Sunday, March 18, 2007

Democratiya: The World's Best Left-Wing Journal

Democratiya is "the liveliest and most stimulating new intellectual journal on political themes in the English-speaking world," says Paul Berman, author of Power and the Idealists. The Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, says: "Democratiya is the only voice coming out of the left that is attempting to find responsible solutions for the twin scourges of our age: terrorism and dictatorship emanating from the failed and failing political systems of the Arab and Muslim world." Says the poet and translator George Szirtes: "At a time when the very idea of democracy is under attack it is invaluable to have an intelligent and passionate journal to defend and define it. Democratiya is such a journal."
Democratiya's founding editor is Alan Johnson, a professor in the Department of Social and Psychological Sciences at Edge Hill University in Britain and a co-author of the Euston Manifesto.

Democratiya's just-published Spring 2007 edition features, among other things: Ladan Boroumand: Reading Habermas in Tehran; Ali Hili: Homophobia and Human Rights in Iraq; Peter Tatchell: Their Multiculturalism and Ours; Richard Sandbrook: Globalisation and Egalitarianism; Bogusia Puchalska: The Economics of Democratisation; and Tony Blair: The 21st Century Challenge.

Another great journal of left-wing thought and opinion is Dissent, out of New York. In Dissent's just-released on-line edition, you can read Phil Clark on democracy and justice in the Congo, Johann Hari's review of six new books on Islam and the West, Joschka Fischer's address to the Iranian Center for Strategic Research in Tehran, and a lot more.

Irving Howe, the democratic socialist who founded Dissent in 1954, declared: "The banner of critical independence, ragged and torn though it may be, is still the best we have."

True then, true now.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gung Fhéile Pádraig Fat Choy, Mo Lucht Cumainn

St. Patrick's Day is an official holiday in Canada only in Newfoundland, that most civilized of our provinces. But as the photograph above attests, the celebrations are undertaken properly in Vancouver. They're getting the hang of it in Dublin, I see:

Lithuanian musicians, drum-beating Punjabis and West African dancers used Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday to celebrate their place in a booming Ireland that has become a land of immigrants.

You can take in St. Pat's day in Barcelona, in Seoul, in Montreal (they've been at it since 1759; Dublin's parade goes back only to 1903), and Toronto, where they parade on Sunday, as do Vancouverites.

Truth is we never much celebrated it in my family. We reserved our shamroguery for Easter. Nonetheless, this is for my auld man:

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Message From The Hegemony's Head Office. . .

Finally got around to looking at our infiltrators' report from the Canadian Peace Alliance conference where the decision was made to trespass upon our High Holy Day of Feile Padraig with counter-parades of marching teetotallers. It's an excellent report. Maith thú, comrades!

The CPA's official account of what happened omits mention of its decision to stick with its 2004 resolution on Darfur and continue to oppose any military intervention to staunch the slaughter there. But let's get to the official business. There were 14 resolutions, which can be summarized thusly:

1. Sully the Feast of Saint Patrick with counter-processions of miserable old nuns, windbags, dupes and scolds carrying placards that say Down With This, Long Live That, Canada Out Of This, Canada Out Of That and so forth.

2. This is too funny (ní féidir a shéanadh): Right after the resolution calling for "anti-war" rallies across Canada, delegates voted to urge all CPA member groups to attend a conference of "the global anti-war movement" in Cairo later this month, which is really a strategy session with the well-known pacifist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

3. Resist the United Nations' nefarious plans to prevent the Iranian theocracy's attempts to develop weapons-grade uranium. 4. Destroy Israel. 5. Give Haiti back to the street gangs of Port-aux-Prince. 6. Demand that the Canadian government pay for public meetings where we can shout our slogans. 7. (Obligatory motion to placate vegetarians from the Slocan Valley who still think we're a peace group). 8. (Obligatory motion to assuage our guilt about Native people). 9. Clear the field of Canadians soldiers in Kandahar as a favour to the Taliban. 10. (Obligatory motion to assuage our guilt about Native people #2). 11. Destroy Israel. 12. Drag the New Democratic Party down below the Greens to single digits in the polls. 13. Destroy Israel. 14. Make the National Film Board pay for some old American hippie movies.

