sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
 There's so much I want to write about and link to lately, but of course it's June and I'm a schoolteacher, so I've just been reblogging things on Facebook. And that's no way to live. Here are some highlights of the week.

The story gripping the city is of the Toronto Life story about a pair of self-involved, clueless rich kids who bought a Parkdale rooming house, sight unseen, and were shocked that people still lived there and also that you can't hire a contractor based on the fact that he's cycling by. This is all in the context of violent purging of the poor in the Parkdale neighbourhood, most notably an asshole landlord attempting to murder a tenant for striking against deplorable conditions. Quite a lot of pixels have been spilled over this issue, but the best response was my friend Todd's GoFundMe page (you can still donate), and the Metro interview with him that followed. Great stuff, and perfect timing—the Parkdale Rent Strike has the potential to be the most successful political action since BLM-TO forced Pride to ban uniformed, armed cops from getting paid to march in a parade that celebrated the very folks they like to beat up.

The Tories have a new Head Asshole, Andrew Scheer. No one has heard of this guy, and he conveniently had a lot of his more disgusting positions wiped from the intertubes. However, the Streisand Effect is still in play, so you can totally go and read what he's about. Spoiler: It ain't good. Fortunately, he has all the charisma of a mysteriously damp toilet paper roll, so I don't think he has much of a chance against Prince Justin or whoever the NDP nominates.

Do I have a clear preference for an NDP leader? I am shocked to say that no, I do not. I actually like multiple candidates. This is weird. I would be happy if Charlie Angus, Jagmeet Singh (with some reservations), or Niki Ashton won. I tend not to put a lot of hope in electoral politics but I do like having someone I can vote for and campaign for happily rather than someone who's the lesser of three evils.

Speaking of Niki, she's preggers. Yay Niki! She announced it on Twitter, because we live in the darkest possible timeline, and minor douchecanoe Brian Lilley got upset because she did not specify that she was pregnant with a human fetus. What else might she be pregnant with? Speculation abounded. Was it an alien? A tank-human hybrid? A dinosaur? No one knew until she clarified, kinda.

The coolest thing to happen around these parts is that the Ontario Liberals—who I don't even tend to like—announced that the minimum wage would rise to $15 by 2019, along with several other good labour reforms. This is great news, though in Toronto, where the cost of living is stupidly high compared to the rest of the province, it doesn't go far enough for my liking. Almost everyone is in favour, except for this whiny fuckhead, who is such an incompetent businessman that he can't afford to pay people to work for him. He was shocked and appalled to find himself the target of a boycott, and put up an even whinier sign that was immediately mocked for obvious reasons.

I try not to ever think about Barbara Kay, but a hero at Canadaland read that pro-genocide book that she recommended so that you don't have to.

Speaking of genocide against the First Nations, guess how much Trudeau's government spent fighting against indigenous rights in court? #sunnyways #colonialismbutfromtheheartoutwards

In international news, though I hate to go there:

Ivanka Trump makes her shoes in a Chinese sweatshop (no surprise there) and three activists have been disappeared for looking into it.

Laurie Penny continues to be my internet girlfriend. Here's a scathing editorial about freezed peach.

Finally, it is extremely important that we know about whether Melania is getting, and I quote, "federally-funded side peen." Yeah, you're welcome.
sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
I'm finished work at 8:05 pm! That's only an 11-hour day—a record for me lately, and gives me a whole hour or so with which to SURF THE WEB and all its wonders. And I have internet at home, which is exciting.

Because he clearly hates me, [personal profile] frandroid  asked for my opinion on two recent Twitter hashtags—#lacgate and #hothick. You folks know that I hate Twitter, right? As far as I can tell, the only useful thing it's ever done has been providing me with a torrent of #piggate jokes when the story broke, but whether this balances out the way it's helped to mangle the English language by sticking number signs in the middle of otherwise reasonable sentences, reduce everyone's collective intelligence by limiting thoughts to 140 characters, make otherwise reasonable writers break their blog posts into un-parseable gibberish, and turn the internet into a hate-filled cesspool remains to be seen. 

But okay, there's been some good stuff on it lately. So here goes.

#lacgate

While everyone in the US wakes up like this each morning:

picard - damage report

wondering what new horrors Cheeto Benito has wrought, you'll be pleased to know that Canada too is in the throes of political scandal. #lacgate has gripped the national imagination and is currently haunting my fucking nightmares.

The story is as follows: A decade ago, at a party of the political elite, Globe and Mail journalist Leah McLaren attempted to breastfeed the infant child of one MP Michael Chong, the Last of the Red Tories and the current best hope we have of stemming the global wave of fascism.* McLaren was not at this time lactating—she just wanted to know what it was like. Chong walked in on her and put a stop to it. He's subsequently confirmed that yes, this totally happened.

The entire country proceeded to lose its shit.

I did a really good job of avoiding reading about this for about two days. Look, I think birth and parenting and breastfeeding are all wonderful things, but I have a massive squick around the details thereof. The whole thing horrifies me. I totally support the right of parents to whip out a boob and feed the kid wherever, and post it to Facebook without censure, etc., but it's okay if I avert my eyes, isn't it? Because if I think about it too much my own boobs hurt. Why anyone would want to stick their nipple in a baby's mouth that did not belong to them is gross and awkward and weird and TMI. And also I think a violation of—something.

