Sunday, October 26, 2008

Visual Hybridity

Apparently not everyone gets or agrees with the social construction of race. There are still people who are shocked when they find out that there's no biological basis for our racial categories whatsoever. These interesting photographs illustrate how we construct the race of people of blended heritage. All via Sociological Images.

First, the image on the right is of little Barack Obama with his grandfather (Stanley Dunham) who looks remarkably like the picture on the left of the adult Obama (although the picture looks slightly stretched to me).
Obama, to my eye, is the spitting image of his grandfather. Yet, we see Obama and Dunham as separate races, members of two categories we see as diametrically opposed, even biologically distinct. <rest>

Then this photo project makes us question how we assign racial or ethnic categories by providing faces that are difficult to categorize.
This project consists of a series of 16 color portraits of people of mixed ethnic origin in front of primary color backgrounds. The images challenge the concept of race by highlighting the disparity between the stark natural boundaries between the primary colors, and the ambiguous and artificial, yet commonly accepted boundaries between the different races. This project asks the viewer to question the existence of race in nature.

The aim of the portraits is to strip our idea of race down to its elements. It is in this nakedness that the viewer watches the races literally dissolve in front of their face like so many moth-eaten clothes. The tone is neither confrontational nor ironic, but rather unassuming in its directness

Finally, this story of fraternal twins - one "white" and one "black". Well, actually both are of mixed race, as are their parents. Over at SI, she uses this example "to illustrate how skin color (which is real) is translated into categorical racial categories (which are not)."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Anti-Capitalist, Anti-statist Goals and Strategies

It should be quite obvious, but apparently it’s not, that we can’t devise an anarchist revolutionary strategy until we have a clear idea of what it is we’re trying to achieve.

Regrettably, there has been a vigorous ban on thinking about the future society we want[...]

This lack of attention to the goal is a tragedy, because although it’s true that we live in potentially calamitous times, what with peak oil, climate warming, and the more general crisis of capitalism, we also live in exciting times. A window of opportunity has opened up to create at long last a decentered world, without capitalism, states, or god, a world of democratic autonomous communities.

There are at least two important reasons for this opening. One is the near total collapse of the prevailing social philosophies which have underpinned capitalism to date. Conservatism is dead, as is liberalism... Neoliberalism this second time around through these past forty years has exposed as probably nothing else could have the absolutely destructive, vicious, murderous, immoral, and insane nature of the practices of capitalists.

A second and perhaps more important reason for this historical opening is the possible demise of capitalism itself. At least one eminent anti-capitalist scholar, Immanuel Wallerstein, believes that world capitalism has reached its limits, and faces structural restraints that it will not be able to overcome. He believes we are entering a period of chaos, a time of transition between capitalism and whatever comes next. Whether he is right or not I guess only time will tell.

But at the very least, we know that the century of the USAmerican Empire is coming to an end, and that even if capitalism survives there will be a period of confusion before a new hegemon can establish itself.
Fortunately for us, anarchy, humanity, and the world, many anarchists pretty much ignored the ban on imagining the future.
Actually then, we are not in trouble at all as regards the goal. There is no reason for us to be confused or apologetic about what we want. There is a solid historical consensus on what we want. We want to get the ruling classes off our backs. We don’t want to be exploited or alienated. We don’t want to be slaves. We want to be a self-governing people, free and autonomous.
There is great power in social organization. Revolution means rearranging ourselves socially.... These social forms [e.g.assemblies, cooperatives] will enable us to escape wage-slavery and embed ourselves instead in cooperative labor. They will enable us to get out of commodity markets and build a world based on mutual aid and gift giving. They will enable us to become a self-governing people, free and autonomous in our local communities, and to establish an association of such communities. This is a plausible, realistic strategy.

You see, it is not enough to seize the means of production. We must take all decision making away from the capitalist ruling class and relocate it into our assemblies. To do so we must shift the focus of our attention to these three strategic sites [neighbourhood, workplace, household], and away from protest politics, identity politics, labor unions, and single issue campaigns, which are not getting us very far toward defeating capitalists and establishing anarchy.

What I like about this particular liberatory anti-statist approach is that it works in the interstices, something talked about more and more these days as the vast juggernauts of states and transnational corporations seem impossible to affect. Not to mention they are the only thing we know at the moment - you can't destroy a company someone works for or the state that pays their social security and expect them to be grateful! We need to create positive alternatives, and we need to make sure our movements practice deeply democratic egalitarian principles.

Although I don't agree with abandoning more-or-less failed strategies like electoral politics, identity politics, marches and rallies etc. (I think they do serve an important purpose) I definitely agree it important to connect movements, and work on alternative strategies. Read the rest of this interesting article by James Herod

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Illusion of Independence - A Rambleogue

More than ever I am convinced that Marx (and others, including many feminist thinkers) have been right when they remind us that humans are quintessentially social. We require community, in the most robust sense of the word, and human nature can only be understood relationally. Indeed, without living in community, can we even truly be called human?

Thrown out alone in the wilderness, the human individual can only last so long, even though the body might survive (survival is possible, though very difficult without shared resources as a sort of insurance, until the day you get too old, sick, or otherwise weakened to provide food and water for yourself). But in order to express our humanity, do we not need other people? Is this not why solitary confinement is such a harsh punishment?

We tend to forget this, and think of ourselves first and foremost as autonomous individuals, who choose to live in relation with others. Capitalism fosters this illusion, its forces trying to make us into competitive individuals, "free" from societal constraints as much as possible. In this view, freedom follows a consumption model of choice - freedom means choosing how to spend our dollar, or with whom we spend our time. The end result is often shallow relationships, a sense of restlessness, alienation, loneliness and unhappiness. (Despite this, we often do manage to have deep and abiding and satisfying relationships, which is a testament to just how unnatural the absolute individualist model is.)

