sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
I'm finished work at 8:05 pm! That's only an 11-hour day—a record for me lately, and gives me a whole hour or so with which to SURF THE WEB and all its wonders. And I have internet at home, which is exciting.

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

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


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

picard - damage report

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

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

The entire country proceeded to lose its shit.

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

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

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

Vice has a funny article about it, of course.


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

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


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

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

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

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

Yes, that one.

So have fun marking that.

* I'll explain. Chong is the most moderate of the candidates for the Tory leadership, which is still more right-wing than I'd prefer, but basically he's the only one who's not a Nazi. In a federal election, he'd have practically no chance of winning. Which is why a bunch of non-Tories have recently joined the Conservatives in an attempt to vote him in as leader. I think it's not a bad strategy, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He does seem like a good egg, though.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
 or, Against the Romanticization of Artistic Poverty.

Quick, what do the following bands have in common?

The Clash
Gang of Four
The Mekons
X-Ray Spex

If you answered, "Sabs is really into them," or "they're all seminal British punk bands," you'd be correct. But the answers I was going for is that:

1) They all had at least one member who had some sort of post-secondary arts education, and
2) They all formed before Margaret Thatcher's 1979 election, not as a response to it.

One of the things I hear every now and then is that, well, at least we'll have good punk music. The association of loud, angry, political punk music with grim Thatcherite England is obvious, and maybe I've been guilty of that sort of aesthetic Stalinism, believing that as the socio-economic climate grows increasingly bleak, the arts will respond with an explosion of outraged creativity.

Except that this is not how art actually works. Sure, a significant chunk of punk grew out of poverty and squats, led by disaffected dropouts, but this is not the whole story. Art rarely emerges from despair alone. Historically, artists had wealthy patrons, and the image of the noble artist starving to death in a garret is very much a modern notion, presumably invented by capitalists to justify slashing public funding to artists.

I mean, it makes sense. To have the freedom to create, you need to have basic material needs met. That's not to say that artists are inherently wealthy, comfortable people, or happy. But just as it is ridiculous to assume that social change emerges from abject misery—it generally comes from relative, not absolute deprivation, see also the American white working class—it is silly to think that just because things are more depressing out there, a wellspring of cultural innovation will magically emerge to combat it. That shit needs funding, and guess what one of the first things to go is when the hard-right takes power.

So no, we are probably not going to get good punk music again. Sorry about that.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Just when you thought the political landscape couldn't get any worse, CrimethInc is back, kickin' it like it's 2001. The third most irritating tendency in anarchism* has announced its return in a typically relevant fashion:

The website is powered by an app built with Ruby on Rails. If you’re a designer, a developer, or an adventurous explorer and want to help us build a better world, send up a signal flare—we’ll be waiting for you. There’s still plenty of work to do (and always will be until we finally destroy empire). Front end HTML and CSS—backend Ruby and Rails—UI/UX design—copyediting—language translation. There’s something for everyone.

I hate to hate on fellow leftists**, but are you shitting me? Whatever made someone wake up and go, "the US has elected to give a racist, sexist, slobbering monument to the Dunning-Kruger effect the codes to the nukes, the climate is permafucked, Syria is no longer a desert because it's basically an ocean of blood, Russia's gone all tsarist again, and the bumblebee just got declared endangered—what the world needs right now is a troupe of edgy anarkiddies declaring themselves post-left all over the internet." The only silver lining here is that practically no serious person will notice this. I mean, I noticed, but I'm not a serious person, and I'm sick of blogging about the fascist orange bezoar. 


I mean, I'll give credit where credit is due—CrimethInc have some sick graphic design skills and catchy slogans, but you know who else had sick graphic design skills and catchy slogans? Maoist China. Aesthetics does not a political ethos make.

Speaking of edgy, though, it's not all doom and gloom out there! U2 have delayed their latest release in the wake of Trump's election, and they might even not push it on your iPhone this time. Nevertheless, look forward to seeing Bono on stage shaking hands with Trump at the next G8/G20 summit. You know I'm right.

