thursday, december 2: double the fundraisers, double the fun

This week there are several events in support of Iraq War resisters in Canada. In Toronto, there are two on the same night!

In the west end, Jon Brooks will be performing at Lula Lounge. Our long-time supporter Antonia Zerbisias will say a few words, if her broken wrist permits. And war resister Jeremy Hinzman will introduce and emcee. Admission is a suggested donation of $20: details here.

In the east end, Mr. Rick and the Biscuits will perform at the "Support - Don't Deport" benefit jam, to benefit war resisters Phil McDowell and Jamine Aponte. Details here.

The music will be great, the cause even better. Join us for one or both.

If you're not in Toronto or can't attend, please consider donating through ChipIn.

vote on debate on afghanistan tonight: please make one more phone call

At 6:00 tonight, Parliament will vote on this motion submitted by the Bloc Québécois.
That this House condemn the government’s decision to unilaterally prolong the Canadian mission in Afghanistan to 2014, thus reneging on two promises made to the population – in the House on May 10, 2006 and reiterated in the Throne Speech of 2007 – to submit any military deployment to a Parliamentary vote, and the promise made January 6, 2010 to make the Afghanistan mission strictly a civilian mission after 2011, with no military presence other than the personnel required to protect the embassy.
If you agree, make your voice heard.

The virtual march on Ottawa has been a great success. Members of Parliament have been swamped with phone calls. Ten thousand postcards have been delivered; tens of thousands of signatures on petitions are being faxed to MPs offices right now.

Please take a moment to make one last call to your MP and the party leaders and demand they bring the troops home.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon

Gilles Duceppe, Leader, Bloc Quebecois

Michael Ignatieff, Leader, Liberal Party

Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party

Your MP's email: here.

police complaint update: i was misled: withdrawn means withdrawn

You remember I had a brief but unpleasant run-in with a Toronto cop: here.

I filed a complaint, and when I went in for the interview, I was told I had three options: informal resolution, withdrawal and formal complaint. The detective took great pains to explain to me - several times - that "withdrawal" didn't actually mean withdrawal, that it's an incorrect term for that option. She specifically told me - several times - that a withdrawn complaint is an "accountability mechanism", because the complaint will stay on the officer's record for two years. The department can thus see if this was an isolated incident or if there is a pattern of similar behaviour.

The detective was clearly steering me in the direction of withdrawal. She said the first option, informal resolution, required a face-to-face meeting with the officer and was a route seldom taken. The third option, formal complaint, was a long, involved process involving an investigation and usually reserved for allegations of serious misconduct. The middle option, withdrawal, was presented as the "just right" solution to provide what I was looking for.

Given all this, I signed a withdrawal, but in the space for "reasons for withdrawal" I wrote: I understand that the details of this complaint will remain on the officer's record for two years, as an accountability mechanism. That is what I wanted, so the complaint can be withdrawn with that understanding.

Yesterday I received a phone call from someone at the OIPRD who files and tracks complaints. When she read my withdrawal form, she thought I had the wrong impression of the option I had chosen. And indeed I did.

Withdrawn means exactly what it says. The complaint is withdrawn. It remains in a police database of every complaint that is filed. The database shows the officer's name, complainant's name, place and date of incident; under resolution, it would read: "withdrawn". A withdrawn complaint does not go in the officer's personnel file. The officer's supervisor does not see it. It does not become part of their performance evaluation. Because it has been withdrawn.

The OIPRD person explained that the informal resolution process is often used in cases like this, and does provide the accountability I was seeking. Both complainant and officer are given an opportunity to explain their positions, and the details are recorded in the officer's personnel file, seen by her supervisor, and become part of her performance evaluation.

I do not see how this could have been a misunderstanding on my part. In the interview, the detective took great pains to explain, in detail, several times, that a "withdrawn" complaint remains on the officer's record for two years - in exactly the way it does not. I was deliberately misled.

Both detectives were so friendly, even jolly, as we chatted about the inconveniences of film shoots in Toronto. Perhaps cynically, I viewed that friendliness as good customer service practice. Now I see it as something more sinister.

The clerk who called is going to speak to her supervisor to see how a withdrawn complaint can be un-withdrawn and re-activated, so we can begin an informal resolution process.

How many complaints against Toronto police are withdrawn under these conditions?


mom of canadian soldier in afghanistan protests extension of war

Canadian Press:
The mother of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan picketed outside Liberal MP Bob Rae’s Toronto office on Saturday to urge the federal Conservative government to bring the troops home next year.

Josie Forcadilla is upset about the extension of a Canadian military presence in Afghanistan until 2014. The government announced this month that a contingent of troops will remain to train Afghan troops after the combat mission ends in July 2011.

“Whether the mission is combat or non-combat, the soldiers will still be at risk,” she said, noting some of the 153 Canadian soldiers who have died in support of the Afghan mission were trainers.

Forcadilla, 54, was among roughly a dozen people protesting outside Rae’s constituency office Saturday afternoon.

The Opposition Liberals have supported the idea of Canadian soldiers remaining in Afghanistan, provided it’s a non-combat role.

The group meant to bring Rae an anti-war petition with 10,000 signatures, but found his office closed.

Volunteers instead handed out postcards and encouraged passersby to write their MPs about ending the mission, rather than extending it.

“We’re going to make sure he still hears from his constituents,” said Sid Lacombe, coordinator for the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Ray Northcott, a Toronto resident, signed a postcard because he is “generally opposed to the war” and wants Canada to withdraw unconditionally from Afghanistan.

Forcadilla, whose son is scheduled to return from a six-month tour in December, says she’ll continue to protest against the war as long as there are Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Josie Forcadilla in her own words.

highway fun, highway blues in pennsylvania

We always spend the last night of our US Thanksgiving trip at the home of my brother and sister-in-law in central New Jersey (near the city of New Brunswick, for those who know the state). We stay up late talking and drinking wine with some combination of friends - who happen to be siblings, nieces, nephews, and their respective partners - then wake up early to hit the road. The drive takes us through a part of New Jersey to Pennsylvania, through the Delaware Water Gap, up through the Poconos to New York State, then straight up through New York, emerging at the New York State Thruway at Syracuse.

We usually stop for a late breakfast near Scranton. (You may know the name from "The Office". It is indeed a real town in Pennsylvania.) But on this trip, we got horribly lost after leaving my brother's home - trying to correct a simple wrong turn just got worse and worse, and we wasted nearly two hours of drive-time. Because of this, we didn't want to take an hour for breakfast at a crowded Denny's, but we don't eat fast food. We especially gave up eating fast food on car trips many years ago. Driving around trying to find a supermarket would be more time-consuming than Denny's. On the way down, we stop at Whole Foods in Oakville for their amazing salad bar, but this is not an affluent area where we're likely to find one of those. What to do?

Through this dilemma, we discovered Sheetz, my new favourite pit-stop. Sheetz is a chain of gas stations and convenience stores in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and northeastern Ohio. What makes it special is fresh, fast food made to order. You order by touch-screen from a menu that includes the usual less-than-healthy but yummy items like burgers, breakfast sandwiches, shakes and plenty of fried things, but also salads and wraps with a good variety of ingredients. Any fast-er food franchise where you control exactly what you order - such as Subway or Blimpie - is already a much healthier option.

I see how the touch-screen order system is designed to encourage you to order more food, as you see all kinds of options that you might not otherwise think of, from double meat or dressing to fried things on the side. But the choices are extensive, there are many healthy options, and it's very inexpensive. I was way impressed. Here's Sheetz in their own words, and here's a map of where you find them.

* * * *

Despite Sheetz, Allan and I will be in no hurry to drive through Pennsylvania again. Driving through the Poconos area on a winding two-lane highway, we were cruising along in the right lane, doing no more than five miles an hour over the speed limit. After discovering what two speeding tickets will do to your car insurance, we are determined to never get another speeding ticket again. It takes us a bit longer to get places, but we don't care: we don't speed. Thus imagine our surprise when a state trooper with lights flashing pulled up behind us.

The officer informed us that there is a law in Pennsylvania that requires motorists passing emergency vehicles to move to the left lane if possible. This trooper was parked in a turn-off with his lights flashing - although no emergency was taking place - waiting for cars to not pull over, so he could ticket them. And, we suspect, waiting specifically for cars with out of state plates.

