Sunday, December 25, 2005

Fighting Corruption Will Never Be a Trivial Pursuit

The terms “Culture of Corruption” and “Culture of Entitlement” has recently been used often to describe the federal Liberal party’s typical relationship to rampant corruption.

One thing that is certain is that so long as corruption remains an issue in the current federal election, it is one about which the Liberal party will have nothing to say. The reason for this is simple: this is a matter on which have no ground to stand on, and absolutely no credibility.

Once again, the federal Liberal apologists have formulated what they feel to be the most appropriate response: trivialize the matter.

Examples come to mind. The most recent comes from George Stroumboulopoulos, who on an episode of CBC’s The Hour this past week attempted to lampoon the federal Conservative party over their response to Adscam, saying: “Quick. Name one federal government that wasn’t involved in some sort of scandal. …We’re still waiting.”

While it wouldn’t be unusual (or even incorrect) to paint the CBC as a glorified mouthpiece for the Liberal party, the matter here is not really the political leanings of one journalist. What matters is the implication that corruption in this case doesn’t matter because every other government has allegedly been corrupt as well. Furthermore, it is also suggested that any other party would be equally corrupt.

Certainly, the case that many other governments have been corrupt is accurate. Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative Government of the 1980s comes to mind, as does John A. McDonald’s Tory government of the 1870s. This, at least does demonstrate that other political parties (specifically, the Progressive Conservatives, who merged with the Canadian Alliance Party to form the modern Conservative Party in 2003) can be just as corrupt as any other.

On the other hand, in a recent top-ten list of the worst scandals in Canadian history compiled by (once again) the CBC, the current Liberal government was cited three times – Over the APEC Scandal, Shawinigate and the Jane Stewart Human Resources Development debacle. One should keep in mind this is before we have seen what the consequences of Adscam will ultimately be. In contrast, the Mulroney government was cited an equal number of times.— notably, over the Fisheries Scandal, the Airbus Scandal and various other Scandals related to his cabinet ministers. Also, this list was compiled before the recent revelations regarding the suspicious leak of information from Revenue Canada regarding the taxation of Income Trusts (which, interestingly, the Liberals don’t want to investigate). This means that at least two major cases of corruption that must be cited against the Liberal party remain at hand.

Some individuals, such as Calgary Grit (blogger Scott Ramson) seek to merely trivialize some of the details of Adscam. On October 15, 2004, Ramson wrote, “ … golf balls? Is this the worst they can do? Politicians use the government bank account for far more costly things: dinners, jet flights (for “political events”), the list goes on and on. The fact that the PM may have gotten a few freebies (and I don’t think that link has even been proven…just that they were used at an event he was at) is trivial. You’re telling me that CEOs don’t use company funds to get free jackets, sweaters, etc? That employees don’t use a company photocopier for private purposes?”

Ramson was referring to the production of name-branded golf balls by Jean Chretien, which was one of the questionable items being examined by the Gomery Inquiry. He goes on to refer to the matter as a “trivial non-story”, despite the fact that this at least suggests – raises reasonable suspicion – that Chretien possessed a personal link to the corruption at the heart of Adscam, just as he was personally linked to Shawinigate. But for those Liberal apologists who are afraid of what this may ultimately may mean for their party, the only way to respond is to confuse the issue, and ensure that the issue remains confused.

Questioning whether or not governmental corruption is absolutely ludicrous – of course it matters. However, it can be considered that the current batch of Liberal apologists are attempting to argue the matter with one of two very similar methods: in one case, it is proposed that all governments are corrupt (which is entirely false – Joe Clark’s reign as Prime Minster was clean, albeit short), so the corruption of one government doesn’t matter. In the other, it is argued that because all governments are corrupt corruption doesn’t matter at all. Both of these approaches are ridiculous, and reek of defeatism – if not outright loserism.

Adscam matters, and nothing the Liberal apologists have to say will change this. If, in fact, it was corruption thar resulted in the 1992 annhiliation of the Progressive Conservative party and not fickle anger over the GST, Canadians have no excuse to not visit similar wrath upon the Liberal party.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Deconstructing the Hidden Agenda

Welcome to Ottawa, where telling the truth, it seems, has become strictly verboten.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper was sent a letter of warning last week by the legal representatives of the Liberal Party. The subject of the warning? Harper’s assertation that Adscam demonstrates connections between the Liberal party and organized crime. The letter insisted that should Harper, or any member of the Conservative party repeat the comments outside of the House of Commons, the Liberal party would sue.

Which would probably be all fine and dandy… if it wasn’t true. The Sponsorship Scandal reflects practices common in much of white collar crime… which is, by its very nature, premeditated and organized. In other words, organized crime.

To the Globe and Mail, this affair apparently qualified as front page news, as they reported “Liberals Threaten to Sue Over Harper’s Rhetoric.” Which is what Harper’s assertations may well have been… if they weren’t, you know… true. This also came on a day when the rest of the national media was focusing on the Liberal party’s steadily dropping polls, and the backlash against the party’s proposed bribery of Canadian voters. So, if one suggests that the Globe and Mail is manipulating the news to the benefit of the Liberal party, they probably are not all that far from the truth.

In fact, they’re probably spot-on. It’s no secret that the Liberal party practically owns many of Canada’s high-profile media personalities (Rick Mercer, anyone?). The only question that remains is thus: did Jean Chretien pay cash or credit when he bought these people? And has Paul Martin been keeping up with the bills? Evidently so.

With today’s calling of a January 23rd election, one can expect some of Canada’s more unscrupulous “journalists” to begin lining up to take shots at any opponents of the corrupt Liberal regime. We can expect to hear the same old rhetoric (actual rhetoric, not demonstrated truth dismissed as rhetoric) over and over again.
Including that same propaganda lie fed to the Canadian public over and over again: the Hidden Agenda.

The idea of the Hidden Agenda has been a reliable lie for supporters of the Liberal party, used to counter virtually everything the Conservative party has ever proposed. “End corporate welfare”… HIDDEN AGENDA!!! “Tax relief”… HIDDEN AGENDA!!! “Gomery Inquiry”… HIDDEN AGENDA!!!

Unfortunately for these liars (or, perhaps, unfortunately for the Conservative Party), the Conservative Party has no hidden agenda. The Liberal party, however, does have such a hidden agenda, and they have shown us this time and time again.
Through various state endowments, the Liberal party has repeatedly laid the frame work for an ideological brainwashing of Canadians. The country’s most prominent think tanks are all Liberal party-friendly, and have all consistently worked toward entrenching the values allegedly espoused by the Liberal party as “Canadian values”. Meanwhile, a monopoly on political power has made the Liberal party increasingly corrupt. Even as the air is cleared from the last major scandal (Shawinigate?), the next scandal emerges, painting a picture of a political party that has brainwashed the country so thoroughly that it doesn’t matter what the truth is: the federal Liberals have, in effect, issued themselves a license to be as corrupt as they wish: and they’ve invented the perfect lie to make it possible.

Perhaps the most telling fact regarding the hidden agenda is the fact that those screaming it at the top of their lungs can’t seem to agree on what it is. Depending on which pro-Liberal drone you ask, it amounts to almost anything, from turning Canada into a puppet state under U.S. control to legalizing discrimination against gays and other minorities, to even “a Canada ruled by rednecks”.

Which is all fairly interesting, especially when considering that the Conservative party has, election in and election out, sent forth the most ethnically and racially diverse range of candidates out of any of Canada’s political parties. Oops.

Those responsible for spreading the “hidden agenda” lie have often grasped at any straw they can find. For example, the nomination of three candidates with links to Christian activist groups led to the pronouncement that “religious zealots are hijacking the Conservative party”. Those spreading this particular bit of propaganda all took care to bury the pertinent facts – the mere three out of more than 200 candidates nominated by the Conservatives – as deeply in their respective “journalistic articles” as they could.

In another case, an article exploring the “anti-abortion” hidden agenda of the Conservative party alleged that 20 anti-abortion MPs attended a “March for Life” rally in Ottawa. The article noted that “most of them” were Conservative MPs – then failed to mention how many of them were, or how many of them were from other parties – or who, or which.

If ever forced to produce concrete proof – not rhetoric – those supporting the hidden agenda lie would be unable to produce it. But this is not something they are meant to support – it’s a propaganda tool, designed for one purpose: spreading hysteria for the purpose of demonizing political alternatives, essentially turning Canada into a one-party state.

Take one look at Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or Communist China. It isn’t hard to figure out what the ultimate consequences for establishing a one-party state are.
Unfortunately, there are those in Canada who are simultaneously so ambitious and so unscrupulous that they are willing to stop at nothing in order to do this.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Let it Snow on Paul Martin

If you’re Prime Minister Paul Martin, the weather in Canada’s current political climate is certainly frightful.

Canada’s political winds have blown heaps of metaphorical snow upon our Prime Minister, as the results of the Gomery Inquiry have been followed, inevitably, by the threat of an opposition defeat of his besieged government, which would force what may well be a Christmas election.

Unfortunately, it seems that many Canadians don’t want a Christmas election. To some, making important decisions about who will govern this country apparently takes a back seat to sipping Egg Nogg, hanging candy canes, and accumulating near-crippling Christmas-gift-related debt.

However, Canadians should welcome the idea of a Christmas election. What better time than Christmas to take this country in a new direction?

Hopefully, the outcome of a winter election can demonstrate once and for all that Canadians, like Santa, know who’s been naughty or nice. While many Canadians may be extremely reluctant to consider any of our politicians “nice” – especially Stephen Harper who, if you believe the typical ultra-lefty tripe, conspires with Ralph Klein to kick over orphans’ snowmen – at least we know who’s been really, really naughty.
Which would be – that’s right – the federal Liberals. And while many federal Liberal apologists out there will insist that the party itself is not to blame for adscam, the naughty list that is the Gomery report disagrees with them. It contends that the federal Liberal party is the only common factor amongst the planning and execution of this scandal, as well as its beneficiaries. In other words: they planned it, they carried it out, and they benefited from it.