* Anarcho-capitalists at number one, anarcho-primitivists at number two, because someone asked. As if primitivists' "let's kill off most of the world's population and also fuck disabled people" excuse for a political ethos wasn't bad enough, Fake Goth Cathy Brennan has emerged as their strange bedfellow—possibly literally? Who knows, who cares? Plus they ruined a perfectly nice couch I once owned.

** Just kidding. That's basically my favourite thing to do.
sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
 So Trump likes getting peed on. This is going to be so much worse than the Honourable Wife-Beater. Worse than #piggate, though admittedly not quite as funny. 
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (socialism with a human face)
I don't actually think it's World War III or the end of the world at the moment, so more ranting about the problem of balance in politics. Two positions I've taken, both in response to stupid comments by supposed centrists:

1. Trevor Noah would never invite an ISIS member onto his show to “get the other side’s perspective.” That’s why the liberal narrative of free speech is so ethically vacuous.

I don't remember the last time I encountered an ardent defender of the concept known as "free speech" who wasn't a raging racist. I'm not sure how the right managed to snatch that one out from under our noses, but like "libertarian," I don't think we're gonna get this one back. Sorry guys.

The reason why ISIS is not included in debates about free speech is because we're all sensible people and we know where that kind of discourse leads. Yeah, a certain percentage of people reading/watching/listening to an ISIS ideologue's opinion—let's be generous and say most people—are going to say, "wow, that guy's a real shithead, listen to him say shitty things, ugh." But a not-insignificant number are going to react in the opposite way—this fellow's saying something I've felt deep in my heart for a long time, and look, he's saying it publicly, it must be socially acceptable."

This is how the Alt Reich gained ascendancy. The media gave them a sympathetic narrative, stopped portraying them as fringe freaks not even worthy of an interview, reported on their hairstyles and suits, demanded that the liberal elite sympathize with their plights. (Can you imagine a similar discourse around ISIS? Even though for the average fighter—not the ideologues—there may be a much more compelling reason, such as starvation, forcing their hand?)

An ethically consistent liberal or centrist would fight as valiantly for the rights of terrorists to be heard as it does for the rights of racist white dudes to spout off hate speech, but there is no ethical consistency in liberalism or centrism.

2. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people who don't know very much about politics that the horseshoe theory has any sort of intellectual merit.

I was halfheartedly debating with a self-described centrist who was insisting that fascism could be either a right- or left-wing ideology, and that neo-liberalism was a left-wing ideology. I guess 227 years of political history, fought for and bled for by countless Very Smart People, was just not good enough for this fellow, who like so many on the internet, believes that a 15-second Google search qualifies him as a political scientist. (To be fair, I'm not even sure he did that.) The horseshoe theory is referenced commonly amongst the walking Dunning-Kruger effects that inhabit certain corners of the internet, and I'm sick to death of it.

There are, of course, common features in the extreme left and the extreme right. However, all of these commonalities can just as easily describe those in the centre (not to mention that the centre is a rightward-drifting moving target). Probably more so—anecdotally, the most authoritarian types I've encountered in meatspace described themselves as centrists. A conservative may have some moral convictions, even if I disagree with them; a centrist is merely politically and ethically avoidant. It is the perverted sense of balance that led to the above problem wherein the Alt Reich were given a platform rather than being sent scuttling back to the sewers where they belong.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (death is coming)
#TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner is seriously the most brilliant policy proposal put forth by the Trump campaign. The Washington Post, in all its wisdom, has put out an article detailing the economic implications:

The national economic implications of a taco truck on every corner

As you might have guessed, they are not only tasty, but economically sound and would result in almost full employment.


In Chairwoman Sabotabby's fully automatic luxury communist space utopia, I can guarantee you that there will, indeed, be #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner. This is a promise, and unlike other political figures, not one that I would ever renege on.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (death is coming)

You can watch it here.

Now, you'll be disappointed, like most of the city, because it:

a) Doesn't show us anything we didn't already know or guess
b) Comes far too late to destroy the Ex-Honourable Wife-Beater's political career
c) Will not tarnish the reputation of Brother Doug or any of their various political enablers; even Sandro Lisi got off on a peace bond
d) Isn't even all that funny

But Americans, take note: This can happen to you. Yes, being the mayor of a large city is different than being President of 'Murica, but not as different as you think. The Laughable Bumblefuck represents a sharp break from conventional politics, where politicians at least had to have the pretense of being—if not competent themselves—the puppet of competent advisors. And a scandal like smoking crack was generally enough to sink most. Not anymore.

