sign a letter demanding public inquiry into election fraud

Go here to sign a letter demanding a full public inquiry into vote suppression and other illegal tactics used by the Conservative Party in the 2011 federal election. Please sign and share.

ndp's pat martin on harperco's election fraud

Just in case you haven't watched this yet, please do. I have only one quibble. I doubt anything made Richard Nixon blush!

harper as nixonian: a robocall rogues gallery

I've never liked the comparison of control freak Stephen Harper to figurehead Resident George W. Bush. I understand where it comes from, of course, but if Canada is becoming the United States, as progressive Canadians love to say, then it's the United States of 20, 25 years ago. My comrade John Bell goes even further back, and he has a point.
The growing RoboCall scandal is being likened to Watergate, and Stephen Harper to our own Richard Nixon. I used to run home from school to watch the Watergate hearings. My pal Stu and I collected tapes of Nixon speeches: we would marvel at the evident gap between Nixon’s self-righteous sincerity and the weasel words issuing from his jowly mouth.

I think the comparison is valid. Stephen Harper may lack the jowls, but I believe he shares Nixon’s honest belief that he has license to break any law because the cause he serves is right—in more ways than one.
Read it here: The Robocall rogues gallery. On that theme, see also: Dr. Dawg, Harper: "I'm not a crook".

we like lists: lists of lists of lists

On our DIY top-ten list, M@ made a top-ten list of top-ten lists. David Weinberger, author of Everything Is Miscellaneous, takes it up a level, with a top ten list of top ten lists of top ten lists!

I haven't read that book yet, but I probably will over the spring-summer. (That's the wonderful season from mid-April to mid-September when I get my life back.) Some chapter excerpts are on the reading list for my current "ROCM" class. (That's Representation, Organization, Classification and Meaning-Making, otherwise known as A Complete Waste of My Time.)

I'm restraining myself from my semi-annual (November and March) Why I Hate Grad School whine-rant-list, to keep your eyes from completely glazing over. Time to bust out my Imp Strump.
It's March. You're in university. Of course you're a mess. You're going to be a mess for a month and then emerge, blinking and befuddled, somehow having completed all your coursework, into a beautiful spring where you'll watch baseball and blog as much as you want.
OK, it's not March, but it usually is by now!


tell the toronto star: punish the deed, not the breed

This editorial in the Toronto Star is based on the same misinformation and hysteria that led to the pit bull death sentence in the first place. If you care about this issue, please take a moment to write to the Star and inform of them of the facts.

Write to publiced@thestar.ca and letters@thestar.ca.

This is really too long for a really good letter to the editor. Perhaps you can use it as a model to write your own.

* * * *

To the editor:

Your editorial "Pit bulls are dangerous and Ontario is right to ban them" (February 27, 2012) is misleading and incorrect. Under the current Dog Owners' Liability Act, any dog that is "alleged" - merely alleged - to be a pit bull or to be menacing can be confiscated from its owner. It falls to the owner to prove the dog is not a pit bull, something that cannot be done, since the term "pit bull" is vague and subjective. Until recently, a confiscated dog was automatically killed without any due process for its owner. Now the dog is allowed to live if a home can be found for it outside Ontario. This is the worst kind of bigotry: judging a creature by its appearance rather than its behaviour.

Your editorial states that "a pit bull can rip out a child’s throat or disembowel another dog." In fact, any large dog that has been abused and trained to fight could do this. But any dog of any breed that has been raised with love and trained properly will behave as a dog should. When dogs are abused by dangerous people, the dog is not a criminal - it is a victim. Your editorial shamefully compares a dog, a sentient creature, to a machine gun, an inanimate object.

In 2005, three days after my family emigrated to Canada, my two dogs were almost removed from my home. A neighbour, reacting to the hysteria of the times, phoned Animal Services, saying she had seen two pit bulls in our yard. Neither of our dogs was a pit bull. The neighbour had never spoken to us and had no idea if our dogs had ever caused any trouble.

Without the kindness of a reasonable Animal Services representative, our dogs - both rescues from past abuse - could have been confiscated and killed. Many people in Ontario have lived through exactly that. Can you imagine the horror?

The people who want this law changed are not a "minority of people" who like "dangerous dogs". We are ordinary Ontarians who love our dogs and believe in justice.

Laura Kaminker
Mississauga, Ontario

* * * *

you can fight your excessive water bill

I'm posting this for Googleability.

If you've received an excessive water bill, there may be an error in your reading, even if the water meter is working correctly. My partner and I recently filed a small claims lawsuit against the Region of Peel to recover excessive water charges we were forced to pay. The judge awarded us a full refund, plus court fees, plus money for our time and effort, plus interest.

If you have received a water bill that is 10 times (or more) your normal rate, and there are no leaks or plumbing issues in your home, and your subsequent bills show normal usage, this may apply to you. To read details of our experience, go here:

advice needed: we really did not use all this water

water bill woes continue. help needed. really really needed.

in which we kick peel's butt

lesson: fight your excessive water bill (My partner's blog)

I haven't written about our preparation for the case or our evidence at trial. If you would like more details, please email me.


robogate: vote suppression must be investigated, by-elections must be held

What will be done about RoboGate? Has Stephen Harper's well-documented pattern of giving democracy the finger finally gone too far?
Thanks to an excellent election post-mortem by Matt Peters and Ryan Boldt on rabble.ca last year, we know that the Conservative Party won by a very narrow margin in dozens of ridings, in some cases beating out NDP and Liberal candidates by only hundreds of votes (some within dozens).

The scope and breadth of RoboGate has yet to be known, but every day more ridings are reporting robo-calls and deceiving messages from the 2011 election. Could the Conservatives have, in fact, stolen their majority victory?

Even before what I call RoboGate (or, as other media have coined, 'RoboCon'), we had a litany of abuses --from the Conservatives pleading guilty to illegal election spending (the 'in-out' scandal), to being found in contempt of Parliament, pork-barrelling millions in G20 cash into cabinet minister Tony Clement's personal riding, and deploying military brass to find dirt on opposition members.

But a scan over current federal legislation on the books shows an insidious and systemic rightwing worldview -- one that threatens Canada's (potential for) democracy.
We need an investigation. We need a do-over.

stop the pipeline: "do you see what we are doing here? we are destroying future generations."

This is an absolute must read or must see: the testimony of a 26-year-old man, the son of a Canadian oil executive, to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings. The Vancouver Observer, progressive independent media, has the transcript and the video.
One such day on the refinery stood out in particular. It was a hot, sunny and humid day, after monsoon rainfall my entire time there -- I think it was most likely the Prince Rupert weather following me overseas -- and on that day a hand full of managers thought it would be fun to take me out to the jetty, where they loaded and unloaded the super tankers. Situated a lengthy route away from the refinery itself, we drove down to towards the coastline.

On our way there, we drove past many different villages. Each one looking extremely impoverished. I learned later that this was not always the case. There was a time in this region where fishing, farming and the local economy truly flourished. But once the refinery project was approved, among other projects in the region, they built a pipeline directly through nine different villages. Over a period of time, there was pipeline breakage which contaminated an underground aquifer, and spoiled the wells and water supply of the majority of the surrounding villages. As industry expanded, and land bought and sold, men were forced into cheap labour at the refineries, after lifetimes of sustainable farming and fishing -- now dependent on one or two companies for employment. Women, children and elders went starving after losing access to fresh water, with no accountability for cleanup -- just left to fend for themselves. I ask, what would be the case here in our region? Do you see any potential similarities?

