Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Surprise logging near world’s largest Douglas fir tree has Wilderness Committee demanding protection

here's what i don't get. many thousands of
dead trees can be seen floating on the fraser river at any given time. i took this photo a couple of weeks ago while crossing the river on the new skytrain. you can drive through this province and see lumber yards continuously full of stacks of wood. if i were in charge, lumber would be on a 'by demand' basis, not just ravaged constantly for overseas markets and corporate profits.

Press Release: BC Forest Ministry had claimed back in February “no immediate plans” to log near Red Creek Fir

View photos of the Red Creek Fir and near by logging.

Port Renfrew, British Columbia, Canada – Activists from the Wilderness Committee have discovered a logging operation too close for comfort to the Red Creek Fir, which is the largest Douglas fir tree known to exist on Earth. This despite a claim made by BC Forest Ministry spokesperson Vivian Thomas and reported in a February 25, 2010 article by Judith Lavoie that there were no immediate plans to log in the area.

Joan Varley, from the Wilderness Committee’s Victoria office, recently discovered, and photographed the logging operation which is within a kilometre of the giant tree and getting closer by the day. The Red Creek Fir is located 15 kilometers from Port Renfrew, on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. The massive tree stands 73 meters high and is 13.3 meters around.

“We are extremely angry and frustrated to see this logging near by what is clearly one of the natural wonders of the world,” said Wilderness Committee National Campaign Director, Joe Foy. “Especially when the Forests Ministry led everyone to believe that this wouldn’t happen, and that we had time to work to preserve the area. The Forest Ministry should be ashamed.” Foy fumed.

“It is especially frustrating in the face of the recent Auditor General’s report on the state of BC’s park system which gives the BC government a failing grade and calls for an expansion of parks to conserve some of the amazing natural treasures we have. This logging operation is vandalizing a national natural treasure. The Red Creek Fir and surrounding forests should be protected and included in an expanded Pacific Rim National Park, as the local MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, Keith Martin, is calling for,” said Foy.

Signs at the active logging site indicate the logging is being carried out under the BC Timber Sales provincial government program. According to signage on site the logging is under the control of Timber West Forest Corporation.

For more information please contact:

Joe Foy, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee, 604-880-2580
Tria Donaldson, Pacific Coast Campaigner, Wilderness Committee, 250-686-9249

The Wilderness Committee is Canada's largest membership-based, citizen-funded wilderness preservation organization. We work for the preservation of Canadian and international wilderness through research and grassroots education. The Wilderness Committee works on the ground to achieve ecologically sustainable communities. We work only through lawful means.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Send your Gaza mail on the Canadian Boat to Gaza!

(Toronto and Montreal, Aug 19, 2010) - Canada's Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) got the message across last week that cutting off mail delivery to Gaza is another abusive measure intended to heighten the suffering and hardship of the besieged residents of the occupied strip.

The Canada Boat to Gaza Campaign salutes the union and its workers for their solidarity with our campaign and the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. We look forward to working with Canada Post and CUPW to facilitate in the best way possible the delivery of mail to Gaza.

"The Canadian Boat to Gaza is eager to carry mail to Gaza if the ban is not lifted soon" said Sandra Ruch, spokesperson for the Canadian Boat to Gaza. "We will make every effort to deliver any mail we get to the postal authorities in Gaza. We ask senders to limit mail they send us to unsealed postcards of greeting and support to loved ones keeping in mind that it, as well as the rest of our cargo, may end up in Israeli hands if our boat is pirated."

CUPW called on Canadians to back efforts to break the siege by sending their Gaza-bound mail via the Canadian Boat to Gaza. The Canadian Boat to Gaza is urging those who wish to break this ban to send with us postcards with messages of support to the besieged strip. Article 25 of the fourth Geneva Convention guarantees the right to personal correspondence with family members under occupation.

"As postal workers, we know very well that cutting off mail creates suffering and hardship for people, who are isolated from their loved ones," said Denis Lemelin, National President of CUPW. "How many more abuses will the people of Gaza have to endure?"

