Category Archives: Justice

Umbilicus Rex


Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth wants to compel parliament to re-examine the issue of when a fetus becomes a person under the law in Canada. He assures us it is not about abortion. “Whatever view one has on abortion, it would surely be important to know whether or not a child is a human being before birth.” My question to Mr. Woodworth: Why?

Let me count the ways.

Firstly, Mr. Woodworth is a former Catholic school trustee and crusader for the Right to Life movement—for the Liberal party, back before he was outed as a Conservative—so we know where he stands on abortion, if not politics. If he simply wishes to conduct a well-rounded “conversation,” as he claims, he would gather a few experts, intellectuals and clergy in his own drawing room, serve tea and biscuits, and do a little brainstorming to satisfy his own academic curiosity. No harm done. He would not be taking it to parliament. On the other hand, the primary reason an RTL advocate would want to “legally” define when life begins is so that the right to choose can be “legally” stripped from Canadian women.

Secondly, Mr. Woodworth is a lawyer. Once Canadian law recognizes the constitutional rights of a fertilized egg, there will be no end to the litigational possibilities. Imagine: lawyers suing mothers on behalf of miscarried or stillborn fetuses for “failing to provide the necessities of life.” Accuse her of eating the wrong foods, failing to adequately sequester herself during the pregnancy, not practicing her Lamaze breathing often enough, living in the wrong climate, wearing tight clothing, not praying hard enough for a living birth, &c. Proceeds of a successful suit going to the lawyers and the Church? Where does the father fit in? Is he, too, culpable? If that mother smokes a cigarette or takes a sip of wine during pregnancy, does that constitute intent in a murder charge? What if the prospect of giving birth presents a real and significant risk to the mother? Whose constitutional rights weigh heavier, mother or child? What if the pregnancy is the result of a rape? What if the mother carries HIV, knowingly or not? Attempted murder? …well, you can see the endless opportunities for an ambitious lawyer. Beats chasing ambulances.

Mr. Woodworth seems to be concerned that there is currently no law governing abortions in Canada, the previous law having been struck from the books nearly a quarter century ago. What he fails to understand is that there is no need for an abortion law, as the last twenty-three years have clearly demonstrated.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that there is an “eat well” law dating back to the eighteenth century, that compels Canadian citizens to consume, each and every Sunday, at the dinner hour, a meal consisting of Meat-and-Three. Sure, it’s good to have a well-balanced diet, so perhaps it made sense, two hundred and fifty years ago, to force people to do it by law, especially since so many of them were farmers. But what about vegetarians? In order to support the MAT law, the government would have to make vegetarianism illegal, wouldn’t they? What about children who hate vegetables? Will the food police be called in to supervise the “sitting-at-the-table-until-you’re-done” decree? What if the family can’t afford meat, even once a week? Will the government subsidize these families with “meat stamps?”

I know it sounds absurd, but it is no different than a woman’s (or couple’s) decision to have an abortion. There is no debate required, really, to see that, as long as the child is connected to the mother via umbilical cord, it is, by any and all rights, the property of the mother, to do with as she likes—regardless of someone else’s beliefs. If one were of extraterrestrial origin, one could objectively refer to the fetus as a tumor, no different than a goiter, except that a goiter will probably not take care of you in your old age. The goiter/fetus cannot have individual constitutional rights because it is not an individual; it is a physical and measurable extension of the host body (aka: the Mother).

What would Mr. Woodworth do if the Pope stepped out onto his balcony and announced to his flock that a woman should not have a left arm?—that “a left arm on a woman is an offense to the eyes of God.” Somehow I doubt he would introduce a private member’s bill in parliament to have constitutional rights applied to the appendage, even though it is the tradition host for a wristwatch, plus, who would hold the paper steady whilst the host body attempted to write a letter?

Perhaps Father Woodworth would, on top of an anti-abortion law and a Meat-and-Three law, like to legislate mandatory Sunday service for all Canadians. If he believes it is acceptable to impose his Christian morals regarding our diet and birth rights, why should he exclude our everlasting salvation? He doesn’t seem to care that we are not all Christians, or at least do not all fall in line with his moral and ethical compass. To be sure, there is no shortage of examples where leaders of state attempt to control their subjects through the narrow and inflexible lens of religious doctrine. Look at the middle east. Look at the American Tea Party. Look at the tail end of the Roman Empire. The Crusades.

