the Council of Canadians, staunch supporters of Canadian independence - and of the war resisters.
Let war resisters stay
By Angela Giles

Dominick Mirabile (July 17 opinion piece) argues that U.S. war resisters had a choice whether or not to enlist. However, signing a contract with the U.S. military does not obligate someone to participate in war crimes. Whether they volunteered or not is irrelevant. They have a higher obligation to international law than their "duty" to just follow orders.

Mr. Mirabile argues that war resisters "broke the law. They are in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice." But under Principle 2 of Nuremburg, "The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law." In other words, international law trumps the Uniform Code of Military Justice if, under the guise of the UCMJ, soldiers are being ordered to participate in war crimes.

We now know soldiers are systematically ordered to violate international humanitarian law in Iraq – from torture to intentionally targeting civilians – and there are more revelations of war crimes emerging every day. The Nuremberg Tribunal ruled that "the very essence of the (Nuremberg) Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state."

A contract runs both ways. Those who argue that the war resisters should be deported back to the U.S. miss one simple, basic truth. While the war resisters signed a contract voluntarily, they are not the ones who broke it. The U.S. administration is. The U.S. soldiers seeking refuge in Canada signed up to defend their country, not to commit war crimes.

Canadians recognize this and that is why the majority support the war resisters and not the war. A recent Angus Reid poll found nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadians want the government to allow war resisters to live in Canada. Eighty-two per cent of Canadians oppose the Iraq war. Canada’s Parliament voted June 3 to let American Iraq war resisters stay in Canada.

Mr. Mirabile cannot have it both ways. The Iraq war is illegal. Everyone from Hans Blix and Kofi Annan to Richard Perle admits this. If the war is illegal, the war resisters have a legal obligation not to participate under the Nuremberg Principles, pure and simple. Indeed, 25,000 have deserted from the U.S. military, having recognized this. Isn't that sending a message to those who put them in harm’s way in the first place?

Given that American war resisters are faced with a government that doesn't respect international law, how can they expect anything but persecution for standing up for international law? The harsh punishment of resister James Burmeister, who was sentenced to nine months in military prison and convicted of a felony, shows this to be the case. That means their option is to be complicit in war crimes in Iraq or to come to Canada. The solution is simple: Heed the will of Parliament and Canadians. Let them stay.

Thank you Ms Giles, and thank you to the Council of Canadians for all the work they do on behalf of peace.

"...because the diebold machines used throughout the state provided no paper trail, it was impossible to ask for a recount..."

From my home state.
New York state is in the process of replacing its lever voting machines with new voting equipment, but the state revealed recently that it has found problems with 50 percent of the roughly 1,500 ImageCast optical-scan machines [see video on original page] that Sequoia Voting Systems has delivered to the state so far -- machines that are slated to be used by dozens of counties in the state's September 9 primary and November 4 presidential election.

Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, expressed frustration with the vendor, saying it appeared that Sequoia was using the state's acceptance testing process to find problems with its machines in lieu of a sound quality-control process.

"There's no way the vendor could be adequately reviewing the machines and having so many problems," he told Threat Level. "What it tells us is that the vendor just throws this stuff over the transom and does not do any alpha- or beta-testing of their own before they apply for certification testing. Then they expect that we'll identify technical glitches and then they'll correct those glitches. But correction of those glitches is an extraordinarily time-consuming process. And its very disappointing that this equipment is not ready for prime time."

Much more here. If New York State "votes" Republican, think of this.

And what does it mean that even Republicans are talking about election fraud? This story from The Raw Story is really worth reading. Emphasis mine.
A leading cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has fresh evidence regarding election fraud on Diebold electronic voting machines during the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial and senatorial elections.

Stephen Spoonamore is the founder and until recently the CEO of Cybrinth LLC, an information technology policy and security firm that serves Fortune 100 companies. At a little noticed press conference in Columbus, Ohio Thursday, he discussed his investigation of a computer patch that was applied to Diebold Election Systems voting machines in Georgia right before that state's November 2002 election.

