Saturday, June 20, 2009

Twitter #IranElections

(a screen shot from #IranElections taken 5 minutes ago)

A good friend of mine convinced me to join Twitter this week. At first I wasn't exactly sure what the whole point was to my joining and I must admit that to a certain degree I'm still no sure how it works.

But this morning, there is a protest in Tehran and I wanted to know what was happening at the same time it was happening. So I decided to go see on Twitter. Ends up there is a channel called #IranElections and updates on the Green Revolution are coming in at the speed of light. Hundreds of people from government "spies" to people AT the protests are uploading their comments as it unfolds.

This week it is reported that at peek times the channel had over 200,000 Tweets per hour. What we are seeing here people is something absolutely amazing. Not just in terms of Freedom of Speech and the courage to protest, but in terms of ways to use technology to rally together behind a cause.

So go to Twitter, type #IranElections in the search bar and show your support by posting your comment.

Muchacho Enfermo

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

I miss my pen and paper

When I was a kid I used to sit outside with a pad a paper. I used to make these wonderful drawings and write all sorts of stuff, my thoughts about life, about death, about love, about pain, about the world... The list goes on and on and on.

I used to write about everything, much like I wish I could do now.
I was thinking about why I can't do that anymore, write little thoughts or crappy little poems. I can only think of a few reasons...

First and foremost: the internet. That's right, I am blaming the internet for my loss of innocence and my shortcomings as a writer. When I really discovered the internet, it opened my eyes to the world; this mystical place that up until then had only existed in books and in my imagination. It made me see that the world is a huge and beautiful and terrifying and cruel and tragic place. Which leads me to the second reason.

That's the moment I lost my innocence. I'm not going to pretend I've lead a sheltered life in any sort of way. Like everyone else, I've seen things that most human beings should never see (that's what makes us human). But the internet made me realize that my little problems (the loss of a friend, love lost, frustration at the little things) didn't matter as such. These problems were minuscule and the world was gigantic.

So from that day forth:
I dropped my pen and paper on my desk and traded them for a keyboard and a screen.
I stopped writing prose about undying love and started typing about dying people.
I stopped write verses about women and started typing about Women's Rights.
I stopped writing about the meaning of life and starting typing about what it means to live.
I stopped writing about being punished in school for not speaking enough and started typing about being imprisoned for speaking too much.

In short, once my eyes opened there was no turning back, no pretending the world wasn't there, no more thinking that the world revolved around me, no more localized anger. No, that would be too easy... Now my world has no limits and my frustration is global; I am still writing but it no longer rhymes; it's not pretty and it's far from perfect but it's what I do.

But I must admit that sometimes, on a rainy Thursday when I'm lacking sleep I really miss the simplicity of a pen and paper.

Muchacho Enfermo

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Forgot to put a title

I was reading today on the Globe and Mail about a Conservative bill to broaden the powers of the police when it comes to tracking people through the internet. All this would be done without following currently established procedure. Meaning: it could be done without a warrant and without the knowledge of the courts that were designed to make sure our rights are respected and that criminals pay the price.

The main points (accord to the G&M) are:
-force Internet service providers to freeze data on their hard drives to prevent subscribers under investigation from deleting potentially important evidence.
-require Telecom companies to invest in technology that allows for the interception of Internet communications.
-allow police to remotely activate tracking devices already embedded in cellphones and certain cars, to help with investigations.
-allow police to obtain data about where Internet communications are coming from and going to.
-make it a crime to arrange with a second person over the Internet the sexual exploitation of a child.

I don't have anything to hide, but I just don't like the idea that the police can decide one day to be interested in me, without justification and start tracking my online activities and my whereabouts through my cell phone, FOR NO REASON.

Normally if the police want to do these things, they need to present their case to a judge, who then allow them to do it because he feels it is justified or deny the permission if he/she finds it baseless or finds that there is lack of evidence.

If this bill goes through? Not anymore... The cop from the Tim Horton's on the corner can call in and access my emails and track my phone because he/she decided to do it?

I understand that this bill is aimed at catching criminals and child pornographers, but we have to make sure that the rights and freedoms of the regular folks are protected as well. We have to make sure that no lines will be crossed by law enforcement and to be honest with you, I don't trust any of those guys.

Muchacho Enfermo

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran.. crazy times..

I promised a friend that I would write about Iran today more specifically about the recent elections and now the “recount” of the “votes”. So here it goes:

I am impressed with the Iranians determination willingness to fight for free elections and for a democracy that works. Seeing these people, young and old, in the streets being chased around by riot police and soldiers because they refuse to accept what the supreme leader (the Ayatollah) has told them is a true and fair election result. It takes a lot of balls to do what these people are doing out in the open: protesting an oppressive and restrictive government that has lied to them since it ousted the Shah all those years ago, knowing full well the consequences of their actions could lead to devastating consequences for their families and for themselves.