The irony is that his own party, the Harper Conservatives, do no wish to have this discussion, not because it doesn’t fit within the boundaries of their ideology (which is certainly does), but because they are savvy enough to avoid alienating half their voters (aka: Women). They know from experience that the way to office is to steer clear of contentious or polarizing issues. Stick to the babble-fluff, and the stuff that makes good headlines (Tough on Crime!). And Mr. Woodworth ought to know his party does not appreciate members who speak out of turn, or who fail to toe the party line. He was smart enough, it seems, to have got himself through law school, but he can’t see that he’s asking questions that have already been answered with relative clarity, and he also fails to see the risk he takes by opening a door that his own peeps wish to keep shut.

Then again, I reckon he’s only using the Conservative party as a transitional stopover, on his way to his real goal: leader of the NDP. Or perhaps a bishopric. Good luck, sir, and be glad you are free, as a good Catholic, to make the decision for your wife whether or not she has an abortion. Choice is good.


Woman Unmasked


If there was ever a shred of doubt remaining that our beloved Conservative government is hopelessly and chronically xenophobic, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has put those doubts to rest. His latest decree, forcing Muslim women to remove their burkas or niqabs, while taking the oath of Canadian citizenship, demonstrates a clear political (see: ideological) motive that is quite apart from any practical concerns.

According to Mr. Kenney: “The citizenship oath is a quintessentially public act.” Well, sure it is. And these women are there, in public, participating in the ceremony, as required by law; but why do they need to be unmasked? For security reasons? To verify their identity? No. He claims to speak for a group of unidentified citizenship judges, who are, according to the minister, concerned that they can’t tell if these women are actually speaking the oath or not. If I were one of those judges, I, too, would not wish to be numbered and named.

Okay, let’s break this down into manageable bits.

First, the security risk. Presumably, Muslim women pass through the same security screening and metal detectors as the rest of the future Canadians, before they are permitted to enter the ceremonial chamber. There is no reason to believe this headgear presents any significant increase in potential danger to the public. A person setting out to do harm can just as successfully hide a “doomsday device” under her arm as under her chin, which means removal of a niquab would not help.

Second, the question of identity. This has also plagued election overseers, in recent years, who use photo ID, such as a driver’s license or photo health card, to make a formal identification. Let me offer a simple solution: permit these Muslim women to step behind a curtain with a female official, where they can momentarily reveal their face and thus prove they are who they claim to be. There is no valid reason to expose these women to public scrutiny, unless the aim is to punish or humiliate Muslims for being different, or at the very least for being on the “wrong” side of the religious fence.

Finally, there is the judges’ concern. Honestly, this part seems made-up, as if Mr. Kenney needed just one more thing to add to his list of reasons, and so he concocted this band of unknown judges out of thin air. Then again, judges are people, too, as liable to be fraught with prejudices and intolerance and kooky ideas as anyone else. But let’s explore the complaint by asking some simple questions: What if these women are not saying the words? What if they are quietly giving thanks to Allah for delivering them safely to the land of plenty and opportunity? What if, behind that burka, they are humming the melody to Rihanna’s Only Girl in the World? Will any of that make them less Canadian? Less honest and law-abiding? Less productive in society? On the other hand, if they mouth the required words for all to see and hear, does that guarantee they will be better citizens? What is to prevent any applicant, man or woman, covered or un-, from shouting the ceremonial phrases with real gusto, and then going outside, to the very public streets of Canada, to commit a crime or live off the dole or drive while intoxicated?

And why stop at Muslim headgear? What if my bushman beard hides my lips from the judge’s keen eye? Should I be compelled, by government edict, to be clean shaven before I am allowed to take my vows? What about those soon-to-be-citizens who have little grasp of English, and therefore neither know nor care what they are reciting? Does anyone take those vows seriously? Ceremonies are, well, ceremonial. Most of us, sooner or later, take wedding vows. The words are often little more than a means to an end, which isn’t to say we aren’t taking the ritual seriously, but the words themselves are not the important bit. Speaking them loudly and articulately does not make them more or less effective or meaningful. It’s the ritual that is important; it’s the willingness to participate that demonstrates that intentions are well-meant.

Forcing these women—who have strict and meaningful (to them) reasons to remain covered in public—to reveal themselves for no sensible reason is nothing more than a petty display of power by a government that has proven, time and again, that it does not like visible minorities. Remember Omar Khadr? Suaad Hagi Mohamud? Maher Arar? It’s a shame that this sort of prejudice can occupy so much time and energy, when there are clearly more important issues that deserve our attention these days. That this “problem” could be so easily solved (see paragraph 4, above), illustrates that our government is engaged in an active war on the “foreign” element for reasons that cannot be objectively justified.

Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, welcome to Canada. Please don’t forget to exercise your fundamental right to vote.

 


Occu-Pie-In-The-Sky


I’ve been waiting patiently, these past weeks, for the Occupy Movement to amount to something. So far, the wait has been disappointing, even downright boring. I’m now ready for them to disappear, return to their parents’ basements, update their cv’s, beg for their job back at Starbucks. Somehow, by the fading remnants of my youthful idealism, I hoped someone intelligent and charismatic would step forward and take this movement by the reins, tell them, and us, what they are against, who it is they are against, and what they intend to achieve with their camps and marches and pumping fists. I was waiting for the next MLKing.

But apparently all the smart, charismatic people are as embarrassed and put off by this crowd as I am. They don’t want to be associated with a mob that has repeatedly and unswervingly proven to have no coherent thoughts or ideas of its own. It would simply be too much work educating and informing the protesters, never mind the public and governments and business leaders. Only the lawyers have shown up to the party, because it’s a photo op.

Yes, we know that the protesters are against the “one percent,” but what does that mean? Are the 1p the real villains? To be sure, they may be envied for their success and wealth. Which of us would turn down an opportunity to joint that elite group? Not me. But I’m either not smart enough or not lucky enough to get super-rich, so I have to work for a living. The American protesters complain that the American Dream is dead. Well, not exactly; the dream has merely been corrupted over the past quarter century. When the dream (which, by osmosis, also infects Canadians) was born, during the post-war boom, it meant that any person willing to put in some hard work could succeed. Not necessarily become yacht-driving billionaires, but had the potential to steadily increase their standard of living. Buy a small house, then, after working hard and saving a bit, move up to a bigger, nicer house. Trade the car in every three years. Buy a colour television set, with remote control. Take a vacation in Bermuda. Send the smartest of their children to university. This dream was especially attractive to the immigrant population, who pursued the dream with the twin disadvantages of being immigrants and arriving in the country with five dollars in their pocket.

The prevailing view today is that the Dream owes young people, without requiring the prerequisite hard work. They expect the 52″ flat screen and a new BMW 325i on their first turn around the block. They vacation in Mexico or Cuba twice a year, thanks to a credit card. They spend $250 each Thursday night on designer martinis, because how else will they find love, now that Lavalife is passé? They’ll get the downpayment for their first condo from their parents, who know that their children will otherwise never enter the housing market because they are unmotivated and financially illiterate. Ambition is no longer present in 99-percent of today’s youth. The remaining 1-percent will go on to join the despised elite. So, yes, the great American Dream is dead, but it was not killed by the 1p.

Back to the current protesters: Apart from the fantasy of forcing the 1p to write personal cheques to the other 99p, what is their plan for change? I mean a real plan. Why don’t they even know who it is they should be protesting to? If they knew that, they would have voted, instead of loafing around parks, bitching about how hard-done-by they are. Yes, university students have crushing loan debt by the time they graduate, but whose fault is that? Not the 1p. Ask your government, who used to forgive student loans, back in the days when universities didn’t take anyone and everyone, but selected only the smartest cookies from the jar. Once they opened their doors to anyone who could pay the tuition, the government could no longer forgive such an avalanche of loans, and today’s grads are paying the price, literally, for decades. But, again, this is not the fault of the 1 percent. If student debt is your beef, it is legitimate, and you should protest it. But to whom? Well, to the universities, to begin with, for ruining the student loan system in order to make more money. And the government, for letting them do it, and then buying into the change by demanding repayment. It’s only sad that I have to tell you what to protest about, that you can’t figure it out for yourselves.

Of course, if you take my advice and eventually succeed in this protest, you may discover you are one of the many who aren’t smart enough to gain entry into McMaster’s engineering program. You may have to settle for Media Studies at Sheridan College. You may have to learn a trade. Open a shop. Drive a taxi. You may not believe it, but that’s the way things used to be, back when the Dream was still alive.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest every protester is a third-year MBA candidate. These are examples. Whoever you are, and whatever your specific gripe, let’s hear it. Let’s hear what you’d like [insert target here] to do about it. Maybe you lost your job and now you’re losing your house. In that case, you’d be correct in targeting the banks, but not because they were bailed out (which, in Canada, they were not), but because they put several deadly bullets in the Dream during the past fifteen years, throwing credit cards and lines of credit and 0% down mortgages at anything that moved. And you could be forgiven for accepting these spectacular offers, because the banks told you it was okay to do so. Well, the banks have learned that lesson, and have now recovered some of their previous caution and good sense, so a protest at this point is a bit late. But it’s worth mentioning, in case they ever get that funny idea again, in the future.

