3… 2… 1… 4/20! And with that, the smoke floated en masse up towards the emblematic clock tower that signifies Canadian parliament. Even though I didn’t smoke, my thick wool jacket smelled otherwise.

The approximately 10 000 people that gathered on Parliament Hill to mark 420 / 4:20 / 4/20 or simply Weed Day was the most ever in Ottawa according to organizers. The legalization of weed in small amounts last November in Colorado and Washington is mostly to thank. There, marijuana is now legal if you are over 21, smoke in private and possess less than one ounce. That is, unless the FBI comes knocking at your door because the US government has not ok’d the reform.

420 Parliament Hill 2013 12

Meanwhile, Canada, one of the top producers of marijuana in the world, still maintains strict laws against the consumption of earth’s most popular drug. In fact, sentencing has been increased by the Federal Omnibus Bill C-10, which adds stricter six-month mandatory minimum sentences for anyone who grows six or more marijuana plants.

In an open-letter to Prime Minister Harper last year, The Global Commission on Drug Policy, one of the world leaders on the study of drug use across United Nations member countries, attacked the Canadian government’s weed crackdown. “Canada is at the threshold of continuing to repeat the same grave mistakes as other countries, moving further down a path that has proven immensely destructive and ineffective at meeting its objectives,” wrote the Brazil-based organization.

420 Parliament Hill 2013 10Thus, this year, more than being a day to see who can roll the fattest joint, or dawn the most outlandish weed paraphernalia (see Facebook album for victors), 4/20 on Parliament Hill was meant to be more of a political demonstration in favour of legalization.

“I am the Justin Trudeau of marijuana,” joked Precious Chong, daughter of one of the most famous pot-smokers in Canadian history, Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame. She MC’d the day’s events from a podium in front of a backdrop of neon-jacketed police officers. Like the new Liberal leader, she is following in the giant footsteps of her father. Also like Trudeau, she supports the legalization of marijuana.

While members of Trudeau’s Liberal party and the Green party did attend, they did not deliver any speeches in support. Chong, however, was joined on stage by other Canadian weed-leaders who have received a major boost to their campaign since a British Columbia $25 million lottery winner injected $1 million to the legalization movement.

“How do we get people who don’t smoke or don’t like to smoke to support legalization?” shouted a pro-legalization leader from the podium. “Get ‘em to smoke one!” responded a grey-haired woman from the crowd.

420 Parliament Hill 2013Even at the biggest celebration of weed of the year there wasn’t a unanimous decision on legalization. Three men who hid their names told the Ottawa Citizen that they don’t want to see their green legalized because new taxes would stack prices.

Despite the growing attention to legalization in Canada, it was hard to take the rally seriously when a guy dressed up as a massive bong was distributing skunk suits to rallying stoners. Still, what can you expect when most of your prospective voters are blitzed out of their minds?

While the Ottawa rally was completely peaceful and calm save for when a stampede swarmed the Trailer Park Boys as soon as they showed up (they were there despite Kathryn May reporting in the Ottawa Citizen that they weren’t), the 4/20 rally in Denver, Colorado, which was expected to be the largest in history at 80 000 smokers, was thrown into chaos shortly after 4:20pm when gunshots injured three people. All victims are expected to survive.

Not very peace and love of you Colorado.

* photos by Joel Balsam, for more, please see our Facebook page


The world’s most ambitious social engineering policy may be coming to end. A state-own Chinese think-tank, China Development Research Foundation, concluded that China’s One-Child policy needs to stop. In its report last November, the think-tanked recommended a national two-child policy for 2015 with the elimination of limits to birth by 2020. China’s leader, Xi Jingping, has also indicated undertaking a revision of the policy.

If it does get scrapped, it would conclude a controversial chapter in China’s history. Since the policy was adopted in 1979 it has faced protests from the outside world and human rights observers over practices of forced abortions and inspired infanticide.

China also faces growing gender disparity issues largely because of the one-child policy. In most countries, women make up the base of the pyramid and men the tip at the top. Because of Mao Zedong’s social engineering, the pyramid has turned upside down.

There are fewer women who are at the tip of the pyramid, rising up the social stratus and a massive male population at the base of the lower economic strata. This has considerably strained Confucianist traditional family values in the nation.

Career women are suddenly more selective with life partners, preferring a partner that is their equal in a respectable profession. Beijing has responded by demonizing single women. Women, especially in their 20s (and close to their 30s) are targeted in Chinese propaganda campaigns.

Zhongdian, one child posterA television show called “30” was produced to project the stressful lives of single 29 year-old career women known as “leftover women” who suffer from the miseries of the dating world. Women have an expiry date of 30 years and afterwards men no longer find them “desirable.”

The show drives home the idea that women should leave stressful careers to have husbands pamper them. Intelligent women see through the façade but during the holidays their traditional parents expect them to bring home male breadwinners. So much so that agencies have started up “rental boyfriends” services.

Essentially, it is what it sounds like: fake boyfriends for a day to meet the client’s family. The industry has been so widely successful that popular films and television shows have spawned romantic and comical storylines of clients and rental boyfriends falling in love. It also raised awareness among parents who try to catch their children in a lie by asking elaborate details of their relationship backstories.

Likewise, for men the demand has fueled the emergence of bridal headhunter agencies. These agencies scout prospective women, in malls and shops, soliciting young attractive women into dates with wealthy clients.

But for the poor and populous men, they will have tougher times finding girlfriends since wealthy businessmen snatch them all up. Chinese men, generally, seek less-threatening paragons of femininity. Consequently, men are increasingly marrying socially “lower” ethnic Chinese women, minorities like Koreans or finding brides abroad. In other words, women are marrying up, while men are marrying below their social status.

Another criticism of the one-child policy has been the legacy of the “little emperor” complex and “4-2-1 problem.” The policy has left parents putting only one egg in one basket, in a manner of speaking. The only child across China is often spoiled and has poor relationships with their parents in the future. In addition, “4-2-1 problem” places pressure on the only child in adulthood to provide support for his or her two parents and four grandparents.

China is further renouncing its welfare efforts to care for retired seniors. The onus ultimately falls on retiree’s savings, charity and their only child for financial assistance. Consequently, China recently enacted a mandatory parental visitation policy as a result of rising neglect by adult only children.

