buy nothing day: support striking walmart workers near you

One more paper plus one fundraiser for the Children's Book Bank will equal one more term behind me.

Until then, I leave you with this excellent image of cultural imperialism, from The New Internationalist: another kind of D-Day.

Today, occupiers all over the US will be honouring Buy Nothing Day by supporting the courageous workers of OUR Walmart, who are demanding a living wage, full-time work for those who want it, and the ability to exercise their right to organize free of harassment and intimidation.

You can stop by an OUR Walmart event to support the striking workers: a list of actions is here. And if you are shopping today, please keep those low, low prices - and those even lower labour standards - off your list.

Seattle Walmart Strike


two pieces of good news: a ceasefire in gaza, and the megaquarry is stopped

Facing enormous and sustained public opposition, the company behind the Melancthon megaquarry has backed down. This is an enormous victory for the environment and the forces of reason - a victory of the people over profits.

And the air strikes on Gaza ends with a brokered ceasefire. I'm amazed and very relieved.

friday in the u.s.: support walmart workers

This Friday, on the biggest shopping day of the year (also known as International Buy Nothing Day), hundreds of courageous Walmart workers will stand up to their bullying employer and demand their right to organize, free of retaliation.

The workers of Organization United for Respect at Walmart - OUR Walmart - already have begun striking and demonstrating at Walmarts in 23 states. On Friday, November 23, the day after US Thanksgiving, strikes, pickets, and in-store actions will take place at Walmart stores throughout the United States.

Walmart workers have been organizing to fight oppressive conditions in their workplace, and Walmart - the single biggest employer in the US, after the military - has been harassing and intimidating them. Now these workers are exposing Walmart's illgeal retaliatory practices and standing up for their right to organize.

You can help!

1. Don't shop at Walmart! And especially don't shop at Walmart on Friday, November 23.

2. Sign the declaration of support for the workers of OUR Walmart.

3. Read the stories of Walmart workers who have come together to share information and organize themselves.

4. Join the movement and find out what you can do locally to support Walmart workers.

These workers are very brave, standing up to their behemoth of an employer during very difficult economic times. Their fight is every worker's fight. Please do what you can.

saturday across canada: end the siege of gaza

This Saturday, across Canada and around the world, people will gather to condemn Israel's massacre of Gaza. The call:
Stop Israel's war on Gaza!
Stop the killing. End the blockade. Free Palestine. Support BDS.

In Toronto:
Rally & March
Saturday, November 24 at 2:00 p.m.
Israeli Consulate, 180 Bloor Street West
TTC: St. George or Museum

For listings across Canada, see the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Facebook event

The Canadian government has failed to condemn Israel's latest attack on Gaza. Instead, it provides Israel with the military, economic and diplomatic support necessary to carry out its acts of aggression. We call on all people of conscience to join the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel until it complies with international law.

And on Saturday, please join us for a city-wide rally and march in solidarity with Gaza. Tell Stephen Harper and the Canadian government: end your support for Israel's war. Show the people of Gaza and all of Palestine that we stand in solidarity with them.

Organized by:

Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Peace Alliance
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada
Palestine House
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

More information:

Mainstream media fails to report on atrocities against Gaza
Ten things you need to know about Gaza
Top ten myths about Israeli attack on Gaza
Counting bodies in Gaza: This is what Israeli 'self-defense' looks like
As Israel assaults Gaza, BBC reporting assaults the truth
Gaza situation report, November 19: United Nations Relief and Works Agency
In photos: Israel attacks Gaza


a good-news, bad-news update: buddha, the brockways, and iraq war resisters in canada

Last month, I took a little road trip with a few friends from the War Resisters Support Campaign, to welcome a new baby and meet a new dog. This nice little visit would be unremarkable - if it weren't completely incredible. We visited the Brockway family.

Not that long ago, no one from the Campaign had met Jeremy Brockway. An Iraq War veteran, Jeremy suffered from severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD. He was unable to leave his room. He rarely shared a meal with his family or spent any time with his children. (More background: here and here.)

After hearing Ashlea Brockway speak in a Port Colborne church, Bruce Beyer, a peace activist and Vietnam-era war resister, connected the Brockways with a therapist. This doctor is himself a veteran who once struggled with PTSD. At no cost, on his own time, the doctor worked with the Brockways via Skype. And so began the gradual return to life of this wounded veteran and his young family.

Ashlea read a story about service dogs for people with PTSD and did some research. The War Resisters Support Campaign helped with some seed money, and before long, our fundraising efforts began. Allan picked up the story on his blog, and Joy of Sox readers gave generously. Now Buddha is a certified service dog and a member of the Brockway family. Jeremy and Buddha go everywhere together. And Jeremy and Ashlea and their children are a family again.

And so, on that sunny day in October, my friends and I met three Brockways for the first time - baby Alden, canine Buddha, and loving dad and husband, Jeremy. Alden is beautiful, Buddha is adorable, Ashlea is amazing, and the family is altogether wonderful.

I thought a camera would be intrusive, so this is a photo Ashlea sent.

That's the good news.

The bad news is the Brockways don't know what will happen to the life that they've struggled to build. That's the big question that hangs over this family - and all US war resisters in Canada. What will happen to them?

Ashlea and Jeremy Brockway have three children, and Jeremy is in treatment for a serious condition. But will that be enough for the Harper Government to show compassion, to respect Canadian tradition, and let them stay?

