Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Putting the brake on young drivers

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to curb young driving offenses by changing the law to drivers under 21 must have nothing above a blood alcohol level of zero, drivers 16-19 can't drive anywhere with more than one passenger also 19 or under, and will face up to a 30-day suspension of their license for speeding. The premier cites protecting older children as his reasoning behind these "modest restrictions" and says as a father, he's prepared to make his kids suffer for their safety. 

This is all fine and dandy if you want a seriously pissed off section of the population (some of who can vote, Mr. McGuinty, so watch out), who will either go ahead and break the law anyway, or increase green house gas emissions by not carpooling. But what happens when they go drinking? Not everyone is going to be the designated driver, and only so many people can sleep on your floor. Call me crazy, but I think predictions of an increase in drunk driving are spot on if these rules come into play.

These laws will also come on top of the extra restrictions already placed on new drivers in Ontario, which has a graduated license system. Drivers start out with a G1, which requires drivers to maintain a blood alcohol level of zero, and to always drive with a licensed driver who has at least four years driving experience (a permit in Newfoundland and Labrador). After a year and passing the G1 test, drivers move onto G2, where you still have to maintain a blood alcohol level of zero, but you can drive with anyone, provided there's only as many passengers as seat belts (isn't that the law for everyone? Shouldn't it be?), and you still have to pass a drivers test at the end of 12 months.

There are already four Facebook groups dedicated to stopping these new rules before they become laws, with over 15,000 members already. While I agree with maintaining a zero per cent alcohol level for new drivers, overall babying of new drivers will not provide them with the experience and skills required to become good drivers. Just because teenagers are young does not make them any less competent than a 30-something learning to drive, and bestowing extra restrictions on them will leave Mr. McGuinty with yet another segment of the population extremely peeved about cars.

** Photo courtesy of djuggler.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Questioning the Weatherman

I subscribe to The Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report podcast, a daily independent news show out of the US. I admit, it's pretty lefty (surprise, surprise), but what I appreciate most about the show is that host Amy Goodman questions everyone, for example when a guest called Karl Rove a liar, she asked them to back it up, even though most people wouldn't dispute that statement. So when I heard former Weather Underground members Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were going to be on the program, I got excited. Sure, the Weather Underground were lefty radicals, but many people believe they took it too far, myself included, and I thought for sure Amy Goodman and co-host Juan Gonzales were going to take these two to task.

To give you a bit of background on The Weather Underground and where I formed my opinions on them, they were a radical anti-Vietnam war group during the late 1970s, who bombed banks, New York City Police Headquarters, the US Capitol, and The Pentagon. I learned about them through watching the documentary The Weather Underground a few years ago. The group usually bombed buildings at night when no one was supposed to be around, but during a bomb making session in a Manhattan town house, three Weather Underground members were killed. The bombs they had been making were supposed to be used to bomb a dance at an army base.

I know the 1960s and early 1970s were a tumultuous time — government corruption, racism, violence, an unpopular and unjust war that killed millions of Vietnamese and Americans. Even though we face similar circumstances right now, it's nothing compared to the upheaval the Western World, the USA in particular, was going through. Nevertheless, I can't condone bombing; The Weather Underground (or The Weathermen as they were originally known) could have hurt innocent people, and did kill some of their own members as a result of their actions. How does that make them any different than sending off poor kids, many of them black, to their deaths in Vietnam?

On the show, Bill Ayers denied The Weather Underground were ever a terrorist organization because no one ever got hurt. But terrorism doesn't have to result in people getting hurt or killed, by definition it is violence and intimidation used for political gains, and there's little more violent or intimidating than a bomb. Sure, the people responsible for the Vietnam war, the beating of protesters, the beating and murders of African Americans deserved a nice wallop of karma coming their way, but violence isn't the answer to violence.

Unfortunately, when the townhouse explosion came up in the Democracy Now! interview, when Bernadine Dohrn said it was after this explosion that the group decided human casualties were no longer acceptable, neither Goodman nor Gonzales pressed Dohrn or Ayers about whether they had intended to kill people originally, and/or why were human casualties acceptable. 

Goodman then went on to ask Ayers about an accusation Bill O'Reilly made about The Weather Underground bombing a police station and not regretting it, and he skirted the question, speaking generally about him not condoning the groups actions in his latest book Fugitive Days (which had the initial, unfortunate, release date of September 11, 2001). Yet later Ayers says he has no regrets about what they did. 

