Kaunas

Jul. 27th, 2017 09:15 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
I meant for this to be two separate posts: one for the fun stuff, one for the Ninth Fort, which is the most harrowing, emotionally devastating place I have visited since Buchenwald. But of course image hosting isn't cooperating, so unfortunately at the moment, if you want to see the fun pictures, you will also have to see the depressing pictures (which I promise aren't actually that bad, as I only really took exterior shots that are only disturbing if you know the context). This said, here is the gallery, and content/trigger warning for some of the photos being of a place where 30,000-50,000 people were murdered.

(Of course, I have no idea if you can even view the photos. I really need to work out my image hosting issues. Flickr is an impossibility at the moment while I'm out of Canada.)

Anyway! I'm sure somewhere in your mind, you were wondering about the fact that I keep posting pictures of pretty buildings and lovely, walkable cities. Admit it--you expected a bit more Soviet brutalist and you were wondering where it was. The answer is that it's all in Kaunas. Kaunas does have a cute Old Town but the stuff we wanted to see wasn't there, and where we're staying is pure 1960s poured cement. I will admit a slight fondness for it, though I wouldn't want to live there.

Our first stop was the Devil's Museum, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It's an excellent collection of devils of all sorts. Our one criticism is that the gift shop was missing some obvious opportunities as it practically didn't exist.

Then we went across the street to the museum of M. K. Ciurlionis, a Symbolist artist and composer. Cool, not the most exciting, but some lovely work.

We also rode a funicular, which is kind of like an amusement ride except not very good. But it's one of my favourite words now.

The main event was going about a half-hour outside town to the Ninth Fort. It's an early 20th century fort that became a hard labour camp, then a transfer point for deportations to Siberia during the first Soviet occupation of Lithuania, then basically a killing field under the Nazis. The second time the Soviets occupied the country, they turned it into a vast and ghastly monument to the victims of fascism, which subsequently was expanded to include evidence of their own crimes after Lithuania's independence.

I can't really describe it to you properly. Unless you've been in the remnants of a concentration camp or similar, you won't be able to get what it's like to stand in a place that is well and truly haunted by the unquiet dead. The museum consists of one building that's an overview of the atrocities committed on the premises, but focusing mainly on the Soviet occupation, several vast, giant sculptures and plaques describing the Nazi massacres, and the fort itself, which shows prison cells, interrogation rooms, a recreation of a Kaunas Ghetto house, and informational rooms with the requisite belongings of the victims. It's cold, and damp, and good luck ever not feeling that bone-deep chill again. Also, this is why we don't fucking compromise with fascists, okay?

Anyway we coped really well after, which is to say I had 1/3 of a bottle of wine and I'm just about shaking history from my head. Tomorrow it's back to Kiev, and then home.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
We rolled into Vilnius, Lithuania just before 10 pm last night after a four-hour long bus ride. It was pouring rain, which is typical for here (apparently the weather is awful in one way or another at least 60% of the time), and late, so we grabbed dinner at a vegetarian bar and crashed out at the hotel. Today, it was supposed to pour--our cab driver assured us that this time, the entire city would be flooded--but our luck held and we were able to do a walking tour of the Old Town and the Republic of Užupis.

Vilnius has a messy, dilapidated charm. I think, perhaps, my lack of bonding with Riga was due to the fact that it's kept in such good repair; letting a city crumble a bit is much more aesthetically pleasing. It's slightly less Westernized--people here speak Russian as much as they do English, though mainly Lithuanian--and just, well, weirder.

photos )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (raccoons of the resistance)
 1. Charoset that looks like vomit but tastes roughly correct:

charoset

It's a bit boozier than I remember it being. Probably because all the recipes call for Manischewitz, which has been banned in my household ever since I became a grown-up who lives on her own and drinks actual wine.

2. This logo for my new baseball league:

christie pits hardball league
For those of you who aren't Canadians, it's a reference to this. I want to make baseball jerseys or hoodies or something. After I've cleaned up the design, anyway.

3. A difference in the lives of children. :)

In other news, I still have massive feels about the Black Sails finale so anyone who wants to talk about it with me, please please please. Also, I'm wondering if I should end my paid account on LJ and get a paid account on DW to get more icons.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jew jokes)
This is not my holiday. Why am I doing so much running around? Shouldn't this be the point in the year where I get to kick back and be like, "hey, you guys have the stress in exchange for being the dominant culture?" No?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jew jokes)
Photobucket

The Honourable Wife Beater's official response to his Nazi photoshoot is that he didn't know who Latvis was. Which—okay. Despite years as a member of Anti-Racist Action, I wouldn't know who Latvis was if he walked up to me on the street.

