Monday, February 23, 2015

#FlipYourWig


I'm writing to bring attention to the Flip Your Wig for Justice campaign, for which I am an Ambassador.

#FlipYourWig aims to bring awareness to the importance of access to justice (#A2J) in a healthy-functioning society committed to free and open democratic values. This is not about lofty ideals; the campaign is a clarion call to respond to a real crisis facing regular people who find themselves with a legal problem or in court without a lawyer. You can be one of these people one day in court without a lawyer, afraid and alone and unaware about what you are supposed to do. The high cost to regular people of accessing the judicial system is a barrier and it can result in missed justice, trauma to those affected and the denial of a person's human rights.

The #FlipYourWig campaign is fundraising for this cause. Please donate.

What does #FlipYourWig mean? The term "plays on the combination of the traditional judicial wig, and the turn of phrase Flip Your Wig – implying to be angry, or outraged".

Romeo Phillion
Here's one reason you should be outraged. Romeo Phillion spent 31 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He is the longest-serving Canadian inmate to have a murder conviction overturned. His case story is reported. He was cleared in 2010 with the help of AIDWYC - the Association in the Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.

AIDWYC is one of six organizations sponsoring #FlipYourWig. You should feel angry, like I do, that this man Romeo Phillion unjustly lost his freedom - here in Ontario - for almost half of his life - because of mistakes with courts. You should feel grateful, like I am, that there are people who work for a living who are committed to access to justice and who educate people about prejudice and missed justice in our midst.

Don't we already provide "legal aid" to people who need it? We do. The issue is we need more money because the amount available from one source has gone down by 50% over the past decade. The reason for the reduction is not because of any government decision to cut costs (there's been none); rather it's because of bank interest rates and I'll explain that.

Canadians receive legal aid and A2J services though the "law foundation" model. The Law Foundation of Ontario is empowered by legislation to take the bank interest from lawyers' mixed trust accounts held for corporations and individual clients. Lawyers are required to direct their banks to pay the interest from these accounts to the Law Foundation of Ontario.

The Foundation spends this money and oversees the delivery of A2J services. Each province has its own law foundation.

In 2013, the Foundation received $32 million in interest from lawyer trust accounts. From this sum it gave $24 million to Legal Aid Ontario. That agency provides the primary infrastructure to deliver quality legal aid services to low-income individuals. Some people qualify for a legal aid certificate, which can be used to hire a lawyer to help with an immigration, family or criminal law problem. The qualifying income cap to receive Legal Aid is $11,448 per year for a single-person household. It should be 10x this number and extended to all legal services. It can't because there's just not enough money for this purpose.

At least 75% of Foundation money collected from bank interest is paid to Legal Aid. All remaining Foundation revenue (including from other sources) is spent on A2J projects.  In 2013, the Foundation spent $9 million on A2J projects and made 83 grants to 61 different organizations for supplementary education, aid and research initiatives.

The Foundation supports the six core justice agencies who sponsor #FlipYourWig:

Association in the Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC)
Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)
METRAC – Action on Violence
Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN)
Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC)

What do these organizations do? They work to maximize the number of people receiving legal help if you can't afford a lawyer. They disseminate legal information because you need help understanding your legal problems. They educate young people about the legal system and our rights and responsibilities as Canadians. They expose violations of people's rights in Canada. They pursue justice for people if you've been wrongly held of something. And they help lawyers and law students give their time pro bono to assist you for the sake of justice. 

The staff and stakeholders of #FlipYourWig are the people who work on the front lines of the justice service sector and their function is to maintain an equilibrium with the courts on behalf of regular people. They need more money to do their job because access to justice in Canada is getting worse, not better, and it is now at a crisis point.

How much money does it take to provide A2J? The expenditure in Canada should be $900 million, not $9 million. At the very least, we need more than 50% of what we had a decade ago.

In 2006, when interest rates were double that of current bank rates, the Law Foundation of Ontario collected almost $64 million in interest revenue, double what it gets today, to spend on Legal Aid and A2J initiatives. There is 50% less A2J money today from lawyer accounts because banks have low interest rates. I don't know how banks don't pay a higher interest rate for A2J funding.

We should have more money, not less, for the Ontario Justice Education Network. OJEN is one of the agencies sponsoring #FlipYourWig and they're frustrated with the state of A2J. OJEN educates our young about justice. It is a partnership between the justice sector and Ministry of Education and its purpose is to sensitize schoolchildren to the justice system. Each year, OJEN sends 70,000 children and youth including from at-risk communities to visit courtrooms, meet with judges and learn about justice. Many participate in mock trials. OJEN's programs are part of the school curriculum and they impact 200,000 schoolchildren and youth annually. OJEN is a successful NGO and Ontario exports OJEN's teaching model to help other countries teach their youth about the justice system.

Another reason why justice funding is at a crisis point in Canada: in the next three years, 12 million people will experience at least one legal problem. That's one in every three Canadians. Legal Aid will not cover the representation of most of these people.

Listen: a two-day trial with a judge or tribunal can cost over $30,000 in legal fees. That's one Canadian's annual median income. A judicial proceeding can come unexpectedly and involuntarily and it can affect your rights or liberty or people you care about. A 7-day trial can cost you $100,000. That is stressful, especially with so much uncertainty. Do you have that kind of money? Could you use some help with the legal system if it were available?

Take family breakdown. Forty percent (40%) of marriages and common law relationships end in separation or divorce. Four out of 5 people in family court are self-represented.

