Wednesday, June 27, 2007

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Greg Palast on Voting Fraud, Iraq and Bush Imperialism

6 PM

CJSR FM-88.5 Edmonton

In 2000, the results of the American presidential election hinged not, as many critics charged, on the candidacy of Ralph Nader. The actual axis was racial profiling in voting. Thousands of African-American voters were purged from voter lists without their knowledge and did not find out until they arrived to vote.

In other cases, thousands of ballots from majority African-American voting precincts were simply not counted. In 2004, touch-screen electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold, a company linked to the Republic party, helped deliver the White House to George W. Bush.

In each case, substantial evidence pointed to the theft of the election, events which obviously shaped the world for the last six and a half years. Yet corporate press ignored the vast body of evidence, in fact dismissing those concerned about it as “conspiracy nuts.” It remains fascinating that corporate journalism is dominated by what should be called “coincidence nuts.”

Had similar events occurred in Lebanon, Russia, Nigeria or Brazil, journalists would have draw the obvious preliminary conclusions—that one must thoroughly investigate the appearance of fraud in order to deduce whether such fraud was committed. In corporate US media, such due diligence never materialised.

Few people are better equipped to discuss the crises of American democracy and imperialism than tonight’s speaker. He’s one of the most acclaimed journalists alive. He’s won numerous commendations, including the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Freedom of Expression Award, the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Award, and the National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism. Tribune Magazine calls him “The greatest investigative reporter of our time.”

The CBC called him “The world’s greatest investigative reporter you’ve never heard of.” The Baltimore Chronicle says “No one has exposed more truth about the Bush Cartel and lived to tell the story.” Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz said his work was “Excellent on the WTO,” and even The Wall Street Journal’s Jude Wanniski called his work “Extraordinary reporting on the IMF.”

His website says: “He’s reported on the truth behind George W. Bush’s theft of the 2000 presidential election, the attempted theft of Venezuelan democracy, the World Bank’s willful destruction of Argentina, Enron’s looting of California, and the cozy relationship between the Bush and Bin Laden dynasties.”

He’s Greg Palast, the author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: the Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters. He’s also created the DVD Bush Family Fortunes based on that book.

Greg Palast began his career in the 1970s, having studied under Milton Friedman and other thinkers behind the march of so-called free-trade. He’s worked for the United Steelworkers of America, the Enron workers' coalition in Latin America and consumer and environmental groups across the planet. His investigation of a nuclear plant operator led to one of the largest jury judgments in US history. His most recent book was Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans--Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, published in 2006 by Penguin.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We must all fight anti-Semitism

I was having a conversation today with a friend and the topic of anti-Semitism came up. The prevalence of this hatred, a European White-on-White violence that devolved over history into genocide, continues in some quarters to this day.

Those of us who are progressives and who maintain a strong critique of Israel must resolutely oppose anti-Semites at every turn, just as, while defending our Muslim brothers and sisters, we must unceasingly oppose the tyrannical governments of and reactionary movements inside any of the predominantly Muslim countries.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters, like our Muslim brothers and sisters, are often excellent allies in the struggle for a better world, and I’m proud to call journalists such as Amy Goodman, Jeff Cohen and Greg Palast, writers such as David Simon, and analysts such as Noam Chomsky, among my heroes.

In the spirit of that conversation, below is a list of what I hope are some helpful resources.

Fighting anti-Semitism
Canadian Jewish Congress resources
Muslims Against Anti-Semitism
My fellow Muslims, we must fight anti-Semitism
Fighting colonialism and anti-Semitism at the same time
Cornel West and Michael Learner - Jews and Blacks: A Dialogue on Race, Religion, and Culture in America

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: The Real-Life Hero of Hotel Rwanda

6 PM
CJSR FM-88.5 Edmonton

Thirteen years ago, reactionary forces in Rwanda executed a wide-ranging plan involving a months-long radio propaganda campaign, Western military training, blitzkrieg militia-strikes, Western diplomatic cover-fire and finally Western sanctuary. That plan and its horrifying results are known today as the Rwandan genocide.

