Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Uruguay Passes the Dutchie or at Least Takes the First Puff

August 5, 2013 Leave a comment

ÍndiceUruguay’s lower house has voted on a bill which would allow the legalization of marijuana. The government would have control of production, distribution and sale of the product. The bill still has to pass the Senate and be approved by President Mujica – who is in favour of the bill.

Those are the facts but the question is: Will Uruguay (or any nation that makes such a decision) suffer from it, or is it a logical step forward to combating the ever long War on Drugs?

I can only look to Uruguay and think back to America and Brazil – two countries in which I have resided and that have huge problems with drugs. Since in Brazil the real problem is with harder drugs, namely crack, (the police usually turn a blind eye to marijuana if they feel it’s only for recreational use) I will focus first on the United States where legalization of marijuana is always a hot button issue. Should they be looking at Uruguay as a possible blueprint for future drug policies?

On one side we have the hard-nosed anti-drug supporters who think that legalizing is the most surefire way of creating a nation of pot heads. Those that had never even thought of smoking weed would suddenly awaken an inner urge to go to the nearest vendor on a Monday, and blaze themselves into the weekend. And of course it wouldn’t stop there, as their druggie ways would eventually lead them to want to experiment other harder drugs, and the nation would eventually become a lot like a scene from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.

On the other side we have the equally hard-nosed drug supporters who believe that the legalizing of marijuana will actually be the best step to ending drug trafficking and– or at least put a considerable dent in it. They think it’s silly to suppose that those who don’t smoke marijuana today would suddenly feel the urge to go to a vendor tomorrow just because they can. Furthermore they champion the notion that keeping illegal marijuana off of the street is the best way to protect people from eventually experimenting harder drugs which are a lot of times sold right along with it. The nation won’t look like a scene from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, although it could slightly resemble a Grateful Dead concert – but everyone always enjoyed themselves at those – so what’s the big deal.

So who’s right? Is marijuana really to be thrown in with crack, cocaine and other blatantly dangerous drugs and kept illegal? Or should we consider that though marijuana certainly does have a mind altering affect, and can be an unhealthy habit if overused, that both legal alcohol and cigarettes have these same negative aspects. Where is the line to be drawn between a hard and soft drug?

Fact is there is no easier answer and instead a lot of things to consider before such drastic changes are made to drug policies, even if the nation’s compass seems to be pointing in another direction in respect to the issue. Some polls show that for the first time since

How bad is it really and can the government do anything to help?

How bad is it really and can the government do anything to help?

the question has been asked, more Americans are in favour of the Federal government staying out of pot smoker’s lives.

Still, drugs are a big problem in America. The war that was started long ago by President Nixon has done little to make things better – some argue that the battle is over and drugs won. Latest figures show that there are 330,000 people incarcerated at the moment for drug crimes. Is the country ready to open the doors to a big number of these people, and even if the War on Drugs has not been a good enough answer, is legalizing marijuana one?

Of course when it comes to legalization and criminalization of a controlled substance American had its big experiment already, and learned the hard way from the errors of the prohibition era. There were not only scores of gangs that were created to transport and deal alcohol, but it’s pretty much consensus that alcohol consumption went up. Now with marijuana being treated the same way, we can see an identical trend – more people smoke and gangs are formed to facilitate in the sale and distribution of the product.

One could argue that this sort of criminality and consumption is the trend for any illegal substance. I would agree; therefore, the real argument comes down to how dangerous of a substance marijuana is in comparison to the other legal and illegal substances out there for consumption. And if marijuana is considered to be less of a danger than its other illegal counterparts, then of course we move on to the question of whether the government’s decision to “butt out” while “butting in” with regulations will really help anything?

As to the last question I can only offer my sincere thoughts. I’ve always felt that criminalization of any controlled substance tends to leave much to be desired as far as a solution. I had mentioned Brazil at the beginning of the article. It’s a place where I have seen face to face the horrors of drugs. Here crack has become gold. Nearly every major city has a district it calls Cracolãndia (literally Crackland). But the story of one of these “Cracklands” in the mega city of São Paulo of over 20 million inhabitants, is the perfect example of strict police action in place of public health actions working against a resolution to a serious problem.

