Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What To Do When a She-Bear Comes A-Courting

Carl Humchitt is a contractor with Western Forest Products and a councilor with the Heiltsuk Tribal Council (Bella Bella people). He put in an interesting shift the other day:

I was measuring out 50 meter intervals from this salmon creek to the bottom boundary. My two partners had continued on doing the side boundary and top boundary...I was about to head back down to the river and this bear stumbled down the hill and a standoff ensuied.

It was apparent the bear was a girl bear and she felt that because I was downhill she had the right of way. Of course when the bear pushes the personal boundary - in the woods its the law; you must draw a line in the dirt. So here I was with this stick and smaking trees and making my way up the hill, deliberately pushing down small trees as I went and giving her mean and agressive looks and whooping at her.

When I got up to where she was, she realized that I was bigger than her. I was clicking my teeth and pestering to show tell her I was bigger and meaner than her. That was when I got into trouble. She started to stare at me and sway her head from side to side, which means "hey, I'm big and bad too." So I started to yell at her and tell her that I was no one to mess with. All of a sudden she stopped and was just looking at me. When the dance starts and you have to talk to them, it usually ends with the bear conceding the arguement.

This one just sat there and was staring at me. Then all of a sudden she put her head down and tilted it to one side and started blinking at me. This one was new to me, as I have never seen that expression in my own bear encounters. So, as I stood there trying to figure out what she was saying... she got up and turned her back to me and was looking over her shoulder.

It was then I realized what she was doing. I was wearing a long sleeve black shirt and brown pants. In her eyes I was a bear too. She was trying to court me!!! I have many years of bear encounter experience, but this was a first for me. As I was standing there, I was thinking it an unatural act to deny an advance from a female bear.... so what am I supposed to do?

Well at that moment, my partners had heard me yelling at the bear and came down the hill to assist me. Because there were two of them, it meant pack mentality and so the girl bear ran off down the hill and I could hear her when she crossed the river and up the opposite bank. Then my partners came through the bush and asked if I was ok over the radio. I told them I was kewl and that I once again won the arguement and was going back to work.

The rest of the day I was wary of my backtrail, not afraid, but nervous she would come back expecting you know what.

So, she was the first girl to hit on me as a married man.

Happy Sukkot All Youse Peeps, From Us Goyim

But especially to my favourites, The All-Seeing, All-Knowing, Elder Ziomaniacs. Wicked good.

Let's have some of that. But keep on kvetching.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lauryn Oates: Blacklisted by the Taliban at age 14

For Oates, it was just the start of a career as a self-described "shit disturber." She contacted Amnesty International, which led her to a fledgling group called Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. They asked her to open a Vancouver chapter, not realizing that Oates was only 16.

That's from a profile of Lauryn Oates in today's 24 Hours, a Vancouver daily newspaper.

In the past ten years, Oates and the brave crew from W4WA have done more for the women of Afghanistan, and more for the people of Afghanistan, and more for the cause of peace and progress in Afghanistan, than the entire "activist" community in Canada, combined. And yes, I'm afraid I am referring to the so-called "anti-war" movement.

For glimpse of the way feminists like Oates - in this case, Sally Armstrong - are often received by "anti-war" activists, have a look at this.

There's much optimistic talk these days about the possibility for a negotiated solution with the Taliban. Lauryn's essay last year in the Globe and Mail remains, in my view, the most salient analysis on the question.

I was honoured to have joined Lauryn in a public debate on the Afghanistan question in Vancouver earlier this year. More here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I guess I must be conflicted about Americans is all

I know, there were lots of Yankee rightists who got a real kick out of Stuck Mojo and their "Open Season" video, and not a few self-appointed Muslim leaders slagged off "Open Season" as Islamophobic.

But I don't know. I just don't see anything especially nasty about Stuck Mojo. They're working class and they're proud of it. They're patriots, but Pyromusic reckons "the band's left-wing politics are as vicious as ever." They're kicking the music-industry corporations in the shins by giving away their music for free (you can donate or pay for it here).

