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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Fort McMurray is Not the Enemy

Few small cities can lay claim to the celebrity connection that Fort McMurray does. And likely none wants to shed the limelight those celebs bring, faster than this city of 67,000 located in Alberta’s northeast.

Typically, when stars of song and screen mention your city’s name, it’s a boon for tourism, recognition, and to some degree, legitimacy. However, when celebrities pontificate to the masses of the evils of industries such as Fort McMurray’s oil sands, citing dubious information or playing the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do game, it does a disservice to the image of the community, to its residents and workers, and to those companies investing billions of dollars into the economy while producing the most in-demand product in the world.

The Inconvenient Truth

Regardless of the method used, discovering and producing oil and gas is not the most sanitary of businesses. The demand for oil and gas has been increasing steadily for decades, and despite our plentiful reserves, we are still largely reliant on foreign oil from countries such as Russia, Venezuela, and those in the Middle East.

The inconvenient truth is that this burgeoning demand for oil is not created by countries. It comes from you. You soccer moms, commuters, and anyone stepping on an accelerator. Your plastic totes storing stuff you’re convinced you will use again, the film wrap protecting your sandwiches at lunchtime, and even your toothbrush are made from products that started their life, at least in part, as oil. Let’s face it, fossil fuels have become an inseparable part of our daily life. That’s okay. Our evolving and prevailing demand now is that we find cleaner ways to produce and process fossil fuels. And that’s okay too.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Public sentiment and internal corporate pressure to become more efficient drives resource companies to find and invest in new technologies for producing their products. Fort McMurray’s oil sands industry can be held in high esteem for their inventions and applications in reducing emissions, reclaiming land used in the production of heavy crude, aggressively mitigating the effect their operations have on wildlife, recovering tailings previously thought to be waste, and being the unsung heroes in driving the economy of our nation.

Is there more work to be done? Definitely. And nobody in Fort McMurray would argue the point.

Comparing Apples to Apples

Comparatively speaking, however, putting Fort McMurray on trial for being dirty and destructive while ignoring current environmental disasters wreaking havoc on countless ecosystems is misleading at best.

A mammoth underwater well spewing raw oil into the Gulf of Mexico akin to that of BP’s 2010 much-hyped and devastating Horizon Deepwater leak that saw roughly 5 million barrels of oil contaminate the waters and shorelines of Gulf states, threatens to put BP’s record-breaking blight to shame. Nobody is talking about Taylor Energy’s sunken platform #23051 leaking up to a reported 700 barrels of oil per day, and it has been leaking since Hurricane Ivan ripped through the Gulf in 2004. Damage estimates already run into the billions of dollars with no end in sight. Nobody is accepting responsibility. No celebrities here wagging their admonishing finger and demanding someone clean up their act.

Even “green” energy solutions come with dark clouds. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 birds are killed annually in those huge rotating blades of wind turbines. Again, no celebs speaking out with the disgust levied against Fort McMurray’s oil sands.

Fracking. Nuclear reactors. Coal-fired electric generating plants. There are plenty more examples in North America that pose environmental complications, the point being that picking on the low hanging fruit of Fort McMurray’s oil sands only serves to ingratiate celebrities to a well-meaning, albeit, ill-informed public and spread misinformation, all the while these same celebrities engage in behaviors that are wasteful beyond that of the average Joe and Jane.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo to his friends, Mr. DiCaprio finally garnered the support he needed and was awarded his first Oscar in 2016 for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his part in The Revenant, a film shot partly in Alberta. DiCaprio used the platform of his acceptance speech to state (in part), “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”

DiCaprio is a fine actor and leading man in Hollywood. He personally visited Fort McMurray to “research” the oil sands for a documentary. Somewhere along the way of his ongoing critical commentary of the oil and gas industry in general, and the oil sands in particular, he forgot to inform his adoring fans of his wasteful energy practices.

Owning multi-million dollar homes, using private jets and the world’s fifth largest yacht, Topaz, (owned by a Middle Eastern oil tycoon) and measuring a whopping 453 feet in length, destroys DiCaprio’s moral authority to be preaching restraint while his carbon footprint sprawls. 

Topaz photo source

Neil Young

It would be difficult to name a more recognizable Canadian singer and songwriter than Ontario’s own Neil Young. With over 50 years of award-winning recording under his belt, his music is iconic and often reflects the moods of the era.