Spoonamore is one of the most prominent cyber-security experts in the country. He has appeared on CNN's Lou Dobbs and ABC's World News Tonight, and has security clearances from his work with the intelligence community and other government agencies, as well as the Department of Defense, and is one of the world's leading authorities on hacking and cyber-espionage.

In 1995, Spoonamore received a civilian citation for his work with the Department of Defense. He was again recognized for his contributions in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security. Spoonamore is also a registered Republican and until recently was advising the McCain campaign.

Spoonamore received the Diebold patch from a whistleblower close to the office of Cathy Cox, Georgia's then-Secretary of State. In discussions with RAW STORY, the whistleblower -- who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation -- said that he became suspicious of Diebold's actions in Georgia for two reasons. The first red flag went up when the computer patch was installed in person by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, who flew in from Texas and applied it in just two counties, DeKalb and Fulton, both Democratic strongholds. The source states that Cox was not privy to these changes until after the election and that she became particularly concerned over the patch being installed in just those two counties.

The whistleblower said another flag went up when it became apparent that the patch installed by Urosevich had failed to fix a problem with the computer clock, which employees from Diebold and the Georgia Secretary of State's office had been told the patch was designed specifically to address.

Some critics of electronic voting raised questions about the 2002 Georgia race even at the time. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who was five percentage points ahead of Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss in polls taken a week before the vote, lost 53% to 46%. Incumbent Democratic Governor Roy Barnes, who led challenger Sonny Perdue in the polls by eleven points, lost 51% to 46%. However, because the Diebold machines used throughout the state provided no paper trail, it was impossible to ask for a recount in either case.

Concerned by the electoral outcome, the whistleblower approached Spoonamore because of his qualifications and asked him to examine the Diebold patch. McCain adviser reported patch to Justice Department

The Ohio press conference was organized by Cliff Arnebeck and three other attorneys, who had filed a challenge to the results of that the 2004 presidential election in Ohio in December, 2004. That challenge was withdrawn, but in August 2006 Arnebeck filed a new case, King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell, alleging civil rights violations in the 2004 voting. The case was stayed in 2007. On Thursday, Arnebeck filed a motion to remove the stay and allow fresh investigation.

Individuals close to Arnebeck's office said Spoonamore confirmed that the patch included nothing to repair a clock problem. Instead, he identified two parallel programs, both having the full software code and even the same audio instructions for the deaf. Spoonamore said he could not understand the need for a second copy of the exact same program -- and without access to the machine for which the patch was designed, he could not learn more. Instead, he said he took the evidence to the Cyber-Security Division of the Department of Justice and reported the series of events to authorities. The Justice Department has not yet acted on his report. Allegations surrounding Ohio in 2004

At the Ohio press conference yesterday, the former McCain adviser said Michael Connell, of the Republican Internet development firm New Media Communications, had designed a system that made possible the real-time "tuning" of election tabulators once Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had outsourced the hosting of vote counting on the same server which hosted GOP campaign IT systems. He said he didn't believe Connell was behind the alleged fraud, but that he should be considered a key witness.

Spoonamore also confirmed he's working with Connell on overseas election issues and that Connell is now working as John McCain's IT developer.

Let's put aside, for now, the very large question of whether an Obama presidency will change the US in anything but superficial, cosmetic ways. Let's get back to basics. He can't win if they don't count the votes! You can follow many links about that at this older post (scroll down).

Many thanks to Allan and James for these stories. I'm massively busy right now, and it's good to have a research team!

this saturday: rally to bring omar khadr back to canada

Speaking of Harper Government priorities, this Saturday, Torontonians will have the opportunity to raise their voices in protest. No matter if they're listening or not. We have to express our disapproval loudly and often.

If you live in the Toronto area, come out this Saturday, July 26, for the Bring Omar Khadr back to Canada! rally. The rally is jointly sponsored by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, the Canadian Arab Federation and the Muslim Unity Group.
Tell Stephen Harper:
Bring Omar Khadr back to Canada!

