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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Big, Bad & Scary Iran! Sanctions anyone?

Things are inching forward in the US and UK plan to isolate, demonize and open the door to action against Iran. This story makes it clear that ratcheting up the heat is counterproductive. It's also hypocritical - coming a month after Bush gave India the big nuclear hug and welcomed them to the 'let it grow' club.

Don't we all feel a lot safer now?

Story here

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fly East Old Man...

I fly east in the morning, to Toronto, then Ottawa. Living in a rural area, I usually enjoy a city fix now and then. I think big cities were great to live in when I was in my mid-20s and 30s, but I really enjoy the small town and country life now. In the city I soak up the energy, eat good food and if time, visit a museum or park.

I do appreciate the fact that somehow my ancestors conspired for me to born in Canada (I have 2 American and 1 French brothers). Being Canadian has helped me to be healthy, free, affluent (relatively), very safe and I hate to say it, but generally nice. We may be boring, but we are nice... It's a cliche, but when you step on a Canadian's foot, the first thing they are likely to say is, "Oh, sorry!"

If there is something on my mind as I surf along on a busy stretch, it's the value of finding balance. I think the balance I'm most thinking of is that of being engaged in the affairs of the world... and also focusing on beauty. Yes, historically, ecologically, politically, economically and in many other ways - the human world is the shits these days ("Oh sorry!"). And I feel I need to engage with that and fight for what's better.

Meanwhile, everything that's born is going to die (including you and me) and the time I have right now also allows me to look at what's beautiful, to relate to people with love, to laugh whenever possible and to be in the present moment - which is always a profound invitation. I love the teaching of Epictetus (Greek philosopher) - some of his pieces of advice for a balanced life:
  • Know what you can control and what you cannot
  • Approach life as a banquet
  • Never suppress a generous impulse
  • Pursue the good ardently
  • Make full use of what happens to you

I'll think about all this on the plane tomorrow.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


This is my Live Write newspaper column for next week. (I prefer my water diluted nicely with Scotch...)

You may have noticed that March 22nd was World Water Day – the occasion was supported by an international conference in Mexico City. Considering that more than 60% of my body is composed of water, I’ll honour World Water Day with a personal story, and some information.

Years ago, I worked on relief and development projects in Sudan and one of my duties was to orient expatriate delegates to the working conditions. This included everything from security tips (always park your vehicle such that you can make a quick exit) to health issues (don’t swim in the Nile River; the crocs or the parasites might get you).

The temperature was often well above 40 degrees Celsius. One important instruction was to insist that they drink at least 10 litres of filtered or boiled water each day. To do this required planning, especially in a remote village, where the nearest well might be miles away, and finding bottled water might entail a drive, and a long airplane flight.

Sometimes I used a demonstration to get their attention. I stood in the mid-day sun, held my bare arm out in front of the audience, and then drank a litre of water in several quick gulps. As they watched, droplets of water formed on my arm – only to evaporate instantly. It was a pretty good show. It was also serious business and many delegates succumbed to serious dehydration or water borne illness. One thing I brought home to Canada from Sudan was a great appreciation for safe, accessible and clean water… and what happens without it.

Water has become a highly precious resource. There are some places where a barrel of water costs more than a barrel of oil (it does in Canada too, if you buy it by the bottle). Access to fresh water may be the issue of the 21st century.

Imagine this demonstration to get an idea of how little fresh water is available in the world today:
In recent decades, use of water has increased, and in many places water availability is falling to crisis levels. According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 countries, with 40 percent of the world’s population, are already facing water shortages. The quality of water in rivers and underground has deteriorated due to pollution by waste and contaminants from cities, industry and agriculture. Ecosystems are being destroyed, sometimes permanently. Over one billion people lack safe water, and three billion lack sanitation; 80 per cent of infectious diseases are waterborne, killing millions of children each year. There is an international debate underway on whether access to water is a human right or whether water is a private commodity.

Protecting, conserving and carefully managing fresh water resources will determine the quality of life for billions of people. In Canada, and particularly in BC, we are blessed with an inordinate share of that water. That shouldn’t stop us from working to ensure our water sources are not polluted or squandered. Supporting your community to develop a safe, clean water supply is a worthy cause.

