Friday, August 31, 2007

Iraq: The Legacy of Oppression and the Legitimacy of Resistance

We sit here 8000 miles away with our luxuries of electricity and water, while Iraqis suffer in the desert heat with no relief, and we tell them they are disorganized. This is fiddling while Iraq burns. People are dying; the question is moot.

We are not fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq; we are slaughtering people's children. We went in to liberate Iraqis from a ruthless dictator we imposed upon them who allegedly killed 300,000 during his 30 year reign of terror. We’ve accomplished more than triple that in a fraction of the time.

If ever there were legitimate resistance to illegal occupation, it is in Iraq.
And do you know what Iraqis are saying? I don't speak Arabic, but I can translate for you. They're saying, "Get out!" They're saying, "NO way you're staying for 60 years." They're saying, "Get your oil the old-fashioned way - pay for it!" And why are they saying this? Because they have a dignity and self-respect rooted in 7000 years of civilization.

Iraq is the center of Arab nationalism. Actually, this is what my father says, and I would argue that my father is the center of Arab nationalism. Modern-day Iraqis are the descendents of ancients who devised the first system of writing, the 24-hour day, the bases of mathematics, law, science and medicine. Once corrupt American corporations, the U.S. military, and its death squads, prisons, and bombings are out of the picture, true reconstruction by Iraqis can and will begin.

Perhaps we don't embrace the Iraqi resistance because its fighters are killing American soldiers. What other choice have we given them? From Vietnam to Lebanon to Somalia to Iraq, we have taught our victims around the world that the only way to effect a change in American foreign policy is to spill American blood.

Thousands died in Chile during the CIA led coup on Sept. 11th, 1973. But we only remember 3000 Americans who died on the 28th anniversary of that massacre. Grenadans in 1983 and Panamanians in 1989 were buried in mass graves by the thousands after the U.S. assaults, but the stories of these victims go untold. Between 1,000 and 10,000 Somalis were killed when our humanitarian mission in 1993 turned into military aggression. (We will never know the exact number of our innocent victims, again because of mass graves.) But we left Somalia because 19 Americans fell victim to their system and were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Time and again, it doesn't matter how many "others" die. The outrage comes when the victims are American.

Martin Luther King Jr. said “silence is betrayal.” In these times, remaining silent on our responsibility to the world and its future is criminal. And in light of our complicity in the supreme crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ongoing violations of the U.N. Charter and international law, how dare any American criticize the actions of legitimate resistance to illegal occupation? How dare we condemn anyone else as “violent” or “disorganized?” Our so-called “enemies” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, our other colonies around the world - and our inner cities here at home-are struggling against the oppressive hand of empire, demanding respect for their humanity. They are labeled “insurgents” or “terrorists” for resisting rape and pillage by the white establishment, but they are our brothers and sisters in the struggle for justice.

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is a speaker and activist. Born in the United States to an American Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father, she lived in Iraq as a child, returning to the U.S. at age 5. Read the whole speech here. It's powerful words, especially in light of this.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Save our TTC

guitar player on the subwayToday I will narrow my usual global scope to my city of residence: Toronto. As those of you who live here know, our beloved public transportation has been dying a slow death in the past several years. Service has gotten worse, buses and subways more crowded, fares far more costly. I am a die-hard anti-car person, and yet... and yet... lately I've been getting fed up with the TTC ("The Bitter Way"), which as they say, should stand or Take The Car. And now, faced with an ever-worsening budget disaster, the city proposes insane service cuts. Yes, insane. Don't believe me, read about it here, or just look at this map of the proposed cuts.

Oh how far we've come since our naive and hopeful discussions of this

Culture CrossingI won't go into the details of the terrible things that will befall our city if the proposed cuts happen, but consider the congestion now, and then consider it if even 25% more cars were on the road. Those who choose the TTC for their daily commute will simply go back to their cars, because what middle income earner in her right mind would sardine herself with strangers for half an hour twice a day when there's a comfortable air conditioned car ride as an alternative - especially when the sardine rides cost her 50 cents more each day. Those who have no choice but to take the TTC, predominantly school children, poor people, carless people, the elderly, and students, will be screwed. Having no alternative, they will pony up the extra money. For middle class college students, perhaps it means a little less beer or coffee, but for many of the city's poor, it means a little less food in the tummy. This is outrageous in a city with so much wealth.

Although I believe the TTC needs increased public funding, if we must pay higher fares, it is preferable to service cuts. I propose along with the higher fares, a system of subsidized passes and tokens for those of low income. At minimum, the tax credit for bus passes should be refundable, since right now many of those who need it most don't even make enough money to use the credit.

