Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Washington Bullets in Iran please

For the very first time ever,
When they had a revolution in Nicaragua,
There was no interference from America
Human rights in America

Well the people fought the leader,
And up he flew...
With no Washington bullets what else could he do?
--The Clash, from Washington Bullets

As usual, historian Juan Cole has an excellent round-up of the latest news from Iran, taking care to attribute his sources, and contextualizing them with his knowledge of the underlying politics. In Cole's words:
Mousavi has thrown down a gauntlet before the Supreme Leader and a battle has been joined. By the rules of the Khomeinist regime, only one of them can now survive. And perhaps neither will.
It doesn't seem like that long ago that Bush's United States was perilously close to invading Iran. Thank goodness this never came to pass. Obama's low-key reaction thus far seems appropriate to me. Let the Iranians find their way on their own and avoid the impression of Washington Bullets dictating the outcome. Because then any reform movement that may come to light will have a chance at being taken as legitimate by the Iranian people and the world at large.

But before we get too excited, we must recall there is always also this possibility.

Meanwhile, we must sit and we wait; and view events from afar with a hopeful (if jaundiced) eye.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran's existentialist moment of truth?

Now comes the inevitable crackdown from the Iranian regime. Unconfirmed reports of beatings, teargas, killings, and a suicide bomber that blew himself up in an important Khomeini shrine.

But out of all the stuff I've seen from Iran in the past week, I liked this (allegedly from a few hours ago, as the crackdown was getting underway) the most.

This day has a real "moment of truth" feel to it. May Iran find its way to a peaceful outcome with a minimum of bloodshed.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"They are killing us all!"

There is an incredible and detailed first-hand account at Salon from a Tehran protester whose name was withheld for "reasons of personal safety". It details the swings between a festive mood and outright fear that Iranians are feeling from one moment to the next. The entire account is worth reading, but here are some tidbits that stood out for me: (all emphasis mine)
In the crowd there are families, young and old. One cannot help but notice the large presence of women of all ages. The typical daily life of the capital is out here together, the homes, sidewalks and boulevards abandoned for this shared space. There is word that the crowd is millions strong; we know that it stretches eastward to Imam Hussein Square.
All does not end well. Seeing the camera around my neck, several people rush up to me, frantically urging me to go take pictures, shouting, "They are killing us all!" Behind a wall, in an alleyway set off from the road, a confrontation is taking place between one spike of the crowd and basiji forces, holed up in a base. There is the unsettling pop-pop-pop of gunfire, and a plume of black smoke rises into the sky. A crowd is gathering in the alley and men rush forward to throw rocks while others tell them, "Stop, stop, that's what they want!"

To stop this now would take a tremendous display of violence and thus far, blessedly, that has not happened. And every day everyone says that in a few days the protests will be stopped, and what's the point of going out, but when the moment comes everyone is here.

In the late afternoon and lasting until around dinner time it is a place of peaceful civic celebration, a Disneyland of political action for the whole family to participate. At night, the mood shifts abruptly, and the capital becomes a battleground, a city in which fear stalks on motorbikes mounted in helmeted pairs.

Here in Canada meanwhile, the prospect of getting our apathetic asses to the polls for a summer vote is deemed so dreadful, our Opposition Leader has capitulated completely to a government he himself describes as incompetent. What a pushover. Frankly, I would have preferred this outcome.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iranians Maximizing Tweeter's Potential

I don't know if the revolution will be televised, but it sure as hell is being tweeted to the nth degree. It's pretty amazing to be able to read witness accounts unfolding in real time.

The below video is prefaced with the tweet: "Basijis breaking into homes in Tehran, terrorizing ppl, psychological warfare". I won't say who because other tweets beg us not to publish the names of Twitterers in Iran since government forces are using that to identify them.

Once again, a new communication technology takes centre stage to redefine our world.

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BREAKING: Iggy to Cross Floor, Join Conservatives

Background: Yesterday on CBC's The National, Michael Ignatieff was loathe to answer Peter Mansbridge's question on when the last time he and the Prime Minister met privately. Today, Paul Wells cautioned Iggy about Harper's legacy as a master manipulator in these settings. Oh, Iggy, no wonder you were so scared. If only you'd held off a little longer. Alas... ;-)

OTTAWA--In a surprise move that is rattling Parliament Hill to its core, Michael Ignatieff emerged from today's one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to announce that he is resigning immediately as Liberal leader to cross the floor and join the government benches as the Natural Resources minister, replacing MP Lisa Raitt.

It remains unclear where this leaves the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, as well as Her Majesty's loyal Opposition in the House of Commons.

All of Ottawa appears to be in catatonic shock, save for the Prime Minister himself. Harper spoke briefly to the press in the Commons foyer with a mute and serene-looking Ignatieff standing at his side, occasionally picking lint off his Master's jacket.

