Thursday, September 02, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Equal parts comic and con

Our esteemed former Governor at the Chicago Comic Con: pictures.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Capitalism and the economic crisis

In 11 minutes, and with fun pictures. This is kind of great.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Non-violent resistance in Palestine

"Budrus" is a documentary about a Palestinian village in the West Bank and its non-violent protest movement against the Wall. I want to see it very much.

More about the film here.

On a related note, here is some of what the Free Gaza Flotilla has sown:
Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that have long battled Israel with violent tactics, have begun to embrace civil disobedience, protest marches, lawsuits and boycotts-tactics they once dismissed.


"When we use violence, we help Israel win international support," said Aziz Dweik, a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank. "The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets."


After the incident, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on supporters to participate in the next flotilla bound for Gaza. Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of the Hezbollah politburo in Beirut, said it was the first time Mr. Nasrallah had forcefully and publicly embraced such tactics against Israel.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

I love this story so much

In the wake of the BP disaster, we've heard powerful stories from fishermen whose livelihoods may have been destroyed for decades or longer. However long it takes for the Gulf's fish, oyster and shrimp harvests to recover, those who've made their livelihoods harvesting them will need to create a powerful common voice if they're not going to continue to be made expendable. A powerful model comes from Seattle and Alaska salmon fisherman Pete Knutson, who has spent thirty-five years engaging his community to take environmental responsibility, creating unexpected alliances to broaden the impact of their voice, and in the process defeating massive corporate interests.
It's a great and inspiring story, with some twists stranger than fiction. Read it.

My kind of Canada Day

In pictures.

A reminder why:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The G20 in Toronto (or: I want my country back)

There's a very thorough account by this guy Tommy Taylor who was arrested while walking home, ended up as a bystander near some protesters, and got thrown into a makeshift detention centre for 23 hours (without charge), all on behalf of the Toronto G20 summit. Unfortunately it's only on Facebook right now. But it is well worth the read if you can access it. It's a very detailed, heart-felt, and ultimately heart-breaking first-person account.

Here he is after about 15 hours in a cell with 39 other people, some peaceful protesters and many bystanders, from diverse walks of life:
I looked around at the screaming men, the scared kid, the huddled couple, the disgusted Germans, the confused old man, the First Nations man who didn't seem surprised at all, the guards laughing, the others dismayed. Thought about the peaceful things I saw at the park, the grandmothers with AIDS orphans, [girlfriend] Kate taken away in handcuffs, the kid with CP [cerebral palsy] roughed up, begging for water and my heart simply broke. That's the only way I can describe it. My beloved country, my city. I looked down at my t-shirt - bright blue with a big white maple leaf and in bold, caps letters below: FREEDOM.
Some of the cops crack nasty jokes. (I think I recognize that behaviour from accounts of soldiers engaged in grim business. It's a defense mechanism.) Others react differently.
The female officer who helped me aids in bringing some watery orange Tang to all the cells. We line up, quietly and broken for our drink. I find out from Kate that this same female officer broke down and cried with the women at their cell. She was sobbing and apologizing "This is wrong, you shouldn't be here. This is all so wrong". There own officers couldn't handle it, she was worn down by the injustices she was being ordered to do. This happened in Toronto.

Across from our cell Special Constable C. Smit, a short white female officer with blonde/brown hair stands guard. We nicely talk with her through the cage. "Please tell us how you can do this? We are begging for water in here. This guy is only 16 and this guy passed out. Your co-workers laugh. They are joking to us about our rights and laughing at a disabled kid. You know this is wrong, what's happening" after too much of this, with tears in her eyes she breaks "I don't know anything, no one here knows anything! I'm not even a cop.." she then leaves in a hurry. Madness.
He straggles home, well over 24 hours after being detained.
Kate's waiting outside. We hug and kiss. I'm starving, soaked, thirsty and sore. We go inside, I call my family and my friend Chris. I can't talk long, I just tell them I'm home and safe. Ben's mom hasn't heard from him, he's not answering his phone. We finally hear from him at 1:00am. They detained him and accused him of being Black Bloc. He was still in bright yellow shirt from work. Horrible things happened to him and Kate. I peel off my soaking wet Canada Freedom t-shirt. I throw it on the ground and get a lighter. I want to burn it. I don't.
* * *

Rooftop footage of the police boxing in a crowd including peaceful protesters, Tommy Taylor, his girlfriend, some tourists, some people who were just having dinner, etc., leading to their eventual arrest and detention.