The Globe and Mail has, in response, suspended McLaren for a week. This, of course, is a complete overreaction but also hilarious. Isn't print media dying? They must have gotten a million clicks from people sharing the article, and then frantically searching for it when the story got spiked the same day. This is good for business, which is why someone must have approved it in the first place.

I also really wonder why shit like this even gets published. I know so many starving writers who are better than the journalists who get paid to write incoherent drivel, like Rosie DiManno, or hateful screeds like Christie Blatchford, or blatantly plagiarized hateful screeds like Margaret Wente. And yet, as the industry gets downsized to nothing—and as the world teeters on the brink, and First Nations communities don't have running water, and migrants lose fingers to frostbite trying to flee the US, and climate change threatens to sink us into the ocean—people are getting paid to reflect on how they once tried to breastfeed a stranger's baby at some bougie party ten years ago.

Vice has a funny article about it, of course.


#hothick

I didn't even know what this was. Ho Thick? Hoth Ick? No, apparently it's Hot Hick, which is a thing. That is a thing apparently I am when I go country line dancing. Anyway, it's a hashtag too.

I checked it out, and it includes people confessing to finding the guy in Duck Dynasty hot. I am typically a "live and let live" type person (except when it comes to breastfeeding strangers' babies), but I actually think that this is a kink that is not okay. I am not okay with people finding the guy in Duck Dynasty hot. Sorry. In fairness, it's mainly because he's a racist.


#osslt

I'm going to add one of my own, because today was the day of the standardized literacy test here, and apparently there's a hashtag for that, too. It's pretty funny, and probably far more educational than the test itself, which is a pointless waste of students' time, teachers' time, and taxpayers' money.

Anyway, this year the braintrusts at the EQAO (that's the company we pay to put our tenth graders through hell) thought that a good question to ask 15-year-olds on a test they need to take to graduate high school was: "If you could meet any historical figure, which one would you choose, and why?"

This is a question meant for old people. Obviously teenagers are going to blank, and reportedly, many of them did.

If you know any 15-year-olds, you will know that 90% of them can name only one historical figure.

Yes, that one.

So have fun marking that.



* I'll explain. Chong is the most moderate of the candidates for the Tory leadership, which is still more right-wing than I'd prefer, but basically he's the only one who's not a Nazi. In a federal election, he'd have practically no chance of winning. Which is why a bunch of non-Tories have recently joined the Conservatives in an attempt to vote him in as leader. I think it's not a bad strategy, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He does seem like a good egg, though.
sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
Just yesterday, I found myself arguing with a hippie on Facebook over a photo someone had posted of a man holding up an Islamophobic sign at Yonge-Dundas Square. One of the commenters had suggested that what the man needed was a good elbow in the face, and the hippie self-righteously declared that in the name of FREEZED PEACH, holding a hateful sign was not illegal but elbowing someone in the face was.

I pointed out that the sentiment in the sign would lead to genocide, whereas an elbow to the face seldom did.

I hate to say I'm right, but:

At least five people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City. The mosque was targeted with a pig's head in the summer and it's pretty safe to say—though, of course, the situation is still developing and we don't know many details—that the mosque was targeted because the most powerful voices in the world have declared open season on Muslims.

I'm so sick with rage and grief that I can barely breathe. I'm almost inured to hearing about mass shootings in the States, but this is here. I'm not so naïve as to think that Canadians are better than this—the same sick racist impulses roil just below the surface here—but it still hits close to home. There were children praying. I pass two mosques every day; it could have been the families that I casually smile at on my way home from work. It's too close, it's too real.

And regardless of what they uncover about the shooters (and we know it's going to be a lone wolf white dude who sparks a serious discussion about better awareness for mental illness; I guess two lone wolves in this case), you know who's to blame. You know who has been stoking the hatred here, in the States, in the sewers of Reddit and 4chan, on Twitter, in the White House, in the Tory leadership race. Holding up signs in Yonge-Dundas Square, aided and abetted by appeasers shrieking about free speech. J'accuse, you all have blood on your hands.

You cannot deal with them politely. You cannot appeal to their reason and humanity. This is the result of a climate of xenophobia, and muddleheaded liberalism has been fertile grounds for hatred to thrive.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
Hopefully a continuing series where I criticize the left, but from a place of love. You know, if people are interested in that kind of thing.

Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. That's something I wholeheartedly support, being an unapologetic man-eating feminist myself. But like many good ideas that are too good for the moderates to fully ignore, it's quite often watered-down and turned into the merely symbolic, especially in public institutions like schools or quasi-public spaces like Facebook.

Dec. 6th is the anniversary of the massacre at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. Fourteen young women were murdered at the hands of a maniac, simply for the audacity for being female engineering students. In a country where mass shootings really don't happen often, it was shocking and horrific and leaves a deep psychological scar on any of us who remember, vividly, hearing the news.

Dec. 6th is a day for ritual now. Any well-meaning person of any gender dons the white ribbon (even though the original point was for men to show that they were against violence against women*). Schoolchildren make handprints on banners that declare, "these hands will never be used in violence," even though that is statistically unlikely to be the case. Posters go up, most with roses on them.

On Facebook, every other post is a list of the names of the dead, now with the requisite likes and hearts and crying faces and sometimes angry faces (from the leftists).

It's not that I don't think that these are all important rituals to have, or that these 14 women are not worth remembering. They absolutely are. But I'm uncomfortable when something I feel passionate about is reduced to a cut-and-paste of names and ages so that everyone can show how they remember, how important the ritual is, and how very not-sexist they are. It becomes an exercise in form over function.

