Thursday, March 25, 2010

UBCIC Opposes Enbridge Pipeline Project

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. - March 23, 2010) The UBCIC Chiefs Council met last week in Vancouver, B.C. and one item of discussion was the proposed Enbridge Pipeline Project. UBCIC Resolution 2010-11, Enbridge Pipeline Project, was presented, discussed and ratified.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs stated “The UBCIC is opposed to the Enbridge Pipeline Project and stands with the many First Nations who are standing as a unified block in their opposition to this proposed Tar Sands pipeline.”

This morning, the Coastal First Nations, who are an alliance of First Nations on B.C.’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, announced that they will not allow pipelines and oil tankers carrying Alberta’s Tar Sands Oil in British Columbia.

This week, Grand Chief Phillip is in Williams Lake supporting the Tsilhqot’in’s defense of Teztan Biny at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency public hearings into the proposed Taseko Mines Ltd.’s plans to build a gold-copper mine on the territory of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
“Water is the issue. Indigenous Peoples are defending their territory and the health of their communities throughout British Columbia. The short-term economic gain promised by government and industry proponents of mega-projects like the Enbridge Pipeline, Taseko Mines’ Prosperity Mine and Kemess North are being opposed by First Nations who are thinking of the long-term impact on their territories and on their communities,” said Grand Chief Phillip.

Grand Chief Phillip concluded “It is abundantly clear, B.C. First Nations will not put their territories and waters at risk caused by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and crude oil tanker traffic. As Indigenous Peoples, we know first-hand when third party interests are granted access to the resources of our territories, government and the courts protect those industry interests at great cost to our Aboriginal Title and Rights and of the environmental values that many British Columbians share with First Nations.”

– 30 –

Media inquires:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (250) 490-5314


MARCH 17TH - 18TH, 2010

Resolution no. 2010-11

RE: Enbridge Pipeline Project

WHEREAS Enbridge proposes to build two parallel 1,170 kilometre pipelines through Alberta and British Columbia to export crude oil and other oil products;

WHEREAS these pipelines would involve over 1000 stream and river crossings and result in 525,000 barrels of crude oil/day, 193,000 barrels of condensate/day, and 225 tankers a year travelling through the territories of nations along the pipeline and tanker routes;

WHEREAS the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project will ship oil products by tankers in our coastal waters;

WHEREAS First Nations have practiced uncontested, supreme and absolute jurisdiction over our territories, our resources and our lives with the right to manage our territories including our lands and waters;

WHEREAS First Nations laws and customs define our responsibilities to protect our lands and waters;

WHEREAS BC First Nations will not put their territories and waters at risk caused by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and crude oil tanker traffic;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the UBCIC Chiefs Council oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.

Moved: Chief Donna Gallinger, Nicomen Indian Band
Seconded: Chief Wayne Christian, Splats’in First Nation
Disposition: Carried
Abstention: Chief Fabian Alexis, Okanagan Indian Band
Date: March 18th, 2010


The UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Party's Over (final chapter of my adventures with Jay's 50th Birthday Party)

(photo by Kerry - me and my friend Jay, who has never tried to abuse me)

Well, they got their jollies feeling me up again, those big tough Security Guards – this time at the Chicago airport. This time their excuse was my “loose fitting clothing.” Hippie type folks wearing flowing skirts and braids are amongst the most suspicious --- perhaps they believe the peace symbol aura is a secret code for hidden explosives, like they think the words “social justice” are code for a secret nazi agenda.

It was 3:30 in the morning, some goofball in the line-up through security was behind me nattering away to a guy going to a convention in Las Vegas about the benefits of Blackberries vs. touch screens. I had carefully packed all my little bottles into a plastic bottle, as directed, was carrying my little suitcase that had been broken on the journey to Chicago, my backpack with computer and camera, had removed my shoes and was attempting to be as friendly and coherent as possible after a weekend of very little sleep including none the night before. A man yelled at me, as I was carefully loading all my stuff into the plastic bins to send it all through the x-ray machine, to remove my scarf and sweater. As punishment for daring to forget these items, and for wearing such loose fitting clothing, and perhaps for not moving quickly enough, I was abruptly herded into a three sided glass room where a woman informed me that she was going to have to pat me down. I told her I really don’t like it when strangers touch my body, and offered to remove my skirt – not a big deal because I was wearing my yoga tights underneath. I’d rather appear as if going to yoga class than have some stranger’s hands upon me.

She took this entirely the wrong way, and called her supervisor who informed me, in his particularly bitter and don’t-you-know-it’s-Monday-morning-and-I-hate-my-job manner, that I was going to have to let this woman “do her job.” I said I don’t like getting felt up by strangers, and don’t they have another option like Vancouver? He didn’t let me finish my description of the new radio wave body scan machinery they’re offering as an option to molestation by a stranger, he insisted that it’s not “getting felt up,” told me I must cooperate and let this woman DO HER JOB or I wouldn’t be allowed on the plane. He reminded me of one of those military drill sergeants, making up for his lack of manhood by being a stupid bully.