In fact, I would say the only reason we are able to hold the illusion of our autonomous individuality is because of the protections and comforts our wider society affords. It provides for us many of the things that a small community once might have. So many fundamental shared institutions underwrite our individual activities. Without infrastructure, a measure of security and stability, relative agreement about social norms, regulation of some aspects of industry etc we could not live a life that seems independent and autonomous. And yet precisely because these things are simply there, taken for granted, largely provided by a faceless state or society, we tend to forget how much we depend on them. It is the communal wealth and social capital provided by the state and society that allows us to imagine we are independent, to forget our interdependence.

In some ways, the current financial crisis is driving home this exact point. When faced with an economy in crisis, the myth of the self-made man seems a little silly, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Liveblogging Debates

Yeah, I'm getting in on the action too...

So far, so good - nice pacing.

Checking the jobs stat that Harper threw out...

What's with Harper's blue lasers-for-eyes? Creepy the way he looks at his opponents while they talk.

I'm tired of Stevie lying about the Green Shift. I hope Canadians DO go and read it, as Harper recommended, so they can see it is revenue-freaking-neutral. I'm not even a Liberal supporter, but it's a pretty good plan.

Lizzie is a great addition. I don't agree with everything she's saying, but her input is very welcome. She is bringing in some really important facts.

And over in the USA, both VPs agree that same sex marriage is baaaaaaad.

The Gentlemen and Lady are making many good points. I certainly think the centre-leftists are "winning" though Harper is not doing too badly considering...

Good moderation. Nice work, Paikin (aside: I met him at a taping of The Agenda once and he's really tall)

blah blah blah - getting boring - complex issues don't always lend themselves well to 45 second politicking.

It's been like the superbowl, just missing a halftime show. Maybe next election

Blame the Poor (and the minorities, and social justice movements) for the Financial Crisis

Did you know the current financial crisis is the fault of poor (which means lazy and immoral) Americans and brown and black people. Not only them, but evil socialist Carter and Clinton and probably Obama, too. ... whaaaa?

Have you noticed recently everywhere you look, someone is blaming visible minorities and the poor (or organizations and governments that support them)? New talking point starting to catch on? (Too many people listening to Neil Cavuto: "Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."?) Every online article - even in Canada - has at least one comment now to that effect. Just today:

The Star - top of second page:
The Democrats, over the years, in their zeal for social interventions created the perfect storm and then failed to step up when it hit. Their policies, especially Clinton's threats to banks over "discriminatory banking" paved the way for the "poor" to get mortgages that a free market would have never permitted. This caused as housing bubble they resulted in many people paying inflated prices for housing. When questioned about this practice the Democrats threw up charges as ridiculous as racism (many unqualified mortgage holders were minorities) and refused to listen or investigate the concerns. This bit of social engineering by bullying the free market has done a lot of damage. Perhaps voters will pay attention to political parties who will damage economies to push their socialist goals. There is only so much money available for social programs and the economy can't be pillaged to find more. The Democrats control the House and they must find a solution acceptable to enough Democrats.

CBC: comment on 10/2/2008 9:04 AM EDT
One of the major 'stories' I see missing in all this coverage is how we wound up here in the first place. Wall Street, lenders and banks get blamed but no one examines how or why they were able to 'set up' the subprime mess.

Answer? Go back to Jimmy Carter in 1977 and the Community Reinvestment Act which essentially forced banks to make loans to people without sufficient credit history to warrant loans under regular credit terms.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were set up to essentially guarantee those poor quality loans which gave the incentive to make more loans. Banks were also mandated to provide those loans and were graded on the number of subprime loans they made. They could be penalized if they didn't make subprime loans.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became safe havens for US Democrats who insulated themselves from regulatory oversight thanks to Clinton and other powerful US democrats. Obama has represented a radical group (ACORN) in court to press for subprime loans.

In short, capitalism, traders, investors are not to blame for this mess, look instead to naive pandering socialists and their pie-in-the-sky legislation.

Interesting that everyone is blaming Bush (who tried something like 17 times to reign in Fannie and Freddie but was fought by the same 'senators' screeching so loudly today) and Conservatives for a Democratic mess that they set up, perpetuated and protected.

Not that I think Clinton's policies were so great - mostly because they were too similar to the Republicans' - but to blame this crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act and the people it helped is ridiculous, not to mention false:
The CRA just affected banks and thrifts, which are regulated. 'The heart of the crisis was caused by unregulated and lightly regulated mortgage brokers and independent mortgage bankers and affiliates that are not subject to the CRA,' says law professor Michael Barr.

A good round-up of the debunking here: 11 Racist Lies Conservatives Tell to Avoid Blaming Wall Street for the Financial Crisis

So, aside from the fact that their argument is false, why does this matter?
One could certainly oppose the CRA on principle. But simply shoe-horning that argument into the current crisis connects the argument with an ugly, ugly history. One of the most disturbing aspects of racism is how whites have historically used the black community as a kind of sin-eater for their own moral shortcomings. So post-slavery, even as sexual assaults on black women were virtually never prosecuted or punished, whites concocted the myth of the rapacious, sex-crazed black ogre and organized mass lynchings to purge themselves of the beast. Of course they were really purging themselves of their own guilt. So today as we pay the price for becoming overconsumers, we now hear voices telling us that the real problem is that the niggers and spics are overconsumers. It is from the conservative disciples of the same people who historically defended southern white thuggery that we get this novel theory. It's hard to not wheel around and hurl large objects across long living rooms when faced with such brazen displays of cowardice, and blatant punk-assness. But as I've said, it's best not to dwell on these people. At night, when no one is around, they know who they are. And now, so do we.<Ta-Nehisi Coates>

Monday, September 29, 2008

Canadians far more progressive than politicians think

Stephen Harper says Canadians have become more conservative in the past 20 years but he provides very little evidence of this.

In fact, even facing the weakest and most ineffective Liberal party in a generation, he cannot persuade more than 40 per cent of Canadians to say they will vote Conservative. In fact, all kinds of polls and in-depth studies of Canadian values suggest just the opposite: They are more progressive in their attitudes regarding the role of government.

The problem is, they have been convinced that their values will not or cannot find their way into public policy. It's not Canadians' values that have changed – it is their expectations.

