sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)

Remember that hilarious story about the Parkdale gentrifiers? Did you think that after Jesse Brown tweeted the Parkdale Tinies that the story couldn't possibly get any funnier?

parkdale tinies

How long can Toronto keep a thing going, you might wonder. Surely not this long...

How my family came to be the most hated family in Toronto (at least for 24 hours)

By Julian Humphreys

You owe it to yourself and your lulz to click that link and read the whole thing. It is GLORIOUS. It is 10,383 words long. It quotes ADORNO AND GOETHE and my buddy Todd and I can't breathe through my tears. It is full of not-very-subtle digs at his wife and even worse digs at his editor, who really can't be blamed for not turning down this pile of comedy gold because tbh no one was really reading Toronto Life before and now everyone is in the hopes that there will be more of this kind of thing.

Some choice quotes:

"Back when I was in academia and enamoured by writers like Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, I was particularly in to the idea of origins, and where exactly we can trace origins back to."

"My mum emigrated to the UK in 1939 from Germany. Yes, that’s right, she was a Jew, or at least somewhat Jewish."

"[My counsellor] then proceeded to give me a lecture on cell biology, including how many bookshelves it would take to hold all the information contained in a single human cell. The lesson being, we are endlessly complex beings, and attempting to oversimplify both ourselves and the world is foolish."

"I did try to clean myself up at one point, attending a 10-day silent retreat in Southern Thailand. But the switch from partying on a Thai beach to sitting quietly for 12 hours a day in a Thai monastery was too dramatic, and I only lasted 5 days before I was back to Bangkok and their opiated grass."

"So let me explain what really went down during our reno from hell. Not that my wife mis-represented the facts – for the most part, she didn’t. But a) she was at home looking after our newborn for most of the year of our reno, so doesn’t know first-hand what really went on; b) she was constrained by a word limit of 4000 words; and c) she was working closely with an editor at Toronto Life, who clearly had his own agenda that overwhelmed her own."

"I had concerns about how I would come across in the piece, but I was prepared to put my ego aside for the sake of a good story and in support of my wife’s career. "

"Looking back on that telephone conversation now, I realize that Malcolm never did assure me that he would look out for my wife’s best interests."

"Although I could see the literary merit of these additions, a mean-spiritedness was entering into the article that was not in the original draft."

"I also didn’t like the photo because in reality my wife is much more attractive than she appears in that photo."

"Criticisms of capitalism presented by the bourgeoisie are nearly always duplicitous, masquerading as in solidarity with the proletariat while cutting off real protest at the knees. And this was exactly what was going on here. By seeming to sympathize with the downtrodden, Malcolm was hoping to humanize us just enough to avoid a revolution, while dehumanizing us enough to garner clicks."

"We could have called an ambulance, I guess, but that, in my mind, would have been a gross invasion of his privacy."

"My wife does, however, say that we were ‘a young family without a lot of money’ and whether this is true or not depends on what you consider ‘money.’"

"[O]n the one hand yes, I made some bad decisions. And yet we came out ahead. Was this luck? Or strategy?"

"It’s better to move forward without all the answers in place than to not move forward at all, an assumption best expressed in this quote attributed to Goethe..."

"His gift substantially changed my life, and I show my gratitude by honoring his generosity as best I can. I could have snorted $100,000 of cocaine, but instead used it to prepare myself, however tangentially, for a career in which I feel I make a positive difference."

Oh, just read the whole thing, trust me.

Bonus: Here is his Twitter.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Apparently I am not completely desensitized to horror, which comes as a relief in a strange way. I'm just full of rage—at the acquittal of Philando Castile's murderer, at the barring of Black Lives Matter activists from testifying about the impact of cops in schools, and, most acutely, at the completely preventable tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The latter is, to me, the starkest depiction of austerity and late-stage capitalism in action. The residents called for repairs. Labour called for tighter safety regulations. Boris Johnson literally told them to go stuff themselves. The cladding, which was probably a major factor in the deaths of 100 or so people, was installed not to protect the building's tenants—low-income, many of them racialized, many of them Syrian refugees—but to hide the unsightly nature of the tower from wealthy neighbours.

