Can The Toxicity Of Sport Culture Be Fixed?

Though the opening paragraph of this entry is indeed much more narrowly focused than the title would otherwise dictate, the reason was that my attention was strictly focused on Hockey Canada at the onset of writing this. I have since learned that hockey isn’t alone in having a questionable culture within its ranks and organizations, so as such the title has been altered to outline this observation.

Though Hockey is still the primary focus of this piece, it is not the only community that ought to get its house in order.

* * *

Today’s topic starts with a question on my part. What is Hockey Canada?

As a Canadian, I have heard about the organization in passing throughout my life, owing to its domineering presence in helping to foster Canada’s unofficial but insanely popular hobby of interest. But I have never had the inclination to look any further than the little that I knew.

Though that started to change as the organization started to come under fire in the past year or so, the question only entered my mind after coming across this article from the CBC.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sports-organizations-hockey-canada-funds-1.6639312?cmp=newsletter_Morning%20Headlines%20from%20CBC%20News_1613_756963

As I embark on this journey, I will first openly admit to my readers that I come into this with a somewhat biased mindset. The news of Hockey Canada using cash to cover up sexual assault allegations against players it represented wasn’t exactly a great look. And in all honesty, Canadian hockey culture as a whole tends to irritate me in its continued conformity of toxic elements and lack of desire to change.
Some may call this an argument of Wokeism. I view it more as part of the longstanding and everlasting legacy of figureheads like Don Cherry.

Either way, my relationship with Hockey fans has not been positive for a VERY long time. Nonetheless, facts and figures are non-partisan, thus I will do my best to remain mostly neutral going forward.

Before I start to wade into the ugliness, let’s start first by answering my initial question . . . what is Hockey Canada?

According to Wikipedia, it is the national governing body of both Ice Hockey and Ice Sledge hockey in Canada. Since I was also curious, Sledge (or Para) Hockey is a neat adaptation of the original sport designed to include athletes with a physical disability in the lower half of the body.
According to the official Hockey Canada mission page, they oversee all officially sanctioned Hockey in the nation, from entry-level teams to Team Canada (performing in the World Championships and the Winter Olympics). Hockey Canada works in conjunction with many provincial and regional organizations within Canada and represents Canada in the International Ice Hockey Federation.

I will now switch to the CBC article I linked earlier.

CBC asked other sports organizations if they have funds like Hockey Canada. Here’s what they said

As Hockey Canada faces widespread criticism over three funds it used to settle several sexual abuse complaints out of court, governance experts say it’s actually a “good business” decision for an organization to protect itself against non-insurable claims — though most can’t afford to do so.

In one case, Hockey Canada used these funds to settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit after a complainant alleged she was the victim of a group sexual assault involving World Junior players in 2018.

CBC News informally surveyed a dozen national sporting organizations (NSOs), and none admitted to having similar funds.

Many NSOs are in the process of switching their complaints process to one provided by the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) and its Abuse-Free Sport Independent Complaint Office, although some still have their own internal reporting systems, or use independent third parties to deal with such claims.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sports-organizations-hockey-canada-funds-1.6639312?cmp=newsletter_Morning%20Headlines%20from%20CBC%20News_1613_756963

First off, it isn’t surprising to me that the Hockey Canada treasury would be much more full than that of other sporting organizations. And that they keep a segment of this cash aside for quote non-insurable claims isn’t all that out of the ordinary (I’m sure all businesses of scale have such a fund). The question I have is what Hockey Canada’s definition of non-insurable claims is.

Though these things are not going to be officially documented, you can determine them by knowing what purposes the fund was used for in the past. Has it been used to settle other problems, or is it just a war chest for when an inconvenient truth is exposed about hockey players backed by Hockey Canada at nearly every step of their career?

That the necessity of such a fund is seemingly deemed necessary potentially speaks volumes about the toxicity of the culture that these players are a part of in their rise to peak performance.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, the article clearly states that Hockey Canada is not the only sporting organization that would like to have such a fund available (though most can’t afford it). This would seem to speak to potential problems existing not just in the realm of hockey culture.

But moving on from that for now, I am interested in the proposed complaints process as created by the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC).

The plan would have the OSIC formally accept complaints through its Abuse-free Sport Complaint Office, which would then forward the information to the relevant organizations and teams. While I like this approach (it makes it harder for organizations to bury thorny situations), it still does little to ensure anything is really done about the problem. Not to mention that not all organizations will utilize the office, to begin with (no doubt Hockey Canada will be one of those NSOs handling complaints in-house).

I feel like legislation may be the only answer to this problem. Otherwise, we’re just dealing with a Catholic Church of the sporting world.

Richard Powers, a lawyer and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, says that though there’s “nothing the matter” with the existence of those funds — “it’s good governance and a very good business decision” — there are issues with “the transparency” about how fees paid by hockey families across the country were being used.

“That is really the critical factor here — and one of the things that they’re going to have to change moving forward, if they’re going to [attempt] to regain the trust of Canadians.” 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sports-organizations-hockey-canada-funds-1.6639312?cmp=newsletter_Morning%20Headlines%20from%20CBC%20News_1613_756963

No kidding.

Why does Hockey Canada have these funds?

Former Hockey Canada officials have confirmed the existence of the National Equity Fund and the Participants Legacy Trust Fund. 

A third fund was discovered by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, who was commissioned to look into a controversial reserve fund used to quietly settle uninsured liabilities — including sexual assault allegations. 

His interim report found the reserve fund is necessary, but he also uncovered serious flaws with how it has been handled

During a July 27 parliamentary hearing, Brian Cairo, Hockey Canada’s chief financial officer, told MPs the equity fund was set up in 1995, because “some risks can’t be insured” by commercial liability insurance.

“It was recognized that there are just some unforeseen circumstances where claims are not insured, and you can think of Graham James,” Cairo said, referring to the former junior hockey coach who was convicted of sexually abusing players in the 1980s and early 1990s. 

Of the nine claims paid out of the reserve fund for a total of $7.6 million, $6.8 million of those were related to the James case, Cairo said.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sports-organizations-hockey-canada-funds-1.6639312?cmp=newsletter_Morning%20Headlines%20from%20CBC%20News_1613_756963

Well, that answers one of my questions. Also . . . Graham James. I had forgotten all about that very dark stain on Canadian Hockey’s reputation.

For those that don’t know, Graham James was a renowned coach within hockey circles for at least 3 decades. I’ll let Shelden Kenedy (one of his many victims) fill you in on some of the depravities of his tenure of coaching minors.

Sheldon Kennedy was coached by Graham James, a highly respected and nationally famous coach, as a junior-level hockey player in Winnipeg, and then during the late 1980s on the Swift Current Broncos of Canada’s Western Hockey League. Between the ages of 14 and 19, Kennedy was sexually abused by James. The abuse went on, twice weekly, between 1984 and 1990.

“Kennedy testified he was first abused when he received permission from his parents to spend the weekend at James’ house to discuss his future in hockey.” (Knight-Ridder, 1/9/97)

“Kennedy has said that James sexually assaulted him more than 350 times, beginning when Kennedy was 14. He said he was assaulted while playing on several clubs with which James had an affiliation.” (Knight-Ridder Newspapers, 1/9/97)

Kennedy said: “The coach is so respected. Your parents send you away and say, ‘Do what he says.’ At that age, you listen. That’s your first step if you want to play pro.” (Ottawa Citizen, 1/9/97)

“Kennedy describes his life as a lonely, living hell. He was sexually abused as a teen by Graham James, his coach and “father figure,” who controlled his hockey career and his daily life from the time he was 14 to 19. Kennedy found he was unable to make friends. Unable to trust and unable to love. Unable to feel “normal” unless he was drinking. Unable to turn a junior career into a solid National Hockey League career. Suicidal at times because inner turmoil haunted him. “You feel people are looking at you. I put up a shield. I didn’t let anybody in. It’s a very lonely way to feel. You never feel normal. You know something is wrong but you don’t know why it is like that,’ Kennedy said.” (Calgary Herald, 1/7/97)

A friend of Kennedy’s said: “The coach is a godlike figure — he holds all the cards. I guess in a situation like [Kennedy’s] a kid can go home, but that is the end of your hockey career. That is the problem. There is no way to turn.” (Washington Post, 1/8/97)

“He was 14 or 15 and James was 31 or 32 when the assaults began. Every Tuesday and Thursday for six years, Kennedy went to James’ house. Kennedy said, ‘He considered me his wife. There was absolutely nowhere for me to turn. I had no one, nobody.'” (Los Angeles Times, 1/7/97)

“When Kennedy was 15 he told James a lie – that he had been abused by a teacher – in the hopes that James would stop the molestation. ‘He didn’t even blink an eye,’ said Kennedy. ‘He kept me with him all the time. It was like we were married. It was unbelievable.'” (Calgary Herald, 1/7/97)

“Kennedy said if James was fired from one team and started coaching another he would ‘keep trading for me.'” (Toronto Sun, 5/9/97)

“‘You do not have a clue what to do,” Kennedy said. “You tell your mom and she makes you come home. You tell your friends and they will just portray you as a gay guy. It is just a very scary thing.'” (Detroit News, 1/7/97)

“Kennedy…said he considered suicide several times.” (Tampa Tribune, 1/11/97)

https://www.silent-edge.org/kennedy.html

Fortunately for Shelden Kenedy, he would find some reprieve in his transition to the NHL just after this point in his life. He would go on to have a career playing for the Calgary Flames, The Detroit Red Wings and (my favourite team) The Boston Bruins. Interestingly enough, he was also born in my home city of Brandon, Manitoba.

If there is one thing that can be taken from this, it’s that a female with an accusation against anyone within the hockey system would have NO chance of being taken seriously if people wouldn’t even listen to the athletes themselves. Though I am unsure of how the culture exists now (it has been 20 years), the tendency of hockey fandoms to turn skilled players and coaches into almost god-like figures certainly does not bode well for improvement.

Have there been changes in terms of this toxic culture within hockey?

I honestly don’t know. If you like, feel free to leave your answer in a comment.

Sports ‘haves and have-nots’

While it may be good business practice, most NSOs can’t afford such funds — they’re just trying to survive, said Eric MacIntosh, a professor of sport management at the University of Ottawa. 

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fund to protect against these unforeseen events? Ideally, yes,” said MacIntosh, who does research on culture and high-performance sport in Canada. He’s also a former junior hockey player and now coaches his own kids.

“In practice, I think it’s very difficult. Many national sport organizations in our country are underfunded, they’re understaffed. It’s a haves and have-nots in our Canadian sports system.”

Concordia University economics professor Moshe Lander says while he doesn’t know of any other NSOs with funds similar to Hockey Canada’s, he finds it hard to believe they don’t exist, since most sports carry similar risks of power imbalances between adult coaches and young athletes.

He said it’s also possible for organizations to confuse and distract the auditor general from discovering such funds. “There’s lots of ways that you can cover that stuff up,” he said.

“It really requires that it’s the victims that started coming forward saying ‘I was paid and I’m going to break my nondisclosure agreement because this is for the greater good. Go ahead. Sue me. Let’s see this in the public light.’ “

It strikes me as bothersome that the status quo seems to be based upon just assuming the worst. While I understand this viewpoint from an organizational risk perspective, the attitude also strikes me as being based on the notion of “Shit happens”. While it can be said to be true that chances of all possible outcomes rise along with the number of people you are tasked with dealing with, this isn’t an excuse for not attempting to provide preventative measures in an attempt to further limit liability.

But again, this is an assumption. Maybe there are things happening behind the scenes that I don’t know of. Again, feel free to leave a comment.

What other national sports organizations say

CBC News reached out to 12 other national sport organizations to find out if they have similar funds. 

Soccer Canada was the only one that did not provide responses in time for publication, though a spokesperson said the request was in the queue.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sports-organizations-hockey-canada-funds-1.6639312?cmp=newsletter_Morning%20Headlines%20from%20CBC%20News_1613_756963

Considering that this link to an article detailing how Soccer Canada mishandled sexual assault allegations against a coach was shown right after this paragraph, were not off to a great start.

Athletics Canada

Athletics Canada does not have and has not had, as part of its budget, a contingency fund for non-insurable liabilities, said Caroline Sharp, a national teams communications specialist.

She would not directly answer if Athletics Canada, the national organization for track and field athletes, has ever settled a case out of court, saying because the spectrum of what behaviour constitutes abuse or harassment is so broad — from comments that can be perceived as harassment, to conduct involving grooming and sexual assault — the process allows for “informal resolution.”

“Athletics Canada is not privy to the total number of cases that have been resolved through informal means,” she said.

Since 2015, complaints of violations of the organization’s Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport have gone through Athletic Canada’s Commissioner’s Office, which Sharp says operates “completely independently” from Athletics Canada.