You know. Unless he was in uniform. Which he was.

I am not awesome at uniform identification (though some of his pins were, um, easily identifiable) but if I were mayor of the city and had faced some criticism in the past for my racist and homophobic statements, I might pause long enough to ask someone, at least, whether that is indeed a Nazi stormtrooper uniform before putting my arm around the dude.

But one expects stupid from the HWB. As someone on Twitter put it, he's the only politician who would deny all knowledge and have that actually be true.

This is an opportunity for strange bedfellows, though. Warren Kinsella, who is an utter slimeball, was the first mainstream journalist to break the story. He's not someone I'd normally associate with progressive politics. The SUN and National Post also followed suit (along with more progressive media outlets like the CBC and the Star.).

You know why? Because, while the SUN and National Post are pretty racist, they do need to court the right-wing Jewish community. And in the past, said community has at least been helpful where going up against neo-Nazis is concerned. When I was in ARA, we had an uncomfortable relationship with the now-defunct CJC—they didn't want to have much to do with us because we didn't approve of racism against Arabs either, but they hated neo-Nazis as much as we did. So they'd at least talk to us.

But the CJC is gone, swallowed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Said organization believes anti-Semitism is dead, unless it's Arab anti-Semitism. They actually don't give two fucks about the Canadian Jewish community unless they see an opportunity to slam Palestinians. Bernie Farber is too left-wing for them. But I did expect them to draw the line when the mayor of the city meets with a prominent neo-Nazi, twice.

Nope!

“We want to thank Mayor Ford for his quick response to this matter, and reiterate the fact that we consider the Mayor a true friend of Toronto’s Jewish community."


Awesome. I hope everyone knows that that CIJA doesn't represent anyone but themselves.

Keep that photo circulating, folks. Especially if you have older relatives who voted for Ford because he promised to cut their taxes. This deserves to be a massive political scandal.

Linkdump

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

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

Via [livejournal.com 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 (watchmen orly)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon left me with just enough power of speech to insist that you guys read it if you haven't already, and a determination to finish reading everything Chabon has ever written and will write, even the one about baseball. He seriously does write these books that make me glomp on and speed through, wanting to absorb more, until the last few pages wherein I realize that the book is going to end and there will not be a sequel, at which point my reading slows to a snail's crawl to absorb every last word.

This one takes the cake, though. Well. It's about comic books. And other things, like the gap between one's public and private identities, and secular Judaism, and the immigrant experience in America, and dysfunctional families, and being queer, and saving the world through fiction, but mainly it's a case for the intrinsic merit of escapist pop culture and comics as an art form.

Currently reading: Footnotes From Gaza by Joe Sacco, speaking of comics. I've also downloaded Light Ahead for the Negro by E.A. Johnson (1904), for future reading.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jew jokes)
Let's say I have a problem with the Chinese government. Despite maintaining the vestiges and rhetoric of Communism, the Chinese economy is ruthlessly capitalist and anti-worker. I loathe sweatshops and company "unions" that exist merely as another layer of management. I have my doubts about some of the Falun Gong's more outlandish claims, and I think they're a cult, but I don't doubt that they are persecuted just for practicing their wacky religion. I think Tibet has every right to be independent.

Now, am I anti-Chinese for saying these things? Am I anti-Communist? Would anyone in their right mind associate criticism of state policy and government with ill will towards the people of said country, particularly when the solutions I would propose (stronger and better-enforced labour law and environmental regulations, higher wages, real unions that fight on behalf of their workers, an open and transparent democratic process, freedom of religion, and an independent Tibet) would benefit the vast majority of people in China and disadvantage only a small elite (well, and it would have a negative impact on elites here, as well as most of us in the West who enjoy cheap products made in sweatshops, but I think that's a small price to pay for social justice).