I kind of get why people lose their shit over terrorist attacks and mass shootings, but this gets me more. There's a lot we can do as a culture to reduce terrorism and mass shootings, and of course we tend to do the opposite of that, but even in a perfect world, not every act of senseless violence would be preventable. Norway still produced Anders Breivik—even a utopia would have its madmen.

But a situation where you have people saying, "this tragedy is going to happen if you don't fix the thing," and those in charge do not fix the thing, because money is more important than human lives—that is totally preventable and entirely foreseeable. There was an obvious, simple way to prevent those 100 deaths, if our civilization valued people as much as it valued profits.

There are death tolls to tell you how many people died because of communism. There are no tallies of deaths under capitalism, as if starvation because of collectivization is somehow less preferable to starvation because of austerity, or a firing squad is worse than a fire.

This is the very heart of my politics. This is why I fight, even though it doesn't affect me, even though I don't really know how to, even though I'm exhausted. Sometimes fury is the only thing that keeps me going.
sabotabby: (jetpack)
I wrote this back in ohdeargod 2008 to explain why I didn't understand the American health care debate. Sadly, in 2017, with the Republicans repealing the hella flawed ACA and leaving nothing but ruins in its place, I still don't understand the American health care debate. Hence, a repost.

The People Who Live on the Moon
An awkward parable

I don’t know if you guys know this, but the Moon has been colonized for ages by a race of aliens that are very much like you and me. They live in underground caverns that look a bit like this:

terriformed moon

Their society is one of the most prosperous anywhere in the universe. They have tons of money, which they use to buy awesome technological gadgets that let them be in instantaneous contact with friends on the other side of the Moon. They produce more food in their underground greenhouses than they know what to do with. Their reality TV is of the highest quality of any reality TV in this region of space.

The only problem is this: The Moon has no air. They’ve developed a way to synthesize a breathable atmosphere, which they pump through all of the buildings in the underground caverns. But this technology was developed by a capricious and greedy company. The air company keeps their quality filtered air circulating through the Moon colony. The Moon people hardly ever think about where their air comes from. But every so often, completely randomly, the air company cuts off the air of a particular house until the owner of the house pays for them to restart it. The amount of money that the unfortunate owner of the house must pay is completely dependent on the whim of the air company. Moon people get understandably nervous about the prospect of their air getting cut off. After all, there’s no source of free air on the Moon, and suffocation is a horrible way to die.

Accordingly, an industry has sprung up around keeping the air flowing to people’s houses. Several companies provide air insurance—at a cost, of course. If you have air insurance and the air company cuts off your air, the insurance company will get it back up and running before you suffocate. Usually. So most of the Moon people have air insurance. Many Moon companies recognize the importance of air, so they provide air insurance to their workers. Other Moon people buy it privately.

There are just a few snags:

1. Air insurance is really expensive. Some Moon people can’t afford it.
2. If you’ve ever had your air cut off in the past, no company will sell you air insurance.
3. If you get sick and can’t work, your company will stop paying for your air insurance, and you won’t have any money to buy your own private air insurance.

It’s quite possible, of course, for an alien to live her entire life out on the Moon and never get the air in her house cut off. So many Moon people who don’t have a lot of money decide to take a risk and not buy air insurance. They figure if their air does suddenly get cut off, they can run to a neighbour’s house and hope to be taken in, or that maybe they can do a deal with the air company to get the air back up and running, as long as they pay a tribute to the air company for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, their air won’t get cut off until they’re old and have enough savings to pay the reconnection fee.

For a lot of Moon people, air insurance isn’t even an option. They can’t get jobs at the sorts of companies that provide good air coverage, or they’re too young, or too old, or too sick, or they’ve had too many run-ins with the air company before to qualify. A significant number of Moon people die of suffocation every year because they can’t afford to pay when their air supply gets cut off.