My point is this. If you can’t think of something specific to protest, and who to aim that protest at, you need to say goodbye to your homeless confreres, pack up the tent and go home. I’m sure the press will not miss you for long, as there is always something actually important going on in the world to keep them busy. You’ve had your fifteen minutes, and now it’s time to call it a day, before the cops show up with warrants and pepper spray.

I suggest you go away and think hard about your life, about what’s really wrong with it. If you put to work those grade-11 analytical skills you’ve kept dormant these past few years, you just might come up with a plan. In the meantime, try to enjoy the flatscreen television that you won’t have to pay for ’till 2012.


Stephen Harper, PI


Not surprisingly, National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin has emerged to defend prime minister Stephen Harper’s pending crime bill, especially as it pertains to terrorism. The Conservatives want to permit police agencies freedom to detain terror suspects for up to three days without warrant, and also to compel a potential terror witness to testify, under threat of jail.

Ten years after the war on terror officially began, as the world economy continues to disintegrate, as important social safety nets such as healthcare and old age pensions are threatened, as public education generates ever-increasing numbers of Palin-esque graduates (and remember: these illiterate and brainless youth will soon be flying your aircraft or removing your liver!), Mr. Harper thinks that terrorism is a priority. When crime statistics have never looked so good, he wants to grant police unprecedented powers, of the sort that leave much room for corruption.

After all, there is a reason the cops need a warrant, before searching your house. It’s a check and balance that ensures the action is reasonable and constitutional. One of the other features Harper buried deep inside his crime bill is a change that will force internet providers to give your personal information up to the police, upon request, again without warrant. This, says Mr. Harper, will make the police department’s job easier. Well, sure it would. Eliminating the court system altogether would make their job easier.

Don’t get me wrong. Ms. Kheiriddin is absolutely correct in wishing for tougher sentences, especially for cyclists who mow down innocent pedestrians on city sidewalks. And shop owners who detain robbers should not face criminal charges themselves for effectively making a citizen’s arrest. Rather, they should be praised and rewarded. Serial drunk drivers should be put in jail and have their licenses taken away for life. Stop giving prisoners cable television and college degrees, I say. Drat it all, I can be tough on crime, too. It’s just that the measures Mr. Harper wants to revive or beget leave much room for interpretation. What is the definition of terror? A terrorist? What’s to prevent law enforcement from employing one of these measures against a non-terrorist? Who’s going to stop them? These measures are great, provided you are dealing with a genuine terrorist, or even a regular criminal. But because the justice system is effectively being removed from law enforcement, our government is creating a police state, where any cop with a grudge or a hunch can do as he pleases with impunity. There is nothing wrong with the system as it exists now. Yes, it’s inconvenient when the RCMP has to get a warrant, founded on well-defined “probable cause,” before it can make a search. It’s a bummer when the cops can’t just arrest someone without charging him, just because they don’t like the cut of his jib. The rules are there for everyone, and for the most part they are fair. It’s our constitutional rights that are in danger here. Beware, Ms. Kheiriddin: journalists who don’t toe the party line may find themselves the target of persecution by an unbridled agency. (Oh, wait…you’ve painted the party toe bright blue. I reckon you’re safe, for now.)

More to the point, none of these laws, in themselves, will prevent a terrorist act. The very nature of terrorism, as generally defined within the fanatical realm of fundamentalist Islamic doctrine, is based largely around the prospect of the suicide attack. The men who perpetrated the fall of the twin towers went down in flames, and are now enjoying their twelve virgins—the standard payout for such warriors. Yes, anti-terrorism agencies have had some success in tracking down some of these loonies and preventing future attacks, which only demonstrates my point: the system is working as best in can in a fairly difficult and unpredictable situation. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to stop someone who doesn’t care about his own life. Such a person is capable of anything.

But Stephen Harper cannot stop them with these laws. All he is doing is making it easier for corruption to take place within law enforcement. And when Ms. Kheiriddin uses the Norway massacre as an example to support tougher measures, it actually bolsters my point, which is that you can’t stop a well-armed and suicidal nutcase (Islamicist or not) with legislation. And since there is no reason to believe the threat to Canada and Canadians is suddenly greater, at the moment, it seems like an over-reaction—or perhaps a clever distraction from the pains of the genuine problems we face in this country.