Get the message through. Send your mail with us,

Send your postcards (only) for people in Gaza to

Canadian Boat to Gaza
C.P. 92087, Portobello
Brossard, Quebec
J4W 3K8


Media Contact

Ehab Lotayef


August 11, 2010
Jeff Halper

Yesterday, the day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, at 2:30 in the morning, workers sent by the Israeli authorities, protected by dozens of police, destroyed the tombstones in the last portion of the Mamilla cemetery, an historic Muslim burial ground with graves going back to the 7th Century, hitherto left untouched. The government of Israel has always been fully cognizant of the sanctity and historic significance of the site. Already in 1948, when control of the cemetery reverted to Israel, the Israeli Religious Affairs Ministry recognized Mamilla “to be one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries, where seventy thousand Muslim warriors of [Saladin’s] armies are interred along with many Muslim scholars. Israel will always know to protect and respect this site.” For all that, and despite (proper) Israeli outrage when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated anywhere in the world, the dismantlement of the Mamilla cemetery has been systematic. In the 1960s “Independence Park” was built over a portion of it; subsequently an urban road was built through it, major electrical cables were laid over graves and a parking lot constructed over yet another piece. Now some 1,500 Muslim graves have been cleared in several nighttime operations to make way for…..a $100 million Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity, a project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. (Ironically, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director, appeared on Fox News to express his opposition to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, because the site of the 9/11 attack “is a cemetery.”)

The month-long period between Netanyahu’s July 6th visit to Washington and the start of Ramadan has provided Israel with a window to “clear the table” after a frustrating hiatus on home demolitions imposed by the “old,” mildly critical Obama Administration – although there is no guarantee that Israel will not demolish during Ramadan, especially if it wants to exploit the period until the November elections, knowing that until then Obama will not overtly oppose anything it does in the Occupied Territories. In fact, the process of demolishing Palestinian homes never ceased. On June 6th, for example, a year after the demolition of more than 65 structures and the forced displacement of more than 120 people, including 66 children, nine families of Khirbet Ar Ras Ahmar in the Jordan Valley, totaling 70 people, received a new round of “evacuation orders.” A week later the Israeli High Court ordered the Civil Administration to “step up enforcement against illegal Palestinian structures” in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

And so, on July 13th, upon Netanyahu’s return (Palestinian homes are not demolished without an OK from the Prime Minister’s Office), three homes were demolished in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, followed by three more homes in Beit Hanina. The Jerusalem Municipality also announced the planned demolition of 19 more homes in Issawiya this month. In the West Bank, the Israeli “Civil” Administration demolished 55 structures belonging to 22 Palestinian families in the Hmayer area of Al Farisiye in the northern Jordan Valley, including 22 residential tents and 30 other structures used to shelter animals and store agricultural equipment. According to the UN’s Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “This week [July 14-20, the week of Netanyahu’s return from Washington] there was a significant increase in the number of demolitions in Area C, with at least 86 structures demolished in the Jordan Valley and the southern West Bank, including Bethlehem and Hebron districts. In 2010, at least 230 Palestinian structures have been demolished in Area C, forcibly displacing 1100 people, including 400 children. Approximately 600 others have been otherwise affected.” Two-thirds of the demolitions for 2010 have occurred since Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. More than 3,000 demolition orders are outstanding in the West Bank, and up to 15,000 in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

The demolition of homes is, of course, only a small, if painful, part of the destruction Israel wreaks daily on the Palestinian population. Over the past few weeks a violent campaign has been waged against Palestinian farmers in one of the most fertile agricultural areas of the West Bank, the Baka Valley, steadily being encroached upon by large suburbs of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, in Hebron. Israel already takes 85% of the West Bank’s water for its own use, either for settlements (settlers use five times more water per capita as do Palestinians, and Ma’aleh Adumim is currently building a water park in addition to its four municipal swimming pools and the huge fountains constantly flowing in the city center) or to be pumped into Israel proper – all in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an Occupying Power from using the resources of an occupied territory.

