Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Exposing Jason Kenney

No One Is Illegal Toronto Confronts Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration Canada

Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Multiculturalism, Citizenship, and Immigration, who banned George Galloway from entering Canada, who axed millions of dollars of government funding for language classes for Arab Canadians, who supports the apartheid policies of Israel, who condemns the democratically elected government of the Palestinians as a terrorist organization, who has been busy criminalizing immigrant communities, who has been detaining and deporting migrant workers, is exposed.

One of my Toronto Facebook friends has posted this videoclip from No One is Illegal. I was thrilled to see these folks engaged in this much needed activism to expose the racist and increasingly problematic policies of Kenney. What drain is Canada going down?

No one is Illegal has renamed Kenney the much deserved moniker of Minister of Censorship and Deportation, and rightly accuse him of furthering racism and xenophobia.

Kenney arbitrarily takes power into his own hands, deciding in authoritarian fashion what should be done, and then goes about in his neo-con narrow mind way and does it. On the No One is Illegal site, S.K. Hussan and Mac Scott expose Jason Kenney's Doublespeak:

"It is hard to write an article about Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's attacks on Canadian racialized communities. As soon as one draft is complete, Kenney is at it again, spinning new lies and venting hateful rhetoric. In a federal cabinet chock-a-block with unsavory characters, Kenney stands first in line. Kenney has expanded his use of arbitrary power and has moved with stealth to significantly reduce the number of family-class immigrants applying from countries of the Global South. While on the one hand Kenney and the Conservatives portray themselves as the friend of immigrant communities, their administrative edicts to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and legislative changes have resulted in the door being shut on immigrants' hands."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The house that Pithers built

circa 1900. photo Fort Frances online museum archives.

This is the house that Pithers built. He built the house on the place called Couchiching, a powerful place used for governance meetings, spiritual rituals, sustenance, and socialization by the Anishnaabek, as well as their ancestors, the Black Duck and Laurel peoples.

Of course, Pithers, holding the status of Indian Agent, wouldn't have built the house by his own bare hands. Most likely, like most colonial administrators and "leaders," he used the exploited labour of the indigenous people to build the very buildings that would come to oppress them (I saw the evidence of this when I was in Puebla, Mexico. The massive awesome golden cathedrals of the Spanish colonizers were not only built by the labour of the Indigenous peoples by also with the Indigenous people's resources, such as their gold. Further, this is still true in Palestine today. The Palestinians often are hired to build the very structures that Israel will use to continue their oppression, including the Apartheid Wall and the settlements in the West Bank).

Pithers had his house built beside the Indian Agency building(s), which had been put on the land called Couchiching. This is a common practice of all colonial governments striving for takeover and control. They take the places that are central to the indigenous peoples--especially sacred places--and put their colonial institutions right on top of them. Couchiching of the Anishnaabek, the meeting of the waters, where the land narrows, became known by the settler-colonials as Pither's Point, which it is called today by many who do not know that it is in fact called Couchiching.

Couchiching was christened Pither's Point to place a new history on an old land--no, more than that: to place a new history on an old land whose original meanings and peoples had to be discredited and dispossessed for that new history to become predominant, to be made superior. Couchiching was where the fledgling Canadian government administered the Indian Act through its representative, the Indian Agent, who during the time of colonial expansion, land grab, the "civilizing mission," and the making of Treaties, was Pithers.

Pithers, who had once been employed by the Hudson's Bay Co., became involved with colonial government administration through the making of Treaties, upon which he was then appointed Indian Agent for Fort Frances. After him, came a guy named John P. Wright, who was the Indian Agent who, along with another multi-tasking colonial patriarch, McKenzie, worked hard to transform the Indian agency site on Pither's Point into a park for the settler-colonials of the town of Fort Frances. Indeed, the town, which had been at some point called St. Francis and Fort St. Pierre before that, and which was built beside the Hudson's Bay Company fort, was built on land that was, and is, of course, a spiritual meeting/dwelling place called Couchiching.

Old photo of previous Burial Mound at Couchiching when Indian Agent Pithers lived on this piece of land. (next post I will tell you where I found this photo)

Did Pithers and the settler-colonials know that this land was sacred, a place where multiple levels of existence convened, before they put their buildings on it and claimed ownership of it? Of course they did. There were a number of burial mounds at Couchiching, one of which was extant when Pithers built his house. He used it for his root cellar.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

a pelican surprise

I saw this pelican family today when I was out walking Martti's dogs, Musti and Tassu. They were in the bay beyond the security fence. To get there you have to pass this old sluice. The old logs bordering it have years of moss covering them, cat tails choke its opening to Lake Superior, and birch trees grow though its mossy banks.

[click to enlarge]

The pelicans were sunning themselves in a spot of water surrounded by ice, ring-billed gulls and a paddle of mallards.