Rally & march
Saturday, July 26, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
U.S. Consulate
360 University Avenue*
(north of Queen West, east side of University)
TTC: Osgoode or St. Patrick

Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is the only Western national left in Guantanamo Bay, and the first child-soldier to be prosecuted in more than a hundred years. Khadr was only 15 years-old when he was captured by US forces in Afghanistan and later transported to the infamous US prison where he has now spent more than a quarter of his life. Khadr faces trial by US military tribunal in October 2008.

Recently released video footage reveals the kind of mistreatment that Khadr has experienced in Guantanamo Bay, where the US has been accused of practicing torture on detainees. Other reports show that Khadr was subjected to extreme forms of sleep deprivation, a form of torture, including a practice called the "frequent flyer program" in which he was woken every three hours and moved to a different cell for 24 hours a day over a three-week period.

Worse still, court documents reveal that the Canadian government was aware of the abuse suffered by Khadr at the hands of US authorities yet continued to assure the Canadian public that he was being well treated.

The fact that Omar Khadr is still being held in Guantanamo Bay is a national disgrace, and an international embarrassment for all Canadians. Despite the growing evidence of Khadr's mistreatment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shamefully refused to bring Khadr back to Canada. Instead, Harper has said he supports a US military trial for Khadr, and will not seek his release from Guantanamo Bay.

Join us on July 26 to tell Stephen Harper: "Bring Omar Khadr back to Canada!" Demonstrate your opposition to our government's decision to abandon a Canadian citizen in Guantanamo Bay, and show your support for civil liberties and international law.

* After the opening rally at the U.S. Consulate, the demonstration will march past CSIS headquarters on Front Street West, and will conclude at Simcoe Park, on the east side of the CBC Broadcast Centre.

If you can, go.

If you can do more, the Coalition needs volunteers to help make the rally a success. If you can attend a volunteer meeting on Friday night, July 25, from 6:00 to 8:00, email stopthewar@sympatico.ca. The meeting will be held at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West.

harper government priorities: 1. u.s. approval 2. whatever

From the Tell Us Something We Don't Know Department, the Globe and Mail offers more proof of the Harper Government's priorities.
Senior Canadian intelligence officials warned against allowing Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen, to return home from Sudan because it could upset the Bush administration, classified documents reveal.

"Senior government of Canada officials should be mindful of the potential reaction of our U.S. counterparts to Abdelrazik's return to Canada as he is on the U.S. no-fly list," intelligence officials say in documents in the possession of The Globe and Mail.

"Continued co-operation between Canada and the U.S. in the matters of security is essential. We will need to continue to work closely on issues related to the Security of North America, including the case of Mr. Abdelrazik," the document says.

Although heavily redacted, the documents illuminate a government keen to placate the Bush administration, irrespective of the guilt or innocence of Mr. Abdelrazik, who has lived in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum for nearly three months.

Of course, it remains to be seen if a Liberal Government under Stéphane Dion would act any differently. But I'll be happy to give it a shot.


vegans + peace = terrorism?

Two items from the Land of the Free.
Paul Carroll was riding his bike when his cell phone vibrated.

They were looking for an informant to show up at "vegan potlucks" throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors. Once he arrived home from the Hennepin County Courthouse, where he’d been served a gross misdemeanor for spray-painting the interior of a campus elevator, the lanky, wavy-haired University of Minnesota sophomore flipped open his phone and checked his messages. He was greeted by a voice he recognized immediately. It belonged to U of M Police Sgt. Erik Swanson, the officer to whom Carroll had turned himself in just three weeks earlier. When Carroll called back, Swanson asked him to meet at a coffee shop later that day, going on to assure a wary Carroll that he wasn't in trouble.

Carroll, who requested that his real name not be used, showed up early and waited anxiously for Swanson’s arrival. Ten minutes later, he says, a casually dressed Swanson showed up, flanked by a woman whom he introduced as FBI Special Agent Maureen E. Mazzola. For the next 20 minutes, Mazzola would do most of the talking.

