Weekly Reckoning: You Won’t Believe What’s Reckoned Next Edition

weekly-reckoning‘Sup? I found two beetles on my kitchen floor this morning as I was sweeping up. One of them scuttled for the corner but the other ran straight into the dustbin, which gave me little choice but to dump him into the garbage along with everything else. That’s evolution in action, folks. One will go on to found a line of successful Corner Beetles, the other a genetic dynasty of insects that enjoy hanging out in little piles of coffee grounds and cat hair. Anyway, let’s reckon with a few things.

1. GRAVE OF E.T. DISCOVERED  One of the most enduring stories in videogame history appears to be true after all. Back in the early ’80s, Atari’s legendarily awful E.T: The Extra Terrestrial tie-in game was rushed to market in order to take advantage of the movie’s popularity. The game proved to be so unplayable that thousands of unsold copies were said to have been dumped in a concrete-covered landfill somewhere in New Mexico. Well what do you know.

2. APPARENTLY BEATING WOMEN IS ALL PART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM  Entrepreneur and woman beater Gurbaksh Chahal, who was caught on video hitting  his girlfriend 117 times over the course of a half-hour, managed to escape jail time but has been booted from the board of his company. His defense, apparently, is that he “lost his temper” becasue  his girlfriend was sleeping with other people for money. That’s right, the old “I didn’t do it and anyway she was a whore so if I did happen to beat her brutally, you understand” defense. To sum up: Bam*117=Justified. He also mentions the American Dream for some reason.

3. AT LEAST YOU CAN’T PUT A COPYRIGHT ON IRONY  I keep on coming back to this story because I can’t quite believe it. But here it is anyway: publishers Lawrence & Wishart are claiming that the Marxist Internet Archive is infringing on the company’s intellectual property by hosting works from the 50-volume “Marx Engels Collected Works.” I would have thought that Marx and Engels’ writings would have passed into the public domain long ago, but intellectual property and copyright is a tangled and thorny issue, and most attempts to navigate through it end up in torn clothes and deep scratches and insect bites. The Archive has promised to delete all the offending texts by May 1, which some of you may know as International Workers Day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cry into my means of production.

4. WHOOPS  It seems that some of the bodies sent home to families after the South Korean ferry disaster were, um, not the right bodies.

5. INCREASINGLY EFFICIENT CHURCH REPORTS 100% INCREASE IN WEEKEND CANONIZATION RATES  Pope Paul XXIII and John Paul II were canonized this weekend. John Paul II celebrated by killing a guy.

BONUS FOOTWEAR SIGHTING  I saw this shoe on a fence on 14th Avenue yesterday. Better claim it if it’s yours.

through the fence

Walking The Beat

Victoria Park (arrest)It’s a great day out, so I decided to go for a stroll in Victoria Park after a late lunch before I headed back to the office. When I got to the park two police officers were cuffing a young guy on a bike. I gathered from people chatting nearby by that he’d punched some older guy in the head and at some point the police had been called.

It wasn’t as dramatic as the arrest three weeks or so ago where two officers with their guns drawn forced a guy on to the pavement on the Scarth Street Mall one afternoon and took an eight-inch blade off him. But I’m sure with the weather warming up there’ll be plenty more opportunities for me to get my real-life Cops fix in the months to come (as always, you can click the photo to enlarge).

Pot Party In The Park

Victoria Park (4-20)Last year 4/20 in Regina coincided with the Saturday of Juno Award weekend. With scads of musicians and music fans in town from all over Canada that could have made for a pretty sweet rally.

Unfortunately, it also coincided with an incredibly late spring so there was about three feet of snow on the ground in Victoria Park and the temps were in the sub-zero range. Today, as you can see from the above photo, things were somewhat greener and warmer (and smokier).

If you haven’t read it already, we had a major feature on marijuana in our April 17 issue that explored issues related to both medical and recreational use. 4/20 is a pro-marijuana rally that’s been held on this date in cities around the world since 1995. The largest Canadian rally is typically in Vancouver. But there was a pretty decent turnout on Parliament Hill in Ottawa today too.

Scary Goings On On Scarth Street Mall

Scary ScarthI took this photo on the mall a few minutes ago. Early reports on Twitter indicate a stabbing incident with multiple victims.  (if you want a closer look, just click the photo to enlarge).

As someone who both lives and works downtown, I’ve got to say the area’s becoming sketchier by the day. It’s not unexpected, though, I guess, with most of the growth that Regina’s been experiencing the last while concentrated on the periphery and in booming bedroom communities. 

