Monthly Archives: September 2008

Politics: Freedom to Choose

Originally this was published in the online magazine called Fearsmag.com. The magazine didn’t last long due to the withdrawal of funds by the benefactor during the dot.com crunch. I was an editorial writer and took a look at different fears to write about each month. This was the December column for 2000 but it’s appropriate now.

Christmas or politics? Christmas? Politics? Agh, the indecision nearly froze my fingers on the keyboards, sort of like choosing which candidate to vote for. Well, I decided that Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/your favorite winter festivity happens once a year but this unique political picture forming in Canada and the US happens but once.

            I’m not going to go into great detail on the buffoonery, the conniving, the shiftiness, the lying or even the successes of the candidates. I’m going to dig around in that really nasty cesspit of the fears we have about our politics.

            On the lighter side, we are lucky; we all have the right to vote and with some degree of democracy, with all its requisite odors and flavors per country. That’s good. I’ve had nightmares about a future where we were all enslaved, fighting for our rights and freedom from aliens or dictators and bigots. Freedom fighting has been a popular theme ever since our ancestors climbed out of the trees and pretended they were civilized. Freedom is the integral right of the individual, though ask a handful of people on the street and what freedom actually means will be quite different from one to the other. UPN’s new show Freedom is just about that; the US president is shot and the good guys fight the military regime that’s restored order to a rioting USA.

            Now I’m Canadian but close enough to the border that half my friends are from the USA. I’ve heard enough about the politics to get an idea of what people think, at least the West Coast. Freedom in the US election meant choosing between two leaders with as much personality and flavor as cold spaghetti without the sauce. Clinton, even if he was careless enough to let his private predilections fall under the White House spotlight, has lots of personality. Many people told me they were afraid of the old world, right wing, knee jerk politics that Bush represented. Some even said old Bush senior had at least been a statesman but Jr. hasn’t lived up to that image. He represents to many a redneck, narrow-minded conservatism.

            Well if you don’t want Bush you have well, er, um Gore, (Gore actually became stronger and better known after the election.) not exactly someone of scintillating mien. Many people liked what Nadar stood for but were afraid that if they cast their votes for his determination to launder the old political baggage that they would be tossing their vote away and letting Bush in. There you see the freedom to choose but fearing to choose what your heart says is right.

            And what bigger fear could we have than that our democracy is but a sham, that computers are being fixed with ballot tallies, that authorities are delaying folks long enough that the polls close, that ballots are confusing, that information is leaked to media sources before it should. It would make a great conspiracy movie or perhaps, it’s the truth.

            Now let’s look at the other half of the coin. (I know little of Mexican politics but have heard that el presidente Fox is somewhat right of center.) Here in Canada our election just happened. The ruling party, the Liberals spent eight years in office and curbed the National debt, but at the expense of human welfare and lives. There have been issues like the APEC rally and the loss of freedom of speech and civil liberties. The Bloc Quebecois only cares for one province and not at all for the rest of Canada, yet because of population alone always stands a chance of being the government. I fear that if the Bloc won, Canada would be a country no more.

            Then there’s the Conservative party, which used to be strong and either the governing party or the official opposition. After Brian Mulroney’s heavy-handed bludgeoning of the country the Conservatives dive-bombed all but out of sight. Like the proverbial phoenix, they’ve been trying to resurrect themselves from the scathing ashes that many remember and which gave us the hated GST (goods & services tax or better known as the gouge and screw tax). However, this phoenix is still small with but a few feathers and not a contender.

            The NDP (New Democratic Party) could stand a chance if they had a stronger leader and weren’t willing to completely blow the national budget with wholesale spending. Then there’s the Reform party, renamed the Canadian Alliance party. (The Reform nee Alliance party congealed back into the Conservative party, like  a phoenix, but containing more right-wing thinkers.)  They booted their founding leader Preston Manning out just a few months ago and put in the younger stronger Stockwell Day. Day and his party have stuck their feet in their mouths in the past, stating they’re not so far right wing that if they were a bird it would never get off the ground. (Day would have been a scary combination with Bush.) They’re not racist, yet one member once said it was all right to have colored people work in your store—just have them go to the back if it offended anyone. They won’t use a religious-political agenda but they’re all for “family values” which means no gay rights, no women’s rights. I’m sure they believe a woman’s rightful place is in the home. They want tougher criminal laws. Granted our justice system is flawed, but should we really take a DNA sample from everyone charged with a crime, whether found guilty or not?

