Thursday, January 31, 2008

John McCain Channeling Dr. Strangelove

A Brave New Films video:

Ugh, although the fact that so many Republicans don't like him sits well with me, I must say McCain gives me the heebie-jeebies.
After insisting that future wars are just around the corner, McCain launched into a creepy riff in which the suffering of our soldiers seemed to leave him almost breathless with anticipation: "We're going to have a lot of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] to treat, my friends. We're gonna have a lot of combat wounds that have to do with these terrible explosive IEDs that inflict such severe wounds. And, my friends, it's gonna be tough, we're gonna have a lot to do."

It's a speech that could easily have been delivered by Gen. Buck Turgidson, George C. Scott's war-loving character in Dr. Strangelove. "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed - tops!"

McCain, like Turgidson, has a disturbing displaced ardor for war. Although he'd be the oldest person ever elected president, he doesn't need Viagra -- he's got Iraq. Call your doctor if your erection lasts longer than four hours -- or your war lasts longer than 100 years. <Huffington Post>

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Starvation in the Midst of Plenty

All of a sudden I've been getting all kinds of of traffic to my post about eating mud pies in Haiti. I'm not completely sure why, except that the issue was publicized yesterday in this article in the Miami Herald. So maybe people who read the article are doing research.

This recent post from Dying in Haiti juxtaposes the spending of Shaquille O'Neal (for instance $24,300 per month on gasoline) with the incredible poverty in Haiti. One of those mud pies goes for about 5 cents. Rice is too expensive - Two cups costs 60 cents.

The World Food Programme's Hunger - 10 Odd Facts mentions that in addition to the mud pies in Haiti, people have other coping mechanisms to manage their starvation. In Angola, leather furniture has been on the menu, and
in southern Sudan, hungry people eat seeds which, normally toxic, become edible only after a ten day soak, while tree bark has been favoured in North Korea.

Some mothers, who don't have any food, boil stones in the hope that their children will fall to sleep while waiting for their "supper" to cook.

Since the beginning of the 16th century no famine has been due to simply a lack of food. There's always someone keeping the food away from the people who need it.

We have no shortage of food in this world. What we have is fabulously unequal distribution of the stuff.
In Italy, once the population's nutritional requirements are met, there would be enough food left over for all the under-nourished people in Ethiopia.

In France, the "extra" could feed every hungry person in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in the United States, surplus food would fill every empty stomach in Africa.

That means we wouldn't even have to give up any food in our bellies to put more in theirs.

Not that food aid is necessarily the solution. There are many problems with it. Food aid is used strategically, as a political tool on the international stage. As often as not it is simply dumping - rich countries can get rid of all their excess food. Locals can't compete and they must sell their farm produce for lower prices, creating or perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

The problems in Haiti aren't simply a matter of not enough food, but not enough money buy food. A destroyed economy (in large part due to the damaging IMF policies and aid embargo before the coup), odious debt, extreme inequality of income and wealth, and many deep structural challenges - not to mention the disastrous and unethical policies of Canada and the rest of the international community since the coup (which don't forget, we supported).

So maybe all the hits I'm getting signals that a tide is turning. Maybe people are starting to pay attention to Haiti. If so, Canadians check Canada Out of Haiti to see what you can do. Americans try Haiti Action Committee.

And generally, though there's no easy solution to world hunger, I like this list of 10 things you can do from Stuffed and Starved, which recommends among other things, that we:
Transform our tastes...
Demand living wages for all - without the means to eat well, we haven't a chance of living healthily...
Eat agroecologically... farmers aren't disposable and substitutable resources... This is an approach that, above all, sees agriculture as embedded within society.
Own and provide restitution for the injustices of the past and present.While Bono and his friends have, I'm sure, nothing but good intentions, their demands for aid and support are way off the mark. They propose tinkering with the level of aid given by rich countries. But what poor people of colour have been demanding is not charity, but restitution. Whether for slavery in Africa and the New World, or simply for the innumerable coups and dictators installed to service the needs of consumers in the Global North, damages are due. Not charity, but compensation for incalculable harm done by representatives of 'civilisation'.

