31 January 2009

Don't Eat Meat !

In North America, the great prairie grasslands have been plundered over the past decades in aid of raising beef cattle, rendering the natural pastures desolate.

Today, bovine products are raised on huge tracts of land in the USA and Canada, polluting and poisoning the earth with no thought to the long term effects of this constant degradation to the earth.

In Brazil, Agri Businesses are chewing up great chunks of the Amazonian rain forest to make grazing areas available for their stock.

The bottom line is profit.

The cost to the environment will be enormous and more likely than not, irreparable.

The cost to the health of individuals who eat the cow will also have a hefty price to pay in the long run.

Solution? Stop eating meat. Wean yourself away from eating animal flesh. Embrace a vegetarian, or better yet, vegan way to eat.

The whole world will profit.

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Turkey PM Erdogan: Palestine an open-air prison

Am liking this guy more and more.
"The world has not respected the political will of the Palestinian people," the premier told The Washington Post. "On the one hand, we defend democracy and we try our best to keep democracy in the Middle East, but on the other hand we do not respect the outcome of . . . the ballot box. Palestine today is an open-air prison. Hamas, as much as they tried, could not change the situation. Just imagine, you imprison the speaker of a country as well as some ministers of its government and members of its parliament. And then you expect them to sit obediently?"

How 'bout our gutless wonders speaking truth for a change? ... Nuh!

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Hamas in Gaza furious with Damascus "deciders"

And if this report is true, I don't blame the Gaza leaders for their fury.
Palestinian sources told the Egyptian daily newspaper Al Ahram that the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip sought to extend the six-month cease-fire that preceded Israel's military offensive last month and are furious with Hamas' Damascus-based political bureau chief Khaled Meshal's decision to end the truce, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.

Decision-makers out of the line of fire should cede to decision-makers within the line of fire, since the latter best know the situation confronting them.

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30 January 2009

Is Fresh, Local Produce Available in Your Community?

Food security is a big topic today.

Here on Vancouver Island a goodly number of residents, food activists, farmers and those in the food business are awake to the fact that we must produce more locally grown food. This documentary: "An Island on the Edge" certainly makes one think.

We take for granted that our food supply will continue to just show up in the grocery stores. Or that "someone" will grow, harvest and market enough food for us at an affordable price.

For the most part, Big Agriculture is that "someone" who will do it for us. Importing food from China (garlic, for example) is ludicrous, as is driving truckloads of kale from California or shipping potatoes from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island.

Support local farmers, buy at the farm gate or from farmer run markets. Dine at restaurants that feature crisp, fresh ingredients produced within 100 miles of their establishment. Ask your favorite produce clerk what they have on the shelves that are home-grown. Research and discover what and where food is being cultivated in your area.

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Bolivians Vote Constitutional Change

The referendum passed with over 60 percent support from the population. As Sinclair Thompson, New York University, says in this video, the referendum sets a precedent: "This is the first time Bolivia ever had a popular democratic vote on a constitution."

By comparison, the Canadian Constitution has never gone to the electorate.

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Turkish PM speaks, then walks out in Davos

Wow! Good for him!

At the Davos meeting of the world economic forum, Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Shimon Peres, president of Israel: "When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill."
He then walked off the stage, declaring that he would never return to Davos, after claiming he had not been allowed to speak by the debate moderator, the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Erdogan also accused Peres of raising his voice and claimed the Israeli statesman had been allowed more speaking time than himself and the panel discussion's two other participants, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League.

Video accompanies the article linked above.

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Israel: Documenting its own Illegal Activity

Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement.
Just four years ago, the defense establishment decided to carry out a seemingly elementary task: establish a comprehensive database on the settlements. Brigadier General (res.) Baruch Spiegel, aide to then defense minister Shaul Mofaz, was put in charge of the project. For over two years, Spiegel and his staff, who all signed a special confidentiality agreement, went about systematically collecting data, primarily from the Civil Administration.

One of the main reasons for this effort was the need to have credible and accessible information at the ready to contend with legal actions brought by Palestinian residents, human rights organizations and leftist movements challenging the legality of construction in the settlements and the use of private lands to establish or expand them. The painstakingly amassed data was labeled political dynamite.

The defense establishment, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, steadfastly refused to publicize the figures, arguing, for one thing, that publication could endanger state security or harm Israel's foreign relations. Someone who is liable to be particularly interested in the data collected by Spiegel is George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, who came to Israel this week for his first visit since his appointment. It was Mitchell who authored the 2001 report that led to the formulation of the road map, which established a parallel between halting terror and halting construction in the settlements.

The official database, the most comprehensive one of its kind ever compiled in Israel about the territories, was recently obtained by Haaretz. Here, for the first time, information the state has been hiding for years is revealed. An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.

Read the full report. This may be a case of the pen being mightier than the sword - or Gaza rockets.

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On Tuesday, Daphne and I wrote of our impressions of Budget 2009, in terms of how it might help the poorest of low-income wage earners. We used two households (ours) as examples. In the comments section, others came forward with their own stories, which we appreciated.

Well, thanks to this handy dandy Tax Savings Calculator, we can see exactly by how much the budget will help "the most vulnerable."

All those minuses mean that a single person who earns less than $10,000 a year will get zilch. That's because the tax cuts are not refundable tax credits. They just reduce the income tax that people might pay. If you already earn too little to pay income tax, you'll benefit NOTHING from the new budget.

As Daphne mentioned in our original post, she owns her own home. But you can bet that she'll not be able to take advantage of the new Home Renovation Tax Credit either. Cuz, again, she doesn't earn enough to pay income tax. She hasn't a spare $1,000 lying around either.

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Cutting Back

... can mean less frequent visits to the hair or beauty salon.
In a few fraught months, the city's beauty scene has been turned on its well-coiffed head. Manicures and facials have been deemed fripperies, hair highlights are a luxury, and regular waxing can be delayed thanks to forgiving layers of winter clothing.

But pedicures and haircuts remain an absolute must, even if they are postponed for a week or two.

A year ago, Toronto firefighter and natural dark-blonde Susie Opie thought nothing of dropping $200 every eight weeks to maintain the hair she admits "takes a beating," opting for whatever salon was handy.

Lately, though, she's been researching downtown salons in a bid to scale those costs back to $150 every 10 weeks.

Yours truly stopped frequenting hair salons years ago, affordability being the issue. Have been cutting my own hair ever since. At first, it was a difficult adjustment - I'd bought into the notion of professional hair cutting as a basic "need" -, but one does get used to it.

Can't imagine myself ever spending precious dollars again for a hair cut, even if my fortunes did turn around.

Which brings up the matter of the long-term effects of an economic downturn. The longer a recession lasts, the greater likelihood of certain new behaviours, such as less consumption, becoming permanent.

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Effectiveness of Aggression against "Terror"

Aggressive detention, including torture, locking up people without charge and without fair (if any) judicial process, circumventing the Geneva convention, defying international law... All this to advance the War on Terror™.

Two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have now taken leadership positions in Al Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula branch have released several statements on a jihadi Internet forum. “By God, we assert to our leaders and shaykhs - Shaykh Osama bin Laden, God preserve him, and Dr. Ayman Zawahiri—that we will fulfill our promise, and that we will perform the jihad,” said Shaykh Abu Sufyan al-Azdi Saed al-Shahri, formerly prisoner number 372. “By God, our detention only made us more insistent and committed to our principles, which we strove for and were detained for.”

Well done! An endless War on Terror, just what the Bushies ordered. (H/T to Macleans.)

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29 January 2009

BC NDP and Electoral Reform - Part 3

Part 2 here.

The following is my Dec. 18th response to Carole James' email. To date, I've not received a response.

Dear Ms. James:

Thank you for your response outlining the NDP's intentions should the STV referendum succeed or fail.

