Justin Trudeau – Canada’s Elizabeth Warren?

The Canadian political scene have gotten more interesting recently.

The first notable change is it is apparently possible that the NDP may be able to break the decades long conservative hold on the province of Alberta. Im thinking that the world wide slide in oil prices (and the shit kicking that has caused on that provinces biggest industry) has a lot to do with that.
Frankly, good. Such a situation affects many, but that is what happens when you throw all your economic eggs into one volatile basket. Either way, we will see by tonight how that turns out.

But the most recent news to make the Canadian political landscape a whole lot more interesting, came from the Liberal party today. Justin Trudeau has openly declared that he is running on a platform of cutting taxes on the middle and lower classes, and raising taxes on the highest earners in the nation, Canada’s 1%. In truth, apparently they number to a little less then 1%, but the result is the same.

The current tax rate of 22-per-cent for those with taxable annual income totaling between $44,701 and $89,401, would be cut to 20.5 per cent. A new tax bracket of 33 per cent would apply to those with taxable incomes over $200,000 a year. The current top bracket of 29 per cent would continue to apply to those earning between $138,586 and $200,000.

Along with this, there will be restructuring of the current system of child tax benefits. All families with children under the age of 18 with an annual income of below $150,000 (or 90 per cent of Canadian families) would receive more then they currently receive. This is in direct contrast to the current Harper scheme of parental income splitting, which many say only benefits maybe 15% (likely less) of families in Canada. And most of those fall into the higher taxation brackets.

It is certainly an ambitious plan. But considering that economic inequality is in worse shape in Canada then even in the US, this is also a good counter measure.
In fact, the Democratic Party should take a note from this play book. Do not alienate your progressive heavy weights like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. SHOWCASE THEM!

We will see what interesting things come along for this upcoming election cycle. If the Liberals under the leadership of Justin Trudeau keep taking very ballsy stances on topics of importance to most Canadians (such as their economic well being and the legalization of marijuana) they will become a force to be reckoned with.

Even with the soon to start bombardment of anti-liberal tax payer funded propaganda from the Conservative party. My recycling bin awaits.

When Did News Become Pop Culture?

I am a man of many gripes, as almost anyone in my inner circle would be able to tell you. Its a funny little habit that I blame on my father. Though my habit is significantly less pronounced then my fathers. I know, because I have to rein myself in all the time.

But one thing that me and my father do (for the most part) agree on, is the state of pop culture at the present time, is abysmal. Though we do have variations in this conclusion. He has written off pretty much all modern pop culture, wherein I enjoy a small amount of it, though its a mere sliver compared to what I write off. When it comes to the pop culture I am mainly referencing here, for my father, it is mainly the music, movies and television shows that permeate the background noise of our culture at large. However I take it a step further, by including most viral videos/meme’s and other digital scraps that make up the other half of the modern pop culture tapestry, the Internet (in particular,  social media).

Being that I am a heavy user of social media, I get to see much of what is popular online. All of those viral videos, memes and other items. But when it comes to the videos, I have learned that its almost always best to NOT click. As most of the times when I do end up caving in and bringing up that awesome video that everyone is talking about, I almost always have the same reaction.

“Uh. Our species is a bunch of easily amused, easily manipulated morons”.

Whether or not my seeming “hatred” of all things popular is based on genuine disgust, or more on a desire of conformity in NON-conformity, is arguably questionable. I admit that even I do not know the true answer to that question lol. I tend to paint the whole picture with the same brush, even unseen.
But even when I do “give it a try”, I usually end up further conforming my previous notions.
Unintentional confirmation bias? Could be.

But this post is not so much about my criticism of pop culture, as much as it is, about a new trend I see happening within the personalized social media side of the pop culture coin.

When I think about pop culture even when I was a kid growing up, and even as few as 4 0r 5 years ago, one can identify a clear line between pop culture and news/information. Both had different television channels and programs, different periodicals, different web pages, and so on. And for the most part, the popular (or infamous) characters on either side of the line, did not cross it.

Today, with personalized social media being increasingly the single (or primary) source of information for many, that is no longer the case. The lines between both sides seem to be increasingly, vanishing.

Take Toronto’s embattled mayor Rob Ford. A year or so ago, he made international headlines after his infamous crack smoking incident. He had his 15 minutes of infamy. Yet, he didn’t. He has become an almost constant in the news media as of late. Two other names that I can think of that also fit this category, are George Zimmerman and Justin Bieber.

Just a few years ago, had all of the above done what they did, I have no doubt that they would have still made international headlines. And I have no doubt they would be the topic of water cooler conversation for a little while. But after awhile, they would have faded back into the background from which they came.
Well, Bieber is questionable in that regard (look at how  Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen were covered). But I doubt that Zimmerman or Ford would have remained in the spotlight.

Yet today, they do remain in the spot light long after their original 15 minutes of infamy.

For me, the answer as to the question of “why?” seems to lie in social media.

Many people do not pick up a newspaper, or even read any source of news outside of their social media platform anymore. And at the same time, all of our various social media feeds are increasingly tailored to us based on both past interests (clicks), and the specks that we give to the web portal.

So if a majority of us clicked on articles relating to Ford, Zimmerman and Bieber, then that shows collective interest, and turns those names into easy traffic magnets. If throwing a name onto an article can almost guarantee thousands of clicks, then why would you not exploit that cash cow? Your giving the beast the food it desires.

Because of this, many of these figures are increasingly finding there way into the conversations of the traditional television based media as well. The internet is abuzz about zimmerman, so why not discuss his autograph signings on live tv? People will watch.

This blurring of the line between news and pop culture is bad enough. But something that concerns me more, is how these individuals tend to become pop culture icons.

This is just personal opinion.