I know that I don’t have any rights in the US, as if anybody does anymore, and that it’s likely my file is flagged because of all my work with Cuba and perhaps the Street Newz and I decided to just grin and bear it and get it over with. I stood with my legs slightly spread, my bare feet in the marked area, and the woman proceeded to pat me down. Unlike last year’s groping, I wasn’t subjected to her rough hands touching my genitals or my breasts. Thankfully. Still, the entire episode, after sharing such a wonderful weekend with friends and functioning on very little sleep, rendered me shaking and sobbing. I can only imagine what it must be like for people attempting to heal from sexual abuse, to have to go through that. There’s gotta be a better way.

And the irony is, once they’ve done their militaristic fear and intimidation tactic and allowed people to pass, we find ourselves in a mall. We can buy duty free, we can buy food & bev (Burger King, Burritos, Margharitas), or coffee (well, Starbuck’s, with what seems an exclusive corporate grip on the travel market), gifts of all descriptions, we can buy vast quantities of juice and water and take all that onto the airplane. I just don’t get it …. WTF is the point of all that pre-screening, with the limited number of little plastic bottles containing only minimal amounts of liquids, when moments later we’re encouraged to be good capitalist consumers and do whatever it is they’re afraid of people doing with copious amounts of water and coca cola and tequila?!!

I walked past the lineup for Macdonald’s early morning crap, and found a little tea and coffee and muffin place with a friendly woman who gladly filled my mug with hot water. And then I boarded the plane, a very full plane, sorry to be leaving my buddies, amazed that the weekend was over already, but happy to be putting the perhaps more traumatic experience than it oughta be behind me.

The flight to Phoenix was pleasant enough, except for the little kid next to me who let loose with a series of silent farts (and you know the air just doesn’t circulate on those machines) but thankfully I had my little aromatherapy spray bottle and I survived it. Then I had a couple of hours to wait in the Phoenix airport (not wanting to leave and have to go through that security bullshit again), plus a two hour time readjustment. I did my best to function somewhat coherently (Pheonix has free Wifi, Chicago doesn’t) in the airport waiting for my flight home to Vancouver.

And then it happened. I found myself at the Starbuck’s waiting to get my lovely double paned glass tea mug filled with more hot water for another cup of tea - the staff being very helpful with this. I replaced its lid and returned my mug full of hot tea into the outer sleeve of my backpack, as I’d done several times throughout the weekend, and bent over to reach for my sweater on the floor. The mug slipped out of its pocket and crashed to the floor, smashing into a million pieces. I was looking at a very jagged jar edge breaking the mug in two, and lots of shards. Very dangerous, really …. I quickly apologized to those around me lest they should think I was plotting some overthrow of the evil coffee joint, or plotting to slit the throats of the pilots in line for their morning java (that would just be silly).

There was nary a security guard to be found. No response to the smashing glass (though the woman in the line up ahead of me turned around and stared blankly at me with no apparent sympathy for my situation, merely consternation for disturbing her quiet morning) …. I expressed my dissatisfaction with an “oh crap,” and she proceeded to the unfair trade coffee counter. One of the friendly clerks left the busy counter to see if she could help. I was kneeling on the floor picking up the shards of glass.

Still no security guards anywhere in sight.

I used a damp cloth the Starbuck’s employee provided to pick up the smaller broken bits, and after several minutes told her I’d done my best but she might want to call someone to vacuum the remainder up before someone hurts themselves on it.

I walked to the other end of the airport shopping mall and reluctantly purchased a plastic bottle of some kind of corporate liquid substance, no doubt heavily genetically engineered, and wondered about the logic of this insistence that we all have our liquids in little tiny containers, secured in a plastic bag, when we are screened by those security goons ….. and once we’re cleared into the airport, there are any number of liquids available for purchase, glass mugs and bottles in the bar, and not a security person anywhere to be found.

I’m not writing this to encourage the presence of still more “security” guards at the airport, rather to show the abusive and power hungry and ineffective nature of the system that has been established post 9/11 (whose origins continue to be contentious). And it’s not been established for your safety or for mine, so much as to get us all accustomed to the police state, accepting of a loss of personal privacy and the persistent violation of our rights as individuals. The shoe bomber and the underpants bomber were both useful for justifying a front line security force that offers the illusion of safety and protection. But in reality wasn’t it just regular people who intervened and diffused those particular situations? I can see the validity of putting bags through an x-ray machine, especially in a land where people think it’s a good idea to own their own personal stockpile of weapons, but is it really necessary to bark orders at half-asleep middle aged women, and then subject them to the humiliating and degrading experience of being patted down every time they try to go anywhere?