As of Mar. 31, 2023, complaints involving Athletics Canada will go to the OSIC.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sports-organizations-hockey-canada-funds-1.6639312?cmp=newsletter_Morning%20Headlines%20from%20CBC%20News_1613_756963

While the initial reply comes across as a bit slimy, I like the mitigation strategy. Along with this, the organization does appear to be making it easier for whistleblowers to come forward, so overall a good result.

Though the CBC article goes on to cover the status of other sporting organizations, with most of them showcasing various levels of transparency and accountability relating to issues past and present. The related articles field contains one link about athletes calling out a toxic culture within gymnastics, and another outlining (from a previous victim’s perspective) how the culture surrounding most sports in Canada still has a long ways to go in terms of enabling whistleblowers.

* * *

When I started this entry, my focus was mainly aimed towards Hockey. Hockey culture was slash IS an easy punching bag since it’s both the most prominent sport one encounters in Canada (by far), and the sport I am most familiar with. Which isn’t saying much since I know very little about it.

Another reason why Hockey was so intensely in my sights was the fact that various forms of toxicity are well-known to be a part of the hockey scene, and have been that way for decades. And I’m not just talking about the horrors of Graham James or the sexual assault allegations against previous Team Canada iterations either. It’s the covert and overt sexism, racism and just plain old insufferably that often surrounds Canadian hockey culture.

If you are a rising star in a culture wherein you are regarded demi-god status, is it any surprise that this god complex can lead to actions betraying a feeling of cultural impunity?

Not really. After all, who are people going to believe? The well-regarded and well-known player or coach? Or some nobody?

We know what the answer to that question has been in the past. But are we doing any better?

As much as the culture of hockey (no doubt fueled by traits like toxic masculinity, male privilege, and white privilege) disgusts me, hockey is clearly not the only sport with a questionable working culture. It is just the sport with the most publicly-facing and interactive culture.

To bring this to a close, there will be some who will read this and either choose to disregard what is apparent from an outsider’s perspective or write it off as the rantings of the new phenomenon of Wokism. Those 2 groups are not likely ever to be reached and would likely rather see Hockey (or any other sport) burn to the ground instead of becoming more inclusive.

For the rest of us that are more interested in preserving these activities for new Canadians and generations alike, consider not being silent in the face of fellow representatives of your passion painting the whole of it in a bad way.

The solution to the problem is not covering it up by way of secret payments and NDAs. The solution is fostering a community wherein such problems are far less likely to exist. A community of open trust and accountability.

Though I was unaware when I started writing this article, a collaborative investigative work between CTV, TSN and Crave (released on CTV’s W5) outlines their own expose of the horrific state of affairs within the Canadian Gymnastics scene.

As if it were not apparent enough by now . . . No. This is not just a Hockey Problem.

Don’t Just Remember. Vote.

Once again, Remembrance Day (for Canadians), or Veteran’s  Day (for Americans) is here. For Canadians, the interpretation tends to be dedicated to the recognition of the past sacrifices of soldiers lost on foreign soil. Without their sacrifice, we way may well have found ourselves living under the descendants of one Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

How much of a threat either of these realities coming to fruition really could be debated. Much of the social conditioning of Canadian and American society enshrines this reality as pure fact. Contrary to this, comedians such as George Carlin remind us that history books are always written by the victors. Whilst the ambiguity of reality no doubt exists somewhere between the prideful propaganda of the state and the distrustful contrarianism of the well-read comedian, collective societies of both Canada and the US have been losing any sense of understanding the values represented by November 11th for a long time.

I do hear people worried about the lack of respect in regard to Remembrance Day. I hear disdain at the notion of retail stores setting up and making available Holiday items and displays before November 12th. A few stores even play up this silliness for social positivity points, putting signage on their empty holiday displays telling customers that it is out of respect for those lost. Lest we forget as a sales tool.

Then there are the poppies. Though I am not really against the notion of wearing poppies (and agree with the goals of the poppy funds as administered around Canada, assuming all is above board), the part that annoys me is the theatrical aspect of the whole affair. Between around late October and the 11th of November, rare is a Canadian Television host of any job description to be found not wearing one. Whether they are delivering fashion tips, celebrity news, or local news, the poppy seems to become a required staple of the wardrobe. Because heaven forbid even the hint of a lack of respect by way of lack of a poppy ever pop into any viewer’s mind as they mindlessly consume the day’s details.

All of this leads up to the events that shall commence nationwide in around 8 or 9 hours from now. The memorials.

Some will see the bagpipes play and hear the rehearsed speeches live at venues all over the nation. More still will watch the national ceremony in Ottawa (or a local ceremony to them) on television or online. After this, the businesses will reopen (or return to full-service functionality) at 1:30, and life will be back to normal for the next 364 days. 

I don’t have an issue with people (television personalities or otherwise) wearing poppies. I don’t have an issue with people attending gatherings honouring those whom they feel made the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t care what harmless rituals you choose to engage in. The bothersome part for me starts when the pageantry of the entire affair BECOMES the point. 

That Remembrance Day has evolved into an elaborate display of symbolism with a dash of capitalist cynicism isn’t really surprising. Like every other supposedly sacred holiday that people decry the loss of meaning in, this interaction is a product of our time. When the whole of connected societies are slowly becoming more and more commercialized in ways never thought to be possible previously, the influence will be felt everywhere. When nothing matters because all you are is either a product or a target demographic, it’s easy to adapt to just going through the motions.

Loonie in, Poppy on. Hat off. Out the door, off to the supermarket to start holiday preparations.

While people are hyper-focused on the sacrifices of their long-lost friends and relatives for 2 weeks out of the year, the real threat to these values can be found in the OTHER 46 weeks out of the year. The times when your online feeds and local news headline stories of increasing unrest and growing fascism in the supposedly free lands of the western world. While these developments are very obvious in the context of the United States at the moment, no liberal democracy is immune from this growing scourge to all that is decent and civilized.
And as growing climatic instability and financial inequality continue to create refugees on all scales from the local to the international, these voices of unrest will only become more prominent. Bringing with them even more fascist turmoil.

People don’t often like the “Look what happened in Germany!” argument made by worried leftists in an increasingly uncertain world. Which is fine, since I’m not really talking to those people.

This is more aimed at, the people dismayed at Christmas retail starting on November 1st. The people who write letters to the editor about their neighbour’s Christmas lights on November 5th. The people who praise retailers for not putting up holiday displays before November 11th out of respect

By all means, respect. But also pay attention. 

Politics isn’t nearly as easy to digest or easy to participate in as the pageantry and symbolism of respect. However, it affects us all. And keeping an eye on the changing and increasingly extreme-leaning political landscape of our nation does far more in the service of remaining true to the sacrifices of all those lost in the fog of war than wearing a poppy for 2 weeks out of a year ever will.

 

https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/poppy-field

 

Joe Biden’s Good News On Cannabis

Indeed, I am late to the presses with this one. But nonetheless, in the long and dark tunnel that is the path to drug reform, there is finally a bright spot from a somewhat unexpected source. Good ole boy Joe Biden.

Having come across the initial tweet of the thread whilst sitting in front of a campfire on the cool fall evening of the 6th of October, I was certainly surprised. I had to make sure I wasn’t reading a parody POTUS account in fact. Though this is a good measure in all situations, I admit that cynicism was the biggest driver here. As much as I truly love progression and change for the better, can be a real drag to overcome.

Nonetheless, here we are. Though this is something that arguably should have been done a long time ago (Obama? Clinton? Carter?!), it’s a good step. Considering the damage done in the area by past democrats (Biden included), I’ll take the win.

Moving on from the POTUS evolution, I happened upon an article from a staunchly anti-cannabis figurehead that seemed interesting to touch on. Having written a couple scathing pieces on Kevin Sabet (President of Smart Approaches To Marijuana), it seemed a good time to check how the opposition was reacting to the changing trade winds.

The article was written by Susan Arbetter and published by Spectrum News 1‘s central New York State-focused feed.

According to the DEA, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug like heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote. Schedule 1 drugs are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The president’s tweet spurred hope among legalization advocates.

Others expressed hope for a more measured approach to rescheduling marijuana.

Capital Tonight spoke with Dr. Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, about the issue. Sabet served as an advisor in the National Drug Control Policy Office in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. 

“Scheduling is not a harm index,” Sabet explained. 

When asked why it’s on a higher schedule than either fentanyl or cocaine, Sabet explained it’s because those drugs have some accepted medical use. Marijuana, said Sabet, currently has no accepted medical use because it comes it so many different forms.

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2022/10/07/expert-on-the-possible–rescheduling–of-marijuana

This is the first time I’m hearing about the accepted medicinal uses of cocaine. But as it turns out, cocaine is indeed approved for medicinal use as a nasal anesthetic (if my comprehension is correct). It even has a Pharmacological name and packaging to go with it.

Of all the things I thought I would never see, this is one of them. But I had to see it for myself. Amazing the benefits one gets when allowing the research of substances to gain traction. I’m almost willing to overlook “Marijuana currently has no accepted medical use because it comes it so many different forms“, but not quite. Considering the many forms that opium has taken over the years, and how these many legally pushed derivatives have destroyed many lives over the past 3 presidential administrations this idiot (Sabet) occupied a very influential role in the administration (as far as this issue is concerned).

When it was pointed out that medical marijuana is an over $52 billion industry in the United States, Sabet said, “There are forms that have some accepted medical use, but not the raw marijuana plant.”

Sabet said he is against opening the door to legalization, but would like to see marijuana in a research schedule. 

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2022/10/07/expert-on-the-possible–rescheduling–of-marijuana

I wonder, who was in a position that could have made that happen? Who occupied a highly influential position longer than any President Of the United States, yet still failed to bring this logic up at any time then?

It’s great to play the hindsight is 20/20 game from the safety of the sidelines, isn’t it?

“I’d put it in a schedule called 1R or 1A where we acknowledge the potential for abuse. Remember, today’s marijuana is not the marijuana of the past. It’s so much more potent than it used to be. It’s linked to psychosis, suicide, schizophrenia, all kinds of things, but we do we need to do more research,” he said.

Specifically, Sabet is interested in researching high-potency marijuana in order to learn what happens to the body when it’s absorbed.

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2022/10/07/expert-on-the-possible–rescheduling–of-marijuana

While I am in favour of the careful handling of cannabis as a substance (particularly its modern forms that have been altered for strength and potency by decades of underground cultivation aimed at increasingly tolerant chronic users), I won’t allow Kevin to present this picture as though this is just how the cookie crumbles.

The reason why marijuana is this strong is prohibition. The reason why more and more medical abnormalities are starting to show up in people (particularly in woefully unprepared youngsters) IS because of the financial incentives of the underground peddlers. Their money isn’t made from recreational users, it’s made from heavy (increasingly tolerant) users. While strictly regulated legal markets have ended up largely reversing this status quo, you wouldn’t have the wild west of the cannabis industry without the prohibitionist delusion of “a drug-free world” enabling these forces. The same goes whenever I hear about yet another instance of the horrors of synthetic marijuana showing up somewhere in the world . . . people wouldn’t be so easily tempted to get easily obtainable fakes if the real thing were available.

I agree that more research on all aspects of marijuana should in fact be researched. But I take issue with prohibitionists taking the “We NEED to have more research so we can understand the harm caused by potent marijuana!” only now when this research should have been in progress decades ago. Instead of being stuck in limbo due to the idiotic racially driven drug policy of many decades past.

“What I wouldn’t do is commercialize it, legalize it on the federal level and open this up to institutional investors and big tobacco,” he said. “That’s my worry.”

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2022/10/07/expert-on-the-possible–rescheduling–of-marijuana

While that aspect has been indeed been one of the disappointing realities of legalization in Canada (corporations dominating the industry, most of them having shitty leadership (if indeed reviews are to be believed), a big reason for this consolidation is the high price to jump in the cannabis licit market. You need a minimum of millions in upfront capital to start growing along, let alone the headache of running shops (or of getting into the edibles and drinkables space).

Maybe this will change with time as people slowly lose old biases they have always had towards the substance (or as old generations are replaced by more factually driven up-and-comers). But either way, I would love to see smaller (and more niche-focused businesses) be allowed the lee-way to thrive in the newly emerging cannabis marketplace. Though a majority will almost always be happy with mass-produced fare like Budweiser, there ought to be a place for little players like Farmery (Manitoba) and others like it.

The more options you bring to the licit market, the fewer reasons people have to turn (or operate in) the illicit market.

When asked about New York’s new recreational marijuana law in which applicants who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses are at the front of the line for retail licenses, Sabet said he was skeptical. 

“Listen, I don’t think it should be white guys from Wall Street. I don’t think it should be big tobacco. But I’m very skeptical of what New York is doing for a couple of reasons,” he said. “For one, I’m worried about saying if you were a felon in the past, come over you’re front in line to sell what’s a federally-illegal drug. There is so much potential for mixing with the illegal market and foreign cartels that are taking over the illegal market.”

Secondly, Sabet claims there has been very little enforcement on illegal operators.