I do know a couple people who would vehemently disagree with everything I just said, but I don't believe, in general, that my position in regards to the Chinese government is incredibly controversial or offensive. In fact, there are very few countries where I wouldn't have some sort of loud, vehement critique of government policy. (Bolivia is headed in the right direction. Venezuela was, and then Chavez came down with a bad case of the megalomaniacals.) I criticize the Canadian government all the time, but it's seldom that I'm accused of being anti-Canadian.* Criticism of the American government is a bit of a different bird—one does get accused of anti-Americanism. But it's generally held that disliking the policies of a given country can be easily separated from one's feelings about the people of that country, the religion and culture practiced by people who live in that country, and so on.

Well, you know. Unless it's Israel. If you're talking about Israel, any criticism of state policy or suggestion that maybe the Palestinians means that you probably have Protocols of the Elders of Zion stashed away on your bookshelf somewhere.**

I do understand the political reasons for the conflation of Israeli policy and all Jewish people, everywhere; it's an arrangement that very much benefits the Israeli government. And, in fairness, a majority of the Jewish citizens of Israel and Jews in the diaspora support the things that the Israeli government does, so it's not an entirely accurate conflation. It isn't, however, an accurate conflation either, particularly where the diaspora is concerned, and it's as silly as expecting that everyone of Chinese heritage has Mao's Little Red Book memorized.

I mention this, of course, because of the worrying report from the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, which has concluded that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada. I mean, it would be worrisome if it were true, which it isn't. The report is flawed because it lumps in one definition of anti-Semitism, which is any criticism of the State of Israel, with the traditional definition of anti-Semitism, which includes racially-motivated violence and neo-Nazis painting swastikas on synagogue doors. The latter category is really uncommon here; in fact, it's been years since I've seen a Nazi swastika or a neo-Nazi in Toronto. As a Jew in Canada, I feel pretty safe, actually. As a woman, maybe not so much. I don't doubt that there are still some anti-Semites out there, but Jews don't face anywhere near the level of danger and harassment faced by, let's say, First Nations people. You will notice that there is no Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Racism and Violence Against Indigenous Canadians, though far more Native Canadians than Jews are the victims of systemic discrimination, poverty, racist rhetoric, and racially motivated attacks.

I imagine that if the CPCCA had only focused on incidents that were anti-Semitic, they wouldn't have had much of a report, and our illustrious government might have been forced to conclude that there was no real reason for an inquiry into anti-Semitism as somehow separate from other forms of racism in Canada. But rather than just admitting that they were wasting time and money, the CPCCA has decided to justify its ludicrous conclusions and exclusion of interest groups, including Jewish groups, who might have provided a more balanced perspective:

Over 10 days of hearings between November, 2009, and February, 2010, the CPCCA’s 22 members heard from 74 witnesses, including federal and provincial cabinet ministers, diplomats, university administrators, academics, chiefs of police, journalists and other interested individuals.

But many groups that do not embrace the new definition of anti-Semitism – including Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Seriously Free Speech, and Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East – were refused the opportunity to testify.

“The groups basically that we did not hear from were groups predominantly of individuals who started from the premise of condemning the particular coalition of parliamentarians to combat anti-Semitism,” said [Mario Silva, former MP who chaired the coalition]. “I personally feel I didn’t want to give a platform to individuals who had no time for us. Why should we have time for them?”


Right. Why listen to people who disagree with us in a supposed democracy? The CPCCA only makes sense when framed in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict and as a tool with which to bash anyone, Jews included, who is even slightly in favour of Palestinian human rights.

Closely related to the CPCCA story is the news that the Canadian Jewish Congress is no more. I'm not all that surprised, given that the organization has been irrelevant for some time now, except that I am kind of surprised. I've had no shortage of criticism of the CJC or Bernie Farber in the past, but in the current political context, Farber is actually pretty sensible, which means that as a leader in an increasingly polarized community, he was doomed from the get-go. The CJC is now the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy; the name change is obviously a sharp turn to the right and an indication that the needs and aspirations of the Canadian Jewish community are no longer the first priority of Canadian Jewish leaders. The only thing that needs to be advocated for is the foreign policy of a tiny country on the other side of the planet.

Just so I don't get strawwomaned by my resident troll—yes, obviously, there are some anti-Semites who criticize Israel. There are still people who hate Jews. This is a Bad Thing and those people ought to be called out. However, my great-grandmother fled the pogroms in Russia. My grandfather could not open up a business in his own name. My mother was forced to sing songs and recite the prayers of a religion that was not hers when she was in school. I was also forced to recite the prayers of another religion when I was in school, but thanks to an alliance between Jewish and Muslim parents, that ended by the time I was in fourth grade. Today, we are not systemically oppressed as a race, culture, or ethnicity in Canada.

