Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas wish

This is transcribed from a generic Christmas card I'm sending too my family this year.

What is Peace?
Peace is simple...
It's holding the door open for a stranger and waving to a child in the care next to you.
It'd doing something nice for someone withou getting caught, and giving and sharing with those who are in need.
Peace is reaching out and holding back.
It's practicing the golden rule as often as you can, and remembering to say please and thank you.
Peace is saying hello to people you pass on the street and letting cars pull out ahead of you in busy holiday traffic.
Peace is living each day with the spirit of CHRISTMAS in your heart...

(open card up)
...and peace is what's wished for you -- at Christmas and always.

Merry Christmas one and all!
Love and Peace,

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stock Day shows his true colours

Read this lovely piece of ecological sensitivity from the blog of my parent's MP, Stockwell Day

Hey who knows, maybe Al Gore is right.

Maybe all my constituents living high up on the West Bench, or Lakeview Heights , or the hills of Logan Lake will soon be sitting on lakeside property as one of the many benefits of global warming.

All I know is last weekend when I got home from Ottawa there was more snow in my driveway than we usually get in a year.

And I was begging for Big Al's Glacial Melt when the mercury hit -24°. Do not despair, my fellow dwellers of the Okanagan and Nicola Valleys .

Lest the Tories try to change their tune and pander to Canadians with a new, more sensitive approach to the environment, please keep this Stock Day blog post in mind come election day.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Twenty-six years ago, John Lennon died.

Well, another year gone by, and another anniversary (26th) of the murder of John Lennon, except this year, I missed it. It was yesterday. Anyway, every year I post the lyrics to one or more of John's songs in memory of his life. Lst year, I posted "Imagine" and "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." This year, I will post "Give Peace a Chance" and "In My Life." We miss you John.

Give Peace a Chance

Ev'rybody's talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism
Isn't it the most
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Ev'rybody's talking about
Ministers, Sinisters, Banisters and canisters,
Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Pop eyes,
And bye bye, bye byes.
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Let me tell you now
Ev'rybody's talking about
Revolution, Evolution, Mastication, Flagelolation, Regulations.
Integrations, Meditations, United Nations, Congratulations
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Oh Let's stick to it
Ev'rybody's talking about
John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy smothers, Bob Dylan,
Tommy Cooper, Derek Tayor, Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg, Hare Krishna,
Hare Krishna
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

In My Life

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I'll love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I'll love you more

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NDP hurtling toward irrelevance

I think that the NDP are hutling towards irrelevance. My problem with them is that they seem to be more interested in attacking the Liberals and trying to make deals with the Conservatives rather than the other way around.

They strike me of late as being shallow and politically opportunistic. They brought down the Liberal government which was going to pass a child care act. Child care advocates criticized the NDP for this. At the time, I was kind of with the NDP on this, but after I've seen what the Conservatives have done on this file, I wish I hadn't.

The NDP beats it's chest talking with the Tories about the Clean Air Act, but it's all show. It's grandstanding. The Tories won't move toward anything approaching a responsible green plan, and the Jack Layton knows it.

Yes, the Liberal governments of the past were corrupt. I'm not a Liberal; I have no horse in this race. They had to be held account to that, and they were, in the last election.

However, the times have changed since then. The Martin/Chretien Liberals were merely corrupt. The Harper Conservatives are threatening to tear are the fabric of Canadian society as we know it.

The Liberals have a new leader. Fair is fair, and he should be given a fair chance, instead of trying to tie him to the sponsorship scandal as the NDP are trying to do, when he had nothing to do with it. Stephane Dion is a man who is known for his honesty and integrity. In fact, to my knowledge, serious political commentators, even those critical of Stephane Dion, have not mentioned the sponsorship scandal.

I think much more helpful and instructive is the example being set by Elizabeth May and Adrienne Carr of the Green Party, who are welcoming his leadership of the Liberal Party with open arms. They are moving beyond petty partisanship, thinking about what is best for the country, and actually hoping he will be a good Liberal leader.

The progressive movement in Canada has much bigger fish to fry than Stephane Dion. Stephen Harper is the leader of by far the most right wing government in Canadian history, he must be stopped at all costs. The best bet for that in a majority of ridings across the country right now are probably the Libs.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Blogosphere, meet Andrea McKenzie.

I'd like to introduce you to an old friend of mine (not in terms of age but in terms of years knowing), Andrea Mackenzie from Victoria. She is an aspiring writer, and has just started up her new blog. She has had published a book of her finest poetry, A Mother's String.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Andrea.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

Today is world AIDS Day. I'm too tired to put up a lengthy post on it, suffice it to say the global AIDS pandemic, especially in Africa, is one of the critical issues of our time.

My generation will be defined in part by how it responds to this pandemic. Will we stand up, take notice, and demand that Western governments provide support to battle it, or would we rather carry on with our mindless, insular lives.

I like what Matt Good has to say about the day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

History for the Greens

In brighter news, the Green Party of Canada has made history yesterday, coming in second in a federal by-election in London North-Centre.

I am very excited by the news, as I have been attracted to the Green philosophy for years. While I do think it is very important to ensure that Harper's Conservatives aren't re-elected in the next election, I think that the Liberals and New Democrats have largely made themselves irrelevant to me and other voters who are looking for a new set of priorities for the creation of a more humane society. I also like the Green's approach to practicing politics, which is generally much more conciliatory and cooperative.

Anyway, I'm quite pleased. For more on their platform,, go here.

Quebec as a "nation"

Canadian history was made on two counts yesterday.

First, the House of Commons, in contrast to the wishes of the vast majority of Canadians, passed a motion to declare the Quebecois a nation within Canada. Most members of all major parties in the Commons supported the motion.

There are many problems I have with this, not the least of which, there was no consultation at all. It was said by proponents that the motion was in effect meaningless, that it was simply meant to defuse a Bloc Quebecois motion to declare Quebec a nation outside of Canada.

The question I have is, if it was meaningless, why have the motion in the first place; why not simply defeat the Bloc motion. If it was not meaningless, and we should be concerned, why was there no consultation? I would submit that there is great concern.

I could very easily see the Bloc presenting a motion to the House asking that the Quebecois status as a nation be constitutionally recognized. How could the other parties say no? If informally, then why not constitutionally?

I think that we could be opening a pandora's box that we could very much regret opening.

Ken Dryden's speech in the House sums of my feelings precisely:

This is pure politics. All this started with the ludicrous concept of having a debate fundamental to the country based on different understandings of the word "nation." In the last few days, it has deteriorated into the ludicrous reality of such a debate in practice.

To those who want to engage the debate honestly, seeking definitional clarity - forget it. Other parties to the debate want none of it. They want to say "nation" means whatever they want it to mean, now and to change definition whenever they decide they want it to mean something different. So they can go to the public and argue and spin, and try to achieve by misunderstanding what they can't by understanding.

