Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.
Be warned. There is no sense to this. I'm sorry. I was about done with it when I discovered that the official cowards have let Dziekanski's killers off the hook again. So much for Mother's Day, and politics & the rest of this self-indulgent crap-o-la:
We live in a country where innocents are murdered in public with impugnity.
Aesop: The Sun and the Wind were disputing which was stronger when they looked down and saw a traveller coming along the road. The Sun said: "I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be the stronger. You begin."
So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as he could. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind gave up in despair.
Then the Sun came out and shone brightly upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
Do You Fear The Wind?, Hamlin Garland (early 20th c. Pulitzer Prize winner).
Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane:
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You'll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you'll walk like a man!
There's another one (which is almost too saccharine to repeat):
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Henley (British poet, late 19th c.), Invictus ... in another verse he actually uses the phrase "unconquerable soul." I guess he didn't guess that there would be Lithium ... XTC, MDMA, SSRIs, SNRIs ... 7 UP! Like Bob says, "technology to wipe out truth is now available. not everybody can afford it but it's available."
My mother kept these two poems handy for whatever occasion presented itself - beyond them in her landscape lay only "Down on your knees and pray!" Her version ran 'charged with penalty' not punishments; but some years had passed since she memorized them in grade-school before she passed them on to me.
The secular force (measured in Newtons or foot-pounds per second2 or whatever units) of transcendental things: love, 'the soul' or spirit, hope, justice, 'resting easy'; is infinitesimally small - approaching nil, that's my experience. This may be why some athiests imagine they do not exist, or do not 'count'. Nonsense of course - no one knows except the people who claim to.
What evil lurks in the hearts of men? - (Only) The Shadow knows! (A-and just possibly also Aesop & Saint Paul.)
Wanna see what Ruth Ellen Brosseau of the NDP looks like? Try this Google image search; and get pages and pages of the picture to the left, all of them at low resolution - that's all there is.
The Ygreck cartoon really says it all - 160 grand a year plus pension, on an extreme long-shot bet. She might well be delighted - but I am guessing she is actually embarrassed and is having to be talked back into it. She is also a single mother, so my guess includes that she will be talked back into it.
"Ms. Brosseau never went to the Berthier-Maskinongé riding to meet voters during the campaign. She had no campaign workers, no campaign headquarters, no money. She simply placed her name on the ballot and won." (Globe)
The article then goes on for some paragraphs hedging around the fact that she doesn't really even speak French beyond the "More-see mon-sewer!" (apparently spoken to Jack Layton by telephone from Las Vegas the morning after the election.)
At least this will stop the whingeing over voter turnout. Why should someone vote (especially a pretty young woman in Québec) when she can run and maybe cash in (relatively) big-time without even having to show her tits? Ka-ching! Probably better odds than the lottery too. She wasn't the only one - Mylène Freeman did the same trick in Argenteuil-Papineau Mirabel. Sorry to use the word 'trick' - it might imply massage parlour behavior which I cannot confirm.
Oh, that reminds me; the investigation by Bill Blair of the Toronto Police into our Jack's dalliance at the massage parlour? Done! Concluded! In two days flat! No problem-o! Not bad considering that after almost a year he still has nothing substantive to say about the G20.
Conrad Black was entirely wrong in his election predictions, unless he really did mean Elizabeth May as the 'independent': "143 Conservatives, 70 Liberals, 64 NDP, 30 Blocistes, 1 independent (not, unfortunately, Helena Guergis)."
Malcolm Mayes, the political cartoonist at the Edmonton Journal, had it right, way back on April 19th.
Here is a video of our Elizabeth May on election night, cobbled together from a few clips on CTV, hand-held, pardon my incipient Parkinson's ... not the complete victory/acceptance speech but some of it at least.
Data from Wikipedia Saanich-Gulf Islands, the CBC election site, and Elections Canada:
So ... it is reasonable to assume that one could not easily have generated any more voter interest in this riding - hordes of volunteers, several visits by the Prime Minister, etc. which makes the 75% turnout look rather shabby. Short answer: nobody in k-k-Canada gives a rat's ptuie! In Brazil you pay a fine (or worse) if you don't vote without an excuse.
Nationally ~17% of the population is under-eighteen give or take 1% (interesting symmetry there) ... so 20,000 or so in Saanich ... about right I guess to explain most of the difference between Population & Voters in the table.