Anyways, the TTC cannot cut service without public consultation, so they have devised a meagre and pitiful survey. However, if you live in Toronto, it is important you take this survey. Fill in the comments, since that is the only real forum to express your opinion.

When you are done, check out this much improved survey at Torontoist.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pro-Iraq-War Ads Featuring Wounded Soldiers

Lies, and manipulation.

Note: "We're dealing with the safety of our country, of our sacred United States of America."

She says she lost her husband to al-Quaeda. He died in Iraq. Most soldiers were killed by insurgents, Iraqis, certainly not al-Quaeda, who haven't been there for very long.

Note: "They attacked us, and they will again." This is simply false. Iraq did not attack America. Iraq was attacked by America.

Her son "sacrificed for their freedom". Yes, I'm sure the Iraqis are thankful for his sacrifice. I suppose it depends what one means by "freedom".

Via IraqSlogger, which is reporting that MSNBC and CNBC are refusing to air the ads. Of course, CNN and FOX are running them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blue is for Boyz, Pink is for Gurlz - It's Scientifikal

From Bad Science:

This week every single newspaper in the world lapped up the story that scientists have cracked the pink problem. "At last, science discovers why blue is for boys but girls really do prefer pink" said the Times. And so on.

The study took 208 people in their twenties and asked them to choose their favourite colours between two options, repeatedly, and then graphed their overall preferences. It found overlapping curves, with a significant tendency for men to prefer blue, and female subjects showing a preference for redder, pinker tones. This, the authors speculated (to international excitement and approval) may be because men go out hunting, but women need to be good at interpreting flushed emotional faces, and identifying berries whilst out gathering.

There are so many things wrong with this study, most of it covered over at Bad Science. And yes, this is Very Bad Science.

Anyone wanna bet if they found out men had a preference for pink, they would say it's because men are programmed to seek out womens' flushed emotional faces and pink labia? (Don't forget the first law of evolutionary psychology: men are motivated by the desire for sex, while women are motivated by the desire for security). And if women showed a preference for blue it would be because of our innate attraction to blue eyes - really, no foolin'! This is fun. We could play this with every color. Men like orange - quick, what does it mean?

Well, I suppose I should get back to gathering my pink fruits and vegetables (how many pink gatherables can you think of?). And my male readers should go hunt us up some blue meat. No excuses, it's in your genes.

Touched by an Athiest

With George Carlin on MAD TV

Monday, August 27, 2007

Three Things to Read - Especially for Women

I'm back in town and trying to catch up on my reading and these three articles crossed my path within a few minutes of each other, and they are tossing around in my head, in a magical cosmic salad of sorts.

I'm too tired to write anything coherent about them at the moment, so without further ado (plenty of ado tomorrow, I promise) I direct your attention to these three posts:

Firstly, check out Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Misogynist, Wrong, from Fundie Watch (who somehow always manages to turn these fundie rants from freaky to funny).

After reading that (yes, I think the order is important), visit a cat and twenty, for in defense of male-bashing... because, well, she's got a point.

And the multifaceted Poor Bashing...the sexualization of poor wimmin is actually the erotic oppression of ALL wimmin from Dark Daughta. This is of particular interest to me, as I'm currently trying to navigate all the political implications of sexuality in my own life.

men... women... relationships... power... sexuality... anger... fear... There's a lot in these articles. So grab a hot drink and get readin'.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Visiting the East Coast

lighthouse in maritimes
Originally uploaded by liyen (Incognito till August 24th)

Trippin to Halifax and area, leavin' today. Likely this will be a 10 day blog break, barring visits to internet cafes. Everyone play nice while I'm gone and if you have suggestions about where I should go, leave 'em in the comments. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Papua New Guineans Apologize for their Ancestors' Killing of Four Missionaries

Is it just me or does this make you angry too?
The descendants of cannibals in Papua New Guinea, who killed and ate four Fijian missionaries in 1878, have said sorry for their forefathers' actions.

They held a ceremony of reconciliation, attended by thousands, in the East New Britain province where the four died.

The missionaries were part of a group of Methodist ministers and teachers who arrived in 1875 to spread Christianity.

Their murder three years later, by the Tolai tribespeople on the Gazelle Peninsula, sparked angry reprisals.

The head of the mission, English pastor George Brown, avenged the killings by taking part in an expedition that resulted in the deaths of a number of tribespeople and the torching of several villages.

Ten commandments

Candles were lit in remembrance of the four killed missionaries as thousands attended the ceremony in East New Britain.

Fiji's High Commissioner in PNG, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, accepted the apologies on behalf of the descendants.