Our secret plan, as you can see, is working on time and under-budget. And our stranglehold on the news media is coming in handy too. Here's Ian King, from today's 24 Hours:

It's deeply ironic that Woody Guthrie, troubadour of the old Left, painted "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitar to remind all what the message was meant to accomplish. Sadly, the modern anti-war left has turned to supporting fascists.

Tomorrow, the so-called peace movement marches mainly in opposition to Canada and the United States, and in support of governments and movements, however brutal, that oppose them. Not everyone marching to the Vancouver Art Gallery will hold those repugnant views - but the movement's leaders do.

Réitím leis an tuairim sin, Ian. I'll be toasting you with one of these.

Why Do I Want To Bash Jason Belfiglio's Head In?

It's wrong to fee this way, of course. Not just because the punk has only been charged with this hate crime, and should be presumed innocent. Even if he was caught a couple of blocks from the broken window of the Chabad Midtown Jewish Community Centre on Bathurst, wearing a T-shirt with a Celtic cross intertwined with a Nazi swastika. Even if a TTC driver did say he saw Belfiglio throw something through the Chabad Centre window a few minutes earlier.

The reason I want to bash the guy's head in is that my teenaged daughter lives in the same building. "It's unknown what exactly was thrown through the windows," the police say. What if it had been molotov cocktails?

The reason it's wrong to feel this way is that I should feel the same throttled rage, regardless.

That's what my head tells me. But my gut tells me something else. Funny old world.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sally Armstrong Vs. Pro-Misogynist Apologetics

You could say it was ironic.
It happened at the end of International Women's Week, in an auditorium filled with about 200 women at the University of Victoria, at the close of an address by journalist and women's-rights activist Sally Armstrong, author of Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan.
Armstrong had just finished speak­ing on the subject of "blameless women and girls who continue to pay the price of the opportunism of angry men" when four men, as if on cue, one after the other, confronted Armstrong with precisely the apologetics she had just finished addressing. It was as if the forum organizers had planned some crafty exercise in guerrilla theatre.
But the men were not actors, and they proceeded to raise all the depressingly familiar and objectively pro-misogynist complaints: Canada is occupying Afghanistan as an imperialist power; women like Armstrong "romanticize" Afghan suffering; conditions for women are worse now than under the Taliban; and Canadian women should stick to matters that directly affect them.
That kind of thing.
Outside the auditorium, Armstrong's detractors persisted in their hectoring, hovering around her and handing out leaflets for an "anti-war" demonstration. Armstrong was clearly shaken. "I haven't had this experience to this degree before," she told me. "I'm appalled that young people could say things like that."
But before the leafleteers made their presence known, Armstrong had already anticipated their complaints. "They say, 'You have no business writing about our women. You're not part of our culture; you're not part of our religion.' There's a taboo about talking about it," Armstrong said. "People play it like a cultural trump card to silence women like me."
It won't work with Armstrong. And a good thing, too (that's what my Chronicles column is on about today.) It won't work with Maryam Namazie, either. And it certainly won't work with Sima Samar.
Samar's role in the ongoing struggle for the emancipation of Afghan women is featured prominently in Armstrong's book, Veiled Threat. Samar left RAWA ages ago, for all the right reasons. RAWA has sadly degenerated back into gibberish of its Maoist roots, which explains its weird appeal to the North American pseudo-left, as Noy Thrupkaew points out here:
“RAWA reflects a familiar yet glorified self-image: the fiery words, the clenched fists and protest signs, the type of guerilla feminism that seems unflinchingly brave.” It's all very glamorous, but as Jennifer Jackman of the Feminist Majority astutely observes, it's the last thing the women of Afghanistan need: "This is a place where giving a girl a book and a pencil is revolutionary."
Revolutionists of the useful sort can be found here. And you'll find some useful contributions you can make to the cause of peace in Afghanistan here. If you want to actually do something specifically helpful on behalf of the women of Afghanistan, this is a tremendous idea.
If you prefer being uselessly self-righteous, by all means join the reactionaries at their rallies this weekend, brought to you by the same Sharia-law advocates who were bothering Armstrong in Victoria.
If you think walking with placards really does any good, then at least keep an eye out for these people. Whatever might be said about them, they haven't forgotten what it means to be on the left.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An Inconvenient, Honest Attempt To Tell Truth

This story will set off spinning sufficient to cause hurricanes.