This, however, hasn’t stopped Paul Martin from playing the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, snorting “Bah! Humbug!” at the idea of respecting the wishes of Parliament and calling an election in January. Many accuse Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton of playing the role of the Grinch, conspiring to steal Christmas by forcing a yuletide vote that would draw the attention of Canadians away from the season’s traditionally festive matters. But it is Paul Martin who has forced Canada’s opposition parties into this corner, where they must either force a Christmas election, or allow the Liberals an additional four months to work on damage control.

Then again, Martin is shaping up to be an uncharacteristically generous Scrooge. Unsurprisingly, his government has stepped up to the tax relief plate and offered $37 billion in new spending, as well as retroactive tax cuts (amounting to hundreds of dollars per Canadian). But don’t let those visions of sugar plums dance in your heads just yet, kids; these generous Christmas presents – also known as bribes – are dependant upon the Liberal government surviving the next election.

All this aside, it is my greatest hope that the spirit of the season can convince the Conservative party and the New Democrats – who are usually bitter blood-enemies – to unite in the spirit of peace and harmony to hatch an agreement that would allow the two to form a coalition government in the wake of a Christmas election.

This could represent something of a plump Christmas goose for Canadians – the social conscience of the NDP, combined with the fiscal responsibility of the Conservative party. Perhaps, for once in a long time, the bulk of tax money spent on social services could actually go to front-line service, as opposed to being wasted in bureaucratic snowdrifts. Perhaps Canadians could even have a government that is less concerned with petty partisan politics, and more focused on the actual business of running the country.

Of course, that is merely a fringe benefit that will come with finally having a government that will at least promise not to steal Canadian tax dollars. Paul Martin’s Liberals won’t even do that.

This Christmas, give Canada the most precious gift of all – that of a new government.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

ATTN: Jack Thompson, Please Sue Me

Make My Day

Jack Thompson. These two words alone should be enough to make anyone within the video game industry cringe. Frankly, it should be enough to make anyone outside the video game industry, or even Thompson himself cringe. But I digress.

This little joker has been pretty busy lately, what with his threatening lawsuits and trying to have online comic arrested for “harassment” (more on this later), so it’s a little challenging to keep up with his escapades. However, here at the Nexus of Assholery, we rarely shy away from challenges, whether it’s a challenge to finish that entire case of shitty Pilsner beer, or a challenge to run through freeway traffic while dressed in a chicken suit, or even a challenge to round up an army of crackwhores with which to invade a small Baltic country – so here we go.

The latest chapter in the chronicles of J.T., as they were, began with a similar challenge. Jack Thompson issued a challenge to the video game community to produce an anti-video game video-game, and said that, if someone who do so, he would donate $10,000 to charity on their behalf. Of course, when someone actually did so, Jack declined to donate the money, saying that his offer was satirical (apparently Jackie boy has, not only a name that I can make fun of in infinite ways, but also a really fucked up sense of satire).

Enter those delightful scamps at Penny-Arcade. When Jacko didn’t pony up the dough as promised, they took it upon themselves to pony up the dough on his behalf, presenting a cheque for the aforementioned $10,000 to the Entertainment Software Association, which was marked as “For Jack Thompson because Jack Thompson won’t.”
The result was rather astounding and confusing. In a self-orchestrated series of events, Thompson has repeatedly threatened to sue Penny-Arcade, and even sent a letter to the Seattle, Washington Police Department, in which he wrote: “I look forward to working with your fine police department to shut down this little extortion factory and/or arrest some of its employees.”

Yes, because it is truly criminal to criticize Jack Thompson. In fact, I can hear his Jack-booted (no pun intended… or is it?) storm troopers approaching now, so I have to finish this little libel-fest (as Jackio would call it) up rather quickly. Which will be another challenge.

From here on out, things have gotten worse for Jacky. The National Institute on Media and the Family has distanced itself from Jack and his Gestapo-like attitude. Jack, for his part, has been using the NIMF (funny how that works out) as a sort of shield behind which he can hide, claiming he has their utmost support in everything that he has doing. NIMF, for its part, has kicked Jack to the curb faster than a toothless ‘ho, and that has made Jack mad.

Jack retaliated by claiming that companies like Target (who profit by selling the video games that this Jackass abhors) essentially bought off NIMF president David Walsh (which is, technically, a slanderous statement, but hey, who’s counting?).
But then again, maybe Jack’s trying to cover his tracks because he’s embarrassed. You see, the video game that he suggested be made (and offered a reward for) was to be based around the idea of murdering thinly-veiled caricatures of individuals who work in the video-game industry. Some would think this is ironic coming from an alleged anti-violence activist.

But Jack Thompson isn’t an anti-violence activist. He’s a law suit profiteer who is currently creaming in his own pants because he now has so many people he can now sue (and profit from) that he doesn’t know where to start.

But I know where you can start Jack. Sue me. Sue me, Jack, sue me. I dare you.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Waking Up Wal-Mart

Wal Mart indulges political hysteria

In this day and age of paranoia and “terror threats”, one would expect that the U.S. Secret Service would have better things to do than bully high school students.

Then again, not so much, when Wal-Mart gets their way.

Such is the tale of an unidentified student in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, who, last month, created an anti-Bush poster for a civics class assignment on civil rights. The student took a photo of Bush, thumb tacked it to the wall, and took a picture of himself beside it, giving the thumbs-down sign of disapproval.

The mistake this unidentified student made? Taking the film to the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart to be developed, where a “model Wal-Mart employee” (aka mindless cretin) subsequently called the Secret Service on them.

Now, one may not expect that it is Wal-Mart’s place to safeguard the welfare of America, but apparently those people are flat-out wrong. When Wal-Mart isn’t turning civics students in to the Secret Service for expressing anti-Bush views, they’re censoring books, CDs and movies for their anti-Bush views… or, at the very least, their anti-conservative views.

Take, for example, Wal-Mart’s banning of Tom Barlow’s (mostly) self-titled album. Barlow was removed from Wal-Mart shelves because of the song “Married by Elvis”, a tune about two lesbians who go to Las Vegas to elope. But it doesn’t stop there. Wal-Mart also banned John Stewart’s America: the Book, as well as the documentary Uncovered: the Whole Truth Behind the Iraq War… all allegedly in the name of “family values”… which apparently include discriminating against women in regards to pay and promotions. Yep, love them family values.

Yes, if there is anything we can say for certain about Wal-Mart, it is that they have traditionally been hostile to the very idea of free speech. While one can, in fact, argue a case in favor of not carrying CDs with the “Parental Advisory” sticker – given the sheer number of parents who are completely oblivious of these labels when shopping for their children – it is the obvious political leanings of Wal-Mart that are inexcusable.

Not to mention its own self-serving motives in many of these situations – for example, Wal-Mart complained about Sheryl Crow’s self-titled CD, which contained a song which criticized Wal-Mart for selling handguns. Wal-Mart pouted that it was “unfair and irresponsible”. And selling handguns in a mass merchandizing store isn’t?

While many criticize Wal-Mart for its program of cultural sanitization, what is even more disconcerting is its program of political sanitization. Is it the right of a corporate merchandiser to choose to sell only products that support political causes they support? Technically, yes. Is it their responsibility? No. Is it a responsible act? No.

Certainly, many of us would like to say that Wal-Mart is above this sort of thing, but frankly, it’s consistent with their track record.

In any conscionable company, with any respect for its customers, an employee such as the one who informed on this student’s poster would be fired, and would be fortunate to find a job doing something they are obviously far more suited to – such as, say, flipping burgers. Unfortunately, the company in question is Wal-Mart, where this employee gets to cower behind an immense and useless bureaucracy.It’s rather sad that the company that crusades the most in the name of “family values” is so wrapped up in this new McCarthyism. Respecting the civil rights of others is apparently not (in their minds, at least) a family value.

Spam This!

Oh, how I hate spyware...but also this

Newsflash. I hate spyware. OK. Maybe that isn’t news. But here IS some news: I hate spam.

Yes, spammers (you know who you are) I am talking to you. I hate you. Don’t cross my path. Because I will hurt you.

We are all familiar with spammers: in the minds of many, they are the new public enemy number one. These are the poor, wretched souls who spend their days (and possibly their obviously-dateless nights) hunched over their computer keyboards, most of them expecting that you will indeed buy their herbal viagra if only they can saturate your e-mail account with eight fucking e-mails a day.

Or, surely you will buy some of their shitty child-labor-made Chinese socks if only they can invade your website message board or weblog and post what is essentially an unsolicited advertisement.

And, of course, these people will all be sure that they do these things in ways that ensure you cannot contact them directly in order to tell them: A.)I’m not interested, B.)stop bothering me, or perhaps even my personal favourite, C.)fuck off.

And, just as with those who create the spyware and adware programs that have polluted cyberspace to the point where it is navigable only to those blessed with the computer skills necessary to stay a step ahead of them, I do not (wink, wink) advocate someone taking a baseball bat with a huge nail stuck through it to the craniums of e-mail spammers (nudge, nudge) it seems that someone should do something about this annoying phenomena before it grows completely beyond our control.

AND, it seems, we can. It starts with little things like not buying the products they are peddling (if you are buying these things, seriously, stop, or I will be forced to hurt you as well), and continues with things like reporting them and the companies they work for to your e-mail account holder’s spam filter.