"She told me that I had the perfect 'look,'" recalls Carroll. "And that I had the perfect personality — they kept saying I was friendly and personable — for what they were looking for."

What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant — someone to show up at "vegan potlucks" throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort's primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division's website, is to "investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines."

Carroll would be compensated for his efforts, but only if his involvement yielded an arrest. No exact dollar figure was offered.

"I'll pass," said Carroll.

For 10 more minutes, Mazzola and Swanson tried to sway him. He remained obstinate.

"Well, if you change your mind, call this number," said Mazzola, handing him her card with her cell phone number scribbled on the back.

(Mazzola, Swanson, and the FBI did not return numerous calls seeking comment.)

Carroll's story echoes a familiar theme. During the lead-up the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the NYPD's Intelligence Division infiltrated and spied on protest groups across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe. The program's scope extended to explicitly nonviolent groups, including street theater troupes and church organizations.

There were also two reported instances of police officers, dressed as protestors, purposefully instigating clashes. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYPD orchestrated a fake arrest to incite protestors. When a blond man was "arrested," nearby protestors began shouting, "Let him go!" The helmeted police proceeded to push back against the crowd with batons and arrested at least two. In a similar instance, during an April 29, 2005, Critical Mass bike ride in New York, video footage captured a "protestor" — in reality an undercover cop — telling his captor, "I'm on the job," and being subsequently let go.

I blogged about the infiltration of protest groups at the 2004 RNC when it happened - and when it was finally proven.

I also blogged about a similar (although much smaller) incident that took place in Canada, when rock-throwing "protestors" at the SPP summit were revealed to be undercover cops. I know it happens here, too. With yet another death-by-taser execution in the news today, Canadians should harbour no illusions about the bruatality of so-called law enforcement here.

As is often the case, the difference between the US and Canada on this score is a matter of degree. But it's many, many degrees.

When is a peaceful protestor not a peaceful protestor? When he's a terrorist.
Undercover Maryland state troopers infiltrated three groups advocating peace and protesting the death penalty — attending meetings and sending reports on their activities to U.S. intelligence and military agencies, according to documents released Thursday.

The documents show the activities occurred from at least March 2005 to May 2006 and that officers used false names, which the documents referred to as "covert identities" - to open e-mail accounts to receive messages from the groups.

Also included in the 46 pages of documents, obtained by the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, is an account of an activist's name being entered into a federally funded database designed to share information among state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies on terrorist and drug trafficking suspects.

ACLU attorney David Rocah said state police violated federal laws prohibiting departments that receive federal funds from maintaining databases with information about political activities and affiliations.

The activist was identified as Max Obuszewski. His "primary crime" was entered into the database as "terrorism - anti govern(ment)." His "secondary crime" was listed as "terrorism - anti-war protestors." The database is known as the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA.

"This is not supposed to happen in America," said Mr. Rocah. "In a free society, which relies on the engagement of citizens in debate and protest and political activity to maintain that freedom ... you should be able to attend a meeting about an issue you care about without having to worry that government spies are entering your name into a database used to track alleged terrorists and drug traffickers."

Mr. Rocah called the surveillance "Kafka-esque insanity."

Despite the source, the story is worth reading.

ACLU info here.

15% of female veterans in v.a. treatment show signs of sexual trauma

It took Diane Pickel Plappert six months to tell a counselor that she had been raped while on duty in Iraq. While time passed, the former Navy nurse disconnected from her children and her life slowly unraveled.

Carolyn Schapper says she was harassed in Iraq by a fellow Army National Guard soldier to the extent that she began changing clothes in the shower for fear he'd barge into her room unannounced — as he already had on several occasions.

Even as women distinguish themselves in battle alongside men, they're fighting off sexual assault and harassment. It's not a new consequence of war. But the sheer number of women serving today — more than 190,000 so far in Iraq and Afghanistan — is forcing the military and Department of Veterans Affairs to more aggressively address it.