“I’m in Manhattan. I see it. I smell it. You all do. It’s not like we’re cracking down on them either,” he said.

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2022/10/07/expert-on-the-possible–rescheduling–of-marijuana

There is a fairly simple way in which one can ensure that these felons are not subsidizing their legal businesses with tax-free illicit offshoots. You can ensure that the inside of these facilities (from greenhouse to retailer) are covered by security cameras, with plants tracked from seed to sale. As is the case in other states, and I suspect here in Canada. While I am unsure of this, these mysterious non-UPC barcodes scream tracking (much like many products one would find in the Amazon walk-in store).

Also worth noting is Sabet’s specific mention of not wanting “white guys from wall street” running the industry, nor “felons” because of the risk of recidivistic behaviour. While it is entirely possible that there is nothing to see here, given the racist roots of the war on drugs itself, the statement is AT BEST, very disturbing. Considering the demographic makeup of the majority of this said group, I think the statement is AT THE LEAST, a demonstration of the ignorance of Kevin Sabet. So worried about stamping out the marijuana menace he is, he doesn’t see the menace that he himself has made himself a part of.

As for foreign cartels taking over the illegal market, they will only have a business if the retail side of the coin isn’t covering a given niche. As far as cannabis is concerned, legalization is actually making cannabis a less desirable substance in many areas. The problem with this is it is being replaced with things like amphetamines and fentanyl.

This brings us to the next issue. Getting cannabis out of the way should be the first step, the final one being either legalization or decriminalization of all other substances. Though that is indeed a HUGE leap, it is what is likely required to get substance abuse back under some form of control. Decades of throwing money at prohibition has been a massive failure. It’s time to shift that funding into healthcare and wellness instead.

The situation will not change overnight, and may well take years to even begin to reverse the damage of the Nixon Administration. But we have to start sometime, and in my opinion, that time is now.

Obama Vs The Right – The Neverending Shit Show

To think that this was penned back in 2013 . . .

A Raindrop In The Ocean

Where is the line between disagreement and treason?

Many on the right, insist that Obama is terrible. And they throw the term treason around, in regards to him and his actions. Not at all surprising, as any word that fits, is usable in the bubble (no matter how irrelevant, or wrong, it may be).

But the fact is, if the roles of the current were reversed, and it was Obama’s democrats and the left that was in the place of the current right, there would be hell to pay. If it was Obama’s party that was crying fowel and keeping (and sacraficing) the nation over a disagreement, people would not stand for it.  They would use the word treasonous, and frankly, it would fit. Because from what I can see, that is exactly what this behaver amounts to.

Yet, somehow the right is the  “patriotic” side.

Don’t get me…

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“Is Marijuana Use Really ‘Soaring’ Among Young People?” – (Leafly)

Having seen this headline essentially carbon copied all over the place recently, I raised an eyebrow. Given the constraints on my time, however, I never bothered to look into the details of the findings. After all, if I took time out of my schedule to look into every single release of survey data that could be sus (which is all of them, since the media often doesn’t know (or care) to use survey data correctly), I would not get anything done. This isn’t even considering the uniquely biased mess that traditional media entities tend to make of marijuana research (particularly that with negative results).

As it happens, however, Leafly (Bruce Barcott, Leafly’s Senior editor) has already done the legwork for us. So let’s explore some of his findings.

When does good health news magically turn into a worrisome trend? When cannabis is involved, of course.

This past week we were treated to a master class in trend creation and data twisting by NIDA Director Nora Volkow.

NIDA is the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the federal agency that retains a stranglehold on all cannabis research in the US.

On Aug. 21, Volkow’s agency issued a press release claiming that marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached an all-time high last year.

The following day’s New York Times gave NIDA’s claim a courtesy shine. Times health reporter Andrew Jacobs basically rewrote the press release and the copy desk topped it with this header: “Use of Marijuana and Psychedelics Is Soaring Among Young Adults, Study Finds.”

https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/is-marijuana-use-really-soaring-among-young-people

I do in fact recall coming across the NYT article. My most vivid recollection was my annoyance with the fact that it was paywalled.

Indeed, such is their choice. However, it kind of puts a damper on the whole public service aspect of reporting on a worrying trend in young people. Concerned, but not so concerned as to put aside one’s capitalistic end goals.

Reminds me of the state of vaping regulations in the past decade when it comes to keeping addictive substances out of the hands of teenagers. But that is another ball of wax altogether.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow told Jacobs she found the results “very concerning.”

“What they tell us is that the problem of substance abuse among young people has gotten worse in this country,” she said, “and that the pandemic, with all its mental stressors and turmoil, has likely contributed to the rise.”

The NIDA press release included this alarming visual:

The cannabis numbers are not unlike what I would expect given the evolving status of the drug. Slow and steady rise as more states relax the idiocy and more people become comfortable with this new option (or switch away from illicit sources). The hallucinogen spike is interesting, but given the state of the world of late, also not really. With covid vaccination becoming more commonplace and people starting to let loose more (no doubt making up for lost time), I’m unsurprised to see that some are choosing to do so with the aid of hallucination.

I also doubt the trend will hold. As things become more normal (whatever that is to mean these days), that graph is likely to flatten back to its former status.

The whole thing struck me as odd. Other studies have seen a sharp drop in marijuana use among teenagers in 2020 and 2021—most likely due to pandemic stay-at-home orders that limited the opportunities for America’s teens to obtain and use weed. (I’ll leave the hallucinogen data alone for now.)

Intrigued, I took a dive into the data behind NIDA’s claim. And found—quelle surprise—a giant turd at the bottom of the pond.

I love the honesty.

Not new, not soaring, not buying it

Last week’s NIDA claim and Times headline didn’t come from a new study, it turns out. They came from the latest Monitoring the Future report, which was published last December. Monitoring the Future is a national survey of drug use that the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research has conducted annually since 1975. NIDA and its parent agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) help fund the study.

Eight months ago, when that study was actually new, NIDA issued a press release heralding the survey’s finding that teen drug use, including teen marijuana use, dropped significantly in 2021. “We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period,” Nora Volkow said at the time.

The good news about teen marijuana use isn’t limited to the pandemic era. Over the past few years, as legalization has spread to 19 states, studies have failed to find a related rise in teen use. At an anti-drug conference in January, Volkow herself said she’s been surprised to see years of data that show “the prevalence rates of marijuana use among teenagers have been stable despite the legalization in many states.”

Recycling old data points to push an entirely new narrative? That is certainly a new tact. But we will get to that later.

As for the previous findings about legalization failing to cause a rise in teenage marijuana use, to that I have to say . . . duh. I’ve been saying since my days of advocating for marijuana legalization post high school in 2007 that legalization was a great way to keep the drug from minors. Because:

1.) purchasing regulations serve the same purpose when it comes to alcohol and tobacco. While it won’t stop unscrupulous (or irresponsible) vendors or adult purchasers, it works well enough.

2.) Not only do black market drug traffickers not generally care who they sell to (minor or otherwise), they also can carry a much more vast array of substances than the fairly tame cannabis or psilocybin. I recall overhearing phone calls to dealers back in the day (2006-ish) and hearing substances like cocaine or meth offered in lieu of weed since the town was dry at the time. I also recall the city’s police force publicly bragging about a big pot bust in the local media.

Brilliant. Now teens and everyone in between are calling for green and instead being offered snow or ice instead. Great work!

It has always baffled me why the legalization does not equate to more teenage drug use argument doth not compute to adults. But I suppose, it shouldn’t surprise me. If they had any exposure to drug culture at all, it was likely multiple decades previous.

So what changed between then and now? Nothing—except, perhaps, NIDA’s need to keep the nation alarmed about cannabis legalization as election season approaches.

How do you do that when the data undermines your talking point? You rearrange the data.

Here’s how they did it: The data fudge

Pay attention to NIDA’s definition of “young adults.”

When you see “young adults” in the Times headline you probably imagine people in their late teens, early twenties, right? High school and college years.

Not so.

The “soaring” use of marijuana was pulled from a data set that NIDA stretched to include all survey respondents from age 19 to age 30. Which is a ridiculously wide age range to smoosh together. At 19, you’re an idiot draining kegs and skinny-dipping in Frosh Pond. (If you’re me.) At 30, you’re married with a job, a mortgage, and a baby on the way. (Me again.)

And let’s not neglect the obvious: In legal states, 19- and 20-year-olds can’t legally buy or possess marijuana. Adults age 21 to 30 are legal.

I’m glad that this was made clear since even I misinterpreted the data even after reading the 19-30 year age range in the previous chart. Probably because raising concern over rising use in young adults almost inherently makes one think of minors. As opposed to grown adults making a consensual choice in what they consume. Not unlike 30-year-old drinking alcohol.

What the data actually show

If you go into the Monitoring the Future data and separate the 18-to-20 year-olds from the 21-to-30 year-olds, you’ll find a remarkable story. (I’m including 18-year-olds because the data is there. I don’t know why NIDA chose not to use it.)

Over the past decade, as adult-use legalization has taken hold for nearly half the American population, the University of Michigan researchers found the percentage of 18-to-20 year-olds who tried marijuana at least once in the past year has remained almost unchanged: 35.4% in 2011, and 35.0% in 2021.

Meanwhile, the percentage of 21-to-30 year-olds (adults of legal age) trying marijuana increased from 28% to 43%.

Here’s what that looks like, using data from the same Monitoring the Future report:

By lumping the underage cohort with the legal-age cohort, NIDA dragged the average up and made it look like there was an alarming increase in “young adults” using marijuana.

This, folks, is why I’ve learned to ignore A Newly Released Study Concluded . . . headlines. Because choosing the desired outcome can often be as easy as playing with the data. So that, as in this case, you can transition data that is seemingly antithetical to your agenda into fitting its narrative nicely.

Considering that the data source is the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the action is very disappointing given their stated purpose as touted on their website.

NIDA logo

Our mission is to advance science on drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health.

https://nida.nih.gov/about-nida

But I am not surprised either. As frustrating as it is to deal with, the phrase You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks really seems applicable to many people as far as this topic (really, ANY topic!) is concerned, expert or not. Certainly, this is the case for ordinary people without related education or career experience, but the problem becomes much more pertinent when one has spent likely decades in an area of research and thus likely has a huge amount of effort locked into a given conclusion.

Frankly, I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before.

Here I was, wondering how people like Kevin Sabet could go around spreading BS on a topic that they seem woefully out of touch on. Maybe it’s because they have no interest in updating their point of view. A point of view that has been shaped by decades of reinforcement in the academic and/or government sectors.

Indeed, this is a strawman argument on my part. However, the easiest way to prove this otherwise would be for such people to actually properly interact with the areas of study in which they claim to be their focus.

After all, since a government-funded organization is tasked with the well-being and overall health of drug users, what other conclusion (aside from them being irreversibly biased) can one make about the organization’s leadership when they are caught manipulating data to fit a given agenda?

The only way to defeat this problem is to push out these old dogs and replace them with inquiry-focused thinkers and leaders. A conclusion that makes the end goal of legalization a much taller order than it used to be.

Nonetheless, the current wasteful status quo will continue to waste, maim and kill for as long as the dinosaurs are allowed to keep us entrenched in the era of Nixon.

Free Speech Vs. Violence – The Salman Rushdie Conundrum

I admit that my take on this topic is being delivered rather late to the actual event. However, having come across an article tweeted by Richard Dawkins on the subject, it seemed an opportune time to revisit a topic that I once felt fairly conclusively about. Having said that, this was also a time when many seemingly thorny issues could be boiled down to black-and-white conclusions that were just common sense.

As I would come to learn, however, even the wisest publicly adored intellectuals (the publicly adored aspect is key, really) can be wrong. They may be misinformed or (as often seems the case), drawing a conclusion without considering all other external variables. Then there is the factor of speaking conclusively on a topic that is outside of ones academic scope (many are guilty of this).
Either way, my time in the nu-Atheist movement seen me absorbing and regurgitating arguments from authority without analysis (because what analysis can I give? I don’t have a Ph.D.). And my time post-mainstream atheist (along with my introduction to the concept of philosophy) had me begin to recognize the problems with how I sourced my information.

This transition in myself is a bit hard to describe. After all, what I call embracing philosophy is less concerned with the academic discipline than it was changing my internal frame of mind. While I have pursued the discipline at length (through podcasts and such), I have no real interest in embracing the field much more. Mainly because what I call philosophy is less concerned with the people and more concerned with how their work changed how they view the world around them.
Potentially because I don’t understand what the term philosophy entails. The domineering search engine of our time says the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline, but i’m inclined to go beyond that. In a sense, it could be said that philosophy IS the accumulation of all past, present and future human knowledge. Many in any field within or adjacent to the sciences will potentially take issue with this assertion. A rebuke that I hardly take seriously given that the rift between science and the philosophy of science is a fairly recent phenomenon in the grand scheme of things.

