sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (go fuck yourself)
There's so much stupid out there, and it's hard to know when to start when savagely mocking things, even without the US elections stealing a problematic plot point from an episode of Doctor Who. But here are three things that made me roll my eyes so hard that simply a link and a snarky remark on FB was not enough.

1. Facebook, as you probably heard, took down a post from a Norwegian daily featuring the famous photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, best known as the "napalm girl," but be a decent person and call her by her name, okay?  Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, retaliated brilliantly, as you can read here, and eventually Facebook did relent. However, their justification—that is is just too much effort to distinguish between one of the most famous photographs of all time depicting a massive political turning point and child pornography—is what's hella stupid.

Fortunately, I don't need to do a takedown of the whole thing, because Dan Hon did it rather beautifully here, and do take some time to read that post, because it's great and includes one of the most awesome trigger warnings I've ever seen on an online article. But the key takeaway is encapsulated quite nicely here:

Facebook - and, more or less, Silicon Valley, in terms of the way that the Valley talks about itself, presents itself and so-on - is built on and prides itself in solving Difficult Problems. At least, they are now. Facebook is a multi-billion dollar public company where *some* things are difficult and worth doing (e.g. Internet access to 1bn people using custom-built drones, but other things are, by implication, *TOO HARD* and don't warrant the effort.
I was going on at great length yesterday to a friend about my hatred of Facebook's sorting algorithm, and how it can cause some friends to disappear and some to become disproportionately prominent, and make you feel as though no one is listening to you and you're shouting into a void when it decides it doesn't like one of your posts. (It's bad enough when it happens on FB; worse when it happens in cases like hiring practices or policing techniques; we are increasingly delegating large parts of our lives to supposedly objective technology that's created by subjective, and generally speaking, racist, humans.) LJ solved this particular problem in a very simple way, by showing you every post by every friend in the order that they posted it, without continuous scrolling. Now, obviously, this doesn't fit with FB's business model at all, or the way that most people use it, but it does show that the problem can be solved.

Historically, we have not asked big monstrous corporations to solve all of the world's problems, but Silicon Valley seems determined to solve all the world's problems, or at least "disrupt" and create problems where there weren't any problems before. And we seem willing to surrender the questions of what problems exist, and which are worth solving, to them, which is why the US seems to have delegated creating its educational policy to Bill Gates, of all people. Which brings me to a tangential point raised by someone in the BoingBoing forums: At what point do we make a distinction between the traditional definition of free speech being freedom from government repression, and start being honest about the control over the discourse that corporations get. At what point is Facebook equivalent to or more powerful than a state actor? I think we're there; Facebook is the primary news source for a huge chunk of the population, and at some point we need to force it to act responsibly or force it to abdicate this role.

Anyway, fucking stupid. Hire some humans who can distinguish between a black-and-white news photo of a naked child on fire and actual porn, and pay them a living wage.

2. SPEAKING OF A LIVING WAGE...Okay, I've mocked this to shit already today but I'm not done mocking, no I am not.  Via Everyday Feminism, currently vying with Upworthy for the Worst Place On the Internet: 20 Ways to Help Your Employees Struggling with Food Insecurity and Hunger.

Now, for a site that claims to be all about accessibility, EF is slightly less accessible than, say, Alex Jones after 72 hours of substituting Red Bull, vodka, and crystal meth cocktails for sleep, which is to say it's one of the worst-written sites I've ever seen. I'm guessing they don't have paid editors. Every article is skimmable at best, and tends to amount to: "Be gentle, check your privilege, and don't forget to self-care with your yogurt." But this is possibly the worst article of every bad article I've ever read there, because not one of these 20 ways is "pay your employees a living wage."

Because, sorry. A minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, and if your employees are on food stamps, you are not paying them enough. If you "can't afford" to pay them enough, as EF suggested in their equally ludicrous rebuttal to the criticism this article garnered, you are a shitty businessperson and deserve to go bankrupt. And if you have the time and money to learn about your employee's food sensitivities—again, you are not paying them enough, and hardworking taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize your lack of business acumen.

Should you be in the odd position where you cannot control how much you pay your employees (let's say you're the just-above-minimum-wage manager of a McDonald's, though if you were, I'm not sure why food sensitivities would be an issue), plenty of helpful friendly unions would be happy to come and visit your employees and assist them in organizing to get their wages raised.

Also, they include the worst suggestion of all time, which is to load up on meat-lovers pizza. Please do not do this, whether your workers are starving or not. In 100% of catered work events I have attended, the "meat-lovers" go right for the paltry vegetarian options and eat it all up before the vegetarians can get to it.