When I first arrived in Montreal, it was the pride of Quebecers that struck me. The whole world's being taken over by the English language, American culture; Quebecers had no chance. But they said no, not me, not here. I know what I am. And that's who I'm going to be. Forever.

And Quebecers know who they are. They've had to. They couldn't have made it if they didn't. They don't need any official definers to tell them. And some day we, all Canadians, will get down on paper what Canada really is, what Quebec really is, what together we have made ourselves to be. But it won't happen this way. It can't happen this way.

Does the Bloc really want to engage Canadians outside Quebec so they will agree that "Quebec is a nation"? Not at all. They want the process to be so inappropriate that all such Canadians will reject the question. To grease that slippery slope, so that Canadians inside Quebec will reject those outside Quebec, and the Bloc's cause of independence will be advanced.

The pawn in this game is the public. As Canadians, we feel deeply about our country. Politicians and political advocates for decades have been playing games with our emotions, manipulating them for their/our own purposes. They/we have completely poisoned the well of discussion and debate on this question. No side trusts any other, no citizen trusts any politician.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's snowing!

(Well OK, this pic was taken the day after it started).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's something that we take for granted. It's probably our second most important natural resource, next to air. I never thought I'd realize how much it is taken for granted, and how lucky we are to live in a part of the world where access to clean water isn't normally a problem. I still don't think I really know how much, but I do believe I have a vague idea.

Here in Vancouver, we've been under a boiled water advisory for almost a week now. Don't know when it's going to be lifted, but hopefully soon.

It has been a very humbling experience, and I think there are two lessons to draw. One, we have to be humbled by the wealth of our society that allows us access to commercial "substitutes" such as bottled water that ensure we don't go thirsty. We don't realize how many people die in various parts of the world for want of food. Two, we have to realize what in important and precious part of our ecosystem water is. It is a finite resource, we can run out, and we must start making a real effort to conserve.

Something else I've been thinking about is climate change as it relates to impacts on the weather generally, and more specifically the wind-and rain-storm that let to the soiling of the reservoirs. Of course I don't know for sure if it is climate-change related, and if so, how much, but it does make me think about the lack of respect we show for our environment, whether in the form of carbon emissions or water waste, and how it all could come back on us in the long run.

The next time I do the dishes, I think I'm gonna use less water.

Sy Hersh on a secret CIA report.

According to Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, a secret CIA report has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons-building program in Iraq:

The Administration’s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)

The C.I.A.’s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House’s dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. “They’re not looking for a smoking gun,” the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. “They’re looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission.” The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.’s analysis. “The D.I.A. is fighting the agency’s conclusions, and disputing its approach,” the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, “but they can’t stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community.” The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney’s office, had made just such an assumption—that “the lack of evidence means they must have it,” the former official said.

Appearing on Democracy Now! today, Hersh indicated he didn't know if the Bush Administration would attack Iran. Some of his contacts say that Bush will not be prevented from bombing Iran before leaving office. Others say that the foreign policy realists in the administration may well prevail.

This is basically what we're down to: hoping that the far right wing foreign policy realists in the US will prevail over the even farther right wing neocons. I think the stakes are too high to allow the Bushies to go into Iran.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the revolutionary Grameen Bank that has freed gosh knows how many Bangladeshis from extreme poverty, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Essentially, the Grameen Bank provides microcredit loans, small loans to the extremely poor, without collateral or interest. I have a bit of a bakcground in community economic development, so such concepts are not new to me. The result is that poverty levels are reduced, and the wealth created by the loan stays in the community. Go here for more basic info on microcredit.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ray McGovern: Cheney-Gates Cabal

From Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst:

The “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal ” may now be down to one. But there is every sign that Cheney will continue to be the dominant force in the White House, and he recently asserted:

You cannot make national security policy on the basis of [elections]. It may not be popular with the public. It doesn’t matter, in the sense that we have to continue the mission [in Iraq].

Granted, Cheney made those comments before the election. But it is virtually certain that Bush vetted with Cheney the nomination of Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld and, if past experience is precedent, it is a virtual certainty that Gates will continue to earn an A+ for “loyalty.” Look for a “Cheney-Gates cabal.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dems take Congress; Rumsfeld resigns

Great news. The Democrats have captured, easily, the House of Representatives and narrowly captured the Senate. It is not likely that a whole lot will change as a result with respect to foreign policy, but it is a sweeping repudiation of the US policy vis a vis Iraq. The Democrats didn't even have a position, didn't even say anything meaningful, and they still won. That's gotta hurt if you're a Repuglican.

An offshoot of this that is another important development is the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Bush has chosen former CIA analyst Bob Gates to replace him.

There is certainly no guarantee that Gates will be anything more than marginally better. He may well not be. However, given that Rumsfeld resigned immediately after his party's ouster in the congressional elections, I can arrive at no other conclusion that he has resigned in disgrace. That is entirely appropriate, and that is an important statement on the policies he has supported.

That he has resigned is a good start but not nearly enough though. He should be tried for war crimes.

Constitutionally, all decision-making power with respect to foreign policy rests in the executive branch. However, this also gives the Democrats some leverage on two counts, hypothetically speaking. Whomever Bush chooses must be confirmed by the Senate. If they don't like him, the can defeat the nomination.

Second, if they choose to, they can impeach the president. They can either choose to do so outright, in which case Dick Cheney would be president (gulp), or they can hang it over his head and blakcmail him with it in order to encourage more sensible policies from Bush. I highly doubt it will happen, but it could.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Amnesty Award for Mandela

Nelson Mandela has been awarded Amnesty International's highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award. I'm pleased that one of my heroes is being honoured in such a way. How his activism has continued through his life span, from anti-apartheid activist to political prisoner to resurrected movement leader to president of South Africa to elder statesmen for the world, is truly inspiring. The presenting of this award to him is a vindication not only of his life's work, but also the need to continue to stand up for human rights in the world, as Mr. Mandela does.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper

These are the reasons I can come up with at this point in time. I will publish a more extensive list when the next federal election comes.

1) abandoning Kyoto commitments, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the climate change threat, which Canada and almost all other industrialized countries had already signed.

2) refusing to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, a document that many countries including Canada has worked on for 20 years, thus further harming relations with aboriginals in Canada.

3) phony choice in child care policy, in place of national child care policy agreed to by Canada and the provinces

4) trashing of the Kelowna accord for aboriginal peoples, again agreed to by the feds and the provincesw

5) raising the income tax of the poorest income group.

6) supporting the Israeli flattening of Lebanon.

7) gutting of social programs which support women, aboriginals, volunteers, and adult literacy.

7) language and decisions used by Stephen Harper which is eerily similar to language and decisions used by George Bush, such as "cut and run," "stay the course," banning coverage of soldier's caskets.

8) as detailed above, an unwillingness or inability to work with the provinces or the international community.

9) inability or unwillingness to work with the opposition parties, after complaining as the official opposition in the previous Parliament that the government was unwilling to work with them. The Difference is that the previous government did work with the opposition; it was just a different party. The Harper regime is unable or unwilling to work with any of the opposition parties.