Yearly polling by Ekos suggests that while the Canadian political and economic elite have become more conservative – that is, believing in a very limited role for government – everyone else sticks tenaciously to the view that government can be and should be a force for good. <Toronto Star>

This certainly did not surprise me. Most Canadians share relatively progressive values such as equality, social justice, collective rights, full employment and regulation of business - all things which "were low on the elite's preference list and high on the general public's."

The question is - how have we given up believing that these things are possible when we clearly believe they are moral imperatives?

I know I haven't been blogging much lately. I've been incredibly busy, and probably will continue my irregular posting for the next couple of months.

p.s. also check out A little problem with capitalism in which Thomas Walkom reminds us that "the financial crisis gripping the U.S. isn't an anomaly. We just have short memories." We forget that since capitalism began to be scrutinized and theorized, really smart people have noted its internal contradictions and inherent instability.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Economic Crisis?

For decades we've watched passively as poor people and people of color have lost jobs, and faced a weakened net of social protection in the U.S. as the conservatives seemed to convince the American majority that the marketplace was fair, and that hence people who were not doing well had no one to blame but themselves. It was wrong to over-tax rich people, we were told, because they had taken the risk of investing in projects that could fail, so the public had no claim on their huge profits when they succeeded. The bailouts that the marketplace have required in the past, and now once again with the bailout of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, demonstrate the emptiness of this argument.

The reality? When poor people fail to flourish economically, the government shrugs its shoulders and gives a pittance of relief. But when super-giant firms fail, and the wealthy are endangered, the government, with the votes of many erstwhile conservatives, jumps to the rescue.
It reminds me of an old saying: "When is it a "recession?" When YOU lose your job. When is it a "depression?" When I lose MY job!" Too many of the people who are suffering today were all too willing to allow others to suffer when it was "just" in a community of "people of color" or people with a "lower class status." Now, they are upset when it is they who the larger society is abandoning.
Here we get to the fundamental contradiction of antagonism to "big government." The whole point of having a democratic government originally was to create an institution to provide the kind of hands-on-caring that we couldn't do if we want to keep working and making a living. "Government" then, is the institution that should be the manifestation of our caring for each other. Instead, it has been largely shaped by the interests of the wealthy and the powerful, who use government to protect their own interests and honestly believe that their own interests are the public good. And as more and more people begin to see government failing to give a real priority to being an instrument of mutual caring, they get more and more incensed at having to pay taxes for this king of reality. Unable to imagine any other reality as "realistic," many people decide that their only refuge is to resist taxation and support candidates who promise to lower their taxes. The resentment of government that the Right plays upon is based in a correct assessment that too often it fails to serve the needs of ordinary people but only the needs of the insiders and their friends.
Is is precisely in these moments that people turn toward fascistic forces that promise order and discipline and control over what seems to be out of control. If they cannot hear a reasonable and common-sense analysis of what is happening to them from the Left, they will turn toward the fantasies of the Right-- a return to less complex realities of small town America, hoping against hope for a return to the "good old days" when (in their fantasy, but not in reality) things were simpler and more straightforward and you could take care of yourself, shoot a moose or deer or buffalo for dinner, and rely on neighbors' generosity when you needed help. But don't blame this on the stupidity of the American people. They are looking for clear answers and solutions, and so far what they hear from the Democrats is confusion and an unwillingness to really confront the real sources of the problem in any straightforward way. They don't want policy wonks--they want someone to name the reality and give an ethically and spiritually coherent vision of what to do about it. Unless they hear that, they will look for others who have some willingness to present a coherent (though in our view, deeply distorted) set of solutions ...

Once again, the responsibility is on ordinary citizens to stand up and talk back to the politicians in both parties, and to do so in a way that demands a new set of values to run our economy, so that materialism and selfishness is put on the defensive and caring for each other becomes the central motif. It is only when some serious political leaders are willing to make that the center of their campaign, to demand that love, generosity and caring for others is the shaping force determining their policies, that the American people will be able to take that part of their consciousness that wants such a world but believes it impossible, and finally transcend their fears and act on their highest desires rather than sinking into the other fearful part of their consciousness that leads them to seek magical solutions in repression and denial of much of what they know about the failures of the economy and of our foreign policy..

By Rabbi Michael Lerner
From The Network of Spiritual Progressives
I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but I think this is a pretty good analysis, and one which reminds us of the ethical and social dimension of economics.

Sorry for all the U.S.- centric posts lately! I know we have our own election going on. Much more to blog on, from puffin poop to sweater vests...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Drawing Away the Pain - US Election Edition

At least this crazy election gives the cartoonists lots of good material to work with.

Tom Toles

From Cagle Cartoons

From Boiling Point Blog

From Matt Bors' Idiot Box

From Bendib

I think you get the point.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Misspelled Signs at the RNC

Did anyone else notice the number of signs at the recent Republican convention that had words misspelled?

This one from English failblog:

Got any more?

Of course, speeeling correctly is elitist...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

History Lesson: Mugabe and Zimbabwe

This is from a review of Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland, which I haven't read but which looks pretty interesting. It also happens to be a pretty good historical summary of Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

In 1957, Ghana became the first European colony in Africa south of the Sahara to gain its political independence. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s new prime minister, invited young Africans from countries still under colonial rule to move to Ghana and help build the new country; a young schoolteacher from Rhodesia, Robert Mugabe, was among them.

In 1960, during a visit home to his mother, Mugabe was invited to join a march protesting the arrest of two nationalist leaders in the Rhodesian capital, Salisbury. Facing police, the marchers stopped to hold an impromptu political rally. Somehow Mugabe found himself hoisted onto the improvised stage alongside other leaders like Joshua Nkomo, who headed the leading black opposition group, the National Democratic Party. Mugabe gave a rousing speech (“The nationalist movement will only succeed if it is based on a blending of all classes of men”) and the nationalist leaders convinced him to remain in Rhodesia and become publicity secretary of the NDP, which soon morphed into the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). Three years later, Mugabe engineered a split within ZAPU to form the Zimbabwe African National Union. He would dominate the country’s politics from that moment on.