Because they were at a distance, and because I wasn't expecting to see pelicans, I first thought the birds were a family of large gulls. But then when I compared them to the gulls around them, I surmised, Oh my goodness! Pelicans! Of course, my camera does not capture close-ups, so my pelican photos are not as clear as others'.

As I stood on the edge of the bank, a herring gull fearlessly flew in to terrorize the pelican family. Up the pelicans flew, and round and round they glided and bunched together in the sky, chased by the herring gull, who was doing its best to try and clip their wings. The aerial chase looked like a sky ballet, with a bit of drama. Although heavy and clumsy looking, in flight, this family of pelicans were elegant. The pelicans pretended to fly off to the east, but soon circled back and down, down, down, they settled themselves, right back to the exact water spot where they had been.

I saw my first pelican of the spring in Sand Bay at Couchiching in the Fort Frances region last weekend, which I told you about. That pelican was solitary; this was a family. Mom and dad pelican had large bumps on their beaks, the 3 others were juveniles, somewhat smaller in size with less bumpier bumpy beaks. The large bumps on the beaks of the mom and dad pelican are season specific:

"During the breeding season, both males and females develop a 3 inch by 3 inch (7.6 by 7.6 cm) bump on the top of their large beak. This conspicuous growth, which evidently indicates the bird's interest in breeding, is shed by the end of the breeding season."

The bird vision of pelican is spontaneity. Respond immediately to new challenges and opportunities, says Pelican when it comes into view. That is according to the Bird Signs Guidance & Wisdom From Our Feathered Friends 52 Cards & Book by G.G. Carbone and Mary Ruzika. Look skyward for inspiration. The answers may be revealed at night. Drink more water; eat some fish. Pelicans have a keen instinct to know when to move before the tide changes. Don't get stuck in routine! Get some drama in your life! Toss aside your schedule and go have some pelican fun.

...after my marking. And my taxes. And preparing a course. Then, I will take up the pelican call....

Friday, April 24, 2009

what's the wordle on colonization?

Next month, I am teaching an online course, Identities and Cultures of Digital Technologies. During my online researching today, I came across wordles. Wordles are simply randomized arrangements of words, like a digital crossword puzzle but the letters don't cross, so it's simply a digital word puzzle. You can go on Wordle and make your own. I made a wordle on colonization using the following text:

After 1873, Canada, through its Department of Indian Affairs, undermined traditional
governance, outlawed traditional religion and substituted the authority of its Indian Agent After 1873, Ontario appropriated control and administration of off-reserve resources on which traditional Anishinaabe governance had been based

swept under the rug: Western hypocrisy

Adrian Hamilton has written a thoughtful Opinion piece in the Independent about Ahmedinejad's UN address for Durban II. I hyperlinked to the address, too, so you can read the text of what Ahmedinejad said. And what he said is not lies, racism, outrageous, or anti-Semitic. He was talking about power, colonialism, imperialism, racism, economics, arrogance, and hypocrisy as instigated by Western powers. Hamilton asks, how can the western powers-that-be label Ahmedinejad's address anti-Semitic when they didn't listen to it? Is this what we teach our children? To make up their minds before reading or hearing something and make judgments blindly? Like Hamilton states, much of what Ahmedinejad said is the stuff of classrooms; you may not agree with all of it, and you may find parts of it contentious, but it is worth a discussion. Or is the West not interested in examining its role in creating racism and its own hypocrisy?

Walking Out on Ahmadinejad was Just Plain Childish

What are we trying to say? That any mention of Israel is now barred?

by Adrian Hamilton

"Isn't it time western diplomats just grew up and stopped these infantile games over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? All that this play-acting over boycotting of conferences because of his presence and walking out because of his words achieves is to flatter his ego, boost his poll ratings at home and play into the hands of an Israel that is desperate to prove Iran the gravest threat to its existence.

True, Iran's President is not the world's most endearing character. Some of the things he says are certainly contentious. But he is far from the most offensive leader on the block at the moment. With Silvio Berlusconi sounding off about women and sex, and Nicolas Sarkozy sounding off about everything from the quality of his fellow leaders to the unsuitability of Muslims to join the civilised nations, and a Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, giving his views on gays, Europe could claim its fair share of premiers who should not be allowed out in public.

Read Ahmadinejad's address at the UN conference on racism in Geneva [hyperlink added] this week and there is little to surprise and a certain amount to be agreed with. His accusations against the imperial powers for what they did with colonial rule and the business of slavery is pretty much part of the school curriculum now. His anger at the way the economic crisis originated in the West but has hit worst the innocent of the developing world would find a ready echo (and did) among most of the delegates.

It was not for this, however, that the countries of Europe and North America gathered up their skirts and walked out of Ahmadinejad's peroration. The UK's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Peter Gooderham, rather gave the game away when he said afterwards: "As soon as President Ahmadinejad started talking about Israel, that was the cue for us to walk out. We agreed in advance that if there was any such rhetoric there would be no tolerance for it." The Iranian leader, he went on to say, was guilty of anti-Semitisim.

