heather mallick: free speech does not exist in this hamster country

From CBC's Heather Mallick.
The bold, relentless, in-your-face-and up-your-nose, five-times-elected British MP George Galloway is a Scot.

He was coming to Canada to make a speech. The Harper government will not let this Scot across the border.

I never thought I would see the day when such a travesty would take place in a country as supposedly open as Canada.

Have we forgotten also that this country was largely built by 19th century Scots, those champions of banking and public schools.

I assume they were looking for a climate more challenging than the cold relentless sleet of their notoriously comfortable homeland, a landscape more alienating than the Hebrides, a cuisine more excruciating than toothsome haggis.

If you've ever eaten moose meat, you'll know that the Scottish settlers found it a laudable meat. Sturdy food, that's what Scots like. These are people who toss cabers, trunks of small trees, for sport. There's no profit in it, no point. It's painful. That's why they do it.

The Canadian character is Scottish (Margaret Atwood extracted a whole book from this, which she called Survival) and French. (If we Canadians have any joie de vivre, it's in Montreal, and you know that's true.)

Don't mess with Scotland

Scots are implacable. You do not mess with them. The American government happily let Galloway in to speak his mind and what a fertile fierce eccentric mind it is.

I could listen to Galloway all night. He's practically Shakespearean in his fierceness and perfect phrasing. He's like Tony Benn (another troublesome British politician of the left) whose oratory was so valued that it was actually released on CD with an ambient soundtrack.

I listen to it at night sometimes. How these Brits can talk.

But the Canadian government will not let this type of person in to speak. What type, you ask?

Another clever Brit, the polymath Stephen Fry, calls them the QIs. It stands for Quite Interesting. It is a category that includes The Literate, The Talkers, the people with a sense of humour who add gaiety to our increasingly grunted national discussion.

Banning this argumentative, energizing Scot will make Canada look even more like what we are rapidly becoming: a hamster of a country, petting and fattening its dullness, silencing dissent, mocking artists, musicians and anyone who's creative, or odd, or not entirely mainstream.

Governments with tidying, controlling tendencies are fanatical about two things: borders and loose talk. Travel and chatter — these are the things that make the right wing nervous.

The more they praise free speech, the more you come to realize that they detest it and would in fact like to put a pillow over your face, right there in airport Customs.

People banning

The Jewish Defence League of Canada is boasting about having sparked the government into barring Galloway from Canada.

People banning? In my Canadian way, this strikes me as not really something to boast about.

"This is not about free speech," spokesman, Meir Weinstein told a British TV interviewer in a riveting YouTube video.

Galloway, Weinstein claims, has been supporting terrorists by attempting to bring humanitarian aid to ravaged Gaza and by donating money to the Palestinian leadership of democratically elected Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization in Canada.

The JDL "lit a fire" in the Jewish community to contact the federal government and begin a campaign against Galloway's visit, Weinstein told reporters. And sure enough, the Scot was banned.

Weinstein went on. "We will be looking into these organizations that have invited them and their links to terrorists as well."

Galloway's response was that one of the churches that invited him would be interested to know that. Nice touch, George.

Gorgeous George

Given Galloway's supposed "links," it's odd then that the British House of Commons still allows him to enter the room.

In Britain, he is known as "Gorgeous George" because he dresses so well, which may say something about Brit politicians' fashion sense that this is considered remarkable. I mean, Brits are pretty clever but they're often a sartorial shambles; they can look like their mother still dresses them.

Governments who ban free speech thrive in somnolent rodent nations. The U.S. government, in the pre-Obama era, refused to let in Cat Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam. That inspired protests from the (pro-Bush) Tony Blair government, which rather liked its British singer/songwriter turned Muslim peacemaker.

In the McCarthy era, the U.S. government let an outspoken Brit into the country — the anti-Nazi Jessica Mitford, niece of Winston Churchill. But when she became an earnest Communist, the authorities refused to let her leave for some strange reason.

Martha Stewart, a felon, was briefly barred from entering Canada in 2005, lest she abuse free speech by introducing us to her frittata recipe, which I would like to say, frankly, needs some refining.

Free speech does not exist in this hamster country. I, for instance, cannot speak about the value of English literature at a university campus in Alberta because anti-abortionists dislike my pro-choice views and promise to riot over my presence, harming donations.

But if those same anti-abortionists are told that they cannot go on campuses and graphically liken women who have abortions to Nazi killers, then they complain that their "free speech" is being curtailed. Jeez, I only wanted to talk about the gently subversive novels of Barbara Pym and her touting the benefits of hot milky drinks at bedtime. But my feminist views apparently contaminate my speech, which must be cancelled. Fine, whatever.

Because of these experiences, I have learned to distrust anyone who uses the phrase free speech as a weapon to attack others. They want speech to be free when it is theirs alone.

Free speech is no longer a cause. It is a weapon used against those who wish to speak by those who don't wish to let others hear it.

I wish to hear Galloway speak and not only because he speaks so well. I am ashamed of what this country is turning into, a humourless place that celebrates unreason and the subtraction of ancient freedoms.

george galloway: watch last night's speech now

Do you have plans this evening? Here's something to do.

George Galloway addresses Toronto, March 30, 2009

Many thanks to Rabble for making this available!

house of commons vote on war resisters and galloway event, continued

We got to the Metropolitan United Church, where Galloway was supposed to speak, just before the vote in the House of Commons was set to take place. We were hoping to watch CPAC on a laptop at War Resister Support Campaign information table, but the wireless connection had been shut off as the organizers prepared for the webcast.

A Campaign friend stuck at work put her cell phone near her computer, and we gathered around another friend's cell on speakerphone. Four or five of us were huddled around the iPhone when someone ran over to tell us the vote was being projected on a big screen for the whole church!

Just in time for the start of the vote, we ran in, and everyone who was early to the Galloway talk watched it together. I think most people didn't know what was being voted on and why we were watching.

The vote was called, and the "yea"s came in. Everyone who was present from all three opposition parties stood.

When the yes votes were finished, Allan said he had been counting, and there were 129. 129?? We were horrified. That's way too close. I asked, Is it possible you're off by 10 votes? Please let that be the case.

Then it got really nerve-wracking. My heart was absolutely pounding while the Conservatives were voting. Campaigners later told me they thought we had lost. And then, finally, the tally: 129 for, 125 against.

We won.

We won!


Now the House of Commons has voted twice - once on June 3, 2008 and again on March 30, 2009 - to Let Them Stay.

A Campaigner announced from the podium what the vote had been for, and the crowd erupted in cheers. Unfortunately, he had to explain that the vote was non-binding, but nonetheless an important victory.

We were hugging and crying - seems like I write that every-other day! - with relief. Honestly, I was sitting and listening to the first speakers before it sunk in that we had actually won.

James Clark, from Toronto Coalition to Stop the War - who George Galloway singled out as an "organizational genius" - took the podium, and two speakers later, I realized I was so caught up in the moment that I hadn't been taking notes.

Rev. John-Joseph Mastandrea, a minister from the Metropolitan United Church, welcomed us and talked about the church's long history of activism and community-building.

Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian-Canadian activist, brought us up to date on attempts to silence Israeli Apartheid Week and pro-Palestinian activism on campuses. She gave an inspiring rallying cry about the strength and resiliency of her people all over the globe.

Sandra Ruch, a Canadian woman with Independent Jewish Voices, told us about her journey to Gaza with Code Pink. They're going again on May 22 if you want to join them.

Hamid Osman, a York University student organizer and activist expounded on the meaning of the slogan "Education, Not Occupation," itemizing what could be done in Canada with the money wasted on needless military spending.

And Ali Mallaha, a stalwart of many peace and justice movements, pulled it all together, railing about the hypocrisy of the Harper government for banning George Galloway from Canada: "Last time I checked, giving humanitarian aid to suffering people was not an act of terrorism!" I was so pleased to hear another bit of hypocrisy called out: after Jason Kenney cut funds from the Canadian Arab Federation's ESL program, he announced that immigrants who don't speak either English or French "well enough" should not gain citizenship!

James Clark returned to the podium to remind everyone of the April 4 global day of action, and to introduce the "ban-breaking broadcast," the speech Jason Kenney didn't want you to hear, now being beamed into 20 cities around Canada and the world.

Then there was George Galloway.

He congratulated Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney on failing spectacularly, as hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands, so many more people than we ever would have imagined, would now hear his talk.

Galloway promised Canadians: "I'm on standby. The minute you think this ban can be broken, I'll grab my toothbrush and head to Heathrow Airport, and fly straight to Toronto," then challenged Jason Kenney to a head-to-head debate. He accused Stephen Harper of being determined to add Ottawa to the axis of evil that runs straight from Pennsylvania Avenue to Downing Street to occupied Jerusalem.

He said "it just isn't credible" to call a five-time elected Member of the British Parliament a terrorist threat or a security risk. "The real danger I was to you, Mr. Kenney, is that I had come to tell the truth" about what's happening in Gaza.

I took copious notes, but my notes can't even begin to do justice to George Galloway. Should I wait until the speech is on YouTube and the transcript is made available, and post that?

I will post that, but here are some notes anyway.

Thanks to the organizational genius of James Clark, people all over the world will hear what you tried to stop...

Mandela was branded a terrorist...

It's our movement that tries to stop racism, against Jews, against Muslims, against the original people of North America...

Galloway described the convoy he took from the UK to Gaza, the aid they brought, the hardships they faced to get there.

Who should I have brought aid to if not the suffering?...

Is it terrorism to bring food to the hungry? Is it terrorism to bring wheelchairs to disabled people? Is it terrorism to bring medicine to the sick?

What kind of language is it that your government has indulged in that call acts of humanitarian kindness terrorism?

You are making a mockery of the very real concept of terrorism... and making a laughingstock out of Canada...

Galloway reminded us that we must be careful who we put on the list of "the banned and the damned," because today's terrorists may be tomorrow's government leaders that we must meet around the negotiating table. He named several examples, but Nelson Mandela and Gerry Adams come to mind.