This used to not be reported at all, but increasingly, the Moon people are noticing that Martians, who also suffer from an air shortage, have a different air system entirely. The Martians pay more in taxes than the Moon people do, but they don’t need to pay for air insurance. It actually comes out cheaper, because there are no big air insurance companies that require an overhead; just one, centralized government department that makes sure that air gets provided to everyone. The Moon press reports that the quality of air on Mars isn’t as good as the air on the Moon, but the Martians aren’t complaining, really. Air, they argue, is a Martian right.

Many Moon people are talking about reforms to the air insurance industry. As it happens, there is currently an election happening for Moon President. One candidate thinks that the air insurance system is pretty good as is—if anything, he seems to want to get rid of any limits that currently exist, letting the insurance companies charge whatever they want for their services. The other candidate wants to pass a law requiring everyone to buy air insurance, including the people who are now too poor to buy air insurance.

A few Moon people have suggested moving to the Martian system, but whenever they pipe up, they’re called socialists, which is the biggest insult you can possibly think of in the Moon people’s language.

The Martians, for their part, don’t understand at all why the Moon people don’t stage a revolution over this. To them, the whole air insurance issue is, well, pure lunacy.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (cat teacher)
I was arguing with a Stupid Person On the InternetTM on a friend's post about John Tory, which led to a digression. Basically, John Tory, who likes to promote himself as a reasonable centrist* believes that creationism should be taught in schools and wanted to funnel public funds into religious education. Another person on the thread brought up that, as potential mayor of Toronto**, he would have nothing to do with education.

Very well, I (and several others) replied, but it's indicative of a stupid way of thinking. And I pointed out that, if he was willing to fritter away my tax dollars—I really do sound like an arch-conservative sometimes—on religious education on a provincial level, who knew what he might get up to at a municipal level. At any rate, he couldn't be trusted with the budget.

Somewhere during the course of this discussion, I found myself arguing against the Catholic school system and Tory's proposed publicly funded religious schools on the grounds that this was an inefficient use of public resources. This is true, and it is, but it's not the primary reason why I don't support tax dollars going to religious schools, and Stupid Person On the Internet immediately jumped in with, "well, it's not like our public schools are models of efficiency now."

Which is true (though they are more efficient than a multitude of little Bible camps and Branch Davidian compounds and yeshivas and madrassas would be), it occured to me that I needed to amend my initial statement. Schools should not be models of efficiency. Education and health care are the two big areas that I can think of that can never, and should never, be efficient.

Is it, for example, a practical use of money to extend the life of an aging cancer patient by five years? It is not. But if that aging cancer patient is your loved one, you understand that while not practical, it's a correct use of money. Likewise, it is expensive and inefficient to ensure that special needs kids have EAs, adaptive equipment, and a lower student-to-teacher ratio. We pour a lot of money into kids who won't necessarily put back into the economy what they give in. From a purely financial perspective, it is not cost-effective to educate them. But we should, we absolutely should, because the intangible social good of an educated and socialized populace transcends numbers. And because it's morally right. The alternative is barbarism.

Efficiency is the worst lie of late-stage capitalism. The economy has never been leaner or more efficient or more productive. And yet we work longer hours and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. We buy into it because on an individual level we're told that it's good to be productive, and most people can't think past the individual level. On a macro level, inefficiency and redundancy are actually beneficial. We already have enough stuff.

There's, of course, a world of difference between pouring in resources that we won't get back (which is necessary) and deliberately taking money out of the system to duplicate services that don't need to be duplicated, and have a bunch of mini-systems that do a shittier job than one big one would do. Bureaucratic and lumbering though public education may be, it is the best of a series of worse alternatives.

* My least favourite political position, incidentally; well below Westboro Baptist Church and the RCP, who at least can be arsed to take a stand on things.
** And dear readers, you have no idea how much it pains me to even write that sentence; Ford More Years would actually be better than fucking Tory.

Book guilt

Aug. 13th, 2014 11:47 am
sabotabby: (books!)
I'm not reading less than I used to, but I feel like I'm helping kill the publishing industry, or at least putting a stake through the heart of its corpse.