3. Finally, let's talk about architecture. Check out York U's new building! Now, York U is already the repository for a collection of the worst architectural trends in the last half-century (as is Toronto in general; we spawned Frank Gehry, after all) but this one is just too hilarious to be believed. It's like the Edgy White Liberal of buildings. You can practically see the #hashtags in #every #sentence in that #puffpiece.

Guess what, starchitects. People figured out hundreds of years ago how to make buildings work, and you can't improve on it all that much. Human beings like to feel relatively contained, and more importantly, like their ambient noise to be contained, particularly in places where they're supposed to work or study. That's why universities have quaint, outmoded features like "classrooms" and "lecture halls." Ever tried to work in an open concept office? It's distracting as anything. I'm all for less productivity—productivity is one of the Great Lies of late-stage capitalism—but I would rather be unproductive on my own terms. And common areas for meeting with students? When students want to meet with me outside of class time, it's quite often to tell me that they're struggling with family or workload or mental health issues, so why not just shout that all over the #learningspaces where the whole #engineering program can hear it?

Plus, like every building erected in the last 20 years, it looks like the architect gave up, crumpled the blueprints, and submitted the balled-up paper as the actual design.

Kill it with fucking fire.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
The Honourable Wife-Beater's latest kerfuffle is an example of why I think more emphasis needs to be placed on his disastrous politics instead of on his little crack hobby or weight.

To summarize the story briefly: Toronto Community Housing Corporation is the body in charge of public housing in Toronto. While frequently unresponsive and even abusive to poor, marginalized tenants—resulting, at least in one case, in the death of an elderly tenant evicted in 2013 under sketchy circumstances—its officials make six-figure incomes and are about as corrupt as you'd imagine. In part of his efforts to stop the gravy train, Ford forced the resignation of its entire board. The current CEO, Gene Jones, is an American who, up until recently, made $271,000 a year and a bunch of really interesting decisions involving hiring and firing, including hiring one of his buddies, creating a position for her, and then immediately raising her salary $30,000. Needless to say, the penny-pinching fiscal conservative Ford just loooooves this guy.

Anyway, the city's ombudsman, Fiona Crean, just released a scathing 111-page report on Jones that would cause the immediate resignation of anyone with an ounce of decency. OMG, did civic oversight just work? There was much rejoicing. I knew we had an ombudsman but didn't actually know anything about her, but this lady is my hero right now.

The Honourable Wife-Beater's response? He called for her head.

This right here—not the crack, not the drunkenness, not the public urination—this is why Ford is a shitbag. Because it's the pattern, not just with him, but with every conservative at every level of government. Preach austerity, hire cronies to waste money, and then try to muzzle anyone—journalists, scientists, ombudsmen—who point out the hypocrisy.

On a related, though less serious note, John Tory's latest is also pretty good. He's going to plant 3.8 million trees, presumably with magical money farted out by unicorns, because he cares sooooo much about the environment, but wants to cancel the proposed Eglinton bike lanes. (I try to have nothing to do with that part of the city, but I do really like the Eglinton Connects plan; it seems completely sensible and even pretty.) So, you know, anyone who votes for him should be aware that we would just be getting Ford, policy-wise, with fewer funny things that get us featured on American talk shows.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (learn2grammar)
I'm very much on the go today (and all weekend, argh) so here are two rantlets with accompanying links that have little in common beyond being about phrases I hate.

Broken homes

In the midst of an otherwise quite good "don't pick on teachers" editorial, Peter Mansbridge says:
We send teachers children from broken homes, from abusive homes, from negligent homes. We send teachers children from homes where both parents work, or where the only parent works, or where no parent works.

Which reminds me that I don't think I've ever ranted about how much I hate the term "broken home."

I was one of those pitiable children who came from a broken home—and, as a bonus, a home in which the only parent worked. (A trifecta, even; I have some memories of coming home from school when said parent worked late, making me—at least according to the media, a "latchkey kid, raised by the television." Woe is me!) In fairness, up until I was a certain age, one could conceivably call my home "broken." I'd argue that my parents' separation and later divorce fixed that rather handily, however; my home was certainly a better place to be with a single parent than it was with a traditional nuclear family.

The divorce rate in Canada is approximately 41%, and presumably many of them have children. For the sake of argument, let's say four in ten students I teach come from families where the parents are divorced. I'd bet you anything that those four aren't the ones causing trouble. As much wailing and moaning as there is about absent fathers and such*, of the children I've taught who experience some form of abuse that I know about (i.e., Children's Aid was involved in some way), all but two experienced that abuse at the hands of a father or step-father. So—whose homes are "broken" again?