And that is awesome. It's progress that there's no longer any need for an organization like the CJC, and I also think it's awesome that anti-Semitism is largely non-existent and irrelevant in my country. We should celebrate and take that struggle as a model to ensure an end to systemic racism against other ethnicities. What one shouldn't do, however, is take that progress and use it as political capital to quash freedom of expression and stomp all over the rights of people who are still discriminated against, to move the goalposts and redefine terms so that racist policies can be framed in anti-racist language.

* I totally am, of course. But that's a different issue.

** I actually have a copy. Given to me by another Jew. I am pretty sure 90% of the North American market for the existing copies of that book is Jews buying copies for other Jews because we think that shit is hilarious. The other 10% consists of 9/11 Truthers and neo-Nazis.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (champagne anarchist)
Internets! Allow me to share things with you that need sharing. In no real order beyond that in which I read them:

1. On the bus this morning, I finished The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, which is one of the more perfect novels I've read in awhile. I went home and squeed about it just now to [livejournal.com profile] zingerella (who has not read it) and [livejournal.com profile] human_loser who has. [livejournal.com profile] human_loser pointed out that you can't actually say anything about it that isn't incredibly spoilery because it's that tightly written a novel. At any rate: apocalyptic hardboiled detective story in an alternate universe where the Jewish homeland is in Alaska. Also some of the best cursing this side of Warren Ellis.

2. Then I read that my illustrious school board feels like children are not already bombarded enough by ads, and should perhaps be getting more ads at school, where they are a captive audience. The funds this brainwashing will generate, according to CBC? $1300 a year. Not even one computer at the extortionist prices that we're charged. Fabulous.

3. Then I made the even worse mistake of reading the Sun at lunch, since we get it for free now. There was a lot of stupid in it but this editorial takes the cake. Apparently police treatment of Caledonia residents during the Six Nations' reclamation of their own land is worse than the beatings, kettling, arbitrary arrests, sexual threats, and artificial limb-removing that went on during the G20. Really? The police handled the Caledonia people—many of whom were racists, a few of whom were literally neo-Nazis—with kid gloves. Also, I'm pretty sure that the OPP wasn't issuing passports or curfews. I love how the Sun and Blatchford in particular just get to make shit up, call it "news," and even get paid.

4. Okay, onto some more cheerful things. I'm reading The World That Never Was: A true story of dreamers, schemers, anarchists, & secret agents by Alex Butterworth. This book is non-fiction, apparently. I know very little about the author or his credentials as an historian, but as it seems well-researched so far, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and take the following passage, which I shall quote out of context, as a description of something that actually happened in 1867:
The highest priority was still the maintenance of robust communication with the outside world. Recollecting his first, hated job at the Department of Patents a year before, Rochefort mayhave regretted dismissing too hastily the myriad proposals for balloon guidance mechanisms that had then crossed his desk. In the absence of any great leap forward in the years since, it seemed that the most outlandish suggestions were now to be encouraged with funding. Pigeons equipped with whistles to deter Stieber's falcons proved especially effective, the pellicles strapped to their legs carrying photographically reduced letters. Each delivery kept a team of hunched copyists busy for several days, transcribing from a megascope projection. Even the eccentric Jules Allix's twenty-year-old notion of a communications system based on 'sympathetic snails'—pairs of molluscs rendered telepathic over huge distances by the exchange of fluid during mating, whose synchronized movement could communicate letter codes—saw a brief revival of interest.

(Spoiler: This worked exactly as well as you'd expect.)

I was clearly born in the wrong century.

ETA: More about the snails.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (hug an activist)
Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of A Man Who Rescued A Million Yiddish Books, Aaron Lansky

"M'tor nisht myaesh zayn (You must never despair). It says in Perek,: 'Loy alekho hamelokhe ligmor... It is not up to you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.'"

We all know that I am a softie at heart who cries at sad movies. It's rare that I cry while reading trade non-fiction, though. Outwitting History is a short read, but took me around a week to finish because I had to keep putting it down to reach for the Kleenex. I'm not even exaggerating.

Lansky studied Yiddish as a grad student, and came to discover that thousands—indeed, over a million—Yiddish books were at risk of being destroyed as their original owners died. He embarked on an odd sort of quest to rescue the books—and along with them, the remnants of Yiddish language and culture—from oblivion.