Family court is bursting and at a crisis point. Family courts are like triage at an underfunded hospital and you don't know when the doctor or nurse will be available.

Listen to the judges. Mr Justice Harvey Brownstone is a family and criminal court judge who has written a book and was featured in a tv show about his experience in family court. See also his interview with Steve Paikin. He spoke to #FlipYourWig:

"The people who come to family court are enduring the worst crisis of their life. These are people in states of extreme emotionality and are extremely vulnerable. Family courts throughout Canada are faced with up to 80% of their litigants self-represented; completely without legal counsel. In my court where I preside, 82% of our litigants are self-represented ... Without the help and support of the [Pro Bono Students Canada] PBSC family law project our family court would implode."

When Justice Brownstone talks about family litigants he sounds like he is describing me. I'm not ashamed to share that I've been a participant in the family court system. After spending $100,000 in legal fees, I had to represent myself. I'm not even talking about the taxpayer money that was spent on public professionals. Based on stats, there's a 20% chance you could be like me and representing yourself in family court in the next three years. I found the experience frustrating and confusing. It felt kafkaesque, like there was no safe place to be accountable. It felt dehumanizing and it led to family trauma. I understand better today how this happened and what I could have done better. I wish I had Justice Brownstone's wisdom, as I do now

Why is A2J a human right? Because judges and courts dispense justice and in order for justice to work it must be fair to everyone and for this to happen there must be meaningful public access to the system. Because people have the right not to be traumatized by the justice system.

Why is A2J necessary for a free, open and healthy democratic society?

Because "four billion people around the world live without the protections of the law. They live without access to their rights, vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Poverty will only be defeated when the law works for everyone." - Open Society Foundation



"These goals are a measure of the successful outcomes of any kind of development; more kids in school, better health care and child survival rates, a conservation of the environment, clean drinking water. These kinds of things are measures of any developing economy's success."
-- Mark Malloch-Brown, UN Deputy Secretary-General (2006).

We have lots to be proud of in Canada including an independent judiciary and a modern functioning law foundation system for delivering access to justice to the people.

What we lack is predictable spending on this sector.

Canada ranks between 13th and 16th out of 29 in A2J services among high-income countries. Canada ranks higher than the United States, China and France. Canada ranks behind Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Germany and Japan.

Our mid-rank is "explained by shortcomings in the affordability of legal advice and representation and the lengthy duration of civil cases.” That speaks for itself.

We need $1 billion for A2J and then Canada will rank at the top of A2J countries.

The #FlipYourWig campaign wants to underscore this point.

Listen to our Chief Justice of Canada, the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, P.C.: “the most advanced justice system in the world is a failure if it does not provide justice to the people it is meant to serve.”

Countries with advanced access to the justice system have happier people who solve problems quicker and with less cost to everyone. People with access to justice report fewer health problems associated with feelings of misjustice.

Since 1974, the Law Foundation of Ontario has spent almost $1 billion toward the public good. We need $1 billion over the next four years. What a difference interest rates make. The fact that bank rates are at historical lows is prejudicial to the general public who need legal assistance.

The best part is that we can fix the system. All it takes for everybody in Canada to have healthier access to justice is to say "banks, we're okay with you paying X% in interest from lawyer trust accounts to pay for legal aid".

I think banks can afford to pay $1 billion for A2J. I believe banks are okay with a regulated interest rate on mixed trust money because it will be fair value for guaranteed cash deposits and it regulates a public purpose dating to the Magna Carta.

We have a social contract: there is a rule of law; all people and institutions are subject to the law and no one is above the law.

#FlipYourWig reminds me why I went to law school 20 years ago. I remember learning how profoundly simple, elegant and fragile justice is: it's in the maxim Audi alterem partem, "listen to the other party". Hear both sides and then decide. That's the prime ingredient of law and justice; it's a universal truism and how each person strives to relate to another. For a judge, it's her job. It's where law meets empathy.

#FlipYourWig is where truth meets reconciliation. One of my most memorable experiences with the Foundation was when the past-Chair, Mark Sandler, presented the Guthrie Award for Access to Justice to Ms. Kimberly Murray. He called her "an exceptional community leader and advocate for Aboriginal access to justice, with a two-decade history of dedication to this cause".

Kimberly Murray, 2014 Recipient
of the Guthrie Award 
Kimberly Murray runs the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which ensures that survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools system are heard and remembered. Ms. Murray embodies the spirit of renewal through reconciliation that leads to relationships based on understanding and respect for Aboriginal Peoples and Canadians. When she accepted the Guthrie Award, she recalled one of her most profound days as a lawyer when a judge in an inquiry found that in 1995, the Premier of Ontario said the words "I want the fucking Indians out of the park". This was during the Ipperwash crisis that led to the police death of 38-year old Dudley George. The judge concluded the statement was racist. This happened in Ontario. Read this news article.
    Experiences like this help me realize that the flip side of access to justice is pre-justice, which equals pre-judicePrejudice is a denial or suppression of truth. Prejudice is the opposite of where law meets empathy. Prejudice is when access to justice is restricted, or constricted. Prejudicial behaviour triggers post-traumatic stressors in me and is opposite to my childhood values. Prejudice is opposite to my core religious values, including tzedek tzedek tirdof ["justice, it is justice you will pursue"]. Prejudice
    leads to missed justice and this is bullshit and it kills people and it rots human autonomy. Prejudice is preventable.