Another group, at Queen & Spadina (the ending is grim):

Same scene, from the rooftop:

Naomi Klein attempts to explain:

In preparation for all of the above, the provincial government flipped the bird at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in writing.

* * *

Like Tommy Taylor, I'm also kinda fond of Canada. On the other hand, I don't know from Toronto. But then it hit me that the only thing stopping this from happening in my beloved Vancouver is the scheduling whims of the G20 (or other organizations of their ilk). And I can't say how that realization made me feel without making myself look like a huge sissy.

I just found out a friend of mine went through the same thing when the OAS met in Windsor in the 90s.

Combined with Quebec Bill 94, this has been a bad year for keeping up with news from back home.

Tomorrow is Canada Day. In a couple weeks I leave for Vancouver. It's not going to be the same.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We are all BP

The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is horrific beyond words. But just when you thought your heart was broken, you find out it's not done breaking. There are greater horrors still.

Because the Deepwater Horizon disaster is not very special.

The only thing that really makes it special is the fact that America is there. And that means the world, and in particular the American part of the world, is paying attention. And for this reason the shattered, ruined Gulf should count itself lucky.

In fact, more oil is spilled from the [Niger] delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last month.


"We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US," said Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International. "But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people's livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

"This has gone on for 50 years in Nigeria. People depend completely on the environment for their drinking water and farming and fishing. They are amazed that the president of the US can be making speeches daily, because in Nigeria people there would not hear a whimper," he said.
This is the business model of the oil industry. This is how it generates profits: by giving itself the liberty of destroying one part of the planet after the other, and tossing those costs (can they even be measured in dollars?) onto the poor and defenseless. It does so with complete impunity in most of the world. In the Gulf of Mexico, because the Gulf is so fucking lucky, the industry can't ignore the damage it does entirely, due to consequences so dire that they can even cause some annoyance to a CEO.

Further, this is not just the business model of BP, or the oil industry in general. It is the logic of the multinational corporation.
The UN has hired the consultancy Trucost to estimate the costs dumped on the environment by the world's 3,000 biggest public companies. It doesn't report until October, but earlier this year the Guardian published the interim results. Trucost had estimated the damage these companies inflicted on the environment in 2008 at $2.2 trillion, equivalent to one third of their profits for that year. This too is likely to be an underestimate, as the draft report did not try to value the long-term costs of any issue except climate change. Nor did it count the wider social costs of environmental change.

A paper by the New Economics Foundation in 2006 used government estimates of the cost of carbon emissions to calculate the [unpaid] liabilities of Shell and BP. It found that while the two companies had just posted profits of £25bn, they had incurred costs in the same year of £46.5bn.
Finally, this is not just how one part of the world (the corporate part) works. This is not a system which exists somewhere out there. We are a part of it. We are complicit, and committed to complicity.
Whatever the courts may find about BP's culpability the real cause is our demand for oil and our refusal to pay its true price. Right now, everyone in America wants to do something to fight the spill. However, if you suggest that perhaps we should double the price of fuel and use the revenue to rebuild our transportation network, the general response is suspicious silence.
The logic of exploitation is part of our own lives. We depend on these corporations, and so we also depend on the ability to routinely violate creation and humanity with utter indifference. We depend on the ability to devastate a community along the Gulf coast, to bestow upon a pelican a slow death in the muck, to thrust a thirsty Nigerian child's face into a poisoned stream.

Are we not yet ready to change?

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

The flotilla and the isolation of Gaza

From Amira Hass at Haaretz. The best piece of commentary I've read so far. (Click on her name on the Haaretz site for some other great articles.)
But unknowingly, this flotilla, like its predecessors and the ones still to come, serves the Israeli goal, which is to complete the process of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. The process, it will be said here for the millionth time, started in 1991 and not after the rise of Hamas rule. It's purpose was to thwart the two-state solution, which the world understood at that time as based on all of Gaza and the West Bank, and the link between them.


And what serves the goal of separating Gaza from the West Bank better than forgetting the sealed the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, and focusing on Rafah [between Egypt and Gaza] and cement?