We were doing 70 mph (the limit was 65) in the right lane, and when we saw him, slowed a bit. To our left, cars were zipping by at top speeds, on a road filled with curves. It was far safer to simply drive slowly without changing lanes - especially because we could see there was no actual emergency, merely a police car with lights flashing, no other vehicle present - than it would be to move into the faster lane. Of course we didn't argue with the state trooper, as that can only result in a greater fine.

When he went back to his car to check license and registration, I assumed we would be issued a warning. I was wrong. He ticketed us. He said the fine can range from $25 to $250, and he generously gave us the minimum. As we drove away, I read the citation. Twenty-five dollars? Not quite. The citation includes:
- Fine: $25
- EMS: $10
- Mcare: $30.00
- Costs: $34.50
- JCP/ATJ: $10

I had to look up that last one: it's the cost of checking your information via computer from the cop car. Grand total for the ticket: $109.50.

In the fine print, it says that in order to contest the ticket without cost, you must appear in person. If you plead not-guilty by mail, you are required to send the full amount of the ticket plus a $7.00 processing fee, to be held as "collateral". If you are found not guilty, the money will be returned.

I don't know if being found non-guilty comes before or after pigs fly and hell freezes over, but obviously out-of-state drivers are unlikely to be aware of this lane-changing law, and are probably unable to contest a ticket in person. So the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has state troopers faking an emergency, likely waiting for out-of-state plates to pass, in order to fund the state's EMS, Medicare and mobile toys. Do I even have to tell you we're not paying this?

As an additional irritant, the trooper asked us where we were coming from, why we were traveling, and where we were going. Why is a state trooper asking us those questions? He's not working for federal border control or customs. If we have a valid license and registration, and are using the highway in a lawful manner, what the hell business is it of Pennsylvania's where we are going and why? Yet if we had politely answered, "We are not required to tell you that," things would have gotten much worse. That is an abuse of power.

so much to be thankful for

We had such a great trip. Tala especially had the time of her life. She loves the car - no, that's not quite it, she's obsessed with the car. This is the only dog I've ever seen who loves to leave the dog park, because it means more car time! This trip included two trips of more than 10 hours each, plus several shorter drives. Tala heaven.

She still barks furiously at every passing car on the highway, but on longer trips, she'll give up and lie down for long stretches of time, before popping up and resuming her game. We have some sedatives - only the second time we've ever used them for her - but even with the drugs, the first hour or three is solid barking. We've done extensive training to try and correct this, but after working for weeks to see a microscopically small improvement on training trips - only to see that gain wiped out in the first 30 seconds of normal car travel - we gave up. Hey, no one's perfect, not even Tala.

In addition to her mega car time, Tala had three trips to a dog park near my mom's place (hooray for the internet), ran after a football being tossed around in a backyard, and soaked up tons of attention as the only dog among a whole lot of dog lovers.

Our mini-vacation was perhaps less exciting than Tala's, but great nonetheless. Because she was with us, we didn't go into New York City at all, so we missed seeing some friends. But my great friend NN came to New Jersey for breakfast, and Allan and I spent much more time relaxing than we usually do, which was very welcome. We had our usual two Thanksgiving celebrations - one at a restaurant with great food and wine, and the other a big casual gathering full of yummy, home-cooked, organic food.

I know I say this every year, but say it I must. When you grow up in not the happiest of families, holidays and family gatherings are nothing to look forward to. As you may know from your own experience, whatever crap your family goes through only gets worse. As a child and young adult, my holidays were occasions of stress, anxiety and fear. But now our family gatherings are pure fun and love and joy. My standard line: "Death and divorce? You say that like it's a bad thing!"

And every year, our US Thanksgiving ends with one great joy: coming home to Canada.

I have two details to share from our drive home - one complaint and one recommendation. Next post.

hey u.s. govt, ur not doin it right

The US is warning that the next WikiLeaks release of classified State Department documents will "put countless lives in danger".

Let me get this straight. There's this country that regularly invades other countries to control their resources, wantonly kills hundreds of thousands of civilians, engages in torture and indefinite imprisonment, and throws away the lives, health and sanity of thousands of its own soldiers, while allowing its own citizens to go without decent jobs, education and health care.

And there are these other people who try to show what is actually happening or has happened in a war of that country's making.

And it's that second group that are putting lives in danger.


local food on the big stage

I love to see the mainstream media jumping on the local/organic food bandwagon. When you hear a story on AM drive-time radio about buying local to preserve Ontario farms, as a co-worker of mine recently reported, you know a very high level of public awareness has been breached.

The Globe and Mail is running a series about food production. Many of the stories focus on corporate agriculture, food safety, subsidies, and genetically modified foods, but it also includes stories about the local eating movement, food traceability and how to at least partially extricate oneself from the global food chain. Depending on how well versed you are with this issue, it may or may not tell you anything new, but the fact that it's there is very welcome.

One story emphasizes raising your own consciousness about the origins of what you eat, and making small changes - the perfect strategy for the beginner.
Lesson 1: Be aware of your choices

Even if you can't afford to buy local, free-range and organic, and don't have the resources to grow your own, the first step is to simply be mindful of the consequences of your food choices, says Jes Goulet of Cobble Hill, B.C.

Ms. Goulet grows much of her own fruits and vegetables, raises hens for eggs and buys her other groceries from an organic delivery service. She recognizes not everyone has the time, yard space, inclination and ability to do the same.

But, she says, it starts with “sitting down and in your head evaluating, ‘Okay, these are the different sources for this particular food? Which one of these is ideal? Can I afford it?'… and trying to get the best you can with what you've got.”

That often requires making sacrifices. Ms. Goulet estimates she spends $200 a month on organic milk alone for her family of four, but has cut costs in other areas to keep her total grocery bills to about $400 a month. Even though it's less expensive to buy organic milk in plastic jugs, she's willing to pay more for the stuff that comes in glass bottles, since she prefers the taste and the bottles can be reused instead of recycled. . . .

Lesson 2: Start small

If you were to analyze the lifecycle of every grocery item you bought, you'd be paralyzed whenever you went shopping, says Liz Gaige, the Vancouver resident behind the website LocalDelicious.com.

“You don't have to change your whole diet,” she says. “But if you just shifted 5 per cent of your grocery budget into eating more locally, eating more healthfully and … thinking about where your stuff's coming from, it has this huge impact.”

Lessons 3 and 4 involve planning, both short- and long-term, and collaborating with others with similar goals.

Another story deals with food traceability as marketing technique. Surprise, surprise: if the government won't act on our behalf, Walmart, Loblaws and other for-profit enterprises end up enacting policy for us. This works, to a very limited degree, only as long as food safety and the environment stay "hot" concerns, so public interest can be used to leverage profit. But corporate and public interests will rarely dovetail. It's usually quite the opposite. Corporations exit to create profit, not to protect our health or the environment. Let's not forget, that's how the industrial food chain came to exist in the first place!
“The idea that companies might help us all by imposing some standards is not a bad one,” said Charles Fishman, an investigative journalist and author of ‘The Wal-Mart Effect.’

“A corporation is not accountable, except in the marketplace,” he said, adding: “If we depend on corporations to figure out what the standards should be and impose them ... we may like it in the first year, stop noticing it in the middle eight years, and in the 10th year, the corporation may decide ‘This is just killing us in terms of money. We’re not going to do it any more’,” he said. “There’s no recourse [for consumers]. That’s not the way a food safety organization should work.”

Jorgen Schlundt, the recently departed director of food safety at the World Health Organization, worries big retailers view food safety as a marketing tool.

“There is a huge difference between what consumers ... think is important and what is really important,” Dr. Schlundt said. “It is extremely important that the science that standards are built upon and the standards themselves are not made by industry – not made by the people who are supposed to be monitored by government,” he said. . . .

“If the food safety system isn’t up to the task of a complicated global food supply, it may be that. . . we’ll be sorry if we don’t fix the normal system rather than simply relying on corporate food cops, so to speak,” Mr. Fishman said.

So when you see your local supermarket congratulating itself for being green, remember that it's good, but not good enough.


a history of violence: stacy bonds' attacker has had some practice

If you're following the Stacy Bonds police abuse story and subsequent "investigation" (quotes necessary), don't miss this important follow-up by Dr. Dawg (note new address!). The uniformed criminal that humiliated Stacy Bonds has a history: "Portrait of a thug".

ottawa warned about wikileaks, but canada has nothing to fear

This morning we read that the US State Department is warning its allies about an impending WikiLeaks release that "could damage U.S. relations with allies around the world".

