Friday, July 27, 2007

a word on hate crimes

I've been thinking about this for the last little while and I've wondered about certain conclusions that seem to end the conversation about hate crime legislation. In light of the current tendency to group all Muslims together based on nothing more than similar religious beliefs, (something by the way that Baptists and Catholics would take huge offense at should anyone group them in the same category), I decided to brush up a little on hate crime legislation and punishment.

There is an argument made that we are uncomfortable legislating against the thoughts of someone as they commit a crime. We argue that one murder for example is no better or worse than another. This I find to be simplistic, naive and patently untrue. I certainly don't condone legislating against thought per se, but our justice system is already designed to determine the degree of a crime in order to offer reasonable punishment. For this reason fraud has a different punishment than shoplifting.

In the case of murder, we have varying degrees of punishment already. We charge drunk drivers with manslaughter versus serial killers who are charged with murder in the first degree. The differences between these two crimes are circumstance and intention. The drunk driver acted with criminal negligence and came across another person on the road. The serial killer stalked his victim, chose them and executed them. In this way, we already recognize that while each person caused the death of someone else and is fully responsible, the crimes are nevertheless different requiring different social reactions.

The second problem with equalizing hate crimes with other crimes is torture. We have very few punitive avenues to pursue to punish people like Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka not because they are killers, but because they deliberately and intentionally tortured their victims before their deaths. We have laws in place in our criminal code that prohibit torturous actions, yet often violent crimes ending in the victims' death are treated as murders only, not several counts of grievous bodily harm resulting in murder.

These are actions designed to entertain the aggressors, endow the aggressors with a sense of righteousness or correctness and finally to diminish as much as possible the victim. In cases such as the murder of Matthew Sheppard, the killers amused themselves with the fear and desperation of their victim begging for his life, they judged him as different and inferior to them giving them a sense of ownership over his destiny, and finally they diminished him by physical subjugation and humiliation. All these things took place before a murder had been committed and for that reason I find his murder to be a separate crime entirely. One for which they should be punished along with the crime of torture, not instead of the crime of torture.

When a lynching takes place, when a woman is stoned to death, when these atrocities are committed, they are not simply as good as the next murder available. We have to address the inherent disregard for human life the killers exhibit as they commit crimes against humanity. For these as well, we recognize degrees. In the Canadian Criminal Code, it is recognized that administering a noxious substance can be done to intentionally kill or simply annoy the victim. We have degrees of laws about torture chambers known as Offence-Related Places and we separate them from each other including separating the crimes that take place in the Offence Related Places. It is for example, illegal to keep up an Offence-Related Place and separately illegal to use it. Separate from each is a crime called simply Death. It states that bodily harm undertaken that results in the death of a person is punishable by life in prison.

I mention this because so often the crimes, when prosecuted, are not pursued with the focus on torture taking place. Murder is treated as murder and the punishment is life in prison, so why prosecute for torture resulting in death whose punishment is also life in prison? Because torture is a separate crime and deserves separate attention. It is not acceptable to rape, injure, maim, mutilate, or psychologically damage other humans for the purpose of entertainment or indeed for any reason. Is it necessary to attempt a sentence of multiple life-sentences when just one closes the book on any subsequent time served once one life is over? Such a sentence's frivolity can be argued, but since we offer multiple life sentences to young adults for drug crimes, I won't split hairs about torture resulting in murder.

We do sentence murderers based on circumstance, degree and intention already. Let us now use the laws we have in place to discuss our own willingness to accept and encourage civil reactions to hate crimes that incite retaliation and further hatred on all sides.

Hatred itself, while disappointing, is not a crime. Neither is anger, passion or greed. These are parts of us that we can allow or not to guide actions which are in some cases criminal. Since humans are emotional creatures who do not volunteer time, work hard, educate children or smile at our neighbors through sheer vacuous, stoic repetition, we should be mindful that we neither shoplift, thieve from our companies, cut, shoot nor rape each other in purely intellectual states.

Hate crimes and their punishments address social issues of a nature we must face and discuss at length as violence escalates in our world and we participate more and more in it here and abroad. We must never use our legislation to banish thought or strong emotions that make us human. We can however, protect our communities and each other by curbing the actions that these opinions and emotions can produce. With such a tool at our disposal, I must now ask, why not?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Clusters: Together we will cure cancer

I'm not even kidding with this.