The writing is engaging, luminous in passages, full of wit and sorrow and the burden of history. Lansky and the people he encounters—idealistic students and aging immigrants alike—are compelling, memorable characters. But above all, this is the story of the death of a culture, and since it's my culture, I took it very personally. Lansky doesn't idealize it—in one heartbreaking section, he talks about the remaining Yiddish organizations, almost all of which were socialist or Communist, and how they refused to cooperate even to save their own resources and spaces. Nevertheless, he brings to life a lost era of refugees, Bundists, activists, writers, and poets, and makes you feel their loss with razor-sharp precision.

The good news is that the Yiddish Book Center does exist, and continues to digitize and translate its large collection. This somewhat mitigates the pain of reading about people who could be my grandparents or great-grandparents sobbing as they surrendered their precious book collections, the "portable homeland" that was frequently the only thing of value they had ever owned.

Related, I also saw:

Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, currently showing at the Gladstone.

This exhibition consists of four rooms, showcasing comics on themes of sex, family, culture, politics, and the body. Primarily black-and-white, underground-style, and brutally honest, these are frequently hilarious reads. (My favourite, by Sharon Rudahl, was called "How I Got Purged From My Women's Group," and is a must-read for strident feminist types.)

how i got purged from my women's group

Speaking of awesome feminists, [livejournal.com profile] monster_grrrl, her roommate L., and I caught:

Rasputina (with Ariel) at Lee's Palace

I first saw Rasputina years ago, opening for—someone. It's a testament to how good they are that I honestly can't remember who it was I'd actually gone to see.

They're still that good. Better, even. There's been some turnover in the band, and increasing levels of sophistication in their lyrics and composition, and they told us some wonderful stories about early American history, Emily Dickinson, feral children, and the time Melora was in a threesome with a party that shall be named and an albino abominable snowman.


[Rasputina cover Heart's "Barracuda"]

The opening band were godawful, but [livejournal.com profile] monster_grrrl did an excellent imitation that was almost worth suffering through them.

And a last bit of music:

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune

I have such good friends. I hadn't even heard that there was a new movie about Phil Ochs, but [livejournal.com profile] bcholmes and C. contacted me almost simultaneously to make sure I knew about it.



It's very good. It's of the talking-heads-and-old-footage school of documentary filmmaking, but you don't really mind because the talking heads are interesting and the old footage included a great deal I hadn't seen. (Did you know that there was a music video for "No More Songs"? I didn't even know that they made music videos back then.) The interviews ranged from those you'd expect (Billy Bragg, Michael and Sonny Ochs) to rather surprising (pre-sellout Christopher Hitchens what? Taking the same stance on the Dylan-Ochs rivalry that I do? Say it ain't so!).

There's a certain amount of hard-to-take historical inevitability. Oh, Phil Ochs went to Chile, you say? And became friends with Victor Jara? This ends about as well as you'd expect.

The thing about Phil Ochs is that a movie about him isn't just a nostalgic look at a time when musicians were actually involved with the protest movement. It's kind of depressing how current his songs are, when I read about what's going on in Wisconsin or Bahrain or Libya.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
[Also, he seriously had a sense of style, which is rare in a folksinger.]
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pirates by active_apathy)
I was psyched to read Edward Kritzler's Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a generation of swashbuckling Jews carved out an empire in the New World in their quest for treasure, religious freedom—and Revenge. (Yes, that is the actual title, capitalization and all.)

Unfortunately, there are three major flaws in the book:

1) It's terribly written, with dull prose and too much (questionable) genealogy.
2) It's racist as all fuck.
3) There are only a few pirates and absolutely no swashbuckling.

Kritzler is super-excited about Jews. Apparently, in the period from 1492-1675, there were Jews everywhere. As you know, Bob, the Spanish Inquisition and various persecution campaigns across Europe forced many Jews to convert to Christianity. Some of them, naturally, continued to secretly practice. Accordingly, there's quite a lot of ambiguity around who was secretly a Jew, who had been a Jew but sincerely converted to Christianity, and who was actually Christian but denounced by his or her neighbour and confessed to being a Jew under torture or the threat of being burnt on the stake. Kritzler comes to the conclusion that anyone halfway cool was secretly Jewish, including, quite possibly, Christopher Columbus.