Converging onto a thin strip of man-made road spanning about two miles in length, we arrived at the Jetty, greeted by military personnel. After a lengthy process of clearing me for entry, we walked onto couple massive docking stations. To my right, men were conducting repairs on a rather standard sized vessel, no larger than the ones you would see here in our Harbour. In the distance, a ULCC fresh from the Middle East was rolling in from the horizon. The size of the vessel stopped me in my tracks. After 10 minutes, the ship stopped and made a slow bank horizontally out at sea.

I asked one of the managers -- Jitesh was his name -- why the ship stopped so far out. He told me that because of the size of the ship, they had a floating unloading station, and through another piping system they unload and load way out there, and that connects to the main routing station at the Jetty, to be piped a few miles back to the refinery.

I asked him why, and he said, "Even though we have docking stations here, it is for the smaller vessels that are used for domestic purposes. But these larger vessels that come from the Middle East can run aground easily."

This, in open seas, I thought.

So we all stood there, suspended in what felt like an eternal moment -the heat waves rising above the calmed Arabian Sea, and the ship danced in the horizon as I stood dumbfounded by its sheer mass. One man comments: “I always forget just how large those vessels are.”

A few moments pass as we all stood, just watching.

Out of the silence, Jitesh says to me “Do you see what we are doing here Mr. Lee?”

I asked “What’s that, Jitesh?”

He replied, with an unexpected, sobering tone: “We are destroying future generations for now, and forever.”
Read or watch it here. Many thanks to S for sharing on Google+.


in which we kick peel's butt!

Win? That doesn't even begin to describe it. This was a rout. When the smoke cleared, we were celebrating and they were gasping for air.

$429 and change that we should never have been charged? Check.

$175 in court costs? Check.

But wait, there's more...

$100 for our preparation time,


$400 for our inconvenience, for a grand total of $1104.47 plus interest. Not credits on our account, either. Cold cash, baby!

The judge said, "Frankly, I'm surprised that Peel's legal department would have let this go this far. You could have offered a settlement just to expedite this." You know, the settlement that Allan would have been happy to take, the one he regrets not bargaining for?!

It was a little hairy to start. We were very well prepared, but we weren't aware of certain requirements, thinking, for example, that the exhibits in our initial pleading would be the exhibits at trial. So there was some scurrying about, photocopying and highlighting. The judge was annoyed, and I was under pressure to make my evidence as succinct as possible to compensate for the time we had wasted. This was discouraging, and I worried that the judge might penalize us. But to his credit, he moved on, and decided the case on its merits.

I could tell from the judge's questions that he was leaning in our direction. But during the closing arguments, it became obvious.

I did not have a closing prepared. The judge left the courtroom, giving both sides 15 minutes to gather their arguments, and admonishing us not to read anything, just to speak to him. I grabbed a piece of paper and furiously wrote notes. I was able to incorporate responses to their specious arguments, and recap our main points.

The judge returned, and I spoke uninterrupted.

Then Peel's counsel - an articling student (the equivalent of a summer associate in the US) - began her closing arguments. She couldn't get two sentences out without an interruption. The judge questioned everything she said. Allan wrote on my paper, "He's our best witness!" The judge was not badgering her, he was merely driving an 18-wheeler through the massive holes in Peel's case.

At one point, the law student got so flustered that she actually said, "I acknowledge that the Plaintiffs have made a convincing case that they possibly did not use the water..."

The judge's head shot up. "What did you just say? Could you repeat that?"

She stammered, "I mean, there are reasons to show that it was possible, but they have not shown that it was probable."

Before you feel too sorry for her, I'm sure by that time, he had already decided the case.

The judge said this was a case of "balance of probability," and common sense said that it must be decided in our favour. If the meter reading had been twice as high as normal, or three times as high, or perhaps even four or five times as high as normal, the balance of probability would go to Peel. But a bill this outlandish, nearly 10 times higher than typical usage, and usage returning to normal immediately afterwards, must be the result of some kind of error. None of the conditions Peel's inspectors found in the house could have resulted in the crazy bill, since the subsequent bills - which take in the time of those inspections - were completely normal.

What's more, he said, it is not incumbent on the customer to discover what caused the erroneous bill. We cannot be expected to do so (which we pointed out both in our pleadings and at trial). That we cannot say what condition caused the billing error does not mean we should be forced to pay a bill for water we did not use.

We haven't stopped dancing and laughing. Now I must go, my next glass of red wine awaits.


cause for rejoicing! hershey's bill passes second reading!

Hershey's Law, the private member's bill that would repeal the worst of the Dog Owners' Liability Act - that is, the pit bull death sentence - has passed second reading in the Ontario Parliament.

My heartfelt thanks to all the dog lovers who worked so hard to make this happen.

Go here for details.

Some time back, I praised Ontario MPP Randy Hillier for a principled op-ed on the G20 carnage. I was excoriated here and on Facebook. Surely there is much on which I disagree with Randy Hillier and the rest of Tim Hudak's caucus. But that doesn't mean we never find ourselves on common ground. Randy Hillier introduced Hershey's Bill. If DOLA is repealed, he will deserve our most sincere gratitude.

Thank you, everyone! I wish I could say I was part of it, but I have not been able to fight this fight, although it is my own. So thank you from me and from Allan, on behalf of the memory of our beautiful Buster.

our day in court

Remember our crazy water bill? And how tried to fight it?

In the end, we had no choice. We had to pay the bill or Peel would have disconnected our water. After that, our only recourse was to file in small claims court to try to recover the excess payment. We did so, and we had a mandatory (and useless) settlement conference. The trial is tomorrow.

Allan has been working on our case for a long time and is beyond sick of it. Being a classic pessimist, he is convinced we will lose and just wants to get it over with.

I have no idea what will happen and I'm not predicting anything. But whatever happens, I'll know I tried everything. I couldn't live with paying that bill and walking away. We both felt we had to try, no stone unturned. So this is the last stone.

sir michael philip at the white house

I'm sure you've seen this everywhere already, but damn, how could I not post it. I love this man and I love this music. He may be short of breath, but consider that he's almost 70 years old... and still smokin' hot.

Nice to hear the great Hubert Sumlin invoked in a song by the incomparable Wolf. Also very cool to see Jagger do this number.


what we talk about when we talk about jeremy lin

Even if you live in a sports-free universe, the name Jeremy Lin may have seeped in through osmosis. The 24-year-old Harvard grad and point guard for the New York Knicks basketball team has inspired a wave of Lin-sanity and Lin-spiration around North America and much of the world. Lin is not the first NBA player of Asian descent, but there haven't been many, and none as home-grown and crowd-pleasing as Lin.

Lin is a rags-to-riches sports story. He attended university without a sports scholarship, wasn't drafted after graduation, was waived by one NBA team, then claimed off the scrap heap as a bench-warmer by another. Then, given a chance to start for the Knicks, he made history. Lin has set and broken records for most points scored and most assists in his first three, four, and five career starts, ushering in a Knicks win-streak, a Sports Illustrated cover... and a conversation about identity, generally going by the label race.

The other night I caught the tail-end of the local CBC news broadcast from Vancouver (waiting for Coronation Street on timeshifting, in my last days of cable TV). There was a lovely feel-good story on the hoards of young Vancouverites struck with Linfatuation. All the boys and girls interviewed were of Asian descent. All were clearly identifying with Lin's ethnic heritage and feeling pride and joy in seeing themselves reflected in his success, so far from the bookish stereotypes.

Yet the reporter and anchors never once mentioned Lin's background. If it had been radio, you wouldn't have known Lin and his legions of young fans shared a heritage.

This strikes me as simply silly. It's not racist to acknowledge our diverse backgrounds.

