Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Mail-order brides

A little kerfuffle over at Science Blogs brought mail-order brides back to my attention. (Didn’t they have their fifteen minutes of fame in the eighties?)

I commented to Mark that I didn’t see what the fuss was about. He gamely pointed to the fuzzy grey borderline between mail-order brides and prostitution.

Alison: Well, there’s a fuzzy-to-nonexistent borderline between marriage and prostitution generally. The point of marriage is that it recognises sexual relationships as inherently potentially exploitatitve, and confers legal rights and responsibilities on the parties involved.

Mark: Ah, but that doesn’t apply in the US. If they divorce, the mail-order bride has no residency rights and is deported back to her country of origin. It’s not like Canada where a sponsored immigrant spouse has residency rights independent of the status of the relationship.

Oh. Right. I keep forgetting. (Which is odd, because one of my favourite stories about sponsoring Mark under Canada’s Family Reunification Program is how when he went to get his visa exchanged for a residency card, he was sat down and solemnly lectured that if I were to become abusive, he was not to hesitate to Move Out Immediately. Quebec would help him find a place to live and give him welfare if he needed it. He would NOT have to leave the country. Quebec would come after me for reimbursement as necessary. He was NOT to worry about that.)

But does that mean that we should be worried about the institution of mail-order brides, or that we should be protesting the lack of protection the US offers immigrant spouses – exacerbating a situation of potential exploitation where marriage is supposed to alleviate it?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Back in Liberia

Filed under: Africa,family,Notes from Liberia,Patrick,US politics,war — alison @ 07:10

After returning from Bangladesh and a too-short stay with family, my father is back in Liberia.

*** *** ***
Dear Family and Friends,

Back in Liberia. I spent this afternoon with the Minister for Education and his deputies. They all say they will be up most of tomorrow night watching the inauguration and the balls. All over the world – or at least in my small sampling – people are joyful about the new direction they see in America.

My previous time in Liberia (2004), there was a short break in the war that had lasted fourteen years. My assignment took me to villages where people were rebuilding homes, shops, bridges, wells, roads, and whatever other infrastructure competing armies, often made up of children, had taken into their heads to destroy. The villages were doing their best to reintegrate their ‘lost’ young people, many of whom had done terrible things. The returnees were doing what they could to be accepted back. There were three short, intense wars in 2005, but now there is a stable and reasonably competent government headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. There is hope again… sort of. USAID is helping rebuild teacher education. Our team of three is spending six weeks to evaluate this effort and suggest improvements.

We’ve been in Monrovia since Wednesday. The attached pictures may give you some of the flavour. We’re off tomorrow for two days to see schools and teacher training colleges in the countryside. We’ll come back to sharpen our survey instruments then head back out for more intensive interviews and observations for the next four weeks.

Lunch today was cassava leaf stew with fish, chicken, and shrimp… and rice.

Update on Beli: She’s bought a rickshaw and some rice. She rents out the rickshaw and will sell the rice in small packets. Her life as a businesswoman has begun.


Vivian's Fashion Butik Salon

Liberia 2

Liberia 3

Liberia 4

P on the beach

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

See? I was right.

Filed under: US politics — alison @ 07:34

First off: Congratulations to the US!

Second: Twenty-five years or so ago, in an argument with my father about feminism, I said something like, “A black man will be president of the US before a white woman will.” His answer: “If you think that, then you don’t understand anything about racism in the US.”

It’s good that he was wrong. Some things can change.

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

Filed under: movies,US politics — alison @ 09:19

Last night’s movie pick.

I carefully shield myself from unpleasant things I can’t do anything about, which means I don’t watch the news. So this was the first time I ever saw George W in action.

Mean little bugger, isn’t he?

[originally transmitted by e-mail June 30, 2004]

Monday, February 3rd, 2003

Re: Wow, this is fascinating.

Filed under: Anne,death penalty,US politics — alison @ 06:28

Not everyone snickered. This is Anne McKnight <____>‘s impassioned response. I thought it was worth sharing.


I read the mail about the death penalty, and got kind of worked up responding…

   This is my point of view as registered voter in a state (Illinois) in which the death penalty has been abolished, and where critiques of systematic racism and injustice in the prison system have been launched.  As you can imagine, this article pressed a lot of buttons, as it relies on the old, uninformed stereotypes of the US as a coherent ideological force.

   In my opinion, the anti-death penalty movement is a successful movement of social change in the US.  It represents an internal critique of social justice which has been successful-and under the Bush administration, no less.  This success story is not something people typically like to hear.  It does not fit the historical narrative of the US as racist homeland, as failed fatcat, as some place activism died in the 60s–an interpretation that allows us to see the US as a force already, irrevocably well on its way to whatever mode of blind destruction is supposed, as if all possibilities of intervention were already over. The effect of this narrative is to concede the momentum of a set of events which may not actually be decided.  (Of course, sorting out the contradictions is difficult whenever the US as an international force is conflated with what is going on domestically.)