Accusing the farmers of “stealing water” – their own water – the Israel water company Mekorot, supported by the Civil Administration and the IDF, has in recent weeks destroyed dozens of wells, some of them ancient, and reservoirs used to collect rain water, which is also “illegal.” Hundreds of hectares of agricultural land have dried up as irrigation pipes have been pulled out and confiscated by the Civil Administration. Fields of tomatoes, beans, eggplants and cucumbers are dying just before they can be harvested, and the grape industry in this rich valley is threatened with destruction. “I’m watching my life dry up before my eyes,” Ata Jaber, a Palestinian farmer who has had his home demolished twice, most of whose land lies buried under the Givat Harsina neighborhood of Kiryat Arba and whose plastic drip irrigation pipes are destroyed annually by the Civil Administration just before he can harvest. “I had hoped to sell my crop for at least $2000 before Ramadan, but all is gone.”

(You can see a BBC report on the destruction of Palestinian reservoirs on YouTube and a heart-rending scene filmed just a week ago when Ata’s cousin was arrested in front of his small child for resisting the destruction of his water system .)

Settlements continue to be built, of course. The much-trumpeted “settlement freeze” amounted to no less than a temporary lull in construction. (Indeed, Netanyahu never used the word “freeze”; in Hebrew he refers only to a “pause.”) According to the August report of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, at least 600 housing units have started to be built during the freeze, in over 60 different settlements – meaning that the rate of construction is about half of that during the same period in an average year when there is no freeze. Given that the approval process has never been halted – the Israeli government announced the planned building of 1600 housing units in the settlements when Vice President Biden was visiting, if you recall – making up for lost time when the “freeze” ends in late September will be an easy task. According to Ha’aretz, some 2,700 housing units are waiting to be constructed.

The fact that the so-called settlement freeze did not really end settlement construction is obvious. The American government seems ready to accept lip-service only from Israel, as against overt and brutal threats towards the Palestinians if they do not acquiesce to the charade. Palestinian negotiators revealed last week the Obama Administration threatened to cut all ties with the Palestinian Authority, political and financial, if they continued to insist on a genuine freeze on settlements or even clear parameters on what the sides will negotiate. (Netanyahu refuses to accept even the elementary principle of the 1967 borders being the basis of talks.)

Just as destructive of any real peace process, however, is the fact that the focus on settlement freeze deflects attention from attempts by Israel to create “irreversible facts on the ground” which will defeat the very process of negotiation. Even if Israel did respect a settlement freeze, there is no demand, no expectation, absolutely nothing to prevent it from continuing to build the Wall (the enclosing of the Shuafat refugee camp inside Jerusalem and the town of Anata is being completed in these very days, and the village of Wallajeh, some of which spills into Jerusalem, is losing its lands, ancient olive trees and homes even as we speak). Nothing is preventing Israel from continuing to impoverish and imprison the Palestinian population through its twenty-year economic “closure,” including the siege on Gaza, having reduced the Palestinian economy to ashes. Nothing stands in the way of completing a system of parallel (though not equal in size and quality) apartheid highways, big ones, going through Palestinian lands, for Israelis; narrow ones for Palestinians. Nothing keeps Israel from expelling Palestinian from their homes so that Jewish settlers can move in – on July 29th nine families living in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, returning home at night from a wedding, found themselves locked out of their homes by settlers and prevented from entering by the police. (Palestinians, of course, have no legal recourse to reclaiming their properties, whole villages, towns and urban neighborhoods, farms, factories and commercial buildings, confiscated from them in 1948 and after.)

Nothing prevents Israel from terrorizing the Palestinian population, whether by its own army or the surrogate militia founded by the US and run by the Palestinian Authority to pacify its own population, whether by settlers who shoot and beat Palestinians and burn their crops with no fear of arrest, or by undercover agents, aided by thousands of Palestinian forced to become collaborators, many simply so that their children could receive medical care or so they could have a roof over their heads; whether by expulsion or the myriad administrative constraints of an invisible yet Kafkaesque system of total control and intimidation. Nothing opposes Israel’s boycott of the Palestinian people, isolated from the world by Israeli-controlled borders, or policies that effectively boycott Palestinian schools and universities by preventing their proper functioning. And nothing, absolutely nothing, stops Israel from demolishing Palestinian homes – 24,000 in the Occupied Territories since 1967, and counting.