Flying over Fort McMurray in 2013, Young later reportedly commented (in part), “The fact is, Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland.” There can be no confusion over where Young’s line in the proverbial sand is.

Neil Young owns multiple homes, including a 1500 acre ranch in California, flies in private jets, and takes upwards of five tour busses and several semis when he tours.

Here is a link to a view of Neil Young's massive home from

Integrity is what seems to drive Young these days, unless you count his ranch built on indigenous lands (the tribe seemingly slaughtered long ago, as was the norm), or the straggling carbon footprint from his touring operations, or the 23 million dollar home in Hawaii that he recently sold. It takes utilities to run those houses. Where does the energy for them come from, Neil?

Other notable celebrities spouting their negative opinions about Fort McMurray have included Jane Fonda, James Cameron, and Jann Arden.

Speaking Out is Okay

It is doubtful anyone would want to stifle intelligent conversations from occurring on what is perhaps the most important topic in the history of mankind. The way each of us has contributed to the waste on this planet is cause for concern and we all must be part of the solution. But the answer does not include those with celebrity platforms spreading what amounts to as gossip while attempting to enhance their public relations credibility or making themselves seem otherwise relevant.

Celebrities are entitled to their opinions. However, when they speak publicly about any issue, it generates media coverage, and we all know media just loves negativity. If the same celebrities noted above were to expound the virtues of discovering and processing fossil fuels, nary a peep would be reported, and the masses would think their fuel, and products derived from petroleum products, somehow just came into being, much in the same way those who believe their food comes from the supermarket but don’t want any animal slaughtered.

Let us communicate and debate significant issues with respect, armed with rational data, and commit to solving complicated topics together. Mudslinging by celebrities at hard working men and women just out earning their daily bread, at a community not reduced to sucking at the dry nipples of government handouts, or at an industry at the forefront of delivering world-class scientific innovation and the energy you demand, is as ugly and greedy as the Fort McMurray they claim exists.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Everybody Should Own At Least One Gun

We have, unfortunately, become such a wimpy overly politically correct society that it is a challenge to have an open and honest dialogue about the many issues we face in a world manufactured by oligarchs who plant fear through propaganda and reap trillions in profits yearly from their smoke and mirrors.

Let’s take the renewed passion regarding gun control as an example.

Mainstream media unapologetically tugs at the emotional heart strings following any school shooting involving more than three or four victims. Yes, it is tragic that some people in this plastic world which we created see no alternative to their angst and are propelled into making whatever bold statement they have conceived, by slaughtering children who are in an environment where they believe, as do their parents, that of all places that could possibly be chosen as a backdrop to such dastardly deeds, an education facility certainly adds to the hysteria.

I happen to live in the second most violent community in my city, and I happen to live in Canada where gun control laws are incomparably restricted than most of the United States. I recently moved here from the most crime ridden community of the city. A step up perhaps. I am also a double amputee who spends a great deal of time in a wheelchair, so I am always an easy target once I roll around the neighborhood. I believe I have a something of a unique perspective on crime from, literally, the ground floor.

Despite the restrictions Canadians face on gun ownership, I can easily roll outside and obtain a handgun and most other weapons in the time it takes me to reach the supermarket. I choose not to; however, I am compelled by recent events to rethink my current passive position on gun ownership.

The FBI released their crime statistics for the United States from 2011 (most recent year for which data is available as of this writing) intimating that where gun ownership is more permissible, violent crimes such as rape, aggravated assault, murders, robberies, etc. markedly decrease. Presumably someone about to commit a violent crime in these communities may think twice, fearing their intended victim might be packing heat.

I understand such an extrapolation. As a counter to this, violent crime generally in Canada and United States has reduced. So, the comparative literature from academia, law enforcement agencies and other credible sources such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), American Gun Facts, and Fact can seem foggy for the average bloke such as I. Like all statistics, they are subject to bias and interpretation.

So, lets take the statistics out of the equation for a moment.

The second amendment to the United States constitution, essentially the right to bear arms, was expertly crafted so that government cannot prohibit gun ownership nor the right to protect oneself, their property and their family. During the 20th century, somewhere around 200 million people were eliminated worldwide. The first tenet of being able to annihilate entire populations by deranged dictators is to greatly restrict, and then ban, gun ownership by their citizens, depriving them of any means of defence.

