Posts from our progressive community

The Fallacy Of Playing For All The Marbles

Northern Reflections - Sun, 02/19/2017 - 03:04


Donald Trump's sales pitch was that, as a businessman, he knew how to get things done. His first thirty days in the White House suggest that he doesn't know how to get anything done. But Joe Stiglitz suggests that, when it comes to economic relations between nations, Trump threatens to get a lot of things undone.

While there is some debate about the extent to which Trump is a “successful businessman,” there is no successful country that is grounded on the principles—or the lack of principles—upon which he has grown his businesses. Economists believe that a successful economy is based on trust, backed up by the rule of law. His standard business practice has been to stiff his suppliers, knowing that recourse to courts is expensive. Of course, over the long term, honest suppliers know this, and refuse to deal. Less scrupulous vendors overcharge and cheat, taking advantage too of the imperfections in our judicial system. But there is no successful economy based on the Trump model.
 Trump's inability to tell the truth is particularly problematic:

Trump cannot even be trusted to base statements on reality. He seeks to build himself up by belittling his predecessor. Trump is wrong in his characterization of where the U.S. economy is today. The country as a whole has never had a higher G.D.P. The crime rate and the unemployment rate are markedly lower than they were eight years ago. Yes, America faces a variety of problems—it always has, and what nation doesn’t? Ordinary citizens have not been well served by globalization. The problem, though, is not with globalization itself but with how we have managed it.

So far, globalization has been very unfair. But playing for all the marbles will not improve it. And playing for all the marbles is the only thing that Trump knows how to do.

Image: You Tube

It's the Pot Calling the Kettle the Pot

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 16:32


One characteristic of Donald Trump that repeatedly calls his mental health into question is his chronic lying. He seems utterly incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy.

Trump's greatest lie is to accuse the media of "fake news." The liar doesn't like what the media honestly reports about him and so he accuses them of fakery, dishonesty, except, of course, for Fox and Friends and they're just the best.

Unfortunately this derangement is worsening. Now the Great Orange Bloat has taken to smearing America's media as the "enemy of the American people." He did this at an hour and seventeen minute press conference that can only be described as "lie studded."

So now America's Liar-in-Chief lies about others lying - about him, of course.

So freely and compulsively does president Trump lie that Arizona senator, John McCain, has dropped the gloves. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told NATO representatives to the Munich security conference on Friday that Trump has a "growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies."

Now McCain has responded to Trump's denunciation of America's media as "the enemy of the American people."

Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”

“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I'm not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”


Um, no senator, I think that's exactly what you're saying. And you're right.



Sure, Putin Is a Thug, But, Herr Trump, He's Barking Mad.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 11:17

The Washington Post reports that Germans have got Donald Trump pretty well sorted out.

It’s official: Germans are more worried about President Trump than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That, at least, is the result of a poll published Friday by FG Wahlen for public broadcaster ZDF, in which a whopping 78 percent of Germans asked said they were “very concerned” about Donald Trump's policies, up from 62 percent in January. Meanwhile, 58 percent said they were worried about the politics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while 40 percent said they weren't.

“It sounds tough, but after this memorable press conference one hopes that there's a good medical department in the White House to check whether everything really is all right with this man,” wrote Veit Medick, a Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel.

Our Bad. Sorry, He's Nuts.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 11:07

That pretty much sums up Arizona senator John McCain's warning/apology to NATO representatives at the Munich security conference. America's president, Donald J. Trump, can't be taken at his word because he's unable to "separate truth from lies."

“I think that the Flynn issue obviously is something that shows that in many respects this administration is in disarray and they’ve got a lot of work to do,” said McCain, a known Trump critic, even as he praised Trump’s defence secretary. “The president, I think, makes statements [and] on other occasions contradicts himself. So we’ve learned to watch what the president does as opposed to what he says,” he said.

Without mentioning the president’s name, McCain lamented a shift in the US and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Nato alliance seven decades ago. McCain also said the alliance’s founders would be “alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.”
Thanks for the heads up, John, although I'm not sure anyone still needs it.

Wrap Your Mind Around This - Ten Trillion Gallons of Water

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 10:16


That's how much rain is expected to fall in California in the coming week - ten trillion gallons of water.

Yeah, that California, the state that's endured years of severe drought along with brush and forest fires until la nina showed up with atmospheric rivers to essentially drown the place.