Image Credits

Monday, January 28, 2008

What They Said

What she said, and what he said, and her too. And them, of course.

And especially, what she and he said, and him too.

Of course these are just a few of the thoughtful posts from today, the anniversary of the Morgentaler decision, in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the abortion provision in the Criminal Code was unconstitutional, as it violated a woman's right to "security of person".

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Canadian F-word Blog Awards now accepting nominations

Know a good feminist blogger? Get thee to the Canadian F-Word Blog Awards and nominate her (or him).

Many Categories:
Best Canadian Feminist Blog
Best International Feminist Blog
Activist Blog
Environmental Blog
Entertainment Blog
Culture Blog
Group Blog
Individual Blog
Women of Colour -centered Blog
Reproductive Liberty Blog
Family Blog
Political Blog
Humour blog
Best Comment Thread
Most Poignant Comment
The "Why the fuck didn't I say that" comment
Best Snark Comment
Most Regressive "Progressive"
The Support Bro

Plus, if you donate to WISE, you can be entered into a contest to win these fabulous handcrafted tit pillows.

Friday, January 25, 2008


As their website says: "It was meant to keep people apart, now it also brings people together."

For a donation of 30 euros, Palestinians in the West Bank spray paint your message on the wall. They will send you 3 digital pictures you can keep forever (long after the wall is gone). The money primarily goes to support local projects and organizations.
The Wall won't fall just because your text is written on it. True.
But your message reminds Palestinians trapped inside the Wall they have not been forgotten. You help to keep hope alive. 'Our' Palestinians want to send you one single, simple message: "we are human beings, just like you, with sense of humour and lust for life." That's why they do this, and enjoy it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Help stop the war in Iraq... support the troops who have the courage to resist!

January 25-26 U.S.-Canada actions to support war resisters

To my fellow Canadians, do you often feel helpless to do anything about the war in Iraq?

One thing you can do is demonstrate your support for the American troops who refuse to fight in the Iraq war. Help end the war by supporting the growing GI resistance movement today!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Won't Somebody Please Think About the... Toys!?!

Just when you think it can't get weirder.

Right on the heels of the anniversary of Roe v Wade... From Torontoist, this lovely billboard:

Toys without children? Boo-freaking-hoo. What about children without toys, without proper food and care, without loving parents and homes? That's a real tragedy. This abortions-make-toys-cry argument is just a bad joke.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogging for Choice: The Jane Collective

Blog for Choice DayI'm too tired to write a proper post (plus there's so much amazing stuff out there already today - a lot of really great stuff), so I'll just give you a video to watch on The Jane Collective, an underground abortion service which operated in Chicago from 1969 to 1973. During a time of dangerous illegal abortions, the women took matters into their own hands, and learned to perform abortions. They saved a lot of lives:
"If you needed an abortion, for whatever reason, you took your life into your own hands – and you were terrified, absolutely terrified," recounts a member of the collective of the late 1960s. "All you knew is that you might die, that this person didn't know what he was doing and you were going to pay hundreds of dollars... to bleed to death in some hotel room."

Heather Booth, then a student at the University of Chicago involved in civil rights and antiwar movements, found herself sought out by a few young women who were pregnant, scared, and desperate. They had somehow heard that Booth knew of a safe abortionist. Soon others began to call, prompting Booth and several other young feminists to found JANE, an anonymous abortion service that provided counseling and acted as the go-between for pregnant women and doctors willing to perform the procedure.

Appalled at the exorbitant procedure fees and upon discovering that their main abortionist wasn't a licensed physician, the women of JANE learned to perform illegal abortions themselves. Eventually, the underground collective performed over 12,000 safe, affordable abortions. Word of the illegal alternative was spread through word-of-mouth, cryptic advertisements, and even by members of Chicago's police, clergy, and medical establishment.