I'm not buying it. Clearly, Kritzler likes Columbus a lot, such that he glosses over his various crimes against humanity because he was "tolerant." (Note: "Tolerance," in the context of this book, means tolerance towards Jews and possibly Calvinists, depending on whether Calvinists were getting along with Jews at the time. It does not refer to tolerance of anyone else.) At any rate, Kritzler also thinks that Columbus had Jewish ancestry, which a) who cares? and b) citation needed. He also, at one point, suggests that Cromwell (yes, that Cromwell), may have been a Hebe:
In late November 1654, as they were about to embark for England, one of Cromwell's secret intelligencers and a possible relation, Daniel Cohen Hendriques, told them not to bother...

Wait, what? Cromwell was not Jewish. I don't care how much you like him. Where are you getting this?

Shelomo Alfassa has a run-down of various other questionable assertions, bad math, and bizarre inaccuracies. The weirdest one isn't mentioned, though, which is the following:
Zur Israel [a synagogue in Brazil] funded a number of charitable programs: a ransom committee for captured brethren; dowries for poor unmarried women in Holland desiring a mate in Brazil; a fund that sent money to Israel; and another that served as a bank of last resort for debts to Christians.

Wait, what? He's talking about the 1640s, not the 1940s. There was not Israel in the 1640s.

Anyway, there were a few Jewish pirates, and that was kind of interesting, but most of what he's talking about in his book is Jewish participation in the rape and plunder of the Americas (only he calls it "discovery" and "settlement") and Jewish funding of trade and privateering. What's particularly loathsome in his history of this time period is the near-complete erasure of indigenous and slave populations. He talks quite a bit about the persecution of Jews, particularly in the Spanish Inquisition (though he balances these horror stories with lavish descriptions of just how wealthy all of the Jews were), but he clearly does not give a fuck for people who were enslaved to create that wealth.

Case in point:
In the previous five years, Jamaica had been a burial ground for fully three-quarters of the nearly twelve thousand men, women, children, and slaves who had come to the island.

Wait, what? They had robot slaves in the 1660s, apparently, because I can't conceive of a slave who is not either a man, woman, or child. That, or we're just not counting them as people.

The thing is, the Jews that Kritzler is writing about are kind of awful people. There were a lot of awful people back then, and the history of piracy is in part interesting because we like reading about awful people, but Kritzler employs a very strange sort of morality. It's a morality that, if you grew up Jewish, you will immediately recognize. It's the old joke that in every Jewish household, all discussions boil down to: "Is it good for the Jews?" In this book, if the Jews are doing it, it's daring, adventurous, and clever. This includes killing and enslaving people. It'd be one thing if Kritzler dryly reported events without any attempt at bringing a modern, humanist lens to the story, but he does moralize. It's just a highly selective moralizing. Jews are a persecuted, long-suffering race. Meanwhile, the indigenous population of the Americas are "hostile natives" who get their hands chopped off, are forced to work in minds, are slaughtered by war and disease, and get no editorializing whatsoever.

In terms of Jewish participation in the slave trade, we get a long discussion about how Jews ruled the sugar industry, and the sugar industry was all about slavery, and then a little explanation excusing Jewish participation:
While the Arabs controlled the East African slave trade, the West African trade was essentially a European-African enterprise—Africans sold Africans to Europeans to serve other Europeans. The Jews' role in the commercial process shows them to be neither better nor worse than others in an era where the morality of slavery was a nonissue. Color was not a criterion: Whites also bought and sold other whites, and Africans enslaved Africans.

I guess that makes it okay, then. (Needless to say, the morality of persecuting Jews was also a nonissue, but the author devotes a great many pages to condemning that.)

There's also some stuff that's just plain weird. Technically, "People of the Book," "followers of the Law of Moses," "chosen people," "Hebrews," and "Israelites" are all kind of synonyms for "Jew," but not ones you would tend to run across in a trade history book. At one point, there's a discussion of the difficult choice of conversion, and the phrase "many chose mammon." I guess that's a reasonable way to describe an easy out where you have something to gain, but to me, it smacks of dogwhistle.

Ultimately, Jewish pirates are awesome because they invented capitalism. Yes, the author does pretty much make this argument, and it sits uncomfortably with me, as I don't think capitalism is really our fault. There's a particularly squicksome passage right at the end:
Menasseh ben Israel, in his appeal to Cromwell, quoted Amos 9:9: "I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations as corn is sifted in a sieve," and cemented his argument with an economic promise: Welcome us and we will make you rich. Today, centuries later, it is this promise of entrepreneurial wealth that still protects the People of the Book in an indifferent and often hostile world.

