when the status quo frustrates.

Why I support black-focused schools

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

A few people have asked for my thoughts on the TDSB’s decision in favour of black-focused schools. Sonjaa and Troubleinchina both wrote good posts on the subject, and I recommend reading those too.

I’ll preface this by saying that this is a divisive issue in Toronto, particularly within the black community and the activist community. It’s also a rare example of my opinion reversing on a controversial issue within a very short period of time. In August 2007, I thought that black-focused schools were a terrible idea. Five months later, I support the plan, albeit critically. This about-face happened because of a) my experiences at OISE, b) my experiences in an actual Toronto high school, and c) heated debates with people that I respect.
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McCain surge devastates Britney/America

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Longtime PABers (well, longtime in el blogosphero) might remember the startling connections we discovered between the fates of Britney Spears and America itself. It was proven without a doubt that, like it or not, Britney Spears is the living embodiment of the United States.

I’ve stayed away from expounding on this theory because none of the recent developments Britney Spears’ life are funny, and because I’d hate to be mistaken for one of the jackals profiting off her evisceration.

But today I awoke to find these two pictures side by side @ Google News, and I couldn’t hide from the truth any longer:




Ignoring the unbelievably creepy site name of “Dog Flu Diet and Diseases” being placed under Britney Spears’ picture, the top two stories can really be condensed down to one:
McCain’s win in Florida
sent Britney to the hospital. And as unbelievable as this sounds, she was hospitalized earlier this month… on the exact same day evo-phobic Mike Huckabee won Iowa.

So here we sit, America, on the edge of psychological and emotional collapse. Why? Because what’s destroying Ms. Spears is destroying us. Our anti-intellectual, celebrity-porn-addicted, ignorant-by-choice [and overly-hyphenated] culture is imploding on itself. This site has been proclaiming the likelihood of a McCain victory in 2008 since the early days, and the condition of our national avatar should be cause for concern for anyone who still dismisses Republican chances. This is HAPPENING.

Like Britney, we need to accept some ugly truths about what we’ve become while simultaneously taking control of our lives from the greedy manipulators prodding us down the path of self-destruction for their own ends. Neither of these things will be easy. We’ve accepted our powerlessness, and change seems impossible. But I urge Britney, and thus all Americans, to resist the path of least resistance. Don’t take the bottle of McCain pills by the bed. Don’t let the Iraqarazzi win.

Don’t do gown without a fight.

Fun.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Had to do it.

Another day, another gaggle of people pretending our preznit isn’t Satan Incarnate

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

When it comes to Republican presidents, AP hacks sure know how to apply the spin:

A lame duck president called again for immigration reform, an end to lawmakers’ pet projects, control of Social Security spending and making tax cuts permanent. Democrats have rejected those Bush initiatives before.

Poor Bush! If only he wasn’t a lame duck and battling the dastardly Democratic Congress, we’d have licked this whole foreign invasion mess, cut pork, fixed Social Security, and saved you tax money. Oh, the injustice! The Democrats are always blocking his thousand points of light. In other news, Chris Matthews saved a baby from a burning building.

And while I understand Speaker Pelosi has to shake Bush’s hand, did she have to look so gleeful about it? The guy’s kind of a mass murderer. Of course, every other Democrat joined in giving him standing ovations, and that was equally as special. We might as well have just knitted him a nice sweater, or given him an apron that says “Will Cook for Iraqi Blood.”

At this rate, the Democrats will have the best of both worlds: being equally complicit in the raping and pillaging of the world while singularly receiving all the blame for everything that’s gone wrong.

McCain’s coming, people…

One step closer to a corporatist dystopian future

Monday, January 28th, 2008

…where you can get a high school diploma by working in McDonald’s

Do I need to point out everything that’s wrong with this? Corporate sponsorship of public education is a vicious cycle. First, the government cuts funding to schools. Next, a corporation approaches the desperately underfunded school to bail it out—Nike will build you a new basketball court, in exchange for some brand-name recognition. How could any inner city school refuse? Then, the government is free to shirk its responsibility for funding, because hey, someone’s already paying.

I doubt there will be much of an outcry as the education of the underclass is slowly handed over to corporations eager for a docile, under-educated workforce. In my province, this has been going on for awhile—Ontario high school students must complete 40 hours of community involvement to graduate. The lofty rationale behind the policy (“to encourage students to develop awareness and understanding of civic responsibility and of the role they can play and the contributions they can make in supporting and strengthening their communities”) sounds nice until you read the rest of it; students, most of whom already have part- or full-time jobs, can complete these hours “in a variety of settings, including businesses, not-for-profit organizations, public sector institutions (including hospitals), and informal settings.” While I’ve been in community activist groups that have taken on student volunteers, most kids end up doing free labour for businesses.

