On Today’s Awful Hate Crime In Orlando

Well fuck this horror. Dan Savage covers the massacre comprehensively here. Jeet Heer weighs in here. The Guardian has its usual excellent coverage here. There’s a candlelight vigil at Q Nightclub in a few minutes (8 p.m., 2070 Broad St.). It’s open to all ages and everyone’s welcome.

A few additional thoughts:

1. On religion Faith-based bigotry has got to end. Doesn’t matter if its Christians, Jews, Muslims or Rastafarians — there needs to be be zero tolerance of any beliefs that any alleged deities oppose LGBTQ equality. We saw again today that bigoted religious ideas have deadly consequences for LGBTQ people. If your church/synogogue/mosque/faith community is prejudiced against queers, leave it for a better one (or if you’re tuff, fight back and change it).

2. On conservatives Both in Canada and south of the border, conservatism has become synonymous with both unrestricted gun owner rights and homophobia. Guns case in point: in 2014 then-Justice Minister Peter MacKay wore a shirt supporting ownership of assault rifles. What an asshole. And homophobia? Two words: Brad Trost. Canada’s Conservatives only reversed their bigoted official position on same-sex marriage a couple of weeks ago — kinda late, guys. I want to live in a country where conservatism is an honourable, reasoned and legitimate political position. It hasn’t been for a long time (with a few rare exceptions). Fix your shit, conservatives.

3. On guns Look at any bullshit situation and it’s almost always about the money. For example, it’s blatantly obvious the National Rifle Association and other lobby groups allegedly fighting for Americans’ “right” to own assault rifles without restrictions are doing it because there’s big money in guns and money matters more to them than people’s lives. They don’t give a shit about anyone’s rights. It’s about profits. That said, it’s also obvious a lot of individual gun nuts support unlimited gun ownership rights because they think the threat of violence their weapons create keeps the socialists, feminists, minorities, atheists, gay agendavists and “libtards” from getting too uppity. Gun nuts want people to be afraid of them. It’s the only way their bigoted ideas can get respect these days. Something to keep in mind. See you at the vigil.

Stanford Prison Experiment

As originally planned, the experiment was supposed to last for two weeks. But the results were so troubling that it was ended after six days.

It occurred in 1971, and involved Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo and a team of graduate students who recruited middle class college students and divided them into squads of guards and prisoners to examine how the power dynamics of authority and imprisonment impacted on people.

Stanford Prison Experiment is a psychological thriller inspired by the famous experiment with Billy Crudup in the role of Dr. Zimbardo. The film screens at the RPL Theatre on Thursday Jan. 21 and Saturday Jan. 23 at 9:30 p.m., Friday Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. and Sunday Jan. 24 at 2:30 p.m. Here’s the trailer:

Canadian Club of Regina Luncheon

When Regina Police Service went before city council in early December to seek approval for a 5.3 percent increase in its budget to $80.3 million to add additional officers and purchase carbine rifles, chief Troy Hagen faced tough questioning from some community members about police practices such as profiling, carding and excessive force that critics allege unfairly target the homeless, mentally ill and other vulnerable people in our society.

Hagen also generated some controversy in mid-December when he said that he had no reason to believe there were any problems with racism on the police service. His comments stood in stark contrast to a recent admission by RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson that some members of the federal force did harbour racist beliefs.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. On Wednesday Jan. 13, the Canadian Club of Regina is hosting a luncheon that features Regina police chief Troy Hagen as guest-speaker. The topic of Hagen’s talk will be “Public Confidence in the Community”. The luncheon is being held at the Executive Hotel on Albert St. S, with registration at 11:45 a.m. If you’re planning to attend you’re asked to RSVP by Jan. 11 to 306-586-7347.