I suspect that this paragraph of empty ramblings will be slightly triggering to those antithetical to the disciplines of philosophy. Dare I say, proof of the navel-gazing nature of the discipline.

I refer you folk to the field that is Astrophysics.

Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to seek to understand the universe and our place in it. The field explores topics such as the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe.

htmlhttps://www.space.com/26218-astrophysics.html

If there is one thing I know about the anti-philo crowd, it’s that they love themselves some star gazing.

Either way, it’s been a long time since I last brushed with this topic. Having come across an article titled We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning in a publication called Common Sense, this seems a good time for a re-visit. The author of the article is Bari Weiss (because, OF COURSE it is).

Let’s begin.

We live in a culture in which many of the most celebrated people occupying the highest perches believe that words are violence. In this, they have much in common with Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the first fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, and with Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old who, yesterday, appears to have fulfilled his command when he stabbed the author in the neck on a stage in Western New York. 

The first group believes they are motivated by inclusion and tolerance—that it’s possible to create something even better than liberalism, a utopian society where no one is ever offended. The second we all recognize as religious fanatics. But it is the indulgence and cowardice of the words are violence crowd that has empowered the second and allowed us to reach this moment, when a fanatic rushes the stage of a literary conference with a knife and plunges it into one of the bravest writers alive.

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

Right off the bat, it’s hard to ignore the strawman. I have yet to see 1 single person who equates words ALONE as violence. While I won’t go as far as saying that no one would say that, the vast majority are more concerned with the consequences of words.

And no, not in a victim-blaming sense. No one ought to be stabbed for their depictions of what arguably amounts to be a character of fiction.

However, I suspect that this isn’t the kind of speech that people like Bari are defending.

* * *

Salman Rushdie has lived half of his life with a bounty on his head—some $3.3 million promised by the Islamic Republic of Iran to anyone who murdered him. And yet, it was in 2015, years after he had come out of hiding, that he told the French newspaper L’Express: “We are living in the darkest time I have ever known.” 

* * *

By 2015, America was a very different place.

When Rushdie made those comments to L’Express it was in the fallout of PEN, the country’s premiere literary group, deciding to honor the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo with an award. Months before, a dozen staff members of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by two terrorists in their offices. It was impossible to think of a publication that deserved to be recognized and elevated more.

And yet the response from more than 200 of the world’s most celebrated authors was to protest the award. Famous writers—Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Michael Cunningham, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Junot Díaz—suggested that maybe the people who had just seen their friends murdered for publishing a satirical magazine were a little bit at fault, too. That if something offends a minority group, that perhaps it shouldn’t be printed. And those cartoonists were certainly offensive, even the dead ones. These writers accused PEN of “valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

Uh.

Looking back to the boycott, the goal was less anti-anti-Islam sentiments than it was questioning the nature of the content (as it comes across in the context of french culture).

In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized”.

Twenty-six writers, including Pulitzer and National Book Award winners, joined six others – Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi – who had previously withdrawn from the PEN gala celebrating the award. The letter condemns the murder of 12 Hebdo staffers by Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, two extremists enraged by the magazine’s cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

But the writers also criticize the decision to give an award to Charlie Hebdo.

“There is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression,” the letter reads.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/29/writers-join-protest-charlie-hebdo-pen-award

I remember the overall atmosphere of the time period. At the time, most people (dare I say, me included) were far more concerned with the dangers of radical Islam than they were of much else. Certainly, far more emphasis was put on the dangers of Islamisation than on homegrown fascism. Though Christopher Hedges did sound the alarm on the dangers of Christian nationalism early, I don’t recall this sentiment escaping the confines of the progressive new sphere until the Trump era.

This brings us to today. To Bari Weiss once again viewing history through a straw-man lens.

The protest was not about curbing Islamic criticism. It was more concerned with not glamorizing what, in french cultural terms, equated to punching down. Whilst some may see this as the erosion of western values, I see it as the values of freedom of speech and expression working just as they should.

From how I understand it, no one said that the PEN organization should not award Charlie Hebdo. They just decided not to attend as their expression of dissatisfaction with the choice.

Here’s how Rushdie responded: “This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organized, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”

He was right. They were wrong. And their civic cowardice, as Sontag may have described it, is in no small part, responsible for the climate we find ourselves in today. (As I wrote this, I got a news alert from The New York Times saying the attacker’s “motive was unclear.” Motive was unclear?)

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

I can’t wait to see where this goes . . .

The words are violence crowd is right about the power of language. Words can be vile, disgusting, offensive, and dehumanizing. They can make the speaker worthy of scorn, protest, and blistering criticism. But the difference between civilization and barbarism is that civilization responds to words with words. Not knives or guns or fire. That is the bright line. There can be no excuse for blurring that line—whether out of religious fanaticism or ideological orthodoxy of any other kind.

Today our culture is dominated by those who blur that line—those who lend credence to the idea that words, art, song lyrics, children’s books, and op-eds are the same as violence. We are so used to this worldview and what it requires—apologize, grovel, erase, grovel some more—that we no longer notice. It is why we can count, on one hand—Dave Chappelle; J.K. Rowling—those who show spine.

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

To this, I have to say . . . what in the FUCK are you talking about?!

We live in a world where actions have consequences. Though punching down from the safety of the mainstream media was once considered acceptable (as most marginalized groups without fanatical fringes never had the platform to defend themselves), this is less the case today. Because for better or for worse, almost everyone now has a platform. Not to mention that the ease of information access of modern technology leaves little excuse for the dispersal of outdated or demonstrably false information.

This brings us to the real agenda of this, the free speech hysteria crowd. They use the term copiously, but they are not interested in free speech. What they want is the good ole days, the era of speech without consequence. A time when spouting wrongful or bigoted (often both) nonsense came with little reprocussions.

Just as it comes as no coincidence that Weiss chose J.K. Rowling and Dave Chappelle as her people with spine, it is also no coincidence that this is all happening as generational and racial power dynamics are starting to shift in the US and elsewhere. After all, when accustomed to privilege, equality can look very much like oppression.

Of course it is 2022 that the Islamists finally get a knife into Salman Rushdie. Of course it is now, when words are literally violence and J.K. Rowling literally puts trans lives in danger and even talking about anything that might offend anyone means you are literally arguing I shouldn’t exist. Of course it’s now, when we’re surrounded by silliness and weakness and self-obsession, that a man gets on stage and plunges a knife into Rushdie, plunges it into his liver, plunges it into his arm, plunges it into his eye. That is violence.

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

Well, I don’t have much else to say.

If you want to know what Free speech is code for, it’s right here plain as day. The freedom to punch down without consequence. If that is the stance that Salman Rushdie chooses to take, then that is unfortunate. Though hardly the only case of prominence not equate to wisdom.

Either way, may he have a speedy recovery.

Dr. Oz Is Back In the News Again

It’s been years since I last wrote about the shenanigans of Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s favourite celebrity marketer (and sometimes MD). Though I thought my comma-riddled rantings about Oz’s Quackery (and for that matter of The Doctors, his then prime-time television MD counterparts) from the mid-2010s would be the last time I would ever mention the man, it turns out that I was wrong.

Though my headline isn’t exactly accurate (Dr. Oz has been making news off and on all through the pandemic, and arguably since my last post mentioning his existence), Dr. Oz – America’s Favorite Celebrity Dr. And Tax Cheat isn’t technically true. Though there is certainly subjectivity to be found in analyzing the tax breaks made available to primarily land owners, such behaviour is hardly cheating in the legal sense. It’s no shell company-owned nest egg in a tax haven like the Bahamas or Canada.

This brings us to today’s article of interest. Resigned from his old cushy position of prime-time television marketer of all things faux-medicinal, Dr. Oz now has political ambitions. His campaign was based around his in-law’s property in Pennsylvania, of all places.

The article was written by Julia Conley and published by Common Dreams.

Fetterman Demands Dr. Oz Answer for $50,000 Tax Break Intended for Pa. Farmers

“Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn’t want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat.”

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Tuesday slammed his GOP opponent in the state’s U.S. Senate election, Mehmet Oz, for taking advantage of a tax break under a program originally intended to help struggling farmers, saying the tax relief underscores how the celebrity doctor seeks to benefit from Pennsylvania instead of serving the state.

Oz, who has been known for years as TV personality Dr. Oz, purchased a farmstead in Montgomery County late last year, weeks after he announced he was running for Senate. Oz has homes in Florida and New Jersey and has been staying at a Pennsylvania house owned by his in-laws since 2020, when Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced his plan to retire.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday, the $3.1 million Montgomery County property is eligible for a tax relief and conservation program called Act 319, which gives landowners a more favorable tax assessment in return for protecting land from development.

Oz’s home, where he still doesn’t live, has been held back from development as a “forest reserve,” with Oz and his wife agreeing to preserve tree cover that exists on the property.

In exchange, the state has assessed the value of the property at less than $450,000, subjecting Oz to an annual tax bill of just $21,473 instead of $72,000.

While the tax break is meant to incentivize homeowners to refrain from developing forested land, according to the Inquirer, Oz agreed when he bought the home to “not construct any improvement of structures” on the property.

He applied for the Act 319 tax break months later.

“The intent here was to induce [Oz] to not develop the land,” tax attorney Richard Booker told the Inquirer. “But he’d already agreed to that.”

On Twitter, Fetterman posted an image of a check made out to “Farmer Oz.”

Oz’s use of Act 319 is completely legal—but with tax break affecting a local school district’s budget, Fetterman said the doctor’s actions demonstrate that “Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn’t want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat.”

As far as republican cronyism goes, this is small potatoes. Compared to the past (and probably present!) financial shenanigans of the Trump organization, focusing on Oz’s $50,527 tax break seems petty, particularly with the environmental consideration considered.

But, as Fetterman remarks, it’s hardly about the ecological stewardship for Oz, is it?

Considering that he agreed not to develop the property, this amounts to a little more than a nice incentive for not selling his little forest retreat. Which had the added benefit of putting a senate seat within his reach when the time turned out to be right.

Taking a step to the side for a moment, we have all been in this Bizzaro world for so long now that the thought of Dr.Oz running for senate hardly elicits any response from most of us. Until the occasional moment when you have a brief realization and place yourself in the past, maybe 7 years ago.
Back in 2014, Dr. Oz had to sit in front of congress and admit that a lot of what he was selling on his primetime show amounted to little more than medicinal woo. Now, he’s running for a seat in the US Senate.
Even Donald Trump has never had to confess his sins in front of congress and the nation before his 2015 rise to infamy (though he did use his celebrity influence in 1991 to try and convince congress to enact more business-friendly tax reform). Trump claimed the taxation paradigm of the time to be very detrimental to the real estate market (and by extension, to his businesses).

What an era. I was 3 and completely politically unaware. And Donald Trump had not yet demonstrated the unbelievable ability (or I suppose, lack thereof) to go bankrupt whilst running a gambling empire.

Anyway, back to present-day hell.

Fetterman noted that according to the Inquirer, Oz has claimed that ongoing renovations have kept him from moving into the home he purchased—”on two recent afternoons, there were no cars in the driveway or signs of construction activity at the house.”

“Dr. Oz hasn’t even moved into his ‘home’ in Pennsylvania yet, but he’s already found time to claim a tax break on his new mansion in Pennsylvania—a tax break meant for struggling small-time farmers,” said Fetterman. “It also looks like Dr. Oz is no longer even pretending to be renovating and getting ready to move into this house where he supposedly plans to live.”

“Honestly, he’s just acknowledging what we all already know: that as soon as he loses, Dr. Oz is heading back to his mansion in New Jersey,” he added.

While I don’t feel a need to comment on this rather petty commentary (I’m not overly concerned with people owning vacation properties), such is how things are in politics.

It does bring to mind the interesting dynamic that can be brought about by wealthy investors buying property in distressed (primarily rural) locations. Some would consider the cash infusion a good thing due to the economic gains (though often exaggerated, they are usually not non-existent). However, the double-edged sword often shows up in the amount of power these land owners can have over local area town councils and other leadership. For example, if the town/county/parish/municipality decides that the free (or very lenient) taxation ride is over and it’s time for the wealthy land owners to pay up. Often the threat of abandoning the current locale in favour of a locale that is less hostile to business as usual is enough to stop such attempts at fairer governance.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that Dr. Oz is playing the part of a big-name box store digging its claws into a small-town economy. The home he owned may be for political gain, maybe just a vacation home, maybe both. It just brought the phenomenon to mind, so I decided to explore it.

In fact, to jump on the side of the devil’s advocate, John Fetterman may want to be careful what he wishes for. If Dr. Oz does indeed drop the property and high tail it back to the tri-state metroplex, there is no guarantee that the next owner will be as interested in not developing the land as they see fit.

Campaigning as “the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate” for Senate, Fetterman has harshly criticized Oz for only recently moving into his in-laws’ home in Pennsylvania and for still owning a home in New Jersey.

