Abdul Haji: Hero. Muslim. BAMF.

Westgate Screencap

“I don’t feel like a hero at all. That girl who ran towards me is brave. That’s bravery.”

‘Hero’ is indeed an extraordinarily over/misused word these days. But despite his insistence to the contrary, Westgate Mall rescuer Abdul Haji deserves — no, embodies — the title.


Not only because he risked his life to save countless innocent civilians (including the especially iconic moment portrayed above) caught up in al-Shabaab’s deadly 4 day assault that began on September 21st, leaving at least 72 dead and scores injured and/or traumatized. Haji’s willingness to put his safety in further jeopardy by taking a public stand as a Muslim and ethnic Somali for tolerance and unity, despite the attempt to drive a destabilizing wedge between Muslims and non in Kenya, is a whole ‘nother level of courageous.

That said, the little girl is still without a doubt the baddest of ’em all.

So Who Are They Assigning Down The Hall Anyway?

David Gilmour

I’m not exactly keen to join in on the collective online WTFery re: heterosexual manly-man Canadian author and sessional University of Toronto lecturer David Gilmour’s steadfast refusal to allow girl germs and POC cooties to infect the pristine, middle-aged white male sterility of his syllabus. There have already been ample creative rejoinders (and demonstrations — Serious Heterosexual Literary Scholar Northrop Frye never had it so goddamn good) to fulfill even your wildest schadenfreude-fueled fantasies (this highly-sophisticated ‘Gilmour-penned’ Woolf bio is a particularly fine example). But I am undeniably curious about one thing Gilmour said in his insta-infamous over-the-shoulder with some icky giiirrrrrrlll (who was probably just trying to make a name for herself by accurately quoting what was said on the record, amirite guys?):

Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall.

“[I]f you want women writers go down the hall.”

Ok, well, not to cast aspersions upon Mr. Gilmour’s highly-selective passion for what Belle Waring recently dubbed ‘Important [sic] Male Novelists’ (if not his apparent inability to untangle it from the accumulated navel lint prior to entering a lecture hall), but, speaking for myself, anyway, I kinda sorta *do* want exposure to a variety of perspectives. Most people who aren’t 60-something upper-middle class straight white dudes nursing their sexual hang-ups like a bloated, neurotic teat (ie, the overwhelming majority of 1st and 3rd year undergrads) probably want that too. And it’s kinda sorta Gilmour’s ethical mandate as an educator to give students exactly that, rather than offering a guided tour of the fragile male ego (now with extra menstrual-pad munching).

Sure, Gilmour may genuinely cherish his life-long diet of mayonnaise sammiches on white with the crusts cut off, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to indulge his demonstratively infantile palate. Therefore, as a public service to future students before they are forced to endure such a dreary literary diet, how about U of T offer a sample of what they are serving down the hall, this estrogen-saturated smorgasbord of women, Chinese and Friends of Dorothy that is so unappealing to David Gilmour’s narrow pedagogical appetite? I dunno ’bout the rest of the non-middle-aged upper-middle-class white guys out there, but this one is definitely starving for writers that don’t fit on the rote Important Male Novelist comfort food menu.

Indeed, as shocking as it may seem, some folks actually use higher education as a means to expand their horizons, as opposed to painting themselves into a safe, narrow corner of the same house that they’ve always lived in.

A strange and bitter crop, indeed.

Quite possibly the most unfortunate lynching metaphor ever  (or so far this week, anyhow — bear in mind, it’s only Tuesday):

The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that — sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”

Yes, clearly AIG CEO Robert Benmosche was only a few comment threads away from becoming the Emmitt Till of financial plutocracy. And that’s not just whistlin’ ‘Dixie’ (or any whistlin’ at all, period. Natch).


Related: 2,400 reasons why Benmosche’s egregious criticism/genocide analogy was beyond inapt.

Monday Metal: Atheist – Unquestionable Presence


I just– just–had one of those painfully awkward thirty-something moments when I realized that Atheist’s breakthrough sophomore full-length, Unquestionable Presence, is now a robust 22 years old (insert pimple-faced nostalgia featuring the requisite imagery of generic teenage wasteland, a life reduced to reverse-chronology disaster pr0n). That it sounds so fresh today only emphasizes just how ahead of its time this progressive jazz metal masterpiece truly was. Check it out after the cut, courtesy the fine folks at Seasons of Mist (h/t): Continue reading

What Was Justin Trudeau Smoking When He Decided To Embrace Marijuana Legaliza — Oh, Never Mind.

justin trudeau 2006

Without getting into the merits (or the politics) of Justin Trudeau’s call for the legalization of marijuana (of which I think there are many — one of the numerous reasons why I support the NDP), it does represent a rather brazen 180 degree pivot from his previously-stated position in support of the status quo. As recently noted by budding Western Gazette  journo Bradley Metlin, “[I]n a 2010 issue of Maclean’s magazine, Trudeau said that decriminalization was a step in the wrong direction, cautioning that smoking pot was unsafe today because marijuana is much stronger than it used to be a generation ago.”

Let’s take a look back, shall we:

The Liberal party’s position has been for decriminalization for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Liberal MP Justin Trudeau is not in favour of decriminalization at all and feels that would be a step in the wrong direction. “It’s not your mother’s pot,” notes Trudeau of the stronger marijuana grown today, in contrast to the weed from hippie days. “I lived in Whistler for years and have seen the effects. We need all our brain cells to deal with our problems.

Now, this is not to say that the current Canadian policy of prohibition is at all sustainable or desirable, nor that Trudeau’s somewhat self-serving (ahem) proposal is misguided. But it does make one wonder why Jay-Tee suddenly turned on a dime and so demonstratively embraced his inner (and outer) pothead. As Metlin put it: “It seems the reefer of 2013 suddenly has become less dangerous than it was three years ago.”

Word to your mother.

The Atomic Road To Damascus (With a Detour Through Goldsboro)


Hey, remember when the US almost detonated an atomic bomb (260 times more powerful than either Fat Man or Little Boy) over North Carolina?

Good times:

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.

Though there has been persistent speculation about how narrow the Goldsboro escape was, the US government has repeatedly publicly denied that its nuclear arsenal has ever put Americans’ lives in jeopardy through safety flaws. But in the newly-published document, a senior engineer in the Sandia national laboratories responsible for the mechanical safety of nuclear weapons concludes that “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe”.

It really is a wonder we made it out of the Cold War alive, considering.

Bonus:  Schlosser on Democracy Now, talking Damascus (the other one, natch):

and in the Slaughterhouse:

(Oh, and yes, Schlosser’s latest has vaulted to the top of my looming tower of must-reads.)

Hilzoy Speak, You Listen

While still ardent in her conviction to make her cold turkey retirement from blogging a permanent one, beloved ObWi ex-pat Hilzoy sends us this all-too brief dispatch (courtesy Donkeylicious) on why, if we can’t exactly trust Assad re: Russia’s opportune embrace of Kerry’s apparently off-the-cuff Syrian CW solution, we at least can count on the naked self-interest of Bashar’s key international patron to overshadow all other concerns:

Suppose that Syria does not turn over all its chemical weapons. Suppose that Russia knows this. Russia has still staked its credibility, such as it is, on this lie. If Syria uses CW afterwards, it is basically burning its major ally and arms supplier.

I do not think that Assad would do this. And my reasons for thinking this have nothing at all to do with trusting him.

Related: More from Brookings scholar Fiona Hill on Russia’s ongoing realpolitik maneuvers re: Syria and why Western media and analysts are fundamentally misreading Putin’s pro-status quo Mideast policy.