The data that exists — incomplete and not up-to-date — offers no proof that women in the war zones are more vulnerable to sexual assault than other female service members, or American women in general. But in an era when the military relies on women for invaluable and difficult front-line duties, the threat to their morale, performance and long-term well-being is starkly clear.

Of the women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have walked into a VA facility, 15 percent have screened positive for military sexual trauma, The Associated Press has learned. That means they indicated that while on active duty they were sexually assaulted, raped, or were sexually harassed, receiving repeated unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature.

In January, the VA opened its 16th inpatient ward specializing in treating victims of military sexual trauma, this one in New Jersey. In response to complaints that it is too male-focused in its care, the VA is making changes such as adding keyless entry locks on hospital room doors so women patients feel safer.

Depression, anxiety, problem drinking, sexually transmitted diseases and domestic abuse are all problems that have been linked to sexual abuse, according to the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides support to victims of violence associated with the military. Since 2002, the foundation says it has received more than 1,000 reports of assault and rape in the U.S. Central Command areas of operation, which include Iraq and Afghanistan.

In most reports to the foundation, fellow U.S. service members have been named as the perpetrator, but contractors and local nationals also have been accused.

Whenever I blog about sexual assault within the military, some wingnut warlovers feel obligated to refute it in their own forums. Military men regard military women as their sisters, they cry. Soldiers would never even touch a fellow female soldier - unless she asked for it. Then later, of course, they regret it and "cry rape".

Military men are apparently honourable and upstanding. Military women, however, are just lying bitches.

Do I really need to say that not all men are rapists? Not all men in the military are rapists, either. But the lawless, dehumanized, violent culture that surrounds war and occupation has transformed many a normal man into something he never was at home.

In War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, Christopher Hedges describes how in every war zone he covered, in every part of the world, sexual context between men and women was reduced to its most brutal and violent. Rape became a norm, and not only as a weapon against the enemy.

I applaud Diane Pickel Plappert and Carolyn Schapper for coming forward, and standing up with their real names. It's really hard to do, let me tell you. But once done, it gives you strength and courage, and soon you couldn't imagine making any other choice.

I know that other women will also find courage and comfort from Plappert's and Schapper's examples. I thank them.


on being nice, and being canadian

Several months ago, I read an interesting piece by Sara Robinson of Orcinus, on Campaign for America's Future. I found it on Truthout.
I live in a nice place.

I mean that literally. It took some getting used to. After 20 years in Silicon Valley, where people put a premium on being direct and to the point, have no time to waste on small talk or personal sharing, and will call a stupid idea stupid to your face, moving to Canada required a whole lot of gearing back on that brusque American aggressive-in-your-face thing. The humbling fact was: We had to learn to mind our manners.

Much of the adjustment work that first year involved re-learning the art of Being Nice. We had to get used to meetings that started with 10 or 15 minutes of personal chit-chat. We had to train ourselves to stop interrupting people, and to be more careful to say "please" and "thank you." We had to discover (sometimes, the hard way) that losing your temper with Canadians means that you will invariably lose the conflict. The more terse and irritated you get, the more determinedly calm and polite Canadians become, until you're standing there looking like a raving idiot and they're still firmly in control (though they're very sorry you're having such a bad day).

We also learned the unofficial Canadian motto, which is "I'm sorry." Canadians will say "I'm sorry" even if you were the one who bumped into them. (Americans, on the other hand, won't say it at all: apologizing is admitting fault, which is an invitation to lawsuits.) We used to respond to this by pleading with them out of our own misguided sense of Niceness: "No. Please. Don't be sorry. It was MY fault." But after a while, we gave up, went with the flow, and started apologizing for everything, too. It was really...well, nice, once we got used to it.