And while none of these things may substitute for a good old-fashioned ass kicking (which once again – nudge nudge – I am not advocating), they are a start. But perhaps it is time (as with adware and spyware) that e-mail spam was regulated.
While I am far from being in favor of a massive wave of iron-fisted censorship coursing through the internet, it seems that there ought to be some sort of e-harassment law in place to prevent these douchebags from drowning us in e-mails offering to sell us programs to crack our friends and family’s passwords (how the fuck is this not criminal as it is?). While this certainly won’t eliminate this annoying epidemic (for instance, spam coming from overseas couldn’t be regulated by any one country), it can certainly help to cut back on it.

Perhaps it is time that we all e-mailed our members of Parliament (or, for those of you south of the border, Congress) nine or ten times a day until they crack and either pass a law against e-mail spamming, or at least buy our damn herbal viagra.
Especially that Strom Thurmond fella.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stalking Celebrities for Fun and Profit

Over the years, some would argue that the city of Edmonton has garnered itself a reputation for being more than a little unexciting – perhaps even dreary.

So one could imagine the exhilaration inspired by the recent presence of two of the world’s top film stars – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – would be a welcome change from the typical Edmonton doldrums.

The excitement reached a fever pitch this past Wednesday, as a day trip for the two (as well as Jolie’s adopted children) to West Edmonton Mall stirred up a fervor, in which a number of people took the liberty of snapping poor-quality photos of the two stars.

It seems to me the school girlish excitement these people are expressing is a little sad and/or pathetic. It’s not much unlike the people who brag that AC/DC once passed through their hometown on a bus – although, the idea of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie driving a bus through West Edmonton Mall is clearly awesome.

Look at it this way: you’re boasting that you saw Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in a /shopping mall/. Did you approach them? Talk to them? Sleep with either one of them (excellent!)? Sleep with both of them (hot!!)? With Angelina’s adopted Cambodian children in the room with you (awkward!!!)?

No? Then, clearly you suck. Years from now, when you’re bouncing your grandchildren on your knee, imagine how sad it will be that the best story you can tell them is that you once stalked two (likely long-deceased) movie stars that they probably will have never heard of.

If anything, the presence of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in our fair city has merely allowed the residents of said fair city to go nuts paparazzi-style. And while I’ll be the first to admit the $50,000 bounty placed upon Pitt and Jolie by local radio stations prompted me to take to the streets with a giant fish net and a roll of duct tape, I’ll have you know that was purely for sadistic reasons.

Because truly celebrities deserve to be hunted down like animals; if not with a chloroform-soaked rag, then surely with a cellphone camera. And certainly we don’t feel an ounce of empathy for Jolie as she attempts to rush her child out of the lascivious view of a camera lens. After all, I belive it was Homer Simpson who said: “celebrities must realize that we own them.” Certainly, their children are a bonus.

Then again, who could resist the thrill of capturing two of the world’s most enchanting celebrities in one of the world’s most sensational settings? Surely, the opportunity to photograph Brad Pitt at the fabulous Wok Box must not be missed. To do so would be a crime against glamour.

But why stop at merely photographing these two celebrities? You haven’t truly lived the paparazzi lifestyle until you’ve hounded them down the Whitemud in a perilous high-speed chase. Although, when you actually pass Georges Laraque, it should become clear you’ve taken it a little too far.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Worshipping Hate

This Just In -- God Hates Everybody

That’s right. God hates everybody. Including you. Maybe even especially you.

At least, according to Pastor Fred Phelps. You see, kids, reverend Phelps is perhaps one of the most extreme opponents of gay rights in the United States. He is also Pastor for Westboro Baptist Church, a rather charming group of people who maintain a number of websites, including www.godhatesamerica.com and www.godhatesfags.com.
Of course, this won’t be the first funeral protest for Phelps. In 1998 he forced his way into the public consciousness by protesting at the funeral Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death. His church has also picketed at the funerals of those who have died of AIDS.

Most recently, Phelps has promised to picket the funeral of Corporal Jamie French. French, 19, an Idaho native and a former cheerleader. Phelps feels little shame for his actions, calling her, “An all-American girl from a society of all-American heretics.”

Phelps has also claimed that, “Our attitude toward what's happening with the war is the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime." Which, to judge from his actions, is basically denying the right of hateful, homophobic gay-bashers to beat homosexuals to death on the street. Charming. Absolutely charming.

“While we respect Mr. Phelps' right to protest, we would hope that he would respect the family and friends of this young person by not disrupting the memorial,” said Caldwell, Iowa police chief Bob Sobba.

Fat chance. The word “respect” has no meaning to people like Phelps. Nor do the words “shame”, “decency”, or “love” have any meaning.

Take, for example, this excerpt from his website: “[Westboro Community Church] rejoices every time the Lord God in His vengeance kills or maims an American soldier with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked" (Ps. 58:10).”
Phelps has rarely declined an opportunity to cry about the “hateful words and actions” directed at his church – including a bomb attack in 1999. But instead of understanding how he has brought hatred and violence upon himself, how does he choose to react? That’s right, with more hatred.

“When you fill the army with fags and dykes and spit in the face of God, you have sown the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind.”

Of course, hatred of this intensity is ‘spit in the face of god’, but don’t ever put that past Phelps. God makes an awfully convenient excuse for people such as this.
Unfortunately, it isn’t only gays and lesbians that face the wrath of Phelps’ hatred. His website also proclaims that Reggie White is in hell (because “he displays none of the traits of the “heroes of faith”, as they are listed in Hebrews 11) and Ronald Reagan is in hell (because “Men honor him”, as well as some swill regarding Rock Hudson… if you read it, you’ll be as confused as I am).

Of course, websites like www.godhatesamerica.com and www.godhatesfags.com (which proclaims “thank god for the London subway bombings!”) are full of nothing but lies and excuses. The truth is another matter entirely.

The truth about men such as Phelps is truly dark. The truth is that people such as Phelps claim to worship the Judeo-Christian god. But that claim isn’t the truth. Because the truth is that men such as Phelps worship at the altar of hate. They worship hate, because they understand nothing else.

If that isn’t idolatry, I don’t know what is. But there is one thing that I do know: whatever this hate-filled little weasel thinks is waiting for him in the next life, it isn’t what he thinks he is.

Because people like Phelps are filled with too much hate for heaven.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Video Game Controversy... AGAIN...

Bring On the Douchebags!!!

Remember Mortal Kombat?

Way back when Mortal Kombat first hit arcades, it sparked almost instant controversy. If you’re anywhere near as old as I am, you (like me) surely delighted in liquidating your weekly allowance in quarters, heading straight for your local mall and spending hours laying the uber-brutal smackdown on the likes of Sub-Zero, Liu Kang and Kano.

The game was incredibly violent for its time, and inspired its fair share of protest from pro-censorsip groups. But today, even those were the good ol’ days.
Yes, kids, today video games are more violent than ever. The first time I played Def Jam Vendetta: Fight for New York, I thought it was off the hook, violence-wise. Then I watched some of my friends playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Now, some people may think that there’s nothing wrong with walking into a Pizza restaurant and killing its occupants execution-style… but then again, some people also think the Earth is flat.

The point is, that video games these days have reached new heights of violence and controversy. From smashing people’s heads in car doors, (in Def Jam Vendetta), to ripping people’s innards out (in God of War), to taking part in riots (State of Emergency), modern video games have eclipsed their predecessors in terms of violence.
Despite the fact that strong evidence suggests that violent crimes amongst youths (those who pro-censorship advocates claim are influenced to violence by video games) have decreased year-by-year since as video games become more and more violent, many continue to decry the escalating violence.

And to tell you the truth, I can’t entirely blame them. I’ve never been pro-censorship, some of the violence contained in video games (which have consistently expanded their appeal across age groups ever since their inception) borders on extremely disturbing. I can honestly say that if I had children I would not allow them to play most of these video games being released today.

Of course, that aside, none of the tragedies that are allegedly caused by videogame violence (the idea of which, of course, defies that little thing we all have called “free will”) doesn’t stop people from trying to profit from it.

Take, for example, anti-violent-video-game activist (alleged) Jack Thompson. In a February, 2005 interview with CBS news, Thompson referred to ESA president Doug Lowenstein as the “Goebbels of the video game industry”. Thompson also maintains www.Stopkill.com, a site whose self-described purpose is to “is to give you the means to contact Miami attorney Jack Thompson if you know of someone harmed as a result of violent entertainment, including violent video games.”

The site also urges people to encourage their kids to “shoot hoops, not humans” (good advice, actually).

Thompson, himself, however, has been involved with lawsuits against Wal-Mart, Sony and Rockstar Games. The lawsuits concern the popular aforementioned Grand Theft Auto series, as well as Manhunter (which is fairly demented in its own right). Fortunately, he has yet to win a single one. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been trying like the dickens. As a point of reference, he was also involved in the lawsuit regarding Body Count’s classic song “Cop Killer”.

To Thompson (among others), the “M” video game label that the video game industry consented to being placed on violent video games – which is meant to restrict the sales of these games to adults -- doesn’t mean much.

The current hot-topic controversy is over a hidden sex mini-game in the aforementioned GTA : San Andreas. Here’s how it works: when equipped with a “hot cup of coffee” code modification, the game allows the player to cruise looking for women who will share a “hot cup of coffee” with them. Guess what that’s a euphamism for? Mmmm-hm.

U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham-Clinton (whose husband, bill, you may recall, helped cast the finger of blame at Eminem and Marilyn Manson in the post-Columbine scrum) and Joe Lieberman have raised a ruckus over the feature, referring to it as “pornographic”. Rockstar games has asserted that the controversial mini-game is actually the work of “modders” – hard-core gamers/programmers who have learned how to produce modifications for games.

On that note, cue your next video-game controversy profiteer: a New York woman who claims she bought the game for her 14-year-old son without being aware of the controversy – or, apparently, the game’s rating. The rating on the game has since been changed to “AO” (Adults Only), but that changes little.