I know Elizabeth May as a nitwit; witness her joy at snagging Don Drummond, ex-economic mucky-muck pooh bah from a bank, to tell the 2010 Green Party convention about the inevitability of growth. I know her as hysterical; witness her performance at the 2009 Munk debate (you have to pay to see the videos, but trust me, I was there). I know her as a rude shrew; witness her treatment of Gwynne Dyer at Trinity United on Earth Day 2010 - I took my son there to get Gwynne's book signed and we saw it all from the second row, and when it was over he was gone out'a there before you could say "Wha?"
And (for the bigots & racists among us) she is a lawyer brought up in America.
I didn't think she was going to win in Saanich - she did, I was wrong. (For the record I made a large contribution which I could not well afford.) Now she says she will insist upon civility in Ottawa - I will believe her contribution to that when I see it.
Bottom line: Her GHG target is Bill C-311 + 5% and doesn't wash with the science. It is not even half what is required to keep global warming to ~2°. QED. (Greenhouse Gases don't actually figure anywhere in the up-front platform document, but if you dig a bit it is mentioned in the back pages, here.)
None of this matters - Harper has his majority and we are well and truely fucked.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front at HotDocs and the commercial website.
I have stood on stumps just like that. Setting chokers with Mac&Blo and the IWW on the inside, the dirty side; up on the side-hill with Tony Loma (who could knock a jay bird off a branch with a chip of bark at 50 paces). And later, just hanging out with a few friends who happened to have access to gate keys.
One presumes that the title hearkens (back?) to "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" (at Wikipedia: the question and the fellow who famously asked it, George Berkeley). There are lots of apposite McLuhanesque resonances to media and pop culture, which I will leave to you to come up with ... idealism ... Berkeley was also a bishop, and may well have asked at one time or another, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" (Eh?)
This kind of stuff is the meat (or the gruel as the case may be) of introductory philosophy courses, sat through in, say, the second year of an arts program? Hence 'sophomoric' is it? (OED: Of or pertaining to, befitting or resembling, characteristic of, a sophomore; hence, pretentious, bombastic, inflated in style or manner; immature, crude, superficial.)
Does that definition include pretentious? Ahh, yes it does. If they were lesbians maybe could we call it 'sapphomoric'?
The directors were on the scene for questions: Marshall Curry & Sam Cullman; self professed 'New York liberals' with serious credentials à la Academy Awards, Tribeca & Sundance.
The two men in the picture are not the directors. They are Toby Olditch & Phil Pritchard, the B52-Two.
Some background on the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) & Daniel McGowan.
He seems like a lower middle-class knucklehead, lonely and confused and not that swift ... and it also seems to me that Jake Ferguson offers more scope for interesting questions (which is what the directors claim to be up to). I think an interesting question, which was not asked in the film, is this: Why did it seem that the Feds were anxious to avoid a trial?
Murky & complicated ... more at the Eugene Weekly.
A young woman in the film, not sure which one, says (paraphrased from imperfect memory) that the violent actions split the movement in Eugene and subdivided it to the point that it vanished ... not only in Eugene either, which brings me back around the long way again to Ivan Illich and physical networks of agape.
Begs comparisons with British actions (see A time comes when silence is betrayal) where many of the activists brought to trial were eventually acquitted (including the B52-Two pictured above).
The wonderful white-winged warrior, the crusading capon, it's ... CHICKENMAN! (He's everywhere! He's everywhere!)
Or maybe better:
We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? - Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel!
Anagallis arvensis aka 'Red Chickweed' (not to eat, poisonous).
I know it sounds like hand-wringing to even mention that Osama bin Laden was unarmed when they shot and killed him. Easier by far than some long legal process that might never end ... interminable & indeterminate.
If some bright light at CSIS (or some other all-powerful and unrestrained security organization) reads this blog post, concludes that I am somehow a terrorist too, and then decides to kill me - I do not endorse Osama bin Laden! Not to any degree! Please do not kill me! I am unarmed and surely it is not right to kill an unarmed man? (See also Robert Dziekanski below.)
André Dahmer is about the best cartoonist on the go; the best I know of anyway.
Comics from the 10's
He was a dangerous person. With his death the world is more secure.
He was tortured to death, but evil can be used for the triumph of good.
It is comforting to carry out every kind of goodness. With the support of the majority.
The sight of American young people dancing in the streets wrapped in flags celebrating this thing reminds me of some of the reactions to 9/11 in the Middle East - Jubilation!(¡¿)
The old saying, "What goes around, comes around," is one way of stating the Old Testament justice: An eye for an eye! Jesus Christ and his apostles and evangelists and believers and even adherents will all tell you that the New Testament embodies a new justice - and well it may, but it has not trickled down very far yet, has it eh? Is that it? Or it got bent out of shape & twisted by Saint Paul do you think? Because he wasn't quite clear on the concept? Is that it?
