Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ipperwash Inquiry: The Verdict is In

Who killed Dudley George? The Ipperwash report, just released, found that although Mr. "I want the fucking Indians out of the park" did not directly order the police to Ipperwash, his government, along with the federal government, still shares some of the blame.

In his findings, Commissioner Sydney Linden faults the feds for expropriating disputed First Nations land, then failing to give it back as promised.

He faults the government of then-premier Mike Harris — and the premier himself — for impatience, uttering a racial slur and misleading the legislature.

But Judge Linden also concludes Mr. Harris did not direct police to enter the park on that fateful night against protesters he concludes were not armed.

Ipperwash report released

More coverage

Update June 1 More details have come out. Here's some recommended reading:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blogging: We're Going to Need More Monkeys

From this collection of motivational posters. Via Popped Culture. Heh. Ouch. Eep.

Global Peace Index Ranks Canada 8th Most Peaceful Country

The first study to rank countries around the world according to their peacefulness and the drivers that create and sustain their peace was launched today. The Global Peace Index studied 121 countries [...] based on wide range of indicators - 24 in all - including ease of access to "weapons of minor destruction" (guns, small explosives), military expenditure, local corruption, and the level of respect for human rights.

According to the rankings, the 5 most peaceful countries are Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, and Japan. The 5 least peaceful are Nigeria, Russia, Israel, Sudan, and Iraq. The US didn't do so well. At #96 it is right in between Yemen and Iran.

After compiling the Index, the researchers examined it for patterns in order to identify the "drivers" that make for peaceful societies. They found that peaceful countries often shared high levels of democracy and transparency of government, education and material well-being. While the U.S. possesses many of these characteristics, its ranking was brought down by its engagement in warfare and external conflict, as well as high levels of incarceration and homicide. The U.S.'s rank also suffered due to the large share of military expenditure from its GDP, attributed to its status as one of the world's military-diplomatic powers.

Canada is ranked at #8, with a peacefulness score of 1.481 (on a 5 point scale, with 1 being most peaceful). I'm curious whether this study took into account what Canada have been doing to Haiti, Afghanistan, and our indigenous peoples, not to mention what some Canadian corporations are doing. In any case, I think the relative peacefulness of our country is something to be proud of, and to guard, and to improve upon. In fact, I think we need a war on war. Our goal is to get to #1. Most peaceful country, yo. You're goin down, Norway!

Quotes from the Press Release. Full details on the study and rankings at

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Population Control: Two Paths

You could take China's path: Forced abortions, sterilization, and other punishments for women who have more than one child. This policy has resulted in:

    Average Population Growth Rate: 0.70% (2005-2000)
    Total fertility rate: 1.75 children born/woman (2007 est.)

Or you could take Sweden's path: increased gender equality and economic justice.

    Average Population Growth Rate: 0.10% (2000-2005)
    Total fertility rate: 1.66 children born/woman (2007 est.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Edmonton's Army of Homeless

The skyrocketing rents in Edmonton have increased pressures on limited social housing and shelter spaces. This has made Edmonton's homeless problem worse. A lack of a home often means a lack of safety, and so it isn't uncommon for homeless people to sleep close together. This gives rise to tent cities and squats, such as what had sprung up behind the Bissell Centre (a centre servicing low income people in the inner city).

Tue, May 22, 2007
Squatters Say They're Staying:
Officers told more than a dozen people camping in at least six tents in a field behind the Bissell Centre yesterday morning that they're going to have to move.

But most of the tent dwellers are refusing to budge, claiming they have nowhere else to go.

Sat, May 26, 2007
The poor need a tent city

Almost every night, dozens of homeless people - some of whom have day jobs - gather to sleep on the grass there in Edmonton's inner city. Some put up tents to keep the night chill at bay.

Yet, most nights, city police evict the hapless homeless, forcing them to go someplace else.

Bissell Centre spokesman Ele Gibson is ticked off. "Where are they supposed to go?" asks Gibson, who's the resource development director for the inner-city charity that provides everything from a drop-in centre to family services for the poor.
There's lots of talk from our politicians about affordable housing and homelessness. But the problem persists.

If these people can't stay on this particular patch of land, surely to God someone could find a small slab of public land somewhere where the homeless can have a simple tent over their heads. Other cities have set up safe tent cities. Is that too much to ask, given there's no affordable housing for them?

Mon, May 28, 2007
Homeless gathering an army of supporters for rally
Homeless Edmontonians are taking their plight to the steps of the legislature.

Those recently evicted from provincial land behind the Bissell Centre and others who will be evicted from winter shelters at the end of the month plan to rally on June 27.

These people were sleeping on public land, and it is immoral to force people into dangerous situations just so you don't have to see them. Not to mention: being too poor to have a home isn't illegal. So, I say good for them. We need some proper squatter's rights. The bullies in the provincial government will never do anything for the people unless they are forced.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"You let people live like abandoned animals on the street?"

Los Angeles has one of the biggest homeless populations in the US. We know this because it had the first accurate homeless census done in 2005 (82,291 homeless people in 2005)

(Photo from Wikipedia)

LA's financial district is merely a few blocks away from the urine-soaked, tent-strewn streets of Skid Row, shown in these photos.