10) David Emerson.

11) Garth Turner.

12) threatening to kill gun registry.

13) proposed legislation that would allow police to spy on internet users without a warrant.

14) if elected with a majority, a Harper Conservative government will likely sign on to the US's dangerous misguided ballistic missle defence program.

15) breaking promises to increase foreign aid to G* average, and instead letting it fall.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bill Maher takes on the neocons

From Crooks and Liars, check on Bill Maher do a new segment in which he rips into the neon "thinktanks'" histry of abject failure.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bad move, Stephen Harper.

I'm not a member of the Liberal Party, but as a concerned Canadian citizen, I do care who will be prime minister of Canada after the next election. When Michael Ignatieff called the Israel attack on Qana a war crime, I finally felt that he might actually be OK after all in that position.

I don't think he had in mind what was coming from the Conservatives in response, but I'm not surprised. When Stephen Harper called not only Ignatieff but all Liberal leadership candidates anti-Israel, he implicitly also called all of us who agree with Ignatieff anti-Israel, and that's a lot of Canadians. He called me anti-Israel.

I think that even most Canadians who would disagree with Ignatieff and agree with Harper on Israel wouldn't be so myopic and simple-minded as to believe that that necessarily means that Ignatieff is anti-Israel.

I think Ken Dryden said it best, when he said that Harper is "completely wrong."

He said, “all that is, is creating divides and Mr. Harper has shown himself to be a great divider," and went on to say that since Harper became prime minister, he has proven himself to be a great divider, dividing Canada into black and white, into those with us and those against us.

Now to the heart of the issue, as far as I'm concerned. The indiscriminate killing of civilians is wrong, regardless who the victim is and who the perpetrator is. Simple and easy to understand, one would think, but apparently beyond the comprehension of many.

One of those many, the Prime Minister of Canada, called myself and many other good Canadians anti-Israel. Bad move, Harper.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Give me hegemony or give me death

This is from

The problem is not that the Democrats are intimidated. The problem is that the Democrats are part of the problem. The editors of Impeach the President indirectly acknowledge this fact when they report that Congress "looked the other way" when Bush acknowledged that he lied to cover up his felony of illegally spying on U.S. citizens and declared the real criminal to be the NSA official who blew the whistle. Democrats, no less than Republicans, have permitted the Bush regime to violate the separation of powers and the rule of law. A branch of government that no longer defends its power is a branch of government that no longer believes in its power. Just as the Reichstag faded away for Hitler, the U.S. Congress has faded away for the Bush administration.

Claes Ryn is correct when he says a change of mind has occurred. The Constitution and the political system based on it are on the ropes because the players no longer believe in them. They believe in executive power to act forcefully in behalf of "American exceptionalism."

Civil libertarians rely on the judiciary to defend constitutional rights, but the Supreme Court has been compromised by Bush's appointments of Roberts and Alito, men who believe in "energy in the executive." Without support from Congress, the judiciary cannot protect civil liberty. With the passage of the recent detainee and spy bills, Congress has allied itself with the Bush regime against civil liberty.

Beliefs are more important than institutions. Michael Polanyi wrote that if people believed in the principles of Stalinism, democracy would uphold Stalinism. If people believe in American hegemony, they will not complain when barriers to hegemonic actions are removed. If people believe fighting terrorism is more important than civil liberty, they will lose civil liberty.

What America needs to refurbish is its beliefs. Without renewing our beliefs, we cannot renew our civil liberties and hold government accountable.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Chomsky on 9/11 conspiracy theories

Here's Chomsky making the best succinct statement I have heard yet against the proliferation of 9/11 conspiracy theories, in a Znet sustainer forum.:

ZNet Sustianer: Dear Noam, There is much documentation observed and uncovered by the 911 families themselves suggesting a criminal conspiracy within the Bush Administration to cover-up the 9/11 attacks (see DVD, 9/11: Press for Truth). Additionally, much evidence has been put forward to question the official version of events. This has come in part from Paul Thompson, an activist who has creatively established the 9/11 Timeline, a free 9/11 investigative database for activist researchers, which now, according to The Village Voice’s James Ridgeway, rivals the 9/11 Commission’s report in accuracy and lucidity (see,,mondo1,52830,6.html, or

Noam Chomsky: Hard for me to respond to the rest of the letter, because I am not persuaded by the assumption that much documentation and other evidence has been uncovered. To determine that, we'd have to investigate the alleged evidence. Take, say, the physical evidence. There are ways to assess that: submit it to specialists -- of whom there are thousands -- who have the requisite background in civil-mechanical engineering, materials science, building construction, etc., for review and analysis; and one cannot gain the required knowledge by surfing the internet. In fact, that's been done, by the professional association of civil engineers. Or, take the course pursued by anyone who thinks they have made a genuine discovery: submit it to a serious journal for peer review and publication. To my knowledge, there isn't a single submission.

ZNet Sustianer: A question that arises for me is that regardless of this issue, how do I as an activist prevent myself from getting distracted by such things as conspiracy theories instead of focusing on the bigger picture of the institutional analysis of private profit over people?

Noam Chomsky: I think this reaches the heart of the matter. One of the major consequences of the 9/11 movement has been to draw enormous amounts of energy and effort away from activism directed to real and ongoing crimes of state, and their institutional background, crimes that are far more serious than blowing up the WTC would be, if there were any credibility to that thesis. That is, I suspect, why the 9/11 movement is treated far more tolerantly by centers of power than is the norm for serious critical and activist work. How do you personally set priorities? That's of course up to you. I've explained my priorities often, in print as well as elsewhere, but we have to make our own judgments.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tick-tock on Darfur.

The situation in Darufr right now is extremely, extremely critical. After months end, a race of people could be literally wiped off the face of the earth. The African Union is leaving at the end of September. If the UN doesn't come in to fill the void and protect the Darfurian people, the aid workers will leave. 2 and a half million innocent people could be starve or slaughtered to death simply because of their race.

Canadian retired General Romeo Dallaire, veteran of the Rwandan genocide: "Darfur is tasting, smelling, looking in every way, shape and form like a repetition on a similar scale of what happened in Rwanda."

George Clooney, speaking to the UN Security Council:

The United States has called it genocide. For you, it’s called ethnic cleansing. But make no mistake, it is the first genocide of the 21st century, and if it continues unchecked it will not be the last.

Now, my job is to come here today and to beg you, on behalf of the millions of people who will die — and make no mistake they will die — for you to take real and effective measures to put an end to this. Of course it’s complex, but when you see entire villages raped and killed, wells poisoned and then filled with the bodies of its villagers, then all complexities disappear and it comes down to simply right and wrong.

It’s not getting better. It’s getting much, much worse, and it is only the international community that can help us. Now, I know there are members of you here that, for what I’m sure are sensible reasons, have failed to use leverage at times to keep the — to get the peacekeepers on the ground. Well, we now have a date. The date is September.