I would appreciate further clarity about your intentions in the event that STV again achieves majority support, but does not cross the 60% threshold. In particular, you have stated the following (to the BC Citizens' Assembly):

"The NDP reaffirms its position that electoral reform should emerge from an open and democratic process of public consultation culminating in a provincial referendum. In that process, political parties should take a back seat to citizens. We therefore reaffirm our support for the independence of the Citizens' Assembly and express our confidence that it will succeed in offering for public approval an electoral system that meets the aspirations and best interests of British Columbians."

Given this statement, what "open and democratic process" would you propose to follow "to work for an electoral system that is fair and balanced"? Will you convene a new Citizens' Assembly followed by a referendum with a 60% threshold, or will you move more directly towards implementing some version of MMP? In the latter case, how would you justify this action in the light of your previous statement that "political parties should take a back seat to citizens" and in the face of both the 80-20 vote against MMP by the Citizens' Assembly and the failure of MMP in two provincial referendums? In short, do you see a path forward for electoral reform that would be consistent both with your statements to the Citizens' Assembly and with how you propose to treat the results of the upcoming STV referendum?

Supporters of MMP would be particularly interested in the answer to this question. Opponents of STV have sometimes argued that a vote against STV is not necessarily a vote against reform, but for MMP advocates to take this claim seriously and use it to inform their own referendum vote, they must know how the NDP and the Liberals would interpret the referendum results and what the parties would plan to do in response - particularly in response to a majority which does not exceed the 60% threshold. I therefore ask you to clearly spell out your intentions in this event.

Also do you personally (i.e., not as official NDP policy) disagree with the following two statements:

1. STV provides greater proportionality in the allocation of seats in the Legislature.
2. STV ensures significant local representation and makes appropriate provision for the representation of rural communities and remote regions of our province.

Chrystal Ocean

It took one month to get a response to my first email which, given the time of year, probably isn't bad. To get a response at all to one of my NDP-addressed emails was a first. When writing on behalf of WISE, I received not a single reply.

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28 January 2009

We are Separatists

Daphne and I have been holding onto this post, waiting for the right moment to publish it. This is that moment.

Michael Ignatieff has declared that the Liberals will accept the Harper budget, under the proviso the Conservatives issue progress reports. This condition does not speak to the issues we raised in this post, that one and in others on this blog. With Budget 2009, there'll still be nothing for those already desperately poor, nothing for those who are the most vulnerable to the economic downturn - the Other poor to those deserving "vulnerable" who the neocons favour for assistance. (And even that will be too little to make a difference.)

Here's the post we've been saving...

For a long time, I've pondered the benefit of my community, now Vancouver Island, being part of the political entity that is the Dominion of Canada. Not because of any dislike for Canada's land, waters or people - that aspect of being Canadian makes me go all mushy inside - but because I can't see how a nation so large, structured as Canada is politically, can fairly represent and administer and distribute justice to all of its people.

As long as Canada maintains the power structure that it has now, then I would prefer that British Columbia be a nation unto itself - i.e., separate from Canada. Even better, that Vancouver Island go it alone.

Our top-tier government has only grown more powerful over the decades, not less. It has been steadily sucking political power from the nation's provinces, territories, regions and municipalities. Thus the federal government, together with its puppet masters, has steadily been eroding the ability of citizens in their communities to directly influence change.

More and more, citizens are taken as irrelevant by our politicians. The support of the federal government by large corporations powers the agenda of Canada's politicos. Their concern for the people functions only as an electoral device to "win" a mandate to govern, one that is rigged by our outdated voting system. And then the winning party governs for the CEOs. For "ordinary" Canadians (to which our political parties so fondly refer), to think otherwise is to be delusional.

Recently, I emailed these reflections to Daphne, and asked: Have you ever thought about things like this?

We don't always agree and I wasn't expecting agreement here.

"Yes," replied Daphne, "have pondered this and have talked to others over the years... At one time, I printed T-shirts which depicted Vancouver Island as forming the Vancouver Island Liberation Organization, hence breaking away from the rest of Canada."

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization t-shirt

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization T-shirts, anyone?

We are not alone in wanting to detach ourselves from the rest of Canada, friend Daphne explained. An emerging notion is that of Cascadia. The boundaries of Cascadia vary but in most proposals, all or part of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington state are included.

While some notion of Cascadia might be workable in the future, Daphne and I prefer thinking only in terms of BC or Vancouver Island separating from Canada.

Seriously, we're fed up with successive governments which are supposed to be OF, FOR and BY the people being instead OF, FOR, and BY Canada's CEOs. And a heckuva job those CEOs have been doing lately!

Consider one example which exemplifies the joined-at-the-hip relation between Canada's government and big business.

Successive governments have been selling off our1 resources under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership "agreement" endorsed by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA. (Don't be fooled. The name keeps changing, but the agenda remains the same.)2

Instrumental to the SPP is our very own Grand Ayatollah, one Tom d'Aquino, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Mr. d'Aquino is one busy guy! Read the article. You'll understand why we two, having trashed our rose-coloured glasses long ago, prefer to divorce ourselves from Canada Inc.

1 A sizeable chunk of "our" natural resources are on and in traditional native land and water.
2 Excellent Canadian sites for information on the SPP include Global Research and the Council of Canadians.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

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IMF: Cons' rosy projections unreal

The International Monetary Fund defies the picture painted yesterday in the Conservatives' budget and that painted earlier in the week by Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada. Au contraire, according to the IMF,

Canada will indeed fall into a recession this year, with a 1.2 per cent contraction similar to that projected by both the Finance Department and Canada's central bank. But the IMF sees Canada's economy remaining in the dumps in 2010 with a 1.6 per cent advance, which barely gets it back to where it was before the slump began.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and bank governor Mark Carney have projected a much stronger rebound.

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BBC loses major interview

The International Atomic Energy Agency's chief nuclear inspector has cancelled his interview with the BBC.

Mohamed ElBaradei's UN office said Wednesday that not broadcasting [the DEC Gaza appeal] violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong.

Such protests continue against the BBC. Are advertisers soon to follow? (Does the BBC have advertisers or is it wholly funded by the government?)

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27 January 2009

Billions for new housing, but not for those who need it most

Michael Shapcott of the Wellesley Institute has completed the first article in a series which he intends to write on today's budget and how it affects people who are the most vulnerable to the economic downturn.


BILLIONS IN NEW HOUSING DOLLARS, BUT WHO REALLY BENEFITS: Federal budget 2009 promises to deliver billions upon billions of dollars over the next two years in new housing investments – the single biggest amount of new housing spending in more than two decades.... [M]ost of the new dollars will flow quickly to people who already own their home and want to re-pave their driveway, or cottagers who want to add a new sun deck. The hundreds of thousands who will experience homelessness this year won’t get a single penny in desperately needed new programs and services; and the three million Canadian households who are precariously housed (a modern-day record) will have to wait to see if the much smaller dollars being offered to them will actually make it through a complicated set of federal-provincial-territorial negotiations including a cost-sharing requirement.

WHO’S LEFT OUT: Hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people living in urban, rural and remote parts of Canada who bear a major burden of homelessness and housing insecurity won’t get a single penny in new housing help. People with physical or mental health concerns who require supportive housing have been offered a mere $75 million for the entire country – an amount that will fund only a handful of new homes. The bottom line: The biggest dollars will go to those who need the least help; and the people who are facing the biggest housing challenges are left to wait for a small share of the overall spending...

THE DRIVEWAYS AND DECKS TAX CREDIT: The federal budget puts the two-year cost of this tax credit at $3 billion. But their numbers don’t add up. The budget documents say a tax credit of up to $1,350 will be offered to an estimated 4.6 million households. That puts the cost of the tax credit as high as $6.2 billion. But whether it’s $3b or $6b or somewhere in between, the tax credit is designed to help homeowners renovate their kitchen or bathroom or basement; add new carpeting or hardwood floors; build a deck or a fence or an addition to their home; add a new furnace or water heater; paint the interior or exterior of the house; resurface the driveway; or lay new sod. Some of the improvements may have an energy or environmental benefit (the feds set up a separate $300 million fund for energy efficiency), but most of the list are cosmetic improvements. Great for the renovation business, but at a time when a record number of Canadians are precariously housed, is this the smartest use of federal tax dollars? Homeowners make up about two-thirds of Canadian households, and their annual incomes are about double those of renters, on average. Homeowners already receive generous tax subsidies from the federal government. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty reported earlier in January that the annual tax break to homeowners is more than $11.5 billion – that’s five and one-half times more than the less than $2 billion in current federal housing support for lower income Canadians.