I certainly wouldn’t have invested the time and energy and dollars I did, going to Chicago for the weekend, for just anyone …. but Jay’s pretty special and I had a ton of fun celebrating his 50th birthday with his family and friends and what the heck - the world might end tomorrow and I’m glad I did it. But, what I feel right now is, I seriously do not care if I never set foot in that country again. Those border experiences are just too much. It’s not really a good way to establish diplomatic relations among nations, or people, or to help tourists and travelers feel welcome within any community.

As I always am when I return, I was so very happy to touch the Canadian soil and be among my brothers and sisters – different and diverse as we all are. With enormous understanding to the First Nations whose land this is ….. at least we’re not the USA (with all due respect to my US friends, of course). I don’t know how others are treated upon entry, but I was greeted by friendly, relaxed, professional and respectful immigration officers and I thought about this concept of keeping some record of who is entering and leaving, and how we ought to treat them. In a perfect world, I suppose, we could all just come and go as we please. But given this world we live in, I’m not opposed to a small bit of record keeping, just so we know who’s where in the event that something unforeseen should happen. Of course it’s unjust that those with cash can more easily gain entry while those without cannot .... but ultimately I'm very tired and just really happy to return to a place where we don’t have to celebrate the passage of something they’re calling Health Care Reform which is in fact an opportunity to sell more insurance (though hopefully it's a start). I’m here, in a place where we fight to keep and improve a system that was not founded on profit (thanks Tommy Douglas!). Where we fight to maintain the last of earth’s last temperate rainforests. Where we acknowledge, with great respect, that this is STOLEN NATIVE LAND, and behave as appropriately as we can considering we’re all uninvited guests.

The PCL bus was just about to leave as I ran out of the airport, after clearing customs, and the friendly Canadian driver kindly waited while I bought a ticket, raced to the bathroom, and boarded the bus to catch the 3 pm ferry and be home in time for dinner and the last half of Gorilla Radio. I was willing to take the public transit – skytrain, bus, ferry, and another bus from the airport, and it would have saved me a small chunk of cash, but after my rather goofy day of travel, and a weekend with little sleep, I was just delighted to get on that three o'clock boat and get home.

I really love this place, and I feel truly blessed to live as I do. We all oughta have the opportunity to venture out and away from our comfort zone now and then, though. It puts an entirely new spin on everything.

photos from Jay's party and Chicago - click here and here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

it's snowing in chicago

for photos click here

Being in Chicago on the first day of spring, when it’s snowing, is probably not the best time to form a first impression. The natives don’t seem, for the most part, particularly cheery. The Natives, first inhabitants of this land, are nowhere to be seen. Neither are shopping cart people, or panhandlers. I spent the morning riding the train through underground tunnels, to Chinatown, past the downtown and north to Wrigley Stadium, wandering around a couple of nearby neighbourhoods along the way and saw only one - panhandler, that is. Either everything’s rosy, or the poor folk are systematically run out of town and away from any public places.

I went to the Whole Foods, not because it’s my favourite place (the owner/founder has advocated against a single payer health care system) but because it was close and I know I can find relatively affordable, organic, vegan food options. I learned that they serve only coffee, no tea (which bummed me out since I signed the Universal Declaration Against Drinking Coffee after the Copenhagen Climate Summit), had some fresh salad greens and grains, purchased some micro brewed stout and food for later in the day, bought a Street Sense newspaper and met Tyrone, born and bred Chicagoan and the only panhandler I saw in all of the city.

You’d almost think the US dollar wasn’t tanking (it’s on par with the Canadian, that’s how bad it is) because they’re funneling all their tax money into death and destruction overseas. Not a single homeless person. Obama must be so proud. This is, after all, where he became known for his “community organizing,” that socialist stuff he can no longer admit to now that he’s king of the dung heap.

I asked Lewis, the Street Sense vendor (whose board of directors includes but is not limited to the president and vice president of Socore Energy, and representatives from Judd R. Horwitz & Co., Kurman Communications, Verizon Wireless, Stonegate Development, and the US Senate) which way to the inner city. He said, “you don’t want to go there.” I said that I did, tried to explain to Lewis that I want to see what’s happening on the streets of Chicago. No, he insisted, it wouldn’t be a good place for me to go. So I hopped a subway train and attempted to find my own way around and get a feel for the place before the big party tonight.

As I said, it’s probably not the best day to form an impression of Chicago. Beyond the snow and cold, and of course the wind, there are many closed storefronts, empty buildings, and a rather significant amount of strange innuendo from those seeking or selling sexual favours. When I arrived early in the wee hours, for example, there were two black guys in the subway station offering one or possibly both of them for sale. They were completely confused when I asked them directions about how to get where I was going. And today I asked a man on the subway train where a good place to go might be and he suggested Chinatown. On one side of the road was the traditional old town, on the other side, he said, is the strip mall. He mentioned the strip mall a couple of times until I finally I told him I’m not really into that and he left me alone.