Violence against women in Canada does not, by and large, look like a lunatic carefully sorting the female students from the male students and then gunning down the former. That has happened, but that is not what usually happens. Women are more likely to face violence at the hands of a loved one than a stranger. The dead are less likely to look like photogenic young students and more likely to look like this:

15317735_10210195526377609_9006564611569533908_n

Oh, you probably can't see that too well. That's the 1181 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada between 1980-2012, who rarely get spoken about on the one day that we get to talk about violence against women. Marc Lépine is dead, and beyond the reach of justice, but there still might be justice for the women pictured above. We won't know if we don't do anything about it.

It's not a day to talk about the women and girls in prison and foster care, or even victims of domestic violence. Not sex workers or trans women or non-status immigrants, who face a greater risk of violence and exploitation than the general population.  It's not a day to talk about women who have been raped by men who are deemed more trustworthy than they are, and thus are re-victimized in the press and the courts. If we took today to look at those things, we might look at violence against women as something other than a horrible event that happened once but is now safely in the past to be ritualized. We would have to see it as something ongoing, something in which all genders are complicit.

It's not a day to talk about misogyny, today, as rampant and widespread as ever, to shut down any number of MRA and Alt-Reich groups who have seized the zeigeist by the pussy. That would be politicizing things, and the National Day of Remembrance and Action is a hashtag, not, like, a political thing.

My beef is institutional, not individual. On a personal level, listing the names of the 14 victims of Dec. 6th is understandable, even laudable. On an institutional level, however, framing violence against women as a rare, dramatic act rather than a routine and persistent symptom of a patriarchal culture is not productive. I'm not going to lie and tell you I have an answer to this, or even that I know with certainty that it's a problem, per se. I guess I just want a louder, angrier, more complicated discussion. Not symbols, and not copy-and-paste. Ugly, unvarnished truth that moves towards action. For starters.


* Gender is, of course, more complicated, but a lot of us didn't know that in 1991 when Jack Layton was first promoting it.

!!!!!

May. 26th, 2016 07:54 am
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (yay)
I saw Tanya Tagaq perform with the Kronos Quartet last night. Apparently the whole show was livestreamed somewhere, but I can't find it and I have to work a 12-hour day today so I can't go looking, but take my word for it that it was incredible. One of the best performances I've ever seen, and I go to a lot of shows.

Here's a link to their collaboration, "Nunavut," which they did last night.

I've been slightly obsessed with Tagaq for a while—I truly believe she's the most innovative musician in the country right now—but it's one thing to hear recordings, where my brain kind of assumes that there is some production going on, effects, maybe backup singers, and another thing to see her live wherein it is very obvious that all of those sounds are coming just from her.

Just mindblowing.

(Also, can someone tell me why I never hear her played at goth nights? She is more industrial than industrial.)
sabotabby: (furiosa)
Lost amongst the much bigger (but also, of course, disturbing) Panama Papers story is this article, about the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeals that records from the testimony of residential school survivors can be destroyed in 15 years.

Wait, what?

This fills me with so much rage I'm shaking almost too much to type.

I grew up knowing about residential schools. It wasn't exactly a secret, and it ended within my lifetime. I knew they were rape, torture, and death camps from a very early age. I've known about the FUCKING MASS GRAVES FULL OF CHILDREN'S CORPSES for at least a decade. I only recently found out that most settler Canadians claim to have only found out about it with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings, which I don't really believe because I tend to attribute to malice what I can't believe is stupidity.

So, of course, we're going to destroy the records. Thousands of people were brave enough to testify to the rape, torture, destruction of their language and culture, and horrific abuse they suffered at the hands of the state and church, and the state has decide this isn't worth keeping. Probably in another ten years, it can be entirely forgotten. If there's one thing settler Canadians are great at, it's forgetting.

Oh yes, they're claiming that they're going to contact the survivors and ask if they want their records archived rather than shredded (obviously they do, though, or they wouldn't have fucking testified in the first place, would they?) but since a lot of them are dead and they're aging in general and we're not exactly talking about a stable population, I'm guessing they'll say, "oh, we tried to call them but the phone was out of service, into the shredder with the testimony."

And then Canada can go back to pretending its a shining example of human rights when it instituted genocide on a mass scale and there are dead children buried in unmarked graves.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pinko pie)
The CanLit Generator is the best thing I've seen today. I know some of you will find it amusing.

For those of you who aren't from Canada, trust me, it's accurate. Especially the despair and incest.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
I don't have much to contribute to that thing that happens whenever a Western country experiences a horrific attack. It's all been said by people smarter than me. All I can do is extend sympathies to people who are near or have family in Paris—and Beirut; to be honest, I know a lot more Lebanese people than I do French people—and feel sad and shocked and disgusted.

But I wanted to share one really good thing. This is the first good thing on LJ I'm going to say about Dustin Waterhole's government, though I've mentioned a few good things they've done elsewhere. And I think, in general, they're reprehensible opportunists. BUT.

One of their election promises was to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of the year. There's been a lot of talk about how difficult that's going to be, both logistically and politically. Personally, I don't think 25,000 is enough—this is a humanitarian crisis beyond the scope of my imagination, and if we're not doing everything we possibly can, we are failing—but it's a good start and better than Harper would have done, of course.