While a final accounting of the death toll remains controversial, at minimum, the militias called the Interahamwe systematically slaughtered three-quarters of a million people in a matter of weeks. Most of the victims belonged to the Tutsi nationality, groomed by decades of Belgian occupation and divide-and-rule tactics to be the privileged and dominant group in Rwandan society. The militias belonged primarily to the Hutu nationality, those destined by Belgian dictatorship to be the doormats of occupation and post-colonial rule.

Such Belgian interference was mild compared to Belgium’s role in Congo, which around 1900 was the mass-murder of 8-10 million people. By the 1994 genocide, though, it may have been France and not Belgium intervening for mass-destruction: “Rwandan government officials claim that new proof of France’s role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide has emerged during the UN’s Rwanda court hearings. Not only was France training the genocidal militias prior to the genocide, the French government was even today providing perpetrators of the genocide a refuge.”

The United States played a different role, preventing the United Nations Security Council from employing the word “genocide” which would have mandated military intervention. As evidence gathers of French foreknowledge of the then-impending genocide, some analysts argue that had there been sufficient diplomatic pressure, combined with an earlier cut-off of French military and political support, the genocide might have been averted entirely.

But even today justice is being thwarted: “Aloys Mutabingwa, the Rwandan government’s envoy to the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)... said the French government had part of the responsibility for the 1994 genocide and for not letting the ICTR doing its job properly. [He said] that the ICTR’s ten-year investigations had produced ‘sufficient and credible evidence’ to try French government officials [for French] training [of] the Interahamwe militia.... [and it] was only because the ICTR wanted to avoid ‘a diplomatic incident’ that French officials had not been charged. [He also charged that] France keeps interfering with justice by providing a shelter for suspected genocide perpetrators.... These allegations against France are not new. In June last year, the European Court of Human Rights slammed the French judiciary for [taking an unreasonably] long time in proceeding against a Rwandan clergyman, who had been charged with genocide compliancy nine years before. The European court found that the French judiciary was not satisfying the ‘reasonable time’ requirement in the European Convention on Human Rights. [And] international human rights groups have criticised France for its seeming unwillingness to contribute to justice for Rwanda’s genocide victims. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) claims that cases related to the Rwandan genocide had in general been met by ‘a certain coolness by French judiciary authorities.’”

Whatever France’s role in the genocide, and the UN’s in failing to prevent it, the horrors of Rwanda were directly committed by Rwandans against other Rwandans. And just as the worst villains were Rwandans, so were its greatest heroes. One such hero calls himself “an ordinary man.” That man is Paul Rusesabagina, depicted by Afrikan-American actor Don Cheadle in the recent feature film Hotel Rwanda.

Born in 1954, Paul Rusesabagina went on to study theology in Cameroon before studying hotel management in Europe. As a hotel manager in Kigali, Rwanda, during 100 days of genocide, he gave shelter to 1,268 people in the Mille Collines Hotel. He’s been compared to Oscar Schindler for his heroism under such great risk. Unlike some prominent people who survived the massacres with their sanity barely intact, Rusesabagina went on to become a businessman and he currently owns a transport company.

Now his broader mission is to prevent genocide in his homeland and anywhere else in the world. He also served as special consultant to Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, and in 2005 established the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, which provides financial assistance to children and women affected by the genocides in Rwanda and across the continent. He’s published an autobiography from Penguin entitled An Ordinary Man.

Rusesabagina spoke before the California Commonwealth Club on March 14, 2007. The event was moderated by Sandeep Roy, editor of New American Media and host of Upfront on KALW FM.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One of today's finest hip hop bands: THE PERCEPTIONISTS

Some people say hip hop is dead.

But really, it's simply reached the same equilibrium as every other art medium: 90% crap, 10& excellent. Falling firmly in the latter category is the superb band
The Perceptionists, including MCs Akrobatik and Mr. Life, and DJ Fakts One.