   In the US, capital punishment is decided by the states, not the feds.  It thus doesn’t really make sense to talk of a coherent “US” position on capital punishment if referring to the domestic death penalty.

   I think obscuring this difference creates a false impression of unity in the US.  Of course, seeing the issue in national terms allows us to think of the US as moral low ground, categorically ‘barbaric,’ and to indulge our stereotypes about what a backwards, contradictory place the world’s most advanced country is. But seeing the issue in a national frame completely bypasses the fact that there is a vibrant and effective movement against the death penalty in the US–on a state by state basis.  It has been successful, and is still spreading!  As this is one social issue on which there is actual progress in the US, I think it is damaging (by which I mean shutting down critique where it actually does exist-these people need your support!) to paint the US in terms of an imagined ideological coherence-for instance, the ‘prison industrial complex’ in California, and the failure of the ‘3 strikes you’re out’ law, is hugely controversial.*

   And then, there’s governor George Ryan.  The growing anti-capital punishment movement in the US has been greatly spurred in the last 2 years by state governors, most notably by Gov George Ryan of Illinois.  In the last 2 years, he has signed many prisoners off death row, and has set a precedent for other governors to do the same.

   You can read Ryan’s speech, that he gave as he left the office of governor in January, 2003 at   You can search for ‘George Ryan death penalty” and get a number of advocacy briefs to track the issues on line.

   In his speech, Ryan explains how he came to regard the death penalty as wrong, and makes the connection between economic growth and the prison system–the death penalty is simply more cost effective.  This cost-effectiveness is a great motivation of Bush’s policies abroad, of course, whether such policies consist of extending loans that weigh like anchors on developing countries, or insisting on ‘free markets’ at any cost. Bush is pissed off at China for its ‘anti-religious’ tolerance because it sees it as a mark of barbarity–failure to obe ‘universal’ human rights standards.  This is simply one more reason to assert the universal–of which Bush is presumably the representative–as the authorized law to go in and set things right, restore order, so that markets will function.  This is an old story in China. And Japan. And postwar Europe. And Iraq.  And so on.

   It is important to realize that the jurisdiction over which G Bush speaks in terms of foreign policy is symptomatic of his stance as a former GOVERNOR.  G Bush is on the side of the state (whether state government or feds) possessing the only authorized law–within this he includes the right to adjudicate life & death. This policy, for him, is consistent in the state-government arena of Texas, and in the international arena.  This extension of practices of Texas-style governance is one part of the extension of his Texas-style governance into national & international frames.

   The reason I think this article, and your reading, alarmed me, is that it is precisely Bush’s strategy to refuse to listen to any form of resistance:  he just won’t make any appointment with citizens’ groups, clergy, military people, students, whoever-anyone whose voice is not already incorporated into his.  So I think it is really important to publicize those who don’t agree with him, at this time, to show that in fact, he is NOT necessarily representing the people, even in his own country!

   I think it is true that the anti-war movement, so driven by the imperial position of the US & the tacit assent of its allies, is in a funny state.  No one knows what activism means anymore, they just know somehow that it is dysfunctional.  But I think in my generation (born mid 60s) the backlash against the failure of the older, sixties generation to sustain its utopian policies is so strong, that we often triumph by pouncing on the certainty of failure.  It’s confusing:  on the one hand, 25,000 people will march through downtown Montreal writing peace signs on car windows (i.e. not smashing them).  On the other, this movement is unsure where to go after the ‘symbolic demonstration’ of getting out the people, singing out the songs (wearing them out :)  !) In the general atmosphere, I do think it is important to recognize that the US is by no means a done deal on all issues.  These people need your help!  


*       Of course, public opinion polls will go on about ‘US opinion’ as their point of reference, but the fact is, the decision to rule the death penalty legal or not is made on a state-by-state basis.

[originally transmitted by e-mail February 3, 2003]

Sunday, February 2nd, 2003

Wow, this is fascinating.

Filed under: death penalty,US politics — alison @ 10:42

I don’t see the problem. The US is in favour of executions and in favour of closed trials of people who just might be connected with political violence. This is both. Why aren’t they happy?


The United States has condemned the execution of a Tibetan man accused of a series of bomb attacks in south-west China.

“We join the international community in raising concern over the reported execution of Lobsang Dhondup, and the suspended sentence of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche,” said Amanda Blatt, a spokeswoman for the State Department.

Lobsang Dhondup, 28, was executed on Sunday, after being convicted in a closed trial in December of bomb attacks in Sichuan province between 1998 and 2002.

The US State Department said it was also “closely watching” reports that 10 other Tibetans had been detained in the same case.

[originally transmitted by e-mail February 2, 2003]

Powered by WordPress