Perhaps this way of welcoming Ramadan comes at no surprise in terms of the Occupied Territories. It took on an entirely different cast when, on July 26th, more than 1,300 Israeli Border Police, the shock-troops of the police’s Yassam “special operations” unit and regular police, accompanied by helicopters, descended upon the Bedouin village of al-Arakib, just north of Beer-Sheva, a community within Israel inhabited by Israeli citizens. Forty-five homes were demolished, 300 people forcibly displaced. One of the most grotesque and dismaying parts of this operation was the use of Israeli Jewish high school students, volunteers with the civil guard, to remove the belongings of their fellow citizens from their homes before the demolition. Besides reports of vandalism and contempt for their victims the students were photographed lounging in the residents’ furniture in plain sight of its owners. Finally, when the bulldozers began demolishing the homes, the volunteers cheered and celebrated. Over the next week, as Israeli activists helped the residents pick up the pieces and rebuild their homes, the Jewish National Fund, the Israeli Land Authority, the Ministry of the Interior and the “Green Patrol” of the Ministry of Agriculture (established by Ariel Sharon to prevent Bedouin “take-over” of the Negev) sent in police and bulldozers and had the village demolished twice more.

Although al-Arakib is one of 44 “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev – of which only eleven have even rudimentary education and medical services, no electricity, extremely limited access to water and none have paved roads (see http://rcuv.wordpress.com) – it is nevertheless populated by Israeli citizens, some of whom serve in the Israeli army. While demolitions of Arab homes within Israel is not a new phenomenon – last year the Israeli government demolished three times more houses of Israeli (Arab) citizens inside Israel as it did in the Occupied Territories (the destruction of up to 8,000 homes in the Gaza invasion aside) – it signifies that the term “occupation” cannot be restricted to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (and the Golan Heights) alone. The situation of Arab citizens of Israel is almost as insecure as that of the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories, and their exclusion from Israeli society almost as complete. While around 1,000 cities, towns and agricultural villages have been established in Israel since 1948 exclusively for Jews, not a single new Arab settlement has been established, with the exception of seven housing projects for Bedouins in the Negev where none of the residents are allowed to farm or own animals. Indeed, regulations and zoning prohibit Palestinian citizens of Israel from living on 96% of the country’s land, which is reserved for Jews only.

The message of the bulldozers is clear: Israel has created one bi-national entity between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River in which one population (the Jews) has separated itself from the other (the Arabs) and instituted a regime of permanent domination. That is precisely the definition of apartheid. And the message is delivered clearly in the weeks and days leading up to Ramadan. It is papered over with fine words. Netanyahu issued a statement saying: “We mark this important month amid attempts to achieve direct peace talks with the Palestinians and to advance peace treaties with our Arab neighbors. I know you are partners in this goal and I ask for your support both in prayers and in any other joint effort to really create a peaceful and harmonious coexistence.” Obama and Clinton also sent their greetings to the Muslim world, Obama observing that Ramadan “remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings." Both the White House and the State Department will hold Iftar meals. But the bulldozers and other expressions of apartheid and warehousing tell a much different story.

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at jeff at icahd.org.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Across Canada - Rally to Support Refugees

photos from victoria - august 21st 2010


==> In VANCOUVER, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. Saturday August 21 @
3:30 pm. Gather at Vancouver Art Gallery, Robson Side.

==> In VICTORIA: Saturday August 21st 12:00pm - 4:00pm. Victoria
Information Booth, Government and Belville. Organized by Victoria
Anti-Racism Network (VARN). RSVP

==> In OTTAWA: Monday August 23 @ Noon. Gather at corner of Kent and
Laurier (Citizenship and Immigration Canada). RSVP

Join No One is Illegal to call for the immediate release of detained Tamil
asylum seekers, and an end to racist and restrictive refugee policies.
Justice, Freedom, and Status for All!