Can we have a moratorium on "broken home" and "single-parent family" being shorthand for "troubled kid"? It's sexist and heterocentric (after all, it assumes the supremacy of the nuclear family) and obscures the very real problems of high unemployment, poverty, ableism, and marginalization that are typically behind the failure of kids to thrive in school.

Creative class

Looks like this one's been dealt the death blow by the man who coined it in the first place, Richard Florida. The article has its problems (the author is way too gleeful, for one thing, though that's not surprising given what a douchenozzle Florida is), and stops well short of proposing workable solutions. But it's nice to finally see an admission of the failure of what's basically polite class warfare.

So beyond the obvious—an influx of artsy young professionals with no kids does not a thriving urban centre make—let's examine the assumptions inherent in the term itself. Are working class people not creative? Are there significant numbers of people who can earn a living through "creativity" without either being supported by their upper class parents or working as a barista at Starbucks? Is the separation of this group of people into a single city or neighbourhood a desirable outcome?

It's dumb enough that Florida said it in the first place, and even dumber that it's spawned a culture of TED Talks and institutional conferences that take the existence of something called a "creative class" as a given. I should hope that this foolishness will stop now that he's admitted it's bunk.

* This usually comes with a big helping of coded racism as well: If black fathers would only stick around, black boys wouldn't join gangs or something.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (go fuck yourself)
Asshole of the Week: Elsa La Rosa. La Rosa is the shitspittle who complained about strollers on the TTC, a complaint they apparently took seriously enough that all local media is yammering today about whether strollers should be banned or limited on transit or parents charged extra for bringing them on.

I suppose this fine upstanding citizen is incapable of picturing the pitiful sight of a mother and her young children, waiting for an hour in the windswept, -20°C wastelands of Scarborough for the next bus to arrive because, well, there were already two strollers aboard the last one so tough luck, lady. La Rosa might be incapable of empathy, but I'm not. I don't care much for SUV strollers either, but the only thing more irritating than having a stroller appear on public transit is being the unfortunate sod in the position to have to bring a stroller on public transit. Generally speaking, if you're hauling one of those fuckers on a bus, you have zero other options.

There is, of course, a strong element of sexism at work—it is still primarily women who are responsible for childcare, and thus it's women that La Rosa would apparently like to see restricted from the public spaces that they pay taxes to maintain. There's an even stronger element of classism. Rich moms don't take the TTC. Any fee or restriction would disproportionately affect working class and impoverished parents and children.

Also, La Rosa is just a selfish douche. She also wants to lower the age for a senior’s Metropass, presumably because she's 61 and you need to be 65 to get the discount.

Lest you think that the Asshole of the Week designation is awarded lightly, our winner was up against some very strong competition. But La Rosa wins it on sheer pettiness.

I should also mention that it's only Tuesday.

(Oh, and that the solution is actually wider buses and streetcars, and more vehicles in service at any given time. But there isn't the political will.)
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
So Bill 115, which froze teacher's salaries and advancement through the salary grid, personally cost me just over $7000 a year based on the salary I would have gotten if there was just a simple pay freeze. Even more than that when you count things like the money I spend to take additional qualification courses ($700-800 a year) because I spend my summers, not loafing on a beach, but improving my credentials in hopes of getting to the top pay category. Even more when, next year, they mandate three unpaid days off, making the "pay freeze" actually a pay rollback.

It also cuts my sick days in a way that will dramatically affect my health. I suffer from a debilitating, life-threatening, potentially chronic illness. Now every time I have to take a sick day, whether it's to get the drug treatments that leave me weak and nauseous, to get consultations with doctors, or just because I work in a germ factory and have a depressed immune system, I have to weigh my health against the third of my day's salary that they'll dock if I'm gone more than 10 days this year.

And we can't strike over this. We can't even appoint a mediator to help us get a fair contract. We're not allowed to negotiate at all. The law is not subject to any courts, or the Human Rights Code. It says right there in the law!

The justification for this is that there's no choice! We're in a deficit! There's a crisis, and everyone must make sacrifices*. It's for the kids!

Which is why I was so interested to read that the government that voted in the illegal Bill 115 is itself making huge sacrifices for the good of the economy.

Wait, did I say that? Silly me. They're giving themselves huge pay hikes. Because how else will you attract qualified professionals?

Torches and pitchforks time, people.

ETA: One of those articles is undated and the other is from November 2011. But surely we didn't go from financially flush to flat broke in 10 months!

* Rich people excluded, naturally. Dontcha know they're job creators?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
There's certainly something to be said for projects like this one, intended to decrease the ghettoization of the poor, rebuild crumbling neighbourhoods, and promote communities.