            Many parties, yet the mindset on both sides of the border has been who to vote for, no one’s particularly good, and some are downright scary. Here’s my nightmare—that Bush should get in and that Stockwell Day should win here. Two extreme right wing leaders, two powerful and large countries, most of North America, a lot of guns, and a lot of “free” people. If you ever read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (or saw the movie) it’s a fear I find still too close to my future.

            Well, Canada went to the polls and, like the US, feared the worst and cast their votes. The US has Bush (still being determined) and we voted in the lesser of the two evils and have the Liberals yet again. At least it’s not my worst nightmare.

            Whatever we voted many of us our still stuck with the fear, the gnawing small fear that, like an insidious worm, eats away at us from the inside. Our biggest fear is that our government isn’t working, that our politicians are lying to us. Do our voices and our votes even make a difference or are they just a drop in a vast ocean of indifference? We fear we have no choice in what we see. There is no good alternative and if it’s actually presented, we fear to choose it because not enough others will and we’ll then end up with a worse evil.

            We are afraid of the darkness of our democracy, the loss for everyone to choose his or her own path, to move about freely, to say what we think. But what if it doesn’t matter? What if the handful of the powerful and those who control the country’s wealth let everyone think their vote counts for change or upholding values when in fact it’s all hollow? What if those powers that be, “they” just do what they want–what they have always done because they “know” the masses don’t know enough about governing a country or the political process itself? Therefore, they will guide us and our country and our policies whether we like it or not. What if freedom of speech means only speaking in a place at a time when they want you to but not if it causes too much thought, too much questioning?

            Remember Desert Storm? I was in New York around the time the troops were coming back. A ticker tape parade and all the fixings for heroes. But there were those who disagreed on the military policies. Bus shelters with pro posters had graffiti scrawled in indelible ink on the glass. They were scrubbed and cleaned, or replaced before the troops arrived. In New York? A park in the lower east side, near where I was staying had police tape and sawhorses up so that people couldn’t gather and speak out against the military’s activity. (Shades of Beijing.) Gatherings had been planned but the police banned them. That was freedom of speech.

            True freedom means never bowing down, never giving in to the dark, the evil, the bigoted and the judgmental. Yes, one must work within a society but freedom means being heard and continuing to be heard, to shout, to scream and to keep screaming until other voices join in and those voices are heard. Becoming complacent about the freedom to choose is when it can be taken from you.

 

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Politics: Gender Voting

I’m more than a little disturbed by several things going on in our political world today. Of course I’m always disturbed by racism and bigotry, and certain genderist trends seem to be rearing their ugly heads right now.

The first is that in the US for the first time, can I say ever, there were women running for presidential candidates. Okay, one running for presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton) and another put in as a VP running mate (Sarah Palin). It’s great that there are women in politics and of course there should be more. It is still and often a man’s world where a woman politician will be mentioned in the press for what she wore rather than what she stood for. The media is getting better at this and in the US and Canada there are women politicians.

But when I hear some woman say that she would vote for Hillary because she is a woman and then will now vote for McCain because he has a VP running mate who is a woman, it scares me. How stupid can people get? Obviously, very stupid. I’m sure there are men who would have voted for McCain if Hillary got in because they think politics ain’t no place for a woman. I’d like to think this is a small percentage but I don’t know.

Since the Suffragette movement women and politics have been mixing (if not unofficially before). Looking at Palin and Clinton, their views are so diametrically opposed that it’s like comparing a salad and a piece of baklava; they’re both food but that’s it. These women are women but that’s it. Their attitudes are different, their beliefs are different, their ways of thinking and acting are different.