Just how you can accuse a man of anti-Semitisim when you haven't stayed to hear him talk is one of those questions which the Foreign Office no doubt trains its diplomats to explain. But what basically was our representative trying to say here? That any mention of the word Israel is barred from international discussions? That the mere mention of it is enough to have the Western governments combine to still it? In fact, Ahmadinejad's speech was not anti-Semitic, not in the strict sense of the word. Nowhere in his speech did he mention his oft-quoted suggestion that Israel be expunged from the map of the world. At no point did he mention the word "Jews", only "Zionists", and then specifically in an Israeli context. Nor did he repeat his infamous Holocaust denials, although he did reportedly refer to it slightingly as "ambiguous" in its evidence.

Instead, he launched the time-honoured Middle Eastern accusation that Israel was an alien country imposed on the local population by the West, out of its own guilt for the genocide; that it was supported by a Zionist take-over of Western politics and that it pursued racist policies towards the Palestinians. Now you may find these calls offensive or far-fetched (if there is a Zionist world conspiracy, it is making a singularly bad job of it) but it is pretty much the standard view in the Muslim world. Western support of Israel is seen as a conspiracy, and it is not just prejudice. There are now books by Western academics arguing that the pro-Israeli lobby wields an influence in the US out of all proportion to its numbers. If the Western walkout in Geneva did nothing else, it rather proved the point.

Nor is it far-fetched to charge Israel with being a racist state. As the only country in the world that defines itself and its immigrants on racial grounds, it could be regarded as fair comment. And if you doubt that this founding principle leads Israel into racist attitudes to non-Israelis, then you only have to read the comments of its new Foreign Secretary, Avigdor Lieberman, to disabuse you.

Of course, Ahamadinejad was playing to his home audience. He is a politician facing re-election at a time when his domestic economic record makes him vulnerable. Most of the educated class are fed up with his cavorting on the world stage while his country goes from wrack to ruin. And, of course, international conferences of this sort, intended to spread sweetness and light, are not the most appropriate forums for such tirades.

But on these issues he does speak for the majority not just in Iran but in the region. Deny that view a hearing and you will only increase the resentment and the sense of a Western world set up against them. Which is precisely what our oh-so-sanctimonious representatives achieved this week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pither's Point?

Last Friday morning, early, I went for a walk along the shore of Rainy Lake. The sun had washed the sky pink, there was still a bit of ice along the shoreline, only one couple walking 3 dogs passed me, and the sound of birds recently back from more southerly climes filled the bay. The day before, I had driven up to Fort Frances to teach classes at the Nanicost Institute, which is housed in the former Indian Residential school, St. Marguerite's, on Couchiching First Nations. Indian Residential schools were a previous Canadian government policy in cooperation with institutionalized Christianity to "kill the Indian in the child." I took this photo from what is now called Pither's Point, looking southwards across Rainy Lake towards what is now called International Falls, U.S.A. Rainy Lake empties into Rainy River at this point. Living on the shore of Lake Superior, I'm used to seeing rivers flow into the lake, so, standing on the point, I was struck by what seemed to be the "backward" flow of the waters. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? No, Rainy Lake empties into the river, as it is part of the Arctic watershed.

But why is this breathtaking point where the waters meet and the birds call called Pither's Point? The answer: colonization. I was surprised to see that there is still a street called Colonization Road in Fort Frances, as often, these blatant markers of colonization have been renamed to re-word colonization into a nicer sounding nation-building. Colonization Road was part of the Dawson route constructed to help build a Canadian nation, to get settlers out west, and to get government troops inland to fight Metis resistance, that is, Metis resistance to the appropriation of their lands. Colonization Road runs along Rainy River, which is on the western side of what became mapped as Pither's Point. Pithers was the Indian Agent for the region. Indian agents, whose jobs were abolished in 1969, had absolute power and control over First Nations peoples and their lands, from deciding who got to be a "Status Indian", to displacing the authority of First Nations leaders, securing "surrender" of lands, forcing children into residential schools, and many other atrocities formerly considered just--that is, by those who made those policies.

At Pither's Point, near St. Francis [Fort Frances]. [no date, archival photo]
Library and Archives Canada

Pither's Point, as the archival photo caption states clearly, is not in Fort Francis, but nearby to it. It is, in fact, on land that was 'reserved' for the Anishnawbek through treaty-making. Although its name would suggest otherwise, Pither's Point is First Nations reserve land belonging to the people of Couchiching, Stanjikoming, Nicickousemenecaning (formerly Red Gut, but which actually translates to "little otter playing") and Naicatchewenin (formerly Northwest Bay).

a display board at Fort Frances Museum

Through colonization, the land the Anishnawbek lived on, were part of, and migrated through was taken from them and small tracts of land called reservations were "given" back to them. How colonial powers allocated land that is not theirs in the first place and pushed the indigenous inhabitants onto reservations is the unjust story of Canadian map-making, nation-building and colonization. Is this history? Does Canada now recognize the rights of its Indigenous peoples? Well, as I told you in earlier posts, Canada did not sign the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Also, Canada did not attend Durban II which is a world forum that holds countries like Canada that have histories of racism and racist policies accountable, holds countries like Canada answerable to indigenous claims to land, to their inherent rights, and, importantly, to restitution. No wonder Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel boycotted Durban. Restitution means: 1. The act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, lost, or surrendered; 2. The act of making good or compensating for loss, damage, or injury; indemnification; 3. A return to or restoration of a previous state or position.