It is easy to imagine how the comfort and peace of mind armed citizens would feel, and how risky and audacious any despot would have to be, to march their robotic military, crushing any opposition, subverting intelligent debate, burning books, rewriting history to sanitize their carnage, and cleansing their little spot on Earth of whatever they consider vermin. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and right on back to the colonial powers throughout antiquity that invaded and enslaved entire populations.  And it continues to more recent times. Rwanda, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Chechnya, Ukraine, Iraq, blah, blah, blah. I wonder how much different the world would be if the victims of such oppression and horror were armed. And it’s that very thought that has me purposely rolling my wheelchair to the right to bear arms camp.

In February 2016, I interviewed David Thweatt, Superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District in Texas, and the spirit and driving force behind being the first school in North America to arm teachers and staff. You can read the article HERE. In it, you probably can hear my fence-sitting posture, trying to imagine what school would have been like for me knowing at least one teacher or staff member was armed. School for me was difficult with many “interactions” with teachers and principles, receiving various degrees of admonishment. Could one of those interactions have created a scenario where I would have been on the wrong side of a concealed gun? I can recall a few testy sessions where physical contact was used and can conceive the possibility. Would I have behaved differently having that little kernel planted in my head when I first enrolled?

It is also true that some people should not own guns. The system is broken. There are plenty of examples where assassins slipped through mental health cracks, law enforcement gorges, and other points of contact, failing to protect the public. Our social systems must learn to talk to each other, share pertinent information, arrive at solutions that limit infringement of personal rights while identifying and intervening where high-risk factors are imminent.

It’s a mountainous task indeed. So many lines in the sand are blurred. But we must be honest with ourselves and others, approach the conversation with an open mind, and most of all, we must be courageous enough to take those first bold baby steps. There will not be a magic wand that, when twirled, will be the one eureka moment.

Limiting gun ownership is not the answer. If someone wants to get a firearm, it’s almost as easy as ordering a pizza. The answer must be deeper, more intrinsic, thoroughly involved, and somehow more relevant than the systems we have, or arguably don’t have, now.

Here’s a baby step. Perhaps we can start by demanding background checks, waiting periods, and safety training across the board for anyone wanting to own a gun. I have not yet met a gun owner that opposes these basic foundations. Some jurisdictions already have components of this move forward. In this regard, the Canadian gun ownership process is far superior to any of those in the United States. It’s not perfect. No system is.

It’s also easy to pick on the low hanging fruit, in that the United States is always in the spotlight over gun ownership. Other countries also experience mass shootings. We don’t get to hear much about them in mainstream media. Some assassins use bombs rather than guns. We certainly hear about most of those. The IRA, the Unabomber, and whatever Muslim core we are fighting this week are but a few examples.

It’s rather easy to construct a bomb in your garage with rudimentary everyday items. The internet is rife with DIY bomb making tutorials. We don’t seem to be in any rush to restrict or ban the ingredients for explosive devices.

More people are killed in the United States and Canada every year with automobiles than with firearms. We are perfectly happy to welcome each new unveiling of these weapons of mass destruction.

The bottom line is anything can be used as a weapon. The concern surrounding mass shootings (beyond gun ownership) seems to dwell in the capacity of guns. Monstrous magazine clips and what are condemned to be called assault rifles appear to be the epicenter of eruption each time a mass shooting is overly hyped.

I get it. I don’t need a firearm that can shoot 50 rounds a second to hunt a deer. But if there are enemies, domestic or foreign, that want to ravage my country, I am guessing that 50 rounder is going to come in mighty handy.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Casting Couch

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last several decades, you must have heard and been aware of what is euphemistically called The Casting Couch, a phrase attributed to those (mostly) female actors and models who trade sexual favors in return for roles in movies, television, the stage, and in magazines, on billboards, etc.

The practice is so widespread that the stately Oxford Dictionary and Merriam –Webster Dictionary both have included Casting Couch as inclusions in their reference tomes.