For those who appreciate a “tough on crime” stance, be careful what you wish for; and always read the fine print.

 


Freedom of Information: Yours, that is.


One of the pillars of the Conservative platform has always been “law and order.” Tough on crime, longer sentences for repeat offenders, tightening parole conditions. This became especially true after 9/11, when public support for the issue was suddenly unanimous. Even in the more recent federal elections, Prime Minister Harper, ahem, harped on about “law and order,” as if the previous Liberal administration had left us all huddling in our crawlspaces, shivering with fear at every rattling windowpane, when in fact crime statistics in Canada have dropped, in most categories, during the last decade.

Now that Harper has won his long-awaited majority, he is now free to introduce the “lawful access” legislation, which effectively gives law agencies the right to force internet service providers to hand over personal information about their clients. Without a court order. This, according to official sources, will make criminal investigations easier.

Well, sure it will be easier. If the cops didn’t need a warrant to search your house or car or person, their job would easier, no question. But the purpose of obtaining a judge-approved warrant is to ensure there is a good reason for the police to be searching for evidence. Without that disinterested party in the middle, you effectively create a third-world police state, where the cops can do whatever they want, with impunity.

Now, one could argue that one of the problems with the justice system is that so much evidence cannot be gathered through the legal procedures currently in place, or can be subsequently dismissed due to those pesky “technicalities.” So, why not treat all evidence, no matter how it was obtained, as sacrosanct, and thus admissible in court? After all, evidence is evidence, whether incriminating or exculpatory, and is critical to a truly fair trial. The problem is, this opinion assumes the person under investigation is an actual criminal.

What if you are an honest, law-abiding citizen who happens to, say, write a blog that routinely criticizes the current government? What’s to prevent an offended politico from enlisting his friends at the RCMP, or CSIS, to pull your personal data from your service provider, and then use that data to quietly harass, threaten or persecute you? No judge would have permitted access to your information, in this case; but soon there will be no one to say No. And there have been plenty of cases in recent years, that demonstrate the government will hinder, intimidate or besmirch the little man, if they don’t like what he has to say. Consider the three prominent scientists who were fired from Health Canada because they spoke out about a dangerously toxic product from Monsanto. The woman in charge of protecting “whistleblowers” in HC led the charge in first stonewalling the group, and then getting their wrongful dismissal complaint set aside. Just one very clear example of why we cannot trust people to do the right thing.

Nothing short of a revolution can stop this legislation from passing, now that Mr. Harper has his majority. With the “lawful access” element buried deep within the omnibus crime package, it will receive little or no debate. But you, citizen, should know it is there. Be afraid. Be very afraid. This is only the beginning.

 


“I Did Not Have Sexual Relations with that Hoagie”


Now that Toronto voters have awoken from their dream and realized the horror of their well-meaning if misguided actions, there is only one solution:

Impeach Rob Ford.

There must be a way. If there is a legal process to do so, it should be enacted without delay, before the “swirl” turns into “glug, glug, glug,” before the Ford administration takes Toronto to lows not enjoyed since 1970’s Detroit. I’m pretty sure there are more lawyers in Toronto than libraries, so perhaps two or three of them can take up the challenge and save this city before it’s too late.

If there is no legal precedent to impeach a mayor, make one. There has to be a first time for everything. If enough voices shout, they will be heard.

Never mind “Margaret Atwood for Mayor.” She’s busy showing the world that art means something to many people, current mayor & family notwithstanding. She’d be wasted on local politics. But perhaps we could introduce a standardized test for future mayoral candidates, something akin to provincial EQAO tests. (Here is a link; as you read, simply change the phrase “education quality” to “leadership quality.” http://www.eqao.com/AboutEQAO/AboutEQAO.aspx?Lang=E) Any potential mayor should at least know who Ms. Atwood is, and be able to pick her out of a police line-up.

And just a quick note to Mr. Ford: It should have occurred to you by now that the reason you are finding it so hard to balance the budget is because it is simply not possible to do it in one fell swoop. 800 mill is a lot. And it just might take two, or even three years to balance the budget. It serves no purpose to amputate the leg to save the little toe. Better you do nothing, like David Miller, than perform this unnecessary and dangerous surgery.

Mayor Ford does not care about Torontonians. How do I know? A little “birdie” told me so.