Galloway said Gaza looked like it had been hit by an earthquake, the very big difference being that if the destruction had been caused by an earthquake, all the governments of the world would have given aid to the survivors. Instead, a siege sealed the victims into the largest open-air prison on earth, where they were slaughtered.

Galloway said he didn't have time to detail the case against the war in Afghanistan, but reminded us that the people of Afghanistan have not given in to foreign occupation ever, over thousands of years, and that continued occupation will only meet with increased resistance.

* * * *

Questions from the audience were an interesting challenge, communicated by cell phone, then answered on the screen.

During questions, Galloway described the horrific scenes of massacre and violence that North Americans didn't see on mainstream TV, but that the rest of the world witnessed on Al-Jazeera.

He answered to charges of anti-Semitism, and it seems quite out of the realm of reality that this man could be credibly accused of anti-Semitism. As he said, it's our movement that has fought against racism in all its forms. He described anti-Semitism as the most virulent of all forms of racism, invoking the systematic annihilation of millions upon millions of Jewish people.

But, he reminded us, Israel is a state. It is a state, like the United States, like Canada, like the UK, like France. It is a state, and as such it can and should be criticized for its political policies, just as all the countries that support it should be.

His rejection of anti-Semitism and his explanation of why criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism was so brilliant, so rousing, so spectacularly thorough, that I wish I had taped it and could transcribe it for you now.

He also responded to questions about his "one-state solution".

On one hand, he said, the two-state solution, announced and shook upon in the White House rose garden lo these 14 years ago, has not been acted on, not for one moment. Israel clearly rejects it.

But beyond that, why do we want an Arab state and an Israeli state, a Jewish state and a Muslim state? Why don't we want one nation, where all people - Jews, Muslims and Christians - are equal, and equally free?

When Mandela was finally released from prison, and became president of South Africa, he was asked if he would keep one portion of land for a white South Africa, the so-called Orange Free State. He replied, I don't want a white South Africa and a black South Africa. I want one nation where we are all equal.

To the notions of nationalism, division and apartheid, Galloway offered a vision of internationalism, inclusion and equality.

It's a vision that fills me with joy and hope.

In the past week I've heard George Galloway described as a "clown", a "buffoon", a "closet anti-Semite", who talks "rubbish" and defends terrorists.

I defy anyone to hear this man speak, to read his words, and defend those descriptions. Without lying.

George Galloway is a hero for peace and justice. It was my privilege to hear him speak last night, and it was Canada's shame to deny him a place in our country.

kenney out! galloway in!

A letter from today's Globe and Mail, by my partner Allan, who posts here as Redsock.
So Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was successful in having British MP George Galloway banned from Canada because of Mr. Galloway's support of Hamas (British MP Loses Bid To Enter Canada - online, March 30). But in April, 2006, Mr. Kenney addressed a rally organized by the supporters of a banned terrorist organization, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. The group was placed on Canada's official terror list in May, 2005.

In the interest of fairness, I ask that Mr. Kenney now ban himself from Canada.

Allan Wood
Mississauga, ON

The title of this post is our rallying cry. Kenney Out! Galloway In! Kenney Out! Resisters In! It makes a great chant.


parliament passes war resister motion; galloway appears by telecast

This was a long, nerve-wracking, joyous, frustrating, scary, uplifting evening.

The motion in support of US Iraq War resisters was passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 129 - 125.

We are thrilled and relieved.

George Galloway addressed a packed house in Toronto via internet.

He was incredible.

I'll tell you more tomorrow.

breaking news: federal court judge denies galloway's request to enter canada

A dark day for freedom of speech.
Controversial British MP George Galloway's request for an injunction to enter Canada has been denied by a Federal Court judge.

The decision prevents Galloway from appearing in person at an event in Toronto Monday evening, the first of three scheduled events in Canada.

The federal government has told Galloway he could not enter Canada because he allegedly engaged in terrorist activities.

In a letter to Galloway, the government says the MP delivered humanitarian goods to war-torn Gaza and gave $45,000 to Hamas, which is a banned terrorist organization in Canada.
etc. etc.

today! parliament votes on resisters, george galloway speaks to (in?) toronto

Big day today!

At 6:30 p.m., the House of Commons will vote - yet again - on a resolution to allow US Iraq War resisters to stay legally in Canada.

This is the same motion that Parliament passed last June, which the Harper government has ignored. And while Harper can continue to ignore this motion, too, its passage in this Parliament will be a very important re-affirmation of the strong support for US war resisters throughout Canada.

If your MP is Liberal, Bloc or NDP, please call her or him today.

Remind your opposition MP that this issue is important to you, and important to Canada.

Remind your MP that we want Canada to be a nation of peacemakers, a "refuge from militarism" (thank you, Monsieur Trudeau).

Remind your MP to vote yes tonight.

Then, at 7:00 p.m., George Galloway will address a crowd in Toronto on "Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar". Depending on what the federal court decides, Galloway will either be in Toronto physically, or broadcast live via Skype. Either way, the event is on! The federal court decision is expected by 2:00 p.m. today.

I'm told that tickets are still available for all four events: Toronto, Mississauga, Montreal and Ottawa. Toronto info below.

I'll be at the George Galloway event, so I won't be able to update wmtc with the result of the House of Commons vote until later tonight.

* * * *

George Galloway in Toronto:
Tonight, March 30, 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Metropolitan United Church
56 Queen Street East

Tickets: $15.00 Adult, $10.00 Students and seniors

Tickets available at:
Canadian Peace Alliance 427 Bloor Street West (cash only)
Ryerson Students' Union 55 Gould Street (cash & debit)
Toronto Women's Bookstore 73 Harbord Street (cash, credit & debit)


united church asks its congregation to help let them stay

The United Church of Canada issued a "Take Action" advisory on their website, asking members to call on the Canadian government to support US war resisters.

So if you belong to United Church, do this now!

war resister legal defense campaign update

Our Fundable campaign to raise money for war resister legal defense ended on March 25. After all the pledges were sorted out and Fundable took its cut, the total was $4450. There were another $400 in cash donations from people who couldn't get the site to work, bringing the net to $4850. But that figure is in US funds. Converted to Canadian, it should be around $5900!

It's so frustrating how quickly that money goes. Every cent of it is already accounted for. Campaigners are funding the campaign on their own credit cards, to be paid back slowly over time.

We need a wealthy benefactor to bankroll the legal campaign until we can get a law passed for all the resisters to stay.

But despite these frustrations, our online fundraising campaign was a huge success. I'll email each donor individually, but for now, on behalf of the War Resisters Support Campaign, please accept my most sincere thanks. You've made a real difference in people's lives. You've helped support peace.


galloway in toronto federal court on sunday, be there!

Oh man, I wish I could go to this! I can't, but maybe you can. I will definitely be at the Toronto Galloway event on Monday. In fact, I'll be watching the House of Commons vote on our motion from our table there.

But if you're in the Toronto area and you don't work on Sunday like I do, here's news from the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War:

Pack the court on Sunday!

Federal Court hearing on ban on George Galloway

George Galloway's Canadian legal team will be in federal court on Sunday to argue against Jason Kenney's ban preventing Galloway from entering Canada. The Defend Free Speech campaign is calling on all supporters to show up at the federal court to attend the hearing, which is open to the public. Help us pack out the court: the more people we have in attendance, the more clearly we show support for our case.

Before the hearing begins, we will hold a Free Speech rally outside the court house, starting at 10:30 a.m. Please bring placards and banners to show your support for free speech, and to oppose the ban on George Galloway from entering Canada.

A ruling on the ban is expected to be made at the hearing or later in the day.

We won't let Jason Kenney silence us, and we won¹t let him silence George Galloway! See you on Sunday!

Federal Court hearing on the ban on George Galloway
Sunday, March 29
10:30 a.m. free speech rally
11:00 a.m. Federal Court hearing
Federal Courthouse
180 Queen Street West (west of University, north side of Queen)
TTC: Osgoode

Organized by the Defend Free Speech campaign

Please note: Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, all scheduled events will proceed as planned
- Toronto March 30
- Mississauga March 31
- Montreal April 1
- Ottawa April 2

Tickets are still available! See Defend Free Speech for info.

earth hour tonight at 8:30. it's not stupid.

What I said last year. Good discussion in comments, too.

Earth Hour

rcmp response to dziekanski murder? why, loosen taser restrictions, of course

One more quickie and I'll call it a morning. From the Canada Meets George Orwell file.

RCMP softened Taser-use restrictions

In response to national anger at the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver airport, the RCMP was urged to curb multiple Taser use by its officers — but instead deleted an existing restriction from its stun-gun policy.

CBC News has learned that on Feb. 3, 2009, two sentences were erased from the main document that guides officers' actions — the first limiting Taser usage to one shot and no more than 20 seconds at a time, and the second requiring officers to warn suspects before deploying a stun gun.

"They have in fact not placed stricter guidelines on the multiple usage of the Taser; they've in fact removed the ban on multiple use in their new guidelines," said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who was a member of a parliamentary committee that reviewed RCMP Taser use.

"And that is absolutely reprehensible, it's unacceptable, it's retrogressive — it's actually moving backwards."

Covered much more thoroughly and passionately by Alison at Creekside: RCMP: Getting away with murder.

checking in on diebold, and nothing has changed

You know, just because Obama won the election, doesn't mean the US voting system has been fixed. It just means no one will pay attention to the corrupt, broken system until 2012, when they have another opportunity to do nothing about it.

More quickies, these from the Is The US A Democracy file.

  • In California:
    Diebold Admits Audit Logs in ALL Versions of Their Software Fail to Record Ballot Deletions

    Startling admission made during public hearing in CA to consider decertification of the company's voting and tabulation software...

    Even the audit log system on current versions of Premier Election Solutions' (formerly Diebold's) electronic voting and tabulating systems --- used in some 34 states across the nation --- fail to record the wholesale deletion of ballots. Even when ballots are deleted on the same day as an election. That's the shocking admission heard today from Justin Bales, Premier's Western Region manager, at a State of California public hearing on the possible decertification of Diebold/Premier's tabulator system, GEMS v. 1.18.19.