Meanwhile, the real story is John Tory, walking Dad Joke, continuing Fordism by a different name: Bullshitting on a subway that's never gonna happen and was never meant to happen, breaking his half-assed pledge to reduce poverty in an increasingly divided city, refusing to engage honestly with Black Lives Matter, but since his very presence is a cure for insomnia, no one's paying that close attention. At least with Ford, people paid attention to some of the dumb shit he did.

But this—I would argue, were I of a more conspiratorial mindset—is by design, not accident. That's what you do, if you're playing the long political game that the far right is currently playing. You get someone ridiculous and over-the-top and populist to bust open the door, someone who courts Nazis or uses the n-word or smokes crack, someone so clownish that it's impossible to envision them ever being elected until they do, and then you let them self-immolate. And by then, they've shifted the Overton Window so far towards overt fascism that all you need is another, more soft-spoken and well-dressed far-right ideologue to slither in there, look like a reasonable moderate, and repackage Asshole Boy's ideas as his own, and everyone swallows it.

Unrelated to any of the above, enjoy this story about a dog that found a giant dildo and wouldn't put it down.


Jun. 24th, 2016 07:57 am
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (monocleyay)
Woke up to the news, still kind of reeling.

To my British friends: My condolences. I'm sorry that so many of your fellow citizens voted with the fascists and gave into terrorism.

At least the Pigfucker's gone, though I guess he was going to go anyway and it's a countdown to Führer Farange or Boris as PM now. Just, damn.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (she)
"WATCH MOAR WEIRD WESTERNS" is definitely a thing on my to-do list. Because there are entire genres of Westerns I didn't know about until recently.

Case in point, the Ostern, or Red Western. Yes, the Soviet Union and East Germany made Westerns in the 60 and 70s! No one told me that this was a thing, and so I am informing you that this is a thing. I have watched my first, and it was magnificent.

Die Söhne der großen Bärin, or Sons of the Great She-Bear (1966) is an East German film about the colonization of Lakota territory in 1874. And unlike any Western—or mainstream film—I have ever seen, it's told from the indigenous POV. Not in a weepy romanticized our-old-ways-are-dying, "let's shoehorn in a sympathetic white lead to be the POV character" kind of way, but like the lead character is a Lakota warrior out for revenge against the white bastards who killed his father. It's begging for a modern, gorier remake by Tarantino. I mean, one of the bad guys gets eaten by a fucking bear; it's great.

It's probably about the only movie in which I'll admit that redface was necessary, given the dearth of Native American actors living in East Germany and Czechoslovakia at the time, but the filmmakers did do their homework, and the author of the books the movie is based on, Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich, researched the Lakota extensively and lived with them. Everyone speaks proper German (the Czech actors who portray the Lakota are dubbed), which removes the pidgin English that American and Western European actors were forcing on their Native American characters at the time.

Oh, naturally, our hero Tokei-Ihto is a good Communist who wants to liberate his people from the white invaders so that they can have collective farms. But in a subtle way. Mainly, this is a straight-up anti-imperialist narrative in a way that can only come out of the Eastern Bloc, and a much more honest, visceral portrayal of the colonization of the Americas than most of what's come out of this continent.

Then we watched:

Walker (1987), an acid Western by Alex Cox. I've seen it before but not in a long time, and it pairs rather well with Sons of the Great She-Bear. It's about William Walker, an American mercenary who made himself President of Nicaragua for reasons. Manifest Destiny reasons. And if it seems too weird to be true, it's not that fictionalized, and if it seems like an allegory for the American aggression against Nicaragua in the 1980s, well, yeah, obviously.