My generation will be marked by how it responds now. This is a critical point in human history. Now is the time to take a stand and stop would could become the worse genocide in decades. Join a Darfur advocacy organization, like Canadian Students for Darfur. Join a human rights organization like Amnesty or Human Rights Watch. Educate yourself on this issue. Write letters to your government leader and to you Sudanese ambassador. Do what you have to.

Update: African Union troops have agreed to stay through the rest of the calendar year. Still, that does nothing to stop the genocide; it merely impedes it's progress. The AU is still severely understaffed, and the UN is still not living up to its responsibility to stop a genocide in progress.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

One hundred year anniversary of Satyagraha

Today is the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

Significantly, it is also the 100 year anniversary of a speech given by Mohandas Gandhi, marking the beginning of Satyagraha. He was at a meeting in South Africa where he presented a resolution encouraging a protest of the unjust pass law. He was emphatic that the refusal to comply had to be nonviolent. I believe in the movie Gandhi, he says something like they may have our bodies, but not our obedience.

Thus, this day finds us with not only redisover a phiilosophy that could help us out of this mess. To that end, here is part of that speech, from Gandhi's Satyagraha in South Africa.

We all believe in one and the same God, the differences of nomenclature in Hinduism and Islam notwithstanding. To pledge ourselves or to take an oath in the name of that God or with him as witness is not something to be trifled with. If having taken such an oath we violate our pledge we are guilty before God and man. Personally I hold that a man, who deliberately and intelligently takes a pledge and then breads it, forfeits his manhood. And just as a copper coin treated with mercury not only becomes valueless when detected but also makes its owner liable to punishment, in the same way a man who lightly pledges his word and then breaks it becomes a man of straw and fits himself for punishment here as well as hereafter. Sheth Haji Habib is proposing to administer an oath of very serious character. There is no one in this meeting who can be classed as an infant or as wanting in understanding. You are all well advanced in age and have seen the world; many of you are delegates and have discharged responsibilities in a greater or lesser measure. No one present, therefore, can ever hope to excuse himself by saying that he did not know what he was about when he took the oath.

I know that pledges and vows are, and should be, taken on rare occasions. A man who takes a vow every now and then is sure to stumble. But if I can imagine a crisis in the history of the Indian community of South Africa when it would be in the fitness of things to take pledges that crisis is surely now. There is wisdom in taking serious steps with great caution and hesitation. But caution and hesitation have their limits, and we have now passed them. The Government has taken leave of all sense of decency. We would only be betraying our unworthiness and cowardice, if we cannot stake our all in the face of the conflagration which envelopes us and sit watching it with folded hands. There is no doubt, therefore, that the present is a proper occasion for taking pledges. But every one of us must think out for himself if he has the will and the ability to pledge himself. Resolutions of this nature cannot passed by a majority vote. Only those who take a pledge can be bound by it. This pledge must not be taken with a view to produce an effect on outsiders. No one should trouble to consider what impression it might have upon the Local Government, the Imperial Government, or the Government of India. Every one must only search his own heart, and if the inner voice assures him that he has the requisite strength to carry him through, then only should he pledge himself and then only will his pledge bear fruit.

A few words now as to the consequences. Hoping for the best, we may say that if a majority of the Indians pledge themselves to resistance and if all who take the pledge prove true to themselves, the Ordinance may not be passed and, if passed, may be soon repealed. It may be that we may not be called upon to suffer at all. But if on the hand a man who takes a pledge must be a robust optimist, on the other hand he must be prepared for the worst. Therefore I want to give you an idea of the worst that might happen to us in the present struggle. Imagine that of us present here numbering 3,000 at the most pledge ourselves. Imagine again that the remaining 10,000 Indians take no such pledge. We will only provoke ridicule in the beginning. Again, it is quite possible that in spite of the present warning some or many of those who pledge themselves may weaken at the very first trial. We many have to go to jail, where we many be insulted. We many have to go hungry and suffer extreme heat or cold. Hard labour may be imposed upon us. We may be flogged by rude warders. We may be fined heavily and our property may be attached and held up to auction if there are only a few resisters left. Opulent today we may be reduced to abject poverty tomorrow. We may be deported. Suffering from starvation and similar hardships in jail, some of us may fall ill and even die, In short, therefore, it is not at all impossible that we may have to endure every hardship that we can imagine, and wisdom lies in pledging ourselves on the understanding that we shall have to suffer all that and worse. If some one asks me when and how the struggle may end, I may say that if the entire community manfully stands the test, the end will be near. If many of us fall back under storm and stress, the struggle will be prolonged. But I can boldly declare, and with certainty, that so long as there is even a handful of men true to their pledge, there can only be one end to the struggle, and that is victory.

A word about my personal responsibility. If I am warning you of the risks attendant upon the pledge, I am at the same time inviting you to pledge yourselves, and I am fully conscious of my responsibility in the matter. It is possible that a majority of those present here many take the pledge in a fit of enthusiasm or indignation but may weaken under the ordeal, and only a handful may be left to face the final test. Even then there is only one course open to some one like me, to die but not to submit to the law. It is quite unlikely but even if every one else flinched leaving me alone to face the music, I am confident that I would never violate my pledge. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying this out of vanity, but I wish to put you, especially the leaders upon the platform, on your guard. I wish respectfully to suggest it to you that if you have not the will or the ability to stand firm even when you are perfectly isolated, you must not only not take the pledge yourselves but you must declare your opposition before the resolution is put to the meeting and before its members begin to take pledges and you must not make yourselves parties to the resolution. Although we are going to take the pledge in a body, no one should imagine that default on the part of one or many can absolve the rest from their obligation. Every one should fully realize his responsibility, then only pledge himself independently of others and understand that he himself must be true to his pledge even unto death, no matter what others do.

In the same chapter, he went on to explain his philosophy:

None of us knew what name to give to our movement I then used the term ‘passive resistance' in describing it. I did not quite understand the implications of ‘passive resistance' as I called it. I only knew that some new principle had come into being. As the struggle advanced, the phrase ‘passive resistance' gave rise to confusion and it appeared shameful to permit this great struggle to be known only by an English name. Again, that foreign phrase could hardly pass as current coin among the community. A small prize was therefore announced in Indian Opinion t o be awarded to the reader who invented the best designation for our struggle. We thus received a number of suggestions. The meaning of the struggle had been then fully discussed in Indian Opinion and the competitors for the prize had fairly sufficient material to serve as a basis for their exploration. Shri Maganlal Gandhi was one of the competitors and he suggested the word ‘Sadagraha,' meaning. ‘firmness in a good cause.' I liked the work, but it did not fully represent the whole idea I wished it to connote. I therefore corrected it to ‘Satyagraha.' Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement ‘Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase ‘passive resistance,' in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the work ‘Satyagraha' itself or some other equivalent English phrase, This then was the genesis of the movement which came to be known as `Satyagraha, and of the word used as a designation for it. Before we proceed any further with our history we shall do well to grasp the differences between passive resistance and Satyagraha, Which is the subject of our next chapter.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Watching the watchers of Human Rights Watch

It seems that no one can criticize the government of Israel without being labelled anti-Semetic or anti Israel. Absurd as it may seem, a Phillip Roth of a reputable organization like Human Rights Watch is not immune to these attacks.