My problem? Why is it always about building market condos in poor areas? If mixed-income was really meant to benefit poor people, they'd be building social housing in Rosedale and Yorkville. In every case I can think of where mixed-income developments happen in an existing neighbourhood, it's always about the invasion of the rich into prime real estate that someone has inconveniently built a housing project on.

I sense ulterior motives, and a very local sort of imperialism.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (watchmen orly)
So [ profile] bcholmes and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises.

Paul Johansson, take note: This is how you make a really good movie with really reprehensible politics.

spoilers! )

ETA: Two more interesting reviews.

The Dark Knight Rises: Class War in the Dystopian Present:

Our first thought on leaving the theatre- what kind of society could produce a big-budget movie with such a completely hopeless message about the future of humanity and the inability of ‘the people’ to govern themselves?

'The Dark Knight' is No Capitalist:

So this is a class struggle all right, but it’s not between Bane’s pseudo-proles and Gotham’s elite with their cop army. That’s a sideshow. The struggle is within the ruling class itself, between the capitalist Daggett and the aristocratic Wayne. Wayne is far more feudalism than finance: heir to a manor complete with fawning manservant, unconcerned with business or money-making, bound by duty and honor even if it makes him a recluse.


Mar. 23rd, 2012 05:12 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (teh interwebs)
My LJ has been rather repetitive lately, all B5 and spinal tumours, so I thought I'd share some interesting, inspiring, and horrifying articles and posts that have caught my eye but that I've been too preoccupied to blog about.

Most of you have probably already read The White Saviour Industrial Complex, one of the many excellent critiques out there of Kony 2012.

In addition to the library workers out on strike (and inside city workers likely joining them soon), Air Canada workers staged a wildcat strike. For obvious reasons I can't join the solidarity actions, but if you can, you should. Also, this is one industry that I feel even the most right-wing, anti-union bigot ought to agree needs to be paid well. I mean, do you want the guy who helps land your plan to be overworked and underpaid?

The largest political protest in Canadian history happened yesterday, with 200,000 students, teachers, parents, union activists, and others striking against proposed tuition hikes. (That article's in French; the English-language press has been stupid about the whole thing. Here's an English article from the CBC, but it downplays the numbers and significance.

Via [ profile] symbioid, a heartbreaking article about the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Via [ profile] hano, Robert Bales is not the victim. (Robert Bales being the murderous scum who slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians, including children.)

Via [ profile] marlowe1: Hey, frum parents! Get your daughter a facelift or she'll never find a husband. I posted some pretty shocking links above but there's something about this one that is just a special kind of wrong.

Watch Bruce Schneier trounce the former head of the TSA in a debate about security.

signal-boosting a petition against forcing American ISPs to police downloads )

ETA: Because the above is pretty grim, watch this video about a blind stray dog living in a trash dump until she's rescued by nice people. It will make you cry but it has a happy ending, I promise.

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fridge)
I meant to post about this awhile ago, but let's face it—it sucks having to do all of my typing standing up. And all of my checking of e-mail standing up. And all of my reading standing up. I'm way behind on responding to a lot of things because it takes me forever to read a long post or answer an e-mail. Also, my feet hurt.

But anyway, I run into a lot of posts like this particular one and I don't feel I've ranted on it lately, so here we go:

Frugal food: 10 DIY tips to save money while eating better and healthier.

It's another rehash of the classic "LENTILLLLLLLS" flamewar: privileged people with lots of free time telling the rest of the world how to eat. There's a few dissenters in the comment section, but overall it's a circle-jerk of smug.

Now, I am pretty privileged myself, current disability status aside. I do eight out of these ten things already, and plan on doing the other two (visiting the farmer's market and starting a garden) come the spring, assuming that I am back to being able-bodied by then. But it's like the post's author and the commenters are blissfully unaware that very few people do have that sort of privilege. Issues like food deserts, water pollution, disability, and poverty seem to barely enter the conversation. If I, for example, were living in the neighbourhood in which I teach, chances are that there is not a grocery store in walking distance, and not everyone can afford a car. There certainly isn't a nearby farmer's market (and farmer's markets in Toronto tend to be far more expensive than the grocery store or the local fruit stand). Some people can't afford to buy crockpots. Many, many people don't have storage space for bulk purchases. Most people don't have any green space in which to start a garden. A good many people lucky enough to be employed are too busy to cook every night (and I am certainly one of them).

And yet, with one aside about fracking and countries without potable water, these pitfalls never even enter into the discussion. It's assumed that everyone has equal access—in my experience, even an average, middle-class person in the First World doesn't necessarily have the access the post assumes. And like practically every article about food economics and health, there's the assumption that problems are individual and can be mitigated by individual choices, rather than collective, informed by corn and meat subsidies that artificially inflate or deflate prices, poor urban planning, and economic disparity.