    In closing, listen to Hüsker Dü. Flip Your Wig is the name of a 1985 punk album by Hüsker Dü. This is not lost on the #FlipYourWig community. #FlipYourWig is decisively punk.

    #FlipYourWig subverts the paradigm regarding establishment and justice. The campaign turns a judge's wig on its head to let you know that people for justice are there for you. I'm telling you this because Flip Your Wig is a punk album and there are countries without an independent judiciary who put punk rockers in jail for "blasphemy" if they insult leaders.

    My favourite song by Hüsker Dü is "Makes No Sense at All", from the album Flip Your Wig. The B-side of that single is "Love Is All Around", a cover of the Mary Tyler Moore Show opening theme song. I like the music video, which plays one song transitioning into the other [at 2:30 of the video]. It's shot in Minneapolis and satirizes Mary Tyler Moore with scenes from the opening theme featuring the band members.

    "Walking around with your head in the cloud makes no sense at all." 

    "You're gonna make it after all."

    Ari Kaplan

    * * * * * * * *

    Background and Notes

    • I was once a trustee of the Law Foundation of Ontario. There are five trustees who oversee the Foundation; three are appointed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, which governs the legal profession in Ontario. The other two trustees are appointed by Ontario's Attorney General; she is the guardian of the public interest and responsible for justice in the province. In 2010, I was one of the trustees appointed by the Attorney General and I served the Ontario public in this role for two years. I am grateful for that eye-opening experience. I write this article for myself and am not speaking on behalf of the Foundation or any of the agencies. 

    • I continue to serve the Foundation as its appointee to the board of directors of the Ontario Justice Education Network, one of the six organizations behind the #FlipYourWig campaign.  I am happy I get to volunteer with the amazing people who work with OJEN. 

    • I was asked this year to be an Ambassador for #FlipYourWig. I take this responsibility seriously. I am one of hundreds of #FlipYourWig Ambassadors. Here is a List of Awesome People Who Are #FlipYourWig Ambassadors
    • "A society without justice is a society with no freedom.” - Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, #FlipYourWig Ambassador.  More here.
    • I'm grateful that I live in a country where my prime minister said these words, surrounded by working people in suits wearing colourful wigs. There are two former Canadian prime ministers among this year's Ambassadors. At the turn of this century, the Canadian governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin led one of the world's first countries through the evolution of sex acceptance and we implemented equality as a matter of law, policy and human rights in Canada.  I'm proud of that.

    Additional Reading and Listening:

    • "LFO periodically negotiates rates of return with all financial institutions that are authorized to hold mixed trust accounts for lawyers and paralegals. Some of these agreements are more favourable than others and LFO continues to seek improvements in all of them. To illustrate the importance of these negotiations, if the bank with the worst terms matched the bank with the best terms, the additional interest generated could fund 10 more Connecting Articling Fellowships that would provide legal services to linguistic minorities in their own language."

     





    Ari Kaplan's Selfie for #A2J

    Saturday, January 3, 2015

    My 2015 Resolutions: #1 Eat Less Meat

    These are my resolutions for 2015.

    I. Eat Less Meat.
    The Toronto Sun, August 2, 1973, Page 3
    I undertake to eat meat no more than two weekends per month. This will not be hard because I live with two vegetarians and a vegan and it will be very hard because I also live with boys and we love meat. I'm slow to understand how a human can not want to eat tasty roasted BBQ'd meat. Yet I'm ready to acknowledge the objective evidence that my meat consumption is bad for my health and worse our model of meat production is unfair to the animals we eat and disproportionately harmful to the planet.

    There are very personal reasons why I enjoy eating meat even though I am committed to reducing my intake by approximately 60%.