Folks know that the Cuban revolution was about overthrowing the gambling and prostitution empire, right? No? Golly, I wonder why they don’t want folks to know that and just think of it an evil socialist dictatorship instead.

Chicago’s train system is fairly efficient, but definitely in need of cleaning and upgraded signage so that visitors don’t get frustrated trying to figure out that $2.25 only gets you a one way ride, you can add a quarter to an already used ticket and get a two hour transfer, or pay 5 bucks and ride all day. One rather surly attendant suggested I spend my short visit here writing to the transit authority with my concerns. They oughta hire someone like me to look at subway systems afresh, and tell them what they can do to improve comprehensibility. But they won’t. It’s all about cars, and people who can afford them.

Speaking of that, I won’t tell you how much this room is costing me these two nights ( It’s a funky hotel, I’m resting and watching a documentary about homelessness in the USA on MSNBC enjoying a Great Lakes Stout and the delicious Uncle Eddies Vegan cookies unavailable anywhere at home), but I will tell you that after a morning trying to sort out the public transit system and unsuccessfully find a decent cup of tea through the cold and wind and snow, it’s almost worth it. Jay got a relatively good rate for those of us travelling to be at his 50th birthday party … the regular rate is over $250 a night. Can you imagine? Then there’s the mini-bar, the additional for purchase bath products, bath robes, and the $14.99 plus tax movie options. Jay and I have definitely travelled in different directions along the economic pathway of life, but thankfully we’ve remained good friends and we can share stories about what it’s like on either side of the fence.

Rex Weyler: Who negotiates for nature?

(photo: clearcuts over washington/oregon)

Two years ago, in 2008, the environmental movement was rocked by journalist Christine MacDonald’s book, Green, Inc. After working for Conservation International (CI), MacDonald felt that corporate money had too great an influence on CI strategy. She concluded, “Not only do the largest conservation groups take money from companies deeply implicated in environmental crimes; they have become something like satellite PR offices for the corporations that support them.”

This month, in The Nation, UK journalist Johann Hari documents the evolution of this trend in “Wrong Kind of Green,” an expose of how some environmental groups have gone soft on polluters after receiving corporate money.

“By pretending the broken system can work,” writes Hari, “and will work, in just a moment, after just one more Democratic win, or another, or another – the big green groups are preventing the appropriate response from concerned citizens, which is fury at the system itself. They are offering placebos to calm us down when they should be conducting and amplifying our anger at this betrayal of our safety by our politicians. … when green groups cheer them on, they are giving their approval to a path to destruction–and calling it progress.”

Other serious ecologists and environmentalists are sounding an alarm. “We’re close to a civil war in the environmental movement,” says Charles Komanoff, after 30 years with the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council. “For too long, all the oxygen in the room has been sucked out by this beast of these insider groups, who achieve almost nothing. … We need to create new organizations that represent the fundamentals of environmentalism and have real goals."

Given the threats we now face – global heating and large scale habitat overshoot – Hari asks, “How do we retrieve a real environmental movement, in the very short time we have left?”

Resisting the cash

Some groups, thank Gaia, have refused to take money from large corporate donors or their granting agency fronts. Amazon Watch, which works closely with indigenous people, is one such group. Kevin Koenig at Amazon Watch attended the Copenhagen conference and expressed shock at what he witnessed. “At Copenhagen, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Koenig states in the Hari article. “These groups are positioning themselves to be the middlemen in a carbon market. They are helping to set up, in effect, a global system of carbon laundering…that will give the impression of action, but no substance. You have to ask, are these conservation groups at all? They look much more like industry front groups to me.”

Greenpeace has maintained a nearly 40-year policy of raising its funding only from its individual members and not accepting government or corporate grants. There is a big difference between forcing a company to the bargaining table and winning concessions – as Greenpeace has done with Shell Oil, Apple Computers, and Coca Cola – and simply partnering with a corporate donor and acting as greenwashing seal of approval. Christine MacDonald points out that World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation International cozied up to agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and other companies to fashion a “sustainable soy” policy, a process that dragged on for years and accomplished nothing. Meanwhile Greenpeace campaigned against the international agribusiness giants and forced a moratorium on buying soybeans from recently deforested Amazon lands.

The campaign to reverse concentrations of atmospheric carbon back to 350 parts-per-million (ppm), which climate science believes is the limit to control run-away global heating, has fallen on similar problems. The Center for Biological Diversity, in Arizona refuses corporate funding, but finds itself being challenged by organizations that accept such funding. “There is a gigantic political schizophrenia here,” executive director Kieran Suckling told Hari.

“The Sierra Club will send out e-mails to its membership saying we have to get to 350 parts per million and the science requires it. But in reality they fight against any sort of emission cuts that would get us anywhere near that goal.” When Suckling and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and follow what climate science says is necessary, restoring a maximum 350 ppm, the Sierra Club appeared to side with industry against him. “I was amazed to discover the Sierra Club opposed us bitterly,” says Suckling. “They said it should not be done. In fact, they said that if we filed a lawsuit to make EPA do it, they would probably intervene on EPA’s side. They threw climate science out the window.”