    An election system's audit logs are meant to record all activity during the system's actual counting of ballots, so that later examiners may determine, with certainty, whether any fraudulent or mistaken activity had occurred during the count. Diebold's software fails to do that, as has recently been discovered by Election Integrity advocates in Humboldt County, CA, and then confirmed by the CA Secretary of State. The flaws, built into the system for more than a decade, are in serious violation of federal voting system certification standards.

    The problems may lead to decertification of the company's voting systems, as well as an examination of voting systems made by other companies to determine if they too may have been able to sneak such violations past both federal and state testers...

    Today's hearing was a response to the startling discovery last December, by a volunteer group in Humboldt County that, under fairly common circumstances, the older version of GEMS used by the county, and several others in the state, dropped all votes from the ballots in the first deck of ballots run through GEMS. (See BRAD BLOG coverage: here, here and here.)

    The Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, using the free and open source software program Ballot Browser, found that Diebold's GEMS system had eliminated all votes from 197 vote-by-mail ballots cast in a single precinct in Eureka, CA during last November's general election. . . .

    Following the discovery of Diebold's dropped votes, and the equally disturbing revelation that Diebold had been aware of the problem for years. . .

  • And in Kentucky:
    KY Election Officials Arrested, Charged With 'Changing Votes at E-Voting Machines'

    Circuit court judge, county clerk and election officials among eight indicted for gaming elections in 2002, 2004, 2006 County uses popular, unverifiable ES&S touch-screen voting systems. . .

    Over the years, we've detailed the arrests and other unsavory behavior of many of the not-so-good election officials who, we were told, should simply have been trusted (our "favorite" has always been the case of Monterey CA's Tony Anchundo, who told us on air we should "trust" him, just a month or two before being arrested on 43 counts).

    Well, now we've got a whole passel of still more crooked officials to add to the list. Moreover: The Kentucky officials arrested and indicted today, "including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers" of Clay County, have been charged with "changing votes at the voting machine" and showing others how to do it!... [Excellent story here on The Brad Blog.]

    Also good discussion about this here on BoingBoing.
  • private health insurance more efficient? as if.

    Continuing on my short-form link-o-rama...

    health care spending

    James sent me this nice graphic ages ago. We actually don't know if it's completely accurate, as the 27 million figure for the population of Canada is quite outdated.

    But there's no doubt it costs a lot of money to employ all those people whose job it is to deny coverage. Not to mention all that soft-focus advertising showing all the happy families enjoying their lives because of their wonderful HMOs.

    Chart was from this story.

    how the u.s. really supports its troops

    I have a lot of links sitting around, too many to give them all serious attention, but too good to delete. So here they come, in short form.

    From the How the US Supports Its Troops file.

  • In Miami, veterans get medical procedures with improperly sterilized equipment:
    A Veterans Affairs hospital here has notified thousands of patients that their colonoscopies were performed with improperly sterilized equipment, officials said Monday.

    The hospital urged about 3,260 patients who had colonoscopies between May 2004 and March 12 of this year to get tests for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases.

    The VA insisted the risk of infection was minimal, saying the tubing that was improperly cleaned didn't make contact with patients.

    It was the second recent announcement of errors during colonoscopies at VA facilities.

    . . .

    Last month, 6,378 patients at a clinic in Murfreesboro, Tenn., were told they may have been exposed to infectious body fluids during colonoscopies.

    The VA said 1,800 veterans treated at an ear, nose and throat clinic in Augusta, Ga., were also alerted they could have been exposed to an infection due to improper disinfection of an instrument, though officials said the risk was "extremely small."

    The VA hasn't said whether it expects more facilities to announce similar problems, though Meek cautioned the number of affected people "could quickly expand to include a much larger pool of people."

  • And if that happens to you, good luck getting any restitution, because military health care is immune from lawsuits.
    About a year ago, CBS News reported on the story of a Marine, Carmelo Rodriguez, who died of skin cancer that military doctors noticed but left untreated. Rodriguez's family cannot sue the government for malpractice - the law won't let them. ...

    "Carmelo wanted his story to be heard, even if his life couldn't be saved," she said. "He wanted to ensure that what happened to him could not happen to another service member."

    In nearly 60 years, no one has ever successfully challenged the Feres Doctrine. But no ever made it this far either.

  • Quality aside, aren't veterans at least guaranteed care, at no cost? Not necessarily. US Army veteran billed for health care for combat wounds:
    Erik Roberts, an Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq, underwent his 13th surgery recently to save his right leg from amputation. Imagine his shock when he got a bill for $3,000 for his treatment.

    "I just thought it was bull---- that I'm getting billed for being wounded in Iraq doing my job. I always put the mission first, and now that I was wounded in Iraq, they're sending me bills," he said.

    "I put my life on the line and I was wounded in combat, and I came back and they're not going to take care of my medical bills?"

    It's a level of outrage shared by his mother, as well as the doctor who performed the surgery. . . .

    CNN on Wednesday contacted the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Roberts' home state of Ohio who serves on the Senate's VA committee. Brown's office had not heard of Roberts' case, but immediately reached out to the soldier and alerted the VA about his situation.

    In less than 24 hours, the VA got back to CNN. "The VA will be paying the bill," said VA spokesman Sean Nelson.

  • Sexual assaults in US combat zones are up by a whopping 25 percent. Most people writing about this are focusing on a stupid statement made by Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. There's no doubt that Whitley is in the wrong line of work, but her gaffe is hardly the problem. Luckily, Bob Herbert didn't miss the more important point.
    Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.

    By Bob Herbert

    I had a conversation several weeks ago with a former Army officer, a woman, who had been attacked in her bed a few years ago by a superior officer, a man, who was intent on raping her.

    The woman fought the man off with a fury. When she tried to press charges against him, she was told that she should let the matter drop because she hadn't been hurt. When she persisted, battalion officials threatened to bring charges against her.

    "They were talking about charging me with assault," she said, her voice still tinged with anger and a sense of disbelief. "I'm no longer in the Army," she added dryly.

    Tia Christopher, a 27-year-old woman who lives in California and works with victims of sexual assault in the military, told me about the time that she was raped when she was in the Navy. She was attacked by another sailor who had come into her room in the barracks.

    "He was very rough," she said. "The girls next door heard my head hitting the wall, and he made quite a mess. When he left, he told me that he'd pray for me and that he still thought I was pretty."

    Christopher left the Navy. As she put it: "My military career ended. My assailant's didn't." . . .

    New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults reported in the last fiscal year — 2,923 — and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them.

    The truly chilling fact is that, as the Pentagon readily admits, the overwhelming majority of rapes that occur in the military go unreported, perhaps as many as 80 percent. And most of the men accused of attacking women receive little or no punishment. The military's record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it's atrocious. [More here.]

    My thanks - my heart - to Tia Christopher for speaking out.
  • 3.27.2009

    gta dog question

    Does anyone know anyplace in the GTA that sells a ramp for an older dog to get into a car or up a few steps?

    Allan found a store in London, Ontario that sells one. And we used to shop from a great US catalog that carries a great selection of ramps and steps, but they don't ship to Canada. (I miss them!)

    We could ask someone in Buffalo to receive a package for us. But buying it the Toronto area would be a whole lot easier.

    I'd really like to take some strain off Cody's deteriorating hips, and she doesn't like being lifted.

    antonia zerbisias: hell no, don't let them go!

    I updated this post, but so it doesn't get lost: Antonia Z at Broadsides has more support for US war resisters in Canada.

    Don't forget to call or email your MP! The vote is Monday, and we need every opposition Member to show up!

    17-year-old female pitcher makes professional debut in japan

    Do you remember Eri Yoshida? I blogged about her back here.

    This time I'll let Allan tell the story. Go read. It's great.

    money for "canada's western conservative voice," but not for cbc?

    From Media Style:
    So the CBC can’t secure government bridge finance to tell Canadian stories, but REPORT Magazine seems to be getting money?
    The Government of Canada Supports REPORT Magazine

    EDMONTON, March 27, 2009 - On behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour and Member of Parliament (Edmonton-Spruce Grove), today announced funding to support the creation of Canadian editorial content in REPORT Magazine.

    "The periodical industry is a vital cultural sector in Canada," said Minister Moore. "It is important to support public affairs magazines. With our new Canada Periodical Fund, we are contributing to the vitality and the initiative that make our publishing industry more competitive." . . .

    The Government of Canada has provided $27,124 in funding under the Support for Editorial Content component of the Canada Magazine Fund.

    And, what is REPORT Magazine you ask? Why it's "Western Canada's Conservative Voice". We have $27,124 taxpayer dollars for this, but not one cent for the CBC? Disgusting.

    Thanks to Antonia Z.

    vote on war resisters is monday, please contact your m.p.

    Yesterday's debate in the House of Commons on the fate of US war resisters in Canada was alternately uplifting and irritating, depending on who was speaking.

    The Conservatives tried to shut down the debate (quelle surprise), first running down the clock blathering about Jane Creba (young woman murdered in Toronto in 2005; relevance, your honour?), then moving to adjourn the debate entirely. The vote on adjournment squeaked by in our favour, 128-125. Too close for comfort, but it got things rolling.

    After Olivia Chow put forth the motion, our supporters in Parliament came out very strong. I had never heard Thierry St-Cyr, Bloc Immigration Critic, before, and he was excellent. Maurizio Bevilacqua, Liberal Immigration Critic, was also strong. Our friend Borys Wrzesnewskyj kicked ass, as did Gerard Kennedy. Bill Siksay, always in our corner, was terrific, and there was an unexpected assist from Megan Leslie (NDP, Halifax), among others.

    Their side had nothing. They spouted the usual lies and evasions, one time even defending the Iraq War and listing the evils of Saddam Hussein. (Thanks, guys! Polls show more than 80% of Canadians oppose the Iraq War, so if you want to talk it up, knock yourselves out!)

    The debate showed me how much stronger our Liberal support is now, compared to last June. The Liberals were on board then, and certainly some key Liberal MPs were personally supportive, but there is clearly strong party support now.

    The vote on the Motion is Monday, March 30. The Conservatives are sure to whip the vote and get every Member in the House. If your MP is NDP, Liberal or Bloc, please contact her or him. Make sure they will attend the vote on Monday, to vote along with their party in support of allowing US war resisters to stay in Canada.