Ottawa is among the "warned," but Canadians can feel secure in the knowledge that their country will not be alienated from the United States, come what may. I'm quite confident that there is nothing the US could possibly say or do that would cause Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff to even harshly criticize the US, let alone distance themselves from US policy in any way.

When it comes to the old stereotype of Canada kissing up to the US for approval, this Conservative-Liberal coalition government does not disappoint.

reply to living resistance, part two: cowards

[redsock guest post]

Laura recently offered her thoughts on war resister Dave Ward's declaration that he is neither coward nor hero.

Laura wrote:"People who call [war resisters] cowards are idiots." Then she asked me to offer perhaps a more substantive reply.

At various events, I have heard resisters mention being called cowards and why they felt the description was undeserved. Their answers often center on the fact that they have actually been in Iraq -- for years, in some cases -- and know first-hand what is going on. Having participated in dozens of house raids, having assisted in funneling innocent civilians into the US's torture chambers, having intimate knowledge of the vast carnage the US is committing and how the military is working overtime to hide the truth far from the eyes and ears of its citizens (the people who are funding the slaughter), they were in a far better position to render a verdict on the legality and morality* of the occupation.

All that is true, of course, but I can think of other reasons why these men and women are not cowards.

They stood up to the most powerful military in human history -- where I can only assume the peer pressure is intense -- and said No. When they made the decision to leave the US and come to Canada, they and their families gave up their homes, their jobs, and their friends. They became forever estranged from some or all members of their families. (At least one resister's mother told her child she wished he had been killed in Iraq rather than have deserted.)

They took only what they could carry (or fit in their car) and they drove -- in total secrecy -- to a foreign country they they had most likely never visited before. They came without a place to live, without jobs, without friends. They knew they might never see anyone from the US again. They knew that if they returned to the US (or were deported), they faced a military trial, a prison sentence, and a felony conviction that would follow them for the rest of their lives. (They also could be forcibly sent back to Iraq, which would probably a death sentence.) That criminal record would make it impossible for them to continue their education, get a bank or house loan, or apply for most jobs, even working for a fast food franchise.

In all other endeavors in our lives, we have the right -- we insist upon it, actually -- to say no, to quit, to change our minds. We leave jobs, we drop out of school, we break promises and agreements**, we get divorced (sorry, buddy, you signed a contract: 'til death do you part). Yet only for these most serious of circumstances -- the decision to kill other human beings -- do a depressingly high number of people smother all hint of compassion and race to assume this lofty position of judgment over people they know nothing about: "You have no rights, you must do whatever you are told to do."

I think about the inner strength it must have taken to leave the military, leave your country, and start a new life from scratch in a different country, with the horror of deportation hanging over you. I think about the huge risks and sacrifices these men and women -- many of them half my age or younger -- have made.

"Coward" is quite possibly the very last word in the dictionary I would use to describe them.

* Part of the bizarre hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance of the United States is that it does whatever it wants wherever it wants -- which has meant a lot of deliberate murders, rapes, torture, bombings, snuffing out of democracies, plundering the riches of others -- while also insisting that it is the foremost Christian nation on the planet. It is my understanding that Jesus (he put the Christ in Christianity!) told his followers that when your enemies attack you, you should turn the other cheek. He did not say "Fuck up your enemy so he's sorry he was ever born". And he absolutely did not say, "Go into the next town, rape and murder some random family, and steal their valuables."

** - Yet when the military forces soldiers to serve additional time beyond what they agreed to serve, there is no talk of demanding that the military "honour its contract".


we like lists: list # 2: simple pleasures

When I posted a recent Facebook meme - listing your top 15 most important or influential authors - Allan suggested I start a regular list series. I surprised both of us by going for it. I've never wanted to do anything like this with my blog before. But it's fun! I like seeing what readers post; I like the tangential discussions that develop. I have lots of lists in mind, some thoughtful, some frivolous.

I'll label the list posts, so it will be easy to join in older threads at any time. Borrowing (vaguely) from Allan's popular "Everybody Loves A Contest" series, I'll call the series "we like lists". The "15 authors" post is the first in the series.

As for rules, we won't use artificial time limits like "the first 10 that come to mind" or "15 in 15 minutes". Take your time. Brief explanations - a phrase or a sentence - are welcome. Long explanations detract from list-making fun, I think - but I won't kick you off the thread if you digress.

Order doesn't count. Let's not waste time worrying about if something is your number four - or is it number six - favourite or most hated whatchamacallit.

* * * *

Since I'm in the US for Thanksgiving, spending time with people I love, relaxing and eating great food, I'll suggest a list of simple comforts.

Simple Pleasures: name 10 things that cost nothing or very little that can make you feel good. This isn't "top 10 things I love to do". It's small moments that sometimes bring you great joy.

1. A great cup of coffee
2. A great cup of tea in the afternoon
3. Crisp autumn weather
4. Reading a good book
5. Watching a contented dog relax outside
6. Watching dogs play together
7. Walking in the woods
8. Feeling part of a community
9. Seeing beautiful natural scenery (mountains, coastline, lakes, sunsets, trees)
10. Having a whole day to myself

Your turn.

galloway vs. kenney and harper, part three: "what's wrong with this parliament?"

Canadian Press:
Political firebrand George Galloway took his message straight into the heart of Alberta's conservative country Tuesday evening and into the city represented in part by the man who earlier blocked his entry into Canada.

The former British MP -- once a member of the Labour Party and more recently a founder of the left-wing Respect Party -- spoke to more than 750 people who braved the -28 C temperature to take in his speech at the University of Calgary.

His current speaking tour of Canada replaces the one he had planned for last year when he was denied entry into the country over his alleged financial support of the Palestinian group Hamas. Ottawa considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Immigration officials later let Galloway into the country following a Federal Court ruling that was critical of the government, saying its decision to keep him out was in part politically motivated.

"I'm astounded at this turnout on this bitter winter's evening. I thought I wasn't welcome in Calgary. Practically the only seat vacant in this hall is the one that we kept for the local member of Parliament," he said to loud applause.

Two seats were noticeably empty. They had been set aside for federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the MP for Calgary Southeast, and a guest.

"I visited his constituency office today. He hadn't even cleared the snow and ice from the front of it. I don't know how he gets such a big vote," Galloway joked.

"I went there looking for him. I'm looking for him everywhere. He doesn't answer my calls, he doesn't reply to my letters and today he wasn't there.

"When he banned me 18 months ago, Mr. Kenney's office said `he's not getting in and that is that.' I said it ain't over until the fat lady sings and the fat lady in question is the grand old lady of Canadian justice."

Earlier this year in Toronto, Galloway donned a pair of red mittens as if they were boxing gloves, challenged Kenney to a public debate and promised to sue the minister for slander.

On Tuesday, Galloway didn't limit his barbs to Kenney. He also took shots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the opposition leaders over word that Canada was extending its mission to Afghanistan by another three years.

"I see that your government has broken yet another promise," Galloway said. "They've promised they would withdraw your young soldiers from this doomed and disastrous war in Afghanistan.

"What's wrong with this Parliament? You're paying an opposition to be the opposition but actually on such a momentus decision such as this continuing, your opposition doesn't even want a debate, never mind a vote."

Galloway said Canadian taxpayers will lose more of their "tax dollars and the lifesblood of your young men" by continuing to participate in a war that has "gone so disastrously wrong."

galloway vs. kenney, part two: a visit

galloway vs. kenney, part one: george galloway arrives in calgary


in which we cross the border without incident

Was it a fluke? Has the harassment order been rescinded? Was the border guard at Lewiston just having a bad - or good - day? We don't know. We only know that we crossed the border from Canada to the US without being detained. No surrendering of keys, no armed escort into the station, no pointless waiting, no pointless questions.

There was a lot of traffic at the crossing, and after waiting almost an hour to get to the booth, I was dreading another long wait inside. Plus I was quite nervous about having Tala with us during this ordeal.

And then... nothing. The usual questions about reason for visit, length of stay, and such, and we were on our way. Once safely out of range, we whooped and shouted. Then I promptly started texting like mad.