Sunday Reading: Harper’s Reverse Firewall, Killing Kennedy

On Friday the Ottawa Citizen published a great column by editor Andrew Potter on what it was, exactly, that Stephen Harper was trying to do. Potter’s conclusion in a nutshell: the former prime minister wanted to permanently cripple the federal government, preventing it from attempting any Big Socialist Plans. Potter argues that Harper developed this plan after his 2001 “Hey you guys! Let’s build a firewall around Alberta” letter:

Harper also probably realized, even as he was drafting the letter, how little the province could do using its own powers to protect itself from the sorts of things that Liberal Ottawa was inclined to do. Because here’s the thing: To someone with Harper’s ideological convictions, what is truly offensive about Liberal-run Ottawa is not that it controls the Mounties or the CPP or collects Alberta’s income tax. It is that it is inclined to use its capacities to engage in large-scale, centralized social planning (or social engineering, to use the invidious terminology).

And so Stephen Harper probably realized that to properly protect Alberta from an “aggressive and hostile” – that is, socialist – federal government, he would have to go to Ottawa. There, pulling directly upon the levers of federal power, he could build a firewall from the other side. And it could be a far stronger and more effective firewall than you could ever build from Alberta, while having the virtue of being pitched as a principled and patriotic vision of Confederation.

Makes sense to me. Brew a coffee or tea, pull a chair up to the Internet and have a good Sunday read.

Continue reading “Sunday Reading: Harper’s Reverse Firewall, Killing Kennedy”

Halloween Fun

Halloween is on Saturday this year, which always opens the door adults who celebrate the day to do so with a bit more gusto than when it’s in the middle of the week.

Here’s some party options that have come to my attention so far:

Sunday 25

BLACK MUSEUM Halloween-themed exhibit of criminal artifacts inspired by Scotland Yard’s Black Museum of British Crime. RCMP Heritage Centre, until Oct 31.

Tuesday 27

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Halloween production of the popular Broadway musical. Presented by Sterling Productions at Conexus Arts Centre Convention Hall, Oct. 27-29, 8 p.m. $28.75. See conexusartscentre.ca.

Friday 30

HALLOWEEN HOWL with Big Sugar, Leather Cobra and Trigger Finger at the Can-Sask Sound Stage, doors at 7 p.m. $32.50.

PARAB POET & THE HIP HOP HIPPIES with Bombargo, InfoRed and Merky Waters at O’Hanlon’s.

THE HAUNTED CIRCUS with Organic Mechanic, Dreadbeat, Krooked King, Psyborum, Gremlin Groove and more at the Hungarian Club (1925 McAra), doors at 8 p.m.

H​ALLOWEEN PRE-PARTY & MYLA EP RELEASE PARTY with DJs 2Beats & Smash Cox ​at the Mercury​, 9:30 p.m. $10. 19+.​

OWLLOWEEN featuring DJs, a costume contest at the University of Regina campus pub the Owl, 8:30 p.m. $10, or two for $15.

HALLOWEEN BASH with F.O.G.D.O.G. at McNally’s Tavern.

MONSTER BASH Family-friendly Halloween party with crafts, games, treats, dancing with DJ Jeremy and plenty of glow-in-the-dark fun. Royal Saskatchewan Museum, 6:30-8:30 p.m. $5, kids two and under free. Continue reading “Halloween Fun”

The Thin Blue Line

Directed by Errol Morris, this well-known 1988 documentary dissects a police investigation into the murder of a Dallas police officer in 1976. The person who ended up being the focus of the investigation was Randall Adams. He’d met up with a 16-year-old boy earlier in the day after his car ran out of gas. Unbeknownst to Adams, the boy was driving a stolen car and had a pistol and shotgun in his possession.

Despite shaky evidence, and testimony from a psychiatrist who had a notorious reputation for being friendly to the Crown, Adams was convicted and sentenced to death. Originally, Morris had intended to do a documentary on the psychiatrist, but after meeting Adams he became convinced of his innocence and switched his directoral focus.

The Thin Blue Line screens at the RPL Theatre on Friday Aug. 7 and Sunday Aug. 9 at 7 p.m., and Saturday Aug. 8 at 9:30 p.m.  Here’s the trailer

The Riot Club

Directed by Lone Sherfig, this British film was adapted from a play by Laura Wade called Posh.

No, it’s not a biopic about Victoria Beckham (a.k.a. Posh Spice). Although the subject does relate to the notion of aristocratic privilege and luxe wealth that Beckham was channeling through her character.