But when I think of the list as it stands today, the big 3, none of them really deserve to be icons, or well known. There actions were either despicable or just flat out stupid. They do not add anything good to our culture, society or humanity in general.

When I think of people that arguably SHOULD be cultural icons, names like Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson come to mind. People that actively add to our culture, society or the collective good of humanity in general.

But I suppose that our culture and society has a history of giving the villains more credit then they deserve (even before social media entered the picture). Names like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Jeffry Dahmer would likely not be still household names today, without the fascination of the underground following they have developed.

But social media has only made it worse. Which in my mind, shows an obvious risk to the increasingly  micro-targeted world that we live in.

Do we want our children to be ascribing to be the next George Zimmerman, Rob Ford, Justin Bieber or Phil Robertson?

Kraft Hockeyville – Emotional Manipulation At It’s Best

Started in 2006, the Kraft Hockeyville competition  is hosted by Kraft Canada and CBC Television. It pits Canada’s towns and cities against one another in a hockey match, to eventually crown a winner. The nation gets to showcase its community spirit and commitment to the sport of hockey, for a nice prize.
The prize for the lucky locale, being $100,000 towards upgrades to their home arena, a “Hockey Night In Canada” broadcast from their community, and a pre-season NHL game hosted in their arena.

Before going any further, I will start with a short list of stereotypes that Canadians en mass, willfully propagate (and often get exploited, in doing so).

One of them is the sheer and unbreakable collective pride we have in spending money at Tim Horton’s. Its not that I have anything against the chain, I enjoy a cup of Timmy’s (along with a sandwich, soup, Chile or a donut) occasionally. But even if its named after a hockey player , its still a fast food establishment. They create just as much litter and garbage, as any other american fast food establishment that I could name.

And then there is Canada’s fascination with all things hockey. Our unofficial national sport for generations, and national pastime for a great many of our citizens (be it participation, or just watching). An activity that some feel is such a token of national pride, that they consider those who do not have any interest in the sport, to not be “true” Canadians.

Fortunately enough, such idiots are relativity few and far between. But the resounding message sent to the world can still be annoying to contend with. Like when people in other nations are flabbergasted that you have no interest in hockey.

To most, this national obsession would seem to be a harmless thing. I am reminded of the way many in southern states view patriotism and national pride. Just as the Red, White and Blue inspires pride in many of them, a hockey puck and a stick inspires pride in many Canadians.

But those with lots of pride, joy, or any other domineering emotion towards a subject, are vulnerable to emotional manipulation. Just as proponents of abortion will very likely  respond positivity to cues in an article that is supporting their cause (even if its full of bias and/or misinformation), so to will hockey fans to positive stimuli surrounding hockey. Although there is a huge difference between an abortion proponent and a hockey fan, the underlying connection is emotion.

A perfect example of emotional manipulation, just happened not even a month ago.

In the lead up to the 2013 Christmas rush, the airline Westjet made a viral youtube video that showcased their “generosity”.

They had a “Santa” ask passengers of an outgoing flight what they wanted for Christmas. The answers ranged from socks to tablets. The video then followed the process of the passengers travels to the destination, and unknown to them, the steps in making all the Christmas “wishes” come true for the people. Upon arrival at the destination, the gifts were given out along with the luggage, and all the passengers went to their destinations happily.

I did not view the video, seeing it for what it was right off the bat (though I did hear the audio, as it was played in front of me for someone else). Of course, the collective reaction of most on social media and everywhere was positive, and the video was shared widely. Everyone wanted to showcase this “Christmas Miracle”, some even saying that they were glad to have booked their flight though Westjet because of their “generosity”.

But all I seen was, what amounted to little more then a viral advertisement. Yes, the company filled the on the spot wish-lists of some lucky passengers. So?
If they are flying, then chances are good that they hardly needed the generosity to begin with (show me a nice donation to a charity helping the less fortunate, and ill change my tune). And in the grand scheme of things, the amount of money spent on the gifts, is bugger all to the exposure (and then revenue) generated by the video. A video, of which many skipped a proceeding advertisement in order to view. An aspect that I find truly ironic.

Which brings me to hockeyville.

Kraft is a company that manufactures all kinds of food products. From condiments, coffee, peanut better and all sorts of other items, they make it. But despite the huge line of products offered, I would be hard pressed to think of anything even reasonably “healthy”.

The way I see it, is that one could  not lead a professional (or even an amateur) athletic lifestyle, if they subsisted only on kraft products. Sure, you might say “but no one eats ONLY kraft food products!”, and you would be right. However, the main products that I see being pushed in this contest by Kraft are their brand of coffee, 12 packs of their Mac & cheese, cheeze spread, mayonnaise, and a variety of other not so healthy offerings. People are associating the contest with the product, and buying (healthy option or not). That is the biggest problem I have with the contest.

Kraft is hardly the first company to exploit a chosen demographic to pedal its products. Last year, I wrote a piece about Nos energy drink (Coke) doing the very same thing, by having George St Pierre as their poster boy. And recently, I began to see various hockey players gracing the fronts of many Post cereal varieties

Though I do point a finger at Kraft for using the irrational pride of a nation to line its pockets, they are not the only ones who should shoulder blame. It is the consumer who voluntarily makes the purchase.

It is for this reason, that I also point the finger at you, the unquestioning, blind, easily manipulated consumer.

Be a fan. Live it, love it, breath it. Having passion for hockey, or any sport is not a bad thing. But don’t be stupid.

Don’t feed yourself or your family an array of unhealthy garbage food  just because the manufacturer ignites a storm of hype, then  throws out a dime.