Dr. Evangelos Michelakis at the University of Alberta has found a small molecule that shrinks significantly, effectively killing, cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. Research at the University of Alberta is underway as we speak; currently testing has been done on small animals who have been given cancer. Their tumours shrank significantly in a matter of weeks.

The drug itself has already been in use for several decades as a treatment for genetic mitochondrial illness in children. Since the 30's it has been known that in cancer patients, these cells do not function properly and it was widely believed that the damage to them from cancer was permanent.

Dr. Michelakis refuted this belief with research and we now have a drug in the testing stage that could effectively kill breast, lung and brain cancer.

Funding is not available from the pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit indefinitely by keeping people sick. In Canada we have an advantage because Health Canada is funded by our tax dollars. As such, should funding not be provided to a possible cure, the pharmaceutical companies are effectively robbing us of tax dollars by keeping people who could potentially be cured in the health care system. This is advantageous because the government stands to benefit financially by funding a cure for cancer rather than looking at the roundabout funding that is aimed directly at members of parliament from the pharmaceutical companies. The budget of Health Canada is directly involved in this process.
I will not expound on the human rights issue raised by failing to heavily fund a cure for cancer as it should be self-evident.

At this link a donation can be made directly to the university project to continue their research and possibly begin testing on human subjects. Donations can be made by mail or electronically.

My hope is that enough people will donate what they can to assist in a CURE for cancer, unpatented and therefore cheap for all people, everywhere.

Here too are links to contact the Government of Canada, who I feel should heavily fund this research (dumptrucks full of money is what I'm thinking).

Tony Clement (Minister of Health)

Also, here is how to contact the leaders of the four major political parties who should all act to mandate drug companies to fund cure research where viable. Let Algopharm make their money off of viagra and athletes foot treatments.

Prime Minister, Stephen Harper
Opposition Leader, Stephane Dion
NDP Leader, Jack Layton
Bloc Quebecois Leader, Gilles Duceppe

Get it out there everyone. Together we will cure cancer.

Now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day of Action for New Orleans

It's hard to believe that two years have gone by already while poor families in the gulf states continue to suffer ridiculous and preventable torment at the hands of the government elected to protect them. For this reason, I offer the following from Essence. Please spread the word and be a part wherever possible. No-one benefits from the despair and humiliation of others, especially our own. Make it known wherever you are in whatever way you can that we all deserve a life even after tragedy falls upon us.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29
A DAY OF PRESENCE!
WE MATTER, WE CARE, WE ACT

The Essence Music Festival in New Orleans was a huge success. It brought more than $120 million, hope and moments of happiness to the city and raised the spirits of people throughout the region. But as the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the situation in New Orleans remains dire. Some 250,000 people are yet displaced throughout the nation, unable to return because they have no homes, no jobs nor the financial means to rebuild. Two years later, 70 schools in Orleans Parish are still closed. There are no mental health services and no hospitals to serve the uninsured poor. The $1.175 billion in federally appropriated funds for the Katrina rebuild and relief effort are being held up by FEMA.

Enough is enough! It's time for our community to stand up and take action. There must be a national outcry, a day of outrage, a day of protest, prayer and possibility that the media cannot ignore; a day on which we demand that our national decision makers redirect our tax dollars away from war and war profiteering to create a regional Marshall Plan that restores New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

This is our call to action:

1. We demand our national leaders redirect tax dollars away from the war to create a regional Marshall Plan that restores New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

2. We demand funding for the rebuilding of the levees, for the safety of the people of New Orleans.

3. We want to return to New Orleans and need expeditious housing and job assistance to come back home.

4. We demand adequate health care. No displaced child or adult should go sick, untreated or without medication because his or her state-based medical insurance is not valid in the state where they've been temporarily relocated.

5. We need government funding for mental health counseling and support services for those dealing with the aftermath of their loss.

This is what we're asking you to do:

1. Stand with us on Wednesday, August 29th, in New Orleans as we take to the streets for a massive demonstration and march, 10 AM - 4 PM, on Convention Center Blvd, directly across from the Morial Convention Center's Hall D.

2. Call your congressional and state representatives and the White House to demand the immediate restoration and betterment of New Orleans, Gulf Port, Biloxi and the entire Gulf Coast region. The toll-free number for the congressional switchboard is: (888) 226-0627. You can also email your Congressmen and women and senators by logging onto www.house.gov and www.senate.gov, respectively.