The recent barrage of accusations of sexual impropriety by high profile celebrities against equally high profile directors, producers, and the like, are impossible to ignore in the mainstream media. Certainly, one must give credit to those brave enough to come forward to publicize the obnoxious behavior of their perpetrators. Sexual assault in all its forms is repugnant, illegal, and has long lasting psychological affects for the victim that, for them, shred the fibers of morality and peacefulness in their community.

What we are not hearing in the mainstream media and from the so-called victims is a discussion about the trade-offs these “victims” made for cashing their multi-million dollar pay cheques. In many circumstances, one can liken the plight of the adult accusers to that of prostitution rather than sexual assault. The appearance of swapping sex for huge money and fame cannot be overstated. Where was their outrage when they were depositing those fat paycheques?

There are, sadly, a tremendous amount of sexual assault survivors on this planet who, unlike the celebrities now coming out of the woodwork to air their dirty little secrets, do not have the voice, the means, nor the strength, to confront their perpetrators and hold them accountable. Some statistics state that one in four females will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime. That’s 25% of the population of mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, and nieces that will have to heal from the trauma and devastation that this crime envelops on these true victims. No big, fat, multi-million dollar paycheques and accompanying fame for them.

If the mainstream media would commit as much air-time and publishing space to the real victims of sexual assault as they are to the few celebrities who prostituted themselves for fame and fortune, then perhaps major in-roads can be made into eliminating sexual assault from the behavior of all its perpetrators.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Volksdrog - How Armed Forces Used Crystal Meth to Win Their Wars

The first thing one should recognize is that what is now known as crystal meth is not a new drug. First developed and used as far back as the 19th century by Asians, the highly toxic cocktail was used to induce a sense of euphoria and drive in their military ranks, allowing soldiers to march all night and fight all day. And love it!

But it was the Nazis and their war mongering industrial enterprises who took things to a whole new level. Pharmaceutical companies, now household names such as Bayer, IG Farben, BASF, Hoechst, and Merck, produced billions of methamphetamine tablets to be distributed to the various German Reich branches of military. Volksdrog (The People’s Drug) was chic, hip, and wildly successful in pushing the limits of human endurance on all fronts leading up to and continuing into the Second World War. Among its most devoted supporters (and users) were Hermann Goring and Adolph Hitler, although Goring’s drug of choice initially was morphine.

The edicts set forth by the puritanical Nazis emphatically stated that substance abuse was far beneath that of a true Aryan. As the world would learn soon enough, this would be but one of the many contradictions to swirl unabated throughout the supposed thousand-year reign of National Socialism.

The Nazi version of crystal meth needed a non-chemical sounding name to make it more palatable and sterile so as to sound like a health food, or vitamin (Hitler always referred to his injections as vitamins). Henceforth all crystal meth developed in Germany became marketed under the brand name Pervitin. It wasn’t long before Pervitin was being handed out to factory workers to boost productivity of the munitions and wares needed to mount a campaign of world domination. The rest of German society eagerly followed (Joseph Goebbels ensured his Ministry of Propaganda touched the lives of all), and in this context, one can appreciate how a demoralized and repressed nation was able to secretly manufacture and amass the advanced armaments and supply chain, in violation of the Versailles Treaty, that would soon stun a continent, and then envelop the world.

In his exceptionally well researched New York Times best selling book, Blitzed, author Norman Ohler focuses principally on the rampant drug abuse of the National Socialists of Germany, but is quick to point out that there are no clean hands among any of the warring nations of the period. The Allied nations were only too willing to fight fire with fire and began feeding their respective militaries methamphetamine to achieve similar results as those being realized by the Third Reich, rarely with the permission and knowledge of its own troops. The Axis nations quickly adopted the Fuhrer’s secret potion.

Nazi Germany would hardly be the first nation to foray into mind altering substances to increase bravado and fearlessness. Zulu warriors in Africa, Inca and Mayan dynasties of Mezo America, the Navaho and Apache of Southwest United States, Amazonian tribes of South America, and a virtual cornucopia of indigenous and ancient peoples worldwide have used artificial means to achieve sometimes unimaginable military conquest, creating cult-like rituals of dance, extreme physical exhaustion, and intoxicating fanaticism from which to feed.

