Because Abortion needs to be explained, apparently.

I am irate. Look, I realise that I am in a position of privilege, and I realise that I’m not angry about this all the time because I’m male and that this is something that I have the privilege of simply not-concerning-myself-about for the vast bulk of my life.

I rationalise this as that I pay attention only insofar as harm is brought to my attention. And Ireland has ever-so-slowly been moving towards legalising abortion since 1992. Oh, that’s right, you didn’t know that abortion was illegal in Ireland. My bad. Did you know that it was actually illegal for doctors to tell patients about their abortion options in other countries? And that it was illegal for people to travel to another country for an abortion? No? Well, anyway, we were focused on my privilege, so let’s keep on topic.

[Read more...]

Newton’s first law of racism

Having studied a tiny bit of mechanics, I find the subject extremely useful in explaining things like privilege, racism, sexism, and many of the other concepts that are the keys to reading this blog. You simply cannot successfully solve problems in mechanics without being able to recognize all the forces at play on an object, whether it be still or in motion. Failure to account for an extant force, or adding a force that does not exist, will result in you reaching an erroneous conclusion about the behaviour of whatever body is under observation.

Similarly, one cannot look at human behaviour or the impact of institutions and systems without taking all the relevant factors into account. When we allow ourselves to succumb to our privilege (or, put another way, when we fail to account for all of the forces acting on us), we draw conclusions that are not based in reality. We make decisions based on those conclusions, and on our predictions of what consequences those decisions will have. Failure to recognize either or own privilege or the prevailing forces of racism, misogyny, cissexism, heterosexism, you name it, will result in the creation of rules and systems that have unintended results.

Sometimes those results are disastrous and tragic: [Read more...]

Catching them being honest

One of the pieces of political language that drives me absolutely nuts is the term ‘illegal immigrants’. The system of immigration in both Canada and the United States disincentivizes documented immigration by making it nearly impossible and subject to interference by the capricious whims of the party in power. Looking at it cynically, one could make the argument that there is a huge economic benefit to the elite class, who can exploit undocumented immigrants for what is essentially slave labour, secure in the knowledge that threats of deportation are usually enough to quell any resistance to the illegal working conditions. The system punishes the exploited, not the exploiters.

Of course, there are few places in the USA that are more openly and notoriously malevolent to undocumented immigrants than the state of Arizona. Despite the blatant racism inherent in their newly-minted anti-Mexican law that they try to pass off as a way of handling “illegals”, they are still legally allowed to detain and deport anyone who looks ‘foreign’ and can’t prove their non-foreign-ness to the satisfaction of the towering legal intellect of folks like Joe Arpaio.

And, apparently, this lady: [Read more...]

One Million Bottlebags

The first album I ever bought was Public Enemy’s Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black. I don’t remember how old I was, but I couldn’t have been older than 8 or 9. This album is a classic and sparked a wave of ‘conscious’ political hip-hop that would be nearly drowned out by the explosion of the gangsta genre and the rise of the west coast some years later. At an age that young, I didn’t really understand most of what was being said – after all, I was growing up in the mountains of British Columbia. I’d never even seen a ‘hood, let alone understood the suffering of the people who lived there. It would, therefore, take me several years to understand the track “1 million bottlebags”:

Malt liquor bull
What it is, is bullshit
Colt
45 another gun to the brain
Who’s sellin’ us pain
In the hood another up to no good
Plan that’s designed by the other man

But who drink it like water
On an’ on, till the stores reorder it
Brothers cry broke but they still affordin’ it
Sippin’ it lick drink it down, oh, no
Drinkin’ poison but they don’t know

How could I connect, at that age, under those circumstances, to the helpless rage Churck D was trying to articulate at seeing his friends literally drink themselves to death? And in true Chuck style he pulled no punches in laying the blame (and the bodies) at the feet of predatory liquor companies who flooded black neighbourhoods with advertisements, targeting young black men with their substandard and unsafe product. Combine that with the widespread poverty and accompanying ambivalence toward the suffering of black people by the American government, and it’s no wonder that Chuck was so furious. Good thing those days are over, eh? [Read more...]

Fuck you, Florida

I went to Florida once. It was back in 2009, and I was exhibiting a research summary at a conference in Orlando. Because I was travelling partially on my own dime, and because I was too young to rent a car, I ended up staying at a hotel that was far away from the convention centre and took public transit to the exhibition hall. Living as I have in cities like Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton, I was immediately struck by how brown the busses were. It was as though all of the lower-income people who had to get places, but didn’t make enough money at those places to afford a car, were black and/or Latin@. Everyone I met in a service position was dark-skinned, all of the management staff were white. Without exception. It was a surreal experience for me.

It would take a couple of years for me to finally wrap my head around what I had seen. It wasn’t an illusion or a clustering effect or just a weird coincidence – Florida was a seriously fucking racist place: [Read more...]

Real life race trolling

For whatever reason (I suspect a combination of relative anonymity and a general distaste for overt racism), I don’t get too many racist trolls here at the site. I thought for sure when I started I would get all kinds of “race realists” and would-be white supremacists and all sorts of slime crawling out of the woodwork. Instead, I’ve found my life sorely lacking the high-quality and high-cognition contributions of those who believe, for whatever reason, that you can tell something meaningful about someone based on the flawed genetics behind the arbitrarily-assembled social constructs we call ‘races’.