Case in point: There are a few remaining bookstores in Seattle (and even one poetry-only bookstore, which amazes me). I wandered in to a few, but did I buy anything? No I did not. I did buy a comic (Issue #1 of C.O.W.L., which I have been dying to read, because there is still no adequate digital substitute for paper comics), but no books. Previous trips to anywhere urban in the States tend to involve me carting loads of books back because they're cheaper there. But I have no bookshelf room left, even post-purge.

What's filling the gap in my literary life is ebooks–see aforementioned lack of space, plus I tend to read most on transit and in situations where I need to wait a lot, and the Little Red Book fits in my purse. I was all excited to get home and discover that one of my digital holds had come in to the library, and thus I could take out a library book without hauling ass all the way down the street to the library, and without having to put on pants. Great. Convenient. This is not a viable business model, though, either in terms of keeping libraries as brick-and-mortar institutions (which I think is valuable, because they're one of the few public spaces left), or in terms of paying authors. There is no reason why I should have had to wait two weeks for a digital hold to come in, either; infinite copies of every ebook exist. The limitation is purely artificial, an attempt to mimic traditional publishing and library models. In theory, if it were a bestseller and not yet another biography of Kim Philby that only I and three other people care about, I probably could have pirated it (I wouldn't, though, because I want the library to get the stats; I don't feel bad about pirating movies or telly, but I do feel bad about pirating books).

This is hard to reconcile. I mean, I still ostensibly work in publishing, making (really beautiful, I must say) paper books for a small Canadian press, but for myself, I never really buy books if I can help it.

The solution, as always, is communist revolution, but in the meantime I feel like a bad reader.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
Canada Post is phasing out home mail delivery and cutting 6000-8000 jobs. (It claims that people will retire and just not be replaced, which is great for current posties but less great for people who might want secure, unionized jobs in the future.)

Um, do I need to say why this is a shit idea? I don't even need to say it, because it was all over the news:

1. Disabled people
2. Elderly people
3. People who appreciate conveniences that come with living in a civilization

As one of my friends put it, the purpose of a public service is not to make money, it's to provide a public service.

And fuck it, I like getting letters in the mail. It's nice. Some things can't be replaced by e-mail, including getting nice postcards when friends travel and getting my Metropass and pay cheques and such.

Naturally, junk mail will still be delivered to houses, because the free market r0xx0rz.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
Two big decisions about what Toronto will look like are happening at the moment, and in both cases, the people in charge—who are not the people affected—chose wrong.

The first, and biggest, is the ongoing transit debate. The issue is the expansion of transit out to Scarborough, which is hugely underserved and car-dependant. The most sensible thing, most agreed, is to replace and expand the decaying RT line with an LRT line. This solution was extensively researched, mostly funded, and indeed was under development, when the Honourable Wife-Beater once again stepped in to fuck it up.

The HWB's other mantra (besides "gravy train" and "I am not currently smoking crack right at this moment") is the vastly creative "subways, subways, subways," which he constantly repeats in the absence of any tangible plan to actually fund a subway line in Scarborough. While you can see him celebrating "Scarborough getting a subway" in that link above, the fact is that he stopped an actual plan that was going to have rapid transit operational in 18 months for one that has no funding and will never happen. In other words, he's replaced an LRT that was funded and under development with something presumably better: an imaginary, invisible subway made out of unicorn farts. He presumably thinks that people in Scarborough are stupid enough to go for this.

While I do entertain fantasies of getting on the Bloor line and having one subway drop me at work in half an hour, this isn't going to happen. The unicorn-fart subway would cost $1 billion more than the LRT (which is why it will never get built), and even if it were built, it would have fewer stops, go a shorter distance, and take approximately forever to build. But none of that matters, because Ford's agenda was shamelessly transparent: Insist on an impossible subway plan, secure votes, throw his hands up after the next election when it's obvious the thing won't get built, and blame someone else. And it may have even saved his chances for re-election.

And this is why he's an awful mayor as well as being a crackhead.