Follow me if you will: son – 14 years old. Game rated – Mature (for players 17 and older). Of course, in a lawsuit-happy land where you can sue CBS and Janet Jackson for an “accidental” breast exposure, this is business-as-usual.

Scott Ramsoomair (creator of the delightful www.VGCats.com) somewhat agrees with the concerns regarding video game sex and violence: “I’d say roughly 80% of video games contain violence, but only a very small amount of that is intense violence. Your Grand Theft Autos and Mortal Kombats,” he says. However, he strongly disagrees with assertations that video game violence inspires real-life violence: “Psychos will always be psychos; they don’t need video games to help them. Though this one time my brother punched me in the arm when I beat him in Mario Kart. Does that count?”
He also notes that often the outrage is over inflated: “Take BMXXX, a horrible game, but not for its content. It was just a very bad game. But people hear nudity and everyone is up in arms.”

While creating legislation that penalizes retailers for selling video games in defiance of their rating may not be a bad idea, one needs to be very careful when considering this. It’s actually just one step away from censorship.

Because while I can personally agree that games like GTA: San Andreas should not be in the hands of children, censorship is always a dangerous path to walk down. If the backlash over Ms. Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” shows us anything, it’s that once one gets too far down that path, it can be hard to find the way back again.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Save the Weinermobile!!!


PETA's back at it... and so am I

Hoo boy, PETA again. You would think at some point these people would stop giving me stuff to work with. Think again.

Recently, PETA issued one of their “action alerts” (basically their asshole cronies to act like assholes). This time, they are targeting none other than Oscar Meyer – purveyors of meat products (notably hot dogs), and that delightful song.

…My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R…

Wait. Where was I? Oh, right. Douchebags.

Of course, this isn’t your average douchebaggery. This is PETA-style douchebaggery (apparently, the self-righteous yuppies have a style all their own).

PETA has issued an action alert urging people to enter the “Ride of Your Life” contest, in which 20 people will win the opportunity to use the beloved Oscar Meyer weinermobile for a full day. They have urged the people to win the contest to “put the weinermobile to use, PETA-style” (you can stop laughing any time now) in order to “show people how bad eating meat is for people and animals.”

Yes, that’s right. PETA desperately wants a weinermobile. More to the point, they want Oscar Meyer’s – whereas they could just fill a Chrysler P.T. Cruiser with as many of their members as can fit in it – which I’m guessing would be a lot of emaciated vegetarians. But that’s beside the point.

If anyone needed anything to convince them that PETA has entirely too much time on its hands – which, obviously it chooses to spend climbing onto that high horse they aren’t supposed to be riding (animals aren’t for our exploitation, you see).
Seeing as how encouraging people to act like assholes is all the rage these days, I’m throwing my hat into the ring. I will award an official “Nexus of Assholery” no-prize to anyone who will take the Oscar Meyer weinermobile, drive it to the PETA head office in Norfolk, Virginia and sell hotdogs in the parking lot in front of their building. I will award TWO of these priceless (albeit worthless) no-prizes to anyone who will eat a hotdog directly in front of anyone who comes out to complain. THREE if you spray them with mustard and set fire ants loose upon them!

…Wait… sorry. I forgot about all of those impressionable minds. I am joking (wink, wink) when I tell you that PETA (nudge, nudge) deserves to be humiliated. I am not at all serious (wink, wink) when I suggest that you should do this (nudge, nudge).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Legend of David Mainse and the Queen

No, not a drag queen... but imagine if it were!

How does one top claiming Paul Martin has been possessed by the devil, and that Bill C-38 is the work of said devil?

Apparently, one starts a letter-writing campaign urging Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II to order all of her government representatives world wide to refuse to ratify same-sex marriage.

“ Our beloved Queen Elizabeth II, I know that the refusal of the Governor General to give royal consent would precipitate a crisis. Millions have nowhere else to turn but you,'” Mainse wrote in a recent letter. Because apparently, broadway-themed weddings for gays and lesbians is the worst thing to happen since Hitler. Or ever. “ Please help humanity everywhere to begin a reversal of this morally and socially destructive trend,” Mainse pleads.

Wow… David Mainse really hates broadway. Or is it gays and lesbians? No matter.

Ever since the same sex marriage bill became a hot-hot-hot button issue for Canadians, Mainse and his Crossroads foundation cohorts have rarely missed an opportunity to show Canada ugly new (or, perhaps, old) sides of their character.
Take David’s latest gambit for example. He acknowledges that the refusal of royal assent would cause a “crisis”, but doesn’t seem to care much. He also begs her majesty to help “humanity” (hmmm… gays and lesbians are apparently no longer human, so says the book of God, as interpreted by our dear Davey) fight this “morally and socially destructive trend”.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that in the few weeks since Canada’s parliament passed Bill C-38 (which I rightfully heralded a triumph for Canada as a whole -- not just gays and lesbians), Canadian society has not collapsed in a puff of smoke. In fact, no frogs have fallen from the sky, no locusts have wiped out record numbers of crops, and the first-born of no MPs have been killed. Maybe god isn’t quite as pissed off about this as you assure us that he is, David. But I digress.

I think it’s actually kind of fun to watch rabid anti-same-sex-marriage activists squirm like a worm on a hook.

It’s almost as pitiful as David’s attempt at bartering with our dear Queen E.: “ Should you act in this, millions of us would surely become more fervent supporters of the monarchy than ever,” he wrote in his letter – received days before the recent Terror bombing. In the letter he also demonizes Paul Martin, claiming that he has divided the country over the issue – and that this division couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the issue itself. Nope, it’s all Paul’s fault. He also tries to play on old acquaintances, suggesting that she “probably remembers” Paul Martin Sr., who was an ambassador to the UK.

David, it’s time for you to give Ronald Reagan back his haircut and join the rest us in the 21st century. While you’re at it, wake up and smell the maple nut crunch.
Perhaps the saddest thing about religious conservatives is that they continue to assert that governments should rule, more or less, according to exclusively Christian beliefs. If some of them had their way, the Bible would be the only book of law in the land.

Which is just the answer we need: relying on religion, which at best provides us with incomplete and limited answers, to tell us how to carry on every aspect of our lives in the real world – a world of unlimited possibilities.

It seems that even as we take steps toward a new future, people like David Mainse would happily banish us back to the middle ages.

But there is one thing I do know: if David Mainse manages to defeat bill C-38, Broadway will be next.

Mark my words.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Birds of a Feather Terrorize Together

Violent protesters and Al Qaida terrorists aren't as different as you think

Question: what do the Islamic perpetrators of Thursday’s London subway bombings and those responsible for the violent G-8 protests in Scotland have in common? Answer: quite a bit, actually.

No, they aren’t acting in collusion with one another. But there are more similarities between the two than one would believe, and they circle primarily around the intentional use of violence to achieve their goals.

Both claim they’re fighting against oppression – to end the tyranny of the current patriarchy by any means necessary. Both would happily replace the current patriarchy with one of their own, and it is this that makes them all the more dangerous.
One can point to groups such as Al Qaida and see a face that is not all that different from organizations such as the Black Bloc, or (to a much lesser extent) the Earth Liberation Front – a face that threatens violence from behind a mask of anonymity. The point of it all, of course, is not violence, but fear. Fear which is to be used as a motivator in support of a political cause. It is violence under threat of further violence. As one (unnamed) anarchist promised: “This is just the start of it. Nobody wants to get arrested ahead of Wednesday. We've got a lot more planned.”

For these people, the use of violence serves a number of purposes. It is a badge of honor. It is a symbol of dedication. It is a political shortcut. More than any of this, however, it is a demonstration of defiance. And, of course, defiance breeds defiance.

There is an old saying: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. While there is an air of naivete surrounding this parable, there is an equivalency when it comes to political activism. That is, peaceful demonstrations generally get a better response (both from the police and the public eye) than violent ones. “We want to allow the peaceful protest of the majority to take place unhindered by any rogue elements who are set on disruption and confrontation,” says Constable John Vine, speaking to press after Tuesday’s violent demonstrations in Edinburgh. “Make no bones about it, if we encounter people who are prepared to use violence to achieve their aims ... we will take robust action.”

Of course, there is always the fact that violent protests get more attention. And while one can argue that these events do more to hinder their cause than to help it, it is also true that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This is unfortunate, because it will always draw the intentions of belligerents toward violence.
Of course, some times the system does fail. The case of peaceful protesters in Vancouver who were assaulted by RCMP officers under orders from then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien comes to mind. Some times, even peaceful activists place themselves at risk of attack.

All this aside, even more so than any of these similarities, there is one other that is just as important to remember: each group is actually a minority amongst the larger groups that it claims to represent. Despite the alarmist assertations of fear mongers, the majority of Moslems are not terrorists. Furthermore, as much as political and economic conservatives would have one believe, the majority of protesters protest peacefully. To these people, a simple message must be extended: stay the course. To those who understand the power of dissent and the value of peace, keep doing as you have. There are those who appreciate what you do, for all the right reasons.

And as much as some people may want to have us believe other wise, terrorists are generally appreciated only for the wrong reasons. Ultimately, that makes all the difference.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Alberta's Moment of Truth

To much of Canada, Alberta is not seen as a very nice place.

In fact, there are those in Canada who consider Alberta to be everything that is wrong with Canada. They consider Alberta to be a bastion of lassaiz-faire economics, bigotry, and that most despised of c-words, ‘conservatism’.

While this obviously overlooks how complex Alberta actually is, there is no question that many Canadians (many of them residing in Quebec) perceive Alberta this way. Now, to some, it might seem like a good idea to attempt to dispel these myths.
But apparently not to the Alberta government. Because even two days after the passing of Bill C-38, the government of Alberta still clings to a fight it acknowledges it cannot win – and does this simply for the principle of the fight.
Today’s tale takes us to the Provincial Legislature Building in Edmonton, where Alberta justice minister has promised (of course) to fight Canada’s new same-sex marriage law – even if the fighting is all for naught.