Recent history offers an answer: war resister Kimberly Rivera is being held at Fort Carson, Colorado, awaiting court martial, while her husband and their four children are in Texas. The Riveras were forced to leave Canada by a heartless government that has abandoned Canada's tradition of giving refuge to people fleeing unjust wars.

But the Brockways' struggle continues. Their case is still pending. Many other US war resisters also wait for an answer to this question.

None of us know what will happen to U.S. war resisters in Canada. But I know one thing: the fight is not over.


in mississauga: a people's history of the war of 1812

The Harper Government has spent nearly $30 million promoting The War of 1812, all part of its overall effort to re-brand Canada as a "warrior nation". History is always worth remembering, but who tells the story? What's emphasized and what's forgotten?

Was Canadian identity forged on the battlefields of 1812? Did farmers and other working people support the war, or resist it? Who profited from the war?

Come hear a different perspective: "A People's History of the War of 1812," an antidote to Harper's glorification of war, featuring John Bell.

Progressive people living in Etobicoke, Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton, and vicinity, I hope you'll attend what promises to be an interesting and thought-provoking event.

WHEN: Thursday, December 13, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Mississauga Central Library, 301 Burnhamthorpe West (at Square One), Room CL-3

This event is free. Parking in the garage under the library is free after 6:00 p.m.

in toronto: a fundraiser for iraq war resisters, featuring noah richler

The War Resisters Support Campaign presents "TELLING OUR STORY: A Fundraiser for U.S. Iraq War Resisters", at Innis College Town Hall in Toronto, Friday, December 7, at 7:00 p.m. This very special evening features author Noah Richler reading from his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About War. There will also be a sneak preview of the upcoming film "Peace Has No Borders," about the struggles of US war resisters in Canada, a performance by the Common Thread Choir, and other special guests.

Advance tickets are available on a sliding scale, with a suggested donation of $20 or whatever you can afford.

As you know, the Harper Government turned a deaf ear to the massive public support for US war resister Kimberly Rivera, and forced her and her family to leave Canada. Kim is now being held at Fort Carson, Colorado, while her husband and four children are in Texas. It's a heartbreaking situation, one that we must lay at the feet of our own government. Many more US war resisters are at risk for the same treatment, and the War Resisters Support Campaign intends to continue mobilizing on their behalf.

We need your support to continue our efforts. Please consider purchasing advance tickets to "TELLING OUR STORY: A Fundraiser for U.S. Iraq War Resisters" by contacting me or the WRSC. If you can't attend, you can purchase a ticket to sponsor someone else. Hope to see you there.


pollitt: when "pro-life" kills: honour savita's memory with a donation to help other irish women

Who is more valuable, a living woman or a dying fetus? The Catholic Church has given its answer, and Savita Halapannavar is dead. If this was Islam, we’d never hear the end of it.

Follow developments, including notifications about protests and demonstrations, at #savita.

Help Irish women now: Every year thousands of Irish women travel to the UK for abortion care. Between travel, accommodations, lost wages and childcare, the expense can be prohibitive. The Abortion Support Network offers help with funding, information, and a place to stay. Honor Savita’s memory by donating what you can.
Read the column here.

The Abortion Support Network is the brainchild of my friend Mara Clarke, my former partner with the Haven Coalition.


death by anti-choice: irish woman, denied termination during spontaneous miscarriage, dies

This is what no access to safe and legal abortion looks like.
Two investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month.

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

The dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on the 28th.
Totally preventable. Totally unacceptable.

it's open season on wyoming wolves: please help end the slaughter

Please watch this 45-second video, then sign a letter a to Ken Salazar, US Secretary of the Interior.

Your click may or may not save the lives of wolves. But not clicking will surely allow the killing to continue. Sign here.

sam gordon, girls playing football, and the last bit of segregation we still tolerate

In case you haven't seen this yet, it's 9-year-old football sensation Sam Gordon, the only girl on her Utah football team. Dave Zirin raises the question: why do we assume gender segregation in sports is necessary? The historical perspective, plus the more recent rethinking of the binary nature of gender, opens new vistas.
Few 9-year-old girls are described as a “young—very young—Walter Payton.” But that’s what people are calling Sam Gordon of South Jordan, Utah. Gordon has become an Internet sensation after the spread of viral videos showing her shredding Pee Wee football defenses with a series of dynamic touchdown runs.

The footage of Gordon has been passed around breathlessly but almost as a YouTube curio, like she’s the 2012 version of the “dramatic chipmunk” or “sneezing panda”.

Her rather overwhelming awesomeness, however, raises far more interesting questions: Why do we still segregate so much of youth sports based on gender? Does the practice of doing so actually stunt female athletic potential? Would ending gender segregation foster a higher level of athletic excellence? The early women’s rights activists certainly thought so. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in a women’s issues magazine, The Lily, “We cannot say what the woman might be physically, if the girl were allowed all the freedom of the boy, in romping, swimming, climbing, playing ball.”
Zirin muses: "The future of sports could be a beautiful, life-affirming safe-space or it could be an anchor on human progress." Read more here.

european general strike: "end this downward spiral"

Four European workers explain why their union is participating in the general strike: "Why we are striking against austerity in Europe" in The Guardian.

In many sectors, union "leadership", content to settle for crumbs, were dragged along by the organized rank and file. Even among unionized employees, there is no substitute for self-organization, no shortcuts to liberation.


n14: european general strike!

In a few hours, people all over Europe will wake up and begin their days. Many will find it difficult to get anywhere or do anything. Many more will not report to work or school, and will instead take to the streets.