Walker is heavily stylized, with prominent use of Zippo lighters, computers, magazines, and various other anachronisms, and the weirdness works to both draw parallels between the historical story and modern politics, and also just look awesome. It's a movie with no sympathetic characters—Walker quickly goes from anti-hero to raging lunatic dictator the second he's given a whiff of political power. Things blow up good. The soundtrack is by Joe Strummer, who also plays a bit part. It's biting, violent, splatterpunk satire that seems just as relevant in 2016 as it did in 1987.

I highly recommend both, and they pair quite wonderfully together.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
You guys, you should just see what's going on in Toronto. It's amazing. The entire mainstream press and political establishment appears to have forgotten that Ford was a wife-beating, drunk-driving, racist, misogynist, homophobic turdblossom and is just lionizing him like he never ordered a hit on a 21-year-old drug dealer or had a guy severely beaten in prison.

Of course there is a discussion of which park should be named after him and where the statue should go. I think this Torontoist post makes some good points as to why there shouldn't be a statue, but come on. You secretly want a statue, don't you? I do. It would be the greatest tourist attraction since we built that giant middle finger to America.

Think of the potential with statues:

  • They can be peed upon.

  • They can be slathered in gravy.

  • You can put traffic cones on their heads.

  • Birds shit on them.

  • They can be painted in various amusing ways.

  • You can put signs in their hands advocating, say, sodomy or socialism.

  • You can decorate them with Christmas lights.

  • By "Christmas lights," I mean "crack pipes." You knew that, right?

So many possibilities!

I think the best place to put a statue of the Honourable Wife-Beater is in the big pit where the Scarborough subway will never get built.

But it doesn't end there. No, not when the city is in throes of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments. There is politics to be done, people.

Which is why the pinnacle of decorum himself, Mr. Doug Ford, is using his brother's visitation to campaign, inviting supporters to take selfies with him, presumably in front of the creepy-ass dead body. That's some Game of Thrones-level squick and I am truly impressed.

Still, if his corpse is not embalmed in wax and put on permanent display in Nathan Phillips Square, this whole carnival has simply just not gone far enough.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
The Laughable Bumblefuck is no more. Were I a Proper Journalist, like the ones currently tripping over their own feet in a pathetic attempt to say something nice about the man, and not a half-assed commie blogger spewing occasional sweary political commentary, I'd already have a eulogy written up. We knew this was coming. I'd play up his virtues, paltry though they were, and lament his terrible death at the hands of a foe even more ravenous and unrestrained than the man himself. I'd remind my readers that it is impolite to speak ill of the dead, etc.

Let's be honest, though. That's not who I am.

For four years, I devoted considerable pixels to documenting Mayor Ford's disastrous reign over the city I love. He was the Richard Nixon to my Hunter S. Thompson, if I were a better writer and he had his finger on the Big Red Button. I have a lot of feelings. I don't believe that death confers sainthood. I believe this makes me more respectful and empathetic towards my enemies than those who suddenly retract all of their negativity and criticism. When I someday die, if the right declares me to have been balanced and open to compromise and possessed of some latent conservative virtues, they had better watch out for my wrathful zombie revenge. Fuck that. I was everything Ford hated, and he was everything I despise.

I'm not exactly going to dance on his grave, but that's mainly because he died of cancer—and no one should have to die of cancer*—rather than of acute lead poisoning, as is the correct mode of death for reactionaries. And literally, that's the only reason. If you are, like most today, inclined towards grief or sympathy, remember, whilst voting against $1.5 million in AIDS prevention spending, that this is the man who argued—despite being a drug user himself—that "if you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn't get AIDS probably." Or said, regarding the deaths of cyclists, increased by his pro-car politicies, "My heart bleeds for them when someone gets killed. But it’s their own fault at the end of the day." He would not feel sympathy for you if you died. I doubt any of the Important People eulogizing him today will spare a thought for Anthony Smith, a troubled young man whose death Ford may have directly or indirectly hastened.

Ford the man doesn't matter. His family, once they get over their grief, is likely well rid of him, though I understand that the death of an abusive spouse or parent is emotionally fraught and complex. Not for nothing did I dub him the Honourable Wife Beater. I'm sure that Toronto's Finest are relieved to not have to answer any more domestic disturbance calls. But even if he'd been the loving family man the press is longing to claim he was, private sadness is not what I'm interested in.