Meanwhile, there are a bunch of interesting transit ideas that no one's paying attention to.

The other big story is the sale of Mirvish Village, which will not only replace the iconic Honest Ed's with something far less interesting, but wipe out much of the local small businesses that make the neighbourhood so vibrant. At risk are the Victory Café, where I have spent many a fine evening drinking while watching local theatre and music, Beit Zeitoun, the fabulous Palestinian art gallery and community activist space, Southern Accent, an excellent restaurant, Suspect Video, an indie video store, and the Beguiling, one of the city's best comic shops and one of the few places where you can find exciting new indie comics, as well as a bunch of other neat places. Even the Honest Ed's sign, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city, is apparently doomed. It's almost a given that these independent shops in quaint Victorian houses will be replaced by either a big box store, or faceless condos, or both. That's the way of development in Toronto.

The thing that these two stories have in common is that the monumental, city-altering decisions are not being made by those affected. Ford doesn't take transit other than for a photo-op every few years, and neither do the councillors who voted with him. He sure as fuck doesn't live or work in Scarborough. David Mirvish, who owns Mirvish Village, lives in New York; the Ontario Municipal Board is a faceless entity that seems to be some sort of robot existing only to approve the construction of yet another glass tower.

Ask anyone who actually lives, works, or uses this city, and they'll say that they don't want this. People who live here want walkable neighbourhoods, favourite cafés and bars, local unique shops, the spaces where memory and experience accumulate. There are corners of any Western city, Toronto included, that look the same as any other Western city, and we have enough of those already.

But people who live here are seldom seriously consulted, and this is the limit of liberal democracy. There is zero recourse for the community to reject being utterly re-written or for decisions on transit to be made by transit users. The market is the market, untouchable and inviolate, our only option to cast a vote every four years for politicians that will either be owned by the OMB or overruled by them. We have no say in what our city will look like, its increasing banality and provincialism. We are expected simply to sit back and accept what is decided for us, and if everyone hates big box stores and glass towers, so what? It's not like we can do anything about it, right?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (lol internets)
[[ profile] fengi is hitting the comedy goldmine this week. Ah. This is going to be great, you guys. So great.

Because it's not funny enough that Yahoo bought Tumblr, now Amazon has plans to monetize fan fiction.

you know something's fucked when... photo thatsfucked_blixa_zps8e895226.gif

Discuss. Bonus points for digging up hilarious wank. — Sabs]

Originally posted by [ profile] fengi at Let's give moody, hyperactive kittens chainsaws and catnip.
Amazon has decided to monetize fan fiction. Not fucking kidding:
Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way.
I read about this in a post by author Jim Hines who offers soem intitial observations. Chuck Wendig does as well including a very interesting possibility:
The weird thing is what happens to that comfortable space that separated canonical from non-canonical. Like, one assumes that the fan-fic remains officially non-canonical — and yet, people are paying for still grants it a kind of territory in the canonical space. Someone might read Book 3...and say, “But this doesn’t refer to that time when she time-traveled back to the Old West in that novella, Booby Nuthatch.” And you’re like, “That wasn’t real, though, someone else wrote that.” But then they say: “I PAID FOR IT SO IT FELT REAL TO ME”...That’s a pretty serious shift in authorship and authenticity.
For me, the interesting part is an aspiring oligarchy is injecting some "creative disruption" (i.e. greed and exploitation) into a scene which, to be polite, is slightly prone to hyperbolic reactions which at times involve distorted perceptions.

Is trying to cash in on the emo side of the net the new thing? I wonder what's next: Google purchases Encyclopedia Dramatica?

ETA: I made this point on [ profile] fengi's post but I'll repeat it here:

I almost see this as a form of outsourcing. Authors have these pesky agents, after all, and wouldn't it be nicer if we could just get naïve amateurs to write our tie-in material? We don't even need to pay editors. People will do it for loooove. Toss the fanfic writers less than a pro would get paid, but more than they'd get paid if they were posting on; toss the authors a bone because copyright, and still more profits for Amazon.