November 14, 2012 will mark a historic European-wide general strike against austerity and economic insecurity.
What makes Wednesday’s strike even more threatening to Europe’s managerial elite is the strong support it is receiving from traditional labor groups that rarely send their members into the streets — foremost, among them, the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 85 labor organizations from 36 countries, and totaling some 60 million members. “We have never seen an international strike with unions across borders fighting for the same thing—it’s not just Spain, not just Portugal, it’s many countries demanding that we change our structure,” says Alberto Garz√≥n, a Spanish congressman with the United Left party which holds 7% of seats in the Spanish Congress. “It’s important to understand this is a new form of protest.”

The strike is expected to cause near or total shutdowns of the four most debt-battered countries—Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece—as all major unions march to oppose devastating cuts in salaries, pensions, benefits and social services, meanwhile protesting tax hikes and harsh labor reforms. There will be solidarity marches elsewhere. Though not formally striking, France’s largest labor groups signaled support with dozens of demonstrations planned nationwide. Rail workers in Belgium are striking; so are labor groups in Malta and Cyprus. In Britain, organizer Andrew Burgin of the Coalition of Resistance said marches and demonstrations there would “forge links across Europe, showing Britain’s austerity struggles as part of a pan-European, international movement.” And from Germany and Switzerland to Turkey, eastern Europe and Scandinavia, workers and many organizations have promised to rally around the single message: No to austerity.
#N14: Europeanstrike.org

thank you, senator harb: help end the commercial seal hunt

Canadian Senator Mac Harb has been fighting for many years to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada. I admire him and his struggle, which must be lonely at times, and at the moment has little to no official support.

The Canadian commercial seal hunt is a shameful waste of life that contributes very little (if at all) to the economy of Atlantic Canada. It is a vestige of a bygone era, and it should be retired along with the specious arguments propping it up. Despite claims to the contrary, abolishing the seal hunt will not harm aboriginal sustenance hunters, as their native status exempts them from laws governing commercial fishing and sealing.

Evidence against the commercial seal hunt continues to pile up. Most recently, a landmark study concluded that the seal hunt is "inherently inhumane", and cannot be altered to conform with acceptable animal-welfare standards.
"Canada’s commercial seal hunt does not occur in a controlled environment. Rather, it happens far offshore where high winds and ocean swells, low temperatures and visibility, and unstable sea ice are common elements,” said British veterinarian Andrew Butterworth, DVM. “The evidence shows that these factors, paired with the speed at which the killing must occur due to economic and safety pressures, prevent consistent and effective application of humane slaughter methods in the Canadian commercial seal hunt.”

“I have studied the Canadian seal hunt extensively, and concluded that it is an inherently inhumane activity because of the environment in which it operates and the speed at which the killing happens,” said Canadian veterinarian Mary Richardson, DVM. “What is clear is that climate change is actually exacerbating the situation, by altering the physical environment in which sealers work. The decrease in sea ice cover in recent years is likely increasing instances in which seals are shot at in open water, wounded and left to suffer, and impaled on gaffs and dragged onto vessels while conscious. These are all situations in which seals suffer significantly."
I remain convinced that the commercial seal hunt's years are numbered. Eventually it will go the way of fox hunting in the UK, another long-standing tradition of animal torture that is now illegal, to be joined one day by bullfighting. The European Union has already wisely banned trade in commercial seal products, and there are other signs that the hunt is waning. Supporters of the commercial seal hunt are on the wrong side of history.

The Harper government lies about the commercial seal hunt and tries to demonize animal welfare activists as dangerous extremists. In other words, they do what they do.

And Senator Mac Harb continues to fight for common sense and animal welfare, swimming upstream against Canadian politics, but refusing to go away. Those of us involved in the struggle to keep US Iraq War resisters in Canada can easily imagine how he might feel.

Here's the latest update on the Harb Seal Bill, Bill S-210.
Dear Friends,

On October 16th, I delivered a speech in the Senate on the need to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada as part of the ongoing debate on my Bill S-210. We worked hard to put forth the rational, factual arguments in favour of moving those involved in this industry into better economic opportunities.

However, the Conservative response on S-210 reveals the sorry state of leadership on this file. Misleading claims that sealers make 35% of their annual income from the seal hunt (meaning that east coast fishers who made an average $1000 in recent hunts would be bringing home a grand total of $3,000 per year) and a continued failure to acknowledge that the market for seal products is gone and not coming back, symbolize the Conservatives’ stubborn refusal to accept and work with the facts facing the commercial sealing industry.

The Conservatives’ continued attacks on Canadians who are opposed to the hunt, and on animal welfare groups in particular, shows how out of touch the government is and how desperately it is trying to hide its own lack of long-term management plans for the seals and the larger fishery. The government is not listening to Canadians, it is not helping sealers and it is not helping our northern and aboriginal sealers who need their support. Canadians deserve better.

Please keep up the great work letting Senators know that you support our efforts to end the commercial seal hunt and to move those affected into profitable, viable economic opportunities.


Hon. Senator Mac Harb
You can write a letter in support of the Harb Seal Bill: go here. HSI Canada has several ideas on how you can add your voice to the fight to end the commercial seal hunt, whether you live in Canada, the EU, or the US: go here.

You can also read more of what Senator Harb has to say, subscribe to his blog, and join his cause.