Traction going nowhere

What we often hear from groups and individuals, who set themselves up as Nature’s negotiators and who pitch weak compromise rather than serious change, is that real change will not “get traction.” What they mean by this is that the status quo institutions – political parties, corporations, and well-funded organizations – don’t want deep or radical social transformation. What they want is to keep doing what they’ve always done, keep making money, and simultaneously appear “green.” We must ask, however: What good is traction if we’re racing down the wrong highway toward a cliff?

Hari points out that the compromised environmental groups believe they are adhering to “political reality” when they accept, for example, CO2 emission cuts that fall short of what climate science knows is necessary. “They don’t seem to realize,” writes Hari, “that in a conflict between political reality and physical reality, physical reality will prevail. You can’t stand at the edge of a rising sea and say, ‘Sorry, the swing states don’t want you to happen today.’ The laws of physics are more real and permanent than any passing political system. ”

“We need a few leaders who aren’t careerists,” says Bill Turnage, the former president of the Wilderness Society. People who aren’t worried about where they are going to get their next job.”

Green Disaster Capitalism

In British Columbia Canada, General Electric – one of the world’s largest corporations, with interests in defense contracts, international weapons trading, nuclear power, oil, and gas – is one of the lead actors in a campaign to privatize some 600 watersheds. GE and their partners, such as Plutonic Power, have attempted to sell this to a doubtful public by claiming their massive hydro and transmission line projects represent “green energy” that would help alleviate global warming. A few Canadian environmental groups signed on to this idea, but most groups and communities did not take the bait.

General Electric, meanwhile, plays both sides of the climate “debate.” While they support organizations that help sell their private acquisition of Canadian public and natural assets, allegedly to help “reduce global warming,” they simultaneously fund organizations that deny global warming, which supports their oil and gas holdings. They fund the American Petroleum Institute and its Astroturf affiliates such as “Energy Citizens,” who stage “grassroots” rallies to deny climate change and defeat climate legislation in the U.S.

Through GE Oil & Gas Conmec and General Electric Inspection Services, GE is a member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), along with Dow, Bechtel, Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Shell and others. Last year, Greenpeace uncovered API plans to launch a nationwide Astroturf campaign, “Energy Citizen,” to deny global warming and defeat climate legislation in the U.S. Greenpeace said the PR campaign “runs contrary to several prominent API members’ public support for climate action, namely Shell, BP America, ConocoPhillips, General Electric and Siemens.” General Electric helped fund these climate change denial campaigns, while simultaneously using the urgency of global warming to make a grab for hundreds of rivers, tributaries, and watersheds in British Columbia, Canada.

This is a “green” version of “Disaster Capitalism,” as described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. Global warming is so serious and urgent, so the theory goes, that we must suspend all normal logic and turn over the planet to the corporate board rooms. In B.C., Canada, this also means undermining the public power system, B.C. Hydro. The plan forces the public power company to purchase the private power at inflated rates, estimated to create a $450 million dollar annual loss for B.C. Hydro, a recipe for collapse of the public system. The BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) has deemed the plan “not in the public interest,” and yet a handful of environmental groups signed on to support it.

The Privatization of public and natural assets – such as rivers and watersheds – is not “green.” I stand with the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC), B.C. Citizens for Public Power, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and scores of other community and environmental groups (see B.C. Guardians network) in favour of preserving BC’s wild rivers, resisting the privatization of BC’s rivers, and in preserving B.C.’s heritage of public power embodied in B.C. Hydro.

Humanity needs non-polluting energy, but rushing into a region such as British Columbia and attempting to privatize 600 watersheds for the benefit of global corporate interests is not the way to go about it. Before Canada or any jurisdiction industrializes more rivers, we must launch a massive campaign for conservation of energy in both industry and residential homes. Secondly, before we build massive power projects, we must have in hand a public and transparent analysis of local power needs. If small, community scale micro-hydro plants satisfy ecological and public requirements in some of these watersheds, then the decision to build those plants needs to be fairly discussed by the communities living in those watersheds in balance with other river and watershed values. And finally, those power projects must remain a public asset.

The discussion about who has the authority to negotiate for Nature, however, goes deeper than this. When Greenpeace was founded nearly 40 years ago, we understood that humanity lived within a living, diverse, generous, but limited ecological habitat. We also understood that humanity had violated and abused that habitat. Today, with thousands of environmental groups at work, humanity finds itself farther down the road of habitat overshoot.

Negotiating on behalf of Nature, for Gaia, is a sacred duty. Environmentalism is not just a career move. As Paul Sears warned 40 years ago, “Ecology is a subversive subject,” because ecology will demand that we completely re-evaluate our assumptions. We do not get to rewrite the laws of biology, physics, thermodynamics, and exponential growth for our own convenience.