Coupled by a cutthroat economic reality deteriorating Chinese family bonds, the problem has exacerbated to such alarming rates that there has been escalation of parental abuse and inheritance theft. While it was enforced to curb social maladies related to overpopulation the economy and environment, the one-child policy has produced a nest of other social maladies.

It is almost certain that Xi Jianping will remove the one-child policy. However, it is equally wise to install a two-child policy this year rather than two years from now. Given the already manifested aftermaths of one-child it would be prudent to nip it in the bud.

* Images by Andrew Turner (top) and Adrian Zwegers via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Some may see the growing Idle No More movement as simply an aboriginal issue, but in truth it is also a stand against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s environmental policies. The movement was born in Saskatchewan by four women complaining about bill C-45, the Conservative’s second omnibus budget bill that threatens existing First Nation treaties.

These four women started organizing events throughout Saskatchewan culminating in a national day of action across Canada. It was on that day of action that Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario announced in Ottawa that she would be starting a hunger strike. The strike has garnered national attention and has helped to push the protest movement to the forefront of news cycles. Spence has survived solely on tea and fish broth and the hunger strike is now entering a fifth consecutive week.

If you wanted to find the crux of the protests you could undoubtedly go back centuries, but I believe that the real heart of the problem may lie in the Conservative’s failure to pass the Kelowna Accord. The Kelowna Accord was a series of agreements between the Government of Canada (led then by Prime Minister Paul Martin), Provincial Premiers and five national aboriginal organizations.

The Accord was a five billion dollar plan to improve the education, employment and living conditions for First Nation people. Stephen Harper who was elected soon after the agreement was made, quietly disposed of it. Following his defeat, Paul Martin introduced a private members bill to ensure the agreement was implemented, but in 2007 the Conservative Party voted against it and didn’t try to replace it with anything.

2013_01_02_idlenomorehuffpoThe problematic truth of the aboriginal situation in Canada is that many first nation communities across the country look more like third world countries. Many don’t have basic grade schools, proper housing or even clean drinking water. Unemployment is also extremely high and substance abuse is rampant. I can’t understand why any Canadian would tolerate how we treat the original Canadians of this country.

I’m sure these issues are in the backs of the minds of the Idle No More Movement, but like I said before the main sticking point was bill C-45. This Conservative Government Budget Bill actually changed the legislation contained in 64 existing acts and regulations including the Indian Act, the Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act.

The changes to the Indian Act (done without the approval of first nation communities) effectively streamline’s the designation of First Nation land for leasing. Previously, if corporate interests wanted to lease land on a reserve it would have required the majority vote of all those on the reserve. Now it requires just those who attend the meeting about the lease. This can open the door to bribery, corruption and leave thousands without a say on who occupies their land. Also, during negotiations the Aboriginal Affairs minister can ignore a resolution from the reserve’s council that opposes a decision at the meeting.

The Navigation Protection Act and the Environmental Assessment Act are the other two sore points for the Idle No More movement. Both could have a profound impact on Canada’s environment and should be of concern to all Canadians.

The Navigation Protection Act removes a requirement for major pipeline and power line project backers to prove their development plan won’t damage or destroy the waterway it crosses. This means that even the most incompetent energy companies can get their projects approved. These companies could still be sued if something goes wrong, but by then the damage will have been done. The act effectively removes protection for 99.9 percent of our lakes and rivers.

The Environmental Assessment Act was first implemented back in 1992. It required federal departments, including Environment Canada, to conduct environmental assessments for proposed projects that involves federal funding, permits, or licensing. In 2012 the Conservative Government repealed and re-wrote the law to the point where the name itself has lost all meaning.

The new version no longer requires environmental assessments of projects proposed or regulated by the federal government unless the Environment Minister demands it. By design, the current post belongs to Conservative Peter Kent who is more business friendly than environmentally friendly.

Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence - Sean Kilpatrick/CP
Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence on Dec. 6 Sean Kilpatrick/CP

I find it awe-inspiring to know that despite the awful living conditions on some First Nation reserves, many of the people who live there are still more concerned with our environment. The same environment we’ve been destroying since we took their land all those years ago.

Prime Minister Harper for his part finally decided to meet with Theresa Spence and other First Nation Leaders in the coming days. Hopefully for everyone’s sake, it won’t be a simple lip service from Harper. Keep in mind that Idle No More is a grass roots movement just like the carre rouge in Quebec or the Occupy Movement that preceded it. Idle No More doesn’t need to answer to anyone and like their name suggests, they won’t be going away until substantial change is seen.

I’m sorry to inform everyone that this will be my last Quiet Mike’s Mumblings article for Forget the Box. While I might continue to contribute periodically, I have decided to put most of my energy into my own site quietmike.org. I would like to take this occasion to thank Jason, Chris and the rest of the Forget the Box family for helping me get started and giving me an audience for over two and a half years.

It has been a pleasure writing for you and I implore everyone who routinely read my column to keep visiting the site. Forget the Box is without a doubt the best blog in the great city of Montreal. Thanks everyone… for everything.

Today is the 12th day of Chief Theresa Spence’s fast. Around Canada, North America and beyond, Indigenous Peoples and their allies are rallying around this Chief’s determination to stand up for her community of Attawapiskat and demand that the human rights of her community be heard by the government. Earlier in 2012, this community declared a state of emergency due to a severe housing crisis.

At around the same time as Chief Spence began her fasting (also described as a hunger strike), the Idle No More movement began with four women named Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson, and Sheelah Mclean “who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.” Discussions around the upcoming Bill C-45, led to an increasing need for action and they began teach-ins and organizing for actions across the country. Flash mob round dances, walks and highway blockades are occurring across the country as we speak urging people, native and non-native, to take part in a revolution “which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.”

Metis blogger Chelsea Vowel (l) and Filion at the #idlenomore March in Montreal (photo by Tanya Gill-Lalonde)

On Friday, December 21st, 2012, I put aside all of my other commitments and took to the streets with others in support of Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence. We met at Square Cabot where the organizers recognized the Haudenosaunee land upon which we stood. Next, Kanehsatake Mohawk indigenous human rights activist Ellen Gabriel opened the gathering with a speech that strongly moved me. Looking around me in the crowd, I spotted many friends, coworkers and allies that I have worked alongside with over the past six years of my time in Montreal.