And finally, for a short summary of the arguments in support of the commercial seal hunt, you might read comments on my first post about Canadian seal slaughter, from April 2005, months before we moved here.


talk me out of buying a new blackberry (if you can)

I need a new phone. My Blackberry Curve is dying. I had to replace my original Blackberry Curve when the cursor starting jumping around (a known issue), while it was still under warranty. However, the replacement phone doesn't come with a new warranty! (That is the trend in these times of planned obsolescence.) So I have to pay off my tab contract and replace the damn thing.

It seems that no one is buying Blackberrys these days, because RIM is floundering, and because iPhones and other touch-screen phones are the in thing. But I really like my Blackberry. Here's why.
- I strongly prefer using a real keyboard, not an onscreen keyboard.
- I like how easily it syncs with my computer.
- I have a serious dislike for using touch-screens.
- Some new smartphones use a stylus! A return to outdated technology, in my view.
- I've already added memory for music, so I could use the same card.
- I can get a Blackberry for next to nothing with my Wind account.

But maybe I shouldn't. Are there good reasons not to get another Blackberry?



Today's revolutionary thought of the day brought to you by one of the world's more famous revolutionaries.
A bayonet is a tool with a worker at both ends.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

remembrance day: 11 anti-war songs for 11.11

Many artists and bands have recorded anti-war songs, and they're not always those associated with protest. Here are 11 songs that decry the deceit, corruption, and futility of war.

1. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye

2. Generals and Majors - Andy Partridge (XTC)

3. Welcome to the Occupation - REM

4. The Call Up - Joe Strummer, Mick Jones (The Clash)

5. Wargasm - Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner (L7)

6. 99 Luftballons (99 Red Balloons) - Fahrenkrog-Petersen / Karges / McAlea (Nena)

7. And the Band Played Waltzin' Matilda - Eric Bogle (The Pogues)

8. The Words that Maketh Murder - P J Harvey

9. Self Evident - Ani DiFranco

10. Rich Man's War - Steve Earle

And number 11, one of the most enduring peace and justice songs ever written: Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan

Limiting myself to 11, I omitted powerful anti-war songs by Black Sabbath, Jynkz, Phil Ochs, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Green Day, and so many more. Please post yours below.


remembrance day: all the victims of war, not just the ones who did the killing

Richard Jackson:
I would wear a red poppy if it was a symbol of remembrance for all the victims of war, and not just the ones who did the killing. By excluding the non-military victims of war from remembrance, the red poppy upholds a moral hierarchy of worthy and unworthy victims: the heroic soldier who is worthy of respect and official commemoration, and the unworthy, unnamed civilians killed or maimed by the heroic soldier who remains unacknowledged and unremembered...

I would wear a red poppy if it did not function to hide the truth and obscure reality...

I would wear a red poppy if its fund-raising and symbolism had the true interests of the military personnel it purports to support at heart...

I would wear a red poppy if...
Read this excellent piece here.

remembrance day: not denial and distortion, not spin and propaganda

David Watts:
So despite the popular rallying "for King and country," the outbreak of war in 1914 was not a coming together but a coming apart of a European order. Unlike in 1939 when there was belated admission that a unified effort was needed to stop Nazi aggression, the 1914 road to hostilities had a random pattern of breakdown. And when the war ended in 1918, the breakdown of the old order was complete.

The empires of Britain and France were severely crippled. Four other empires were destroyed and the regimes that ultimately replaced them were more menacing than what had existed before. Italy and Germany fell under dictators whose policies led to another world war. Russia came under Bolshevist rule, leading to the Cold War. The Turkish empire was replaced by increased Western involvement in the Middle East with results that include militant Islamism, the Arab-Israeli struggle and the regimes in Libya and Syria. These, and not freedom and democracy, were results of the Great War that ended on Nov. 11, 1918.

How then shall we commemorate that day, 94 years and several wars later? Not by reciting slogans that no longer have meaning. Not by staging another exercise in spin and propaganda that perpetuates the mindless drift that led to that conflict. These are not remembrance but denial and distortion of what happened.

The greatest acts of re-membering are those that take seriously the bringing together of a body in an affirmation of wholeness. This is what Gandhi tried to do on the Indian sub-continent. This is what Nelson Mandela did in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. And this is what happens when Axis and Allied fighting men meet on former battlegrounds, and veterans and war resisters meet to transcend old divisions.
Read it here.

remembrance day: one man's view in memory of his father, a veteran

John Bell:
When I was a little boy, my brothers and I were rummaging through boxes of old, packed-away stuff in our basement, and came across what we thought was a treasure trove: a sealed package containing shiny silver medals and a pin in the shape of wings, a white silk scarf, a leather flying helmet and photos of my dad in his youth. He looked like a young Clark Gable with his pencil thin mustache, wearing a leather jacket with lamb’s wool collar. The wings pin was on his chest, and the white scarf around his neck. He was standing in front of the propeller of a Spitfire fighter plane.

There was one more thing in the box, a record in a plain white paper sleeve discoloured by the years. . . . .

Today I will not wear the red poppy. I wear the peace symbol instead. I actively oppose the war in Afghanistan. As long as I breathe I will oppose all war. I owe it to Cpl. Langridge, I owe it to my father and I owe it to myself.
Read it here.

harper's support for veterans: wear a poppy. do nothing else.

The Harper Government says that supporting US Iraq War resisters dishonours Canadian veterans. But most war resisters are veterans, and we call on the government to recognize and respect their basic human rights.