    My maternal grandfather Henry Federman (1914-1983) was a butcher for his career choice and I remember visiting him at his meat shop Parliament Marketeria on Queen St. E. which he operated from 1958 to 1978. As a young boy, I got to enjoy deliciously-spiced pepperoni sticks and I was allowed to have them for free because my Zayde owned the shop. I'm not the only one with whom he was generous; in 1973, U.S. President Richard Nixon told my Zayde that his wife Mrs. Nixon thought his assortment of meat was superb.
    Letter from Richard Nixon
     to Henry Federman
    August 7, 1973
    My Zayde supplied them with $100 (today $500) worth of fresh sirloin and roasts from his store after local White House meat supplier District Hotel Supply Inc. delivered hamburger meat. The company was retaliating against the President for imposing a temporary price freeze so Americans could continue to afford domestic meat. The meat industry did not like the government ordering them to keep their prices low for consumers. They told the public they should fear a permanent incursion into freedom of business and choice even though the measure was for a few weeks. My Zayde thought that was a bit douchy. Then the meat suppliers reduced and destroyed stock and laid off workers in order to restrict public access to domestic meat, knowing that imported meat was impossible due to rapid inflation and the devaluation of the American dollar. The economic crisis happened when America's supposed allies namely the European countries decided to revoke their commitment to signed international treaties with America that regulated world monetary policy since WWII based on the American gold standard. Among other things, this foreign action hurt American consumers if they needed imported products. In 1971, the Nixon administration responded to these foreign threats by cancelling the direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold for foreign countries who owned dollars. Then the President introduced a comprehensive wage and price control program to protect the American people.
    Washington Star-News,
    Thursday, August 2, 1973, Page 1
    This measure was known as the Nixon Shock and it stabilized the U.S economy by regulating how much it would cost Americans to purchase any U.S.-made product. The government ensured prices were low and affordable for Americans, especially for necessities such as food and gasoline. When the measure was repeated in 1973, by all accounts I've read it was the right policy at that time to protect Americans including workers and domestic meat suppliers who had a guaranteed marketplace. The initial measure also protected U.S. interests globally because America held the world's gold owed to those foreign countries who resiled from the 1944 Bretton Woods treaty. I'm sure it bothered my Zayde that Europeans broke their contracts with America. Despite anything one can say about Richard Nixon, he saved American bacon by implementing an economic policy favouring people over global interests and that took courage. The President had many items on his plate in the summer of 1973 yet he found the time to write a thank you note to my Zayde.
    Mostly, it bothered my Zayde at the behaviour of the big business U.S. meat industry during this crisis. Henry Federman was a proud American citizen who ran a butcher shop in Boston in the 1950s before joining his sisters in Toronto. He thought the meat industry's reaction to the price freeze was total bullshit and it poorly reflected on his values as a conscientious fresh meat supplier to the public. Business interests knew that the President was trying to manage one of the worst stock market crashes of the 20th century and that the price measure insulated Americans from the instability caused by the falling dollar. Yet the U.S. meat industry felt the regulation went against their immediate interests. Some suppliers went so far as to drown their own chickens rather than sell them to Americans at a short-term loss. Then in early August, the meat industry publicly threatened the President that if he didn't repeal the price controls by August 20 of that year 1973 there would be zero meat left for Americans. This was despite that in meat-fat cities like Chicago, there was more than enough meat on the shelves. This activity plus the macroeconomic realities of price regulation led to food shortages in parts of America. The American public naturally felt panic and demand for meat increased fuelled by big business's campaign of fear and misinformation. My Zayde empathized with the public on this, having himself lived through public trauma during food shortages in his native Poland. He also survived legislation deeming his family to be not human which led the government of the day to forcibly end the lives of his parents and three of his siblings. My Zayde thought that was also bullshit though he was grateful that he survived the Holocaust in a Siberian military prison and later marched to Berlin as part of the Polish free army before arriving in Boston harbor in 1948 with my Bubbie who also miraculously survived the war and my toddler mother.

    So endowed with this lived experience, my Zayde Henry Federman sent the President and First Lady meat from his butcher shop saying that he had beef to spare and was doing his duty. And he had fun.

    Washington Star-News, Thursday, August 2, 1973, Page 1
    The story of my Zayde giving the President and Mrs. Nixon his fresh meat was reported on Page One of the Washington Star-News on August 2. It went viral after being posted on news sites that subscribe to Associated Press; it appeared on page 1 of the Christian Science Monitor and was discussed in the Chicago Tribune and also The Toronto Sun, where I live. Henry received fan mail and press clippings from people across America and from some Canadians too. He provoked a public discussion on an important relevant topic of the day about which he had knowledge and an interest.

    On August 2, 1973, 59 year-old Mr. Henry Federman of Newtonville, Massachusetts, meat butcher, showed that he cared for America. I'd like to claim that day for my Zayde, one American hero, and I declare August 2 annually as my Henry Federman Day. This date 80273 is my mantra code as I consciously will a reduction in my meat consumption.

    I would like Henry Federman Day to commemorate the following people and this is not an exhaustive list:

    1.  Henry Federman Day honours Mrs. George E. Drake of Bloomington, IL and Mrs. R.H. Shelton of Norfolk, VA, two proud American women who were concerned about the economy and touched by my Zayde's story and wrote him letters. The role of American women is featured prominently in this story since the word "shopper" then was synonymous with "housewife" and the President reportedly stated at a news conference that if men "did not believe food prices had been frozen, they should consult their wives, who did the grocery shopping." Mrs. Drake thanked my Zayde for his kindness toward the President and assured him that there were many Americans who felt the same but were too busy running here, there and everywhere to show their appreciation. Mrs. Drake supported the price controls and said that she and husband George would be able to survive any meat shortages until after the measure expired in September. She sent my Zayde clippings from the Chicago Tribune and she had kind words for the people of Toronto, Calgary, Regina and Vancouver. She said she met Mr. Nixon in St. Louis before he ran for President and he is not the isolated person the news media pictures him to be. She concluded by saying that there is not one Senator who she would vote for in the next election and that "I think they should all be replaced and we should start from the beginning again."



    Mrs. Shelton was less impressed with my Zayde's meat package although she felt it was commendable to be upset about another human being. She disliked Mr. Nixon for his $200,000 salary, lavish dinner parties and he reportedly spent millions of taxpayer dollars on his Florida property. All good points. Mrs. Shelton felt that my Zayde was motivated to get his picture in the paper; she was correct (although not page one). Mrs. Shelton was a widow on a small income and enjoyed meat once per week and reported that her daughter's family of four could not get meat even once in two weeks. I honour Mrs. Shelton's daughter while I eat meat now as did her family. She said that "the Lord likes to see the people that need it helped" and that her dead mother used to say "those who love get; how true". True that.






    2. Henry Federman Day honours all people who act on the impulse and opportunity to speak up and out when you see an injustice or wrong that tangents your values and conscience and you do so gracefully and with awareness and good humour. What the meat industry did to the American public was wrong and it was an unfair manipulation of the media to cause public panic in order to advance a special interest. My Zayde was part of that industry and he thought it was irresponsible of them to bully the American people during a crisis and this did not reflect his values. Large industries and those with extreme undue wealth and power continue to mock ordinary people and the planet in this manner and it is we the people who have the ability to make any change to that with no more effort required than a collective will to do so. John Lennon and Henry Federman taught me that. Parenthetically, the White House meat supplier District Hotel Supply of Washington, Inc. is no more and it appears they were later sued for something by the U.S. government.

