Global voting, global policing

September 5, 2004 at 8:56 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Global voting, global policing

Several months ago, the husband and I sent off our requests for absentee voter ballots to the Registrar at City Hall in Beverly, Massachusetts. We still haven’t heard back from them, and on Tuesday we’ll have to phone the clerk in charge to ask about the status of our paperwork. We’re both first-time US election voters, since we didn’t become US citizens until just after the 2000 election. Perhaps it’s our “newbie” status that has caused the unexplained delay, but we’ll get that ballot yet. Meanwhile, here on Vancouver Island, Susan Mullen — a Chicagoan who moved to Victoria five years ago — is leading a drive to get every expat registered to vote.

“This is the most important election in my lifetime,” Mullen said. “This is the election that is going to decide what kind of America we are going to have.”

After contacting the Democrats Abroad chapter in Vancouver to see if she could volunteer on the Island, Mullen was shocked to find out not only was there not a chapter on the Island, but that because of logistical reasons, the Vancouver chapter would not be holding any registration drives in the Capital Region.

Six states were decided by less than 7,500 votes in 2000. Five other states were decided by less than 50,000 votes. If a majority of Americans residing in Canada were to vote in November, it would represent a larger turnout than the combined votes cast in eight states and the District of Columbia, Mullen said, so she decided to bring out Islanders to vote.

(…)
“I have even registered Republicans,” Mullen said, “because that’s my idea of how democracy works.” [emphasis added]

(…) … Kelli Wight co-chair of Republicans Abroad Canada said they have no chapters in B.C. and that they have been concentrating their efforts in Alberta and Ontario where they have a higher, and more conservative population. She also said that Canada has the highest US expat population behind only Mexico and that unlike most other countries, Canada has a much higher Democratic population. [More…]

If you’re an American living abroad and are considering voting Democrat, visit Democrats Abroad.

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On a somewhat related note: do Americans incarcerated in Canadian jails vote? They should, I would think. Betty Krawczyk and Tre Arrow, also known as Michael Scarpitti, are two Americans in Canada who have been in the environment news lately:

Since August, 2002, the FBI has wanted Arrow in connection with two fires which it considers terrorism, a powerful word in the post-9/11 world. In Canada, our own anti-terrorist force, the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), has helped the FBI look into his activities and contacts here.

Not that INSET can take credit for his arrest. A security contractor caught Arrow, and officers in Victoria’s municipal police department did the legwork of questioning him, taking his fingerprints, matching them to Scarpitti’s on the FBI’s most wanted list and establishing his identity. INSET got involved relatively late in the game. Still, that involvement raises questions about what INSET is doing, how it works with its counterparts in the United States, and what is considered “terrorism.”
(…)
While the FBI is investigating Arrow as a terrorist, it has yet to officially charge him with terrorism. The charges he faces, according to the FBI, include “use of fire to commit a felony, destruction of vehicles used in interstate commerce by means of fire, interference with commerce by violence, [and] use of an incendiary destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence.” But not terrorism.
(…)
That the Canadian anti-terrorist forces would be pulled in to work on such a case and look into Arrow’s activities and contacts here is disturbing, says Murray Mollard, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

“We’re dealing essentially with a garden variety criminal who has some political motivation behind what he’s done,” says Mollard. “It doesn’t strike me you need INSET to deal with any threats from this kind of individual.” While the civil liberties group doesn’t defend the crimes, Mollard says, property damage where nobody is harmed is not even close to being in the league of what most people would consider terrorism.

“From day one when we were debating Bill C-36 our concern was the government in Canada was losing sight of what we mean by terrorism,” says Mollard. After September 11, he says, when the new security legislation was rushed through, people had a pretty clear idea that the bill was about “big ticket violence” where civilians were being targeted. “That was what Bill C-36 was all about . . . what was lost was a debate about what we would be opening here.” [From a Monday Magazine article by staff writer Andrew MacLeod, see here for more, although the link might might soon deteriorate…]

Homeschooling for dummies? Not.

September 4, 2004 at 10:31 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

Some weeks ago Homeschool.com held a “homeschooling telephone marathon,” which continued over several days. The morning and afternoon sessions were organised by theme, but John Taylor Gatto‘s conference call was in a class by itself. I didn’t blog about it at the time, and now my sketchy notes don’t give me enough information to produce anything worthwhile here, but as it happens, Homeschool.com just announced that you can buy a tape of the conversation for $5. The entire marathon session topics are presented on this page, with Gatto listed in the “Homeschooling Styles” section under his trademark title, “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.”

