Thursday, November 25, 2010

There's a joke to be made about probes and *probes*, here...

Back during the summer, Toronto hosted the a G20 summit. Predictably, there was rioting and some over-zealous (to put it kindly) riot police decided to variously round-up protesters who, subsequently, they were unable to place at the scene of the property damage or else just physically clear protesters out of areas that, to the best of the public's knowledge, had been declared Protest Zones. (As it turns out, this had only been 'proposed', and no 'official' designation had been given.)

Which means that people sitting on the grass at the provincial legislature, who were under the impression that they were allowed to do so peaceably without threat of violence, suffered injuries as a result of stuff like this:

Hilariously/pathetically, the Special Investigations Unit just released a report that identifies not one culpable officer in this whole mess. I had expected, at the very least, at least a few "bad apple" scapegoats who could be offered up in lieu of having to admit that the problem was systemic - that the police were poorly trained/prepared, that their orders and actions were misguided on the whole, that they just plain did a bad job. (Because we'd never get that kind of admission.)

Instead, we got stuff like this, as described by the Toronto Star:
  • "Officers declined to be interviewed for the SIU investigations, as is their right. That left the SIU in several cases unable to determine a specific officer at fault."
  • "Because the officers all wore identical helmets and uniforms, it was impossible to identify which one is responsible for causing a fracture below Nobody’s right eye, said Scott. Two officers were identified as having something to do with the incident, but exercised their rights, declining an interview with the SIU."
  • "'I did not think that it would be likely that police officers would come forward and identify themselves as having contributed to my injury,' [Norm Morcos, who suffered a fractured hand] said."
(There are other gems not listed in his article, like the problem of identifying officers who illegally covered up their badge, as the one in the picture above did. He can't be reprimanded even for breaching uniform protocol because, of course, he can't be identified. And that's that.)

Now over on Facebook, someone defended the right of the police involved to remain silent, since "
Everyone is allowed to remain silent. Basic right of all people."

But this is fucked up.

First of all, if this were a criminal investigation, the cops who refused to be interviewed with respect to the allegedly criminal conduct of their co-workers could be charged with obstruction or accessory - because you don't have the right to remain silent when you have evidence of someone else's crime. If I had witnessed one of my friends bash in someone's head, I would be subpoenaed and compelled to testify - why should the police be held to a lower standard?

Second, this isn't a criminal investigation, anyway - it's a
job review. And its purpose is to discern whether the people who we entrust to with our physical security - and who are given tremendous power and privileges to do so - are doing their job or else behaving in ways that are antithetical to it. And they can't. Because the people accused of bashing a fallen protester in the face with a baton, of refusing to let a one-legged man retrieve his prosthesis and instead demanding that he hop, or of kicking a sitting man in the back of the head - or, for that matter, the people who watched it happen - don't have to talk if they don't want to. And the SIU has no other recourse - if they don't freely choose to speak, the case goes nowhere.

So this blows my mind: if these police officers (and it's obviously problematic to focus on a few particular officers when the whole culture of law enforcement should be implicated, but still...) can't assure us that they're fulfilling their responsibilities, much less assure us that they're not acting in a criminally irresponsible way when they've been accused of doing so, how is it that they're even allowed to keep their jobs?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I hate trying to sell stuff online

We're moving in early January, and are using it as an excuse to get rid of some stuff that Penelope has outgrown: to start with, a Fisher-Price barn-door that plays music, an uber-expensive bouncy seat that she never really liked, an outdoor slide and swing-set (the Swing-Along Castle), and - eventually, once we figure out how to replace a surprisingly vital coin-sized piece that fell off - her original stroller, which she outgrew much faster than we had thought she would. (At 22 months, Penelope is taller than many kids who are twice her age.)

This being a poor time of the year to do yard sales in Toronto, I've taken to trying to sell this stuff on the internet. The barn-door went quickly, but it's proven difficult to sell the other things. I thought that it had to do with the pricing - I started posting each item at half its original sticker price - but I'm starting to think that the problem might the people who I'm interacting with.

Near as a I can tell there are at least 5 distinctive types of Kijiji/Craigslist shoppers, and some categories overlap with others:

1) The no-reply
Of the last five people to contact me about the Swing-Along Castle, all of whom ask me where I live and when they can pick it up, (and, sometimes, whether it's even still available) only one has responded after I've politely shared the requested details. One person even emailed me the same inquiry twice, evidently failing to realize that s/he was contacting the same person regarding the same toy. And s/he still never actually followed up.

2) The geographically-illiterate
I would that think a) selecting my location as City of Toronto, and b) even providing my postal code (which produces an arrow on Google Maps that lands maybe a half-dozen houses down the street from my place) would be enough to allow people to figure out whether it's worth the trip to come here and get whatever it is that they're interested in. But no. People will ask me, for instance, whether I'm anywhere near Whitby. If, by "near", you mean within 50km and up to a one-hour drive during off-peak hours, then, yes, I'm "near" Whitby. But you probably should have been able to figure that out, right?

3) The illiterate-illiterate
To be fair, some of the emails read less like the writing of someone who's illiterate and more like someone who is texting. For example: "pls pm the best price you could offer, tkx". But seriously? Just on principle, now, I don't want to respond to you. And some people just violate the basic rules of internet netiquette and grammar: "I'M INTERESTED IN LEARNING FARM.
IS STILL AVAILABLE?" If I say 'yes', will you stop shouting?