The attacks on Paris yesterday would have been a chance for the Libs to back out of their commitment and score political points with the hawks and racists. (The attacks on Beirut, of course, would have no affect either way, because doesn't that sort of thing happen all the time over there to those people? No need to light up the CN Tower or change our Facebook icons to the colours of the Lebanese flag.)

They have confirmed, as of today, that they are still going ahead with it.

This is absolutely the correct decision. After all, the horrors we saw in Paris are the selfsame horrors that Syrians and others—oh yes, don't forget that Syria is not the only refugee crisis—are fleeing. It was the correct thing to do a few days ago and it is the correct thing to do today.

It is, furthermore, how the world should react to terror and tragedy—with compassion, empathy, and levelheadness.

So colour me surprised and impressed.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Mistgeburt)
I've seen a number of images and video on the theme of last night's election, but there's only one image—though it has failed to gain the traction that shirtless!Trudeau has managed—that can adequately sum up how I feel about the results.

Transmetropolitan_13_p21

That's from the cyberpunk masterpiece Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis, and if you haven't read it, what are you doing reading my blog? This comic is so much better, and astonishingly prescient. In my favourite arc, the current President, known only as The Beast (even to his children) is challenged by a telegenic, liberal-seeming politician nicknamed The Smiler. At first, Spider Jerusalem, our cynical journalist hero who is in no way Hunter S. Thompson, grudgingly admires him—insofar as he can admire any politician—until he discovers that while The Beast, who is in no way Richard Nixon, is an authoritarian monster, the Smiler, who is in no way Tony Blair, is hiding something much worse.

I don't need to tell you what happens next. You've read a dystopian book or two.

I swear, if I see one more "congratulations Canada!" post, I am going to fucking hurl. It's bad from Americans, as you guys don't really understand our political system or major parties, but it's worse from Canadians, who don't understand our political system or major parties. While I'm as happy as anyone to not have to use this icon anymore—

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 4.20.05 PM
(You get to see it one more time though. Sorry.)

—there is no cause for celebration. And here's why.

Justin Trudeau is indistinguishable from Harper on most things that count, except scarier because no one seems to understand this.

I would ask all Canadians who "voted strategically"* or caught themselves saying "anyone but Harper" to ask themselves why they hate Harper.

Is it because his economic policies favour the rich at the expense of the poor? From a friend's post (since I'm too exhausted to dig up more authoritative sources, but trust me, this is the Liberal fiscal plan):


1) A tax increase on the rich 1%, in order to give the upper 50% a tax cut. People making over 100k, but less than 200k will be looking at a tax cut amounting to $600. Those who make 50k a year will get $80 dollars, those below $45k get nothing.
2) GST cuts for land developers who build "for profit" rental housing -- make a profit, get a tax cut plan. Mike Harris tried, and failed to promote affordable housing using "tax incentives", and the Liberal plan will also fail.
3) Cuts to EI payroll tax, further reducing available funds available for unemployed workers. In the 70s, 70% of the unemployed were serviced through EI (UIC), today only 30%. The Liberal plan continues this trajectory.
4) Expansion of the "baby-bonus" system instituted in 2006 by Harper in place of a daycare plan. Extremely wasteful use of government money.



Okay, math is hard. How about the environment? Trudeau's not quite so bad there, but he supports the Keystone XL pipeline and I'll bet you anything he flips on the other two.

Do you like jobs? Freedom of speech and privacy on the intertubes? Transparency when it comes to trade deals with other countries? Well, Harper negotiated that stuff away in secret with the TPP, but fortunately there's Wikileaks and come on people, if it were a good deal for Canada, they'd have told us what was in it. Instead, the Conservatives held out spilling details before the election, so everyone who doesn't keep up with trade deal acronyms was left in the dark as to how hard we'd get reamed.**

Trudeau doesn't know what's in it. But he's for it.

Most important to me personally, though, is the Harper government's attacks on our civil liberties. That would be Bill C-24, which takes the unprecedented step of allowing the government to strip the citizenship of any Canadian who is eligible for dual citizenship. This includes me, if you were wondering. If someone decides I'm a terrorist (more on that in a sec), I can be deported to Israel. Imagine. The Liberals supported the bill.

Even worse is Bill C-51, which is a mass surveillance, thought crime, and arbitrary arrest bill, loosely defining terrorism as "whatever we don't like," the sort of thing that they used to write dystopian literature about before dystopian literature became a manual for policy writing. The Liberals voted for that one, too. Except Trudeau; he didn't think the skullfucking of our most basic human rights was worth showing up to vote on.

Now, the one nice thing I can say about Liberals is that I appreciate their ideology. They have none. They crave power, and only power; their sole political aim is to get elected and stay there. This is kind of cool because it means that they're by and large not bigots. One voter-unit is the same as the next, and they don't care what your gender or sexual orientation or ethnicity is. So things, in the short-term, might suck slightly less for the Muslims who are getting assaulted on our streets by Harper brownshirts.

Oh, but shit, yo, Trudeau also voted for Bill S-7, the—I'm not fucking making this up—"Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act," which makes things that were already illegal more illegal if you do them while brown. So while I don't think the Liberals are racist for ideological reasons the way the Tories are, they'll be racist if it'll make them popular. And as the whole niqab debacle and the aforementioned brownshirts illustrate, Canadians are pretty fucking racist.

So tell me why I should be happy today. Other than that my inevitable "Prince Justin is a Twat" icon is going to be nicer to look at than my Harper "Fuck the People" icon. Seriously.