In São Paulo “there was” a “Crackland” in its historic Luz borough downtown, but I say “there was” because the city government’s solution for cleaning up and revitalizing this historic part of the city was arresting the traffickers and forcing (either directly or indirectly) the addicts out. Public health officials were outraged as they insisted that this was not supposed to be solely a police operation, but at the very least a joint measure with a strong medical force. These addicts began exodus by first moving to a neighboring high end borough. They were quickly ushered out and subsequently made their way to various other points of the city even down to its south side (remembering SP is a mega city so this was a journey that by foot would have taken at least a day or two – I can’t imagine the worst case crack addicts using the metro system but one never knows). The result is that on the surface the operation may have looked like a success, but in truth the problem only moved from one region to another. The truth is evident in reports of people in boroughs that area almost an hour away from downtown by car, who had never run into a addict before, who now have had to share in their first, less than enjoyable, first experiences. Crime rose across the city and areas that used to be family friendly have become occupied by zombie crack addicts.

Clearly I think that the iron fist of the law is not the only way to deal with drug problems, but I have to concede that legalizing marijuana in a country as big as America or Brazil may have unpredictable results. Nevertheless, if it means less people on street corners buying a product that may be laced with something else, or keeping a teenager from being talked into buying some other drug they should really stay away from, it can’t hurt. After all, can we securely say that what we have in place now is really working?
But I also think of the other side. If marijuana is taken out of the game what will drug dealers turn to instead to make their money? Will the ones that were just in the marijuana business be forced to move to the harder drugs? Will the harder drugs become more expensive and fuel more violence for its control. These are also things to consider before any decision is made.

So now it’s up to Uruguay to lead the charge. Nothing is certain, but from the looks of things we may have a historical moment afoot come October. If approved, it will probably take about a year or two for the numbers to come back that can really gauge the efficiency of the new drug policy, but I pray for the best. I feel that this movement by Uruguay’s government is being done with good intention and with sound reasoning. In life, of course, we can’t always count on positive thinking alone to result in positive results, but if it works, I hope that countries like America and Brazil (and others) follow suit, and we can take a cancer out of our society – that cancer being the crimes that normally go along with drug trafficking and the addicts which are created when an unregulated product like marijuana is in the hands of people who don’t know how to utilize it properly.

Categories: Society, Uncategorized

The “Not-So-Christmasy” Christmas Time Movie List To Help During The Holidays

December 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Not Every Christmas Needs To Be So Heartwarming Super Friends Will Still Beat You Up

For all of us who have nothing against Christmas but aren’t so much into the whole spirit of things (for whatever reason!) it can be pretty daunting to have to sit at a Christmas dinner, listen to a lot of Yuletide favorites and gather together for the 100th showing of It’s a Wonderful Life (a great movie by the way!).   So what are we to do?  Well I’ve managed to skip the dinners but when the Christmasy feeling permeates through everything I hear and see, so I have my own way of getting my shot of Christmas without disrespecting my own beliefs, but not falling head long into the mush.  I have my list of Holiday movies.  It’s pretty sparse and the categorization is pretty loose also (if it has at least two or three shots with a Christmas tree – it’s a Christmas movie).  So for all you outcasts who want to say that at least you played a little part in the big party, here are my top X-MAS movies.

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton’s vision of Christmas is as weirdly wicked as any I’ve ever seen without disrespecting the spirit of the party.  Jack, “the King of Halloween” only wants to be part of the happiness that Christmas brings and so he decides to kidnap Santa Claus and deliver the joy for one night.  He soon learns that each one has their own path in life to play but that that doesn’t make one part lesser or greater than another – a fun movie to watch with adults and with kids with wonderful animation and music.