12000 abortions and nobody died.

Currently, the abortion mortality rate for illegal abortions is 100-1000 per 100,000 in developing countries. In the United States, the death rate from legal abortion is 0.6 per 100,000 procedures.

Legal abortion is more likely to be safe.

Safe abortions save lives, something the Jane Collective was well aware of.

For Iraqis, Treatment for Trauma is Luxury

The young woman was walking with her husband along a Baghdad street when she was abducted, held captive and raped repeatedly by five militia men for several days.

"Before, she was very proud of her body but now she is overweight -- she eats to protect herself and not to attract people," says therapist Sana Hamzeh about her 27-year-old Iraqi patient, who recently escaped to Lebanon as a refugee.

"When she first came here she hated her body and was very isolated. She could not touch her husband. She sat rigidly, clenched; she could not relax or talk about her feelings."

Hamzeh works at the recently opened Restart centre in Beirut, a charity funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) that provides free therapy and psychological therapy rehabilitation for up to 70 mostly Iraqi refugees who are victims of torture. The centre also gathers documentation to help argue their case for asylum.

The centre is a brief respite for a few Iraqis fleeing torture, death sentences and the grinding violence of daily life back home. But they arrive in Lebanon only to find themselves dangerously illegal, and subject to discrimination and exploitation. Few can find counselling and support.

X tally Iraq
Originally uploaded by Natasha Mayers

Mohammed, a refugee in his late 20s, is a particularly hard off case. "He came to our centre for psychological treatment but had no money to eat, or a place to sleep -- so how could we deal with his psychological suffering?" asks Jabbour. "We arranged a place to sleep for him on a personal level. Usually UNHCR has other partners who do this."

A patient of Hamzeh's, Mohammed was a former bodyguard for Saddam Hussein and was later imprisoned by the U.S.-led coalition. "He suffered torture, unbelievable torture -- they gouged out one of his eyes, and he can't walk properly," she says. "He is very, very depressed. Every time I see him I don't know if it's the last, because he's suicidal. But he's also religious and feels that suicide will condemn him to hell, so for this reason he stays alive." Hamzeh looks down at the ground. "Every day I think about him." <Article>

More Iraq news from IPS

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous"

We are the stories we tell ourselves. Or, as Thomas King puts it: "The truth about stories is that that's all we are."

If I grow up being told I am a kind and generous person, always willing to lend a hand to help a fellow human in need, there's a good chance I will take this on as part of my identity, and become a kind and generous person. Certainly it is more likely than if I had been told all my life I am a mean and selfish goodfernuthin'.

If we tell ourselves that what it means to be human is to be a rational self-interested individual, for which the greatest good is to act selfishly in the marketplace of life, well then we should not be surprised if we become greedy self-serving assholes, gleefully counting our giant SUVs and plasma TVs while children die of malnutrition outside our gated communities.

If we tell ourselves a great epic story of the world as a Clash of Civilizations, we should not be surprised that our illustrious leaders invade other countries, you know, defensively, pre-emptively. Because it is our duty to shore up civilization against the invading barbarians who hate us for our... um... freedom to wear a bikini and watch American Idol.

What other stories do we tell ourselves?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Six Degrees Traveler

I love Six Degrees Traveler, the internet radio show available on itunes radio (under "electronic") or on live365. I must say, this week's program is exceptional:
On this week's edition of Six Degrees Traveler, in honor of Martin Luther King's birthday, we spin a set based around gospel, blues and spirituals in both their traditional and hybrid forms. Featured artists include Boozoo Bajou, Euphoria, Japancakes, Nitin Sawhney, Daniel Lanois, Banzai Republic and many others.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fun Stuff at Laboratory Andre-Michelle

Too much heaviness. I need some fun. Fortunately the interwebs have no shortage. This is all from Laboratory Andre-Michelle.