I'm not seeking justice here — most of The Weather Underground members served their time and are now getting on with their lives. It's the fact they don't see the error of their ways, or the possible consequences that bothers me. I see where they were coming from, and I understand their rage, but bombing banks and police stations are not and were not the way to get the government to listen to what you had to say. While I'm sure some of the "bad" people were intimidated by the bombings and actions of The Weather Underground, many more innocent people were scared and thus turned off from their ideas. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon  were assassinated, but their messages of peaceful protest and change have reached far more people than The Weather Underground's bombings. 

I'm not going to stop listening to Democracy Now! because of this interview, as it's otherwise an informative program not only about the United States but situations happening all around the world. However this has put a damper on my excitement about the program — as journalists it's our job to question people, even if they're our heroes, our best friends, or our own mothers, and in this interview I don't think that criteria was met. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blame Jack?

I attended a Liberal Party rally in downtown Vancouver last night to cover the event for The Ubyssey, UBC's student newspaper. It was a bloodbath for the Liberals, winning only five of a possible 36 seats in BC, but two of the winning candidates — Hedy Fry, and Ujjal Dosanjh— were in attendance and full of fire and brimstone for the New Democratic and Green Party leaders. Basically, they blamed their loss on vote splitting, on the New Democrats fooling Canadians into thinking they could form a government, on the Greens for being the "Ralph Nader" of Canadian politics, and the media for not doing its job properly in failing to show Canadians Dion was a better choice for prime minister than Harper. 

I understand the argument on vote splitting, but I think it's pompous and naive of the Liberals to believe Canadians had been "tricked" into voting for Jack Layton or Elizabeth May. I, for one, had a really hard time deciding who to vote for this time around; the Liberals, NDP, and Greens all had positions that I agreed with, but they also had positions I disagreed with. I usually vote NDP, but Jack Layton rubbed me the wrong way this election, particularly with his attempt to block Elizabeth May from the leadership debates. But I also don't agree with the Green Party's position on the seal hunt. I was tempted to voted Liberal, but since moving to Vancouver poverty and homelessness has become an important issue to me, and the gap between the rich and poor increased dramatically under the Liberal government during the 1990's. When it came down to the wire I sucked up my dislike of Layton and voted NDP. 

Conservatives only took 44.4 per cent of the vote in BC, and 37.63 per cent of the vote in Canada as a whole — hardly the 50 per cent plus one ideal for a winning party. If you believe what the Liberals claim about vote splitting and "stealing", the NDP, Greens, and Liberals combined took 51.24 per cent of the country's vote, meaning the majority of Canadians did not support the Conservative government. Fair enough, but the Liberals are assuming Canadians who didn't want a Conservative government were "confused" and would have voted Liberal if they had known better. 

The NDP might not be forming a government anytime soon, but they did increase their seat count from 19 t0 29 in the 2006 election, and to 37 during this election — a long way from a minority government, but steadily rising. I'm no rocket scientist, but I think this means there are some Canadians out there who identify more with the NDP platform than Liberal or Conservative. 

The Greens didn't get any seats this time, but they did take 6.8 per cent of the vote — more than the previous election. Oh, and then there's the Bloq Quebecois with 50 seats out of a possible 75. Perhaps it was because it was a British Columbia rally, but neither Fry nor Dosanjh mentioned the Gilles Duceppe when listing off election scapegoats. 

I am disappointed with the outcome of last night's election — particularly the record low voter turnout (less than 50 per cent in Newfoundland? Seriously?!) — but I think the blame for the Conservative minority government should fall mostly on our first past the post voting system. Most of the opposition parties supported a reformed proportional representation electoral system, such as Mixed Member Proportionality, though this was a new stance for the Liberals - perhaps because they haven't been able to form a majority government since 2002. Whether or not they'll maintain this stance if they should form government again remains to be seen. 

Photo: Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry. Credit: Alfred Hermida, http://flickr.com/photos/hermida/2888671333/

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prayer solves gas pains?

Every time (and it happens quite frequently) that I hear someone say "Americans are stupid" or something to that effect, I cringe. It doesn't matter how intelligent that person is, once they utter that phrase they go down in my esteem. It's like saying Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are stupid — it's a sweeping generalization, and it makes you sound ignorant and arrogant. There are over 350 million Americans and if they were all stupid, America would not have reached the super power status is has today — I'm not saying it deserves that status, but it didn't get there by being a country populated entirely by idiots. 