Dear author: Please shut up before I delete your bank account and kick you out of the International Zionist Banking Conspiracy. Are you trying to get us all killed?

The thing is, I don't think that the author is aiming to be political here. It's just that he's got "is it good for the Jews?" so deeply embedded in his psyche that anything, even the genocide of a population that hadn't even heard of Jews, let alone persecuted them, is justifiable if it means that the Jews can have a homeland. And that sort of thinking, in a book published in a modern context, is by necessity political, and not good for the Jews or for anyone else.

Also, there is no swashbuckling, and the cover promises swashbuckling.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
Dear fellow Jews,

If you find yourself siding with and endorsing fascists—and I'm not talking about "I'm a commie so I call everyone to the right of me a fascist," but dyed-in-the-wool, violent, murderous fascists—you should perhaps take a deep breath and, uh, reconsider your stance. These people will have us killed as soon as they get done with the Arabs and Roma.

Case in point:

the fascist Jewish Defense League is bed with the fascist English Defense League )

...England doesn't need defending. WTF?


On a related note, a representative of Stephen Harper just called me up! She told me that no Prime Minister in the history of Canada had ever stood up for the State of Israel the way Harper had,* and did I consider it important for Canada to maintain its support for Israel.

I replied, "Given the State of Israel's abominable violations of the basic human rights of the Palestinian people, I feel that Canada should economically divest and place economic sanctions on Israel in order to pressure it to comply with international law."

"So your answer is yes?"

"...um, what was the question again?"

She repeated it.

"Quite the opposite."

She then asked if I'd consider voting for Harper in the next election.

I managed to stop laughing long enough to get out, "Not in a million years."

I guess she didn't have any other questions for me.

I also guess that I'm on a list now, if I wasn't before.

ETA: In hindsight, I should have kept her on longer and asked why the Harper government was asking me questions about a country that I'm not from and have never so much as visited, rather than asking me how I felt about its policies in my own country. But it was after Pill Time and I was groggy, and I was also pretty amused that this was the first time anyone from the government had asked me for my opinion.


* Really? Not even Lester B. Pearson, who voted for Partition in 1948?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jew jokes)
DIM SUM EXPLOSION

FOLLOWED BY BLACK SWAN

SOON TO BE FOLLOWED BY BAD MOVIES AT TRASH PALACE

THAT IS ALL
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
It's not like I don't read the newspaper every day, but if I didn't read LJ/my feeds, I wouldn't know about...

The Georgia Prisoners' Strike.

On Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights.
...
· A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK
· EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
· DECENT HEALTH CARE
· AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS
· DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS
· NUTRITIONAL MEALS
· VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
· ACCESS TO FAMILIES
· JUST PAROLE DECISIONS
...
The Georgia Department of Corrections is at http://www.dcor.state.ga.us and their phone number is 478-992-5246


Or about Jody McIntyre, a student protester who was dragged from his wheelchair by police during the London protests. China Miéville is at his scathing best on the way the media covered it.

Or this story, brought to my attention by [livejournal.com profile] springheel_jack:

"One individual had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead," he said.

"There were what seemed to be wires attached to them," he added.


Go on, guess what it was.

ETA: All this is SRS BUSINESS, so here's one that [livejournal.com profile] radiumhead found.

Wil Wheaton playing D&D with the Golden Girls, framed by bacon )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
Here are some stories that you should pay attention to:

[livejournal.com 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 (Jew jokes)
Things have been a bit hectic lately, so I have not been lighting a menorah or anything (what's the point when you don't get home until your bedtime?). But I have been remiss in not wishing my fellow Hebes a happy Hanukkah.

Also this article is win. Especially:

Yeah, on Hannukah we feed our children chocolate money. I have no idea why. None. But I agree, it's a bad idea for overcoming stereotypes. A really bad idea. Like the worst idea ever. Well, not ever. Baptized baby blood cookies would be worse.


Well I don't know what you eat at your parties, but...

In related news, I had to explain to my kids about BCE/BC and CE/AD. I have no idea why, at age 17-18, they do not know about this, but it must make the study of ancient history really damned confusing.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jew jokes)
Epic video of epicness about "Burn a Koran Day":



In other news, I am going to celebrate the New Year with perogies.* And apples. And the latest episode of Leverage.