I say!

Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:58 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (monocleyay)
Allow me to opine, if I might, on the deplorable state of the White workingman in our former colonies. With the abandonment of such venerable institutions such as the poorhouse and indentured servitude, it is apparent to all men of standing that the lower classes have forgotten both their place and their manners, and have become a species as alien to their betters as the Chinaman from the Orient.

Of late, the anarchist subversives have found sympathetic ears and blame the disparity between their sort and the propertied classes on the distant and uncaring attitudes of said propertied classes, but any man of decent breeding and education will recognize the treasonous mendacity of these statements. The problem, as always, lies in the moral degeneracy of the labouring classes. It may be illustrated in the poor habits of these unfortunates, who would sooner attend a cockfight or den of iniquity than a church pew.

I speak only of the White labourer. While it is true that the depravity of the Negro is an affront to our civilization, the affairs of the lesser races do not concern us. No, good sirs, it is the White workingman whose piteous plight I shall examine below.

Matrimony: In my day, a good number of Whites were married. It is most troublesome that, while gentlefolk continue to marry, the poors are content to engage in vice outside of the sanction of the Church.

Bastardry: The labouring classes continue to breed, whether joined in holy matrimony or otherwise. The result of this licentiousness, naturally, is a teeming mass of bastards living in squalid conditions in the slums, a problem compounded by misguided Child Labour laws that forbid factory owners from putting these unwanted wretches to work. Few among the fairer sex have even the common decency to perish in childbirth.

Industriousness: It seems to me that the poors in my day were a good bit more industrious. Why, in my sawmill, they would labour a good 16 hours a day for five shillings! There were never any complaints. When one of my employees severed a finger in his machine, he plugged the bleeding stump with cotton and kept on working, lest he be docked half an hour’s pay. The workingman of today expects a lunch, and even basic safety standards, and denied these, will kick up his feet and refused to work at all.

Crime: Possessing no industriousness, the workingman has become indistinguishable from the criminal rabble. It is my studied observation that the rate of crime is greater in the slum neighbourhoods of the labourer than it is in the estates of the gentry.

Devoutness: The workingman will no longer listen to his betters, or to the Good Book. Many labourers have ceased to attend church altogether. It is clear that the dire predicament of the lower classes owes much to the paucity of their prayers.


In my day, the workingman and the gentleman were not so different. While we lived in mansions and they in crowded tenement houses, and while they were far more likely to perish of consumption, the fabric of our great civilization remained intact. The degeneracy of the upper classes may, I daresay, also contribute to the cleaving of our social order; a good many of them have adopted curious habits no doubt borrowed from nefarious foreign influences. This lapse of judgment is most apparent in their exotic victuals, such as yoghurt and muesli.


What is the cause of this state of affairs? While the Whigs may lay blame squarely on the avarice of the aristocrat and businessman, it remains self-evident to any right-thinking gentleman that, rather, it is the workingman who is to blame for his own predicament. His decline has been aided by the folly of the suffragettes and reformers. His soul is in desperate need of salvation, a salvation that can be brought about only by the grace and wisdom of his betters. We must shun him for his vices and, in doing so, lead him back to the bosom of the Church. Only in doing so may our beloved colonies be redeemed.

Charles Murray on the "New American Divide." I may have paraphrased a bit.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (march)

I wish I were in New York.

Related: We are the 99%

Whenever I think about capitalist economics—really think about it, at its most basic—it blows me away. To think that we (collective we, not this particular corner of the internet) can't possibly conceive of an alternative. To think that angry mobs with torches and pitchforks are the exception rather than the rule. If one thinks about wealth distribution and is not immediately enraged (and I say this as a person who benefits far more than I suffer from the system), one isn't thinking hard enough.


Aug. 15th, 2011 05:14 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Presented for your edification, a series of links illustrating the state of the world.

I feel remiss in not blogging more about the UK riots, but I am neither the most qualified to talk on the matter, nor have I been doing a great job in keeping up with the details. This story, however, should chill you to the bone even if you know very little about what's going on. Cameron is talking censorship of social media and other online communications, to the approval of the Chinese government, which has been doing this for quite some time because it isn't a massive fan of free speech. Apparently, you can also now get evicted if you have a family member accused (not convicted) of taking part in the riots. Awesome! I can't fucking believe this is happening.

I think this is a parody, but Iran proposes sending peacekeepers to Britain.





Newsflash! The rich actually are different! And by "different," we mean "sociopathic."

Yeah,, I know, but this article on the 6 dumbest things schools are doing in the name of safety really struck home as I approach another no-doubt absurdedly overpoliced school year.