That being said, there are, like anywhere, some stupid, arrogant people in the United States and some of them are crediting God for lowering their gas prices

I make no secret of my lack of spiritual beliefs, but I try not to infringe on the spiritual sides of others. However, this really got my goat, as it were. There are over 6 billion people living on earth today, and according to the World Bank over one billion people live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 a day. According to world religion statistics compiled by adherents.com, the number one religion is Christianity with approximately 2.1 billion devotees, followed by Islam with 1.5 billion, Hindus close behind at 900 million, and so on  — in short, there are a lot of believers out there, which leads me to make what I believe to be a well-educated guess that a lot of people pray at least once a day. 

Though most world religions teach you to be selfless, chances are a lot of people are praying that they make it through the day, and yet a lot of people die from something we take for granted in the West like nutritional deficiencies or influenza, many of them small children. So it boggles my mind that there are people out there praying for gas prices to be lowered, particularly since they believe their prayers are being answered. 

When I first heard the story on CBC radio this morning, one woman complained that she had to make the decision between food and gas for her car — now, I don't know her exact situation, maybe there is no public transit where she lives, and she can't carpool or walk to work. But then again, maybe she can, and in that case she needs to get her priorities straight. 

The "Pray at the Pump" movement are ignoring some statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, which says Americans are driving less — 53.2 billion miles less — and that's what's causing the drop in American gas prices to $3.78/gallon from the over $4/ gallon it was this in July. 

Perhaps I'm taking this too seriously, and I should be laughing off people who think the drop in gas prices is a direct result of divine intervention. But there's something about this that just reeks of a sense of entitlement due to living in a first world country. 

Someone told me recently that if third world countries were as rich as Canada or the U.S., they would be just as decadent. That may very well be true, but it's no excuse for whining over not being able to drive our cars when some people don't even have access to bicycles.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The elephant in the University

I was going to avoid making commentary on the Memorial presidential search for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the over abundance of commentary already being made, but ignoring the elephant in the room in this case has almost become impossible. And it's probably more important than Russia trying to ban emo and goth culture, which is what I was originally going to write an entry about.

First off, I've interviewed Joan Burke a couple of times and I liked her. I'm a sucker for a polite politician, I must admit, especially one that took the time to call me back when I was a student journalist (okay, I guess I still AM a student journalist, but whatever), even if she did end a few interviews asking me what I was doing in school like some aunt I hadn't seen since I was *this* high. 

We've got a great deal on tuition and education in the province and we owe a lot of it to her — or perhaps to Danny, which is what brings me to my point. Burke is suddenly admitting to interviewing and vetoing presidential candidates for the University, which is dicey at best, but I find if very interesting that all the blame and ire is falling on her while Danny Williams seems to be getting off scot free. When was the last time anything happened in that government that Danny didn't know about?

Tom Rideout, you say. Yes, the man acted of his own accord, and look what happened to him — not only was he demoted, but his fellow cabinet ministers hung him out to dry claiming he bullied them into giving him extra money for his constituency (after finding out there will still communities in his riding without paved roads, I can't say I blamed him). Rideout was leader of the Progressive Conservative party at one time, not to mention premier of the province and deputy premier under Danny, and NO ONE in his party stood up for him. 

The Muse first heard rumblings of something fishy happening vis-a-vis government interference with the University's presidential search during the winter semester, and even asked Burke if she was involved in the vetoing of any candidates. She denied any involvement or knowledge of such interference. Perhaps we worded the question incorrectly, or maybe she hadn't actually vetoed any candidates yet — but then why were the rumours flying already?

I don't think Burke is totally blameless for this intrusion into Memorial's autonomy — she is a very strong willed and independent person, in my experience. But It's no secret that Danny likes to be in control (really, what premier doesn't?), so I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that he was the puppet master in this scenario. We'll just have to wait and see if Burke will go down in flames for this, bring the whole government with her, or if it will all blow over in the face of oil money and more jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's the deal with human rights?

China seems to have backed out of their promise to decrease infringements on human rights during the Olympic Games next month in Beijing by blocking foreign journalists access to certain websites (though I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that these websites are blocked to everyone in China, journalists just won't be the exception they had hoped they would). 