 


I’m a Big, Fat Anarchist


This sudden, unbidden realization came to me as I was reading a National Post report with the heading: Parents should lose custody of obese kids. For reasons that I had to mine deeply for, my automatic response was, No, they shouldn’t.

Maybe I’m wrong. Protect the little children. That’s what everyone says. At least, that’s what the media says that everyone says. Well, the media says it. So it must be true…

In any case, this assertion was made by esteemed Harvard man, Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist. “Put ’em in foster care,” he shouts, from the steps of the Capitol Building, arms aloft piously. (Okay, I made up the “steps” bit, but still…) “Improper feeding practices” and failing to provide a “physically active lifestyle” amount to neglect and child abuse, says he.

And he’s right, to a point. By the codified standards of our society, these things could be judged as abuse. But abuse comes in many forms. What do you call it when a parent exceeds the speed limit in the Caravan while little Johnny is strapped in the back seat? Attempted abuse? I mean, it’s a fiery accident waiting to happen, man. What do you call it when a parent won’t permit a child to play in the yard because the media tells him the child will probably be abducted by some bearded deviant in a trench coat if he does? Abuse? What do you call it when a parent takes no interest whatsoever in his child’s life, at school, in the playground, behind the arena? Abuse? Neglect? Does doing nothing constitute abuse? When my grandmother babysat my sisters and me, we were forced to watch Lawrence Welk on the only television set in our house. Definitely abuse. Brussels sprouts on the plate? Might as well give me the strap. Oh yeah, in grade four, I got the strap because another boy beat me up in the hallway. I should have sued someone. If they’re still alive, maybe I’ll Google them, sick my lawyer on them. Or just slag them on Facebook.

Yes, the world is full of dangers for a child, and thanks to a set of arbitrary (or media-driven) rules and laws and ideas, set down by a hodgepodge of mildly retarded bureaucrats, politicians and celebrity doctors, everyone snitches on everyone.

Little known fact: The German organization called Gestapo was, in terms of numbers, a relatively small group that relied mostly on the public to do its dirty work; which is to say, neighbours snitching on neighbours, friends against friends, that guy you work alongside, the one who never says much but always looks a little shifty, well…next thing you know, the paddy wagon pulls up and someone gets taken for a ride.

Remember the mom who got arrested for smacking her child’s behind in the K-Mart parking lot? Probably not, unless you’re old, like me. But it happened, and someone snitched, and the cops came and arrested her, and took her child away, at least temporarily. Gestapo tactics, clear as day.

Anarchists seek to diminish or abolish authority in the conduct of human relations. If you read it twice, it starts to sound less like a threat and more like good common sense. Go ahead, read it again.

Parents are imperfect beings, and, like snowflakes, are utterly unique. Which means, every other parent, plus all those annoying people who have not procreated successfully yet, thinks you are doing it wrong. And the problems arise when a specific law picks on a specific flaw in the parenting technique. Where are the lines drawn, and should there be lines anyway? That’s where anarchy comes into it.

Don’t tell me how to raise my child. I’m doing the best I can, with what I’ve got, so please just leave me alone.

I don’t want bedlam in the streets. (I leave that to hockey fans.) The same fundamental rules should apply to any person, man or child. No child should be physically assaulted or molested. No human should be physically assaulted or molested. The wrongness in that is clear, by any civilized standards. But when they (and, by they I mean, the mildly retarded bureaucrats, politicians and celebrity doctors) start plucking random threads out of the fabric, and then call it justice, the whole thing starts to fall apart and look tatty.

Fat kids are fat for more reasons than the parents who give them junk food. Public schools no longer require gym class in the elementary years. They’ve reduced extra-curricular sports to a watered down goo. They don’t even let the punters run in the hallways, which at least would have been good for them. Public recreation centers are shutting down, due to lack of funds. Pools have closed. Rinks have closed. Parks have been corrupted by “concerned” groups who fear little Johnny might crack his skull if he climbs something, so it’s all rubberized and roped off, and boring boring boring. Little league sports are for the rich, these days. Hundred bucks for a hockey stick? Fohgettaboudit. Doctors cram kids with pills because it’s easier than giving them something to do with all that energy. And, yes, there are all those screens to distract them from the real world. No argument there.

Taking a child out of the family home because he’s fat, and putting him in foster care until his parents graduate some parent-training classes, is wrong. As a witness to the horrors perpetrated by the Children’s Aid Society, I can safely say you will be merely dumping little Johnny out of the proverbial frying pan. Might as well lock him in a closet with a Catholic priest. (sorry…currently ducking bolts of lightning—ed.)