Years ago I read of a nomadic pastoralist (herder) in sub Saharan Africa. He lost half his herd one year to flash floods only to lose the remaining half the next year to severe drought. He gathered up his family and their possessions and made off for the nearest city to look for ways to survive.

Now California is the poster child for climate change and global weirding.

It is feared that areas that have been previously hit by forest fires could be more susceptible to mud slides as there is less vegetation to break the flow of running water.

Terry Anzur of KFI News told the BBC the dry, scorched ground that had been "saturated" with the heavy downpour was turning streets in to "rivers of mud".

After five years of drought, a series of storms have filled state reservoirs.

In a season of heavy storms, the latest is expected to be the heaviest by far.

Talk Is Cheap

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 08:54

At least we know that he knows. Justin Trudeau has said it - corporate elites and their political handmaidens (a.k.a. his own government) are the rot sweeping through world politics. Well Justin - duh.

Justin Trudeau is blaming corporate and government leaders for the spike in global anger rocking world politics, warning that low wages and the shift to precarious part-time work is at the heart of why citizens are opposing traditional powers.

Speaking at the St. Matthew’s Day banquet – an elite, black-tie event in Hamburg with a tradition that dates back centuries – the Prime Minister said companies contribute to public anger when they post record profits on the backs of workers who are underpaid and overworked.

“It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes, and to give your workers the benefits – and peace of mind – that come with stable, full-time contracts."

“Increasing inequality has made citizens distrust their governments. Distrust their employers,” Mr. Trudeau said Friday evening at the banquet. “And we’re watching that anxiety transform into anger on an almost daily basis. It follows that people’s natural defence mechanism in times of stress and anxiety is to hunker down and recoil inward. To give into cynicism. To retreat from one another. But it’s time for us, as leaders in politics and business, to step up.”

Well, Justin, it's called neoliberalism and you, like every other political leader in our land and most others, are in it up to your gills. Talk is cheap so what are you going to do about it? A lot of the powers governments have to respond to this sort of discontent have been surrendered to globalism, free trade pacts. You and your predecessors did that without so much as a "by your leave." Maybe you want to ditch those trade deals or at least rescind those crippling investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions whereby corporate profits always trump public policy.
While you're at it, we need democratic reform - the sort of things that would make Parliament responsible to the Canadian people, not corporations. We've seen what neoliberalism does. It's a contagion and it rots democratic societies.



Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 08:54
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jordy Cummings exposes the shady side of Justin Trudeau's shin persona. Dimitri Lascaris interviews Nora Loreto about Canada's relationship with the U.S. And Michal Rozworski challenges Trudeau's decision to serve as a prop for Donald Trump rather than defending Canadian values:
The point to remember is that there would be intense pressure from within the US business world to prevent a trade war in the first place. Given today’s highly integrated supply chains, even a proportionately small volume of trade can still be crucial. It matters less that trade with Canada accounts for just 5% of GDP if some of that 5% is specialized parts and inputs that can cripple production. And it’s not that easy to replace Canadian-made goods in this case: doing so would require long-term investments with considerable fixed costs in plant and equipment. It could be done, but it won’t be the result of one critical statement.

Nevertheless, Trudeau acts as if that’s a real risk. Even if there might be no personal love lost between our cosmopolitan neoliberal leader and his nativist protectionist counterpart, officially this week it was all smiles and handshakes. Trudeau ducked questions from reporters at his joint press conference, stating, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they chose to govern themselves.” This condescension misses the fact that a majority thinks that even worsening trade relationships would be a price worth paying for standing up to Trump—nevermind that fears of a worsening are overblown. Past prime ministers have been willing to stand up to US presidents over smaller things despite the trading relationship.

Trudeau has to be aware of Canada’s unequal standing in its relationship with the US but he doesn’t have to cower in the corner waiting for a strike from the bully that may never come. Being in less powerful in a trading relationship doesn’t equate to moral paralysis in other spheres. Economic disruption cannot be a cover for lack of spine. My hunch is that Trudeau knows this—that his failure to stand up to Trump is cowardice that has its source in political calculation not economic necessity.- Brent Patterson comments on the need for Canada to seriously evaluate the dangers of the CETA and other corporate control agreements. And Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair map out the road ahead as CETA undergoes scrutiny from the EU's member states.