2. Die Hard 2

Yes, Die Hard 2 is a Christmas movie!  There is snow, Santa Claus, and a lot of live and artificial Christmas Trees.  Bruce Willis is back to kick butt and make an hour and a half of your life pass by without much incident.  Had enough of Miracle on 34th Street, than pop this beauty in and have fun, drink and a beer and know that in life good guys may come last but in Hollywood everything turns out alright in the end.

3. Anything with the Muppets

If I have to go straight Christmasy at least let me do it with the Muppets.  They have a few very good (though not stellar) Christmas specials but A Muppet Christmas Carol always stood out to me as the best of the bunch.  They take Dickens and turn him on his head and it’s certainly more entertaining than singing along to Elvis by the fireplace.

4. Eyes Wide Shut

Stanely Kubric’s last complete film is as bizarre as its title and pretty much divides people’s opinion who think it’s either a masterpiece or a bunch of nothing.  I happen to love the film and it’s set in (you guessed it) Christmas time!  So perhaps this is one for the more solitary non-Christmas lovers.  Pop it in and figure out exactly what the hell is going on with Tom Cruise as he wanders the nights after a chilling confession from his wife.  “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas” especially when you crash a party where the guests are more than willing to kill you for the intrusion.

5. Ernest Saves Christmas

This is about as dumb of a movie as you can find that is still able to make you laugh and just go along with the ride.  Ernest was a big hit in his time but now he’s mostly forgotten.  Take out this old jewel from your old VHS stack or download it from the net and have yourself a dumbifying Christmas.

6. Batman Returns

One of my favorite holiday movies.  Batman is nasty and doesn’t play around as he tries to keep Gotham safe for the holidays.  Now that I think about it, neither he nor his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, look like the Christmas type.  There is a devilish Penguin and a tantalizing Catwoman, children are kidnapped and the set pieces are beautiful.  Furthermore, the movie still stands up to the test of time and Christopher Nolan.  Tim Burton again delivers his twisted holiday vision with respect and fun for all ages.

7. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

The jolly old man is kidnapped once more – this time by Martians.  Craziness ensues in one the most wonderfully bad movies of all time.  For extra entertainment value – watch it with the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 cast.  This is one movie that will sure to keep you happy after a few too many glasses of wine.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I am not going to lie, I usually fall asleep halfway through this animated movie (the pacing and the music are very slow) but I still love it.  The Jim Carrey live version is also not as unbearable as people make it out to seem.  The Grinch was just a misunderstood soul in the end.  Which of us can’t relate on some level?  I like to watch this when I am feeling a little bit nasty about the commercialization of the holiday only to then remember that not everyone only thinks of the gifts.

9. South Park Christmas Episodes

Anything involving South Park, Christmas, turds, Jesus and the Devil is an instant classic.  I am sure episodes will be shown on whatever station carries South Park nowadays.  If you can’t find one, download it from the net.  Keep the sprits light with a little acidic irony.  Just don’t watch these with anyone who doesn’t have a thick skin.

10. Reruns of old shows

If there is no way of sitting in front of the telly don’t fight it but find yourself a good cable channel and watch reruns of all the greats – whether it be Lucy or Dick Van Dyke or Transformers or Thundercats.  The list is endless and usually cable TV has no new scheduled programming so they simply pull out the old tapes.  The end of the year is the best time to catch up on the old folks who may have died but whose talent will live on for generations.

Categories: Society

Wake Up Black Brothers and Sisters: Barak Obama is not Your Friend!

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Barak "The Second Coming of" Obama

To all my black brothers and sisters who dogged me when I stood firmly against Barak Obama and his eloquent rhetoric during the presidential campaign in 2008, I ask bluntly, “how you like the brother now?”.  In the nearly 3 years Mr. Obama has been in power he has proved to be just another puppet politician – another version of Bush but with a larger lexicon, greater charisma and course Oprah’s undying love.  And although his poll numbers amongst blacks has declined by about 7% … “Once monolithic, blacks’ support for the first African American president is still…immense. But for unclear reasons it’s declined about 7% from well above 90% to 85% in March.” … it’s amazing to me that black America still judges this man based on the colour of his skin and not the content of his character.