Scratch a vinyl with actionscript. Unfortunatley you need a fast computer, since I tried to implement a very low latency time.

Chillout Planet Earth - very zen
Need a rest? Watch these cute sound particles, representing notes from different patterns, which are mixed together to keep the suspense. This experiment is completely synthesized running a polyphonic synthesizer, based on this study and a stereo-delay on 16Bit, 22.050Khz.

They are no external sources, just code. The size of the SWF is about 8kb. If your computer is too slow, try the video I’ve uploaded to youtube.

Chill out planet earth!

FL909 attempts to simulate the original sound of the Roland TR-909. This drumcomputer hits the market 1984 and was a long time the state of art in house and techno productions. Shift-Click the Step-buttons for accent triggers. Shift-Click-Move knobs for smoother resolution. Press Save to store a snapshot of the current settings to a flash cookie. Restore snapshot by pressing Load. Clear to delete all patterns and reset all knobs. Drag and drop a pattern button (invisible) to copy a pattern to a new location.

And here's a 303

Flanger Audio Processor
This is a very simple Stereo Flanger algorithm I developed last night. However it has a nice bright tone color. Keep playing with the parameters. I can listen to it for hours. Move the MIX slider to the left for the original loop sound (dry).

Color Traces - beautiful
Move you mouse to attract the particles. They will leave a color trace on their way. Click to clear the canvas.

Interactive coolness.

Suicide Bombing: Just Another Kind of Bombing?

So I was listening to CBC this morning and the Current was continuing a discussion (it's mail day) about suicide bombing: causes, etc. Some comments I agreed with, some I didn't. But what struck me was how odd it is that we spend so much time analyzing the technique of suicide bombing (remember I do think it is a rational tactic). Why do we treat it so differently than, say, aerial bombing, such as by the US in Iraq or Israel in the Occupied Territories?

Well, lets think about this for a moment. (And of course, first I need to make the requisite disclaimer: I do not condone suicide bombing, or civilian-targeting violence on the part of either terrorists or governments.)

What is the difference between a bomb that falls from the airplane of a conventional army and a bomb that is meant to explode while still attached to a body? Why does the second attract such complete and vehement denunciation (just watch what kind of comments this post gets) while the first elicits barely a comment?

Here are some possibilities:
A) Certainty of death. The person responsible for exploding the bomb will only maybe die in the first case, but will almost surely die in the second. Does this explain the completely different responses? I think not. After all, both are equally willing to kill for their causes. And if someone is willing to die for a cause (which is nothing new), that's his or her business, is it not?

B) Type of perpetrators. A soldier employed by the state in a conventional army is clearly different than a fighter in an unconventional force, so the violence perpetrated by the former must be treated differently than the latter. I think this is partially true, but is not a sufficient explanation. See, if it is not the technique that matters, but the actors, then any techniques employed by any non-state actors should be denounced as vociferously as suicide bombing. There are enough examples in recent history to prove that this is plainly not the case. (Not to mention that it is crazy to think that violence committed by a state is somehow more justifiable than violence committed by non-state actors, especially when you consider a state with no legitimacy - Iraq, Afghanistan - or no state at all - Palestine?)

C) Type of victims. We are often reminded that suicide bombers often kill civilians, something completely worthy of censure. But aerial bombardment is so efficient at killing civilians, it is a bit ridiculous to even raise this point.

D) Or is it that suicide bombing is nearly the only weapon left among certain dispossessed groups, who have almost no other techniques left at their disposal? For instance, the Palestinians have tried nonviolence, they have tried political solutions, and without an army or weapons, there are few military options, aside from rock throwing or homemade bombs with low-tech means of delivery. In other words, these people can't opt for airstrikes and other high-tech forms of killing. Unfortunately for the imperial powers and colonial occupiers who wish for the end of resistance (as of course all imperial powers do), it turns out to be a weapon that is nearly impossible to prevent from being used. In some situations, like the Palestinian/Israeli situation, I think this explanation has some validity.