I have two roommates, a married couple, from China. One of them has been living here since January 1, and since that time we've had several discussions about Western opinion and criticism of China, particularly its government. He doesn't understand why Western societies, particularly the U.S., harps on China's human rights record since a) the U.S. has an equally bad human rights record, and b) the people of China are happy with the way things are, and c) incidents like the Tienanmen Square protest were so long ago.

I find flaws in his arguments, but I admit that I haven't pressed the issue very hard for two reasons: because I know very little about China, and because I have a western bias. He hasn't swayed me on my belief in human rights, but I haven't changed his mind either and I don't expect to. I don't think we know the whole truth about China, considering the inherent bias of all media, but I don't think he does either, and I think there is something to what we hear about the Chinese government, whether it's worse or better than we're told.
I firmly believe that governments are a human invention ("Well, duh," I hear you saying, but what I mean is I don't think any god gave us the idea, or created us to be able to have the idea). If it wasn't for government laws, we could literally do whatever we wanted (inside the laws of physics, of course), and while I'm thankful we have laws to deter most people from killing, raping, plundering, etc., I don't agree with laws that prevent us from ruling ourselves like China's ban on certain websites — or Canada's laws against drug use, but that's another tangent.  
Though I'm not a spiritual person, I do believe in truth (I think it lies somewhere between both sides of the story) and I believe we all have a right to seek it. Maybe the Falun Gong are a cult, and maybe the Dali Lama is a terrorist, but if that's the case, shouldn't people have a right to figure that out for themselves? 

Governments shouldn't put parental controls on their people and censor what information they have access to — the people are supposed to control the government (and I think that applies in all forms of government. Even if you have a dictator, aren't they, in theory, supposed to carry out the will of the people?). If the government is so convinced that they're right, what are they so afraid people will find out?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Discriminatory banning practices

Anyone who gives a toss one way or the other about Canada's annual seal hunt is paying attention to the actions of the European Union (EU) right now to see if they will indeed ban Canadian seal products from both being sold in their member countries and being shipped through their countries, making it difficult to get the products to countries like Russia, one of Canada's largest markets for seal products. 

Yesterday the EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas announced a bill that he is pushing through the union to implement such a ban on products derived from countries with hunts that "practice cruel hunting methods." There was a major exception, however: seal products from traditional Inuit hunters. There is something about this that doesn't sit right with me.

I admit right away to being pretty ignorant to traditional Inuit seal-hunting practices, but is it any more humane than the methods white hunters use?  Granted, if only Inuit hunted seals, there would be a lot less seals killed, but from what I can gather from anti-hunt protesters, they don't care if the number of seals killed decreases — they don't want them killed at all.

I don't think bans should be implemented on seal products one way or another — as long as a sustainable hunt is carried out, I fail to see how the seal hunt is any different than killing cows, chickens, or pigs in slaughter houses. At least these seals have a chance at living to see another day, and know freedom — a cow in a slaughter house is going to die before it's time regardless of whether it ends up on your plate, covering your back, or killed off for being defective. 

That being said, I don't see why special privileges should be given to Inuit hunters in this scenario. The EU isn't putting a ban on the hunt — if they included Inuit hunters in the ban they wouldn't be taking away a traditional food or clothing source for the Inuit, or destroying an ancient way of life. They just wouldn't be able to sell or ship their products to EU countries, thereby possibly destroying their livelihoods, like they will for the non-Inuit hunters. 

Does the EU think Inuit are too stupid or ignorant to find other means of employment? What about the non-Inuit hunters who don't have any other vocational training, and maybe didn't even finish grade school? Yes, there are significantly less Aboriginal people with post-secondary training in Canada than non-Aboriginals, but the numbers are slowly getting better.

My theory — and I recognize that I could be way off base with this, but hear me out — is that the EU fears Inuit and Aboriginal protests if they include Inuit hunt products in the ban. In order to avoid appearing racist, they will allow Inuit products to come through. But in efforts to avoid being labeled as bigots, they are actually discriminating against non-Aboriginal hunters for not being Aboriginal. That's like cops pulling over everyone who isn't black to avoid appearing as though they use racial profiling. 