LESS HELP FOR THOSE THAT NEED IT THE MOST: The driveways and decks tax credit is up to three times bigger than the entire investment set aside for lower-income Canadians who are suffering the most. An even bigger concern – virtually the entire $2 billion in affordable housing investments will have to be cost-shared with the provinces and territories following negotiations...

Read the whole thing.

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Impressions of Budget

... from residents of two households whose total earnings already place them in the lowest decile income bracket - that is, too low to pay income tax. Neither household receives social or other government assistance.

Budget 2009 allows for modest tax cuts for people who earn under $80,000 per year and pay income tax. These tax cuts are not refundable tax credits. Thus the lowest income earners are left out.


My total annual income is under $8,000, of which rent consumes over 70 percent. My monthly expenditures are for rent, Internet connection, hydro and food.

I haven't a phone; I don't buy clothing; I don't go to the dentist; I don't go to the movies or theatre or to restaurants; I haven't a car and don't use the public transit system. I walk everywhere, although a disability makes this painful.

Without a phone, the Internet is my only means of connecting to the outside world; eliminate that and I'm truly cut off.

The only 'discretionary' spending my budget allows is for food.

The prices of most food staples have risen up to 50 percent over the past six months alone.
  • Bread from $0.89 per loaf to $1.39. 
  • Brown rice from $12.99 to $19.99. 
  • Soy milk from $3.89 to $4.49. 
  • Tofu from $1.68 to $1.98. 
  • Dark green lettuce from $0.89 to $1.89. 
These are items I consume every day.

Due to the price increases, I've either had to purchase the lowest quality and least nutritious item (white rather than brown rice), consume less (soy milk, tofu, lettuce) or go without (bread - until I unexpectedly acquired an old breadmaker).

As prices continue to rise, I'll be unable to keep cutting back. My ability to pay the rent will suffer as a result. Eventually, I'll have to leave this place. Eventually, I'll become homeless.


I live on an exceedingly small income, less than $9,000 a year. I own my own home outright. I pay regional and provincial taxes, house insurance, hydro, water, recycling and garbage fees. These payments are non-negotiable. There is also ongoing upkeep to be done to the house, as it was built in the 1940's. I heat with electricity supplemented by a wood burning stove. This takes up a large amount of my income.

With what is left, I feed and clothe myself while caring for a disabled partner who "falls through the cracks" as far as any social assistance is concerned.

I recently gave up one of my three part time jobs to be more available to care for my aging mother, who lives a ferry ride away. The cost of a return trip, including bus fare to the mainland is nearly $50. I visit twice a month or more.

The new federal budget has nothing for the working poor of this country. Yet we are precisely the people who would be most likely to spend, rather than save, any money given us to bolster our starved budgets.

ETA: We sent an email to Michael Ignatieff, requesting that he vote down the budget. We cc'd it to Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.

ETA 2: See THIRD HOUSEHOLD in comments below.

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UPDATE: Several billions in tax cuts?

UPDATE: Tories hint at tax cuts for people earning under $80,000. Also rumoured: planned corporate tax cuts will be sped up.

So continuing with the game of Guess What's in the Budget ...

There's the $6 billion announced in previous orchestrated leaks, the just announced $7 billion for infrastructure and the $13 billion deficit already on the books for 2009/10.

Since Harper revealed on January 17th that 2009/10 will deliver a $34 billion deficit, that leaves $8 billion for more goodies yet to be revealed.

Given the vague and frequent mention over the past week of temporary and permanent tax cuts, likely those will form a good chunk of the remainder - and largely for corporations and the middle class.

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26 January 2009

Pig meat anyone?

For those of us who are vegan eaters this is a horror story.
For those of you who still consume the muscle and fat of animals, this could be YOUR story.

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Issues with Speech from the Throne

Here's the full text of the speech.

The good:

The Government's agenda and the priorities of Parliament must adapt in response to the deepening crisis. Old assumptions must be tested and old decisions must be rethought.

At issue is by whose yardstick the "tested" assumptions are to be measured and whether "rethought" decisions will be changed.

The bad:

In pursuing measures to support the economy, our Government will also attend to the other important priorities that it set out in the Speech from the Throne to open the 40th Parliament.

Call me cynical, but the speech signals to me that we're in for more of this government's Jekyll and Hyde antics in the coming weeks.

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Harper Statements on the Economy: Myth or Fact

Courtesy CBC, here are ten statements alleged to have been said by PM Stephen Harper. Take the test and report your score.

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60 Minutes: Time Running Out for A Two State Solution

Good overview of the situation from the program 60 Minutes.

If you can't view the video, here is the text version.

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25 January 2009

On Bias and "Impartiality" in Media

When you are
  • confronted by an overwhelming number of facts from numerous sources concerning a humanitarian disaster, and
  • you choose to ignore those facts or
  • consider those facts irrelevant to your decision on whether to support a humanitarian effort to address said disaster, then
you are guilty of bias and of "compromising public confidence in [your] impartiality."

To turn around and suggest you'll "reconsider" your decision "when things have calmed down and [you don't] have the same worries about the controversial nature" of supporting the emergency effort doesn't help. It only demonstrates that this particular controversy inheres not in the reality of the disaster or in the humanitarian effort, but in the BBC's own perception. That alone speaks volumes.

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Huh! BBC "open to reconsidering"

... its decision not to air the DEC Gaza appeal. Well, sort of.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has said it is open to reconsidering its earlier decision not to telecast a charity appeal for funds for Palestinians in Gaza.

The chief operating officer of the BBC, under fire for its refusal to air the appeal, said a reversal of the decision was possible if another request to air the appeal was made.

But with an absurd proviso.

"We never say never and clearly, if the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) came to us with another request when things have calmed down and we didn't have the same worries about the controversial nature of this, we would look at it again in that light," Caroline Thompson told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

What blarmy! Things aren't calmed down in Gaza. Idiots!

Whether the BBC has worries is up to their own perception, no? Cuz DEC UK hasn't changed its position; there was no need to do so. Ergo, if BBC's "worries about the controversial nature of this" were to change, then one might conclude the broadcaster has re-evaluated its previous, appallingly bad decision.

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Another Leak: $315 million for tourism

That's in addition to the $400 million Ottawa annually spends on tourism.

Why bother with the Throne Speech or Budget Day?

Oops! And another one: $1.5 billion for job training.

These orchestrated budget leaks have gone beyond absurdity.

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UPDATE: BBC still refuses; ITV, Channel 4 break ranks

This is an update on the BBC's refusal to air an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee on behalf of Gaza. ITV and Channel 4 have broken ranks and agreed to air the appeal.

Around 5,000 people joined protests condemning the broadcaster across London today, including rallies outside the BBC's Broadcasting House headquarters and Trafalgar Sqaure, and an MP began collecting colleagues' signatures for a motion to be tabled in parliament on Monday, condemning its refusal to broadcast the TV and radio appeal.

The BBC decision not to show the appeal was reached together with other broadcasters last week. But ITV today said that "the majority" of networks had now agreed to broadcast the appeal.

Watch veteran Brit politician Tony Benn step up to do what the BBC wouldn't.

The BBC supposing that its refusal to air the DEC appeal demonstrates its NON-bias astounds me. Its very refusal exposes bias.

ETA: See more on this subject here and here.