Man, that's depressing. Have an HDR experiment:

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fighting the man)
A few things that didn't go in the last post but I wanted to mention before packing it in for the night:

Via [ profile] upstart_crow: The criminalization of walking.

Some of you may have heard of the story from Atlanta about a mother with three kids who, after getting off at a bus stop, attempted to cross a street when one of the kids broke away. He was hit and killed by a drunk driver on painkillers with a history of hit and runs. The bastard who killed a 4-year-old child was allowed to plead out, whereas the mom who lost her son was convicted of vehicular homicide and faces three years in jail. She was judged, not by a jury of her peers, but by a jury of middle-class white people who'd never even had to ride a bus.

I post this in part because it's a horrific story that needs to be told, in part because the article is a well-written analysis of city planning flaws, and mostly because this the logical conclusion of the Ford Nation worldview, wherein drivers are citizens—sorry, taxpayers—and those who rely on transit, bikes, or their own feet to get around are criminalized by virtue of not being able to afford a car.

The next thing is sillier but I thought you folks might appreciate it: Molson Coors is making a beer for the ladies! It has all kinds of weird crap in it besides the usual watery swill, and—get this—it is pink. Because ladies like pink things.

If you live in Canada, you already know that Jack Layton has temporarily stepped down as leader of the NDP, having been diagnosed with cancer. It's a pretty awful situation and I sincerely hope that he'll be able to fight it and win. Should you want to send a get-well message, you can do so here.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
I have two doozies for you today.

The first is about Canada and our mines. Canadians like to think of ourselves as peaceful and humanitarian, but we are actually right murderous bastards when it comes down to it. Canada owns 40% of the mining companies in the world, and we are known internationally for horrific human rights abuses and environmental devastation.

In Tanzania, Barrick Gold's operations have prevented locals from making a living, stealing Tanzanian resources to profit a Canadian company. Life-threatening levels of arsenic have been found near the mine; in May 2009, 203 people became ill and 43 people died near one of Barrick Gold's sites. Some of the locals, in a desperate attempt to survive, have been invading the mine to "steal" gold (though it's not really stealing, unless one believes that Canadian gold magically got under Tanzanian soil). So naturally, we had those guys killed.

Apparently because we can't resist pouring salt in a wound, Barrick Gold then banned the families of the victims from holding a memorial at the mine.

If the police decide to use force against us, it is entirely up to them. We will hold a peaceful ceremony,” said Tundu Lissu, a lawyer who has worked on behalf of residents around the North Mara mine and who is an opposition MP in Tanzania’s parliament.

“We will not be intimidated or told how to mourn our dead by the very people who murdered them.”

Despite the ban, a van with a loud speaker still drove through the streets of Tarime inviting townspeople to attend. It was quickly followed by a police truck issuing a warning to residents against taking part in any such activities.

Disgusting. For more information on how we're fucking over people and the environment with our greed, check out Canadian Mining Watch.

Professional misogynist stooge Margaret Wente is at it again! In her latest offering, this blathering maggot has managed to spew forth the most incredible drivel that, I believe, may very well win some sort of award for the most concentrated clusterfuck of virulent racism, sexism, and homophobia ever contained within a single sentence.

The sentence in question is as follows:
Why would a man who’s married to a thoroughbred like Maria Shriver cheat on her with a plump Mexican housekeeper?

Really, you batshit drooling harpy? Really?

It gets worse, too. For some reason, the Chattering Class has decided that any mention of the adulterous Schwarzenegger must also contain a reference to violent rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn*, and vice versa. And no, not because one questions the likelihood of non-coerced, freely given consent where a rich and powerful man and a racialized, marginalized woman in his employ are concerned.

Wente makes the dubious claim that the case of Strauss-Kahn "is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimension (or, at the very least, the makings of a great novel)." Again, not because a woman in a vulnerable position was brutally assaulted. It's a "tragedy" because of its impact on European politics. Wente feigns sympathy for the women involved, but her focus, and distress, is centered around the fall of great men and how their "follies" are making us all look bad.

Anyway, that's it. I'm all for freedom of speech, but for the love of everyone's sanity, someone take away that woman's laptop.

* Okay, alleged violent rapist.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (gunfight at carnegie hall)
If you're content with the world, what's wrong with you? Here's a round-up of the latest news stories that have gotten me in a righteous fury.

How is Gaddafi still allowed to talk? Seriously, a muzzle is the least of what should happen to him. The protesters are being manipulated by al-Qaeda. The protesters are all on drugs. You know what's probably influencing the protesters? The fact that you're a giant douche. Also, you sound like Bush.