"We at this juncture are deeply touched and wish you the greatest joy of forgiveness as we finally end this record disagreement," he said.

PNG's Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane praised the early missionaries for making the country Christian - and called for more people to follow its guiding principles.

"I wish many people could follow the 10 commandments, but they still steal today and commit adultery," he said.

"There is a big increase in HIV/Aids cases in the country because of adultery, despite knowing its wrong."

I wonder if the church ever apologized for what it did to the peoples of Papua New Guinea? For one thing, missionaries were heavily involved in the colonization of the island, helping to open up the island to Europeans. From the US Department of State: "Traditional Christian churches proselytized on the island in the nineteenth century. Colonial governments initially assigned different missions to different geographic areas."

Papua New Guinea has been passed around from colonial ruler to colonial ruler, broken up, stitched together, broken up again. Informal racial segregation was the norm until recently. It still has some of the most intact indigenous cultures left in the world, and one of the lowest rates of urbanization. The vast majority of the population depends on subsistence agriculture; they live off the land.

Unfortunately, the exploitation of the people and the resources of the island continue. Mining and mineral production make up a huge portion of the economy, but this is devastating the land and the indigenous peoples who depend on it. A good old Canadian company, Barrick Gold, is just one of those pursuing destructive gold mining.

Oh, and about HIV/AIDS... From Human Rights Watch:
Public shaming of sex workers as 'AIDS carriers' prevents people from seeking HIV-related services for fear of being stigmatized. Police continue to harass persons possessing condoms, including by forcing individuals to chew and swallow condoms and their plastic wrappers. Such responses deter condom use and undermine desperately needed HIV/AIDS prevention work by NGOs and the government.

And a group of indigenous Papua New Guineans is made to apologize for killing 4 missionaries over a hundred years ago? People, this is a prime example of the internalization of colonialism through humiliation and shame.

Interesting how those with power rarely apologize for horrible past actions and yet those without do.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

India: After 60 Years of Independence, Indians Still Resisting Colonialism

Today, India marks 60 years of independence with the usual: song, celebration and speech.

But despite 60 years of formal independence, India remains burdened by global empire as British capital continues to exploit poor communities in its former colony.
Centuries after Britain's East India Company -- the world's first multinational -- faced protests in London, a group of villagers continue the tradition of resistance.

Read more at Lessons of Empire: India, 60 Years After Independence, a Corpwatch special.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

All The News That's Fit to Draw: A Comic Interlude

A Tribute to our favourite Master of Ceremonies by Tom Toles :

That darn liberal media by Mikhaela B. Reid :

Condom ads to slip by the censors, from Slowpoke Comics:

All this good news makes me feel giddy and gay by Greg Fox:

A meditation on comeuppance by John Cox

Monday, August 13, 2007

Canadian Progressives: Do These Three Things Today

Sorry I've been MIA lately. I had a final exam in Capitalist Propaganda... er... economics. Apparently, the world didn't stop just because I dropped out of it, so I have lots of reading to catch up on.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of links for you:

Donate 10.10 for MMP. Get behind this important democratic reform - especially if you live in Ontario. Lots more info here.

Sick of CNN and FOX and even CBC? Check out The Real News, "a global, alternative online news network that takes no advertising, government subsidies or corporate sponsorship. No strings. Just solid, fact-based news." If you like it, join me at the Real News Junkies.

If you haven't already done this, sign onto the Canadians for Democratic Media campaign. Read this for more info on media consolidation.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Goodish News from Iraq

Not this (Mosul Dam in trouble - catastrophic flood could put 70% of Mosul under water), or this (Residents of Sadr City are enraged, and grieving over US airstrike and "arbitrary" arrests), and certainly not the missing weapons (Even more than originally thought) or the water and electricity crisis.

Good thing someone thinks there's "significant progress".

(Comic from Big Fat Whale)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Let Me Just Slip into Something More Comfortable...

Hooray for condom fashions!

Some of the Latest Goings-on in Israel & the Occupied Territories

Israeli forces practice capturing Palestinian villages by... um... capturing real Palestinian villages. Well, they might have to stop, since soldiers complained that these military exercises were unnecessary and frightened the villagers, even though no live fire was used.

Israeli Army: 1
Palestinian kids: 0.
That'll learn 'em to fly kites!
(h/t to Improvisations: Arab Woman Progressive Voice)

Settlers harrass and terrorize UN officers. Israel pressures farmers and herders to move by removing their water source. In other words, settlers "do the same thing as the 'legitimate' occupation authorities do: They drive the Palestinians off their land to make room for Jews."