"The fact is that the definition of marriage appears en route to be changed in two weeks' time," acknowledged Justice Minister Ron Stevens. "It will then become law in Alberta. "There's no doubt in my view that the federal legislation is paramount."
However, this does not mean that the fight is over for those struggling for equal recognition before the law. The government of Alberta has come up with a truly insidious method of resisting the move toward equality for homosexuals.

In the name of protecting religious freedom, the government of Alberta is allegedly willing to cease performing civil marriages, leaving marriage as the exclusive domain of religious institutions. Which may almost seem all right. But there is a problem. If the only place to marry in Alberta will now be within the walls of a church, where will, say… atheists get married, should they choose? I guess they can’t.

So, then, in the name of protecting religious freedom, the government of Alberta is limiting religious freedom?

Doesn’t really make sense, does it?

Two days ago I wrote that the passage or failure of the same-sex marriage bill represented a moment of truth for Canada. Today, I believe that the tactics the government of Alberta is willing to resort to in order to oppose same sex marriage represent the same moment of truth.

Can Alberta honestly deny charges of bigotry so long as it continues to feed the homophobic hysteria? The answer is, simply, no. Because if the passing of Bill C-38 represents a triumph for equality in Canada, then the Alberta government certainly seems like a thief in the night, ready to snatch it away.

Political Scientist Kieth Brownsey suggests that the move is purely political in nature. "The Focus on the Family groups, the religious right, the fundamentalists of one sort or another, certainly need to see that this government is acting in what they perceive to be their best interests," he says.

However, there is hope. Out of 61 MPs expected to meet to discuss blocking same-sex marriage in Alberta, only eight actually showed, suggesting that perhaps there are those within the Alberta Progressive Conservative party who possess the courage to tread forward, instead of regressing into the past.

But perhaps most disturbing are the words of Alberta Alliance justice critic Marilyn Burns: “Alberta has the constitutional authority to legislate that unions only between a man and a woman be ... issued marriage licenses.”

Alberta’s moment of truth may turn out to be an ugly one yet.

Reunion Bloody Reunion

The time has come for Black Sabbath's REAL frontman to get his due

Now, maybe it’s just me, but it seems that when a lot bands say “farewell tour”, they don’t seem to understand what the word “farewell” means.

After their highly publicized farewell tour of a couple years ago, Kiss has reunited and are touring this year with Aerosmith. The Rolling Stones have announced their still-delayed retirement about a gazillion bajillion times, and even Black Sabbath have united for one last one last tour (on this year’s Ozzfest bill).
But sadly, there are some fans whose reunion desires are not being met. I say this because I know that somewhere there is somebody who yearns in vain for a Black Sabbath reunion…

…with Ronnie James Dio.

Yes, Dio. DIO!!! The man who so deftly filled Ozzy’s shoes after his departure from Black Sabbath. The former front man of Rainbow. The man who sang on such Sabbath classics as “Country Girl” and “Time Machine” (the Wayne’s World version) should return to fill the shoes of Ozzy.

I mean, sure, Ozzy Osborne is the man most people associate with such “classics” as “Paranoid”, “Snowblind” and “War Pigs”, but who will fill Ozzy’s role when he’s busy filming another season of The Osbornes, or perhaps even a Pepsi Commerical?
Dio can fill Ozzy’s shoes. And let’s face it: he could use the work. Ronnie James Dio has released seven CDs in the last five years alone, and when was the last time you heard a Dio tune on the radio? Let’s be honest, now. You’ve forgotten that he ever existed, haven’t you. HAVEN’T YOU?

Well, maybe no one can blame you. Some may claim that Dio is nothing more than a third-rate foot note in heavy metal history. Some may claim that Dio is more than just a little pale in comparison to Ozzy. Some may even think that Dio is dead. I mean, come on – he might as well be for all intensive purposes. Because every time Black Sabbath plans a reunion, who do they call? Not Dio. And it just isn’t fair.
I, from the bottom of my heart, urge you to write Tommy Iommi or perhaps even “Geezer” Butler and urge them to hold a Sabbath Reunion with Ronnie James Dio.

Because someone out there is waiting for this one… but surely not I…

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Canada's Moment of Truth

For Canada, today (June 28, 2005) can be one of two things.

It can either be an affirmation of Canada’s commitment to freedom and equality for all of its citizens (regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation), or it can be a signal that we need to go back to the drawing board. Either way, a moment of truth is upon us.

Long before the issue began to works its way through the Supreme Court of Canada, this issue has been contentious and divisive. On one side of the debate are political and social progressives, who believe that same sex marriage represents an equality for gays and lesbians that they have never before possessed. On the other side are a collection of religious groups and political conservatives who oppose the “redefinition of traditional marriage”. They argue that changing the legal definition of marriage is a direct affront to the traditions this country was founded upon.

But in reality, what are the traditions this country was founded upon? Some people say “Christianity” and others say “freedom”. I can’t truthfully speak for anyone on this particular matter. I can, however, speak for myself.

In my opinion, Canada was founded under the principle of responsible government. Over time, however, we have added many traditions around this simple idea to create the “Canadian tradition”. With the advent of Canadian Multiculturalism, one of the traditions Canada was founded upon became the idea of a nation for all people. Inevitably, the time has come that we recognize that this moves beyond the simplicity of religion and ethnicity. In order to be a nation for all people, we must also recognize and legitimize the differences in people’s sexual orientation.
So, where in this does same sex marriage fit? That’s a bit of a complex question.
There are a number of issues at play with same sex marriage, and one of them certainly is money. There is no reason why homosexual couples should not be entitled to the same legal protections and benefits offered to heterosexual couples, and one of these ideas is the civil marriage – a marriage in the eyes of the state, as opposed to only the eyes of god.

Perhaps a greater issue at play with same sex marriage is the issue of legitimization. Until the government of Canada has allowed same sex marriage, it has not yet recognized the legitimacy of homosexual relationships, and thus has not yet recognized the legitimacy of homosexuals themselves.

Until this has happened, how can we claim that homosexuals are fully a part of Canadian society? It’s a simple answer: we can’t. And the very idea of trying to avoid this is preposterous – whether we like it or not, homosexuals are a part of Canadian society, and that isn’t going to change.

Critics can call same sex marriage whatever they want. They can call it “social engineering”, but other attempts at “social engineering” have historically been at least modest successes. Perhaps the most notable example of this is the struggle for black civil rights in the United States. Which also brings up the point that anyone who believes that same-sex marriage will miraculously usher in a new age of tolerance and harmony is incredibly na├»ve. However, everything has to start somewhere.

Critics can also claim that same sex marriage is “undemocratic”. However, even if they could demonstrate that a significant majority of Canadians were opposed to same sex marriage, they would still be wrong. One of the hallmarks of a democratic society is found in the way that it protects the rights and interests of all its citizens, regardless of whether or not they belong to a “minority”. Furthermore, anyone who doesn’t realize that the majority has become a mythical, nonexistent creature in Canada has failed to recognize the changing face of Canada.

Critics can also claim that same sex marriage poses a threat to religious freedom. While this argument may be the most compelling and most valid they have proposed, we must also realize that same sex marriage has provided us with a unique opportunity to separate church and state. After all, civil counselors are not religious officials. They have the capacity to marry couples in the eyes of the state, but not in the eyes of god – just as religious officials have the power to marry couples in the eyes of god, but not in the eyes of the state.

Today, Canada will make a choice. It will either take a step forward toward equality amongst all of its citizens, or it will take a step back. Either way, Canada’s journey will continue.

Flush the Goddamn Toilet

Or I Will Hurt You

There once was a time when going to the bathroom was much simpler. You’d simply walk outdoors, trudge through the six feet of snow separating you from the outhouse, and do your business; and aside from the whole holding your breath thing, it was all good.

Ah, the good old days.

Well, maybe "old" fits more so than "good", but that’s a matter of opinion.
Times sure have changed. Today, miraculous advancements in the technology of indoor plumbing have provided us with sanitary convenience that is nothing short of astounding. Now, we in the western world (and Japan, probably, and China
maybe) are blessed with waste repositories that will dispose of our waste (both number one AND two) for us, thus eliminating the typical life-strangling stench anyone who has ever been camping (real camping, sans creature comfort-laden Winnebago) is familiar with.

Proper use of toilet facilities is a skill that is so important for day-to-day life that children are taught this skill very early in life.
Which, kids, brings us to the point of this little tirade: flush the frickin’ toilet. Two year olds the world over master this little trick every day, thus making it hard to believe university students – the alleged would-be elite of our society – cannot manage it.

Maybe this is more of an issue regarding the guys than the gals – although the "potty posse" phenomenon continues to astound males the world over.
This little aversion to toilet flushing might be considered sad, or perhaps even tragic, if it wasn’t so utterly pathetic – and disgusting. Surely, there is nothing that delights a man more than going to the toilet to find its previous user has left him a little "gift".

It seems disturbingly like some sort of frat-boy prank gone horribly too far, and like most frat-boy jokes, it isn’t funny. Sure, everyone likes a little potty humor every now and then, but this is just too much.

Freudian psychologists might even point to behavior like this as the manifestation of an "anal expulsive personality", which is basically fancy talk for "a person having shit himself a lot as a kid". Now, doesn’t that fill you with an overwhelming sense of pride? Sure, maybe it seems "rebellious" or perhaps even "bad-ass", but given that there’s no one around to witness it, it’s simply "cowardly", not to mention "ignorant".

Believe it or not, there are people in underdeveloped countries who would love to flush that toilet. Shit, they’d love to have that toilet. After all, modern toiletries are a privilege, young man. Furthermore, some minor historical episodes such as, oh, say, the bubonic plague serve as lessons about the importance of proper sanitation. Nothing pits something into prospective quite as much as a deadly pandemic.