    3. Henry Federman Day honours all people who struggle with their nominal identity. Nominal means "in name only". My Zayde Henry embraced his namesake Federman and chose to be a feather man who plucks chickens for a living, like his father.
    Issued Identity Card from the
    Reporting Office in Czestochow, Poland
    for Herszlik Federman May 28, 1935
    It was fated to him because he actually wanted to be a rabbi in Poland but Hitler decimated everything he understood to be safe and fair to want for a normal person's life. He survived an extreme trauma trying to recover from his government and countryfolk wanting him and his family dead and he always carried that suffering. Despite the adversity of cards dealt, he decided he was hopeful and going to be happy and live, in this case, into his namesake, and love his family, which I can attest that he most-lovingly did. I love my Zayde for this and I felt his love for me and I honour him as I eat less meat and struggle with my nominal identity. I acknowledge that no one in government is trying to kill me and also that suffering is personal.
    From left to right:
    The author-Lion and
    Kafka the cat-author
    My parents gave me the name Ari which means lion in Hebrew and my last name Kaplan means tiger in Turkish and as a cat I can roar like Katy Perry and while not a Turk be lost like Keyser Söze. The byproduct of my blurred awareness is that I allow myself to be unempathic in my carnivorosity as I enjoy me some Texas BBQ the next time I am in Austin for SXSW. And my last name Kaplan also means chaplain in German and Yiddish and as a priest and spiritual soul I'm reminded that I'm human and a sentient being endowed with conscience and purpose and I'm trusting myself to do the right thing. And this means I can acknowledge that humans are also omnivores and I can choose to not eat that animal's BBQ'ing meat even though it tastes awesome with some beers and guys and stuff. Plus there is our natural food chain and ecosystem and not only have humans been sustained on eating meat for over 200,000 years but there are actual animals out there who would eat me as meat if given the opportunity. That's not that lion's fault because she's an animal too but still I would consider it unfair for me to be dead because of that so why would I wish that on her.

    4. Henry Federman Day honours all people who work in the kosher food industry. My Zayde's father had
    Location of my great-grandfather's
    Kosher Meat shop.
     Czestochowa, Poland
    a kosher butcher shop in Czestochowa, Poland before the War and I have great respect for local kosher meat regulators, the Va'ad Harabonim [rabbinic council] and their rule of law the Beis Din. Moreover, the Va'ad certified my Zayde to sell kosher meat in Augsburg, Germany after the War and gave him an opportunity for a new life with a trade with which he was familiar. They gave him a certificate acknowledging they were all "liberated Jews".

    "Rabbinic Council of the U.S. Zone 
    Central Committee of Liberated Jews" (1946)
    I keep kosher and sincerely believe that kosher meat is fair and responsible meat. I'm not talking about slaughtering that is fine. Rather, the laws of kosher meat distribution going back centuries strongly favours local trusted suppliers over meat transported long distances, as illustrated in this Toronto vs. Montreal lawsuit. Plus, there is synchronicity that Henry Federman Day (August 2) falls in the annual nine-days in July/August during which kosher faithful are vegetarian and mourning the destruction of the temple. Henry Federman Day fell in the Nine Days in 1973 and Richard Nixon wrote his letter to my Zayde on Tisha B'Av. Henry Federman Day is next in the Nine Days in 2019 and then in 2022, at which time I look forward to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Henry Federman Day. In solidarity, I invite all Jewish people to decline meat every August 2 when the Torah wants you to do so and on off-years, acknowledge that it's Henry Federman Day.

    My Zayde's Butcher Shop, c.1950

    5. Henry Federman Day honours the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State that welcomed my Zayde and his family and gave him an opportunity to live the American dream. It's my dearest of these United States of America and I have family there continuously for over 100 years. Henry Federman was a proud Bay Stater and he supported Nixon on the meat issue and he voted for the Kennedys. Massachusetts has many commemorative days including Bunker Hill Day/Evacuation Day which coincides with St. Patrick's Day which is also my mama's day so all-in I think there should be a Henry Federman Day in that State.

    6.
     Henry Federman Day celebrates Parliament Marketeria, which occupied 342 Queen Street East, Toronto for two decades 50 years ago. The name is prescient for this story and illustrates the duality between government and the marketplace. I wonder where it will re-materialize.

    7. Henry Federman Day honours all people who choose to be vegetarian. It's not easy to give up eating meat and it's appropriate to celebrate anyone's efforts to do so however modest. Like my friend Adam Silver, a tough guy who gave up meat in high school and has persisted for 25 years. Mazel. The most persuasive arguments against eating meat is the excessive antibiotics and manipulation of production which is not like when my Zayde was in the business and meat today is just not healthy anymore and the carbon footprint is massive. We're close to eating soylent chicken nubbins like Margaret Atwood envisioned in Oryx and Crake and that's really not cool.

    In sum, Henry Federman was a man with a life's story and he walked this planet for 69 years spanning the middle of the 20th century and he started the second half of his life in America. On one slow news day in the summer of 1973 he got to show the world his true authentic self and his smile in that photo is the enduring one I hold of him as it guides me with the strength to meet my 2015 resolution to eliminate the harmful consumption of meat from my midst.