The other bad news is that the Liberals' gains come mostly at the expense, not of the Tories, but of the NDP, who while far from being proper socialists, at least voted against all of the shitty things I just mentioned. We lost a bunch of really great MPs to strategic voting. Just to give one example, Dan Harris in Scarborough Southwest, a hardworking progressive who is just a wonderful guy, lost to Bill Blair, former Chief Pig, who supports carding despite the fact that it's racist and doesn't work, and who presided over the vicious police state that Toronto became during the G20. Or awesome Olivia Chow losing to career sleazebag Adam Vaughan. Or punk-rock-as-fuck Andrew Cash losing to "who the fuck is she?" Julie Dzerowicz. (Seriously, what does "held senior leadership roles in the private and public sector" mean?) Or, in the campaign I worked on, Matthew Kellway, who lost to some guy who no one knows anything about except that the name "Trudeau" was on his sign. (Note to my countrymen—we vote for MPs, not the fucking president; learn what your MP stands for and don't just vote based on the party leader.)

Now, I don't even say this as an NDP ideologue, because I'm not one. I only joined the NDP very briefly, to try to keep Mulcair from winning the leadership after Layton's death, and left when they took the word "socialism" out of the party platform. I volunteered with Kellway's campaign out of outrage over Bill C-51 and support for the only political party that had convictions and a commitment to democracy. I'm glad I did, exhausting and depressing as it was. I'm hoping that this defeat leads to a reexamination of the NDP's Blairite direction, perhaps even an exodus of the rightward elements like we've seen in the UK. One hopes the correct lessons have been learned.

In any event, I was despairing last night, as Canada swapped a kitten-eating robot for a born-to-rule pretty boy with more or less the same political leanings but better hair, and backslapped and rejoiced and called it "change." I felt a little less despairing when I woke up and remembered:

1) This is basically the political configuration of my youth, with a Liberal majority, a Tory opposition, and the NDP snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. (The Orange Crush in the last election was an aberration based on Quebec's weirdness and Layton's charisma; the NDP should never have expected to build on Quebec as a base.)

2) Electoral politics has never been the main thing that I do; among other reasons, I'm far to the left of anyone electable.

3) As someone who writes a lot of dystopian fiction, I would be at a loss for inspiration if I ever actually liked the government in power.

4) Having canvassed once or twice a week, every week, for almost three months, my ass is looking really fine.

Sadly, though, Canadian media has no one like Spider Jerusalem to expose the truth, and those of us who value silly little things like freedom and democracy are left to muddle through as best we can. I hope we can rebuild from this, but it's easier to take rights away than it is to gain them, and there's more work to do with a populace that thinks it's free than one that knows it isn't. We must be at once—and I hope the NDP understands this, because historically it hasn't—both principled and ruthless.

Good riddance, Beast, and welcome Smiler, and the rest of you can hold your fucking congratulations until you see what he has in store.

* Note, remember next time that anyone who tells you to "vote strategically" is telling you to support the Liberals. The NDP were winning at the outset.

** I'd say they deserved it for not educating themselves, but I have to live with the results of their ignorance.


ETA: The Beaverton, as usual, has the best coverage: Nation groggily wakes up next to Justin Trudeau:


“Really, the C-51 guy? The guy who’s friends with Bill Blair?” said New Zealand, over Snapchat. “Tell me he at least doesn’t have a douchey native-inspired tattoo.”
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Every candidate running for election gets a copy of Elections Canada's registered voter's list, regardless of whether they belong to a party or not. This list has names and addresses on it.

James Sears, a.k.a. Dimitri the Lover, serial sex offender and literal Nazi, is running in my riding. I, and countless other women, are on that list.

I'm pretty creeped out. Gonna not answer the door for the next little while.

In other news, canvassing during a Jays game is the least fun. I so wanted to snark in people's faces.

"Why would you knock on doors during a Jays game?"

"Sorry, I thought it might be important to preserve democracy in this country. But I realize now I have my priorities wrong. Fuckity bye!"

(Obviously I didn't say it, but do people not realize that watching a sportsball game does not affect the outcome of the sportsball game? You have less control over the outcome of a sportsball game than you have over the secret negotiation of trade agreements that will censor your internet and steal your jorbs.)
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (doomsday)
Just came back from a really interesting lecture at the Reference Library called "Bill C-51 and Dystopian Literature" by Allan Weiss, whose classes I now regret not having taken at York.

I found nothing to dispute in the content of the lecture, which traced the pattern of the classic dystopian novel and applied it to the recent thievery of our civil liberties in this country. In particular, he talked about the essential problem of happiness (in the Epicurian/Utilitarian tradition) versus freedom, and the willingness of citizens—and ultimately, the morally cowardly protagonists—in dystopian fiction to surrender the latter to avoid having the possibility of the former challenged.

This said, my brain went on a weird tangent that I couldn't quite put into words during the Q&A*. Early on, Weiss drew a distinction between classic dystopian fiction, which is about a totalitarian state (e.g., We, Brave New World, and of course 1984), and modern dystopian fiction, which is about the absence of a state or a state supplanted by corporate interests (e.g., cyberpunk, Mad Max). He talked about Bill C-51 in the context of classic dystopian literature, which, yes, makes more sense, but I kept thinking about the parallels with modern dystopian fiction, which are much less obvious.

