Friday, November 21, 2008

Join me at Just Christmas this weekend!

This weekend in Edmonton is the 25th annual Just Christmas fair trade market place. Just Christmas is a global marketplace for quality arts, handmade crafts and other goods.

You don’t need to shop at corporate sweatshops, when
you can go to a fair trade giftshop whose products come from fair trade workshops. Clothing, jewelry, art, food and more from around the world await you at this holiday season multicultural shopping and dining experience.

Shop in confidence knowing that your money is supporting the building of he
althy communities around the world.

This year, look forward to hearing world music and stories told in different languages, as well as enjoying food from the international kitchen.

As usual, I’ll be working at the kiosk for Humanserve International which provides relief for Palestinians and Palestinian refugees, and for the first time ever, we’ll be selling graphic novels.

That’s right—copies of Joe Sacco’s funny, tragic, enraging and inspiring acclaimed journalistic graphic novel Palestine based on his experiences in the occupied territories. The only problem with Just Christmas is that there’s very little to buy for the men on your list. Now, with Joe Sacco’s Palestine, you can give them something thrilling, powerful and unforgettable.

Join us Friday night from 5:30 to 9, and Saturday from 9:30 to 4 pm at the Alberta Avenue Community Hall, 92nd Street and 118 Avenue. Parking & wheelchair access are available. If you need the bus, the #5 and the #8 will take you right there. For more information, visit

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama's Cabinet: We told you we weren't socialists, or, Hawkmen, Assemble!

"The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same"

by Ralph Nader

While the liberal intelligentsia was swooning over Barack Obama during his presidential campaign, I counseled “prepare to be disappointed.” His record as a Illinois state and U.S. Senator, together with the many progressive and long overdue courses of action he opposed during his campaign, rendered such a prediction unfortunate but obvious.

Now this sam
e intelligentsia is beginning to howl over Obama’s transition team and early choices to run his Administration. Having defeated Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries, he now is busily installing Bill Clinton’s old guard. Thirty one out of forty seven people that he has named so far for transition or appointments have ties to the Clinton Administration, according to Politico. One Clintonite is quoted in the Washington Post as saying – “This isn’t lightly flavored with Clintons. This is all Clintons, all the time.”

Obama’s “foreign policy team is now dominated by the Hawkish, old-guard Democrats of the 1990s,” writes Jeremy Scahill. Obama’s transition team reviewing intelligence agencies and recommending appointments is headed by John Brennan and Jami Miscik, who worked under George Tenet when the CIA was involved in politicizing intelligence for, among other officials, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s erroneous address before the United Nations calling for war against Iraq.

Mr. Brennan, as a government official, supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition to torturing countries. National Public Radio reported that Obama’s reversal when he voted for the revised FISA this year relied on John Brennan’s advise.

For more detail on these two advisers and others recruited by Obama from the dark old days, see Democracy Now, November 17, 2008 and Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet, Nov. 20, 2008 “This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House.”

The top choice as White House chief of staff is Rahm Emanuel—the ultimate hard-nosed corporate Democrat, military-foreign policy hawk and Clinton White House promoter of corporate globalization, as in NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.

Now, recall Obama’s words during the bucolic “hope and change” campaign months: “The American people…understand the real gamble is having the same old folks doing things over and over and over again and somehow expecting a different result.” Thunderous applause followed these remarks.

“This is more ‘Groundhog Day’ than a fresh start,” asserted Peter Wehner, a former Bush adviser who is now at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The signs are amassing that Barack Obama put a political con job over on the American people. He is now daily buying into the entrenched military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned Americans about in his farewell address.

With Robert Rubin on his side during his first photo opportunity after the election, he signaled to Wall Street that his vote for the $750 billion bailout of those speculators and crooks was no fluke (Rubin was Clinton’s financial deregulation architect in 1999 as Secretary of the Treasury before he became one of the hugely paid co-directors tanking Citigroup.)

Obama’s apologists say that his picks show he wants to get things done, so he wants people who know their way around Washington. Moreover, they say, the change comes only from the president who sets the priorities and the courses of action, not from his subordinates. This explanation assumes that a president’s appointments are not mirror images of the boss’s expected directions but only functionaries to carry out the Obama changes.