Ford the politician, conversely, represented all that is reprehensible and destructive in modern politics. He exemplified the new paradigm where (assuming you are rich, and white, and male), scandal does not affect you, and the way to address allegations of illegal or immoral activity is just to push past them and insult those who would hold you accountable. He was the prototypical blustering showman, shouting over the opposition instead of engaging them in a fact-based debate, a bully who dragged the level of discourse to the lowest common denominator. He was a white millionaire who claimed to be an everyman you could have a beer with, showing up at TCHC buildings that he fought to defund and demolish and pretending to fix the broken lightbulbs. He hurled racial epithets at the people who supported him the most passionately, stoking the economic masochism of the underclass he despised. Despite a rampantly ideological agenda of austerity, he contributed, more than any other political figure I can name, to the depoliticization of the discourse, taking the neoconservative line as basic fact and reducing the political spectrum to mere identity politics.

He was a politician who hated politicians, and whatever you can say about politicians as a whole, the only thing that's worse than a politician is a fucking CEO. Ford would replace the Citizen with the Consumer, replace the living, breathing, thriving, shitting, dancing organism of the city to a prosaic transaction. Cut here, trim there, until all that remains is a hollowed out shell where the taxpayer gets in his SUV, drives in traffic to a job that doesn't pay enough, goes home, and experiences nothing of community, of urbanity, of interdependence.

He was the scion of a political dynasty, and if there's one thing I loathe, it's a political dynasty. You shouldn't get to be ushered into office because your father was, because your name has brand recognition. It's indecent.

He was a misogynist, a racist, and a homophobe. This got lost, because he was also a drug addict, but it's far more important than the fact that he was a drug addict. Dress it up how you like, excuse it away by claiming that he was damaged, but the truth is that he had every privilege handed to him on a silver platter and used it to shit on those lower down the ladder. He may have come off as an entertaining clown to the rest of the world, but to Toronto, he ruined real lives and there's nothing funny about it.

So good fucking riddance. We're spared the further damage a living, physically healthy Rob Ford might have inflicted on our collective lives. I didn't get my wish to see him go down in flames, at last convicted of the many crimes that would have brought him down had he not been a rich white guy, and I'm a little disappointed that I never got to hear a resignation speech that was simply, "THE ARISTOCRATS!" But if there's any justice, they'll name an LRT out to Scarborough after him, or the new Bloor bike lanes, and the city can breathe a sigh of relief, and once again become a place worth living in.

P.S. Cops attacked the Black Lives Matter camp last night, set up to protest the lack of charges in the police murder of Andrew Loku, a mentally ill black man. If you actually care about what goes on in Toronto, you can donate to Black Lives Matter - Toronto through Interac at (question: what chapter answer: toronto). They also need donations of blankets, cardboard boxes, hot drinks, gloves, hand warmers, and "anything to keep protestors warm."

* Except that Doug Ford used to hold press conferences at Princess Margaret, disrupting the lives and treatments of other people suffering from cancer, so it's not like having cancer made him less repulsive or anything.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
I don't have much to contribute to that thing that happens whenever a Western country experiences a horrific attack. It's all been said by people smarter than me. All I can do is extend sympathies to people who are near or have family in Paris—and Beirut; to be honest, I know a lot more Lebanese people than I do French people—and feel sad and shocked and disgusted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So colour me surprised and impressed.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
You know, I don't think I'll ever be able to control my reaction when I knock on a door and get some person who rants about immigrants and Muslims. My heart starts racing and I have to struggle to argue rationally. I have all the facts at my disposal and on my side, but still, it's emotional in a way I can never predict.

I am looking in the eye of someone who, 75 years ago, would have sent me to a camp. That's what it is. And there's a lot of it. I don't know if you can argue someone out of beliefs like that. My politics may have changed over the years but never in my life would xenophobia have made sense. It's like we're coming from entirely different worlds. In mine, borders are an abstract and absurdist notion, the policy of stopping what you're doing and standing for the national anthem is akin to children playing musical chairs, and the control of the free movement of human beings one of the worst travesties imaginable. To them, the lines you are born within—no matter who you are, how much you struggle, how much you suffer—determines whether or not you are fit for life. Any attempt at communication between us is–well, have you read Peter Watts' Blindsight? It's like that.