Thanks for all your good wishes. It's been a long day, but a good one. I have some posts percolating and free time on the way, so you might hear from me.

annual u.s. thanksgiving road trip

We're off - all three of us! Tala is joining us this year. I'm not looking forward to finding out how the border goons deal with dogs. But once we're on the other side, it will be great.

This trip marks one year since our border troubles began, after I used my passport for something concerning a war resister a few months earlier. Having been detained four times in the past year, I'm wondering if there's a sunset provision on the harassment, or if it will go on as long as my friend is AWOL, or perhaps forever.

Allan has now crossed twice without me, and breezed through with no problem. Nice to know I'm special.


george galloway speaks out against canada's new mccarthyism

George Galloway, currently on a cross-country speaking tour in Canada, has pledged the proceeds of his lawsuit against the Canadian government to the Canadian peace movement. He's been announcing this in local and national Canadian media all over the country, and the news has been rocketing through the anti-war movement. Galloway's generosity and strength of commitment is so energizing for all of us who work for peace.

On the tour, Galloway has also been addressing the recent conference of the misnamed "Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism," more properly called The Return of McCarthyism. In an excellent post, Paul S. Graham quoted Galloway:
Well, it’s all very mysterious. That’s the first point. The Canadian taxpayer paid a pretty penny for this conference, even though they were entirely locked out of it. No media were permitted in it. We have no proper record of who was there. The attendance list even has not been published despite the taxpayer funding the whole thing. And it’s all very mysterious – what it’s all about. And when we’ll see its impact on Canadian public life. But it would be a fair inference that its impact will be malign and that the current assault on free expression on this issue in Canada is going to be intensified as a result of these protocols.

I don’t think that this kind of secret conclave, coming up with – until now — secret protocols – is going to combat any antisemitism in Canada. As a matter of fact, it’s quite likely to generate greater feelings of enmity, which of course, I would deplore.

Antisemitism exists. It is a racist phenomenon that has long existed in Christian countries for many, many centuries. Like all forms of racism it must be combated, and combated in the correct way which successfully, hopefully, one day, extinguishes it.

But the answer to antisemitism is not to stop beating up the Jews and start beating up the Muslims. Instead, the answer is to conduct oneself in an unrelenting campaign against all forms of racism, bigotry and hatred – and that’s what I have done all of my life.

Insofar as I’ve seen anything from this secret conclave, it attempts something unique in the world – to make Israel the collective Jew. And this, itself, is a racist and therefore antisemitic idea. Israel is not the collective Jew. There is no collective Jew.

There are huge numbers of Jews who don’t want anything to do with Israel either from religious or secular, progressive standpoints. The population of Israel is not Jewish. There are at least 25 per cent of the population which is not Jewish and no one has the right to collectivize them as Jewish – to do what Lieberman is demanding they do themselves – to sign an oath effectively liquidating their place in the state as first class citizens.

And of course there are well over two and a half million – in fact, getting on for three million Christians and Muslims living under illegal occupation within the de facto borders of Israel today. And they too cannot be collectivized as Jews by the whim of a secret conclave in Ottawa. So I think it’s all rather disturbing.

But it raises what we used to call the $64,000 question, which is: Why is Canada doing this? Why has Canada become this monomaniacal supporter of the most extreme forms of support for Israel? Why has Canada allowed itself to become effectively an embassy for Netanyahu in the world?

It’s certainly not in Canada’s interest. I don’t believe it’s in the interests of the Jews of the world. And I don’t even believe it’s in the interests of the State of Israel. And it goes without saying it’s certainly not in the interests of the region as a whole and peace in the world.

Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) also has an excellent response to this dangerous trend.

Newcomers to wmtc may want to read this older post: "a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies".

Today, George Galloway's second Toronto appearance is sold out, but you can catch him tomorrow in Hamilton, then in Vancouver, Calgary, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Calgary is going to be fun. Tour dates and ticket info here.

thomas friedman making out with china and other new york times obsessions

New York Times aficionados, past (like me) or current, will appreciate this: "Thomas Friedman: I Kinda Wanna Make Out With China" - and other classics, by Erin Judge.


poll confirms what we all know: harper govt out of step with majority of canadians

The day after the Conservative-controlled Senate squashed the climate change bill, this from the Council of Canadians:

Poll suggests Harper Government out of step with Canadians

Thursday, November 18, 2010

With just over a week before the next major round of UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, results of an Environics Research poll suggest that the Canadian public has far different priorities than the government when it comes to climate change.

Over 80 percent of Canadians agree that too much focus on economic growth and consumerism is a root cause of climate change. They also affirm that industrialized countries – which have historically produced the most greenhouse gas emissions – bear the most responsibility for reducing emissions.

“The results indicate Canadians understand that the climate crisis requires a change in economic, social, and environmental priorities. If Canadians were deciding our climate policy we would be following a very different path,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner, Council of Canadians.

The poll also indicates that over 70 percent of Canadians support redirecting of military spending toward efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the idea of a World Climate and Justice Tribunal to judge and penalize countries and corporations whose actions have contributed climate change. Over 80 percent of Canadians believe the Canadian government should invest in “green jobs” and transition programmes for workers and communities negatively affected by a shift off of fossil fuels.

“These polling results indicate willingness on the part of Canadians for significant change in how we understand and respond to the climate crisis that is in keeping with the main themes discussed at a massive climate conference held last April in Bolivia,” adds Rick Arnold, Coordinator for Common Frontiers.

More than 35,000 people attended the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, including delegates from the seven organizations and unions that commissioned the polling. The questions used in the Environics poll were adapted from those agreed to by participants at the World People’s Conference. “The Cochabamba conference was about affirming the need for an alternative paradigm that promotes harmony with nature,” says Clayton Thomas Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“In sharp contrast to the polling results, the Canadian government continues to justify its inaction on climate change by asserting its need to be in lock-step with Washington,” says Donald Lafleur, 4th National Vice-President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, which passed the House of Commons last May, was defeated in the Senate two days ago.

The Canadian Government supports the Copenhagen Accord which is not legally binding and does not include mandatory emissions reduction targets. “Even if all the countries that have supported this so-called Accord fulfilled their ‘voluntary’ targets, global temperatures would still rise by nearly 4 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels. This spells disaster for much of the world,” adds John Dillon, spokesperson for KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

The results are a clear sign that Canadians need to be consulted concerning this government’s climate policy. “The Harper government should do what’s right, and undertake a national consultation on its climate policy,” says Raul Burbano from Toronto Bolivia Solidarity.

The poll was commissioned by the Council of Canadians, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Indigenous Environmental Network, Common Frontiers, Public Service Alliance of Canada and Toronto Bolivia Solidarity.

Climate Change Poll Highlights

The telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians conducted October 27 to November 1 2010 has a margin of error of +/- 3.10%, 19 times out of 20.

87% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement: “The root cause of climate change is too much focus on economic growth and consumerism. We need to have an economy that is in harmony with nature, which recognizes and respects the planet.”

85% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement: “Industrialized countries which have historically produced the most greenhouse gas emissions, should be the most responsible for reducing current emissions.”

83% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that: “The Canadian government should invest in green jobs and have transition programmes for workers and communities negatively affected by a shift away from reliance on fossil fuels.”

77% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement: “There should be a World Climate and Justice Tribunal to judge and penalize countries and corporations whose actions have contributed climate change and damaged the environment.”

71% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement: “The money spent on wars and the military would all be better spent on efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.” 54% of Conservative Party supporters polled agreed with this statement.

racist bus ad in mississauga: make your voice heard

My friend and comrade Peter alerted me (and many others) to this hideous ad.

Paul Fromm, a mayoral candidate in the recent Mississauga municipal election, is known for his fascist views. A former teacher, Fromm lost his job when he refused to end his association with white supremacist groups. He has written for Stormfront, and has had a series of human rights complaints against him.

Mississauga, the sixth largest city in Canada, would barely exist if it weren't for immigration. Our city is a living, breathing example of the vibrancy of multiculturalism, and proof that Canadian multiculturalism works. Therefore I have no doubt that some residents of Mississauga - perhaps some of those who lived here when it was a white, rural enclave (before it was called Mississauga) - object to our beautiful mosaic. Of course, those folks are all descendants of immigrants, too, but they conveniently forget that fact when blaming their bitter lives on their brown neighbours.