So how does the Harper Government support veterans? By wearing poppies on their lapels! What, isn't that enough? They also cheer when a family is torn apart and forced out of Canada. Because cruelty to an Iraq War veteran who now supports peace equals support for the Canadian forces. No?

These Canadian veterans feel they deserve more. From The National Post, Canada's most conservative newspaper:
Disabled veterans, widows slam Harper government ahead of Remembrance Day

Disabled veterans and military widows are unleashing a broadside of frustration against the Harper government just before Remembrance Day, saying they’re feeling abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

They have gathered on Parliament Hill to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority.

Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled, complained retired master corporal Dave Desjardins, who is paralyzed from the waist down.

Desjardins said he was proud to serve his country.

“What I’m not proud of, however, is how our government officials and senior military leadership can look directly into the camera (and) speak to the Canadian public about honouring our veterans at this time of year with implied conviction when they’ve clearly turned their back on us and continue to demonstrate (that) on a daily basis,” said Desjardins.

He challenged Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney to look him in the eye “and tell me you really care.”

The government recently threw its weight behind a so-called “helmets-to-hardhats” program, which aids ex-soldiers get into the construction industry — a wonderful resource for someone without physical limitations, said Desjardins.

A number of officials “in expensive suits” are on the record as saying there are a number of opportunities for disabled veterans, but Desjardins said many of the head hunters discriminate in favour of officers, leaving non-commissioned members out in the cold.

“I’m here to ask those suits one simple question: Show me. Show me where those opportunities and jobs are — and I’m not just asking for myself, I'm also asking for the hundreds of other disabled veterans across Canada.”

Tracy Kerr, wife of a triple amputee who fought in Afghanistan, said she and her family have battled for years to get basic needs, such as a lift to get her husband in and out of the bathtub.

“I’ve travelled seven hours to speak to the public about how we’re struggling,” said Kerr, from Sudbury, Ont., her eyes filling with tears as she spoke.

“I just want a quality of life, happiness for my family and when we make requests for his needs, to get them.”

Jackie Girouard, whose husband was killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar in 2006, said the families of many soldiers are denied access to the veterans independence program, which helps with yard work and light housekeeping.

She said policies which set time limits on accepting assistance, such as two years for education and job retraining, are insensitive and unrealistic.

“I was with my husband for 31 years, and I make no apologies for how long it took to me to get this far without my husband,” she said.

“They could’ve said to me: ’Jackie, take your time and when you’re ready come see us and we’ll work together to help you achieve you and your family’s goals.’ Those words alone would have demonstrated to me that you care. Those words would have demonstrated to me that you understood and it was not just about money or policies.”

Ex-soldiers say much of the dissatisfaction can be traced back to the 2006 New Veterans Charter, which overhauled the way ex-soldiers are compensated.

For many of the wounded, the government has moved away from a pension-for-life system into a workers compensation-style lump-sum payment, a process that is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit.
Same paper, September 23:
Tories spent more than $750,000 in court battle against veterans’ pension claim

OTTAWA — The Harper government spent $750,462 in legal fees fighting veterans over the clawback of military pensions, documents tabled in Parliament show.

Federal Liberals have been demanding to see a breakdown of Ottawa’s legal costs in the class-action lawsuit launched by veterans advocate Dennis Manuge, of Halifax.

The response was tabled in Parliament last week, but Justice Minister Rob Nicholson refused to release an itemized count, invoking solicitor-client privilege.

Instead, he released a global amount for the lawsuit, which has been dragging its way through the courts since March 2007.

Liberal veterans critic Sean Casey described the legal bill as an “obscene waste of taxpayers’ money.”

In abandoning the legal fight, the government appointed Stephen Toope, the president of the University of British Columbia, to lead negotiations with Manuge’s legal team to arrive at a settlement, including retroactive payments.

The settlement could run as high as $600-million, depending upon how many years back the federal compensation plan will go, say internal government estimates.

Casey said that given the amount of money at stake, he could see the government fighting it tooth and nail — if it had a strong case.

“They had a weak case from the get-go and it was absolutely irresponsible. The responsible thing for them to do was not to force litigation, but to sit down when this problem reared its ugly head and come to a negotiated settlement.”

In siding with veterans last May, Judge Robert Barnes “unreservedly” rejected the government’s arguments.


further thoughts on why i blog: a clarification

My recent post about no longer voting in US elections caused some dismay and upset among some of USian readers. At least one friend interpreted that post as encouraging others not to vote. I was surprised by this - but my friend was surprised that it meant otherwise! It seemed like a clarification was in order.

First of all, I would never try to convince anyone not to vote. For most of my life, the idea of not voting was anathema to me. I would have never considered it. And, in the first few presidential elections in which I was eligible to vote, I voted Democrat, and I didn't agree with people I knew who voted third-party. So I understand all the arguments about voting and about voting Democrat. I know where my USian friends are on these issues, because I've been there.

What's more, the inaction of not voting is not enough. Boycotting the duopoly without working on building a new system, or educating people about alternatives, would be fairly useless. And I am certainly not telling people what to do with their time or how to be politically engaged.

My statement about why I no longer vote in the US is a description, not a prescription. I'm explaining how I feel.

Anywhere from 200 to 700 people a day read this blog. Do most of those readers share my assumptions and my worldview? Or do most of them find my blog a restatement of what they already know? Do some people read wmtc to challenge their own views? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, and I never guess at the answers as I write.

