January 8th, 2010

January 8, 2010

Compiled and edited by Peter Marmorek                                                      
Year Seven; Issue 1

1. Actions
2. Fighting Terrorists by Creating Terror
3. The Gaza Blockade
4. Life in Israel
5. Harper: Going Pro Rogue
6. New Year Retrospectives (last round)
7. The Yes Men
8. Stamping Out Evil Everywhere
9. From Parcours to Paper
10. Eyecandy: Framed Animals
11. Quote of the Week

1.  Actions
* Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (see #5) Toronto planning meeting at Hart House today, 5:15 pm. Full details here

* Canadian MPs report from West Bank and Gaza. Libby Davies (NDP), Richard Nadeau (BQ) and Borys Wrszesnewskyj (Lib) discuss their trip and strategies for peace. Thursday, Jan 21st, at Ryerson. Full details

2. Terror in the Airports
Context:
Once again, a bungled terrorist attack results in bungled security responses. Somewhere between tragedy and comedy, the security agencies start to reveal their final solution: make flying so difficult that no one flies… and thus eliminate all airborne terrorism. And how long before voyeurs start applying for those scanner jobs? (Worth noting: a statistical study shows you are 20 times more likely to get killed by lightning than air terrorism.)

* Schneier on Security (A blog on security matters)
And what sort of magical thinking is behind the rumored TSA rule about keeping passengers seated during the last hour of flight? Do we really think the terrorist won’t think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?
For years I’ve been saying this: Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers. This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.
… Only one carry on? No electronics for the first hour of flight? I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks.

* Nude Scanners!
See what the scanners actually show
(2 minute video, arguably nsfw)
New Scanners Break Child Porn Laws The Guardian
The rapid introduction of full body scanners at British airports threatens to breach child protection laws which ban the creation of indecent images of children, the Guardian has learned….Ministers now face having to exempt under 18s from the scans or face the delays of introducing new legislation to ensure airport security staff do not commit offences under child pornography laws.

* Failed air security is but one of several fiascos Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star
More than the experts, it’s the public that quickly caught on to the essential truth, namely, that airline security has been a farce. The tens of billions of dollars spent only allowed politicians to put on the theatrics of action, bureaucrats to build empires, and newly minted security companies to make huge profits – without perceptibly improving safety. The shoes on your feet and the tiny tube of cream in your bag may be allowed at one gate but not the other of the same terminal at the same hour. Terrorists’ bomb powder may get through but granny’s skin lotion must be confiscated.

3. The Gaza Blockade
Context:
One year after Operation Cast Lead a group of activists travel to Egypt to try and bring food supplies to Gazans. Here are some parts of their stories.

* Gaza: One Year On Al Jazeera
One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still. Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones – more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children – there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction. According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

* Starhawk’s Blog
Editor’s Note: Always warmhearted and powerfully written, Starhawk’s blog has been a wonderful insight into the day by day action in Egypt. Here’s a sample from the last entry…but they’re all worth reading for any activist.

… For me the highlight of the day was a long conversation with Hedy Epstein, an eighty-eight year old Jewish survivor of the holocaust who is here with us in support of justice for the Palestinians. Hedy is small, with curling white hair and bright eyes and a ready smile, and tough in the fiber, as they say about hobbits.  She went on a hunger strike when she arrived, and went off it only when her doctor ordered her to eat.  She was in the melee with the Egyptian police in Tahrir Square, and managed to come through the pushing, shoving frenzy undaunted and unharmed.
Someone like Hedy makes it impossible for us lesser mortals to say, “I’m too old for this shit.”  Over dinner, I heard some of her story, which she tells in vivid detail—the terror of a child on Krystallnacht, when Nazi thugs broke windows of Jewish businesses and homes all over Germany, of being attacked and vilified by teachers and the principal of her school, coming home and finding her father and uncle gone, her mother in hiding.  She survived because her family was able to get her onto a kindertransport: the ships and trains that brought 10,000 Jewish children to Britain just before the onset of war.  Her parents were sent to the camps in France and ultimately to Auschwitz….We’re always on dangerous ground when we start talking about the Holocaust and Palestine in the same breath.  As Hedy herself says, “Each experience is unique.  You can’t compare them.” Yet there are resonances that are hard to ignore….True, Israel has not set up gas chambers for Palestinians, nor ovens.  As Dov Weinglas,  an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, said, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
But when you have to start arguing over the nuances of oppression, about whether the number of dead constitutes a massacre or just a slaughter, whether your policies are really genocide or just sorta like genocide, you have left the path of righteousness.