Fromm received 917 votes in the recent election, good enough for ninth place. While he's clearly no threat to Mayor Hazel McCallion, the fact that 900 of my neighbours would vote for this man is disturbing.

From the Mississauga News:
The election is over, but a campaign advertisement that appeared on Mississauga Transit buses – and was still running as late as last week – is firing up residents.

The outsized ad, placed prominently on the back of the vehicles and touting mayoralty candidate Paul Fromm, read: "Fight Gridlock: Freeze Immigration."

Fromm is no stranger to controversy. A former Peel District School Board teacher, he was fired in 1997 after he ignored warnings from administrators to stop associating with known racists and white supremacists. The B’Nai Brith and other organizations had complained about his conduct at a series of right-wing political rallies.

Peter Votsch was so offended by Fromm’s sign, he filed a formal complaint with Mississauga Transit.

“It attempts to link immigration to gridlock, topics which have no apparent relation. This ad appears to be an attack on immigration and immigrant communities, bizarrely blaming immigrants to Canada/Mississauga for heavy traffic on our roads. It is a racist ad that attempts to create anti-immigrant sentiment during our municipal election,” he wrote in his complaint.

Votsch wanted to know why such a “blatantly anti-immigrant message” would appear on public transit. He also wants measures taken to prevent such ads from appearing in all public spaces.

. . .

Fromm insists he was not targeting any particular sector.

“Definitely, I oppose all immigration at this time,” he said. “With 8.4 per cent unemployment, Canada should accept no more immigration until we get Canadians back to work. My ads attacked no community. The ads refer to future intake and cast no aspersions on people who are presently here.”

Contacted by The News, Mississauga Transit director Geoff Marinoff said the City of Mississauga is having the ad removed as the contracted period is over.

“CBS Outdoor is the City’s on-board bus and shelter advertising contractor. The terms of the contract require CBS Outdoor to review the advertising creative for an ad both against the City of Mississauga’s advertising policy and the national Canadian Code of Advertising Standards,” said Marinoff.

He noted that if CBS Outdoor views an ad as questionable, it refers it back to City staff.

“The ad was reviewed by staff and placed on buses...as it met both the policy criteria and the advertising standards,” he said.

Peter responds:
My aim in all of this is to question why the City is outsourcing to a private corporation (CBS Outdoor) to decide what is and isn't to be posted on public space, especially when that corporation has an economic incentive NOT to refuse ads. It seems the Human Rights Code has been privatised in Mississauga.

The City of Mississauga, in turn, responds that not enough people have complained for it to make a difference.

Thanks to Peter's activist network, that may soon be changing. If you would like to add your voice, contact:

Julie Lavertu, Legislative Coordinator
City of Mississauga
Legislative Services Division, Office of the City Clerk
905.615.3200, ext. 5471

For my part, I'm grateful for this ad. It's an opportunity to see this man Fromm for what he really is, and to speak out against him. I do, however, agree that an advertising media company should not be - must not be - the arbiter of what ads appear in public spaces. These are usually the companies that refuse pro-choice or queer-themed ads, while accepting bigoted filth like this.

today! national virtual march on ottawa: don't extend it, end it!

Canadian readers, don't forget - today - to contact Stephen Harper, Lawrence Cannon, the party Leaders, and your MP.

Tell them: Don't extend it! END IT!

Phone numbers and details here.


new tsa airport screening assault regulations, or, security theatre goes x-rated

By now I hope everyone has heard about the new regulations on airport screening from the US's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Full-body scanning equipment ("naked scanners") have been installed in 68 US airports, with more on the way. If you object to increasing your daily dose of radiation, you can opt for a full-body "pat down" by guards, i.e., being sexually assaulted by strangers.

As the ACLU puts it, "Giving people a choice between being virtually strip-searched in an x-ray machine or enduring an aggressive groping is really no choice at all." But don't worry, the person sticking their hands down your pants will be a trained professional. Or not.

You've seen the video of the man refusing the scan at the San Diego airport and the children's book cover parody that made the rounds. (Amazingly, more than one Canadian blogger was fooled!) But the implications for freedom to travel, civil liberties, privacy, and the encroaching police state are deadly serious and very frightening.

Dr. Dawg noted a different kind of climate change because Ezra Levant appears to agree with us. That caused me to click, and here I am quoting that blowhard! Strange bedfellows indeed.
Surprise! Canadian travellers to the United States are now subject to having high school dropouts touch their breasts, penises and vaginas as part of “airline security.”

Sorry, do the words penis and vagina make you uncomfortable?

They certainly make the U.S. Transportation Security Administration uncomfortable.

The TSA can’t even bring themselves to use those words when describing their new “enhanced pat-down” procedure.

You will find them nowhere on their website, including their section on advice for travellers.

They have pages about how to pack your toothpaste.

But they don’t tell you that you will stand in line while a stranger touches you in places that, if done by anyone else, would lead to sexual assault charges.

Oh, by the way: Their touching of penises and vaginas isn’t limited to adults.

They grope children, too. In the past two weeks, the Internet has been flooded by videos taken by passengers on their cellphone cameras, filming their own screaming children being fondled by uniformed officials.

So what’s the new rule for parents to teach our children?

Don’t let strangers touch your privates—unless they say they’re allowed to?

Unless they are in a position of authority? Unless Barack Obama says it’s OK?

Levant goes on to show his true colours when he asks, "Where is the American Civil Liberties Union?" He claims that august organization is "too busy defending the rights of terrorists," and throws in a little Islamophobia into the bargain. Obviously, Levant is either a liar or a fool who didn't do his homework (my money's on liar), since the ACLU has been campaigning against these regulations from the moment they were announced. That's how I first heard about this: through the ACLU mailing list.

Despite Levant's gratuitous bigotry, it's good to see people from all points of the political spectrum decrying this very serious invasion of privacy and unwarranted expansion of government power.

Radiation and naked body images or physical assault, which will it be? I don't love the idea of full-body scans, but I could not endure a pat-down by a stranger. If I literally had to to submit, to save my life, I guess I could force myself to live through it, by reminding myself that I've lived through worse. But I think I would throw up, or pass out - or probably disassociate, which seems to be what my mind does - and I'd very likely have nightmares and flashbacks about it.

And there are millions of people - men and women - who would feel the same way. My friend James sent me this, from Skepchick.
The full-body scanners also involve unspecified amounts of radiation, which several scientific and medical groups, not just the tin-foil hat types, have expressed concerns about. So, opting out of the full body scan seems like it might be a good idea. I’ve had a LOT of x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs. I’m not Evil Knievel, but I have managed to break a lot of bones, particularly in my head. (Hey! Let’s not extrapolate!)

Anyway, on the advice of my doctor, I’m supposed to limit my exposure to radiation and microwave sources. Ok, simple enough. I opt out of the scan.

Except. When you give the technology a pass, you are now subject to a fairly intimate groin grope and feeling up. A lot of folks have said that if you don’t want to have the scan and fly safely, or accept that some strangers will have to touch you, then you should just not fly. The reality is, though, that for many of us we must fly semi-regularly as part of our jobs. It’s not entirely my choice to fly; I can’t take a week of work off to drive to California and back for a business trip. So, bring on the grope.

Except. I am a rape survivor. And I know that if I am forced to have the kind of circle jerk that I’ve seen on video–where a bunch of TSA screeners surround me and one of them touches me in very private places–there is a real chance I’m going to freak out. Traveling is always very stressful, in part because I have visual processing issues and epilepsy (see above; i.e, fractured head). Add onto that reliving a painful part of my past–someone touching me and I have no ability to say "I don't consent"–I am not a happy traveler.

Don't listen to Ezra Levant. The ACLU is leading the charge against this and you can join them. DHS has been forced to retreat before and we can make them do it again. Sign a petition to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, and share it with everyone you know.

* * * *

Update. Apparently I wrote this whole post without ever mentioning the stupidest thing about this. Luckily redsock put it in comments: None of this will make us any safer. Alternate post title: "security theatre turns x-rated".

reply to living resistance, part one: heroes

War-resister blogger Dave Ward says he is neither coward nor hero. Obviously I don't think war resisters are cowards. And frankly, I think the people who call them cowards are idiots. I won't address that particular idiocy in this post. I'm going to ask redsock to guest-post on that topic in part two of this post.