Why single out the fat kids? Because obesity is the most current “issue” in the media. And we have a right to be concerned, for all the reasons the media repeats ad nauseam. But the parents, for all their perceived faults, are too far down the chain to take sole blame for Johnny’s condition. They’re probably fat, too, because of all the outside societal factors that contribute to and encourage obesity.

As a newly minted anarchist, I believe that humans and families have a right to be left alone to succeed or fail on their own merits—physical assault and molestation notwithstanding. That’s the way of the natural world. Some fish swim faster than others. Too much plankton for lunch, Charlie? Shark is gonna get ya.

I grew up in a world where I could ride a bicycle without a helmet and climb a tree and make the merry-go-round spin so fast that we all went flying off, willy-nilly. I survived that hazardous childhood relatively unscathed; a few didn’t. That’s the natural order of things. And there were fewer fat kids in my school, which is why we picked on them. As far as I know, none of them got placed in foster care because of their size. I’m sure their parents were doing the best they could, with what they had.

Maybe it’s time to leave parents alone, and perhaps target the real culprits of this obesity epidemic. For the sake of arbitrariness, lets start with Denny’s restaurant. Can anyone say Super Grand Slamwich (calorie count: 3050 per serving)? Not that hungry? Settle for the Hashbrowns with onions, cheese & gravy (3820 per). Go ahead. Abuse yourself. But leave little Johnny at home. Remember, the people are watching you.


Bare Attack!


Brian Coldin thinks we are prudes. The Bracebridge man set out to prove it by waltzing into his local Tim Hortons, having neglected to dress for the occasion. He was somehow able to place his order, but after he reached into his imaginary back pocket to remove his imaginary wallet, he was arrested and charged with public nudity.

Employees felt “uncomfortable” seeing Mr. Coldin’s genitals.

Perhaps an understatement?

Although there is no published photo of our Naked Lunch star, one can surmise he is rarely mistaken for Brad Pitt or Robert Pattinson. Just a hunch, really. He’s had bad luck in his relationships, although it’s never his fault. He has plenty of opinions, besides society’s “prudish” attitude towards nudity, and he’s willing to discuss these opinions of his with any neighbour, any time. Which is why he spends so much of his time on the front porch, toying with his drawstrings. When he’s not making a run to Tim’s, that is.

But people don’t want to listen to him, not like in the old days. Back then, his porch was a constant forum for discussions on all sorts of topics. Today’s kids are too wrapped up in their iPod cocoons to bother with the important social issues, such as Bri-Guy’s inability to get served at Tim Hortons, or A&W, for that matter, in the nude. So now he must take his fight to court.

Our man’s lawyer will argue that the criminal laws are not meant to protect the prudish. I beg to differ. A “public nudity” law was designed quite specifically for the protection of the prudish members of our society. Sure, I can see the practical value of being pantless in a donut shop, as our man would have a natural place to hang his double-dip, and he could wedge a few extra nappies in the ol’ cracker, in case the chocolate begins to melt. But, practicalities aside, even though I would hardly call myself a prude, I’m pretty sure I do not want to witness this transaction.

Mr. Coldin believes it should be left to the police to determine if a person should be prosecuted for public nudity. Personally, I’m not sure the police are any more discerning than a Tim Hortons employee.

Perhaps I can offer a solution. Remember the website beautifulpeople.com? They were in the news recently, criticized for ejecting the “ugly” people from their pages. High standards, indeed. I suggest that any person with an active account on beautifulpeople.com can expose themselves to the public without risk of criminal charge. For the rest of us, drop your pants and take your chance. The law is not on your side, nor is public opinion.

These are the bare facts, as I see them.


Between a Shock and a Hard Place


Headline: Nova Scotia police can use tasers on mentally ill under new guidelines.

The most important decision a police officer can make is whether or not to fire his gun. It’s also the most important decision to the person the gun is pointed at. One hopes the officer will take the decision seriously, and pull the trigger only when absolutely necessary.

Apart from the gun, the policeman has at his disposal an arsenal of lesser weaponry, from truncheons to steroidal flashlights to Plexiglas shields to pepper spray to his extensive hand-to-hand combat training. I once witnessed seven policemen tackle a ninety pound prostitute who barely knew what planet she was from, and had the motor skills of a 3-minute-old foal. It was an impressive sight as the “perp” suddenly had a lucid moment, realized she was under siege, and put up a valiant defense. The ground seemed to shake, as I cowered behind the living room curtain and watched nearly a ton of manhood fall onto this scrawny hooker. She soon emerged from the scrum in irons. They got their man, so to speak, and with only the use of bodily force.