On the other hand, we have this:

And this:

And this, made by a fan, but crassly aired by the MSG Network:

Each of these images and headlines plays on Lin's background, but they don't raise the dial on the Racist Meter to the same degree. "Chink" is a racial denigration, along the lines of spic, gook, kike, and so on. The fortune cookie, besides being ungrammatical, is fine for a fan but crass from a broadcaster. Personally, I don't find "Amasian" - in a town where a baseball team is known as the Amazin's - racist. Some people do, though, because it calls so much attention to Lin's background, in a way that wouldn't be done for a white or African American player. But isn't part of Linsanity specifically because Lin is of Asian descent? And that's where, for some people, things get tricky.

After several blatantly racist remarks by three separate commenters ESPN issued this apology:
At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin.

Saturday we apologized for two references. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York. The incidents were separate and different. We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action:

• The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed.
• The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days.
• The radio commentator is not an ESPN employee.

We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.
Jason Whitlock, a Fox Sports announcer and apparently frustrated comedian, combined racist and sexist stereotypes in a tweet that drew instant criticism. And if you want to get into the dark heart of hatred, wade into the cesspool of comments on any of these stories.

African-American athlete Floyd Mayweather seemed offended by the fuss over Lin: "Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise." And that's true. Our society expects physical prowess from people who look African and a lack thereof from people who look Asian. Columnist Michael Dulka writes:
A huge part of the fascination with Lin is the fact that it's unexpected. The NBA has more than 400 players, and how many are of Asian decent?

Jeremy Lin has always proved he can play ball. In his final year of high school, Lin led his Palo Alto High School Vikings to a 32-1 record and beat a national powerhouse in Mater Dei for California's Division II state title.

Even with that success, no scholarships. Then, he went on to have success at the college level in the Ivy League, playing for Harvard. He entered the NBA undrafted and was given few opportunities to showcase his talents. But at every level, when given the opportunity, Lin has done a marvelous job showing what he can do.

In basketball, the expectation has become that black players are the more athletic players and are better suited to play the guard and forward positions. For white players, they can either play point guard or big man. Whether right or wrong, these are the stereotypes of the current NBA.
Those of us who follow these issues are familiar with the stereotypes that pervade college basketball coverage, where predominantly white teams are said to be smart, canny, intelligent, and hard-working, and predominantly black teams are characterized as "natural talents", who roll out of bed onto the court. In baseball, tough white guys are gritty and scrappy. When they have meltdowns, they are passionate. Black guys with the same temperament are hotheads, loose cannons, clubhouse cancers. If you're a black baseball player, best to be docile or jolly. Latin players, of course, are colourful but volatile. As more Asian players begin to appear in the major leagues, we're hearing they are enigmatic and mysterious. I don't think the sports world is less evolved or less intelligent than the rest of the world. I think it's just more blatant.

The place to turn for the most consistently progressive and insightful commentary on these issues is Dave Zirin, at Edge of Sports, and at The Nation.
But Lin already represents something more significant. When Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight champion, using a style both cerebral and severe, he defied racist conceptions of white supremacy as well as stereotypes that decreed African-Americans didn’t have the intelligence to apply strategy and smarts to sport. We can say the same about Jackie Robinson when he did more than just break baseball’s color barrier and win the Rookie of the Year in 1947. Robinson also played with a grace under pressure that challenged white—and even many black—preconceptions about mental toughness on the highest stage. In addition, he did so while playing with an energy that forever changed the game. Or consider Martina Navratilova. Yes, she blazed trails just by being an out and proud LGBT champion tennis player. But she also played with a muscled strength and swagger that changed women’s sports forever. The Williams sisters owe as much to Martina as they do to Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.

This is the power of Jeremy Lin. It’s not just that he’s a cultural curio: “Asian-American from Harvard in the NBA!” It’s the way he plays the game. Asian-Americans, in our stereotypical lens, are supposed to be studious and reserved. We would expect nothing less than that the first Asian-American player would be robotic and fundamentally sound; their face an unsmiling mask. In sports, we haven’t moved that far from the days when we expected Jack Johnson to be a wild, undisciplined brawler in the ring or Martina to play on the baseline. Instead, we have Jeremy Lin threading no-look passes, throwing down dunks and, in the most respected mark of toughness, taking contact and finishing baskets.
For my money, Lin should absolutely be celebrated as an Asian-American player, busting stereotypes, creating new images, inspiring kids to new dreams. But the concept of race should be relegated to history, like the whalebone corset, an antiquated relic of the Victorian Age. Ethnic backgrounds, traditions, heritages - these are all real, as they rest on cultures that we participate in. Race, though, is a social fiction.

Read an American or Canadian newspaper story from the early 20th Century, and you'll find stories about the many races of immigrants flocking to the new world: Italians, Russians, Poles, Norwegians, and so on, each characterized as a separate race. None were simply called white. The European conquistadors and pilgrims thought they had discovered an Indian race, rather than hundreds of separate nations. The people abducted and forced into bondage by the slave traders were told they were African, a continental consciousness invented by their oppressors. Newspapers often referred to them as Ethopians, a generic name for black.

Each of those European "races" were allowed to become socially white, even the "swarthy" Italians and Greeks and the despised famine-ship Irish were whitened over time. In certain North American worlds, those of us whose ancestors hail from Italy, Greece, or the Jewish ghettos know that we are not quite white, and never will be. But somehow we are now part of the white "race".

Yet if a person is visibly of African or Asian descent - based solely on physical appearance - she is still said to be of a different race. African-American heritage and literature are rich with this colour divide - those who can "pass," those who, despite a white parent or grandparent, have black features, so they are black. Researching this post, I saw a reference to an NBA player who is supposedly "one-sixteenth Filipino". Filipinos, whose Asian heritage often includes remnants of the Spanish invasions. And what is one-sixteenth? Does this person look Asian, or does he wear a sign that says "I'm not white"?

As I said, a social fiction.


things i heard at the library: an occasional series: # 3

"What are you doing?"

"Putting books away."

"Why are you doing that?"

"So people can find them later."

"Do you have any books about fishing?"

"Books on fishing... let's see. Oh look, here's one with Winnie the Pooh fishing."

"I put that there!"

"You did?"

"I did! I put that there!"

"Conor, leave the lady alone. Conor, come over here and play. Conor..."

A few minutes later...

"What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Do you have any books about fishing?"

"Conor, leave her alone so she can do her job."

"No, that's ok, he's not bothering me."

Conor is a toddler. He was at the library with his dad. Conor asked questions in a rapid staccato that just cracked me up.

* * * *

I rode in the elevator with a mom and her pre-teen daughter. The library has big plastic baskets on wheels, like a luggage cart, and they had one filled to the brim with books. I said hi, commented on all the books they had.

Mom said, "She's gone from not being a very good reader, not interested in books, to a super reader, loves books, reads all the time."

I said that was terrific and asked the girl if she had a favourite author.

"Dr. Seuss."

"Excellent choice." She seemed a little old for Dr. Seuss, but if she had been a struggling or reluctant reader, that would make sense.

I asked where else in the library they were going, since they were headed up, not out.

Mom said, "We're just exploring. We're going to the top, then we'll walk our way down."

A bit later, I saw them in the children's department again. The girl was getting her Read To Succeed card stamped, and having her name added to the big wall of reading successes, a kind of reading hall of fame.

I am telling you, this girl was beaming. Her face was the image of joy and pride.

* * * *

"What are you doing? Why are you doing that? I put that book there! I fooled you!"

Conor's dad: "Sorry about this. He's very social."

"That's ok, he's fine."