If I had my way, no seal product bans would pass in the EU, but as it's becoming more and more likely that a ban is imminent, I believe all seal products should be banned and no allowances made for the colour of your skin or how long your ancestors have lived in this country.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The epitome of taking yourself too seriously

I don't feel like writing an entire blog entry about this, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I think my ire is pretty self-explanatory. In short, there is ridiculous controversy surrounding an upcoming Paul McCartney concert in Quebec City, and it has nothing to do with seals. 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ghoulish Germs

WARNING: There may be fecal matter on your computer keyboard right now. Back away from the computer — hell, throw out your keyboard, or entire computer just to be safe, and quickly order that life size plastic bubble and lifetime supply of anti-bacterial wipes, gels, hand soaps, etc. by phone, but keep a stack of Kleenex between your mouth and the phone piece.

I found this article through G-Mail's handy little headline news links — a group of students at the University of Washington in Seattle found traces of fecal bacteria on 30 of the campus' library computer keyboards. The article goes on to say that the presence of fecal bacteria on the keyboards could mean that there's other bacteria, such as E Coli, at our fingertips when we use public keyboards. 

My initial reaction to this: people are surprised by this? We wipe our asses using our hands (and tissue paper — most of us) and also use keyboards with our hands. I would like to think that most of us wash our hands (that's probably wishful thinking), but even for those of us who make a conscious effort to get poo off our fingers, there's not always soap or enough time to give a good, thorough scrub to our digits, hence fecal matter shows up on our keyboards. And I imagine it doesn't end there — if they tested our phones, food, toothbrushes, doorknobs, office supplies, or even beds, they'd probably find fecal germs there, too. So what?

I'm all for hygiene — I shower at least once a day, wash my hands with soap after I use the toilet, brush my teeth at least once, if not twice a day, and I floss … every now and then. But you can't protect yourself from all germs, and we're spending too much money, creating way too much garbage in our battle to fight germs, and even, ironically, affecting our own health in the process. 

In a study originally posted in the journal Respirology, researchers found that kids raised on a farm were less likely to develop asthma than kids in more urban settings — during a two year study of kids less than 12 years old,  2.3 per cent of kids on farms developed asthma as compared to 5.3 per cent of kids in other rural areas and 5.7 per cent in urban centres. Scientists determined it was because kids living on farms were more likely to be exposed to endotoxins from animal viruses and manure, which kept their immune system active working against bacteria and therefore enabling itself to fight off other bacteria and viruses that could lead to asthma. 

I'm not saying human feces might have these endotoxins, or that we should start taking the active approach in exposing ourselves to them. But what I am saying is our fear of germs and dirty things can disrupt the natural health defenses we were born with — our immune systems. We now know to cook our meat thoroughly, keep certain products refrigerated, wash our hands, don't play with needles, sterilize surgical equipment, and cover our mouths when you sneeze (though how well that works is also up for debate), all important advances that help us live longer. But sprays that kill 99.9 per cent of all bacteria, including the good kind or bacteria your body can easily defeat on its own, is not necessary and may even be harmful. 

It pretty much goes without saying that all the spray cans, disposable wipes, Swiffer wet and dry clothes, cleaning chemicals, and plastic bottles is not good for the environment, either, so I'll spare you an environmentalist tirade for today.

Truth be told, you may end up consuming fecal bacteria in the future. But you can rest easy knowing you've probably consumed a lot already (especially as a child), and you're still alive if you're reading this blog (though a zombie, vampire or ghost readership wouldn't go astray...).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I don't consider myself a nationalist. In fact, I find nationalism a bit disconcerting — it's fine to be proud of your country, but nationalism taken to the extreme can be insulting at best, and bloody warfare causing at worst. I didn't even vote for Gros Morne in the Seven Natural Wonders of the World contest — sure it's beautiful there, but there is so much more on this planet that is far more breathtaking than what can be found on our tiny little island.

But I couldn't help but feel a bit ticked off about how Newfoundlanders treated their own Memorial Day today. You know, the Battle of Beaumont Hamel? I know you know it — what Newfoundlander doesn't? I grew up with what I perceived as curmudgeony parents grumbling about Canada Day taking away from the remembering the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. I couldn't understand why my parents could loathe a day off work, with block parties, barbeques,  and fire works, just because it happened to fall on the anniversary of the worst military defeat our country (Newfoundland and Labrador, not Canada) had ever experienced. 

Even though I share some of their ire now, and  the nationalism I see on Canada Day now makes me a little ill, I'm not going to begrudge people their day of celebration.