The drumming led us down St.Catherine as we walked peaceful chanting for people to not stand by idly anymore as the Conservative government not only ignores the needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in Canada, but moves forward with bills (such as Bill C-45) and legislations that will effectively worsen conditions and relationships between Canada and First Peoples and continue its assault on the environment.

We walked all the way to the front of Place des Arts where more speakers shared their messages including Michelle Audette from Femmes autochtones du Québec, social media activist Chelsea Vowel and a few others. They delivered powerful messages reminding us of what is at stake and what needs to be done. We then began a round dance on the steps in front of Place des Arts, holding hands and standing together a determined community of different persons dedicated to seeing change now for the sake of this generation and the seven to follow.

Instead of writing more on this movement is in my words, I would like to act as a resource and lead you to those amazing articles and statements that have already been made. I think that these voices are powerful ones and that more people should hear these messages. Furthermore, I would ask that those who want to work in solidarity with Idle No More, please respect the ways in which organizers are leading the responses.

For example, those who attend events, protests, round dances and/or rallys may be asked not to cover their faces and to act as peacefully as possible. It is very important to respect these guidelines in the name of being good allies and also to ensure that the movement is not discredited by the media and the government in an attempt to deny the issues and realities that Idle No More and collaborators are working hard to see addressed.

First and foremost, have a look at the Idle No More website.

Furthermore, I invite you to read and pass along this pamphlet by Taiaiake Alfred and Tobold Rollo entitled Resetting and Restoring the Relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada.

As well, I encourage you to read Chelsea Vowel’s article entitled “The natives are restless wondering why?” as well as the rest of her blog where you can learn more about Attawapiskat, Chief Theresa Spence’s community, and other issues and topics related to First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in Turtle Island (North America). Then check out part of Chelsea Vowel’s speech during the Idlenomore gathering on Dec, 21st, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec.

* Top image by Marc Saindon, CPNUQAM

Last Friday, tragedy and heartbreak once again took over the American consciousness as another psychopath went on a shooting spree, the likes of which were never seen in the country before. In Newtown, Connecticut, a small town of 27 000 people, a young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Armed with two pistols and an assault rifle he went on to murder six adults along with twelve girls and eight boys all aged between six and seven. The gunman then proceeded to take his own life and will never pay for the atrocities he’s committed. We have seen this type of scenario play out time and time again, but rarely has the number of victims been so high and never have they been so young.

Following the movie theater shooting last July in Aurora, I wrote a piece called “Gun Control: The Essential Step No One Wants to Talk About.” I tried to illustrate that after every mass shooting there is a brief period of a couple weeks where gun control is mentioned among liberals, progressives and the press, but never goes beyond these outer circles.

Following last Friday’s tragedy, we started hearing the same old rhetoric; it’s a time to mourn the dead, not question the 2nd amendment. Michael Moore of Bowling for Columbine fame tweeted “Too soon to speak out about a gun-crazy nation? No, too late. At least THIRTY-ONE school shootings since Columbine.” He’s right, but that number only tells us half the story.

There have been sixty-two mass shootings in the last thirty years, thirty-one of those have occurred since Columbine in 1999. There have been eighteen shootings in the last five years and worst of all, there have been seven this year alone.

Some people are trying to convince me that this time it’s different, they tell me the atrociousness of this latest act and the age of the victims will get the gun control ball rolling. I’m sorry to disappoint everyone, but I believe they’re wrong. No noble dialog came out of the shootings in Aurora or the dozens that preceded it, this time won’t be any different.

Are we to believe that congress will approve of new gun laws when they can’t even agree on the simple act of paying their bills? Are we to believe that the NRA will sit idly by if the 5400 licensed firearm manufacturers in the US are under threat of seeing their record breaking profits of 2012 shrink a little? Furthermore, are we to believe that this latest incident was tragic enough to convince some of the 55% who don’t want tougher restrictions on guns that it’s in everybody’s collective interest to have them? Americans love their guns.

As if those three questions weren’t huge obstacles by themselves, the right-wing is already sounding off with their normal hyperbolic statements. When the Aurora massacre transpired, they all took to the airwaves to claim that if everyone in the theatre had a gun at their side, the carnage would have been much less severe. Despite the fact the place was dark, filled with smoke and the killer was wearing body armor, gun sales in the state skyrocketed.

In Connecticut most of the victims were in Kindergarten, so instead of putting guns in the hands of the would-be victims, some conservatives are already calling for teachers to be armed instead. Would you feel safer knowing the teacher of your child is packing heat at all times? What would happen the first time a teacher loses his patience with a student acting out of line and pulls his gun on him?

As I mentioned, 2012 has been a banner year for the gun industry sharing in record profits and gun sales, but at the same time there has also been a record number of mass shootings. Somehow, conservatives and Republicans working on behalf of the NRA continue to contrarily convince people that guns make people safer and yet after an event like this no one feels safe; so what do we do? We go and buy more guns!

China, which has very strict gun control laws experienced a very similar incident just hours before the events in Connecticut. A man with a knife went into an elementary school and stabbed more than twenty children. While these instances are occurring more often in China, sometimes with deadly results, no one was killed in this attack. Twenty children are still breathing that might not have been if this man would have had access to an assault rifle instead.

I’m sure the events that unfolded in Connecticut will stay in our minds and our discussion longer than it has in the past given the brutality of the crime, but call me pessimistic, I don’t see things changing anytime soon. I don’t expect much from a land where it’s easier to access guns than mental health services.

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Last week, Superstorm Sandy devastated the east coast with high winds, record storm surges and rain. The storm left millions without power, thousands homeless and over a hundred dead, if there was anything positive to come out of this calamity it was that climate change was finally front page news again.

Unfortunately the only time climate change is mentioned by the powers that be or the media is in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. We saw it after Hurricane Katrina and after the Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and the Coast of Japan, but talk of climate change didn’t last a month after these events. With the general election in the US this Tuesday, I suspect talk of climate change this time will barely last a week.

Even when politicians and the media report on climate change, it has little to do with ways to solve it, instead the conversation is concentrated on the debate of its existence. People won’t start to grasp the truth so long as we keep referring to the “debate” about climate change… there is no debate.