The victorious Allied Forces were quick to rewrite history, as is the prerogative of all victors, and it is therefore tremendously difficult to secure documentation exposing Allied use of methamphetamine by their militaries. This was not the case with Germany, who documented everything in minutia. In fact, were it not for such detailed accounts of Nazi rule in general, the likelihood of evidence existing against top ranking German officers on trial at Nuremberg post World War Two would be paltry to non-existent.

Some Allied Forces fed methamphetamine to unsuspecting front-line troops to fine tune dosage amounts and tweak performance (pun intended). They became human guinea pigs. Pilots often took methamphetamine prior to a sortie. It sharpened their reflexes and heightened their awareness of surroundings, both critical attributes in any aerial combat. As the Top Secret clearances expire on related documents in the West, the Allies are sure to be exposed for conducting the very methamphetamine program on their own soil as used by Nazis. In fact, we already know that the British fed Benzaprine to their military, as it has less adverse side effects than the German Pervitin.

Japanese kamikaze (Divine Wind) pilots were flying high, literally and figuratively. How else does one convince otherwise proud and patriotic pilots to dive their planes into targets of opportunity without question?

German ingenuity being what it is and was, the pharmaceutical manufacturers produced a purity of crystal meth unrivalled at the time, and perhaps since. Maintaining strict quality control over all output gave military leaders in Germany predictable results of behavior of users. A drugged up soldier is pliable in the iron grip of a sinister regime. Together with the right dash of propaganda, is it any wonder Hitler could conquer as many nations as he did in such a relatively short time span?

It would be wrong to credit methamphetamine use/abuse for Germany’s conquests during World War Two, just as it would be equally wrong to credit crystal meth use/abuse for the eventual and rapid decline of the Third Reich. However, in its context of the day, perhaps it could be said that the widespread methamphetamine use/abuse was one of the key contributing factors to both the rise and the fall of the Third Reich. 

And while we begin to lay to rest the few remaining fighting men and women from World War Two, one has the sense that methamphetamine use/abuse in the militaries of the world has neither ebbed nor been terminated. Now painfully obvious spilling into the streets of suburbia, methamphetamine abuse world wide has skyrocketed beyond the highest aspirations of Hitler and Goebbels. The difference now is that the neighbor’s twelve year old kid can make crystal meth using chemicals found under the kitchen sink and rudimentary access to the internet. And the tween need not follow any protocols for quality control.

To visit Norman Ohler's web presence CLICK HERE

Common Street Names for Crystal Meth:
Biker’s Coffee
Black Beauties
Chicken Feed
Crystal Glass
Crystal Meth Glass
Hot Ice
L.A. Glass
L.A. Ice
Poor Man’s Cocaine
Stove Top
Super Ice
Yellow Bam

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Preparing To Die - The Bittersweet Opportunity Of A Lifetime

The fact remains, we will all die. We just don't know when. One well-heeled adage claims that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. To counter this, however, if one has a good accountant, the taxes become less certain. Death, on the other hand, not so much.

We live in a rat race society, selfishly accumulating 'stuff' before someone else has the opportunity of amassing it in their collection. We cherish our 'things' and alter our behaviors by our very ownership of these inanimate objects, whether they be toys, gadgets, art, commemorative widgets, or whatever.

Circumstances change quickly when facing our imminent demise. Suddenly, those trinkets of artificial value become worthless reminders of how we got wrapped up in a consumer culture at the cost of sharing the experiences life offers. Few of us can honestly admit to a life of chasing dreams, having fun, enjoying the moment, smiling more, and regretting less.

Those faced with a terminal illness share a common, if not unlikely, bond with inmates on death row as well as those mere seconds away from a mortal infliction. They all have time to prepare for death. The amount of time may differ, but the fortuity remains nonetheless.

A perilous journey ensues when you know you are about to die. One of the most immediate thoughts harken to the unrealized ambitions in one's life. "If only..." could be heard their inner most thought.

Therein begins a journey within oneself of identifying the many regrets that can accumulate during a lifetime. We all have them. Some we quietly tuck away in our cerebral vault. And some are so strong and prominent as to actually help define us as a person.

We worry about loved ones, particularly our children, and what effect one's passing will have on their impressionable beings. Not being there for important milestone events, seemingly insignificant boo-boos, or shepherding them to become productive and responsible adults, all cloud prevailing thoughts.