Welcome to the future: Liberal educations for the rich, indentured corporate servitude for everyone else.

Chris Jones lets Miss Manners know that if she needs an enforcer, he’s there.

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Chris Jones of Esquire.com says people are boorish, rude and confrontational, a problem he could help solve if only it were still OK to punch people.

This whole thing started — or maybe it ended — with these guys engaging in some ritualistic, Hare Krishna clapping shit…I asked them politely to stop. “Make us,” they said, and then they clapped louder, smiling their dirty-toothed smiles at us, twisting our nipples. One of them was named Jericho, I picked up. He was a skinny bearded guy who looked as though he’d wear Guatemalan mittens in winter. “Jerry,” I said when they finally took a break, “come on over here, have a chat.” He did, and shortly thereafter, he loosed a throat pony into my face. It was Jerry’s bad luck that I had resolved to start punching people again.

“Throat pony”? “Guatemalan mittens”?

I’d reached the end of the road after what seemed like a perpetual assault from life’s Jerichos — the sorts of assholes who not only act like assholes but celebrate their assholedom

You mean like guys who read esquire?

How’d we get here? Blogs are part of it, along with the incessant frothing of TV pundits and reality-show contestants, especially that lippy midget from The Amazing Race:

Oh yeah, I’m feeling the class oozing off this guy. If someone has to be in charge of deciding who gets a punchin’, I’d vote for Chris.

And the saddest part is, the Jerichos are right to feel bulletproof. Somewhere along the way, we’ve evolved into a culture without consequence, taught so much hokum about the bigger man walking away.

At this point, Chris’s laughable attempt to rationalize his desire to administer beat-downs becomes the second saddest thing I’ve blogged this week, behind the Michigan Tech student who’s pissed all those vaginae are torching his class rank. It was even better on the MSN feed, where all the obscenities were ***-ed out. Dude, if you want to be the guy who throws punches in bars, be that guy, but own it. Don’t tell me you’re stepping in to do karma’s job and expect leniency from the law – no one said being a superhero was easy.

I like karma as much as the next guy, but lately, watching my city behave more and more like an Internet comments thread in the midst of a flame war, I’ve grown tired of waiting for the planets to balance the ledger…[Long, tortured hockey metaphor about enforcers] Too bad life changes when we take off our skates — constrained by fear of cops, by fear of lawyers, by fear of the wife, all of our judges. Not anymore. I would submit, Your Honor, that if someone is doing something demonstrably asinine, and I ask them to stop it, please, and they say, “Make us,” they’ve entered a binding oral contract whereby I am permitted, even obligated, to try to make them.

The judge may agree, but assault is assault. Real men face the consequences of their actions, be it a black eye or a 30-day suspended jail sentence and six months probation.

Won’t somebody think of the phone companies?!

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Hooray! The extremely popular White House wielded its unstoppable positive momentum again this week:

A White House plan to broaden the National Security Agency’s wiretapping powers won a key procedural victory in the Senate on Thursday, as backers defeated a more restrictive plan by Senate Democrats that would have imposed more court oversight on government spying.

The vote moves the Bush administration a step closer toward the twin goals it has pursued for months: strengthening the N.S.A.’s ability to eavesdrop without court approval, while securing legal immunity for the phone companies that have helped the agency in its wiretapping operations.

[...]

After the more restrictive measure was defeated, Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, said, “It appears the Senate is buckling under pressure from the White House.”

Pressure? What pressure is the White House in position to exert? This is like Muhammad Ali being sucker-punched by an 8-year-old with a bone disease. Bush remains as unpopular as Nixon ever was; can you imagine the post-Watergate Nixon strong-arming Congress into violating the Constitution *again* after said Congress was elected on a mandate to stop precisely this sort of nonsense?

Ah, but it doesn’t take long to find more evidence of my new favorite theme, the two-sides-of-the-same-coin-ery going on between Republicans and Democrats. Because, really, as the lobbyist with a briefcase full of cash and blow would say, can’t we all just get along?

But Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) defended the immunity provision, which he supported after reviewing the documents requesting phone company participation. “The companies believed their cooperation was necessary, legal and would help stop future terrorist attacks,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “Whether you agree or not with the president’s legal rationale is a separate issue.”

Hey, that last part almost sounds like a criticism of the White House — Senator Rockefeller better watch out for the kid’s left hook!

Come on, Jay. No phone company could ever have honestly believed that warrant-less wiretapping was legal. Requests to expressly violate contract terms in ways even graduates of Regent University School of Law could see were unconstitutional wouldn’t have made it through their legal departments without being buried in red ink.

But I’m glad someone paid you to feel that way. Again.

The Rolling Exhibition

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

A guy with no legs travels the world and photographs people staring at him.

Really, go look.