Almost 98% of scientists (with credentials) say climate change is real and man-made. That is a huge percentage to be betting against, but roughly 30-40% of Americans do just that. In a year that has seen massive wildfires, long nationwide droughts, a record hot summer and an autumn super storm, too many people continue to live in denial.

North America contains two of the world’s most industrialized countries. During World War II, The United States and Canada were at the forefront against Nazi tyranny, but now with global warming being man’s most dangerous threat to its existence, they’re scarcely in the background.

It is so taboo of a subject that during the four American presidential debates climate change wasn’t discussed even once for the first time in twenty four years. In Canada, our conservative government not only avoids debate and action, but it has spent its first year of majority rule scaling back environmental protections and research. At the same time, the government has done what it can to speed up contract approval for the extraction of fossil fuels and creation of oil pipelines.

The reason for the lack of a real strategy on both sides of the border is largely due to conservative ideology; Corporate influence, free market principals even religious theories all have a part to play.

Big oil in Canada and the United States plays a big part in the propaganda and misinformation being distributed to the people on television and through our (mainly conservative) politicians. With hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on advertising, lobbying and political support every year, it’s virtually impossible to counter. Even in Canada, I can’t go a day without seeing a pro-tar sands commercial claiming it’s clean, safe and good for the economy. Seeing them on Canadian news networks angers me greatly.

I don’t call the GOP the “Grand Oil Party” for nothing, but lobbyists aren’t the only driving force behind the right wing denials about climate change. The combination of god and economic opportunity also plays a part.

As far as religious conservatives are concerned, the increased occurrence of natural disasters and droughts are often chalked up to God’s will and therefore can’t be avoided, so why not profit from it? Conservative principle is that of free enterprise at its extreme. To many, their dreams won’t be realized until everything from our roads to our water is in the hands of for-profit corporations and unfortunately there are no lines being drawn when it comes to profiting from disasters and human suffering.

Disaster capitalism is well documented (see The Shock Doctrine). Governments and corporations have long been exploiting natural, economic and political disasters for either financial gain or as an excuse to privatize industries.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is one such capitalist who spoke about FEMA last year during a primary debate; “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Anybody familiar with Romney’s business history knows he’s not above profiting from those who end up suffering as a consequence.

It just goes to show the mindset of those who keep doubts about climate change alive. The right in the United States has done an extraordinary job of disseminating their mendacity to the public, convincing moderates and those who don’t know better to stand at their side. It is the only way to explain why nearly half the country denies that our climate is changing.

Canadians are supposedly not so easily fooled. A poll conducted last august suggests that only 2% of Canadians deny that climate change is real, even in the conservative stronghold of Alberta the denial rate is only 21%. But while we all believe in climate change we went and elected a government that doesn’t. Perhaps Canadians aren’t as foolish so much as they are stupid.

A conservative used to refer to someone who conserves, that includes the planet. In my opinion, the real battle to counter the effects of climate change won’t be able to start until more people start speaking out and present day conservatism is put to rest. So long as there are people who persist on denying its existence or continuing the farcical debate, no amount of tsunamis, hurricanes or super-storms will help to bring about action.

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No this article is not about Hawaii five-0 or the OPP like the title might suggest, it is about the role of government in a democratic society. In this hard life of ours, some of us can struggle, we can suffer and we can die. It is the responsibility of our government to prevent this from happening as much as it can. In the end, we are in essence protecting ourselves as a whole.

Conservatives and libertarians alike are of the opinion that government is there to protect us from bullets, meaning the country should have an army to protect itself from invasion and cities should have a police force and perhaps a fire department to protect innocents from bodily harm. That’s it, no more protection do you require.

While those three entities are important, they are usually the least of our worries. The average human being doesn’t concern themselves with getting shot by gangsters or having to thwart off a Chinese invasion. We worry about making enough money to feed our kids, having a roof over our heads and trying to improve our lives from one generation to the next.

No system of government has done more for the welfare of its people than democracy, but now modern day free market capitalism is threatening a new age of feudalism. The “New Deal” of the 1930’s brought unimaginable prosperity to the industrialized world; the greatest generation was given decent working hours, good wages, social security, and eventually Medicare & welfare, etc. These middle class citizens in good turn passed it down to their kids; the baby boomers, who over the last thirty years have decided to keep it all for themselves.

These government edicts have worked in every modernized country that has put it to practice. They have increased the standard of living and the life expectancy for millions upon millions of people compared to a century ago. Most importantly, a program like health care prevents regular Joes from losing their home and descending into poverty, while welfare allows us to not only bounce back up, but to succeed at great lengths after a dismal failure.

Now we hear from economic conservatives that governments can no longer afford it. The richest countries in the world can no longer afford to assist the lowliest of people, but they’ll never tell you that tax rates have been reduced over the years to pre-new deal levels. Instead, they’ll tell you entitlements are a form of “big government” and that the governments can’t be trusted. In other words, some of the same people who want our vote are telling us not to trust them.

Homeless in Reno, Nevada

We live in a society where a growing percentage of the population is buying into the ideology that a billionaire’s freedom to make additional billions is more imperative than reducing the struggles and suffering of those we now deem to be a lazy blight on the country. This is the conservative position that the poor are more useless than serfs and the libertarian position that freedom comes before all else.

While it is true that all roads eventually lead to one’s demise, nothing speeds up the wagon like poverty. Poverty leads to malnutrition, disease and death, not to mention what it can do to the mind. That being said, should it not be every government’s top priority?

Of course, but unfortunately the wealthy have done an amazing job over the last thirty years of convincing the shrinking middle class that the poor are to blame for the country’s problems and it’s the middle class that are more inclined to vote.

We elect our governments to pass laws and regulations that better serve us and protect us. They are not always the best decisions and sometimes they go too far, but I think we’ve learned over the last hundred years what works and what doesn’t. The least we can do is keep what works. It’s only true that a nation is better off without a safety net if there is no one needing to be caught—call me when you find such a place.

If democracy does not exist for the betterment of everyone, then why does it exist at all? Democracy is a synonym for equality, or at least it used to be. A wise pointy eared man once said that “the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few”. Everyone thought that way at the end of the bloodiest war the world had ever seen. Hopeful we don’t need another to feel that way again.