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New Site: Virtual Gaza

Here's a new effort aimed at thwarting the (largely unsuccessful) Israeli attempts to prevent news leakage from Gaza. It's a collaboration between the Alliance for Justice in the Middle East at Harvard University and MIT.

Virtual Gaza is an independent, civic media initiative established by a collective of scholars, media activists and Palestinian residents of Gaza in response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009.

For years, Israel has been gradually tightening its strangehold on the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, sealing its borders and cutting off adequate food, fuel, and medical supplies, bringing the economy and infrastructure to the point of collapse.

Israel has also sought to control how Gaza's story is told to the outside - from its sophisticated 'public relations' campaigns to blocking the entry of foreign journalists.

The site will be using Google Earth and other tech tools to help bring Gazan reality to the virtual world.

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23 January 2009

BBC refuses to air Gaza DEC appeal

... fearing that if it did, the broadcaster would be seen to be biased.

Normally all broadcasters show Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeals without charge, but if one of them does wish to go ahead, then no channel will show the advertising...

"The BBC's decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation, and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story."

...The DEC is an umbrella organisation representing a number of aid agencies, including Action Aid, Save the Children, the British Red Cross, Islamic Relief and Oxfam...

The DEC had three criteria that needed to be met before it launched an appeal, namely that there was an overwhelming unmet need, that they could do something in a timely and effective way, and that there is public concern.

There is. They can. And yes, the public is concerned.

So what's your problem BBC? Biased, much?

ETA: See more on this subject here, here and here.

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BC MLA wants to outlaw body armour

Truly, the NDP are losing it. This idiot wants to ban body armour. So CRIMINALS can't wear it to protect themselves from police fire. You know, those same people who would have no qualms acquiring protection through illegal means.

If that isn't idiotic enough, then there's this to consider about such a ban: There are people who aren't criminals - those with legitimate reasons to fear for their safety or just your average John or Jane Paranoid - who choose to wear body armour.

Forget the criminals; the proposed ban would infringe on their rights too.

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Church blames strike for loss in attendance - cancels Sunday service

Headline reads: Ottawa transit strike strands worshippers; Faith communities forced to cancel services [my emphasis]

Oh, ye of little faith!

In my community, the transit situation has only very lately improved. Until about six months ago, we had no Sunday service at all. Zero. Zilch. Zippo.

During a project I did on women in poverty in this community, one woman told me of walking five miles every Sunday to get to Church. Each way. She has scoliosis and arthritis. Of course, she'd likely do that even with Sunday bus service. She and the majority of women I interviewed had to walk everywhere regardless: public transit is a luxury few of them can afford.

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Fighting an Uneven Battle

Most people would be forced to agree with this article, were they not so eager to suspend their reasoning faculties in favour of blind faith and ideology.

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 22 (IPS) - In the 1967 movie classic the "Battle of Algiers", which recreated Algeria's war of independence against France, a handcuffed and shackled insurgent leader, Ben M'Hidi, is brought before a group of highly-partisan French journalists for intense interrogation.

One of the journalists asks M'Hidi: "Don't you think it is a bit cowardly to use women's handbags and baskets to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people [in cafes and night clubs]?"

Responding with equal bluntness, the Algerian insurgent retorts: "And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on unarmed villages on a thousand times more innocent victims?"

"Of course, if we had your fighter planes, it would be a lot easier for us," he adds. "Give us your bombers, and you can have our handbags and baskets."

Like the Algerian insurgents, Hamas militants were not fighting on a level battle field - as the Israeli military unleashed its massive firepower on a virtually defenceless population in Gaza, killing over 1,300 Palestinians in the 22-day conflict.

"Perhaps it would be interesting to see the roles reversed: the Palestinians with American fighter planes and battle tanks and the Israelis with homemade rockets," says one Arab diplomat, striking a parallel with the Algerian insurgency.

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22 January 2009

Conservative Hypocrisy, v7.0

... or is it v10.2? They backtrack on their own rules so often, it's tough to keep track.

There's a report that proposed government legislation would gut federal environmental regulations. These would be regulations that a previous conservative government put in place.

[T]he draft bill would kill environmental assessments for any project on federal lands, or using federal dollars - or any federal infrastructure project worth less than $10-million.

It would also reportedly exempt any project from federal environmental assessment at the request of a provincial government.

The ... changes would undo major parts of the Environmental Assessment Act, enacted by the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1992.

In other words, few if any infrastructure projects to be "stimulated" by imminent federal largesse will be monitored for their environmental impact. That should please Alberta's neocons!

Fool us once, fool us twice, fool us ... how many times? How many times before Canadians clue in to this government's agenda?

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21 January 2009

Law and Order: Polygamy

Daphne and I abhor polygamy, especially as it is practised in Bountiful; it's harmful to everyone except the few men in power. Women, girls and 'leftover' boys are all hurt.

And we would never choose polygamy for ourselves. (In fact, we're done with marriage altogether). But then we've grown up in a system in which polygamy/polyandry is illegal and those who practise it are ostracized by mainstream society.

That said, we are against the outlawing of polygamy. Because we are against governments intervening in personal relationships. Period.

Crimes which are done in ANY relationship are punishable by law. Therefore, when underage girls are forced to wed, women and girls are abused, and boys who are deemed in excess are abandoned, then the law should go after the perpetrators of such crimes. No relationship is or should be treated as immune to the law.

That Bountiful has got away with so much is more a testament to the lack of political will (or male envy), since the existence of Bountiful profits certain people and communities.

Polygamy itself, though, shouldn't be deemed a crime. That two people forming a union has been the traditional view of marriage in Canada doesn't warrant Canadian tradition being the arbiter of what's right and what's not. Views and societies change.

Women in North America ordinarily shudder at the notion of living a polygamous life. But Daphne and I can imagine why some women might freely choose it, particularly in countries where marriages are arranged and where love doesn't enter into the equation.

For example, in terms of biology there are only so many 'prime' or Grade A males to go around. So some women might prefer to share a prime male with other women rather than trade that option for a male of her own who is, genetically speaking, of Grade B rather than Grade A quality. Since women also tend to bond in personal relationships more than men do, the sisterhood of wives could meet that need.

On the other hand, we challenge the whole idea of marriage. First of all, the title of wife holds only one meaning, that of being a married woman, especially when considered with reference to her husband. And husband is defined as a) the man one is married to and b) to manage carefully. The word itself is Old English for "hus" - house - and "bonda" - head of the family.

Since we are women, we strongly resent being tied to anyone who would be considered the "head of the family", which puts us under his (or her) careful management. Marriage, polygamy or any form of restraint on our being a full person in our own right devalues us and keeps us in our place in the accepted patriarchal society that is the norm, worldwide. It doesn't equate in any way to "equality."

That said, the choice is up to the individual woman should she wish to share a husband or be married. Ergo, polygamy/polyandry should not be made a criminal offence.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

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20 January 2009

Obamamania diverting attention

... from vital reports, such as this video captured in Gaza by a reporter following medics in the third week of the Israeli onslaught.

Hat tip to Canadian Dimension whose post, which also included this video, has received so little attention.

Thanks to commenter Beijing York for this link to the broadcaster's site on which readers and reporters exchange questions and answers on the situation in Gaza.

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Words of Wisdom from Ignatieff

"When you shift the centre of Canadian politics to the right, then everything changes. The federal government is weakened, the country becomes more regionalized. It becomes a more unjust and more unequal society bit by bit."

Take heed of your own warning, Mr. Ignatieff. Not just Harper needs it.

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19 January 2009

Oh, Gawd!

That was precisely my reaction as I read this Scientific American article about a group of "scholars" who met to discuss "the natural (that is, Darwinian) foundations of religious belief and behavior."

My reaction was prompted by the first item in the writer's summary of the weekend's topics:

As the resident psychologist, I reiterated my empirically based argument that belief in the afterlife is more or less an inevitable byproduct of human consciousness. Since we cannot conceptualize the absence of consciousness, even non-believers are susceptible to visions of the hereafter.