All kidding aside, just flush the damn toilet. It isn’t hard to do, and it just might make the next guy’s washroom experience marginally more pleasurable. Unless he has one of those shit fetishes. In which case, let’s not go there.

Just a Bit of Clarification

I Have (at least temporarily) Severed ties with The Gateway

Some of you who read the nexus may be aware of this, and some may not, but over the past year I was involved with the University of Alberta student newspaper, The Gateway.

Some of those who were aware of this may or may not have noticed that I have not been featured in any issues of The Gateway since the March 31, 2005 issue of The Gateway (not including the "Raging Bone" joke issue, which apparently isn't counted as an official issue).

Regardless, it is with some small amount of regret that I should announce that, as of four weeks ago, I made the decision to sever ties with The Gateway -- at least temporarily.

There are actually a number of reasons why I have chosen to do this, among them issues which are practical and professional, as well as deeply personal in nature. While I can't say with any confidence whether or not I will choose to return to The Gateway come fall, the opinion articles that I publish here on the Nexus will remain largely unchanged... as if you were worried.

Regardless, as I have reacquired all the unpublished copy I submitted to The Gateway, The Gateway's loss will be the Nexus' gain. I'll probably drop most of them in the weeks to come.

Anyhow, to all of those who have read: thank you. To all of those will read: thank you. And to all of those who are offended: fuck you.

...I mean, thank you. I knew there was a reason I was doing this.

http://www.gateway.ualberta.ca/view.php?aid=3389
http://www.gateway.ualberta.ca/view.php?aid=3538
http://www.gateway.ualberta.ca/view.php?aid=3613
http://www.gateway.ualberta.ca/view.php?aid=4165
http://www.gateway.ualberta.ca/view.php?aid=4324

Monday, June 27, 2005

PETA Caught With Blood On Its Hands

What's that, Lassie? PETA Dumping Animals in Dumpsters? Lead the Way... or Just Read On...

Oh, the irony. Oh, the delicious, juicy, tasty, savory irony.

“Animals are not ours to eat,” the PETA website (www.peta.org) lectures us. “ Animals are not ours to wear. Animals are not ours to be experiment on. Animals are not ours to use for our entertainment. Animals are not ours to exploit.”
However, animals are apparently ours to kill and leave in dumpsters.
That’s uh… quite a moral stand you’re taking there…

That’s right, the people who seek to scare you into following their beliefs (“Eating meat causes cancer”), shame you into following their beliefs (“Torture tuesday”), or just outwardly distort the issues (“Feeding children meat is child abuse”) has egg on its face and blood on its hands, as two of its employees, Andrew Benjamin Cook and Adria Joy Hinkle are currently working their way through the North Carolina courts on charges of animal cruelty.

Cook and Hinkle (both paid employees of PETA, who were charged June 16), it seems, had been euthanizing healthy animals and dumping them in the garbage dumpster at a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. Among the animals, apparently were kittens, mother cats, and puppies.

That’s right… apparently, PETA kills puppies. Well, not PETA, only their paid employees.

In a June 17 news conference, PETA president Ingrid Kewkirk condemned the actions of Cook and Hinkle, saying, “ [It’s] hideous, it’s wrong, and it never should have happened.”

“That conduct disgusts us,” Newkirk said of the dumping. “It shames us. It violates our own protocols, it happened without our knowledge and can never be allowed to happen again. But our work is important and our work must go on,” Newkirk added. However, if this conduct really does disgust PETA, they’ve certainly gone out of their way to show it.

On the aforemention www.PETA.org, there is no mention of the incident whatsoever, and on Newkirk’s weblog (www.ingridnewkirk.com), Newkirk saw fit to post some fish cartoons (http://www.ingridnewkirk.com/archives/2005/06/more_fish_comic.html), as well as what is apparently supposed to pass as an amusing photograph (http://www.ingridnewkirk.com/archives/2005/06/slow_and_steady.html), but no mention of this very serious matter.

Which may not be so surprising. According to “Better Dead than Fed” author Debra Saunders, “ PETA always has been about killing animals. A 2003 New Yorker profile included PETA top dog Ingrid Newkirk’s story of how she became involved in animal rights after a shelter put down stray kittens she brought there. So she went to work for an animal shelter in the 1970s, where, she explained: ‘I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn’t stand to let them go through (other workers abusing the animals). I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.’ ”

Sounds an awful lot like “ in order to save the village, we had to burn it,” doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just me. But why does an organization like PETA, which claims to be dedicated to the protection of animals, euthanize them at the horrific rate that PETA does?

Too often, it comes down to money. If PETA were to use more of its money to feed and care for animals, it might not have as much money to finance its massive propaganda campaigns. This, of course, would be a tremendous inconvenience. Also, this would cost them the ability to maintain as many paid employees, which would force them to rely more recruiting volunteers, which is also inconvenient. Maybe the lives of animals just aren’t worth it.

This attitude isn’t surprising to find in an organization that has obviously never felt an ounce of embarrassment in aiming its propaganda campaigns at anyone they think they can manipulate – including children.

Don’t get me wrong. Animal cruelty is a very serious issue. However, there is something rotten at the core of PETA, and it’s only getting worse. Among other things, allegations are surfacing that link PETA to potentially violent extremist groups like the Animal Liberation Front, a group which at best can be considered good-intentioned, but rather reckless.

Maybe its time that PETA was disbanded in favor of a more widespread, volunteer-driven, community-oriented approach to protecting animals – no extreme political agenda, just helping animals through local Humane Societies and SPCAs. No hypocritical Ingrid Newkirks, just regular people doing their part to meet their responsibilities to animals.

But most of all, no more “final solution” approach to caring for animals.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Fine Art of Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

“Black people don’t scare me,” Donald Rumsfeld says. “ For one thing, their T-shirts shrink after washing.”

Huh? Does that make any sense to you? Oh, wait.

“For one thing, this woman’s name is not Assata Shakur,” Rumsfeld continues (I knew I was missing something), “it’s Joanne Chesimard. And finally, the United States government has just offered one million—dollars, not t-shirts—to anyone who captures her. She’s a convicted cop killer, for christsake.”

We are speaking of course, about Assata Shakur, exiled African American activist, self-proclaimed “20th century escaped slave” and… terrorist(?).

One June 8, 2005, Assata Shakur made what some may or may not consider a generous bounty on the head of the U.S. Secretary of Defense: one million “HANDS OF ASSATA” T-shirts to anyone who can capture Rumsfeld and deliver him to the International Criminal Court to faces of war crimes related to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. So, now, Rummy makes a lot more sense. Well, just a little.
There is no question that the topic of Assata Shakur is a fairly hot one right now. In in 1973, Shakur was convicted of the murder of New Jersey state patrolman Werner Forrester under circumstances that would probably make Rubin “Hurricane” Carter blush.

Of course, there is probably no one who can tell the tale better than Assata Shakur herself: “On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a "faulty tail light." Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he became "suspicious." He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Forester was killed, and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Forester.”

The trials that followed were wrought with issues. In 1973, for example, Assata’s trial in Middlesex county was stopped due to overwhelming racism – one juror was even heard to remark “if she’s black, she’s guilty.”

The kanagroo court case was beset by all sorts of extremists. The American National Socialist White Person’s party even protested outside the courthouse, urging people to “support white cops”. In 1977, Assata would finally be convicted by an all-white jury.

Assata would escape from prison in 1979, and flee to Cuba in 1981. The Cuban government of Fidel Castro (obviously recognizing a P.R. windfall when they see it – doing what may be the right thing for the wrong reasons) granted Shakur refuge, and the matter has been a source of political strife ever since.

In May, 2005, the United States Government raised the $150,000 bounty on Shakur to an even $1 million, and continues to petition Cuba to return the “terrorist” Assata Shakur (it should be noted that Shakur was reputed to be the “Bandit Queen” of the Black Panthers). However, this alone should not be enough to make Shakur guilty of murder. But she must be guilty… she was convicted, right?

Rapper Mos Def disagrees: “ There are those who believe that being convicted of a crime makes you guilty. But that imposes an assumption of infallibility upon our criminal justice system. When Assata Shakur was convicted of killing Werner Forester, not only had the Black Panther Party been labeled by then F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, as “the greatest internal threat” to American security, but Assata herself had been thoroughly criminalized in the minds of the American public; she’d been charged in six different crimes ranging from attempted murder to bank robbery, and her acquittal or dismissal of the charges outright notwithstanding, to the average citizen, it seemed she must be guilty of something.”

And according to Mos Def, she was: “ She was guilty of calling for a shift in power in America, and for racial and economic justice. Included on a short list of the many people who have made that call and were either criminalized, terrorized, killed or blacklisted are Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, Medgar Evers and Ida B. Wells.”

Not exactly a list of war criminals, is it?

However, there is one matter. As unfair as her trial was, Assata Shakur was indeed convicted of murder, and has escaped from prison. She is a refugee from “the king’s justice”.

There is, however, one simple solution to this matter. Assata Shakur and Donald Rumsfeld should both agree to lay it on the line. Each should submit to trial in the International Criminal Court. For Assata Shakur, this may be the opportunity that she and her supporters have awaited for decades – the only opportunity for a fair trial. For Rumsfeld, this may be the opportunity to finally gain either international approval for the U.S. actions in Iraq, or at least demonstrate that the United States will allow itself to be held accountable.This is what we call “killing two birds with one stone”.

It may also be the only way Assata Shakur will truly fly free.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sexism Strikes Again?

Or does it? Only the Liberals know for sure

This just in! Apparently, Belinda Stronach is a woman.

Go figure, I hadn’t noticed either.