(Photos from Down and Out in Downtown LA: The Story of a Homeless Couple)

(Photo by Stephen Shames)

(Film stills from TIES ON A FENCE - Women in Downtown Los Angeles Speak Out )

(Photos by mattlogelin)

Notice any pattern to the faces seen here? African Americans make up 38.7% of LA's homeless population (they are only 9.5% of the general population of LA)

Listen to Jennifer Westaway's award-winning portrait of Skid Row (highly recommended), or check out this LA Times article

Save Money on Gas by Driving Less

Or you could just establish your global hegemony to secure foreign sources of petroleum.

Or you could vigorously oppose better fuel-efficiency requirements. (Via desmogblog)

It's always easier to blame the gas tax than to blame those who are really profiting, anyways. Good thing we are supporting North American Energy Security by guaranteeing our oil to a foreign country.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Will Railways Agree to Shut Down on Day of Protest?

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has passed a resolution calling for Canada's national railways to voluntarily shut down during the group's "day of action" on June 29. (CTV)

I hope, but don't expect, that the railways will indeed consider this request and show some support for the First Nations. It's the least they could do. But then again, they have been profiting off land illegally obtained from aboriginal peoples for years - perhaps it's too much to hope they'd change.

As Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation said: "... There are only two ways of dealing with the white man. One, either you pick up a gun, or you stand between the white man and his money... I prefer to stand between the white man and his money."

And now for your reading pleasure. And note: This was written by senators. Yes, fuddy, duddy old senators (not the hockey players).
Oka, Ipperwash, Caledonia.

Blockades, masked warriors, police snipers.


Canada's failure to address and resolve the legitimate claims of First Nations.

Imagine your new neighbour comes into your backyard and fences off half of it. Then he sells it to someone down the street. This new neighbour tells you he got a good deal but he won't say how much he got. Then, he says that he'll take care of the cash – on your behalf, of course.

Maybe he even spends a little on himself.

You complain. He denies he did anything wrong.

What would you do?

Go to the proper authorities? Turns out that the authorities and their agencies work for him.

Sue him? He tells you that none of the lawyers can work for you – he's got every one in town working for him. When he finally lets a lawyer work for you – it turns out that he can afford five of them for every one you can afford.

Finally he says: Okay, I'm willing to discuss it. But first you have to prove I did something wrong. Oh, and I get to be the judge of whether you've proved it. And, if you do prove it, I get to set the rules about how we'll negotiate. I'll decide when we've reached a deal and I'll even get to determine how I'll pay the settlement out to you. Oh, and I hope you’re in no rush because this is going to take about twenty or thirty years to settle.

Sounds crazy?

Welcome to the world of Indian Specific Claims. Specific Claims arose when Canada and its agents failed to live up to Canada’s responsibilities in connection with First Nations' lands, monies and assets. In some cases Canada didn't give them the land they were promised in the treaties. In some cases, they got the land only to have it taken away again – in a way that violated Canada's own rules. In other cases, federal employees actually stole Indian land, money or other assets.

Until the 1950s, First Nations were prohibited by law from hiring lawyers to pursue these claims – many of which date back 70, 100 or 200 years. Since then impoverished Indian communities have had to fight the federal government in court or else persuade it to acknowledge the claim and negotiate a settlement. Currently, everything is done on Canada's terms and the government is both defendant and judge.

With few resources allocated to find solutions, it can often take twenty or more years from the time a First Nation comes forward with a claim to finally reaching a settlement.

Despite the amazing hurdles, almost 300 claims have been settled. In every case where they have been settled, it has meant an immediate improvement in the lives of First Nations people. It has also strengthened relations between Canada and those First Nations and between those First Nations and the communities that surround them. Settling outstanding claims is not only the just thing to do, it is the smart thing.
Close to 900 claims sit in the backlog. Things are getting worse rather than better. First Nations have been patient – incredibly patient – but their patience is wearing thin. [Emphasis mine]

- Gerry St. Germain, P.C., Chair, and Nick G. Sibbeston, Deputy Chair, Forward to NEGOTIATION OR CONFRONTATION: IT’S CANADA’S CHOICE. Final Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples Special Study on the Federal Specific Claims Process Full report here (PDF)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This upsets me so much I can't even think of a title for this post

From Sick joke or sick reality?:
"Parental Alienation Syndrome has been used nationwide by batterers as a courtroom tactic to silence abused children by attempting to discredit their disclosures of abuse. This theory is not recognized as valid by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association. Parental Alienation Syndrome is not accepted as a psychiatric diagnosis, and has been rejected by the mainstream psychological community. Parental Alienation Syndrome is junk science; there is no valid research or empirical data to support this unproven theory."