Not all women are the same or think the same. This seems pretty obvious to anyone of intelligence. Just as men are not the same. Men and women can have the same views just as they can have different views. Hey, buttheads of both genders, vote for issues, not for a person’s gender. Those that vote for McCain because of Palin, (and gods help us if they get in) will get what they deserve. Unfortunately, everyone will suffer.

Likewise in Canada, there are four parties running in the federal election, with Elizabeth May of the Green Party being the only woman leader. However, there has been recent news that the Green party is putting in candidates who are women, which is fine but if the best candidate is a man they’re being overlooked or worse, being barred from being a candidate in a riding. WTF? Does no one see a problem with this?

I’ve always had huge problems with people being barred from something based on their gender. Humans are of equal intelligence independent of gender. Men are stronger in average but unless a job is only physical women can do all the jobs men can. Any party or any person who chooses their candidate because of gender should be smacked upside the head. On top of this, it’s downright scary and a slippery slope to such groups as the Taliban who subjugated women to such a degree that they couldn’t work. I’m sure they couldn’t vote, if the Taliban even allowed something as democratic as voting.

Men should not be banned because they are men. Women should not be voted for because they are women. If we were in a country where women (or men) had been tamped down so much they had few rights and the only way to ensure some balance against bias was to vote for gender, then that would be a different thing…if their views supported what you believe in. I’d say I’m embarrassed to be a woman, but I’m not. I just think there are women and men out there who should be embarrassed because they’re thinking with their genitals, not their brains.

Let’s see some intelligence in these elections and no gender politics.

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Politics: If We Don’t Laugh, We’ll Cry

I don’t know about you but with all the campaigning going on, on both sides of the border, I’m feeling a strong futility in it all. Will Obama really bring change? What if McCain gets in? He’s a maverick liberal Republican but he brought Palin in as his running mate to get the redneck conservative, uber right-wing fundamentalist, female Republican vote. Whoever gets in will have to clean up the giant mess Bush has left the country in: soaring debt, crashing wall street and mortgages, war on terror (how I hate that phrase), loss of rights and freedoms, dropped dollar, reviled throughout the world…thanks, George, you did an amazing job.

In Canada Dion is considered not strong enough, Harper close to running a regime, not a government, Layton cleaning up after his pothead candidates and May (Green Party) moving up fast even if the party is still a little green. Promises tossed out like bird seed. Harper’s Conservatives making comments about ethnic people responsible for crimes, Dion proposing more carbon tax without bringing through other environmentally viable options.

And what does it get, billions of dollars…billions spent to promote themselves? What could all that money have really done for people, the economy, the environment? Alas, we’ll never know as it went to pumping up egos. Well sure it supported some spindoctors and campaigners but someone like you or me could never consider being the head of our country unless we’re multi-millionaires. And as we’ve seen, rich does not equal wise or competent

I’m going to go beat my head against the wall. But in the meantime below is a very funny spam for money going around. Anyone who falls for it wll be particularly stupid and deserving of losing their bucks. The other is a fun little piece by JibJab on campaigning. Does it say anything that I can’t seem to find a good funny on Canadian politics?

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP
DEAR AMERICAN:
I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE. (indeed, it will have a great magnitude when you realize what an idiot you’ve been.)
I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU. (Considering how bad Bush is with the English language I could see how someone might think the rest of the government is as equally inept. So much so, that they can’t transfer funds without the help of the average American.)
I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. (Lord help us. If he was nearly single-handedly responsible for the mortgage crisis, then putting him in charge of the treasury will be like a kid in a candy shop.) AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE. (Oh yeah, and so is that beach front property in Nevada. As safe and accurate as your spelling.)
THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. (Hahahaaa, oh yeah. I need a blank check too. Just fill in the amount. Perhaps Gram could send me one.) WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. (Could that be because of the grand illegality of it all?) MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED. (What, Gram has no next of kin? Surely he could claim McCain as one.)
PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS. (That would be the safeguards so that you’re not found after bilking people. But really anyone stupid to send all their account information deserves this. And who has account info for their kids and grandkids? My mother certainly doesn’t have mine. But if these spammers are successful perhaps they can take over the US treasury and fill it up in no time.)
YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON

http://www.peteyandpetunia.com/VoteHere/VoteHere.htm

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Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest Winners

Well I finally heard word from the SFPA contest, forgetting I ever entered it to the point when I saw the title by my name I almost emailed them and said, that’s not my poem. Duh. But though I didn’t win, I did receive a judges’ choice for “Don Quixote’s Quandary.” (Full details below on the contest). And I finally received my copies of Dreams and Nightmares #79 with my poem “The First Taste.” It’s also the theme for the cover illustration. The chapbook came out earlier this year but the postal demons ate my copies.