Conor's dad was pretty social himself, chatting with the moms gathered around the train set. Conor's dad took Conor back to the trains. I shelved books for a while, and then...

"What are you doing?"

* * * *

"Is there a level 4?"

"Excuse me?" It was a mom.

"The easy-reader books go level 1, level 2, level 3. My son is bored with level 3, he's finding it too easy. Is there a level 4?"

"I believe after level 3 you go into the general junior's section. But let's go to the desk and ask."

I walk her over to the desk, and go back to work. Later, I see her wandering around the stacks. "Did you get the answer? Is it the junior section?"

"It is, but I don't know what books to get."

"What does he like to read? Does he like fiction - stories - or does he like to read about things, nonfiction?"

"He likes everything. You know, mummies, rocks, planets, animals. He likes everything he reads."

Do you know the SNL character Stefon (played by Bill Hader)? That's what this mom sounded like: "This boy has everything. Mummies, trucks, rocks..."

* * * *

"What are you doing?"

"Hi, Conor."

"What are you doing?"

"I'm putting books away. Conor, the library is about to close."


"Because we all have to go home and go to sleep."

"I don't want to go to sleep."

"I know. But you have to go home."


"Well, you can't stay at the library all night."

"What are you doing?"

when all else fails, kiss a pitbull

Thanks to James and Stephanie and everyone else who sent me these. From Peace Love & Pitbulls.


dr. dawg on vikileaks

In case you haven't done so already, you'll want to read Dr. Dawg on the Vic Toews phony scandal, internet surveillance, and the mind-boggling hypocrisy of the both the Conservatives and the mainstream media: On hypocrisy, politicians and the media.

I'm not even going to quote from it, because you've got to read the whole thing. So go, read.

in which i call rogers to check on my disconnect order

Further to the saga of dumping Rogers, this morning I ordered internet service through TekSavvy. (I had already called for information on how to switch and called Rogers to cancel my service.)

The customer service rep was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. I wasn't 100% certain of my disconnect date with Rogers, so after I hung up with TekSavvy, I called Rogers, just to double-check. Ever since cancelling Rogers, we've been inundated with calls, paper mail, and email offering us deep discounts to return. I expected more of the same, but I didn't expect this.

LK: I recently cancelled my Rogers services. I already have a disconnect order, and I need to check on the date of the disconnect. Are you able to help me with that?

Rogers: Why are you leaving Rogers? Are you unhappy with the service?

LK: I appreciate your asking, but I am cancelling my service, and I'd prefer not to discuss it. Could you please check the date of my disconnect order? I believe it is March 6.

Rogers: May I just check on a few details of your account?

LK: Yes, of course.

Rogers: Your address is 35 Elmwood Avenue, Mississauga?

We last lived on Elmwood Avenue on January 1, 2007. Our address on Elmwood Avenue was number 25.

LK: No, that is not my address.

Rogers: And your email address is bobby@dhl.com?

LK: No. I don't know what that email address is. Could you please confirm the date of my disconnect order?

Rogers: May I ask why you are leaving Rogers?

LK: I'd really rather not go into it, as I am definitely leaving. Could you please confirm the date my service will be disconnected? I believe it is March 6.

Rogers: You have until March 11 to return your Rogers equipment.

LK: Yes, I know that. I was told that service would be disconnected on a certain date - I believe it's March 6 - and then I have until March 11 to return the equipment. I'm trying to confirm the date of service disconnection.

Rogers: That would be March 11.

LK: Are you sure of that?

Rogers: Yes. You unplug all the equipment and that's when your service ends.

LK: My service ends the day I unplug the equipment? I was originally told that service would be disconnected on one day, then there was a five-day grace period to return the equipment. Could you please confirm the date of the actual service disconnection?

Rogers: Could you hold a moment please?


Rogers: Hello, thank you for holding. Your disconnect date is March 6. You have until March 11 to return the Rogers equipment. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

dear leadnow: i'm not sure i want to cooperate

Like many Canadian activists, I am currently being bombarded with emails from Leadnow and Avaaz, pushing their "Cooperate for Canada" campaign. We are being urged to join the political party of our choice, then to encourage the parties to "cooperate" in the next election, in order to defeat the Conservatives. This would supposedly be a one-time deal, after which the parties would work together for meaningful electoral reform.

I'm keeping an open mind, but I'm highly skeptical.

The Leadnow FAQ claims this is not strategic voting (which actually works in very few ridings), not a merger, and not a step towards a two-party system. I am skeptical about each of those claims. I fear that "cooperation" is a slippery slope, and at the bottom lies an even more broken system with fewer choices.

There's something else very wrong with this picture: the Liberal Party. Stories about the "cooperation" idea, such as this one in the Vancouver Sun, refer to Canada's "three left-of-centre" parties. But there aren't three left-of-centre parties. The Liberals are "left" only if the Conservatives are the perceived centre. Or to put it another way, only the reactionary nature of the Harper Conservatives make the Liberals appear to be left-of-centre. In reality, the Liberals are a party of war, corporate capitalism and neoliberal social austerity.

It's true that I initially thought I should vote Liberal in the last election in order to stop the Conservatives. But I hated the Liberals and I hated Ignatieff, and I eventually realized that voting for a party I didn't want in government was ridiculous. I support the NDP and I should register that support at the polls.

I want an electoral system that more accurately represents the politics of Canada. Certainly a majority based on 39% does not. But is cooperation with the Liberals really so much different than cooperation with the Conservatives?

[A small postscript. One of the emails from Leadnow said that "72% of Canadians strongly support" this idea. I'm sure the good folks at Leadnow know that a poll taken through their own email and Facebook list cannot claim to represent what Canadians want, only what Leadnow members want. I'm not saying that the majority of Canadians don't want this. Indeed they might. But Leadnow's own poll cannot demonstrate that.]


rob ford's latest strategy in the war on toronto public library: slash, downsize, then try to privatize

From Maureen O'Reilly, library workers' union, Toronto Public Library (emphasis mine):

+ + + + +

It hasn’t taken Ford and company long before launching a new attack on our public library.

Frustrated that we stopped him last month from wreaking massive reductions to open hours and slashing programs and services, such as the children’s literacy program and the Bookmobile, Ford and his allies have a new strategy to achieve their goal of off-loading our public library to private interests.

Today, they are targeting the librarians and other people who serve you at your neighbourhood branch, and the attack is playing out at the bargaining table. They want the right to get rid of experienced, career librarians and replace them (if at all) with lower-paid part-timers who, through no fault of their own, will not be able to serve library users half as well.

For Ford, it’s simple. If he can’t close your neighbourhood branch, he wants to make sure there are fewer people to serve you and a smaller collection of books to choose from. It’s a strategy to hollow out our public library from within.

Even though we were able to stave off the worst of Ford’s plans for our public library when the city’s budget was set last month, Council still voted to cut 107 service positions from the ranks of our public library as well as slash the collections budget.

Once these service providers are cut from the system, library staff will be down 17% since amalgamation, while during the same period circulation is up more than 23%. After 107 full time library service jobs are cut, more than half of librarians and staff will be part-timers without benefits or pensions.

In short, there is not much Ford and company can save by attacking librarians and other staff.
So what is the point of this plan?

We believe the strategy is to lower the world class standards of the Toronto Public Library in order to set the stage for off-loading at least parts of the system to private interests. It is no coincidence that the U.S.-based library management corporation, LSSI, has retained as their lobbyist a former city politician with close ties to Ford and at least one of his appointees on the Library Board.

There is a plan at work here and diminishing the library from within is an essential part of that plan. Lowering the quality of public services and increasing public dissatisfaction is a tried and true strategy for privatization. It’s a formula that has worked in the U.S. and is now being imported to Canada.