Instead, Wade’s inspiration was the notorious Bullington Club at Oxford University where the scions of Britain’s upper crust congregated to essentially run amok for a few years before taking their rightful place (in their minds, anyway) as the future political and economic leaders of their class-riddled country.

The Riot Club screens tonight at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer:

The Hunting Ground

Rolling Stone magazine faced an embarrassing situation in April when it had to retract a story it had published about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. A review found that it failed to follow proper journalistic standards by failing to vet the allegations contained in the article.

Incidents have occurred elsewhere, however, whether tied to actual sexual assault or the public expression of misogynist attitudes by male students at public gatherings, that have prompted concerns that a “rape culture” sometimes exists on university and college campuses.

On Thursday May 21 and Saturday May 23 at 7 p.m., and Friday May 22 and Sunday May 24 at 9 p.m., the RPL Theatre is screening the documentary The Hunting Ground which examines this impact of this culture on student victims and their families, and the failure of academic institutions to act effectively to discourage sexism and sexual assault on campus. Here’s the trailer.

Nash Memorial Lecture

sister_helen_prejean_poseyHere’s a heads up about this lecture which is happening on Thursday March 5 at the University of Regina.

The Nash is hosted by Campion College, and typically involves a religious or spiritual theme of some sort. The speaker this year is Sister Helen Prejean (pictured) who since 1984 has been involved in education efforts in the United States around the death penalty. She has also helped counsel prisoners who are on death row.

The title of Prejean’s talk is “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues”. You can find out more about Prejean, and the two books she’s written about her prison experiences, on the university website. The lecture is being held at the Education Auditorium on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Bedtime Reading

FarsideAbove is an excerpt from a Science Fiction novel that I picked up at the library yesterday for light bedtime reading. It’s by a master of the genre who has been active as a writer since the 1960s.

The novel was published by a leading New York SF publisher in 2013, and is set in the late 21st century when humanity is on the cusp of establishing an observatory on the far side of the moon.

To the author’s credit, one of his central characters is a female astronomer (a Canadian, no less). True, he does describe her as “mousy” when he introduces her, and has her fretting over her appearance when she meets a hunky fellow passenger on the flight that delivers her to the moon’s far side.

Then this passage popped up a few chapters later as part of the character’s back story. It reads like an excerpt from the memoirs of a certain comic who’s been in the news a lot lately. I’m not far enough into the book to know if the author has the character revisit the sexual assault in a more substantive manner in future chapters (perhaps by seeking justice against her assailant) but I’m not holding my breath. The “that” that the character is referring to, btw, is losing her virginity.

Bizarre that a scene like this could appear in a book published in 2013.

Banned Books Cafe 2

Freedom to Read Week runs Feb. 22-28 this year. To commemorate the occasion, Regina Public Library writer-in-residence Arthur Slade has organized a selection of readings from books that have been challenged at various times on various grounds in Canada.

Helping him out will be several celebrity readers including CBC’s Jill Morgan, Gord Barnes of Amnesty International, and former RPL writers-in-residence Gail Bowen, Kelley Jo Burke and Edward Willett.

Banned Books Cafe 2 goes Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m. You can register for the event, plus find more information, on the RPL website.

Province Removes Reeve From Post, Criminal Charges Likely

The Saskatchewan government released retired Justice Ron Barclay’s report into the RM of Sherwood Wascana Village fiasco today. You can read more in this CBC report.

Because of the many damning findings in the report, the province has removed Kevin Eberle (edit) from his position as reeve. According to Barclay, Eberle stood to make $58 million from the sale and development of land south of Regina as part of the Wascana Village project. He also allegedly engaged in unethical administrative practices, including stonewalling when Barclay began his investigation, and ordering the destruction of documents implicating him in the Wascana Village development project.

An interim reeve (Neil Robertson) has been appointed, and the RCMP has been called in to investigate the matter further. In his press conference, Government Relations minister Jim Reiter was critical of the RM of Sherwood council’s actions as well so they may face additional consequences.

Kill The Messenger

This film, which stars Jeremy Renner, is based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb. In 1996, Webb published a three-part 20,000 word feature in the San Jose Mercury News under the headline “Dark Alliance”.