"Mr. Ignatieff and I agree that the best way to avoid sending Canadians into a summertime election campaign that nobody in their right mind wants is for him to subserviently become my dog," Harper told a stunned throng of reporters, and Robert Fife.

"However, since that's not physically possible, he has agreed to this other arrangement, whereby he will be sworn in later this afternoon as the Minister of Natural Resources, as well as the Minister responsible for Destroying All Opposition to Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill. Isn't that right, Igster?" Harper said, shooting a sly smile at Mr. Ignatieff, his fist clenching slightly.

Ignatieff appeared ready to speak, but meekly nodded his head, smiled and looked down as Harper thanked the press and led him away toward Rideau Hall, where the Governor-General was presumably making preparations for the swearing-in ceremony.

More to come as this shocking story develops.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Finalement, c'est "Anglo à GoGo" pour la Fête nationale - Bon décision, SSJB

That didn't take too long. From the CBC:
Two anglophone bands from Montreal that were cut from a concert on the eve of St-Jean-Baptiste Day after a flap over language issues are back on the roster, the show's organizer said Monday afternoon.

"The Fête nationale is for all Quebecers, regardless of their language or political affiliation," Chantale Trottier, the organizer's president, said in a release.

Last week, Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill were in the lineup for the L'Autre St. Jean concert in the borough of Rosemont but were soon after uninvited.
There is a communiqué up explaining the move on the l'Autre St-Jean site (in French). Bravo to all parties: Bloodshot Bill and Lake of Stew for showing class in the face of the original snub. And hats off to La Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal (or SSJB, who'd previously been behind the decision to uninvite the anglo bands), for coming to their senses.

Now let's just sit and marvel at how far we've come to see this day where anglophone Québecois bands are looking forward to celebrating our Fête nationale and immersing themselves in French Canadian culture. That's the spirit. When you think about it, there is so much we share; and we are lucky to live in a place where, more often than not anyway, cooler heads can prevail. Moi, je suis ben fier de mes voisins au jourd'hui.

I'll leave you with this really cool video of Malajube's (they're the headliner for the show in question), courtesy of Youtube:

Bon nuit.

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How to Look Like a Closed-minded and Xenophobic Society

La Fête Nationale is a civic holiday in Québec. Being a Quebecker (or Québecois si vous préferez) of anglo heritage, it’s my party too and I think uninviting two Québec artists because they sing in English is really small-minded:
La Fête nationale doit être célébrée en français, affirme l'Association culturelle Louis-Hébert, commanditaire du spectacle L'Autre St-Jean, qui confirme avoir exigé le retrait de deux formations musicales parce qu'elles chantent en anglais. Cette décision a été vertement critiquée par des artistes et des membres de la communauté anglophone, mais plusieurs organisations souverainistes l'ont appuyée.

«Ce que nous voulons, ce sont des groupes qui chantent en français le jour de la Fête nationale», a affirmé Mathieu Bouthillier, vice-président de l'Association culturelle Louis-Hébert.
The CTV report sums it up in English like this:
A group of Anglophone musicians has been banned from playing at a St. Jean Baptiste celebration.

The band, called Lake of Stew, is made up of three brothers from the Mile End. They play folksy, bluegrass music - and they sing exclusively in English.

A few weeks ago, they were invited to perform at the first edition of a St. Jean Baptiste celebration called "L'Autre St-Jean".
(Absent from that CTV report was any mention of the other anglo act getting the ax; namely, Bloodshot Bill.) My tax dollars know no language; however they help to sponsor many events meant to bring us all together in a celebration of the richness of our culture.

And today's Quebec is overwhelmingly mature in its openness to different cultures, particularly here in Montreal. So I find it rather strange, this worry that the sounds of English lyrics during la Fête nationale might spark protests. As for the event organizers, it speaks volumes that they lack confidence in their supposedly proud and self-assured fellow Québecois' ability to deal with a little English mixed in with the festivities. In fact, it smacks of intolerance of the reality of the very existence of one culture in particular: anglo Quebeckers. Would these acts have been uninvited if they were made up of francophones (bons gars) who happened to sing all Elvis and Beatles covers?

Besides, does anyone doubt that music forms from many anglo cultures – like American Bluegrass for example – were important influences to francophone Québec acts like les Cowboys Fringants? I know a lot of francophone musicians who write exclusively English lyrics just for reasons of personal preference or aesthetics. There is no need to politicize the language of lyrical content. This bone-headed move is simply a matter of intolerance trumping inclusiveness.

By the way: If you can read French, you'll notice a good majority of commenters on the La Presse story are equally appalled. That's heartening and not at all surprising. The great majority of Québecois are open-minded and generous people, which is why I am proud to call myself one, despite the few yahoos that always manage to make dubious news for the rest of Canadians to muse over.

Tip of the hat to Fagstein; he has lots more on this, including links to the petitions.

Meanwhile: courtesy of youtube, here's a sweet little taste of the hazardously English-singing Lake of Stew:

And the equally dangerously English psychobilly of Bloodshot Bill:

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