I write about what's on my mind, because the writing process is how I discover clarity. If people like the blog, maybe they'll keep reading. If they don't, they'll (usually) go away. (In some cases, I can only wish they would.) I can't control those things and don't concern myself with them.

In 2008, I wrote this. (Scroll down, there's more.)
Why I Blog

  • I find it an extremely valuable writing discipline. Blogging helps me write every day. Writing every day primes the pump for my life as a writer.

  • It is very useful to write for an audience. Instead of writing in a notebook and ending up with a bunch of half-formed ideas, knowing that someone is reading helps me write more clearly, which means it helps me think more clearly.

  • On the other hand, it is very difficult and time-consuming to get columns or essays published. My work was published before I started blogging, and continues to be. But writing without the need to attract an editor frees me from having to construct a complete, publishable essay tailored to a specific audience.

    Thus, somewhere between the personal notebook of vague ideas and the slaved-over, multi-drafted essay for possible publication, lives my blog post.

  • For self-expression. I have a need to write. I have had this need all my life.

  • To share information I find interesting, noteworthy or valuable.

  • For community. We've met most of our friends in Canada through this blog. Other people have met each other (independent of me) through wmtc.

  • To help people interested in emigrating to Canada. People email me for information all the time. I can't always answer their questions, but I can try to point them in the right direction, and I can at least offer support. Many Canadians were incredibly helpful and supportive to me and Allan in our journey. I try to do the same for others.

  • To learn. I ask questions, I put forth ideas, people of similar viewpoints offer more information and direct me to other sources.

  • To have a record of my experience, first as an emigrant, then as an immigrant, and one day as a Canadian citizen.

    Not Why I Blog

  • To gather a spectrum of viewpoints on a particular topic. Because I don't tolerate all viewpoints and opinions on wmtc, I am frequently criticized for being close-minded. The truth is I see a lot of different viewpoints. I just don't want them on my own blog. It would ruin the experience for me. A new friend of wmtc recently described my blog as a "safe space"; for me that affirmed I was doing the right thing.

  • To debate. I dislike debate for its own sake. I find it tiresome and tiring, a misuse of my limited time and energy. My preferred method of learning is to read and consider. I will read and consider anyone's opinion, but I won't be baited into an argument. When I forget that, I am always sorry.

  • There are hundreds of thousands of blogs and message boards on which people can debate any topic under the sun. Readers seeking that type of experience would do well to avoid wmtc.

  • To bait others into an argument. See above.

  • So that other people can use my blog as a soapbox. And lest any friend of wmtc be paranoid, I welcome long comments from wmtc readers and discussions among readers. I'm referring to people who don't read my blog but think it might be a good place to direct other people to their own blogs, or to spout their opinions on any unrelated topic.

  • For money. I love being paid for my writing, and if blogging helps me land a paying assignment, that's beautiful. But the blog itself has to stay noncommercial in order for it to remain completely independent, and to retain its value to me.

  • Because I have nothing better to do.

  • Now, four years later, I would slightly amend that statement.

  • I'm no longer writing professionally, so I need this blog more than ever. It's my only writing outlet and I can't imagine being without it.

  • I no longer blog about emigrating to Canada. That is over and done with, and my experience isn't very relevant to someone considering or trying to emigrate now. I do still get emails from grateful readers, thanking me for helping them sort through the confusion of immigration information, and showing them it can be done. I treasure those emails. But emigration is no longer a principal motivating factor in my blogging.

    But everything else holds true. You'll note that "to persuade" is not on the "why" list. Here's what I told my skeptical friend.
    I write about what matters to me most, what I'm passionate about, and social justice is a huge part of that. But my writing about social justice doesn't serve a different purpose than my writing about books or travel or my experiences at school. It's just me, what I need to express.

    I do hope my writing is informative and educational (in a broad sense), and if it influences how a reader thinks, that's fine, but my goal is not to influence. I'm never trying to change minds or votes, and my intention is not to challenge people to question their assumptions - not at all.

    . . . . My only writing challenge is my own, to express my thoughts in ways that are both clear and lively - the writer's constant losing battle.
  • 11.04.2012

    rtod: i ain't marching (to the u.s. polls) anymore

    I spent the summer and fall of 2004 working on a Get Out The Vote campaign for the Democrats, not because they were my party of choice, but because I was angry at the prospect of another stolen election, and I wanted to make a difference in the popular vote numbers. After that election was stolen, too, I stopped voting in the US.

    Now, in 2012, voter suppression has reached new depths. If I still lived in the US, I don't know if I'd vote Green or not at all. Voting Green can be seen as a protest against the duopoly, and it shows support for a progressive agenda. Voting for any candidate can be seen as an endorsement of the rigged system.

    I am entitled to vote in the US election by absentee ballot, but I choose not to engage in that pointless bit of theatre.

    One problem with voting is the widely held assumption, seldom questioned, that voting is engagement with the political system - that it's a form of activism. Voting (when the system is fair and not rigged) is certainly very important. But it is also insufficient. For me, the heartbreak of the Obama era is not his capitulation to corporate and military interests, as I never expected anything else, but the terrible squandering of political engagement.

    Vast amounts of time and energy were put into electing Obama, then most US progressives sat back and waited for change. Had even half of that effort been put into building a truly progressive movement, it might have made a difference. Change doesn't come from the top down. There has never been and never will be a progressive change in law that did not emanate from a sustained people's movement, one that finally succeeds in dragging along the elected so-called leaders. John F. Kennedy is known as the civil rights President, because the movement that began after World War II, struggled throughout the 1950s, and was finally noticed by the white media in the early 1960s, managed to overcome Kennedy's dread of alienating the white Southern vote.

