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.