What makes these brothers so excellent--even though they might not appreciate this as a sales pitch--is that they're creating hip hop for those of us who've been listening to hip hop for at least two decades. In other words, this is hip hop for grown-ups.

That's not to say younger people can't enjoy this crew--one of my students, a young MC named Ejaz the Poet, loves them. But the range of topics and the sophistication of the commentary is as excellent as the lyrical rhythm and the vocal flavour of this band.

I'd already loved Akrobatik. Now this crew is one of my favourite. I listen to their lyrics the way I listen to KRS-One lyrics, i.e., closely, as if I'm reading a book (and I'm a guy who can listen to most bands for twenty or thirty years and still say one day, "Oh, that's what it says?"). Included below is one example of a typically insightful song. Read closely:

Now, this is dedicated to that little piece of mind
That you find every day when you leave your daily grind
The time is 5pm, and now you're leavin' your cubicle
It's Daylight Savings Time and the weather is beautiful!
Suitable to chill and breathe a sigh of relief
At last the day is yours for you to do as you please
Yeah, you feel the breeze even when the traffic is crossed
Because you on year way home, and bumpin' your favorite jam!
So you run into your crib, and then you lock your door
Zonin' out, listenin' to records galore
Lookin’ for some Perceptionists, maybe some Jill Scott
But so matter what you checkin', the selections real hot
Here's the plot: give it everything you've got
Make moves, then your life can truly improve

Now you thinkin’ ’bout the hours that you put in for them
And surpassin’ ’em for delf, ’cause that’s the real gem!
Here’s an idea: think to yourself, “Yeah, this is my year!”
Now proceed with your end clear
All those things you’re saying’ you would do in the past
Make ’em daily tasks, or those bright ideas won’t last

It's 5 O'clock and I'm finally free
It's my time to shine, my time to be
I spent the whole damn day workin' for you
Now it's time to do sum’n for me
I just can't wait to get on home
Away from you--and be all alone
Turn off the TV, unplug the phone
’Cause it's 5 o'clock, now everybody sing along

Now you understand that you your own woman or man
Because you broke it down to a simple four step plan
Step 1 - Sit and make a plan, Son
Step 2 - Make time for you, Boo
Step 3 - Turn off your motherfuckin' TV!
All the sudden there's so much of the world to see
And step 4 is to explore your options and got it poppin’
To get in the game instead of just watchin’
Entrepreneurial maneuvers, self-investment
That’s the shit, I can’t contest it!\

If you ain’t doin’ what you love doin’, you’re losin’
Security’s illusion created by institution
To keep us movin’ to the job, bank, and the store
A commonly accepted thus perpetuated war
And if what you’re waitin’ for is opportunity to knock at your door
Then step it up, ’cause it aint like that no more!
Sure, you can sit at home rottin’ away
But in your heart I know you feel there’s somethin’ missin’ everyday
But all that matter t you now is you off the clock
Yo, this weekend’s gon’ be off the rocker, Son! (Yeah, Son!)

It's 5 O'clock and I'm finally free
It's my time to shine, my time to be
I spent the whole damn day workin' for you
Now it's time to do sum’n for me
I just can't wait to get on home
Away from you--and be all alone
Turn off the TV, unplug the phone
’Cause it's 5 o'clock, now everybody sing along

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Sudanese Peace Activist Safa Elagib Adam and Nigerian author Segun Afolabi

6 PM
CJSR FM-88.5 Edmonton

The crisis in Darfur specifically and Sudan generally is horrifying. According to some sources, Since 2003 between two and four hundred thousand people have been killed by the armed militias known as the Janjaweed; as many as two and a half million people, 75 to 85 percent of them women and children, have been displaced.”

Yet finding solutions to the problem is made worse by several factors, especially popular misunderstanding of the crisis and ongoing debate over the appropriateness of the term genocide. Worse still is the decision of a number of groups to exploit the crisis for their own political or even financial benefit.