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Sitting at home for dinner with friends—a married couple in their late twenties and mid-thirties—who are visiting from America, the conversation quickly turns sour. Topics covered include a nearby Walmart taking over the local shop where the young man works, to regular drug testing at the pharmaceutical company the young woman is employed by. “They put dye in the toilets so that you can’t flush and they can see if you consume [drugs],” she said.

“Our health coverage has gotten worse. I now have to pay for regular doctor visits and blood tests for which I was not charged before,” she continues. These friends of mine are considering having their first child.

Imagine having this awkward conversation about a transaction with the physician examining you. Who feels worse? The patient having to fork up the money on top of their insurance payment, or the physician having to bring a financial conversation into a health checkup?

Next, they announce how the state of California is one of many U.S. states going bankrupt!

Where you at, Schwarzenegger?

Damn! It is as bad as it sounds in America.

What is the tipping point of a nation before it collectively decides it is time to act? When do enough decide that it is time to stop being docile due to an unbearable disparity in financial wealth and the gouging of the working person?

The young lady is from Montreal, and tells us about her 61-year-old mother who has been an employee at a university in Montreal. Her mom is being pressured at her age to exit, two years before she is awarded her pension. How is she asked to exit? Through allegations and being placed on probation. Her mother has been previously asked to leave a well known corporation six months before she would be able to earn her retirement pension, after 15 years of service with this company.

A few days later, at another home dinner, this time with a young couple who just welcomed their second super-cute daughter. Their stress: Mom’s going back to work in a couple of months to a known fashion company in Montreal, and managing the new family schedule of daycare, grandma’s, home, and fixing dinner. My friend seemed visibly stressed.

I cannot understand how you have to explain to a manager that you have parental responsibilities and therefore need—not would like—but need to leave earlier or find an adjustment to accomodate comfortably a family’s pace.

You know how they say when  it strikes close to home?

Sitting at the table, we realised that we need to vocalise these daily abuses and find proper ways to report them. Intimidation is what the abusive person or party counts on.

If something bothers you, it is because it is warranted. We deny what is true, hide it in the back of our mind, and talk about it with friends, spouses, colleagues, but seldom respond to the unethical treatment that is being perpetrated at our expense.

Result? The abuse continues and spreads.

On the upside, I am happy to read that strikes spread in South African mines, stopping production at four Anglo American Platinum mines. “More than 60,000 miners were not working Wednesday…The plight of miners living in tin shacks while they produce the raw materials for luxury goods under dangerous conditions has put a spotlight on the South African government’s failure to meet basic needs like clean water and decent health care. Police said some 1,500 strikers blocked roads to the Amplats mine near Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg.

Watch the documentary film The Corporation, based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan. Decide for yourself if the corporation is a psychopathic construct.

THE CORPORATION explores the nature and spectacular rise of the dominant institution of our time. Part film and part movement, The Corporation transforms with its insightful analysis. Taking its status as a legal “person,” the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist’s couch to ask “What kind of person is it?” The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva and Michael Moore – plus confessions, case studies and strategies for change.

If only the world would heed my advice and keep their religion at home, what a place this could be. Alas not only do we seem destined to bicker about the one true faith to the end of time, some of us continually feel the need to criticize and insult each other over it as well.

Hard times usually bring out the crazy in people, whether it’s economic hardship in the United States or political adversity in the Middle East (or vice versa). Religious radicals tend to thrive in these environments, but as this past week has shown, the misapplication of the freedom of speech is all that is required to demonstrate the ugliness of our societies.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (AKA Sam Bacile), A Coptic Christian immigrant from Egypt posing as a Jewish real-estate mogul from Israel created a trailer for a film called “Innocence of Muslims”. The film was designed to enrage the Muslim community with the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser.

On Sept. 8, a two minute clip of the trailer was aired on Egyptian television and it resulted in a few hundred radical Muslims revolting at American Embassies in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11. In Egypt, the American flag at the embassy was replaced by an Islamic one, but in Libya the protest appeared to be used as cover for an assault on the American embassy which saw the death of their ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

If this amateur anti-Muslim film were written and directed in Canada, there is a good chance Nakoula would be in jail or facing heavy fines thanks to our laws against hate speech. In the United States however there are no such laws, people are free to say whatever they want, whenever they want and nobody would have it any other way—it’s their first amendment right.

We can debate all we want on hate speech laws or unfettered free speech, but there is no denying that any type of freedom requires responsibility in order for freedom to flourish. Those who made this film with the sole intention of angering an entire faith clearly failed in this regard. Not only did they anger an insignificant portion of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, but they managed to put a black eye on one of America’s most sacred rights.

I read a sign being carried by one of the protesters the other day and it summed up the situation better than I ever could, it read “You have the freedom of speech; we now have the freedom to act”. People seem to forget these “Arab Spring” countries recently went through a huge political shift.

Egyptians, Libyans and others are still not accustom to the freedoms we enjoy, take for granted or in this case abuse. Many of these Muslims can’t yet understand that an American man’s actions aren’t sanctioned by the American Government and it leads to further anti-American sentiment.

I’m not shelling out excuses for the actions of the protesters; violence is wrong regardless of the circumstances. Extremists of all stripes have a tendency to overreact when it comes to their religion, especially Muslims when you mock their prophet, let alone depict him in any way.

One thing I’ve noticed though, no matter how angry Muslims get, they never turn to the same tactics. It’s rare to see a Muslim burn a crucifix or hang an effigy of Jesus, they just prefer to burn flags.

Mr. Nakoula will likely go unpunished for his irresponsible actions. Whether you agree or not will depend on your religion, nationality or views on civil rights. Whether these events occur again will hinge on the ability of radical religious leaders on all sides to start preaching coexistence rather than hate and prejudice.

After all, Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in the same god, there is no rational reason why they can’t all get along. Then again, who ever said religion was rational?

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It was a tense election, but I didn’t think it would end this way. In the alley, behind Metropolis, one person on the ground, held there by cops making his gun visible to the cameras, another, sound technician Denis Blanchette, dead and another injured.

PQ leader Pauline Marois, newly minted Premier-designate rushed off stage by security mid-speech. She had just won a minority government.

That’s right, the same kind of government that made Harper hold a damn kitten on his lap for years. A minority PQ can’t and won’t call a referendum. They can’t even hold a bake sale without at least some Liberal, CAQ or QS MNAs supporting it.