But it was interesting for me to read that DW also doesn't like being called a hero.
At least once, whenever I talk to a group of people about the path that led me here, someone utters the word "hero" as if it were a compliment.. I cringe every time I hear it. Just as I'm no coward, I'm no hero, either. Deciding to shed my uniform and walk away from the military wasn't a heroic act. It was an enormously painful experience for me, and I agonized about it for - literally - months. For those months, I continued to execute my orders and support my unit. I continued to give orders that would result in the deaths of innocent civilians in numbers that still keep me awake at night. The thought that truly hurts me is that, for all that time, I knew better. I knew what I should do months before I actually did it. And I was never even remotely concerned about it until it was staring me in the face. Only through being present during the actual commission of war crimes was I able to realize what was wrong in my military service. I still feel like I was forced into taking action, and really had no other choice than to refuse further service. I simply couldn't live with myself anymore. I can honestly tell you if there had been any other way to not participate in that anymore, I'd have taken it. If there had been any easier way to stop it, I'd have done it. I was no hero, I just ran out of options.

I can appreciate this. A young woman once told me I was a hero of hers. I felt completely ridiculous. I was just living my life.

Few people consider themselves heroes for making moral choices. When someone jumps in a river to save a drowning stranger, they are always hailed as a hero, and what do they always say? I'm not a hero, I just did what anyone else would have done.

In fact, choosing what's right over what's expedient or over what is expected of us - when what is expected is wrong - should not be heroic. It should be commonplace. It should be merely human.

Unfortunately, moral choices are sometimes in short supply. Expediency, profit, short-term thinking, self-preservation narrowly defined - these often seem thick on the ground. So when people do the right thing despite a high risk of harm to themselves we often see them as heroes.

DW implies that serious peace activists who support the cause of US war resisters in Canada are heroes. This is flattering, but embarrassing. I work for peace, I study peace, I think about peace and how we can create a more peaceful world. It takes time and effort, but it is also a joy, and my passion. My activism presents little risk to me, and when there is some slight risk, I welcome the opportunity to test my commitment.

The war resisters have done something better, something braver - and something that actually makes a difference. First, they said no to war. They said no to the mightiest military institution the world has ever seen. But it's more than that.

War resisters bring us the gift of truth: first-hand experience of the injustice of war. They give us the gift of example, by showing other military people that resistance is possible, and by showing what moral courage looks to anyone with the brains and compassion to recognize it. And the US war resisters in Canada have given us the opportunity to fight for the Canada we want to live in, a Canada that reflects our values. They've given us a concrete way to work for peace.

The men and women who "ain't gonna study war no more" inspire me every day. Dave Ward may not like it, but war resisters everywhere are my heroes.

update on toronto police complaint

You may recall that I had a minor incident with a Toronto police officer in late September. Along with many other people, I was prevented from crossing the street by a photo shoot, and was in danger of missing my GO bus - which would mean an additional hour of commute in between my two 12-hour weekend shifts. While I was wrangling with the condescending production assistant, a police officer completely over-reacted, charging at me, grabbing my arms and shoving me against the barricade. I filed a complaint, and today was my interview about that complaint.

(As an aside, I'd like to note that I always intended to file the complaint. Hoping to stave off some anticipated cynicism, I noted that the complaint would probably do nothing - which perhaps gave an impression that I might not follow through. That was not in doubt.)

Going to the interview, I was quite nervous. I've been more nervous dealing with police as I get older, maybe because I've seen more of the reality of what can happen. The ongoing harassment at the US-Canada border isn't helping, either.

I'm pleased to report that the interview was completely painless. A female detective escorted me to her office and explained her role as an internal mediator between the public and police officers. In the middle of her spiel, we were joined by a male detective, who she introduced as her partner. I was decidedly less comfortable sitting in a room with two police officers, but I tried not to focus on it.

Female Detective asked me what I hoped to accomplish through my complaint. I said I felt the officer had reacted in an overly aggressive manner, and that it was my responsibility to report it. That was all.

Ms Detective explained there were three routes I could take. The first is called an "informal resolution," in which the officer and the complainant are brought together for a face-to-face meeting with the detective as mediator. Needless to say, very few people take this option!

Second, there is a poorly-named option called a "withdrawal," which Ms Detective assured me does not mean the complaint is withdrawn. It means the complaint and the officer's response goes into the officer's record for two years. That gives a two-year window to see if this was an isolated incident, or if similar incidents are piling up. It's an accountability mechanism.

The third option would be an investigation, in which there would be lengthy interviews and reports written up. She was clearly downplaying this route, but if I thought it was warranted, I would have done it anyway.

The middle option, a so-called "withdrawn" complaint placed in the police officer's file, was the right thing to do. I wrote a short statement of why I was choosing this option, which included my understanding that the complaint would be on record for two years.

Both detectives displayed a lot of empathy for the frustration of dealing with film shoots, having your activities hampered by their needs taking priorities over the public's, possibly missing one's GO train. Naturally they couldn't express empathy with the specifics of my complaint against the officer. The female detective simply read the officer's response: that she was "saving" me from a high-risk situation in which I maight have been hurt. But they were all kinds of sympathetic about my situation that night.

Whether this empathy was real or strategic, I can't say, and perhaps it doesn't matter, because it was an intelligent - and successful - approach. We've chatted about customer service on wmtc, such as in my problems with Heys Luggage (here, with follow-up here and here). This was definitely good customer service. And believe me, I'm aware that my privilege as a white, middle-aged woman was at play, and that fact that no protest or civil disobedience was involved.

I also learned that Toronto police who work on film shoots are paid by the production companies, not by the City of Toronto. Mr. Detective said that Rob Ford wants to stop that practice, and replace police on film shoots with private security guards - which would end public accountability altogether. Both detectives were opposed to this idea, but Mr. Detective said they shouldn't worry too much, because he can't make that change on his own, it's procedural and would need all kinds of approvals.

Mr. Detective also said he knew of a neighbourhood group that was so frustrated by the inconveniences of a lengthy film shoot in their community that they gathered armed with vuvuzelas! Every time the PAs called for quiet... guess what. The detective told the story with a touch of admiration in his voice.

thursday, december 2 in toronto: jon brooks, antonia zerbisias and the war resisters support campaign

Up for some bar hopping? From east to west, Toronto is fundraising for Iraq War resisters. On Thursday, December 2, join us for one - or both! - of these events. Bring your friends, hear some music, have a drink and help raise much needed funds for the ongoing fight to keep Iraq War resisters in Canada.

In the west end, Canadian singer-songwriter Jon Brooks performs a benefit for the War Resisters Support Campaign, with special guest, goddess of the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter, Antonia Zerbisias. Iraq War resister Jeremy Hinzman will also speak.

When: Thursday, December 2, 8 pm
Where: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Suggested donation: $20 or pay what you can
Dinner reservation guarantees seating: call 416.588.0307

On the east End, join the "Support Don't Deport Benefit Jam" in support of war resisters Phil McDowell and Jamine Aponte, featuring special musical guests Mr. Rick & the Biscuits and Darren Eedens, and comedian Robin Crossman.

When: Thursday, December 2, 8:30 - 11:30 pm
Where: The Prohibition Gastrohouse, 696 Queen Street East
Donation: $25 in advance or $30 at the door (includes first drink and appetizer)

For more info, see The Jam Blog.


thursday november 18, join the virtual march on ottawa: don't extend it, end it!

On November 18, people all across Canada will call their MPs and the Party Leaders and demand:
Don't Extend It. End It.

The Conservative-Liberal coalition government is about to extend Canada's war in Afghanistan a full three years without so much as a Parliamentary debate.

The Prime Minster says there's no need for debate. Keeping 1,000 Canadian troops in Afghanistan at a cost of $3 billion - against the will of 80% of Canadians! - needs no further discussion.

Stephen Harper is expected to announce the details of the extension of the Canadian deployment this week. He needs to hear from you!

Let the Prime Minister and the Party Leaders know that Canadians are against any extension of the war in Afghanistan and want the troops brought home now.

On Thursday, November 18, join the virtual march on Ottawa. Phone, email, fax and write your MP and the Party leaders. Demand an end to this endless, useless war.

Step 1
Just cut and paste the following e-mails into the address line:

Step 2
Find your MP's email: here.