In the course of the conversation, Gatto offered startling perspectives on the historical Prussian school system, along with his usual critical look at America’s. He also shared some real “underbelly” type insights into Charles Darwin’s social context. The latter, a member of a very wealthy and privileged English family, was fully imbued with the anti-Irish ethnicism of his class and group, and it inflected his ideas about evolution — something having to do with “evolutionary dead-ends,” and how the Irish represented such “dead-ends” in the minds of the British elite. It was yet another instance of learning about science’s contexts, and how inquiry is hardly ever value-free. [And it also reminded me of my friend Noel Ignatiev’s work, How the Irish Became White. (Can’t resist: Noel and I share the same birthday… Only person I ever met who was also named for that time of year…) ]

One thing I do remember from Gatto’s talk: he noted that elite American prep schools share a common trait, and it’s not simply that the parents all have high-value stock portfolios, not at all. The common thread — and he emphasised several times that every single president from the 1900s onward, along with most business and political leaders, graduated from such a school — the common thread was an emphasis on “literacy,” a literacy that stressed what Gatto called “active literacy.” Active literacy implies learning public speaking and writing. According to Gatto, you can “develop your mind in an exquisitely adversarial fashion,” (or words to that effect), but if you can’t speak well and write well, who cares? You’re “a prisoner in your own mind” if you don’t get to practice public speaking and writing, and this is the literacy that the elite academies instill, but which most kids in most public schools hardly ever get to practice. It’s also the kind of literacy you need to be an active enfranchised citizen, vs. a drone. He added that in today’s more typical public schools, there is “a whole range of speech settings” that is not allowed, and it means we’re losing people (kids) to the “dumbing down” effect. Anyone familar with Gatto’s work knows that he’s intrigued by the high literacy rate of 18th century America, where it was a common practice for children to have a Bible quote for the day which they would be expected to explicate and argue over or debate at dinner. The sullen, non-verbal teenager, in Gatto’s estimation, is definitely a cultural construct, not a natural, hormonally-driven entity. And while I’m uninterested in bringing Bible quotes back to the dinner table, or even in endlessly rehashing the politics of the day (a discussion that over time will sour your gastric juices and cause heart congestion), there must be more active things for the average citizen do while eating than glueing vacant stares to a tv screen.

What kids dumbed down by schooling can’t do is to think for themselves or ever be at rest for very long without feeling crazy; stupefied boys and girls reveal dependence in many ways easily exploitable by their knowledgeable elders.
(…)
If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fiber (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.
[More from Gatto’s book, The Underground History of American Education….]

Practically all of Gatto’s writings are available on his website, but they’re also available for purchase, which makes them handier to read if you don’t like squinting at a computer screen for too long, or if you just want to send some money toward Gatto’s continued efforts.

Why I hate the hijab

September 4, 2004 at 12:48 am | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Warning: This is a rant — one which I rather hoped to put off writing because I knew I couldn’t sound “fair and balanced” about the subject. I was finally prodded into writing it after seeing Dave Pollard’s entry, Veil of Truth. I wondered, To comment or not to comment on Dave’s entry? If you’re a reasonably regular visitor to this site, you know that I’ve hardly posted in the last few weeks (months!?), and I’ve been reading other blogs even less. So why get excited about a completely random read on an old favourite?

Well, the whole issue of working the female body — through tattooing, cutting, fashion, hair removal, hair augmentation, making visible, making invisible, big tits, little tits, etc. etc. — this issue of working the female body as a marker in patriarchal society pushes my buttons. It pushes my buttons because I have experienced (sexual) abuse, harassment, prejudice, several attempted rapes, and many slurs and slanders. Those are the things I can quantify and name — I won’t even go into the things I can’t quantify, such as the more subtle sexual harassments that a graduate student receives at the hands of a male professor, or the subtle ways that a junior professor is put on the back burner if she’s female and a candidate for breeding, not tenure, or how a daughter is expected to grow up to become invisible.

My rant is provoked by the hijab and France’s ban on wearing it in public schools. I hate the hijab. I hate the idea of putting the onus for men’s sexual predation on the bodies of women. I applaud France’s stand in banning the hijab from public schools, even though it’s a clumsy way of taking a stand. The statements by some Islamic organisations condemning the hostage taking appear to be hypocritical, motivated by wanting to curry favour with France. When Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni was killed last week in Iraq, no Islamic group raised a voice in opposition. But now we have French journalists in danger, and France historically has a strong position in the Arab world, hence the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is speaking out, as is Al Jazeera, and others. But remember, as the Neue Z