We need ecological leaders who understand ecology and biophysical laws, and who feel a deep, sacred respect for Nature itself.

Please leave a comment here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

i've arrived safely in chicago

unfortunately, some idiot numbskull broke my suitcase - the one i've had since i was six years old. us air owes me, big time. and they ought to more carefully screen their employees. if i had my way i'd figure out who busted a perfectly good latch on a sturdy old suitcase (from the days when they actually made things that last) that can never be replaced, and severely reprimand them. forever. for the rest of their lives, and even beyond that.

i'm going to sleep now. here's what i wrote about on the plane ....

I gotta admit, I love to fly. I hate what it does to the earth, and that thousands of innocent people are being killed and tortured so multi bazillionaires can build pipelines through their homelands and ship the gooey gunk around. but I love the pure thrill of it.

This trip has brought back memories from the days when I used to do it on a fairly regular basis. I love the hustle and bustle of airports, the atmosphere filled with antipation and anxiety as people prepare to journey across the globe or meet returning loved ones. I love the rush of power and speed as the plane begins to take off down the runway, the sense of awe and wonderment as the big metal bird lifts off into the sky, the perspective of reality from way up in the air …. the turbulence is a bit freaky, flying through clouds, but at the end of it, when the big bird is safely landed again on terra firma, it makes a person glad to be alive. And in an entirely new and different place!

Flying out of Vancouver I could see all the way to Vancouver Island. I could see the miniaturized BC Ferry leaving Active Pass on its way to Swartz Bay. Eventually I could see Sidney, and Ten Mile Point, and the coastline around Oak Bay. Then the volcanoes, I think it was Mt. Hood and St. Helen’s. I could see the vast clearcuts of what were once the majestic rainforests of Washington/Oregon . As we neared Phoenix I saw brown …. lots of brown. A bit of snow on mountains here and there, now and then a trickle of water.

Phoenix itself was quite green. The man next to me said they’d had the wettest winter in a long time. There were floods, even. He was quite a pleasant man, and it’s this that I find most disturbing. How can such a friendly fellow, concerned about the appropriate use of water in a state with way too many green lawns and swimming pools and golf courses, how can he possibly work for a mining company? And fly all over the place – Denver, Vancouver, Uruguay? I guess we all have our redeeming qualities, we’re none of us perfect. Arizona, for example, is smart enough never to switch to daylight savings time and back like all the other silly states and provinces twice a year. But still …. how does such a nice fellow end up in such a nasty industry?

I’ve got a window seat again, leaving Phoenix, and I see it’s precisely how my mining friend described it – a sprawling suburb. I wonder why they didn’t just do a complete checkerboard in true rectangular fashion? Why they chose, sometimes, to put curvy roads in their squares of housing developments? It’s at least a bit more interesting that way, at least from way up here. Otherwise it’d just be a grid of rows and columns.

And the seat next to me is empty. Un-heard of, on a Friday night flight, I’m sure. The young fella on the aisle seat and I have decided we must have done something good to earn the little bit of extra space.
They’re selling food-like items, as we fly into the darkness. The two air stewards on this flight are male. Like the flight from Vancouver, there’s one young and one older. And when I say older, I mean very near retirement. I guess they must love it …. or they gotta keep working as long as they can to get the health benefits. I notice they’re able to wear street clothes – no uniforms like in the old days. Maybe it’s casual Friday. If there is an emergency I’ll look to the older guy for advice, and the younger one for help getting the doors open.

I’m looking forward, now, to getting to Chicago and figuring out the 24 hour train system that will get me to the swank hotel in about 45 minutes. Sleep will be good, too, but mostly I’m looking forward to seeing Jay and I hope I can stay awake at his party. I learned, during the last two summers’ expedition on the Cuba Caravan, how to get by on very little sleep. Did you know it’s possible to sleep with your eyes open (so as to appear to be paying attention?) Seriously – there were times, in Cuba, when the heat at the exhaustion almost got the better of me. But I was so determined to be polite and also to try and learn as much as I could about what Cuba is, that I was literally asleep with my eyes open.

By the time you don’t read this (I write for my own personal enjoyment) I’ll be settled and my eyes will have closed, and I will have slept, at least a little bit. Hopefully.

i'm going to chicago for the weekend!

For all that “Victoria” claims to want to be a world class city, you’d think they’d do something about that scroungy little poor excuse for a bus station!

I was there this morning, catching an early bus to get to the ferry so I could get to the airport and fly to Chicago for the weekend. Anyone who knows me knows that this is entirely out of character and yes, I realize I’m completely destroying all the good carbon karma I’ve established by being vegan and riding my bike and living an obsessively gentle lifestyle all these decades.