* Download poster PDF
* On Facebook

Surviving a dangerous journey, 500 Tamil refugees, including women and
children, arrived in BC after fleeing war and persecution in Sri Lanka.
When the ship first neared Esquimault, territories of the Songhees First
Nation, it was immediately boarded by the Armed Forces, Border Services,
and RCMP. Families are now being separated, with many children being taken
by the Ministry of Child and Family Development. The refugees now face the
threat of incarceration and eventual deportation.

Canadian government officials and media outlets are perpetuating false and
dehumanizing stereotypes of "illegals, "terrorists‚" and so-called
queue-jumpers. The earlier arrival of 76 Tamil migrants on Ocean Lady was
similarly sensationalized. This deliberately created hysteria appeals to
prejudices of refugees as undesirable. Well-known neo-Nazis, like Paul
Fromm and the Aryan Guard, also known as the Canada First Immigration
Reform Committee, are openly organizing rallies for the ship to be sent

This fear-mongering is just another tactic used to disguise the racist
policies that define Canada's immigration and refugee system. The Canadian
government was recently forced to apologize for its "keep Canada white"
measures, such as the Komagata Maru incident. Yet Minister of Censorship
and Deportation Jason Kenney continues to increase detentions and
deportation of refugees and undocumented migrants, while bringing in more
temporary exploitable migrant labour. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews
recently declared that Cabinet is drafting new policies to clamp down on
migrants and "make this country less welcoming for future shipments of
human cargo."

No One is Illegal-Vancouver asserts the basic human right to safety,
mobility, and protection. It is well known that Tamils in Sri Lanka are
fleeing military atrocities and mass displacement. The only crime the
migrants have committed is transgressing this imposed settler-colonial
border. We encourage you to join us in rejecting repressive, racist, and
exclusionary ideologies and policies, and instead encourage compassion,
solidarity, respect for life, and justice for all refugees. Release
Detained Asylum-Seekers! Let the Boat Stay! Status for All!

- For more details

- Sign the online petition

- More ways to support

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My question to the Tamil refugee/immigrants ...

Do you intend to invest in clearcut sprawl (ie Bare Mountain) and vote for neo-cons, or are you willing to live simply with respect for the wild earth and her resources?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hospital Employees' Union implements extended 12 hour shifts for Tamil refugees

The Hospital Employees’ Union has agreed to allow the Vancouver Island Health Authority to implement extended 12-hour shifts in order to staff a special medical unit at Victoria General Hospital that is being opened in order to receive refugees requiring medical attention.

The agreement was made on a temporary “without prejudice” basis in light of the unique operational challenges that are facing the health authority in dealing with an unfolding medical emergency at sea.

A ship approaching the B.C. coast is transporting a number of refugees who have been at sea for many months and includes a number of women and children.

The health authority has re-opened 7 North at Victoria General Hospital as well as the former emergency department in order to receive and treat those who require medical attention.

On 7 North, the health authority has indicated that it will require ten LPNs and two care aides on a 24/7 basis as well as two unit clerks for 12 hours a day.

The health authority will be contacting casuals and part-timers initially to fill these positions and will also deploy regular staff as required. Emergency overtime may also be required.

HEU members employed by Compass Group may also be impacted by the preparations.

VIHA’s response to this crisis is in accordance with the Pandemic and Disaster Staffing Guidelines (you can read the guidelines here).

It’s expected that the special unit will be in operation for approximately six days.

HEU and other health care unions will be issuing joint bulletins with VIHA providing updates on the situation.

If you have any questions, please contact your shop steward.

Thank you for your assistance in responding to this unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Friday, August 6, 2010

65 years from Hiroshima-Nagasaki

The annual lantern ceremony, marking the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan took place Friday August 6 at Craigflower Park / Kosapso.

Lantern making began at 7:30 pm, with words and songs of peace followed by floating the lanterns in the Gorge.

Sponsored by the Victoria Raging Grannies, Victoria Peace Coalition, Physicians for Global Survival, Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society.

click here for photos.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

2010 Cuba Caravan's successful completion

photo by Gerry Bill: Caravanistas sorting, labelling, listing aid prior to departure to Cuba.