But apparently, she is indeed a woman, and as such the Federal Liberal Women’s Caucus has stepped forward to declare that much of criticism of Stronach is sexist.
Wow. I never saw that coming. Not in a million years. Nope, no sir…

Anyway, following the reaction to Belinda Stronach crossing the floor to sit with the perennially crooked Federal Liberals, the Liberal Women’s Caucus has stepped forward to decry and bemoan the sexism allegedly being directed at the embattled MP.
Ontario Conservative Bob Runciman called Stronach (a woman considered by some to be among the most attractive Members of Parliament) “a dipstick – an attractive one – but a dipstick.”

Alberta Conservative MLA Tony Abbot declared that Stronach had “whored herself for power.” Unlike the CBC, CTV allowed Abbot to elaborate by also printing, “ Some people prostitute themselves for different costs or different prices. She sold out for a cabinet position."

Liberal MP Judy Sgro weighed in, saying, “"I think it's important that we try to raise the level of discourse and debate and they shouldn't be reduced to the kinds of throw-away comments that people are clearly using last night and this morning. So I would call on Mr. Harper to apologize to Ms. Stronach and to women of Canada, and ask his colleagues to very much do the same so that we can try and restore some level of respect and discussion here in Ottawa."

Because Stephen Harper is obviously responsible for the comments made by Alberta and Ontario MLAs. And the Liberal Women’s Caucus isn’t licking their lips at the concept of Harper tucking tail on their behalf. No, not at all.

Linda Trimble, professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta stepped into the debate, saying, "When she's being called a whore and a dipstick – well, that's intensely personal, and it goes to her integrity. Those are not the kinds of comments made when male politicians cross the floor."

So what of Stronach’s integrity? She was elected by her constituency as a Conservative, but there have been plenty of MPs cross the floor to sit with other parties, right?

Then again, when Liberal MP David Kilgour crossed the floor, he didn’t do so to sit as a critic, or even as a member of the Conservative party – he did so to sit as an independent. When Conservative MP Chuck Cadman crossed, he did likewise.
When John Bryden crossed to sit as an Independent, he would eventually sit as a Conservative… but not for eight days afterward.

Even the venerable Joe Clark crossed the floor once, to sit as an… independent. Does anyone else see a pattern here? Maybe one that Belinda Stronach doesn’t fit?
Even Deborah Gray (I would like to note, also a woman) once crossed the floor, to sit as an… independent. She, however, would eventually rejoin the Canadian Alliance. Likewise with Valerie Meredith.

Here in the Nexus, if there’s anything I do, it’s call a spade a spade. Frankly, it’s fairly obvious what these individuals are trying to do. They’re following one of the cardinal rules of politics: make it hurt to take you on.

By ideologizing the issue of Belinda Stronach’s betrayal, these individuals are out to make it impossible to criticize Stronach without being branded as sexist. This is similar to attempts made by the proponents of same-sex marriage to make it impossible to criticize moves to legalize same-sex marriage without being branded as homophobic, or make it impossible to not support affirmative action programs without being accused of racism. The list goes on and on, and it’s actually a fairly effective mudslinging tactic.

Because it’s becoming fairly obvious that it’s one thing for a woman to have “great shoes,” (words of Anne McLellan) but it’s entirely an obvious to question the integrity of an MP who has just stabbed her constituents in the back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Blonde Ambition Strikes Again!

Belinda Stronach Makes Blonde Jokes Fashionable Again

Politics is a game that is not unlike poker. For many, the goal is ultimately to deceive your fellow players while jockeying for the best hand you possibly can.

On May 17, 2005, Belinda Stronach played a winning hand – at least on paper – by crossing the floor to sit with the Liberal party. Her ultimate reward? A cabinet position as the minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Never mind the little detail that Stronach’s Newmarket-Aurora constituents elected her as a member of the Conservative party – a party for which she placed second in the 2004 leadership convention.

“ I cannot exaggerate how hard this is for me,” Stronach said at a press conference.

“ The country must come first.”

The country. Right.

“ I’ve been uncomfortable for some time with the direction the Conservative party was taking,” Stronach explained. “I regret to say that I do not believe the party leader is truly sensitive to the needs of each part of the country and just how big and complex Canada really is."

While she may have a very arguable point regarding the party’s stance on same-sex marriage, the runner-up to the party leadership crosses the floor and immediately begins criticizing Stephen Harper? Wow. Never saw that coming.

Harper had his own thoughts. “ There’s no grand principle involved in this decision, just ambition,” Harper said.

Ambition is something that Stronach is no stranger to. Considering she dropped out of the York University school of business in 1985, it might be considered curious that she would become a board member at Magna international, an automotive parts company. Then again, maybe not -- her father started the company.

In 1990 she married Magna executive Donald Walker. After five years and two children, she divorced him in 1995. Shortly after, she became a vice-president of the company. In 1999 she would replace Walker as executive vice-president of the company.

So, with a history like this, it’s supposed to be hard to believe she would actually hesitate to stab Stephen Harper in the back for the sake of advancing her career?
Right.

From Paul Martin’s end, this couldn’t have worked out any better. He makes Stronach responsible for implementing the recommendations of the Gomery inquiry and makes it look as if his party is actually prepared to act on the scandal. This was very much the PR gambit that the Liberal party desperately needs.

Furthermore, Stronach’s defection brings Martin to 133 seats in parliament. When combined with the NDP’s 19 seats, Martin has the capacity to control 152 seats – dead even with the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois, increasing the importance of Parliament’s three independent sitters.

For Stronach, however, the future should not be so rosy. In crossing the floor to sit with the Liberals, Stronach has betrayed her constituents, her party and her country – all to benefit her own career by keeping a corrupt government in power.
Thankfully, sometimes actions speak louder than words, and Stronach’s actions have spoken pretty loud.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Threatening Freedom

Freedom of Speech is Under Attack, and Battles Have Already Been Won and Lost

“Some people ask if I feel like rappers have a responsibility to their listeners, and I have to say… no. Your only responsible is to make it as hot as it can be,” says Kanye West in the documentary Russel Simmons Presents: Hip Hop Justice.

Responsibility has been a very touchy subject in regards to music for decades. Perhaps the most high-profile argument in history regarding this subject has to be the Judas Priest subliminal suicide trial of 1985. In this case, it was argued that Judas Priest was legally responsible for the suicides of Raymond Belknap and James Vance (who, it should be mentioned would not die for an additional two years – but from the affects of the attempt).

It was argued that the song “Stained Glass” featured subliminal messages that urged the listener to “do it” without actually suggesting what. Regardless, it was determined that the sound was the result of two coincidentally occurring noises on the record – charges were dismissed against the band.

Ever since, however, this has been the battle over musical lyrics: those who claim that musicians have a responsibility to their listeners, and are to blame for the actions of those who imitate them, and those that claim the responsibility belongs not to the musicians, but to the listeners.

The debate certainly hasn’t ended with Judas Priest. If anything, it has expanded into additional forums. Violence has been joined by sexuality and family values as part of this debate. Some of the most inflammatory artists of the past ten years include Marilyn Manson, Eminem and Christina Aguilera. Historically, they join artists such as Judas Priest, the Dead Kennedys, Public Enemy and Body Count. Even country music trio the Dixie Chicks have felt the repercussions of their statements of political dissent – more notably, those not made through music.

The public has developed two main strategies for acting on their outrage regarding music: protest and legal action.

Eminem is no stranger to protest. Following the release of his 1999 album “The Marshall Mathers LP”, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched an ambitious campaign of protest against the rapper. “ The Marshal Mathers LP contains the most blatantly offensive, homophobic lyrics GLAAD has ever seen," said GLAAD Executive Director Joan M. Garry. GLAAD would follow Eminem from the MTV Music Video Awards to the Grammys, where Eminem would refute his critics by performing his hit song “Stan” with homosexual music legend Elton John.

Often, these protests are accompanied by well-orchestrated boycotts, as was also the case with Eminem. Perhaps the most famous boycott of all time was that of the Beatles after John Lennon’s assertation that the Beatles had become “bigger than Jesus”.

While there is something fundamentally democratic about protest campaigns, sometimes, the law steps into the fray and attempts to hold musicians responsible for their lyrics. Perhaps the most glaring example is the tale of Corey Miller, aka C-Murder.

The tale of C-Murder ultimately begins on January, 12, 2002, a night that will forever live in infamy within hip hop circles. On this evening, Miller attended a Louisiana Nightclub. Perhaps coincidentally, it was this same night that Steve Thomas, a 16 year-old who had snuck into the club, was shot dead.

Unfortunately for Miller, when a rapper goes out in public, they go out as their stage persona – whether they want to or not. Doubly unfortunate was the fact that this means they stand out.

With this (and, perhaps, his stage name) in mind, it may not be surprising that police would charge Miller with the murder, alleging that it stemmed from an argument that he allegedly had with the deceased. Miller was arrested, and held on $1 million bail. Perhaps even more damning for Miller was that he was at the time free on a $250,000 bond issued for an attempted murder charge. Miller also had a weapons-related offense on his record.

Upon going to trial, however, the persona of Miller virtually disappeared in the prosecution’s eyes, as they focused their efforts around Miller’s C-Murder persona. C-Murder would even appear on court documentation as an alias, and many of his violent lyrics would be entered in court as evidence.

While this practice alone is legally questionable, concerns would repeatedly be raised about the treatment of Miller’s rights – first and foremost his right to be considered guilty until proven innocent. In the years subsequent to his conviction, many dirty details about the case would be revealed, including police rejection of contradictory evidence: a witness that not only claimed that Miller had not been seen with a gun, but that another individual had been – and individual the witness was even able to identify.

In March, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Miller’s constitutional rights had not been violated, and upheld his conviction.
Among the more bizarre recent developments in Miller’s case is that his lawyer, Ron Rakosky, has been restricted from bringing pens to his meetings with his client – prison officials note that hollow pens could be used to smuggle song lyrics, which in this case are obviously being declared to be contraband.