Phillip Roth is a Jew whose father fled Nazi Germany. According to Rosa Brooks, upon criticizing Israel for war crimes against Lebanon,

The backlash was prompt. Roth and Human Rights Watch soon found themselves accused of unethical behavior, giving aid and comfort to terrorists and anti-Semitism. The conservative New York Sun attacked Roth (who is Jewish) for having a "clear pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israel bias" and accused him of engaging in "the de-legitimization of Judaism, the basis of much anti-Semitism." Neocon commentator David Horowitz called Roth a "reflexive Israel-basher … who, in his zest to pillory Israel at every turn, is little more than an ally of the barbarians." The New Republic piled on, as did Alan Dershowitz, who claimed Human Rights Watch "cooks the books" to make Israel look bad. And writing in the Jewish Exponent, Jonathan Rosenblum accused Roth of resorting to a "slur about primitive Jewish bloodlust.

Anyone familiar with Human Rights Watch — or with Roth — knows this to be lunacy. Human Rights Watch is nonpartisan — it doesn't "take sides" in conflicts. And the notion that Roth is anti-Semitic verges on the insane.

But what's most troubling about the vitriol directed at Roth and his organization isn't that it's savage, unfounded and fantastical. What's most troubling is that it's typical. Typical, that is, of what anyone rash enough to criticize Israel can expect to encounter. In the United States today, it just isn't possible to have a civil debate about Israel, because any serious criticism of its policies is instantly countered with charges of anti-Semitism. Think Israel's tactics against Hezbollah were too heavy-handed, or that Israel hasn't always been wholly fair to the Palestinians, or that the United States should reconsider its unquestioning financial and military support for Israel? Shhh: Don't voice those sentiments unless you want to be called an anti-Semite — and probably a terrorist sympathizer to boot.

How did adopting a reflexively pro-Israel stance come to be a mandatory aspect of American Jewish identity? Skepticism — a willingness to ask tough questions, a refusal to embrace dogma — has always been central to the Jewish intellectual tradition. Ironically, this tradition remains alive in Israel, where respected public figures routinely criticize the government in far harsher terms than those used by Human Rights Watch.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Thank you Matthew Good

Last night, I was one of about 20 lucky Matthew Good fans lucky enough to attend a private concert at his house, perhaps the last concert he gives (hopefully not), certainly the last one before he leaves the country for an undetermined period of time. He's had a rough go of it the last six months, with his ex-wife leaving him, and I think it's good he's getting away from it all.

Matthew Good is a rare bread, a relatively successful musician with a large following who truly shows that he appriciates and cares about his fans. Doing what he did last night, in this day and age, is unheard of for a professional musician of his calibre.

Matt, if you read this, thank you for last night, for your music, and for making a difference in the world. See you on your blog.

Elizabeth May: new Green Party leader.

Elizabeth May, as expected, has won the leadership of the Green Party of Canada. I am, to say the least, intrigued. I have a feeling that she could bring about the rise of the party. I have said to myself before that I would never join any politcal party again, but to be honest, I'm thinking about it. Not acting on it, but thinking about it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

NCW report

The National Council of Welfare has released a report showing how significantly welfare rates have decreased over recent decades. That is particlarly pronounced when inflation is taken into account.

It is astounding that a sane society can treat the poorest of it's citiziens like this, in some cases denying them their right to the basic necessities of life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I'm with Gandhi. Poverty is the worst form of violence.

Stephen Lewis closes the AIDS Conference

Stephen Lewis gave a speech at the closing of the International AIDS conference in Toronto that basically smmed up his years of frustration with the UN and certain member countries. He also made some recommendations. Interestingly the AIDs pandemic in Africa,, he also expressed his support for the InSite in Vancouver:

Harm reduction programmes do work. Needle exchange and methadone treatment save lives. More, it would be positively perverse to close the 'Insite' safe injection facility in Vancouver when it has been positively evaluated in a number of studies; in fact there should be several more such facilities in Canada and around the world. Russia, Central Asia, parts of India are all struggling with transmission through injecting drug use. To shut 'Insite' down is to invite HIV infection and death. One has to wonder about the minds of those who would so readily punish injecting drug users rather than understanding the problem for what it is: a matter of public health.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

HRW report on Israeli war crimes

Human Rights Watch has released a report accusing the IDF of committing war crimes against the Lebanese people:

This report documents serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon between July 12 and July 27, 2006, as well as the July 30 attack in Qana. During this period, the IDF killed an estimated 400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and that number climbed to over 500 by the time this report went to print. The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Since the start of the conflict, Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost. In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.

The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes.


A couple of things that seem to be overlooked by just about everyone with respect to Israel's case for military actions.

1) You remember hearing about those prisoners Hezbollah wants released in exchange for the Isreali soldiers who were kidnapped. Well, if they are among the Hezbalah prisoners who are being held without charge, that changes the optics of the issue. Kidnapping is a crime regardless, but it shows that Hezbollah is merely playing the same game as the Israelis.

2) Hezbollah did not start firing missiles into Israel until the IDF began their airstrikes. Ergo, Israel's self defense claim does not hold up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Four UN observers dead in Lebanon

Four UN observers killed in south Lebanon when their position was hit by an Israeli airstrike. This, despite repeated warnings by the UN to the IDF to stay away from their position. Kofi Annan rightfully suggests it was deliberate. I have a hard time believing that it wasn't.

My question is, if we are correct in assuming that the attack was deliberate, what was Israel's interest in carrying out the attack. It mjust have been pretty strong, as they would have known that huge negative repersuccsion would have arisen from the debacle? Is there maybe something they didn't want the observers to observe?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

death tolls

According to Juan Cole, the death in the Israael conflict so far stands at about 235 in Lebanon, and 25 in Israel as of late Tuesday. That's about a 10:1 ratio. Now, no civilian death is OK, but this ratio should betray any suggestion that the Israeli response is in any way measured.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel and Lebanon

The current conflict between the Israel and Lebanon/Hesbollah is one in which two of the three parties hold no moral high ground. Hezbollah should never have kidnapped the Israeli soldiers in the first place. They must have known that such an action would mobilize the government of Israel to respond, and that they would never release all Hezbollah prisoners.

The government of Israel is using by any measurement a disproportionate level of force. Not only have airports and roads out of Lebanon been bombed, but by now probably over 200 civilians have been killed. There is absolutely no justification by any standard for invading a soverieign democratic country, especially where the hostile opponent, Hezbollah, do not form the government. Furthermore, it will only provoke more extremism in Lebanon. Gwynne Dyer says:

Everyone knows that the Lebanese government does not control Hezbollah, but Israel held Beirut responsible, rolled its tanks across the border, and launched a wave of air strikes that has already killed over 50 Lebanese. That won't free the hostages, and it poses the risk of a wider war that could involve not only Lebanon but Syria, but at least it protects Olmert from the accusation of being "weak," always the kiss of death for an Israeli politician.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are adept at pushing Israel's buttons and getting it to overreact (even if that does involve Israel destroying what little infrastructure there was in the Gaza Strip, and destroying Lebanon's infrastructure all over again). The dwarf superpower of the Middle East is good at smashing things up, and so long as the real superpower behind it does not intervene, nobody else can stop it. But nobody in this game has a coherent strategy for getting out of it.