Long before Israel prohibited the entry of cement into the Strip, it prohibited Gazans from studying in the West Bank. While it still permitted guavas to be exported from Khan Yunis to Jordan, it forbade Gazans to enter the West Bank even via the Allenby Bridge or to meet relatives and friends. Step by step, Israel developed draconian restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement, until it declared every Gazan in the West Bank, now and especially in the future, an illegal alien and an infiltrator. These are the essential prohibitions that must be breached.
Lack of unity has been a constant obstacle to Palestinian emancipation. And what better way to perpetuate disunity than to make contact just plain impossible? Do that, and you needn't concern yourself with the possibility of a peace process.

Wal-Mart teaches us a lesson

It is possible to stop the world's largest public corporation from getting its way all the time.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

"A Christian Perspective on Prisons"

Getting tough on crime is just another version of an anti-Christian moral code.


Very simply, as the nation with by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, neither the public nor the mainstream news media wants to know anything about prisons. Prisons are the depositories of our social programming and education failures. "Get them out of our sight."
In the mid-70s, the American middle class began its decline as real wages stagnated and social safety nets were undermined. Coincidentally, the incarceration rate sky-rocketed shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The American economy is racist

Thought I'd be blunt about that.
Years of deregulation that led to an increase in high-cost loans is indirectly responsible for the quadrupling of the wealth gap between white and black Americans between 1984 and 2007....

"Our study shows a broken chain of achievement," said Thomas Shapiro, director of the Institute and co-author of the study. "Even when African Americans do everything right - get an education and work hard at well-paying jobs - they cannot achieve the wealth of their white peers in the workforce, and that translates into very different life chances."
More here.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The veiled on the veil

Well, it's been a while, and I've been meaning to put together some more coherent thoughts about it. But Quebec's Bill 94 continues to make me kind of fucking furious whenever I think about it.

Well, anyway. It is a curious fact—I just can't get over it—that those who attack the veil do so on the pretense that they are concerned about the autonomy of the woman who wears it... and yet in almost every case they are pretty much entirely disinterested in actually finding out about these women's lives. So: what about the women in question?

A friend of a friend speaks up about why she recently started to wear the veil, and what that has been like for her. (She does so in response to a truly grotesque attack on the burqa by a group of atheists. The video footage of it almost makes her cry—no doubt part of some clever strategy to empower her to throw off the Islamic patriarchy. I say about all I want to say about this in the comments thread.)

My name is Sayira – I am 21 years old and I recently started wearing the headscarf. I tried to wear it once before when I was a junior in high school. That did not work well for me; part of the reason was because I was treated horribly because of it. Some of my classmates asked if I had gotten married, if I was being forced to wear it, if my father beat me, if I was allowed to do anything on my own, if I had to marry a cousin – the foolish list goes on and on.


At this point [returning to the hijab as an adult], I had decided that I wanted to be grow more in my identity. No one forced me: not my siblings, not my parents, not my friends, not anyone in my religion – it was all my choice and mine alone to deepen my relationship with my tradition.


To say that all women who wear the headscarf or burka are oppressed is fallacious beyond belief. To say that showing skin is the only way of being free is taking away from the freedom of having the choice to be who you want to be. I can wear the hijib and cover from neck to toe yet still be free. Who is anyone to judge me? If you do not know me and the circumstance of why I cover my hair, how can you say that I am oppressed? Do you imagine that I am some timid woman dominated by male influence? What if I told you that I will be testing for my black belt in Karate within the year; would that change your mind? What if I told you that I will be graduating with a Hospitality Management degree this year, a major I chose all on my own and not something my parents decided for me – would that change your mind?
Well, truth be told, I'm not holding my breath for the mind-changing, but this sort of testimony can't hurt.

Incidentally, Naema Ahmed, the niqabi whose struggles to learn French sparked this whole debacle, is a trained pharmacist. This was reported fairly regularly in media coverage, but it didn't put much of a dent into the popular caricature. (Did her husband make her pursue that career, and maybe also tell her how to answer each question on her exams?)

From the BBC, a niqabi speaks up. She is told she is controlled. However:
Kenza Drider scoffs at any such notion.