The whole world makes fun of Canadians' resolute civility -- but once I'd read a little Canadian history, I realized that this Being Nice thing isn't just a cute cultural quirk. In fact, up here, it's is a deadly serious matter of national survival. Canada's 13 provinces and territories are, effectively, three separate nations — each with its own culture, language, religion, and history. On top of that, the country is the world's largest importer of new immigrants, a large fraction of whom are from cultures very different from Canada's aboriginal and European bedrock. The federal constitution that binds all this together is very weak (it's not unlike the U.S.'s original Articles of Confederation), and the overwhelming bulk of government power is still tightly concentrated in the hands of the provincial premiers (that's Canadian for "state governors"). Secession is eminently possible, as the Quebecois so often like to remind us.

In the face of all that, there's the constant possibility—which does not exist in the U.S.—that one cranky politician having one bad day could stand up and say one idiot thing that would cause one faction or another to decamp en masse, thus precipitating the instant demise of Canada-as-we-know-it. The threat is real. It could happen. And the only thing that keeps it from happening is that resolute collective determination to stay calm, keep the peace, and Be Nice.

Civility is, in a very real sense, the glue that holds this big, diverse nation together.

Sara is contrasting Canadian niceness with American directness to illustrate larger political themes. The essay is well worth reading, but it prompted to me to think somewhat tangentially about the smaller picture.

I relate to some of what Sara writes. Moving from New York City to Mississauga, we also had to learn to take a few extra moments for the social niceties. Any business transaction, whether in a store, a bank or the podiatrist's office, is also a social transaction. You don't merely say "please" and "thank you", as I always did in New York. You make small talk. And since we see this in Canada's largest population centre, I imagine this tendency must be even more pronounced elsewhere in Canada. It certainly was in Newfoundland!

But we were accustomed to learning and re-learning this, because we noticed the same pattern whenever we traveled anywhere in the US outside of New York City. Whether it was upstate New York or the Mississippi Delta, people were more friendly and more chatty than they are in New York. I love New Yorkers, I think they're (can I still say "we're"?!) the greatest, but they are usually in a rush. Interactions with strangers are pared down to basics. What do you need? Here you go, thanks, next customer.

Perhaps Silicon Valley is more like New York City that way, but I never found people in the US to be rude or aggressive in casual interaction.

On the other hand, I often find Canadians' lack of directness irritating. If I ask a co-worker, "Do you mind if I use this?" I can never trust her answer. She will never say, "I would rather you didn't". I am supposed to know in advance how she feels, and if it bothers her, not ask. I am supposed to be a mind reader.

Before leaving for lunch, everyone asks, "Does anyone want anything?" However, if you ask someone to bring you back something, they won't accept money from you. Which means you really shouldn't ask. In fact, "Does anyone want anything?" is just a perfunctory social custom. You're expected to ask, and everyone is expected to say no.

In this past post, Idealistic Pragmatist contrasts Canadian and American perceptions of rudeness. I see this frequently. My co-workers don't ask each other directly what they want to know; they ask other people about each other. You don't say, "Kim, is everything OK? You seem down." You say, "Christine, do you know what's the matter with Kim? She seems down." To me, that converts concern into gossip. But I think my co-workers see it as more polite.

I've learned that the ubiquitous "I'm sorry" is not, in fact, an apology. It can be an acknowledgement of your time, or a form of interruption (like "excuse me" or the Spanish permiso), or just a way to begin a sentence. (Impudent Strumpet has written about this.)

I try to always be polite, but I value clear communication over mere courtesy. That means politely but directly saying what you mean and meaning what you say. The emphasis on niceness can be a form of obfuscation.

Those of you with experience on both sides of the border, do you find this to be the case? Canadians, do you think I am over-generalizing, perhaps based on my still-limited experiences? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

how you can support robin long

As I hope you know, war resister Robin Long is in a US military jail, facing punishment for refusing to participate in the Iraq War.

Robin is currently being held at Fort Carson, Colorado. Lee Zaslofsky, one of the mainstays of our national campaign and a Vietnam War deserter, is on his way there to visit Robin, so I'll soon have an update on his condition.