So if I CAN conceptualize nothingness and DO NOT believe in an afterlife, then I'm a Darwinian anomaly? Cuz, believe you me, I am human and I am conscious.

Haven't read the rest of the article yet. Can't wait to learn more about the "natural" foundations of religious belief.

...OK. This bit is interesting:

What if, as I suggested in my answer to this year’s “Annual Question” [regarding the existence of a supreme being], the data suggest that God is actually just a psychological blemish etched onto the core cognitive substrate of your brain? Would you still believe if you knew God were a byproduct of your evolved mental architecture?

No, cuz I don't believe in the first place. Ergo, might one argue that people who don't have that blemish etched onto their brains are further up the evolutionary chain?

I rather like that interpretation.

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Analysing Canada's Democratic Deficit

There's a good five-part series (h/t Aaron Wherry at Macleans) on diminishing voter turnout, civic engagement and the associated erosion of civil discourse in and out of Parliament, the change in how political campaigns are run, the reduction in number of Canadians taking out political party memberships, the loss of political power given to representatives we send to Parliament.

Part Five ends with a list of recommendations to address the problems:
  1. outlawing attack ads
  2. eliminating party subsidies
  3. enforcing Parliamentary decorum
  4. requiring, by law, honesty on the part of politicians
  5. replacing our first-past-the-post electoral system
  6. allowing the recall of Parliamentarians
  7. increasing the education of young people

I disagree with 2; think 4, while desirable, would be unworkable; am surprised though pleased to see 5 in the list (this is a Canwest article); applaud 1 and 6; and would expand on 7.

On eliminating party subsidies,

Tom Flanagan, the Calgary academic who ran Harper's 2004 campaign, ... says he prefers the U.S. system, in which taxpayers can check a box on their tax returns, directing a small amount of money to a party of their choice.

Have written elsewhere (nobody seems to be listening) that the issue of party subsidies is much less about the health - and wealth - of parties than it is about inclusiveness of all members of the electorate. That per vote subsidy enables low income earners to contribute financially to their party of choice.

This may be a small thing to people whose incomes make donations affordable, even beneficial through the political donations income tax write-off. But it's a HUGE thing for those amongst us whose income is too low to pay income tax (so scotch that idea, Mr. Flanagan).

On educating young people,

... can't argue with that!

But the education should never stop. Citizens of this country should be educated about their government throughout their lifetime. Situations change. As we've seen over the past decade and more.

I'd also add at least one more recommendation: that the PMO be divested of some of its power.

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18 January 2009

Finley fails the impartiality test

What an idiot Diane Finley is!

In signing a petition re the Caledonia affair, she has shown herself to be biased; and since she's a member of Harper's cabinet, this reflects poorly on the government's presumed neutral position in any negotiations.

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UPDATE - Video: Journalists call Livni "terrorist"

... during press conference on Gaza operation. That's the headline of this article in Haaretz.

It was a press conference in Washington DC, no less.

From the starting moments of the press conference, Livni was beset by a less-than friendly barrage of questions, with a number of journalists asserting that Israel's military operations in Gaza will only make Middle East peace more distant.

Some journalists went so far as to compare the Israeli government to that of dictator Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, due to Israel's decision to bar journalists from Gaza.

One of the more tense moments came when one journalist began to quote at length a Human Rights report on the situation in Gaza, before asking Livni to comment on "the murder of innocent civilians in the Strip."

When the man was asked to finish his question, he yelled "you are letting her speak for an hour, and you aren't allowing us to ask questions. Since when have you hosted terrorists here?"

UPDATE: Here's some video of the press conference, courtesy The Real News Network.

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17 January 2009

Wish we had politicians with such courage as this

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, the British veteran MP, speaking yesterday in the House of Commons (yea, there are government Houses actually in session in some parts of the world):

Dispute his comments what you will. It takes courage to take such a stand.

Not one of our politicians would do the same. They're too busy positioning themselves in the mushy political centre - that place from which principles are traded for expediency and where pragmatism rules the day.

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CanWest - Doing news differently, again

This report needs urgent reading by all those concerned about the lack of media diversity. It could get a whole lot worse, if CanWest Global has its way.

On January 13, CanWest filed an application that asks the CRTC ... to suspend “conditions of license respecting cross media ownership in light of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council’s Journalistic Independence Code.”

The Journalistic Independence Code is an industry self-management document approved by the CRTC in October 2008.

If granted by the CRTC, the new ruling would apply to Burnaby’s Global BC and to CHEK TV in Victoria, as well as other CanWest stations across Canada.

The application asks the CRTC to remove conditions of licence imposed in 2001 when CanWest stations across Canada last came before the commission for permission to do business as TV broadcasters. Since their last application, CanWest had acquired Canada’s largest newspaper chain.

The 2001 conditions called on the company to “ensure the independence and separation of newsrooms of its television services and affiliated newspapers” ....

At the time, the CRTC expressed strong concerns about the trend toward mega-media mergers in Canada. Its ruling said melding TV and print newsrooms owned by the same company might “enhance the quality of news coverage” or instead cause “loss of diversity voices and … distinct editorial voices available to the public.”

However, the 2001 ruling by the regulatory body did say that it would consider suspending the conditions of licence if CanWest agreed with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to comply with an industry-wide code of conduct approved by CRTC.

Note that the CBSC is largely an organ of the broadcasters. As such, were CanWest to get its way, we'd be faced with yet another situation of industry monitoring itself. We all know how well that works.

The cutoff date for public response to the CanWest application is January 28.

Members of the public should immediately demand that the deadline be extended. Only two weeks from time of application to deadline is absurd. One has to wonder: What's the hurry?

As to the CRTC, well they've their own bias. Ergo, without clear, vocal public dissent on the application, confidence in an appropriate ruling would be misplaced.

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16 January 2009

Journalists call Livni "terrorist"

... during press conference on Gaza operation. That's the headline of this article in Haaretz.

It was a press conference in Washington DC, no less.

From the starting moments of the press conference, Livni was beset by a less-than friendly barrage of questions, with a number of journalists asserting that Israel's military operations in Gaza will only make Middle East peace more distant.

Some journalists went so far as to compare the Israeli government to that of dictator Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, due to Israel's decision to bar journalists from Gaza.

One of the more tense moments came when one journalist began to quote at length a Human Rights report on the situation in Gaza, before asking Livni to comment on "the murder of innocent civilians in the Strip."

When the man was asked to finish his question, he yelled "you are letting her speak for an hour, and you aren't allowing us to ask questions. Since when have you hosted terrorists here?"

Will be interesting to see what reports come out of that press conference. Don't imagine the journalists in question are representatives of Western corporate media. More likely, they're with alternative or progressive organizations or from foreign climes.

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On Economic Stimulus and Empowering Communities

Have written about this issue before and no doubt will do so again. Last time it was within the context of addressing the Liberal Party's urban caucus committee report.

This time it's to comment on this report.

The mayors of Canada's largest cities ... have written an open letter to premiers and territorial leaders to say that cities are ready to invest in such things as public transit, roads, affordable housing, libraries, community centres and recreational facilities. But they want the money to be delivered in the same way as the federal gas-tax fund, which lets them decide at the municipal level which projects get funding - as opposed to applying for the money on a case-by-case basis...

The gas-tax fund ... goes straight to municipal priorities, [Toronto mayor David Miller] said. "The municipalities choose the future that their citizens need. That's democratic and it's absolutely right."

...When asked how the federal government can be sure that infrastructure money delivered in the same way as the gas tax would go to projects that create jobs, Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said cities are both responsible and accountable.

Sounds reasonable to me! Of course it would, given that I consider the political power structure in this country to be ass backwards.

IF municipalities fail to fund projects which their citizens need and want, you can bet said citizens will go after them post-haste. There'll be reams spent in letters to the editor, citizens parked on doorsteps and council meetings over-populated with irate voters. Citizens in communities can reach their local politicians faster and more effectively than they can provincial and federal politicians who live and hold power in distant realms.