Step 3
Send your email. If you want, cc the Canadian Peace Alliance at cpa@web.ca.

Step 4
Call the party leaders and cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon

Gilles Duceppe, Leader, Bloc Quebecois (calling for debate on war extension)

Michael Ignatieff, Leader, Liberal Party (doing Harper's bidding)

Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party (calling for debate on war extension)

Step 5
Organize or join an emergency action in your town.

In Toronto there will be mass leafleting on Saturday, November 20, 1:00 pm at Dundas Square.

In Ottawa there will be a picket at Stephen Harper's office on Saturday, November 20, 1:00 pm.

In many other cities, people are hitting the streets with Don't Extend It! End it! postcards and petitions.

Step 6

Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Please letters short (less than 200 words) and focused.

* * * *

If you are sick and tired of this war, and this government's total disregard for democracy, speak out.

looking for g20 photographer

Does anyone know who took this photo?

I posted it here but I don't know how I obtained it.

If you know you took this photograph, could you please contact me? The photographer can remain anonymous as she or he wishes, but can also give consent for the photo to be used as part of the G20 inquiry.

george galloway "free palestine - free afghanistan - free speech" canadian tour starts today

George Galloway's "Free Palestine Free Afghanistan Free Speech" cross-Canadian tour kicks off today in Toronto.

Galloway will be appearing in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, then back to Toronto for a second date, then Hamilton, Vancouver, Calgary (that ought to be fun), Yellowknife, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

If you haven't heard Galloway speak, it's a real treat. The full schedule is here.

petition to ban plastic packaging on local fruit in ontario

Last summer, I was dismayed - horrified, really - to discover that all the clear plastic packaging I've been throwing into the recycling bin for years is not, in fact, recyclable (details). I emailed with both Region of Peel Waste Management and my MPP's office, but ended up in a runaround, each office telling me someone else was responsible.

Later, I wrote about a related green problem: non-recyclable plastics and organic lettuce.

In short, other than buying eggs in cardboard containers, we haven't been able to cut down on buying clear plastic at all. We're not able to shop at a farmer's market, and so much of the produce we buy at Loblaws is packed in clear plastic, even if it hasn't traveled very far from farm to store. It really bothers me, and I haven't been able to do anything about it.

So I was very happy when wmtc reader and friend Stephanie sent me this petition: Stop Packaging Local Fruit in Plastic. It was started by two women in Ottawa, through a blog called The No-Plastic Project, which looks at simple steps we can each take for greener living, and maybe some less-simple collective action we can figure out, too.

One post shows a blue recycling bin overflowing with all kinds of non-recyclable plastic. The blogger asks:
Monday morning in OOS. Garbage day. The blue boxes are lined up on the curbs, full of plastic of all sorts and shapes and sizes. I see plastic bags, clamshell packages, empty flower pots, styrofoam, a watering can, even plastic furniture!! These overflowing blue boxes sit smugly beside almost empty garbage cans.

I wonder: Are people completely unaware of what is and is not recyclable in this city, or are they just incredibly hopeful?

I can answer that for one recycler in Mississauga: I was unaware - although not completely, just on this one point. Now I am just hopeful. I continue to put all my plastic in the recycling bin. Hoping.

If you live in Ontario, please read and consider signing this petition.
We the undersigned ask that Ontario Tender Fruit Producers and Loblaw Companies Ltd. stop using plastic clamshell containers in the packaging of fresh fruit due to the negative environmental and health impacts of plastic pollution caused by such single-use containers.

Sign here.


mother of canadian soldier killed in afghanistan slams harper's extension of war

Watch it.

Stand up for this Canadian and for all the troops. Stand up for democracy! Tell Stephen Harper and his coalition partner, Michael Ignatieff: Don't extend it! End it!


it gets better highlights: muslims, orthodox jews, and madonna

women's rights are human rights: defending reproductive freedom in toronto, in massachusetts, in the u.k.

In my recent update, I mentioned I did some pro-choice pamphletting. The anti-choice group that targets universities was planning a demonstration outside of Robarts, the main library at the University of Toronto, and some local activists organized a counter-demonstration. Fortunately for me, it coincided perfectly with my class schedule and I was able to join in.

Anti-choicers held signs on one corner, and pro-choicers had a few people on all four corners of the intersection, which is very busy with pedestrian traffic. We were handing out buttons and this excellent pamphlet: 10 Lies that Anti-Choice Groups Are Telling You About Abortion.

At one point, two fetus-lovers came to work the corner I was on, handing out pamphlets with those very lies. I thought to myself, 20 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do this. I couldn't have shared a space with those people. Within 15 minutes, I'd be arrested for assault.

Yeah, yeah, free speech, their right to their opinion, all that good stuff. But the anti-choicers are not just voicing an opinion. They are trying to control what people do with their own bodies. And through their friends in the Conservative Party of Canada, they are trying to change the laws - bit by bit, chipping away - to prevent people from exercising their rights. They are trying to limit Canada's reproductive freedom.

Being against abortion is fine. That's every person's right. Being against the right to abortion is not. As the button says: "Against abortion? Don't have one."

Long ago, Allan and I were marching in a pro-choice demo in New York City. Busloads of antis had come to form a human cross through our city to help save us from our wickedness. In response, thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets in a show of strength and solidarity.

We were marching in the street, and the antis were lined up along the sidewalks. We found ourselves walking right along the sidewalk (still in the street, but at the outer edge of the crowd), right next to the antis waving their signs. On an impulse, I jumped out of the march, took an anti-choice sign from a woman's hands, ripped it in half, ripped it in quarters, threw it at her feet, and jumped back into the march. The whole thing took maybe 20 seconds. The anti-choice protester never knew what hit her. I hardly did either! I didn't even think about it, it was just an uncontrolled impulse. People were hi-fiving me; I was laughing, but also shaking a little.

I make no apology. Those people are striking at the very core of my human rights. Those people want us to be reproductive slaves.

* * * *

Several people have sent me this excellent video, which has been widely seen through Salon's Broadsheet blog: a man confronts anti-choice clinic disrupters while his wife is inside, terminating a wanted pregnancy that had a fatal abnormality. He disrupted their disruption - and videotaped the whole thing. Listen to the dismissive way the fetus-lover speaks to him.

* * * *

On the other side of the pond, my friend and former Haven Coalition partner Mara Clarke recently celebrated one year of helping Irish women access safe abortion services in the UK.
Abortion Support Network (ASN) has been up and running for a year, and this week we’re releasing our first annual report detailing the amazing work we have been doing to help women like the one quoted above: women in desperate need of financial assistance, somewhere to stay, or information from an empathetic source.

Abortion is almost impossible to access in and in Northern Ireland, and every year thousands of women come over to England to access the services that they are denied at home. The costs incurred can top £2,000 – could you come up with so much money at a moment’s notice? Women also need advice, information and support to help them through what can be a difficult and stressful time.

Since launching in October 2009, ASN has heard from 66 women in need, given grants totalling £7702.51 to 34 women, and provided overnight accommodation in volunteer homes to 9 women for 14 nights. The circumstances of these women have varied greatly – from a woman with no passport or credit card who became pregnant as a result of rape, to a single mother relocated to escape domestic violence who found herself pregnant by her abusive ex-partner. But what they have in common is the fact that without financial assistance, they would not have been able to access an abortion.

ASN founder Mara Clarke said:

“Women in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland don’t have the ‘right to choose’ that women in England, Scotland and Wales are able to take for granted. Abortion Support Network exists to provide financial assistance and, where necessary, accommodation to women living in Ireland forced to travel to access a safe, legal abortion. Abortion Support Network exists to take money out of the decision making process for these women.”

For newer wmtc readers, I was part of and helped coordinate a similar network (founded by a Canadian!) in New York City. (Details here.) Mara was also a Haven coordinator, and when she relocated to the UK, she started her own similar network. She is truly a hero for choice.

More from ASN [edited to include links]:
Abortion Support Network is an all-volunteer organisation that provides accommodation and financial assistance to women who are forced to travel from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to England to access a safe and legal abortion. Our volunteers provide a meal and a safe place to sleep for women travelling to London for abortions. We also fundraise to provide grants to help towards the cost of having the procedure at a clinic in England. We are the only organisation in England known to be providing practical support of this kind.