The political reality of terrorism: snuff the real terrorists any way you can, jack up the rhetoric until you can call people like the ELF 'terrorists' and put them away for 50 consecutive life sentences, immerse everyone in total fear so you can do whatever evil you want to in the name of security. Nevermind rhetoric, the language itself is bent to accomodate this gross moral distortion: the Navy SEALS aka 'Develeopment Group' aka 'Devgru'; about which the NYT says such things as "the elite of the elite," and "members face years of brutal preparation."
Bitch about a parking ticket the wrong way and WHAM! you are in jail with a cattle-prod up your ass! I think this pundit meantersay "Big Brother Comes to West Egg", but what he did say bears on the issue sort of: Big Brother Goes to West Egg.
Here's Bruce Cockburn singin' If a tree etc., (for future reference, this site is relatively comprehensive on Bruce Cockburn), and Wondering where the lions are?. Or that fine fountainhead of protest, Dusty Springfield with For What It's Worth:
Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid. You step out'a line, the man come and take you away.At the end of the film he weeps as he says (to the effect): How could it take so long to get something across that's so simple and obvious?
Good fuckin' question Wiebo! (Sorry about the language.)
I used to say (for example) that it is just too late to consider Aboriginal land claims because the world has simply moved on - it is nothing but silly to talk about giving North America back to its rightful owners. Or the notion that 'You can't go home again' popularized by some American novelist, tho' the book was not particularly on the theme here today. Or maybe it was! Who knows? I can't remember.
A-and the well established rationale that there never was a Golden Age, and if there was one, you can't think of getting back to it, or of even trying to get back to it, or of imagining it - Don't be givin' me none'a that guff son! You can't stand in the way of Progress! ... and such like bourgeois nostrums.
Well, if you were offered the choice of living, with, say, the Tupi of Brasil out in the jungle, or dying; which would you pick?
The Ludwig family farm is completely off the grid eh? They tread so lightly that it took them years to pull the plug even on such a one as David York.
I wish I could just go there and say, "Please take me in," but I know they would never accept me. Even the best of the Christians I have met don't really live it. I am more than sorry to say that; and since Wiebo looks to be one of the best, rather than disparage him in the least degree - if he should happen to read this and send me an invitation, I'll go. Through stupidity and inertia I missed Alexander Calder and I missed Northrop Frye, but if there were any mere chance I would not miss this one.
So, gentle reader, I am slowly taking off my coat as I watch these few seedlings struggle upwards under uncertain springtime sunlight (the window being quite dirty y'unnerstan).
Queridas companheiras e queridos companheiros, estejam bem. Be well.
An addendum on Wiebo: Wiebo Ludwig cancels Hot Docs appearance and Wiebo Ludwig: victim or fanatic?, by Susan Cole. She says "I’ve tried to get off the phone at last three times," her typo leaving me unable to guess if Wiebo's "Respectively," is his or her revelation of ... whatever ... the literacy of the working-class bourgeois?
She is a lesbian professional, or a professionsl lesbian ... or something. I am only saying this because she pushes it so hard? Where's the advantage I wonder? "He’s desperate," she says, but as I read it again that begins to look like projection.
Back in the day, not so long ago, in the termas of Rio & environs they were sometimes preferred - lots of 'em on the go (so many young men being killed in the streets y'see), cleaner, better educated, and less chance for a dirty old man to look bad if he hired two at once.
And a new book! Something to look forward to: Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand by Haydn Washington and John Cook with a foreword by Naomi Oreskes; discovered on Real Climate with a description on one of the the authors' website and available at Earthscan. Earthscan isn't Earthscan anymore - oh well.
The kicker on this one (for me) is that denial is apparently a function of our lizard brainstem! And here, the whole time I was thinkin' that ol' lizard-brain-o-mine was workin' for me not agin' me! (See Matthew, the verse right before the REALLY BIG no-no.) Who knew?
And then ... an update on Richard Peck & Robert Dziekanski:
Fuck. I bet it was the woman I spoke to on the telephone, Gail, in the BC Attorney General's office, who typed that statement, or maybe oversaw its typing. How does she feel about it I wonder?
These are the media and political and bureaucratic machines of a secular age where there is no place for truth and honour. None. So they disappear, and the transcendent is simply what it is - powerless. Possibly still looking on do you think? Through the tiny windows of those elusive subjunctive moods & tenses hanging on here and there? I don't know.