Bastille, a movie memory

September 2, 2004 at 10:50 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Among the several things that have occupied my August was a massive pitch-forking of a small room upstairs that served as general dumping ground for anything that didn’t obviously belong elsewhere. As often happens in de-cluttering, one finds old journal entries and related stuff, and I was sidetracked for the occasional hour by journals from the early and mid 1980s when I was a student at the University of British Columbia. On June 1, 1985 — just a few weeks before leaving for Boston — I wrote something about a film by Rudolf van den Berg, Bastille. It wasn’t exactly a box office hit — IMDB has nothing on it (maybe I should submit my little review) — but when I read my nearly 20-year old entry (which I’ve posted here), huge portions of the film visually flooded back into my mind. At one point, the protagonist is persuaded by someone to act against his self-interest, at another he has to stop the car to puke by the roadside, and at other points the places of Paris, the country roads, and the peculiarly oppressive feel of costumed 18th-century royals and all their ideological baggage come into sharp focus: all of these images, like archipelagos, resume their former position while the text, which jogs the memory, pretends to weave a thread connecting a theory, and like a spider, I crawled across my old pages.

If you want to read about Bastille, click here (I posted this under my “stories” category), and if you actually saw the film, say something in comments please!

“CEO Pay Soars at Companies That Send Jobs Overseas”

September 1, 2004 at 10:20 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on “CEO Pay Soars at Companies That Send Jobs Overseas”

This interesting bit of news just in via the Institute for Policy Studies: an article documenting executive (excessive) remuneration, which we’re sometimes told has to be very high because of the risks executives take. Not quite true, however:

One rationale for high CEO pay is that CEOs bear tremendous risks and responsibilities for their companies, yet the report found that CEOs are far more financially secure than those risking their lives in war. Average CEO pay is 56 times more than the pay for a US Army general with 20 years experience ($144,932) and 634 times more than the pay for a starting U.S. soldier ($12,776). [More…]

The Institute for Policy Studies also links to a transcript of Miriam Pemberton’s August 24 NPR commentary, Campaign Bait and Switch.

I don’t know where I’m going, but don’t try to stop me….

September 1, 2004 at 10:03 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on I don’t know where I’m going, but don’t try to stop me….

The nearly week-long descent into winter, which I described in yesterday’s entry, coincided unhappily with my first-ever reading of The Inferno, wherein Dante limmed the innermost circle of suffering as a frozen wasteland.

[Warning: Philistine alert!]

I confess that I actively disliked this text. It could be that I expected too much and set myself up for a Fall (bad pun intended). Or perhaps I just need time to learn to appreciate Dante. Or I’m too insensitive to the Christian message. But I have an aversion to anyone theorising the existence of a place called Hell. And what really offended me about Dante’s was the ease with which he condemned to it souls for utterly trivial “crimes,” and how painstakingly he scripted Virgil, his guide, who, because he is non-Christian, is also condemned to Hell for all eternity. (Quiz: “Would you want Dante for a friend?” Answer truthfully, but remember, he’ll unctiously ok your “assigned” place, …wherever it is.) Virgil’s job, via Dante, is to repeatedly assure the reader that Dante is above any reproach Satan — or God — could possibly offer. The author and Florence are the real stars of this epic, not the journey through the circles, which ends up as a repetitive pub crawl where all the usual suspects are assembled. Coupled with the parochialism of this Hell, what appeared to be Dante’s gloating cruelty made me quickly lose all empathetic interest in the ideas he might have been offering.

[Wow. So there: I’m a hopeless Philistine.]

There goes Dante through a romp in Hell, completely in control except for the few times he comes close to tripping over some poor sod stuck in the ice, or falling off a cliff. He moves through its imagined circles, yet the closer he gets to the centre, the less philosophical he becomes. It’s as though his self-created description is simply there to confirm all of his prejudices, not a few of which dance around the notion of city-state nationalism. Dante and Florence can do no wrong, and I suppose if a character had committed murder for the sake of Florence, the gates of Heaven and not Hell would have opened up for him. Some critics say the poem is about justice, but it’s also at least as much about might making right.

And did someone say gender? My eyes glazed over at a certain point, but I’m fairly certain that virtually all of Hell’s speaking inhabitants, with one exception, were male. How did that happen? Here’s how: Hell is important, which is why Dante wrote about it. Or: Dante wrote about Hell, so Hell is important. (In ideology, tautology is plenty useful.) At any rate, an important place can’t possibly be peopled by speaking women, unless it’s a place like Heaven: here, virtues effectively end the reign of History and women can safely morph into idealistic figureheads. But please: no one is seriously interested in Heaven, for pete’s sake. It’s boring, which is why you’ll finally find a few token females (like Beatrice) there: they represent a kind of virginal-maternal

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