It's amusing that ALL but one of the comments over at G&M (mine) - we may assume commenters are over-represented by conservative types - argue against the mayors' request.

Instead, these folks would prefer that the reins of power be held firmly by Daddy Harper and family. He is to be The Decider.

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14 January 2009

Justifying Aggression... the Pattern Emerges

Recall the "false intelligence" the US used to justify its military attack on Iraq? It appears Dubya wasn't the first.

All of the suffering in Gaza - indeed, all of the suffering endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation for the last eight years - could have been avoided if Israel negotiated a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat when it had the chance, in 2001.

What chance? The official Israeli position is that there was no chance, "no partner for peace." That’s what Israeli leaders heard from their Military Intelligence (MI) service in 2000 after the failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David. Arafat scuttled those talks, MI told the leaders, because he was planning to set off a new round of violence, a second intifada.

Now former top officials of MI say the whole story, painting Arafat as a terrorist out to destroy Israel, was an intentional fiction. That’s the most explosive finding in an investigative report just published in Israel’s top newspaper, Ha’aretz, by one of its finest journalists, Akiva Eldar.

What's the saying about the first casualty of war being truth? 'twould appear truth is lost long before a single weapon is dropped or drawn.

The US and Israel appear to be intimately linked through the power players who are manipulating both countries. Their shock and awe techniques and their manufactured justifications for war are the same. It's not clear to me anymore which country is mimicking which. If the power players are the same, that question is moot.

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CRTC - Guarding the Gate of Western Propaganda

The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission approves of Fox News.

It doesn't approve of Al-Jazeera.

Therefore, television viewers and radio listeners in Canada cannot see or listen to news from the Arab world other than as filtered by Western media - such as Fox News.

Apparently, the illustrious personages of the CRTC fear that Canadians might be done irreparable harm if they were subjected to Al-Jazeera news reports. Such care for Canadians' moral health and fortitude does not extend to the propaganda spewed forth by the likes of Bill O'Reilly.

Al-Jazeera is a Qatari-based broadcaster and winner of dozens of international news and current affairs awards. It has more bureaus than CNN and BBC.

In 2004, the CRTC "approved" distribution of Al Jazeera’s Arabic service, while slapping draconian restrictions on companies that distributed it. They would have to monitor it and delete anything that could be construed as "abusive content." That was like inviting a person to speak, then placing a muzzle over his mouth. Predictably, no distributor would take on that expense or risk. So, no Al Jazeera in Canada.

Just three months later, the CRTC approved Fox News for Canadian distribution with no restrictions at all, despite the fact that some might construe much of what comes out of the mouths of Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter as "abusive content." Asked about the apparent double standard, a spokesperson for the CRTC says, "We take each application on a case-by-case basis. We do not compare cases."

For myself, I can't count the number of times I've been reminded of one correct decision I made: to cancel my Shaw television service, to give away my TV and to get all my news online.

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Dept of Homeland Security, Israel style

Does Israel have a Department of Homeland Security? Does it have laws like the US PATRIOT Act? If not, it may soon follow the example of its joined-at-the-hip US cousin.

Conservative Israeli politicians are warning that Israeli Arabs now represent a "fifth column" that threatens the country's security.

Danny Ayalon from the party Israel Beiteinu is particularly alarmed at the stridency of opposition among Israeli Arabs to the war in Gaza. He accuses some of lacking sufficient loyalty to the Israeli state.

"Israel is a very small country, six million Jews, surrounded by 250 million Arabs. If they connect with Palestinians on the other side of the border, then we have a problem."

The Israeli Beiteinu Party was behind recent moves to ban some Arab politicians from standing for re-election to the country's parliament, the Knesset, on the grounds that they were not loyal citizens...

Meanwhile, Israeli police say they have brought "a number" of Israeli Arabs into police stations who have not committed any crimes, but just to warn them to stay within the law - a move one told me amounted to blatant intimidation.

The last, in particular, has a whiff of the kind of activities which took place immediately after 9-11; those round-ups of anyone who 'looked Arab'.

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First Venezuela, now Bolivia

Good on them.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, says he is breaking off ties with Israel in protest against its war in Gaza, which has left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead...

The Bolivian president also dismissed the United Nations and its "Insecurity Council" for its "lukewarm" response to the crisis and said the general assembly should hold an emergency session to condemn the invasion...

Morales's move follows the decision by his ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, to expel Israel's ambassador in the country because of the offensive...

Still haven't heard a word from the leader of Canada's purportedly leftist party. Not one of the NDP's press releases since the Israeli invasion on Gaza addresses the issue. On this, the 19th day of Israeli airstrikes and the saturation of Gaza atmosphere with white phosphorus. After more than 1,000 Palestinian deaths. After close to 5,000 Palestinians wounded.

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13 January 2009

Aaaawwww... Teaching humans how to get along

Heartwarming story of a healing friendship between an elephant and a dog.

If these two can do it, why can't humans?

One must suppose our intelligence or big brains get in the way. Which doesn't say a whole lot about the value of said intelligence, now does it? OR it says we don't use it anywhere near as much as we should.

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Morning Chuckle

Red Canuck gave me my morning chuckle with this amusing post on the There is No God campaign in the UK. Laughter should always be part of one's morning routine; 'tis great exercise for the lungs.

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10 January 2009

Live Streaming of BC-STV Conference

Happening now (Jan 10 and 11). The conference is full, dinner sold out.

Electoral reformers are watching BC to see if, this time, we can break the 60 percent threshold which was imposed by the provincial government and supported by the opposition NDP. We made it to 58 percent in 2005, the largest vote in favour of electoral reform in Canada. That we came so close last time is why BC is holding another referendum May 12th this year.

The big parties DON'T like STV. It puts far greater power into the hands of voters.

(They've broken for lunch until 1 pm - see conference agenda.)

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06 January 2009

Humane Actions and the Art of War Porn

... courtesy of the Israel Defence Force.

Following an onslaught of viewer complaints, YouTube yanked one of the IDF's videos that ... ostensibly showed their "humane actions" ...

Then, YouTube put it back after still more pressure from viewers. That day the IDF posted a response on their channel profile: "We were saddened earlier today that YouTube took down some of our exclusive footage showing the IDF's operational success in operation Cast Lead against Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, due to blogger and viewer support, YouTube has put back up some of the footage they removed."

YouTube's attempts to censor the videos seemed to spur the IDF to post even more extreme footage. Last week, ... 20 or so [new videos] show the army's precision strikes using smart bombs purportedly destroying the Hamas government's offices, and bombs "neutralizing mosques" ... So far, these "precision strikes" have been responsible for 540 deaths in Gaza, including at least 200 civilians. The Associated Press reported that 14 children died on Monday alone.

The Tyee reporter supposes that a fascination by YouTubers for wartime snuff is behind their demand for more from the IDF. I disagree. More likely, it's the hypocrisy. Like Dubya's cluelessness as his utterances indict him, so these videos indict Israel's malefactors.

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Disgusted with Our Political "Leaders"

Daphne and I are thoroughly disgusted with the purported 'leaders' of our government and major parties. They do not lead, they puppet.

It took days before either of the alternating "natural governing" parties made a statement on the Gaza situation.

Then after days of silence, the Liberal Party issued a media release which included this:

The Liberal Party of Canada unequivocally condemns the rocket attacks launched by Hamas against Israeli civilians and calls for an immediate end to these attacks. We affirm Israel's right to defend itself against such attacks, and also its right to exist in peace and security.

No mention of the missile attacks and slaughter being wrecked on Gazans by Israel. No mention of the right of Palestinians to defend themselves.

Only on January 3rd did the Harper government finally speak. Typically, it touted the Bushies line:

Condoleeza Rice: "We are working toward a cease fire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status-quo ante, where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza... We need a cease fire that is durable and sustainable."