If you are inclined to believe this improbable scenario, perhaps you may wish to review Obama’s record compiled by Matt Gonzalez at Counterpunch.

*The Secret Life of Bees* sings honey-sweet and never stings

This is no B-Movie

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Screenplay by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd
Starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo

In 1965, after receiving a vision involving bees, little Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) runs away from her abusive Southern father and into the company of three African-American bee-keeper sisters producing a brand of honey called Black Madonna.

Wise August Boatwright (Queen Latifah) is the leader of this literal so
rority; angry June (Alicia Keyes) and overwrought May (Sophie Okonedo) help watch over young Zach (Tristan Wilds of The Wire), August’s handsome pubescent godson with a Sam Cooke voice and a dream of being a lawyer, while offering refuge to Lily and her father’s housekeeper Rosaline (Jennifer Hudson).

At this quasi-commune
, Lily begins learning how racially-privileged she’s been (as signified by her given name), despite her own abuse. She’s struck by the cultural sophistication of these women, including their love of fine music and furnishings, and their spiritual practices which include the creation of their own “Wailing Wall” and their rites involving their own
Black Madonna (a recovered female statue they’ve inserted into the global choir of black madonnas found everywhere from the Vatican to ancient Egypt’s Aset holding son Heru). While the drama of the just-passed Civil Rights Voting Act unfolds around them, Lily (obviously) learns to heal and to love through her sojourn with these women and Zach, but it’s the sometimes terrifying and violent how that matters and moves.

The under-celebrated Queen Latifah is, as always, superb; she’s quite simply one of the best and most versatile actors of her generation, effortlessly gliding among her roles from sexy to tough to wise to funny without ever tripping. Her invocation to her congregation before their Madonna is one of the most electrifying addresses I’ve ever heard in a film without ever even glancing at bombastic.

The Boatwrights’ guidance of Lily, courtesy of a fine adapted script, never ventures into the territory of thesuper-duper magical negro," in which Black characters are simple-minded, magical, devoid of their own sovereign emotional experience and exist solely to help White protagonists recover their lives. Each Boatwright sister has her own pain, joy and complete world which we’re blessed to witness. Alicia Keyes, despite a strange make-up job that makes her look almost mannequin-like, perfectly underplays her role as the coldly-angry NAACP youth activist, injecting minute but powerful doses of warmth, tenderness and allure.

And despite being cute, Dakota Fanning never sickens us with cutesiness, masterfully navigating Lily as strong yet vulnerable, clever but sometimes foolish, and rendering one of the most romantic relationships I’ve seen in film. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise; because child characters don’t have sex, writers and directors are forced to focus on actual romance long enough to remember that film “sex” is usually the nadir of romance and rarely even sexy.

There are a few problems; housekeeper Rosaline is under-developed, the third act is a draggy, and three anachronistic and culturally-unmatched songs in the score music disrupt the mood, as when Lily sits with her feet in a creek and the music crashes to TV-ad self-consciousness.

But overall, the film is magnificent, and contains, for me, a literally wonder-ful array of wisdom-jewels revolving around its titular beasties, from “The world is one big bee yard” to “No bee wants to sting you;” moments in which we behold the operation of the honey centrifuge or how bees are “calmed” (rather than the more honest “gased”) by smoke while their honey is collected (stolen) are so gentle and pure they made me want to start up bee-keeping immediately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Tariq Ali on Culture Against Empire

FM 88.5 Edmonton worldwide
6 pm Mountain time

Last week on the show, we heard my exclusive conversation with internationally renowned radical activist, film-maker and author Tariq Ali.

Tonight on
The Terrordome, we’ll hear the closing keynote Ali delivered at the Parkland Institute Conference in Edmonton on Sunday, November 16, on how culture and art are critical to challenging the political and socially suffocating power of the Empire.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ali lived in exile since the 1960s to opposition to Pakistan’s then-military dictatorship. A longtime editor at the New Left Review, Tariq Ali has authored and edited numerous books on history and politics including the classic The New Revolutionaries and the recent The Clash of Fundamentalisms which investigates US power and its role in the creation of global terrorism, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope on the progressive wave sweeping Latin America.