- Alex Hemingway and Iglika Ivanova examine how the B.C. Libs have gone out of their way to impose a regressive tax system. And Marco Chown Oved reports on the Conference Board of Canada's study showing that Canada may be missing out on up to $50 billion every year in uncollected taxes.

- Meanwhile, the Economist notes that one of Trump's first major moves has been to facilitate bribery and corruption by allowing resource giants to conceal payments to foreign governments.

- Finally, Dan Durcan and Faiza Shaheen take a look at the realities of work in the U.K., where reasonable surface numbers of jobs are outweighed by the fact that the new work is generally low-quality and precarious.

On non-solutions

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 07:45
Tammy Robert thoroughly documents how Brad Wall's billion-dollar deficit has nothing to do with either resource revenues (being Wall's primary excuse for blowing up the budget), or public services (which are his first target for attacks):
I can’t consider the way the Saskatchewan government has handled the prospect of streamlining public service – or even this deficit – credible, because all they’ve demonstrated so far is that they’re primarily interested in brazenly protecting their political tails by dividing and confusing the narrative, instead of even pretending to consider well-planned or strategic spending decisions.

What I know for sure that the mess we’re in is not just about reduced resource and taxation revenue (the latter of which has been at a record high, thanks in part to both increased population numbers and a run of successful years in agriculture).

No, the financial dumpster fire we’re fighting has everything to do with the fact that this government has jacked up spending – even with the best of intentions – to unsustainable levels, and has simultaneously ran out of money trees, aka the GFSF and the Crown Corporations, to continue to fund their spending habits.Meanwhile, in case anybody was under the illusion that the Saskatchewan Party's current spin about a sudden budget crisis represents anything but an excuse to open up a new front in Wall's long-running war on public servants, here's his finance minister (emphasis added):
Doherty said the goal would be to hold compensation costs steady or reduce them if possible.

The austerity measures would be maintained over the long term, not just for the upcoming year, he said.If Wall wanted to deal with the full range of options to improve Saskatchewan's fiscal picture, provincial employees would be well down the list of logical places to look. (On that front, CBC's look at the revenue effect of tax changes shows that merely mirroring Manitoba's PST could pay for all of the province's public service salaries another time over.)

And if he was acting reasonably in response to budget problems which he thought were temporary, he'd be asking for "sacrifices" which fit that bill - rather than demanding permanent reductions in the standard of living experienced by the people who keep Saskatchewan running, while asking nothing of his corporate benefactors other than that they keep funneling copious amounts of money into his political machine.

Instead, Wall is making abundantly clear that he sees his own billion-dollar deficit as nothing more than one more excuse to keep slashing away at Saskatchewan's workers. And it's about time that both the blame and the responsibility for fixing Wall's mess were placed squarely on his shoulders.

The Nasty Party

Northern Reflections - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 07:00


The Conservatives' reaction to Resolution M - 103 reveals a lot about the Post Harper Party. Alan Freeman writes:

Some Conservative MPs have suggested that adoption of this non-binding motion will somehow constrain free speech by condemning hatred of Islam. Leadership candidates Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary have, as usual, been trolling well beneath contempt. “No religion should be singled out for special consideration,” said Leitch. “A slap in the face to other religions,” said O’Leary, ignoring the motion’s condemnation of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

Chris Alexander, the boy-wonder diplomat turned crass populist, told a rally organized by the hard-right online outlet The Rebel in Toronto this week that he had trouble supporting a motion that “doesn’t mention the number one threat in the world, which is Islamic jihadist terrorism.” So hatred of Islam presumably isn’t a problem that Canada needs to worry about, according to the former ambassador.

The truth is that there’s pressure on Conservative leadership candidates to keep the back door open to the Islamaphobe vote. How else can you explain Leitch’s posting of a photo of a (blue-eyed) young woman wearing spaghetti straps, her lips sealed with a tape marked M-103, the number of Khalid’s motion? In the background is a faint image of police officers on Parliament Hill — a not-so-subtle reference to the 2014 attack on the Commons.

Then there’s candidate Pierre Lemieux (whoever he is), who said that Islamophobia isn’t at the forefront of discussion and isn’t a problem in Canada. He clearly hasn’t been watching the news for the past month. Maxime Bernier says he’s worried the motion would restrict freedom to criticize Islam — and then somehow managed to link its passage to support for Sharia law.

