Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Interesting maps of income and voting patterns in the USA

Immediately apparent is that if the poor had all the votes, Bush would have lost in 2002 - even in many "red states". To paraphrase Krugman, contrary to popular myth, The Democrats' base isn't the "latte liberals".

More interesting graphs and analysis here.

Via Creative Class

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tories say "nanner nanner" to Scary Veiled Women

New bill to ban veiled voters
October 27, 2007

OTTAWA -- The Harper government yesterday introduced legislation requiring all voters - including veiled Muslim women - to show their faces before being allowed to cast ballots in federal elections.

This same manufactured controversy is getting old.

Do I have to bring out the parable of the old lady and the biker again?

Some sectors of the population just love it when the mainstream legitimizes their bigotry. And politicians long ago discovered that they earn popularity points with them whenever they do or say something against marginalized minorities. Scapegoating can be good for the polls. The power differential means the bullies can have their way; how many Muslim women will get to vote on this bill?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And I Thought my Bike Commute was Bad

Every time I travel on somewhere my bike I experience the heart-pounding feeling of impending death, and plenty of frustration. It seems Torontonians, especially the uptownians, have not yet realized their beloved car culture is dying. My bike commute usually consists of at least a handful of the following: people honking randomly at me as if to say "what are you doing on MY ROAD?", the delivery vehicles in the bike lanes, the cars stopped in the no-stopping-zones, the drivers too lazy to signal their lane change, the three or four cars that go through every red light, and the bike lanes with a 4 lanes of traffic and a raised streetcar right-of-way in the middle (St. Clair & Poplar Plains). Or I get caught in traffic because some impatient yahoo in a huge car wondering what's the blockage ahead (not considering that the blockage is more huge CARS) has to pull all the way over to the right to have a look, leaving not enough inches for wee little me and my wee little bike to get through.

But, I must say, my commute has NOTHING on this guy's.

For One Brief, Shining Moment...

... I came up in the Google blog search under "Laura Bush Breast". I had a whole bunch of perverts find this post on Laura Bush's breast cancer tour. I guess they were disappointed. I'm afraid it wasn't very sexy, what with the lack of boobs and all. Here, try these posts instead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

White Woman in a Pant Suit Rescues the Dark Masses

This article which I noticed while writing my last post annoyed me so much I though it deserved its own post.
Laura Bush helps women in Saudi Arabia
First lady Laura Bush helped launch a screening facility in Saudi Arabia Tuesday as part of a U.S.-Saudi initiative to raise breast cancer awareness in the kingdom where doctors struggle to break long-held taboos about the disease.

Bush's trip to Saudi Arabia, her first to the oil-rich kingdom, is part of a regional tour that aims to highlight the need for countries to share resources and unite in the fight against breast cancer.

"Breast cancer does not respect national boundaries, which is why people from every country must share their knowledge, resources and experience to protect women from this disease," Bush said in a speech at the King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh.

Course we don't expect American pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge, resources, and treatment drugs.
"The cure for breast cancer can come from a researcher in Washington or a young doctor in Riyadh," she added.

Well shut my mouth! They have doctors in the desert?
Bush, who wore a navy blue pant suit, arrived in Riyadh from the United Arab Emirates, her first Mideast stop. Visiting female dignitaries are not required to don the traditional black cloak that all women in Saudi Arabia must wear in public. She was greeted by Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, the king's son, who is honorary president of the Saudi Cancer Society.

She's so modern and advanced, she wears PANTS! But hey, I want to know what the prince wore, too.
Bush visited the Abdul-Latif cancer screening center, the country's first, where she met with Saudi women affected by breast cancer.

She later witnessed the signing the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research agreement at a packed auditorium at the King Fahad Medical City.

Saudi became the third country to take on the program, which was organized by the State Department and includes the Susan G. Komen Foundation with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Before the agreement was signed, Dr. Samia al-Amoudi, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, spoke about the pain she felt when her 10-year-old daughter asked her if she would one day be stricken with the same disease.

She said she told her daughter "hopefully you will be able to tell your children there was once a disease called breast cancer that killed women, but it no longer is the problem it once was."

Al-Amoudi, a gynecologist, said about 70 percent of breast cancer cases in Saudi Arabia will not be reported until they are at a very late stage, compared with 30 percent or less in the U.S. She also said 30 percent of Saudi patients are under 40 years old.

Al-Amoudi said many of the hurdles in Saudi Arabia are not medical. For instance, until recently, it was widely considered socially improper to refer to the disease by name in the kingdom, she said.