Relaxing on a bench in the park in Avignon, the mother of four young children explains how she bought her niqab nearly 11 years ago and did not tell her husband until she put it on to go out shopping with him one day.

"He knew very well it wasn't up to him whether I went out like that," she says, recalling that he merely said "OK, let's go", and she has worn the niqab ever since.

And she says that for women who wear the niqab in France, the majority of them French-born and many of them converts to Islam, "it's a personal decision, it's their freedom" to do as they wish.
I don't know if anyone has done any studies of this (the sample size of niqab-wearers in the west is not exactly large), but I've heard other anecdotal evidence that agrees with this profile of women who wear the niqab in the west. They tend to be born in the west, and are more likely to be new converts. And if anything, they tend to take up the niqab against some level of resistance from the rest of their family, who would rather they dress in a way that sticks out less and would allow the family to assimilate more easily. They do what they do because they think it will be pleasing to God, and (I think often) because they want to make a maximally bold and vivid and in-your-face proclamation of their Muslim identity, in defiance of a society which they see as opposed to that identity (gee, however could they get that impression).

Anyway, as best as I can tell, this situation, where a woman (and convert) asks for advice on how to deal with a husband who resists her desire to wear the niqab, is fairly typical, as is suggested by the advice she receives:
I think before you make the final decision....
Hold on, is that a Muslim woman telling another Muslim woman that the niqab is in fact her decision? Should I be shocked?
I think before you make the final decision, you should sit down with your husband and have an honest conversation of why he does not want you to wear niqaab. Some men have issues with it because they feel their wife will stand out more, or that their family will be critical, or that it may affect your time together when you go out, as doing simple things like eating are more complicated. He may feel that the political situation in your country is such that is dangerous to be identified as a "fundamentalist" Muslim. All these are valid concerns, but as you reply to them you must not become angry or defensive. Understand his point of view and respect it.
Back to Kenza Drider, who has a few things to teach the French about the ideals professed by French society.
"The MPs who talk about liberty, equality and fraternity don't really understand the French Republic," she says back at her apartment in Avignon where, with only family and other women present, she removes the niqab and sets about making dinner for her children.

"Liberty means freedom of conscience, of expression," she says. "Equality means not judging the foreigner and fraternity means the support of French people for a French citizen."
Well, those sure sound like the words of an oppressed women, whom the patriarchy has never allowed to think for herself.

* * *

Well, this is off of the stated topic of this post, but the BBC article also includes this curious opinion from a French feminist:
By hiding your face, Mrs Badinter explains as she sips a small black coffee in her elegant apartment in Paris, you breach the principle of equality.

"She who hides her face is in a position superior to mine," she says. "She sees me but she refuses to reciprocate."
So the veil is either a sign of powerlessness, or an exercise of power—but it's definitely intolerable for at least one of those reasons!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

My first May Day

I've been in Chicago for a number of years now, but today was the first time I attended May Day events. Which is a shame. Chicago is the birthplace of May Day, following the 1886 Haymarket Massacre; Chicago was also the location of the first of a series of mass demonstrations in 2006 against HR 4437, which led to the reinvigoration of May Day as a focal point of immigrants' rights activism in the US.

I have never been the biggest fan of these mass protest demonstrations, especially ones (like May Day) which are bound to attract characters of all stripes from the more and the less functional regions of the left. But this one was great.

Arizona did everyone the small favour of passing a bill or two that is not only bad, but simply grotesque. This has kicked the push for real immigration reform into a higher gear, at least for a little while. And so today the Loop was filled with thousands of people who wouldn't normally turn out to a march (by all accounts, this year's march was several times larger than last year's), which drowned out the usual suspects that make these sorts of affairs so painful: fractious socialist sects, "anarchists" making a politically impotent spectacle of themselves, etc. There was fairly good message unity, despite the wide diversity in groups who turned out. So, for example, LGTBQ groups came with their rainbow flags—on flag-poles bearing signs calling for immigrants' rights.

On the issue of immigrants' rights, I have just one thing to add to this old post, to tie in the theme of workers' rights.
You shall not abuse a needy and destitute labourer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the LORD against you and you will incur guilt. (Deut. 24:14-15)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb

Via CommonDreams:
An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People
From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the "Collateral Murder" Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize what have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation's leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won't lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation's importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,

Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army
A sliver of heartbreaking daylight bleeds through the deep darkness of this war's heartbreaking despair. Deus ibi est.