And all this, for an election that on the grand scale of the world really makes no difference (from what I understand about the Iranian political structure) because no matter who is elected, the final word on ANYTHING in Iran belongs to the Ayatollah who is not elected by the people but chosen by the church.

So why do these people fight a useless fight that they know they can’t win? Because they have to, no one else will do it for them. Resistance is the key to existence in places like this. Iran has decided to express itself, Iran has decided to resist and Iran has chosen a very public forum in which to express its views: the streets, in front of television cameras.

The Iranian blogosphere is on fire with people that are supporting the rioters and those who are against them, those loyal to the president elect and those who’d like to see him removed but more importantly: Iranians are expressing online the feelings that on the street would earn them a beating and possibly an arrest; they are bringing these feelings to the entire world that simply has to point, click and open their eyes to see that this beautiful and diverse culture seems to be on the brink of yet another social shift in its long and tumultuous history.

So to the people of Iran who refused to be blind, to the people of Iran standing on the streets demanding justice, to the bloggers of Iran who are courageously posting their views online, to the Iranians around the world who are demanding justice: thank you for being an inspiration to the rest of us.

(Note: it is impossible for me to write about Iran again without mentioning that as far as I know the Blogfather, the Canadian-Iranian blogger, is still being held in jail by the Revolutionary Court of the Islamic Republic of Iran on charges of being a spy for Israel. Please click HERE to show your support)

Muchacho Enfermo

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Sarah Palin thanks the Army for Letterman's Apology

Once upon a time, comedian and late night talkshow host David Letterman made a joke about a politician's daughter. He said that Sarah Palin's (ex-vice-presidential candidate) daughter had been "knocked up" by pro baseball player Alex Rodriguez. It was not a good joke, but it wasn't the horrible joke that everyone made it out to be.

I mean, the joke was clearly about Palin's 18 year old daughter (who actually IS pregnant), but Palin and her husband immediately assumed he meant their 14 year old daughter. Everyone knows that making jokes about statutory rape of a teenager is not something that you do. I'm sure that Letterman, with his years of experience, knew this as well.

So he decided to apologize but still maintains the joke was about Palin's older daughter, the one who is actually pregnant.

Palin accepted the apology: “on behalf of all young women, like my daughters, who hope men who ‘joke' about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve.” Entirely missing the point of Letterman's apology, but so far so good right?.

She then went on to say: “This is all thanks to our U.S. military men and women putting their lives on the line for us to secure American's right to free speech. In this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect.”

Now I hate to say this, but isn't that just the dumbest thing you're ever heard? How can the men and women of the US military be responsible for David Letterman's apology? Seriously.

Even during the whole US election thing, I stayed quiet about Palin: I didn't poke fun and I didn't laugh and quote the things she said. Because, even if I don't agree with her politics, it was nice to see a woman run for vice-president. But now? If she's going to go on camera and say things like that? I have to say something.

I think that the US military is doing a good job and the young men and women fighting overseas and risking their lives deserve the thanks of the US population. I don't think, however, that they are directly responsible for David Letterman's apology or for maintaining free speech in the current US, the constitution does that on its own.

Again Ms Palin, thanks for all the laughs... I'm sure that behind closed doors you're a very shrewd politician, but I really wish that you'd find a way to get something right when you're in front of a camera.

(Source for quotes: G&M)

Muchacho Enfermo

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

English Perfrormers Back on the Bill

A press release was sent out late yesterday confirming that "L'Autre St-Jean" had put anglophone performers Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew back in the lineup for the June 23rd concert on the Plateau Mont-Royal.

The press release did not really explain what had happened in the first place. The name of the sponsor that had threatened to pull out was Association Culturel Louis Hebert, which is affiliated with the separatist Societe Saint Jean Baptiste which has been an the center of the language issue in Montreal for some time.

I am not surprised that event organizers and sponsors had canceled the English acts and removed them from the program in the first place. I am surprised however that all the local media, French and English alike, stood together on this issue and defended the performers' right to perform.

This is one of those rare moments in Québec where common sense has actually prevailed over nationalistic rhetoric.

Muchacho Enfermo

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Monday, June 15, 2009

HIV positive Women Are Being "Sterilized"

There is lawsuit launched against the government of Namibia by 20 women accusing the government of having them "sterilized" without their consent. It appears that women who were HIV positive and went to the hospital to deliver their babies by cesarean section were also rendered infertile by a procedure known as BTL (Bilateral Tubal Litigation).

The government claims these women signed consent forms. Many of the women, most of illiterate, say they were never explained what they were signing and that they were drugged at the time, half naked on the bed, about to deliver a baby.

Regardless of people's opinion in regards to women with HIV choosing to get pregnant and have children, one can't deny that what was done to these women was a violation of their rights and total offense to their dignity as human beings .

In the Globe and Mail, Aziza Ahmed a legal expert is quoted as havnig said:
“A lot of this stems from really strange and rudimentary fears about HIV-positive women, I think people want HIV-positive women to be punished in a way. There's that attitude that blames women for the spread of the virus.”