Backbench Conservatives have been no better. MP Marilyn Gladu said she worries that she could be accused of Islamophobia if she voiced the concern that ISIS terrorists would want to rape and behead her. By even suggesting that equivalence, our enlightened MP demonstrates that she clearly has issues of her own.

Of the candidates for leadership, only the thoughtful and eminently reasonable Michael Chong has said he would support the motion. Others are openly hostile, or are trying to slither out of supporting it. Not an edifying sight.

It's pretty clear that the Conservative Party is now the Nasty Party.

Image: The Old Grey Mare


Now This Is How To Conduct A Protest

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 05:51
This past Thursday, #DayWithoutImmigrants, these protests took place. Their simple elegance reverberates and reverberates.


Recommend this Post

Is Donald Trump Suffering From Untreated Syphilis?

Montreal Simon - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 04:53


It should be obvious by now that there is something terribly wrong with Donald Trump.

This deranged tweet he fired off yesterday is only more evidence of that.



For in a normal world he would have been arrested for inciting violence against the media.

And then there was that bizarre press conference.
Read more »

random observations about egypt and egyptian life

we move to canada - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 20:18
I have so many of these saved up, I might as well make them a separate post.

-- All the men trying to “help” you at the sites, and most taxi drivers, and restaurant owners -- pretty much everyone -- asks where you are from. When we say Canada, they say “Canada dry”. Sometimes the next time they see you, they will say “Canada dry!” or they will call out to you “Canada dry! Canada dry!” to get your attention. On a busy day seeing temples and tombs, we might hear this five or six times a day. It is so bizarre!

-- All Egyptian men wear scarves. It’s like there’s some kind of law. Whether over a t-shirt or a galabeya, a scarf appears to be required. They wear them looped several times around with no tail. It is so rare to see an Egyptian man not wearing a scarf, that they look strange -- like tourists.

-- Egyptian men are... quite pleasant to look at. OK, I'll say it, they are hot. And charming. I have heard and read that Egypt is the street harassment capital of the world for women travelling without men, to such an extent that many Egyptians are embarrassed by this reputation. My age and my status as part of a couple shields me from this. So with that very large disclaimer, I will say that in my experience Egyptian men are good-looking, charming, and unfailingly polite.

-- Everyone takes care in their appearance. No one seems to go out in public in something you’d hang around the house in, whatever the Egyptian equivalent of sweatpants and an old t-shirt is.

-- Couples and families are out together all the time, but for single people, girls stay with girls and guys with guys. Men greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek, then the opposite cheek. This is not just a brief air-kiss, it’s very clearly a kiss, complete with kissing sound, on each cheek. In a culture where it is not yet acceptable for gay people to be out, this is interesting to me.

-- Many people here have very bad teeth; obviously there is a lack of access to dental care, and perhaps to education about dental health. But separate from that, many men have teeth stained brown from tea and smoking. Even my young friend Hamdi, who has a beautiful, full smile, has teeth that are mottled brown. (I look at teeth, and I always remember people’s teeth.)

-- When you buy a ticket to one of the ancient sites, if you look in the little ticket window, you will see a big pile of money, or someone rooting through a drawer with a big pile of money thrown into it. The man will rip off two tickets from a ticket book and give them to you, and throw your money in the pile or in the drawer. My library co-workers -- or anyone who is trained in cash-handling, would be amazed.

-- And in an all-cash business, with a giant pile of cash in front of them, most people do not want to make change. The ATMs only dispense large bills, but you need “small money” for many small purchases and for baksheesh (tips for services). If you stand your ground and insist you have no small money, they will eventually give you change.

-- One rule of travelling in Egypt, which I knew in advance, is to carry a roll of toilet paper in your bag or backpack. Abdul taught us the second rule: carry one-pound coins to tip the attendant. This person hands out a portion of toilet paper and you give them one pound.

-- In the visitors centre at the Karnak Temple, two men were standing guard in front of the washroom, collecting a coupon or chit from people on a tour, obviously something their tour guide gave them. I was also waiting, and when it was my turn, I indicated I had no money. They started yelling, insisting I pay them. I continued on into the washroom as they called "Come back here! You must pay!" These men were not handing out toilet paper or keeping the washroom clean, they were just collecting money from paying customers using the facilities! What a racket!