Peace be with you. —And also with you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Keith Olbermann on Obama and executive power

He spends several minutes on the issue, during which I don't once feel like smacking him! Glenn Greenwald has the video, and commentary. Including this terribly relevant quote from the American Prospect:
From a civil libertarian point of view, we're in a much worse place than we were during the Bush administration, when Democrats were willing to oppose Bush's expansive claims of executive authority. Now we have only muted criticism from Democratic legislators and hysterical cries from Republicans that Obama isn't going far enough.
Ah, partisanship. Is there nothing you can't fuck up?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Holy Week in the Holy Land

Some of the highlights of this great video: Palestinian Christians in crowded old churches. Greek Orthodox services in Arabic. Competing for space with tourists and foreign Christians, who get preferential treatment (do the foreign Christians care?). Angry confrontations with Israeli police. A beautiful procession by candlelight. A troop of Palestinian Scouts! (Yes, as in "Boy Scouts" and "Girl Scouts".)

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is a job for Jean!

Taken in Iran last June:

Look at those poor, veiled Muslim women! If only they had a Jean Charest around to help them, give them some courage, teach them some good Canadian feminist ideals, then they might at long last learn to confront their male oppressors. But alas, without help from the West, what hope is there that they might actually stand up for themselves?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Quebec's Bill 94

Disturbing news:
Following a controversial incident involving spousal abuse, the Liberal government in Quebec has introduced a bill that would prevent women with visible bruises (or other signs of physical trauma associated with spousal abuse) from working at publicly funded institutions. The bill would also remove their right to access services at those institutions, including schools, universities, and medical facilities.

Although the bill has come under fire from some quarters, proponents of the bill argue that bruises on battered women signal a rejection of common Quebecois values which is disturbing and disruptive to normal citizens. According to Premier Jean Charest, it is a "common sense" measure which should be considered elsewhere in Canada. Christine Pelchat of the Conseil du statut de la femme hailed it as "a bill to protect equality between women and men".

According to a poll by Angus-Reid, the bill has overwhelming popular support: 95% within Quebec, and 80% nationwide.
OK, truth be told, that isn't a real news story. But replace my references to battered women and the signs of their abuse with references to Muslim women who wear the niqab, and you basically have the story of Quebec's Bill 94, and the rationale that has been presented in support of it.

The bill. The polls.

A modicum of thoughtful analysis.

Commentary: Quebec's witch hunt against niqabi minority; Quebec unveils its own 'fragility'; Winterize that niqab -- just live and let live.

Some scattered thoughts, I am too angry to arrange them properly.

1. Maybe I should have known better. But I feel blind-sided. I confess that my attention is not chiefly on the women which this will directly affect. (In my defense, there are so few of them, and I don't know them.) I am more preoccupied by an intense feeling of disgust and shame at my country. That it should be infected by this Islamophobia. I of course know that there is racism and xenophobia everywhere, and throughout Canada. But this particular phenomenon I had thought more specific to the Old World, where people still cling to certain strong ideas of nationalism which we in the pluralistic New World have been forced to expel from the mainstream. That this small-minded, racist paranoia, so pathetic, so weak, turns out to have such a hold in Canada, makes me feel fucking sick.

This is not a figure of speech. Sick, in the gut.

We are a small, infantile people.

2. Across the political spectrum, westerners pass judgment on the Muslim veil based on any number of considerations. But rarely is any real knowledge of the particular women in question ever involved.

Have you had tea or broken bread with a woman who wears the veil, gotten a sense of what role it plays in her life? (If you are also a woman, and you meet with her in private, she may take off the veil. Perhaps that will make you less uncomfortable. She may even be wearing make-up underneath.) Has all your knowledge of it been derived from uninformed prejudice, or (in cases that are far better than average) some website on Islamic jurisprudence—written by some man who knows nothing more about any of these individual women than you do?

3. There is an deep strain of paternalism and sexism running throughout all of this—and all in the name of women's rights!

Jean Charest is here to protect you from the patriarchy, Muslim ladies—just do as he says. (It has been a joke between myself and Dawn that my role is to protect her from the patriarchy. It's supposed to be a joke.)