You can send letters of support to Robin at:
Robin Long, CJC
2739 East Las Vegas
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906

We are told:

Robin is allowed to receive handwritten or typewritten letters. They must not include drawings made with markers, lipstick, crayons, or stickers or any printed articles. He cannot receive enclosures of any type except small photographs (up to 4x6 inches). Photographs can only be printed from a photo developer, not from a home printer or from photocopies, and no Polaroids. He can receive no more than nine photos at a time. Mail that violates these rules will be locked up with Robin's personal belongings, and he won't see them.

Control freaks, anyone?

Please don't forget Robin.

And don't forget there are hundreds of other war resisters and their families in Canada. Each one of them has risked their freedom and their futures to say no to an illegal and immoral war. We must help them stay safe and free in Canada. We must keep the pressure on.

Contact this stubborn, immoral, anti-democrat, minority Government. Urge them to immediately cease all deportation proceedings against other US war resisters, and to respect the will of Canadians and their elected representatives by implementing the motion adopted by Parliament on June 3. Please see the take action page for what you can do.

Contact information and ideas for actions are here.

james laxer: "hasn't the time come for us to end" canada's involvement in afghanistan?

From today's Globe and Mail, by James Laxer, author of Mission of Folly - Canada and Afghanistan:
The Harper government has hunkered down on the issue of Afghanistan -- committed to keeping Canadian troops on the front line there until at least 2011. The government has constructed its own sanitized version of events in the country while steadfastly ignoring reality. Tragically, Canadians continue to die in the conflict -- 88 soldiers to date -- earning us the dubious distinction of the highest per-capita death toll of any NATO member in the war.

In January, in response to an access to information request for records from the Department of Foreign Affairs, I received documents that made clear what the Harper government wants Canadians to think about the mission in Afghanistan and exposed its strategy for managing the public relations campaign.

At what are called "message events" where journalists are updated on developments in Afghanistan, officials from Foreign Affairs, National Defence and the Canadian International Development Agency are to present the government line following "dry runs" to make sure the briefing motivates journalists to adopt what is called the "desired sound bite." The sound bite includes a reference to restoring "the rule of law" in Afghanistan as a primary Canadian objective.

The "key messages" the government wants conveyed include: We are making steady progress on the ground.

Afghanistan is Canada's largest recipient of bilateral development assistance and we are among the top donors in the world with more than $100-million in annual development assistance and a total pledge of $1.2-billion until 2011.

In the aftermath of the deadly bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul earlier this month, as well as other developments, Canadians need a reality check to counter Ottawa's soothing message that steady progress is being made.

The Afghan government was quick to point the finger for the murderous assault on India's embassy at Pakistan's intelligence service. Their not very subtle message was sharply denied by members of the Pakistani government.

But the bombing calls our attention to Pakistan's duplicitous role in the conflict. Although Pakistan is depicted as an ally of NATO, Canadian soldiers in Kandahar are constantly being hit by new recruits or refitted Taliban units that can slip back and forth across the border. Although from time to time the Pakistani military undertakes missions against the Taliban, for the most part they leave the Taliban alone in the semi-autonomous regions next to Afghanistan. Moreover, both the Pakistani government and the Karzai government in Kabul have been negotiating with elements of the Taliban to reach their own peace deals.

The truth is, the regime we are supporting in Kabul is not committed to a version of the rule of law that is remotely compatible with our own. Even the post-Taliban constitution of Afghanistan is based on sharia law. Under the law, rejecting Islam is punishable by death. Add to that the practice, and the picture becomes much worse. The Kabul government is the author of repeated atrocities against prisoners who fall into its hands. It is riddled with corruption, and its officials have been repeatedly linked by reputable observers to the country's poppy trade, the source of more than 90 per cent of the world's heroin. Last month the Times of London referred to the repeated accusations that President Hamid Karzai's half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, who is the head of the provincial council in Kandahar province, is involved in the narcotics business. While the brothers Karzai deny the allegations, they are constantly reiterated in Kandahar, and have even been the subject of humour on Afghan private television.