We can’t let this happen to our cherished public library.

That is why we are getting ready to stand up once more to say no to Mayor Ford and his allies. In the days ahead, this may involve asking librarians and other staff for a mandate to resist the punitive bargaining demands that will diminish our public library and make it an attractive investment opportunity for private interests.

This is a fight to preserve our public library and everything it means to the city, to culture and learning, and to our democratic values.

Working together during the autumn and early winter tens of thousands of Torontonians like you and me showed everyone that a single action can make a huge difference. We stood up in defence of our public library then, and we were successful.

With your help, I am very hopeful that we can prevail again.

+ + + + +

The library workers' union is asking for ideas on how to win this campaign: go here.

jason kenney is at it again again: each refugee claim must be decided individually, not by country of origin

The Harperites have resurrected the unjust, immoral, and, according to international treaties to which Canada is a signatory, illegal bill formerly known as C-11.

Jason Kenney doesn't want so much riff-raff allowed into Canada. So first he let positions on the Immigration and Refugee Board go vacant, so there weren't enough decision-makers to hear cases, thereby creating a backlog. Then he uses the backlog to say there are too many claimants.

The IRB is under political pressure to reject certain types of cases. Kenney then uses those rejections to "prove" that claimants from certain countries are "bogus" refugees and no review of their claims is needed.

When the minority Conservative government tried to rush this bill into law without debate in 2010, the NDP fought back, and after enough pressure was applied, the Liberals grew a (temporary) spine.* Amendments were added protecting the most vulnerable refugee claimants. Now the Harper GovernmentTM wants to use its majority power to get their anti-refugee, anti-human wish list into law.

Rather than re-write what I've already written, I will quote myself, and more importantly, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Refugee Lawyers Association, and former immigration ministers, from the earlier fight in 2010. I hope you'll go and at least skim some of these links.

Amnesty: amnesty: flaws in refugee bill put lives at risk

Canadian Council for Refugees: Canadian Council for Refugees statement on bill from 2010

Elinor Caplan (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, 1999-2002) and Flora MacDonald (Minister of Employment and Immigration 1984-1986): "human rights are on the line": two former immigration ministers decry rush to pass c-11

stephen harper dismantles canada's refugee system

* Not really. Liberal Immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua, allegedly promised a Conservative endorsement of his forthcoming campaign in the city of Vaughn, did the Tories' work for them, playing sock-puppet for Jason Kenney. By all reports, then- Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was ready to side with Bevilacqua, until a revolt from his own caucus forced his hand.


results of poll on immigration shows conservative anti-immigrant policies are out of step with dominant canadian view

I was pleased to see the results of a recent Environics survey about Canadians' attitudes towards immigrants and new Canadians. It's reassuring to know that the attitudes that led to an attack on a Muslim woman in Mississauga and the directive forbidding women to wear veils at a citizenship ceremony - while abhorrent - are not the majority view. Even several supposedly hot-button issues, like dual citizenship or Canadians living abroad, do not appear to be a problem for most Canadians. Only for Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, and the rest of the Conservative lackeys.

Most Canadians feel immigrants are just as likely to be good citizens as people who were born here, a recent Environics Institute survey suggests.

Canadians also don't appear to have problems with dual citizenship or with Canadian citizens living abroad, according to the telephone survey, which the Environics Institute says is the first poll to directly ask Canadians their views on citizenship.

A group made up of five national organizations – CBC, the Environics Institute, Maytree, The Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the RBC Foundation – commissioned the public opinion poll, which asked over 2,000 Canadians what they think are the characteristics of a good citizen and other questions about citizenship.

. . .

The survey suggests Canadians have a broad, inclusive view of citizenship and see immigrants as their equals: nearly 9 out of every 10 respondents agreed that a person born outside Canada is just as likely to be a good citizen as someone born here.

"There's no real evidence of people feeling threatened or a sense that, 'Well, people can come live here from other countries, but they're not quite the same,'" said Keith Neuman, executive director of the Environics Institute.

Policies, profits help integration

When it comes to immigration and citizenship, the views of the majority of Canadians born in the country and the 20 per cent born outside it are largely aligned. Canadian-born and foreign-born respondents were equally likely to feel fully like citizens (78 per cent versus 75 per cent).

Usha George, dean of Ryerson University's Faculty of Community Services, says the survey's findings confirm a lot of what those working with new Canadians know already.

The willingness of Canadians to not view a person's foreign background as an impediment to citizenship is a product of the country's multicultural policies and the visible effect of immigrants on the economy, George said.

Integration of immigrants has worked in Canada because the government has funded programs that teach immigrants about Canadian values and society has adapted its institutions to accommodate diversity.

"The mutual recognition that we should be respectful to each other and celebrate diversity in a genuine way, those values permeate the whole society,” said George, whose faculty trains many of those who provide social and other services to new immigrants.

Whatever Canada is doing, it seems to be positively influencing immigrants' views of the country, the survey suggests: 88 per cent of respondents who were born outside Canada said they were very proud to be Canadian, compared with 81 per cent of those born here.

"Canadians who were not born in Canada are more proud than naturally born Canadians simply because we had the choice of being Canadian," said Vikram Kewalramani, who immigrated to Canada in 2006 from India. "It wasn't something that, literally, was a birthright. We consider it a privilege."

For Amal Ibrahim, a Palestinian who became a citizen last year along with her two children, Canadian citizenship is primarily about respecting differences.

"It's a great diverse culture where people learn how to live in harmony with each other while they have different ideas, different religions and different backgrounds," she said.

Tolerance of others who are different was among the top five behaviours survey respondents considered a "very important" part of being a good citizen.

jason kenney is at it again: defend free speech, defend the rights of palestinian canadians

Our illustrious Minister of Censorship and Deportation is at it again - attacking freedom of expression and those who defend the rights of Palestinians. This time his target is Palestine House, a Palestinian cultural and educational organization based in Mississauga, for its highly successful settlement program.

Last week, Palestine House was informed by the CIC that all funding for its immigration settlement program had been cut.

This must be seen as an entirely political decision, as it fits the broader pattern of government-led censorship and intimidation of anyone who is critical of Canada's foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Palestine.

See below for action alert. Meanwhile, some context:

• The Canadian Arab Federation - funding was cut by Kenney in February 2009, in response to its criticism of Harper's support for Israel’s attack on Gaza

• Former British MP George Galloway - banned from entering Canada by Kenney in March 2009, in response to his humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza

• Pathways to Peace, an academic conference at York University in June 2009 - funding threatened by an unprecedented intervention by a Conservative cabinet minister

KAIROS, "Canadian churches working for peace" - funding was cut in November 2009; Kenney later boasted to an audience in Jerusalem that the cut represented his government’s "zero tolerance" policy on anti-Semitism

Rights & Democracy, an organization "created by Canada's Parliament in 1988 to encourage and support the universal values of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices around the world" - Conservative-appointed board members cut funding in January 2010 to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that were critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians

• The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) - Canadian funding was cut in January 2010; UNRWA administers health and education programs to 59 Palestinian refugee camps

• Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian democracy activist and former presidential candidate - denied entry to Canada for a speaking tour in March 2010

• Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual campus-based educational conference - condemned by Conservative MPs, who attempted to officially ban in it in March 2011

• Palestine solidarity in general, which the so-called "Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism" equates with anti-Semitism, in its report issued in July 2011

These attacks represent a serious threat to free speech in Canada, a loss of community workers' jobs, and a loss of the vital services they provide.