1. Big Brother Goes to West Egg, Lawrence Downes, May 4 2011.
2. Delay in reviewing Dziekanski file creates injustice, Ian Mulgrew, May 4 2011.
3. Wiebo Ludwig cancels Hot Docs appearance, Susan Cole, April 29 2011.
4. Wiebo Ludwig: victim or fanatic?, Susan Cole, April 28 2011.
5. Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski death face perjury charges, Andrea Woo, May 6 2011.
Big Brother Goes to West Egg, Lawrence Downes, May 4 2011.
Kings Point, N.Y., on Long Island’s gilded North Shore, wants to do criminal checks on every car that enters its placid realm. It has the technology — license-plate cameras hooked up to police computers — and is borrowing the money to install 44 of them. For about a million dollars, it will get what village trustees say is the snuggest security blanket money can buy.
Kings Point is not a gated community or club. It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s West Egg, 3.5 square miles of estates, McMansions and shady streets, home to about 5,000 people. It has little crime, though there has been a recent frightening spate of break-ins by a voyeur who snuck into girls’ bedrooms. Mayor Michael Kalnick says the cameras predate that and have been discussed for years as a good way to spot lapsed registrations, suspended licenses and stolen cars. They were approved in August, but most people didn’t know until Newsday published a big article.
Villagewide car surveillance seems like a big leap into the chilly postprivacy age. But at a village meeting last week, I waited in vain for someone to complain about civil liberties. Mayor Kalnick took some testy questions: Why are taxes rising 9.8 percent? Why is the police commissioner getting a raise (to $199,756)? Why wasn’t the camera contract put out to bid? Why didn’t you tell us about the last budget meeting? Why doesn’t the village have a working Web site?
He didn’t have to answer the privacy question because nobody asked it. I’m not sure why, but Big Brother lost to taxes as the bigger menace. Only one young man, who said he was from outside Kings Point and drove through on his way home, bristled a little. How come I wasn’t asked about this camera thing? he asked. If you’ve done nothing wrong, Mr. Kalnick told him, you should have nothing to worry about.
Delay in reviewing Dziekanski file creates injustice, Ian Mulgrew, May 4 2011.
Richard Peck still is trying to decide whether the four RCMP officers tainted in the 2007 Robert Dziekanski tragedy should be criminally charged.
With the first anniversary of his appointment as a special prosecutor approaching next month, Peck says he hopes to finish his report "soon."
One of B.C.'s most respected lawyers, he is unquestionably weighing difficult, thorny issues -not only whether there is a prima facie case against the four, but also whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction and whether it's in the public interest to proceed.
But that's why he was hired - he's one of our top legal minds.
Peck was the first special prosecutor hired 20 years ago to consider laying charges against polygamy practitioners in Bountiful. (He said no.)
As well, he was the lead lawyer for accused Air India terrorist Ajaib Singh Bagri. Peck helped get him acquitted in 2005 for the worst mass murder in our history.
Peck was hired, too, by Ontario to handle the case of a former attorney-general of that province involved in a fatal car crash that killed a bike courier.
Canadian Lawyer magazine in a profile dubbed him Mr. Congeniality, "the model of civility, never blusterous like the litigators often portrayed on television."
So last June 18, when retired justice Thomas Braidwood issued a final report on the Dziekanski incident, it was unsurprising that Victoria turned to Peck to review the original decision to not charge the officers.
It's hard to read Braidwood's searing account and not conclude the criminal justice branch made a serious mistake in its handling of the case.
Braidwood bluntly condemned Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson and Constables Kwesi Millington, Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel.
They confronted a frustrated and confused Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport and, seconds later, Tasered the 40-year-old Polish immigrant five times. He subsequently died.
Braidwood said that was shameful conduct and an unjustified use of force. He dismissed as false their claims they were forced to wrestle Dziekanski to the ground, noting that he'd collapsed writhing in pain after the first shock.
A few weeks after his appointment, Peck announced Braidwood's twoyear inquiry had unearthed "factual material that was not available to the branch at the time [the original charge decision was made], including but not limited to expert video analysis and expert opinions relating to the reasonableness of the escalation and deescalation of force."
He said it was obvious a review of the charge decision was justified.
But while he has been re-examining the case as a special prosecutor, Peck also has been dealing with other clients.
About a month and a half after he took the Dziekanski job, Peck was defending a Fraser Valley Punjabi radio director charged in a local temple shooting.
At about the same time, he went to bat for Abbotsford physician Jonathan Burns, who pleaded guilty to bribing a former B.C. assistant deputy health minister to win medical service contracts worth more than $1 million. Burns got three years probation and 100 hours of community work.
Peck also acted for the company convicted in October of paying a $50,000 bribe to disgraced provincial bureaucrat David Basi in connection with a Sooke real-estate deal.