The popularity of the “Save Darfur” campaign among groups traditionally indifferent to Afrikan suffering is more easily understood when scanning for anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias among the organisers. By their own descriptions, Sudan is a struggle of so-called Arabs against what they describe as “Black Africans."

Yet 99% of Sudanese would be called “Black” or “Africans” if they stepped foot in North America. When spoken by Sudanese, the term “Arab” may mean “Arabic-speaker,” “influenced by Arab culture,” or even “affluent.” And even though anti-Muslim bias is clear among many of the Darfur activists in the West, both sides in the Darfur conflict are Muslim.

Isn’t it strange that organisations and activists with limited or zero history in campaigns designed to end Sudanese or Muslim suffering have taken such a strong interest in Sudan now? After all, Afrikan suffering is far greater in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the suffering of Afrikan Muslims includes actual slavery in Mauritania.

Is this campaign and the need for real solutions to the complex problems of Sudan being manipulated by those who want to shift attention away from other conflicts, especially in the Middle East? What is clear is that a collection of powerful, prominent people with agendas not fully disclosed are either ignorantly or intentionally misleading the majority of people who desire real peace and justice in Sudan.

Regardless of who is manipulating whom on the global scale, in Sudan itself some of the best organising for peace, justice and development is being done by women. Safaa Elagib Adam is secretary general of and gender adviser to the Community Development Association, a group she co-founded in the 199os and which is based in the Sudanese capitol of Khartoum.

Adam has been called a bold voice for Darfurian women, working to ensure these vital stakeholders are involved in building peace. Though Darfurian women are at risk of being raped, beaten, abducted, or killed as they seek food and firewood, [Adam] reminds us that women are more than victims of war: ‘We are also stakeholders—real stakeholders—in the negotiation and in the peace process.’”

Adam’s work includes advocating for women’s rights and encouraging them to seek elected office, and creating of primary education and adult employment, especially for internally displaced persons or IDPs. She’s pushed for more open negotiations in the struggle for peace in Darfur, even organising the Gender Expert Support Team (GEST), “a diverse cross-section of Darfurian women representing non-governmental organizations, academia, the government, and rebel movements from across Darfur.... [She] successfully advocated for ... [the] participation [of GEST] in the 7th round of peace negotiations in Abuja, Nigeria. Although the members of the group had many different political views, they agreed on one important point: Darfurian women must be included in the peace talks. [Her worked earned GEST] the support of the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the African Union.”

In a crisis rocked by factionalism, the nonpartisan GEST created and presented a charter of women’s peace priorities to all negotiators during three weeks of deliberations. Their priorities included property ownership, economic empowerment, and human rights. Although the negotiations ultimately failed, GEST established itself as a presence and an ethical organising force; ideally, GEST’s influence under the leadership of Safa Elagib Adam will increase towards ultimate success.

Part of the quest for real peace in Sudan is the telling of the truth, truth which must be told by those experiencing it directly. Yet it’s common practice in the West for the various realities, historical and modern, of Afrikans to be presented exclusively by Europeans.

If you’d like to test that theory, step inside any chain or independent bookstore in Edmonton or most of Canada and look for the Afrikan History section.

The first thing you’ll notice--assuming the store has one--is that it’s almost certainly the last subsection of the History section, even though humanity began in Afrika and civilisation including writing itself probably began there.

The second thing you’ll notice is the names of the authors. Almost every book in the section will be written by a person of European heritage. Imagine the books in all the sections on Europe--Britain and France and Germany and the rest--written exclusively by Arab writers, or Chinese writers, or Nigerian writers. It’s inconceivable that it could actually happen. Yet the reverse is not the exception, it’s the rule. So long as the history of hunting is written by hunters, lions will never be heroes.