But Jay’s one of my bestest friends in the whole entire world, and it’s his 50th birthday party. I received the invitation over a month ago and promptly dismissed any ideas of actually attending, knowing Jay would understand. I don’t fly, I don’t have that kind of money, and I don’t fly. I don’t like the pollution, or the body scans, or the cramped and elitist nature of flying. Okay, I took a short flight from Tampico, in Mexico, over to Cuba the last couple of years … but that was part of a humanitarian aid mission and I rode buses and trains all across the continent and back besides. Then, a week ago, after receiving a few stray photos that Jay sent to me while he was sifting through his life collection preparing a birthday photo collage I suddenly realized --- Jay is one of my bestest friends in the whole entire world, and I’ve gotta go to Chicago!!

So I checked online and couldn’t find anything that was in any way affordable, asked a doggie walking friend about travel agents, ended up chatting with Russell who was able to find a flight through Phoenix leaving from Vancouver’s airport Friday morning and returning for Monday afternoon. Through Phoenix. And I had to find my way to Vancouver and back. And it was still gonna cost a small fortune.

I thought about my bestest buddy, how he’d miraculously survived that near death experience a few years ago, how I’d travelled on the train to visit him in San Francisco when he was really hurting, how I realized then that we’re all mortals, darn it, and none of us getting any younger. I thought about the almost 30 years that have passed since we were both youngsters working in different offices, chatting on the phone, how his description of a Northern California sunset sparked my interest, about the time I drove to California, all by myself in my early 20s, to go visit a guy I really didn’t know that well but who has turned out to be one of my bestest friends in the whole entire world. We worked together in the Pacific Northwest, travelled together in Australia, he flew to Berlin to meet up with me outside the bombed out church when I was on a solo European journey in the early 90s, we drove to the incredibly amazing city of Prague. When he lived in Seattle I visited regularly, during spring or summer University breaks. He returned to California a while ago, and soon he’ll be moving to Washington DC so who knows when I’ll see him again.

I thought about all the things I could do with the money I’m spending on this trip …. the Haiti relief, the Chile fundraiser, the many local organizations who have had their funding cut by a crass, uncaring, evil bunch of thieves who call themselves Honourable.

But this is Jay’s 50th birthday and he almost died once already and who knows when I’ll see him again. We have so many happy memories, so much laughter shared between us. So I’m on my way to Chicago for the weekend (thanks Mom and Dad) …. to see Jay, to reacquaint myself with the friends and family I know, to meet the ones I don’t, and to add to a vast storehouse of fond remembrances.

As my dear departed birth father often said, all we really have are our memories ….

… a little later ….

I survived airport security, opting for the body scan rather than the pat down. I’m still not fully recovered from the woman, last year, having her way with me after I’d worked sooooo hard taking all that humanitarian aid to Cuba. Being a good citizen, helping those who need it, working for peace and justice and a liveable planet …. these things, apparently, make me a criminal - one of three out of over a hundred who was so treated. Today, in Vancouver, everyone's getting to choose .... so I stepped into the machine and got the radio waves, the (imagined greasy perverted) man upstairs found no underpants bomb devices, and I was able to proceed.

Interestingly, the only “white” people I've encountered were the airport attendant I asked to direct me (in this rather oversized airport – it’s grown since I was last here, and she had a thick European accent which brought Robert Dziekanski to mind and some relief that perhaps they’re providing for people whose first language isn’t English) in the proper direction to find the airline, the one blond woman working at the airlines, and the guy who actually asked me the questions (where am I going, why am I going there, etc). Everyone else is some shade of brown. Seriously!

Unlike many, I would guess, this put me at ease. As an El Salvador friend of mine suggested, when I saw him at a fundraiser for Cuba for Haiti recently, if anything saves this nation it will be immigrants. I had to think some about that …. some immigrants are filthy rich and greedy profit driven capitalists, I said, they won’t do us any good. But what he meant, I’m guessing (our conversation was interrupted at this point) was the sense of community, the centuries of resistance (or at least surviving) various empires. If there’s any hope for a nation fairly recently (by comparison) infected with colonialism, overrun by “vive the individual” propaganda that presses down on us from any and all available advertising spaces, perhaps it’ll be thanks to the diversity of spirit and basic urge for survival that is genetically encoded in indigenous peoples from across the globe.

Anyways, I passed all the various tests – paid the $26 US to check one little sturdy suitcase (my beloved little green case first used when I flew Wardair to visit my Grans in England way back in the 60s, back in the day when kids got to see the cockpit and they used real cutlery for the served food), double checked its tag to make sure it will actually end up in Chicago, made it through the bag search (I had carefully packed only necessary liquids in the requisite tiny containers and secured them in a little plastic bag), got my shoes off and back on without the assistance of chairs (there were a few dozen people, one chair in sight, and I didn’t think it wise to wrestle the elder fellow out of it), passed the body scan (though the last of my remaining decrepit old eggs might have been irreparably damaged by the radio waves), and found my way through the shopping centre maze that is the airport to find a cup of tea and some free internet with a view of the newly olympically clearcut mountains.

