Sunday, December 26, 2010

About Byron Sonne: Jessie Brown Interview with Jesse Hirsch on TVO

TVO Search Engine Show : Interview by Jessie Brown with Jesse Hirsch on the Byron Sonne case.

Sonne's trial begins January 26, 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry ChristMyth And A Happy Monkey To All!

And Happy Nickmas, Punjabi-style :-)

All joking aside ... 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

I'm an atheist but this lovely Christmas Story touched me.

It was written and sent to me by a christian whom I like and respect, Kevin Annett.

I write christian and not Christian because his Christianity is non-denominational.

Kevin was a Reverend for the United Church in Canada and defrocked by the Church for exposing it's abuse of Aboriginal children in Residential Schools in Canada. After defrocking Kevin, the United Church went on a life long persecution campaign against him ensuring that he was unable to work and earn a living, organizing a personal smear campaign against him amongst other things.

Kevin describes himself as not being religious but still "walking with Christ".

This story is a bit long but I hope you'll take the time to read it.


By Kevin D. Annett

The last Christmas we were all together hangs over memory like the fog did that year in the Alberni valley. It was a time of gathering, two years and more of labor summoning so many together where once there were but a few. And it was a time of ending.

The church stewards had warned me to expect an overflow crowd at the Christmas eve service, and like overgrown elves they had busied themselves around the building, stringing wires and sound systems in the cold auditorium kept that way to save money. The snows had come early, and our food bank was already depleted.

With my eldest daughter who was but five, I had walked to the church one morning in the week before yule, pondering the cold and the sermon, when I met the one who would pierce the fog that year for us. She stood patiently at the locked door, her brown eyes relaxing as we approached. Her bare hand gestured at me.

“You’re that minister, ain’t you?” she mumbled to me, as daughter Clare fell back and grabbed my hand.

Before I could answer, the stranger smiled and nodded, and uttered with noticeable pleasure at her double entendre,

“They say you give it out seven days a week!”.

I smiled too, gripping Clare’s hand reassuringly and replying,

“If you mean food, we’re a bit short, but you’re welcome to whatever’s left.”

She nodded again, and waited while I unlocked the door and picked up Clare, who was clinging to me by then.

The basement was even more frigid than the outside, but the woman doffed her torn overcoat and sighed loudly as we approached the food bank locker.

“For all the good it’ll do …” she said, as I unlocked the pantry and surveyed the few cans and bags lying there.

I turned and really looked at her for the first time. She was younger than she had sounded, but a dark, cancerous growth marred her upper lip, and a deep scar ran down her face and neck. Her eyes were kindness, and in that way, very aboriginal.

“I’m sorry there’s not more …” I began, since back then I still saw things in terms of giving. But she shook her head, and instead of saying anything, she looked at Clare, and the two of them exchanged a smile for the first time.

I stared, confused, at the cupboard so bare, and heard her finally utter,

“Them people in church, you know what they need?”

I set Clare down and shook my head.

“They need Him. They sing about Him, and pretend they know Him, but hell, they wouldn’t spot Him even if He came and bit ‘em on their ass.”

I smiled at that one, and even dared a mild chuckle.

“You doin’ a Christmas play for the kids?” she continued.


“I bet it’s the usual bullshit with angels and shepherds, right?”

I nodded.

“That don’t mean nuthin’ to those people. Why don’t you do a story about … well, like, if He came to Port Alberni to be born, right now.”

I finally laughed, feeling very happy. She smiled too, walked over to the cupboard and picked up a small bag of rice. Donning her coat, she nodded her thanks, and said,

“My bet is Him and Mary and Joseph, they’d end up in the Petrocan garage, down River road. The owner there lets us sleep in the back sometimes.”

And then she was gone.

I didn’t try explaining the stranger to anyone, ever, or what her words had done to me. All I did was lock the food cupboard and lead Clare up to my office, where I cranked up the heat and set her to drawing. And then I sat at my desk and I wrote for the rest of the day.

The kids in church were no problem at all. They got it, immediately. The Indians who dared to mingle in the pews that night with all the ponderous white people also took to the amateur performance like they had composed it themselves, and laughed with familiarity as the holy family was turned away first by the local cops, and then hotel owners, and finally by church after church after church.

It was mostly the official Christians who were shocked into open-mouthed incredulity at the coming to life of something they thought they knew all about. As the children spoke their lines, I swear I saw parishioners jump and writhe like there were tacks scattered on the pews.

“Joe, I’m getting ready to have this kid. You’d better find us a place real friggin' quick …”

I’m trying, Mary, but Jehovah! Nobody will answer their door! I guess it’s ‘cause we’re low lifes.”

Look! There’s a church up ahead. I bet they’ll help us!”

If you believe the Bible, whoever He was loved to poke fun at his listeners and shock them out of their fog, and our play would have made him proud. As the eight year old girl who played Mary pleaded fruitlessly for help from a kid adorned in oversized clerical garb, and was covered in scorn by the young “priest”, I heard a sad moan rise from the congregation.

But things took a turn when Mary and Joe came upon an Indian, played by one of the aboriginal kids.

Sir, will you help us? My wife’s going to have a baby …”

Sure!” replied the native kid with gusto. “I got a spot in a shed behind the gas station down the road. The owner lets us all sleep in there!”

And in a contrived scene of boxes and cans scattered where our communion table normally stood, Mary had her baby, as erstwhile homeless men with fake beards and a stray rez dog looked on, and one of the witnesses urged Mary to keep her newborn quiet lest the Mounties hear his cries and bust everyone for vagrancy.