PAS is all about punishing mothers, while abused children are denied their safety and the validation of their own experiences.
In Florida, Indiana, Connecticut, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Maine, and Nevada, there is now reportedly a whole day officially dedicated to raising "awareness" about [Richard] Gardner's theory called Parental Alienation Syndrome, in which the very reports of abuse by a child against a father are themselves evidence that the child is being brainwashed by the mother (and if the child is angry at the father, or doesn't want to visit, that's even more evidence) and the only "cure" for this syndrome is to force the child to live with the abuser and deny ANY contact with the protective mother, who has no history of abuse.

C'mon, you're thinking, what judge would buy this crock? Doesn't it matter if the abuse really happened? Apparently not.

So why is PAS being allowed into the courts?
This month, the NOW Foundation joined other leading organizations working on family law and family violence in a complaint filed against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The complaint charges that U.S. courts are failing to protect the life, liberties, security, and other human rights of abused mothers and children by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters. PAS is one predominant strategy being used by lawyers to place children in such danger. A recent Newsweek article noted the finding of a Harvard study that in custody cases involving documented spousal abuse, 54% granted custody to the batterer, and parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every single one.

Don't Miss: Courageous Kids (powerful) - kids who had to live with an abusive parent are speaking out about their experiences.
Also: A Letter to Richard Gardener (funny)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Michael Parenti Speaking Tonight in Toronto on Race, Gender, and Class Power

Michael Parenti to Speak at Ryerson

On Sunday May 20th starting at 7pm, CKLN presents Michael Parenti at the Student Campus Centre 55 Gould Street (at Church, 1block N of Dundas). Parenti will speak on "Race, Gender, and Class Power".

Who is Michael Parenti? Michael Parenti is an internationally known award-winning author and lecturer. He is one of the nation's leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.

Parenti is the author of 20 books. His most recent is The Culture Struggle. The Culture Struggle is a tremendous contribution to the fight for social justice in this period. This volume discusses how to think about cultural imperialism, cultural relativism, and racism and gender oppression. Culture is analyzed as a component of social power and political struggle in the United States and elsewhere.

Parenti received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. Some of his writings have been translated into Arabic, Bangla, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Cornel West, Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton, has said, "Michael Parenti is a towering prophetic voice in American life. We need him now more than ever."

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

6 Billion Others

Wow. Just wow.

6 Billion Others is probably the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. "6 billion Others' aims to create a sensitive and human portrait of the inhabitants of the planet." You choose one of thousands of photos. You'll be taken to a page where there's a seamless video of that person speaking about Love, Fear, Dreams...

It's incredibly powerful to look into the eyes of regular people from all over the world - a refugee from Darfur, or a man from the former Yugoslavia, a woman in Kenya, a teenager in Korea - while they talk about what they fear and hope for. Go. Look. Listen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

African Hip Hop

Zola is a South African hip hop Kwaito artist. This track was featured on the soundtrack to Tsotsi (the movie was ok, but the soundtrack is amazing!)

Something about hip hop speaks to people all over the world. Youth from so many countries have adapted the beats and spoken word style to their own cultures and fresh ideas. It's a music that is alive, spontaneous, and endlessly adaptable. MC Solaar, from Senegal, rapping in French, is another one I like.

For more, check out African Hip Hop Radio

Atkins Gone Wild, or a Vegetarian's Worst Birthday

Welcome to the world of meat cake.

Who knew?

Here's instructions for making a wedding meat cake and a whole gallery of meat cakes.

Almost as good as diet mackerel pudding.

Via Mental Floss.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gays are Subversive

At least that's what Toronto Police thought in the 1980s:
Toronto police spied on gay community in 1980s: report
A surveillance report leaked to CBC News details how Det. Garry Carter went undercover in the community, spying on bathhouse operators, attending conventions in Alberta and tracking gay candidates running for city council.

The detective even reported on how gay activists questioned the police budgets.

Coun. Kyle Rae, a vocal gay rights advocate, said the report confirms what many in the community had long suspected.

"We were seen as a subversive minority that was worthy of ridicule and violence against us by the police," said Rae. "It's part of the paranoia of the '70s and '80s. It's not appropriate, but I'm not surprised."

See also The Toronto Bathhouse Raids of 1981
It wasn't the first anti-gay police action in Canada's history, but it was the biggest and most brutal. At 11 o'clock the evening of February 5, 1981, 150 plainclothes and uniformed police officers staged violent raids on four of Toronto's five gay bathhouses and arrested almost 300 men.

Better Messaging? No, we Need to Stop Killing Civilians

When consumers don't buy a crappy product, the answer is more and better advertising, right? Same thing with war. Since the public ain't buying the war in Afghanistan maybe it's time to hire a new ad agency.

So we must find a new way to explain the civilian casualties. Those pesky women, men, and children keep getting in the way of our bombs and bullets, and for some reason, our people seem to care, and we can't have that!
The subject of civilian casualties was the source of intense discussion on Wednesday in Brussels when the NATO secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, met with the North Atlantic Council, the top representatives of the coalition. But the conversation was less about how to reduce casualties, according to participants, than about how to explain them to European governments.

"The Europeans are worried about a lack of clarity about who is responsible for the counterterror mission," said one participant in the debate. "They are worried that if NATO appears responsible for these casualties, it will result in a loss of support" for keeping forces in Afghanistan.