Band frontman Rich Ward says: "This video is NOT attacking Islam. This video is NOT lumping all followers of Islam in with the terrorists. No one in the Stuck Mojo organization is a racist or a bigot, but I refuse to ignore these events so as to keep from offending anyone. If you don't like what I have to say, don't buy my album. "

I'm willing to be disabused of the slack I'm cutting them, but here's my problem. If I had to choose my ride from Natchez, Mississippi to Atlantic City, New Jersey, with Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky in an air-conditioned limousine with the best selection of organic wines, shade grown coffee, and fair-trade food, or with Stuck Mojo in a beat-up Buick stationwagon, a case of Pabst and a carton of Marlboroughs, I'd decide in a heartbeat. I'm going with these guys.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"We’re just two kids who stood up for a cause. . ."

Central Kings

CAMBRIDGE — Two students at Central Kings Rural High School fought back against bullying recently, unleashing a sea of pink after a new student was harassed and threatened when he showed up wearing a pink shirt.

The Grade 9 student arrived for the first day of school last Wednesday and was set upon by a group of six to 10 older students who mocked him, called him a homosexual for wearing pink and threatened to beat him up.

The next day, Grade 12 students David Shepherd and Travis Price decided something had to be done about bullying.

I first noticed this story over at Simon's place, then Jim's, then here. By then it had already gone into orbit, after having gone global, which suggests Oprah, or something like it, can't be far away. My only worries: All the attention will ruin a fine act of solidarity, or leave the bullies without an opportunity for contrition. Which would be a bad idea.

Still. What a heartening story. Makes me all cheery like:

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Found Poem For Clocking Out Early On A Friday

My country’s police, if he doesn’t like the way I have put my hejab on, cusses at me and beats me on the head with his baton.

But I can’t curse at my country’s police, because my uncle is a policeman and I love my uncle.

…but I want to curse those who have sanctified arbitrarily every which authority and power and have never allowed me to talk about them.

When My president lied.

When my parliament representative did not defend the rights of my teacher

When my police killed a human being because of his crime of being an Afghani

And when a father in the narrow alleyways of my city stoned his own daughter to death.

Azadeh: "My Dear Uncle Is A Policeman."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zut Alors! Mon Livre Est Arrivé d'Angleterre!

That's my wee green-haired boy Conall pretending to be excited about the arrival of the first copies of my book, The Lost and Left Behind, just arrived from the London offices of Saqi Books, "a fiercely independent publisher of writers from all places and peoples."

It's the British edition of this book. Here's the American version. Each edition has a different title. Odd how that works. Publishers are a strange species altogether.

I really like this version, though. The cover was designed and illustrated by Tom Denbigh, and the book itself was printed in Lebanon, where Saqi's business suffered greatly last year during the Israeli-Hezbollah war.

I'm very proud to be with Saqi. It's a small but brave publishing house that has a tendency in its title selections to what the London Times calls "pioneering, specialist and often controversial books that large publishers refuse to go near." Saqi and has also carved out an important place for Arab literature in the English-speaking world.

Saqi began with London's Al-Saqi Bookshop, founded by André Gaspard and the late Mai Ghoussoub - a brave Lebanese Trotskyist-turned-humanitarian. Ghoussoub was once arrested for publishing articles exposing the corruption of the Palestine Liberation Organization under Yassir Arafat, and she lost an eye while driving a wounded Palestinian to hospital in 1977, during the Lebanese civil war. Around the same time, Gaspard was shot in the leg in the course of his efforts to negotiate the release of Christian workers held hostage as "spies" during that conflict.

Here's a lovely tribute to Ghoussoub. Here's a recent speech Gaspard gave, which I think justifies my use of the term "brave" to describe these publishers.

Saqi has long served as a place where English-speaking readers can find a wide range of Arab titles, and where Arab readers can find books banned in their home countries. Saqi's Lebanese sister company, Dar al-Saqi, publishes important Western texts in Arabic, and also provides a home for Arab writers who can't get published in repressive Arab regimes.

So I'm damn proud to be with Saqi, and the book is quite gorgeous. And only £12.99! Available at better British bookstores October 4.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Three cheers for the Muslim Canadian Congress

"The sanctioning of the burqa and niqaab as Islamic attire is a rude joke, and insult to Muslim Canadians. . .The covering of a woman's face is a Saudi tribal practise intended to ensure women are treated like chattel, not equal human beings." - MCC President Farzana Hassan.