Blueprint plan for Pither's Point, 1918.
Library and Archives Canada.
Today on Pither's Point there is a popular municipal park with a beach, which is run by the town of Fort Frances as a tourist attraction. Years before the park was created, Pithers had built his home on this piece of land--as he was Indian Agent, who could tell him not to? Certainly he didn't have to listen to the Anishnawbek, for they were legally obliged to listen to him.
This old blueprint maps out the park that was eventually built on First Nations land. For 99 years, the town of Fort Frances has been renting Pither's Point for $35/year. Have they been renting this from the First Nations or from the federal government? That is the court case question. The lease is up at the end of this month. The court case, too, is coming up at the end of this month, but as it is expected to not be resolved by the time the lease is up, the Anishnawbek are permitting the town to run the park this summer as the court case gets settled. The provincial and federal governments have stated in a legal letter that “We would like clarify our position to the status of the park once the lease expires in the event other arrangements are not in place,” the letter read. “It is the view of both Ontario and Canada [that] the lands are unsold surrendered lands which would be unencumbered by any lease." So, it seems the provincial and/or federal governments believe the land was "surrendered" to them, so they are the legal owners of the land. One of the things the Anishnawbek, who believe they are the owners of this land, want is fair market value compensation for this valuable property, not just $35/year. Considering that Pithers was hired in the early 1870s at $1000/year, and the land was rented 40 years later for $35/year, what the town paid for the land rental back in the day was a...steal. Literally.

Pither's Point is a sacred site. The ancestors of the Anishnawbek, the Laurel and the Black Duck Peoples, had a number of burial mounds on Pither's Point. This photo is of pottery shards of the Black Duck and Laurel Peoples, collected from the shores of Rainy Lake years ago by a Swedish immigrant.

Here is a sketch of what a Black Duck pottery urn may have looked like.

I thought as I stood there on the banks of the point, listening to the teeming birds flying this way and that, paddling this way and that, and calling out this way and that, as I stood there watching a kingfisher survey the lakeshore from a bare oak branch, a swirl of swifts skim the water, and a smattering of goldeneyes snorkel for fish, that this certainly must've been an especially rich place for the Anishnawbek and their ancestors to migrate to in spring. It's teeming with life! Imagine how much more rich it must've been with life before the destruction colonization has brought! It was the pelican paddling serenely among a large flock of black cormorants at the point where the waters meet that told me to look. You can see him there if you look.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ahmedinejad & Durban II

Free Palestine poster I by ~AutaAutistik on deviantART

"Why is it that the so-called advocates of freedom of information fear hearing other people's opinions?" asks Ahmedinejad, upon returning to Iran from Geneva where he addressed Durban II delegates.

Not a difficult question to answer when it comes to turning a critical gaze to the practices and constitution of the state of Israel. Even to mention the idea of Palestinian rights is to bring all manners of Israel-defenders-at-all-costs -- including the acceptance of the racism against and genocide of Palestinian people -- to your doorstep or cyber portal.

Ahmedinejad points out the double standards that the West has towards others who speak out, in particular exposing truths about how the functioning of the state of Israel results in the repression of Palestinian rights, where basic democratic rights, such as carrying a Palestinian flag and protesting the Apartheid Wall can get you killed.

And while Ahmedinejad's Iranian regime rightly stands accused of human rights abuses and other injustices, however, in Western and zionist media it is reduced only to that. Ahmedinejad is accused by zionists of a revisionist history and lies, which is said with no sense of recognition of Israel's revisionist history and lies that have wiped out the Nakba and the rights of Palestinians.

Ahmedinejad has been accused of using the Durban platform for political grandstanding, his address as "offensive and inflammatory" and "hate speech", and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated afterwards: "I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite,” Ban said. “This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve. This makes it significantly more difficult to build constructive solutions to the very real problem of racism.”


"Although his speech prompted a temporary walkout by certain delegates, the UN assembly hall received a rapturous applause from those delegations that had remained seated."

During the Durban II conference, which opened in Geneva on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel "the most cruel and repressive racist regime."

He also criticized the West for their unconditional support for Israeli aggression against the people of Palestine and their acts of violence in the Middle East region.