"Some of Mr. Gore’s centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe’s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.

"It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches — down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent."

Climate change alarmism is every bit as corrosive to public debates and public policy as climate change denial. Inattention to the truth, inconvenient or otherwise, is no better than propaganda.

Friday, March 09, 2007

"It was a distant land, another moral universe. . ."

Looking back over the various and sundry transgressions I've committed lately, and for which I have been called all kinds of exotic names, it's heartening to read an overview, in a mainstream daily newspaper, that sets out what's really been going on:

"In fact, it is less a clash on the Left, than it is a clash between two Lefts. That it is taking place, not in the Spanish Republic, but in the republic of letters, shouldn't blind us to its importance."

Norm Geras' Minimum Utopia: Ten Theses is worth closer attention than I've given it. And here's a conversation to listen in on.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day: The Struggle Goes On

Riyadh - A Saudi woman who was kidnapped at knifepoint, gang-raped and then beaten by her brother has been sentenced to 90 lashes — for meeting a man who was not a relative.

Tehran - Iranian police clashed on Thursday with scores of rights activists who gathered in front of parliament to celebrate International Women's Day. All but three of 33 women arrested in Tehran earlier this week were freed, with instructions that were not allowed to participate in International Women's Day protests today.

Geneva - A persistent gap in status, job security, wages and education between women and men is contributing to the "feminization of working poverty", according to a new report by the International Labour Office.

Berlin - A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefits.

Bangalore - A fact-finding team investigating the death of a garment factory worker has thrown up the seamier side of the industry, which has seen a large economic boom in the recent years.

And this more or less brings us back to where it began, 150 years ago today, when garment workers in New York marched for a ten hour day and equal rights for women. Fifty-one years later, on March 8, the women of New York's needle trades marched again, to honour their forebears, and to demand the vote and an end to sweatshops and child labor.

In 1910, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8 be proclaimed International Women's Day. In Russia, in 1917, with the fall of the czar, women were granted the right to vote, on March 8. The rest is history.

Labourstart has a good international news round-up here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An "environmentalist" argument for the seal hunt

The whole point of sustainability is to ensure that people can sustainably harvest the natural resources of the ecosystems within which they live. The harp seal hunt is an embodiment of that principle. That's just one reason why environmentalists should actively support and defend the seal hunt.
I lay out several more reasons why we should support the hunt and oppose the European boycott in my Tyee column today (the headline refers to me as an "enviro," which I've never called myself, but nevermind). I'll catch heck, as usual, but the column isn't called Dissent for nothing.
The key point, dissent-wise: Just as the excesses of postmodernist relativism have enfeebled the left over the past quarter-century or so, a corrosive strain of fact-distorting, science-hating, Gaia-bothering obscurantism has enfeebled environmentalism. This has had serious and unaffordable consequences.
Whatever legitimate concerns we might have about the way the seal hunt is conducted, there is nothing about it that absolves us of the duty of solidarity we owe the sealing communities of Newfoundland and Labrador. We might also remember they include these people.
More on the sustainability of the hunt here and here. The definitive study on the humane aspects of the hunt is here. Thanks are due Jim Winters of the Canadian Sealers Association for his guidance, and Annie, for her inspiration, and all the other good people back in Notre Dame Bay who put me up last summer.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

One Commands Respect; The Other Not So Much

Another great story from our comrade Grant Shilling, about an "environmental activist" I'd gladly ford rivers and climb mountains to follow.