However, despite the fact that we are part of Canada now, I'm pretty disappointed with how the Battle of Beaumont Hamel ceremonies played out in St. John's today. First of all, I didn't even know they were happening. I knew we used to have them, but had heard something about Canada asking us to move them to another day so as to not tar their birthday celebrations, and being the good little doormat province, we did as we were told. My sister didn't accept this answer, so she asked our parents. They didn't know either.

The event wasn't listed on The Telegram's website, nor in the events of the paper I work for (yeah, I work for a newspaper and I didn't know about the parade - sad but true). It wasn't on the City's website, either. My stepmom, techno wizard that she is, found it for us online somewhere - yes there was a war memorial service. 

This morning on CBC radio, there was no mention of the service. After 8:30 they did do a piece on the Holy Heart of Mary Choir singing in Beaumont Hamel, France, today, which was nice. But still no mention of the parade/service. 

Before we went, my sister and I had a debate as to whether or not we should wear poppies. My argument was that all the allies were buried in Flanders Fields — which I didn't really know for fact, I admit, but it is a World War I symbol. We decided against the poppies, just in case. 

When we got to the service, however, "In Flanders Fields" was read — causing me to gloat at first, but then ponder. Then they started bringing out the wreaths, and there were a lot of wreaths, from various battalions and groups that had nothing to do with Newfoundland or the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. The band played a medley of God Save the Queen and Oh Canada twice, but only played one verse from the Ode to Newfoundland at the very end of the service.

I go to the Remembrance Day ceremonies every year, and this service was just like it, both in length and content. There was very little focus on the particular battle itself or the men that were lost there. I'm not saying other veterans don't deserve to be commemorated on more than one day a year, but this was a Newfoundland battle and a Newfoundland loss - why wasn't there more Newfoundland in it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quiet riot

When was the last time Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans took place in a good ol' fashioned protest? 

Our healthcare system is close to the breaking point, gas prices are on the rise, local fisheries scientists are telling us our stocks are in danger, the federal government is pushing a bill making it illegal to put CDs you bought on your own MP3 player, and what are we doing about it? We're making Facebook groups, that's what.

I don't mean to come across high and mighty - I am, after all, a member of 37 Facebook groups, five of which are political. But what do we hope to achieve by joining these groups? Do we really think 482 people putting their name to a group about keeping the federal government from turning lakes into mine dump sites is really going to sway the powers that be?

One thing I've heard again and again from working in student media is that young people are apathetic, they just don't care; I don't think this is true. Young people care, they're just really lazy. I should know, I am a lazy young person. It's much easier to join a Facebook group, bitch on a blog, call Open Line, or just grumble with your friends than it is to take any sort of action. 

And it's not just young people (how many young people call Open Line, really?) — when was the last time we held a big protest in this province? I don't know a lot about this province's history, admittedly, but the last serious riot I hear about was in 1932 when our government was collapsing and the people were starving. We're a lot better off than we were back then, but our current situation is far from rosey.

Facebook groups, much like petitions, have their place, but they can't work alone. Governments know how easy it is to rubber stamp their name onto a document, so merely attaching our name onto a cause isn't enough. 

I'm hesitant to organize a protest myself — I'm supposed to write news, not make it — but that's also just an excuse. As a member of the media (yeah, I feel pretentious saying that) I'm supposed to keep my opinion out of my stories, but that doesn't mean I or anyone else can't express their opinion outside (and in some cases, inside) their occupations. As members of a democracy, we have a right to dissent and protest, so why don't we?

We put governments into power and if we don't like what they're doing, we can take them out, but they don't feel that fear of their people that they should. I'm not saying act blindly - research, educate yourself about issues, and use these Facebook groups to organize and plan your course of action, instead of just showing your anger, passion, support, or what have you with the click of a button before you go watch YouTube. And that goes for me, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Keep your Bill out of my uterus

Back in February of this year Conservative MP Ken Epps introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-484 or the 'Unborn Victims of Crime Act'. CBC.ca reported it and it was featured on CBC radio news program The Current, but unless my head has been stuck under the sand for the last two months (which is quite possible if you replace sand with school/Muse) the Bill hasn't garnered much attention until now. I wasn't even aware of its existence until I received an e-mail from Danielle Finney, communications director of the Provincial Status of Women Council decrying the bill (I'm not that special, she sent it to all the newspapers in town). 