"It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide while the awakened-conscience and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutalities and the bombardment of civilians in Gaza," he said.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Canada and Durban II

Canada, like the US and some other countries, is boycotting Durban II--what one Canadian government official, embarrassingly, called an "anti-Israel Gong Show". Neither Canada's nor the US's refusal to attend is a surprise given both of our nations refusal to acknowledge the neocolonial constitution of our states. Indeed, Canada announced in January 2008 that it would be boycotting the conference, an announcement that followed on the heels of Canada's shameful refusal to sign the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Earlier today on Democracy Now, I heard Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African-Canadian Legal Clinic explain that

"Well, we are extremely disappointed by the boycott of these Western nations. While we’re disappointed, we are not surprised, because this is about accountability. These countries have not come to the table with clean hands. They have never really meant to participate and really be held accountable for the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, a document they all signed onto in 2001, the exception of Israel and the United States. At least the United States and Israel are being consistent in their position. However, these other countries are quite hypocritical in their withdrawal. You know, many here feel that if these countries had come, they would have received a failing grade, because they have done little to nothing to implement the Program of Action.

The Durban Declaration and Program of Action is an excellent blueprint. There was nothing in that document that was racist, anti-Semitic. It was an expression of goodwill. It was an expression of encouragement in terms of the peace process in the Middle East. And it is an excellent document and a blueprint that countries should adopt in working to eradicate racism.

Too bad Margaret Parsons isn't Canada's Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism. Instead, we have Jason Kenney, a far right neocon whose ideas about Canadian values is exclusive, to say the least--"Canada isn't a hotel," he blubbered. Kenney's comments toe the neocon white-ordered (ir)rationality line; indeed, shockingly and much to the frustration and outrage of many Canadians, Jason Kenney is promoting racism. Yet conversely, last year when he announced that Canada will boycott Durban II, he gave the reason as:

"Canada is interested in combating racism, not promoting it," Kenney told The Canadian Press. "We'll attend any conference that is opposed to racism and intolerance, not those that actually promote racism and intolerance."

Well, Kenney has his role model: our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, speaking to the journalists organized by the Washington-based think-tank The Israel Project, equates Durban II with racism.

Our government will participate in any international conference that combats racism,” Harper said. “We will not, however, lend Canada’s good name to those, such as Durban II, that promote it.”

Despite the Canadian government's unwillingness to engage with RESOLVING racism--for to look at racism means to look at systemic racism, which means to look at institutionalized racism, which means to look at colonization, which means to look at the issue of land, which then means to settle land claims and recognize theft of resources, which isn't what our current conservative government intends to do--a number of Canadian groups do recognize the need for systemic change, as noted in their Joint Statement: Durban Review Conference:

"As civil society we are here to affirm our commitment to this Conference. Despite our multicultural makeup, we in Canada continue to face many and serious challenges with racism in all spheres of society. Racism is a harsh everyday reality for Aboriginal and racialized communities who suffer disproportionate levels of poverty, access to decent employment, and social services such as education, housing and healthcare. Aboriginal peoples continue to struggle against extreme poverty, social exclusion and violation of their human, environmental and land rights. African-Canadians struggle against colour coded economic disparity, criminalization and racial profiling. Arabs and Muslims continue to face hate crimes, racial and religious targeting by overzealous security legislation. Arab Canadians such as Mahar Arar, Abousfian Abdelrazik, have been marooned in their birth countries by our government. They have been subjected to torture and horrific human rights violations because of flawed anti-terrorism measures and wilful political negligence."

Last Nov, 2008, Diana Ralph, a Jewish Canadian, "found no substance to allegations of anti-Semitism at WCAR [Durban World Conference on Anti-racism]. Independent Jewish Voices urges the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP to rejoin the Durban Review Conference and stand up against racism." After attending a preparatory session, she wrote:

"As a Jew, I went to assess the validity of the Canadian government’s charges that Durban II is anti-Semitic. I found it was not. Instead, I witnessed delegates of the world’s nations hammering out an inspiring call to end racism worldwide and implement the Durban agreements.
In the aftermath of Durban 2001, well-funded Israel Lobby groups have mobilized to discredit and derail the upcoming Durban Review Conference. They include the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, UN Watch, ICARE-Magenta Foundation, the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress. They characterize WCAR as an “anti-Semitic hate fest” and label any attention to the valid concerns of Palestinians as “anti-Semitic.” They defend Israeli discriminatory practices, and condemn the “use of human rights language to discredit a state” (i.e. Israel). They argue for “freedom of expression,” that is, the “freedom” of media to attack Muslims and Islam. They object to the term “Islamophobia,” because, they say, religions aren’t protected, as though targeting Muslims for being Muslims is less offensive than attacking Jews for being Jewish. And they support anti-Arab racial profiling in the name of fighting “terrorism.