"People would refer to breast cancer as 'the bad disease' or 'that disease,'" said al-Amoudi.

"But today, when we talk to the highest levels of authority or are speaking in front of all kinds of media about this issue we name the disease for what it is: breast cancer," she added.

I don't know about you but I think women like this doctor are doing an amazing job on their own. Personally I'd rather hear more of what she has to say. First of all, becoming a doctor (getting through med school) is a hell of an accomplishment for anyone. She is providing essential services to women in her community. She is speaking out despite fear of reprisal (in this context, speaking the name "breast cancer" publicly is an act of bravery). Having the First Lady of America supporting your cause can bring helpful media attention, can maybe even exert pressure on the Saudi state, but how sad is it that women like al-Amoudi are eclipsed by a White Western Wealthy Wife?
Dr. Abdullah al-Amro, head of the King Fahad Medical City, said that almost one-fifth of all women with cancer in Saudi Arabia have breast cancer.

Bush, whose mother and grandmother suffered from breast cancer, was also scheduled to meet with King Abdullah and with breast cancer survivors during her visit. She will then travel to Kuwait, where she will meet with women democratic reformers, legal advocates and business leaders.

Laura Bush last visited the Middle East in 2005, stopping in Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories to promote freedom, education and the role of women.

Ugh. Gag me with a spoon.

Much worse than the story is the picture that went with it:

"Unidentified Saudi female doctor"? You couldn't ask her for her name? And doesn't Bush look so smug? And the darn medical equipment is blocking my view of her perfect perfect pant suit.

Women Being Kidnapped and Sexually Exploited: Oh That's So Odd and Quirky

In recent news of the odd, a man in a position of power extorts sexual favours from women prisoners in exchange for candy. Another man kidnaps a Malaysian woman who turns down his marriage proposal. Haha, that's so odd, so trivial, good for a laugh or two before I go read the real news. You know, the important stuff: makes lots of money.
O.J. Simpson blah blah blah.
AT&T makes lots of money.
Laura Bush raises breast cancer awareness in Saudi Arabia.
New York Times makes lots of money.

Via Shakesville, with this comment:
I don't understand why I need to explain why a woman being kidnapped should not be filed under "odd news," but, because I evidently do, here's the lowdown (again): In recent months, I've read under the heading of "Odd News" stories about a man branding his wife with a hot iron, a man coercing his wife into having plastic surgery to look like his deceased first wife, wives/girlfriends/exes being held against their will in various "odd" places including a coffin, women being traded for "odd" objects or offered as reparations for "odd" transgressions, "odd" forms of abuse against women, and women doing notable things good and bad, that, while newsworthy, only seem to be "odd-worthy" because they were done by women, all reported alongside such frivolous fare as "Chocoholic squirrel steals treats from shop".

More on the Laura Bush Story to come.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Terrorism as a Rational Act of Resistance

I'm tired of hearing people say that suicide bombing and other such acts of terrorism are irrational.

There are many ways to opine about suicide bombing: we can be morally opposed to the specific tactic, we can support it in theory but oppose it in practice, we can be opposed to the ideology behind it, we can support it in some circumstances and not others, we can armchair speculate about its effectiveness, etc.

But we cannot really say that it is an irrational tactic.

Resistance ranges from demonstrations, riots, general strikes, petitions, destruction of property or symbols, and "everyday forms of resistance" such as false compliance, theft, sabotage, foot dragging, popular discourse, etc. Acts of violent resistance are simply one other tactic, and potentially a powerful one, for the weak to influence the strong. As such, they are as rational as any other tactic. Irrational would mean there was no reason behind the act, that it was a senseless act of violence for no purpose. But terrorist acts do have an internal logic and reasoning behind them. There's enough work done in the political sciences and history to prove that. Indeed that is the only premise on which to base an effective strategy to stop terrorism.

So why can't they admit that? Why can't the politicians and pundits oppose an act of terrorism by declaring it a tragedy and a terrible crime, or even by standing in opposition to the ideology espoused by the perpetrators? Why do they call it irrational?

I suppose to say that terrorism is rational is to admit the terrorists aren't so completely different from us, that they aren't inhuman, stupid, or beast-like. Or perhaps admitting respect for one's "enemy" displays a lack of machismo. Or maybe it's just laziness.

There's a desire in politics and punditry for simplicity. That's why stereotypes seem to be everywhere - they are a nice convenient way of avoiding any sort of depth, complexity, heterogeneity, multiplicities, layers, standpoints - you know, reality. The Manichean world view of good v evil is easily mapped onto other binaries, like Civilized/Uncivilized, Freedom/The Commies, Moral/Immoral, HonestHardworkingAmericans/Evildoers, Us/The Terrorists, Rational/Irrational. So you only have to conjure one of these and all the others are assumed. So maybe the word irrational is used as just another synonym for "evil".