A novelist, Ali has published four books of his “Islamic Quintet" which portray Islamic civilisation counter to Western orthodoxy, and the first two volumes in his "Fall of Communism" trilogy. Tariq Ali has also written stage- and screenplays, and he is currently writing an opera about the late Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini. His most recent book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight of American Power.

Along the way, he discussed several authors and poets including
Abdur-Rahman Munif, Naguib Mahfouz, Mahmoud Darwish and Nizar Qabbani.

"Post-racial" US and Canada, Part 4: Racial supremacy makes your crazy

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail, November 19, 2008 at 3:37 AM EST

E-mail Margaret Wente

"Canada's growing population of immigrants and visible minorities face mental health challenges that are often very different from those of other citizens. Although many are at increased risk of mental illness, they have poorer access to care, and their issues are often poorly understood.

"Dr. Kwame McKenzie is a psychiatrist and researcher who specializes in redesigning mental health services for visible minority groups. Last year he moved to Toronto from London, England, to join the staff of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. This week Margaret Wente asked him to explain why understanding ethno-cultural differences is so important for improving mental health care....

"What are some of the distinct problems experienced by minority groups?

"They vary with the group. People from areas where there has been torture and war are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress issues. There's a huge Tamil population in Toronto that has very high rates of PTSD. Among South Asian groups, depression is a problem among older South Asian women, and alcohol misuse - probably caused by depression - is a problem among some South Asian men. People of African and Afro-Caribbean origin will tell you that racism and thwarted aspirations are a terrible problem that leads to depression, suicide and psychosis.

"Are certain groups more at risk of developing mental illness than others?

"Yes. In the U.K., for example, we've found that people of Afro-Caribbean origin are significantly more likely to develop psychosis. But they delay getting services. When they do, they are sicker and more likely to go into the hospital.

"Your key message is that we can't treat people effectively unless we understand cultural differences. Can you give us some examples?

"A good one is depression. Most doctors here in Canada would probably say that the most common symptom of depression is depressed thinking. But the experience of depression in other cultures is very different. People don't say 'I feel depressed.' They say, 'I feel tired. I'm thinking too much. I feel heavy.' They don't have the mind-body-split that we do. Women of South Asian origin are only half as likely to have their depression noticed by their GP. They have all the symptoms, but the GP doesn't understand the cross-cultural presentation of depression.

"Do these differences also have implications for the way we deliver services?

"Yes. The Latino population is a good example. They're very much into credibility, heart and warmth. If you are a Latino looking into services, you want a warm greeting. You don't want a receptionist saying, 'Here's a form to fill in.' Then there's the difference between individualist and collectivist societies. A lot of people don't want individual therapy. They want family therapy. Some people from East Asian societies don't want their son going off into a room and talking to someone by himself...."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Post-racial" US and Canada, Part 3

In 2002, an Edmonton columnist wrote an opinion piece in reference to the television show Survivor, claiming that racism is a figment of Black folk’s imaginations. I countered that article with a detailed response proving the obvious falsehoods of his claim. Not surprisingly, that Edmonton paper declined to print any of my response.

The following is the first publication of what I wrote, placed online now to address the absurd claims of a “post-racial America” and to confront the rabid, sub-intellectual attacks on figures such as Reverends Jackson, Sharpton and Wright, which claim that the Obama electoral victory is proof that human rights activists who advocate for Afrikans in America are no longer needed.

I’ve changed the name of the writer to “Mr. Columnist” to avoid giving him any further undeserved press, and I’ve deleted the name of the paper the same reason.


Mr. Columnist either doesn’t comprehend much about race, or agrees with the elite agenda of network TV--namely, to obscure meaningful analysis of US race privilege in order to protect it.

Mr. Columnist claims that Survivor Marquesas denizen Sean Rector is a lazy lout who “plays the race-card” to distract attention from his own mediocrity, and quotes African-American columnist Jimi Izrael to buttress his argument. Mr. Columnist and Izrael conclude that Rector is a paranoiac obsessed with “perpetual victimhood.... It’s a lot of b.s.... The White man is not out to get you. You are your own worst enemy. [Racism] is an excuse.”