Such notions can occur in nano-seconds, as is the case if someone is becoming the victim of a violent end. Others have the luxury of having more time to contemplate their impact on Earth and what sort of legacy we leave behind to inspire those who choose to remember and follow.

Having precious time to 'fill in the blanks' allows one to bring closure to life chapters that, for whatever reason, remain unexperienced. Some choose to travel, seeing the marvels of the world from a somewhat unique perspective. Others find the strength to educate us of the warning signs of their affliction. Still others might embark on an oddessy to fill their backpack with experiences, outlandish or otherwise. Sadly, some opt to curl up in a dank corner somewhere in a pitiful cocktail of 'woe is me'.

Religion plays a hefty role in the lives of some. Even those who barely practice their faith turn to their creator in these desperate times. For each, these pious explorations are very personal, reflecting the nature and nurture of their lifetime.

There is, perhaps, no other more profound contemplation than that undergone between the moment one learns of his or her sentence of death and when that inevitable day actually occurs. Values shift. Senses are awakened. Motivation is refocused. All is compared to how things were yesterday when everything was so routine. Regardless of the person facing this liberty, a decision is made about how our remaining time will be invested.

Those outside the fold see those facing mortality as brave, courageous, and unfailing. How can we deny the whims of someone not long for this planet?, we reason. Yet we fail to absorb those same passions and empathies for ourselves as we cling to the familiarity of our daily rut, afraid of making the changes, perhaps even enduring sacrifices, that could lead to a more fulfilling life while we still have the wherewith all to truly enjoy it. There is always a 'but...', an excuse, why we choose to continue on an unsatisfying path of blah rather than embrace the adventure awaiting around every corner.

Raise a glass and toast to those facing imminent mortality, to those who choose to complete whatever chapters in their book of life, with feats of valor, despite the challenges that await. Hail to the bravado in grabbing Death by the gonads forcing it to wait until you accomplish a few more deeds. It is something we shouldn't lack in undertaking while we can. Today. Now.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mississippi Burning Again

Mississippi’s history is a colorful one, but a new law signed on April 05, 2016 in the Magnolia State, threatens the rainbow, allowing businesses to discriminate against same sex couples on moral grounds and plunging the state right back into the era of Jim Crow and its devastating human rights violations.

The Way It Was

In many respects, Mississippi was the poster child for black slavery and the accompanying human rights abuses so prevalent in a fledgling America. Formerly part of a vast expanse of Indian lands, Mississippi became the twentieth US state in 1817, and by the 1830’s, it was a powerhouse in the cotton trade. Cotton was king, making the Old South the ninth largest economy in the world, with Mississippi the king of kings, commanding considerable influence among her less affluent peers.

The cotton trade (White Gold) made the Old South. During its heyday, there were more millionaires in Mississippi than anywhere else in the world. Mammoth plantations fed a worldwide frenzy for cotton. And none of this would have been possible without the backbreaking servitude of black slaves under barbaric conditions. In 1861, Mississippi became part of the Secession Movement, breaking away from the Union over disagreements about state’s rights in the republic.

Fast forward several generations, and Mississippi would become known as a hotbed of civil rights conflict and home to the notorious 1955 lynching and mutilation of Emmet Till and the 1964 murder of three civil rights activists that would form the nucleus plot of the Academy Award winning movie Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, released in 1988.

The Way It Is

Gambling aboard paddle boats amid a sweltering sun. Home to blues pioneering greats such as BB King, Bo Diddley, and Willie Dixon. Residents speaking with a drawl reminiscent of time slowly passing. The Bible Belt, and an equally religious passion for college football. These all describe Mississippi today.

As firmly planted as one foot is in the past, so too is the other foot marching forward. There is an air of sophistication among Mississippi’s simpler way of life that is uniquely placed. Most would be startled to learn that the world’s first heart and lung transplants were performed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Or that Jackson, Mississippi is the only North American city to host the International Ballet Competition. Or, that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi is the world's largest hydraulic research laboratory.

Despite their advancements in culture, science, and medicine, Mississippi and Mississippians cannot seem to shake its Rebel heritage. Thumbing its nose at international covenants and federal law, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 1523, or more formally, Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, that paves the way for widespread discrimination and human rights violations against a broad swath of people.

Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn claims House Bill 1523 does not enable discrimination, but rather promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.