And surprise, Al Jazeera's signal got jammed. Looks like Al Jazeera is on it, at least.

A Gallup poll found that 61% of Americans are against taking away collective bargaining rights. That's good news! The bad news is that FOX, unhappy with this result, reported it a little differently.

In case we needed a reminder that Koch and his Teabagger minions are evil.

I guess you guys heard about the Planned Parenthood thing already. I'm still angry about it, though.

You can rape a woman in Manitoba and get away with it, as long as she's wearing a tube top. Can I get away with punching that judge in the face because his mustache was totally asking for it?

This is kind of funny, actually. The U.S. Army paid for a team of soldiers to lobby Congress. Psychically. I would only ever join an army under two conditions: 1) a clear case of just war, like the Spanish Civil War, and 2) I get to be in psy-ops. The latter is easy money to screw with people's heads, and I do that already, come to think of it.

Mother Jones has a great series of infographics on the wealth gap in America. You should see it.

Finally, if you want to be productive and do something about something, a labour historian at the University of Wisconsin has some suggestions for how to help the workers there.

cut for length )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Here are some stories that you should pay attention to:

[ profile] bcholmes has a post on how the cholera epidemic in Haïti likely started because of UN peacekeepers.

Did the Star seriously just run an article slamming Jenny Peto's master's thesis? Yes they did.

Don Cherry is a douche. This isn't news, I just thought I should mention it. Also, that suit is fucking horrible.

Ontario's ombudsman reports that McGuinty's secret law but not really a law was illegal. Rumour has it he will next investigate the preferred defecation grounds of bears.

You might not have seen this in the news back in May, but there is currently a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge around homelessness and inadequate housing. You can find more information here and here.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (sabo-kitty)
We here at Sabotabby Reads the News applaud a surprising turn of events: Three men have been charged in the deaths of four workers killed by a faulty scaffold.

I say surprising because it is the first time in Ontario that company officials have been charged with murder for choosing short-term profit over the lives of their workers. One seldom hears of it happening anywhere, despite the frequency of work-related deaths as companies increasingly skimp on health and safety to save a few bucks. These are deaths directly attributable to capitalism, but, of course, we don't tally death-by-political-system unless the killers are ostensibly communist.

This reminds me of two other deaths last month, those of Ralston White and Paul Roach, who died on a farm near Owen Sound after inhaling toxic fumes that have no business being around human beings. You probably didn't hear those names, because, well, they were Jamaican migrant workers employed under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Three hundred workers die on the job in Ontario every year. In comparison, 151 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001. I will state with confidence that fruit-pickers and construction workers are more important to a civilization than soldiers. (What's more important, invading Afghanistan or having a roof over your head and food in your stomach?) And yet, Aleksey Blumberg, Vladimir Korostin, Fayzullo Fazilov, and Aleksanders Bondarevs do not get moments of silence at school assemblies. Ralston White and Paul Roach do not get paraded, with flags and fanfare, down the Highway of Heroes.

It is my hope that the families of these men get some small measure of justice and comfort, and that this marks a turning point at which we might begin to examine the violence inherent in the system our culture's conceptions of whose lives count, and whose do not.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (sweatshop nationalism)
A genuine naïve furrn'r question here:

Okay, so if a shitload of Americans are not insured* because they can't afford it or are unemployed, how does making it illegal to not have health insurance help in any way?

The way I see it, forcing people to give money they don't have in the first place to companies that will just screw them when they get sick anyway, actually makes the situation worse. The only thing progressive here is the idea that everyone should have health care, except that instead of placing the responsibility on the state, where it belongs, it is placed on the people with the least amount of political or economic clout.

Am I missing anything here?

* Putting aside for a moment the problematic notion of private health insurance or the fact that most insured people are still screwed because their insurance doesn't cover enough. Which we shouldn't put aside, because it's important. But it's obvious that the solution is more socialism; I'm just talking about what's currently on the table.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
A genuine naïve furrn'r question here:

Okay, so if a shitload of Americans are not insured* because they can't afford it or are unemployed, how does making it illegal to not have health insurance help in any way?

The way I see it, forcing people to give money they don't have in the first place to companies that will just screw them when they get sick anyway, actually makes the situation worse. The only thing progressive here is the idea that everyone should have health care, except that instead of placing the responsibility on the state, where it belongs, it is placed on the people with the least amount of political or economic clout.

Am I missing anything here?