But it is not only the Americans whose practices are being questioned. NATO soldiers have frequently fired on civilians on the roads, often because the Afghans drive too close to military convoys or checkpoints. (NYTimes)

Maybe we should try this messaging: it is the civilians' own fault if they are killed, see:
Do they not have the sense to GTFO of an area where there is an active military campaign?

After all:
Hundreds of thousands of people have been able to make themselves refugees, especially in Africa, and all without the assistance of SUV's or any Kabul Hilton to go to. All they usually have is shank's pony, and they manage to do it. Why else are there refugee camps all over Africa? They can WALK!

Thanks to Boiling Point.

See also: A Better Communications Strategy? No, We Need Safe Drinking Water

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Chicken Wild Rice Soup, a Yummy & Responsible Recipe

Although soup season is really over, it was so cold and rainy here today I felt the urge for the kind of comfort that comes in a bowl of fragrant steaming soup. So, while it's cooking, let me give you my recipe.

Chicken Rice Soup
2-3 Cups Homemade Vegetable Broth1
1 cup of leftover chopped organic chicken2
2 carrots and 2 stalks celery, or other vegetables (preferably in-season)
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 c cooked brown or wild rice3
parsley, thyme, salt and pepper to season

Chop all the veggies. Then throw everything in a pot and let simmer while you go do something else for 20 minutes. Should make about 2 servings.

Why is this recipe responsible?

1. Vegetable Broth
Save your scraps! I keep a bag in the freezer to which I add my veggie scraps: carrot and potato peels, celery tops, onion skins, etc. When the bag starts getting full, put the scraps into the crockpot and cook overnight, or simmer on the stove for at least an hour. Strain the broth and store in the freezer. This is how people recycled in the old days. It's basically free, full of vitamins, and tastes lovely.

2. Organic Chicken
I think most of us in the West need to reduce our consumption of meat - for many reasons, including our own health, for the health of the Earth, and in solidarity with those for whom meat is a luxury or even an impossibility. However, I eat fish or chicken a couple of times a week. I buy my chicken from this farm where the animals are "organic", treated humanely, and use land that is unsuitable to growing crops. Of course, this meat is a little more expensive than grocery store meat (only slightly since it comes directly from the farmer) so the best thing on a budget is simply to use less of it. Organic chicken in small amounts is healthier, and better for the environment than scary industrial chicken.

3. Rice
Wild rice is nutritious, high in fibre and protein, and has a nice texture that holds up well in soup. It is also native to Canada. On a budget? Bulk brown rice is cheap and also quite good in soup. Because it is dried, it takes up less space and so it can be transported using less resources, and stored without refrigeration, making it a fairly environmentally sound food.

The War Takes it's Toll

"We were coming from school and we saw a man in the street. Blood and pieces of his brain were all over the place and he was crying." "He was still alive for a while after they shot him."

The war takes its toll on Adel's younger brother.

This was an especially poignant episode of Hometown Baghdad .

See also Children and the Traumas of War

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Nakba in Photos

From The Institute for Middle East Understanding
On May 15, 2007, Palestinians worldwide will mark the 59th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe). On this occasion, the IMEU presents these photos of both historical and current images of Palestinian refugees.

A Palestinian family piles into a truck, becoming part of the Nakba in 1948. (UNWRA)

Two Palestinian boys smile for the camera in the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank. (Lisa Nessan)

See the rest

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Long live Mother Earth! Long live the mothers of the earth!

Probably one of the most powerful statements I've ever read.

Letter from the Landless Mothers
We speak to the sons and daughters of the land from all nations. To those who were not invited to the banquet. To those who have been waiting in the queue of history for centuries. We will not be spectators at a film waiting for the light to go out. It's time to believe in the possibility of defeating sorrow.

We are rising up with the mothers who are losing their sons and daughters in wars, in urban massacres, from the barrel of a rifle, in concentration camps, in acts of femicide and genocide, in domestic violence, in political persecutions, in armed sieges. We are rising up with the mothers who are losing their children because they don’t have milk, bread, land, or access to the knowledge accumulated by humanity. We are rising up with the mothers who are wandering with their sons and daughters, seeking a better world, We are rising up to call for social justice and dignity.

We raise our hands, our hoes, our scythes, and our consciences to call on all working women of the world to unite against those who exploit the land, life, the strength of our work and of our body.

We are directing ourselves to those who are said to be lords of the world. We don't want and we aren't asking for your permission to cut fences and to sow flowers and dreams. We will not hesitate to speak to you. We are struggling for land, for water, in defense of seeds and of biodiversity for the right to decide about our lives and our food, for the right to work, for our future and for solidarity among peoples.

"Development and modernity" advance over the world and open wounds. In your name, laws are passed that put humanity at risk. Against the green desert and despair we break the silence and we denounce the dust that is thrown over dreams and the prison of flowers. Your modernity is darkness and hunger and for this reason, is not in our interest. Don't you dare move ahead one step with your project of death!

The criminal manipulation of biogenetics, monoculture, agro-fuels, and agribusiness is an attempt to kill food sovereignty and the possibility of a ecologically correct and socially just world. We will not allow humanity to be destroyed. You should know that we will not accept that you kill our children through violence or for lack of food.