Abstinence advocates are sooooo cute when they’re young.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

An Alaskan High School senior has it all figured out:

Abstinence is the only method that should be taught in schools. It is perfectly effective, protective and simple.

By teaching students anything but the most effective means of preventing pregnancy, we are doing them a disservice.

He’s really changed my views; before this, I had no idea that eraser-less pencils were considered easier to use. Also, did you know that other contraceptive feature failure rates? But not abstinence, it’s 100% effective due to the power of semantics! After all, the minute you start fornicating, you’re no longer abstinent, meaning any pregnancies are the result of your failure to use your newly chosen method of birth control properly, not your failure to refrain from knocking boots.

Actually, abstinence has a pretty high failure rate. In fact, even just promising to be chaste has a pretty high failure rate, with kids telling you less than a year later, nuh-uh, I never said nothing about refraining from sex.

Sam continues with his impeccable logic:

Furthermore, some antibiotics, such as doxycycline and tetracycline, can render the pill less effective or even invalid.

Though the two may seem unrelated, the doxycycline someone takes for acne can invalidate birth control.

In a science class, would a teacher assign a lab whose success was dependent on the color of pants each student was wearing? Of course not!

Right, drug interactions are just like wearing corduroy to science class. Just like wearing denim or leather pants should have no effect on how long it takes your pendulum to complete one full swing, two different chemicals in your bloodstream have nothing to do with each other. Looks like chemistry and biology are electives in Alaska.

Those two factors seem completely unrelated, but broad-spectrum antibiotics and the pill also seem unrelated. Should a teacher assign such a nonsensical lab? No.

In like manner, should a method of birth control as complex and as susceptible to arcane medication interactions as the pill is be taught? No.

Arcane? Drug interactions are arcane? Like latin or alchemy? That explains why I have to hire Sherpa guides for the arduous journey to see my pharmacist every month. He studies his cryptic craft in a remote monastery at the top of a dangerous mountain, and only those who prove themselves worthy are allowed a glimpse of his precious knowledge. And if you think I have it bad, you should talk to my dad – he’s medicated for high blood pressure and has mild diabetes; he has to fight over a dozen men trained in 4 different, obscure styles of Kung-Fu and solve an ancient riddle every time he needs his meds tweeked. If we had nationalized health care, he’d only have to fight 5 guys, but that’s just creeping socialism so forget I said anything.

In math classes, are students taught formulas that, if used correctly and consistently, will still fail at some point? Of course not. Students are taught formulas that work without fail.

Well sure, in high school you are only taught that math which leads to concrete answers that work without fail. Actually, not even, you’re just given problems that are carefully set up to avoid any pitfalls that may be contained in the equation. Even the quadratic equation can be a bitch to solve under the right circumstances. This idea of spoon-feeding high school students relevant but carefully screened information on subjects that get significantly less clear-cut out in the real world has no parallel to your sex education theory, so don’t worry about it.

Even if used perfectly, the pill can fail. If used perfectly, abstinence will never fail.

It is for that reason, not religious philosophy or ideals, that teaching abstinence-only in sex education classes has validity.

I’m not sure where this idea comes from that pills and condoms are bad because actual-use failure rates are higher than perfect-use failure rates, but abstinence gets a pass from this tut-tutting. Abstinence when used imperfectly (which, like all the other techniques, it will be) is worse than condoms or the pill even when they’re used imperfectly. To minimize risk should they not make it to the finish line, all teens should know where to get and how to use condoms. It is for that reason, not progressive philosophy or ideals, that teaching comprehensive sex education classes has validity.

Premise: There aren’t that many women in math and science. Conclusion: feminism has gone too far. Obviously.

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Jessica at Feministing finds another example of my favorite genre: Douchebag On Feminism. In this chapter in our infinite series, feminism has gone too far (dum dum dummmmmmm!)

I happen to speak fluent Douche, so let me translate for you. Blockquotes are Douchy McIssues, italics are translation, regular text is commentary.

So, in this wonderful age of liberty, women are free to do whatever they want, without social pressure to conform to certain roles, right?

I have no idea what I’m talking about, but that’s not going to stop me.

This is a common blowhard technique, used often by Intelligent Design proponents and discussed, I believe, by PZ Meyers, of starting off with a statement so mind-bogglingly incorrect that a reasonable individual doesn’t even know where to begin refuting it. Just unpacking the wrong to defuse it point by point is such a chore that you lose the listener and Mr McIssues wins the soundbite war.

So let’s be brief: Anyone who claims that there is no social pressure for women to conform to certain roles is talking out of his ass. Feel free to change the word “women” in that statement to any other group without affecting its validity.

In this day and age feminism has gone too far. I have several female friends whose greatest ambition is to be a wife and mother, but feel social and cultural pressure to go to college and get a prestigious job simply because it is expected.