Mr. Obama’s presidency, much like Bush’s, began very much under the radar – surely there were Mr. Obama’s slipping poll numbers that began to reflect a growing unease with his Administration, but that was always explained away as being the fault of the non-support from the “racist” majority-white Republican party.  But then we had the BP Gulf Oil crisis which should have given us the full picture of Mr. Obama’s complete lack of assertiveness and leadership in difficult circumstances – and it did for most people except for the majority of my aforementioned brethren.  Instead of using all the possible resources to combat the oil spill – be it from the proper nation or anyone else willing to help,  he waited until BP itself found a solution for the problem.

While oil spilt over the Florida shoreline and through most of the Gulf of Mexico, I felt as if I was watching “Bush vs Katrina Part 2: The longer more cumbersome sequel with not as many on screen casualties so as to widen the audience margin” – who wants to see more dead bodies floating in the water anyway?  Can anyone recall one important presidential moment from that escapade?  Was it his “firm” speech directed towards BP – which sounded more like an old mother telling her delinquent son to not hang out with those riff raff’s from down the way, knowing that he was going to go anyway?  Or was it his trip to the Florida waters to take a swim – in an area that relies more on fishing than the Miami Beach crowd.

After months of grueling reportage things slipped back to the usual – complaining about the economy – song and dance.  Until of  course there arose a new global crisis for our “Global President”: a deadly earthquake in Japan caused an accident in the nuclear plants located in Fukushima which subsequently began to emit radiation.  And like any good old American in March, instead of adressing the issue, Mr. Obama was giving talks on NCAA picks and traveling to Brasil (you missed Carnival by a few weeks my friend, but I’m sure you can still find a few parties to go to!)  Our fearless leader did manage to keep things from straying too far off the Presidential track before his trip though as he made sure to start an illegal war against Lybia (well “Kinetic Military Action” to be true to the Administration’s definition – and so as to not confuse with Un-Kinetic Action of any sort). Which was then followed by a threat to Syria.

It’s unimaginable to say after the 8 years of horror at the hands of Bush, but we can at least credit him for attempting to go to Congress (as the U.S. Constitution commands section 8 clause 11) before beginning his personal war with Saddam.  He even went further and stood before the UN – albeit with what turned out to be dubious evidence.  Mr. Obama on the other hand made it quite clear that his campaign slogan wasn’t made up of just words thrown in the air: “yes We can!”  I just worry that the “we” in the famous phrase refers not to his supporters and himself but rather to him and his political clan.

All this begs the question: “What have we learned from the Obama presidency so far?”  Well, for one he really likes basketball – inviting all the big boys from the NBA for a game  at the White House was headline news.  He’s also okay with gays – adios “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  He’s proved to be an incompetent negotiator – unable to pass health care legislation even when his party was in the majority.  This is a man who is also afraid to take any firm stand which might hurt any one’s feelings: his wishy-washy treatment concerning the Ground Zero Mosque is a testament to that and so is his hazy opinion on immigration reform.  He is like the mercurial guys we remember from High School who didn’t want to offend anyone so as to become every one’s friends.  I sometimes wonder what became of those guys after the real world came crashing about them and they realized the spinelessness may win you a temporary drinking buddy but it doesn’t built respect nor does it garner real friendships of valour.  Maybe these guys folded, or maybe they became men of integrity and opinion, or maybe they became politicians.

Since Obama has been in power nothing that Bush had implemented or done has been cleared.  We still have a Patriot Act (Obama just recently signed on for it’s extension), we still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (even with the “death” of Bin Laden it seems like the occupation now has no end in sight), a prison in Guantanamo Bay and much more. For sure we will soon have expanded Kinetic Military Action in Lybia which is rapidly leading to Humanitarian Ground troops so as to not call it an illegal war – did I mention Obama had a larger lexicon?  Syria is next and threats already have been made against Pakistan.  Furthermore. since the Bush years, the economy hasn’t bettered and neither has the unemployment rate.  There’s isn’t any raw evidence that the country is any safer from terrorists – unless you want to consider the “Spy on your Neighbors” adverts in Wal-Marts, cameras everywhere and TSA naked body scans and body gropes at airports “safer”.