Brandon/Souris By-Election

Its the 14th of November, meaning that the bi-election to replace my areas acting MP is but a little over 2 weeks away, on the 25th (exactly a month before Christmas! Great timing). In filling the position, we will have the same 4 main options as we usually have, along with possibly more lesser known options (such as Christian heritage).

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These elections almost always sneak up on me, but I am happy to admit that I have not missed one yet since turning the voting age of 18. But ever since then, my political affiliations have changed a bit, from as far back as I can remember, to now.

I grew up with a parent that was a fairly strict NDP supporter (as was his father), so as with most people, I took the political stances of my parents (at least initially in my participation in the political process). I know that the first vote that I ever cast, was for the NDP (big surprise 🙂 ). But my 2ed and 3ed votes consecutively,  went to the green party. The first time, I will admit, was mostly because I know the candidate (but I also agree with his platform). The 2ed time, was because I felt that despite what people say about the 2 underdog parties, they will ALWAYS remain that way if people vote with that assumption (especially the Green Party).

To my surprise, many must have also come to the same conclusion, as  both the NDP and the Green party made historical gains. The NDP became the official opposition party, and the Greens got one seat in parliament. And on top of that, the Brandon municipal election ended up booting the previously longstanding  mayor out, and voting in a city first (first Women AND Jewish mayor of the city).

When it comes to my personal politics, it seems to me that I have 3 possible choices this time around(yet another personal metamorphosis).

One thing that has not changed about me, is my dislike for the Conservative Party. I admit that I always had these feelings (being somewhat of a mirror to my parent), but recent events and policies have given me a reason of my own, to not like nor trust them.

Not the least of  which is the environmental and energy policies being mandated by the party. Canada could be a leader in the path to cleaner energy sources, we don’t have to be the Arabia of the North. Ripping up, fracking and otherwise polluting large swaths of land all over the place, in the search of short term profits (not to mention the disregard for the biggest  long term cost of the plan, rapidly erratic climate change for our kids to live with.

Then there are those “Canada’s Action Plan” advertisements that are everywhere I look. Like cigarette ads of the past, and the packaging for a certain “Canadian” cigarette brand, they have utilized clean, pretty, natural imagery to sell something that is dirty, disgusting and horribly UNNATURAL. The big selling point for Canadians being  jobs, jobs, jobs. Were helping Canadians get jobs.
Combined with the ads of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (were creating jobs, coast to coast!), its enough to make a person vomit.

A green-based economy, would create SO many more job opportunities. People point a finger at the flaws of green energy technology of today. Yeah, that is why we need more and more minds studying it then ever before. Technical advances are possible, but not if the best minds to possibly tweek them, are hard at work for an oil co with a self interest (profit above ALL).

And this distaste has a bit of a personal bias to it as well.

Over a year ago (I don’t remember absolutely when), I hand-wrote a letter to our then member of Parliament Merv Tweed. It was regarding a despicable experience that my father had with The Workman’s Compensation Board Of Manitoba.  A hard worker all his life, my dad ended up permanently injuring himself IN the process of being a hard worker, and found himself basically thrown out with the trash by his employer, his union and the board.
His employer basically refused to acknowledge the existence of the condition (even cleverly defying a doctors note), his union looked the other way (it was known that the local was much closer to the employer then the employees it was supposed to represent), and the WCB found a way to weasel their way out of paying the claim.

That is not to say that the story did not initially have a rosy beginning. My father HAD received a letter from the WCB, informing him that his claim was approved (and I guess pending). However, a representative from the WCB came to our home one night, and took the paper with him, telling my father that he needed a photo-copy but that he would get it back. We now know that he was a liar (oh, if hindsight were foresight!). And only when my father got the run around upon calling the guy back, did he realize what had just happened.

It may sound like I am telling a story of a man dropping by, but I still have the event in my memory. The nice guy with the combination locking brief case. A wolf in sheep’s clouting.

I had written this letter to Mr.Tweed, mainly for the purposes of informing. I didn’t know if there was anything that he could even do about it, but one can never know if they don’t try. And the reason why I hand-wrote the letter, was for the purpose of authenticity. I could have just as easily typed up an email, but like this blog entry, its not as personal as the physically written word (and harder to disregard, when the delete button is not available).

I was not expecting much in return, when it came to a reply. Even just a form letter, to tell me that it was received, would have been good enough. But no answer at all, the reply that I got, was a bit disheartening and insulting. Its understandable if your powerless to do anything about it. But to not say anything at all, sent me an unspoken message that said, I don’t care.

If that was the message, it has been received loud and clear.

The fact that Mr.Tweed could not wait until 2015 to leave his post and go to the private sector (costing taxpayers more then would otherwise have been necessary), confirms my suspicion of his uncaring attitude towards the residents of his riding (and the province as a whole, since we all foot the bill).

Then there is the new conservative candidate Larry Maguire, leaving his previous post  as MLA for Arthur-Virden, to run in Brandon-Souris.

Both men are paid out hefty severances, even though both are basically quiting their jobs. Then there are the costs of the 2 by-elections, required to fill both the newly empty MLA positions.

Already, were getting a lesson from 2 conservatives in terms of  personal accountability, when it comes to public funds.

And then I got the first piece of mail, from the conservatives on behalf of the new candidate (Larry). A piece that was obviously tailored to the hardcore old conservatives of the city, being it focused more on smearing Justin Trudeau’s pro-marijuana stance (with one part that could be considered a bold faced lie), then on the Conservative party’s post election platform.

Though the conservative brand certainly did not represent honesty before, it most certainly does not now.

Though I used to think the same way of the Liberal party (again, mostly remnants of my parent coming out), Justin Trudeau is striking me as having some interesting, and likable, views.

However, it seems that the views of the party leaders  should be more of a priority  during a federal election then a municipal one. Knowing this, it seems that the conservatives are grasping at straws in their attempts to  downplay their liberal opposition.