    Happy new year and I wish you the best in 2015.

    AK.
    From left to right: the author Ari Kaplan (2 years old),
    plus mother, father and sister at their Toronto home
    Canadian Jewish News, 1973

    Additional reading and non-internet sources:
    • Black, Conrad (2007). The Invincible Quest: The Life of Richard Milhous Nixon. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. eISBN: 978-1-55199-254-9:

    • "[Nixon] referred gratefully to the support he had had from demonstrating workers during the Cambodian controversy, and in a brief reference to the wage-price freeze, said that if they did not believe food prices had been frozen, they should consult their wives, who did the grocery shopping."

    • Hetzel, Robert L. (2008). The Monetary Policy of the Federal Reserve. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88132-6:
    "The fact that the increase in inflation derived almost exclusively from the energy and food sectors was irrelevant to the public. Shoppers (at the time synonymous with housewives) were indignant at the rise in food prices in general and meat prices in particular." 
    "Because of the strength in economic activity, this time the controls produced shortages. Farmers drowned their baby chicks rather than sending them to market at a loss. As the Congressional Quarterly (July 21, 1973, at 1928) wrote, 'You may have chicken prices at 59 cents a pound during the freeze but you may not have any chickens'. Meat disappeared from the shelves of supermarkets."










    Sunday, December 21, 2014

    Ari Kaplan's top albums of 2014

    This is a list of my favourite new music in 2014 and how these albums influenced me this year.

    1. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

    My anchor for Lost in the Dream dropped in April when I heard the album at a record store in Los Angeles. I was there with colleagues. Lost in the Dream reminds me of what I felt on that trip, there at the record store in late afternoon; all is perfect, right now in this moment and I am good and will be just fine. This is the contradiction of Lost in the Dream as it percolates its themes of loneliness and hopelessness. I've listened to the album about 30 times this year in all of its sympathetic 80s soft rock sublimity and each time its message refines. My favourite tracks are album opener "Under The Pressure", radio single "Red Eyes", "An Ocean Between the Waves" and the apropos "Disappearing". This is The War on Drugs' third studio LP. They're a rock band from Philadelphia on Indiana's Secretly Canadian label and in my opinion their record Lost in the Dream is this year's all-round best new music album release.


    2. Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence (Universal Music Group)

    Lana Del Rey's voice takes me to an era before my own. People make fun of her SNL performance and Kristin Wiig set the haters straight. I listened to her Born to Die LP in the summer of 2012 when I was in between relationships and feeling melancholy and most memorably that year was in my rental car in California with a beautiful woman I barely knew and recently met. We were driving on Highway #1 from her uncle's place in Marin to Carmel and she asked me what I was listening to and I said Born to Die and she thought that was cool. The woman said she's a writer and has a blog and she leads therapeutic writing groups and she's a physician too and treats homeless men in the east end and I thought that was cool too and we listened to Lana Del Rey. New track "West Coast" reminds me of that road trip ("Down on the West Coast I get this feeling like it all could happen ... for the moment"). Fast forward two years to Ultraviolence and my travelling companion and I have a loving home with our blended families and she's hotter than Lana Del Rey and that's cool. That's the magic of Ultraviolence. It reveals itself to me in the space between love lost and re-claimed and this happens for real even if you disbelieve the authenticity of such stories. It takes a violence to one's self-perception to shake the preconceptions that obstruct us from taking in another's love. The luscious Ultraviolence is co-produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. 


    3. Coldplay, Ghost Stories (Warner Music Group)

    Coldplay has been one of my favourite UK bands since "Don't Panic" opened the film Garden State. X&Y and Viva La Vida are two important albums in my life. So I was delighted when my oldest son told me he discovered this band and likes their new album. I bought Ghost Stories on CD at Pharmaprix in Tremblent because my girlfriend's car has no ipod jack. This is a solid Coldplay record. I agree with what Rolling Stones says about it. Coldplay + EDM is a good combo and I'd be sad too if I broke up with Gwyneth. "Sky Full of Stars" is an inspiring song and it was co-produced by Avicii. I also like opener "Always In My Head", "Magic", "Ink" and others. "Midnight" is gripping and reflective.


    4. Sam Roberts Band, Lo-Fantasy (Universal Music/Paper Bag Records)

    I've been a fan of Sam Roberts Band since my early 30s when I heard songs from We Were Born In a Flame and Chemical City on 102.1FM driving downtown to work. I think his single "Brother Down" is one of the best rock songs. So when Sam Roberts' fifth studio LP Lo-Fantasy was released by Paper Bag Records in partnership with Universal Music last February, my day job as a pension lawyer did not stop me from attending the LP release in New York City. Sam gave a shout out to the label team. The band played the full Lo-Fantasy album that night including my favourite track lead single "We're All In This Together". Here's a photograph of me and Sam and his manager Dave after the show. That shot was by Trevor Larocque, founder and president of Paper Bag Records. What a treat that was. Good peoples. Sam Roberts is from Montreal which is my favourite Canadian city. Lo-Fantasy by Sam Roberts Band is a wickedly-good rock album. Listen to the whole record including "Human Heat", "Shapeshifters", "Golden Hour" and "Kid Icarus".