With more chaos and Kinetic Actions at hand, Nobel Peace Prize winning President Barak Hussein Obama will have his right place next to Bush and nearly every other President before them, as another nail in the coffin of what was once the greatest nation on earth.  Even with it’s flaws America was once a dream trying to built itself into a reality, a respectful idea that even the most disparaged of it’s inhabitant could at least fight to defend and integrate himself into, but who can be proud to wave the flag anymore?

I started this text calling out my black brothers and sisters because it was principally they who were more moonstruck than anyone by Mr. “Second-Coming of Christ” Obama.  I hadn’t seen this sort of blindness to the obvious based solely of race since the O.J. Simpson trial – and I was too young to truly understand the breadth and scope of what that truly meant and stood for when it was happening.  This phenomenon isn’t only unsettling due to it’s sheer ignorance, but also because it gives us a definitive marker of how divided America still is by race relations.

So I ask you my brothers and sisters, “are you willing to look past the colour and see the man?”  Your freedom and well-being is at stake.  Your mind is still yours.  And freedom is still a right not endowed by any government of by any man, but by the Almighty Creator himself.  Use it!

Categories: Society

Helen Thomas Is Forced to Retire – This is Still America, Right?

June 14, 2010 1 comment
Standing Firm on American Ground

Why are more and more Americans suddenly becoming UnAmerican

Just last week Helen Thomas was forced to resign from her position at the Hearst News Service, due to her racy comments made on May 27th about Israelis getting out of Israel and returning to Germany, Poland or the US.

Freedom is a funny thing.  Some only like it when the flag of independence is blowing more steadily in their direction.  America continuously claims to be a citizen run, capitalist society – but more and more we appear to be losing large stake in this, “capital”.  What happened to, “let the market decide”?

Simply because Ms. Thomas stated something which is in no way associated with her publisher, in an interview with Rabbi David F. Nesen, on the White House lawn during the American Jewish Heritage Celebration Day, that goes against the majority American opinion (the Gallop Poll shows that US support for Israel is at 63%, a close to record high she gets the ousted by her employers.

This is as un-American as pulling Don Imus off the air for his racist jokes towards the Rutgers Women’s players on April 4th 2010.  He called them, “nappy-headed hoes”.  It seems we always forget that the public has the choice to listen or read or do neither – or at least that is what I was taught in grammar school American Social Studies class.  Oh, but that was a long time ago, and who’s minding the details? Does my chocolate fudge sundae really taste all that much worse if the girl forgot to put the M&M on top?  Hmm, bad analogy, because think of it I really love M&Ms.  How about a cheeseburger with pickles when I didn’t ask for any?  Damn it!  I’ll tolerate it once, but if it happens again … oh, well.

What will it take before Americans wake up to the reality that their freedom to speak is being stripped away slowly (or freedom to speak and still make a living, I should say) because after all America is still a land where one can walk into their favourite bar and say: “Fuck America,”; “Fuck Obama,”; “Fuck Bush before him,”; and still make it home without a stop at a Secret Service jail – and if that’s changed I wouldn’t know because after all – they don’t call it secret for no reason.

But the troubling issue is how the country has inverted its model.  Instead of citizens saying, Helen Thomas, Dom Imus, Howard Stern or Rosie O’Donnel (to name a few) are idiots, so I won’t listen anymore – therefore won’t be attracted by their advertisers – who would then rightly fire the personalities because they are no longer profitable – and I’m sure we are all aware of how “unprofitable” Stern and O’Donnel were to their respective companies:  ” Despite controversy — or maybe because of it — O’Donnell was good business for ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co. Ratings for “The View” during February sweeps were up 15 percent in key women demographics over the same time in 2006. “;  “ Stern was carried on almost 50 radio stations across the country. His show generated almost $100 million in advertising revenue and an additional $50 million in cash flow for CBS.” reversely Dom Imus, who  reached about 3.25 million people a week before his controversial remarks, a fraction of other big name radio hosts should have been fired for low audience shares years ago, as for Helen Thomas, one could argue the same.  How many ardent followers did she have anymore?