Whatever the truth behind Miller’s case may ultimately be, the stance of law enforcement toward violence within the hip hop community is a little more ambiguous. In the case of the November 26, 2003 murder of New Orleans-based rapper Soulja Slim, for example, charges against prime suspect Garelle Smith (who, it is suspected accepted a $10,000 fee for Slim’s assassination) were suddenly dropped, citing insufficient evidence.

Third District Detective James Scott, however, had one further comment: “live hard, die hard, I guess.”

Ironically, Soulja Slim had collaborated with C-Murder, but this aside, one also remembers two other higher-profile cases with no arrests – the cases of 2Pac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. This may be a statement on the complicated nature of hip hop violence, or it may also be a statement on the treatment of these incidents by police officials. Either way, the argument is wrought with rhetoric and hearsay. Little solid evidence exists.

Regardless, an issue regarding freedom and responsibility continues to pervade the music industry.

Perhaps it is important to remember that speech is a powerful thing. Furthermore, as the great Stan Lee asserts, with great power comes great responsibility. There is no question that musicians have tremendous power. Many of our society’s greatest political minds have, indeed, been musicians, and some (such as the incomparable Bob Marley) have become so powerful that governments have taken the matters into their own hands.

It could be considered that Kanye West is wrong. With the power of speech (and the ideas that an individual can convey through them) must come great responsibility. It is only the nature of that responsibility that is up for debate.

Are musicians responsible for the actions of those who act on their ideas? Ultimately, the answer must be no. But it could be argued that musicians should accept responsibility for the ideas themselves. Regardless, when song lyrics can actually be considered evidence in a court of law, the United States has taken yet another step toward becoming a Police state – it is a direct assault upon freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech in its various forms must be defended. The very principles of democracy cannot exist without it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Spyware Jihad

Why? Why not?

There used to be a time when the internet was actually useful.

Yes, believe it or not, my friends, there was once a time when you could use the internet to exchange messages with friends and accomplices (which they call, if you will, “e-mail”) and swap specialized information (which they call, if you will, “pornography”) all over a phone line hooked up between a bunch of computers.
And for a while, it was good. People even figured out how to use the internet to bitch about movies and slander each other anonymously. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, ever since a bunch of idiots got together and decided they could make a buck of this newfangled internet, it’s a jungle out there. It seems like you can’t even log on these days without having to fend off about a billion attempts to infect your computer with viral programs either specifically designed to steal information, or specifically designed to sell you shit. And that’s pretty much the long and short of it.

A recent scan of my dad’s computer, recently, turned up 40 FRICKIN’ INFECTIONS! 40 files, either accepted by the computer as cookies or forcibly inserted into the machine, which have proceeded to hide themselves and become a severe pain in the ass.
There are a few things that the purveyors of adware and spyware like to do. They range from the sinister (stealing personal information, passwords, and making long distance calls over the internet) to the annoying (like BroadcastPC, a program which routinely uploads ads to your Media Player that automatically play – a program that comes compete with an uninstall program that doesn’t work) to the extremely uncalled for (such as homepage hijackers).

But maybe the best way to make money of spyware is to create a program to deal with it. Furthermore, the people who have gotten into this racket have found some unique ways to market their product.

Take, for example, the about:blank buddy, software which they advertise as freeware (open source software), and then, as soon as you’ve scanned your machine, they attempt to sell you the software to eliminate the homepage hijacker file for a convenient $39.95 (which is actually fraud). Now, maybe I’m being a little paranoid, but doesn’t it seem like these people are profiting an awful lot from this one little bug? Hmmmm… I wonder if maybe they have something to do with it…
It seems like there’s a lot of money to be made off of spyware and adware. Type “spyware” into a google search and you will find literally thousands of these programs, most of which you can have at a price.

It seems to me that as long as there are people unscrupulous enough to create adware and spyware, there will be people unscrupulous enough to create adware and spyware just so they can sell you the program to debug it. It’s called “creating the problem”, and it’s a marketing practice that dates back to the ‘20s. This is actually a fairly novel approach to this age-old technique.

I’ve actually come up with a solution of my own to the spyware phenomenon. Someone – wink, wink – with the necessary expertise ought to design a program that, when connected to your web browser as a plug-in, responds to any attempts to install spyware or adware on your machine by transmitting a short-life virus to the source. One that is has such a short life and is so devastating that it will completely thrash the bastard’s computer.

Imagine the glee these people will experience when they restart their systems, go to all the trouble of fixing all the damage the virus has caused, only to be nailed with another – because, of course, they attempted another spyware upload! Poetic justice, if you ask me.

Or maybe, something really bad – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – should be done to the people responsible for these programs. Personally, I’d be satisfied with that.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

So, You're Too Punk For Me?


Good For You. Now Fuck Off.

So, what is punk? Nobody seems to have a clear answer.

Punk, musically, according to a web search is defined as “a rock form characterized by aggressive volume, short, angry vocals and often bitter political or hopeless emotional content.”

Recently, with the popularity of bands like Not By Choice, and (everyone’s favorite whipping boy) Good Charlotte, the great debate over what is and is not punk has intensified. Despite playing music that sounds an awful lot like punk, so-called punks scream to high heaven that this music is not punk, essentially because only they should be allowed to define what is and is not punk.

They claim this music is not punk because it’s corporate, and it’s not political enough for their tastes. Behind all of this lies the very nature of the punk subculture itself.

So, then, in a cultural sense, what is punk? According to various sources, punk is: anti-establishment, activist, satirical and “underground’. If you aren’t all of these things enough to satisfy the political/social vanity of a punk, then you aren’t punk enough. Many of these people decry education as a tool of the establishment, or as a conspiracy to keep those who are either already downtrodden (or merely consider themselves downtrodden) down.

The message is crystal clear. Apparently, your elitism is better than my elitism. Which makes it all the more amusing that many of these people decry elitism as a symbol of hegemony, even as they seek to create their own hegemonies within their own little movements.

Take, for example, an anarchist friend of mine. Recently, he rather proudly told me a story about how he and a friend of his attended a local punk concert, only, to their chagrin find that it wasn’t punk enough for them.

To his partial credit, he may have an arguable case. He went to this show, held at the local Elk’s Hall, to find that it was full of junior high school kids and soccer moms selling sodas and nickel candies while pop-punk bands played preppy music and the entire show was a huge love-in.

How did he react to this? Well, how does on react to this?

He could have decided that this wasn’t for him, and left like a reasonably intelligent person would. But he didn’t do this. Instead, he (a man in his 20s) did everything that he could to spoil the fun that a bunch of junior high school kids were having. They smoked (which, apparently was against the rules at this particular show), they screamed obsenities (even after being politely asked not to) generally acted like jerks.

But it doesn’t end there.

He proudly tells me that a number of the kids from this show see him in the local shopping mall, and approach him. He tells them to fuck off. After seeing them outside the local fair the following summer, he reciprocates an attempt at friendly conversation by spitting in a guy’s face.

That’s a class act.

One of the alleged tenets of collective anarchism (to which my friend subscribes) is that it’s a society-wide transformation in which everyone unites in order to assure everyone can have a better quality of life. But if you’re telling someone to fuck off because his mom drives an SUV and he listens to Metallica and Good Charlotte, while all the while proclaiming that everyone needs to get along and be friends, than you just happen to a hypocrite. You also just happen to be an asshole.
Of course, not all anarchists are hopeless assholes. Take, for example, Otto Nomus who, in his essay “Race, Anarchy and Punk Rock”, writes: “ As a person of color and an anarchist with roots in punk rock, I have become deeply concerned with the lack of diversity within the anarchist movement. As long as we fail to attract significantly diverse participation, thus remaining isolated and politically weakened, and fail to link-up with and support anti-racist struggles, we shouldn’t keep our hopes up for any radical social transformation.”

Judging from the title of his essay, one may think that Nomus is primarily concerned about issues of racial diversity within the anarchist movement. However, he also wisely connects this with issues of social diversity.

My anarchist friend tells me “ we need to be able to exclude people,” and rationalizes this by explaining how, whenever anarchists have trusted Marx/Leninists, they are fatally betrayed afterward. However, I would ask: if Anarchy is supposed to be a broad-scale transformation of society, how do you expect to exclude anyone and still create a cohesive society? Here, however, is what we should ask:

Exactly how is this not fascism?

George W. Bush, I’d like to note, is a popular target of some of these individuals. He is said to be a fascist, a new Hitler. And while many of them (and many of us) can name many of the horrible things that Bush has done, many of them can name not one single argument in favor of the embattled cocksocker (oops, I mean president). There’s a very good reason for this: many of these people criticize others for never having read anything arguing in favor of anarchism, but they themselves have never read anything that argues against it, or disagrees with their viewpoints.

The result is a horde of cookie-cutter activists, bawling as loudly as they possibly can about how evil corporations are, but can’t actually explain to you what a corporation is. They’re fashionista activists, screaming that the sky is falling because it seems like it’s the ‘in’ thing to do.

As a result, they continually isolate and work against themselves to the point where they are entirely ineffectual. Normus recognizes this, writing, “ No matter how well-intentioned, the anarchist scene has been for the most part so deeply entrenched in the lifestyle of the know-it-all, punker-than-thou, vegan/straight edge-fascist, fashion victims or young, transient, train-hopping, dreadlocked, dumpster-diving eco-warriors that not only do most people find it hard to relate to them but they themselves are at a loss when they actually try to reach out to other communities.”
Of course, the punk and anarchist movement has a lot to offer. Social consciousness (when legitimate, and not just derived from listening to hours of Jell-O Biafra droning on and on while pretending he has a shred of credibility) is always a good thing.

But nobody likes to listen to an asshole, and there are more than a few anarchist punks out there who shouldn’t be so surprised when they’re told to fuck off.