    Please also contact Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Info below.

    As before, this Motion is non-binding and the Conservatives can continue to ignore it. However, its passage is crucial to the overall campaign. A strong affirmation of the support of the majority of Canadians, as expressed through their elected officials, is an important message - for the public, for the media, for the legal cases, and eventually, for the passage of a law.

    To refresh, here's the text of the motion.
    ...that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

    * * * *

    1. Please call Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition:

    Ottawa: 613.995.9364
    Constituency: 416.251.5510

    Points to raise:

    - thank the Liberal Party for supporting Iraq war resisters in the debate in Parliament, March 26,

    - thank Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party for voting in support of the 2008 motion in support of Iraq War resisters, and for Canada's stance in not joining the war in Iraq, and

    - ask the Liberals to be sure to attend and to vote again with a united opposition to defeat the Conservatives on US Iraq War resisters on Monday, March 30.

    2. Contact your Member of Parliament.

    If your MP is a member of the opposition, ask him or her to reaffirm their support by ensuring that all MPs attend and vote in support of war resisters.

    Every call and every email makes a difference. Please help us show, once again, the wide support for US war resisters in Canada - and what kind of country you want Canada to be.

    george galloway in canada: update, what you can do

    From Toronto Coalition to Stop the War:

    Minister of Censorship Jason Kenney's decision to ban British MP George Galloway from speaking in Canada has ignited a firestorm of protest across the country. Kenney's office ­ and the entire Conservative caucus ­ has been bombarded with thousands of e-mails, phone calls and messages of protest. A legal challenge has been launched by Galloway's legal counsel in Canada, and the media is reporting new developments every day.

    The movement to reverse the ban on Galloway is big, and is growing by the minute.

    We can defeat Jason Kenney's ban, but we need your help over the next few days. Please read below and forward this message everywhere!

    Here's how you can help:

    1. Promote the Defend Free Speech website: Defend Free Speech

    This site is the clearinghouse for all update about the campaign and includes documents from the legal challenge, breaking news, ticket information, and action items. Please upload a link of this site to your website, upload it to all Galloway groups on facebook and on your profile, and forward it to all your friends. If you have any news or updates for the website, email info@nowar.ca.

    2. Join our next organizing meeting in Toronto.

    If you're not in Toronto, get active with local groups in the Palestine Solidarity movement or the anti-war movement. The Toronto meeting is as follows: Friday, March 27 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto (TTC: Spadina). The Toronto meeting will provide updates, distribute new materials, and make plans for weekend actions.

    3. Picket Conservative MPs' offices on Saturday and Sunday.

    This weekend, we need to make sure we keep the pressure up. Organize pickets at your local Conservative MP's office to say you want Jason Kenney to reverse the ban on Galloway. Ask passers-by to sign the petition, distribute leaflets to them, and display free speech placards. All materials ­ petition, leaflets, and placards ­ can be downloaded from www.defendfreespeech.ca. When you've filled out the petitions, fax them to Kenney's offices: 613-992-1920 (Ottawa office) and 403-225-3504 (Calgary office). A picket in Mississauga is already organized for Saturday, March 28 at 2:00pm at the office of Conservative MP Bob Dechert (Mississauga ­ Erindale), 1270 Central Parkway West, Suite 101, Mississauga.

    4. Come to federal court on Sunday in Toronto to hear the legal challenge to Jason Kenney's ban.

    Galloway's legal team was informed that the hearing will be open to the public, so we need to pack out the courtroom to show how much opposition there is to Kenney's attacks on free speech. The hearing will take place on Sunday, March 29 at 11:00am at the federal courthouse at 180 Queen Street West, Toronto (TTC: Osgoode). This is where we'll find out if Kenney's ban on Galloway is overturned. Seating is limited, so show up early! In addition, Toronto organizers will hold a free speech rally outside the courthouse at 10:30am. Bring your flags and banners! And bring lots of people!

    5. Keep e-mailing and phoning Jason Kenney's office.

    If you've contacted him already, do it again. Tell them you won't stop until Kenney reverses the ban. Tell them you want a formal response in writing, explaining why Kenney has banned Galloway. If you phone and there's only voicemail, leave a long message asking that they call you back. Don't let up the pressure now. Keep phoning, e-mailing, faxing, etc. Kenney's e-mail addresses are: kennej@parl.gc.ca; kennej7@parl.gc.ca; minister@cic.gc.ca; harpes@parl.gc.ca. His phone numbers are: 613-992-2235 (Ottawa office) and 403-225-3480 (Calgary office). And don't stop e-mailing the entire Conservative caucus. You can find all their e-mail addresses in one block at Defend Free Speech.

    6. Keep buying tickets.

    George Galloway has personally committed to deliver a live, original, interactive speech to each of the four cities where he's scheduled to speak and on each of the days he's scheduled to speak ­ either live in person or live via broadcast. We want to make sure that he can see how many of us have come to hear his speech and to stand up for our right to hear it. Every empty seat or unsold ticket is a defeat for free speech and a victory for the Minister of Censorship. Buy your tickets now and help us sell out each of the events. Ticket information for all four events is available at www.defendfreespeech.ca.

    7. Broadcast Galloway's live speech in your town or city.

    If you live in a city where Galloway is not scheduled to speak (if you're not in Toronto, Mississauga, Montreal or Ottawa) but would still like to hear his speech, let us know. We are organizing now to broadcast his Toronto speech on Monday, March 30 to locations all over the country where he is not scheduled to speak. Book a room now that can accommodate large numbers of people, start promoting your event, and get a laptop/LCD projector so you can broadcast his speech live. We'll send you a private URL to log onto the Toronto broadcast. To get the private URL, please e-mail info@nowar.ca.

    8. Join the ban-busting caravan to meet Galloway at the Canada-US border.

    Organizers in Montreal are organizing a caravan of MPs, lawyers, anti-war activists and supporters to meet Galloway at the Canada-US border on the day he is scheduled to enter Canada. If we reverse the ban, we'll bring him across. If we don't reverse the ban, we'll hold a solidarity rally on the Canadian side while a delegation of MPs and lawyers meet Galloway in the US. Galloway will address the Canadian rally by phone (with sound amplification).

    Here's the call-out from Montreal organizers:

    On Monday, March 30, Montreal organizers for the Galloway speaking tour (SPHR) are
    calling for a mass presence at the Canadian-US border in Lacolle, Quebec to support Canadian and Quebec MPs and MNAs who plan to escort Galloway into Canada, if the ban is reversed.

    A solidarity caravan will leave from Montreal on Monday morning. Please show up by 9:30am at Carre Cabot, on Ste. Catherine and Atwater, corner of rue Lambert Closse (across from the Pepsi Forum). There will be buses. If you have a car, we need you to help caravan people there to arrive by 12:00pm (noon).

    If you have a car, please let us know how many people you can take. If you need a ride, please let us know how many seats you need. E-mail us at Galloway.Canada@gmail.com.

    9. Don't let Kenney silence anti-war voices! Demonstrate on April 4.

    The Canadian Peace Alliance and Le Collectif Échec à la guerre have called a pan-Canadian day of action for Saturday, April 4 to protest the 60th anniversary of NATO and to bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan. Now that Kenney has expanded his attacks to the peace movement and our right to free speech, it's even more important to be in the streets. Tell Kenney that we won't be silenced! If Kenney doesn't overturn his ban on Galloway, join us on April 4 to demand that Kenney be fired from his job. For more information, please visit www.acp-cpa.ca.

    antonia zerbisias: war resisters deserve support

    Many thanks to Ms Z for attending Stand With The Rivera Family on Wedsnesday night, and for this excellent column.
    War resisters deserve support

    March 27, 2009

    Antonia Zerbisias

    Yes, technically Kimberly Rivera is a deserter.

    True, in other times, she might have been shot.

    But, when she signed on with the U.S. Army in 2006, she naively believed Iraq was all about rebuilding the country, creating democracy, keeping America safe from terrorists.

    And why wouldn't she?

    After all, the U.S. media were complicit in painting the false picture, never showing the death and destruction, rarely conveying the utter brutality of Baghdad and beyond, always broadcasting the White House spin about liberating Iraq.

    Not surprisingly, Rivera soon found out differently.

    So, while on leave in 2007, she quit Colorado for Canada with her husband and two children to seek refugee status. Now she has three kids, including baby Katie who was born in Toronto.

    They have been facing deportation for months. Yesterday was D-Day but, on Wednesday, Rivera got an emergency stay until the results of her judicial review are in.

    Robin Long was not so lucky.

    Now Prisoner L4830R35 in NAVCON Brig Miramar where he is serving 15 months – more than twice as long as another soldier who participated in the cold-blooded killing of four Iraqi men – Long has a felony conviction and is banned from Canada for 10 years, despite having a baby son here and a Canadian wife with multiple sclerosis.

    But, then, Long probably is lucky he didn't get nailed for sedition. After all, he has repeatedly said that then-president George W. Bush was "a liar and a warmonger" for how he misled Americans into believing that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq was not all about the "corporate interests of oil."

    But the colonel who court-martialled Long reports to officers who report to officers who reported to Bush. And she didn't much like the interviews he gave the Canadian media, which were the most damaging evidence used against him at his "trial."

    Some 200 other Iraq war resisters are still in Canada, living day to day. They are, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney – he who banned British anti-war MP George Galloway last week from Canada – "bogus refugee claimants" who are "clogging up the system."

    No question, the system is taxed. Refugee claims are up dramatically. But U.S. war resisters are easy to check out. Their fates are crystal clear.

    Not only do they face certain prison sentences but they also are marked for life by a Canadian system that hands them over in cuffs and does not give them the option of turning themselves in to get lighter terms.

    Is this the Canada we know and love? The one that welcomed 30,000 Vietnam War resisters? The one that, under Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien, saw through the Bushies' bogus claims and refused to join the "Coalition of the Willing"? The one who, along with the United Nations, considered the "Shock and Awe" campaign illegal?