Odd, because what "irrationality" is pretty much a synonym for is faith, and I don't mean it derogatorily. Faith, in the Christian sense anyways, is basically the gap between reason and God. What is beyond the rational.

Interesting, too, that the oppressed and marginalized have historically been labeled irrational. Women, people of colour, the colonized, pagans, the mentally ill, sexual "deviants", etc.

Irrational != Immoral
Moral != Rational

(Translation for non-geeks that means "Irrational does not equal Immoral, Moral does not equal Rational)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jena Six Hearing Video

Best line:
Don't we have a system that is essentially using the criminal justice system to do what the Jim Crow system did in the past? Isn't it just an extension?

Via Automatic Preference

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guess Who's Running for US President?

Hint: last week, before he announced his candidacy, he said:
I am not ready to announce yet — even though it's clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative.

It's true. Stephen Colbert is running for '08.

He'll be almost as good as this guy.

In other breaking news (via PoliticsPlus) Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging Against Environmental Apartheid

Today is some kind of blogging for the environment blog action day. So in that spirit, here are some excerpts from a speech by Van Jones (I've seen him - he is an amazing speaker): "Spiritually Fulfilling, Ecologically Sustainable AND Socially Just?"

I want to suggest that there's a communication problem and there are two things that are happening. Number one: it's just very, very hard for white people to hear the pain of the subjugated people in this country.
So we live together in these bubbles that touch, and we call that diversity, but we don't know each other. And when that bubble breaks for just a second and we're face to face with each other, it's very, very hard to hear that reality.

But white supremacy, to use the provocative term, will reinterpret that experience for you; and make it not be about your inability to hear, but be about other people's inability to speak. This is one of the most remarkable things: if you can get this, all doors open. There is the assumption - this is deep, this is deep - there is the assumption that when there’s a breakdown in communication between people of color and white people, that there is an deficiency but that the deficiency is not in white listening, that the deficiency is in black speech. "Why are they so angry?" People start critiquing, and then you find somebody who keeps themselves together just for a little bit and it's, "Oh that one's very eloquent, that one’'s very articulate." Right? Always the assumption is that the deficiency lies with the people of color. "Why don't they care about the environment? What wrong with them, don't they see the big picture? ... What's wrong with them? Maybe they are just too poor or busy, because certainly there is nothing wrong with our speech!"
If it was just that you could show up and be heroic and save the polar bears that would be a boring ass movie. That's not the movie! You show up to be the hero and you discover just like Luke Skywalker, "Wait a minute, the dark side is in me! Wait a minute; my father is the originator of many of the problems that I am now trying to solve. Wait a minute, I can't just fight now the war monger without, the polluter without, the incarcerator without, the clear cutter without - I've got to fight the war monger within. I've got to fight the polluter within."
People are always talking about their comfort zones, you ever heard that expression: "this is outside of my comfort zone"? Grow your goddamn comfort zone then, okay? 'Cause we are running out of time.
I've sat with all these people who we think are in charge, and they don't know what to do. Take that in: they don't know what to do! You think you're scared? You think you're terrified? They have the Pentagon's intelligence, they have every major corporation's input; Shell Oil that has done this survey and study around the peak oil problem. You think we've got to get on the Internet and say, "Peak oil!" because the system doesn't know about it? They know, and they don't know what to do. And they are terrified that if they do anything they'll lose their positions. So they keep juggling chickens and chainsaws and hope it works out just like most of us everyday at work.
There's a pathway back to community that we have to walk. I have to give up something, I have to give up my right to be mad at white folks, 'cause that's not going to make a difference for my child. But white people have to give up something too, which is their right to stay ignorant about all of this. You have a perfect right to be ignorant about all of this and you'll be great people, honestly. You could lead big environmental organizations, you could lead spirituality retreats, you could do all kinds of stuff and you will get cookies and congratulations and people will cry at your funeral. You have a perfect right to not care about any of this. There just won't be any human family left.

Via Gristmill. More on Van Jones and eco-apartheid. You can also watch him speak, short:

or longer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Update: Burma - It's not good news

Harrowing accounts smuggled out of Burma reveal how a systematic campaign of physical punishment and psychological terror is being waged by the Burmese security forces as they take revenge on those suspected of involvement in last month’s pro-democracy uprising.