4) The negotiator
It's not that I don't expect some negotiating. But I find myself annoyed by the way that people negotiate. One email was just a number: "50?" Like, not even a 'hi!' And the first example in the previous category fits here, too - the person can't even be bothered to make me an offer. (Granted, my reaction probably also has something to do with the fact that I'm selling my baby's toys. It's not that I want them to value my emotional attachments, but I don't want them to feel devalued, either.) But these are relatively minor complaints in comparison to...

5) The perpetual negotiating machine
When I first posted the bouncy seat, I listed it for $90 - half of its original $180 price. And I got a really quick bite, too. Someone offered $80, which was totally reasonable, and asked me to reply "asap" with my details. So I agreed, and I did just that. And then I got a response that amended the offer to $70. Arrrgh.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My favorite pop song lyric of the moment

From Ke$ha's current single, "We R Who We R":
"And no, you don’t wanna mess with us/
Got Jesus on my necklace"
Reasons why this is awesome:
1) Jesus = ass-kicking power
2) She rhymes "mess with us" with "neck-uh-luss"

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Canada: Our time to lead: 8 Discussions We Need To Have"

The Globe and Mail, which fancies itself Canada's answer to The New York Times, has been running weekly features (the "8 Discussions We Need To Have" that are referenced in the title of this post) of ostensible national importance over the past month.

Luckily(?), these discussions are providing me with some pretty fantastic teachable moments for my students, who are learning about ideas of privilege, oppression, power, and politics. This is because the way the Globe is marketing this series is surprisingly (even shockingly) problematic: racist, sexist, classist... really, I'm just waiting for the inevitable homophobic discussion question.

The topics have been showing up on billboards throughout the city, and I've been writing them down or photographing them as I see them. Of course, I'm lazy, so I don't necessarily have those pictures in front of me as I type this. So with the caveat that I might get a word or two wrong, here's what's been discussed thus far, as captured on the billboards:
  1. "Multicultural mosaic or mistake?"
  2. "Do women need to leave Canada to be successful?"
  3. "Boys aren't failing. They just need lower standards."
  4. "Should our military be helping the good guys or killing the bad ones?"
  5. "Your weekend or your career. Choose one."
So when I showed this to my students, I asked "who is the 'we' who need to be having these discussions?" And I told them that they couldn't resort to the knee-jerk "it's Old White Guys" answer, which, while correct, is lazy - with this short list, you can actually prove that it's old white guys through deductive reasoning alone.

One other thing to note, here, is that the 'discussions' are actually 'problems'. So part of the task of identifying who is having the discussion is in identifying who the discussion is about - who or what is the problem that needs to be remedied, presumably by someone else?
  1. 'Multicultural mosaic' is a reference to Canada's framing of its officially policy on multiculturalism and immigration. Clearly, the people being addressed here are the people who would consider themselves neither multicultural nor immigrants, people who also feel entitled to decide whether Canadian immigration policy has been mistaken ('mistake' reads pejoratively, to me, as if to say that either assimilation or rejection are implicitly the other options). Only white, native-born, and English-speaking Canadians fall outside the scope of this discussion, so they're presumably the ones having it.
  2. And...
  3. ...both concern gender, and are far more revealing when taken together. As one of my female students asked, 'Why am I supposed to leave but we can fix things for boys?' The short answer is because boys are entitled to success, and expected to succeed, and women aren't. The long answer, though, would also have to consider that boys aren't failing in the first place - that, despite the fact that Canadian girls have performed better in school for over 30 years, Canadian men aged 25-40 still make 10% more than women of the same age. But to answer the "who's 'we'?" question, it seems like it's not boys or women, though boys would seem to be less of a problem (because their problem can be fixed) than women.
  4. While not obviously speaking to the -isms in the way that the first three and the last of the five topics do, the military question is no less problematic. First problem: Who's good, who's bad, and who gets to decide? Dunno, though, presumably, it's up to the white guys who were having the previous three discussions. Second problem: Arguably, peacekeeping has never been only about 'helping the good guys', and in its current incarnation as "peace enforcement" is now admittedly even less so. So one of the two options we're given doesn't exist, and probably never has.
  5. Is it even necessary to point out how ridiculously classist the question is? Just how many people even have "careers" at this point, and how many people can actually choose to not work on the weekend?
So the identity of the 'we' who need to have these discussions is, at the very least, as follows: white, non-immigrant, male, adult, middle-to-upper class. Like I said, it's the Old White Guys, but this way you can actually prove it.

(Edit: The sixth discussion is phrased thusly on the billboard: "Money can buy anything. Unless you have a lump in your breast." So we're going the classism route, again.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A quick post-American-mid-term elections post

A voter in Virginia, quoted in the New Yorker:

"I'm a constitutional conservative and I do not ever approve of distribution of wealth, and I am not a socialist, this country is not socialist, we are founded on Judeo-Christian principles. I will riot in the street if I have to. I have never been so ashamed of the way Obama has diminished the Presidency. He calls certain people enemies. He doesn’t dress properly. He talks about certain networks. He is just what he is — a Chicago agitator."

1) "He doesn't dress properly."

He's too snazzy a dresser, I guess?

2) "I do not ever approve of [re?]distribution of wealth, [...] this country is not socialist, we are founded on Judeo-Christian principles."

What was it that Jesus said, again? "Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works"? That was him, right? Not someone else?