So Sean Rector is lazy and paranoid, blaming White folks for his own failures. Since Rector alone is insignificant, he must embody a predominant false self-justification for Black failure.

Mr. Columnist’ argument is astonishing twice--first, for its shallowness, and second, for its negligence with obvious and abundant contrary data.

Reality show contestants are chosen specifically to a) stir up given associations with the audience, e.g., the sexy contestant, the honest one, the industrious one, the infuriating one, etc., and b) have conflict among themselves.

So if Rector is a lout, he was chosen precisely for that reason--but reality-TV doesn’t showcase Black pluralism. The White audience knows that White folks have many views on many issues, and don’t need that explained by a pluralistic White cast. They likely do not understand that about Black folks, especially in a US so socially (while not legally) segregated.

Gervaise from the original Survivor remains the exception to the African males on reality-TV: the acceptable Black male, a joking, strong-bodied, intellectually-unthreatening, over-sexed buck-dancer, the “Sambo” who is unthreatening because he either doesn’t or can’t use his mind, and because he is always, always smiling.

[Note: I modelled the Brotherfly from From the Notebooks of Doctor Brain largely after Gervaise, and also after a similar fellow in E-Town.]

But Rector and angry Black males like him elsewhere on dramatic and reality TV are a different stereotype--”the coon”: the unhinged, urbanised Black male who spurns middle-class White norms and burns with resentment for White privilege.

Reality-TV doesn’t seek out sociologists or activists who can carefully explain their political analyses. Want excitement? How about a race-baiting fight from someone so “obviously” not a victim? Nobody likes an overdog. Look at The Great White Hype or the Rocky films: White America wants to see the uppity n----- knocked down once and for all.

So racism is “a lot of b.s.... The White man is not out to get you. You are your own worst enemy. [Racism] is an excuse”?

Tell that to Abner Louima, a Haitian man whom NYPD patrolmen raped with a plunger handle, tearing his colon and bladder before they forced the bloody instrument into his mouth, breaking his teeth. Three of the four convicted “peace officers” got off on appeal.

Tell that to the family of Amadou Diallo, the Guinean man shot forty-one times by NYPD when Diallo tried to surrender his wallet to gunmen he thought were trying to rob him.

Tell that to Marcellus Francois, the petite, clean-shaven Haitian-Canadian shot to death by Montreal’s finest, mistaken for a six-foot-plus dreadlocked suspect.

Racial disparity in arrest, detention, legal counsel, conviction, and sentencing, especially of the death penalty, are well-documented. Does Mr. Columnist live in a gated enclave without a TV?

Economic discrimination? Redlining--the illegal practice of financial racial profiling in which banks deny mortgages on the basis of where potential clients currently live. Ralph Nader concedes that after his successful legal battles against redlining, banks solved their problem simply shutting down branches in minority neighbourhoods. Jesse Jackson reported that in 1994, 30,000 mortgages were registered in San Diego. Of these, only 29 went to Africans. In the US, no capital, no credit, no future.

Columnist Sean Gonsalves writes that a “University of California at Berkeley study found that the value of lost income to Black Americans because of discrimination between 1929 and 1969 alone comes to about $1.6 trillion”. Imagine if the wealth of that very narrow span could have been invested: what a difference for a Black America devastated by job flight, by the attack on the social sector and by the prison-industrial complex!

Health? From Reuters: “African Americans continue to receive poorer quality healthcare compared with their white peers, and racial stereotyping by American doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers is at least partly to blame.... Black patients are less likely to receive potentially life-saving treatments [and] were more likely than whites to receive less-desirable treatments, such as limb amputation... or removal of the testes in the case of prostate or testicular cancers.

Other Reuters headlines include “Study Finds Racial Differences in US Cancer Care” (March 8, 2002), “Poorer Care for Blacks Found in Medicare HMOs” (March 12, 2002), “Race May Be Factor in Young Patients’ Chronic Pain” (March 18, 2002) and “Death Risk Higher in Black Ovarian” (March 15, 2002). Mr. Columnist evidently hasn’t bothered to do the most cursory fact-checking.

