Time for change


How not to help International Relations

A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal.
"They said I should not take him to the police, but rather let him pay a dowry for my goat because he used it as his wife," Mr Alifi told the newspaper.



Canadian Election, 2006

I have never felt closer to an election than I have with the one just finished. And I didn’t even vote. Before you go crazy and start spitting rhetoric about democratic rights, laziness, and political apathy, allow me to explain why.

The federal election system in Canada looks something like this: each representative citizen over the age of majority (18) is allowed to place a single mark signifying which of the three (cough, four) possible parties will represent the values of the country as a whole. Each person gets one attempt to make one choice. Everything else- all the intentionally ruined, accidentally spoiled, and formally declined ballots along with those dastardly non-voters- is not considered.

The process looks like this: voting for a candidate encompasses information the electoral system understands and everything else is just meaningless noise. But therein lays the problem. Since the system itself only recognizes positive support, no form of dissent, disagreement, or difference can be recognized. All you can do is pick your best-fit party. And this makes efforts at effecting systemic change very, very difficult; after all, that’s the point.

So I was there today, in my polling station, talking to a representative from Elections Canada. I had every intention of “declining my ballot” in order to indicate on record my dissatisfaction with the election process. But when I was told that my refusal gets grouped along with all the other pieces of electoral white-noise, I had to reconsider.

Imagine a restaurant. There are four chefs each touting the meal they’d like to prepare. The patrons individually vote on which meal they’d like served for both themselves and the rest of the room. Only one can be chosen: roast beef, pork chops, veal, or steak. If you really agree with one of the choices, fine. But what if you’re a vegetarian? What recourse do you have?

Currently there are no figures reported for declined ballots in a federal election (and only some provinces count them). But there does seem to be a great deal of concern with the lax levels of voter turnout. So I sided with them. Instead of choosing a candidate or party I support, instead of voicing my upset with the process itself, I added my name to the growing number of people who simply find themselves unrepresented.

I know I’ll get grouped as a “lazy” citizen- just like some semi-Conservatives will get grouped with abortion-hating cowboys from the West. It’s a sad reality. But since my position is not supported or recognized by the official system, I see no other choice.

Almost. There are a growing number of people who share my sentiment. If you find yourself among them and would like to see more than a simple rotation of so-called “lesser evils”, I urge you to petition the federal government and demand electoral change. A good place to start is here: www.fairvote.ca.

I have never felt closer to an election than with the one just finished. But make no mistake: this is because of personal investment, not return. Until voting practices in Canada change, I will forever count myself among the people who see an unwanted candidate rise to office. Perhaps you might now not be so quick to turn up your nose at the growing number of Canadians who fail to cast their ballot. Perhaps you may even choose to count yourself among them.


Damn Orwell

Back in July, when the subways were getting bombed in Britain, I wrote an article about the use of closed circuit televisions (CCT) as tools for surveillance in cities. London had long been using cameras to watch its public spaces and the captured images of the transit bombers sealed their (supposed) effectiveness. Cameras are good, they’ll tell you, because they act as a deterrent for crime. People see the cameras, know they’re being watched, and magically behave like they’re not gun-toting maniacs. Easy as a piece of Big Brother’s pie.

More recently, from our neighbours to the south, we hear this: Bush vows to continue domestic surveillance without seeking court warrants. The trend is the same and Machiavelli’s words are once again echoed: people, when left to their own devices, are not to be trusted. They require external force. They require surveillance. They need to be watched.

But the example par excellence comes once again from Britain. It was announced today that Britain will become the first country to monitor and record the movement of all vehicles. Here’s the tag line: “The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.”

It’s a good thing that your license plate doesn’t link with your social insurance number, your birth date, your address, your sex, your occupation, your phone number, your height, your photo, and your signature. Because that’d be an invasion of privacy. And that’s just wrong.

We’re just a small step away from cameras in schools, cameras in homes, or cameras in restrooms. And why not? “It's part of public protection. If the security services did not have access to this, we'd be negligent."




Survey says: You deserve to be raped

On the 24th of November, I posted an article outlining a recent court ruling in Britain which stated that a woman under the influence of alcohol cannot legally determine whether or not she’s been raped. Since she’s too intoxicated to be in full control of her body, she really can’t blame somebody else for trying to take that control.

Like you, I thought that this ruling was an abnormality in Britain’s policy-making, a blip on the screen of justice and something to be made short work of in the English press. But it wasn’t. In fact, hearing the results of a 1,095-person survey about rape, it seems to be representative of the general population.