I think a lot of it has also to be blamed on propaganda, perpetuated by an uncritical media that has bought into the clash of civilizations model. We (of the rational, normal, enlightened West) would never consider strapping bombs to our bodies and setting them off in a public place (we pay people to do our killing for us). Therefore, there must be something pathological about their culture/religion/part of the world.

I'm mostly just thinking out loud here. I'd be curious to hear other thoughts on this. Preferably non-frothing-at-the-mouth types.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy Birthday to Gitmo: An astrological reading

Wow. I feel so honoured to share my birthday (yesterday) with Guantanamo Bay.
JANUARY 11, 2008 -- On the day six years ago that the first prisoners began arriving at the U.S. torture camp at Guantánamo, protests were staged across the country and around the world demanding that Guantanamo be shut down. Prisoners are kept in Guantanamo under horrific conditions for years without trial.

That makes good old Gitmo a Capricorn, just like me. I think I'd like to offer an astrological reading, modified from wikipedia, which informs us that "According to astrological beliefs, celestial phenomena reflect or govern human activity on the principle of 'as above, so below', so that the twelve signs at the same time are held to represent twelve basic personality types or characteristic modes of expression."

Celestial phenomena say that Gitmo is ambitious, and hard-working. (After all, those dang prisoners won't torture themselves.) It is methodical and focused, businesslike and persevering - if Gitmo all of a sudden discovered it was at the top of a cliff, it wouldn't flip flop or turn around. Nope, it would keep on going. That's just the kind of place it is. It is so dedicated it won't stop, not even waterboarding, unless prisoners manage to commit suicide.

Gitmo can also be calculating, suspicious, cold, and sometimes displays a lack of emotional depth. It believes in self-reliance, preferring to keep prisoners isolated and in sensory deprivation. It is possessive (certainly doesn't want to let Canada get Omar Khadr) and controlling. It is narrow-minded, vindictive by nature, and truly lacking hope.

Likes: Force feeding prisoners on hunger strikes, Making long term relationship plans (Khadr has been there 5 1/2 years), Unquestioning Loyalty, Dick Cheney, Rummy.

Dislikes: Human rights

Yup, me and Gitmo, two capricorns in a pod.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Top Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007

From Chechnya to the Central African Republic, from Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe, the countries and contexts highlighted by MSF on this year's list accounted for just 18 minutes of coverage on the three major U.S. television networks' nightly newscasts from January through November 2007.

For example:

Graciela and her family are a few of the millions of Colombians who have had to flee their homes to escape fighting between government, rebel, and paramilitary forces.

Armed groups fighting for territorial control have a stranglehold on many rural areas of Colombia, depriving civilians of access to health care by making roads impassable, forcibly conscripting children into militias, and murdering those suspected of collaborating with rivals.

See the top ten most underreported humanitarian stories of 2007 in Images and text.

Africa: Talking about "Tribe": Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis

I have to say that overall the reporting of the crisis in Kenya has lacked depth and understanding. One particularly damaging word that was constantly in use was "tribal". This word has been used uncritically, perpetuating misleading stereotypes about Africans. Would we say that Europe is made up of tribes? Or that the English-French tensions within Canada is tribal conflict? Why not? It's about as sensible as assuming that Africa is made up of tribes. Well, apparently I'm not the only one irritated by this:
The Kenyan election, wrote Jeffrey Gettleman for the New York Times in his December 31 dispatch from Nairobi, "seems to have tapped into an atavistic vein of tribal tension that always lay beneath the surface in Kenya but until now had not provoked widespread mayhem." Gettleman was not exceptional among those covering the post-election violence in his stress on "tribe." But his terminology was unusually explicit in revealing the assumption that such divisions are rooted in unchanging and presumably primitive identities.