Instead, these people say something, “bad” and the suits decide, and the major advertisers decide before the audience chooses (or worse while the audience is choosing at times to stay – Don Imus actually came back with higher audience interest than when he left to remove the voice from the air.  Sadly over the last decade, more and more of these voices have been silenced and they are almost all of the less popular opinion.

I hear Americans say frequently that they live in a democracy.  This is not true!  You live in a republic- though it’s tough to tell.  A democracy is primarily based on majority rules.  In a simplified way it means that if 7 votes say, “hang ‘em” then the other 3 don’t count.  Notice this is much better than totalitarianism or dictatorialness – which is why Bush’s “I’m the decider” sounded so scary.  But a republic is built on different ground.  It wants to find a way to restrict the majority so that everyone has a voice, a vote, a piece, in the best manner possible – unless that freedom in some ways infringes on my freedom.;

So where is Ms. Thomas’ piece, where was Dom Imus’ piece and the many other who have had to suffer being cut from the system or who still are?  Americans, or more broadly, people, need to wake up to what is happening to their right of expression.  It’s simply not acceptable to fire someone, or force them to retire, or make any alteration to their livelihood or whatever other fancy semantically appropriate term we want to use, based upon one’s opinion or political view.  The individual must be empowered once more.

We have, for a very long time, been more willing to trust the government than ourselves.  It seems we have forgotten the government’s role in our lives as constructed by the Founding Fathers – and it’s an important one:

“…a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson.

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” – Patrick Henry

The American government was established primarily to protect us from other people who might try to take away our right to be free.  Sadly this does not include emotional protection – I guess people back then had thicker skins.  Nowadays we have to put blinders on for everything.  God forbid we think an Israeli is a terrorist (this must mean we are Nazis according to the right) or that Barack Obama really has no clue what he’s doing (this must mean we are Racists according to the left, which is just as guilty of anti-American scare mongering.)  But you know something?  What if one is!?!  Good for them!  Plenty of guys that are still left on the airwaves I believe to be racists – I don’t listen to them – but if there are enough people that do, that they’ve earned their right to stay on the air.

Liberty comes at a price – that price is the acknowledgement that others posses the right to this same liberty.  We must accept and respect this right – which is a far cry from accepting and respecting the actual opinion or person.  Words are power, and the ones who can control words can ultimately control reality.  Now imagine if only a select few were allowed this opportunity.

The coming years are wrought with uncertainty, rumours of wars, disasters, plague and bigger governments with bigger agendas, offering bigger solutions to all our woes.  What this ultimately means is that now is the time of the individual to awaken.  Perhaps the dragon has become too fat to be slain, our sharp words won’t cut through its thick skin any longer, but though its girth has made it implacable it also has made is slow – easy to be spotted, quickly avoided.  What happens after that, is solely up to you.

This brings me to an important final point.  Do Americans really want change?  The more I think of it – the less I know.  After the World Wars, when America got a taste of global domination, it seemed that both her and her citizens forgot humility.  Americans don’t want to be Norway or Canada – which usually rank above it in terms of safety and  education, but have little to no importance on the world stage.;

Americans have a certain pride in knowing that there is a McDonald’s on every corner of the globe or that practically wherever they go there will be someone who speaks English.  It’s a dangerous line which is crossed when pride becomes ego.  My wish is for Americans to realize the good which has come from their system but to not become so entrenched in its mystique that it distorts its primary good and purpose: the betterment of its own country and citizens.  That is the American dream.


Categories: Society