It occurs to me that the disintegrations of our freedoms in the modern Western world are less a problem of totalitarian governments than a crumbling of the state itself. After all, the Tories were elected out of anti-government sentiment; fear of a state, not desire for a strong one. The oppressive provisions of Bill C-51 arguably support corporate interests more than those of a traditional state—data mining may be used to toss a few people in black sites, but it is far more broadly useful to sell to private companies to market to and/or sue private individuals. Even the state's coercion can be outsourced to private prison contractors. The enemies of the state as defined are as likely to be those who interfere with economic interests—trade unionists, environmentalists, First Nations activists, and the like—as they are to be ISIS fanatics with IEDs.

Or put another way: Are the traditions even actually separate?

One young woman in the audience raised the issue of Facebook, and how much of their privacy her generation has willfully given away, and this resonates with me a great deal. As we move towards unified online identities under real names, abandoning the pseudonymous anarchy of the internet's early days, as we move from programs that required expertise to use to apps that anyone can use but few can alter, as my students read classic dystopias and don't see what the big deal is, after all these people all have jobs and aren't starving and besides, they have nothing to hide, it seems doubtful to me that privacy rights will be anything anyone bothers to fight for anymore. It reminds me of what a prof said in one of the classes I did take at York: There are coercive and consensual ways of controlling and oppressing a populace. The coercive government is the one that's easier to overthrow.

It astounds me that, just because Canadians don't understand statistical risk and don't understand legalese, we can meekly put our heads down and accept, even embrace, such a brutal attack on basic freedoms. Only we've done it before, we do it all the time, and so why would I expect any different? Ask someone if they're willing to accept a decrease in their freedom, and they will say no; ask them if they'll vote for Harper or Trudeau and they won't see the inherent irony at all.

One woman in the audience actually said, "I'm an ordinary citizen, the government already knows everything about me, what do I have to fear from this?" The mostly educated audience took delight in Weiss's takedown of her ("so was Maher Arar") but I think her attitude is more common than mine or most of the people who go to Tuesday night lectures at the Reference Library.

Sometimes I fear that I won't be able to finish any of the dystopian novels that I start (I have started many) because politics descends into entropy faster than I can predict it. But I don't think there's a bottom to this well.


* I almost never ask questions at Q&As for that reason; the second there is the threat of a mic near my face, my brain turns to mush.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
If, a decade ago, you would have said to me, "the British Prime Minister will be publicly accused of having fucked a dead pig's head," I would assume this sentence would be followed up by, "and he resigned in a cloud of scandal the following day."

(Certainly, my favourite comedy of all time, once praised for its accuracy in depicting Whitehall politics, seems adorably quaint, with ministers being forced to resign over all sorts of lesser scandals that do not involve porcine fellatio. Though, in fairness, that was a Labour government, even if it was the worst possible Labour government, so maybe it is still accurate and it's just times that have changed.)

Then again, if you'd said, "the mayor of Toronto will have been proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to have smoked crack, driven drunk, and beaten his wife, and he will not lose his job or even put much of a dent in his political career over this," I wouldn't have believed you either.

Or, "the Prime Minister of Canada can turn a blind eye to Senate expense scandals, trash the economy, impose such ridiculous policies that scientists and librarians rise up in protest, and shrug his shoulders at the tragic drowning death of a 3-year-old boy and still ride high in the polls," I'd have accused you of a cynicism even I don't possess.

And yet.

The way to deal with scandal, these days, is to just shrug your shoulders and say, "so?" It's like they've realized that they're not accountable—it doesn't matter how many people think they're scum. They don't need the majority of the populace on their side—just a very committed minority of bigots who vote. That's it. Whereas the left falls apart at the slightest verbal fumble. It's mindboggling.

Don't get me wrong; I still derive an immense amount of pleasure knowing that David Cameron's sausage slid between the mandibles of a dead pig. And I enjoy, perhaps even more, his cronies and supporters tripping over themselves excusing said behaviour as normal teenage shenanigans. I've even come, in these past few days, to enjoy Twitter, which was invented for situations like this.

But I bristle at impunity. I don't want to live in a world where someone gets away with doing a thing that, were an ordinary person to do it, that person would have to hide their face in shame for all eternity. It's chutzpah to say, "So?" and walk on, and yet I keep seeing it.

And it terrifies me, because we have an election coming up. And we have one guy who is okay with drowning children, and one guy who thinks it's okay for the government to spy on you, and one guy who pretends to have a conscience but doesn't really but is still less bad than the other two. I want to think people are not okay with the child-drowner saying, "Eh, so?" and winning a fucking majority, but one has never gone broke underestimating the bigotry, cowardice, and selfishness of the Canadian people. Or at least the fraction of the Canadian people who bother to vote.

Harper could fuck a pig and get away with it, I'm sure. I'd guess that he has but I don't know that robots are capable of such acts.

The ability to laugh in the face of power is strong, but not as strong as the ability of the powerful to shrug it off.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (march)
FullSizeRender 5

Last night, there were demos in at least 18 Canadian cities and towns. I went to the one here with [livejournal.com profile] misslynx. It was surprisingly large, given the two days that the organizers had to get it together. We shut down traffic at Yonge and Dundas and Yonge and Queen* and rallied outside of the Canadian Border Services Agency office.

Here's some coverage from CTV.

More photos )

Meanwhile, the Tories remain sad that all this dead baby stuff is making them look like big meanies during an election campaign and committed to taking in fewer refugees and supporting Assad (reminder: the reason the war in Syria started four years ago) by bombing anything we can.