    In Kenney's Canada, even the page on Citizenship and Immigration's website that celebrates those Vietnam War deserters and draft dodgers as "the largest, best-educated group" of new citizens "ever received" has been sent down the memory hole, wiped from the record.

    In Kenney's Canada, where 64 per cent of Canadians say they support the resisters, and where two votes on Parliament Hill to stop the deportations have already passed, the U.S. military gets its man or, in Rivera's case, mom.

    Yesterday, the NDP's Olivia Chow put forward a motion to allow those who "left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada."

    The vote is expected Monday night.

    Let Jason Kenney and your MP know that Canadians don't salute the Pentagon: resisters.ca.

    Update! More from Antonia Z on Broadsides.


    question re house of commons debate

    Does anyone know (1) if today's House of Commons debate about the war resisters will be rebroadcast on CPAC later today, either on TV or online, and (2) when a transcript will be available online, how long that takes?

    I know I could figure this out for myself, but if you know offhand, you could save me a lot of time and effort. Thank you!

    If you watched the debate, as I did, let's hold off on discussion about it until I get a post up, OK? Thanks.

    canadian press story on rivera emergency stay of removal

    From Canadian Press:
    The first female U.S. soldier who fled to Canada to avoid fighting in Iraq has won more time in her fight to make a home here with her family.

    Kimberly Rivera, 26, celebrated an 11th hour stay from deportation Wednesday night flanked by a group of war resister supporters after she learned she'd won the reprieve. "This is a slight victory, because I don't have to go home (Thursday)," she told the group as she cradled her four-month old daughter.

    "So I am very, very excited. I don't have to be handed over to authorities, so it gives me another day to fight." ...

    The Federal Court of Canada granted Rivera the emergency stay, pending a decision on whether they'll review a decision by immigration officials that previously rejected her re-removal risk assessment.

    The decision means the Mesquite, Texas woman, who has a husband and three children, will avoid potential time behind bars for the moment.

    Had she been ordered out of the country, there is a possibility she would be court-martialed and sentenced to time in prison.

    Rivera's lawyer, Alyssa Manning, cautioned the reprieve is only temporary.

    "It is only for potentially a couple of weeks, at the most, maybe months," she said.

    Rivera used the good news to draw attention to a non-binding motion adopted in the summer by all federal parties except the Conservatives.

    It urged that U.S. military deserters be allowed to stay in Canada.

    "The battle's not over, and we're still calling on the government to put forward this resolution," she said.

    MP Olivia Chow, who will be re-introducing the motion Thursday in the Commons, also attended the celebration.

    "I'm extremely pleased today to see that the Federal Court did the right thing to let her stay," she said.

    "I just hope that Stephen Harper will also do the right thing."

    Rivera, who previously served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006, left her home in the U.S. and drove to Canada on Feb. 18, 2007.

    She has previously said that the tour caused her to become disillusioned with the American mission there.

    At least two other U.S. army deserters - Jeremy Hinzman and Patrick Hart - are currently facing deportation, having won temporary stays. They are among an estimated 250 U.S. war resisters who fled to Canada.

    The first U.S. deserter to be ordered to leave the country, Robin Long, is now serving a 15-month sentence in a San Diego military prison.

    There were also mentions in the Windsor Star and City News.

    Both the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail ignored the story, though the G&M did run the above Canadian Press story on its website.

    breaking news: parliament to debate war resisters this morning

    [Allan Guest Post]

    Right now -- Parliament begins three hours of debate that will include debate on the motion to allow Iraq war resisters from the US (and their families) to remain in Canada and apply for permanent residence.

    The motion was originally passed in June 2008, but ignored by the minority Harper government in a flagrant disavowal of democracy.

    Olivia Chow of the NDP will read letters of support for war resisters, including a statement written by deported war resister Robin Long, now serving a 15-month sentence in a US military brig in San Diego.

    Tune in if you can.

    As Laura noted in her post earlier this morning, a vote on the motion will come as early as tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday. This will be a re-affirmation of the motion that passed in the House of Commons last June:
    ...that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

    While passing the non-binding motion is a symbolic action, it will demonstrate once again the clear support the war resisters have among a majority of Canadians.

    If Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes Canada should be a democracy and not a country ruled by his personal opinions, he will follow the majority of the House of Commons and implement the motion.

    stand with the rivera family: a report

    As we assembled last night, a few of us already knew that Kim had been granted an emergency stay. Kim was on her way back from Ottawa with Michelle Robidoux, the Campaign's principal coordinator, and Phil McDowell, another war resister, when Alyssa Manning called with the good news.

    Michelle relayed the news to a few people, but we were supposed to keep it quiet until Kim could make the announcement herself. Some people in the audience might have thought it strange that some Campaigners were laughing, joking and downright giddy!

    There was a very good turnout, a packed room, and when the meeting started, Kim, Michelle and Phil were still en route.

    The meeting opened with Mike Ferner, President of Veterans for Peace. Mike talked about being a young man on duty in Vietnam, how little he knew of what to expect, how quickly he learned the truth behind the lies that sent him to war. He drew parallels between the two invasions, Vietnam and Iraq, and he reminded us that the war resisters in Canada are part of a large, strong GI resistance movement throughout the US.

    Mike made the trip from Toledo, Ohio, to stand in solidarity with the Riveras and with all the war resisters in Canada. I could tell by the reactions of some of the resisters in the room that his visit meant a lot to them. I'll tell you, it meant a lot to me.

    Next we heard from James Branum, the peace activist lawyer who represents Robin Long, who also came up from the US to help. James reported on the three war resisters he represents who were deported from Canada.

    One, Robin Long, is serving 15 months in a military brig. (It would have been 30 months were it not for James Branum's skills and hard work!)

    Two, Daniel Sandate, is serving 8 months. Daniel has severe PTSD and is receiving no mental health care. Indeed, he has nothing, not even a proper set of clothes. The Campaign knows about Daniel Sandate, but we never worked with him (that is, he never approached the Campaign), which is why I don't write updates about him.

    And three, Cliff Cornell, who is waiting for court martial now.

    How an AWOL soldier is treated after they're apprehended, James told us, what charges are brought and the severity of their sentence, very much depends on what base they report to. Ft. Carson, in Colorado, where Kim would be sent, would "go for blood".

    But James reminded us that if a resister is court martialled and incarcerated, the struggle is not over. "These guys have been speaking truth to power," James said, from their court martials to the brig and beyond. "The struggle is not over!"

    Next up was Peggy Nash, the former NDP MP from Parkdale, the Toronto neighbourhood where Kim and many other resisters live. I confess that I had trouble concentrating on Peggy's talk, because while she was speaking, Kim, Michelle and Phil arrived! A buzz went through the room as people saw Michelle in the doorway - smiling.

    Peggy Nash has been a passionate and committed supporter of the war resisters for a long time. She talked about the strong support for Kim and other resisters in the Parkdale community. The neighbourhood is also home to a large number of Tibetan refugees, and they understand the sacrifice the resisters have made, and why they want to live in peace, in Canada.

    Peggy talked about why the resisters, people of conscience and courage, should be allowed to stay in Canada, why they are the kind of people Canada needs. Peggy feels strongly that supporting war resisters in Canada is in keeping with Canadian values - the values that Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney are out of step with.

    Then Kim, Alyssa Manning and Michelle came up and sat behind the table. Kim took the microphone, and told us she had been granted an emergency stay.

    The room erupted, as people jumped to their feet to cheer and applaud. Kim tried to thank everyone, and broke down in tears. Of course I was crying, too. (Hell, I'm crying now!) Kim said she was overwhelmed by the support from the campaign and the community. She said, I am here, my family is here, because of you.

    Because of you.

    After we finished applauding a few more times, Alyssa Manning spoke. She said that the court ruled that the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment officer who wrote the decision in Kim's case had failed to consider the differential treatment being meted out by the US military to AWOL soldiers who speak out against the war. This is very significant, as it goes to the heart of Manning's cases for the resisters.

    Alyssa is a true hero of this movement. And she looked pretty happy last night.

    Next up was Michelle Robidoux, the utterly amazing Michelle Robidoux, a woman I feel privileged to work alongside, and somehow that doesn't really express it. I've been an activist a long time, so I know full well how rare people like Michelle are.

    It's one thing to possess such a sharp intellect for organizing and strategy - it's another to do the heavy lifting, whatever it takes, to get the job done - and it's still another to be a true movement person, without ego, without desire for power and credit, always working as part of a democratic collective, and motivating others by example. But let me tell you, to find all three qualities so abundantly in one person is as rare as... as... a compassionate Conservative Immigration Minister?

    Michelle gave a bit of history of the campaign, celebrated the victory, and reminded us that many other resisters - including Kim, in the long run - still live under the shadow of the threat of deportation. Our work must continue.

    Michelle said that she has never been part of a campaign of such sustained effort - so much hard work and so much compassion - for such a long period of time. She said that energy was a product of two things on the part of the Canadian people.

    One, an abhorrence of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Polls now show "statistical unanimity" on Canadians opposition to the war in Iraq: 80%. (She noted with a smile and a proud fist pump that the figure is even higher in Quebec!)

    And two, Canada's history of taking in Vietnam War resisters. And that, she reminded us, also didn't happen without a fight. And contrary to what the Harper Conservatives would have you believe, Canada took in both Vietnam draft resisters and people who had volunteered. That's why you can no longer find that information on the CIC website. They would rather re-write history than bow to the truth.

    Michelle reminded us that if Harper had been in power in 2003, Canada would have joined the US invasion of Iraq. And now, frustrated at the Canadian people for embracing a different path, they vicariously punish the war resisters, using them as stand-ins for a vision of Canada they reject, a Canada of peacekeepers, a "refuge from militarism".

    As Michelle started talking about our motion coming back to Parliament, and the press conference they held that day, a campaigner brought baby Katie Marie over to Kim, and I lost track of what was being said!

    Next up, Olivia Chow, Parliamentary patron saint of the war resisters. She had a present for the baby, a little polar bear wearing a "Canada" sweatshirt. Yes, that's Olivia.

    Olivia told us: the people have spoken, Parliament has spoken, only Stephen Harper stands in the way. But democracy will prevail.