-- In the same washroom line, two female tourists tried to shove me out of the way to go ahead of me. Allan and I have seen this behaviour several times from tourists, always Japanese women. People talk about the “ugly American,” which is a real thing, but Americans in tour groups are sheep compared to these Japanese women. They will just shove you out of the way (or try to) and push past you, without looking at you or acknowledging your presence in any way. I wonder, do they live in a world where if you don’t push and shove, you are left behind, get nothing? To us, it’s incredibly rude. I can only imagine what it looks like to people from cultures more polite than ours... such as Egyptians.

-- I now understand the usage of the word inshalla, meaning (roughly) “god willing”. People here say it for any future event. How long will you be in Egypt, inshalla? I answer “three weeks,” and the other person adds, “inshalla”. When are you leaving for Luxor, inshalla? It’s a way of humbling yourself, reminding yourself that the future is not in your control, and obviously, a belief that the final say will be your god’s.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 18:00
Matthew Good Band - Strange Days

Creeping Ten Commandments Law

Rusty Idols - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 16:10

I think we should start a movement to protect against the insidious threat of 'Ten Commandments law'.

Sure the Christians and Jewish people claim following Ten Commandments Law is just a religious duty on individual Christians and Jews  and that for instance they don't want to force their barbaric cultural practice of mutilating little boys genitalia on everyone else, but can we believe them? 

There are examples of their followers putting their religious directives in schools and courtrooms, demanding that women follow their religious directives on birth control and abortion regardless of whether they are of the same faith and demanding legal persecution of LGBT people based on their beliefs.

Clearly creeping 'Ten Commandments Law' is a very real threat and not just a mischievous equivalency to Sharia law I am making for satirical purposes  to make the little vein in their foreheads throb.

sdnxry5z7g

luxor: abydos and dendera and a face-plant

we move to canada - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:17
I had an eventful morning! We had an early breakfast and met B'lal downstairs at 7:00. I said hi, and fell forward, down two steps, onto the dirt road. The hotel has a piece of carpet covering the steps to the entrance. It was bunched up, my foot caught underneath, and down I went. (As I type this, I'm laughing so hard that I'm crying.)

I could hear Allan saying, "Oh my god, oh my god," as I tumbled from one level to the next. Then I suffered the humiliation of two men hoisting me up, dead weight, by my arms. (Yep, I actually apologized. Women, amirite?)

I was incredibly lucky. My right shin hit the edge of the concrete step, but both my knees and both my hands were fine. If my right knee (already injured and weak) had hit the concrete, my vacation is done right there. And I easily could have broken a wrist blocking my fall -- but it happened so fast, I didn't even have time to put my hands out.

So as Allan brushed the dust off my sweater and pants, I bent and flexed my leg a few times, and was very relieved. Getting in the car, I could feel a bump rising on my shin. Is there even ice here? In a country where simple refrigeration is iffy, ice is a luxury. B'lal and Allan went off and returned with Breakfast Guy (server) and a plastic bag of ice.

I said, "Alfuh shokran" (many thanks) to BG, who said "hamdulay" several times, smiling and happy to see I was OK. Allan said that BG found a bottle of water that had frozen, cut away the plastic with a knife, and chopped up the ice. Because of that, I was able to ice my shin and knee during the whole ride.

OK! Starting the day with a blast. I am incredibly lucky!

We drove out of Luxor, heading north and west towards Abydos. Past Luxor, the desert stretched out, a flat expanse, on both sides of the highway. In the distance, bald limestone mountains, the same colour as the sand, are partly hidden behind a layer of dust. Every so often there would be a tiny mud-brick house, or a pile of rubble where a house once stood. A few new-looking apartment complexes. A mosque.

B'lal drove 140 kms/hr (about 85 mph) most of the way, and did some pretty interesting passing and weaving. It turns out there is a middle lane.

As we neared a town, we would see donkey carts loaded with wheat or sugar cane or bright green alfalfa, men or boys riding donkeys, green fields growing beside irrigation ditches, animals resting in the shade of palm trees.

As always, we saw lots of dogs. They all look lively and happy -- tails up, heads high, trotting along. They are thin, like any wild or natural animal, but not starving, and their coats look nice. Today we saw one at a gas station that looked like Tala. She was sitting calmly... made me miss my little girl.