Obama, too, has received some deserved criticism for pandering to Israel at the expense of addressing racism as it effects African-American communities, as well as refusing to take a hard look at how (like Canada) racism has been the building block of the nation-state:

Chris Hedges writes:

"Israel and the United States, which could be charged under international law with crimes against humanity for actions in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, will together boycott the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Geneva. Racism, an endemic feature of Israeli and American society, is not, we have decided, open for international inspection. Barack Obama may be president, but the United States has no intention of accepting responsibility or atoning for past crimes, including the use of torture, its illegal wars of aggression, slavery and the genocide on which the country was founded. We, like Israel, prefer to confuse lies we tell about ourselves with fact."

Glen Ford, journalist and executive editor of Black takes mainstream African Americans to task for not challenging Obama on the US's lop-sided attention to Israel re:Durban II at the expense of the history/practices of racism against African Americans and other racialized communities in the US:

"We must first ask: Why is the White House reporting to “Jewish leaders” on an issue that is of interest to all Americans, most especially people of color? Has Obama arranged such briefings on Durban II for “Black leaders,” “Latino leaders,” or “Native American leaders” – representatives of constituencies that have suffered genocide, slavery, discrimination, forced displacement and all manner of racist assaults right here on American soil? No, he has not. Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will. Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama."

Nora Barrows-Friedman, in "UN Protects Israel Against Racism Charges" writes:

...two weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner's office unilaterally cancelled all side-events pertaining to Palestine issues. Ingrid Jarradat- Gassner, director of the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem, one of several Palestine-based organisations attending the Durban Review conference, tells IPS that BADIL and the other NGOs had organised a side-event specifically about how and why they see Israel as a "regime of institutionalised racial discrimination on both sides of the Green Line."

"As Palestinian NGOs and other NGOs working on the issue of Israel and its violations against the rights of the Palestinian people, we were expecting that there would be a possibility for us to organise these side-events during the official Durban review conference in Geneva," Jarradat-Gassner says. "We were informed by the UN itself that this would be possible."

Jarradat-Gassner says that on Apr. 3, less than three weeks before the Durban Review Conference, the UN High Commissioner's office called BADIL's representative in Geneva into a meeting at the UN, and verbally informed her that all side-events pertaining to the specific issue of Palestine and Israel had been banned.
Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tells IPS he had not known about the disallowance of side-events pertaining to Palestine/Israel by the UN's OHCHR. "One has to assume it was part of an effort to meet the objections of the United States that the event was discrediting to the extent it engaged in 'Israel-bashing'." However, Falk points out, "U.S. leverage is probably greater than it has been because Obama is President and Washington has indicated its intention to rejoin the Human Rights Council."

Palestinian organisations say that banning these side-events is a significant disappointment in pursuing Israel's legal responsibility towards its actions in Palestine. Dr. Falk echoes this sentiment. "I believe that the strong evidence of Israeli racism during the recent Gaza attacks makes it strange to refuse NGOs organising side-events to address the issue," he tells IPS. "Also, the collective punishment aspects of the occupation seem to qualify the Israeli policy as a form of racism, combined with the rise of the extreme right, with (Avigdor) Lieberman as (Israeli) foreign minister

Marcy, at Body on the Line, says god damn America and all the other racist states boycotting Durban 2. She has a written a good post on the hypocrisy of the smearing of Ahmedinejad as racist (who's calling who a racist? she wonders), the zionists camped out at Durban II (isn't John Voight Angelina Jolie's dad?; no wonder he's at Durban as part of the pro-Zionist cheerleading squad--he considers Israel "a moral beacon"), and has links to articles and videos.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

wildflowers of Roncesvalles Carhouse

Once, when I visited my brother and his family in Toronto, we decided to go for a walk along the boardwalk along Lake Ontario. To get there from where they live on Sunnyside Street, you have to pass behind the Roncesvalles Carhouse, which is by the complicated intersection of Queen St., King St., Roncesvalles and the Queensway. Built in 1895, the Roncesvalles Carhouse services TTC [Toronto Transit Commission] streetcars. It is not a pretty lot, yet among the asphalt and concrete, I saw these wildflowers growing in a small patch, jostling for space on the Sunnyside of the street...

Here is where I saw these wildflowers. If you look to the left of the Carhouse (by the left-hand side red margin, once you click (close) ), just up from where Sunnyside St. meets the Queensway, you will see a long row of parked cars. Squeezed in that small strip between Sunnyside Street and the Roncesvalles Carhouse, I saw these winsome wildflowers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chashmi bad dur

Sometimes a woman needs all the protection she can get, no matter where she is, including cyberspace.