In Northern Ireland (despite being part of the UK), and the Republic of Ireland, abortion is illegal except under extremely limited circumstances and it is virtually impossible for women to access an abortion legally. In both countries, however, women can legally travel abroad for an abortion. Further information about abortion law in Ireland is here and here.

In 2008, a total of 5773 abortions were performed in England and Wales on women resident in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (Department of Health, 2009). Additional women are likely to have given a false address or to have travelled to other countries for an abortion.

Women who travel from Ireland to England for an abortion have to pay for their travel and often that of a partner, friend or family member accompanying them (last minute air fares and travel to and from the clinic), for accommodation if an overnight stay is required, and for the cost of the procedure as a private patient. The abortion procedure cost alone ranges from £350 to £1390, depending on stage of pregnancy. Some women must also pay the costs of childcare for children back home and lose wages for time taken off work.

Abortion Support Network is entirely dependent on donations to continue operating. One hundred per cent of donations go directly to helping with the cost of abortions, accommodation and travel, and are very gratefully received. Information on how to donate is here.


personal update of the better variety

Updates, we have updates.
  • I am better! I feel like myself again. Myself before I fell off the cliff last week - the almost-50, fibromyalgia version of myself. My brain functioning has returned to its usual suboptimal level, and my energy is back. Whew. Huge whew.

    The pain and tenderness level, on the other hand, is monstrous. My nerve endings must be going berserk. So that sucks, but it's much easier to live with pain than with pain plus fatigue and brain fog.

  • Remember when I identified the single greatest challenge of my grad school experience?

    Well, yesterday I emailed redsock from class to announce an unexpectedly kick-ass grade. His reply: FRY TRUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I had forgotten all about the A+ rule! I owe myself some fries!

  • This week I was alerted that some anti-choicers would be demonstrating outside Robarts, the main library at the University of Toronto. As it happened, I had a class right next door the same day. I drove in early and joined the counter-demo for a couple of hours.

    The pro-choicers were a mix of my activist friends and some university women who I didn't know. It was a brilliantly sunny, brisk day, and we handed out pamphlets and buttons, and (at least while I was there) outnumbered the fetus lovers three-to-one.

    I felt so strongly in my element. I'm appalled to see this fight in Canada, but if I have to, I will throw my whole body and soul into the battle. I don't believe that will be necessary, but this minority has hijacked the majority on so many issues. It could happen.

  • Movie Season update! I liked both Crazy Heart and It's Complicated very much. I had some issues with the last parts of both those movies, but in general they were both quite good. I loved Broken Embraces, and highly recommend Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

    But the show-stopper so far - as many of you predicted - is Slings & Arrows. It is great. It many ways it reminds me of my favourite series ever, The Larry Sanders Show, which seems destined to never come out on DVD. (I only saw a few seasons, and I would love to own the whole series.) Slings & Arrows and Larry Sanders are both "behind the scenes" shows, with a similar mix of comedy and pathos, and some common themes: the tensions between art and commerce, the constant craving for approval, the complexities of human motivation - all while somehow never lecturing you. Slings & Arrows has Shakespeare going for it, but Larry Sanders had Rip Torn. We've finished S&A Season One and are waiting for the second season to arrive.

    We also watched Season Two of Flight of the Conchords. Predictably, it was nowhere near the quality of the first season - how could it be? - and the last few episodes sucked. I'm relieved they had the good sense to pull the plug. Death Comes To Town is a sleeping pill.

    We've seen some others, but those are the highlights.

  • Still no resolution of the $500 water bill. It's a standoff: Peel says we owe it, we say we don't. I paid an amount that would represent normal usage, wrote a letter, and am waiting for Peel's next volley. Our landlord is also mystified.

  • We are getting ready for our annual US Thanksgiving road trip. This will mark one year since our first trouble at the border. I must admit I am dreading the delay this time. It's one thing if we're driving to Buffalo, but on a 10-hour drive, after working all weekend, a 90-minute or two-hour delay is such a drag.

    After our last detention, Allan submitted a form requesting more information on an "adverse border crossing experience". When he checked for updates, he was told it had not been received - more than a month later. He then filled out the same form online. We figure the response will be amusing, if nothing else. I just wonder how long this will go on. Forever?

  • I am already counting weeks and days until my winter break. Last year I had a full four weeks off, but this year only three. No fair! On the other hand, Christmas and Boxing Day fall on a weekend, so Allan and I have a whole weekend off with pay, plus the following Saturday - beyond rare. Can't wait.
  • 11.11.2010

    in which i succumb to a facebook meme

    I could not resist this memelike thing from a Facebook friend. It's a great insight into your friends' influences and loves.

    "Fifteen authors":
    Which authors have influenced you and will always stick with you? If you're game, list the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me; I'm interested in seeing which authors you choose.

    My list:
    George Orwell
    John Steinbeck
    Charles Dickens
    Howard Zinn
    William Shakespeare
    S. E. Hinton
    E. B. White
    Emily Bronte
    Saul Bellow
    Toni Morrison
    Graham Greene
    William Kennedy
    Paul Zindel
    Gloria Steinem
    Michael Pollan


    i dream of a world where there are no veterans


    Honour the dead by working for peace.


    how to better it gets better

    When I posted some videos from It Gets Better, there was a brief discussion in comments about some criticisms of the whole It Gets Better project. I didn't have time or patience to respond to those complaints, but directed readers to this post by msjacks of The Bitter Buffalo.

    Now Impudent Strumpet has written a comprehensive and compassionate response to the critics of It Gets Better: "Building a better It Gets Better". If you're interested in this discussion, this is highly recommended reading.

    peter smollett: war resisters deserve remembrance

    Peter Smollett, writing in the Toronto Star:
    The last veterans of World War I have left us and their place in the ranks has been taken by survivors of more recent wars. As the last notes of The Last Post fade away on Remembrance Day, speakers and journalists will have their say about the brave young men who “died for all of us” or “who died for freedom.”

    But the rhetoric comes too easily. Did the “Unknown Soldier” and all of his comrades of the Great World War really die “for all of us”? Or were they slaughtered in a brutal and criminal war. Were they heroes or tragic victims?

    Many can only bear the awfulness of these deaths by believing that they died for some noble cause. The tragedy of that particular war is that they didn’t. They died for an ignoble cause. They died to divvy up colonies, markets and raw materials, and to enhance the careers of politicians and generals.

    Perhaps as we honour the 60,000 Canadian dead of World War I we should make room for recognition of those other brave souls who struggled to keep all those soldiers from dying. How about a memorial to those who sacrificed their jobs, their liberty and, in some cases, their lives by opposing the war? How about a memorial to those conscientious objectors who, for political or religious reasons, refused to be a party to the killing?

    We could remember Ginger Goodwin, president of District 6 of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union and a member of the B.C. Federation of Labour executive, who actively opposed the war and went into hiding with other objectors near Cumberland, B.C. They were fed and aided by sympathetic townspeople until, in a police raid on their hiding place, Goodwin was shot and killed by Const. Dan Campbell.

    The best of the world’s intellectuals opposed the war. The British writer Siegfried Sassoon, a much-decorated officer for his bravery at the front, wrote a public letter to his commanding officer:

    “I believe that this war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolonging those sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.”

    In Canada, the war was so unpopular that the Borden government was not able to pass a conscription law until August 1917, and call-ups didn’t begin until January 1918. Only 24,132 conscripted soldiers ever made it to France. In Quebec, where people had no desire to die to defend the British Empire, there were anti-conscription riots.

    Around the world, in every country, millions opposed the war. In Russia they eventually launched a revolution — in which the army participated — in large part to stop the war. In 1917, half the French army mutinied and were joined by a strike of female munitions workers in Paris. The troops agreed to fight to defend their positions if attacked, but they refused to go on the offensive. Hundreds of soldiers were jailed, and 49 of the leaders of the mutiny were executed.

    The war finally ended not because Germany was militarily defeated but because the German people followed the example of the Russians and in an uprising to stop the war overthrew the Kaiser’s government. A short-lived revolutionary government was set up in Bavaria. If an armistice was agreed upon, it was largely because all governments on both sides of the conflict feared a revolt of their troops and a spread of the Russian example.

    Perhaps someday we will erect a memorial that recognizes that the fight to prevent or put an end to an unjust war is as noble a cause as killing and dying.

    If you agree, as I do, please consider sending a letter to lettertoed@thestar.ca.