This election may end up with Brandon-Souris keeping the blue stripes that it has always had (this is known to be one of the “safest” conservative ridings in the whole country). But the scandals of recent, may present a threat to this previously safe riding. And it seems that the party knows this, considering that almost every single web address I visit has an advertisement for conservative candidate Larry Maguire, and I have yet to see online ads from any other candidates (who is paying for all of those ad placements?).

At the moment, I am undecided. It would be nice to have the riding go orange, or even Green. But that seems like a wishful pipe dream. In which case, even having a liberal candidate, would be a change of pace (that vote, if I end up casting it, will certainly be a step out of my comfort zone).

We will see.

Lest We Forget

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Today is November 11th, which is Veterans Day for those in the US, and Remembrance Day for those here in Canada. A day that, we are supposed to put aside an hour or 2, to respect the past and present members of the military, as well as those that lost their lives, in getting us the freedoms that we enjoy today. Leading up to this day (in Canada anyway, not sure about US customs and traditions), one is supposed to wear a poppy on the left side, as for it to be over your heart.

Like many other traditions that our society holds dear, this is one that I have stopped following

Going back to when I was a kid of 10 or 12 (I really do not recall), I remember dropping a lonnie or 2 into the little plastic bucket, and wearing my poppy proudly for a week or so (until I lost it lol), and to the remembrance day ceremony that always preceded the day itself (if I remember right, their was no school). And of course I wore the poppy throughout the day itself (assuming I still had it).

It was afterwards, that I found a bit of a conundrum. What is the time frame of which one must keep wearing the poppy? Some have told my father that it is disrespectful to wear it  after the 11th is over. But this seems silly (how is showing you care, disrespectful?).
Most of the time I had lost it long before anyway,  but I never could get a real answer to the question.

Today, I no longer  wear a poppy in the lead up to, nor on Remembrance Day  itself. Not out of disrespect for veterans and what they fought for, moreso on a basis of, not wanting to participate in an activity that is in modern times, half assed at best.

In my opinion, if there is one day that should be a holiday (as in businesses are closed), then remembrance day should be it. But though the businesses are only open for a limited amount of hours on the 11th, this still strikes me as, not right. And I am not really pointing my finger totally at the businesses either. More so, at the consumer who could not wait one day, to make that unnecessary purchase.

I am not talking about milk, bread, gasoline or any sort of staple. But snacks, or pretty much anything else that flies under the banner of “unnecessary”.

There are other holidays of less important reasonings (religious primarily) that get the full on treatment, of stores (and most businesses) closed, and we have figured our way around that obstacle. So why not the 11th of November also?

Self Defence VS. Murder – Where Is The Line

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Here I am, once again taking on a topic that is huge in the US, gun politics.

The above, is a perfect example of why many people argue that carrying (and owning) a gun is a necessity. In a world full of bad people, one needs to be able to defend themselves. And there is nothing wrong with that, if they feel its a necessity. But there is one question I have.

That question is, where is the line between self defense and murder? At what point does one cross from being a victim to being a criminal?

I have been in many online discussions with fire arms owners I would describe as CrAzY (people who I would be afraid to even deliver mail to there house, for fear that they would shoot me!). These are people whom I often suspected to be so full of fear, that they are either borderline ( or totally) delusional.
Part of the reason for this assumption, was there inability to picture life WITHOUT a gun. Many seemed unable to even comprehend the possibility, that some places in the world would not REQUIRE a concealed weapon at all times. They ask me what I will do if someone invades my home with a gun, I tell them its hardly a worry because for the most part, such stuff does not happen where I live.

Sometimes I tell my story, the story of when a knife was pulled on me.

One night (around 12 or 1am) on the way home from work, I picked up some chicken from 7/11 and decided to sit on a bench in front of a building and rest (and snack lol). I heard a group of kids walking up the street, didn’t initially pay a whole lot of attention. Then I heard ” . . . what about this bitch”, and thought “oh fuck”.

One of them came up to me, a knife showing out of  his sleeve, and paced in front of me, just asking if I had anything for him. Though I was completely freaked out, I said nothing, hoping with all my might that my blackberry would not receive an email or text, therefore making its presence known.

I don’t know how long I stalled the guy, but as luck would have it, a car was headed towards us on the otherwise deserted street. When it got near, I got up and waved my arms, getting the drivers attention and causing him to pull over. This drove my attacker back a ways.

After a few moments, the car just drove away, causing my attacker to find a pair and head my way again. So I yelled as loud as i could.

HEY! HE HAS A KNIFE!

And so the guy finally gave up and backed off, while I got out the BB and dialed the police. I had initially used the emergency (911) button, but hung up and dialed the regular police line, thinking that this incident was not an incident important enough to warrant calling 911  (the full scale of what happened had not yet sunk in).

It wasn’t until 2 squad cars arrived at my location, that realization of what happened sank in. I know people with far better fighting and conflict skills then I, who have gotten stabbed in such situations before. But I had somehow talked my way out of it.

I tell this story to some who use the self defense argument, as a situation that proves a gun is not always necessary. Sometimes they mock me, laugh at the story (because apparently the idea of shooting another human being is funny).

Another situation (just happened last night) where a potentially bad situation was resolved without a gun being involved, is THIS ONE out of Tulsa Oklahoma. Though I don’t think the burglar was armed, it still applies here, because in many states, just breaking and entering is grounds enough to shoot.

One thing that has become apparent about many of the gun owners I have talked to that I would call “delusional”, is there strict methodologies of separating people into black and white groups. You are either good, or you are bad, there is no middle ground. Your either a threat, or your not.