The investigative series delved into the Iran-Contra affair where the CIA, during the tenure of Ronald Reagan as president, used funds raised through clandestine ties with cocaine traffickers in Central America to support arms shipments to Iran (when it was involved in a war with Iraq) and right-wing Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. The drugs that moved into the United States sparked the crack cocaine epidemic that laid waste to minority communities in major American cities.

To publish his expose, Webb endured threats from both Central American drug kingpins and the U.S. government. Kill the Messenger screens tonight at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer:

An Election Fraudsketeer Goes To Jail

From The Globe And Mail:

Michael Sona, the former Conservative staffer convicted in the 2011 robocalls scandal, was sentenced Wednesday to nine months in jail for what the judge called “an affront to the electoral process.” Justice Gary Hearn called his task “a difficult and troublesome sentencing.” The Crown had wanted Sona, 26, to spend at least a year and a half in custody for his role in a scheme to misdirect voters on the morning of the 2011 federal election.

Also, this:

Sona is a youthful, first-time offender, but that can’t be allowed to overshadow the seriousness of the case, Hearn said. “Individuals such as Mr. Sona, notwithstanding the lack of record and their apparently good character, must appreciate that this type of an offence is a affront to the electoral process,” he said.

“Apparently good character.” Huh. I must have misunderstood what “good character” means.

Learn more about the 2011 election fraud that benefited the Conservative party here.

And Then There Were Five

CannabisIIMid-term elections were held in the United States yesterday. In addition to all the senate and congressional seats that were up for grabs, voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. also weighed in on a referendum to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Similar to voters in Colorado and Washington State in 2012, voters in those three jurisdictions approved the measure. Unlike Canada, where criminal law is strictly a federal matter, the U.S. has kind of a hybrid system, so even though cannabis is still a big no-no at the federal level and in most states (outside of for medical purposes), individual states can approve legalization measures.

You can read more in this Slate report.

Law Foundation Of Saskatchewan Lecture

As a professor of criminology at the University of Toronto Mariana Valverde has a long history of exploring legal questions tied to sexuality. The first book she published as an academic, in fact, was Sex, Power, And Pleasure in 1985. In the early 1990s, she published another book tracing the development of moral regulation in Canada in The Age of Light, Soap and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1880s-1920s. Valverde has also done academic work on the subject of alcohol, addiction, health, morality and the legal system.

Tonight Valverde will be in town to give a lecture at the University of Regina. Her talk is titled “Beyond the Criminal Law: What Local & Provincial Authorities Can Do to Regulate Sexually-Oriented Business”. Right now, of course, the federal government is in the process of recriminalizing prostitution via Bill C-38 after the Supreme Court struck down aspects of the previous law last December because of the danger posed to sex trade workers. But as Valverde will doubtlessly demonstrate, criminal law isn’t the only tool available to provide a measure of control over the sex trade.

The lecture goes tonight at Luther Auditorium on the University of Regina campus at 5 p.m. For more information call 306-585-4226 or visit the university website.

On The Fear Of Gender-Based Violence

Video still from Mozart's Sister via cocostereo
Video still from Mozart’s Sister via cocostereo

Thought I’d share a line of thinking I hadn’t followed in a while because I haven’t gone out much in the evenings since the birth of my daughter.

Last night I was pulling out some clean clothes to wear and putting a few things together by the front door so that I could quickly slip out of the house to check out a rock show at the Exchange, the first I’d been to in a while. “Ha ha, you’ve really gotta plan three moves in advance with this parent thing,” I thought, “I’ll have to leave just after the first band is done, I guess.”

Then I paused as it occurred to me that I’ll have to walk alone to my car in the warehouse district, which has a few bars nearby and not a lot of foot traffic on a night when people are likely partying after a Roughriders victory and at the show itself. It would more than suck to have to deal with any kind of assault, perhaps especially at this time of my life when my body has only just healed after birth and is responsible for the nourishment of a baby.

Next I had two quick reactions: maybe it wasn’t worth it and maybe I shouldn’t bother dressing nicely at all. How fucked up is that? Self-blaming, fearful thoughts. Anyway, thought I’d share what it’s like for many of us out there (and not just for privileged white women like me): we’re always planning three steps ahead and hoping for the best.