How about environmental racism? Daniel Wigley and Kristin Shrader-Frechette explain that for the US, “In 1987, the most significant determining factor in the siting of hazardous waste facilities, nationwide, was race.... [T]he Environmental Protection Agency took 20% longer to identify Superfund sites in minority communities and... polluters of those neighbourhoods paid fines 50% [smaller than] polluters of white communities.”

Well-documented political disenfranchisement? Black voters in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election were harassed and threatened by police and blockades; boxes of Black votes were left uncounted. (1 million black votes didn’t count in the 2000 presidential election,” Greg Palast, San Francisco Chronicle, 2004 June 20.

I guess it’s all in our head. Thanks, Mr. Columnist!

Jimi Izrael’s columns are frequently self-obsessedly cute, it’s no surprise his remarks wouldn’t bother to address the measurable complexity and toxicity of White American privilege. Izrael destroys his own credibility by saying that Rector is not sufficiently “suburbanised.” And Mr. Columnist’ column violates an axiom of responsible journalism--”to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Mr. Columnist doesn’t expose the race-baiting set-up of Survivor, but plays along with it; doesn’t recognise that Rector’s complaining and laziness are symptoms of the problems of White race privilege in the US, rather than the cause; doesn’t truly address how his own position as a handsomely-paid White columnist in Canada has ill-prepared him to understand the experience of millions of Africans in the US who live with the daily threat and life-long reality of social, economic and political racial marginalisation and the psychological burden that entails.

I wonder how often Mr. Columnist has addressed White males’ self-justifying excuses which claim that employment equity, affirmative action, feminists, coloured people, immigrants and other causes account for their own lack of success. I hear these comments all the time, all the while that corporate boardrooms, academies, police, the officer corps, editorial staffs, legions of major stockholders, and the leaders of IMF, World Bank and most of the G7 remain strikingly White.

"Post-racial" US and Canada, Part 2

Despite a Canadian tendency to see ourselves as self-abasing and polite to a fault, there’s an ugly self-righteousness in Canadian culture, perhaps most visibly embodied by the likes of Rick Mercer, whose fame is largely based on televised antics to make Americans look stupid. Too often, too many Canadians force-feed an undernourished patriotism by bashing Yanks; witness Molson’s “I am Canadian” ads, an entire advertising campaign based on our alleged superiority to our southern neighbours.

That very arrogance serves as cover for a vicious fact about Canada in 2005: racist attitudes are widespread, and racial profiling across Canadian life is both widespread and destructive.

According to an Ipsos-Reid poll published in time for March 21, the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, nearly one in six Canadian adults--around four million people--has been the victim of racism. And one in ten Canucks wouldn’t want someone from another race living next door.

Charlene Hay, Executive Director of the Northern Alberta Alliance on Race Relations (NAARR) for the last eight years, isn’t surprised. “Most of us would not come out and use a racial slur or say a racist joke in public,” she says, “but the prejudices we have are very subtle and often we’re not aware of them. This poll gets down to what people really think of people who are of another colour--and when I say ‘people,’ I’m talking mainly of White, mainstream Canadians, although there probably are in this one in ten people who are, say, from India, who wouldn’t want to live next door to somebody from Africa.”

Both B’nai Brith and the Canadian branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations cite an increase in bigoted attacks against members of their communities, from intimidation and property damage to assault. Anti-racist academics and activists agree that racism isn’t simply a problem of thoughts, attitudes, or hurtful comments. According to Dr. Malinda Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta, such a definition doesn’t express the vast and measurable damage of a system of racial privilege on people’s lives. Those who believe the effects of racism are merely interpersonal rudeness miss what she calls “the political economy of racism.”

“People who are perceived as different also have social disadvantages,” says Smith, “in housing, in employment, in income. So people who are, for instance, Black--primarily Black--are paid less, even though their qualifications are similar. Those are important indicators of the consequences of racism in our society today.”

The consequences to which Smith refers are the results of racial profiling in housing, law enforcement and employment--and according to numerous studies they’re drastic. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation 2000 report Unequal Access says that “after accounting for education level, unemployment rate is highest among Aboriginal peoples, followed by foreign-born visible minorities, and Canadian-born visible minorities.”