There are a lot of horrible things in the world. I can't do anything about most of them. I can do something about this.

* Non-Hogtowners: The busiest part of the downtown.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (socialism with a human face)
For reasons, I have been reading extensively about the Okhrana's surveillance and infiltration of Russian émigré communities from the 1880 to early 1900s lately. It's some pretty wild stuff. One of the things that strikes me is just how disorganized and weird a lot of these operations are, like, "I seduced this guy*, drugged him, kidnapped him, and got him on a boat to Russia, without making sure that the boat had enough fuel to get to Russia without stopping at one of the many countries where public sympathies are in his favour." Or the sheer number of high-profile assassins who were actually Okhrana agents but still assassinated Tsarist officials. And the sheer number of Okhrana officers who, when given the opportunity, went "fuck it, these guys are assholes" and told the revolutionaries everything they knew. Or the ones who went, "hey, let's get some occultists involved, for reasons."

You can't make this shit up.

You can justify it somewhat because people back then didn't have the intertubes or the countless books on espionage best practices that we all have access to now. They were just kinda making it up as they went along. Surely, sting operations against leftists are smarter now?

Enter the RCMP.

RCMP tracked Toronto activists with fake Facebook profile

Has a waddle of penguins ever “liked” your Facebook page? If so, your account may have been monitored by the RCMP.
...
“Will there be food and drinks?” an officer wrote on the Facebook page for an anti-Novotel union rally in 2012. “Cause I am on a fixed student income and will bring some buddies to add to the numbers if we can grab some free food.”
...
The social media account, which went by the name of Bebop Arooney and had a profile picture of three penguins frolicking on a beach, tracked the Facebook pages of more than two dozen organizations in Toronto, ranging from Black Lives Matter Toronto and Idle No More to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Six Jewish and Palestinian groups were also monitored.

WWF wrestler Mick Foley also attracted the Mounties’ attention. A second RCMP social media account — @angrycitizen123 — followed Foley on Twitter."


So, yeah. Don't friend penguins on FB, okay. Also, the RCMP is watching all of us, but kinda badly.

* Vladmir Burtsev. Obviously.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
As you wave your flags, change your FB icons, set off your fireworks, and proclaim your love for this strong and free country of ours*, please remember that tens of thousands of First Nations children died in residential schools and the vast majority of people here truly don't give a shit.





* General "you," not specific "you my readers who know better." Sheesh.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fighting the man)
Here is a thing that happened:

The government of Canada, in collusion with various churches, kidnapped, tortured, starved, neglected, raped, and in many cases murdered aboriginal children. They robbed them of their families and culture. They beat them for speaking their own languages. When they died—and per capita, more of them died than Canadian soldiers in WWII—they were not returned to their families but buried in mass graves that were abandoned once the "schools" were closed. This fucking abomination, our own Holocaust, committed on Canadian soil with the full blessing of the law and with willful, savage brutality, took place from 1869 to 1996, involved 150,000 innocent children, and dealt a blow to indigenous communities that still echoes today. How can it not? 1996. Do you understand how recent this is, how raw this wound remains?

And it's not a secret. It hasn't been a secret as long as I can remember. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee's report on it was released today, but the information contained therein has been in the news for years. I looked back in my "first nations" tag and found a post I made about Kevin Annett, who did extensive research that revealed estimated death tolls and some of the mass grave locations, in 2008. I remember watching "Where the Spirit Lives," which depicts rape, torture, and murder in a residential school, in 1989. We had like five channels back then, but it was on CBC, which you could get even if you just had a coat hanger wired to the back of your TV. My whitebread honky school showed the movie to us in class (different times; these days it would be too graphic to show to children). Even my shitty Canadian history textbooks, which existed to spread a false image of Canada as a multicultural, democratic, benevolent paradise, had a little paragraph noting that this was a thing that happened. (Minus the mass graves and the death toll, which may not have been that well known back in the 80s and regardless is not a thing that instills national pride.)

I don't pretend to be particularly knowledgable about indigenous issues. I'm white as the driven snow. I know some First Nations people, though not many. I've been vaguely involved in some solidarity activism. But I didn't have to go out of my way to learn that my government kidnapped and murdered children.

Like any decent human being, the fact that this was done enrages me. (Decent human beings, judging by some of the comments to today's Star articles, are at a premium in Canada. But if you are not outraged by genocide there's something wrong with you and you are #gulagbait.) But what also enrages me is the number of people who are acting like they had no idea this happened.

"We didn't study it in school."

"I had no idea it was that bad, though."

JESUS FUCK, people, what did you think happened? Why Oka? Why Caledonia? Why Attawapiskat? Why Bill C-51? Don't you live here?

Like, I get how someone brand new to the country might not have heard about it, as the fact that we fucking slaughtered large swaths of the indigenous population is not something that Canada advertises to new immigrants. But do people just never read the news? Is everyone just relying on Grade 10 Canadian history to be an honest and truthful representation of the European conquest of Canada? I'm actually raging here at how willfully oblivious so many whites must be to have made it to adulthood without having any inkling of the blood that permeates the land they've stolen. It's a testament to the brilliance of our national propaganda machine that it can convince so large a percentage of the population that this is not information worth investigating. And it's a testament to the sheer ignorance and racism of settler culture that, proportionally, more children died in residential schools than in Auschwitz or of the Black Plague, and until today few were willing to call it genocide.

Fuck off. If you were born here and didn't know, it's because you didn't care to find out.