Cannabis Becoming A Wedge Issue In Canadian Politics

CannabisIIThe B.C. Court of Appeal delivered an important ruling yesterday when it found that restrictions placed on the manner in which medical cannabis can be used were unconstitutional. The case dates back to 2009, and concerns a man charged with trafficking after he produced marijuana cookies and topical cannabis creams for a medical marijuana club in Victoria.

The case predates the coming into force of the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations in April, but the ruling would seem to be applicable to it as well. That’s because under MMPR patients who receive a prescription from a doctor to use cannabis are limited to purchasing dried cannabis.

Research done by medical cannabis advocates, though, has shown that smoking dried cannabis isn’t the only way to obtain medical benefits. Rather, edible products, creams, tinctures and other cannabis off-shoots can also provide patients with relief. Indeed, in some instances, depending on the patient’s circumstances, they provide superior results to simply smoking or vaporizing the herb.

By a 2-1 majority the justices who heard the case, which resulted in charges being dismissed against the man, gave the federal government one year to amend the regulations to permit the consumption of other cannabis products beyond dried cannabis.

Whether the Harper government will comply is another matter. Heading into the October 2015 election, the Conservatives seem determined to use marijuana (be it for medical or recreational use) as a wedge issue to inflame their base. In recent months several Conservative MPs have distributed bullshit brochures in their ridings warning that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who has come out in favour of legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol and cigarettes, wants to make marijuana available to children.

Of course, Trudeau’s position, which is also largely supported by the federal NDP, would do no such thing. Instead, by decriminalizing marijuana and developing a regulatory framework, the black market for marijuana would dry up, organized crime would be deprived of a lucrative cash cow, billions in police, court, and prison costs would be saved, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians would no longer be subjected to criminal sanction for doing something that is already legal in two American states: Colorado and Washington.

In the U.S., an additional 20 states permit the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Here in Harperland, though, Veteran Affairs announced recently that it was considering capping the benefits it provides to veterans who use cannabis for relief of pain, PTSD and other combat-related conditions. As well, Health Canada has apparently approached three doctors groups (the Canadian Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada) to enlist their aid in an anti-marijuana advertising campaign that would have obvious partisan political overtones and would compromise the integrity of the above-noted organizations.

Given that integrity is largely an unknown concept to the Harper government, that’s not surprising. Instead, the Conservatives seem determined to put ideology ahead of the health and well-being of tens of thousands of Canadians who currently use cannabis for medical purposes, and pursue an asinine “tough on drugs/crime” policy that has proven to be a disastrous failure in the United States and the rest of the Western world.

Sona Found Guilty In Robocalls Trial

In a Guelph courtroom today, Justice Gary Hearn found Conservative staffer Michael Sona guilty of voter suppression under the Elections Act for a campaign that preceded the 2011 federal election where thousands of fraudulent and misleading calls were made to voters in that city. The calls generally targeted non-Conservative supporters and were designed to harass and confuse them as to the location of their polling stations.

Sentencing has been put off until a later date, and in delivering his verdict the judge indicated that he thought Sona had had help from other individuals in orchestrating the campaign. At one point, he even used the phrase “aided and abetted” in describing Sona’s actions which suggests someone higher up in the party was the true master of the illegal campaign and that Sona, as a party underling, had been doing their bidding.

You can read more in this CBC report, which concludes by noting that Elections Canada’s investigation into the robocalls scandal is continuing.

Downtown Dialogue

Downtown DialogueA notice has been circulating in the downtown area about a couple of public meetings that Regina Downtown has organized to, in the words of the notice, “hear about updates regarding Safety & Security from the Regina Police Service.”

The meetings are being held at Regina Downtown’s boardroom at their offices on the Scarth St. Mall on June 24. One’s at 9:30 a.m. and the other’s at 5:30 p.m.

In addition to the RPS update about Safety & Security, “Action steps to enhance Safety & Security” is on the agenda. And there’s also supposed to be a Q & A roundtable.

As someone who lives and works downtown, I’m planning to attend the morning session. I’ll provide some follow-up later.