On this Mother's Day we reaffirm our determination to transform the countryside into a space for hope, happiness, and above all, for struggle. In our project, everyone has the right to a dignified life, a decent standard of living, and the sweet smell of flowers. We want to transform the world so that it may be more just and more egalitarian, and that all who live in it may be respected.

We will continue sowing revolutionary unrest on behalf of agrarian reform, social justice, and sovereignty of food and peoples. This is our mission and thus it must be for all peasant mothers persecuted by the violence of agribusiness and water-business.

What's left for the mothers of the world is to organize and struggle. We will struggle tirelessly against the neoliberal system that transforms food, water, land, people’s knowledge, and the bodies of women into commodities.

It's time to demand justice and punishment for those responsible for exploitation, violence, genocide, and massacres.

It's time to open up new passages, new men and new women.

It's time to set our sights on the new horizon.

We are standing up, spending night and day sculpting the fertility and the rebellion that are being born in the womb of mother earth.

Long live Mother Earth! Long live the mothers of the earth!

May 2007

MST – Agrarian Reform: for Social Justice and Peoples’ Sovereignty

The MST makes me so happy. Background here, here, and here,

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mother's Day Proclamation

In 1870, the devastation of the American Civil War inspired social activist and poet Julia Ward Howe to call upon the women of the world to unite and rise up for an end to war:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

Read the rest of the original Mother's Day Proclamation

And watch the short video Mother's Day for Peace which renews the call for peace.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Better Communications Strategy? No, We Need Safe Drinking Water

Message about bad water on reserves not getting through: study

Health Canada says it plans to revamp its communication strategy about drinking water in aboriginal communities after finding out that its warning ads are not working.

Federal Health Minister Tony Clement said Thursday a study has found that its ads, which come in the form of signs and posters, are not clear or effective.

"You live and learn in these things," Clement said in Ottawa.

"This was a situation where something was tried, it was found to be wanting so we are going to fix it and make sure it's more effective in the future."

A total of 89 First Nations communities in Canada were under a drinking water advisory as of May 4. Among other things, Health Canada was trying to warn people in these communities not to drink their tap water.

Clement said Health Canada will take a more personal approach by using new radio ads and going door-to-door to educate people in aboriginal communities about their tap water this fall.

Considering some of these communities have been without safe drinking water for years and years, perhaps the problem isn't the signage.

One sign posted on a reserve by Health Canada reads: "Do Not Consume Advisory."

According to the study, residents did not know if the sign referred to their tap water or if the advisory was just a suggestion.

The study also found that posters used by Health Canada were confusing.

Chief David General of Six Nations in Ontario said he is aware that people in his community drink their tap water even though it is not safe and that some people get sick as a result.

General said many people do not even notice the signs that warn them not to drink tap water.

'More eye-catching'

"It has to be more than just the static sign that just everybody walks by. It's got to be something that is more eye-catching."

Health Canada says a drinking water advisory is a way to advise members of the public in a specific community that they should use an alternative source of drinking water.

It says it is a measure designed to protect public health from waterborne contaminants that could be present in drinking water.

In March 2006, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice launched a plan of action to address drinking water problems in First Nation communities.

General said many aboriginal communities would rather have a new water plant instead of a new communications strategy.

Is it just me, or is this article rather patronizing?

If one were to read this article without any background, one would think the problem is the fault of the aboriginals themselves, as if they aren't smart enough to understand not to drink their tap water. They don't mention that many people drink their water because they can't afford bottled water, or because they sometimes have to walk for miles to get clean water.

The problem isn't the communications strategy (although I must admit that was pretty crappy - apparently one of the signs had a calm scene of a mother bathing her baby - gee I wonder why the water appears safe!).

As of May 4, 2007, there were 89 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory, and many more are considered "at risk". Many are so contaminated with things like arsenic, so boiling doesn't make it safe. Residents of these communities often get skin rashes from bathing in the water.

(Additional details)

It's criminal this this wealthy nation isn't supplying safe water to its most marginalized communities.

That is one of the many reasons why our First Nations communities experience living conditions equal to those ranking 63rd in the world - in other words they live in Third World conditions. It contributes to the low life expectancy of aboriginals (consistently around 5-7 years less than the rest of the Canadian population).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Is it Love Enough? Anti-War Video

Is Love Enough by Michael Franti and Spearhead
We want freedom of speech
But we all talking at the same time
We say we want peace
but nobody wants to change their own mind

So it goes on and on and on
For a thousand years
And it goes on and on and on
What language are your tears?

Everybody wants to live the life of kings and queens
But nobody wants to stay and plow the fields
Everybody wants to tell their neighbours how to live
But nobody wants to listen how they feel

Is Love enough - or could you love some more?