He rebuked Oz last week for newly resurfaced comments in which the doctor said, “It’s very hard to discern significant differences in happiness in someone who’s making $50,000 and $50 million,” calling Oz “out of touch from reality.”

“Dr. Oz is a fraud who is just using the people of Pennsylvania, he does not care about us one bit,” said Fetterman on Tuesday.

While I am not going to touch on the last paragraph, the one beforehand is certainly correct. Having watched a few consecutive weeks of his show all the way back in 2009 showed me how far in orbit he was in comparison to the everyday Americans that he was supposed to be helping live a better life. My favourite from this era was an angry episode wherein he came out against a certain brand of mineral water that he seemed to claim had hidden caffeine content. Being unable to sleep for a couple nights, he was surprised to find that the mineral water he enjoyed had added caffeine. While we never learn what the brand is, I think I identified it at the time as Glaceau (being the only mineral water I knew of to be caffeinated at the time. I was, and still am, quite fond of it actually).

Interestingly enough, I recently found myself in a situation wherein I had purchased a product in which the caffeine content did in fact seem to be almost hidden from view. Available all over the US and Canada (and consumed by many popular YouTubers who are targeting the teenager and below youtube demographics), I introduce you to Bai. Though I have only ever come across 3 flavours here in Canada, many are clearly available stateside.

One day, after a long day of work (which preceded another early morning) I decided to try the blueberry-flavoured variant. Having walked past the bottles many times before in retailers (and having seen YouTubers purchasing them as healthy snacks) I figured I would one out. It was only after purchasing the bottle and cracking the lid wherein I spotted the little green band on the back of the bottle.

Interestingly enough, this label is even more ambiguous than the bottle I had at the time (I’m not sure if Health Canada has a different labelling requirement than the FDA, or if the one pictured is an older/newer version than the one I seen).

While it is true that caffeine is indeed listed as an ingredient, the issue I have is that one is not expecting it based on the front face of the bottle. Unlike the bright yellow appearance, Energy name and clearly listed caffeine content on the front of the Glaceau mineral water offering, one look at Bai leaves someone with the impression of an antioxidant drink, and little more.

While I ended up spotting the caffeine listing soon enough to avoid a terrible night of rest, I have to wonder how many people (teenagers?!) don’t. I am also unsure of what benefits (if any) come from the antioxidants. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, though I can’t help but think that these beverages would have been right at home on the Dr. Oz Show.
Then there is the caffeine. This aspect introduces a possible addiction vector by way of the fact that it’s hidden (or at very least, ambiguously labelled). You know what you are getting if you purchase any variety of energy drinks in a can, but not if you think you are buying juice.

With the Bai rant out of the way, back to America’s most decorated sellout . . .

The author of the article raises an interesting question with the mention of John Fetterman as the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate. It makes me wonder what Dr. Oz’s stance on abortion is.

While seemingly on the right side of this, the bit about this being up to the American people and their elected representatives is certainly problematic. Something that the man knows, given past comments on the subject.

Either way, he’s wrong. It has been obvious for decades what can and WILL happen if the uneducated people are allowed to have a say in the abortion debate. And in this age of Republican extremism, there is no longer any room for feeble pro-life pandering.

You are either a crusader for equal access to healthcare and equality, or you are not. By that metric, Dr. Oz has lost the plot.

Do School Girl Uniforms Have A Place In Pornography Or Sex Shops?

Of all the topics that I didn’t think I would ever find myself commenting on, this certainly has to be near the top of that nonexistent list. Nonetheless, it is a question being asked by a small but brave group of feminists in a UK high school.

Today, we will be exploring an article detailing the reason why this group has taken this stance. Not just for the sake of commenting on their argument, but also for the sake of digging into the full picture of what is happening.

Let’s begin.

These British students are trying to ban school uniforms in sex shops, pornography

Group’s petition has obtained enough signatures to trigger a government response

It was Friday lunchtime at a high school in Sandbach, England, and the conversation among a group of students was bleak: teenage girls talking about their experiences of being sexually harassed on their way to school.

“I remember we were on a public bus. And the bus driver told us it was OK to take our tights off if we wanted to. He said he preferred it when we wore the old uniform at school and our skirts were shorter. I was 11,” said Alice, now a Grade 11 student.

“When I was walking home once in my school uniform, I had a man in his thirties get close to me and say that he was going to rape me as he walked past. It was just horrific,” said Hannah, also in Grade 11.

Hannah and Alice — whose names have been changed and ages left out at the request of their school — are part of the feminism group at Sandbach High School, located south of Manchester.

Petition has earned response from U.K. government

The group is petitioning the U.K. government to ban school uniforms from being sold in costume and sex shops and worn in pornography.

“When we were walking to and from school, on public transport, and we were in our school uniforms, we’d been catcalled, sexually harassed, honked at,” said Alice. “And we kind of wondered why, and why people feel so entitled to, like, sexually harass schoolchildren and make us feel so uncomfortable.”

That is an excellent question.

The answer is obvious. Society has had a patriarchial structure for as long as there has been a society. Combine this sense of power with a lack of empathy or morality, then you end up with a dangerous result. Creeps that feel emboldened by the fact that their behaviour will almost certainly go unnoticed.

And even if it is noticed, there is still the very real possibility of victim blaming. The whole “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have acted so ______” argument. Anything to shift focus from the ethical void that can often accompany a strong patriarchial stance.

However, I suspect that technology has a role to play in this situation as well.

Though social standing, temperament and other factors also undoubtedly play a role, its hard to look at this and not consider the fairly recent collective change that was the introduction of the internet to our fingertips. Or more importantly, the introduction of every single type of pornography that we could possibly ever desire into our daily lives.
No one talks about it in polite company. But as far as activities go, damn near everyone does it. We don’t like to talk about the porn we watch, but watch porn we most certainly do. Browsing the endless list of strangers doing whatever tickles our fancy.

Instead of humans, the actors become simply a means to an end. A viewpoint that it seems, can easily be transitioned to real-life situations.

No matter what the factors driving the behaviours, however, it remains inexcusable.

The group’s petition has now gained more than 13,400 signatures, meaning it has surpassed the requirement to receive a government response. But amid the chaos of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation and a total reshuffle of the Conservative Party, no response has come within the usual 14 days.

They have also written to members of Parliament, but so far have only received the public support of the school’s local councillor, James Barber.

The feminism group was set up by teacher Sarah Maile in 2012. Each year, Maile encourages her students to select a women’s rights issue to focus on, ranging from human trafficking to female genital mutilation. But this year the group’s focus is particularly close to home.

“I’ve experienced people coming over to me and asking me explicit questions about virginity, and when I’ve said, ‘No,’ they’ve called me a bitch,” said Emma, a Grade 9 student at Sandbach.

A 2018 online survey of by campaign group Plan International U.K. of more than 1,000 14- to 21-year-old girls and women suggested that more than one-third of girls have been sexually harassed in public while wearing school uniform.

The vast majority of schools in the United Kingdom require students to wear a uniform up to age 16.

As an older student, Hannah no longer wears a uniform and says she has seen a “decrease in harassment” since she started wearing her own clothes to school.

Hannah’s experience is echoed in research by Plan International U.K. that found “girls felt that being in school uniform made them a particular target.”

While men should certainly be leaving these kids the hell alone, such statistics make me question the purpose of the school uniform, to begin with. Are the benefits worth the obvious harm they are introducing to students on a daily basis?

While that question’s thought process can come a little too close to victim blaming for my liking, one should not that the same could be said for a ban on an esthetic (like the school girl uniform). Will a crime happening to a woman that chooses to wear such a uniform be taken just as seriously as a crime not involving such clothing?

Kate Stephenson, a researcher and author of A Cultural History of School Uniform, says uniforms have been around in Britain since the 16th century for reasons ranging from providing orphans with warm clothes to distinguishing status at public schools like Eton College.

Modern uniforms have been around since the 19th century and are intended to give students from different backgrounds a sense of equality.

“It’s about making sure everybody looks the same and sort of removing those items that indicate that some children have more money than others,” Stephenson said.

As was what I suspected. Conformity removes many avenues of bullying that many would otherwise face in school. And this certainly makes them easier to control.

Banning real uniforms is victim-blaming, students say

The campaigners from Sandbach High School say they have been repeatedly asked whether removing uniforms from schools altogether might improve the situation. The students say that line of thinking is victim-blaming.

“I think it’s really worth mentioning that we are children, and we’re telling you that we feel unsafe and we feel uncomfortable because we’re so actively sexualized through these uniforms,” said Alice.

Maile adds that the intent behind targeting sex shops is not to tell consenting adults what they can and cannot do in the bedroom, but to highlight the inappropriate way the costumes are marketed.

“It’s the very specific language that is applied to these costumes, ‘sexy schoolgirl lingerie’ — like, the very fact that that is the description of the product,” Maile said.

But Keith Miller, from London sex shop Love-Init, doesn’t believe that responsibility for the harassment lies with sex shops or their clientele.

“I think that comes down to an individual,” Miller said. “I don’t think stopping these being sold in shops is going to stop the comments. If somebody wants to talk to a school girl in that way, they’re gonna do it.”

By the looks of this, the ban proposed seems more aimed at the sexualizing elements in the marketing (ie “Sexy School Girl Uniform”) than with the article of clothing itself. I find that reasoning perfectly understandable.
Really, the fact that these uniforms exist, to begin with, is weirdly pedo. Almost openly, really.

On the other hand, however, there is the nostalgia angle. High school was the funniest part of many people’s lives. Thus, the popular culture surrounding nostalgia tends to become the preference of many within a given generation.
This faux uniform plays into this perfectly. After all, it is literally reminiscent of the teenage exploits (or the regretted lack thereof) of a great many.

Of course, weirdos cat-calling on trains or acting like pedophiles under the cover of public anonymity are obviously not in it for the nostalgia. They clearly feel powerful. The big problem is aI think they will remain a risk to women no matter how a female faux uniform is marketed. It’s a problem that I have no idea how to even begin tackling.

According to Stephenson, the culture of sexualizing school uniforms began with the St Trinian’s comic strips in the 1940s and ’50s. Cartoonist Ronald Searle drew the older students in a “raunchier school uniform,” she said, and those characters used their sexuality to their advantage.

“Looking back at it now, sort of 70 years later, we can see problems with it,” said Stephenson. “But at the time, it was rewriting femininity; it was producing new role models.”

Stephenson believes that nowadays, adults typically wear school uniforms as costumes as a way to relive an awkward phase in their life and replace bad memories with positive ones.

‘It absolutely is sexualizing adolescents’

Most adults view the sex-shop uniforms as totally different from the real ones worn by students, she said.

“I think, if you talk to most people, they would be horrified by the idea that it was sexualizing [the] actual school uniform,” said Stephenson. “The problem is that, particularly with things like pornography, it absolutely is sexualizing adolescents.”

This is very true. Some studios go out if their way to make perfectly legal adults look the part of a very illegal demographic, and face no issues in most jurisdictions using terms like teenager or barely legal. It makes me wonder if this is a better focus than what amounts to the pornographic offshoot of an astetic.

The students’ campaign comes amid numerous calls from advocacy groups to make street harassment a crime in the U.K.

One of these groups, Our Streets Now, was set up as a result of harassment experienced by one of its co-founders, Gemma Tutton. She was 14 when she and her sister Maya created the group; Gemma had been publicly sexually harassed since she was in primary school.

In March 2021, the grassroots campaign group joined Plan International U.K. to draft a model bill and encourage the government to criminalize public sexual harassment.

Now, this is certainly a good avenue to start with. It feels weird that the UK does not have such a statute already.

While British Home Secretary Priti Patel initially seemed on board with passing a new law in 2021, the government’s independent adviser on the issue, Nimco Ali, has since suggested her attempts to get the law passed had received “pushback” and hinted Johnson had not fully supported it.

The campaigners from Sandbach High School say even if the school uniform ban isn’t passed, they are pleased to have sparked a conversation about the sexualization of children.

“When we’re wearing [a uniform], we are just trying to access education — and that is our fundamental human right,” said Hannah. “So to be abused whilst doing that is horrific.”

Indeed.

As for my closing remarks, I think that pursuing the criminalization of harassment is the best option in this case. Though the marketing and existence of the sexy schoolgirl uniform seem weird, I see no need to shame a kink.
Now, having said that, should governments of the world be considering the ramifications of pornography studies being allowed to push taboos (particularly those involving children) often right to the very edge of what is moral?

Even that is a can of worms, considering that some find pornography itself immoral. Nonetheless, for the rest of us non-puritans, where should the line be?


Marijuana Prohibition Proponents Now Have A Super-Pac

Proponents of cannabis legalization in the US will now face a new obstacle to their end goal as a result of a new political action committee (or PAC) formed with the goal of undermining their progress.