And finally, the water inside you regulates your body temperature, protects your organs, dissolves nutrients and minerals to make them accessible, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, lubricates your joints…and more. Drink many glasses of fresh, delicious water every day for your health. It may be easily accessible to you, but to quote a television ad, “It’s priceless.”

Signs of the week - I wonder which one went up first?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Control Arms - teleshopping

Here's another video clip - I know that some of you have joined the control arms Million Faces Petition. This might be interesting to you.

And if you're just a consumer who loves the Home Shopping Channel, well this is just your clip!


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Amnesty USA flash video

This is an Amnesty International USA video clip. If you have a chance to look at it, I'd be delighted to hear your comments. Impact? Content? Thank you.

P.S. I have had the pleasure of meeting Maher Arar, his wife and children...

Go Tammy! Iraq war veteran wins US primary

This links to a story about Lt Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who has won the Democratic nomination to run in the November elections in a Chicago district (in a Republican area). She served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq and lost both legs when shot down in 2004.

There are a number of vets running, mostly for the Democrats. Lt Duckworth is opposed to the war in Iraq.

I find it interesting (as an old Vietnam war resister) that it's possible for most of us to separate the military (at least the frontline) from the awful US policies. This is a change and is one that bodes well for common sense.

Men and women are dying while doing their duty as professional soldiers. It's possible to respect that (and grieve) while laying the blame for their losses and those of the Iraqi people on the wrong-headed decisions that got everyone into this mess. This doesn't excuse the behaviour of some who need to be tried for war crimes...

Go Tammy!


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Poetry again...

Here are 2 poems by my 18 year old son Ryan. The first will resonate if you love Jimi (and will prove the generation gap can dissolve through music). The second is from last summer - we live in the mountains in British Columbia, Canada - there are forests, lakes, streams... and beasts.

Jimi Hendrix

He releases a peace
Of his soul
Each time his mouth opens
It soars out as a sacrifice
To move the masses
With angelic music
Elevating all those who
Use it

He knew the answer
To the question
“What is a man without a soul?”
Sacrificed his whole soul by
Age 28
He drowned himself in drugs
But he’s not gone
Only dead
More than mere man
More than mere mortal
Forty years later
He’s prayed and meditated
To with headphones on
Strong now as he ever was
He’s a vessel to translate
Love into this
Music that hits with a soulful French kiss
An artistic orgasm that only he could perform
Guitar like the
Calmest sunny day
And the wildest storm

To quote the man himself
“When the power of love
Overcomes the love of power
Peace will be known”

Amen and Hallelujah

Ryan - 2005

A poetic moment

Awake, Aware as the Night Becomes Day

Walk outside at 4:00 AM
To the east, down the lake the sun is readying to rise -
In the other direction,
The moon lingers just above the mountain
In a still dark sky
Leaving its last light as a blessing.
As I walk
I concentrate
On the sounds of my footsteps,
And the songs of the birds.
I slow, examine all around me…
All senses sharp.
The world sure is beautiful,
While her children sleep,
And the only sounds are
Wind, rushing water,
And the occasional rustle of a restless beast in the wild woods.

I stand motionless and breathe it all in.

On my way home the moon is behind me,
But the sky it is slowly descending from is slightly brighter than before.
In east of me,
The sun beams are peaking over the horizon,
Making way for the sun itself.
I sneak inside the house quietly
Careful to not wake anyone,
The small, blind, old dog included.
I crawl into bed,
Ready to sleep,
And reflect upon summertime
For only seconds before being swept into dream land.

My last thought stays close to me,
Resonating in my dreams…
As it seems everything declares at once…
“The world sure is beautiful.”

Ryan (July 2005)

P.S. on the UN Human Rights Council Vote

Someone who was in the meeting at the UN when the vote on the Human Rights Council passed (see post below) - sent this photo. US Ambassador John Bolton during the vote - as others begin to applaud its passing.

"Cheer up John! President Bush is still in power and all these morons from their silly little independent nations will surrender to US policy someday!"

Friday, March 17, 2006

If this is Friday, I must be in Smithers...

I'm on the road again, in Smithers, BC today. Spectacular moutains, interesting old downtown and quirky people. It's still winter though.
Two things of importance:

1. The UN Resolution that passed this week, to create a new Human Rights Council, is huge. While by no means perfect, it sets the stage for a much more effective UN role and really is a milestone. The only countries voting against it were Israel, the US, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

2. Okay, this isn't important, but it's funny (and I need to get the women on this blog to stop posting on Viggo all day long...Jeez!)