Nothing about Mugabe’s earlier life portended his swift rise, the South African journalist Heidi Holland notes in her “psychobiography” Dinner with Mugabe. Born in 1924 in Kutama, in the central part of the country, Mugabe was a shy, precocious child. When Robert was 10 years old, his father, a carpenter, moved away to start a second family and broke off all contact. Mugabe’s mother clung devotedly to the Catholic Church and to Robert. She told him he was marked for greatness and sent him for a Jesuit education (Mugabe is still a devoted Catholic.) Mugabe would go on to study in South Africa at the University of Fort Hare, the alma mater of Nelson Mandela and other nationalist leaders. He started teaching after graduation, and soon made his way to Ghana.

The Rhodesia that Mugabe returned to in 1960 was a tense, violent country, especially for its black population. The former British colony was governed by a small, tightly-knit and mainly English-speaking white settler population who had been granted “self-rule” by the British at the expense of the country’s black majority. Whites had first arrived in Zimbabwe in the 19th century as part of an aggressive British colonial expansion north from South Africa in search of natural resources. The new arrivals, through a mixture of force and cunning, eventually dispossessed the locals of their land. In 1896 blacks rose up in what would come to be known as the “First Chimurenga”, or liberation war. Though they fought valiantly, they lost and colonisation was formalised. By the 1950s, nearly 80 per cent of the best agricultural land belonged to whites. Most blacks were condemned to life on rural reserves, burdened by heavy taxes that forced men to work on commercial farms and mines or move to the ghettos of Salisbury or Rhodesia’s second city, Bulawayo, in search of wage-work. The country’s whites gradually developed a distinctive political identity and a reputation for unbending racism and prejudice.

In a 1960 speech in Cape Town the British prime minister Harold Macmillan told South Africa’s white rulers that “the wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.” The South Africans rejected Macmillan’s advice, digging in for another three decades of undemocratic rule. Five years later the Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith announced a “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” from Britain, vowing that blacks would not govern Rhodesia “in a thousand years.”

By this point Mugabe’s new movement, ZANU, had grown into the main opposition force, largely due to its exploitation of ethnic differences. ZANU was dominated by the majority Shona; Nkomo’s ZAPU became associated with the minority Ndebele. In 1964, Mugabe was arrested, and he spent 10 years in prison before he was released as part of an agreement between the Rhodesian government and ZANU guerrillas, by now engaged in a full-scale civil war. Mugabe’s only son died (at age three) during his prison term, and Smith refused to allow him to attend the funeral; in Holland’s account, these slights had a lasting effect on Mugabe.

Holland first met Mugabe in 1975 in Salisbury, where she worked as magazine editor. She arranged for a lawyer friend to meet Mugabe secretly at her suburban home. Over dinner Mugabe said little, but impressed Holland nonetheless: driving Mugabe to the train station after the meeting (his ride had failed to materialise), Holland left her small son asleep alone in the house. The next day, Mugabe called to check that the child was OK.

Over the next 30 years Holland had no further contact with Mugabe, who went on to lead a brutal guerrilla war that would eventually exhaust the government and the appetite of white Rhodesians for segregation at all costs. In the late 1970s, the regime – stripped of British support and abandoned by South Africa’s Apartheid rulers (and their backers in the US Republican Party) – initiated negotiations with the black opposition.

But the war also bred elements of the political culture that independent Zimbabwe would later inherit: the use of violence to settle political scores and to obliterate opponents, disregard for human rights, slavish reverence for authority, ideological rigidness and corruption.

ZANU won a majority in the first democratic elections in 1980, and Mugabe was initially conciliatory to whites, guaranteeing them seats in the new Parliament (one went to Smith) and appointing a white man as agriculture minister. But barely two years into independence – under the pretext of fighting an attempted coup by guerrillas loyal to Nkomo, who had become the opposition leader – Mugabe unleashed a murderous, North Korean-trained army unit in the ZAPU-dominated Matabeleland province, indiscriminately killing civilians and guerrillas alike.

A report by the Catholic Bishops conference later estimated the total number of murdered or disappeared at more than 20,000 people. But Mugabe achieved his political aim: in 1987 he coerced a weak Nkomo into accepting a “Unity Accord”, effectively swallowing ZAPU into the new ZANU-Patriotic Front. Not long thereafter, Mugabe changed the constitution to make himself executive president.

One of the legacies of that time – and a testament of the power of the nationalist narrative that African independence leaders embodied – is that few if any of Mugabe’s present Western critics publicly denounced these murders. Instead he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 and honorary degrees from American universities. The economy was growing steadily even in the hostile shadow of Apartheid South Africa and access to education and health services markedly improved. As Lord Corrington, the British foreign secretary during independence negotiations, tells Holland: “But other than the killing of the Ndebele, it went tolerably well under Mugabe at first, didn’t it? He wasn’t running a fascist state. He didn’t appear to be a bad dictator.”

In 1995, street riots erupted in the capital against rising prices and unemployment. A mineworker, Morgan Tsvangirai, who would emerge as Mugabe’s most formidable opponent, led the newly formed Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Academics, human rights activists and lawyers would later join the trade unions to form the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Their main political focus, alongside protesting economic hardship, was reforming the country’s constitution. Mugabe pushed back by announcing a referendum in 2000 to increase his powers and extend his tenure as president. Much to his surprise, the referendum failed, and he was clearly stung by the result.

With parliamentary elections looming and an opposition buoyed by the referendum, ZANU-PF unleashed what Mugabe termed the “Third Chimurenga”. (The guerrilla war against the Rhodesian government had been the second.) This involved an effort at land redistribution; the British were blamed for abandoning promises to fund the acquisition of private commercial farms to distribute to black farmers. Whites, who still owned much of the productive land and who had reluctantly come to accept independence, also provided easy targets.

Squatters identified as “war veterans” (among them were 18-year-olds who could not have fought in the guerrilla war that ended before they were born) soon invaded white farms. But it became clear that redistribution was in the eye of the beholder: the best farms were parcelled out to Mugabe’s cabinet ministers and senior army officers.