    When I put my recent post about abortion rights in the US on Facebook, an old friend became very angry at me. No pro-choice person can vote for Romney, she said, "so Obama is our choice". (The post doesn't suggest not voting for Obama; it says abortion rights at the federal level are a lost cause.) In response, my friend and comrade John Bell replied:
    Go ahead an vote for him on Tuesday, but if on Wednesday you aren't building a movement in the street to kick his ass to the left, you are missing the point. The Chicago teachers beat the Democratic machine in that city by doing just that and frankly I find that more politically significant than this whole, sad election campaign. Women in Canada and their male allies defeated the laws against abortion by building a movement that wouldn't back down, that set up and defended clinics in defiance of the law, and that refused to bow to any party. That is the kind of movement that fueled the Roe victory in the first place, but that movement then stifled itself for a generation for fear of alienating the Democratic Party.
    We're seeing great signs of hope in the Occupy movement, especially as it begins to reach beyond its original base and explore ways to broaden and sustain itself.

    In keeping with these thoughts, today's Revolutionary Thought of the Day is brought to us by Sharp Pencils, the non-baseball blog of my partner Allan Wood: The Choice Is Theirs.


    land of the free: anti-drone activist removed from flight and detained

    Via Common Dreams:
    Pakistan's anti-drone politician and former cricket-star, Imran Khan, was taken off an international flight from Toronto to New York for questioning over his political views, and his critical stance on US foreign policy, immigration officials have confirmed.

    "I was taken off from plane and interrogated by US Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop," Khan tweeted yesterday after his questioning.

    Ali Zaidi, an official in Khan's party demanded "a prompt and thorough inquiry into this sordid episode" and "an unconditional apology from the US government".

    Khan was on his way from a public lecture in Toronto to a fundraising event in New York. He was eventually released and allowed in the US. He added: "Missed flight and sad to miss the fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance."

    Khan, leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI), and Prime Minister candidate in next year's elections in Pakistan, has been a loud voice in the anti-drone movement in Pakistan. Khan recently lead a high-profile anti-drone march aimed at south Waziristan along with US peace activists from the group Code Pink and 15,000 others.

    Khan maintains that US drone strikes in Pakistan and around the world are counterproductive because they have resulted in thousands of innocent civilian deaths, cause great hardship in the country and drive up anti-US sentiment and militant recruitment.

    In an interview with BBC News last month, Khan stated that if he were elected as Prime Minister he would opt to shoot down US drones that invade Pakistan, should the US and the international community continue to ignore pleas to stop the fatal strikes in the region.


    Revolutionary thought of the day:
    It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don't want and get it.

    Eugene V. Debs


    voting for obama because of the supreme court? please check your math

    When making the case for the differences between US Democrats and Republicans, many people's first thought is the Supreme Court. High on their list of the importance of SCOTUS is usually Roe v. Wade, the case that established abortion rights for American women. There was a time when I would have wholeheartedly agreed with both of these assessments - but that time has long since passed. Yet so few USians seem to realize it.

    The current makeup of SCOTUS is already five Republican appointees who range from moderately conservative (in the US context) to far-right ideologues and four Democrat appointees who range from moderately liberal to liberal (again, within a US context only). Five to four. Done.

    More significant, though, is the relevancy of Roe. The tremendous focus on whether or not that case will be overturned is about two decades out of date. From the earliest days of the Reagan administration, when the anti-choice movement began to raise money and stock state legislatures in earnest, laws restricting abortion have been passed in every state in the country. The majority of those laws have been allowed to stand by successive Supreme Courts, long before the Republican-appointed majority. The two most important cases in this regard were Webster, decided in 1989, and Casey, decided in 1992. In 2007, things got worse with Stenberg, then Carhart. (Note that the Wikipedia entries for those cases use the non-medical, propaganda term "partial-birth abortion," a procedure which does not exist.)

    Over this period, as restrictive anti-abortion laws continued to pass in almost every state, anti-choice lobbyists and state legislators felt free to float increasingly restrictive - and often, downright insane - legislation. In the past few years we've seen laws that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, such as South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period and mandatory anti-abortion counseling. Fourteen states now have near-total criminal bans on abortion, despite the unconstitutionality of the laws. These include Massachusetts, Vermont, and Delaware.

    Last year, anti-choice legislation reached feverish proportions. Indeed, 2011 marked the highwater mark for state laws restricting access to abortion. WaPo columnist Ezra Klein got the math from the Guttmacher Institute. And although Klein is pro-choice, this post from last December illustrates some of the problem with current pro-choice thinking in the US.
    [In 2011], [s]tates passed 83 laws restricting access to abortion, nearly four times the 23 laws passed in 2010. A lot of that had to do with the 2010 elections, which ushered in a wave of Republican legislators and governors. This year, the number of states with fully anti-abortion governments — in which both the governor and the legislature oppose abortion rights — increased from 10 to 15.

    That cleared the way for new restrictions. Five states banned all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation; until last year, only Nebraska had such a restriction. Seven now require an ultrasound, or the offer of one, prior to the procedure. Eight will no longer allow private insurance plans to cover the procedure. A handful of states are, to this day, battling the Obama administration over whether they can bar abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, from receiving government funds, even for the non-abortion services they provide.