Federal Court Smackdown

CannabisIIIn our March 20 issue I have an article about the looming crisis in the medical marijuana  community as the Harper government, though Health Canada, prepares to revamp the process for people acquiring cannabis to treat their ailments. This is always done under the care of a doctor, and usually after all other therapies and prescription drugs have proven ineffective.

Under the old regs (Medical Marihuana Access Regulations) patients had the option of purchasing from Health Canada, growing their own, or obtaining their medicine from small-scale growers with ties to the medical marijuana community. Under the new regs (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) licensed users would be restricted to purchasing their medicine from large-scale commercial growers.

The switch was to occur on April 1, and was prompted, Health Canada claimed, by reports of the MMAR being abused by licensees who grew in unsafe conditions, or were over-producing for the black market. The changes were not supported in the medical marijuana community for several reasons: to begin with, only a handful of new growers have been licensed under the MMPR, and with the deadline for the switch looming supply shortages seemed inevitable.

If we were talking about recreational users, that wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal. But the 40,000 or so Canadians who are licensed to use cannabis for medical purposes rely on the herb to alleviate pain and suffering and they were naturally anxious about weathering the transition period. Concern also existed about the quality of cannabis that the commercial growers would supply, and the availability of different strains to treat different ailments. Finally, the price was quite a bit higher under the MMPR than the MMAP — up to $8.50 a gram compared to roughly $2 a gram when people grew their own.

The financial hardship was further compounded by Health Canada’s dictate that come April 1, all licensed users and growers had to destroy their existing supply of legally acquired cannabis/plants without compensation. Since many medical cannabis users are on disability this would have caused real harm to their economic well-being.

As I recount in the March 20 article, Vancouver lawyer John Conroy appeared in Federal Court on March 18 to argue that the MMPR constituted a violation of patients’ s. 7 Charter rights related to liberty and security of person and that an interim injunction should be granted to delay the change until the constitutional validity of the MMPR could be determined. Today, the judge hearing the case granted the injunction. Any new patients applying to use cannabis for medical purposes will be governed by the MMPR, but existing MMAP licensees will be grandfathered and continue to operate under the old regs until a trial can be held in the fall to determine if the MMPR is, in fact, constitutional.

You can read more on the judgment in this CBC report. And while it certainly is welcome, it must be pointed out that, in anticipation of the impending changes on April 1, and in the face of two acts of harassment by Health Canada in the last five months, many licensees have already taken steps to destroy their cannabis and cannabis plants. As well, all have suffered needless stress and anxiety as they worried about what the future would hold for them. So all in all, a pretty poor show by Health Canada and the Harper government.

Off With Their Heads!

CAPITAL_PUNISHMENT_US_STATES (1)I guess in the United States they’re having a big debate about how people who’ve been sentenced to death as criminals should be executed.

Most executions that occur in the U.S. are under state authority, I think, and each state has the right to do things its own way. Some don’t even enforce the death penalty [see graphic, red being states that permit executions, blue not]. Of those that execute their fellow citizens, they apparently have five legal methods to chose from. The most common is lethal injection. At least, it used to be. But the Danish manufacturer of a drug used in the deadly cocktail that first sedates, then paralyzes, and finally kills the condemned, has refused to allow its use in capital punishment. So states are searching for a new combination of drugs to do the trick.

A new two-drug cocktail was used in a recent execution in Ohio but it didn’t go very well as the the man (Dennis McGuire) took 25 minutes to die and appeared to suffer. That upset a lot of people — opponents of capital punishment, naturally. But even supporters who, while okay with a death penalty, want the execution carried out in a “humane” manner.

Then there’s hardcore righties who just shrug and say “So what?” They hold the view that no person sentenced to death has an automatic right to a “painless” execution and are even touting a return to firing squads.

You can read more on the issue here.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Laws Governing Prostitution

Valerie_ScottWe don’t have the article on-line, but in July 2008 I interviewed Valerie Scott (pictured), executive director of the Sex Professionals of Canada, about a legal challenge her organization was mounting in Ontario Superior Court concerning certain provisions of the criminal code that governed prostitution.

The Robert Pickton trial in Vancouver had just concluded a few months earlier, with Pickton being convicted of second degree murder in the deaths of six women who were sex trade workers on Vancouver’s gritty downtown Eastside. As for the number of women who Pickton actually killed, he reputedly confessed to 49 killings over a 10 or so year period.

Prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada. But over the years the government has passed a number of laws to prohibit certain activities related to the sex trade. SPOC’s legal challenge focused on three criminal code provisions: s.210 (keeping a bawdy house), s.212.1(j) (living on the avails) and s.213.1(c) (communicating for the purposes of prostitution).