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon: "We urge renewed international diplomatic efforts to achieve a sustainable and durable ceasefire, starting with the halting of all rocket attacks on Israel."

In early November, the US vetoed a UN resolution condemning the Israeli Gaza Offensive:

It was the second U.S. veto this year of a Security Council draft resolution concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza.

The U.S. blocked action on a document this summer after Israel launched its offensive in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked Palestinian militants.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the resolution was "very one-sided."

"It's good that it wasn't accepted by the Security Council," he said.

Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour said he was disappointed by the vote.

"You have conveyed today two wrong messages," he told the Security Council. "For Israel, you have conveyed to them they can continue to behave above international law. For the Palestinian people, you have conveyed that justice is not being dealt with in a proper way."

In this infant new year, BushCo has so far vetoed and intends to continue to veto, all Arab resolutions put forward to the UN Security Council. Why?

Reliable sources at the UN say that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has received explicit instructions from his superiors at the State Department to torpedo any initiative proposed by the Arab bloc which is designed to grant the Security Council the status of an official arbiter that will have direct involvement with disentangling the Gaza crisis.

The Canadian subsidiary of BushCo - HarperCo - tows the parent company line.

Harper Lite dutifully rides in tandem.

Yet consider these FACTS:

  • Israeli deaths prior to invasion of Gaza to prevent Israeli deaths: 4
  • Israeli deaths after invasion of Gaza to prevent Israeli deaths: 9
  • Number of Israeli deaths attributed to Israeli army: 4
  • Number of Palestinians killed by Israelis: 550
  • And this on the hailstorm of Gaza rocket attacks (thanks to reader Beijing York)

How's that for perspective?

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05 January 2009

If Feds declare public transit an essential service

... which looks to be about to happen, then mustn't the feds ensure public transit is provided to ALL Canadians, not just those in Ottawa?

Just sayin'.

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"Sitting next to a dead or dying person is becoming normal"

... from a blog that everyone should be reading.

The numbers slaughtered and injured are so high now – 521 and 3,000 as of this morning, Gaza time – that sitting next to a dead or dying person is becoming normal. The stain of blood on the ambulance stretcher pools next to my coat, the medic warning me my coat may be dirtied. What does it matter? The stain doesn't revolt me as it would have, did, one week ago. Death fills the air, the streets in Gaza, and I cannot stress that this is no exaggeration.

This eyewitness report is from a Canadian in Gaza. Given her courage to stay there and bear witness, we must have the courage to read her accounts. If they upset us, that's all to the good.

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Presentation to Bev Oda, March 3 2007

On March 3, 2007, I made the following presentation on behalf of WISE to Bev Oda, then Minister for Status of Women Canada.

I am a 56-year-old woman with disabilities whose average annual income from self-employment is less than $7,000. I am Founder and Coordinator of WISE, an ad hoc group and growing national movement whose membership is women in poverty. Most of us live more than 30% below the Fraser Institute’s poverty line.1

WISE began in the summer of 2003 when frustrated by a heartless and senseless system, I wrote my story of painful marginalization. The story came to the attention of Agnes Lui and Lorraine Cameron, of the BC/Yukon office of Status of Women Canada. Within two weeks, Agnes, my friend Ronnie, and I were meeting in Victoria.

I was close to out of my mind with depression, rage, and was suicidal - all of which showed. Despite this, Agnes persisted and by the end of two hours had persuaded me to write a proposal for a project on women’s poverty.

My isolation due to poverty had left me disconnected from my community and I was in no shape to reach out to strangers. That Status of Women Canada would fund projects by ad hoc groups saved the situation. With the support of my friend and someone she knew, I created WISE.

That personal contact with Agnes was crucial. Had there not been someone in a position to help me through the application process, with the professional expertise to see beyond my demeanour, to believe in me when I couldn’t believe in myself, and to persuade me to do a project that could help other women, WISE and all the good it has done would never have happened.

If we can take one, ten, a hundred women off the street, that's meaningful. That has changed, actually changed, the life of one woman and her children and the family.

Minister Oda, you said that to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on February 1st.

I’d have taken my life had Agnes not intervened when she did, several women in WISE’s first project used their newfound confidence to improve their lives, and an unexpected outcome of the project, a book, continues to inform the wider community and give hope to other women in poverty. Is that not meaningful too?

WISE reaches out to women in poverty and reminds them of the power of one. In our Scarlet Letter Campaign, workshop participants reconnect with their own strength and learn of their unique position to make the most difference in their communities.

Self-advocacy, an important element of health promotion, begins in communities and provides a direct benefit to the advocate. It lies at the start of the process which boosts self-esteem, and improves health and wellbeing. If you help one woman in the way she feels about herself, then the ripple effect ensures you also help her family and her community.

Your government says that groups wanting to advocate can get funding elsewhere and that it’s not the business of government to fund advocacy. That position ignores the fact that not all organizations are equal.

  • Businesses won’t fund groups that cannot give them a tax receipt.
  • Individuals are disinclined to donate without a tax receipt.
  • Charities are governed by the Income Tax Act, which places severe limits on their advocacy activities.
  • The Income Tax Act confines charitable foundations to funding charities only.
    While organizations may raise money through membership fees, that doesn’t help groups whose membership is people in poverty.

The only recourse left to ad hoc groups of marginalized women used to be Status of Women Canada. In September 2006, that last door was shut by your government.

The capacity to advocate for oneself and connect with one's peers to mobilize for change, which is an aspect of the right to assemble, should be a right guaranteed to every citizen in a democracy. Yet not every citizen has that capacity, and without it 'democracy' is a sham.

The most economically disadvantaged haven't access to affordable transportation. In many small urban and rural communities, there is no public transportation at all. Communication is often a barrier. Many of us don’t have a phone, some don’t even have a home. Merely to come together to talk about issues of concern and work out solutions can be impossible without an infusion of money.

Recognition of the disadvantage to low income women in trying to organize for change was a key reason that Status of Women Canada funded unincorporated groups. Another was the realization that many marginalized women will not become involved in action, if to do so they are required to formalize their necessarily informal association. Imagine a homeless woman and two friends who, having decided to organize for change, check out what's needed to get funding for a project and come face-to-face with the incorporation requirement. They turn away in despair.

When women in poverty find a way to come together, they must be empowered to set their organization’s parameters in their own way: its structure, purpose, and how each member stands in relation to it. These parameters must be fluid, since women in poverty can never be sure of their next meal, the security of their housing, their transportation, or their health. To address disempowerment, each woman must have the opportunity to fill a responsible role and participate in all decision-making.

Corporations must have a board. This is someone else taking responsibility for, and directing the activities of persons below. This is not a structure where all members are equal and in control of what the group does or where it is going.

Exclusion from the body that makes decisions and takes responsibility for their own organization is the last thing women marginalized by poverty need.

The irony of the current funding model is that it promotes victimhood. It impedes support for the development of self-reliance. Charities are only permitted to fund treatments for societal ills; they work downstream, trying to save victims. Advocacy combined with research addresses issues upstream; it uncovers causes and promotes solutions for eradicating them.

We need both.

Minister Oda, I can attest that speaking truth to power is itself empowering. Self- and peer-group advocacy done by marginalized women emboldens them, and their knowledge of the lived experience importantly, crucially, informs policy.

Charities cannot fund advocacy and now Status of Women Canada, formerly a model of how other departments might advance social justice, can’t either. By eliminating the eligibility of ad hoc groups or committees for funding, Canada’s new government has increased the marginalization of women already among the most marginalized.

I urge you to reinstate funding for unincorporated groups and advocacy and research done by marginalized women, and to keep open the BC/Yukon Status of Women Canada office.


On December 15, 2007, WISE folded due to lack of funding. Accountability was not the issue.

1 The poverty measure touted by the Fraser Institute is the most impoverished of them all.

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The "F" word in the 21st Century

FEMINISM: according to the Collins Gage Canadian Dictionary it is a philosophy advocating rights which are equal to those that exist for men.