As well, he represents Ron Bencze, the BCTV reporter charged with child sex crimes.
Oh, and Peck was involved in another government case that took up his time, too -in December he defended the conduct of the criminal justice branch at the Frank Paul inquiry. I question the wisdom of that while working on the Dziekanski file, but set that aside.
The inquiry into Paul's December 1998 death heard that the sevenmonth delay in the charge-approval process in the police-involved case was "too long" and "excessive."
More than 90 per cent of all charge decisions are made within a month.
We're looking at 11 months here and counting. I think Peck has taken too long to review the Dziekanski file -and that delay runs counter to the public interest and the rights of the four officers to timely justice.
Wiebo Ludwig cancels Hot Docs appearance, Susan Cole, April 29 2011.
Wiebo’s War subject says it’s time to disconnect
Mercurial Christian eco-activist will not be attending Saturday night's screening of Wiebo's War, the subject of NOW's cover story this week.
In a personal note sent to me and copied below, Ludwig implies – the language is a little elliptical – his distress that filmmaker David York cut from the film footage featuring discussions about Ludwig's faith and York's atheism. I've also included here excerpts from the original letter sent from Ludwig to York explaining why he cannot make the trip. Both illustrate Ludwig's complexity – equally passionate about the environment as he is about his God.
York is unhappy that Ludwig claims he was silenced by York. For one thing, these religious differences are pointed out early in the movie, when Ludwig asks York how an atheist can make a film about someone like Ludwig, whose inspiration for his eco-activism comes from his Christian beliefs. And, he adds, any more coverage of Ludwig's attempts to convert York would not have been good for the movie.
"From a filmmmaking perspective, it never went anywhere," York says, in a conversation I had with him after he got Ludwig's email.
"We had many many conversations about religion over the two years that I filmed there. Where they tried to make me see the world their way and to accept the existence of God. The fact is I’m a non-believer and this was a huge obstacle for us to overcome in our dialogue."
At a certain point during the shooting, Ludwig asked York to leave the Trickle Creek compound because, as York said in my original interview with him, "Over the course of the first half of the shooting, he withdrew from the project. He always said he cared more about my soul than he did about the film and he and his family grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to see the obvious existence of god and his gifts."
But York isn't exactly shocked that Ludwig decided not to get on the plane.
"It comes from deep unease about media," York says. "He wants his environmental message to get out but he sees most of us in the secular world as damned and that's it's hopeless to talk to us. When he withdrew from the film he said, "I'm pulling the ladder up to the ark."
From Ludwig to me:
I‘m enclosing an e-mail to David York, as director of the documentary that will be showing on us (Wiebo’s War) for your information, given that you had the exclusive interview with us to date. I will not be taking or seeking any other media interviews given that I have finally come to the decision (awkwardly, a bit late) to disconnect, reasons for which are more fully explained in the enclosed e-mail to David. I have no quarrel (as the e-mail to David indicates) that this gets out to the public, though it is intended more directly for David and as such assumes things that the public is not privy to, not having access to the many intense discussions that took place here with David and his crew: about who we really are, what our world and life view is really all about and how we, therefore, also see the real problems and the real solutions with respect to our long-standing conflict with oil and gas. David took pains to silence that in his film by studiously avoiding that footage. Hope you can work this out graciously with your planned publication of this event in your “Now” magazine. Perhaps you could send me a copy, I’m not familiar with the publication.Excerpts from a letter Ludwig sent to to York:
What can I say to get you to understand why it is getting pretty foolish for me to think that I can continue to work with you on such an intimate basis as this engagement will be requiring now when others whom I have not yet met and about whom I know so little are going to be involved?
Not that I mind being taken for a fool, now and then. No, this is not about me and not about you either. That’s the problem! That’s exactly where we differ so radically. Where, as I said, we are not on the same page. Well, maybe a little analogy would help you understand:
Suppose I get to your house and I act as if I have no idea that you even exist. And I relate to your wife and children as if they don’t even have a husband or father respectively. And I sit down and talk to them trying to convince them, honestly mind you and sincerely, mind you that they should stop hallucinating about the fact that a person like you even exists, that they have no way of proving that. And whatever evidence they put forward to convince me I discard as beyond reason, beyond their capacity to be certain about. How would you feel, David, if I did that? And let’s play along a little bit.
Let’s suppose that I arrive and acknowledge your presence and I look at your children and I talk to them about their father that you are playing that game with them about their Father in heaven. That you are trying to convince them, despite the evidence, that He isn’t around as far as you are concerned, that you are the only father they have in the whole universe (His house) and that as far as the Scriptures and the evidence of the creation demonstrates, you are talking like a fool. How would you like that, David? And would you like it if I did that on your dime teboot? That is a pretty awkward scenario, isn’t it?