P.S. We also enslaved black people. That's not in the history textbooks, but now you can't not know that either.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pinko pie)
I've been away this weekend and there's probably many things that I'd like to post about, but one of the things is that Omar Khadr, the former child soldier imprisoned and tortured by the US and its Canadian lapdogs, is out on bail. I'd like to make a lengthy post but now I don't need to, because [livejournal.com profile] commodorified made an excellent post and you can read it here, and that pretty much says everything I would on the subject. Go read it. It's an important post.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
Canada's Parliament, last seen playing the Imperial March on the bells without a hint of irony or self-awareness, has voted to pass Bill C-51, euphemistically referred to as "controversial" in all the articles about it. Essentially it gives the government even more power to spy on and round up terrorists and terrorist supporters, which for those of you who haven't been paying much attention to Canadian politics, can be defined as "everyone the government disagrees with, but especially environmentalists and First Nations activists."

This isn't even the biggest news story of the day. It passed because it's got a boring name and hardly anyone was paying attention.

More later unless I'm thrown in an army transport vehicle and sent to a camp somewhere, but in the meantime, you can view a list of who voted for it, and, even more tellingly, who didn't even show up, so you know who should go up against the wall come the revolution, I mean next election.

Just in case you thought Trudeau's Liberals would be an improvement over the current lot: spoiler, no, they won't be.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (squee!)
Let's talk about Alberta, shall we?

flaily puppy
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (candle salad)
It's a rare day—and especially in the middle of some acrimonious contract negotiations with my union—that I'll say something nice about the Ontario Liberal government. But here it is: They updated the antediluvian Grade 1-8 sex ed curriculum and it's pretty good. It needed to be done and the changes are thoughtful and vital, including information about LGBTQ sexuality and affirmative consent. So, yay government on this one particular specific issue! You done good! You are terrible and corrupt when it comes to mostly everything else, but I can rest assured that you are sensible when it comes to the health education of young children, and I genuinely do appreciate that.

If you are interested and have enough time on your hands that you want to read really dull Ministry curriculum documents, you can read it here. It's not very interesting unless you're a teacher or a parent but there you go—it's totally public information and you can read it for free.

You know who didn't read it, though? Most people with an opinion about it.

Naturally, when I Googled "ontario sex education curriculum," the curriculum itself was not the first search result. Or the second, or the third. It's at least halfway down the page. The top hits are about protests—very sympathetically covered by the media, in contrast to how left-wing protests are covered—and misinformation by the likes of extremist anti-abortion and right-wing hate groups. This thing has been incredibly controversial, with said hate groups appearing on mainstream media with absurd claims that the new curriculum teaches seven-year-olds how to buttsex. (Spoiler: No it doesn't.)

One thing that would probably seem weird to an outsider is the support that the Tories (and make no mistake—these are not grassroots concern groups coming out of nowhere with no political agenda out of concern for THE CHILDRENS) have amongst marginalized and immigrant communities. I mean, you would think that a party of almost exclusively rich white men who hate people of colour, restrict immigration, have actual ties to white supremacist groups in some cases, and starve poor communities would not be well-liked by the people they make a living disparaging. But they do! And this is by design.

I'm reading Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper's assault on your right to know, by Mark Bourrie, and there is a fascinating chapter as to why this is the case. Harper has a famous mistrust of journalists and believes that the mainstream media is a Liberal conspiracy that's out to get him, and one of the things he's been able to do in his tenure is to craft his message mainly towards the ethnic language media. So he will say one thing to Tamil language media, and another thing to Chinese language media, and so on, depending on whose votes he wants to win, and these are all tiny publications and stations that are basically just excited to get exclusive interviews with major politicians, so they softball interviews and don't have the budget to fact-check. It's completely brilliant and lets the Tories pander to various communities while actually enacting policies that directly harm them.

So when I see stories about how Ontario parents are staging a "strike" over the new sex-ed curriculum, I don't think I'm particularly conspiracy-minded to suspect a greater manipulation at work. I mean, let's be honest; it's pretty impressive if parents of young children can organize a bake sale to raise a few hundred dollars for their child's school, let alone a province-wide movement. Someone is out there, spreading lies and misinformation and playing the fears of parents to score electoral points. And it's working, because our mainstream media is not, in fact, a well-oiled Liberal machine and is actually an uncritical, bare-bones, defunded dinosaur gasping for its last breath as the meteors strike.

Who loses in this? Ontario, because this is all in service of eventually electing a Tory government that will be even worse than the abominable Liberal government. And most of all, the very children that these poor dupes want to protect. Every study ever done points to poor sex education as a major factor in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs. And even more dramatically, I think this curriculum, properly implemented, is a crucial step in building a culture of positive consent that will pay off when these kids are teenagers and experimenting with sex for the first time. Teaching young kids that "yes means yes" means a future where not as many boys will think they're entitled to girls' bodies, and not as many girls will think it's their fault because he bought them dinner. Not as many queer and trans kids will grow up thinking that they're abnormal. This is a net gain for everyone, except for the backwards reactionaries.

Which is maybe why we need to reframe the debate. Instead of "concerned parents," let's focus on the manipulators behind the scenes and their pro-rape, homophobic, transphobic agenda. While sex ed is always a controversial thing, the butthurt of a few uptight pearl-clutchers has never made quite so many headlines in modern Canada, so follow the money. Who is really holding the kids hostage to make a political point?

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