Judy Rebick in her book Ten Thousand Roses gives a excellent account of feminism in Canada.

Along comes Harper and his gang of right-wing Conservatives and wipes out the work of thousands of women and men across this country with one quick slash of his pen, eliminating the word equality from the Status of Women's statement and ends the long painstaking inter-provincial negotiations which were moving toward a Universal Child Care policy while ignoring the fact that a large percentage of Canadian children are living in abject poverty. Currently, certain of his minions are attempting to re-open the abortion issue to further erode women's choices, his government has refused to transfer payments to the provinces for affordable housing or adequate health care and yet Harper promises obscene amounts of our tax money to bail out greedy capitalist auto makers.

What are these boys thinking?

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04 January 2009

Cut Oil Exports to Israel's Supporters

So urges an Iranian military commander.

An Iranian military commander called on Islamic countries to cut oil exports to Israel's supporters, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday.

IRNA, giving only his last name, quoted commander Bagherzadeh as saying oil was "one of the powerful elements of pressure" on Israel's Western backers in the "unequal war" faced by Palestinians in Gaza.

Good advice. Only money and "threats to our freedom" (quoting dubya) get the attention of, and cause panic among the puppet masters.

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03 January 2009

Ladies, take a stand!

I detest having to use a public toilet and so have taught myself to stand while relieving myself. It got me to wondering why women sit in western countries; when did this shift from the natural to the convenient occur and whose idea was it in the first place. I came across an article published in Herizons Magazine which has answered my questions.
From the earliest days of childhood, we're separated into two camps: those who sit and those who stand. Yet as recently as 150 years ago, women stood as often as men to relieve themselves and in many countries--India and the Philippines, for example--it is still a widespread and acceptable practice.

The move from standing to sitting has had a lasting impact regarding cleanliness and hygiene, as well as efficiency and comfort. Public restrooms are notorious for germs and general uncleanliness. Denise Decker, director of Caring Hands, writes, in "A Woman's Guide on How to Pee Standing Up", that 59 percent of women hover over the toilet seat to avoid touching it. This leads not only to greater urine spillage, but can contribute to eventual health problems for the hovering woman. Squatting to urinate only empties one-third of the bladder, and the strain required on the striated sphincter, which restricts the urethra, can cause incontinence overtime.

Imagine how much quicker the line in the ladies room would move if we all re-learned how to take a stand - at the stalls!

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Thousands of shoes dumped on Miami freeway

"Inexplicably," so the report says.

A statetrooper said he wasn't sure where the shoes came from - there were no signs of a crash and no one stopped to claim them.

Er, might this have anything to do with it?

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Going Without a Phone

Have been without a phone since December 15, 2007. The decision was primarily about economics. But it was also about my aversion to the intrusiveness and annoyance of a ringing phone and the demand for attention it implied from the other end.

Ironically, the only one who misses my having a phone is one of my friends. She prefers the forms of communication which have immediacy, thus her favoured methods are face-to-face or voice-to-voice. However, since I'm online most hours of every day, she's learning to manage well enough communicating with me by email. I've yet to persuade her to use instant messaging or keyboard chat, or to get headphones so we might use voice chat or Skype. (It doesn't help that her sound card isn't working.)

As for my perspective on getting by without a phone, I have managed quite well, although I still encounter some foolish resistance by some businesses - such as my doctor's office, which refuses to use email to communicate with patients, although they do use it for other purposes. Have told them that it's not my intent to email THEM (though why they're concerned about this, I've no idea), but if they need to reach ME, then, short of snailmail, email is their only option. They're slowly coming 'round to my point of view.

Oh, and I'm delighted to be depriving Telus of ~$500 a year.

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China's Growing Gender Imbalance

In some parts of China, boys outnumber girls by a factor of four to one.

All those males looking to hook up; if I were a young girl or young woman in China today, I'd be fearful for my safety.

This CBC video includes a segment of a village classroom. It's obvious the two girls feel less certain of their position in the classroom than the boys do. Not surprising. Even there, where their teacher tries to counteract it, they are subjected to the boys' discriminatory attitudes, as handed down by the children's families.

In the long term, the huge disparity between the two genders may do what education cannot. Reverse attitudes toward boys and girls, thus placing greater value on females and less on males. It's the economic principle of supply and demand applied to gender imbalance.

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01 January 2009

Are you a reader of this blog?

Have added the "Followers" widget to Challenging the Commonplace. It's located in the sidebar, upper right corner.

Daphne and I encourage all our readers to click the button to indicate yourselves as 'officially' our followers (aka, 'readers'). This may enhance this blog's readership and thus help get our message - one primarily representing the voices of persons marginalized by the power elite - out to a broader audience.

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BC Government Aims to Force Homeless into Shelters

Legislated paternalism is on the march.

First, we have Rona Ambrose sticking her federalist nose into municipal affairs. Regardless of the fact she has legal authority to order a vote of striking Ottawa Transit workers, the question remains whether the legislation itself - that section of the Canada Labour Code, 108.1, 1 (a) and (b) - is legal and should be challenged in court.

Now, it's the BC Minister of Housing, Rich Coleman, looking to limit the rights of people who are without bricks and mortar housing.

“There are provisions under the Mental Health Act for a committal and that sort of thing. I think we need to have some stronger provisions for this sort of situation... [W]hen someone puts their life at risk, at that level, there are probably issues with mental health and addictions... We should have the power to be able to say, ‘We have a bed for you and you're going to that bed.'”

By that logic, race car drivers, Olympic skiers, snowmobilers and snowboarders, etc. "probably have issues with mental health and addictions."

[Coleman] conceded that the challenge is to figure out what would compel people to remain in shelters after they were removed to them.

“I think, in most cases, if we had the ability to say, ‘You're going,' a lot of them would [stay],” he suggested.

Well, that demonstrates how well he knows people who are homeless, doesn't it? They/we have quite the independent streak.

Mr. Coleman said there is no timetable to advancing with the idea...

“The work is ongoing,” he suggested. “It is a pretty big process. We do have to take into account the Charter and whether these things would have a Charter challenge attached to them but, you know, I just honestly believe some people are so ill on our streets that they can't make decisions for themselves and they become a danger to themselves and the public,” he said.

“We should have the opportunity to intervene because, if we can, we can save them.”

The BC Government and Housing Minister Coleman have had the power to intervene for the past eight years, to intervene, that is, by creating conditions which would enable people who are homeless to form their own communities or to enter existing communities and be housed as others are housed. And with all their rights intact, rights such as those accorded to property owners: to keep all their possessions and their animal companions.

Kerry Jang, a councillor with the majority Vision Vancouver party on Vancouver city council, said Mr. Coleman's “heart is in the right place,” but there may be a better way to work towards the same goal.

Not all homeless people are mentally ill and so simply using the Mental Health Act won't cover all the homeless people,” he said Wednesday.

Well someone gets it at least. Or maybe not...

Instead, ... when the temperature was sufficiently cold, it should be the basis for apprehending people and putting them in shelters, [Jang] suggested.

More faulty reasoning. By that logic, EVERYONE who remains on the streets "when the temperature was sufficiently cold" would be rounded up and herded into shelters.

“We're also cognizant of civil liberties, so forcing someone against their will [into shelter] is problematic from a legal and mental-health treatment perspective,” said Dr. Jang, also a psychiatry professor at the University of British Columbia.

He said he looks forward to further discussing the idea with the minister this year.

I'm sure he does. Psychiatrists do a thriving business. After all, they get to charge for treating - and labelling -people with mental health disorders. There's no business quite like it. Well, Big Pharma might be one: create the disease, then the treatment to alleviate it.

Oh, and Surprise!, those in the lowest income quintile, the ones whose voices are the least heard or accorded respect by the powers-that-be, are disproportionately represented as being 'mentally ill'. The homeless, of course, more so. This association of homelessness and mental illness is unfounded and must stop.

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