Enter the Taser.

To claim that the Taser is perfectly safe for human application is arguable. The way getting hit by lightning is safe; falling off a 30-foot ladder; driving your Landcruiser into a Peruvian gorge—to wit: there is a chance you might survive.

If you plot a graph, listing available methods of force, from knuckle to Glock, the Taser would have to fall fairly close to the Glock. This is a serious weapon that can, and has, killed. Just ask the Polish immigrant. Oh, you can’t. Well, you could ask the 80-year-old who was prone in a hospital bed when he was Tasered. You could ask the 11-year-old boy. They survived.

For some reason, in the policeman’s eye, the Taser falls on the graph next to the knuckle. He sees it as harmless because he wants it to be so, even if it’s not, and this assertion is supported by both senior police administration and the manufacturer of the Taser. To the officer on the street, it’s certainly easier and safer to use the Taser instead of brute force; just stand back and shoot. Few people want it a second time, but if they offer lip, or if they still don’t comply, or if the officer doesn’t like the cut of their jib, zot! Even after an offender has been subdued and handcuffed, he’s still at risk of another jolt of voltage. The Taser is used as often as a punishment as for a means of subjugation, and therein lies the problem.

Listen, I’m all for making it as safe as possible for the police. They have a hard, dangerous job. Skinny streetwalkers aside, it’s a profession filled with aggression and brutality. But there seems to be an unbalance with the Taser. It should be seen as an alternative to the gun, not the fist; it should, like the gun, be a last resort, especially given the other options–and, frequently, sheer numbers. Seven against one, in the case of my poor impoverished tramp. Four against one, with our Polish victim. Surely four highly-trained police can subdue a small, middle-aged man armed, allegedly, with a stapler, without sending 50,000 volts into his weak heart. Where was the pepper spray? Where was the headlock?

I don’t dispute the Taser has its place on the police force. I just believe a policeman needs to think about it more carefully, before he discharges it into another person. We don’t need any more studies; we know the Taser is lethal for some applicants, so it should be treated with the same respect, and the same oversight, as the revolver. It should rarely be necessary to apply it more than once, and it should never be used to punish a suspect, no matter how much that suspect may deserve it.

As for the headline, the very idea the NS police force felt it was necessary to give itself official permission to Taser the mentally ill is too profoundly preposterous to comment on.


A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Riot


Headline: “I am truly ashamed,” says Teen Involved in Vancouver Riot.

Well, sure he is. He got caught.

That’s the problem with mobs. Once the mob disperses and the smoke clears, and the audio/visual evidence is collected and scrutinized by the authorities, each single member of the former mob is left holding his own leaky, malodorous bag. Alone.

The phenomenon commonly called “mob mentality” harkens back to the beginning of life on Earth. The earliest critters, especially those a little further down the food chain, quickly learned there was relative safety in numbers. Think of a school of fish. One small fish could easily find himself targeted and pursued by a larger one, whereas if he swims with a group of, say, two hundred fishies, his odds improve exponentially.

Same thing with humans. Just as eight thousand joyous hockey fans can spontaneously perform “The Wave” without prelude or mass Tweet, so can those same fans follow each other into a loser’s rampage.

You witness these acts of vandalism and theft and violence, and a small, primordial cavern in your brain says, “Do it, dude. Go with the flow. The odds of getting eaten by the shark are pretty low.” In a mob, you can feel strangely safe, impervious, anonymous. Except that, in the twenty-first century, there are lenses and microphones and cyber-spies everywhere. If a security camera doesn’t get you, a dozen smartphones will.

So, one by one, the Vancouver police can pick off these rioters, because so many of them became electronic images. No more safety in numbers. The odds are no longer so great. And the shame these rioters feels is mainly for their own poor judgment, their own stupidity. Oh, how easily they were led astray by a praxis as old as time. Do they really feel remorse for the victims who were assaulted, for the store owners who were robbed and vandalized, for the owners of those wrecked cars? If you really want answers, ask the ones who don’t get caught how they feel. I suspect the word “relieved” will be more common than “sorry.”

One thing that separates a mob from a society is that, in a society, we have each other’s back, through thick and thin. In a mob, there is no loyalty, no brotherhood, no core values, and in the end no one will have your back. Only the lucky survive to riot another day. The rest are forced to deliver half-hearted captions for the press.