Despite several soldiers refusing to take part in the action (and going to jail for it), Israeli forces removed dozens of Illegal Jewish settlers from two houses in Hebron today. This occurred next door to a much larger "legal" Jewish settlement, which is guarded by Israeli security.

The routine practice of humiliation of Arabs in Israel has been slightly improved. Now, instead of all non-Jewish passengers having different coloured airport baggage tags, they will only have different numbers.

Israeli and Palestinian transport unions agree to work together on several issues, including improving Palestinian transport workers' treatment at barriers and checkpoints.
Photo Credits

Monday, August 06, 2007

Jesus Camp: Review

I finally saw Jesus Camp last night. (Yes, I know I'm late to the party.) While some of it was absolutely unsurprising, some of it did indeed send chills down my spine. There were certainly shades of my own summer indoctrination camp[PDF - thanks R.D.] but it went much farther. I recognize some of the brainwashing tactics, as they were used on us at bible camp, in particular the shame and the peer pressure to convert and repent (extra points for squeezing out some tears). While we didn't speak in tongues and writhe on the ground, the main difference was the political element featured at Jesus Camp. One of the families did a sort of pledge of allegiance to Jesus, the USA, and oddly enough, the Israeli flag.

One of the weirdest scenes was when a giant cardboard dummy (heh) of President George Bush was brought to the front of the chapel and all the kids had to pray over him. One of the scariest was the whole abortion thing. They gave the little kids tiny fetuses to hold in their soft little hands (of course they looked like wee toy babies, and nothing like a real fetus at 7 weeks - if the kids saw what a real one looks like they would probably have nightmares). They put "Life" tape over the kids mouths - there was even a scene in front of the white house. Many of these kids were far too young to understand sex, pregnancy, or any of that, so surely they had no idea what abortion actually is. In their minds abortion is baby murder, plain and simple, and it must be stopped.

In order to justify what they are doing, the camp director and some parents say they were training their little army of God as a response to how Muslims train their kids into an Islamic army.
It's no wonder, with that kind of intense training and discipling, that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!
The kids who were interviewed spoke about being warriors and not being afraid to die for God. I think they meant it metaphorically, but I'm not really sure.

The camp did an excellent job at reaching the kids' tender little minds - using stories and props that really reach the kids, making them feel special ("You are the most important generation", "God wrote the book of your life"), even letting them smash things with a hammer (coffee mugs labeled "government") - and if there's one things kids love, it's smashing things!

The children are not raised to be freethinking individuals, but vessels of God to be used. The frames in which they can think are extremely tight, and there is no respect for science or critical thought. Many of the kids are homeschooled: global warming isn't a big deal, science doesn't prove anything, evolution is a belief...

Overall, it was an excellent movie, with no commentary from the directors at all. The interviews let the camp director, parents, and kids speak for themselves.

Worth watching: the deleted scenes.

Most embarassing guest appearance: Pastor Ted Haggard.

Funniest line of the movie: "We pray over these powerpoint presentations".

Cross-posted at Leftist Movie Reviews

Just for fun, here's one of the songs we sang at camp. I'm really not making this up:
Give me gas in my Ford*
Keep me truckin for the lo-ord
Give me gas in my Ford I pray - Hallelujah!
Give me gas in my Ford
Keep me truckin for the lord
Keep me truckin til the break of day

* That's right, get 'em hooked on the right brand names early. Every one knows Jesus would drive a Ford. Foreign cars are the devil's work.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Interview with a Young Afghan Girl: "If I go to school who is going to take care of my little brother and sister? "

Every day her mother makes her some Bolani (Afghan fast food) and sells each one for 5 afg, almost ten cents.

She is 9 years old and wishes to go to school one day. She wishes that one day they'll have food at home and a schoolbag for her brother. She wishes for the day when he will have shoes on his feet. She is tired.

I asked her if she likes to go to school.

"If I go to school who is going to take care of my little brother and sister? Who is going to feed my mother? We don’t have a home, we don't have food, and we don't have money. That is why I am coming to the street to sell Bolani and earn a little money, to buy food for my family", she answered.

I looked down at her feet in the old torn shoes. Her toes came out and were terribly harmed. She suffers from her long walks to reach this place to sell her bread.
"Look I have no shoes to go to school; I walk 30 minutes to get here. And here I am not comfortable also, because the traffic comes towards me, forcing me to leave this place. At night when I go back home I am tired and I can’t play. So I go to sleep and early in the morning I wake up again and take me and my breads back to this place", she said.

Interview by Afghan Lord.