On the human rights front, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both called on the Israeli government and Hezbollah to avoid intentional or indiscriminate killing of civilians.

Seven Canadians have been killed as a result of an Israeli airstrike. I would like to see Stephen Harper, proud defender of Israeli government's "measured response," meet the families of the Canadian casualties, look them in the eye and tell them that Israel's response was measured.

I hate having to talk about this stuff. I wish we were not talking about seven dead Canadians, or 200 dead civilians. However, now that it has happened, noise has to be made to ensure that it never happens again. Now that Canadians have been killed, maybe even the hard-hearted Canadians who have supported Harpers comments will see the wrongness of this. It's not about supporting or opposing Israel, or supporting or opposing Hezbollah. It's about opposing the indiscriminate civilians, regardless of who the attacker is and who the victims are. Maybe upon seeing the folly of bombing seven Canadian civilians, they can open their minds a bit and see the folly of killing of any civilian.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

List - great anti-war songs.

In no particular order:

Univeral Soldier by Buffy Sainte Marie

Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2

Weapon by Matthew Good

Masters of War by Bob Dylan

Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits

Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon

Holiday by Green Day

Blue Skies Over Bad Lands by Matthew Good

Blowin' In The Wind by Bob Dylan

A Hard Rains A Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan

One Gun by 54-40

This War by Sting

World Leader Pretend by REM

Revolution by The Beatles

Imagine by John Lennon

Bullet the Blue Sky by U2

In A World Called Catastrophe by Matthew Good

Ohio by Neil Young

World Wide Suicide by Pearl Jam

June 24, 2006, World Peace Forum, Vancouver

I had a busy day yesteday at the World Peace Forum.

I was at the Amnesty Table up at UBC in the morning.

I hooked up with Don Wright at the Peace Walk, and walked with him for Amnesty.

We ,along with an estimated 10,000 people sick and tired of war and not going to take it anymore, meandered our way through downtown.

We ended up at Susnet Beach where we were met with the presence of a stage.

I saw a couple of notable people there.

In a surprise appearance, the beautiful, graceful Buffy Sainte Marie performed "Universal Soldier." She still has an incredible voice, that, when combined with that song, can move me deeply.

The courageous Cindy Sheehan also made an appearance.

All in all, it was a great day to be alive in Vancouver.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Letter to Stephen Harper on Climate Change

On April 18, Gordon McBean of the University of Western Ontario organized an open letter to Stephen Harper, expressing concern over climate change, and the direction the PM seems to be taking. Ninety scientists signed the letter. Here is the full text. The italics and bold types are the authors'.

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada
on Climate Change Science

April 18 2006

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A3
Dear Prime Minister:

As climate science leaders from the academic, public and private sectors across
Canada, we wish to convey our views on the current state of knowledge of climate
change and to call upon you to provide national leadership in addressing the issue.
The scientific views we express are shared by the vast majority of the national and
international climate science community.

We concur with the climate science assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001, which has also been supported by the Royal Society of
Canada and the national academies of science of all G-8 countries, as well as those of China, India and Brazil. We endorse the conclusions of the IPCC assessment that
“There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities” and of the 2005 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment that “Arctic temperatures have risen at almost twice the rate of those in the rest of the world over the past few decades”.

Climate variability and change is a global issue and the international IPCC process for assessment of climate science, with its rigorous scientific peer review processes, is the appropriate mechanism for assessing what is known and not known about climate science. Many Canadian climate scientists are participating in the preparation of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report which will be completed in 2007.

The following points emerge from the assessments and ongoing research by respected
Canadian and international researchers:

• There is increasingly unambiguous evidence of changing climate in
Canada and around the world.
• There will be increasing impacts of climate change on Canada’s natural ecosystems and on our socio-economic activities.
• Advances in climate science since the 2001 IPCC Assessment have provided more evidence supporting the need for action and development of a strategy for adaptation to projected changes.
• Canada needs a national climate change strategy with continued investments in research to track the rate and nature of changes, understand what is happening, to refine projections of changes induced by anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases and to analyse opportunities and threats presented by these changes.

We have supplied justification and more detail for each of these points in the
accompanying documentation.

We urge you and your government to develop an effective national strategy to deal with the many important aspects of climate that will affect both Canada and the rest of the world in the near future. We believe that sound policy requires good scientific input.

We would be pleased to provide a scientific briefing and further support, clarification and information at any time.

Yours sincerely:

Signed by 90 Canadian climate science leaders from the academic, public and private
sectors across the country.

Cc: Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment, Honourable Gary Lunn,
Minister of Natural Resources and Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Satire personified

Satire is arguably the most important form that dissent can take. Nothing can bring to public consciousness the foolishness of the decision makers like a reflection of that foolishness. From fictional characters like Hawkeye Pierce and Archie Bunker to comedians like Jon Stewart, quick wit has caused many a headache for the targets upon which their talents are focussed. A classic example of this was Stephen Colbert's speech to the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner. Here are some gems:

I'm a simple man with a simple mind. I hold a simple set of beliefs that I live by. Number one, I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there. I feel that it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I strongly believe it has 50 states. And I cannot wait to see how the Washington Post spins that one tomorrow. I believe in democracy. I believe democracy is our greatest export. At least until China figures out a way to stamp it out of plastic for three cents a unit.


Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.


I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.


I'm sorry, but this reading initiative. I'm sorry, I've never been a fan of books. I don't trust them. They're all fact, no heart. I mean, they're elitist, telling us what is or isn't true, or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say it was built in 1941, that's my right as an American! I'm with the president, let history decide what did or did not happen.


But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!


And, of course, we can't forget the man of the hour, new press secretary, Tony Snow. Secret Service name, "Snow Job." Toughest job. What a hero. Took the second toughest job in government, next to, of course, the ambassador to Iraq.

Got some big shoes to fill, Tony. Big shoes to fill. Scott McClellan could say nothing like nobody else. McClellan, of course, eager to retire. Really felt like he needed to spend more time with Andrew Card's children. Mr. President, I wish you hadn't made the decision so quickly, sir.

The full text is here. The video is here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sandra Day O'Connor warns against dictatorship

This is about a month old (March 9), but I just came across this. Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggests US citizens be on guard against signs of dictatorship. Here is the transcript from Raw Story, derived from the original NPR piece:

Supreme Court justices keep many opinions private but Sandra Day O’Connor no longer faces that obligation. Yesterday, the retired justice criticized Republicans who criticized the courts. She said they challenge the independence of judges and the freedoms of all Americans. O’Connor’s speech at Georgetown University was not available for broadcast but NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg was there.