While Ottawa stresses the amount of aid Canada is providing to Afghanistan, the ratio of dollars spent on the military mission compared with aid is roughly 10 to one. If Canada truly wanted to help educate girls, as Ottawa says it does, there are more direct ways to do this in many parts of the world than by waging war against an insurgency. And the government's constant reiteration of the fact that we are members of a broad coalition in Afghanistan cannot conceal the fact that, as of this week, 83 per cent of the allied casualties have been suffered by the armed forces of only three countries: the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Contrary to the Harper government's claim that the war in Afghanistan is going well, there have been repeated and authoritative assessments that reveal that the opposite is true. In February, the United States' National Intelligence Director, Vice-Admiral Mike McConnell, told a congressional committee that the situation facing the U.S. and its allies was "deteriorating." His assessment was that 60 per cent of Afghanistan was controlled by local warlords and that Taliban insurgents controlled about 10 per cent of the country.

While Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, in their race for the White House, have been stressing the need for a greater emphasis on America's so-called forgotten war in Afghanistan, there is every reason to believe that the fatigue of the American public with Iraq would quickly spread to Afghanistan if the U.S. military deployment was sharply increased there.

Although the Harper government has not yet levelled with Canadians on the situation in Afghanistan, Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, did acknowledge this past weekend that Taliban attacks are increasing and that more troops are needed to counter the insurgency.

When a settlement does come in Afghanistan, and one is certainly possible between the Karzai government and elements of the Taliban, it will not create a country that is firmly on the road to democracy and a regime based on the rule of law and respect for the rights of women as the Harper government would have us believe.

Hasn't the time come for us to end the bleeding of our soldiers in a conflict in which our vital interests are not at stake and the side on which we are fighting upholds values that are remote from our own?

Thank you, Mr. Laxer!

The time has come. Indeed, it is long overdue. Canada out of Afghanistan. Now.

study shows u.s. hardly united at all

Geography is destiny.

I think about this all the time: how where a person is born determines so much about her future. Poverty and the opportunity to leave it, education, health care - the rights and options of people with disabilities - freedom of personhood and conscience - reproductive freedom. Childhood! Having one at all, rather than being forced into a sweatshop, or sex work, or killing. So many basic human rights from which our lives flow are pre-determined by where a person is born.

This is a terrible fact. But why should this be true within one country? From The Independent, via AMERICAblog, via James, emphasis mine.
The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.

The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid agency approach to measuring well-being – more familiar to observers of the Third World – with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.

Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered free enterprise is the best way to lift Americans out of poverty, the report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities.

"The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said.

Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved since the 1970s.

Long ago, a wmtc reader tried to sell the idea that the US and Canada were the same. (He turned out to be a troll, temporarily disguised by his large vocabulary, but easily unmasked.)

When readers pointed to some basic differences between the two countries - health care, abortion rights, equality of sexual orientation - he argued that because those rights exist in some places within the United States, they therefore exist for the United States. For example, Vermont offers state-sponsored health insurance, therefore the US has universal health care. Abortion rights are secured in New York and California, therefore the US has reproductive freedom. Same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts, therefore...

As I had been helping women from abortion slave states who came to New York City to terminate pregnancies, this argument blew my mind. Had this guy ever seen a map?

What good do abortion rights in New York do for the woman in South Dakota? What good does Vermont's health insurance plan do for a family in Mississippi? Technically, Americans are free to move to any state they choose. But can a family be expected to roam the country trying to meet their basic needs and secure their basic freedoms? Who will fund these travels? Where will their children attend school?

In a place where many people can't afford the fuel or child care necessary to hold a job, because minimum wage is still under $6.00 an hour, the knowledge that some other state might offer a better life is little comfort. The study mentions "an almost cult-like devotion" to the free market. There's also the cult-like devotion to states' rights - federalism, in US parlance - which justifies these inequalities and locks them in place.

In my work for reproductive freedom, I would often marvel, is this one country or not? A co-author of the report referenced above says: "Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living." I would have to say "not".