Please take a moment to email Jason Kenney and to Bob Dechert, the Conservative MP for Mississauga-Erindale (where Palestine House is located). Let them know you oppose this latest attack on free speech.

Step 1:
In your email message, cut-and-paste the following email addresses into the "To:" line:
jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, Minister@cic.gc.ca, bob.dechert@parl.gc.ca, bob.dechert.c1@parl.gc.ca

Step 2:
Cut-and-paste info@PalestineHouse.com into the "Cc:" or "Bcc:" line. Let Palestine House know you support their demand to restore funding now.

Step 3:
Cut-and-paste "We support Palestine House. Restore funding now." into the Subject line.

Step 4:
Cut-and-paste the message below. If you choose, write your own personal statement at the beginning of the message. Please include your name and address at the end of the message.

I oppose your decision to cut federal funding for the successful immigration settlement program administered by Palestine House. This decision is not based on the success of the program (which your department has recognized), but on politics. I oppose any move by the Canadian government to penalize civil society and cultural organizations in Canada based on their legitimate political views. This represents an attack on free speech and free expression in Canada, and is contributing to the steady criminalization of Palestine solidarity initiatives in Canada. I call on you to reverse your decision and to restore immediately the federal funding for Palestine House's immigration settlement program. Thank you for your consideration.

Step 5:

Step 6:
Share this with your contacts!


we like lists: list # 14: three reasons you like/dislike valentine's day

Do you like Valentine's Day? Do you celebrate it or avoid it? Do you celebrate it and avoid it? Tell us why. Three reasons, please.

I don't do Valentine's Day. Here's why.

1. I don't like being told when to be romantic. If everyone is supposed to be romantic at once, where's the romance in that?

2. It's another weapon of mass consumption. Buy, buy, buy, more, more, more.

3. Here's a Valentine's Day story from my childhood. I'm not sure what grade this was in, possibly first. We made paper and cardboard mailboxes, decorated with hearts and whatnot. Then everyone was to make valentines, as they were called, and deliver them to classmates' mailboxes.

My mother had a package of these little valentines. One side was a heart or a goopy picture of a puppy, very cheap stuff, the other side was blank, and you folded it closed. We made a valentine for each child in the class. I don't remember exactly how this happened, but I think my mother must have had a class list. I wrote my name on a bunch of cards, folded them in half, then I think my mother wrote kids' names on the front of the cards.

The next day, Valentine's Day, all the kids went around the classroom delivering their cards to each other's mailboxes. Mine was full of cards, tons of kids had given me valentines, which I think surprised me.

There was one boy in the class who only had one valentine, the one from me. If my mother hadn't set up the project the way she did, he would have had none. No one thought of him.

Valentine's Day is an opportunity for millions of people to feel like that boy must have felt that day, only worse. The card companies, the chocolate companies, the jewelry stores, the florists, the restaurants - it's all a huge set-up for people to feel left out and passed over.


happy birthday to charles dickens from eric blair

For reasons unknown, Blogger will not allow me to follow my friend NN's blog for more than a few hours. It insists on dropping Stacked-NYC from my reading list. Because of this, I missed Charles Dickens' 200th birthday!

NN's post reminded me of the excellent essay by George Orwell (call the Squad Squad, the phrase itself is a redundancy) exploring Dickens' staying power and analyzing his politics. Was Dickens a revolutionary? (No.) Did he really love the working class? (Nope.) If Dickens protested the conditions of his day, what did he offer as an alternative? (Be nice.)

I have three writing idols*, and reading one of them write about another is loaded with meaning. I love Dickens, and I love Orwell, and Orwell didn't make me love Dickens any less. But it did help me think about Dickens through a more political lens. And because it was Orwell, it was sparkling clear, perfect prose - brilliantly accessible, totally unpretentious, a bit wry, very warm, witty, generous, kind, moral but not rigid or dogmatic.

Reading Orwell's essays transports me. He is among the greatest writers of the English language. In fact, while I'm reading Orwell, I believe him to be The Greatest Writer I've Ever Read. Not that there is any need to choose such a person or bestow such a title, but while I'm reading an Orwell essay, I feel that he must be, because no one could possibly write better than this stuff I'm drinking in right now. One of my life goals is to read everything Orwell has written. It's a modest goal. Every once in a while, I read another essay, and the sad part will be when I've read the last one.

Although 1984 should be re-read every ten years or so, my favourite Orwell books are nonfiction: The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.

The complete works of George Orwell are online, and if you haven't yet had the pleasure, or if it's been too long, try Shooting An Elephant, Why I Write, and the classic Politics and the English Language.

* John Steinbeck

this week in sexism, or why feminism still matters

In celebration of African American history month, thousands of Texas schoolchildren attended a screening of the film "Red Tails," about the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first black aviators to serve in the US military. Well, thousands of boys did, anyway. Girls were brought to a screening of "Akeelah and the Bee," about an 11-year-old girl who competes in a national spelling bee. A spokesperson for the Dallas Independent School District said the arrangement was made because seating at "Red Tails" was limited, and they thought boys would enjoy the movie more than girls.

Reporters caught up with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, a 94-year-old gentleman named Herbert Carter, for his thoughts on this boys-only screening. Turns out that Herbert Carter's late wife Mildred Carter was also an aviator, and the first black woman to hold a pilot's license in Alabama. Mildred, who died not long ago, wasn't allowed to fly for the military. Good things times have changed. But not too much. When told about the slight to Texas girls, Herbert Carter was "almost speechless".

Read more here.

* * * *

Although the sports world itself has made huge strides against sexism, the world of sports advertising and marketing seems stuck in a Cosmo magazine. A company promoting fantasy baseball - a game where you create your a fictional team from exisiting players, and use real-time stats to match them against other fictional teams - feels female players require a different type of fantasy. This excellent post by Craig Calcaterra explains it so much better than I can.
But a company called A View From My Seat – “In cooperation with CBS Sports Interactive” according to their website — has decided that the reason women don’t play fantasy baseball is because there isn’t enough romance in it. So they’ve decided to change that. By allowing girls — and they specifically say “girls” — to choose their “Baseball Boyfriend”. . . .

The website asks “girls” to go through their “little black book” and pick the handsomest player. Oh, I’m sorry, it asks you to “choose your stud.” How long have you kept a player on your roster? No: it’s “how long you’ve dated him.” If “one man is not enough” it encourages you to play in multiple leagues. The pics from the site have little hearts and stuff around pictures of, um, handsome players like Lance Berkman and Matt Cain. . . .

Guess what: women like baseball. They watch a lot of it. They write about it. They are, increasingly, executives in the game. Every fantasy league I’ve ever played in has had women in it, and they invariably beat the crap out of me (not that that’s hard). Are the numbers where we’d like them? No, because ideally everyone on the planet is doing basebally things. But the disparity between male and female fans is not because baseball is too hard for “girls” to understand or two manly for them to enjoy.

I get what they’re trying to do here. They want to expand the number of people who click where they’d like them to click and are trying a unique approach to get there. But there are certainly better ways to do so than by misguidedly attempting to girly-fy fantasy baseball or to dumb it down. Women do not need to be treated like love-struck teenagers to be drawn in.
This post made me click around to read more by the same writer, and he's a great find.

It's worth reading: Great Moments in Sexism: Who’s your “Baseball Boyfriend?”


(un)lawful access: watch, share, remix, and take action

Last summer I worked as a research assistant on a project about video surveillance in stores, malls and public spaces.* That project was headed by Andrew Clement, an expert in the field of identity, privacy, and surveillance. Andrew co-created this mini-documentary with Kate Milberry, about the so-called "lawful access" legislation being rushed into law by the Harper Government.