"Chashmi bad dur" ..."May the evil eye be far"

Monday, April 13, 2009

spring is coming

As the snow begins its big melt, all sorts of garbage re-appears on the landscape. Walking over the overpass these last few days has revealed much garbage strewn all winter long onto the ground, as well as grocery bags snagged onto tree branches like cheap plastic decorations. A fuzzy toss cushion tossed out a car window lies on the other side of the guard rail. A dirty pair of acid green men's Stanley underwear is tangled up around a dried up tansy. I yank Musti's leash. An expensive skater boy's jacket lies in a muck coated snow pile. And, of course, oodles and oodles of cigarette packages, paper coffee cups, aluminum pop cans, chip bags, chocolate wrappers, blue hairspray bottles, clear mouthwash bottles and broken glass from beer bottles and liquour bottles lie everywhere you eye rests. And down by the road that leads to where I let the dogs free, an old rusty bed spring springs to view.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dead Sea Scrolls speak

In one of the classes I teach, we talk about museums and look critically at the practices and politics of collecting and displaying, from an historical look as well as contemporary practices. In fact, we look at how historical practices continue to inform contemporary practices, and left unresolved or silenced, continue the injustices of what was taken by who to validate their own views and who then is left disadvantaged once again. An upcoming exhibit in Canada, of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, is a pertinent example of the politics of culture. Cultural exhibitions are not innocent, but motivated. This planned exhibit raises many questions concerning what is being exhibited, who "owns" the artifacts, what stories get told (and which ones wiped out or mis-represented) and by whom and how does that then reproduce contemporary unequal power relations and for what effects? The Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered in 1947 by a Bedouin and were later stolen from Arab Jerusalem by the Israelis during the occupation of the West Bank during the 1967 war; these scrolls then became appropriated into Israeli holdings. Now they are coming to Canada to be exhibited as "ancient artifacts" of Israel--which of course didn't exist before 1948. The scrolls, however, are not decontextualized artifacts of the past but speak of the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the ongoing silencing of its history and claim to the land. The scrolls were stolen during the illegal occupation of Palestine, and both the scrolls theft and the occupation of Palestine are still ignored by the world. Palestinian representatives are asking Canada to recognize the illegality of Israel's appropriation of the scrolls, and to stop this showing of stolen artifacts.

"Beginning in June, the ROM will host a six-month exhibit of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, organized in co-operation with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

But top Palestinian officials this week declared the exhibit a violation of international law and called on Canada to cancel the show.

In letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and top executives at the ROM, senior Palestinian officials argue the scrolls – widely regarded as among the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – were acquired illegally by Israel when the Jewish state annexed East Jerusalem in 1967.

"The exhibition would entail exhibiting or displaying artifacts removed from the Palestinian territories," said Hamdan Taha, director-general of the archaeological department in the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

"I think it is important that Canadian institutions would be responsible and act in accordance with Canada's obligations."

The Palestinians say the planned ROM exhibit violates at least four international conventions or protocols on the treatment of cultural goods that were illegally obtained.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

mink morning

I saw the smallest mink today. At first I thought it was a rat running atop the receding ice sheets covering the creek. But the critter was too skinny and long, and besides, its tail was furry. This mink was deep chocolate brown like the one I saw early this winter at the waterfront, but much smaller. This one was cavorting, slipping in and out of the water quickly. It was running atop the snow and then without a pause would dive like a fish into the ice cold rushing waters, get swept along with the churning current, then hop out quick as a lick back onto the ice. The little mink looked like it was playing, enjoying its early morning swim in these freezing waters that are not only fast-moving but dangerous--but not, I guess, if you are a new-to-the-world mink. At times I lost sight of it as it swam under the ice ridges, only to see it surface down river. It was making a big loop, down the creek, then back up.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

car door mirrors

photo by Ayla Hibri.
I came across this interesting photoblog the other day called Chasing Lola. It belongs to Ayla Hibri, who takes photos of Lebanon and Berlin, Germany (I think). There are very few captions. The photos are of people, places, and everyday mundane life, but from her own particular vision. Her portraits are very compelling and she captures her subjects in a way that seems to let out a bit of who they really are. Among her many interesting photos, the one above, I couldn't quite figure out what this door was covered in. Was it stones? Turquoise stones? Some sort of mosaic? I called my husband to read the sign on the door. What does it say? I asked. He says it has something to do with a business that concerns itself with car door mirrors.

Is that was is covering this door? Broken car door mirrors?

Monday, April 6, 2009

...and its Treasure on the Garden throw

This is one of the pages in an old book that my husband once bought for .25c many years ago. The pages are not numbered.

It was a library discard from the Fort Frances Public Library. Stamped: DISCARD F.F.P.L.

This is the inside cover, with the library stamp at the top. The Fort Frances Library discarded a 1909 edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, illustrated by Willy Pogany (1882-1955). Pogany was an Hungarian American illustrator of fairy tales, children's books, ladies fashion, and magazine covers. Pogany also illustrated advertisements for consumer commodities like soap and rugs at the turn of the century when Orientalism was in high gear in the West.