August 3, 2010 -- for immediate release
CONTACT: IFCO/Pastors for Peace: Ellen Bernstein 646/319-5902; Alison Bodine 303/638-9799
in New York: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757; 347/423-4330


This afternoon the 21st US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan organized by IFCO/Pastors for Peace successfully crossed back into the US, after a nine-day educational visit to Cuba. "This was a perfect way to celebrate the birthday of our founder and leader, Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr.," said Rev. Luis Barrios, member of the board of directors of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. "Really he is not just a leader; he is also a prophet in this struggle for peace with justice."

The caravan, made up of 85 caravanistas from the US, Canada, Europe and Mexico, traveled to Cuba without a US Treasury Department license, in a direct challenge of the US trade and travel blockade against Cuba.

In visits to 120 communities across the US and Canada, the caravan collected more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid for delivery to Cuba, including 9 school buses that will be used by Cuban churches, hospitals, and schools.

"With this caravan, we broke the blockade one more time. But the blockade still persists in full force -- and as long as it exists, we must continue to challenge it," stated Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace. “This cruel and immoral blockade still prevents lifesaving medicines from reaching Cuban children. It blocks US citizens from being able to be good neighbors to our Cuban brothers and sisters. We call on President Obama and the Congress to do everything possible to end this cruelty against our neighbors."

Members of the caravan celebrate today's news that Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban Five who have been unjustly imprisoned in the US for more than 12 years, has been released from solitary confinement as of this morning.

Caravanistas are now returning to their home communities committed to share what they learned in their time in Cuba, and to continue building support for an end to the blockade. The caravanistas leave this year's caravan with the resolve to continue organizing and committing civil disobedience until:

◍ the blockade is lifted
◍ the Cuban Five are freed
◍ the ban on travel to Cuba is lifted
◍ Cuba is taken off the US State Department's ‘terrorist list'
◍ US/Cuba relations are normalized.

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency which has been working for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967. Photos, video, blog, and more information are available at www.pastorsforpeace.org.

Monday, August 2, 2010

i've been to cuba (part ii)

I've Been To Cuba

My friend Gerry, and the other 80+ caravanistas who brought this year’s supply of humanitarian aid to Cuba, are preparing for their “reverse challenge.”

The primary challenge, each year, is about crossing the US/Mexican border with all those buses full of hospital and school supplies destined for Cuba. The “reverse’ challenge is when they return to the Mexican/US border and declare – “We are US citizens,” as many of them are, “and we have been to Cuba.”

US-Americans are forbidden, by their 'land-of-the-free' government, to travel to Cuba. There’s a desperate need to keep the secrets of Cuba’s socialist revolution quiet, lest they the people should realize that maybe socialism isn’t all that bad when it’s implemented as a sincere effort to egalitarianism (and not as background to some imperialist patriarchal agenda ie: Stalin).

Gerry called me last week, from Cuba, on his international cell phone. He had recently returned to the Martin Luther King Jr. centre in Havana, after a few days’ excursion to Via Clara. His group of Caravanistas had been among a crowd of 90,000 Cubans celebrating the July 26th holiday at the memorial to Che Guevara. Fifty one years ago, in Santa Clara, revolutionaries had emerged victorious against Batista’s US funded gambling empire.

Gerry said it was very exciting to be with the energy of 90,000 peaceful people. I asked him about security – he said they all went through a metal detector, but that was all. No goon squad guards, no fire hoses, no tear gas, no pepper spray, no deafening sound machines, tasers, or semi-automatic weapons. The Cubans variously criticize their government and the direction their revolution is going, but they are not perceived as enemies of the state as we’ve seen in other nations (ie: Toronto’s G20, Copenhagen’s environmental summit, etc.).

Cubans live with more democracy than we could even imagine. Their representation is very localized. The "leaders," Raul Castro, as Fidel before him, crept through the jungle setting up education centres and clinics to serve the peasants who joined them to overthrow the Batista land thieves. They have the final say on policy, but they are advised by students, labour unions, and citizens from all communities (except Guantanamo Bay, of course). Last year, I remember, Raul spoke for hours about the importance of agriculture and food security. It was broadcast on Cuban national television. This year, Gerry informed me, Raul introduced a keynote speaker who reminded fellow citizens and guests about the successes of the revolution. Anybody could have made the speech, Gerry said, the increased life expectancy, universal literacy, and lowered infant mortality rates are common knowledge. Perhaps that’s why the Castros stayed in the background – it’s not about the figurehead, it’s everybody’s revolution.