The election result was perfect for progressives, even for progressive anglos like me. Charest was gone (officially as leader this afternoon) and the PQ can’t do much, except maybe stuff that’s good for everyone.

And then some idiot goes and brings a gun to the PQ victory party. And he has the nerve to say as the cops were parading him in front of the cameras, in French, that the English were waking up.

Waking up from what? Waking up from years of voting for the Liberals no matter what? Waking up from the Federalist/Sovereigntist English/French debate that has dominated our political discourse in Quebec for too long?

Apparently, the shooter hasn’t woken up yet. Sad. Even more sad that one person is dead.

For the rest of the evening, well, here’s what I was planning to write up until the plot changed:

Quebeckers sent a message that they reject Bill 78, tuition increases and Charest’s corruption. That’s a good thing, in my book, because enforced austerity must be rejected. Charest had to go.

They also elected our first-ever woman premier. While I’m not a fan of some of the things Marois said during the campaign and am disturbed by others, I’m happy that our local political glass ceiling has been shattered and believe that she will do her best to make her new government work.

The impact of the CAQ was muted—also good. Quebec Solidaire doubled its seats, now both leaders, Francoise David and Amir Khadir, are MNAs and the party finished second and third in quite a few ridings. This is a big step forward for a forward-thinking party.

There was a chance, that finally, the discourse would change. The parties were forced to work together, Marois even spoke English during her speech (that’s finish your drink time in our Quebec Election Night Drinking Game).

All this, sadly, will take a backseat to one confused individual’s attempt to bring us back to that same discourse.

There is a vigil tonight at 8pm in front of the Metropolis for the victim of last night’s shooting

I’m terrified to open my computer.

Whenever I do, my anxiety rises. I become edgy, frustrated, and sad. All hope for a bright future dissipates as I scroll my news feed for the umpteenth time.

The root cause of this despair? America, and the amount that I’ve submersed myself in its politics.

As a young, naïve Canadian, I used to think of America as we’re supposed to think of America. That is, a land of proud, freedom-loving people—a people who epitomize democracy!—whose rich and diverse culture was the envy of the world.

But right now, with every article I read about rape-apologists and queer-fear mongering and voterdisenfranchising and cutting social services in order to give more to the rich, I no longer think so highly of them. Hell, from what I can tell, they’ve forgotten what the words freedom and democracy even mean. I mean, how misguided does one have to be to equate the ability to own a gun with freedom, while healthcare for all citizens is an infringement thereof?

Of course, I don’t actually think 300 million+ people have given up on these ideals. But it does appear that way, which is what really matters to those whose only ideas on the state of America come from the media. And despite how much I tell myself that this existential angst I feel for them is something that every generation feels, I can’t help but think it’s different this time, that this is something more than fleeting.

With the help of the Citizens United ruling, combined with a shameless corporate media, and a wealth gap that spans to the moon, a perfect storm has formed on the horizon of the Great American Experiment. When this storm hits—yes, it’s a matter of when, not if—and the toxic policies of the mega-rich are fully unleashed, Americans can kiss goodbye to any ideas they may once have had about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sorry, I need to stop for a moment. I’m having trouble taking a full breath. …

Okay. Here we go…

If it’s not already obvious, the ideas of the modern Republican are the antithesis of those of the founding fathers. What’s disturbing is that, despite being called-out left, right, and centre for the sheer absurdity of the beliefs they harbour, the Republicans are serious contenders in this election.

No amount of bad press hurts them. Despite blatant racism (Obama removed the welfare work requirement) and sexism (they’re against making it easier to sue for pay discrimination), outright lying (Obama is a Muslim), or even bluntly stating the cold-hearted truths of their philosophy (rape is just a method of conception), they continue on their path undisturbed.

Big Money has been chipping away at legislation that provides a more equal footing for citizens for years now, and they’re so close to almost-absolute power that they can taste it. Nothing is going to stop them.

That is unless the American people wake up—something that I doubt will happen until it’s too late. This is not because I don’t have faith in Americans, but because I’m a believer in human nature. And, as humans, we have a tendency to push ideas (in this case, laissez-faire capitalism) to the max, and don’t stop until we hit a dead end.

Don’t believe me? Just take look at the big ideas that have failed in human history, like fascism, slavery, and communism. None of these ideas were stopped because those in power relinquished to the people, or because the legal system intervened—in fact, legal systems were used to justify the advances of these disgusting ideas, just as is being done now with capitalism.

Now, I’m not suggesting that there’s going to be war, as was used to settle the previous failed ideas. But I am suggesting that laissez-faire capitalism is probably not going to have a peaceful resolution.

I’ll leave it here for now—I obviously have no idea how things are going to work out, and there’s no point in speculating any further.

I’m going to close my computer and step outside for some air before the storm gets here.

Moments before publication, the author of this post caught wind that Obama is calling for a constitutional amendment to the Citizens United ruling. The author is feeling a lot better about the world—for the moment, at least.

* Image by MJM, Creative Commons Liscence

Back in February, five members of the Russian, anti-Putin art collective known as Pussy Riot performed a “punk prayer” at the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The song they belted out was a plea for the Virgin Mary to remove Vladimir Putin from power just weeks before his re-election.

Days after the demonstration, three of the members were arrested, charged with “hooliganism” and denied bail. After a speedy and one sided trial, Judge Syrova found Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison.

The three women had insisted there was no intention of offending Russian Orthodoxy, but wanted to bring attention to the church’s close ties to the state. “Our goal was to bring attention to Father Kirill’s public statements that the Orthodox must vote for Putin,” Alekhina wrote in a lettered statement “I thought the church loved its children. It turns out the church only loves those children who believe in Putin”.

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill with Vladimir Putin

The verdict and subsequent sentence prompted protests from people across the globe including from musicians such as Paul McCartney, Anthony Kiedis and Madonna, as well the governments of Britain and the U.S. (Canada has said nothing).

The judgment highlights the Russian president’s increasing crackdown on dissent. Putin has taken to raiding the houses of anti-Putin activists and anti-corruption bloggers. He has also passed several laws including one that raises the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration to about $7000 USD (Bill 78 anyone?)

With the exception of the Russian church, what Pussy Riot did in the eyes of many was a simple act of civil disobedience; an action that was taken in order to educate the Russian public on the church’s close ties to a president who has managed to abuse his power for far too long.