I invariably get at least one per night out canvassing. Last night's took about half an hour of my time, and I couldn't get away because she wanted to rant to me about immigrants, welfare moms, and the superiority of McDonald's coffee over Timmy's and I just wanted to flee. I'm still pretty queasy over it tbh.

What has to happen to make a person like that? What has to not happen? I'm genuinely struggling to understand.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (doomsday)
Just came back from a really interesting lecture at the Reference Library called "Bill C-51 and Dystopian Literature" by Allan Weiss, whose classes I now regret not having taken at York.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* I almost never ask questions at Q&As for that reason; the second there is the threat of a mic near my face, my brain turns to mush.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (monocleyay)
David Cameron, metaphorical pigfucker, is also apparently a literal pigfucker. (Bless the British press—you won't often hear me say that—for immediately supplying the internet with lots of pictures of Cameron holding pigs.)

[An alleged eyewitness] even claimed another member of the group has photographic evidence of the alleged act.

But the individual who is said to own the picture did not respond to approaches by the authors.

Oh hey, fortunately there's video! NSFW, obviously.

Hats off to you, Britain. Your Prime Minister fucked a dead pig. You beat our crack-smoking mayor and Peegate. I now feel secure in the knowledge that nothing that happens in Canadian politics will ever live up to how fucking insane that is.

Meanwhile, lovely Corbyn, alas, is set for a reenactment of one of my other favourite British political dramas. Although apparently he's a vegetarian and so if he doesn't win the next election with the slogan, "at least we don't fuck pigs," he needs better advisors.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
I miss posting about municipal politics, so here's what's been happening.

Broadly speaking, we are in the post-ideological era. We had four years of an openly racist, homophobic, misogynist wife-beater, but then came in Tory as a breath of fresh air, concerned only with Sensible, Reasonable Management of City Resources, etc. Of course, there is nothing more ideological than those claiming to be apolitical, and Tory is Ford in a beige sweater-vest, without the crackpipe. Which is worse for the city, as he manages to be so boring that no one pays attention to the nefarious shit that he pulls.

I warned you this would happen.

Still, some interesting things have happened! Transit is still fucked. The entire subway system went down for an hour and a half yesterday. The whole fucking thing. Massive outcry did not happen because who cares about people who can't afford cars, right? There is no funding and no plan to modernize transit, so everything is just falling apart. Tory had this whole SmartTrack thing in the election that seems to be totally abandoned now, which is fine, because when you hear "smart" in a compound word, you know it ain't.

Then, Tory was forced to reverse his policy on carding. For those of you who haven't heard of this (I'm not sure it's a thing that happens elsewhere), carding is where the cops stop people and ask them questions and write down their information, regardless of whether or not they're a suspect in any crime. Did I say "people"? Sorry, I mean specifically "black people." That's why whenever a black person is killed, be it by cops or civilians, they are "known to police." Because the cops literally have a policy of building databases on people of colour who have done nothing wrong. This is an actual thing that happens here. Activists have been agitating against it for years, and recently a group of upstanding, prominent citizens called for an end to it. Tory was all for it until it became clear that supporting carding would lose him the next election, which goes to show that activism can actually get shit done. Don't think he reversed his position out of the goodness of his heart.

So, yay!

And then there's the Gardiner Expressway thing. This is an ugly, elevated expressway that is falling apart. Experts have advised tearing it down and replacing it with a boulevard to allow the land around it to be developed. This would increase commute times, though no one knows how much. The boulevard option is cheaper and will create more jobs, but Tory's platform was all TRAFFIC TRAFFIC TRAFFIC, so he is in favour of a hybrid option that will cost double but not affect commute times.

This is a very interesting bit of politics wrapped up in a very boring sounding debate about a highway. I didn't quite realize it until I was listening to Matt Galloway interviewing Tory this morning. Galloway brought up the number of jobs that could be created with the tear-it-down plan (through construction, new businesses, schools, etc.); Tory kept talking about the financial cost of longer commutes and lost productivity.