    5. Flying Lotus. You're Dead! (Warp Records)

    Flying Lotus is the work of Stephen Ellison, an LA-based experimental jazz artist whose 2011 electronic masterpiece Cosmogramma made its way into my orbit last year. Ellison once produced a stellar remix of my favourite Radiohead single, "Reckoner". Flying Lotus' new album You're Dead! is a 40-minute meditation on being beyond life guided by conceptual jazz. It captures in its opening notes and channels awareness and forgives your wandering mind. Kendrick Lamar contributed to the most evocative piece the haunting "Never Catch Me" which is the year's best music video. Other standouts include "Ready Err Not" and "Descent Into Madness". You're Dead! came out in October and I listened to it on headphones at a mindfulness retreat while Melissa took a writing class. Go take half an hour and be present in memoriam with Flying Lotus. Dead well spent.


    6. Caribou, Our Love (Merge Records/City Slang Records)

    Caribou is producer Dan Snaith and his album Our Love is the 2014 album of the year in electronic music. I can listen to this record while drafting documents and soak it all in. Lead song "Can't Do Without You" warmly hooks you in and the title track is wispy and bumpy with its gentle beats. "Silver" is near-perfection. "All I Ever Need" accentuates the artist's falsetto as a lead instrument on the album. Dan Snaith is from Dundas, Ontario and he has a Ph.D. in mathematics and his music talks in maths and buzzes like a fridge and it's mesmerizing. Caribou won the inaugural Polaris Prize Award for its 2007 groundbreaking album Andorra and broke through in 2010's SwimOur Love is the centrepiece and the album deservedly appears in numerous top-ten lists including The Guardian.


    7. Sarah McLachlan, Shine On (Universal Music Group)

    I have been a fan of Sarah McLachlan since Fumbling Towards Ecstasy played on repeat in my CD-Rom drive circa 1995 while I studied for law school exams. One of the best albums ever. Her cover of XTC's "Dear God" is one of my favourite songs. "Building a Mystery" is an awesome and tragic song. I know the man in her lyrics. Melissa is a fan of Sarah McLachlan and I've gotten to enjoy Sarah McLachlan in concert about 3-4 times in the past two years including a lovely show in NYC this past summer plus road trips. Her new record Shine On is a really nice album of new work. I almost bumped into Sarah McLachlan a few years ago when we boarded the same 7 a.m. flight from Ottawa to Vancouver the morning after the Juno Awards. I saw her and she smiled like Sarah McLachlan and that was cool.

    8. My Brightest Diamond, This Is My Hand (Asthmatic Kitty/Paper Bag Records)

    This Is My Hand is Shara Worden's fourth LP recording as My Brightest Diamond. Her sound is described as cabaret-chamber pop. I think she is indescribably unique, like Kate Bush, Rachel Zeffira or  the Anchoress. Ppening track "Pressure" has MBD's hometown Detroit Party Marching Band in the rhythm section and the song is tribal and hip. The lyrics compete with the music for nourishing you the album's themes of honesty, self-doubt, truth, community and acceptance and all are equally and independently compelling. From "Lover Killer", the chorus: "On the one side I can dream my future on the other I can feel my nature". Read the lyrics to the title track "This is My Hand". Poetry in sound. I'm sorry I missed her last September at the Drake Hotel. She'll be back no doubt in full mood indigo. 


    9. Perfect Pussy, Say Yes to Love (Captured Tracks)

    If my mayor gets to say "pussy" on national tv, then I can endorse a punk band called Perfect Pussy. This quintet of rage is from Syracuse New York and I agree with Pitchfork that the band's inaugural album Say Yes to Love is "so relentlessly pummelling that it's almost meditative". As a guy who knows how to be angry and meditates, I have always connected with punk rock music and its derivations and bands with a fem lead like Sonic Youth. Perfect Pussy singer Meredith Graves has a gendernon incoherence to her shouts and that is attributable more to the enveloping chaos drowning her out than to her voice proper. And yet she has found her voice; she is smart as a whip and perfectly articulate in expressing her values particularly on subjects of feminism, gender inequity and unfairness. Perfect Pussy's lyrics should be read in parallel to the music because they're not to be missed e.g. "God, what am I doing with somebody's son in the same way a bulldozer studies an orchid". My favourite track is definitely "Interference Fits", and listen too to "Driver" and "Big Stars" and if time permits please watch this excellent interview with Ms Graves and just hear her words and what she has to say. A-.


    10. Ariel Pink, Pom Pom (4AD)

    Ariel Pink is the anti-Robin Thicke. They both make good pop music and are from LA and they share the same age. Pink is a "saggy Kurt Cobain" and he's my Gen X younger brother who went to art school and that's cool. The other singer is Alan Thicke's son. Pom Pom is a late-year release that makes me smile every time I hear it. As recently as today I heard radio single "Put Your Number in my Phone" on 88.1FM while driving home from the airport after flying to Winnipeg and back to secure my 2015 Aeroplan status which is elitist and carbon-killing. Maybe it's because I'm okay with who I am that I like Ariel Marcus Rosenberg's songs so much and empathize with him when he says he was wrongly maced on a bad date as he explained on that show with the video blogger who interviews people in bed. Back to Pom Pom, there are so many good songs here including the two standouts "Lipstick" and "One Summer Night" and I also think "Jell-O" is hilarious and plus I like opener "Plastic Raincoats", "White Freckles" and "Exile on Frog Street". The crown jewell is a serious song, the touching father-son ode "Picture Me Gone", with lyrics that include "you never get a pension". How does Ariel Pink know my day job.