Segun Afolabi of Nigeria speaks to such concerns in our next discussion tonight. He’s the author of the short story “Monday Morning” (published in his collection A Life Elsewhere) which won the 2005 Caine Award, and the 2007 novel Goodbye Lucille (both published by Jonathan Cape).

On March 1st, Afolabi spoke with host Robtel Pailey of Pambazuka News on his experiences of winning the Caine prize, publishing in Africa, and diaspora and loss. He also discusses the impact that living in Canada had on him as a young man.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ryan Oakley is a mad man (and one hell of a writer)

I've never met Ryan Oakley, but I hope to, and soon. He's a mad man, and an excellent writer.
There will probably come a time in the fairly near future when his first book will ec
lipse all my sales and all my reviews, and I will have a jealous moment of gnashing what's left of my baby teeth, but then I will settle down and in my heart of hearts admit that this kid has got the kot-tam nards (or, really, they're better... they're gnards).

If you don't believe me, check out his top-notch blog called The Grumpy Owl. It's frequently outrageous, definitely inappropriate, usually fun, and always perfectly written. Read one of his recent posts which I have snarfed in full. I think he should either put it in a book (he's an up and coming novelist) or start a book with it:

"Partially spearheaded by recent comments from Stephen Hawkings and George W. Bush --just using their names in the same sentence makes me feel dirty-- there is a movement afoot to finally get to the moon. The reason is simple.

"We're really fucking this planet up.

"Nuclear war, terrorism, climate-warping -- you name it, we're wrecking it. And so our best and brightest have come up with the most logical solution: We just move. Rather, they'll just move. I don't know anyone who can afford the trip to Luna.

"It's interplanetary white flight.

"The rich overclass, the piggish plutocrats who fucked up and
are fucking up the world have decided that they have to leave. And make no mistake, we're not invited. They'll leave the rest of us to burn or rot or whatever it is we do anyway. That should finally solve their problems.

"For around ten minutes.

"Pretty soon they'll have to start enslaving each other and fighting amongst themselves and carrying on like your average reptilian. You see, reptilians can't live without degrading someone. They must be at the top and they must have someone beneath their boot. They can go to the moon, they can even go to Saskatoon, but it won't change a thing. They'll just bring their shit with them. If they couldn't have peace and prosperity on a resource rich planet like Earth, a planet we evolved to deal with, what makes them think they'll have it on a rock in space? Or that we're worth saving anyway?

"If we can't solve our problems, with everything we have here, we do not deserve to survive. Just like a fish who is too lazy or stupid to swim, we should start learning or start drowning. Reproduction of this incredible defect is not the first priority.

"Using the moon as a backup drive for a genocidal, polluting species who couldn't even survive, let alone thrive, on the world that birthed it, is utterly moronic. It's like creating a backup of the virus that decimated your computer. Then emailing it to your friends so they can email it to others. There's no point. You fix the problem. You cure the virus. If you can't do that, you -- at the very least -- refuse to export or spread it. You quarantine your damn machine.

"As things stand today, knowing what we know, giving another world a bad case of humans is not an accomplishment. It's fucking criminal."

In this age of generally useless and failed attempts at cleverness via irony, it'd be understandable if someone thought my praise of Oakley above were actually a swipe. It's not. Oakley's the man. I've sent his stuff to my agent, and I hope soon you'll find his books at your local store.



“A whirlwind of jokes, satire, obscure pop references, devastating cultural analysis and prose poetry that never lets up from beginning to end....

"A darker story lurking underneath all the comic book violence and plot twists... exposes the darker trends of a society that both values honesty and courage and indulges in racism and hate....

“Minister Faust is following no one's lead but his own. Coyote Kings and Dr. Brain are wholly original in their style and use of the traditions of SF and pop culture.... Dr. Brain uses humor and insight to expose an underlying horror, the horror all the worse for the comparison. The jokes and commentary are fast, funny, and furious. This is political and cultural satire of the highest sort, and Faust is earning a place among the masters of the craft.

See more stunning reviews here.