If only I could turn the channel on the obligatory nearby tv pundits yabbering about that thing they're calling health care reform (you don't like abortion? educate women and provide birth control!) south of the border. As I leave for Chicago with 5 million dollars worth of health insurance in tow (at $5 a day), I think of one of the Street Newz vendors who's having some serious cancer surgery today, another one who's getting an annual x-ray to check on a spot he's had on his lungs for many years, a third who recently survived knee surgery, and another one who checks in periodically to make sure his HIV meds are appropriately managed. All these fine individuals would no doubt be dead by now if we lived in the land of the free.

Hurray for the profit motive, eh? And I wonder what they'll do with all this airport stuff when the oil runs out?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Greatest Red Carpet In the World!

I tuned in to see what everyone’s wearing, of course. Why else?

But darn it if I didn’t learn a thing or two.

It’s the 82nd annual Academy Awards.

Morgan Freeman’s daughter, and one of the people involved in the production of the Nelson Mandela movie are gonna auction off their bracelets and all the money’s going to the Nelson Mandela Fund. I learned they’re really great philanthropists. I didn’t learn anything about the Nelson Mandela fund …. who’s involved with it, where the money goes, what they’re supporting. No doubt it’s something to do with people who will never see the inside of any of those dresses. Unpleasant stuff we’d rather not talk about on the Oscar Red Carpet.

Sarah Jessica Parker has to give her dress back tomorrow. Poor dear. She seemed to be handling it well.
I wonder how the men feel, with their suits and bowties. I’ll bet some of them have some magnificent dresses in their closets they’d rather be wearing.

I wonder if there’ll ever be a cross-dressing Oscar party, just to shake things up. Or a “Casual Day” Oscars.

I learned that George Clooney has “commitment issues.” It’s not that he prefers to be single, or that perhaps he’s gay …. it’s an actual psychological ailment.

Chris March made Meryl Streep’s dress, she’s the most Oscar nominated actor in the world. She enjoys the Oscars because it’s an opportunity to see her friends “all cleaned up and looking good.”

Sandra Bullock was extremely diplomatic considering the number of awesome films she’s made and the No Oscar Nomination previously thing. She’s too political.

In their introduction, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin identified and talked about several audience members. About Woody Harrelson – “He’s so high right now.” After spotting James Cameron through their 3D glasses, Steve dismissed floating forest spirits with a spray can. After finding the crew of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and describing its plot where a fanatical Nazi searches madly for Jews, Steve gestures to the Oscar Audience and says “The Motherload.”

I wonder why we've never seen an Oscar nominated movie about fanatical Zionists hunting down Palestinians.

The commercials are all about putting genetically engineered and/or animal derived food products in your body so you can feel good, which car to buy to really be cool, how great the big banks are, and which cosmetics and shampoos will help you be important and ever younger.

There’s no doubt it’s “the greatest red carpet in the world,” as they say. It’s the red carpet of a nation built on a revolution, a revolution that sluffed off the pomp and circumstance of the elite monarchy all those centuries ago. Haven’t they come a long way, baby! God Bless Middle America.

Friday, March 5, 2010

the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if games aren't rigged somehow ....

... we'll let you win lots of medals, and then your neo-con governments will appear successful. it's possible.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"one block of a failed socialist state"

that's how stephen colbert described east vancouver on last night's show.

it's never really clear whether he's just pretending to represent the stereotypical usa citizen - bloated, arrogant, self-congratulating (with apologies to my awesome usa friends) - or whether that's his true persona. but after watching him broadcast from vancouver all last week, blocks away from the historic and very courageous indigenous reclamation of a small piece of land for the construction of a tent village, never bothering to do more than a drive-by to extract a statement of judgement, it seems clear. he's just another ignorant middle-american, confusing a successful socialist endeavour (the tent village) with the failed capitalist state (and its evil northward creeping ideology) that continues to reward the ultra-greedy who exploit this earth and all her resources --- including the indigenous people who never surrendered this land, and just don't fit their agenda.

no more colbert rapport for me.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Remembering Tooker Gomberg - Aug. 12, 1955 - Mar. 3, 2004

From Angela Bischoff --- Wed. Mar. 3rd is the 6th anniversary of Tooker Gomberg's passing. We remember... his struggles for justice, his creative and playful spirit, his brilliant tactics, and his generosity and compassion.

If you're in Toronto, please join us in ritual, discussion and a film screening of:

Generation Rx
a film by Kevin P. Miller
with Special Guest Speaker: David Carmichael, founder of Health Promotion Party of Canada

Wed. Mar. 3, 7 p.m.
Friends House, 60 Lowther Ave. (Bloor and St. George), Toronto

For decades, scores of doctors, government officials, journalists, and others have extolled the benefits of psychiatric medicines for children. GENERATION RX presents "the rest of the story" and unveils how this era of unprecedented change in Western culture really occurred - and what price has been paid by our society.

For more info:,