A few whites were brutally attacked, and their plight predictably became front-page news in the West. In the British Parliament, members spoke once again of “the people of Rhodesia”. Peter Godwin, a white journalist born in Zimbabwe, later claimed that being white in post-independence Zimbabwe was “starting to feel a bit like being a Jew in Poland in 1939.” What was not apparent at first was that – just like in Smith’s Rhodesia – the bulk of the victims were black: members of the opposition were murdered, tortured or imprisoned. Journalists were harassed, newspaper offices closed or bombed and people denied food if they failed to join ZANU.

In 2002 Mugabe was re-elected to another six year term in an election marred by fraud and violence, and condemned as deeply flawed by both Zimbabwean and foreign observers. Since then Zimbabwe’s economy has crashed – there is large-scale poverty and the currency is essentially worthless. Thousands have fled to neighbouring South Africa (whose president, Thabo Mbeki, remains a loyal ally of Mugabe, though his party and the South African trade union movement have backed the Zimbabwean opposition.)

During this period, Mugabe and his closest aides became more delusional and their government took on a siege mentality. Holland’s account of Mugabe’s political career is book ended with an account of her second meeting with Mugabe in 2007. She describes a banner in his office proclaiming “Mugabe is Right” and his insistence that Zimbabwe’s economy is a “hundred times better than the average African economy.”

On March 29 of this year, Zimbabweans went to the polls again in presidential elections. The opposition was again subjected to intimidation and violence by ZANU paramilitaries; Morgan Tsvangirai was viciously assaulted by police. However, as the first results arrived, it appeared Tsvangirai held a clear lead. The next day the electoral commission, stuffed with government sympathizers, announced that it would delay the results. A month later, following announcements from the army and police that they would not serve an MDC government, a final result was announced: Tsvangirai had won, but not by enough. So an unprecedented second round was scheduled, and intimidation and attacks on opposition candidates and supporters increased. Days before the vote Tsvangirai – citing high levels of violence – withdrew, guaranteeing Mugabe a hollow victory.

Southern African governments belatedly stepped in, forcing Mugabe to meet with Tsvangirai to thrash out the details of a unity government. The best scenario under the circumstances is for Mugabe to retain a ceremonial presidential post while Tsvangirai serves as prime minister with a fair representation of MDC leaders in key cabinet posts. But who occupies State House is not only the issue to resolve.

Larger questions remain about Mugabe’s legacy – and Zimbabwe’s future. Mugabe turned the security and civil services into affiliates of the ruling party, rigged elections, encouraged paramilitaries and stifled public debate. Under the cover of Third-Worldism he also mocked real political grievances – as varied as land hunger and unequal global relations – to forward his own selfish, violent agenda. In the West, he became an example of a supposedly black and specifically African, political pathology. But those critics must now come to terms with the fact that his regime is not an aberration, as Holland depicts it: it is also a by-product of Zimbabwe’s violent colonial and white minority past and the duplicity of the post-Cold War world.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe demonstrates, among other things, that nationalism as a political ideology is fundamentally flawed, despite its role in the successful struggle for independence. The MDC clearly presents a rupture with the predatory regimes of both Smith and Mugabe, and it bodes well that the MDC was forged as a non-violent post-independence movement. But it remains to be seen whether it can carve its own path between neoliberalism (as its boosters in the West want) and appeals from its constituents inside Zimbabwe for more substantive democracy, including a solution to the land question. But first there’s the small matter of consigning Mugabe to history.

Sean Jacobs teaches African Studies and Media Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He was born in South Africa.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Pox on the Age of Digital Media!

Damn digital camcorders and youtube! Damn independent media! How can we run a good old fashioned repressive regime when you are constantly reporting the truth?
A little tip: if you are going to make a ridiculous arrest of someone at a protest, you might want to make sure that the person is not a reporter for one of the biggest independent media outlets in the country. Sheesh.

Amy Goodman and Two Democracy Now! Producers Unlawfully Arrested At the RNC


September 1, 2008

Denis Moynihan 917-549-5000
Mike Burke 646-552-5107,

ST. PAUL, MN—Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police violently manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her. Video of her arrest can be seen here:

Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.

Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).

Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.

During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.

Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism's top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar is a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation's leading independent news outlet.

Democracy Now! is a nationally syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.

Video of Amy Goodman's Arrest:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blinky's got competition

No longer can Blinky claim to be the most famous mutant fish. At least not in Alberta.

Mutated fish alarms delegates at northern Alberta water gathering
Days before a conference on water quality began in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., last week, residents say a strange fish with two mouths was found at the nearby lake.

The deformed fish, which residents say children had caught off the dock at Lake Athabasca, has since been turned over to park wardens at Wood Buffalo National Park. Some residents, including officials from the Mikisew Cree First Nation, took photographs of the fish over the weekend.

It was found just days before the Keepers of the Water conference began Friday in Fort Chipewyan. The conference wrapped up on Sunday.

The event brought together western and northern Canadian aboriginal leaders and environmental activists, all of whom expressed concern with the quality of water in the Athabasca River, downstream from oilsands development in Fort McMurray.

"It's already mutating the animals, the pollution that they're causing. We need to do something quickly," Shaylene Wiley, a 16-year-old Mikisew Cree delegate, told CBC News during the weekend gathering.

"It's scary when you think about it," delegate Lionel Lepine added.

"For me, personally, it does piss me off, you know, knowing that it's not under my control right now. It's the Government of Canada that has the control over it; they have monopoly over our land. But industry … somehow they got the licence to pollute."

Said one commenter: 'That's one political fish! One blind eye to ignore the reality of the tar sands and two mouths to talk like politicians from Alberta when they defend the oil industry.' --HuntingTheSnark

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pray At The Pump movement brings down our gas prices

Praise be to Market Forces Rocky Twyman and his homedude, God. The Pray at the Pump movement, previously blogged about here, is taking credit for the recent drop in oil prices.

I'm not making this up.
[Twymans's] first pilgrimage to the pump was prompted by fellow volunteers at the First Seventh Day Adventist Church in Petworth, a working-class neighbourhood of the US capital, who were struggling with higher gasoline prices.