And when I said “Black and White” groups, though I was trying to convey a strict contrast, I suspect that it may translate in a literal sense as well.

In any case, this post is about self defense. And in the gun control debate, it seems that there are at least 2 definitions.

My personal definition of self defense, is using the minimalist amount of force necessary to neutralize a hostile situation. This does not necessarily mean the attacker has to die, you (and others present in the location) just need to be able to get to safety (keep in mind, self defense is only warranted in Canada for protection of a person, NOT property).

Lets use the meme above as an example, as its a quite common argument, the home invasion. The attacker is wielding a knife, and the defense is a gun. But do you REALLY need a gun to neutralize that threat? Use your imagination as to household items that could in an emergency, double as weapons.

Imagine the knife wielding robber bursts into your room, and gets whacked in the head by a lamp that you threw at him. In an ideal situation, he will be thrown off enough to drop the knife, but most likley he will be disoriented, giving you time to get the fuck out and call the police (or if you have the balls, hogtie his ass like the Tulsa man did).

Now, bring a gun into the picture.

Sure, assuming you can get it out on time, and do not fumble and drop it as your waking yourself up, it is indeed, a good way to easily neutralize the situation. Shooting an arm or leg, will have the desired affect of throwing the guy off, most likley causing him to drop whatever weapon he has, and giving you a chance to leave or otherwise neutralize the situation.

But many that I spoke to, do not own a weapon, just to injure a a would be burglar entering there home. Which is where the second definition of self defense comes in. Which is, deadly force is always allowable and/or warranted in the name of self defense.

By this definition, self defense does not just mean protection of self, but also protection of ones property. And some states even have “Stand Your Ground” laws in place, warranting this.

I do not like the idea of self protection with a firearm to begin with, because of the number of things that could go wrong. One could miss the targeted “threat” and hit who knows what (or who). One could fumble and potentially drop the gun, thereby turning the tables on themselves. And of course there is the risk of panicking and shooting someone innocent.
About a week before the now infamous Sandy Hook massacre, someone in (I think) Rochester MN accidentally shoot there grand daughter. There had been a rash of break ins around the area, and her “silhouette” though the glass door “panicked” him.

If there is a danger that your (or anyone else’s) life may be in immediate danger, then yes, deadly force is not unreasonable. But when someone comes at you with a knife, and you blow them away with a gun, who was REALLY in more danger?

Time for me to show my “bleeding heart” liberal side.

One of the risks I see in labeling people as either good or bad, is when one views those on the side that they consider “bad”, they no longer have to view them as people. Rather then a person, they just become a threat to be neutralized.

I bring this up, because the vast majority of the time, I suspect that these crimes are out of desperation (drugs and money are my 2 biggest guesses). With the completely fucked state of the American (and most other economies in the world), it is no wonder that some may resort to such lengths, just for ends meat. It is never warranted, don’t get me wrong.

Plus, I am inclined to think the best of people. Maybe that’s just a product of being brought up in such an nonvolatile area. But people can often times make VERY bad judgements whilst in the clutches of addiction, or just may find themselves in a hole dug by there bad choices.

Though the only rock bottom that some will reach is the grave, there is a good chance that many can be helped, and can better themselves. I have met with many people over the years who have transitioned from all sorts of backgrounds, and became good citizens. And with most, the bottom came whilst in a jail cell, a few cases, after being caught robbing a home.

But if someone shoots the person dead, then they are done. No second chances.

Every situation is different, I get that. Sometimes the only way to neutralize the threat, is to use deadly force. But I encourage all to use good judgement in making that decision.

Property and materialistic items are replaceable. Some people can change. But most importantly, one must decide, who is the bigger asshole?

The man standing in the doorway yielding the knife menacingly? Or the man who blows his brains out with the gun?

The 2ed Amendment

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Of all the 27 constitutional amendments, #2 is the one that we hear about the most often. Not surprising, because it is the core argument of the American gun control debate. Because we all know, American’s love there guns as much as we Canadians love our hockey.

Lets take a look at the actual amendment itself.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed

This indeed, gives American’s the right to “bear arms”. But what about the part about the “well regulated militia? Seems completely dated, to the times were in today.  It seems that way, because it is.

Back when America was a young and emerging nation, one can see why such an amendment would be needed. In the event of a hostile or tyrannical government takeover, the nations militias would serve as a fail safe. Another barrier for a possible dictator to overcome. And seeing as America is still around today, some 200 or so years later, it seems the amendment worked.

Fast forward to today, 2013. The entire landscape and culture has changed radically from day 1. And like everything else, the weapons have changed with the times. Arms then could have meant a musket, now it could mean an AR 15 assault riffle.

When it comes to the argument of gun control, one of the BIGGEST thoughtless arguments is that, the law says I can own them.  If  I want 1 gun or a million, im allowed. If I want a handgun, or an assault riffle, the law of the land seemingly allows this. Those people are right (no matter what one may think about the OTHER factors at play, that they don’t consider).

Another argument that is quite popular on the right these days (and one ive heard from someone closer to home, in real life), is the need for weapons to protect us from a “tyrannical” government (otherwise known as, the correct interpretation of the amendment). Though in this day and age, there is almost certainly an ulterior motive for such a “patriotic” stance (which has NOTHING to do with the color of the president, we ALL know that), they are indeed correct in there argument.

But lets consider this argument a little bit.

The main premise of the argument here, is that one day, they may be needed as keepers of America the great. Force may eventually be necessary to take out the government, and so the guns are there not only for THERE protection, but also for the protection of all American citizens.

Again, this may have flown in the early days of America. But military technology has advanced A LOT since then. And all the guns on the continent won’t protect you from a tank or a drone.