Nina Totenberg: In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O’Connor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O’Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors, as she put it “really, really angry.” But, she continued, if we don’t make them mad some of the time we probably aren’t doing our jobs as judges, and our effectiveness, she said, is premised on the notion that we won’t be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts. The nation’s founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But, said O’Connor, as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don’t protect judicial independence, people do.

And then she took aim at former House GOP leader Tom DeLay. She didn’t name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case. This, said O’Connor, was after the federal courts had applied Congress’ onetime only statute about Schiavo as it was written. Not, said O’Connor, as the congressman might have wished it were written. This response to this flagrant display of judicial restraint, said O’Connor, her voice dripping with sarcasm, was that the congressman blasted the courts.

It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn’t help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with. She didn’t name him, but it was Texas senator John Cornyn who made that statement, after a Georgia judge was murdered in the courtroom and the family of a federal judge in Illinois murdered in the judge’s home. O’Connor observed that there have been a lot of suggestions lately for so-called judicial reforms, recommendations for the massive impeachment of judges, stripping the courts of jurisdiction and cutting judicial budgets to punish offending judges. Any of these might be debatable, she said, as long as they are not retaliation for decisions that political leaders disagree with.

I, said O’Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

change of plans

Looks like travelling plans for Easter have changed. White-out conditions on the Highway to Penticton. Just as well. I can kick back and relax the next few days.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Blues go anti-Green

Going away for Easter weekend. In the meantime, check this out. I was shocked to hear about it on the radio. It would seem that in spite of their minority status in Parliament, they're not going for the subtle approach.

OTTAWA (CP) - A scientist with Environment Canada was ordered not to launch his global warming-themed novel Thursday at the same time the Conservative government was quietly axing a number of Kyoto programs.

The bizarre sequence of events on the eve of the Easter long weekend provided an ironic end-note to the week in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced his first piece of legislation - aimed at improving accountability and transparency in government.

The day began with what was supposed to be the low-key launch of an aptly titled novel, Hotter than Hell.

Publisher Elizabeth Margaris said that Mark Tushingham, whose day job is as an Environment Canada scientist, was ordered not to appear at the National Press Club to give a speech discussing his science fiction story about global warming in the not-too-distant future.

"He got a directive from the department, cautioning him not to come to this meeting today," said Margaris of DreamCatcher Publishers.

"So I guess we're being stifled. This is incredible, I've never heard of such a thing," she said.

Margaris had driven to Ottawa from New Brunswick to attend the speech, where Tushingham was expected to talk about his novel and the science he based it on.

The novel imagines a world where global warming has made parts of the world too hot to live in, prompting a war between Canada and the U.S. over water resources.

"Due process for this event was not followed and that's why it was cancelled," said Ryan Sparrow, a spokesman for Environment Minister Rona Ambrose .

Publicity for the planned book launch identified Tushingham as an Evironment Canada scientist, Sparrow said, "and it was assumed that he would be representing the position of the department.

"We would not have objected to Mr. Tushingham's appreance if he had been referred to as a private citizen."

Harper says he was not aware of the details, but his government was elected on a platform that included developing a new plan to deal with climate change.

"I obviously not only hope, but expect, that all elements of the bureaucracy will be working with us to achieve our objectives," Harper said at an appearance in Wainright, Alta., Thursday.

The prime minister's comments might be seen as a clear warning to public servants thinking of straying from government orthodoxy.

Harper has been criticized for the tight control he wants to exercise on what cabinet ministers and civil servants say in public. He also opposes the Kyoto protocol, which many scientist believe could help slow global warming.

The scientific, or literary, muzzle was put on Tushingham just as the Tory government was preparing to quietly confirm it is killing off over a dozen research programs related to the Kyoto protocol.

Late Thursday afternoon, on the eve of a long weekend when governments traditionally dump bad news for the least possible public exposure, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn issued a news release saying 15 programs were being eliminated.

Lunn said the programs had run their course.

"The new government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is committed to putting an end to the massive increase in (greenhouse gas) emissions that Canada has seen over the past decade," said a release.

"To do that, we need a new approach to addressing climate change that is effective and realistic for Canada."

Harper said the Conservative governing platform "will include measures we're going to develop over the next year or so to deal with both pollution and greenhouse gases."

But cabinet documents obtained by the Globe and Mail suggest the cuts won't stop at 15 programs.

The newspaper reported Thursday that the Conservatives will cut 80 per cent of programs aimed at curbing global warming at Environment Canada.

Budgets in other government departments aimed at climate change will be slashed by 40 per cent, the newspaper reported.

Liberal MP Scott Brison was crying foul Thursday.

"It is clear the Conservative government has no plans to listen to expert advice from their own department and is willing to sacrifice sound environmental policy to partisan ideology," said Brison.

Under the Kyoto treaty, Canada is committed to a six per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2012. Yet emissions have risen by 30 per cent. Harper has said the target is impossible to meet.

Leading environmentalists from across Canada say the opposition parties should defeat the government if it abandons the effort to meet Canada's Kyoto commitments.

Canada can meet its emissions-cutting target under the Kyoto Protocol despite government claims to the contrary, activists from eight environmental groups told a news conference Wednesday.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sy Hersh on Iran Plans.

Sy Hersh has written for the New Yorker that a military attack on Iran is in the planning stages. Here are a couple of excerpts:

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

But those who are familiar with the Soviet bunker, according to the former senior intelligence official, “say ‘No way.’ You’ve got to know what’s underneath—to know which ventilator feeds people, or diesel generators, or which are false. And there’s a lot that we don’t know.” The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

Crooks and Liars also has a clip of Hersh talking on CNN about the article, and of Scott Ritter explaining why Iran wouldn't be close to developing nuclear weapons.

See also this piece by Christopher Hitchens.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hey strangers

Okay, time for some catch-up.

First, relatively good news from Israel. I say relatively, because overall, the news is pretty awful. It looks like a centre-left coalition has been elected in Israel. Even better, Likud has been reduced to a rump. This is excellent news for the prospect of peace in the Middle East. Yes, the Palestinians elected Hamas. Yes, I wish they hadn't. However, the cycle of violence has to end somewhere, and the pursuit of peace has to begin somewhere. Anyway, Hamas was was elected on a platform of cleaning up Fatah corruption, not pursuit of terrorist objectives.

Second, I went to see former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Hans van Sponeck speak tonight. He talked passionately about the need for the United Nations, while maintaining that it needs to be reformed. He gave no specific proposals, but said that it is important to include civil society in the UN milieu. He also talked about the oil-for-food program of which he was a part, and the devestating effect of UN sanctions on Iraq.

