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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Words matter...

I wonder who out there likes poetry. I find that hearing it aloud works best for me. I know Zee, Lindsay and Abhay like it, because they write verse. Anyhow, here's a young man from Vancouver who I love to listen to. (Thanks to my kids for my introduction to Shane.)

Comments? More poetry?

Monday, April 27, 2009

An important moment in the history of torture...

I'm not an American citizen, but I have sent my message to President Obama - 'There is no option. Prosecuting torture and other illegal acts is not an executive decision. Without justice, the moral high road is no longer available to the United States."

The excerpts below are from an Amnesty USA document I read this morning.


Shocking evidence from a classified Senate Armed Services Committee report released last week makes the most compelling case to date that senior Bush administration officials intentionally lied about torture.

Under the bright lights of national news cameras, President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld described the horrors of Abu Ghraib as acts committed by a "few bad apples," when in fact, they were actively encouraging the armed forces to torture prisoners at detention centers worldwide.

The details in this and other documents recently released should send chills down your spine. They confirm our worst nightmares about the types of interrogation tactics approved, including slamming suspects into walls, waterboarding 2 individuals a combined 266 times and exploiting another's fear of insects by confining him in a box with an insect.

Horrifying as they are, these details only scratch the surface of what our 50 years of experience interviewing victims of torture tells us. We know that abuse always escalates over time, especially when sanctioned at the highest levels.

The administration's response? Give torturers a free pass. The Obama administration announced recently that it would guarantee immunity to CIA officials and others who carried out clearly illegal interrogation tactics. This action directly contradicts the administration's assertions that nobody is above the law.

The President and others in his administration have begun to change their tune in response to mounting public outcry. And now Obama has signaled that he may leave the door open for further investigation of those in the highest rungs of power in the Bush administration.

This moment represents a crucial opening in the fight for accountability. It's a chance to finally slap the cuffs on those who authorized interrogators to take the gloves off and ensure that those responsible for abuse are held to account for the irreparable harm they've caused.

And most importantly, it's an acknowledgment that accountability is the only way to put an end to the failed policies of detention without trial and detainee abuse.

What happens next will determine whether the whole story about Bush-era torture will see the light of day or remain shrouded in secrecy. We need to ensure that a non-partisan independent commission leads the investigation, and that it's free from political influences, has subpoena power and enough money to pursue the truth.


If you're interested in an international perspective on the Obama Administration's first 100 days, from a human rights perspective, have a look here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Well, how does it feel to be American?

I'm curious. I know the ecomony is dominating day to day life for lots of us, and perhaps particularly in the United States, where the stakes are so high.

But don't forget, it was only months ago that President Obama was elected amid a climate of increased hope - for honesty, for the environment, for international relations, for the rights of the deprived, for health care and possibly most importantly - with a sense of optimism instead of despair (for most Americans... not Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld of course).

So here's my question to my American blogger colleagues, friends, visitors and buddies... What are you feeling about being American today?

On a related note..

World Values Survey is a credible organization that tracks (among other things) happiness around the world, and has been doing this for decades.
Have a look at the ranking of countries based on subjective scoring of happiness and life satisfaction (which surveys how people feel about their lives, not economic, education , health etc.) Those in bold are the high income countries on the list.

Good old Nigeria! Could it be the joy of internet scamming?

Viva Mexico!

And what's with Puerto Rico?

And they can't have only surveyed rich drug lords in Columbia...


Subjective well-being rankings of 82 societies

(based on combined Happiness and Life Satisfaction scores)

Puerto Rico






N. Ireland





El Salvador





New Zealand






Thursday, April 16, 2009

Election Fun

We're into a provincial election here. The whole shebang takes about a month. Campaigning started this week and the election is May 12th. That's the Canadian way. There are a few interesting things about this one.

1. The Liberals (who aren't) have been in power for 8 years and have moved the province to more of a free-market, conservative, cut-back, hurt-the-poor position. We have had a good economy, have the 2010 Winter Olympics coming and live in a wonderfully beautiful place. But we have the highest levels of child poverty in Canada. Go figure. Our local Lib candidate is Josh Smienk, a guy I like and know, but who will pretty much support more of the same.

Gord Campbell, our Liberal Premier REALLY REALLY wants to be the big guy for next year's Olympics.

2. The New Democrats are our social democratic party. Oddly enough, they've been losing the green vote lately by criticizing everything the current government does for the environment, even the carbon tax they imposed on all fuels, which some of us think is a good first step. Carol James, the leader, has the charisma of well... nobody. Our local candidate is a woman I know, Michelle Mungall, who will be a wonderful young, dynamic, free thinking activist member if elected (whoops Gary - your bias is showing!)

3. The Green Party will get lots of good press, will field terrific candidates and probably won't elect a single one, because of the fear of a split vote.

Here's the exciting bit. We have a referendum question on the ballot to decide whether to move to a new electoral system - other than first past the post. The Single Transferable Vote model (STV) was developed by a citizen's assembly. It would be terrific to try it out. Now this will get Greens elected the next time around...

May the best woman win.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Breaking News: Dad Misses Daughter

Buenos Aires Street Scene - photo of Zoey's

I like this video of my daughter performing last year - hope you do too. I didn't know it existed until this week when a friend directed me to it.

Hope you like it too...

Monday, April 06, 2009

I want to leave the nest too...

Son Ryan ... Pirate for hire?

Zoey and friends in Bolivia

Son Ryan (21) is living the bohemian life in Vancouver, with requisite crappy job in a restaurant staffed by characters galore, living in a house with friends who do art projects day and night, playing gigs, writing poetry and stories, busking for money to go to shows... hiking in the mountains and at the seashore - and generally doing the job of finding himself while having fun and learning lessons. I don't envy the details, but love the spirit of the thing.

And I've been able to visit every month of so.
Which involves lots of walking talking and eating good food I pay for. Legendary Noodle House on Denman if you must know.

Daughter Zoey (18) is mid-way through six months traveling in South America. I didn't even know that the
largest salt flats in the world existed in Bolivia, let alone know how amazing they are (she's there today). Did you?

She's hiked three days into Machu Picchu in Peru, sailed across Lake Titicaca (at 12,000 feet) and for contrast, rocked to a live Radiohead concert in Buenos Aires. Yes, now I'm feeling envy.

She's also been robbed by pickpockets (twice), been on 40 hour bus rides, experienced altitude illness and seen poverty that doesn't exist here (like that I mean).

Me? I'm in the partially empty nest, with a wonderful new bird friend and wondering why we don't just follow their lead. Any advice?

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