Come on, admit it. Admit that you don’t leave me much choice other than an awkward silence. And you know that I’m not cut of such cloth, as a man of the cloth, as they say. No, I have responsibility before God, to speak the truth, though I am advised not to answer a fool according to his folly. For that reason, I have chosen to leave it at this, David. You have heard plenty from me and you feel no shame in publicly (on film) to this day declaring that you are still an atheist. It would be foolish for me to continue with you and your ambitions also in the promotion of this film.
The same thing applies to the environmental concerns of the film. It is useless to talk about these concerns without saying a word about the cause of our environmental troubles today, namely, the spiritual rebellion of our time living as if we are not accountable to the Creator of the world, the man of the House. As Isaiah says, “The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants because they have transgressed the Creator’s laws, violated His statues, and broken
(more scripture quoted here)
I just dashed this off to you in a “stream of consciousness“, sort of way. It would require more explanation for a stranger to understand where I am going with all of this. But, we have talked before about a lot of these things and their implications, also for the environment...
Let me just say this in closing, What does it profit a man to rescue the whole environment and yet lose his own soul? Think about it! You still want me to come? And be a fool for you?
Wiebo Ludwig: victim or fanatic?, Susan Cole, April 28 2011.
David York’s Hot Docs entry, Wiebo’s War, leaves it to the viewer to decide. Talking to Ludwig doesn’t help much – he’s a media-savvy, profoundly complex character.
Controversial eco activist Wiebo Ludwig is obviously trying to clean up his image.
Ten years ago, he was painted as an out-of-control fanatic, so furious with gas companies for poisoning his water that he sabotaged their wells and alienated his neighbours.
Lately, Ludwig’s been presenting himself as a reasonable man who’s meeting with the townspeople who once shunned him and talking nice with the gas companies.
“There was a period when I was too angry,” he says on the phone from his Trickle Creek alternative Christian compound in northern Alberta. “I’ve apologized for my rhetoric of desperation. I got pretty angry. I was sick and tired of the gas companies’ recklessness. I’m trying to take a different approach.”
David York’s new documentary, Wiebo’s War, playing at this year’s Hot Docs, tracks Ludwig’s journey from Trickle Creek patriarch just trying to take an eco-conscious path to enviro-activist jailed for 28 months in 2001 for sabotaging gas wells near his land.
The story starts with Ludwig making the trek to build his compound in 1985.
“We just wanted to be left alone so we could stay true to reality and the fundamental meaning of the Scripture,” he recalls. “And then the industry came here.
“We didn’t understand the dangers. We talked to chemists and environmentalists who filled us in on what was going on. We kept a diary so we could see the patterns, and soon we realized there was a serious environmental concern at our doorstep. We wrote to the authorities and the companies. They thought they could keep us ignorant.”
In the late 90s, chemicals began seeping into the water, thanks to the oil companies’ horizontal drilling technique (the doc Gasland deals with the phenomenon, too). An astonishing image in Wiebo’s War shows the water coming out of his tap bursting into flames when a lit match is held to it. Ludwig’s sheep began aborting, and the women in his family began miscarrying. He took action, eventually doing jail time on various charges related to gas well sabotage.
He’s always been obsessed with documenting his interactions with Big Oil and Gas and federal authorities. When Encana began digging wells on the periphery of his land, the Ludwigs noticed changes in their water and started complaining to the company. The film footage he began shooting once he started getting major push-back from Encana (he recorded every interaction with gas companies and federal authorities) form the backbone of the film.
Ludwig says his decision to do his own documentation did not arise from paranoia.
“We shot to counteract the nonsense around us,” he explains, “that we were radical and over-the-top when it came to the environment. We were trying to let people know where the real struggles were on this land.”
Listening to the man talk, you could almost forget that he’s the head of a fundamentalist Christian household. It’s not a cult; his daughters and his wife, Mamie, are strong, articulate figures in the film. And he reminds me that the kids aren’t chained to posts or wearing tracers on their ankles – they can leave whenever they want.
But there is a bit of a creep factor. Ludwig moved his family to Trickle Creek with the Boonstra clan, whereupon three Boonstra daughters married three Ludwig sons, which suggests more than a bit of controlling behaviour on the fathers’ parts. And the sequence where Ludwig shows a miscarried fetus to the Ludwig clan (including his small children) is just plain icky.