3. We urge you to rally 10 family members, friends and colleagues to call their congressional leaders in a show of solidarity and protest and demand the restoration of the Gulf Coast region.

It's time for action. Let's take a stand.


We will be there
RAIN OR SHINE,
FIRE OR FLOOD,
HELL OR HIGH WATER,

Bring umbrellas and water.

Log onto www.louisianajusticeinstitute.org to get involved and register for 8/29, A Day of Presence: We Matter, We Care, We Act

Questions? Email us at admin@louisianajusticeinstitute.org or call us at (504) 304-7947.

Friday, July 13, 2007

US Military Prevents Canadians from Protesting in Quebec. (as far as I know, still a part of Canada)

The following was not written by me. It is a note from the Counsel of Canadians on the subject of a protest being prevented by the US Military on Canadian soil:

The US military is on Canadian soil forbidding the Municipality of Papineauville from renting a hall to the Council of Canadians who planned a public meeting to be held the day before the Three Amigos meet in Montebello, Quebec, Canada August 20, 21 2007 to plan their next moves in the dismantling of their respective countries of Canada, USA and Mexico.

CAP's leader said,"Bad enough that our RCMP and the Quebec provincial police force would apply offensive Canadian law to prevent a legitimate meeting of dissenting citizens. Totally untenable that a foreign army assumes jurisdiction on our land. But this we knew from the Bi national Planning Agreement begun in 2002 that saw Canada crawl on its belly and permit the USA military to enter our land whenever it deems necessary. "

"Does anyone still believe that our federal leaders have not thrown away our sovereignty ? That from Chretien (Liberal) to Martin (Liberal) to Harper (Conservative), the Prime Ministers of this our land have not been committing treason behind closed doors? How otherwise would it be possible that a proud, sovereign, and free nation would see a foreign army on its soil interfering with the right of Canadians to assemble and to speak?"

"And, Canada's silent loyal opposition has meanwhile been neither loyal nor an opposition! US military on Canadian soil ordering Canadians did not happen overnight!"

Connie Fogal, Leader of the Canadian Action Party, urges all Canadians to say NO to the criminalization of dissent on our land. She pointed out,"So they put up a fence! So they impose a 25 kilometer no go zone! So they halt vehicles with five or more people in them! So we be on the edge propelling the power of our inner energy to stare at them through their barriers! We can just stand and stare! There is something very ludicrous about three leaders of alleged free countries hiding from their citizens."

Connie Fogal, Leader of the Canadian Action Party encourages all liberty loving Americans, and Mexicans, as well as Canadians to protest this third annual meeting of national leaders who are bent on destroying our constitutional and civil rights. She urges,"Let us join hands in peaceful right of protest, standing firm and tall, determined and strong in acknowledgment that our nations belong to us the people,and that no shadow government, no military, no treacherous politicians or officials are going to take them away from us. "

Canadian Action Party / Parti action canadienne
www.canadianactionparty.ca

Friday, July 06, 2007

divide and conquer

Why does it matter whether Al Gore was a champion of censorship in the eighties? Does it diminish his environmental position after all of the books he has written on the subject? Did he willingly cover the agenda of an illegal tax by allowing a manipulative lobby group to take the stage in a spectacularly hypocritical maneuver to investigate artists and decide for the public what is morally acceptable or not?

Who is giving an award to Walmart for going green with their suppliers? The Chief Energy Conservation Officer has presented Walmart an award for sustainable building design and upkeep. Walmart products have received design awards for sustainable products, and acting now as a benefactor, Walmart Canada is now granting funds to groups to innovatively preserve green spaces in Canada. In May of this year Human Rights Watch published a paper outlining continual abuses by Walmart of North American workers. This to say nothing of the intrinsic support of inhuman sweatshop practices and unfair employee treatment by suppliers and transport companies who deliver the goods.

To benefit Global Green USA, Starbucks is having their umbrellas painted as original works to promote green initiatives. The Sidhamo prayer campaign and the movie Black Gold are doing the talking on that one at the moment.

There is a belief that comes from marketing that division of market sectors or "target marketing" is the best way to identify customers and focus resources on sales. This belief is based on the conviction that money is finite and that not everyone is going to purchase the same thing that everyone else is and various factors in their lives can predict what those purchases might be. This type of belief also governs polling and political predictions based on the idea that a vote is a conviction that is fundamentally opposite another conviction.