And that’s just scary.

Here are some of the typical responses as reported in today’s edition of the UK Daily Mail:

If the woman was wearing sexy or revealing clothing, 6pc said she was totally responsible and 20pc said she was partially responsible.

If it is known that the woman has many sexual partners, 8pc said she was totally responsible and 14pc said she was partially responsible.

If she is alone and walking in a dangerous or deserted area, 5pc said she was totally responsible and 17pc said she was partially responsible.

Totally responsible. Completely, absolutely, 100% at fault. She brought it on herself. Low-cut shirt? Sorry, you should have seen the rape coming. Too many sexual partners? Yeah, you probably want the rape. And don’t even get me started on that alley you walked into.

One third of those surveyed believe that a woman is either partially or fully responsible for being raped if she behaves in a flirtatious manner.

Something is horribly wrong with the world we live in. I can’t type any more.


Queso Fresco

Today’s story comes to us from Memphis, TN and involves an aspiring model named Jessica Sandy Booth. She’s 18. Today, Jessica went over to her friends’ house and saw that they had a block of uncut cocaine on the counter.

Now, since Jessica needed about $7,900 to pay a modeling agency, she thought it best to hire a hit man, have her friends killed, and steal the cocaine; definitely the moral high-ground. Unfortunately for Jessica though, the hit man she hired happened to be an undercover cop and her plan was averted.

But here’s the best part: the cocaine on her friends’ counter was actually a block of queso fresco cheese. The rather unattractive model thus attempted to have four of her friends killed for a bag of milky white cheese. She even told her supposed hit man that “any children old enough to testify would have to be killed as well.”

For the love of whatever god you pray to, please put in a request to have a special division of purgatory laid out for those humans too moronic to deserve the luxury of eternal damnation. And be sure to add the name Jessica Sandy Booth to the list of reservations.



Sleepy Hollow

Automation is a term used to describe biological functions that are beyond the control of the conscious individual. This term is normally used for necessary functions like breathing, blood flow, and digestion. While I can attempt to stop breathing, eventually a feedback mechanism will knock me unconscious and allow my automated physiology to regain control of the task.

Complex motor phenomenon like walking, talking, and *having sex with other people* is, despite the possible lack of conscious control, not automation.

Meet Jan Leudecke, a 33-year old Toronto man recently acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman while he was asleep. A sleep expert testified that he suffered from "sexsomania," a condition that engages him in sexual behaviour during sleep. Because he was sleeping, the Montreal judge decided, Leudecke did not voluntary commit the act; Leudecke didn't have sex with the woman next to him, Sleepy Leudecke did. And that's different.

But here's the best part: nakedly rolling on top of someone is a fairly simple act. Nakedly rolling on top of someone and having sex with them is a bit much. But nakedly rolling on top of someone and putting a condom on before having sex with them, well that just seems a bit ridiculous.

Either way, Leudecke should be held accountable. He's a danger to those around him not because he maliciously assaulted a sleeping woman but because he has no control over his actions. A simple example will illustrate this.

Suppose I sleepwalk into somebody's house and butcher their dog. That it was an involuntary act a) doesn't bring the dog back to life; and b) doesn't- ever- excuse the fact that it happened because of me.

Killing animals is wrong. If your mind makes you the unwilling participant of such a crime, it sucks to be you. But it sucks even more to be the one with the dead dog.



How compatible are you with incest?

Now, not too often does one come across a story that is made even worse by the very media that seeks to cover it. Today’s tidbit of crap comes from Pueblo, Colorado where a 54-year old man was accused of incest and child pornography. He was also charged with video-taping people going to the washroom in his house. Oh, and this:

“Investigators also found an inflatable sheep dressed in fishnet stockings on Wurster's bed, according to his arrest affidavit.”

Sure, it’s all horrible and Richard William Wurster deserves to be hung, tarred, feathered, and beaten with a squirrel. What’s ironically even more depressing, however, is how the message gets articulated to the public. Below is a screenshot of the exact moment I read the article.

Check out the advertisement I outlined in red. It’s for some sort of online, Does it not seem a little sketchy to talk of this “sexual pervert” while at the same time effectively selling sex at the bottom of the screen? Does ABC, the producer of this website (http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/5382261/detail.html), not find this inherently self-contradictory?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s the line we’ve drawn in the sand of sexual deviance: sex with kids and relatives bad, objectified sex with strangers good.