* Putting aside for a moment the problematic notion of private health insurance or the fact that most insured people are still screwed because their insurance doesn't cover enough. Which we shouldn't put aside, because it's important. But it's obvious that the solution is more socialism; I'm just talking about what's currently on the table.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (how much hello kitty weighs)
In an effort to decompress after reading Serious Literature, I borrowed a copy of Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris that had somehow made its way into my house. (Basically, [ profile] zingerella tossed it at me and said: "Trashy vampire novel! Read it! You won't be able to put it down and you'll want to stake Bill.") True on all counts, because she knows my taste pretty well. After having now read something from the big three popular paranormal romances (Twilight and the Anita Blake books being the other two), I think I have now read enough that I can form a few half-assed conclusions about paranormal romance as a genre.

The first is that I don't like it. Oh, I like to read it, because it's excellent subway material and makes me outraged in a particular way that I find entertaining, but I don't lose myself in the fantasy like a good little girl is supposed to. I remember, as a teenager, being quite into vampire novels (I drew the line at Anne Rice, given how piss-poor her prose was, but I quite enjoyed Nancy Baker and other embarrassingly Goff writers). But I've yet to read one that didn't offend me.

The second is why it offends me. There's the obvious feminist angle, of course. While within a patriarchal society heterosexual relationships typically involve some imbalance of power, in paranormal romance, the relationships are by necessity severely imbalanced. The male half of the couple is dominant, not by virtue of privilege, but because he is a predator and the female half of the couple is his natural prey. This is never portrayed as deeply fucked up, but actually quite special and romantic. Anita Blake is the least offensive of the lot on this issue, because at least she's a fairly powerful woman in her own right. But she's still less powerful than her love interests.

(Compare to say, Buffy and Angel. The relationship is more balanced than the ones in paranormal romances because while Buffy is human, she has supernatural powers, and even when she's weaker than the vampires, she outmatches them by being unpredictable and a brilliant strategist. And even so, everyone in her life comments that her relationship with Angel is dysfunctional and unbalanced, because even when he's good, he's still a vampire and several hundred years older than her, and thus not really the type of guy you want to bring home to Mom, no matter how awesome Joyce happens to be.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a really big fan of dysfunctional relationships in fiction. I don't think I've ever portrayed a happy couple in my own writing. But I want some acknowledgment that the dynamic is creepy rather than romantic.

When I'm reading these stories, I wonder about the women who do get off reading them. Far be it from me to judge anyone's fantasies, but it is a bit of an odd one to be so very popular, particularly among women who don't consider themselves to be particularly kinky.

Detractors of genre fiction frequently argue that sci-fi/fantasy is "escapist"; I disagree, of course. Good skiffy is quite the opposite, using the language of the bizarre to describe the contemporary human condition. But I don't just limit my reading to good speculative fiction, because there isn't enough of it—I'm quite fond of the trashy stuff too. Particularly young adult skiffy, where the predominant fantasy is of the bookish daydreamer who is somewhat of an outsider but, as it turns out, is the powerful Chosen One meant to save the magical world from doom.*

Paranormal romance seems to follow a different narrative, however. It's a fantasy of powerlessness. In it, the female (always female!) protagonist is frequently ordinary; if she possesses any special abilities at all, they won't help her when she actually needs them. She falls in love with a man who is stronger than her in every way. Whatever advantages she had over the average human are useless to her now. In addition, she frequently suffers from "character flaws" that make her weaker and less well-equipped than average to navigate the dangerous world of the supernatural. Bella is so clumsy that she hits an artery every time she looks at something sharp; Sookie is, well, a moron. She becomes completely dependent on a man, who, because of his "old-fashioned" values, begins to take over every aspect of her life. And her ordinariness does not save the day at the end in some cool twist; she must be rescued. By her man.

This is not new insight, of course; every Twi-hater has the same visceral reaction. (One of my friends, who really liked the Twilight movie, couldn't understand why I found Edward creepy. To which I replied, "Imagine you have a daughter. Imagine she brings home her new boyfriend, who is rich—and 50 years old. Are you cool with this? Now imagine he breaks into her bedroom at night to watch her sleep and slashes her tires so she can't see other guys.") What I do see missing is a class angle.

Back in the day, Marxists used to refer to capitalists as "vampires," a metaphor that seems to have fallen out of use. But there's something to be said for it. You never see a working class vampire; they are always aristocratic, urbane, well-read (they've had hundreds of years to accumulate wealth, of course). The female protagonists of paranormal romances, not so much. They're working class or lower-middle class girls, with human friends and family in the same economic strata. It's the friends and family who hold them back, who disapprove of the new bloodsucking beau, who represent the old life that must be discarded and looked down upon. It's—unnerving, to say the least.

So paranormal romance scares me. Just, you know. Not in a good way.

* Of course, this fantasy is also problematic, and deconstructed spectacularly in China Miéville's Un Lun Dun.


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