The President's Puzzle...
Dick Cheney walks into the Oval Office and sees the President whooping and hollering. "What's the matter, Mr. President?" the Vice President inquires.
"Nothing at all, buddy. I just done finished a jigsaw puzzle in record time!" the President beams.
"How long did it take you?"
"Well, the box said: 3 to 5 Years, but I did it in a month!"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mint tea with the Buddha perhaps?

I hope this is going to be interesting and fun. If you're up for a challenge, please answer these questions in Comments (post anonymously if you don't have a blog account):

1. If you could invite any human being (living or dead) to join you for a private dinner - who would you invite, what would you serve/order to eat... and why?

2. Now answer the same question, but this time be a little silly - this dinner is for fun (if you named Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi above, now you can invite Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp for dinner... just examples, I'm not making assumptions about what fun is for you!).

Friday, March 10, 2006

LIVE WRITE COLUMN for next week

This goes to about a dozen small newspapers. As always, comments welcome. Now go and eat your veggies...


It’s Canada Nutrition Month and messages about healthy eating are all around us. Follow a healthy balanced diet, be active, and practice moderation in all things - that’s the core message. Doing so should benefit my heart, my brain, and my ability to remain active. It should also help me stay at a healthy and comfortable weight (I like to keep a cushion of fat, just in case I hit lean times).

When it comes to eating habits, it would be hard not to notice the rising number of vegetarians grazing side by side with the rest of our human herd. The term vegetarian means different things to different people. If you’re a vegan, you eat no animal products whatsoever (and perhaps you steer clear of leather products, too). If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you avoid meat, fish, and poultry, but include milk and eggs. If you’re a lacto-vegetarian, you skip the eggs, but go for the dairy. And if you’re semi-vegetarian, maybe you include some animal products such as chicken and fish. My daughter demonstrated another form of vegetarianism some years ago when she announced at our dinner table, “Starting today I am a vegetarian…except when I eat meat.”

Whatever the category, the point is that a growing number of people eat little or no animal products in their diet. Several polls suggest that somewhere between three and 10 per cent of North Americans consider themselves vegetarian. And a walk up and down the aisles of any supermarket suggests there's a strong market for vegetarian products.

I made the mistake of becoming a vegetarian at the wrong time in culinary history. I was meatless, fishless and egg-less for 10 years during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. This meant ordering grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup in cafes and restaurants across North America. When I was in parts of Europe and India, the menu opened up greatly. Today, international cuisine is available in small towns and even the most humble café usually offers meatless choices – (I can still order grilled cheese, of course).

There are many reasons people choose a vegetarian style of eating. They may be ethically opposed to eating animals. They may believe it is a healthier way to eat. Many are aware that raising animals for consumption takes a huge toll on natural resources and global food energy. Sometimes religious beliefs underlie the choice. A child I know simply dislikes the taste of meat.

But vegetarians still need protein and other essential nutrients – such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin D – which non-vegetarians get from animal products. All of these nutrients are particularly important for growing children and pregnant and nursing women. Health Canada advises vegetarians to follow Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, choosing foods from all four groups. Choose meat alternatives such as dried peas, beans, lentils, nuts, nut butters and, if acceptable, eggs. If you prefer not to use dairy products, choose soy beverages fortified with calcium, folic acid, and other nutrients. For more information about vegetarian sources of key nutrients, contact your local community nutritionist or call Dial-A-Dietitian at 1-800-667-3438.

Why did I go from being a full vegetarian to a semi-vegetarian? Well, I was invited to my friend Michael’s mother’s home for Thanksgiving dinner in 1983. I arrived to the intoxicating smell of turkey, dressing and gravy – and the less intoxicating smell of some sort of tofu soufflé arranged nicely for me. Once at the table, before I could check myself, I found myself pointing and saying, “I want some of that!” In a single, delicious meal, I found myself a “semi”. (Michael’s mother is proud of herself to this day.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Okay - a lighter moment please...

I've posted some rather heavy material lately, although important (I think). Anyhow, for something a little lighter on International Women's Day. Go girls!