And say, by some narrow sliver of chance, the gun toutin patriots DO manage to kick the ass of the military industrial complex and take over the nation. The common man is still not safe, because he who has the most guns, has the most power. And seeing who has the most guns these days, the thought of them in control is FUCKING scary, even from the prospective of the North side of the Canadian boarder.

Having looked at the amendment, and at its true purpose, it seems that its not just outdated, its also causing more harm then good. Though you as a civilian may think you have a “duty” to play the part of protector of the nation, your fooling yourself if you think your “arsenal” will even make the government bat an eyelash. Im not saying that this is necessarily a GOOD thing, im just stating the facts.

Because of the seemingly open-ended nature of the amendment in today’s society, the country is practically bathing in guns, and in turn, gun violence. And not just the well known  mass shootings that most base there opinions on (I was previously guilty of this, I admit), but also the  thousands of deaths and injuries that are under reported. Take the plight of Chicago, a place where the epidemic of gun crime is so prevalent, that some locals have taken to calling there home “Chiraq”.

Looking at the evidence, it would seem that its high time to change this amendment, and bring it into the modern age with the rest of the country. Its not the first time that the constitution has had to be “updated” in the past, and it won’t be the last.

There is a happy medium that can be found between “No guns” and “Chiraq”. Like a real disease, the longer that the majority dithers in finding a solution to the problem, the worse that the epidemic will become.

The Robo Calls Scandle – Why You Should Be Concerned

When it comes to political news, I like to be plugged in, in the know. But I am often focused internationally (mainly the US), so I admit that I don’t pay as much attention to Canadian politics as I should. Many a time, elections on a municipal, provincial AND federal level have snuck up on me.

But despite this, there is one story that has grabbed my attention. A story that has not been getting ENOUGH attention.

The Robo Calls scandal of the last election cycle (2011).

I remember that election cycle.

Stephan Harper was re-elected with a majority government. 2 of our “Underdog” parties, the NDP (New Democratic Party) and the Green Party, made history. The NDP for the first time EVER got to be the official opposition party, and the Greens got 1 seat (my vote was NOT wasted after all).

After the election was over and tallied, news came out that voters in some riding’s in the country received phone calls, falsely telling them that there polling place had changed. Which meant that they would show up at the wrong place, to cast there vote. The obvious goal being, an attempt to stifle there votes from being cast. Coincidentally, most of the voters affected were identified as non-conservative voters (no obvious fishiness here!).

Though the evidence at hand seems to send an obvious message as to who the guilty “party” is, proving that in reality (and in court), is another matter all together. We may not ever know definitively, who gave the go ahead for this to happen. And we may not be able to fully understand how much of a difference this discrepancy had on the election results.

But even if no one gets “officially” charged, or penalized, the story should not be forgotten. Unlike the 2 term maximum of US presidents, Canadian prime ministers do not have a limit on the amount of time they can be in command. The only limits, are set by us, the voters.

So come the next federal election, lets not forget this.

Trigger Happy – My Views On The US Gun Control Debate

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As you may have guessed, yes, I’m taking on THAT topic. The gun control topic. I thought I would open this entry on a light, yet thought-provoking note.

The first thing I will put right up front, is I am NOT an American. I am a Canadian. If you’re in the mindset that an outsider won’t understand enough about the situation to draw any conclusions, feel free to move on now.

This debate and the “notorious”  gun violence incidents (Columbine, Virginia Tech etc) have been going on for many years. Though for me, the earliest I can personally remember it coming up, was with Columbine. I was 11 at the time, and I still remember the bits and pieces of the media coverage from the day. And oddly enough, I even remember questioning the “why”, as provided by the media at the time (later in the year, and in later years), even way back then, at that age. But not as much as when I hit high school.

But moving on, the past is littered with wasted chances for gun reform. Columbine was the first wake up call in my memory. Virginia Tech is another, the worst such incident so far in terms of the number of dead (though I hate ending sentences with “so far”, I must acknowledge reality). But the worst (in my opinion), and most recent, was Sandy Hook Elementary.

victoms

Though Sandy Hook is not #1 in terms of the number of dead (thankfully, when you consider the situation), I consider it the worst, just because of the age of the victims, and the effect it had on the world at large. 27 murdered in cold blood (including Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother).

This had a chilling effect on not just elementary school parents everywhere, but, pretty much everyone with even a shred of conscience.

Being that I have forged friendships with many people all over North America via social media in the last few years, I got to see this play out from 2 angles. There was the Media/News/ Twitter angle. But there was also, what I call, the personal angle, which played out on Facebook. Friends, family, Pages, celebrities, pretty much folk from all walks of life, united.

And then, there was the mother. A mother of a child the same age as those killed in the massacre. Though she resides in another state, the incident struck VERY close to home for her and upset her deeply. I remember this because I was at a loss for words as per what to say to comfort her.

Which, for me, is unheard of, since I’ve always got an opinion or witty remark once I get to know a person well enough (some of the things I say, i don’t even know where they come from lol). Probably because there is really,  no right thing to say to someone in mourning.

The worst aspect of Sandy Hook for us all to grasp is its seemingly random nature.

Before, when it came to most of these mass shootings in educational institutions all over, there was SOME kind of connection to the location, even if the motive may not have been so clear cut.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777958.html

And like the situation we have seen in every other case of this happening, people are picking one “scapegoat” and attributing it, AND ONLY IT, to the “Why” aspect of the incident. And of course, there is the gun control debate that has erupted (rightfully!), but at the same time, is being plagued by misinformation and unrelenting attitudes on both sides.

The NRA and many on the right, are, for the most part, taking the stance that “Guns do not kill people, People kill people”. And using diversion tactics to take the heat off of guns, such as pointing the finger at a mental health system in shambles, or violent media of all sorts. And those on the other side of the debate, are often either making a VERY unfair proposal (TOTAL gun ban) or are putting too much emphasis on guns.

