Thursday, March 31, 2011

surveillance of the Canadian border by the US

I found the video above, about the possible uses for unmanned drones to police people through ongoing surveillance, when I was looking for more information about the US drones patrolling stretches of the US/Canada border. The video above shows how the Houston Texas police force hopes to apply surveillance technology in their region. A walk in the farm field or a drive down country roads ain't what they used to be, that's for sure.

You are being watched.

This morning I heard on CBC Radio that this afternoon on Dispatches, Rick MacInnis-Rae will be talking about the US aircraft that patrol the Canadian border using surveillance technology that enables the US to look inside the windows of homes 40 k. away from the US/Canada border. I started to wonder: how far is the US/Canada border that runs through Lake Superior from Thunder Bay? I'll have to look that up. Maybe the next time I am down at the waterfront admiring the sunrise, there may be an Eye in the Sky looking at me. Is there someone in a cubicle somewhere in the US whose job it is to watch all this video footage?

Well, I thought, as I laced on my sneakers to run down to Bay St. for coffee with "the boys" (i.e. the old Finnish men and Alex, who is not Finnish in origin but Russian), is there no end to the camera surveillance of not only public spaces but private ones, too? Will whole swaths of the Canadian boreal forest be put under UAV --unmanned aerial vehicle -- US surveillance on the off chance of catching, as their justification goes, "drugs, migrants, and terrorists"?

What covert joint US/Canada "operations" might be possible through this technology? Why is our conservative led government so keen to make our border so permeable and accessible to US security yet at the same time makes our border much harder for prospective immigrants to cross?

A walk in the woods by the border ain't what it used, that's for sure. Drone surveillance may be watching overhead. The border along Manitoba to Lake of the Woods is under US surveillance, the BC border is possibly next, and, also very troubling, the US is watching/spying on a First Nations reserve:

"In eastern Canada, the focus of the Predator is the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, which straddles the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ont., and sprawls across the border of New York state."

I am uncomfortable with the idea of the US spying into Canadian geography, but I guess they must have gotten the permission of our government. Is this technology not seen as an invasion of sovereign people's privacy? Or have people become so used to camera surveillance that no one cares?
ten cool spy toys - available to the buying public, yet some "barely legal."

Why don't we all become Maxwell Smart of Agent 99? Each citizen...that is consumer...can just go and buy his or her own little state-of-the-art surveillance technology? Why get a shoe when you can buy a drone or a plane?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the new plan for Spring

Lately, I've been thinking about turning my yard into a small urban forest.
I've been thinking about that for a number of reasons. One being that the flowers, shrubs, plants, trees, and weeds in my garden generally tend to have a mind of their own and no matter how much time I spend in the garden trying to keep them in check, trying to get them to look "civilized," they just riot on me, refusing to be Canadian Gardeningized.
I don't know why I torture myself by subscribing to Canadian Gardening. I guess I just like to look at unattainable fictions. Another impossible dream to tack onto my short yardstick of wouldn't-that-be-nice-if-you-had-the-time. There are places in my yard that are truly hopeless in being contained, directed, or coaxed into domesticity. Of course, I haven't taken pictures of the madness spots.
The flowers in my garden speak their own language and keep talking back to me. I know that their language is heard by the birds, dragonflies, butterflies, honey bees, wasps, moles, and strange flying things, like this Snowberry Clearwing, a type of Sphinx Moth, because they talk to the flowers all the time, especially when I'm not looking.
But the takeover of the plants' determination to spring up where they will and to take over large sections not assigned to them is not the main reason why I've been thinking of turning our yard into a small urban forest. Rather, it's that all over our city small lots and pieces of land that hold small stands of trees are now disappearing, being cut down for "development." Why not fill our yard with trees? Growing in our yard, there are already two birches, a tamarack, a balsam, two mountain ash trees, a juniper, a blue spruce, a Manitoba maple, an apple tree and two jack pines. Did I forget anyone?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Affirmation to the Earth

Youth activists have arranged a series of events in Beirut for The Week of Resistance Against Israeli Apartheid and Colonialism.

Across the globe, numerous events are being held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day.