The SFPA Contest Committee is pleased to announce the results of the 2008 Poetry Contest. We received over 400 poems, from over twenty five countries. Poems came in from Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany,  Great Britain, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, The Netherlands, UK, USA, and Wales, as well as from forty US states.

The entries were judged blind, and the judges selected one honorable mention and eight judges’ picks as well as the top three winners. Your poem “Don Quixote’s Quandary” was one of the eight judges’ choices.

First Place: “She Seemed So Quiet” by Marion E. Boyer, Mattawan, MI

Second Place: “Artifacts of Intelligent Design” by Elizabeth Barrette, Charleston, IL

Third Place: “And I Fly” by Frances Shi, Woodhaven, NY

Honorable Mention: “Photograph of Mt. St. Helens” by Lois Jones, Glendale, CA

Judge’s Picks:

Marcie Tentchoff’s choices –

“Dead City” by Scot Brannon, Seattle, WA
SFPA Sonnets Chapbook (Spec House of Poetry)
Charles Gramlich – Wanting the Mouth of a Lover  (Spec House of Poetry)

“Potential Energy” by M. Frost, Baltimore, MD
Covenant by Elissa Malcohn

Jaime Lee Moyer’s choices —

“Don Quixote’s Quandary” by Colleen Anderson, Vancouver, BC, Canada
The Shantytown Anomaly #3 (Spec House of Poetry)
Greg Beatty – Phrases of the Moon (Spec House of Poetry)

“a star hunt” by Nadia Chaney, Vancouver, BC, Canada
The Shantytown Anomaly #5 (Spec House of Poetry)
Kendall Evans – Poetry Red-Shifted in the Eyes of a Dragon (Spec House of Poetry)

W. Gregory Stewart’s choices –

“Scientific Experiment/1927” by Elizabeth Penrose, Pittsburgh, PA
The Shantytown Anomaly #2 (Spec House of Poetry)
Greg Schwartz – Bits and Pieces (Spec House of Poetry)

“Future Freedom” by Elizabeth Bennefeld, Fargo, ND
Passionate Eye: The Collected Writings of Suzanne Vega by Suzanne Vega

Scott Virtes choices –

“Stone, Soup, Bones” by William Copeland, Redford, MI
The Shantytown Anomaly #4  (Spec House of Poetry)
David C. Kopaska-Merkel – Drowning Atlantis (Spec House of Poetry)

“Playing Duets with Heisenberg’s Ghost” by Peg Duthie, Nashville, TN
The Shantytown Anomaly #6 (Spec House of Poetry)
Kendall Evans – Star Birth (Postcard – Spec House of Poetry)

J. Bruce Fuller will be doing the chapbook through the Spec House of Poetry, which will include the winning poems, the honorable mention, the eight judges choices and several other poems that were on the judges finalist lists.

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Donegal and Slieve League

FIrst posted on 10/02/07 on Blogspot.
Yesterday was big hike day. We went to Kinbane Castle, a ruin, down many steps to a crag and a rock in the ocean. It was fine gong down but definitely a sweaty hike up the steep steps. My sister couldn’t make it so stayed above.

Then we drove (driving is fine now…mostly, except those traffic circles, which are literally every five blocks when you drive through a city. Very confusing when there are five names on each sign and you’re trying to find one.) to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. Randi is afraid of heights so I went on and over the bridge (short) to the hummocky island. It’s like it’s covered with peat and then grasses and little field flowers here and there. A beautiful view of the North Sea in its blues and turquoises with the white cliffs, the black rocks and the little green sharp cliffed islands called Carrick Island (where the rope bridge leads to) and Sheep Island. That trip to the bridge was the second, easier hike but with some steep steps to climb back up.