It's an interesting model. I think publishing definitely does need a new model, and I'm vaguely in favour of anything that recognizes the inherently collective nature of creation, but I think this is going to fail miserably and hilariously. — Sabs
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jenny Sparks)
Doesn't Warner Bros. have enough money?
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.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (cat teacher)
Say what you like about public schools, ideological and historical underpinnings of, they are kind of useful institutions. They provide a basis of shared knowledge, and they bring together diverse social classes, ethnicities, and cultures. They allow working class parents to, well, work, and ensure that they don't go bankrupt funding their children's basic education. They're not perfect by any means, but in terms of social policy, they're a move in the right direction.

This seems so apparent to me that I'm always shocked when I have to defend the idea that there's such thing as a right to public education, or explain that there are powerful forces attempting to undermine said public education system, and supposed "compromises" like charter/voucher schools are part of that agenda. If more well-off kids are pulled from the public system, if two tiers or more tiers begin to form, then it's always the poorer children who suffer. One sees this all over the States, where the response to failing schools has been increased privatization, attacking the unions, and mass-firing teachers. Amazingly, this has not improved the public education system in the States. Funny that.

It's also a revelation, apparently, that propaganda films like Waiting for Superman* are part of the aforementioned agenda, or may have been funded or promoted by interests for whom the education and welfare of poor children is not actually a high priority. It's not difficult to see the links here—an educated, critically thinking working class is not really in the interests of the ruling class. And the education of rich children—the children of policy makers—will never be in any sort of real danger.

But there's a lot of noise and hand-wringing out there. So it's nice to see articles about the people who are generating this noise. Like—this is totally going to shock you—rich people.

Bill Gates, for example, has been spending quite a bit of money on standardized testing:

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which developed the standards, and Achieve Inc., a nonprofit organization coordinating the writing of tests aligned with the standards, have each received millions of dollars.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, another nonprofit organization, was paid $551,000 in 2009 “to grow support for the common core standards initiative,” according to the tax filings. The Fordham Institute got $959,000 to “review common core materials and develop supportive materials.” Scores of newspapers quoted Fordham’s president, Chester E. Finn Jr., praising the standards after their March 2010 release; most, including The New York Times, did not note the Gates connection.

In fact, billionaires seem to be quite active in promoting privatized education:

This rapid expansion of voucher programs is not occurring simply because of some grassroots uprising. A small clique of wealthy individuals and their foundations are pushing these pieces of legislation. The most prominent of these individuals are Dick and Betsy DeVos, the power couple who inherited their fortune from billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Sr. In a speech before the Heritage Foundation in 2002, Dick DeVos explained that conservatives should start referring to public schools as "government schools" instead to undermine public support for them. The DeVos family has poured millions of dollars into the school choice movement, launching a variety of front groups, including but not limited to Children First America, the Alliance for School Choice (ASC), Kids Hope USA, and the American Federation for Children (AFC). AF C spent $820,000 -- the seventh-largest single PAC spender during the election -- in Wisconsin during the last election, a huge sum which included $40,000 donations to each of several Republicans who were elected and then proceeded to champion radical voucher legislation. Its clout was strong enough to bring Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Tom Corbett (R-PA) together with former D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee together for a school choice event in Washington, D.C.

Needless to say, the "school choice" movement doesn't even do what it claims to do: raise educational standards. The article I linked to above cites statistics that suggest charter schools don't outperform public schools. This, even though they can cherry-pick students to weed out the very poor, the learning disabled, and English Language Learners. Lots of charter school success stories just so happen to take place in white, affluent communities. In a public school, the right to education for all students is the highest priority—it's incredibly hard to kick a kid out of a school, even when he or she doesn't want to be there, is disruptive, is violent, is failing, and so on. We are obligated to help everyone, and so, yeah, that drags down standardized test scores a bit. That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile, or that we can't sometimes turn a struggling student around. Having that mandate, and that freedom, means that we can help ELL kids write and speak English fluently and help learning disabled kids work around their various challenges, even if they flunk the standardized tests a few times, without fear that if we keep them in our school, teachers will be fired because our average test scores are too low.