Out in the country, the horses, camels, and donkeys look better, too -- more lively, more like working animals than slaves. I wish I could forget the horses and donkeys in Giza.

There were many checkpoints, more than on our trip to Saqarra. At each stop, a seemingly haphazardly organized group of soldiers would take B'lal's license plate and phone number, and he would say "etneen canadee" (two from Canada).

In Abydos, B'lal showed us the coffee shop where he would be waiting. (Have I written about coffee shops? They are cave-like spaces where men smoke shisha. I've read that women now use them, too, at least in Cairo, but I see no evidence of that.) Naturally as soon as we get out of the car, people are offering us junk to buy -- but this was the first time we saw little kids doing it, too. Why aren't these children in school?? I gave a kid some money, then of course was mobbed by others. Bad. Sad.

Abydos itself is a beautifully preserved temple and a shrine to the god Osiris. The engravings here were incredibly finely detailed -- the patterns on clothing, the strands of wigs, the strings and beads on jewelry -- all depicted in minute detail, over and over and over. The ancient Egyptians obviously found beauty in symmetry and repetition. In this case, the engravings and the symmetry and the repetition were completely and beautifully over the top.

We read there was another nearby site, part of the same temple complex, so we set off down a dirt road in search of it. Men from the cafes and coffee shops all started calling to us. "No! No! No go!" and "Kholles! Haga kholles!" (Nothing! Not anything!) It was like we weren't allowed to walk down the street. One gentleman followed us the whole way, as if he was our escort. We walked around some houses with donkeys or camels outside, and soon saw some temple ruins. A man was lifting up a piece of broken fencing to let us in.

There wasn't a whole lot at this other site, but damned if we're going to let some busybody shisha-smoking men keep us from exploring. I wouldn't have pushed it too far, being sure no police or other "authorities" get involved, but for godsakes, are tourists only allowed to walk in designated tourist areas?

Back in the car, we headed towards Luxor, and would stop at another site on the way there. On all the roads, it is common to see carts and trucks beyond overloaded. Whether it's a donkey cart with alfalfa or a truck full of sugar cane on its way to a nearby factory or a van with luggage strapped on top, everything is loaded two or three times what you would see in Canada or the US. In a place with scarce resources, people make the most of every trip.

The temple at Dendera is interesting because its roof is fully intact, which has preserved the engravings inside, and much of the colour. I was especially interested because it's a shrine to Hathor, now my favourite Egyptian god. However, the artwork inside was done much later, mostly while Egypt was under Greek or Roman rule, and is much less detailed, more crude and clunky.

Back in the car, we had to talk B'lal into getting something to eat before heading back to Luxor. I think he was out of his comfort zone, taking tourists into a town he doesn't know. But I knew we could work it out. We were joking around with him, "B'lal we're so hungry, please let us eat..." and he finally gave in.

The town of Dendara turned out to be a bustling little city. B'lal thought of something called "Khikdur" -- "Do you know Khikdur?" I thought it might be a kind of food, but it turned out to be a fast-food chain called Quick Door. We got shawarmas and burgers and sat upstairs. B'lal let us buy him one shawarma only, then ordered a second that he paid for. Allan had our first burger in Egypt, much better meat and bread than North American fast food.

On the way back to Luxor we saw a sad sight. Remember those overloaded trucks? One was partially overturned on the side of the road. Tomatoes were everywhere. A few men were trying to pick them up and put them in crates, a bit like taking a broom to the sand. Cars on both sides of the mess were, at first, hesitant to drive through and crush someone's produce. B'lal opened his door, reached down, and passed me a beautiful red tomato. Then almost at once, everyone decided there was nothing more we could do, and drove through and on the tomatoes. We could then see that the entire cargo had fallen off the truck.

After that, we noticed truck after truck loaded with tomatoes; obviously it must be harvest time. B'lal said the tomatoes are on their way to factories in Cairo and Alexandria.

In our little village, we bought more desserts dripping in honey, showered off a lot of dust, and had dinner at the hotel. Tomorrow is our last day in Luxor; Allan has a full day planned for us. I will endeavour to start the day without falling on my face.