The rationale behind the challenge was that because the provisions effectively forced sex trade workers to operate in isolation in remote areas of cities, where they were vulnerable to sexual predators like Pickton, they violated the constitutional rights of workers to safety and security. SPOC also argued that other laws related to extortion, forcible confinement and sexual assault were in place to protect sex trade workers from exploitation from pimps and johns.

Today, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with SPOC and struck down the three sections (here’s CBC and Globe & Mail reports). Observed Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.”

As courts often do in a situation like this, the SCC gave the government a year to bring in new legislation that respected the constitutional rights of sex trade workers. As of tonight, though, Regina and Saskatoon city police have indicated that they will continue to enforce the existing laws.

Many other countries are grappling with the same issue. Some have sought to crack down on the johns who purchase services from sex trade workers, while others have opted to either decriminalize or legalize the sex trade. To a certain extent, this reminds me of the debate over the decriminalization of marijuana. As it stands now, with cannabis being lumped in with cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs under the Controlled Drugs & Substances Act, a huge black market exists for the herb which fuels violence and gang activity. If cannabis was decriminalized and properly regulated, that black market would disappear.

A similar argument can be made, I think, with respect to the sex trade. Hopefully before the federal government responds to the court ruling with new legislation they’ll consult with people who have firsthand knowledge of the sex trade to ensure that the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated.

Whataya Know? A Hummer Even A Prairie Dog Writer Can Afford

Whatever people have said about the Hummer as a vehicle or as a status symbol, there may be a real good reason to buy this one:

 

Alright so here’s the deal, i am selling my 2005 Hummer for parts or repair, its been deemed a total loss through sgi and is repairable. I made the bright decision to get all pissed up one night with some broads down in swift current, it was a night fueled by alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs (LSD). I ended up hitting a meridian while i was swerving for “panda bears” which than sent me flying into a parked vehicle. Cops showed up and had me in cuffs instantly, at this point i was naked with blue and red face painting on along with two other females in the vehicle (they too were naked) No injuries thank god but i had blown 4 times the legal limit. Of course i do not have any insurance to fix this “once beautiful ride” I am making the adult decision to cut my losses and use this money to pay for my rehabilitation center for drugs and alcohol abuse down in beautiful British Columbia.

George Zimmerman Might Have Been Arrested?

The acquitted killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was possibly taken into police custody this afternoon — CNN, ABC and USA Today say he has, other news outlets say he hasn’t been arrested. Le confused shrug. What IS clear is that his soon-to-be-ex-wife, who recently filed for divorce and incidentally is also a convicted perjurer, called 911 claiming Zimmerman assaulted her father and an iPad, and threatened all three with a gun. Or something like that.

Today In Conservative Canada

Weyburn’s Walmart workers have voted to decertify:

The Weyburn decertification drive was the latest chapter in the fight between Wal-Mart and the union that’s been going on for nine years. Wal-Mart has long resisted unionization at its North American stores, and the Weyburn store is the only unionized Wal-Mart in Canada. Two other Canadian Wal-Marts have been certified in the past: the store at St. Hyacinthe, Que., and a store at Jonquière, Que. However, employees at the Hyacinthe outlet later voted to decertify, and Wal-Mart closed the Jonquière store.

The Pamela Wallin case gets uglier and uglier:

Taxpayers footed the bill for Sen. Pamela Wallin to attend meetings about buying a business and a new book project, as well as with someone from the New York City Ballet — and she may yet be ordered to pay them back. But it will likely be a while before the Senate’s finance committee has a clear picture of just how much of Wallin’s nearly $21,000 in additional travel expenses flagged in a damning independent audit ought to be reimbursed.

Rob Ford surrounds himself with interesting people:

Lisi’s criminal record includes convictions for threatening death to one woman, and assault and threatening bodily harm to a second woman. He entered into a peace bond with a third woman who accused him of assault and threatening death. He also has been charged three times with drug possession. Only one of those charges led to a conviction, for which he was given an absolute discharge. Lisi has told three associates interviewed by the Star that he is a supplier of drugs to Ford. The Star has been unable to verify Lisi’s claims, and Ford has not responded to questions about this sent by the Star on Monday.

Conservative Canada: catch the fever!

Meanwhile In Toronto, (gives up)

Last week Rob Ford’s chief of staff was fired by the mayor. Today, the mayor’s press secretary and deputy press secretary have also tendered their resignations. Ford has put a football coach in his office as a ‘special assistant.’ And the mayor’s office is also questioned about a dead drug dealer.

A lot of stuff going on for someone who says a video of him smoking crack doesn’t exist and his brother wasn’t a drug dealer.