The first-hand accounts describe a campaign hidden from view, but even more sinister and terrifying than the open crackdown in which the regime’s soldiers turned their bullets and batons on unarmed demonstrators in the streets of Rangoon, killing at least 13. At least then, the world was watching.

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nothing Like Commemorating a Revolutionary Leader by Slapping his Face on a Bikini

Photo from BBC

... 40 years after his death, Che - born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna - is as much a marketing tool as an international revolutionary icon. Which raises the question of what exactly does the sheer proliferation of his image - the distant gaze, the scraggly beard and the beret adorned with a star - mean in a decidedly capitalist world? <Common Dreams>

Friday, October 05, 2007

My Last Conversation With Aung San Suu Kyi

By John Pilger, on Znet:
As the people of Burma rise up again, we have had a rare sighting of Aung San Suu Kyi. There she stood, at the back gate of her lakeside home in Rangoon, where she is under house arrest. She looked very thin. For years, people would brave the roadblocks just to pass by her house and be reassured by the sound of her playing the piano. She told me she would lie awake listening for voices outside and to the thumping of her heart. "I found it difficult to breathe lying on my back after I became ill, she said."

That was a decade ago. Stealing into her house, as I did then, required all the ingenuity of the Burmese underground. My film-making partner David Munro and I were greeted by her assistant, Win Htein, who had spent six years in prison, five of them in solitary confinement. Yet his face was open and his handshake warm. He led us into the house, a stately pile fallen on hard times. The garden with its ragged palms falls down to Inya Lake and to a trip wire, a reminder that this was the prison of a woman elected by a landslide in 1990, a democratic act extinguished by generals in ludicrous uniforms.

It's sort of hard to read or listen to an interview with Aung San Suu Kyi and not fall just a little bit in love. She has distinguished herself as one of the great heroic figures of our time, although she is quick to dismiss it:
"People I've spoken to regard you as something of a saint, a miracle worker."

"I'm not a saint and you'd better tell the world that!" "Where are your sinful qualities, then?"

"Er, I've got a short temper."

"What happened to your piano?"

"You mean when the string broke? In this climate pianos do deteriorate and some of the keys were getting stuck, so I broke a string because I was pumping the pedal too hard."

"You lost it ... you exploded?"

"I did."

"It's a very moving scene. Here you are, all alone, and you get so angry you break the piano."

"I told you, I have a hot temper."

I tend to disagree with hero worship, since it discounts the daily struggles of the people. But a hero provides an entry point, an interviewable spokesperson, and 30-second sound bytes that drive today's media. Put simply, a hero gets on TV. And a hero can more easily be emulated. Aung San Suu Kyi may not be a saint, but she is indeed a hero, and so are the monks, the Karen, and other regular people in Burma. Their people power faces the immense military power of the junta; we in the West could certainly learn from them.

... no matter the regime's physical power, in the end they can't stop the people; they can't stop freedom. We shall have our time.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People

Playing this weekend at The Brunswick Theatre in Toronto, Reel Bad Arabs shows the persistence of negative stereotypes of Arabs in film and the effect it has had in dehumanizing Arabs and Arab culture.

Also a shorter trailer here. Also check out the trailer for Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class

Make Me a Reading List - Open Thread

I've been so busy lately I've been unable to do the rounds and visit all of my favourite blogs. So I invite you to help me prioritize.

Leave a comment with one of your most important recent blog posts with a short description, and, time permitting, I will visit it. Hooray for free links!

Thanks everyone!

In return, here are a couple of comics relating to Bush's veto of the children's health insurance bill:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The end of civilization as we know it!

This funny video comes to us from Vote for MMP. Only 2:16 long. If you like it, rate it 5 stars and favourite it. We've only got a week left 'til the referendum.

Just in case you need more information, here's Ten Reasons to Vote for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sending Good Vibes for Alabama

I'm thinking of starting a new charity. I think I'll name it Magic Wands for Montgomery. Or maybe
Bunnies for Birmingham.

This is necessary because, sadly for Alabamians, the sale of sex toys has been illegal in Alabama for 9 years (something that is unlikely to change following The United States Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear the case).

An adult-store owner had asked the justices to throw out the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the privacy of the bedroom. But the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, leaving intact a lower court ruling that upheld the law.

Sherri Williams, owner of Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur, said she was disappointed, but plans to sue again on First Amendment free speech grounds.

"My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up," she said.

Alabama's anti-obscenity law, enacted in 1998, bans the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value."

So this is a call to all women to take pity on the women of Alabama, cruelly denied the pleasure of a pocket rocket. Our sisters need us! Send good vibes for Alabama.

Via Boing Boing.