Chances are you might not be familiar with the bill either, and in case you don't want to read the entire bill here's the Coles Notes version: if a pregnant woman is murdered, her killer would be charged with two counts of murder - one for the mother and one for the baby. 

At first glance the bill didn't sound that bad to me - the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. is murder, and according to a study by Statistics Canada 21 per cent of abused women are abused while pregnant, and for 40 per cent of these women pregnancy is when the abuse began. Maybe this bill could help curb violence against women...

I can be really naive sometimes, I must admit. On further thought, I highly doubt that the repercussions of violence would make many abusers pause for thought right before they smack around a pregnant woman - otherwise murder and abuse would be a rarity. And secondly this law would make the murder of a fetus on par with the murder of a woman and currently Canadian law doesn't recognize a fetus as a person until it is born alive - hence why abortion is legal in Canada. 

I believe in easy access to abortion. I'm not sure I would ever undergo the procedure myself - which is strange considering I don't want children - but I have no business sticking my nose into the business of another woman's uterus. And that's exactly where Bill C-484 is planning on sticking it's nose. 

Epps says that's not the point of this bill and there is a clause that says the act does not apply to the termination of the pregnancy with the full consent of the mother. But the bill also says "It is not a defence to a charge under this section that the child is not a human being," which contradicts the law that allows for legal abortions in this country. The Bill itself wouldn't criminalize abortion, but it would give pro-life groups a foot in the door for the fight to re-criminalize abortion. This isn't just fearmongoring on my behalf - abortion is still such a hot topic issue 20 years after it became legal in Canada because there are such divided opinions on the subject, and both sides of the debate are very passionate. And let's face it, some pro-lifers are a little crazy

Plus, I don't trust the Conservative Party - I know some of the members aren't socially conservative, but I do not trust this party and their motives behind this bill. Just as the government does not belong in the bedrooms of consenting adults in this country, they certainly do not belong in their uteruses. 

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sustainable Living Ain't Easy

For last week's issue of the Muse (I know, a tad overdue - I'm lazy) I wrote my last Hyssie Fit for the paper *sniff* on what a drag it is to live a sustainable existence, but that's no excuse for not doing it. Though I'll no longer be writing for the Muse, I will try my darnedest to keep updating this blog on a regular basis.

...promises, promises...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Self-loathing feminist

Check out my recent rant in this week's issue of The Muse about why, despite the fact that i loathe many feminists, I still think feminism is important - at least the type of feminism that I subscribe to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sex lives of the rich and political

Why do Americans care so much about the sex lives of their politicians? If Canadians found out that Stephen Harper cheated on his wife with a call girl, we'd probably all die of shock at the idea that the man actually had sex. Sure, his right wing Christian cred would be gone, but that would just make it easier for the Opposition to shoot down those "crazy plans" that they keep saying he's going to try to implement. I wouldn't call for him to step down because he can't keep it in his pants - as much as I'd like to be rid of him as a prime minister, I'd prefer to out him for something involving the lives of Canadians, not his personal life. 

This doesn't seem to be the sentiment of the majority of Americans who were featured on CBC radio this morning talking about New York Senator Eliot Spitzer who was caught paying for a high-priced call girl. People on the street want him to step down "I voted for him and he stabbed me in the back!" excalimed one man - Why? Did he cheat on you? Spitzer spent his money on a prostitute, not state money. 

Others accused him of lying; I admit that the man, nicknamed "Eliot Ness" for his crackdown on corrupt practices by Wall Street bigwigs, is a hypocrite. But really, even the nicest politicians end up eating their words at some point or another, so we really shouldn't be surprised that the man doesn't practice what he preaches. 

And yes, prostitution is illegal in the U.S. - though there are conflicting points of view on the merits of this - but that's not the reason Spitzer is being hung out to dry. As we all know, if he had been sleeping with his intern there would still be mass public outcry for his resignation. 