    Notable 2014 LPs (Other)
    Here is a list of other albums I've listened to this year which I like and recommend: Aphex Twin, Syro. Beck, Morning Phase. Broken Bells, After the Disco. Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems. Elliott Brood, Work and Love. Foo Fighters, Sonic Highway. Frog Eyes, Carey's Cold Spring. Jenn Grant, Compostela. Grey Lands, Songs By Other PeopleMozart's Sister, Being. Pink Floyd, The Endless River. PS I Love You, For Those Who StayLa Roux, Trouble In Paradise. The Rural Alberta Advantage, Mended With Gold. Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear. U2, Songs of Innocence. Pharrell Williams, G I R L.

    Notable 2014 EPs
    Austra, Habitat 
    Moonface, City Wrecker 
    PEP, My Baby and Me


    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    I endorse my father Howard Kaplan for re-election as TDSB School Trustee in Ward 5 (York Centre)

    My father Howard Kaplan is running for re-election on October 27 as a TDSB public school trustee in Ward 5 (York Centre) and I want to say why I think you should vote for my Dad if you live in that ward, which is from the #401 north to Steeles, roughly along Bathurst St. west to Dufferin St/Allen Rd/Jane and includes Armour Heights, Bathurst Manor, Clanton Park, Downsview and Fishervale.

    Howard Kaplan knows Ward 5 because I was born to him and my mother in Ward 5 in the 1970s and I went to Faywood P.S. and Summit Heights. My first 19 years growing up in Ward 5 had a profoundly positive effect on my life. My family lived on Almore Ave and then Clifton Ave from birth through the end of high school. My Mom still lives in Ward 5, since 1958. All of my grandparents also lived in Ward 5 and Howard's mother, my grandmother Charlotte, spent most of her older years living on Carscadden Dr.  

    Howard Kaplan lives adjacent to Ward 5 in North York Centre and at age 71 he now enjoys walking to work to the TDSB offices in Mel Lastman Sq.

    Over the past 4 years, Howard Kaplan has dedicated thousands of hours including evenings running Canada's largest school board with 21 other trustees. He understands that he has the public's trust to run one of Canada's best school systems. Did you know that the TDSB exports its curriculum to other countries as a model for teaching children? 

    Howard Kaplan's platform for re-election is that "kids not cuts" comes first. He understands that as a trustee he has a fiduciary duty to maximize returns for his beneficiaries namely all school children who attend public school in the area. That's why he supports an increase to the provincial government funding formula which would allow him and the other trustees to optimize educational services for as many school children as possible. Howard understands that his job description is to not advocate for less for the people he is entrusted to represent. So he runs the school board within its budget and he allocates resources as available and is a vice-chair on the committee for special needs students, and also he advocates for additional funding from the province.

    One of Howard's challengers agrees with my Dad that additional resources are needed for children with special needs. He advertises that he is a parent of a child with special needs. He does not want to ask the province for more money and he says that extra money for special needs can be diverted from other school programs. So, if you are a parent of a child without special needs and you agree that we should take money away from your child's education for other programs, then you should vote for that candidate.

    Howard Kaplan has earned the public's trust during his first term in office. When the ugly face of bigotry reared itself among TDSB's ranks, Howard Kaplan was one of the few trustees who spoke publicly against it. I'm talking about when that trustee from Scarborough made those ignorant and offensive remarks about nudity at Pride and then projected himself by accusing people of "#homosexism" if they disagreed with him. There is a Sun media interview with my Dad on this subject and he explained that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of expression at Pride and any consequent nudity does not harm our children. That Sun media anchor then asked my Dad to imagine him (the anchor) coming to one of the schools naked.

    Howard Kaplan has not been untouched by the "expenses scandal". Early in his tenure while at an education conference he mistakenly expensed $20 for nuts and hand lotion. When it was brought to his attention he offered to re-pay the sum and he was told by staff that it would cost more to process the repayment so he made a donation to charity. Later, some tried to suggest that my Dad intended to defraud taxpayers of $20 and he got upset by this untrue accusation and there is a Toronto Star article in which Howard apologized for suggesting that it was "picayune" to make a scandal over this topic. After this was all over, that homophobic trustee from Scarborough (who is now the subject of a human rights complaint) tweeted something snarky toward my Dad and I felt I needed to step up and I said: "Why does @TrusteeSam get so excited when he hear's my dad's name @TrusteeHoward in the same breath as 'nuts' and 'lotion' #picayune". 

    In one other matter, the TDSB decided to evict a part-time shul in my Dad's ward that refused to pay rent while operating out of a school portable. The congregants previously cost the TDSB $250,000 after one of them slipped and fell in front of the portable and sued the board. The TDSB had to settle this lawsuit because the plaintiff could not acknowledge that they had responsibility to upkeep the place that they were using for free at taxpayer expense. Some unhappy congregants smeared my dad over this for "evicting Jews", even as those same people want free taxpayer-subsidized rent plus additional tax breaks for themselves as property owners, both of which adversely affect public school resources. So, if you live in Ward 5 and feel that entitled, then you don't have to vote for my Dad. 

    To summarize, my Dad Howard Kaplan is an amazingly dedicated public servant who loves his job and seeks your trust for another four years as Ward 5's TDSB trustee. He has a solid platform, which has been translated to reflect diversity in the neighbourhood, has experience in the job, knows the ward, is passionate about children's rights and education, and is endorsed by your children's teachers and numerous others including parents and education experts and advocates.

    Ari Kaplan
    Toronto