What mother nature gives
mankind refuses to let live
taking the universe in their own hands
short circuiting the positive
judging the negative
causing the most unusual circumstances
everyday we rise again
but our love will fight again
hoping that all hearts will receive our love token
Blessed words
we speak again lovely words to do me friend
for us to live
in this here garden of Eden

Is love enough?
What language do you laugh in?
What language do you cry in?
What language do you dance in, make romance in
What language do you make love in, or pray to the above in?
What language are your fears?
What language are your tears?

I just heard Spearhead is playing Toronto in July. I'm so excited!

Join One Million Blogs for Peace

If you haven't already done so, get yourself over there and join! Even if you aren't from one of the countries involved in the invasion, you can still join in solidarity.
The Pledge
I believe in the immediate withdrawal of all foreign combat troops from the nation of Iraq. I believe in using my blog, in whole or in part, as a tool toward this end.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mediterranean Lentil Salad, A Yummy Responsible Recipe

I confess. I'm a food addict. In fact, I eat every single day, and if I go too long without food I begin to have withdrawal symptoms, such as growling in the tummy and lightheadedness.

I figure, since I have to eat, I might as well be as responsible as possible with my food choices. That means eating a varied, fresh, and healthy diet to fortify the ol' bod, and trying to make the best choices possible for the environment and social justice.

It's really not that hard to eat like this most of the time. To illustrate that, I thought I might try posting a recipe today. After the recipe, I'll analyze what makes it responsible.

If you like this idea, please let me know (you can vote in the poll to the right), and I'll make it a regular feature.

The Recipe:
Lentil Salad
The perfect lunch. Best prepared the night before so the flavours can blend overnight.
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups dried brown (aka green) lentils
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch salt & pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups chopped in-season vegetables, chosen from this list: tomatoes, cucumber, celery, green or red pepper
Optional, but highly recommended: 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled, and a couple of sliced olives

Place lentils in a large pot. Cover with water to 2 inches above lentils, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and set aside to cool.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, and garlic. I like to shake everything until it is mixed really well.

Mix lentils, vegetables, and cheese (if using) with the dressing. Toss gently to coat. Chill to allow flavours to blend. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.

Health Benefits:
Vegetables are like nutritional superstars, with tons of vitamins, fibre, potassium, antioxidants, and few calories (something we generally have too much of in our land of plenty). The more you can eat, the better off you'll be. Olive oil provides a splash of healthy monounsaturated fat. The lentils add protein, and a nice balance of soluble and insoluble fibre. All in all, this is a recipe that is good for overall health, weight loss, high cholesterol, and hypertension (if concerned about the salt, avoid the Feta).

Environmental Benefits:
Reducing consumption of meat means you are reducing your consumption of fossil fuels, since meat is generally far more resource-intensive than legumes. Try to get your vegetables locally and in season to use even less fossil fuel. Here in the big Canadian city in May, that means hothouse tomatoes, peppers and cukes, new baby greens or living lettuce, but no celery yet.

Open Thread: Our media remains fixated on misdemeanors, while ignoring felonies

This holds true not only for the U.S., as described in A MEDIA SCANDAL A DAY KEEPS THE RATINGS IN PLAY: Media Priorities Assure that Real Crises Will Not Be Covered, but also in Canada.

Since my lunch break is done and I gotta get back to work, I'll make this an open thread.

What kind of Canadian scandals can you think of that are obfuscating the real issues? There's at least a half dozen. I'll get you started with an easy one: the scandal over mishandling of the Afghan detainees takes up the newspaper pages that could be used to expose the fact that we are making war, not building peace in Afghanistan.

Perhaps She's Going to Eat Herself

After all, she's wearing a bib and salivating.

Far from horror at seeing her entire back half carved off, the cow feels nothing but delight at being hacked into thick, juicy, ready-to-grill steaks. She is downright giddy—her tongue wiggling in anticipation, her proud napkin waving like a flag.

Found on Suicide Food

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's Just Like Christmas!

It's time for the fourth International Rebuild Iraq Exhibition - the trade show dedicated to showing business owners how you, too, could be capitalizing on the destruction of the infrastructure and economy of Iraq.

Well, it was so much fun last year, I guess they just couldn't help themselves.

She Hit Me First! And Other Poor Justifications for War

Photo Credit

Yesterday, I was watching the (excellent and engaging) film I Know I'm Not Alone with D.S.

In the segment before Michael Franti goes to Israel and the Occupied Territories there's a few short statements to fill in some background. To paraphrase: "In relation to Israel there's as many versions of history as there are people telling it" and then "in 1967 Israel launched a pre-emptive strike". At which point D.S. said that was weird, because he knows Israel was attacked first. He was a kid at the time, but it wasn't history to him, he actually remembered it. He was in synagogue when it was announced and he remembers it very well. For me I learned something different, but then again, it's history to me (since I wasn't born yet). I said it's complicated figuring who started something, especially when you consider the possible biases of those reporting an event. Consider last summer's war with Lebanon. Who started it? 30 or 40 years from now, what will the history book say?

According to the current consensus at Wikipedia (yeah, I know, but still, it's a good resource) it was a pre-emptive strike by Israel, although they have a nice long list of sources for both sides of the debate.