* Amy Goodman Interviews George Galloway Democracy Now
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what happened? We hear a number of people in your convoy were beaten up, were hurt, some hospitalized. 
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Yes, fifty-five, in fact, were injured, some of them quite severely. Ten of them had to go to hospital. All of them entered Gaza with us, but we have a collection of broken heads and plaster casts and bloodied faces and clothes….
JUAN GONZALEZ: What kind of coverage did that attack receive in the Egyptian media? And did it have any impact on the government’s decision to then let the convoy pass? 
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, the good news is that nobody watches the Egyptian media in Egypt. All of them watch the pan-Arabic stations like Al Jazeera, satellite stations, which have broken the censorship walls of the dictatorships in the Arab world. And so, everybody in Egypt knows what happened in that little port of Al-Arish, and the vast majority of them, I’m sure, completely disapprove of it, indeed denounce it. 

4. Life in Israel
Context:
News reports about Israel (such as this one!) tend to focus almost exclusively on the political dynamic of the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict, which is only a small part of the Israeli experience. Here are a few other perspectives on Israel, and a fascinating new voice to explore.

* Israel and Education (Haaretz)
Israel’s education system has four streams: state, state-religious, ultra-Orthodox and Arab. There are fewer primary school students in the state education stream now than there were a decade ago. In contrast, the state-religious primary schools have seen a 9 percent increase since 2000. The number of children in the Israeli-Arab stream grew by 35 percent, while the number of ultra-Orthodox children grew by 49 percent. All of this transpired in just one decade. About half of all primary school students in Israel already study in either the Israeli Arab or the ultra-Orthodox systems. 
…If these children adopt their parents’ work norms, then what can Israel look forward to in a number of years? Last year, 12.5 percent of men of prime working age (25 to 54) in OECD Western countries were non-employed, meaning they were either unemployed, or had dropped out of the labor force. The percentage of non-employed Israeli Arab men was almost twice that. Of the ultra-Orthodox men, more than 70 percent were non-employed. Among women, 74 percent of Arabs and 46 percent of ultra-Orthodox were non-employed, compared to only a third in the West. 

* A Slice of Life in Sheikh Jarrah
 At his feet was another child, not more than 12 or 13 but possibly 10 or 11, lying on the ground. As I listened, I realized he too had been hit. At a minimum, I could see his knuckles were bleeding, but I knew there was more to it than that as he wasn’t getting up. He didn’t cry, didn’t shout, he just lay there waiting for help. That was when I heard what I couldn’t believe… The policeman called for an ambulance. The ambulance, over the radio, responded by asking in Hebrew “Is it an Arab or a Jew?” Immediately an angry woman (presumably the injured boy’s mother) shouted “OF COURSE! OF COURSE That’s what they ask… Because if he’s an Arab, WHY SHOULD THEY COME?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t understand… Why would an ambulance dispatcher ever pause to ask the ethnicity of an injured child before rushing to pick him up?

* Introducing “The Daily Nuisance
Emerging outside the confines of the mainstream media rat race to reproduce one dimensional images of the Middle East, The Daily Nuisance (TDN) is an independent, and investigative eye from the ground on one of the world’s most misrepresented regions. Living in an atmosphere of increasing occupation and an expanding authoritarianism, TDN will pester those in power about why they have it and how they wield it, while presenting news, analysis, and comment on the decisive issues faced by Israeli and Palestinian society.
…Based out of Jaffa, with bloggers based across Palestine and Israel, TDN is run by a small, democratic, workers’ collective. We intend on operating though a consensus based structure, with each collective member specializing in a different aspect of TDN content, maintenance, and production. From web support to videography, content editing, to production.

5. Stephen Harper: Going Pro-Rogue
Context:
It must have seemed the perfect solution to him: a minority government, questions about torture and mismanagement closing it, so just suspend parliament and govern unilaterally. But Harper’s gamble that no one cares looks as though it may backfire…. we start with how it looks abroad, and then come home, to some actions.