Compare and contrast.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why Did MI5 Spies Watch Orwell For A Decade?

"This man has advanced communist views. . . he dresses in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours."

Well then. Don't let him out of your sight.

The interrogation files of suspected spies and German agents have also been released, including, in that of a Norwegian seaman, a copy of the Naturist magazine of March 1945 whose photographs of nude women and advertisements for breast enhancement and "the Vitaman iodised jockstrap" were combed to see whether they contained writing in invisible ink.

God Save The King.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Greatest Lieutenant-Governor We Ever Had

Iona Campagnolo is now free of the constraints of the office, although it must be said that even within those constraints she managed to make tremendous contributions. Just one thing she did that was so typical of her grace and courage was to seek and find justice in the case of a 14-year-old Canadian boy, Louie Sam, who was murdered by a gang of American lynchers in 1884.

I wrote about the case here. Some unfinished business in the case was finally dealt with just this summer. When the press gets around to reckoning Campagnolo's legacy, I expect to see copious tributes. Damn well better.

Appointed in her place is Judge Steven Point, who is, fittingly, a Sto:lo, as was Louie Sam. I've always liked Steven, having known him since long before he was a judge, back when he was chief at Skowkale. But he's got his job cut out for him, in the shadow of Saan-naag-Kaawaass.

One of Campagnolo's best speeches - at least one that I got a particular kick out of - was her opening address to the World Peace Forum in Vancouver last year. Especially this bit:

The office I hold does not permit personal political views, so you will not hear me discussing Iraq or Afghanistan this evening, but I will say that as a life-long feminist, there can be few women or men of good will on earth who would will the women and girls of Afghanistan back under the institutionalised theocratic misogyny of the Taliban! It is hardly political to note the many shifts in opinions concerning peace that stand as challenges for delegates to this conference to consider. For those on the traditional Left, there is potential for change being exhibited for example by the Euston Manifesto in regard to the road to peace. While I do not expect you to embrace its strategies directly, I do expect that thoughtful reflection be given to the direction it expresses. The manifesto has been created by a membership comprised of democrats and progressives who have set forth a fresh political agenda for the world’s consideration. Among their stated principles, they reject anti-Americanism, they support both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, they oppose racism and are against any excuses being made for terrorism. . .

Monday, September 03, 2007

"Surge Of Solidarity" Owed To Iraqi Trade Unions

"It's perfectly understandable that those who opposed the invasion maintain the integrity of their arguments. It's quite another to effectively adopt an "I told you so" stance and sit on one's hands at the expense of the workers' movement, women's organisations and elected Iraqi parliamentarians and parties.

"It's obscene for a minority to back insurgents who murder union leaders and would destroy civil society. With or without foreign troops, a surge of solidarity with the unions and others is needed. It's the very least one would expect from progressive internationalism."

More here, from Labour's Progressives. The sort of thing I was banging on about here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bayard Rustin: Remembering a Hero Of The Left

Last Friday marked the twentieth anniversary of Bayard Rustin's death. An erstwhile pacifist who had spent two years in prison for resisting the draft during World War II, he was one of the most vital, albeit behind-the-scenes, figures in the civil rights movement. In 1942 he co-founded the Congress for Racial Equality, and in 1947 he led the "Freedom Rides to test the Supreme Court ruling banning segregation in interstate travel. He conceived the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., which emerged in 1957 from the Montgomery bus boycott, of which he was a chief organizer. And in 1963 he helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The non-violent tactics of the civil rights movement can largely be attributed to Rustin, who had traveled to India a decade before to learn from Mahatma Gandhi.

Despite these contributions, Rustin is little remembered by liberals today.

That's from an excellent essay in The New Republic by James Kirchick, whose brave critique of Robert Mugabe's tyranny I noticed here last month.

Kirchick has some more thoughts on Rustin and his contemporaries here, observing: "If they were alive today, I'd like to think that Bayard Rustin, Lane Kirkland and Al Shanker would be enthusiastic signatories of the Euston Manifesto. Perhaps the Democrats can look to these 20th century liberal giants for a start."