Today, I stumbled on a piece (ha ha) by Daniel Gilbert which is all about the psychology behind the "he started it" argument.
Research shows that while people think of their own actions as the consequences of what came before, they think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later.

In a study conducted by William Swann and colleagues at the University of Texas, pairs of volunteers played the roles of world leaders who were trying to decide whether to initiate a nuclear strike. The first volunteer was asked to make an opening statement, the second volunteer was asked to respond, the first volunteer was asked to respond to the second, and so on. At the end of the conversation, the volunteers were shown several of the statements that had been made and were asked to recall what had been said just before and just after each of them.

The results revealed an intriguing asymmetry: When volunteers were shown one of their own statements, they naturally remembered what had led them to say it. But when they were shown one of their conversation partner’s statements, they naturally remembered how they had responded to it. In other words, volunteers remembered the causes of their own statements and the consequences of their partner’s statements.

What seems like a grossly self-serving pattern of remembering is actually the product of two innocent facts. First, because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own. Second, because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves — but that the opposite will be true of other people’s reasons and other people’s punches.

So, it's psychologically sensible for us to think the other party started it. We also tend to escalate in our response:
Research teaches us that our reasons and our pains are more palpable, more obvious and real, than are the reasons and pains of others. This leads to the escalation of mutual harm, to the illusion that others are solely responsible for it and to the belief that our actions are justifiable responses to theirs.

This explains the pattern of fighting over the victim position, since the victim can get away with anything.

Of course, there's a larger question: does it really matter who started it?

Afghanistan war: who started it? Al-Qaeda? The US? How about the Iraq War? What will history say?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The camouflaged native as blockader is Canada's fave new stereotype

From a piece by Drew Hayden Taylor (First Nations comedian and author of several books including Me Funny):
Blockades were not part of our traditional culture. Historically, Canada had too many wide-open spaces for native people to successfully blockade anything. But we are an adaptable people. After a while, we learned to blockade roads and railways, just as we learned to hunt with guns, cook with flour and lard and ride in cars. It seems like a natural progression.

Sadly, this image of the camouflaged native as blockader is replacing the drunken Indian as Canada's favourite new stereotype.

Children are in danger of becoming more familiar with the Indian wearing a bandana to hide his face than with the mighty warrior on a horse hunting buffalo. In the U.S., the dominant stereotype is the casino Indian.

Here in Canada, I know many people who've been involved in blockades and other acts of civil disobedience. They do not make these choices lightly. Most of them know things will get worse before they get better.

Everybody remembers the tragic images in Alanis Obomsawin's brilliant documentary Rocks At Whiskey Trench of local whites stoning Mohawks who were being evacuated from Kahnawake during the Oka crisis, resulting in one man dying of a heart attack.

Most people have come to understand that natives' actions at Oka, Ipperwash and other standoffs were justified. All involved years of trying to settle land claims with little response from the federal government. The ante needed to be upped.

On the news, I heard an annoyed VIA passenger bitterly condemn the native blockade: "I didn't think they were allowed to do that, but I guess they can do whatever they want." Our elders used to say the same thing about white people.
At the very least, irate VIA passengers will have an amusing tale to tell their grandkids. "I was part of the great Tyendinaga Railway Blockade of 07." I'm sure insurance will cover those companies or individuals who may have lost money because of the inconvenience. There must be some sort of "Act of Indian" clause somewhere.

Printed in this week's Now Magazine (It's been a particularly good issue). Read the Whole Thing Here

Friday, May 04, 2007

Humanitarian "Feminism" from Above as a Form of Colonial Control

These interventions by the colonial state against social practices that oppressed women have been described as 'colonial feminism', that is where the colonial government intervened on behalf of women, claiming it was doing so on humanitarian grounds.

Sometimes these measures operated simultaneously as forms of colonial control. The colonial authorities were often sympathetic to those interventions that they regarded as a way of transforming the values of societies whose traditions resisted their rule. This was clearest with respect to the French colonial policy of forced unveiling in the Maghreb.

In all cases, it was entirely predictable that such legislative acts would become the focus for nationalist resistance. Yet, paradoxically for women colonial ideology could represent new forms of freedom. As a result, women were much more ambivalently placed in relation both to colonialism and anti-colonial nationalism. This has also meant that while women struggle with the legacies of colonialism in the postcolonial era, they are repeatedly accused of importing western ideas.

Well-meaning interventions by western feminist, human rights groups, and Ford Foundation-funded non-governmental organization can at times end up by making life more complicated for local feminists. Development of all kinds comes best from below rather than being imposed by above.

Interestingly, he also writes about how during anti-colonial struggles, women are often seen as the vessels of culture, "retrieved for the present from the society of the past."
For macho-nationalists, home and the domestic sphere, relatively free from colonial control, was the best guardian of the traditional values, culture, and identity of the new phenomenon they were creating on the Europen model against their European masters, 'the nation'.

Which means women's struggles do not end upon achieving self-determination, but that this is a precondition for a strong and viable feminist movement.

There's nothing new with what we are doing in Afghanistan, nor with the arguments used to justify it. It's been done by colonial powers in the past, and will continue to be done in our name unless we stop it.