    To our surprise, we learned that tomorrow - that is, today - the motion will be debated in Parliament. As part of the debate, Olivia will read Robin Long's statement on the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, which she heard read in San Diego, and which she promised Robin she would read in the House of Commons.

    The vote will come as early as Friday, or possibly Tuesday. To clarify, this will be a re-affirmation of the motion that passed in the House of Commons last June:
    ...that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

    Members from all three opposition parties are expected to vote in favour of this. It's a symbolic action, but an important one, as it will demonstrate yet again the wide support the war resisters have across Canada, and just how out of step with Canadian values the Conservatives really are.

    Then, a private member's bill will begin to work its way through Parliament. The bill is being spearheaded by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy. When Kennedy won his last election, he inherited (from Peggy Nash) the Toronto riding with the most war resisters residents in Canada, including Kim Rivera. Kennedy has been strongly in Kim's corner, too. It's clear that he genuinely cares about the war resisters. He believes they should be allowed to stay, and he's working to ensure that they can.

    Olivia said that Stephen Harper is afraid of people who speak out for peace. Afraid of George Galloway, afraid of the war resisters, afraid of democracy. She said she's given Jason Kenney a new title: Minister of Censorship and Deportation.

    Olivia also reported on the visit to Robin Long, and the important details we learned from that meeting: how the CBSA's actions increased the severity of Robin's sentence.

    Olivia told us that "my partner, Jack Layton," is on his way here, too, so there was a bit of a buzz around that.

    The meeting closed with a brief performance by Michelle Rumball, a blues singer with a Janis Joplin-esque voice and a spirit of resistance. She used to be part of the band Grievous Angels, and now writes and sings on her own.

    Carolyn Egan, president of the Toronto Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, who was chairing the meeting, announced that she was opening the bar and we should all enjoy a celebratory pint or two. Jack Layton did indeed show, and there were hugs and handshakes and photos. And a few more tears of joy.


    war resister kim rivera granted emergency stay of deportation!

    Hooray! A terrible thing will not happen tomorrow. Kim Rivera and her family will not be deported from Canada.

    Kim was granted an emergency stay of removal. Federal Court Justice James Russell found, as lawyer Alyssa Manning argued, that the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Officer who reviewed Kim's file did not take into account differential treatment being given to war resisters who speak out against the Iraq War.

    I've just returned from a wonderful celebratory public meeting. I'll blog all about it tomorrow. Tonight I just wanted to share this great news.

    Tonight we all breathe easier, knowing one more family is safe, at least for now. The fight continues. More tomorrow.

    war resister update: private member's bill, emergency meeting and more

  • Today in Ottawa, there will be a press conference featuring Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, Liberal Immigration Critic Maurizio Bevilacqua, NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow, Bloc Québécois Immigration Critic Thierry St-Cyr, war resister Kim Rivera, and war resister Phil McDowell. Gerard Kennedy will announce a private member's bill to stop all deportation proceedings against US war resisters in Canada, and to let them stay. All three opposition parties support the bill.

    We also expect to see the non-binding motion passed last year re-affirmed in the House of Commons, an important symbolic action while the private member's bill moves forward.

  • At 3:00 this afternoon, lawyer Alyssa Manning will be in federal court, asking for an emergency stay of removal for Kimberly Rivera and her family. We might not hear the result until evening, so it's possible that we'll get word during tonight's public meeting.

  • Our Fundable campaign for war resister legal defense ends tonight. We are up to $4870! We've also received about $120 in donations from people who weren't able to use the Fundable site, but sent cash or cheques. That brings us to almost $5,000 - double our original (arbitrary) goal!

    The success of the fundraising campaign means that - despite the government's best efforts to bankrupt us - we'll be able to continue fighting the negative IRB decisions and deportations in court, while we work for a political solution.

    If you or someone you know is hot to part with some money to support peace and democracy, there's still 15 hours left to give.

  • Tonight in Toronto, please attend an emergency public meeting in support of Kimberly Rivera and her family. Learn what you can do to stop these politically motivated deportations and support people of peace and conscience who want to live in Canada.

    7:00 p.m.
    United Steelworkers Hall
    25 Cecil Street (east of Spadina, south of College)
  • 3.24.2009

    lawrence martin: so much for free speech

    Lawrence Martin, writing in the Metro papers:
    So much for free speech
    Lawrence Martin, for metro canada

    Whew! Lets breathe a sigh of relief now that British MP George Galloway has been barred from entering our country. Our children are safe. No telling what damage could have been rendered by this heinous threat to our national security.

    If reports are correct, Canada is the only country in the world that bars the sitting MP, who has been elected five times to the British parliament and has no criminal record. The Americans let him in. Even Israel, despite his pro-Hamas views, let him in.

    So what is the Harper government trying to do here? Ramp up its right-wing credentials to the point where Canada is seen as a denier of freedom of speech?

    Some of Galloway's views are wacko. We can disagree readily with his take on Israel, with his support for Hamas, but does that mean you gag him? Others, Canadians and Americans, have supplied aid to Hamas and controlled Gaza. Will that get them the same kind of treatment? As someone said of Galloway, the best way to expose the folly of his arguments is to allow him to come here and spout them.

    The Galloway ban follows one taken against an American citizen. William Ayers, the old friend of Barack Obama who was a figure of controversy in the U.S. presidential election, was an advocate of radical violence four decades ago. He has since become a distinguished professor of education who serves on dissertation committees at the University of Ottawa and Toronto. He has been allowed into Canada many times. He arrived to give a speech at the U of T in January, only to be told by immigration officials that he had a 40-year-old felony conviction, which he denies. When Ayers asked them if they really thought he was a security threat, he said they laughed, before saying it wasn't their decision.

    The bans are in keeping with other hardline measures by the Harperites recently. The government, which takes a leisurely attitude toward Guantanamo, is going ahead with the deportation of conscientious objectors to the war in Iraq — even though the prime minister disavowed his support for that war in last fall's election campaign.

    The government last week announced it was not renewing $2.5 million in contracts for the Canadian Arab Federation to teach English to new immigrants.

    On Iran, it has escalated the rhetoric against the government there — this while Obama moves to moral high ground with a diplomatic overture to Tehran to narrow the differences.

    All quite strange. Rather than calm tensions, Ottawa's intent seems to be to inflame them.

    Thank you, Mr Martin! And extra thanks for including the war resisters when illustrating the many ways the Harper Government is out of step with Canadian values.

    To respond: torontoletters@metronews.ca, ottawaletters@metronews.ca, vancouverletters@metronews.ca, calgaryletters@metronews.ca

    email conservatives: defend free speech

    Received this morning from the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.


    Tell Jason Kenney:

    Defend free speech.

    Let George Galloway into Canada. Stop the attacks on civil liberties.

    Please contact immediately the offices of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney to demand that he reverse his ban on British MP George Galloway. Jason Kenney must stop his attacks on civil liberties and support the right to free speech.

    Please also include the entire Conservative caucus in your e-mail (or as much of it as you can). Conservative MPs must take responsibility for their party's decision to attack free speech in Canada. Make sure they know that their position is indefensible, and that they must join the call to reverse the ban on George Galloway.

    E-mailing is the fastest and easiest way to contact Jason Kenney and Conservative MPs. Just follow these steps:

    Step 1:
    Cut and paste Jason Kenney's e-mail addresses into your address line:

    KenneJ@parl.gc.ca; Kennej7@parl.gc.ca; minister@cic.gc.ca

    Step 2:
    Cut and paste the e-mail addresses of the entire Conservative caucus into your CC line (If your e-mail account can't e-mail this many addresses at once, try sending your e-mail to a smaller block of addresses one at a time. You may have to send several e-mails in order to reach the entire caucus.). Please note that this list includes Conservative staffers.