Please watch it, share widely, and take action. It is of the utmost importance.

I've posted this petition before, but we all get so many petitions and opportunities to sign letters, I wonder how much of it registers. Please educate yourself about this, sign the petition, and pass it on: Stop Spying.

To get involved, join the campaign.

* A condensed version of our final report was presented as a paper at this year's iConference. It won an award as one of the five best papers of the conference.


tala plays with a grizzly bear cub!

Psyche! Not that Tala! This Tala is a wolf pup, now a full-grown wolf. Watch more inter-species love.

Thanks, James!

action alert: don't privatize canada's national parks, even a little

I meant to include this in my earlier post with various action alerts. It's a bit old, but very important.

Since this organizing started, Parks Canada has agreed to delay their decision to study it further. We should keep up the pressure so they know what the Canadian people want. Privatization is a slippery slope. Every aspect of Parks Canada should remain public and not-for-profit.

From Avaaz:
In days, the Harper Government could privatise a section of Jasper National Park and let an American-owned company blast a 300m metal walkway into our World Heritage mountains -- but Jasper's superintendent has the power to stop them.

The plan would not only spur development, but would give an American company the right to charge each of us for entry into parts of Jasper park. Greg Fenton, a local Jasperite, has the ability to stop the privatisation of the park he grew up in and loves -- but the company's massive lobbying effort means he will face brutal pressure to sell out this natural wonder. Let's send him a tidal wave of support and give him the strength he needs to stand up to corporate power and save our Rocky Mountain sanctuary.

Private international companies should not be profiting off our national treasures. Click here to ensure our parks stay in public hands - sign the petition calling on Fenton to save Jasper National Park before it's too late.

If approved, the 300m metal walkway over the world-famous Icefields Parkway will be built by Brewster Canada -- a premium travel company that is an 80% owned subsidiary of the American-based company VIAD. Both are fully profit-driven companies that value their bottom line over the preservation of our natural heritage. Though the initial development project is small, this decision sets a dangerous precedent, allowing the government to sell off pieces of our most valuable and beautiful landscape.

VIAD and Brewster have hired expensive heavyweight lobbyists to win over the Harper Government and Jasper National Park. But our voices, brought together from across Canada, can drown out the dangerous message coming from these corporate lobbyists.

Our call only needs to reach Greg Fenton, the Park’s Superintendent and the person who has the final say on the approval of the project. With thousands of Canadians pounding on the door of Fenton’s office already, this is our chance to ensure that Jasper does not set a precedent allowing commercial operators to convert our National Parks into profit-making attractions.

Avaaz has fought hard to protect our natural environment by campaigning on climate change, whaling and protecting our oceans -- now we can come together to save our parks from corporate ownership.
More info:

Parks Canada: Jasperite, Greg Fenton, returns home to become superintendent of Jasper National Park

Calgary Herald: National Parks - and the views - belong to Canadians

The Fitzhugh: Feedback Deadline Looms, Decision Expected Next Month

Sign here.

action alerts on physical environment and digital environments

My inbox is flooded with action alerts from all different groups, which I feel obligated to pass on, even though many (most?) people who read this blog probably get these petitions through multiple sources. So in the spirit of just in case...

David Suzuki asks:
If a panel of doctors told you to take better care of your health, would you listen? Ten leading marine scientists with the Royal Society of Canada just told Canada to take care of its oceans before it’s too late.

Let’s make sure our government listens to its doctors.

With the budget speech just weeks away, now is the time to tell Finance Minster Jim Flaherty that our oceans desperately need proper investment. Rising ocean temperatures and increased salinity in certain areas are just two of the serious threats they face.

In last year’s budget speech, the government promised to create six new marine parks by 2012. That hasn’t happened yet, and they only have 10 months left to meet their commitment.

Join the thousands of Canadians telling the government to listen to its doctors and honour its commitments to the oceans.

• From OpenMedia:
The Big Three are ripping us off and using the money to manipulate Canadians and the government.

As we’ve been saying, the Big Three cell phone companies have a plan to price-gouge Canadians by shutting out small competitors1. Now they’re unleashing a misinformation campaign to muzzle your voice.

For example,

1. Rogers recently bought and paid for a trumped-up study that wrongly implies Canadians (you) can afford to pay more for telecom services.

2. Rogers just took to the courts to argue that Canada’s false advertising rules violate the telecom giant’s freedom of expression! This after being caught red-handed and fined $10,000,000 dollars for misleading cell phone advertising.

Will you let them get away with it?

With these two acts of extreme arrogance, Rogers has demonstrated that they will go to ridiculous lengths to tighten their stranglehold on communications and raise prices.

Some say mobile is the future of the Internet and communications. We have to stop the Big Three from creating a command and control communications market with tight contracts, content controls, price-gouging overage fees, and disrespectful customer service.

The government could make a decision on this at any moment. Sign the Stop The Squeeze petition now.
• If you haven't already, please sign and circulate this letter opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

• This is not a quick action click, but something to read and possibly be involved with, from OpenMedia, endorsed by Leadnow.
Canada has a digital deficit. We’re falling behind other countries in essential areas of our digital economy: Our Internet is slower and more restricted, both mobile and wired access to the web are more expensive, and much of our content is beholden to a handful of huge media conglomerates. In short, Canada is lagging in the four key areas of our digital economy (speed, openness, affordability, content).

We at OpenMedia.ca have engaged with all of these key areas but one: content. When it comes to content, we’ll need to find new and inventive ways to support our content creators. If left unchecked, the digital deficit will be bad for our economy, bad for innovation, and just plain bad for our country.

When OpenMedia.ca and our allies started to think about what resources we could use to close the gap on our digital divide, one uniquely Canadian solution rose to the fore: This month, we launched a new project to “reimagine the CBC”. We hope you’ll be part of the conversation today at Reimagine CBC.

The CBC can help end our digital deficit, and put Canada back on the map as a leader. We know, thanks to a recent report, that for every dollar invested in the CBC, the economy gets $4 back.

What’s more, the CBC is the only major media network that is independent from the big phone and cable companies. And since the CBC receives public funding to meet its social mandate, we have a much greater opportunity to influence it.

The time is right. The CBC is in the process of conducting a major strategic review both internally and through outside regulators. The question is who will shape that change. We think you should. We’ll bring the best ideas to the CBC, and together we’ll work with decision-makers to turn your ideas into reality.

Now is the time to confront the challenges we face, celebrate what we have, and create the future together. Now is the time to reimagine the CBC.

Join a community of Canadians working to revitalize this platform, and make it yours!

That's it for now. I hope you clicked and shared!

shadow art of a higher magnitude, by tim noble and sue webster

Isn't this amazing? Many other wild shadow creations by Tim Noble and Sue Webster can be seen on a slideshow on Environmental Graffiti and on this Daily Mail story. BuzzFeed brings us examples of shadow art by several artists. This is by Larry Kagan.

Thanks to @ImpStrump.


get ready to fight: fetal rights debate coming soon to canada's parliament

In case you missed it:
Tory MP Stephen Woodworth wants human rights for unborn children

A Conservative MP is defying his party’s leadership with a move to rewrite Canadian laws to extend human rights to unborn children.

Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth is taking aim at a section of the Criminal Code that defines a child as a human being only when it can breathe on its own and is severed from the umbilical cord. He says the law was first drafted in Britain in the 1700s but is based on “limited medical knowledge” that needs to be updated.

“Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings. Nothing justifies it,” he told reporters Monday.