I'm not sure I'd cross the street for this one, though. Rod Mickleburgh reports:
"Sending the grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of one to jail for blocking bulldozers, however, has raised the question of whether such sentences are appropriate for peaceful civil disobedience."
If the question is raised at all, my old pal Gerry Bellett reports that Judge Brenda Brown answered it, quite definitively:

Monday, March 05, 2007

Still Think There's No Anti-Semitism On The Left?

To be honest, I can't tell whether the guy who runs the website for Canada's New Democratic Party bloggers (Robert "Fuck The Jews" McClelland) is: 1. A full-bore anti-semite, or 2. Somebody who is completely paranoid about Jews, and is incapable of seeing unambiguous anti-semitism when it's staring him straight in the face.

Where it matters, there's no meaningful difference anyway. After all, he's capable of writing this (scroll down, in comments):

When next they come for the Jews I doubt I’ll even be able to muster up a “what a shame”.

And then he justifies his statement this way: Oh well, I simply don’t care about anti-semitism any longer. I’ve written several Jewish lobby groups asking them to address the topic of how conservatives and rightwing liberals are falsely accusing people of being anti-semitic simply for political purposes and not a single one even bothered to respond. And I’m not the only one in the anti-racism movement that feels that way.

It's no surprise that he's not the only one in the "anti-racism movement" who doesn't care about anti-semitism these days, but did you notice his justification? It's because Jewish groups don't bother answering the ridiculous letters he writes them.

And it's no surprise that a guy with attitudes like that would occupy such a prominent position in the leftish blogosphere.

Here a difference that does matter, at least somewhat: The website he runs (where you will read expressions of outrage at McClelland's comments as well as expressions of support; I've had my own run-ins with this crowd, here for example) is not officially NDP-affiliated, and NDP president Anne McGrath has written the Canadian Jewish Congress (pdf) to make that clear.

She also says the NDP is thinking about setting up an official NDP blogroll thingamajig. A pity you'd need to enforce party discipline to dispel appearances of Jew-hatred, though. Shouldn't be necessary, should it? Which speaks volumes about the moral and intellectual slovenliness on the left these days, which I keep getting in trouble for pointing out.

Good on Warren for noticing the fracas.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Brave Bangladeshi Writer Who Needs Your Help

Readers of this weblog will know that I routinely give out of myself about Sallah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the Weekly Blitz in Dakha, Bangladesh. He is facing charges of treason and blasphemy, and if he's convicted he faces a life sentence and possibly the death penalty.

We've had reasons lately to be hopeful about Shoaib's case. But last week, matters took a bad turn.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East has just set out on an ambitious effort to get 10,000 signatures on a petition, before the end of the month, calling on the Bangla government to drop the charges. You don't have to be a teacher or a student to sign it. If you sign you will be doing a brave comrade a small kindness.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Abandon Cynicism All Ye Who Enter Here. . .

After sitting through two days of presentations from some of the world's leading climatologists, ecologists, and fisheries scientists at a recent conference titled Are We Killing the World's Oceans? a person could be forgiven for leaving the deliberations with another question in mind, something like, Why should I bother getting up tomorrow morning?

I'm with Ken Denman, who's with the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis: “If we're all so cynical, then there is no hope,” he said. “I think we have to lay aside our cynicism and be idealists if we really want to see any change happen.”

Real change will have to be driven by hard science and clear thinking. On that point I'm with Andrew Weaver, an outspoken climatologist who was one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in Paris last month: We should treat the eco-alarmists and industry-funded climate-change deniers with the contempt both deserve.

So yes, please, act locally, but now we also have to act globally, and act like grownups.

That's from my Chronicles column this week.

UPDATE: Former Liberal cabinet minister Paul Hellyer says UFO researchers have amassed undeniable evidence that aliens have visited our planet. Due to the distance such spacecrafts would have to travel, UFOs must be equipped with some kind of advanced fuel source or propulsion system. "We need to persuade governments to come clean on what they know," he said.

Can't say you weren't warned.