Pussy Riot knew full well what the consequences of their Cathedral protest might be given Putin’s reputation, but they did it anyway. This band of activists has a passion for the welfare of their country, a deep desire to make it better. What they did took guts, something sorely missing in western democracies.

We don’t face the same problems as the people of Russia, Syria or other similar places, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and enjoy the ride. To quote an American punk/metal band; “the greatest weapon of a fascist is the tolerance of a pacifist”. Those lyrics were written over twenty years ago, but resonate more in North America today than when they were first sang.

Today we live in a country where the people take a backseat to corporate power. A new authority determined to syphon as much profit from the masses as it possibly can at the expense of the environment, our health and our very wellbeing, to make matters worse it is doing so with the help of our governments.

The occupy movement brought this fact to light, but at the same time, local governments were quite effective in dispersing the crowds and the momentum the 99 per cent created. Awareness is only a stepping stone however; sitting in a park will never end decades of growing corporate dominance. What we need to do is follow in Pussy Riot’s example, sometimes a simple act of civil disobedience can galvanize a movement—look at Rosa Parks.

If some punk band burst into the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City to protest Mitt Romney’s 1 per cent presidential candidacy, do you think the band would get arrested? Absolutely, but people would take notice and perhaps start something. Besides, it’s not as if they’d go to prison for two years, thanks to the renegades in America’s past, we don’t live in a place like Russia.

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Peter Sergakis, owner of dozens of bars and restaurants in Montreal, has been accused of “waging war on the homeless” since expressing his desire to get pan-handlers and thieves away from his downtown businesses. He claims he’s not just trying to run them out of town though, having since offered to provide funding to Dans La Rue to try to help find proactive solutions to their problems as well as keep the homeless away from his outdoor patios.

FTB’s Emily Campbell sits down with Sergakis and Dans la rue’s Aki Tchitacov for this video interview

Journalist/Editor: Emily Campbell   Camera: Julian H. Ward & Chris Zacchia

Last month, the CEO of the fried chicken chain known as Chick-fil-A came out against marriage equality. Dan Cathy speaking on a radio show said “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

Cathy later defended his comments saying he was “guilty as charged” of being “supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit”.

Cathy’s public comments are a little surprising and very rare for a business leader given that remarks such as these are first and foremost bad for business in the long run. No CEO goes out with the intention of alienating a large portion of their customer base, so while other business owners might be defending Cathy’s freedom of speech, they are not sharing in his religious opinions.

Free speech aside, the LGBT community has not been protesting Cathy’s words, but his company’s actions. Chick-fil-A has given at least $5 million to anti-gay organizations, including known hate groups and proponents of ex-gay therapy. Chick-fil-A also has a zero rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which signifies that the company doesn’t offer any protection for its LGBT employees.

Conservatives will continue to approach this matter as a first amendment issue, they have to, it’s the only way to defend a religious view point that is intolerant of others. Former presidential candidate and Fox News host Mike Huckabee had enough of what he called the “vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry” aimed at the restaurant and called for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” (Apparently the denouncement of intolerance is equal to vicious hate speech and is intolerant itself).

Nevertheless on August 1st conservatives heard the Huckabee call and came out in record numbers to eat fried chicken, exercise their first amendment rights and condemn the LGBT community. Gay couples countered a few days later with a same-sex “kiss in”.

If there are any victims in this war of words and ideology it would have to be the employees of Chick-fil-A, especially the gay employees who are forced to take customer criticism from both sides while remaining neutral. A gay employee in Colorado said that Cathy’s comments weren’t as bad as “constantly having people come up to you and say, ‘I support your company, because your company hates the gays,’”

Another gay employee from Atlanta has been hearing it from both sides as one man said “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace” the employee also said he got yelled at for being a god-loving, conservative, homophobic Christian. As you can see, the only thing the CEO’s commentary managed to do is spread the hate.

Mr. Cathy’s public stance against gay marriage has managed to combine business with religion and politics, three different institutions that should remain separate at all times. Business mixed with politics can lead to fascism, religion mixed with politics can lead to fundamentalism and unless you’re a preacher; business doesn’t mix with religion at all. I won’t remind anyone of what all three can lead to.

Hopefully other business leaders will continue to reject Dan Cathy’s example and stick to selling products rather than dogma. The last thing we need is for the business community to divide the nation on religious and ideological lines, we get enough of that from our politicians.

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A job. So archaic. What is a job? Let us define. Forgive me. A few definitions courtesy of Definition.com:

A paid position of regular employment
A crime, especially a robbery ?!

An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life
Interested in pursuing a profession rather than devoting all her time to child care and housekeeping ?!

An intense desire or enthusiasm for something

A strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation

A strong urge toward a particular way of life or career

Natural aptitude or skill

Thank you for reading. Oh, one more definition, this time courtesy of Wikipedia.org:

Industrialisation is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial one for the purpose of manufacturing. Industrialisation also introduces a sociological attitude change towards our perception of nature.

Where am I going with this? No one, in my assertive opinion, wants a job. I am 35 years old, living in North America and in touch with my social media side. I know what’s happening, who’s doing what and who’s fed up with industrialization’s stubborn vestiges.

We are a generation ready for change. Forgive the cliché. It is true. What happened, the way it happened, why it happened, does not suit us.

Mass production of stuff, the hijacking of natural water sources to create water sold in disposable plastic bottles, pesticide-, hormone-, steroid-, vitamin-pumped produce and animals are not what our parents and grandparents rave about. They have consternation for the life and challenges facing us following decisions that were obeyed, and not halted. Obey authority in all its forms – governmental, religious, institutional, societal – is the eroding governing mentality.

Now, we know. This doesn’t work. However, it almost seems like people aren’t ready for the new, the unexamined. “Well if it’s not capitalism, and it’s not communism, then what is it?! Will we all die?” some chant.

No, we will re-invent together. A lot of ideas are brewing in many places. Just go to any startup festival, or to Notman House on Montreal’s Sherbrooke avenue. These entrepreneurs, many impressively 20 and 30-somethings, are corporate refugees and self-proclaimed proudly unemployable.

This is what I heard over and over at this summer’s gloriously sunny second annual International Startup Festival hosted on the Alexandra Pier at Montreal’s Old Port July 11-13, 2012.