    AbbotJ@parl.gc.ca; AblonD@parl.gc.ca; calgary@ablonczy.com; Aglukkaq.L@parl.gc.ca; AlbreH@parl.gc.ca; AllenM@parl.gc.ca; AllisD@parl.gc.ca; AmbroR@parl.gc.ca; AmbroR1a@Parl.gc.ca; AnderR@parl.gc.ca; RobAnders@telus.net; AnderDa@parl.gc.ca; david.anderson1@sasktel.net; Ashfield.K@parl.gc.ca; BairdJ@parl.gc.ca; BenoiL@parl.gc.ca; benoil@parl.gc.ca; BerniM@parl.gc.ca; BezanJ@parl.gc.ca; office@jamesbezan.com; ottawa@jamesbezan.com; BlackJ@parl.gc.ca; BlaneS@parl.gc.ca; Block.K@parl.gc.ca; BouchS@parl.gc.ca; Boughen.R@parl.gc.ca; boughr@parl.gc.ca; Braid.P@parl.gc.ca; Braidp1@parl.gc.ca; braidp1@parl.gc.ca; BreitG@parl.gc.ca; breitg1b@parl.gc.ca; BrownG@parl.gc.ca; Brown.L@parl.gc.ca; BrownLo@parl.gc.ca; BrownPa@parl.gc.ca; barrie@servingbarrie.com; ottawa@servingbarrie.com; BruinR@parl.gc.ca; Cadman.D@parl.gc.ca; CadmaD1@parl.gc.ca; Calandra.P@parl.gc.ca; CalkiB@parl.gc.ca; CannaR@parl.gc.ca; ron@cannan.ca; CannoL@parl.gc.ca; Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca; Cannol1@parl.gc.ca; CarriCo@parl.gc.ca; CassoR@parl.gc.ca; casson@rickcasson.com; ChongM@parl.gc.ca; Chong.M@parl.gc.ca; ClarkR@parl.gc.ca; Clarke.R@parl.gc.ca; ClemeT@parl.gc.ca; Clement.T@parl.gc.ca; Clemet1@parl.gc.ca; Clemet2@parl.gc.ca; clemet1a@parl.gc.ca; CummiJ@parl.gc.ca; cummins@dccnet.com; cummij@parl.gc.ca; DavidP@parl.gc.ca; Davidp1@parl.gc.ca; DayS@parl.gc.ca; days1@parl.gc.ca; Dechert.B@parl.gc.ca; decheb1A@parl.gc.ca; DelmaD@parl.gc.ca; DevolB@parl.gc.ca; Dreeshen.E@parl.gc.ca; Duncan.J@parl.gc.ca; DykstR@parl.gc.ca; FastE@parl.gc.ca; ed@edfast.ca; FinleD@parl.gc.ca; Finley.D@parl.gc.ca; FlaheJ@parl.gc.ca; jim@jimflahertymp.ca; flaherty.j@parl.gc.ca; FletcS@parl.gc.ca; Fletcher.S@parl.gc.ca; GalipR@parl.gc.ca; GalipR1@parl.gc.ca; Galipr7@parl.gc.ca; GallaC@parl.gc.ca; Glover.S@parl.gc.ca; gloves@parl.gc.ca; GoldrP@parl.gc.ca; goldrp1@parl.gc.ca; GoodyG@parl.gc.ca; info@garygoodyear.com; goodyg1@parl.gc.ca; GourdJ@parl.gc.ca; GrewaN@parl.gc.ca; grewan1@parl.gc.ca; GuergH@parl.gc.ca; HarpeS@parl.gc.ca; pm@pm.gc.ca; Harpe.S@parl.gc.ca; HarriR@parl.gc.ca; harrir1@parl.gc.ca; HawnL@parl.gc.ca; hawnl1@parl.gc.ca; HiebeR@parl.gc.ca; info@russhiebert.ca; HillJ@parl.gc.ca; Hoback.R@parl.gc.ca; hobacr1@parl.gc.ca; hobacr@parl.gc.ca; Hoeppner.C@parl.gc.ca; info@candicehoeppner.com; Holder.E@parl.gc.ca; JeanB@parl.gc.ca; jeanb1@parl.gc.ca; KampR@parl.gc.ca; randy@randykamp.com; KeddyG@parl.gc.ca; keddyg@ns.sympatico.ca; geraldkeddymp@eastlink.ca; keddyg1@ns.sympatico.ca; kennej0@parl.gc.ca; kennej1@parl.gc.ca; kennej2@parl.gc.ca; kennej3@parl.gc.ca; kennej4@parl.gc.ca; kennej5@parl.gc.ca; kennej6@parl.gc.ca; kennej7@parl.gc.ca; kennej8@parl.gc.ca; kennej9@parl.gc.ca; Kent.P@parl.gc.ca; kentp@parl.gc.ca; Kerr.G@parl.gc.ca; info@westnova.org; KomarE@parl.gc.ca; komare1@parl.gc.ca; komare2@parl.gc.ca; komare3@parl.gc.ca; KrampD@parl.gc.ca; krampd1@parl.gc.ca; LakeM@parl.gc.ca; LauzoG@parl.gc.ca; info@guylauzon.ca; LebelD@parl.gc.ca; LemiePi@parl.gc.ca; lemieux.p@parl.gc.ca; Lobb.B@parl.gc.ca; LukiwT@parl.gc.ca; LunnG@parl.gc.ca; lunnmp@garylunn.com; LunneJ@parl.gc.ca; nanaimo@jameslunneymp.ca; ottawa@jameslunneymp.ca; MackaP@parl.gc.ca; Mackap3@parl.gc.ca; Mackap2@parl.gc.ca; Mackap1a@parl.gc.ca; MackeD@parl.gc.ca; macked2@parl.gc.ca; macked1@parl.gc.ca; MarkI@parl.gc.ca; inkymark@mts.net; MayesC@parl.gc.ca; mayesc1b@parl.gc.ca; McColeman.P@parl.gc.ca; McLeod.C@parl.gc.ca; McLeoC1@parl.gc.ca; McLeoC@parl.gc.ca; MenziT@parl.gc.ca; menzies.t@parl.gc.ca; MerriR@parl.gc.ca; Merrifield.R@parl.gc.ca; MilleLa@parl.gc.ca; manager@larrymiller.ca; ottawa@larrymiller.ca; MooreJ@parl.gc.ca; MooreR@parl.gc.ca; NichoR@parl.gc.ca; Nichor1@parl.gc.ca; Nichor2@parl.gc.ca; NorloR@parl.gc.ca; Norlock.R@parl.gc.ca; rick@ricknorlock.ca; ObhraD@parl.gc.ca; deepak@deepakobhrai.com; OconnG@parl.gc.ca; mp@gordonoconnor.ca; OdaB@parl.gc.ca; Oda.B@parl.gc.ca; ONeill-Gordon.T@parl.gc.ca; oneilt@parl.gc.ca; ParadC@parl.gc.ca; paradc0@parl.gc.ca; paradc1@parl.gc.ca; Payne.L@parl.gc.ca; PetitD@parl.gc.ca; petitd1@parl.gc.ca; PoiliP@parl.gc.ca; PrentJ@parl.gc.ca; Prentice.J@parl.gc.ca; PrestJ@parl.gc.ca; assist@joeprestonmp.ca; Raitt.L@parl.gc.ca; RaittL@parl.gc.ca; RaittL1@parl.gc.ca; RajotJ@parl.gc.ca; rajotj1@parl.gc.ca; rajotte.j@parl.gc.ca; Rathgeber.B@parl.gc.ca; rathgb1@parl.gc.ca; rathgb@parl.gc.ca; ReidS@parl.gc.ca; Richards.B@parl.gc.ca; blake@blakerichards.ca; richab@parl.gc.ca; RichaL@parl.gc.ca; richal1@parl.gc.ca; richardson.l@parl.gc.ca; Rickford.G@parl.gc.ca; rickfg@parl.gc.ca; rickfg1@parl.gc.ca; rickfg2@parl.gc.ca; rickfg3@parl.gc.ca; RitzG@parl.gc.ca; Saxton.A@parl.gc.ca; ScheeA@parl.gc.ca; SchelG@parl.gc.ca; Shea.G@parl.gc.ca; sheag1A@parl.gc.ca; sheag1B@parl.gc.ca; ShiplB@parl.gc.ca; Shory.D@parl.gc.ca; SmithJ@parl.gc.ca; joy@joysmithmp.ca; SorenK@parl.gc.ca; sorenk1@parl.gc.ca; sorenson.k@parl.gc.ca; StantB@parl.gc.ca; stanton.b@parl.gc.ca; stantb0@parl.gc.ca; stantb1a@parl.gc.ca; stantb1b@parl.gc.ca; stantb1@parl.gc.ca; stantb1c@parl.gc.ca; stantb8@parl.gc.ca; StorsB@parl.gc.ca; brian@brianstorseth.ca; StrahC@parl.gc.ca; riding@chuckstrahl.com; ottawa@chuckstrahl.com; SweetD@parl.gc.ca; info@davidsweet.ca; ottawa@davidsweet.ca; ThompG@parl.gc.ca; TilsoD@parl.gc.ca; tilsod1@parl.gc.ca; tilsod1a@parl.gc.ca; ToewsV@parl.gc.ca; toewsv1@mts.net; Toews.V@parl.gc.ca; TrostB@parl.gc.ca; trost.b@parl.gc.ca; TweedM@parl.gc.ca; tweedm1@parl.gc.ca; Uppal.T@parl.gc.ca; uppalt@parl.gc.ca; VankeD@parl.gc.ca; vankesteren.d@parl.gc.ca; vanked1@parl.gc.ca ; vanked1a@parl.gc.ca; VanLoP@parl.gc.ca; vanlop1@parl.gc.ca; vanloan.p@parl.gc.ca; VellaM@parl.gc.ca; vellam1@parl.gc.ca; VerneJ@parl.gc.ca; WallaM@parl.gc.ca; Wallam@parl.gc.ca; wallam1@parl.gc.ca; WarawM@parl.gc.ca; warawm7@parl.gc.ca; WarkeC@parl.gc.ca; warkec1@parl.gc.ca; warkentin.c@parl.gc.ca; WatsoJ@parl.gc.ca; Weston.J@parl.gc.ca; westoj@parl.gc.ca; Weston.R@parl.gc.ca; westor1@parl.gc.ca; westor@parl.gc.ca; Wong.A@parl.gc.ca; WongA1@parl.gc.ca; Woodworth.S@parl.gc.ca; YelicL@parl.gc.ca; Yelich.L@parl.gc.ca; Young.T@parl.gc.ca

    Step 3:
    Don't forget to fill out your subject line:

    Let Galloway into Canada. Defend free speech.

    Step 4:
    Cut and paste the message below. Feel free to personalize it with your own words. And don't forget to include your name at the bottom.
    Dear Mr. Kenney:

    Your decision to ban British MP George Galloway represents
    an unprecedented attack on free speech and on civil
    liberties in Canada. Regardless of Mr. Galloway's opinions
    on the war in Afghanistan or the Middle East, you have no
    right to silence his views. Canada is now the only country
    in the world to ban a sitting Member of the British
    Parliament, someone who has been elected five times and who
    has no criminal record.

    I am demanding that you reverse this decision immediately
    and make provisions to guarantee Mr. Galloway's entry into
    Canada. In addition, I am demanding that you cease
    immediately any further attacks on free speech and civil
    liberties in Canada.

    I look forward to your prompt reply.


    Step 5:
    Press send!


    this weds, march 25: stand with the rivera family

    Toronto-area folks, please try to attend this Wednesday's emergency public meeting for war resister Kimberly Rivera and her family. If you have ever been involved with supporting war resisters - or ever thought of being involved - this is the meeting to attend.

    If you don't live in this area, please do what you can by phone and email.

    The Harper Government has given the Riveras a March 26 deportation date - that's this Thursday. They want to rid Canada of people who refuse to participate in the US's illegal, immoral occupation of Iraq. We want a Canada that welcomes people of peace and conscience.

    Last June, the majority of Parliament voted to Let Them Stay. We want a Canada run by democracy, not the ideology of a minority Conservative government bent on shutting down dissent.

    We will not give up. We will not go quietly.