Here's an interesting article: 'Talking about "Tribe": Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis,' Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), November, 1997:

For most people in Western countries, Africa immediately calls up the word "tribe." The idea of tribe is ingrained, powerful, and expected. Few readers question a news story describing an African individual as a tribesman or tribeswoman, or the depiction of an African's motives as tribal. Many Africans themselves use the word "tribe" when speaking or writing in English about community, ethnicity or identity in African states.

Yet today most scholars who study African states and societies--both African and non-African--agree that the idea of tribe promotes misleading stereotypes. The term "tribe" has no consistent meaning. It carries misleading historical and cultural assumptions. It blocks accurate views of African realities. At best, any interpretation of African events that relies on the idea of tribe contributes no understanding of specific issues in specific countries. At worst, it perpetuates the idea that African identities and conflicts are in some way more "primitive" than those in other parts of the world. Such misunderstanding may lead to disastrously inappropriate policies.

In this paper we argue that anyone concerned with truth and accuracy should avoid the term "tribe" in characterizing African ethnic groups or cultures. This is not a matter of political correctness. Nor is it an attempt to deny that cultural identities throughout Africa are powerful, significant and sometimes linked to deadly conflicts. It is simply to say that using the term "tribe" does not contribute to understanding these identities or the conflicts sometimes tied to them. There are, moreover, many less loaded and more helpful alternative words to use. Depending on context, people, ethnic group, nationality, community, village, chiefdom, or kin-group might be appropriate. Whatever the term one uses, it is essential to understand that identities in Africa are as diverse, ambiguous, complex, modern, and changing as anywhere else in the world.
<The rest>

Monday, January 07, 2008

An argument against essentialist modes of thinking

From Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality*:
Despite its aura of certitude, classification is never a neutral act. Naming is a form of exercising power, and the ways that things are named often reflect the outlook of the namer.

This makes me think of Foucault's The Order of Things which contains an anecdote that I think well illustrates how our seemingly neutral and sensible methods of classification really are sort of odd and arbitrary:
This passage quotes a "certain Chinese encyclopaedia" in which it is written that "animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies". In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of though, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.
Why can't we think that? Does it make any less sense than our own essentialist system of biological classification, which was invented in the 18th Century by a notable racist and based on the then-normal ideal of stratification?
If Lennaeus's method created a tool for modern science, it still used the metaphor of monarchy as a way of framing the order of things. Plants and animals constituted two natural kingdoms (regna naturae). Within these kingdoms, a hierarchy of classes, orders, genera, and species provided categories by which all life forms, plant and animal, were classified. In a world where many still saw hierarchy and inequality as natural, taxonomy provided a tangible ratification of this belief.
Not only did monarchy supply a defining imagery for understanding nature, but the Linnaean system also validated prevailing inequalities of gender... Even though many plants are hermaphroditic and do not conform to customary definitions of gender, Linnaeus emphatically described plants in terms of their male and female parts, with so-called dominant parts designated male, submissive parts female.

Interesting that this is the same basic system of taxonomy that we learn in school today.

Stephen Jay Gould (yay!) argues that this essentialist paradigm needs to be reexamined, not only because it is incorrect and misleading, but also because of its negative impact on our social organization - for instance the reemerging field of scientific racism (beloved of intellectual bedfellows SDA and IQ fetishist Richard Lynn among others - recently discussed here). He says "Nature comes to us as continua, not discrete objects with clear boundaries".
Essentialism establishes criteria for judgement and worth: individual objects that lie close to their essence are good; those that depart are bad, if not unreal... Antiessentialist thinking forces us to view the world differently. We must accept shadings and continua as fundamental...

The taxonomic essentialist scoops up a handful of fossil snails in a single species, tries to abstract an essence, and rates his snails by their match to this average. The antiessentialist sees something entirely different in his hand -- a range of irreducible variation defining the species, some variants more frequent than others, but all perfectly good snails.