Add to that the fact that Ludwig often sounds like he’s rehearsed our conversation. Wiebo’s War director York spent two years between 2008 and 2010 filming at Trickle Creek and environs. He knew that Ludwig was a savvy guy.
“I had a view of him as a tricky character, and to some extent I still hold that view,” says the soft-spoken director while visiting the NOW Lounge. “He enjoys his play with the media just a little too much, and he enjoys his play with law enforcement too much of the time.”
But York also sees beyond that image.
“I thought of him as a Machiavellian character because I didn’t understand their history with the oil and gas companies, I didn’t understand how far they’d been pushed. I didn’t understand in my gut how the RCMP and the Crown prosecutor went about setting him up.”
The community around him was getting antsy with the Ludwig clan. They didn’t hate the oil and gas companies. In fact, they kinda liked the money those industries were bringing into the community.
“That was a puzzle for me,” York says. “Here is this guy complaining about all these effects. Where’s everybody else complaining about it?
“Then I realized that the most profound effects of sour gas poisoning are in utero and in early development of livestock and miscarriages. The effects are concentrated on the unborn and the newborn, and elderly neighbours aren’t worried about that.
“I mean, where’s the beef industry in Alberta now? It’s gone – it’s all oil and lumber now.”
Ludwig’s neighbours’ disenchantment peaked when, at the height of his eco-activism in 1999, a teenaged girl trespassing on Trickle Creek with a crowd of young boys in a truck was shot and killed by one of the Ludwigs. It was never clear who pulled the trigger, and no charges were laid.
York says Ludwig was at his most slippery on that issue at the time. And although Ludwig pointedly tells me he’ll answer any question I have, he shuts down when I ask about the shooting.
“I’m not interested in unravelling the complications of that,” he says.
He’s more interested in pumping his image as a lover of the planet. Give him credit. His religious views may seem positively retro and reactionary, but he’s way ahead of his time when it comes to his eco-lifestyle.
“I’m entirely off the grid,” he says proudly. “We have all our own energy, we run bio-diesel, wind, solar and bio-thermal, and we have hot-water heating from the sun. So we don’t need the energy. We’re close to 85 per cent fossil-fuel-free and should be entirely fossil-free in four years.
“That’s why people want to come here. They want to pick up on some of the things we’ve done.”
He’s desperate to dispel people’s assumptions about him, trying instead to promote his new user-friendly approach.
“I don’t believe in an us-and-them scenario. We’re in this together. That’s not just political. None of us is that virtuous. We’ve all been involved in the energy system, because we’ve been blinded by our own needs, which we think are heavy needs.
“I’m still angry that things are happening, but not in the same way. I want to talk it out. The only way we can get resolution is when we can persuade. I’m not interested in creating bogeymen and permanent hostility.
“We have to find ourselves as human beings.”
But Ludwig can’t help himself.
As our interview is coming to an end, he asks if I’m married. I explain that I’m a lesbian in a 25-year relationship and that we have a beautiful daughter.
“Oh, I see,” he says. “You didn’t think that was going to get me off the phone, did you?”
Well, no. In fact, by the time we’ve reached this part of the conversation, I’ve tried to get off the phone at last three times.
“What we need is understanding and not alienation,” he allows. “I look at lesbianism as symptomatic of reactions to pain and trouble. You may find that insulting”
“I do,” I interject.
“But,” says Ludwig, “I’ll speak my mind on that.”
Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski death face perjury charges, Andrea Woo, May 6 2011.
VANCOUVER -- The four Mounties involved in the Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski will face perjury charges.
Special prosecutor Richard Peck announced the decision late Friday afternoon, following a lengthy review that included an examination of the circumstances surrounding the altercation with the 40-year-old Polish immigrant, the subsequent RCMP investigation into the death and the testimony of the four officers at the Braidwood Inquiry.
The charges will be forwarded to the Deputy Attorney-General for review and approval of proceeding by way of direct indictment.
Peck concluded there is "no substantial likelihood of conviction in relation to any potential charges arising from the circumstances of the physical altercation with Mr. Dziekanski or the subsequent investigation into his death," according to a media statement released by B.C.'s criminal justice branch.
Peck's decision overturns one made by retured retired justice Thomas Braidwood, who issued a final report last June 18 that heavily condemned the Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson and Constables Kwesi Millington, Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel, yet recommended no charges against against them.
Victoria turned to Peck to review that decision.
Shortly after his appointment, Peck announced Braidwood's two-year inquiry had unearthed "factual material that was not available to the branch at the time [the original charge decision was made], including but not limited to expert video analysis and expert opinions relating to the reasonableness of the escalation and de-escalation of force."