I’m not above making up friends in order to project my issues onto them.

Douchy McIssues goes to Michigan Tech, which is a bit heavy on the math & science. Even their Arts & Humanities lists the physical sciences individually and lumps the not-physical sciences together under “social sciences.” Don’t even look at their Humanities page. Something tells me that women who really want their MRS but are being forced by their parents to get a degree are not flocking to this particular school.

Anyway, this is a fake dilemma. While your parents can force you to get that marketing degree, they can’t force a prestigious job to take you. We’d all like to have prestigious jobs and spend our Saturdays swimming in our money pools, most of us won’t be living that particular dream even if we try. If you don’t want a prestigious job, you will not be able to compete with those that do. So to Douchy’s poor, pitiable friends: don’t worry your pretty little heads off, just enjoy the four-to-five year meat market that is college, keep flirting with those engineers, and hope for the best.

Now, Michigan Tech’s female population is exceptional in many ways.

Please don’t take my balls from me; they’re all I have.

Some of his best friends are girls, I’m sure.

Thus, most of the generalities of this article do not apply in anywhere near as high a degree to the female population at Tech.

Really, you’re the exception, baby. Now, please, stop twisting my nads around each other like that. It hurts.

Like all this wishy-washy backtracking is going to help. He wasn’t getting laid before this article was published, and if he’s lucky, he will simply continue to not get laid afterwards. If he’s unlucky, gaggles of giggling female tech students will make jokes about how insecure he is about the size of his penis while he’s in earshot.

For an opening example, many would consider it sexist for me to say the aforementioned about math and science studies, yet it is true. You simply do not find as many women interested in studying theoretical physics as you do interested in studying, say, nursing.

For my next trick, I will display a staggering lack of cultural and historical awareness and reinforce all the arguments in favor of a liberal education.
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American consumers partially compensated by DeBeers, Africans still shafted.

Monday, January 21st, 2008

If you were a lawyer representing consumers in a class action lawsuit alleging that DeBeers has, for decades, kept the price of diamonds artificially high, how hard would it be to keep yourself from coming to court with no argument prepared except an index card that reads, “come on, people, fucking duh!”

Anyway, if you were that lawyer, you would have won for what it’s worth (and it’s not worth very much).

If you bought a piece of diamond jewelry — or jewelry with a diamond in it — between Jan. 1, 1994, and March 31, 2006, you may be eligible for a refund as part of a recent settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging that De Beers, the big South African diamond company, had cornered the market for diamonds for decades, keeping prices artificially high…

Theoretically, a $10,000 diamond ring is eligible for a $4,500 refund. But realistically, lots of competing claims will dilute that payout considerably. There’s no way of knowing yet how big a refund the $10,000 purchase could bring, says Tabacco…

If you paid less than $96 for jewelry with diamonds only, or $166 for a piece that includes stones other than diamonds, your refund wouldn’t reach the $10 minimum payout, so don’t bother.

While this is somewhat good news for consumers:

The settlement helps the whole industry, Bates says. “It shows that diamonds are no longer controlled by a cartel. It’s a sign of a more modern industry, that people can have greater confidence in the price.”

PAB would like to remind you that this settlement in no way addresses the fact that every time you buy a diamond, a child gets his or her legs blown off by a land mine.

An exaggeration, maybe, but still, just because consumers will be getting slightly less hosed at the jewelry counter is no reason to not do your research before you shop.

Let’s just save time: I’m Kyso Kisaen, my SSN is 123-45-678 and I bank at Sky, online banking password: snoodles.

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Everyone who is queasy about RealID will find this post to be helpful when explaining to people why:

The story of Fidencio Estrada, a drug runner who bribed Florida Customs agent Rafael Pacheco to (among other things) access multiple federal law enforcement databases on his behalf, suggests that when it comes to the government collecting data on innocent civilians for law enforcement purposes, privacy and security are essentially the same thing…

So the government wants to collect tons of detailed data on citizens in these large databases; meanwhile, the speed at which an attacker could siphon off that data is increasing, as is the frightening but real possibility that ever-larger swaths of that database can fit onto a single lost or purloined hard drive.

No less than two University-owned laptop computers with my social security number on their hard drives have been lost or stolen in the last year. I got a letter from a company I’d never done business with stating that my personal information may have been stolen by a rogue employee; turns out this was the company that handled debit and electronic check transactions for some store that I had done business with, although God alone knows which store.

Can’t wait for RealID. I’m beginning to grow accustomed to the low-level stress of knowing that pretty much anyone can find my information and fuck me over pretty much anytime and there’s little I can do about it, and I’ll need the sphincter-clenching awareness that identity thieves are about to be given convenient one-stop shopping to keep my anxiety levels at their usual high.