Feb. 17th, 2006

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The Coffee Time at 600 Bloor Street West at 5:30 in the morning is an interesting place to be. It was the only store of any kind open at that time in the morning, as a point of fact, the only place open to face the 2 o'clock closing of the bars and the 6 o'clock opening of the more precocious breakfast restaurants. There were only two other customer-type people in the store when I entered Wednesday morning, an older gentleman on crutches sitting at the front, and hidden so well in the back that I noticed him only after I bought my brekwich, and someone bundled up entirely in thick clothes with a chapped red face in the back who I hadn't noticed on first coming in.
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Shalva Weil 's Ha'aretz article "Hebrew in Chennamangalam" is a useful overview over the history of India's Jews, specifically the community long implanted in the southern state of Kerala.
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Does Tech Central Station have any idea what's going on in Catalonia? The ridiculous demonization of Catalonian nationalism and identity (1, 2) and of the revised Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia as totalitarian statist nationalism leads me to suspect not.

It's the fault of the Catalans, I suppose, for choosing to support not the pro-American Popular Party but rather the Socialists of Zapatero. Be warned. Not that Ameriphilia will necessarily help your separatist movement, as René Lévesque found out in 1976 when he compared Québec separatism to American independence, but it's a start.
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Visit and view, if you dare.

UPDATE (4:35 PM) : HTML corrected.
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Over in the latest issue of fab, editor-in-chief Steven Berenzai argues ("Marys in the mist") that people looking for the genetic origins of homosexuality might do well to examine homosocial bonding. I'm not convinced, since it remains quite possible that non-heterosexual sexuals orientations in humans are the collateral products of apparently unrelated human traits, but it's worth reading.
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Jonathan Edelstein, via Errol Cavit, carried the news of the recent referendum on independence held in the South Pacific archipelago of Tokelau. Currently a territory of New Zealand, if the separatists had carried the day Tokelau would have become an autonomous state in free association with New Zealand, like Niue and the Cook Islands. As reported in The Telegraph, the move to a more autonomous Tokelau was contentious, for reasons of Tokelau's viability as much as for reasons of identity.

Four United Nations observers are on the islands to oversee the referendum, to be conducted over the next five days.

Any change in status must be approved by two-thirds of the 660 people registered to vote, and the result is due to be declared on Wednesday.

Up to 14,000 Tokelauns living overseas, about half of them in New Zealand, will be excluded, a ruling that has sparked anger among expatriates.

Tokelau has no airport. It is linked to the outside world only by telephone, the internet, and a 28-hour journey by cargo ship to Samoa.

The low-lying atolls have a subsistence economy and are heavily dependent on £3.5 million in aid from New Zealand each year. Fishing licence fees for tuna and customs charges also bring in another £1.2 million. Copra and native products, such as mats, fans, and carved wooden boxes, are the only industry.

"Independent nationhood has never to my knowledge been suggested seriously as an option," said Neil Walter, New Zealand's administrator for the islands, yesterday.

"So what they are exploring is self-government, which is full control of their own affairs with the continuing support from New Zealand."

As it happened, though the independence supporters gained a majority of the votes cast, they failed to secure the 66% majority of the 660 registered voters needed for Tokelau to move to the free association model. Tokelau's leader, Pio Tuia, hopes for a future vote on free association. Regardless of its future political status, Tokelau still faces a variety of serious challenges, not least of which are an underdeveloped economy that has created a Tokelauan diaspora ten times as large as the homeland's population and the global climate change that may yet drown Tokelau's three atolls. How autonomous can Tokelau really be?
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I wrote approvingly last January about Alistair Reynolds' novel Century Rain, but it was only this week that I bought a trade paperback copy for myself. I am much pleased with this purchase. Yes, I have to agree with the above reviewers that Century Rain is a bit too crowded--though I also agree with [livejournal.com profile] matociquala that science fiction as a genre tends to be crowded--but it's crowded so nicely.
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The English-language edition of Helsingin Sanomat has recently noted that Russian immigration to Finland has slowed down, and further that it isn't driven by the economic dispairites between Finland and Russia but rather by the reunification of families divided by the Russo-Finnish border. Sveriges Radio International, in the meantime, reports that thanks to immigration, the Swedish population has grown for the eighth year in a row.

What's happening with the Swedish and Finnish populations has worldwide relevance, since both countries have effectively completed the demographic transition, with high sub-replacement fertility rates and growing immigration. What happens at the transition's end? If your country is rich enough, mass immigration for starters.
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The Ipperwash Inquiry is a public tribunal set up to investigate the aftermath of the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995, when Ojibway of the Stoney Creek band set up a blockade of Ipperwash Provincial Park to protest the government's continued occupation of historical Ojibway territory including a burial ground. The crisis ended brutally, with the death of protester Dudley George after he was shot with a hollow-point bullet by a policeman. The inquiry was set up after the end of Ontario's decade of Conservative government, inaugurated by the polarizing but precedent-setting Premier Mike Harris. Last November, former attorney general Charles Harnick quoted Mike Harris as having said "Get the fucking Indians out of the park." Indeed they did, with shades of Henry II: "Will no one rid us of a troublesome red man?"
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Right here, the first hyperlink added by me.

Moscow has now canceled its Gay Pride parade. It was canceled after the chief Muslim leader in Russia warned that marchers would be "bashed" if they dared to walk the streets. Money quote:

"Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons." The cleric said the Koran taught that homosexuals should be killed because their lifestyle spells the extinction of the human race and said that gays had no human rights."

Notice this is not al Qaeda. It is the official mainstream Muslim leadership. Bob Wright today makes the case for self-censorship to avoid offense to religious groups and others. In principle, this makes sense. Gratuitous, arbitrary offense of someone else's faith is not a laudable exercize of free speech. It's an abuse of such freedom. But context is vital. Bob cites an example of portraying Jesus with a crown of thorns made up of dynamite sticks, after an abortion clinic bombing. I'd say that's a perfectly legitimate comment after an act of violence performed in the name of a religious figure who preached non-violence. Many Christians would share the sentiments of the cartoonist. It's ironic, as the Muhammad cartoon was. And if it's defensible in that case, it is exponentially more so in the case of Islam in 2006.

The world has been terrorized for decades now by murderers who specifically cite Muhammad as their inspiration. It is completely legitimate speech to point that out. Not to point it out - to remain silent in the face of it - is an act of denial.The reason that so many Muslims are offended is not just because any depiction of Muhammad is taboo; but because the conflation of Islam and murder is now firmly fixed in the global consciousness. I can understand why the repetition of that fact should upset many peace-loving Muslims. But that is not the fault of cartoonists. It's the fault of the Muslim terrorists, and the failure of mainstream Muslims to condemn them sufficiently, ostracize them completely, and prevent them effectively from further mayhem. At this point, in my judgment, further appeasement of these religious terrorists is counter-productive - and actually enables the extremists in their simultaneous intimidation of moderate Muslims.

To take another example: Would Bob urge the gay marchers in Moscow not to parade, because it offends so many religious people, Orthodox and Muslim? Should gay people censor themselves to avoid offending others? Should women who object to the brutal subjugation of half the human race in many Islamic societies silence themselves? Maybe Bob would indeed argue for self-censorship in these cases. Maybe he wouldn't. After all, Islam is very clear about the fate of homosexuals and the role of women. But self-censorship is a slippery slope. Practising it after acts of mass murder runs a real risk of inviting more of them. As ACT-UP used to say, "Silence = Death." Which is why the Islamists want as much silence as possible.
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