An Afghan man who had from Islam to Christianity was let go by Afghan authorities because they declared he was not competent to stand trial. No doubt, this decision was influence by pressure from the West. Pressure, by the way, which I agree with in this case. He would have faced the death penalty. Apparently, some Muslim fundamentalists have protested saying that he should be put to death. Clerics have apparently called for his murder. As I understand it, this man is trying to leave Afghanistan. Good move. Good case for refugee status as well. Italy is considering giving him asylum.

Fuck them. Fuck all of them. I don't give a shit what Afghan law says about who should be put to death, just like I don't give a shit about what US law says about the same. Human rights are universal, and one of those rights is freedom of religion.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Matters of war and peace

There's a third Anniversary anti-war march tomorrow. I will take pictures, and post them. If I don't, call me a liar.

There are a lot of things that need to be posted about, things related to peace and human rights.

The Bush Administration has released a new National Security Strategy. It maintains the right to pre-emption.

The UN General Assembly voted 174-4 to create a new Human Rights Council. Overall, it sounds like an improvement over the Human Rights Commission. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty both support it, and HRW makes suggestions for maximizing its effectiveness.

The Bush Administration continues to make noise about Iran. It sounds like Seymour Hersh was right. Iran might well be next.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For light does the darkness most fear

This is for me as much as anyone.

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters

From "Hands", by Jewel

This Modern World: The Nitpicking Squad

Monday, March 13, 2006

Open letter to Stephen Harper, Peter McKay, and Michael Wilson

I sent the following letter to the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and newly minted Canadian Ambassador to the US.

Dear Messrs Harper, Mckay, and Wilson

I strongly urge the Canadian government to take urgent action with respect to the plight of Allen Abney of Kingsgate, BC.

In 1968, Mr. Abney deserted the US Army to avoid participation in the Vietnam War, and came to Canada.

On Thursday, March 9, Mr. Abney, travelling with his wife, was detained at the BC-Idaho border. He was subsequently arrested by the US customs officers.

He is now being held at his old base in San Diego, where he faces the prospect of court martial.

As of today, his wife of 35 years has not been allowed to contact him. This is the longest they have ever been apart, and it is very hard on both of them.

To make matters worse, Allen's brother Gerry died on Saturday, and his family is concerned that he will not be able to attend the funeral.

There is no good reason for the US authorities to carry on with this charade. There is no justification for them to hold Mr. Abnie for deserting 38 years ago, and thereby terrify his family. He is not a threat to the US, and by deserting, he avoided participation in a an illegal military action in which war crimes were committed by the US military.

I strongly and respectfully urge Prime Minister Harper, Foreign Minister McKay, and Ambassador Wilson to take action to ensure that Mr. Abney is allowed to return to his home in time for his brother's funeral, and that the matter will be dropped by United States authorities.

Stephen Karr

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bush "honours" Gandhi

While visiting India today, George W Bush laid a wreath at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial.

He actually had the nerve to refer to Gandhi when talking about a responsibility to "bring light and freedom to the darkest corners of our earth," obviously completely oblivious to the latter's adherence to nonviolence, and with no sense of irony that a warmonger is exploiting the memory of a pacifist. Light and freedom are good things, but they can't be imposed from without. They can be encouraged, but not imposed.

Here are a couple of responses from the Gandhi family:

Arun Gandhi, grandson:

India is seeking business from the U.S.; the U.S. wants markets for its products so this Indo-U.S. relationship is nothing but an attempt to exploit each other. From the western point of view it is economic colonization. India has sold its soul to materialism and will bend over backwards to get some dollars from the U.S. ... The only way Bush can honor Gandhi is by taking a chapter from his life and showing greater compassion for the poor people of the world and not by laying a wreath at his memorial. Bush is a warmonger, he believes in peace through the barrel of a gun and has set the world on a course of violent devastation. Gandhi had hoped for greater compassion, respect, understanding between the peoples and nations of the world.

Ela Gandhi, granddaughter:

Gandhiji's entire philosophy was based on two fundamental principles, among others: one the belief that people can change -- that people, groups and communities can transform, and two that the force of truth and love or Satyagraha driven by the spirit, or soul force, can make a huge difference in the world, in bringing about transformation. So when Bush who is planning to lay a wreath on the Gandhi Memorial in New Delhi, during the year when we celebrate the centenary of Satyagraha, performs this act, I hope and pray that this act may help towards changing his beliefs and attitudes. I can only hope and pray that maybe some truth and some possible transformation in his own philosophy is driving him to this sacred place.

I pray that this contact with the spirit of Gandhiji may inspire him into changing his position on war and violence. I pray that this gesture may help him to see that he must desist from committing the same error he did with Iraq, with Iran or any other country or peoples. I hope he will be inspired by Gandhiji's implicit belief in the fact that wars cannot solve the problems of the world, they only aggravate them. We need peace, we need some sanity in the world. Gandhiji said, 'An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.' That truth should help caution Bush against war and the use of war and violence for any purpose. I truly and deeply hope that the spirit of Gandhiji will help to transform his views and he will stop using violence and war. If Bush really wants to honor Gandhiji he will lay a wreath at the memorial and in so doing commit himself to renounce his use of violence and war.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The issues of our time

These are what I think are the three most critical global issues that we are faced with right now:

1) Ballistic Missile Defence
2) Climate Change
3) Extreme poverty and disease in Africa

With respect to ballistic missile defence, it is a hoax, a scam perpetuated by the military-industrial complex. It is powerful enough to lead Canadian politicians to lie through their teeth and support it, going against Canadian public opinion. It is an extremely dangerous and stupid plan which is not defensive but in fact offensive in intent. In contrast to what it's supporters say, it does involved the weaponization of space, it hasn't being proven to work, and it will spawn a new global arms race. These are verifyable facts. I am doing a lot of educating myself on this issue, and expect that I'll be writing about it quite a bit in the future.

The vast majority of independent scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening. So do all industrialized countries except for the US. The US signed Kyoto but has refused to ratify it. We will continue to ignore it at our peril. While we pat ourselves on the back for belonging to a country that supports Kyoto, let's remember that Kyoto is just a first step, a small first step. We will have to radically change our consumption and transportation habits if we are really going stop the coming catastrophe.

It is disgraceful, truly disgraceful, that there exists in this world such a profound gap between rich and poor. Even the poor here don't know what poor it when you consider the squalor in which the poor in the majority world, especially in Africa , live. If, as Gandhi said, poverty is the worst form of violence, then Africa is being massacred. People their die for AIDS and starvation by the thousands. Even more appaling is the reality that it is entirely preventable. If Western governments merely gave .7% of their GDP to financially support Africa, it would go a long way toward stifling this terrible scenario.

When I look at these critical issues, one thing that comes to mind is a huge disconnect. Around a trillion dollars will be put toward an insane missile defence scheme that will put us on the brink. Somehow, it seems to make more sense to some to support that expenditure, rather than spend a fraction of that saving lives in Africa. Therefore, I think these issues are not just about the bare-bones facts. They are about the kind of world we want to live in, and what we consider important. They are about what we value as human beings. They are about how we want out public money to be spent. They are about beating our swords into ploughshares.