While PACs have existed in the American political system for decades,  Super-PACs are a more recent phenomenon. Established after the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, Super PACs allow individuals, labour unions, corporations and other politically motivated entities to donate limitless sums of cash to the entity for the purpose of forwarding the shared goal of the Super PAC and its funders. Note that Super PACs never donate directly to candidates, only engage in various political activities (such as, but not limited to, advertising) on behalf of the funders.

https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/filing-pac-reports/registering-super-pac/

Though I can think of many private and corporate entities that would benefit from the current status quo, one benefit of Super Pacs is that their donors are not hidden from view. So you will know if Big Alcohol or Big Pharma are chipping into this PACs coffers. However, the same can not be said for 501c entities.

Basically, Super PACs can accept any amount of cash from any entity, but all donors are transparent publicly. As for 501c’s, they can also accept an unlimited amount of cash from any entity, but they are not obligated to transparency in terms of their donors. They also can not exist primarily for the purpose of pursuing political interests. This is why I assume they are often paired with Super PACs (PACs do the political heavy lifting, 501Cs facilitate it by collecting the cash quietly).

But that is both off-topic and not even necessarily related. However, it’s a handy guidebook as to why many things are the way they are in the US political system. Ever wonder why seemingly every right-leaning no one in the American political sphere has a radio show or podcast?

Wonder no more.

Anyway, speaking of looking backwards, let’s get to the article ( written by Kyle Jaeger and published by Marijuana Moment). 

 

New Marijuana Prohibition Super PAC Targets Pro-Legalization GOP Congresswoman, Among Other Races

A top executive of the national prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM) is launching a new political action committee (PAC), targeting pro-legalization candidates and supporting those who oppose the policy in key races. And one of the super PAC’s first targets is a freshman GOP congresswoman who is sponsoring her own bill to federally legalize and regulate cannabis.

Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of SAM and CEO of the newly established Protect Our Kids PAC, told Marijuana Moment that he decided to branch out to create the committee in order to “give more political power to families and children, who want elected representatives in office who will put their health and safety first over industries looking to profit from drug legalization.”

New Marijuana Prohibition Super PAC Targets Pro-Legalization GOP Congresswoman, Among Other Races


Of course, a Super PAC aimed at enabling underground drug dealers and suppliers by keeping their market share uncontested for even longer would be marketed with the message that is “Will someone PLEASE think of the children!”. The natural way to ensure that minors don’t get their hands on cannabis is OBVIOUSLY to ensure that the suppliers that don’t care about age keep on serving the market.

Because, duh.

Also, Smart Approaches to Marijuana reminds me of an organization I came across in the past. Headed by Kevin Sebat, the man on a crusade against cannabis legalization now despite seemingly overlooking the American opioid crisis when he was in an appointed white house position to make a difference to the situation. Could it be?

Leadership

The following individuals hold leadership positions with Smart Approaches to Marijuana:[16]

  • Kevin A. Sabet, President and CEO
  • Luke Niforatos, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor
  • Abu Edwards, Director of State Affairs
  • Dana Stevens, Director of Local Affairs
  • Garth Van Meter, “Vice President of Government Affairs
  • Brendan Fairfield, “Director of Business Development

https://ballotpedia.org/Smart_Approaches_to_Marijuana

 

I knew I recognized the distinctly familiar stench of this particular brand of stupid. And also from the same source, check out this unexpectedly relevant piece of information.

 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization describes its mission as “promot[ing] health-first, smart policies and attitudes that decrease marijuana use and its consequences.” The group opposes non-medical marijuana legalization efforts, including state-level ballot initiatives that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana at the state level.[1]


Remember what we learned about Super PACs VS 501c’s?  Looks like the SAM leadership was sick of the drawbacks of sick of drawbacks of the 501c(3) as well.

 

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is among the PAC’s first targets. It plans to put tens of thousands of dollars behind a campaign to specifically unseat the congresswoman, who made headlines after introducing a GOP-led bill to end cannabis prohibition late last year.

Asked why the PAC is starting by zeroing in on Mace, rather than other more longstanding pro-legalization lawmakers up for reelection, Niforatos said that the congresswoman “has become the face of marijuana legalization for the Republican party,” and accused her of being “a lackey for Altria Phillip Morris, the largest tobacco company in America which is bankrolling marijuana legalization.”

“Her constituents do not support commercializing marijuana, yet an inordinate amount of her time is spent stumping for the policy,” he claimed. “Legalization of marijuana has hurt kids, families, and caused large health harms in states that have passed such policies. It’s time to hold her accountable.”


The first question that occurs to me is where on earth is SAM (or rather, Protect Our Kids) getting tens of thousands of dollars in order to fling all of this mud at a congresswoman?

It’s possible that individual donors could be responsible. But I seriously question that given the public support for legal cannabis. However, this is just an assumption.

We can, however, look into the claim of this congresswoman being a quote lackey for Altria Philip Morris. Did she accept donations from the company?

According to the following link,  not that I can see. Though it’s possible that it was hidden through a 501c/Super PAC combination, I can’t see any cannabis-related donors.

https://www.opensecrets.org/races/contributors?cycle=2020&id=SC01&spec=N

Since this is the case, I think it’s time for Luke Niforatos of SAM to put up or shut up. Where is your evidence?

Evidence that SAM isn’t also bought off by corporate financiers would also be nice, but I won’t play that game. That would make me no better than SAM.

 

Mace countered the attack, telling Marijuana Moment that polling she has conducted of her constituents shows that “two out of every three Republican Primary voters in our district agree that states should have the right to decide their own cannabis laws, and that’s exactly what the States Reform Act (SRA) does.”

“It protects the rights of states to decide for themselves,” the congresswoman said. “It’s the basic premise of federalism, also a conservative principle.”


While I don’t think that cannabis law should be a states rights issue given all that is at stake (the livelihood and reputation of literally millions of people), that is not the topic at hand. The prohibitionists at SAM claim that her constituents are not interested, she counters with the reality of the situation. So the natural next step is . . . Super PAC funded political propaganda.

Social media ads attacking Mace over the cannabis issue are already rolling out. Like this one, leaning into concerns about marijuana products that some worry would appeal to children:

And this one playing into fears about increased traffic fatalities following legalization, even though data is mixed on the association.

Kevin Sabet is like Cole from The Sixth Sense. He sees dead people everywhere!

Well, except for all of these that overdosed on opioids on his watch as that crisis unfolded unabated throughout the 90s and into the 2000s. 

 

In February, Mace’s Republican primary challenger Katie Arrington criticized the incumbent’s focus on marijuana legalization in a campaign ad, saying, “Is Nancy Mace high?”

Separately, Mace and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) filed a resolution this month imploring President Joe Biden to wield his influence to get the United Nations to end the international ban on marijuana by removing the plant from the list of controlled substances in a global drug treaty.

In any case, Mace won’t be the new PAC’s only target. With what Niforatos said is six-figures of funding that the committee will soon be reporting to the FEC, they will be tackling “6-12 races this cycle, focusing on House races as well as state-level races.”

 

Lovely. I can’t wait to see the other dog shit these assholes produce.

 

That includes launching ads in “some key races in the next few weeks” and supporting Colorado House candidate Yardira Caraveo’s primary race because she sponsored legislation to “overhaul” the state’s cannabis program last year. It will also back “one other Colorado Republican in a close race,” he said.

“The slate we are endorsing (which will grow) is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, and this bi-partisan nature will continue. We will support and attack the same numbers of both parties,” Niforatos said. “We believe good drug policy that protects families and kids is bipartisan, and it should stay that way.”


I can’t fault them for holding everyone accountable. After all, keeping street-level gangs and dealers in the business of furnishing teens and children with cannabis products is a bi-partisan issue.

 

Another candidate that the PAC will be backing is Washington State Rep. Lauren Davis (D), which might seem like an unusual pick for an anti-legalization committee since the lawmaker last year sponsored a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of all drugs.

Niforatos said that Davis is “a friend of ours, and she is a courageous lawmaker who has worked in the recovery field and has bravely taken on the marijuana industry in Washington State by advocating for sensible regulations such as potency caps.”


And here we go with the regulations from the no-nothings. To be frank, if you believe in potency caps in the area of cannabis and don’t see a need for other substances such as alcohol or caffeine (the caffeine content of energy drinks has only been rising in the past few years) to have similar conversations, then you are an idiot and are not worth listening too.

 

“She is also someone who recognizes drug addiction is something to be treated with the goal of recovery, not normalizing use or allowing commercialization of drugs,” he said, adding that he disputes the characterization of her legislation as “broad decriminalization” even though it seeks to remove criminal penalties for small possession all drugs, in addition to bolstering substance misuse treatment.

“That doesn’t mean we will agree on everything—we likely won’t ever agree on every single policy issue or nuance with any of our candidates we support,” he said. “But Rep. Davis is putting the health and safety of families first and these are values we feel are desperately needed for policymakers in America.”


Recovery.

There is another booming industry in this broken world that I have not even touched on in this article (but I did HERE). Then there are the problems with AA as the status quo recovery program (as infamously chronicled by James Frey in the 2000s). But not the focus of this piece.

 

Also on the PAC’s roster is a former federal prosecutor from the state of West Virginia who is currently running for state Senate. Mike Stuart has regularly expressed hostility to cannabis reform, including at summit events and a symposium on the issue that he organized in 2018 during his time as a U.S. attorney.

The committee will further be supporting Kentucky Rep. Kimberly Moser (R) in her reelection bid. The lawmaker opposed medical cannabis legalization efforts in her state, but she did sponsor cannabis research legislation that cleared the House this month.

Some might be left wondering: if the objective of the new PAC is to defeat pro-legalization candidates and support those who are against enacting such policy change, why not just continue to do that and raise funds for SAM, or its 501(c)(4) SAM Action? After all, the goals seem to closely align.

Niforatos said that “SAM has always been focused on educating the public, lawmakers, and not engaging in partisanship in any way. That mission has been successful and will continue.”

“But SAM is an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It cannot support or oppose individual candidates,” he said.


Well, at least the organization is honest with its intentions. However stupid they may be.

 

Pressed on the fact that SAM Action could theoretically accomplish what the Protect Our Kids PAC is gearing up to do, Niforatos said that the group’s 501(c)(4) “is only used for lobbying and advocacy related activities.”

“We really want to stay away from electioneering and partisanship with SAM/SAM Action,” he said. “I wanted to start a super PAC of my own, separate from those organizations, that would allow me to do more electioneering work with the vision of protecting families and kids from drugs.”


I’m certainly curious where the funding for the Super PAC and the 501c(3) is going to come from at this point. Though I can’t know for sure, this sure looks to me like opening up for business.

 

As momentum grows for drug policy reform, this is the latest example of how PACs are continuing to come into the picture.

The former lobbyist for NORML launched his own Better Organizing to Win Legalization (BOWL) PAC last month, for example. And Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the sponsor of a federal cannabis legalization bill up for a floor vote this week, sent out a joint email blast to supporters to raise funds last week.

Also last month, New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) started an equity-focused political action committee that will place a strong focus on electing candidates that support marijuana reform.

 

While I understand the existence of PACs, I can’t help but wonder if the difference between a PAC and a Super PAC makes a difference here. While a PAC seems like it is limited in scope to members of its head organization, a Super PAC has no such limitations (being able to accept cash from anyone). Something to consider when paired with a 501c(3) which can be (and often, IS) blindly financed.

 

Music – Will Our Generation Look Back In Admiration? REVISITED

Today, we’re going back in time. Back to the year 2014. A time when this blog had existed barely a year, and when I was a different person than I am today. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a period of transformation that would not be complete until many years afterward. If I’m honest, it’s a transformation period that is still in progress. I’ve come to realize that I’ll likely never find myself in a period of political or ideological stability. To put it another way, there is almost always something new to learn, and as such this transformation journey may well last until such a time as I take my last breath, or biology takes away my mental acuity.

Coming back to the current day (march 13, 2022), I just need to focus on something more lighthearted than all the various real-world vectors that are slowly eroding away at my sense of sanity.
The unprovoked Russian attack (attempted annexation?) of Ukraine. The win of CovidIOTS who mostly never gave pandemic restrictions a chance (thanks to economic principals taking priority over pandemic containment. Or to put it in layman’s terms, “YAY! No more masks!”). US oil producers (and 1 Canadian Premiere) using the Ukraine invasion to promote more soon to be written off fossil fuel infrastructure. Because any chance to reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic is a good opportunity, apparently. 

And overall, a global society that is just . . . very angry. Though primarily a very understandable reaction of the last 2 years that we all endured, the various agendas of the world’s shit disturbers have proven masterful at turning up the heat in these individuals without ever tipping their hand. I mean, is it really surprising that much of the Western world was focused on business owners blockading Ottawa and various Canadian and US ports of entry as Russia was slowly ramping up its presence on Ukraine’s doorstep?

Media manipulators don’t rely on the boob tube anymore, folks. They have switched tactics, and now social media is the new Wild West of psychological warfare.