He said it was obvious a review of the charge decision was justified.
A more detailed statement on Peck's conclusions will be released after the Deputy Attorney-General has reviewed Peck's recommendations.
"The Clear Statement will not contain details about the decision to not approve charges arising from the circumstances surrounding Mr. Dziekanski’s death in order to protect the integrity of the perjury prosecutions," the media statement read. "Those details will be released upon completion of the perjury prosecutions."
Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007, after RCMP officers repeatedly zapped him with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport, in an incident that garnered international attention when it was captured on video by another traveller.
Police were summoned after an agitated Dziekanski -- who was disoriented and did not speak English -- began throwing furniture around at the airport. He was then jolted several times with a stun gun, including shots made after he fell to the floor.
Statement from the Criminal Justice Branch: Decision of Special Prosecutor Richard Peck, Q.C. Announced, May 6 2011.
Victoria - The Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of Attorney General today announced the results of Richard C.C. Peck, Q.C.'s independent charge assessment with respect to allegations of misconduct involving four members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as they pertain to the in-custody death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport on October 14, 2007. Mr. Peck's review included an examination of the circumstances of the physical altercation with Mr. Dziekanski, the subsequent RCMP investigation into his death and the testimony of the four officers at the Braidwood Inquiry.
Mr. Peck has recommended and the Criminal Justice Branch has accepted that each of the four officers be charged with perjury in relation to the evidence that each officer gave at the Braidwood Inquiry, and that the charges proceed by way of Direct Indictment.
Mr. Peck has concluded that there is no substantial likelihood of conviction in relation to any potential charges arising from the circumstances of the physical altercation with Mr. Dziekanski or the subsequent investigation into his death.
Mr. Peck's recommendations will be forwarded to the Deputy Attorney General for review and approval of proceeding by way of Direct Indictment.
This Media Statement has been issued today in response to information indicating that aspects of Mr. Peck's recommendations had entered the public domain and were expected to be the subject of media reports.
A more detailed Clear Statement in relation to Mr. Peck's conclusions will be released publicly once the Deputy Attorney General has completed his review of Mr. Peck's recommendations. The Clear Statement will not contain details about the decision to not approve charges arising from the circumstances surrounding Mr. Dziekanski's death in order to protect the integrity of the perjury prosecutions. Those details will be released upon completion of the perjury prosecutions.
Mr. Peck was appointed June 18, 2010 by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Robert W.G. Gillen, Q.C. to determine whether, in view of the evidence heard at the Braidwood Inquiry and the findings and recommendations of Commissioner Braidwood, it was appropriate to reassess the decision of the Criminal Justice Branch not to prosecute any of the officers involved in the incident. Mr. Peck was also to review other conduct of the officers in connection with the incident.
Mr. Peck's mandate included:
On June 29, 2010 the Branch announced that Mr. Peck had recommended that the initial charge assessment should be revisited, citing among other reasons that the Braidwood Commission Report into the death referred to "factual material that was not available to the Branch at the time [of the initial charge assessment decision], including but not limited to expert video analysis and expert opinions relating to the reasonableness of the escalation and de-escalation of force."
- Conducting an independent review of the Braidwood Commission report relating to the death of Robert Dziekanski. This review was to include the four officers' conduct in relation to the initial encounter with Robert Dziekanski, their participation in the subsequent investigation and their testimony at the Braidwood Inquiry, with a view to determining whether anything contained in the report called for a reassessment of the Branch decision not to prosecute the officers.
- Providing a written report to the Assistant Deputy Attorney General with the results of his review and the reasons for his decision.
- If in his view the initial charge assessment should be revisited given the findings made by Commissioner Braidwood in his report, proceeding to examine all materials relied on in the original charge assessment decision and any other materials he might deem appropriate including the evidence taken at the Braidwood Inquiry and exhibits or reports filed therein, and making whatever charge assessment decision he deemed appropriate in the independent exercise of his prosecutorial discretion.
- In addition, examining any other conduct of the four officers in relation to the matter, and in particular their statements to investigators and their testimony at the Braidwood Inquiry with a view to determining whether their conduct was at any time contrary to any provisions of the Criminal Code or applicable provincial legislation and making whatever charge assessment decision he deemed appropriate in the independent exercise of his prosecutorial discretion.
- If following his review, and any charge reassessment he might undertake, it was his view that a prosecution was warranted in connection with the conduct of the four officers in relation to their initial encounter with Mr. Dziekanski or their subsequent conduct in relation to this matter, to take conduct of the prosecution and any subsequent appeal.
No further information will be released or comment made by the Special Prosecutor or the Criminal Justice Branch at this time.