As these ideas became intermixed over the development of democratic nations, the free-market and the birthright of one vote came to intermix until certain purchases are now spoken of as "voting with feet". This is meant to suggest that if customers really didn't agree with Walmart or Starbucks practices, they would shop elsewhere. It precludes the possibility that Walmart or Starbucks fails to make public such practices and that the average person has no choice because all other optional businesses have been marginalized or obliterated completely.

Certain belief systems also became entrenched in the market idea, but in the other direction. Politicians are more and more judged on their records and more and more they are willing to cross the floor or reverse their position when an advantage can be gained personally. As such, we are less willing to suspect mistakes are made by our public figures just like us, we hold them to unreasonable standards which encourage them to play cloak & dagger politics behind closed doors. Their public faces become the very opposite of their own belief systems because all that matters is winning rather than accomplishing progress.

This diminishes all of us. Ideas are not finite. Passion is not finite Human energy is, but beliefs need not be mutually exclusive. Am I a hypocrite because I don't accept that Walmart has any interest in human rights? I am thrilled they are willing to go greener and ensure their suppliers do the same and I have no way of taking away from that accomplishment. I still don't agree with their illegal union-busting tactics and their treatment of women would be medieval if not for their massive computer system.

If Starbucks wants to use its huge promotion machine to educate more people about environmentalism, I applaud the effort. I must also remind them that purchasing fair-trade coffee for an acceptable price prevents subsistence farmers from razing forests for farmland in order to scrape by. It prevents existing farmland from being depleted and abandoned. They have the power to do this now, it could be decided literally in a matter of hours. They choose not to. They choose to distract us with coloured umbrellas and not terribly eloquent press releases where the word "progress" is repeated ad nauseum.

These various companies and governments, including public figures, have convinced themselves and us that there are camps to fit into. They can get people to a green rally where t-shirts and keychains with their logos can be handed out but since the human rights people tend to be less forgiving in public debate, they choose to do that meeting on paper. It does make sense to suggest that because I like one band I might like another. It does make sense to target my demographic because people my age have recieved common input from this world over our years and we have similar reactions to stimuli. Do I like Arcade Fire because they went to my highschool? Or because they performed with David Bowie who I adore? Maybe I was just ripe for their time.

My wallet is limited in ways that my conviction is not. Destroying my home for the sake of a cheap (though not inexpensive) cup of burnt coffee is not acceptable. Taking over my cities with ugly box stores and undermining not only my local vendors, but destitute mothers and women managers for the sake of a sweat-shop produced t-shirt is not acceptable. Issuing contradictory and toothless legislation in order to win a second time, effectively prostituting a public position that abandons the citizens of this country while claiming to champion their rights and interests is not acceptable.

Women are trafficked and violated on an abominable scale world-wide for the benefit and profit of men. First Nations and other indigenous peoples are relegated to tinier parts of land and history world-wide second by second. The poor of any stripe are told to accept cyclical and degrading charity because trading fairly with the owner of a commodity is only for those who cannot otherwise avoid it. They are hoping the environmental "camp" will hold over the heads of others a victory in getting big chain companies to begin going green. In this way, it seems reproachable, inexplicably so, to bring up human rights violations. They are trying to sell us short again by saying "we gave you this much, we're saving the planet, now shut up!"

I am reminded in this instance of a story where recycling programs and direct sustainability is the norm and any violations are heavily penalized. The world is not a desirable place to live as once the priority of the earth is held up over people, the result is cannibalism. Soylent Green is made of people.

We are a part of this world. We cannot ignore deforestation when the children saved from militias and workcamps must then live, excuse me, subsist on the deforested land. The death sentence once they are freed, excuse me, if they are freed, becomes that of malnutrition and AIDS. The green lobby and the human rights lobby must join to be an inseparable pressure group to force international companies and governments to govern and regenerate responsibly for us.

I'll put it another way: our right is to live, not simply to exist.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My comment on the Great Canadian Wish List

The CBC undertook a social experiment with Facebook titled the Great Canadian Wish List. Anyone could wish for literally anything and people could support wishes they agree with. The wishes are grouped, but not categorized for the finish: the wish with the most support at the end gets an hour of air time on July 1st, Canada Day.