Boomers taught my generation that you can’t believe everything you see on TV. If only they all hadn’t seemingly forgotten that valid rule of thumb upon signing up for Crackbook, Tweeter and BoobTube.

While I have always taken a fairly bleak (dare I say, red-pilled?)  stance towards the future of the species, even I have started finding it harder to cope with everything of late. Even without spending hours doom scrolling (I learned my lesson after Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima), it’s like the treadmill to hell has started to speed up since November 2016. And the slow creep of the cold-war era back into modern-day life since late February certainly isn’t helping things.
Even though my overarching concern is less nuclear and far more cyber, considering how little we all know about how far external national entities are embedded into the public and private infrastructure of the world. Particularly privately owned and ran infrastructure (we can only hope that the rest of the world learned from Colonial Pipeline).

Anyway, I promised light-hearted so lighthearted I shall deliver.

As I explained at the beginning of this post, 2014 was a time of transformation for me. Not only was I dealing with my perceived ex-communication from a community that I had felt at home in since late high school (mainstream Atheism), I was also unknowingly starting the slow process of regimentation of what media I like versus what is new and trendy. I didn’t know it yet, but I was slowly becoming Oscar Leroy shouting “Get the F off my lawn!”.
Since I am also a fan of metal (and was then an elitist. In a nutshell, Metal is the best and everything else is garbage), this also played into my sentiment.

Which was why it was interesting to come across an old post titled Music – Will Our Generation Look Back In Admiration? though a spam comment left on it. Seemed like an opportunity to see how much I have changed.

Thus, we will begin our journey into the depth of my mind as it existed 7 years ago.

 

It is the start of yet another new year. And as such, what was popular in 2013, is on its way out the door come 2014. Thank GOD for that.

I suppose that I may be getting to old to enjoy whats modern and hip (not to mention my love of all things heavy), but even so, this generations “fresh hits” leaves much to be desired. It is for that reason, that I go out of my way to avoid subjecting myself to the music, when at all possible.

 

 

Out of curiosity, let’s have a look at what was trendy back in 2013. Mostly to gauge if my contempt still holds after this length of time.

https://www.billboard.com/charts/year-end/2013/hot-100-songs/

I don’t remember (likely have not heard) pretty much everything from 5 down to 100. 4 was irritating then, and it’s certainly irritating now (when your trend hits the Dr. Oz Show and other daytime BoomerTube, you ain’t cool, yo!). I don’t mind #3, having had some time for it to grow on me. Number 2 is garbage in terms of both its lyrical content AND the fact that it was allegedly ripped off (the song’s only saving grace being Weird Al’s iteration of it).  And as if we didn’t already have enough proof about how thick Robin Thicke can be, he allegedly groped a model on the set of blurred lines, blaming the presence of alcohol on set for the action.

In glad that the first thing that comes to mind when I hear blurred lines is Word Crimes. Cause FUCK Robin Thicke.

As for #1, I have no reaction since I can’t ever recall hearing it.

Since my old post was celebrating the exit of 2013 and harkening the entrance of 2014, let’s also take a look at what was trendy in 2014. We will also of course see if my visceral reactions still stand.

https://www.billboard.com/charts/year-end/2014/hot-100-songs/

Though I don’t recognize many of the songs from 9 onward, there are more familiar ones (maybe 4 or 5) than in the 2013 top 100 list. The presence of Jason Derulo 3 times is amusing since people used to call me that at work. Though I am still unfamiliar with the man’s work (aside from hearing that the video to Trumpets is random as hell).

Number 8 isn’t bad (didn’t even mind it at the time. It was upbeat). I don’t remember 7, 6 or 5. As for 4, I am far more aware of the Weird Al iteration than of the original (that tends to be a throughline when it comes to me and modern music, no matter the year). 3 I don’t remember. 2 I heard for the first time not long ago (it’s not terrible, but it is slow. A hallmark of the mid-2010s era).

As for #1, I find the song irritating (it’s annoying, to begin with, let alone having heard it blasted pretty much everywhere). However, the Weird Al iteration is very much to my liking (particularly the single-shot music video that accompanies it).

Weird Al is a bit like ACDC. I don’t think he could ever put out an album that I don’t like.

 

I have not always had this kind of relationship with pop/other “hit” music. I remember when I was younger, one of my aunts commented on how I could look into being a DJ as a career, because I knew pretty much every song on the radio at the time. Though at the time, I was young and impressionable, and the radio was the only real source of music me and my family had.

Another source of music that I had though out my younger years, was my fathers extensive collection of 50s/60s/70s/80s hits. Stored on cassette tapes, records (yep, vinyls. 45s, LPs, you name it), 8 tracks and later CDs and MP3 players (when the Internet was introduced into the household), he had an endless supply of music that I thought to be mostly irritating.

 

My stance on oldies hasn’t really changed, though I wouldn’t go as far as calling most of my father’s music annoying at this point. Far too slow and vanilla come to mind, but not so much annoying.

Well, unless we’re talking about Air Supply or Frankie Vallie. If I never hear “I’m all out of love! I’m so lost without you!” again, it’s still too soon. And don’t even get me started on “SHERRY! SHERRY BABY!”. My ears are bleeding just from thinking about it.

The only exception to the Frankie Valli scorched earth policy is Oh, What A Night. Because I now associate the song more with unexpected baby news at John Watson’s wedding than excruciating vocal pain.

As for the rest of my narrative on music, though I did stop following the popular music scene, I suspect this to be a function of 2 things. First, the music and culture of one’s childhood or youth will almost always elicit a more positive response since that time of life is almost always more positive than what follows (the trap of nostalgia). At the same time as my taste for the new and trendy was gradually being erased by blind cultural cynicism (for lack of a better description), the overall popular music scene was also changing. Though I arguably stopped paying attention to music before the late 2000s was over, the 2010s brought with it a new trend of slowness. While there were exceptions to the rule (as there always are), the BPM of many of the releases started to slow WAY down.
Consider the difference between, say, Rihanna’s SOS or Nelly Furtado’s Promiscuous, and Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. While I am indeed looking at 3 raindrops out of an ocean, you can see the pattern.

Whilst I’m almost inclined to consider early to late 2000s pop music as my Herman’s Hermits and Lobo (my dad’s preferences), I can’t even call this correct. That designation would be better suited to groups like Metallica, Linkin Park, Rammstein, Nirvana and many more. Interestingly, the material that streaming services mostly automatically serve up since I’m such a creature of habit.

 

Of course, this was par for the course when one is young (very rarely it seems, do parents and children have the same tastes in music). And looking back, it had a lot to do with not wanting to be alike my elder. However, though I do enjoy a few of my fathers old favorites such as Bony M (their Christmas album has become a family staple of the season) and Lover Boy, most of the other stuff is not for me.

I am not sure that I would use the term “Garbage” to describe it, but its more just, not for me. The various artists may have been cutting edge and talented for their time, and they may stand as gems in the greater music scene, but its just not my cup of tea.

 

Can’t say that much has changed here. Well, aside from the fact that the tamer side of my music library (rock music that ranges from Loverboy to Twisted Sister, my original gateway to metal) doesn’t get nearly the airplay it used to as my music tastes slowly evolve towards more complex, faster material. I have nothing against groups like ACDC, Twisted Sister and the like. It’s just that I recently realized that I find this  (Panic Attack – Dream Theater) slow.

I have also started allowing my music taste to broaden not just further down the metal sub-genre scene, but also outside of it into territory that I never ever thought I would tread. I’m still very selective whilst outside of my comfort zone, but have started to discover (rediscover?) the pop scene, and even some hip hop. Even if it’s hard to know where the line ends between those 2 genres in some cases (for example, the Weeknd).
I even crossed the bridge into country territory at one point. Though not very far, admittedly (not much aside from some Dierks Bentley really appeals to me).

Each day brings with it a different music craving. Thanks to streaming media, this constant itch can almost always be easily scratched with the push of a button. Though not on Spotify anymore.

Because FUCK Joe Rogan.

Having heard this music at various times (and a great many times over lol) all through out growing up, it was a bit of a surprise when I started hearing the same songs on the radio.

First it was a trickle of remade songs, which eventually culminated into a torrent that left almost no “new” song that played, truly new. The popular artists of the day such as Britney Spears and No Doubt, all putting out redone material. But the worst part about it, was more often then not, the songs status as a remake was not mentioned (a few times it was noted by the DJ, but usually not).

One moment that sticks out for me, is when the song “SOS” by Rihanna came out. Though the lyrics were seemingly original, the music that it was sung against was borrowed. A factoid that I would have missed, had the station not played the original (or a remake of the original song) just before Rihanna’s version. Though I had long before lost respect for most new music and artists, this was certainly a new low.


Interestingly enough, I actually don’t mind that song at this point. The music may not be original, but at least it was catchy and upbeat. This, and judging by the fact that I never heard about any lawsuits from the previous artist, I’m thinking that she must have properly licenced the material she was borrowing (and presumably shared some of the royalties made off the song). Which is more than you can say for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.

Truth be told, when it comes to bad artist renditions of previously released material, I have to showcase a man that I once respected to the point of being an idol. That man is Marylin Manson.

Before he was exposed as an allegedly wife-beating and berating asshole, his consistent rebelliousness in the face of the horrified and hypocritical hordes was very much relatable. Though I’ve never found a need to tear apart a bible for sport, his motives and George Carlin’s “It’s Bullshit, and it’s bad for ya!” moto really stuck with me. Despite this stance becoming much more stressful the less my income is tied to a business that I actually own and control.
Either way, a close friend of mine once expressed dismay at what Marilyn Manson did with his remake of Sweet Dreams. To use his own words, “That is all he did with it?!”.

At the time, my fancy for my idol flashed before my eyes, so I of course didn’t see what he was seeing. Indeed, much of Manson’s catalogue didn’t have the same awe factor as it did when I was a teenager )grabbing every Manson track I could find on Limewire). It’s not all The Fight Song, but it had sentimental value.

But, not so much anymore. Though the allegations are just that (allegations), I don’t find it a hard stretch to imagine that there is truth in them. In the same way that it’s easy to see how the blurred lines music video set would provide the perfect backdrop for a predator to strike (it’s literally in the lyrics!), I can also see how the caustic personality that is Marylin Manson may well be hellish if it is turned inward in the form of domestic violence.
Of course, we are dealing with allegations in both cases. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to read between the lines, however blurred. Particularly when witnesses (or more than 1 alleged victim) exist.

To move the dialogue away from artists of disappointment and contempt, not all artist renditions I have come across are bad. In fact, I can think of 3 goodies right off the top of my head.

The first (and my overall favourite) has to be Disturbed’s cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Unlike any other Disturbed song before it (aside from Darkness), I love how it starts low and slowly builds, David’s voice following the loud notes of the booming orchestra behind him. Until the pause, and the last booming outro of the orchestra.
An honourable mention goes to Nevermore’s interpretation of the song, a tune so different that I didn’t even know it was a cover. Having listened to the song many times before, I didn’t realize the connection until after hearing the Disturbed version.

The second is the Five Finger Death Punch cover of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s Blue on Black. I can’t help but crank the volume when I hear this tune. Either version, really .

The 3ed is the most recent, Saint Asonia’s cover of The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights.  In all honesty, it’s a bit surprising that the original made this list since it irked me the first time I heard it. But much like the Billie Eilish song Bad Guy, the song ended up growing on me. And not just because it’s amusing to see people’s reaction to me saying Billy Eyelash or saying the Baaaad guy phrase in a sheep voice.
Though I certainly would have never expected to hear a rock version of Blinding Lights, Saint Asonia did a good job of it. And though YouTuber Jared Dines hasn’t done any pop goes metal videos for a long time, I’d personally love to see how he would interpret this song.

But in any case, after moving away from the hits of today, my first reaction was switching from the all hits radio station to the local rock station (my fathers choice, and as good an alternative as there was). There I gradually grew more fond of rock music in its many classic forms.
Then with the internet, came exposure to ever more heavier forms of metal, which is where I have stayed for the most part to this day.

I have always loved music, usually taking advantage of any opportunity that I had to listen. When I was younger, that meant that I had a radio going for whatever task I was in the process of completing (chores). And I have always listened to music in bed before going to sleep (when I was young on a clock radio/stereo, and now on an ipod/phone).


This has not changed. Though I now reserve podcasts for things like chores, music is still nice for random computing tasks (like writing posts like this) or going to sleep.

One thing that I can tell you, however, is that I now hate terrestrial radio stations. Well, maybe just the stations where I live. The Rock station I used to listen to was taken over by a national media company, and thus the name and format changed to be more generalized. But I don’t like it since the playlist seems just barely larger than that of the average retail store, and the branding is annoying. After every song, you hear some iteration of “Bob!” (or now, “Bounce!”). It’s the kind of Boomer pablum that I now only listen to if I have no choice in the matter.

