Polite racists in denial

Been watching the news lately (I know, I know, I should find another hobby) …

If you’re white, you benefit from racist power structures and racist forms of social organization. And you’ve most likely internalized the underlying racist assumptions to the point where you feel threatened or defensive whenever anyone questions them or makes them explicit. That’s what #WhitePrivilege is. It doesn’t necessarily make you a sheet-wearing, cross-burning caricature, but to the extent that you don’t question or work to dislodge those power structures, you’re helping to perpetuate systemic racism. And that, whether you like it or not, makes you guilty of racism yourself. It’s not surprising at all that a lot of white folks react to this so viscerally, and want to project their discomfort onto others by complaining about activists stirring up racial conflict. But part of being a committed anti-racist is owning your own racism — and doing what you can to overcome it.

It’s not complicated. #LeashYourDog



Maybe I’m coming across as too angry about unleashed dogs in leashed areas. Maybe so. But you know what? I don’t give a fuck.


My boy is huge, black, and easy to demonize. Same goes for any other unfairly stigmatized breed. OK, he’s a giant Russian guard dog, and owning him in Toronto can be a challenge. I get that. When I walk him, I keep him on the leash and stay out of off-leash dog parks. I’ve done intensive training with him and keep him under control at all times. And yet, if some off-leash dog runs up to him and starts something, even in a leashed area, whom do you think is going to get blamed? I can do everything right and follow all the rules, and STILL lose my dog just because some entitled asshole doesn’t feel like following the leash law.


I’ll say that again. I COULD LOSE MY DOG because some irresponsible shitwaffles think they’re special and the rules don’t apply to them. (We used to have a mayor like that. You’re in pretty good company.) So guess where you can stick your “Way of the Dog” bullshit.


Spare me your "Way Of The Dog" bullshit. #ItsNotComplicated #LeashYourDog

A photo posted by Sol (@solchrom) on

(“Really Sol, don’t you think you’re overreacting a little bit? You’re getting hysterical.” — ed.)


Special h/t to The Dog Snobs for this.


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Fassbender’s Macbeth: disappointingly static

What can I say? It’s one of Shakespeare’s goriest, most intense, most riveting pieces of work. It’s got everything: action, ambition, weird sisters, murder, more ambition, more murder, politics, more murder, gender-bending, vengeance, imperialism, and even a few twists of the supernatural. It’s got such a reputation that in some theatre circles, its mere name is an omen, prompting people to refer to it obliquely as “the Scottish play.”

And yet, apart from a few scattered action scenes, the bulk of the film doesn’t seem to move much. Almost every scene is shot in gloomy greys and browns, perhaps in a nod to the play’s dark themes. Visually, however, this makes it a little hard to follow at times. Most of the dialog is spoken in whispers of varying intensity; sometimes the emotion is discernible, sometimes not so much. Some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines have been cut in what sometimes seems like a belated recognition that things are draaaaaaagging and need to be moved along.

Really, folks, it’s Shakespeare. You shouldn’t be fighting to stay awake. I watched three or four people stand up and walk out of the theatre.

Early in the play, Macbeth is wrestling with the prophesy from the three witches and the implicit green light for killing the kindly King Duncan; when I studied it in high-school English class, it was about him struggling with his conscience while Lady Macbeth, already in thrall to the Dark Side, urges him to grow a pair. The discussion between Fassbender’s Macbeth and Marion Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth, however, carries about as much emotional weight as a couple arguing over what colour to paint the living room.

The flatness continues through what should be some of the most emotionally loaded scenes in the script, among them the appearance of Banquo’s ghost at the feast and Lady Macbeth’s descent into madness in the “Out, damned spot” sleepwalk. Both scenes provide the stars with a fat juicy opportunity to carry the film, but in both — well, whatever charge they’re supposed to bring, it seems the battery’s drained. Fassbender never jolts us with the horror, guilt, and paranoia Macbeth’s supposed to feel when he sees Banquo’s blood-spattered shade, and for all the pain and OCD Cotillard’s supposed to be portraying during her somnambulistic hand-washing, she might as well be advertising a dishwashing liquid.

True, you don’t have to chew the scenery, but is a little emotional content too much to ask for?

The last ten minutes, in fairness, are a vivid contrast to the muted torpor of the preceding scenes, if not enough to redeem the film. Especially when the filmmakers ditch the dark greys and browns in favour of a visually riveting advance on Dunsinane by the warriors in Birnam Wood. And the final confrontation between Fassbender and Sean Harris’s vengeful Macduff could have been an outtake from Braveheart.

Bottom line: 6/10. If you’ve seen other versions, it might be worth a go, but if not, start with something else.


The war on ‘microaggressions:’ Has it created a ‘victimhood culture’ on campuses? – The Washington Post

One much-discussed paper says a “victimhood culture” is rising at elite American colleges.

Source: The war on ‘microaggressions:’ Has it created a ‘victimhood culture’ on campuses? – The Washington Post

Thoughtful piece, crappy headline.