I had formed opinions on this over the past few years but voiced them a lot more after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Partially out of disgust for the way the pro-gun people were acting, even a day after the tragedy. Under a memorial photo of Viki Soto which was circulating on Facebook at the time, some pro-gun folks were pushing their arguments quite arrogantly in the comment section. This made me VERY angry, so I told them EXACTLY what I thought of them, nothing held back (my own little contribution on behalf of Viki and her family in their time of crises, as little as it is).
And I got more vocal, after realizing that there is not much further you can go, after killing 20 children. One of those situations that you realize, one does not even want to THINK of where the “what next” could lead.

For me, in the past, in terms of gun control, I admit, that most of my conclusions and opinions have been based on, these incidents. Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc. And I’m guessing that many people, on both sides of the debate and of all political stripes, are guilty of this.

The problem with forming an opinion ONLY based around those incidents, I’ve realized only recently, is that though they get large amounts of coverage and airtime (columbine and thereafter), they are still relatively rare. Compared to the everyday gun violence and death that is playing out on the streets and in the city’s all over the US, on a daily basis. But that often goes UN-noticed nationally and internationally, because I’m guessing it’s perceived as, shall we say, a “minority” problem.

Thousands of people getting shot and killed every year in poor urban areas, due mostly to gang violence. But these are not noticed, because most of the victims are poor minorities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

Yep, I went there.

When it comes to the whole gun control debate, this is where basing your laws and opinions on relatively rare occurrences becomes problematic.

Nothing ever gets done, because one side says, this is terrible, you guys are assholes if you STILL stick to your guns (forgive me lol), after seeing this (im guilty of this, I admit). And the other says, many things. You can’t base new laws solely on emotion (true). There is a whole host of things that contribute to the problem besides guns (also true, though an all to common diversion tactic).

Either way, both sides end up getting in a pissing match in the political houses and on social media sites, and in the end, nothing gets done. Neither side budges even an inch, and as a result, thousands (millions?) more die.

One of the arguments AGAINST gun control I hear used quite a bit is that banning guns (or certain types of guns, such as assault rifles) won’t stop gun crime completely. This is true, but a stupid argument.
It would be GREAT if any law enacted would immediately cease the activity, such as laws against speeding or fraud. But the goal is REDUCTION.

People, if they want them bad enough, will be able to obtain guns somewhere. Some of these folks will go on to use these weapons in the commission of crimes such as armed robbery or murder. Some will commit mass shootings. This can’t be helped. The goal is to make it as difficult as possible, to obtain firearms (and ammunition).

First of all, I should tackle one of the bigger misconceptions from the right, which is that gun control means no guns (“They gonna take my guns away!”). This is not true. Though I am opposed to gun ownership, I understand that they do have a purpose. For some, it’s hunting. Some, it’s protection (protecting themselves from other people with guns. Ironic, but a necessary evil).

But then comes the subcategory, assault riffles (be it burst fire or semi-automatic). Many will disagree with me on this. But I am not so lenient when it comes to these weapons of war. A perfect description of these guns because frankly, I don’t see why any civilian should NEED one, other than for a collection (in which case, it does not need to be operational). In terms of personal protection, it seems ridiculously excessive.
That is, ridiculous if your definition of personal protection/standing your ground (depending on your state) does NOT involve killing the assailant. Though there may be cases in which a person may have no choice but to use deadly force, it seems to me that the VAST majority of times, an injury will work just as well.

One thing I will note is that in Canada, deadly force can only be applied if your LIFE is in danger, NOT to protect property. Something I can agree with. Every situation is different, but if someone is in your home lightly armed, chances are you don’t need to kill them. A bullet to the arm or the leg should be enough to scare and throw most people off momentarily, hopefully causing them to drop any weapons and giving you time to take control of the situation.

In order to injure someone, you do not need an assault weapon. In fact, you do not even need an assault weapon to apply deadly force (though you may need more training as per your aiming. Though to OWN a firearm, you should have had the training, to begin with).

This means that assault weapons really have no purpose in the whole “legitimate” gun ownership area. Other than for collectors. In which case I fall back to, the disabled weapon argument (does it REALLY matter if a show gun can’t be fired? Even if it’s stolen, it’s not going to add to the problem, as it’s useless!).

As far as I can see, the only folks that are seeing the benefit of assault weapons of any kind outside of the military or collectors, are gangs and mass murderers. And if an item has seemingly no other purpose than to enrich and enable criminals, then why is still available?

But when it comes to the gun situation, assault weapons are not the only problem. Handguns are the weapons used in the vast majority of gun crimes in the US.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/29/us/handguns-and-federal-legislation

Which illustrates another necessity of gun control, which is the flow of weapons and ammunition. While some states do have tougher gun laws than others (Connecticut being one of them), their work is often undermined by the lax laws in others (mainly in the south). These states oftentimes require no identification or background checks and have little or no restrictions in terms of the number of weapons one can purchase. And these weapons often make their way North, to cause trouble in other jurisdictions.

This could be easily remedied at the federal level by first, limiting the number of weapons that can be purchased by a person at any one time, and possibly in a time period (such as a year). And background checks along with a mandatory “cooling off” period (to weed out the folk acting out of rash emotion). And the same rules should apply to the purchase of ammunition.

While this will not put a complete stop to the flow of guns onto the street, nor will it completely end gun violence all over America, it should at least put a dent in it.

Even though the notorious cases of gun violence that often make the news are rare, one still can not talk about this issue without covering them.