But Canadians just can't resist adopting models that have clearly failed in the U.S., so now Toronto is quietly considering bringing in "boutique" schools and even private-public partnerships, a way of quietly undermining public education that looks a bit more palatable to taxpayers. Our public schools are falling apart. There isn't enough money for books or computers. They're closing schools every year. Somehow, though, there's enough money for boys' and girls' academies, sports schools, and vocal music schools?

Thing is, there's an answer to pretty much every educational crisis. Our schools in Ontario never recovered from Harris' cuts in the mid-90s, and, like cuts to welfare, education funding never caught up with the costs. We know what improves education, for both rich and poor kids: smaller class sizes, more resources. It's a simple formula, but there isn't the political will to make it happen, and there are powerful interests hellbent on ensuring that it doesn't.

I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but otherwise progressive people seem to have a blind spot (and even more so when it comes to wealthy North American philanthropists funding private schools in other countries—who is running those schools, anyway, and what are they teaching the kids there?) where charter schools are concerned, and incapable of asking very basic questions. Who is paying? Who is profiting? If charter schools are so effective, why does Bill Gates need to find AstroTurf organizations to make them palatable to the public? And why, if they aren't so effective, do people want to bring them here?

* Which, I confess, I haven't actually seen. I refuse to give those people money.
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 (sweatshop nationalism)
Purses and earbuds. I find myself having to replace both this week.

My current purse has lasted nearly three years and was $25, making it the cheapest and hardiest purse I have ever owned. But the clasp broke in a way that is not obviously fixable. (I e-mailed the company just in case it is.) I've had my eye on another messenger bag for some time, so it's not the worst thing in the world, but it's irritating to have to replace purses so regularly. (And as I may have mentioned before, I'm ridiculously specific about purses, as the vast majority of them are not designed to be large enough to fit a book, waterproof, and not some sort of silly fashionable shape.)

Then my latest pair of earbuds went today. This was not such a tragedy, as they had the worst sound ever and were uncomfortable to boot, and I was itching to replace them. I am lost without my constant soundtrack, though. I dropped into a computer store and bought $5 ones so that I could get to work and back without having to hear people have loud, stupid conversations on their cellphones. These new earbuds sound much better but don't actually stay inside my ears. I've yet to find earbuds that are comfortable, durable, and perform the not-all-that complex task of transmitting music from the Ministry of Culture to my ears.

I know all about planned obsolescence and late-stage capitalism but really, this is downright inconvenient. Is it so hard to make things that don't suck?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (joe hill)
I love this live version of "Ghost of Tom Joad":

Note what Tom Morello is wearing. The Vancouver IWW branch gave it to him. They were kind of excited to see this video.

I already put this on my Facebook, but it's my sincere belief that it needs to be seen by as many people as possible.


Mar. 27th, 2010 03:21 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (immediate discussion)
Vajazzling: What happens when The Patriarchy and The Capitalist Oppressors snort coke together, or the logical result of a generation of girls who grew up playing with My Little Ponies?


Mar. 27th, 2010 03:21 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Vajazzling: What happens when The Patriarchy and The Capitalist Oppressors snort coke together, or the logical result of a generation of girls who grew up playing with My Little Ponies?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (the beatings will continue...)
The U.S.: Still killing Haïtians.

Speaking of which, if you're American, here's where your aid money is going:

Each American dollar roughly breaks down like this:
42 cents for disaster assistance
33 cents for U.S. military aid
nine cents for food
nine cents to transport the food
five cents for paying Haitian survivors for recovery efforts
just less than one cent to the Haitian government
about half a cent to the Dominican Republic.

And if you're Canadian, don't feel smug. The always-problematic CIDA is emphasising foreign policy considerations in its aid strategies. Which it always did, of course, but expect Canadian foreign aid to be even more nakedly imperialist than it was before.

They're going to turn Haïti into a bloody resort for Westerners, over the corpses of 200,000 Haïtians. That's what they're talking about when they say "rebuilding."


sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)

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