“We are unemployable.” “I am unemployable.” “I started 5 startups. Three failed, but I ain’t stopping.”

This is not undiagnosed craziness. This is entrepreneurship. You start something because you feel like it and because an idea has taken root in your brain and, as entrepreneurs will often say, in your heart too.

An idea is not a harmful thing. Why not dream? Why not try? I started noticing a shift when my friends, one by one, were leaving corporate positions with the 9am to 5pm schedule, a tie and suit dress code, a cubicle seating, a fixed time to eat and a job description that is sometimes respected, sometimes not.

The corporate pick up line no longer works: “Looking for dynamic, innovative, team player with autonomous, driven attitude, ready to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines.

Hmmm, let me jump off a bridge. With a bungee cord of course.

It’s an age where we’re admitting to ourselves and out loud that we do not want this. Don’t try to lure me, big company, with salary, dental and massage insurance and promises of a promotion if I’m good.

We understand that our education, our academic degrees, our world experience, work ethic and our passion and drive are to benefit us. I have a lot to contribute. And not to a company or to a boss who wants my productivity report every week, and not my ideas, my passion and my personal ethics to feed the collective good.

Entrepreneurship is a new breed. Don’t be afraid.

And if you are looking to hook up with the talented and the crazy like you, job boards and online searches, and ancient CV submitting, may not help.

How often do you hear: “I found my job through an acquaintance, my brother-in-law, my cousin, my friend’s roommate, my housekeeper, my boyfriend?”

All these people are contacts you’ve collected on social forums like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. If your entire rollerdex and their friends are at your fingertips, and you know how you can’t stray away from your social news feed, why not capitalize on what’s naturally of interest? People!

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a manager or a recruiter seeking that person who will thrive in your company or whether you know what you excel in and enjoy and are looking for interesting people to excel with, the convenience of using all your contacts to help you find what you’re seeking professionally is out there.

Gotta give props to a Montreal startup that is greatly facilitating professional connections. matchFWD leverages your social media contacts and adds personalized recommendations to bring you to where it’s at. This team of barely 20 and 30-somethings understands that it’s not about finding a job. It’s a fit that we seek.

It took me decades to finally admit to myself that the team is the crucial piece. Aren’t we all like this? You’re not working with a machine, unless you’re a drone operator.

I was happy to hear a university instructor say in class: “If I can give you any true advice: only accept a professional contract when you feel like you could invite this potential client or colleague to your home for dinner.”

I cannot agree more. Why can’t you enjoy the company of someone whom you’re considering working with over dinner? Can we shoot the shit and find intelligent things to say? Shouldn’t this be the ultimate sign of a good interview?

* photos Jeremy Barwick (flickr), icanewfriend.com

Last Friday, America woke up to the news of another mass shooting in Colorado. A man dressed in black body armour, helmet and gas mask open fired in a packed movie theatre in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The perpetrator lobbed smoke canisters into the crowd before open firing with an AR-15 assault rifle with a high-capacity drum clip, a twelve-gauge shot gun and two pistols. The end result was 12 dead and a staggering 58 wounded with 9 still in critical condition.

This sort of scene is all too familiar in a country with 250 million licensed firearms, an immensely powerful gun lobby (National Rifle Association) and a two hundred and twenty-one year old amendment to the constitution that allows citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

Normally in the wake of this kind of tragedy, the media re-opens the gun control debate. This time around the talk has been less about actual gun control and more about politicians’ refusal to discus the topic, especially the presidential candidates . Not so long ago, Barack Obama was a big advocate of gun control and Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts passed a ban on assault weapons (Romney has since flip-flopped of course). Now in the middle of an election year they both offered their sympathies to the victims without addressing the root cause of the massacre or even mentioning the word “gun.”

The AR-15

Over the weekend I’ve heard some of the same old weak talking points coming out of the mouths of Republicans. “If only every one in the theatre was armed, this type of tragedy could have been avoided.” In reality, everyone in the theatre would have needed body armour and gas masks to even have a chance. What do you think would have happened in a packed room full of smoke with armed and scared citizens?

Republicans also prefer to converse about punishment rather than prevention and are not able to understand that people who engage in this type of slaughter don’t care about the repercussions. Many, in fact, take their own lives after their “mission” is complete. No amount of sentencing or executions are going to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the future.

While conservatives are getting out there and defending the second amendment, Democrats are remaining disturbingly quiet. Republicans have long been the party of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and receive 88% of the NRA’s political donations; it’s no surprise then to see the GOP speaking on their behalf.

Democrats on the other hand are terrified of the gun lobby group and the political consequences that can occur from standing up to them. Both parties have effectively been muted from speaking out in favour of tougher gun laws.

The Democrat’s fear of introducing gun control laws is not completely unfounded. Back in 1994, Congress approved a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons. A few months later Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years, many Democrats blame the loss on the assault weapons ban. George W. Bush allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004 with little opposition.

Politics aside, public support of stricter gun control laws in the United States has been in decline over the last twenty years. According to Gallup back in 1990, 78% of those polled believed gun laws should be stricter. That number decreased to 54% in 2004 and down to 43% last year. These numbers might explain why gun control is such a political hot potato, not even the public supports it.

I’m completely dumbfounded by the double standard certain Americans have on this  issue. The United States as a country does everything in their power to keep potential foreign terrorists from obtaining weapons that can harm their citizens. On the other hand they do absolutely nothing when it comes to keeping guns away from potential domestic terrorists; in a sense, Republicans and the NRA proudly encourage the opposite.

Average Americans are so brainwashed and steadfast in their philosophy on liberty and freedom that they don’t see the social cost of their beliefs (that can be said about more than just gun control). Around 10 000 people are killed each year with guns and around a 100 000 are wounded, but the amount of human suffering is secondary to the freedom to buy an AR-15 assault rifle with an extended magazine.

Sadly, this latest incident is destined to become just another story the media can exploit for a few days before moving on to less dramatic events. Without more politicians (like Mayor Bloomberg) trying to alter the national dialog on this topic, no change will come.

The American people and their law makers will continue to sit by deaf and dumb to the real tragedy. The real tragedy being that nothing positive will come out of those who lost their lives in that theatre and it will happen again… and again.

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