We know what the previous outcomes were of scientific racism: the Atlantic slave trade, the Nazi's "final solution", South African apartheid... certainly these were not the most noble moments in our human history. So why are these theories rearing their ugly heads again?

*By the way, this is a fascinating book. There are several cheap copies at the fantastically huge BMV on Bloor St in Toronto - I got mine for only $4.99

Friday, January 04, 2008

This Week in Intelligence

And I don't meant the secret CIA kind - I mean the part of I.Q. that comes before "quotient".

It's been a busy week for intelligence.

To sum up:

Men don't like intelligent women. This is, of course, the fault of teh feminists. (We pencilled the plan in our agendas, right after "Destroy the Family".)

Also, Stupidity is the best defense against the left's pesky rationality

But of course, I shouldn't worry my pretty little head about all of this, because my pretty little head holds a pretty little brain, which due to its cute and womanly IQ cannot possibly think about anything but shoes and lipstick. But fortunately I was born in Canada, where we have a respectable "national IQ". That almost makes up for the fact of my womanhood. Because can you imagine if I was born in, say, Kenya or Rwanda? Not that I can draw that conclusion by myself. Being a woman and all.

Don't you just feel smarter already?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

American Electoral Politics - Mortal Kombat Style

Considering how the media covers elections (much like a horse race), this cool flash game is probably better for exploring the real issues. Watch the intro, it's pretty funny.

Unfortunately I keep losing. Damn Hillary is too slow. Her Bill Clinton attack is cool though - like a big blue ghost. Next up - I'm going to play as McCain.

Via Neatorama

Other political video games

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Children of Gaza rally for peace and an end to the siege

Yesterday, as reported by the Popular Committee against sieges (PCAS), there was a rally for besieged children in the Gaza Strip. Apparently hundreds of children participated. The kids formed a human chain in the largest street in Gaza city for almost two hours.

El Khoudary (Chair of PCAS) said about this rally:
occupation is killing innocent Palestinian children day by day in all ways. Children are here today to tell the world we are being killed and you are completely silent. Children must be protected in all times and this is a guaranteed right by all humanitarian charters... On behalf of oppressed besieged Gazans, PCAS calls upon the free world to lift the tight illegitimate siege. This siege threatens lives of all Gaza residents. It's flagrant and obvious violation for all humanitarian charters and conventions.

PCAS reports:
The 7-year-old Hend started to cry when we tried to spoke to her, "All I need is to see my father back in Gaza, he is trapped in Egypt and not able to get into Gaza as crossings are closed."

This was a press release, and just like any press release should not be taken at face value - for instance, numbers may have been exaggerated, important details omitted. A responsible media would take this press release and fact check, perhaps interviewing participants, and then report it. But who wants to bet we read absolutely nothing of this nonviolent Palestinian protest in our mainstream media?

Nonviolent activism in the Middle East gets almost no coverage at all, even when there are huge peaceful popular marches, demonstrations, and strikes. These sorts of protests are simply invisible because they fall outside the prejudiced view of Arabs and Muslims as somehow violent by nature. The lack of reporting on these activities to Western media consumers, while often gruesomely reporting on violent ones, then only helps to reinforces those same prejudices.

Previous related posts: Huge Peaceful Demonstrations in Najaf: Press & White House Dismissive, and Non-Violent Resistance in Iraq, and Non-Violent resistance in Israel and the Occupied territories.

Top Posts of 2007

Most Popular/Most traffic:

Most controversial/Most comments:

Some other popular posts I particularly like:

Most unfortunately overlooked (IMHO):

Top posts of 2006 here

Since 2005 when I started this blog, I've published 440 posts. The last two months were very light on posting as I was incredibly busy. New Year's blog resolution? Post more often. Post more quality.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Out with the old, in with the new (year, that is)

I hadn't planned on posting any nostalgic summaries of 2007, ridiculous predictions for 2008, top whatever lists, or anything like that. But, because 2007 was such a good year for me personally, I guess I felt compelled to at least acknowledge the holiday. 2007 was a year of learning, and transformation. I quit my job to go back to school, saw some excellent films, read some amazing books, learned a lot, laughed a lot, cried a lot, travelled a bit, met new friends, saw friends I love move away, lived in the same city as my brother for the first time in 10 years, and spent the holidays with my family.