To some, HB1523 protects religious freedoms. For others, it’s just another Jim Crow law painted in the colors of a rainbow.

Governor Bryant took to Twitter in response to the explosive backlash against signing HB1523 tweeting that he did so, "to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions ... from discriminatory action by state government."

Mississippi is a state that is already known for its extremely narrow protection of human rights. Mississippi legislation protects only three beliefs or convictions: that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex is "properly reserved to such a marriage," and that words like "male" and "female" are "objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth." This bill appears to constrict any remaining legislated human rights in the state.

Governor Bryant’s full statement regarding the signing of HB1523 is as follows:

A link to the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act in pdf format is listed below.

What It Shall Be

Tyson Foods and Nissan North America, both with major holdings in the state, called on Governor Bryant to veto the bill. He didn’t listen. He also did not heed the pleas from international conglomerates such as Time Warner and The Walt Disney Company.

Mississippi’s ally is North Carolina, who also adopted a new law violating LGBTQ rights recently. The consequence to North Carolina was immediate, when PayPal nixed its planned expansion into North Carolina that would have provided 400 jobs.

It would not be out of line to suggest court challenges to HB1523 and its similar legislation in North Carolina. In commenting on the Mississippi bill, the ACLU said, "It's a sad day for Mississippi".

In brighter human rights news, Georgia's Governor shot down a similar bill in the Peach State.

The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act becomes law in the Magnolia State on July 01, 2016.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

OJ Simpson vs Jian Ghomeshi

The legal systems of Canada and United States are similar in many ways, particularly as it applies to criminal matters. The recent acquittal of Jian Ghomeshi on four counts of sexual assault sparked deep division among Canadians in much the same way as OJ Simpson’s double murder acquittal did in United States, which should not come as too much of a shock, given the similarities between the two.

It would be difficult to laud the same degree of celebrity on Jian Ghomeshi as that enjoyed by OJ Simpson. Still, in Canada and anywhere within the reaches of CBC’s airwaves, Jian Ghomeshi was their brightest star. Handsome, well-paid, and very much in the public eye, Ghomeshi attracted throngs of eager and willing sexual partners for all the same reasons as did OJ Simpson and other celebrities.

Nobody died in Ghomeshi’s cases. However, the sexual assault allegations made against him was about to lay waste to five individuals (Ghomeshi himself and the four alleged victims) who were at the center of this melee.

What is strikingly similar between the cases of Ghomeshi and Simpson was the absolute floundering of the prosecution team to vet their own witnesses, and arguably, it was this pivotal point on which the justice system failed any victims, and further impeded the likelihood of future sexual assault victims of any perpetrator coming forward to endure the trial process.

In Simpson’s case, Mark Fuhrman, a Los Angeles Police Detective, lied on the witness stand, and then pled the fifth on the direct question of did he plant evidence. It would be a crucial hurdle for the District Attorney to overcome, and a point that distracted the jury from maintaining any focus on the double murder for which they had been convened. If one of the key LAPD Detectives planted evidence and lied in court, then how can any evidence presented be untainted? Marcia Clark, lead prosecutor against Simpson ought to have known. On the Fuhrman perjury alone, Marcia Clark failed the Goldman and Brown families.

With Ghomeshi, Crown prosecutor, Michael Callaghan, equally failed in his duties bringing forth a high profile case against one of Canada’s most celebrated broadcasting personalities with alleged victims who were not as innocent as one might expect. In allegations against Ghomeshi claiming that he sexually assaulted four women, his brilliant defense counsel, Marie Henein, was able to prove that his alleged victims engaged in behavior that would be difficult to assimilate to that of one being sexually assaulted. One woman sent him flowers after being allegedly sexually assaulted. One messaged Ghomeshi practically begging for another date. Prosecutor Michael Callaghan failed all legitimate sexual assault victims in his quest for glory with little regard to the impact his personal agenda would have on Canadian society.

Due to double jeopardy laws in Canada and United States, we will never truly know whether OJ Simpson and Jian Ghomeshi participated in the crimes for which they were accused. Everybody will have their personal beliefs, but in the eyes of the law, both men are not guilty of those crimes. We can thank the respective prosecutors of these cases for wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money in bringing cases before court that were not sufficiently vetted, and for which there is no accountability.