That is the story of my evolution of music.

Each passing generation, has grown up with, and primarily stuck with the music that grow familiar to them in their younger years. The Sirius/XM satellite radio systems take advantage of this, by having channels 4-9 dedicated to the format of said decade of the 90’s (4=40s, 5 =50s etc). This seems to hold true, as far as the 80s, and maybe even the 90s (Sirius/XM has 90s 0n 9).


Imagine. Me acting like I am better than all of these people tuning into Sirius 50s on 5 or 90s on 9. I know I certainly didn’t when I had a Sirius radio. Octane/Ozzys Boneyard/Liquid Metal and Howard 100/101 were far more interesting.

But that was 2009. Truth be told, it’s honestly amazing that satellite radio is still a thing.

Most past generations look back at the music, and other cultural phenomenons of their time with pride, nostalgia. The music often went hand in hand in their daily lives back then, making revisiting it a nice trip down memory lane. And associating music with fond (or not so fond) memories will always happen, no matter what.

But, can we look back at the music (as well as other media) of the past decade or so (as well as today), with pride? If were still around in 20,30,40,50 years from now, will we still be listening to the long lost hits of the 2000’s?


Yes me, I’m sure that many of today’s youth will still occasionally listen to the music of today even in the future, possibly long after youthful freedom and bliss have left them behind. This is a point that is proven in the grocery stores of today, which love to loop a mixture of boomer and millennial favourites.

Hell, I proved it myself in this very post. Since this entry is technically me talking to myself, I wonder if this counts as a self-pawn. . .

 

I personally think that the answer will be no.

Well, you’re wrong bud.

Such is a good lesson for many people. Never try to assign rigid rules of categorization to the subjective. Most human-influenced culture (and even physiology) is very much ambiguous and hard to paint with a broad brush. Even though most humans seem to lack the mental acuity to experience the world from outside the safety of rigid interpretations.

My reason for this conclusion, is the nature of the music industry today. Like everything else, music has turned into a super formulated, bland, disposable, predictable mess. Instead of having a few gems of talent coming up in a sea of musicians, we now have a sea of mediocrity. An endless tide of catchy one hit wonders with VERY few (if any) gems coming out of the mix.

I also have noted the behaver of many modern music listeners. Many that grew up fans of such genres as pop, have moved on to others, such as country, rock or others. Others that listen to the music, seem to drift with the time, not having any affiliation with past works (even within the same genre).

 

While hindsight tells me that I could have likely written this in any decade and interpreted similar results in the popular culture of the time, one thing I never really saw coming was services like SoundCloud and Spotify. Though at the time I was talking of merely the corporate-driven uniformity of the pop scene, the scene is very different today in that anyone with a computer and increasingly affordable equipment can release their own material. Much of this is only as good as the creator (to put it in a nice way). Either way, I had NO idea how much mediocre material that democratizing the recording studio would bring into the marketplace.

On the other hand, though, you can get your voice out there. And with far less effort than anyone trying to start a musical career even 15 years ago.

As for the behaviour of modern music listeners part, I feel like I was taking from anecdotes in my own life. I saw a lot of people drift from pop music over to country from my teens onward. But this may not have been anything more than a local to the fairly local occurrence. Not to mention that not unlike other genres that have been typically floating around the realm of (and blurring the boundaries of) typical pop music, country music has been making a similar evolution throughout the 2010s. Though there have always been breakthroughs (like Picture or All Summer Long. Having heard the latter on 3 different stations running under 3 different formats (rock, country, pop) at one point, I fucking hate that song), many artists seem to be straddling the line between country and pop. I think one of the most interesting examples thus far for me has been Old Town Road, another song that has grown on me since I’ve been getting more exposure to the modern-day iteration of hip hop/rap.
To explain this difference, consider Stronger (Kanye) or Lose Yourself (Eminem) versus Money Longer (Lil Uzi Vert) or Gucci Gang (Lil Pump). Since I find it hard to keep a straight face whilst listening to the Lil Pump earworm (I would fail spectacularly if is I was high), consider Fair Trade (Drake ft. Travis Scott).
And speaking of unintentionally hilarious songs to listen to after some edibles, consider this unexpected gem (Im 2 Sexy – Drake ft. Future and Young Thug).

Now, where was I? Oh yeah . . . songs blurring the lines between pop music and other genres.

I feel like this inquiry raises a question that I have never considered before. That question being, what even is pop music? A style? A format? A vast category for anything and everything that is popular? All of the above?

I’m reminded of a documentary I watched some time ago called Classic Rock. Focusing on a term that I had never given a second thought to, I believe the goal of this documentary was trying to see if they could nail down a more or less standardized definition of what music or era Classic Rock entails. At its core, the term originated in radio as a station format surrounding rock music from around the 80s. Some also say from the mid-60s to the mid-90s.

Judging by both the documentary I watched and various YouTube compilations, no one has any idea where the line lies in terms of a standard definition. When the term was coined, I’m sure that it was focused on a given era of rock. But as time moves on indefinitely, the question seems to have been “Does the Classic Rock format grow to also include more modern works which also could be considered classics (ie the 90s)?”.

Some in the documentary argued “No way!”. The ACDC era belongs nowhere near Nirvana. Others make the argument that the term has to move ahead with time. Judging by the various Classic Rock compilations, I’d say that many people agree with the latter assessment. With most of them containing songs by Nirvana, some Metallica, and even the Bee Gees in one case (recall that they are Disco), I’d say that the widely accepted definition is very fluid. 

Or, people aren’t aware of the various categorization nuances of the music they love (for example, did you know that the popular Kiss tune I Was Made For Loving You is actually disco?).
It all goes to show how something as fluid as culture can be difficult to assign rigid categorical differences to, particularly when it comes to what lies at the fringes. To use the Kiss example, Detroit Rock City or Psycho Circus are fairly easy to categorize. I Was Made For Loving You on the other hand . . .not exactly. It checks the boxes of 2 categories, and as such, it sits in both nicely.

This brings me back to the question that I never did get around to answering. What exactly is pop music?

From Wikipedia:

Pop is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form during the mid-1950s in the United States and the United Kingdom.[4] The terms popular music and pop music are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many disparate styles. During the 1950s and 1960s, pop music encompassed rock and roll and the youth-oriented styles it influenced. Rock and pop music remained roughly synonymous until the late 1960s, after which pop became associated with music that was more commercial, ephemeral, and accessible.

Although much of the music that appears on record charts is seen as pop music, the genre is distinguished from chart music. Identifying factors usually include repeated choruses and hooks, short to medium-length songs written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure), and rhythms or tempos that can be easily danced to. Much pop music also borrows elements from other styles such as rock, urban, dance, Latin, and country.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_music

 

Though that definition nicely describes the situation as it stands today, further study of the wiki article details how the definition of the term Pop music is just as disagreed upon as Classic Rock is. And like Classic Rock, the definition seems to evolve with time, though this was to be a certainly given the roots of the term being much further back than those of Classic Rock.

Realistically, this all makes sense since people’s subjective interpretations of these terms and what encompasses them (which are shaped by traits like preference and bias) will almost always land on a different conclusion. And you can’t really go by the record label slash music industry standard since that formula is less based around categorization than it is around monetization. The more boxes you can check in terms of each category, the bigger potential audience you can push to. Something that is becoming increasingly important in the age of both streaming (reduced overall revenues) and democratized music production.

As such, I don’t think there will ever be a standardized definition for Classic Rock, Pop, or possibly any other music form. Humans are far too subjective to ever come to any sort of agreement on that sort of thing.

As for the ongoing inroads of country into the Pop realm (so much for the last statement?), that evolution will continue to be interesting. Not to mention that the genre itself will benefit from the new life brought into it by the new fan base, something that even the older more established artists will enjoy.
Despite my giving country music more of a chance than I once did, I am still put off by the overly formulaic nature of a huge chunk of it (old and new). In a nutshell, rich and wealthy Nashville mansion owners sing about the rough and tumble life of the average working man. Though rappers sporting Lambos and walking Tigers in their videos are over the top, talking the talk without walking the walk is just, well, bullshit.

The one exception of course being Arron Lewis’s Country Boy.  Imagine my surprise upon discovering his crossover into enemy territory!

And don’t even get me started on artists like Toby Keith and Allan Jackson cashing in on patriotism during rough times. Your fans will never call you out for such bullshit, but NOT COOL. Not at ALL Kosher.

In a sense, Toby Keith and Allan Jackson made the CNN faux pas long before CNN actually did.

And with that steaming hot potato of a sentence, we will move on.

 

Its not really surprising seeing this reaction. I make a habit of avoiding modern pop type music, because of its cookie cutter nature. Every year there is a new Jonas Brothers/One Direction/Bieber (he’s had an amazingly long longevity, for the times). And when it comes to the ladies, it seems that the formula is throwing any lyrics against a catchy beat, even if its just a single word .

This critique is interesting since one could level it against any music genre (including metal). Though there are artists in every genre that stand out against the rest of the financially driven majority, the existence of genres in general (along with many artists that fit into them neatly) nicely sabotages my own argument. I can’t accuse one group of people of being overly infatuated with an overly similar and inherently simplistic product when I am essentially the same person. Though my flavour of cookie may be far more complex than the vanilla that encompasses what sells, I still have a flavour.

Really, this discourse isn’t really even applicable to me anymore since my music taste has grown greatly compared to what it used to be. But I’m reminded of my former metal elitest self. The arrogant twat that looked down on everything that didn’t smash the windows when cranked to the max. 

This makes me think of another question. Is metal inherently better than other genres?

Back in 2013, the answer would have been simple (Yes!). If one’s subjective definition of better is complexity then metal would in fact be better than pretty much everything else that is available (possibly short of Classical. Again, depending on who you ask). Many traits of metal (eg. advanced riffs or growling vocal tones) take a lot of practice to master. The end result of such dedication is easy to hold as the standard if your comparison criteria involve only effort. Compared with a song containing an autotuned artist singing against a computerized melody, of course, one can find much of metal as superior. One can find much of anything superior to that.

But that is just personal subjectivity. In reality, complex or not, music is just music. It is highly doubtful that the trajectory of any music genera (however prolific) will dictate the trajectory of a society. Refect the status and overall trajectory, yes. But dictate? Unlikely. 

It is just a form of art, after all. An area of human development (knowledge?) that has always been more reflective than prescriptive, though much like other human developments (such as science and philosophy), art can also be used to malicious ends.

As for “it seems that the formula is throwing any lyrics against a catchy beat, even if its just a single word .” , my reference was to a popular tune which was trending sometimes in the late 2000s to early 2010s which basically consisted of the word Hello being repeated over a very upbeat and catchy melody.  Considering the slow nature of the era we would go into, the song is less irritating in hindsight, though I can’t for the life of me think (or find!) the artist responsible for it. Though Katty Perry comes to mind, I feel like i’m thinking of Firework. A song that is similarly upbeat, but not it (the voice is different). If you know what song I am talking about (or even have a guess), feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll edit it into this entry.

Another thing I can tell you . . . though I hated the Hello song equally as much as Feist’s 1 2 3 4, not so much anymore. Feist is still high on the list, however, since I associate her with helping Apple to make millions of dollars. No, she didn’t help guide them into being an over-rated anti-right to repair monopoly (at least as far as the app store is concerned. And no, Google is no better), but she was responsible for generating a whole lot of the cash of which made it all possible.

While not exactly worthy of the Robin Thicke treatment (that is to say, cussing her out, not groping her tits), she does deserve at least a little sarcasm.

Thanks, Feist.

 

I can’t help but wonder about the message were sending future generations, or the world in general. I can’t help but think, there is something wrong with this picture. I can’t help but see a problem with a society that values an endless stream of mediocre garbage (with no real talents coming out). What does it say, when we value money more then quality?

 

Here again, I find myself using my subjective conclusions as a gauge for the state of the world in general. Viewing my cultural zeitgeist as if it is unique in the grand scheme of things, even though I’m sure we can find similar trash to treasure ratios no matter how far back (or for that matter, ahead) we were to look when it comes to any aspect of popular culture in any time period. 

I used to think the same of TV coming from the 2000s and the 2010s, but that is hardly true, is it?

This era gave us Breaking Bad, Sherlock, Luther, Mr. Robot and many MANY others that I am yet unaware of (let alone can recall). Though the next 2 have been largely forgotten to time at this point, Revenge and Desperate Housewives earned themselves a spot in my subjective list of preferences.

While the source of new content is rapidly changing from traditional cable to streaming, various streaming services will keep funding and releasing new and interesting content for as long as that medium is to last. Already we have shows like Black Mirror and Bojack Horseman. Whilst there will be a lot of stuff released through these mediums (as has always been the case), there will be many gems of which we have yet to discover and treasure. 

And with that, I conclude this revisit of one of my past works. Though I ended up going in many unexpected directions in this entry, it was an interesting journey.