Today is both the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day and The Week of Resistance to Israeli Apartheid and Colonialism, and, as the ongoing organizing for these two events suggest, there is much work to do on justice, gender, anti-colonialism, apartheid and their associated concerns and oppressions. There is no end to our work, to the work we all must do, offering our small contribution to larger struggles.

I am sometimes overwhelmed by how much work there is to do and where to find the energy to continue? Of course, I am reminded that that is a position of privilege; there are many examples of resistance and struggle that show it's not about choices, but about realities, as the people of Palestine, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen make clear.

In Canada, I feel that there is no end in sight because of the apathy and the ignorance of so many despite the increasing regressive actions and policies of our governments; indeed, I would argue, the work is getting harder and more of a struggle as we are not only struggling against social, political, economic, racial, and gender injustices, but also because so many people -- those who are privileged, even in the smallest ways, to make the choice to turn a blind eye or stay dumb -- are being seduced by media culture, capitalism, and lifestyles of entertainment. These are swamping our youth even while social media and digital technologies show promise to move us forward. The conflicts I experience everyday as I move from the different spaces that I enter are unsettling, to say the least, and sometimes strike at my heart as impossible to overcome.

So, I do small things to keep myself sane and committed. I practice yoga. I go out for walks along the creek and the lakeshore. I shovel snow to make a path to reach the far edge of my yard so I can feed the birds who make the city their home in winter. I sit together with friends laughing uproariously at stupid ridiculous movies like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. I read poetry and creative non-fiction, and when I can scrape together some time, I write poetry and creative non-fiction. With my family, I make food for friends so we can sit together in company, enjoying and tasting the gifts of Mother Earth.

Today, I share with you a prayer. It's a simple prayer, really. A reminder to do one's best, to cultivate a gentle heart, to honour the Earth and all our engagements with all Her beings.
my nephew and my sister-in-law walking in High Park, Toronto.

"An Affirmation for the Earth" by Carollanne Crichton, from her book Earth Medicine and Healing Stones (2006).

In the awareness that our Earth is eternally responsive,

may I choose right action and wisdom today.

May I choose to cherish the Earth in my stewardship of it,

so that it may continue to be the source of all vitality.

May I bring my best self to this Earth,

knowing that her wholeness lies within me,

knowing that my every thought and action touch all.

In this awareness, may I claim my true power.

May I be guided to make my inner world more gentle,

harmonious and joyful, so that I may offer these

qualities back to the world and to this Earth.

May I cherish the Earth and all those with whom I share it.

In the awarness that our Earth is eternally responsive,

may I choose right action and wisdom today.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

back to the 70s with my sisters

John Legend sings Marvin Gaye's "I heard it through the grapevine" in performance at the White House.

You have to hand it to Barack Obama and Michelle. What other presidency has had such a roster of amazing music performed at the White House? The other night, I watched the Motown White House performances on TV, and I was absolutely and unequivocally wowed. Wow. Just wow. Can you imagine any past president throwing a Motown bash at the White House?

As soon as I started watching, I was hooked. I put down all my marking and sat listening, completely overtaken by the incredible talent -- both the songs and the singers, the backup musicians, the organizing brilliance of this production. Thank god there are singers not reduced to the packaged performances of MTV, Much Music, and celebrity culture. It is so refreshing to hear old tunes being sung in new ways. These are the songs I listened to in the 70s with my sisters, and the catchy beats and lyrics of the songs are simply timeless. Here are three of my favorite songs from the night. But I have to say that the entire performance was memorable, simply stunning, such an excellent example of the power of music and vision to create new spaces of wonder and joy and hopefulness.

Natasha Bedingfield, a British singer, belts out Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Tracks of My Tears." Her performance alone shows that Motown music belongs to the world. Although it is African American music at its roots and heart, it also reaches out to each of us, no matter who we are or where we come from. That's one of the enduring appeals of the Motown beat; it is so specifically African American from its historical moment, but so enduring cross-cultural and timeless in its reach.

I'm not even a fan of Cheryl Crow (once a back up singer for Michael Jackson!), but there's no denying that she does a captivating and soulful cover of Jackson's hit "I want you back."