I admit to being fascinated with the Bill Clinton sex scandals when they came to light - and mass media saturation - but I was also 11 years old. I wouldn't admit it to anyone else, but I was fascinated and titillated by the open discussion of sexual acts available to me. In retrospect, there was very little detail given, and I don't condone censorship to keep kids like me from knowing what a blowjob is - better I find out from a news magazine than a dirty old man, right? 
But the fact that the American people called for the impeachment of their president because he lied about getting a blowjob from his intern, but not for the president who lied in order to get America to back his war in Iraq, shows how skewed the opinions of many American people are when it comes to the conduct of their politicians. You can kill all the infidels (and our sons and daughters) that you want, but if you covet your neighbours wife, we don't want you representing us! That's not family values.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Hyssie Fit in this week's issue of the Muse

Check out my long overdue rant about the end of free paper recycling in St. Johns, in this week's issue of the Muse.  There have been some new developments since I wrote this piece: CBC radio noon interviewed Environment Minister Charlene Johnson Wednesday, Feb. 27, about why the MMSB is not putting it's money into saving Evergreen's paper and cardboard recycling program. Click here to listen to that interview.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In my first year at MUN I took Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, and one class my prof asked us how old we were when we first experienced racism. I didn't know, but I was sure that I had, after all I've always carried an underlying guilt about being white. But for the most part I've been spared, most likely because the population of Newfoundland and Labrador is mostly white. Or I was spared until about two years ago.

I was attending a Canadian University Press National Conference in Vancouver, B.C., and I went to a discrimination caucus. I'd never felt discrimination in my workplace, but I wanted to hear other people's stories and see if there was any way our paper had been contributing to negative stereotypes about others without even knowing it. One guy there from another paper was talking about issues he faced as an Aboriginal person, and handed out copies of this Aboriginal youth magazine, which I *think* was Redwire. I took my copies and packed them up to read at home - I was too excited about exploring Vancouver to stay inside and read anything.

When I got back to Newfoundland, I put the magazines where they would most likely get read - the bathroom. I did start to read them, but I had to stop - there was so much hate in there from the readers, all directed at "the whites". I knew that white Europeans, and then Canadians, had done horrible things to the Native population of this country, but I really resented being lumped in with the settlers and government. It wasn't *my* fault, why blame me because of the colour of my skin? I threw out the magazines (okay, I recycled them).

I went to the national conference again this year, and the same guy who had given me the magazine was there again (and I apologize to him should he happen to be reading this post - I don't know your name, or remember which paper you're the editor-in-chief of). Our first keynote speaker of the conference was Jack Layton, leader of the federal NDP party. Now I vote NDP, but I knew that a lot that was going to come out of his mouth was political posturing and general ass-kissing to us, the very people who would most likely be grilling him on air/ in the national papers about NDP policies in five or ten years. It was a bit dull.

When it came time for questioning, though, this guy stands up and asks Jack Layton what he's going to do for the Aboriginal population for the country. Mr. Layton spouted some scripted answer for him, but he wasn't going to take it - he started talking about "the whites" and "the white power structure." I was really insulted - I mean, yeah, there is a white power structure in this country, and it is keeping the Aboriginal people down, but *I* wasn't a part of it - this was racism! (That's right, I said racism  - discrimination against white people is still racism, not "reverse racism" as I've heard people call it). I knew where he was coming from, but he had lost my sympathy there.

I few weeks later I came across an article in my inbox that had been flagged because it mentioned Newfoundland and Labrador - it was by Marie Wadden, who coincidentally taught me Investigative Writing  at MUN last year, and was about the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Aboriginals who had been forced into residential schools. Wadden made a point that hit home for me - hatred is directed at white people by Aboriginal people, because white people threw hatred at them. Yeah, *I* didn't force anyone into residential schools, but most of the people who did are dead now, and who is left to blame? 

My feelings might be hurt by being lumped into the category of *the whites*, but at the end of the day, no one took my culture, heritage, or children from me by force. I get to go home to my middle class lifestyle, with indoor plumbing, heating, and light. I have some relatives with addiction problems, but they drive fancy cars and have great jobs - in fact, compared to some of my relatives, I'm poor. But it's still nothing compared to life on a reservation, or in socialized housing in a major city, nothing compared to the lives of a large percentage of this country's Aboriginal peoples.

I've been guilty of believing stereotypes about Aboriginal people, but I know that the problems many of them live with today are because of the lives that were forced upon them by our government, our ancestors. It's not so great to be Canadian, particularly when you happen to be the first Canadians, and if the only way to make it better is to sit down and talk, and ask Aboriginal people what they want and what they need, instead of just assuming and giving them social programs, housing, jobs, etc. that don't fit into their lifestyles or cultures, then the least we can do is put up with anger filled talk about "the whites". After all, how are we supposed to convince people that not all whites are bad if we don't do something to repair the mistakes of the past?