So, Happy Time-to-get-a-new-calendar Day to the few loyal readers I have left (after my shameful December lack of posts).

Yes, a good year for me. Not so much for the world. Here's Harper Magazine's year in review:
Eight hundred ninety-nine U.S. troops and 18,610 Iraqi civilians were killed in the Iraq War. Eighty percent of Iraqis were reporting "attacks nearby" and it was estimated that 90 percent of Iraq's artists had fled the country or been killed. Halliburton announced that it would add 13,000 jobs, and President George W. Bush underwent a colonoscopy. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez embraced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. "Welcome, fighter for just causes," said Chavez. Senator Barack Obama was featured shirtless in People Magazine's Beach Babes issue, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi banned smoking in the Speaker's Parlor of the Capitol, and Senator Hillary Clinton said that "we want to be able to continue to export democracy, but we want to deliver it in digestible packages." Viagra turned 15. Wildfires spread from north of Los Angeles to south of San Diego, and scientists at New York University were deleting frightening experiences from the memories of rats. The first Muslim member of Congress took his oath on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Annual sales at Taser International were expected to reach $90 million.

Drought was driving tens of thousands of snakes into Australian cities, female koalas in Australia were ignoring males in favor of five-bear lesbian orgies, and developers were planning to open a Hooters in Dubai. Scientists in London were working on a gum that suppresses appetite and fights obesity. "Obese people like chewing," reasoned a researcher. The United States projected that it would emit 19 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 2000, and U.S. pollution was cited as the reason that the Dutch are now taller than Americans. The United Arab Emirates beat out the United States to become the world's most wasteful country, Ford posted a loss of $12.7 billion for 2006 (the largest in its 103-year history and equivalent to the GDP of Jordan), and General Motors announced it would open a new research center in Shanghai to develop alternative fuels and vehicles. Geneticist Craig Venter announced that he had constructed a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals, creating the first artificial life form on Earth. Britney Spears shaved her head, and an appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the writ of habeas corpus does not apply to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The market price for children in India slipped below that of buffalo, and crystal meth was now available in candy flavors.

Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, and Boris Yeltsin died. Osama bin Laden turned 50 and the Senate doubled the bounty on his head to $50 million. Ariel Sharon was still alive. New stars were hatching near the head of Orion. Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and Tony Blair resigned. "[Blair] was the worst thing that ever happened to Africa," said Bright Matonga, the deputy information minister of Zimbabwe. "We hope that the children of Iraq and Afghanistan he is killing everyday will haunt him for the rest of his life." Reverend Ted Haggard declared himself "completely heterosexual," and Paris Hilton went to jail. An Irish soldier who won the Military Cross for single-handedly defeating a Baghdad suicide bomber was facing a court-martial for auctioning his medal on eBay. Scientists trained dogs to track polar bear feces, produced talking construction paper, made stem cells out of adult mice, and linked the upsurge in cat sex to global warming. Mr. Wizard died, as did Mr. Whipple. Pope Benedict XVI decreed that, by definition, Protestant churches are not churches, and it was revealed that Mother Teresa, beginning in 1948 and continuing until the end of her life in 1997, was unable to sense the presence of God. "Repulsed--empty--no faith--no love--no zeal," she wrote. "Heaven means nothing." Detainees at Guantanamo Bay complained of "infinite tedium and loneliness," and 20,000 people marched against the junta in Burma; about 400 monks were pushed away from the house where pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned. "Love and kindness," read the monks' yellow banner, "must win over everything."