Why? Because casting it in terms of ‘victimhood culture’ implies that complainants want to be seen as victims, with the attendant connotations of ‘speech police,’ ‘political correctness,’ ‘oversensitivity,’ and ‘censorship.’ Moreover, putting air quotes around both microaggressions and victimhood culture suggests a false equivalence whereby the writer is raising doubts about both notions.

Once again, it’s important to distinguish intent from impact. Microaggressions may not be intended to be hurtful, but they do come from a place of privilege. In their broadest sense, they imply that being white, straight, cis, and male is the default setting, and anything else is a departure from the norm. When people call you out on that, they’re not attacking you – they’re drawing attention to that structure of privilege. And when you sneeringly dismiss the notion of microaggression, you’re reinforcing that structure.

Taxis, Uber, and how NOT to make decisions | #TOpoli


So I had a chance to observe City Council this morning, consumed as it was by the Uber/taxi debate and the attendant seas of yellow and blue T-shirts.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m not taking sides on this. I haven’t followed it closely enough to craft an informed opinion, and I’m not particularly invested in either side, except to the extent that I want whatever emerges from the process to advance the public good. (For a particularly trenchant viewpoint, however, I’d recommend following Karen Geier on the Tweeter.)

That the Uber/taxi debate is controversial and complex isn’t news. It’s not going to be resolved here, or elsewhere on this site, or over the course of this council meeting. No, what I took away from this morning’s deliberations was more general: the importance of acknowledging and engaging with complexity.

Easier said than done, of course. The council chamber was filled to capacity (particularly notable were the yellow-shirted taxi partisans), and there was a sizeable overflow crowd in the city hall foyer. Every few minutes, a remark from the council floor would trigger a roar audible from downstairs. In a situation like that, it’s easy to just play to the galleries.

I don’t like clichés, but calling it a charged atmosphere seems fair. (As long as we’re talking about clichés, though, I’m told some smartypants suggested that we take a drink every time someone said “level playing field.” I thought I also heard someone say “skin in the game.”) It was particularly hard not to sympathize with Municipal Licensing/Standards Executive Director Tracey Cook, whose report on the city’s taxi industry formed part of the background for the deliberations. At one point, she responded to Frank DiGiorgio with a wry suggestion that if she’d had the crystal ball he was apparently demanding that she consult, she might have thought twice about taking the job. It wasn’t the only eyeroll-prompting question she had to field.

Indeed, one has to respect the demands public servants are required to meet. They have to balance impartiality with their professional obligation to deliver the best possible advice in helping their political masters make good decisions. When that has to take place in an atmosphere of hyper-partisanship and demagoguery … well, remember Gary Webster?

The complexities of the Uber/taxi debate need more room than I’ve got here, but among the factors councillors need to consider are:

  • insurance coverage
  • training (at one point, someone compared the 17-day training regime for taxis with Uber’s supposed requirement that prospective drivers watch a video)
  • distribution of income within the industry
  • ridership numbers
  • public safety
  • amounts of money involved
  • identification of stakeholders: drivers, operators, owners, brokers, passengers, other users of the roads and transit system
  • how best to enforce regulations
  • how to foster a workable business model in an industry badly in need of updating

And I’m not pretending for one second that this is a comprehensive list. The task for city council, with the assistance of Ms. Cook and her staff, is to find a balance among these competing interests, and craft a revised regulatory structure that achieves the greatest good for the greatest number. 

As an aside, it’s worth noting that while sound decisions should be based on the best possible information, that’s a particular challenge in this case. How much can we rely on data collection, and who collects the data? I drove a taxi in Toronto a couple of centuries ago, and while I’m sure technology has evolved, it’s hard to imagine how drivers are supposed to record, categorize and analyze data on top of everything else they’re doing.

Now contrast the insistence on hard data with more reliance on anecdotal, non-quantifiable, lived experience. It’s no less important, but it raises its own set of questions around whose experience gets taken into account and how much weight it’s given.

Again: I’m not taking sides on the Uber/taxi debate. But pretending they’re exactly the same thing, as was evident in one exchange between the current Chief Magistrate and his predecessor, displays a rather limited grasp of the complications inherent in making policy – and of one’s own responsibilities as an elected official.

Ultimately, things turn on your approach to governance. You can’t reduce things to wishful thinking, unsupported assumptions, or misleading comparisons, and you can’t just repeat slogans. Maybe it’s trite to repeat this, but: Public Policy Is Not Simple. Pretending otherwise does no one any favours.

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Taking notes 48: America’s new brutalism: the death of Sandra Bland

I’ve got nothing to add. #BlackLivesMatter

Philosophers for Change


by Henry A. Giroux

On July 9, soon after Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman, moved to Texas from Naperville, Illinois to take a new job as a college outreach officer at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M, she was pulled over by the police for failing to signal while making a lane change. What followed has become all too common and illustrates the ever increasing rise in domestic terrorism in the United States. She was pulled out of the car by a police officer for allegedly becoming combative and pinned to the ground by two officers. A video obtained by ABC 7 of Bland’s arrest “doesn’t appear to show Bland being combative with officers but does show two officers on top of Bland.”[1]

In a second video released by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas state trooper Brian Encinia becomes increasingly hostile toward Bland and very shortly the…

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