University-educated Aboriginal peoples are four times as likely as White Canadians to be unemployed, with foreign-born “visible minorities” at least twice as likely as White Canadians to be jobless, says the report, and foreign-born Canadians of colour also experience a gap between their education levels and their occupations, with less than half of them finding highly skilled jobs. Even after adjusting for education, people of colour are still less likely to be hired or later promoted than people of colourlessness.

A March 10, 2004 Globe and Mail story revealed that although African-Canadians between 24 and 54 were just as likely to be university educated as all other Canadians of the same age range, their average income was around $7400 lower than the average of $37,200. Clearly, keeping the wages of any group of workers artificially low is exploitation of that group--but by definition, such suppression also lowers the average for all workers.

Racial profiling enters also into housing. Charlene Hay says NAARR receives many complaints of Edmontonians denied rental accommodation on the basis of race, a contention mirrored by a 2003 CBC investigation by Stephane Alari who performed his own Black Like Me experiment. Donning Blackface make-up, Alari hunted for an apartment and then for a job, first appearing as Black, the next day as White.

He said, “As a Black guy I asked who I should talk to for the job offer and they said it’s full.... And when I went back the day after as a White and I said, ‘Do you still need people?’ they said, ‘We always need people.’” Even White people who “sound” Black find they face discrimination. Torontonians Joan and Richard Davidson are White and Jewish, but they maintain the accents of their native Jamaica.

A July 3, 1999 Toronto Star story on them reported that when the couple arrived in Canada in the 1970s, they faced difficulty securing jobs and housing any time they made inquiries over the telephone; suspecting racism, Joan had a neighbour with an Anglo accent call a landlord who’d just refused her; the landlord invited the neighbour to come view the apartment immediately.

Despite extensive studies proving who is the true target of racial employment profiling, it’s still common to hear the lament in conversation that “White males need not apply,” while even a cursory visual inspection of typical Canadian police and fire services, not to mention board rooms, academies and government offices, show an over-representation of White males. Who needn’t bother applying seems obvious.

As destructive to quality of life as is discrimination in employment and housing devastating, racial profiling by police is uniquely frightening because victims can be publicly humiliated during stops and searches, injured during arrest and even unjustly jailed.

In 2003, Ontario’s highest court claimed there was “significant” evidence that police racially profile; describes a landmark Toronto Star analysis revealing that “people of African background who make up 8.1 per cent of the city's population accounted for 23.3 per cent of the arrests, while [W]hites with 62.7 per cent of the population had 58 per cent of the arrests.

"The most glaring evidence of racial profiling was in the number of [B]lacks charged in after-the-fact offenses. More than a third (34 per cent) of all drivers charged with [offenses such] as failing to make a change of address on a license, driving without insurance or valid license, or driving while under suspension, were [B]lacks.

"[M]inor offenses, like simple drug possession, which ordinarily netted the offender a ticket to appear in court resulted, more often than not in the case of [B]lacks, in arrests and booking at the police station. Blacks were also twice as often as [W]hites to be held overnight for bail hearings.”

Prior to the 9-11 attacks, Star journalist Vernon Johnson reported on Niagara Falls border authorities discriminating by race. “Over a 90-minute period on June 5 [2001], I observed that 46 per cent of those visible minorities crossing into Canada had their cars and/or passports searched by Canada Customs and Immigration officials,” wrote Johnson. “Only two per cent of [W]hites crossing the same border, over the same time, were subjected to that search.”

In light of such conditions, on Monday MPs from all three opposition parties called on the federal government to place a legal ban on racial profiling. It’s unclear whether the Liberals will heed this plea, especially given the government’s use of Security Certificates, secret detentions, secret evidence and what the United States calls “extraordinary rendition,” the practice of deporting alleged terror suspects to states which practice torture.

To date, the primary target of such policies has been Muslims, including cause celebre Maher Arar. But according to a survey Canadian Race Relations Foundation, racialised policing has substantial public backing; 46.9 per cent of Canadians stated the government should impose no ban on racial profiling.