He led them down the block to the local Shell gas station to pray. And over the months since then, he has held similar prayer meetings at pumps all over the US.

Prayer warriors

"We were down in Huntsville, Alabama. We finished praying," Mr Twyman said. "Immediately the owners came out and changed the gas prices. They brought it down. We had marvellous success down in St Louis, Missouri."

Still, they don't believe in prayer without action and have been advocating a change in driving behaviour: "So we've encouraged people to car-pool more and organise their days more, because it's a combination of faith with these other factors."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

If Orwell Were a Blogger

Today I saw the first post of the Orwell Diaries (in which he catches a snake). Originally written August 9, 1938, now published in blog format. Keep an eye on the blog, as each of his entries is published exactly 70 years later. The idea is to get an impression of the man behind the words.
What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which start on 9th August), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell's perceptive eye and rebellion against the 'gramophone mind' he so despised are obvious.

Orwell wrote of what he saw in Dickens: 'He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.'


Friday, August 08, 2008

The Inside and Outside of Bodies and Transgression of Boundaries

I'm reading a really interesting book right now by Robyn Longhurst, called Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries. She is attempting to embody geography, to bring material bodies into academic discourse, and she makes some very interesting points. So I thought I would like to share a few cool quotes.

First, on "managerial bodies in public space", she writes:
I argue, first, that highly tailored, dark-coloured (often black, dark grey or navy) business suits function to seal the bodies of (men and women) managers. Firm, straight lines and starched creases give the appearance of a body that is impervious to outside penetration. They also give the appearance of a body that is impervious to the dangers and threats of matter from inside the body making its way to the outside. It is considered inappropriate for matter to make its way from the inside to the outside of bodies (for example, farting, burping, urinating, spitting, dribbling, sneezing, coughing, having a ‘runny nose’, crying, and sweating) in most inner city workplaces. This suited, professional, respectable body, however, can never be guaranteed. Like all bodies it is continually monitored and disciplined but inevitably proves itself to be insecure.

It made me wonder, why are we disgusted and/or embarrassed and/or frightened by the transgression of things on the inside of our bodies appearing on the outside? For instance, blood:

An advertisement for sanitary napkins (pads)... showed blue liquid being poured on and seeping into the pad. The aim seemed to be to demonstrate the pad's absorbency... Although the pad is designed to absorb menstrual blood (various shades of red) the advertisers choose to use a blue liquid to illustrate the product's absorbency capacity.
If advertisers were to use red fluid to represent blood they might invoke in viewers and potential customers feelings of dirtiness, disgust and even death that would dissuade them from purchasing the product. Clear blue liquid, on the other hand, is often associated with purity and cleanliness. There are potential links with running water, the colossal cleaning capacity of the ocean, blue granules in cleaning products and laundry powers, and blue rinses (both for clothes and for (often wealthy) elderly women’s greying hair). It is also inevitable that a connection may be made with the term ‘blue blood’. Blue blood refers to

that which flows in the veins of old and aristocratic families … who claimed never to have been contaminated by Moorish, Jewish, or other foreign admixture; the expression probably originated in the blueness of the veins of the people of fair complexion as compared with those of dark skin.(Compact Oxford English Dictionary 1991:147)

On all accounts blue blood seems to be preferred over and above red blood.

But of course, women leak red. This transgression of bodily boundaries relates also to pregnant women in public places. She says:

When pregnant women occupy the public spaces (of Rational Man) they are often represented as ‘matter out of place’ (Douglas 1966:35). Women are often thought to threaten and disrupt a social system that requires them to remain largely confined to private space during pregnancy. Pregnant women can be seen to occupy a borderline state that disturbs identity, system and order by not respecting borders, positions and rules. The pregnant body, it is thought, threatens to expel matter from inside – to seep and leak. The pregnant woman may vomit (morning sickness), cry (she is constructed as ‘overly’ emotional), need to urinate more frequently, produce colostrum which may leak from her breasts, have a ‘show’ appear, have her ‘waters break’, and sweat with the effort of carrying the extra weight of her body. Even more than these leakages, she ‘threatens’ to split her one self into two – another human being is about to cross the boundary of the ‘eroticised orifice’ – the vagina (Grosz 1990:88). The pregnant body is neither subject nor object but rather exemplifies the impossible, ambiguous and untenable identity of each. Consequently, the pregnant body is often constructed as abject. It is a body that is considered dangerous and to be feared. It is also considered to be a body that needs to be controlled.

There are many ways in which attempts are made to control pregnant bodies. First, the fetus is often treated as though it were a public concern. Pregnant women’s rights to bodily autonomy are considered to be questionable. Second, this leads to pregnant women’s stomachs being subject to public gaze and often touch. Their ‘bodily space’ is frequently invaded. Third, pregnant women tend to be constructed by lovers, husbands, partners, friends, family, strangers, health workers and themselves as being in a ‘condition’ in which they must take special care in order to protect the well-being of the fetus. Fourth, pregnant women are subject to dietary regimes in an attempt to control what enters their bodies.

This reminded me of a recent public lactation "incident", which you can read about here:
Dozens of nursing mothers crowded into a downtown Vancouver H&M clothing store over the lunch hour on Thursday to protest the way the chain treated a breastfeeding mother last weekend.

Manuela Valle said three store employees told her last week that H&M policy did not allow her to nurse her eight-week-old baby in the store because it might offend other customers, and ushered her to a backroom.

Breastfeeding advocates reacted by organizing a protest — dubbed a "nurse-in" — at the store on Thursday.

The comments are interesting. Aside from mostly supportive comments, there are the usual reactions to "women's issues", from disagreement ("I think this is getting to the point of ridiculous. Of course breastfeeding is natural. But I don't think its too much to ask to cover up while doing it.") to dismissive ("Lighten up folks, lighten up! There are so many far more serious issues that all of us, including nursing moms, need to focus our time and energies on that this issue pales by comparison.")