When the subaltern speaks

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:17
Yusra Khogali, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Toronto, has been in the news recently for calling Prime Minister a “white supremacist terrorist.” She’s had a few other interesting things to say as well in the recent past. She asks Allah... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

luxor: east bank sites: karnak and luxor temples

we move to canada - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 09:22
We thought we had settled our taxi troubles, but that was not to be. This time, “the father of B’lal” showed up, thinking we were taking a road trip. Instead, we went to Karnak Temple on the east bank.

In a blog full of superlatives, Karnak temple may top the list. First, it is massive. St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London could both fit inside. If you have not seen those cathedrals, I can only say that they are enormous, and one feels like a tiny ant inside them (obviously one of the desired effects). Imagine that Karnak is larger than both combined, and built in a time when no other buildings had even a second story.

Next, the columns. The columns! There is a forest of columns inside, 134 in all, each one 10 metres (33 feet) around and 24 metres (80 feet) tall. This hall alone, now called the Great Hypostyle Hall, is 50,000 square feet. And these columns once held massive lintels (horizontal stones) and another configuration of columned openings on top.

Naturally everything is covered in hieroglyphs and images, all of the highest detail and quality.

Imagine the number of people it took to build this! I think of that all the time. When I was writing junior nonfiction about ancient civilizations, I learned that the ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to figure out irrigation. This led to the first large-scale agriculture -- the first civilization to store wheat and other grains. This led to people eating well all year around -- when the Nile was flooded and when it was dry. This in turn led to more people -- more families, and more children in each family. The large-scale agriculture also led to more specialization -- people whose job it was to count grain, to make barrels, to organize work crews. The first middle class. And this enabled the ancient Egyptians to become the first civilization to build on a monumental level. It all began with irrigation. I’ve thought of this many, many times on this trip!

Karnak was built over many successive reigns, each pharaoh claiming it as his own and adding on more. It continued to be used through Greek and Roman invasions. On one back wall, some Roman faces appear -- the remains of Roman frescoes that were painted over the hieroglyphs.

This massive temple is only one part of the Karnak complex. There were ceremonial lakes and all manner of outbuildings. Allan and I were both absolutely awed. I believe the last time I felt like this was in La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona. Interestingly, that also contained a forest of columns, graceful and bending like living trees. I know that Gaudi was influenced by many world cultures; I wonder if he saw Karnak, or drawings of it.

Karnak was the first site we’ve visited that has an actual visitor’s centre, designed to (somewhat) echo the design of the temple. There are photographs of the sites before and during restoration, which is really interesting. There is also a model of the whole site. Nothing is labelled. The scale is 1 = 300, but it doesn’t say 1 or 300 what.

There were huge numbers of visitors at Karnak. All the tours go there, and daytrippers come up from the Red Sea resorts in the south. The immense size of the temple made the crowds more bearable.

After Karnak, we asked B’lal’s father to take us to a place reputed to have the best koshari in town. He wanted to take us to a “famous restaurant” but hamdulay, he did not insist. (That’s “thank god”, an expression you hear constantly. “How are you?” “Thank god I’m fine, how are you?”)

The place was a huge fast-food restaurant, with cooking on the street level and tables upstairs, orders and food going up and down by dumbwaiter. We each had a small koshari, and shared a shawarma and a hawawshi. I finally thought of what a hawawshi most closely resembles -- a quesadilla. It’s like a quesadilla with samosa filling inside.

Koshari is my new favourite food. It is delicious, energy packed, and vegan. (Obviously I’m not vegan, but it’s great that it bridges that divide.) This place served it with a bowl of tomato sauce, so you can control your sauce without anything getting soggy. Please will someone open a koshari joint in Mississauga?

(We’ve also learned that we’ve been pronouncing it wrong. It’s said as if it’s a store selling koshers -- a koshery.)

Our next stop was supposed to be the Luxor Museum, but we were disappointed to see it is open 9-2, then 5-9. We caught it after 2:00. We hadn’t wanted to do two temples in one day, but the museum hours kind of forced our schedule. B’lal’s dad wanted us to take a felucca ride (a traditional sailboat), but again, he did not insist.

Luxor Temple was also very large and impressive, with a huge amount of carvings and colours. It, too, was filed with massive columns. Only a visit to Karnak made it seem somewhat small or ordinary.