* Canada Without Parliament The Economist
THE timing said everything. Stephen Harper, the prime minister, chose December 30th, the day five Canadians were killed in Afghanistan and when the public and the media were further distracted by the announcement of the country’s all-important Olympic ice-hockey team, to let his spokesman reveal that Parliament would remain closed until March 3rd, instead of returning as usual, after its Christmas break, in the last week of January.
Mr Harper turned a customary recess into prorogation. This means that all committees in both houses are disbanded and government bills die, no matter how close they are to approval. The prime minister, who heads a Conservative minority government, clearly reckoned that giving legislators an extra winter break, during which they might visit the Winter Olympics (in Vancouver between February 12th and 28th), would not bother Canadians much.
He may have miscalculated. A gathering storm of media criticism has extended even to the Calgary Herald, the main newspaper in his political home city, which denounced him for “a cynical political play”. There are plans for demonstrations on January 23rd, just before Parliament would have reconvened.

* Shafting Democracy in Canada Heather Mallick The Guardian
If there was a gold medal for shafting democracy at the Winter Olympics, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper would win it. Just before the games open in Vancouver, he has halted parliament in its tracks, suspending it for the second time in little more than a year. Canada will not have a House of Commons until March 3. Instantly, we are a part-time democracy, a shabby diminished place packed with angry voiceless citizens whose votes have been rendered meaningless.

* Grassroots Movement To Defend Democracy Building Fast rabble.ca
Growing public opposition to Harper shutting down Parliament is being felt at every level of Canadian society.  Whatever you are doing, whatever your issue, however cynical you may be about electoral politics,  please join this profound grassroots rebellion against Stephen Harper’s assault on democracy.  If Harper behaves in such a highhanded way in minority, closing Parliament whenever he is worried about losing the so-called confidence of the House, attacking anyone who disagrees with him with all the power he has — from cutting off funding, to attack ads, to firing civil servants — what’s he going to do with a majority?
The Facebook groups opposing the proroguing have well over 85,000 members now, and there are rallies being planned across the country for Jan 23.  If you are not on Facebook you can go to Citizens for Democracy and see all the events as well as several videos, and sign a petition too. 

6. New Year Retro-spectives
Context:
We had hoped that last issue was the end of looking back on the Noughties, but here we have a few pieces that trickled in past our deadline: some looking back at the year, some at the decade.

* Top Ten Good News Stories from the Muslim World that You Never Heard Juan Cole Informed Comment
… 8. A Pew Forum on Religion and Life poll finds that American Muslims are unusual in the degree to which they are integrated into mainstream American society and demonstrate moderate attitudes, condemning religious extremism and violence. 

* Israel’s 10 Worst Errors of the Decade Bradley Burston Haaretz
It was a decade framed by a fundamentalist Palestinian belief in salvation through suicide and a fundamentalist Israeli belief in salvation through brutality. …
For both peoples, the lessons of this decade are unbearable. No Greater Israel, no Peace Now, no Wholly Palestinian Palestine, no Two State solution. Perhaps this is truly what the messiah has decided to settle for: a situation in which every single inhabitant of the land is unhappy to the same extent. 
In this regard, there is perhaps no better time than this to review Israel’s 10 Worst Mistakes of the Last 10 Years…. 

* The Best Words of the Decade Guardian
2009: generica (US) features of the American landscape (strip malls, motel chains, prefab housing) that are exactly the same no matter where one is
catch a falling knife to buy a stock as its price is going down, in hopes that it will go back up, only to have it continue to fall

* Welcoming 2010: The Big Picture
Sample photo: A rescue diver watches as a man leaps from a bridge into the River Dove during a traditional New Year’s Day annual charity event in Mappleton, central England, January 1, 2010. Teams paddle down a half-mile stretch of the river and then jump off a bridge into the River Dove, one of the coldest rivers in the United Kingdom. Contestants then have to run 500 yards to a pub….

7. The Yes Men
Context:
The Yes Men are a group who spoofs or pranks those they consider evil, whether it’s Canada in Copenhagen, Dow Chemical on the anniversary of Bhopal, or the US Chamber of Commerce’s refusal to recognize the human role in climate change. They’re a funny, clever, media-literate group (from where we sit,) which is why they’re being sued by at least one victim.