Voices were subdued that night in the church hall over coffee, cookies and Christmas punch, and the normally dull gazes and banalities about the time of year were oddly absent. The Indians kept nodding and smiling at me, saying little, and not having to; and the kids were happy too, still in costume and playing with the local stray who had posed as the rez dog in the performance that would always be talked about. It was the white congregants who seemed most pregnant that night, but they couldn’t speak of it.

It was one of my last services with them, and somehow they all knew it, since we had all entered the story by then. For a churchly Herod had already heard a rumor, and dispatched assassins to stop a birth, and me, even though it was already too late.

My daughter Clare was not running and rolling with the other kids, but in her manner joined me quietly with her younger sister Elinor in tow. Our trio stood there, amidst the thoughtful looks and unspoken love, and person after person came to us and grasped our hands, or embraced us with glistening eyes. An aging Dutch woman named Omma van Beek struggled towards me in her walker and pressed her trembling lips on my cheek, and said something to me in her native tongue as the tears fell unashamedly from both of us.

Later, when we were scattered and lost, I would remember that moment like no other, as if something in Omma’s tears washed away all the filth and loss that were to follow. And perhaps that looming nightfall touched my heart just then, for I gave a shudder as I looked at my children, almost glimpsing the coming divorce, and I held my daughters close as if that would keep them safe and near to me forever.

The snow was falling again as we left the darkened building, kissing us gently like it had done years before when as a baby, Clare had struggled with me on a toboggan through the deep drifts of my first charge in Pierson, Manitoba, on another Christmas eve. The quiet flakes blessed us with memory, and settled in love on the whole of creation, even on the unmarked graves of children up at the old Indian residential school.

The old Byzantine icon depicts Jesus as a baby, hugging his worried mother while she stares ahead into his bloody future: her eyes turned in grief to the viewer, yet his loving eyes seeking her, past the moment, past even his own death.

The image may still hang in the basement of my church, where I left it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shooting The Messenger: The Persecution of Julian Assange

"We support a cause that is no more radical a proposition than the citizenry has a right to scrutinize the state." --Julian Assange

The traditions of Western Journalism run deep and strong in Wikileaks despite the attempts of some to divert, dodge and evade the real issues that Wikileaks actions have brought to light.

What are those real issues?

1. Some Governments engage in corrupt, illegal, immoral and/or unethical acts.
2. Some Governments would prefer to create scapegoats to take the blame, rather than take responsibility for their own failures.

Let's look at Issue 1.

The citizenry of most democratic countries elect their representatives. In order for us to elect them responsibly transparency in government is required. 

Too much secrecy takes away from that transparency and enables those who are corrupt. It enables those who wish to abuse their power by committing illegal acts against those they don't like or misappropriating government funds or any of the many other crimes that corrupt people in positions of power tend to commit.

As much transparency as possible is necessary to prevent this.

That's not to say there isn't such a thing as legitimate secrets. However, these should be few and far between and it's the Government's responsibility to protect them. No-one else.

Frankly, looking at some of the Wikileaks documents marked Secret I can only conclude that many  governments go way too far when it comes to identifying and defining what they think the population shouldn't know or see.

That said, let's look at Issue 2.

According to many Government Officials and Elected Representatives around the world Julian Assange is a criminal, a terrorist, a spy, has committed treason, should be assassinated (yes someone actually said that and it was a Canadian government official), etc.

And yet, what crime has Julian Assange actually committed? None. 

The only crime that was committed, was committed by the person who actually took the documents and gave them to Wikileaks.

Julian Assange and Wikileaks are doing nothing more than acting in the tradition of Western Journalism, creating a news feed of material they receive and releasing that material to other Journalists and the Traditional Media much like AP (Associated Press) does.

Do Journalists have any obligation or responsibility to keep Secret material obtained secret? No they don't. If they did, Watergate would never have happened and corrupt government officials would never have been held accountable for their crimes.

Do Journalists have any obligation or responsibility to protect their sources? Yes they do. If they didn't no-one would ever come forward to expose corruption, abuse of power, fraud, etc. from high places. We need them to be able to do that in order to protect, maintain and keep our democratic system strong.

This feature of traditional Western Journalism needs to be protected if we want to protect our democratic system. They work hand-in-hand.

For that reason, our democratic system has a duty and obligation to protect any Journalist who is acting in that tradition from persecution and abuse. Not doing so weakens our democracy and enables corruption.

And sadly, it's that very tradition that's been lost in the modern traditional Media. We can no longer count on that Media to do their job.

So, along comes Wikileaks to fill in that gap and perform the Public Service that the modern traditional Media abandoned.

And Governments around the world want to suppress them, scapegoat them, kill them. Corporations they do business with are withdrawing services they have legitimately paid and contracted for.

And Assange has been personally victimized with specious charges of "sexual assault", the timing of which make them appear to be more about discrediting and smearing him, than any actual criminal act on his part.

Why is all of this happening? Because Assange and Wikileaks are doing their job!

The end result of which is the potential embarrassment and exposure of abuse of power, corruption, immorality and unethical behavior at the highest levels of the government and corporate world.

In other words, this is what these Governments really consider a crime and "treasonous":

Free Speech and an Independent Media that acts as a Watch Dog over Government and Corporate corruption and crime.

In my opinion, the only real crimes here are Government incompetence at maintaining their own security and their shooting of the messenger by persecuting and scapegoating Julian Assange.

If you want to help Wikileaks and have a Unix box, mirror their site to ensure the material remains available.

Let's protect Free Speech and an Independent Media that acts as a Watch Dog over Government and Corporate corruption and crime!