That being said, just because they’re not here, doesn’t mean they don’t exist:

A Hawkins man is claiming his civil rights and religious freedom were violated earlier this year when a black man sacked his groceries and a Big Sandy grocery store owner banned the customer from the business. DeWitt R. Thomas filed a federal lawsuit in July against Keith Langston, owner of Two Rivers Grocery & Market.

Yeah, read that over again. You weren’t wrong – the guy who did the racist thing is suing the guys who employ the victim of the racist thing. Do not adjust your internet. This isn’t even the crazy part of the story. Are you ready for the crazy party of the story? [Read more...]

#Occupy: the answer to an important question

When the ‘Occupy together’ movement started nearly a year ago, the media narrative almost immediately pivoted to bafflement (either pretended or genuine*) over what ‘the point’ was. Occupy, without a pre-determined raison d’être aside from “shit’s fucked up“, and lacking an official spokesperson to boil down the issues into bullet points that would be ready by the print deadline, actually required people to really dig in and collect the relevant facts and a cross-section of sentiment within the movement. This, incidentally, is also known as “being a fucking journalist”, but I will save you my diatribe about how terrible media organizations are** for another time.

Now Occupy is a lot of different things – a social justice movement, an experiment in anarchic self-governance, an attempt to introduce income inequality into the political mainstream discussion, an expression of contempt for the political status quo – depending on which direction you turn the direction of your analysis, you can probably come up with a lengthy list. The headless organized chaos that typifies Occupy necessarily leads to the formation of a movement that intentionally fails to resemble any of the top-down structures we’ve come to expect in human interactions (at least in this part of the world).

When I was participating in the protests in Montreal, I had a realization. It wouldn’t be fair to call it a ‘sudden’ realization, since I’ve been talking about Occupy for a minute. Whatever it was, I put the pieces together and realized that at its core, Occupy is the answer to a question. The question, and I think it’s a fundamentally important one, is this: how do we respond when those we elect betray our trust? I don’t think there are too many people who look at the political realities right now without a bit of practiced cynicism. After all, being cynical about politics is as old as the hills. But when our response starts and stops with witty rejoinders, we sell ourselves and the world short. After all, some things need to be dealt with: [Read more...]

A shooting, many questions, no answers

Shortly after midnight on Friday, July 20th, a heavily-armed man burst into a movie theatre and opened fire on the crowd, killing twelve people and wounding nearly 60. This latest act of mass violence in the United States sparked yet another national conversation about the need for gun control, and questions about what could prompt a person with an otherwise-bright future to commit such an atrocity. I lack the necessary knowledge (and the energy) to comment much further about this particular shooting other than to say that I obviously wish it hadn’t happened, and that something must be done to make such events more rare. I do not believe that more guns are the answer to the problem, but that idea appears to have some serious currency in the United States, so I guess take that for what it’s worth.

Such acts are incredibly rare here in Canada (especially compared to our southern neighbour), and yet Toronto has recently been visited by a pair of public shootings that have sparked our own national conversation. The first shooting occurred at the beginning of last month in the food court of the city’s largest shopping mall. Two people, the apparent targets of the shooter, were killed. The motivation appears to be related to gang activity. At the beginning of last week, Toronto was once again visited by the spectre of violence at the hands of armed gunmen: [Read more...]

Trayvon was part of YahwAlladdha’s plan – Zimmerman

There is a school of thought among anti-theists like myself that rejects the smiling, hat-in-hand, ‘moderate’ version of theist belief that seems to dominate the newspaper opinion columns and academic debate halls (and yet seems to correspond not at all to the front page headlines) as profoundly dishonest. If you believe that the Bible or the Qur’an or the Torah are literally true, or even true as metaphor, then you cannot escape a few simple conclusions, the first and most obvious of which is that the guy running the show is a petty and vengeful dictator who will torture you eternally out of ‘love’ (one of many words that seems to have a completely different meaning when describing the deity than it does when used to describe anything else).

This particular group of anti-theists don’t have a whole lot of patience for those who say that the different religions are just ‘different ways at arriving at the same answer’ or that religions are all ‘fundamentally about peace’. “Bullshit!” they (we) say, “you can only claim that if you just flat-out ignore half of the shit in your book. If you’re going to ignore parts of it, we invite you to join us and ignore the whole fucking thing.” Anti-theists are potty-mouths.

And in that sense, the only times that anti-theists and religious fundamentalists agree (when it comes to questions of theology) usually involve at least one dead body: [Read more...]

Obamacare ruled constitutional

In case you somehow missed it, the United States Supreme Court has ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that the Affordable Care Act (derisively dubbed ‘Obamacare’ by its opponents) does not violate the Constitution and will still carry the force of law.

For a rundown of the decision, check out Ezra Klein’s blog:

“The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld”

That’s what SCOTUSBlog wrote moments after the Supreme Court announced its ruling on the health-care law. But it wasn’t upheld in the way most thought it would be. The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the Court’s liberals, and Justice Anthony Kennedy casting his vote with the conservatives.

This will be covered, in many quarters, as a political story. It means President Obama — and Solicitor General Don Verrilli — are popping the champagne. It means that Mitt Romney and the Republicans who were fighting the health-care law have suffered a setback. It will be covered in other quarters as a legal story: It is likely to be central to Roberts’ legacy, and perhaps even to how we understand the divisions in the Court going forward.

To read the full decision for yourself (it’s only 193 pages – go nuts), click here.

For a simplified explanation of what the law does, and why people opposed it in the first place, check out this great thread on Reddit.

For my reaction, please consult the following .gif of Ron Swanson: [Read more...]