* Wikipedia Summary
The Yes Men are a group of culture jamming activists who practice what they call “identity correction” by pretending to be powerful people and spokespersons for prominent organizations. From their offices in Milwaukee, they create and maintain fake websites similar to ones they want to spoof, and then they accept invitations received on their websites to appear at conferences, symposia, and TV shows. Their newfound, self-proclaimed authority to express the idea that corporations and governmental organizations often act in dehumanizing ways toward the public has met both positively and negatively with political overtones. Elaborate props are sometimes part of the ruse, as shown in their 2003 DVD release The Yes Men.
Their method is often satire: posing as corporate or government spokespeople, they often make shocking comments which they believe to be the real meaning of the organisation’s ideology being hidden by spin, or extrapolate what they feel is the organisation’s ideology in a ‘reductio ad absurdum’ to come out with outrageous conclusions, such as that it should be possible to sell your vote or that the poor should eat recycled human waste.

* Yes Men Hit Chamber of Denial Thin Green Line
TGL has covered the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s strange lobbying activities: It overtly claims it supports action—just not any action anybody has ever suggested—on climate change, while more covertly continuing to deny that climate change is real, and, if it is, air conditioning will make it no big deal….The Chamber’s hackles were raised yesterday when political pranksters the Yes Men staged a press conference, posing as representatives of the business organization, to announce that they’d done a 180 on their position on climate change. The media was totally buying it (Reuters even released a story) before someone who really represents the Chamber showed up rather flustered. The fake press conference has gotten fairly widespread media attentio
n.

* Chamber Sues Yes Men Mother Jones
“The defendants are not merry pranksters tweaking the establishment,” said the Chamber in a press release issued with the suit. “Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise.”
Editor’s note: Defence fund donations to the Yes Men here

* Trailer for “The Yes Men Fix The World”

8. Stamping Out Evil Everywhere
Context:
As with airlines, the solutions are sometimes worse than the problems. Tikkunista! opposes offending others’ religious beliefs, terrorism, and child abuse… but we are concerned with these stories. (Warning: some of these may contain satire. Reader discretion advised)

* Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes
From today, 1 January 2010, the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational, and we begin our campaign to have it repealed. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.
This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.
…. In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern.

* The Police Pledge (UK)

* Majority of Parents Abuse Children, Children Report (Onion)
A chilling national poll of U.S. children ages 3 through 12 estimated that nearly 75 million youngsters suffer both physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their parents on a daily basis.
The poll, whose findings are part of a 700-page report released Tuesday by a coalition of child abuse monitoring and prevention organizations, indicts nearly 95 percent of American parents. It documents abuses ranging from less severe offenses, such as children being denied snacks just before dinner, to more egregious, long-term cases of neglect, such as never ever getting what they want, ever.
“My parents always tell me that I have to finish all my math homework or I won’t be allowed to watch TV,” said study participant and abuse victim “Derek,” 10, who told researchers that some of his earliest memories were of this kind of mistreatment. “They’re so mean. I hate them.”
“I hate them, I hate them, I hate them,” he added.

9. From Parkour to Paper
Context:
We start with a man who juggles while performing parkour (the French sport of running and leaping with unnatural skill), then move to a stunning paper flip book of parkour, and conclude with a ream of paper art (some of which have been here before, many of which have not).

* Parkour and Juggling
* Parkour via Flipbook
* 100 Examples of Paper Art

10. Eyecandy: Framed Animals
* Snakes in Frames
* Bird’s Eye View
* Ceiling Bugs

11. Quote of the Week

“My prediction is that in another ten years we will look back on this decade with 2020 hindsight.” found on reddit.com

=====================================

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

       The Talmud
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Sample Post

December 10, 2009

Terror in the Airports

Once again, a bungled terrorist attack results in bungled security responses. Somewhere between tragedy and comedy, the security agencies start to reveal their final solution: make flying so difficult that no one flies… and thus eliminate all airborne terrorism. And how long before voyeurs start applying for those scanner jobs? (Worth noting: a  statistical study shows you are 20 times more likely to get killed by lightning than air terrorism.)

Read the rest of this entry »