Though some of the mass shooters obtained their weapons from friends, relatives or family members (such as Adam Lanza, who used his mother’s arsenal in his rampage), others obtained some if not all there’s legally (such as Eric Harris). In fact, he mentions the Brady Bill (how it set up a roadblock) in his journal:

Fuck you Brady! all I want is a couple of guns, and thanks to your fucking bill I will probably not get any! come on, I’ll have a clean record and I only want for personal protection. Its not like I’m some person who would go on a shooting spree … fuckers.

That alone should speak volumes. As in this case, even though the regulations did not STOP him and Dylan from getting the guns, it made it more slightly more difficult. Which is the best goal you can hope for when it comes to situations like Columbine (they are only as dangerous as their arsenal).

When it comes to these explosive incidents, there almost always seems to be more going on, then initially meets the eye. I first realized it back in high school, largely by comparing my situation with that of Eric and Dylan. Years later, I now know that the information I was using at the time (the information from the media), was not entirely correct. Firstly, that Marilyn Manson, the artist that took the most shit because of the incident, was not even acknowledged by the boys (the journals are full of Rammstein and KMFDM references, but no Manson).

Something else I learned?

That the part of bullying is not so well understood as I (we?) had previously thought it was. While the general consensus NOW  seems to be that it was not as big a factor as previously thought, it’s hard to know for sure. Partly I’m guessing because it would be hard for people that were in the situation (perpetrators or not) to admit what was happening in the time previous, knowing what the end result was. And partly, because though most of the theory’s now available to do make a lot of sense, they are still,  missing something.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.html

The conclusion here makes much sense for Eric. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking, one does not develop a hatred for people (hence the opening journal line), overnight. I have personally never heard of someone who was BORN with a hatred of people. I have, however, seen time and time again, people develop such a hatred due to the environment that they are in. What about the environment that would act as the trigger(s), eventually leading up to the REACTION that was the massacre, This is a question on my mind.

One theory is even that the Luvox (fluvoxamine) that Eric was taking could have had a part in his thought process leading up to the massacre. A side effect vaguely noted in the Wikipedia article.
This possibility would fit right into the previous conclusions, possibly even eliminating the question above (depending on how much the drug-impaired his judgement).
But there is really no way to ever know what was REALLY going through the minds of Eric and Dylan, nor any other mass shooters. But that does not mean that there are no actions that can be taken, in the name of prevention.

Above, I went a bit in-depth into Columbine, because it is the incident I am most familiar with, AND it was the one that I had discovered so much misinformation floating around about it. I encourage all to look around for yourself, come to your own conclusions, do not blindly accept my writings at face value.

One of the big things I believe that the public has to quit doing in terms of these explosive incidents is looking at only what is on the surface and forming a conclusion with that alone. For example, pegging the blame ONLY on lax gun control, violent movies/video games, certain artists, mental health issues. When what you have to do is, do a little digging.
Something I find quite hard to believe is that violent video games/movies/songs can ALONE, without any other environmental stimulation, cause someone to go berserk.

The way it seems that most people see these events, is as actions. For me, it seems to be a REACTION to a more complex situation.

The question then comes to, what lead up to the explosive “Reaction”?

This, in my opinion, can be applied to most of these incidents, but you just need to get your hands a little dirty by doing a little digging. For example, could the motive have been some form of abuse (including bullying)? Or was it due to a mental disorder of some sort?

I believe the only way to even have a chance at preventing many of these things from happening again, is understanding these past cases. Looking at them from many angles, and not just from one.

HOWEVER, even if we get better at spotting the signs of people that are potentially capable of committing similar crimes, there will be those that will slip through the cracks. Like every law on the books in the nation, the goal is reduction, not 100% satisfaction.

Which is where gun control comes in. For those that do slip through the cracks, make it as difficult as possible to get the weapons. Sure, this won’t do any good if the weapons are readily available to the person in their home (or elsewhere they have access to).
But a small percentage (of a very small percentage of total shootings in the US) is not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There is A LOT of guns floating around the US and there is not a whole lot that can be done about those, even if we restrict the number of new ones added to the problem. Criminals with them currently, will continue to use them. “Legitimate” weapons will be stolen from homes and people that do not properly store them.

Throwing restrictions up will not prevent the above from happening. That excuse for inaction is just stupid, so, throw it away NOW. Think of it this way. If a city has a major problem with heroin, which is causing all kinds of deaths, permanent injury’s and other destruction, is the answer to the problem to keep flooding the city with more heroin?

I understand that guns have legitimate purposes. Some people hunt with them, some like to go to the gun range, some feel the need to have one for protection, and some just like to collect them. And though gun control may add a few new hoops to jump through in order to obtain weapons for even the above purposes, you must think, is it really all THAT bad?

Do you REALLY need to have your new gun, RIGHT after you purchase it? (same for ammunition)

Do you REALLY need to be able to buy guns in bulk amounts?

If you like to collect weapons mostly just for show, why do they have to be operational? A disabled gun looks exactly the same as an operational one.
The difference? A stolen disabled gun can not be used to harm anyone. It’s useless in the hands of criminals of ANY kind, mass murderers or common criminals.

And, the biggest one, why do you REALLY need an assault rifle of any kind? What civilian situation could ever POSSIBLY call for such a weapon, that any other less powerful gun could not also be sufficient?

In terms of gun control, there are no easy answers. Neither side (well, the most vocal of each side anyway), will get exactly what they want out of the deal. There will have to be compromised.

And if despite being faced with mounting evidence, one side continues to refuse to budge, a decision has to be made. Does the right to INSTANT, unrestricted access to weapons (and assault weapons), trump the right of the majority to live a reasonably safe life?

Gun control alone will not stop all the gun violence that is happening, be it on the streets or in the schools. But that is not a valid reason to entirely dismiss it.

Mental-illness-gun-control