Another woman, one of the "sterilized" ones, explains how her "consent" was obtained:
“I said, ‘What am I signing for?'“ she recalls. “They just said, ‘Just sign this and get on the bed. Shut up and sign.' So I signed.”

In a place like Namibia women who are infertile are often seen as witches who eat their children and are shunned. Women who are rendered infertile by their doctors are usually abandoned by their husbands and left to take care of their family on their own. HIV positive women are now afraid to seek medical treatment for their illness or seek medical help in delivering babies because they are afraid that they will also be "sterilized".

This practice must stop. You can't perform surgery on someone, unless it is to save their lives, without their consent. Whether you are in Africa or in Canada, it should make no difference. These women have been butchered and are now completely set apart from their communities because of their inability to have children.

Are programs like these (the ones that violate human rights) where our Africa Aid money goes to? If so, I say we ask for audit reports and follow ups, because I do not want a single dollar of my taxes going to help those who violate the body, the soul, the existence and the rights of the poorest of the poor, the HIV positive women of Africa.

Mucahcho Enfermo

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English Performers are Not Welcome

Image: One man band Bloodshot Bill

Whenever St-Jean Baptiste (Québec's "National" Holiday) holiday rolls around on June 24th, the language tensions in this province seem to increase by a factor of 10. But still, most of us go out and celebrate the holiday nonetheless because it is after all, a paid day off and an excuse to party with friends.

This year I was at least little excited that there was an alternative to Montreal's big party at Parc Maisonneuve (a party and free concert that features exclusively French and separatist groups where hundreds of thousands show up and chant nationalist slogans), the alternative was called "L'autre St-Jean" or "The Other St-Jean" and is being held the night before on June 23rd.

L'autre St-Jean billed itself as an alternative to the June 24th concert that draws on artists from all over Québec and political support for its production. It was a huge concert organized by a local production company featuring only local artists French and English alike, to better represent Montreal's cultural diversity which the other concert tends not only to ignore but to frown upon.

Now the only two English artists slated to perform at this concert have been banned from making an appearance because they are English performers. This happened after one the sponsor of the concert threatened to withdraw its funding if English performers actually got on stage and sang in English.

Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew were advised Thursday by email that they would no longer be allowed to perform.

Bloodshot Bill is quoted in the Gazette as havings said:
“I was going to go up there with Lake of Stew and we were going to play some songs in French.”
“The reason they set up this event was for it to be different, so why are people freaking out because it’s different.”

His calls and email to event organizers were ignored.

In a city that has the largest International Jazz Festival, in a city where there are over 100 languages spoken daily, there is still enough xenophobia to bar English performers from celebrating the place they grew up in. I for one, this year, will be closing all my windows and shutting the blinds of my house and not come out until the celebrations of intolerance are over.

Muchacho Enfemro

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Visions of the Future or Ghosts of the Past?

The European Union held their elections this week, it didn't get very much press here, but it happened. In these times of global economic downturn, elections are always a good way to see exactly how the people feel about what's going on and who they think is to blame.

If the results from Europe are any indication as to how some of the world's citizens are thinking: troubling times are coming and it'll have nothing to do with money. Well not directly anyways.

93 of Europes 736, or almost 13%, who were elected are considered "others" meaning they are not attached to any of Europe's mainstream political party. Now if you were in Canada you'd think that "others" just meant Elizabeth May would get to save a few more trees, but apparently in Europe the "others" aren't just bus taking tree huggers; take a look at this:

-In England the British National Party who is known for it's racist views regarding anyone who isn't white, protestant or British got 8.38% of the vote.
-In the Netherlands the PW garnered 17% of the vote making the second most popular party, their platform: the Koran should be banned, immigration ended and Muslim believers treated as neo-Nazis.
-In Hungary 14.77% of the vote went to Jobbik, the anti-Semitic neo-Nazi party.
-In France 6.3% went to Frances equally racist Front National.
-Not to mention the fascist parties in Britain, Austria and Italy (whose exact numbers I did not find).

(And each of these parties receives around 4million Euros per year for each representative that is elected.)

Is this what the world has come to? Have we reverted back to post-1929 Europe where in Germany all of the world's problems were blamed on one race (the Jews)? Economic fear tends to bring out the worst in people, it tends to make people do extreme things, but I no matter how scared I get about money I would never vote for neo-Nazis who blame everything on the Muslims, the Jews and the gays.

I just find this vote to be very disturbing and if these elections are any indicator of things to come in Europe's national elections we might be in for some trouble by the look of things. I've always said that the beauty of democracy was that it gave everyone a voice but then you see people like this, who use their voices to spew messages of hate, who waste their precious freedom of speech to spread intolerance and fear. It's just mind-boggling.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that these feelings of disenfranchisement do not cross the Atlantic into North-America. And I hope that the people Europe remember the skeletons of thier past so that it can avoid making grave mistakes in the future.

Muchaho Enfermo

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