Legalizing education for girls, and even building schools isn't enough to ensure the education of girls (or boys). The ongoing fighting and the resulting lack of stability means little economic activity and much grinding poverty for much of the Afghan population. Poor children, as illustrated here by this interview, cannot attend school, even when it is available. They do what they can to survive. Until the airstrikes and heavy fighting stop, the country cannot truly be rebuilt, poverty and womens rights cannot be dealt with, and things like womens' rights and the education of girls will continue to be only a dream. As I've said before, Canada and the other NATO countries are using the women of Afghanistan to justify their military occupation to their own people. For the Afghan people, the Taliban pose only as much a threat as the warlords pose - the warlords we are allied with.

- Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
- 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
- 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
- 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
- 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
- 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan
Source: IRIN News, March 8, 2007

Or maybe, as the Fraser Institute thinks, making them pay for education is the answer.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Women & Children are 14 Times More Likely to Die During a Disaster, yet Gender Perspective Missing in Climate Change Discussions

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 2 (IPS) - When the United Nations concluded a two-day debate Wednesday on the potential devastation from climate change, it covered a lot of territory: deforestation, desertification, greenhouse gases, renewable energy sources, biofuels and sustainable development.

But one thing the debate lacked, June Zeitlin executive director of the New York-based Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) told IPS, was a gender perspective.

"Women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men are during a disaster," she said.

In the 2004 Asian Tsunami, 70 to 80 percent of overall deaths were women. And in the 1991 cyclone disasters that killed 140,000 in Bangladesh, 90 percent of victims were women.

"Similarly in industrialised countries, more women than men died during the 2003 European heat wave," Zeitlin told a panel discussion Tuesday, in advance of a first-ever thematic General Assembly debate devoted exclusively to climate change.

She also said that following the August 2005 Hurricane Katrina in the United States, African-American women who were the poorest population in some of the affected states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi faced the greatest obstacles to survival.

She argued that women make up the majority of the world's poor, and in particular the world's rural poor, and are largely responsible for securing food, water and energy for cooking and heating.

"These statistics beg the question: Why? And what can we learn from this to fashion more effective solutions to the climate change crisis," Zeitlin said.
Zeitlin of the Women's Environment and Development Organisation said women have always been leaders in community revitalisation and natural resource management.

"Yet women are so often barred from the public sphere and thus absent from local, national and international decision-making related to natural disasters and adaptation."

There are plenty of examples where women's participation has been critical to community survival.

In Honduras, she said, La Masica was the only community to register no deaths in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998 due to an early warning system operated by women in the community. (Full article at IPS News)

Women and children bear the highest degree of effect from disasters caused by climate change. Not coincidentally, they also have the least ability to effect decision-making power in the greater public sphere.

Proposal: in a true democracy a person would have input into a decision in the proportion to which that decision affects her or him. In the case of pregnancy and abortion, women, not men, should have veto power. Those who live in a neighbourhood should have power over what kind of development that neighbourhood will undergo, more so than the developer whose only interest in the neigbourhood is to build, make money, and skedaddle. People who are dying because of pollution in their town should have say in where factories can be located and how industry conducts itself in their town.
It's pretty simple, really.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ungrateful Canadians

... "Just 20 per cent said they 'strongly support' Canada's fight in Afghanistan".

Harumph. At least our BFF has thanked us for our role in Afghanistan, unlike those ungrateful taxpayers. Look what they're making us do! We have to make them pay $104,575 so we can learn how to sell the war to them.
The federal government could significantly boost support for the Afghan mission if it were to emphasize diplomacy and human rights, according to opinion polling compiled over seven months for the Department of National Defence.

Really? You mean emphasizing the needless suffering and civilian deaths doesn't work?
Nik Nanos, president of Ottawa's SES Research, said the government-commissioned survey is "standard ... technique for political campaigns."

"You start introducing content and you measure how you can move the dial," he said.

Right, good to know how best to massage the facts.

The poll, at a cost to taxpayers of $104,575, is the latest to look at how to present Canada's military mission to a skeptical public. Others have warned the government against appearing too militaristic, presenting the mission as payback for the 9/11 terror attacks and aligning itself with the U.S. government. All have underscored the fact that combat remains a tough sell in Canada.

What? We don't want our sons and daughters killing and dying?

Alex Morrison, head of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, said the challenge is how Ottawa can be honest about the military's role and still make it palatable to the public. The blame lies with previous Liberal and Tory governments that emphasized peacekeeping to such an extent that Canadian soldiers are now viewed as "simply a bunch of do-gooders," he said.

Ah yes, the eternal struggle of propaganda: how best to manipulate the public, while removing the risk of being caught outright lying. Good thing we can blame previous governments: they were so darn good, they made us look bad.