We then went to the Giants Causeway where there were hundreds of people. This is where the land coughed up great hexagonal (six sided) columns of stone everywhere to the water. These columns form natural seats and steps and are very cool. Managed to get some good pics but the haze stopped me from getting good ones of the chimneys farther out and I was a bit tired to walk that far.

We went on to the Bushmills whiskey factory. Why we did this tour I’m not sure. It wasn’t on our itinerary (made up daily) and it wasn’t very exciting or interesting. No old architecture, a bit on the making of whiskey(which was kinda interesting). Bushmills is named for the old Bush river from which they pump the water and the milling of the barley. But because we did this we missed getting into Dunluce castle. October hours means many things close at 5 instead of 6. It would have been the most impressive castle with a bridge, large environs and a cave beneath the castle. All these castles today were coastal castles. All we could do was take pics from the gates.

We then drove and drove through many a roundabout, through Portrush and Portstewart, Strabane, various little towns to Donegal. We stopped in a pub, the Reel Inn, had a drink and got some idea for B&Bs. This was a nice change. A small town center and our B&B just over the bridge, less than five minutes from the town. The pub is just one side of the little bridge. We ate in some restaurant which was okay. I had chicken curry (13.50€) which was only chicken, no veggies. Lots of chicken and rice though and then I was given a huge bowl of fries, which I didn’t even touch. The Irish do love their taters.

We went back to the Reel Inn which was supposed to have live music. We barely set foot in the door when we were mobbed by drunk Irish men. There was a very drunk, bleary eyed, mostly incoherent Liam and his friend who we called Harry Potter, of barely legal drinking age. Enda was a nice guy who looked like he used to play rugby (on the TVs everywhere here) who had his own pub but goes for drinks with the boys on Mondays because one of them is banned from his pub. The banned one, the older Liam (40-ish) with a front tooth missing, regaled us with many a story of his fishing forays, true or not. Liam McGurdy holds the world record for fish whacking and gutting. Supposedly this is true though some of the other tales were not (though we googled this and found no mention of famous fish whackers–more blarney). There was an equally drunk, red-haired Eric. They were all bleary-eyed when we arrived and just stayed the same.

Randi and I had been told that the men buy your drinks everywhere. We hadn’t found this yet or even that people talked to you that much. But it was true here. They all wanted to shake or hold our hands but we never bought a drink all night. Each guy would try to up the other in blarney.

There was also a Pete or Finnbar but it was hard to tell as he was not always on the up and up either, who kept telling me I was a fine woman and asked, if I was there alone would I fancy him. I didn’t want to say outright no and offend him, but I did say no and he asked why. I said because I like to get to know people there and that the gold wedding claddagh (Irish ring with two hands holding a heart) with the hands turned in told me he had a wife. “Oh you know too much,” he said when I caught him at his blarney.

A younger Pete came in and all the guys in the bar started calling old Pete “Daddy.” Younger Pete, Pete Cannon was kind of like a leprechaun, not that tall, pretty eyes, lots of character in his face and brown hair with blond and light red streaks. Turns out he’s a musician and he also contributed to the blarney in his way. But overall the lads were friendly and harmless, if half of them completely inebriated. I got to try Adam’s cider which came in a larger 1.5 pint bottle.

Now we’re off to Slieve League and the western coast. More as the internet allows.

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Politicians, Pot and Prohibition

In the last week two NDP candidates have had to step down because there were pictures/videos of them smoking pot. And another candidate once upon a time skinny dipped in front of teenagers. There were never any charges laid, none of the teenagers or parents ever complained, and RCMP cleared him of wrongdoing. Yet he’s had to resign from running. Something that people need to understand about the West Coast and the island communities is that it’s not abnormal for people to be free an easy. To get your knickers in a twist over someone skinny-dipping is a little over the top. The politicians are really desperate if that’s all they can find. I certainly would rather have someone dipping into the drink nude than have them scam the country of a few million or outright lying.