* Someone took a trip to Costco today. I can't believe how much food I have. [livejournal.com profile] zingerella, you had better help me with this.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (tentacle porn)
Check out this awesome thread on Tor.com A bunch of artists—professionals and amateurs alike—are invited to post Lovecraft-inspired art. There's some really amazing work to fill you with squidly joy.





On a completely unrelated note, this is exactly the sort of thing that pisses me off about the so-called atheist movement. Hey guys, let's write an edgy article about atheists and Christmas! Only we'll mostly just interview atheists from the dominant culture who grew up with warm, fuzzy childhood memories of opening presents on Christmas Day.

I feel like I'm going to be saying this from now until New Year's, but here we go again:

Christmas is not universal.

I don't care how much you don't think it's about religion—for those who are not of your religion and were not raised within your religion, it's going to be about religion, or at the very least, about a cultural experience that we don't share. Stop pretending it's for everyone. It isn't.

I am not obligated to have any sort of "holiday spirit" whatsoever. I mean, I'm happy that I'm getting some time off—I need it. But I don't demand that people observe my religious holidays, and I should not be expected to observe anyone else's. Muslims aren't asking y'all to fast at Ramadan. And yeah, that includes wearing a goddamned Santa hat—it just isn't my tradition, it means nothing to me, and I find it silly. Nor will I sing songs that, however innocuous they may seem to lapsed Christians, are actually celebrations of the (inaccurate) birthday of a deity that I don't believe in.

Anyway, most self-described members of the atheist movement have not let go of a religious mindset. That's why they're a "movement." Not being from an evangelical religious background myself, I have utterly no desire to convert anyone to atheism or spend money on bus ads when it could be used to, say, feed the poor or something.

More on why I can't bloody stand this season later, I'm sure.

ETA: Just to clear up some misunderstandings, I am not saying that you are a bad person or a bad atheist if you celebrate Christmas. Just that I can't stand it when it's assumed to be the default or that people like me are expected to relate to it or participate in it somehow.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Check out this awesome thread on Tor.com A bunch of artists—professionals and amateurs alike—are invited to post Lovecraft-inspired art. There's some really amazing work to fill you with squidly joy.





On a completely unrelated note, this is exactly the sort of thing that pisses me off about the so-called atheist movement. Hey guys, let's write an edgy article about atheists and Christmas! Only we'll mostly just interview atheists from the dominant culture who grew up with warm, fuzzy childhood memories of opening presents on Christmas Day.

I feel like I'm going to be saying this from now until New Year's, but here we go again:

Christmas is not universal.

I don't care how much you don't think it's about religion—for those who are not of your religion and were not raised within your religion, it's going to be about religion, or at the very least, about a cultural experience that we don't share. Stop pretending it's for everyone. It isn't.

I am not obligated to have any sort of "holiday spirit" whatsoever. I mean, I'm happy that I'm getting some time off—I need it. But I don't demand that people observe my religious holidays, and I should not be expected to observe anyone else's. Muslims aren't asking y'all to fast at Ramadan. And yeah, that includes wearing a goddamned Santa hat—it just isn't my tradition, it means nothing to me, and I find it silly. Nor will I sing songs that, however innocuous they may seem to lapsed Christians, are actually celebrations of the (inaccurate) birthday of a deity that I don't believe in.

Anyway, most self-described members of the atheist movement have not let go of a religious mindset. That's why they're a "movement." Not being from an evangelical religious background myself, I have utterly no desire to convert anyone to atheism or spend money on bus ads when it could be used to, say, feed the poor or something.

More on why I can't bloody stand this season later, I'm sure.

ETA: Just to clear up some misunderstandings, I am not saying that you are a bad person or a bad atheist if you celebrate Christmas. Just that I can't stand it when it's assumed to be the default or that people like me are expected to relate to it or participate in it somehow.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jew jokes)
[livejournal.com profile] zingerella and I totally Jewed it up tonight (she being an honourary member of the Tribe given her latke-making ability and aversion to fluffernutters.* Latkes are awesome. Latkes are even more awesome when you have a food processor and don't need to grate the potatoes by hand.

Also awesome is that I somehow still remember the Hanukkah prayer. It's like the only thing I know in Hebrew.

Also also, happy Hanukkah to those celebrating it.


* Long story.

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