Woodworth filed a motion in the House of Commons asking for a special committee to review medical evidence about when a child can be considered a human being separate from the mother. He also wants that committee of seven Tory MPs, four New Democrats and one Liberal to examine the legal impact of denying full human rights to an unborn child. ...
Even the Canada Press headlines are biased against reproductive rights. "Unborn children" is a judgment. A prospective parent may refer to their pregnancy that way, but the media should be using the correct word: fetus.

Stephen Harper has promised to not re-open the abortion debate in Canada. He can appear to keep his promise while allowing his backbenchers to do the dirty work of driving this wedge, letting the Prime Minister appear more moderate. Do we really believe a control-freak like Harper isn't orchestrating this from behind the curtain?

Remember, vehement anti-choicers hold positions of great power inside The Harper GovernmentTM.

Heather Mallick:
The most dire word in the English language is “committee.” I know, you thought it was “empowered” or “B√ľndchen.” But it is committee, particularly a “special” one you join or come up with, especially when the Prime Minister, the canniest man in Canada, is out of town in China for like a total week and you are an MP and you want a fast decision on when human life begins.

Yes, you are Conservative Kitchener-Centre MP Stephen Woodworth, born and raised in Kitchener where you lawyered for 30 years before heading to the big city to regulate the lives of women and end abortions.


mcdonald's is not healthy for pit bulls and other living things

In case you missed it, the marketing geniuses at McDonald's thought it was cute to promote their latest concoction of fat, salt, sugar, and unpronounceable ingredients as being healthier than petting a dog. But not just any dog.
Trying a brand new menu item at McDonald's isn't risky. You know what's risky? Petting a stray pit bull.

Hear for yourself.

Pit bull lovers - especially those with rescued strays - were not amused. According to Eater.com, a petition was mounted, and McDonald's quickly pulled the ad and issued an apology.

Here are a few of the many creative responses from pit bull lovers, featuring many beautiful, happy dogs.

Perhaps McDonald's will eventually offend everyone in the world. There will be a global boycott, and the purveyor of unhealthy food, environmental destruction, cultural homogenization, and crappy jobs will disappear.


follow-up: dumping zip and dumping rogers!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the recent "help me get rid of zip" discussion, both on wmtc and by email. And thanks to CNET, for this video! I started out asking about movies, but ended up with so much more. Goodbye, Rogers! Whoo-hoo!

So many friends and readers have told me they've cancelled cable TV service, but we weren't able to do that: we needed cable for baseball. And we also subscribed to MLBTV online. I hated the redundancy, but there was no other way to have baseball both at home and for Allan at work (where he watches three games each week). But thanks to you all, we've done it.

So here's what we have:

1. I've already cancelled Rogers cable and internet! I had already dumped Rogers for cell phone service, getting more for my money with Wind. So now I am Rogers-free.

2. Later this month, (at the time suggested by friendly, helpful customer service rep) I will order TekSavvy cable-modem internet service.

3. We will purchase a Roku, through which (we are told) we can stream MLBTV onto our TV, and which will eventually support Netflix Canada and other streaming services. If that doesn't work for some reason, we'll get a PlayStation3 for the same purpose.

4. We continue to subscribe to MLBTV, as we always have.

5. One-time expenses for Roku purchase, any necessary adaptors, and TekSavvy modem.

6. I'll subscribe to Netflix Canada when it's available on Roku, because for the low price, why not have the option.

7. I'm also subscribing to Cinemail, a low-budget version of Zip, with friendly service and a wide range of plans, so that I can continue to subscribe in the spring and summer at a lower level, then bump up to the higher level in the winter.

8. When I cancel Zip in April as always, I will not re-subscribe in the fall.

We gain:

1. No more paying for cable TV! Wow! An entire bill disappears!

2. No more paying extra for baseball on cable TV!

3. No more giving money to over-priced media giant!

4. We will pay slightly less for internet, and will lose the 95GB cap. The cap will now be 300GB (and if you go over, which is tough to do, it's only $0.50 per GB).

5. I can rent movies all year, because we're no longer paying for the baseball cable package, and because Cinemail has cheaper plans.

We lose:

1. Red Sox games when they play the Blue Jays, which are available on cable TV but subject to local blackouts on MLBTV. It's only a handful of games a year, plus Allan is blacked out at work anyway. We'll listen to them on the radio (which I really enjoy). No biggie.

2. I will have to watch Coronation Street online.

3. My half-hour of TV before bed, a lifetime habit of how I fall asleep. Not sure what will happen with that, but I know I'm not paying for cable TV just to watch re-runs of The Simpsons.

And that's it. Allan doesn't watch any TV. My TV watching is very minimal. And now it's over.

* * * *

Movie season may be a bit more challenging, a combination of Cinemail, the library, streaming Netflix, and borrowed DVDs. But I've had it with Zip.

We still have to hook up the streaming-to-TV thing, but we have two months to work that out, plus at the minimum, we can certainly watch on our netbooks.

Predictably, when I called Rogers to cancel, they offered me all kinds of promotions to try to get me to stay, including a deep discount on TV. That just makes me more pissed off and determined to leave. As you know, I hate haggling.

photos from quebec trip on flickr

Our photos from Quebec City, dogsledding and Montreal are on Flickr. There turned out to be more decent dogsledding photos than I thought.

The city photos are just a few details here there, on our little point-and-shoot camera. Nothing spectacular, but if you're interested:

Quebec City



pupdate with good news

It's been a long time since I've updated you on Tala's condition. She's made a lot of progress! In short: more activity + less medication = happier dog = happier mommy.

You'll recall that when Tala's spine condition first came to light, we had to keep her on total exercise restriction, only going outside to relieve herself. We were also supposed to keep her completely restricted - crated - in the house, but we never went that far. No stairs, no dog park, no long walks. Not a lot of fun.

At first, every time we tried to increase her activity, pain and lameness returned. But eventually we were able to gradually increase her activity, one tiny increment at a time. Two five-minute walks a day... we would keep her at that level for two weeks... then two ten-minute walks a day... and so on.

We also went through a long process of trying different medications - and different combinations of different types of meds - to find the best combinations and lowest thresholds she could manage. By last December, Tala was managing two 15-minute walks a day, plus the occasional longer walk, plus indoor play with Diego.

Then over my winter break, I tried letting her play off-leash with Diego in the backyard - just a little - every day. And it seems to be fine. You can imagine how great it makes me feel to see them romp around together! For a few minutes a day, it's like old times. Even more recently, we've reduced her medication, also with no ill effects. Yay, yay, yay.

We also came up with a new configuration for Tala's outdoor life. Check this out.

When the injury first came to light, before she was even diagnosed, we didn't want to leave her inside while we all hung out in the backyard, so we brought her crate outside.

Diego wouldn't leave her side. Even if we threw a ball for him, he'd fetch it, then lie down beside the crate again. So sweet!

When it was apparent that this was not a temporary condition, friends lent us a exercise pen.

And then a second set of friends lent us another ex-pen, and we put them together for some nicer digs. Hooray for dog-loving friends!

As winter approached, I started thinking about what snow would mean to this arrangement, and came up with this idea: we stretched the two ex-pens out in full, cordoning off a section of the backyard at its narrowest point (trees on one side, garage on the other).

Now we can let Tala out of the house without having to bring her out to her pen and we can let both dogs out together. She has more freedom, but she's still protected from charging out after squirrels at top speed.

This also has the additional advantage of skunk protection. After the dogs got skunked four or five times (I actually lost count!), I decided enough is enough. Now we can still be lazy late at night - letting them out instead of putting them on the leash - but they can't run off into the dark reaches of the yard and surprise any critters.

More recent photos of Tala and Diego on Flickr: here.