Unquestionably, given the systemic nature of racialised privilege, profit and punishment in Canada, uprooting it entirely may be next to impossible, but most anti-racist activists stress education and public relations campaigns as a start. Clearly, though, without legal sanctions, and with such widespread backing from Canadians, perpetrators of racial profiling will find little reason to end their practices. Their victims will find even less comfort.

"Post-racial" US and Canada, Part 1

Racism is a system of power, and racial profiling is one of the tools that a race-based system uses to maintain control.

Racial profiling doesn’t work at catching criminals. The Toronto Star (November 25, 2002, “Laws needed to ban racial profiling”) reported that “African Canadians were much more likely to be charged with traffic-related offences that [aren’t obvious from a distance], such as driving with an expired license [which is consistent with] African Canadian drivers [being] racial[ly] profil[ed].... For [people being] profiled, the indignity is real....

"The cumulative effect on individuals of bearing this burden... would be enormously damaging on their self-respect. It would also undermine fundamental principles of equal dignity and worth and respect for the presumption of innocence.”

According to a Statistics Canada report entitled “Visible Minorities in Canada - Profile Series,” people of colour are less likely than other Canadians to be employed. “More than 1 in 3 [visible minority people] lived in poverty in 1995, compared to 20% of the rest of [Canadians],” said the report.

“Visible minorities earned an average of [about $22,500] in 1995--15% below the national average. They earn less, even though they also tend to have a higher level of education.” Even when adjusting for education, coloured people are still less likely to be hired than people of colourlessness, and less likely to be promoted.

In 2003, CBC reporter Stephane Alari in Montreal repeated the Black Like Me experiment by donning Blackface make-up. He hunted for an apartment and then for a job, first going as a Black man, and then the next day as a White man. He said, “As a Black guy I asked who I should talk to for the job offer and they said it’s full.... And when I went back the day after as a White and I said, ‘Do you still need people?’ they said, ‘We always need people.’”

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation surveyed Canadians with the question “Do you believe... federal and provincial governments should ban the use of racial profiling by police?” 46.9% said no.

The first step to protecting yourself is to arm yourself with information. Check out the following sources:

Employment Equity

Discrimination and Exceptions

Canadian Race Relations Foundation

Unequal Access

Systemic Racism

Toronto Star Article on Immigration & Employment

Skilled Worker Immigration Info

Social Cohesion

Immigration & Integration

Immigrants & the Economy

Labour Market Integration

Employment Equity Myths & Realities

Visible Minority Employment Stats

I never liked Shelby Steele

Shelby Steele is a right-wing negro stooge at the Hoover Institute. And while Obama is a right-wing, neoliberal Democrat (find far more extensive examples of what's wrong with Obama in the Bro-Log links on the left and in the discussion threads on my Facebook page), I will take this moment of schadenfreude to post the cover to one of Steele's books.

Check out that subtitle!

The Telegraph reports: "A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama And Why He Can't Win, has been stuck at number 202,884 on the best seller list for quite some time."

In the Set/Usir department, ironically, Steele's twin brother is progressive academic Claude Steele, a leading proponent of the critical sociological concept "stereotype threat." (Thanks to Algernon Austin for introducing me to the term.)

"Post-racial America," or, "ATVing forth to Bethlehem to be born"

Democracy Now! reports:

Hundreds of Race-Based Incidents Reported Since Election of Obama

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center said there have been “hundreds” of race-based incidents since the election.

The Associated Press has compiled a list of other possible hate crimes over the past two weeks. Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, New Jersey and Apolacan Township, Pennsylvania.

In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying, “Now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house.”

A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted “Obama.”

In Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read, “Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.” Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed.

At North Carolina State University, four students admitted writing a sign on the campus that called for shooting Obama in the head.

And in Idaho, second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho were heard chanting "assassinate Obama.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Minister Faust speaks with Tariq Ali

FM88.5 Edmonton worldwide
6 pm Mountain Time

According to David Barsamian of Alternative Radio, the Rolling Stones wrote the song “Street Fighting Man” to honour the internationally renowned radical activist, author and atheist Tariq Ali.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ali lived in exile since the 1960s to opposition to Pakistan’s then-military dictatorship.