Courageous marchers for Bhopal Justice

In 1984, a toxic gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India resulted in the deaths of thousands of people; over 100,000 continue to suffer. Yet Dow Chemical Corporation, the parent company, has refused to accept any responsibility. Over 100 survivors from the Bhopal gas disaster are currently on an 800 km march from Bhopal to Delhi. When they reach Delhi, in the last week of March, they hope to meet with the Prime Minister, and present him with a charter of demands.

Here is their brave and moving daily blog (great photos too).

Here is a petition you can sign to support them.

And finally, here is an excerpt from a piece in OUTLOOK INDIA from 2002.

'Bhopal isn’t only about charred lungs, poisoned kidneys and deformed foetuses. It’s also about corporate crime, multinational skullduggery, injustice, dirty deals, medical malpractice, corruption, callousness and contempt for the poor. Nothing else explains why the victims’ average compensation was just $500 — for a lifetime of misery . . . Yet the victims haven't given up. Their struggle for justice and dignity is one of the most valiant anywhere. They have unbelievable energy and hope . . . the fight has not ended. It won’t, so long as our collective conscience stirs.'


Aim some noise at Presidente Fox in Mexico

This link takes you to the latest Amnesty Make Some Noise release. In Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua Mexico, over 400 women and girls have been killed or disappeared in the pasts 13 months. An alarming number of these cases are unsolved. There is clear evidence of police and government indifference, botch-ups and worse.

Listen to the song, then go to the action page to add your name to the letter to the Presidente.

I have a friend and colleague who went on an Amnesty mission to Cuidad Juarez last summer. He met with mothers who lost daughters and heard their stories. So much pain... so much indifference. Get angry. Do something.


Iraq: is it already civil war?

This article is by Gwynne Dyer(in photo), a Canadian political writer with great credentials (and an old leather jacket I've never seen him without). In it he makes a pretty good case that the US is handing Iraq over to Iran on a platter... while the secular middle class leave the country and the civil war we hear 'might be coming' may be well underway. Not pretty, but interesting.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What's up with all the cancer?

My work in Northern BC is a consulting contract where we're visiting 17 communities and meeting with people to talk about cancer care (public meetings and focus groups with people who have experienced cancer). Here's the site we set up for the project.

It's intense. What do you say to a woman who introduces herself by saying, "In the past few years 9 people in my family have had cancer - 5 have died including my husband and one of my children." Or, "I had both breasts removed on February 7th - I'm happy to be here, but don't touch me, I hurt everywhere..."

Our work will lead to some improvement in cancer care in this huge rural and northern area (larger than a good part of Europe, with 300,000 people total). It's also about 20% First Nations folks.

My question though, is about why is there so much cancer? The chances of a man in Canada getting cancer have gone from about 1 in 10 to about 1 in 2 since I was born... I'm more or less pissed off by the 'eat your veggies and don't smoke and it will all be good' preaching. It might be good advice, but most cancers seem to be caused by other factors... There's lots of evidence that it's from what we breathe, eat, drink, wear, surround ourselves with and expose ourselves to where we work. Why isn't anyone screaming about that? Is this about the economy and corporate/government interests ruling the day? Don't they get cancer too?

I'm rambling.

I'm posting one photo here from Tlell, on Haida Gwaii (AKA the Queen Charlotte Islands) - a magical place in the Pacific Ocean, along my consultation trail.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Some Monday fun...

This isn't a sign (as some know, I love to post a good sign), but it's the sort of graffiti that really shouldn't be washed off. Agree? In fact, if someone with too many drinks in them arrives here - they just might try to climb these stairs. If someone on LSD arrives here, they might really climb them...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Justice and accountability for Canadians detained abroad

Canadians have been detained without charge in Syria and Egypt ... and tortured while there. The lack of a Canadian official investigation into the circumstances of all but one of these (Maher Arar) needs to end.

Canada must hold a public and independent review to determine whether Canadian officials in any way tolerated these arrests and imprisonments, leading to ill-treatment. The government so far has flatly refused to do this.

Here's a link to a letter to Prime Minister Harper that you can sign online - I think those of you outside Canada should feel free to do so too.

I've met one of these gentlemen (held and tortured in Syria). The devastation to he and his family are hard to imagine... and now the silence of his own government. Time for some candles to be lit under the PM's toes (metaphorically only of course).


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