You poor, oppressed ladies: at long last, we are here to save you from the violence and oppression of Muslim men... just don't make us hold you down and rip the veil off of your fucking heads.

4. The veil can mean vastly different things to different women. I guarantee you, there are veiled women with a strength beyond anything your average pampered Canadian bourgeois could muster—and sometimes the veil will be part of an identity from which she draws some measure of that strength.

5. Azar Nafisi writes that her grandmother chose to take up the veil under the rule of the Shah in Iran—as a sign of protest against this Western-backed tyrant, who issued a ban against the veil. Perhaps there are Muslim (or even non-Muslim!) women considering something similar in Quebec today. Godspeed!

6. I am generally for liberal currents in Islam. Many argue that Islam, properly understood, does not require women to wear the veil. I approve, for whatever my opinion is worth. So that is one thing. But to jump from this to being offended at women who wear the veil? What sense does that make?

7. In some cases, no doubt, there is a man enforcing the veil with violence and coercion. How often does that happen? Among Canadian immigrants? Is anyone even interested in finding out? And when it does happen—someone please explain—how exactly does criticism come to rest upon the garment?

8. If someone professed to be concerned about battered women, and then proposed, as a solution, something along the lines of my parody above, would you not be a tad suspicious that perhaps they aren't quite letting you in on their real motives?

9. Are Christian monks a problem? What if they wear robes? What if their robes have hoods? What if it's a new-ager in a robe with a hood, claiming to be a druid?

Christian and Jewish women who refuse to go out in public without their heads covered—why does no one ever talk about them?

10. I'm not sure I've ever felt this awful about my country. I have certainly not felt this way about anything in America. It would not have hit me so terribly if this news had come out of anywhere in America. I have often felt outrage at politics where I currently live, in Chicago, in Illinois, in America. But never have I felt like this. Please understand that (like MLK's disappointment with America) this reaction is borne out of great love for my country and a foolish expectation that we can and should be better than this. Someday, insha'Allah.

(Thanks to Dawn for helping to craft the "bill".)

Monday, February 22, 2010

So mysterious

Dawn pointed me to this marvelous demonstration of... something. Some guy at the BBC ponders this very difficult question: why isn't Rudyard Kipling more popular in India?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Where I spend most of my time nowadays

On the SOUL site, where I am now more or less the head blogger, and on the Southside Solidarity Network site, where I've been responsible for about half of the (sporadic) posts.

Oh, and on Facebook, naturally.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sell all your possessions and give to the poor

Millionaire gives away fortune which made him miserable
"It was the biggest shock in my life, when I realised how horrible, soulless and without feeling the five star lifestyle is...."

He had similar feelings of guilt while on gliding trips in South America and Africa. "I increasingly got the sensation that there is a connection between our wealth and their poverty," he said.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Corporations are people

There's a certain beauty to the decision. "Persons have an unalienable right to free speech, corporations are persons, and money is speech, therefore...." Given the premises, the conclusion follows inexorably; and the premises are what make America what it is today. This is just the elegant capstone to the plutocratic conquest of American democracy.


I think there needs to be a total war on corporate power, waged by those of us people who (unlike some other people) have bodies, minds, and souls, who sleep and can die of old age, who are capable of empathy and love, who bear the image of God, who can (if we so choose) live lives that aren't devoted entirely to the unmotivated pursuit of profit to the exclusion of all other considerations. We need to take down these zombies, legal fictions which have acquired a macabre semblance of life through the unholy power of judicial sorcery.

Oh no. Hold on. I think I might be a racist. I'm saying corporations aren't really deserving of moral respect. I think they don't feel pain the same way we do. If you cut them, they don't in fact bleed, and actually I'm not even sure you can cut them. If a child of mine ever married a corporation, they should expect to be disowned. Never would I recognize a half-human, half-corporate grandchild. No miscegenation across ontological categories, not in my family!

I think I might even be advocating genocide.

Someday in the future, in a more enlightened time, human beings and corporations will walk hand in imaginary hand, look back at this moment in history, and sadly shake their heads (one real, one metaphorical) at small-minded people like me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lovers in a dangerous time

Some of my favourite lyrics are in this song.