    Emergency public meeting
    Wednesday, March 25
    7:00 p.m.
    25 Cecil Street, Toronto

    Phone calls
    Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
    Ministry office: 613.954.1064
    Parliamentary office: 613.992.2235
    minister@cic.gc.ca or Kennej@parl.gc.ca

    Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan
    Parliamentary office: 613.996.7752
    Constituency office: 905.898.1600
    vanlop1@parl.gc.ca or communications@ps.gc.ca

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper

    If you email, please cc the opposition party critics and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff:
    Maurizio Bevilacqua (Liberal critic): BevilM@parl.gc.ca
    Olivia Chow (NDP critic): chowo@parl.gc.ca
    Thierry St-Cyr (Bloc Québécois critic): StCyrT@parl.gc.ca
    Michael Ignateiff: Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca

    what i'm watching: 7 up . . . 49 up

    Do you know the "Up" series of movies, made by Michael Apted? We saw 49 Up last week.

    In 1964, British film director Michael Apted was a researcher on "Seven Up!", a documentary directed by Paul Almond for a Granada Television series called World in Action. The movie interviewed two groups of English seven-year-olds, one from private schools for wealthy families and one from public schools. (In the UK, the expressions private school and public school mean the opposite of what they do in North America. I'm using the North American meanings.) The children were asked about their thoughts and dreams for the future.

    Apted helped choose the subjects, then went on to continue the project. The original intentions were twofold: to film the subjects every seven years, and to dissect and expose the British class system. Only half those plans came to reality. The movies aren't really a commentary on the class system. They simply follow the progress of some ordinary people as the courses of their lives unfold.

    Allan and I discovered the series at the New York Film Festival in late 1980s; 7 Up and 28 Up were shown back-to-back. (28 Up premiered at the 1985 New York Film Festival, but we couldn't have seen that, so it must have been re-shown in a subsequent year.)

    Since then, whenever we read that another Up film is out, we rent it. Each movie gives a little refresher on the person, showing some memorable bits from previous films, before an interview updates you on where she or he is now.

    Each film has a different tone and emphasis. I remember 28 Up as being buoyant and optimistic, but 35 Up as being sad, marked by diminished expectations and painful realities. But by 42 Up, people were doing well again. I was very touched to see that in 49 Up, the subjects are the happiest they've ever been. (I turn 48 this June.) They are content. And their contentment doesn't spring from external circumstances or material goods; it comes from inside. Most have found inner peace. They are, to quote one of the women, comfortable in their own skin.

    When the series started, the subjects were all children. Now most have grandchildren. There have been many divorces and better second marriages, but some people remain in thriving first marriages with their original partners. None of the participants who stayed in the series turned out to be gay, which I found surprising, and none chose to remain child-free. A few have material wealth, most are at least comfortable. Many people in 49 Up attest to what a difficult experience participating in the series has been, to a degree Allan and I found surprising.

    Now the series has been released as a boxed set. Watching the movies from start to finish, say, over the course of a week, would be very different than waiting seven years between films. Not necessarily better or worse, but completely different. Also, I think the advent of so-called reality television must dampen the impact of these films. Living under a lens isn't so unusual now, although the person behind the lens is seldom as skillful as Michael Apted.

    The 49 Up DVD has a nice extra: film critic Roger Ebert interviewing Apted. The interview will be illuminating for both the new and veteran Up viewer. For Ebert, the Up series has become one of the great films of our time. He asks questions that every admiring viewer must share. What will it be like when the first of the subjects becomes ill, faces death? Will the series outlive Michael Apted? What happened to the political angle - what did we learn about the class system? He also shares thoughts on some of series's subjects, some stories that are particularly affecting.

    Since the Up series began, other people have made similar documentaries, including an homage (or rip-off, depending on your perspective), following 21st Century children, made by Julian Farino, and a US version called "Age 7 in America". It's hard to imagine those having the staying power and the emotional impact of the Up series. But who knows. Apted tells Ebert that the Up movies "honour the ordinary life," and there's no shortage of ordinary lives worth honouring.

    resistance is all: iraq war vet suicide rate still climbing, chronically ill soldiers forced to deploy

    Greg Mitchell, the great anti-war writer of Editor and Publisher, reports on a story in Salon.
    The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings Wednesday on the rising suicide rate among U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed some frightening new data, but did little to investigate the underlying causes of what is emerging as one of the darkest, most disturbing legacies of the wars.

    Last year the Army had its highest suicide rate on record -- 140 soldiers. But new data from the Army on Wednesday showed the number jumping even higher. Forty-eight soldiers have already killed themselves so far this year. If that rate keeps up, nearly 225 Army soldiers will be dead by their own hand by the end of 2009.

    While we reflect on what demons these soldiers may have been fighting, note how the concept of the volunteer army becomes increasingly Orwellian.
    When the "Arctic Warriors" Stryker Brigade left for Iraq from nearby Fort Wainwright late last year, commanders told soldiers who were suffering medical problems that they would also go to war.

    Spc. Mark Oldham was on a plane to Iraq by Dec. 5 despite being declared unfit because he passes out during training and requires a 30-day heart-monitor exam, his medical records show.

    Sgt. Jesse McElroy, a combat veteran who had shoulder surgery in September and could barely move his arm, according to his medical records, was told to deploy or face charges for malingering.

    Chief Warrant Officer Adisa "A.J." Aiyetoro, a 19-year veteran who is stricken with active tuberculosis and unable to wear body armor because of back injuries, according to medical and court records, refused to go. "I'm not getting on that plane," he says. His court-martial on charges of disobeying an order and missing a deployment is scheduled for Monday.

    "The only reason that I'm being deployed is they want (greater) numbers" of troops in the field, Oldham said before leaving. He is assigned to communications.

    A recent Army inspector general's report says the process for deciding a soldier's fitness for combat is so confusing that it increases the chance of sending ailing troops to war.

    At Fort Wainwright, 80 soldiers with health issues were left behind when the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed in September, says Lt. Col. Jonathan Allen, an Army spokesman.

    Twenty-three were later brought to Iraq to help "maintain (the brigade's) personnel strength" — but only after their health improved, he says. Oldham and McElroy were among those left behind. Oldham was among those later deployed.

    Army Col. Ronald Stephens, commander of Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright, says his doctors work well with commanders and follow all fitness guidelines.

    Several soldiers caught in the process and willing to speak out tell a different story. They describe a climate where commanders constantly pressure soldiers with health issues to deploy, even when their medical records — which they provided — show physical problems.

    In response, a group of soldiers that includes McElroy plans to meet Monday at the Alaska Peace Center here to gather signatures for a petition to mail to members of Congress. The petition says, "As the shortage of troops has become more and more difficult to overcome, our commanders have become more and more aggressive in deploying soldiers with injuries and illnesses."

    "What we're trying to do is just get our stories heard," says Sgt. Stephen Scroggs, who tracks the progress of ailing soldiers left behind for the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. He is part of the rear detachment and is involved in the petition drive. "A lot of soldiers are suffering, I just don't want them to suffer anymore."

    Allen says all medical cases were thoroughly vetted and when doctors determined that soldiers met deployment health criteria, they were deployed. Those with persistent issues stayed home, he says.

    Aiyetoro began developing chronic, debilitating back pain after an earlier combat deployment. He is an armament maintenance technician with the 25th Brigade Support Battalion.

    Medical records show that Army orthopedic surgeon Nick Sexton classified him as non-deployable Aug. 25. Sexton wrote that Aiyetoro is unable to wear his body armor and recommended a medical review that could lead to a medical discharge.

    Central Command specifically forbids a solder to deploy if body armor cannot be worn: "In general, individuals should not deploy . . . (with) conditions which prevent the wear of personal protective equipment, including . . . body armor."

    A revised evaluation issued for Aiyetoro a few days later by another doctor found that he could wear body armor but "only during mission-essential movements."

    The Army did not make Sexton available for an interview. Stephens, the hospital commander, declined to discuss Aiyetoro's case despite a waiver Aiyetoro signed allowing Stephens to do so. Stephens said in situation's like Aiyetoro's, it is possible for an initial medical opinion to later be overruled.

    Since then, doctors have again changed Aiyetoro's medical status. In February, doctors concluded that Aiyetoro needed further tests on his back to determine the extent of injuries and he needs additional tests to determine whether his tuberculosis is active, according to court records.

    Aiyetoro says commanders cared more about filling their ranks than about him getting better when they ordered him to deploy in September. They made him feel like a malingerer for complaining about his back pain, he says, and "they pretty much classified me as a dirt bag."

    "They were not intending on getting me better (as much as) getting me on that plane," says Aiyetoro, 36, married and the father of four.

    The command offered to allow him to resign. Aiyetoro chose a court-martial instead, the trial is slated for Monday at Fort Richardson, outside Anchorage. "If I walk right now, it's as if I never served in the military," he says, explaining that he would lose benefits if he resigned.

    McElroy says he also felt pressured by commanders. A veteran of a previous tour in Iraq, McElroy aggravated a shoulder injury in 2006 when his Stryker vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

    An initial surgery after his return from combat failed to correct the damage, according to his records, and he underwent another operation last September. His surgeon, Gregory Komenda, wrote in a December report that McElroy "should be considered unable to perform his duties." Military doctors reached the same conclusion with one, Mark Clifford, writing in a January report, "Soldier is unable to perform Infantry tasks."

    Yet McElroy's immediate commander continued to tell him he would deploy, first saying the second surgery should be delayed and then saying McElroy would leave for Iraq after a 30-day, post-operative convalescence, McElroy says.

    After months of haggling, records show, McElroy was finally slated for a medical review and a possible discharge for health reasons. McElroy says he was accused of malingering and being a "sorry excuse for a non-commissioned officer," because of his health issues.

    In December, he says, he was told that if he was not in Iraq, he would be charged with malingering. The charges never came, and at the urging of Army doctors, McElroy was eventually slated for a medical board review that could lead to a medical discharge.

    "I signed up. . . knowing that at some point I would be sent into combat. I have risked my life to defend this country," McElroy says, adding that he feels "belittled, humiliated, threatened, angry, (in) mental shock."

    Allen says that soldiers have the right to complain to rear detachment commanders about any mistreatment and that no complaints were made in McElroy's case. "It is the Army's long-standing policy to treat all soldiers with dignity and respect," he says.