Fidel, in his mid 80s, met with 15 Caravanistas including a young medical student from Fresno, and Janine Solanki from Vancouver. Sarah, from Victoria, wrote this about the day:

Along with 90,000 Cubans and members of international solidarity brigades, we heard from such revolutionary leaders as Ali Rodriguez Arague, Minister of Energy in Venezuela and Jose Ramon Machado, First Vice President of the Republic of Cuba. We heard from many famous musicians and artists and watched as President Raul Castro Ruz present Villa Clara with the award for most outstanding province. As the crowd erupted into a chorus of Fidel! Fidel! Fidel! and Viva Cuba! Viva la Revolucion! it was a day of celebration, of joy, and of the reaffirmation of the will to confront the challenges that lay ahead for the Cuban Revolution and for building the better world we know is not only possible, but absolutely necessary.

I asked Gerry what else was going on in Cuba. He said they’d been to the Latin American School of Medicine where, every year, students from poor communities around the world are provided room and board and free medical training on the condition that they return to their home communities and practice medicine for a number of years (5, as I recall). Cuba’s medical school is housed in a former naval college, and their approach is holistic – way beyond pill popping, incorporating preventive and complementary medicines (herbal therapy, massage therapy) in addition to allopathic practices.

The Cubans were already in Haiti when the earthquake hit, and have since sent many hundreds of doctors to help directly. Gerry said the attitude in Cuba is that Haiti’s system is “too broken to fix in a capitalistic way,” and they’re watching closely those who would establish a nationwide sweatshop under the guise of "restructuring."

The Cuban economy, Gerry said, has definitely been affected by the international collapse of capitalist economic policy. The Cubans have survived quite remarkably outside the global economy these 50 years, but for the past decade have begun to depend on tourist dollars. And tourism, this year, is not what it has been.

There are still NO casinos in revolutionary Cuba. They’re focused, as always, on ensuring a world class education that’s free through grad school, on providing an adequate food supply for their population (farmers are the highest paid in the nation, though there's not a huge wage gap), and on health and healing for not only themselves, but all who suffer.

Gerry and the Caravanistas will be returning to the USA tomorrow. They’ll be asking for the return of 5 pentium computers the US government stole from the Caravanistas on their way south, and will either walk those over the boarder to friends in Mexico who will pass them along to their Cuban cousins, or they’ll take them back to New York and try again next year.

You’re not likely to hear anything about this 21st Caravan to Cuba, or its brave return, on the corporate capitalist media, but there’ll likely be updates through various alternative media outlets.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

i have no idea what you're talking about

Germaine Greer was on television tonight. I'm not sure I remember what I've read of Germaine Greer's, but I have the good sense (and I’ve paid enough money) to know that she's well regarded in feminist circles.

I’d probably never have known she was on tv, because I don’t watch that channel, but I share an apartment with someone who not only blogs incessantly but appreciates the entertainment value of both “Hardball” and “Wipe Out.” And so I was informed of Germaine's presence.

She was speaking about feminism. Her idea of it. Answering questions from a man, with his own opinions. (He's entitled to those, I suppose.)

I was thinking about the radical difference between estrogen inspired creation and that which testosterone inspires.

IE: Germaine said “A woman is a hippy thing.”

In fact, as far as I can discern, she was talking about young girls and their obsessions with their bodies and how they starve themselves to be thin and attractive. In reality what Germaine said was - girls are "hippie" (or hippy, or however you spell it).

I think she meant that evolution (or whatever) has provided women with the ability to offer birth.

It's all about the babies.

I thought about how, if someone had just tuned in to the show (perhaps they also have friends with such television awareness), they might think Germaine was referring to the 60s when in fact she was lamenting the fact that things have changed, but they haven't changed much.

The babies suck. Interpret that.

I have no idea what you’re talking about.