Since the list got hijacked by crazed-right-wing mouth frothers, I started my own wish, that more survivors would report rape. The top three wishes held strong at Abolish Abortion at number 1, Revive the Spiritual Nature of this Country (spiritual means God-god, not Allah-god or Yaweh-god or any other heathen nonsense we've had to put up with over the years. Certainly no Goddesses!) and third, to Restore the Traditional Definition of Marriage in our Country. Traditional in this case means man on woman, porn under the bed and Britney's 36hr nuptial spree doesn't count.

In the end, a wish to keep abortion legal in this country made it to second, but only by a hair. There's talk all over the place of cheating, spamming etc. Mostly it's just a huge letdown. I had hoped for a response sort of like David Suzuki's what would you do for Canada challenge on youtube, where Canadians would submit their ideas for what Canada needs most. It was fun, sometimes whimsical, always innovative and good-spirited. This was simply a bored group of unenlightend malcontents who want to set back the entire civil-rights movement including women, gays and anyone who isn't Christian (and actively so) back to the stone age.

As such, I commented on the CBC blog of what I think of the breakdown of topics in the wish forum. You will find the comment in it's entirety below:

How truly fitting that a man, who as such will never have to go through an abortion except as perhaps an observer, would begin and promote a wish to abolish a right women have over their bodies.

Moreover, the description of the nature of the wish is juvenile at best: taking life = murder, ergo abortion is murder. If that lack of subtlety was true, women would be jailed everywhere for the thousands of fertilized eggs that are expelled from their bodies naturally by menstruation.

I am willing to have a discussion with anyone who disagrees with me, given that the discussion is truly an honest look at different opinions. In this case, rather than having a discussion with me and and many who support the right of women to choose, we are accused of outright murder and abortion is shown to be some kind of insidious plot being forced on young uneducated girls who don't know about the wonders of adoption.

Of all things to wish for in this great nation, for human rights for First Nations citizens who suffer in disgusting and unacceptable poverty, for more investment in healthcare and universal drug coverage, for universal child-care for all Canadian children, of all these choices and more, why spend the time and energy to popularize a medical myth?

I am thoroughly disappointed and my only comfort is that the majority of the country doesn't have a facebook account and doesn't intend to bother with such things.

I had hoped for an intelligent discussion on any number of subjects. Instead I got a guy who can't get in on the action of giving birth, and like so many others, is trying to curb what procreative rights he can as a limp standby with nothing but obtuse, self-righteous ferver.

Thank goodness no-one watches television on Canada Day.

C-day

What do I have to say about this particular Canada Day? It's cold! I'm put in mind of one of the last Canada Days when I really let it all out. I have vague, tiny vignettes of most of it from the next day when I woke up soaking wet in my bed still in my clothes and experiencing slow death.

The kitchen was downstairs at this particular place, it was a small townhouse I shared with 3 roommates. I rolled off of my futon, still propped up into a couch and clumsily stripped off my soaking clothes. I slowly pulled on my pjs, kind of a struggle, but happening in slow motion because everything was spinning and moving too quickly made everything hurt. I crawled to the bathroom and vomited almost immediately, but there wasn't much to come up. It didn't occur to me to get water from the bathroom sink, not much was occurring to me at that point, so I bent in half and staggered downstairs.

I got the water and came back up to my room instead of just lying down on the couch. My room upstairs was close to the bathroom and I knew I would be visiting there again. I lay on my couch wondering what had happened, how I got home, why I was so wet and truly if my present condition constituted a good Canada Day the day before.

The celebrations here are not the same as they are in our Nation's Capital. By varying degrees of lame, the celebrations are still one of the only days of the year that Ottawa is a tolerable destination for anyone. Here St. Jean is the big one and Canada Day is more of a lucky draw because we get two holidays off in a row, either two Fridays or two Mondays.

When I first moved here I wondered what the party was going to be about since naturally Montreal is a bigger party town than Ottawa. The celebrations were sad and disappointing as I only discovered later that it was truly not a big deal.

This year should be good. Jazzfest is going on right now, so that will be the main focus of celebration. I'm sure someone will do something a few blocks up, perhaps a small gathering of the only nationalists in the province, perhaps a small parade. The day is bright, cool and already half over. I intend to make the most of it.

Though I hope tomorrow not to awaken soaking wet and hoping for death.