Originally, this edition had 16 tipped-in illustrations, which means that the images were on separate sheets that were glued down onto the pages of the book. Three of the tipped-in illustrations are missing, having been stolen many years since from the pages of this library book by former borrowers ... you know who you are!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

newbie birds

When I am completely overwhelmed with work and have too many deadlines, tasks, jobs, commitments, errands, chores, emails, phonecalls, and engagements that must be attended to IMMEDIATELY, I write about birds. This beautiful mystery flew to the high bush cranberry in my yard the other day. Again, I was having lunch, gazing out my dining room window, when I saw this new stranger, oblivious to the snowstorm, sitting still as a zen master in the high bush cranberry. Although you can't see it, with my binoculars I saw that on the center of its back, by its shoulders, there were two beautiful caramel coloured swatches edged in black. The rest of the bird was light blue gray. My bird expert suggests that perhaps it was a fox sparrow, which is one of the largest sparrows. It returned yesterday with 2 of its own kind, to the same bush, but this time left in a hurry.

Earlier this winter, another mystery visitor flew to my yard. It flew to the Manitoba maple outside my 2nd floor office window. It too was a soft blue gray. It was a large bird, and it too sat still as a sentinel, surveying from up high. This bird, however, had a dark black mask across its eyes and a strong beak, hooked. This was the first time I have seen a Northern Shrike, or Lanius excubitor, which means, "Butcher watchman."

"Like all shrikes, the Northern Shrike is also known as the 'butcher bird' because of its unusual practice of impaling prey on thorns or barbed wire, much in the way butchers hang meat in their shops. Mice, small birds, and large insects form the bulk of the shrike's diet.
As is typical of birds that hunt animals for food, it has a strongly notched bill that is capable of tearing flesh."

No wonder my yard, so often full of bird song, was silent as a tomb as the watchman watched. Perhaps I may find tiny bird carcasses hanging from the raspberry thorns this spring.

This red bird greets all visitors to our house. It hangs in the porch window, by the front door. It is a Finnish punatulkku. About pyrrhula pyrrhula I don't know much, except that in elderly Finnish Canadian peoples' homes, somewhere, on a wall hanging or a plate or liina [linen], you will be sure to find a punatulkku.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

thinking of orange

We had a major snowstorm on April 1st, about 30 cm. The snow was very heavy and wet, bending all the coniferous trees' branches to the ground. This is a juniper whose branches usually jut up to the sky. Because everything was covered in a thick layer of snow, and because a large flock of pine siskins and a large flock of redpolls have been flitting about my yard but now all food became covered, I thought I must get these little birds some seeds. I walked out towards the bird feeder without digging out a path through the snow as I'm tired of shoveling for this winter we've had so much snow. So, I just trudged through it. My boots were filled with clots of snow, and my pink speckled socks were covered in balls of snow when I got back in. The socks went on the rad to dry.

A snowstorm in April is not unusual, as this photo from last year on April 11th shows, we had a heavy snowfall then, too. You can see the archway that holds one of my bird feeders in the background, behind the celtic cross that my sister, Della, bought for my garden one summer. No, I do not have someone buried in my yard, although there have been a number of bird burials.

After all this snow--and a flutter of large snowflakes just drifted down from the sky into my yard--I decided to think about orange. Here is the squash my son planted last summer that we ate in December. Eating orange is very healthy, they say.

Here is my sister-in-law Piper's painting of a red hibiscus flower, gleaming golden in bronze reflection of the early morning winter sun.

Here is a very partial selection of some of the bangles of the massive jewelery collection I have amassed, laid out on a mango orange chiffon-like shawl-like scarf.

And here is the out-of-focus orange face of Sydney, the lovebird, glowing in front of a painting of some Finnish women washing clothes at the river.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

an unexpected butterfly

Imagine my surprise when I was having my lunch the other day, sitting in the sun by the dining room window, when, biting into my sandwich, I thought I saw a butterfly flutter across my eyes! I thought I was seeing things. Is my imagination taking over? I left my guests wondering as I got up and began to search up and down and behind and around the room.

There she was! Climbing along the red threads of the doily I crocheted years ago. Butterflies flying around inside the house as the snow falls outside the window? This is not butterfly season, so where did this pale yellow Cabbage White come from? She should be found in the fantastic world of fields, meadows, and gardens. Spring and summer are her playground, not late winter.

I can only surmise that last fall a mother butterfly placed an egg under the leaf of a potted plant that I had in my garden. Then when I brought that plant inside for the winter, the egg became a caterpillar that spun its cocoon and then because of the short winter days, fell fast asleep. Like Snow White, she went into dormancy. Decided not to wake up til next year; til the sun shone on her face.

Maybe the cocoon was hiding under a leaf of cuetlaxachitl? The sun shining in my dining room window in late winter is deceptively hot even though it is freezing outdoors and the snow lies piled around. Perhaps the cocoon was warmed by the sun and fooled: time to wake up! Put on your pale yellow dress, your butterfly wings, and fly!