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Conserving Racism: The Greening of Hate at Home and Abroad

This is a very interesting piece:
Conserving Racism: The Greening of Hate at Home and Abroad

By Betsy Hartmann

The greening of hate - blaming environmental degradation on poor populations of color - is once again on the rise, both in the U.S. and overseas. In the U.S., its illogic runs like this: immigrants are the main cause of overpopulation, and overpopulation in turn causes urban sprawl, the destruction of wilderness, pollution, and so forth.

Internationally, it draws on narratives that blame expanding populations of peasants and herders for encroaching on pristine nature.
This is part of what is at play whenever people in the rich countries bemoan the high birth rates of many poor countries. Once again, those with the least power (poor women of colour from the global south, in particular) make a convenient scapegoat for all manner of problems that we do not want to take responsibility for. There's also a certain paternalistic bourgeois white supremacy when we see Them as the problem and Us as the solution to all the world's problems. We just have to figure out what to do about Them before They wreck our Nature.

For example, the rush to blame China and India for the high cost of gas, food prices, and global warming. See, China is closing in on the USA as the biggest fossil fuel consumer and greenhouse gas producer. Still, the average Chinese person has around 19% of the impact of the average American. Not to mention the emissions in China have little to do with people's individual lifestyles and much to do with industrial manufacturing... mostly of crap to be consumed by Americans, Canadians and members of other wealthy nations. Not that China is a saint, but I find it interesting how we love to blame them.

The article documents the involvement of some environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Conservation International (CI) with some pretty right wing campaigns. For example:
With USAID assistance, CI and the World Wildlife Fund are promoting a conservation campaign in the region focused on identifying illegal settlements -- often Zapatista communities -- which are then forcibly removed by the Mexican army. These efforts are complemented by the government's aggressive female sterilization campaign in the region. CI's close ties to bio-prospecting corporations raise questions of just who the forest is being preserved for.
She puts this in perspective:
Coercive conservation measures, of course, are nothing new. From colonial times onwards, wildlife conservation efforts have often involved the violent exclusion of local people from their land by game rangers drawn from the ranks of the police, military and prison guards. To legitimize this exclusion, government officials, conservation agencies and aid donors have frequently invoked narratives of expanding human populations destroying pristine landscapes, obscuring the role of resource extraction by state and corporate interests.
This is so true. For example, I was recently studying how in South Africa (but not only there!) the creation of national parks caused significant dispossession of indigenous peoples' land. The racialist ideas around pollution were often driving conservation movements.

Hartmann continues by outlining several myths that help to drive this coercive conservation: man versus nature, the wilderness ethic, the degradation narrative, and scarcity. For example, the myth of the romantic and nostalgic wilderness ethic:
The ways in which wilderness is constructed have a number of problematic outcomes. The ahistorical myth of wilderness as "virgin" land obscures the systematic forced migration and genocide of its original Native American inhabitants.

By locating nature in the far-off wild, it allows people to evade responsibility for environmental protection closer to their homes. And it is geographically parochial, blinding many Americans to the complex ways in which people relate to the land in other countries and cultures. Critiquing the wilderness ethic does not mean one is opposed to national parks and nature protection - rather, it calls for equitable and democratic processes to ensure local communities are not pushed off their lands and robbed of their livelihoods.
Also popular is the degradation narrative in which
...population pressure-induced poverty makes Third World peasants degrade their environments by over-farming marginal lands. The ensuing soil depletion and desertification then lead them to migrate elsewhere as "environmental refugees," either to ecologically vulnerable rural areas where the vicious cycle is once again set in motion or to cities where they become a primary source of political instability.
It blames poverty on population pressure, and not, for example, on lack of land reform or off-farm employment opportunities; it blames peasants for land degradation, obscuring the role of commercial agriculture and extractive industries; and it targets migration both as an environmental and security threat. It is a way of homogenizing all rural people in the Global South into one big destructive force, reinforcing simplistic Us vs. Them, West vs. the Rest dichotomies.
You should probably just go read the whole thing. H/T Lisa, commenting on Feministe

Saturday, August 02, 2008

NYPD Officer Assaults Cyclist during Critical Mass

This is nuts.

But wait, it gets worse. Initially the cylist was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. The police officer said in an affidavit that the cyclist deliberately ran into him (though you can clearly see the cyclist trying to go around him). The cyclist was held in custody for 26 hours.

At least the cop's father is proud of him: "These people are taking over the streets and impeding the flow of traffic. Then you gotta do what you gotta do," he said, not having viewed the video.

I must say: hooray for citizen journalism!

Disclaimer: it is possible the cyclist did something else really really bad earlier and the cops were specifically looking for him. Like maybe he was a terrorist with a ticking time bomb. It better have been that bad because a hit like that could have killed the guy (helmetless onto pavement!)

More at Democracy Now, Gothamist and the NY Post

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why I Study History

When I was younger (19 or so) I had an.. um... let's just call it a mind-expanding experience. It became so clear to me all of a sudden just how far we as a society are from our roots, or from our foundations. I mean this in a pretty concrete way. From a handful of extended family tribes living close to the earth, we built up these incredibly complex civilizations - technology, religion, bureaucracy, global transportation, trade, electronics, communications. We take it all for granted: cities, highrises, airplanes, universities, supermarkets. But most of it is pretty new.

Catastrophe is always lurking around the corner, as a potentiality. Climate change is one likely trigger for many potential catastrophes, and it is possible that our civilization will end with it. Think about Rome. It was around for a thousand years, and it fell. In post-Roman Britain, for instance, with nobody to maintain the infrastructure in the cities there was hunger and plague. People pretty much abandoned the cities and went back to barely scratching out a living, with small scale subsistence farming. These were what we know as the Dark Ages. If it could happen then, it can happen now. And eventually it will. That is certain; the time frame and causes are less so.

Humans have found and continue to find many solutions to the problems of survival. We must fulfill our needs for shelter, food, companionship, etc. But we have a lot of flexibility in exactly how we do this. The incredible variety and creativity of solutions that people have found become apparent when studying in a field like history (and probably anthropology, too). I love learning how different peoples have organized their societies: the religions and culture and social structures, the ethics and cuisine and mythologies.