Quotations from Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction by Robert Young. Formatting added to make it easier to read.

Inspired by the ongoing conversation here (see comments).

See also Afghan Women: Used by the Taliban, Used by Us.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Last Night I Dreamt of War

Last night I dreamt of war. I dreamt the nameless, faceless attackers were getting close to my house. We needed to get away, and we weren't certain exactly how close they were.

The first moment of panic came when realizing that everybody would be trying to escape. If a whole city is emptying, we were likely to get stuck on the highway - it's like just waiting for certain death. I momentarily considered hiding in the basement, but couldn't stand the thought of waiting in the dark to be found and killed, not that way.

I was trying to pack things I would need in my backpack. My dream here slowed down as I tried to plan what to take. I was going through all the stuff that I surround myself with, the stuff that forms the nest which helps me feel at home. But with such scarcity of space, few things could be taken. That meant choosing between necessities and keepsakes. Is an extra pair of pants more important than a photo album?

Living as I do in the comfort of the peaceful Western World, I can't truly know what it must be like to have one's country invaded. One day to be going about your life, expecting the next day to be much the same, and then suddenly it all changes. No longer can you imagine your future. Survival becomes the only goal.

My nightmares are others' realities.

All I can do is imagine - try to open myself to experience just a little bit of the pain and terror and anger. I think my nightmares help me to be more empathetic. I have a lot of them (I'm recovering from PTSD) and in a weird way I think they help me to be a better human being.

Trying to understand things from the point of view of the other is so crucial, and yet I see such a lack of it from our so-called leaders. It's as if they are afraid to show there's more than one possible view or interpretation. Better to stick to what you're doing, even if what you're doing is walking off a precipice, I guess, then to say: "now that I'm closer to it and have a different perspective, I see this is a cliff, so I'm going to go the other way instead."

Perhaps positions of power simply attract particular personality types. After all, if no one suffers like George and Laura, you'd think they'd be a little more compassionate.

New G.I. Joe Action Figures

heh heh

From Sutton Impact

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day 2.0

Capitalism Divides. Mayday Unites

I would argue our most important challenge as progressives is to build bridges between movements. Labour and Environmentalists. Feminists and indigenous peoples. Anti-war and anti-poverty activists. So, in that spirit this post is dedicated to the people, united (we'll never be divided).

Don't miss this article from Common Ground.
If springtime is all about rebirth and resurrection, perhaps it's time we dusted off a much-maligned holiday and upgraded it to May Day 2.0. The bounty from labour and capital is ultimately drawn from the harvest, so why not merge the worker and nature angles? They're a natural fit. We'd still keep Earth Day, but it would be a preliminary event leading up to the planetary celebration on May 1st, when we'd celebrate not just the Earth, but all beings that struggle on it – from the threatened creatures of the coral reefs to the disappearing tigers of Southeast Asia to the sweatshop workers of "free trade zones" to the native survivors of Canadian residential schools to endangered white collar workers.

Also, check out "our history of protest", today's series of amazing posts at Women of Color Blog.

A Selection of May Day 2007 News from around the world:

Canadian Unions need to re-energize:
Issues that were previously championed by labour: poor relief, affordable housing and job-creation initiatives -- tend to be spearheaded by community groups or other advocacy organizations that run outside and without the influence of the labour movement.

US: Wal-Mart Skirting Labour Protections:
The retail giant Wal-Mart exploits weak U.S. labour laws to prevent union formation and violates the fundamental human rights of its U.S. workers, says a report released Monday on the eve of the May Day labour holiday.

IRAQ: The Iraqi labour movement salutes May Day:
May Day is an opportunity for Iraqi working people to sharpen their resolve as they continue struggle for a better Iraq of Human rights, social justices and federal democracy, free from terrorism and sectarianism.
Also GFIW proclaims: "Strong Unions Need Women" and Iraqi communists again call for an end to the occupation.

Palestinian Teachers on Strike
Palestinian teachers have held a one-day strike over unpaid wages prompting the deputy prime minister to suggest that the unity government be disbanded if the Western embargo is not lifted in three months. It is the first time a leader of the six-week-old unity government has made such a suggestion.

PERU: Striking Miners to March on Lima
Peru’s miners began an indefinite strike Monday demanding respect for labour rights. Their main complaint is against the outsourcing of jobs, as 80 percent of the 100,000 workers in the mining industry -- the backbone of the economy – are affected by the phenomenon of subcontracting and outsourcing.

SOUTH AFRICA: "You Have to Work Nine to Ten Times Harder Than a Male Farmer"
As activists focus on the challenges facing workers this May Day (May 1), Martha Moside is calling for attention to be paid to the situation of female subsistence farmers in South Africa.

RUSSIA: Of All, Russian Unions Begin to Lose Members
Squeezed between political change and budgetary difficulties, federal and regional trade unions are beginning to lose large numbers of active members. At many workplaces unions simply do not exist.

Venezuela to hike minimum wage 20% for May Day:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez raised the country's minimum wage by 20 percent, setting Latin America's highest pay scale.

More labour news from IPS News, and LabourStart.

Posters from