    Some of those restrictions will likely prove more of an ideological statement than a practical obstacle to abortion. A small minority of abortions happen after 20 weeks, meaning that a ban on such procedures won’t touch most patients. Abortion rights supporters have not challenged the new laws, mostly for that reason: While many argue the laws are unconstitutional, they’ve questioned whether a major legal fight over a late-term abortion law affecting relatively few women is their best strategy.
    That last paragraph speaks to the true horror of this trend. Many women need abortion services after 20 weeks because of all these restrictive laws! Mandatory waiting periods mean multiple appointments, usually entailing travel and child care expenses - and all the while the termination procedure becomes increasingly expensive and further out of reach. In the abortion-access movement, that's called "chasing the funds". By the time a woman has scraped together $800 for a 15-week procedure, she's 18 weeks along and the cost is $1100. And by the time she finds the additional $300, she's 20 weeks, and the cost has doubled, and no one in her area will perform the procedure. So, in reality, a 20-week ban hurts many women - all low-income and uninsured.

    In 2005, I wrote an essay called "For Millions of American Women, Roe Is Already History". In 2008, in response to a column by Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, I documented abortion restrictions by state as of July 2008. The lists in that post are now horribly and tragically out of date. Here are the most recent lists and maps from NARAL Pro-Choice America. I encourage you to explore them.

    When Roe v. Wade is overturned - an outcome most people within the movement consider a foregone conclusion - many states will ban abortion outright, some states will not criminalize abortion but will severely restrict it (as they currently do), and some states will continue to allow less restricted abortion services. But on the ground, very little will change for most American women, who right now have no access to family planning services of any kind.

    Those Americans who feel it's important to vote Democrat will vote and should vote for Obama. But if you think that your vote is somehow keeping abortion safe and legal because of Supreme Court appointments, please check your addition. Five plus four equals six plus three, and both equal the end of Roe.


    first they came for pride: city of toronto vs free speech

    Last week, I blogged about the ongoing pattern of harassment and discrimination against people who express solidarity with the Palestinian people. This isn't in the same universe as the oppression endured by Palestine every day; nonetheless, it's a violation of our own civil liberties and rights, and raises a huge obstacle to disseminating accurate information about the situation in Gaza and elsewhere.

    When powerful institutional forces are heavily invested in repressing information, for much of the public, that information will remain invisible or be seen as suspect and dangerous. In other words, when someone like Immigration Minister Jason Kenney constantly associates Palestine solidarity and humanitarian aid with terrorism, and the compliant media echoes that characterization, large segments of the public will accept that link without question.

    Currently, the City of Toronto is poised to revise its anti-discrimination policy to reflect this kind of repression. As many of you know, there was a battle between the City of Toronto and the official Pride Toronto organization on one side, and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid on the other. Pride eventually reversed its ill-conceived attempt to refuse to allow QUAIA to march under its own banner, but the City has not given up the fight.

    As part of changes to the City's anti-discrimination policy, Pride Toronto would be required to prohibit the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid" during Pride as a condition of funding, as certain city councillors claim the term constitutes hate speech. Get your head around that one. An anti-discrimination policy would discriminate against people who express solidarity with the Palestinian people, who believe that Israel's policies towards Palestinians constitute an apartheid regime, and who express that belief publicly.

    To my knowledge, no other festival and no other movement has been similarly targeted. This seems to be a clear violation of Charter rights and possibly the Ontario Human Rights Code. And, as far as I can tell, the only media reports about this appeared in the LGBT newspaper Xtra: "A new battle over Pride funding - City executive committee wants 'Israeli Apartheid' banned". No other newspaper saw fit to report on this. (If I'm wrong and you see something I missed, please do post it in comments.)

    Xtra also published an Open Letter to Toronto's major cultural institutions, calling for solidarity against this attack on freedom of expression. Leaders of those groups responded positively.

    Lost in the City's grandstanding against QUAIA is the irrefutable fact that the words "Israeli apartheid" have nothing to do with hating Jews. If you have trouble distinguishing between the two, please refer to this simple lesson to refresh your memory.

    QUAIA organizers tell me that it's not too late to write to Toronto city councillors about this - and they believe it's worthwhile for people who don't live in Toronto to apply pressure as well. Here's a sample letter from QUAIA, and a list of Toronto city councillors is below.
    Dear Councillor,

    On September 10th, the revised City Anti-Discrimination Policy was once again blocked at the Executive Committee and sent back to city staff for further revision (EX22.4). The motions for revision included vague proposals to “go beyond provincial and federal statutes and legislation,” and to include “anything which shows a lack of respect for all persons.” They further instruct staff to single out Pride Toronto for special treatment; “the imposition of a condition of the funding for the 2013 Pride event, that the term “Israeli Apartheid” not be permitted to be used as part of the event.”

    I am concerned that these motions trivialize the real discrimination faced by designated groups in Toronto. They open the door to frivolous complaints that will waste city and community resources. They threaten to violate Charter rights of freedom of expression. They single out a group defined by its sexual orientation for special scrutiny in apparent violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

    The City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy must be clear and fair, not subject to the whims of lobbying and political manipulation, or used to muzzle “challenging” viewpoints in all arenas – from Pride to our city’s arts and culture.

    I urge you to ensure that any changes proposed to the City of Toronto’s Anti-Discrimination policy be opened to a full and accessible public consultation process. The Policy must reflect the input of all citizens, and the traditions of Human Rights legislation in Canada.