In addition, if there are so many different ways we have organized our societies, than that tells me that this particular one is not the immutable reality. That means there is also hope for change. We can do things differently, because we have already done them differently in the past. I wrote a whole theoretical paper going into this in more detail - if anyone is interested, I can post it here (here, actually).

As some of you know, I'm currently working on an MA in History (and International Relations) and considering applying to do a PhD. Problem is, I am interested in everything and have such trouble deciding what to focus on. But I'm pretty sure at least that I want to stay in the field of history.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"War on Terror" turns into war on charities

NGO "Blacklist" Unfair and Arbitrary, Groups Say
After the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Congress gave the government sweeping new powers to crack down on not-for-profit organisations that were using their charitable status as cover for funneling funds to terrorist groups.

These powers include the authority to designate any charity as a material supporter of terrorism. This action demands virtually no due process from the government, denies the target to see the evidence against it, and can result in freezing of a charity's assets, effectively shutting it down. Since 9/11, the government has shut down dozens of charitable groups, but only three have ever been charged and brought to trial for supporting terrorist causes. None has been convicted.

It seems the government can designate any organization as terrorist without proof, and can freeze assets without showing ties to terrorism or illegal acts. A report Collateral Damage: How the War on Terror Hurts Charities, Foundations, and the People They Serve estimates that since 9/11 it is estimated that over $6 Billion in assets, from charities and foundations labeled as terrorist organizations, have been frozen. A charity without access to its funds is often effectively shut down.

It also asserts that the government has used its surveillance powers against charitable groups for political purposes. It charges, "In addition to providing aid and services to people in need, charitable and religious organisations help to facilitate a free exchange of information and ideas, fostering debate about public policy issues. The government has treated some of these activities as a terrorist threat. Since 9/11, there have been disturbing revelations about the use of counterterrorism resources to track and sometimes interfere with groups that publicly and vocally dissent from administration policies."

In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched its Spy Files Project and uncovered an intricate system of domestic spying on U.S. non-profits largely condoned by expanded counterterrorism powers within the USA PATRIOT Act.

Many legitimate and effective organisations have suffered because of the undemocratic and heavy-handed application of these powers.

The report finds that "U.S. counterterrorism laws have made it increasingly difficult for U.S.-based organisations to operate overseas. For example, after the 2004 tsunami, U.S. organisations operating in areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers, a designated terrorist organisation, risked violating prohibitions against 'material support' when creating displaced persons' camps and hospitals, traveling, or distributing food and water."

For aid organisations like the International Red Cross, compliance with U.S. counterterrorism laws can force NGOs to violate standards of neutrality in their work. The Principles of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes state, "The humanitarian imperative comes first. Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone."

In some cases, the report declares, counterterrorism laws have caused nonprofits to pull out of programmes.

So, right-wingers are always promoting charity as the alternative to public programmes and social services... how can they be effective when they have to face these kinds of problems?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

He Really is Quite Savage

Who said this?
[W]hy was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I'll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], "When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], "I don't know, the dust got me." See, everyone had asthma from the minority community.

The same guy who said autism is a
fraud, a racket. ... I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'

I'd say I'm shocked, but sadly, I'm not.

From Media Matters

See for yourself:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How Walkable is Your Neighbourhood?

To answer that question, you could go outside and try walking around and see how well it goes, or for those who prefer the virtual to the physical, go to and type in your address. Based on things like density and proximity to shops and services, the software will give a ranking. It works for the US, Canada and the UK.

Of course, the really cool thing is seeing how walkable other cities and neighbourhoods are - you know, the ones you can't access by stepping outside your door. Unsurprisingly, San Francisco and New York City and Boston are the most walkable cities in the USA.

They don't have rankings of the most walkable cities in Canada, but you can search for addresses to get a score. Toronto didn't fare too badly, but it depends on where you live, really.

What does this all mean? They explain:
Picture a walkable neighborhood. You lose weight each time you walk to the grocery store. You stumble home from last call without waiting for a cab. You spend less money on your car—or you don't own a car. When you shop, you support your local economy. You talk to your neighbors.
(Screenshot found here)

Walk Score admits there are many features currently overlooked by the software - like weather, design, safety, or topography, but it is still a pretty cool tool. Via Grist.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Zen Moments in the City

This evening, eating ice cream outside near Mel Lastman square, there was a baby falcon sitting on a telephone wire. There were a couple of people taking photos, and one guy told us that this baby had just flown for the first time yesterday. The family of three live atop a highrise at Elmwood (on the small green roof that we could see from the ground). Apparently there are only 74 of these falcons in Ontario, so these three are extremely important. There are all kinds concerned citizens watching out for their well-being. I was too awed to even think of taking a photo of the baby - who was really close - but I did snap a pic of the poppa falcon flying. Please excuse the poor quality as I took it with my cell phone cam.

I feel so lucky to have experienced this!

Interested in becoming more self-sufficient

but live in an apartment? or don't have time to make that commitment? How about trying self-sufficientish living?
The idea behind self-sufficientish-ism is although many of us would love to live on a farm, grow all our own food, brew pea pod wine, live the 'Good-Life'. Not all of us have the means the space or are perhaps unwilling to give it all up and suffer the highs and lows of going it alone on a smallholding.

Although total self-sufficiency is appealing the thought of giving up the little luxuries in life may not be. I grow a lot of my own food eat wild foods and when I have the money buy organic fruit and vegetables but I still enjoy beer in a pub and like to go to the cinema or eat out occasionally.

Self Sufficientish-ism was created for these reasons. It is for all those who have limited time, space or money but would like to have a go at growing their own food or brewing their own alcohol or want to know which wild foods are good to eat. We also aim to offer advice on a whole host of other subjects from a low-ecological impact perspective.

Benefits include saving money, sustainability, good healthy eating, a chance to play farmer in the city, and it's kinda fun!

You'll find tips like 66 uses for a bread bag, natural pest control, flat dwellers guide to being self-sufficientish, lots of recipes, and how to brew. I want to try making sage and seed bread. mmmm

Via eco worrier