A longtime editor at the New Left Review, Tariq Ali has authored and edited numerous books on history and politics including the classic The New Revolutionaries and the recent The Clash of Fundamentalisms which investigates US power and its role in the creation of global terrorism.

A novelist, Ali has published four books of his “Islamic Quintet" which portray Islamic civilisation counter to Western orthodoxy, and the first two volumes in his "Fall of Communism" trilogy. Tariq Ali has also written stage- and screenplays, and he is currently writing an opera about the late Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini. His most recent book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight of American Power.

Ali will deliver the closing keynote at the Parkland Institute conference on Sunday, November 16 on
Western diversity and freedom of expression following the demise of the USSR, and how the market became supreme. For information on tickets, visit PARKLAND.

Tariq Ali spoke with me by telephone from his home in England a week before the American election. Among other things, we discussed:

  • Western attitudes that justified the illegal US-UK invasion of Iraq
  • The killing of 1.5 million Iraqis by sanctions in the Clinton and Bush years preceding the war
  • The appeal of a neo-liberal politician such as Barack Obama to millions of self-described progressives
  • The reasons why John McCain did not choose Condoleezza Rice as his running mate, and
  • Muslim-baiting Canadian author Irshad Manji

But I began by asking him about recent remarks about Pakistan's instability by internationally acclaimed correspondent Robert Fisk. We’ll hear Fisk as interviewed by Democracy Now!’s Juan Gonzalez, and then we’ll leap into my discussion with Ali.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Bill Fletcher and Lester K Spence on Obama’s Win

6pm Mountain Time

Tonight’s discussion is on the election of Barack Obama as US president, a victory has thrilled literally hundreds of millions.

What may be lost in the jubilation is substance instead of style. What policies will an Obama administration enact? How will it be substantively different from a Bush or a Clinton government? How hawkish will it be in international affairs, especially with Iran, Somalia and Venezuela? How will it deal with the US and global economic crisis? How will it deal with America’s multicultural and multireligious population, in an era of right wing Christianist reaction?

To answer these questions and more, I spoke with Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Lester Kenyatta Spence.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a longtime labor and international activist and the former President and chief executive officer of TransAfrica Forum, a national non-profit organization organizing, educating and advocating for policies in favor of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

"Fletcher is also a founder of the Black Radical Congress and is a Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. Fletcher is the co-author of the book Solidarity Divided on the crisis of organized labour. He was a founding member of Progressives for Obama, and is an editor at the online magazine Black

Lester Kenyatta Spence is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His focus is American Politics, Afrikan-American Politics, Urban Politics, Public Opinion, Political Behavior, and American Political Thought. His work has appeared widely, including in The Washington Post, The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Black Voices, The American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, The WEB Dubois Review, The National Political Science Review, and Political Research Quarterly.

An increasingly prominent public intellectual, Professor Spence brings far-ranging consciousness and academic vigour to wide-ranging topics such as Black Nationalism, pop culture and Black bourgeois attempts to co-opt hip hop culture and activism.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On US election day, Nader's open letter to Obama

In the Public Interest
Between Hope and Reality
by Ralph Nader

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words "hope and change," "change and hope" have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not "hope and change" but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart.

Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity--not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an "undivided Jerusalem," and opposed negotiations with Hamas-- the elected government in Gaza.

Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored "direct negotiations with Hamas." Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote "
Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state."

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side.

Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League's 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: "There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President."

Palestinian-American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, "of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. ...Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli's use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli's assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its 'legitimate right to defend itself.'"

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government's assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on "the heart of a crowded refugee camp... with horrible bloodshed" in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate Uri Avnery described Obama's appearance before AIPAC as one that "broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning," adding that Obama "is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future-- if and when he is elected president.," he said, adding, "Of one thing I am certain: Obama's declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people."

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled "Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama" (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled "Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque." None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans--even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to "tumultuous applause," following a showing of a film about the Carter Center's post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the "middle class" but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the "poor" in America.

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke "change" yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the "corporate supremacists." It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics-- opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)-- and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. "Hope" some say springs eternal." But not when "reality" consumes it daily.

Ralph Nader