Lost in this discussion was the clarification that additional productivity and job creation are not the same thing. In fact, they're opposite—productivity is value stolen from workers. The average voter thinks more money in the economy=more jobs, but of course it matters whether that money is there because there are more workers earning a living or that the existing workers are creating more profit by working harder for capitalists. It was an interesting thing to wake up to for sure.

That interview led to me stumbling to this op-ed in the Star (I'd heretofore been ignoring the whole debate because I walk or take transit and it doesn't directly affect me). It's written by developers. And I agree with them. Do you know what a weird position it is for me to find myself nodding along and thinking, "yes, you greedy little shitbags, that does make economic sense." It's especially weird because developers have historically overridden political democracy in Toronto, and now that they're in the right, it will be fascinating to see whether they will again.

I'll point out again that we could have had a decent transit system and we could have had a progressive mayor who wasn't boring, but for the Toronto left's impotence and insularity and a political direction that is largely decided by those who do not actually choose to live here. Instead, we have far-right austerity in the guise of technocratic rationality, and it's both backward and dull.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (candle salad)
It's a rare day—and especially in the middle of some acrimonious contract negotiations with my union—that I'll say something nice about the Ontario Liberal government. But here it is: They updated the antediluvian Grade 1-8 sex ed curriculum and it's pretty good. It needed to be done and the changes are thoughtful and vital, including information about LGBTQ sexuality and affirmative consent. So, yay government on this one particular specific issue! You done good! You are terrible and corrupt when it comes to mostly everything else, but I can rest assured that you are sensible when it comes to the health education of young children, and I genuinely do appreciate that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is maybe why we need to reframe the debate. Instead of "concerned parents," let's focus on the manipulators behind the scenes and their pro-rape, homophobic, transphobic agenda. While sex ed is always a controversial thing, the butthurt of a few uptight pearl-clutchers has never made quite so many headlines in modern Canada, so follow the money. Who is really holding the kids hostage to make a political point?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
Here is an excellent round-up of all the ways in which the Conservatives were evil in 2014. Highlights include corruption, election fraud, stupid laws with stupider names, the Temporary Foreign Workers program, treating refugees like shit, and, of course, surveillance.

Inspired by this poster. (h/t [ profile] jackspryte)

Anyway go have a look in case you're an American planning to flee to Canada, or a Canadian whose relatives insist Harper's good for the economy.

MEANWHILE in Toronto, Tory's government already has a death toll of at least two—homeless guys who froze to death because the city didn't issue an extreme weather advisory, even though temperatures are in the negative double digits. But at least the trains run on time. Oh wait, they don't.

ETA: OCAP occupied the mayor's office, forcing Tory to order the warming shelters open. Good on OCAP.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
US: Sorry about your election.
UK: Happy burning effigies day!
Canada: Here is what our freedom-lovin' gub'mint has been up to lately:

Obviously, the Conservatives used the Ottawa shooting to try to ram new civil rights abuses down our throat. "Preventative detention,"
"information sharing" such as the sort that led to Maher Arar's torture, and thought crimes. Not surprising; they've been wanted to do this for awhile and some mentally ill lone shooter who spent too much time on the intertubes gave them a good excuse to make it happen.

There's no money to pay for veterans' services, but there's apparently money to erect fake tanks all over the country.  However much this is costing, it is too fucking much.

The Tories' latest law, the amazingly named Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, bans a bunch of things that I think were illegal anyway and doesn't address any of the barbaric cultural practices that Conservatives enjoy. Convenient!

Speaking of barbarism, the Conservatives continue to fight the court ruling that found cutting health care to refugees to be unconstitutional.

And then the Bank of Canada governor just proposed a novel way to deal with youth unemployment. It seems that today's shiftless, aimless Millennials have not considered...working for free. Yes, really.

That's the kind of week it's been!
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
Between the photos of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and what will no doubt be a brutal bloodbath in Brazil tonight and the spoiled fucking Americans pumping black smoke out of their trucks because there's a president a millimetre to the left of the president they liked, I'm full of impotent rage for things happening far away that I can do nothing about.


sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)

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