An interesting note about Luxor Temple: after the original builders and worshippers used it, Greeks used it, then Romans, then Coptic Christians built a church in it, and then a mosque was built in it. (Both church and mosque remain and are still in use.) This makes the site a continuous place of worship for more than 2,000 years, something unique or at least very rare in this country.

Outside the temple is the remains of the Avenue of Sphinxes that once connected the Luxor and Karnak temples -- both sides of a wide path lined with sphinxes for three kilometres! A large number of them remain outside the Luxor Temple, enough to give you the idea.

Luxor Temple was packed with tour groups. It can get loud and crowded in the passageways or small chapels. This is the first trip where Allan routinely wants more time than I do! He is totally engrossed with taking photos; I usually end up finding some shade to wait in. This is fine with me! This is more than fine, this is awesome. I am so happy that he is enjoying himself so much.

After this, we were tired and dusty (you are always dusty here), and we asked The Father of B’lal to take us back to the hotel. He suggested we take the ferry. But again did not insist. Back at the hotel, B’lal’s father was having a heated phone call with Salvation Army Guy (Allan calls him Orphanage Guy. Same dude.) While SAG was berating Allan, I paid B’lal’s dad, and suddenly the whole situation turned around. If you’ve read the previous guest post (or novella), you already know this.

We noticed a little bakery in the village of our hotel, and picked up some fig pastries and danish-type pastries drowning in honey. Because everyone needs to eat dessert before dinner, right?

B’lal’s father picked us up and took us to a local spot called Restaurant Mohammed, which turned out to be one of the coolest spots of this trip. Mohammed lives in a little mud-brick house, with the restaurant attached, and a patio for outdoor dining attached to that; the restaurant is three times the size of his house. The walls are lined with posters of jazz and blues musicians -- Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Dexter Gordon -- and as we sat down, one of Mohammed’s sons put on music: Miles Davis. Not what we expected!

Four noteworthy factoids about our dinner at Mohammed’s.

We both ordered kofta. These dishes were brought to the table: bread, fried eggplant slices, salad vegetables, pickled vegetables, white spreadable cheese, rice, fried potatoes, stewed vegetables, ripe green melon slices, and the kofta. We were laughing at the quantity of the food. We ordered drinks (more freshly squeezed mango for me), so the bill came to $15 Canadian.

While we were eating, two other customers came in, men with British accents. One of them called over to us, and began what social workers call “inappropriate disclosure” -- yelling across the room. TMI! Among other things, we learned that he met his father for the first time a few years ago. The lost father lived in St Catharines, in southern Ontario. And the man’s sister lives in? You guessed it, Mississauga.

Mohammed’s used to host musicians, five nights a week, regional and local favourites coming to play. I would have loved to see one of those shows.

Everything was delicious, although I had to discreetly spit out the pickled eggplant. Think of the pickliest thing you’ve ever eaten, double it, then soak it in pickling for another week.

B’lal picked us up, we made our plans for the next day, and were very happy, and very stuffed.

Sociopathic cluelessness

Rusty Idols - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 06:45

Less than three weeks after a racist right wing extremist went on a violent rampage through a Quebec mosque killing six people just for being Muslim a group of other right wing extremists gather to wallow in self pity over how a nonbinding resolution condemning Islamophobia is a horrific attack on their rights.

https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=I496XS3US2U

sdnxry5z7g

As Canadians, This Should Profoundly Disgust All Of Us

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 06:03
All this over a motion, a mere House statement, that has no force in law.
The Liberal MP who tabled an anti-Islamophobia motion says she has been inundated with hate mail and death threats.

Mississauga, Ont. MP Iqra Khalid told the House of Commons Thursday she received more than 50,000 emails in response to M-103, many of them with overt discrimination or direct threats.

"'I'm not going to help them shoot you, I'm going to be there to film you on the ground crying. Yeah, I'll be there writing my story with a big fat smile on my face. Ha ha ha. The Member got shot by a Canadian patriot,'" she read, quoting from the video.

And that, she said, was just tip of the iceberg. Here are some other messages she received and read in the House:

"Kill her and be done with it. I agree she is here to kill us. She is sick and she needs to be deported."
"We will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim."

"Why did Canadians let her in? Ship her back."

"Why don't you get out of my country? You're a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians."We all need to speak out forcefully againt those who propagate such palpable hatred. Remember, silence implies consent.



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