Saturday, January 28, 2006

At the World Social Forum

From the sheer joy and enthusiasm reverberating from the central stage of the opening rally of the 6th World Social Form, you'd never guess that offensive ground operations were continuing unabated in Iraq, or closer still in Haiti U.N. forces were shooting up poor neighborhoods to quell dissent, or Canadians would be in the midst of voting a far-right neo-con to power. "We will not stop," cries a member of Pastors for Peace to his audience of thousands, "Until the walls of the empire fall and until we realize, like you, that another world is possible."

Read the whole thing (It's worth it)

Topics: Activism, Environment

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Traffic Gridlock Costs Billions

According to a new Transport Canada study, [gridlock] costs the Canadian economy $6 billion a year, with the G.T.A. absorbing some $2 billion of that tab.

So why do people oppose putting more into public transit? I just don't get it.
More Details

Topic: Urban Issues

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Slang Words for Women

As if this blog entry on the interesting disparity of slang/negative words for men and women in Wikipedia wasn't interesting enough, one of the comments on this entry from a professor was really neat:

One of the exercises I used to illustrate the greater knowledge base of the group as opposed to the individual student consisted of asking the groups to come up with different names for males and females.

I wrote the names on the blackboard as the groups took turns reporting. Every time I used this exercise, the names for females exceeded those for males by at least three to one. The lists invariably included names students might be reluctant to use, those not found in family-oriented newspapers, for instance.

Next, to illustrate the differences between denotation and connotation, I asked the groups to determine which of the names had neutral overtones, which positive, and which negative. As one might expect, the majority of the names for females had a negative connotation.

I usually made the additional point that certain presumably paired words, such as 'master' and 'mistress,' while appearing more or less equal linguistically, had opposite connotations.

Topics: Women

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stop the Abusive Teen Rehab Industry

Unregulated teen rehab "schools" abuse kids on their parents dollar:

As a teen at Tranquility Bay, you can't call home and are escorted between rooms by Jamaican "chaperones." Talk out of turn and your punishment might be that a trio of guards wrestles you to the ground. "They start twisting and pulling your limbs, grinding your ankles," a student told the British newspaper The Guardian.

Read the rest

Topics: Family & Children, Politics, Education

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Canadian Election Strategies for Progressives

As the Canadian Election draws nearer, I figure I should offer a bit of my views.

Let me make it clear that, while I love Canada for the life I can lead here, I am not fooled into thinking this is a true democracy. An elected senate, and proportional representation would be a start to rectifying the problems.

However, there are some things we can do TODAY to take back our democracy. We can write our blogs, attend rallies, and write letters to our representatives, and better yet, we can participate in citizens' groups, community organizations, and grassworks movements, like the Toronto Public Space Committee.

And we can vote strategically.

This is a very controversial topic among progressives, and I understand and respect both sides. I will state that while I do believe in idealism, and showing support for the party that most closely approximates your beliefs, sometimes a pragmatic outlook is necessary, due again to the lack of a fair vote in Canada.

With our "First past the post" system, if you don't vote for a winning candidate, your vote doesn't count. So how to make it count? Figure out your election goals and vote strategically if necessary. How do you know if it is necessary? An amazing website with real numbers can help:
Are you in a position where your first choice party/candidate cannot win your riding? Are you thinking of voting for your second choice party/candidate? This guide is meant to inform you of whether voting strategically in your riding or not can make a difference.

So, for example, I've identified my goals for this election: 1) try to keep Conservatives out, and 2) try to get more support to progressive parties (such as NDP or Green).

Using Greg Morrow's strategic voting guide I discover the Conservative candidate in my riding basically has no hope in heck, due to the Liberal incumbent's popularity. Now that I don't have to worry about voting against anyone, I can look to supporting my alternatives. I prefer the Green Party, and their current election goal is to capture as much of the popular vote as possible, so as to show Canadians there is another possible alternative to the old hacks in parliament now, to keep their official party status, and to increase federal funding for future campaigns (I think they get $1.75 per vote).

This means, a vote for the Green Party is not totally wasted. It actually has some purpose. Here's another example of strategic voting. I urge everyone to really think hard before voting, and after January 23, do not get complacent. Your democratic duty isn't over after the election - that's only where it begins.

Not sure about bias in what you read? Input the text into this Political Vocabulary Analysis Tool to get a hint. It's not very accurate, especially when righties appropriate progressive vocabulary, (as this guy's commentaries often show) but neat!

Topics: Politics

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Martin Luther King Day

Seems like a good time to consider what this progressive would say if he were here today. He envisioned a world free of violence, oppression, and crippling poverty, with a commitment to economic and social justice for all of humankind.

Listen to the "Beyond Vietnam" speech of 1967 (download or stream, mp3 or Real Player), in which he declared the US, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." This speech is quite stirring, and still holds so much meaning now. At the time it was called "demagogic slander" (Time Magazine):
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word." Unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood-it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

This speech is particularly relevant in light of the current state of the world. The imperialist war in Iraq has many parallels to that in Vietnam, there are sharp divides between rich and poor (often along racial and ethnic lines), hate mongerers have too much control... Almost begs the question: What would Martin Luther King have done about Iraq? or should I say Vietraq?

Topics: Iraq, Racism, Politics

Friday, January 13, 2006

Squatter City

Robert Neuwirth is the author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World., a book examining some of the great squatter neighbourhoods in the world. He lived for two years in these communities, and experienced the vibrancy of these cities within cities. He believes squatters will shape cities in the future.
Listen to an interesting interview with him.

Also check out Down to This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, who spent a year in Toronto's famous Tent City. A great read. Highly recommended!

Topics: Books, Poverty

Hilarious Excerpt from EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED by Jonathan Safran Foer

Found on "I had performed recklessly well in my second year of English at university. This was a very majestic thing I did because my instructor was having shit between his brains. Mother was so proud of me, she said, 'Alexi-stop-spleening-me! You have made me so proud of you.' I inquired her to purchase me leather pants, but she said no. 'Shorts?' 'No.' " Read the rest of the excerpt.