I think this is how the Rob Ford Era at Toronto City Hall will end.

Terrorism Or Crime? That Might Depend On Whether A Murderer Is Muslim

Glenn Greenwald has a must-read piece on the Boston Marathon bombing in the Guardian today:

Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that “terrorism” either.

In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word “terrorism” is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened.

The essay by Ali Abunimah Greenwald links to is also a must read:

All of these cases reinforce the widely noted observation that acts of violence, especially mass shootings, carried out typically by white males are immediately labeled as the acts of “disturbed individuals” while the acts of a person identified as “Muslim” are to be labeled “terrorism” regardless of the facts.

These are unsafe assumptions and foreclose the possibility of full understanding. Moreover, by reinforcing popular stereotypes, they give new force to the anti-Muslim backlash that seems only to be growing stronger and more poisonous as the 11 September 2001 attacks recede into the past.

It is also important to note the contrast between Obama’s eagerness to label the Boston attack as “terror” and its alleged perpetrators as “terrorists” – without evidence – and his reluctance to label last August’s mass murder at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin as “terrorism” despite the identification of the shooter as having a history of white nationalist and supremacist activism.

Add the 2009 murder of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller by an anti-government extremist to the list of crimes that weren’t widely called terrorism–despite the fact that the convicted murderer, Scott Roeder, was a highly religious political extremist (he belonged to the Montana Freemen and the sovereign citizen movement) whose motive was to bring about the end of abortion by terrorizing abortion providers.

But Roeder’s religion wasn’t Islam. And his skin colour wasn’t brown.

Life Is Full Of Unsolved Mysteries

I’ll probably edit next issue’s Bonus Column (“Because you can never have too many columns!”) today. This one’s got kind of a paranormal TV show feel so I Googled some videos to get in the mood, and I found this excellent thing. Highlight: “Perhaps the answer will come someday soon when the skies open up over another small community and the blobs once again fall to earth.”

Enjoy!

Indian Rape Victim Dies

From Al Jazeera:

Doctors say a young Indian woman who was gang-raped and severely beaten on a bus in New Delhi has died at a Singapore hospital. A statement by Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth hospital where the 23-year-old victim was being treated said she “died peacefully” early on Saturday. Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, repoting from New Delhi, siad: “She has been in hospital since the attack happened on December 16, she has been in hospital in very serious condition… just a few days ago they said her condition had worsened so they sent her to Singapore for treatment at a hospital that specializes in organ transplants.”

New Year’s resolution #1: In 2013 I am going to be much more critical of cultures that accept or promote misogyny and while we’re at it, homophobia. This is garbage.

UPDATE: The BBC and the Associated Press have stories up now. From the latter:

The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were traveling in a public bus after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who took turns to rape her. They also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into her body resulting in severe organ damage. Both of them were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.

Horrible.

What The Onion Says

Despairing sources confirmed that the gunman, armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle—a fucking combat rifle, Jesus—walked into a classroom full of goddamned children where his mother was a teacher and, good God, if this is what the world is becoming, then how about we just pack it in and fucking give up, because this is no way to live.

Full story here.

Gunman Shoots Up Right-Wing Christian Group’s Office, First Time For Everything I Guess

I just heard that someone shot up an office of the conservative Family Research Council this morning. A security guard was wounded. From The Washington Post:

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the shooter walked into the lobby of the building at about 10:45 and was confronted by the security guard as if the guard were asking him where he was going. The man then took out a gun and opened fire on the guard, Lanier said. The guard and others wrestled the man to the ground, disarmed him and waited for police, she said. The guard was then taken to the hospital and is in stable condition, the chief said. FBI officials said the guard was shot in the arm.

The shooting sounds politically motivated, too. From the same Post story:

The shooter is in FBI custody and has not yet been charged, authorities said. A law enforcement official said at one point in the scuffle, the shooter expressed views that differed from those of the Family Research Council. The official also said the shooter was carrying a bag that had a Chick-Fil-A bag inside. Chick-Fil-A’s chief executive has expressed similar views against same-sex marriage as the Research Council.

More here. The Family Research Council is a vile organization that fights to keep same-sex marriage illegal, strip women of the right to make their own decisions for their own damn bodies and all that usual asshole right-wing so-called “Christian” stuff. I’m not surprised someone wanted to shoot up their office though I wish this suspect hadn’t. Shooting up offices is not going to solve the problem of conservative Christian groups trying to force their ridiculous fake values on everyone. Activism, reason, humour and good old-fashioned ridicule and mockery are good weapons that will work against right-wing extremists. Guns are not.