But that’s the lesser issue. There is the oh so horrible aspects of marijuana. Granted it was pretty stupid letting yourself ever be filmed if you have aspirations in politics but smoking pot is pretty much so minor that it doesn’t amount to even a crime. Being filmed driving under the influence of anything is a little more serious.

But let’s look at this. Pothead politicians. Hmm. When a person is high on pot, they tend to sit around, maybe eat, maybe sleep. People on pot are never seen as being zippy and really, how much crime is contributed to just potheads? I’m not talking grow ops or dealing but just plain ole smoking. Compare it to drinking. Drinking alcohol and buying/distributing it is legal. A person drunk can cause way more damage, possibly get in fights, and then drive cars. Our premier Gordon Campbell was caught and fined for drunken driving in Hawaii and he certainly thumbed his nose at everyone and didn’t step down. So why should someone who smokes pot, or swims naked do so when they’re not even in the government yet?

This comes down to the decriminalization of marijuana. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is… Why? I wish I really knew. There are illegal grow ops everywhere, the Hell’s Angels and other criminal organizations are involved in it and make millions every year. If it was decriminalized and regulated like alcohol was, then the government would actually make money on it, like it does on alcohol. When prohibition was in effect, more in the US than Canada, criminals raked in the money and not only that, became better established. We all have images of Bonnie and Clyde times (though they were bank robbers) and moonshine.

In Vancouver, with all the crime we have (home & car break-ins) you never hear that some crazy pothead was doing it or that potheads are living on the street. No, it’s crack and crystal meth and heroin that puts people on the street, and leads them to prostitution and burglary. Legalizing marijuana would actually make it far more controllable. I’m not even sure who is against it, some conservatives obviously that feel that it’s what, the devil’s tool, undermining our youth? I just don’t know but the harms of pot are far less than alcohol and people aren’t killed in car accidents by multitudes of pot smokers. Sure there may be some accidents but the majority are alcohol induced. Better the devil you know.

As far as I can see it, some guy running in politics who confesses to having smoked pot seems such a minor misdemeanour compared to a drunk driving premier. (But then Campbell was in good company with the equally drunken Klein–actually Klein was much more an expert at drinking and only cursed beggars and threw money at them.) It would be better for our resources if police could concentrate on serious crimes and just think, the proceeds of selling marijuana could go to fighting other drug crimes.

I think we have a very skewed society where true perpetrators of crimes and politicians who break promises and rip up emplyment contracts (Campbell) can stay in power (including the mayor of PoCo charged with violence and yet won’t step down) and some skinny dipper has to give up running. It makes me even more dubious that anything can ever change in this country because the old crusty suits still run the show in outmoded ways. Do I find a broken campaign promise worse than a guy smoking pot? Yes. I certainly wouldn’t care if he did smoke pot. And like past US president Clinton, these guys should have said that they didn’t inhale.

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Homophobia and the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf

The school district of Abbotsford is at it again. A high school course is being offered called Social Justice. It deals with issues and rights for animals, gay people, races, gender, etc. This is a Ministry of Education approved course and outlines what Canadian law covers in terms of rights. It was approved to be offered this fall.

Typical of Abbotsford, where the school district has in the past banned various books because of their content, some of it being about gay people, they yet again stuck their noses in, in an effort to slow down the inevitable offering of this course.

Now Abbotsford is an interesting place. It’s nearly an hour from Vancouver and now that housing has become unaffordable for the average human in Vancouver or even Maple Ridge, people are buying out there. I have several friends who bought in Abbotsford but it’s history is more right wing. I was a book rep at one point and drove all over BC. Abbotsford was one place where religious fundamentalism raised its hoary head. I had to be very careful what I wore (taking off my extra rings) and what books I showed the bookstores. In one, even a pictorial depiction of Jesus was frowned upon. An interesting note is that this city contains many bikers as well as the bible thumpers. I’m sure it’s changing with more people moving out from Vancouver.

However, you still have that religious right screaming out about unsuitable materials in the school any time a true education is offered, especially if it involves homosexual content. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trying to wheedle out content based on different races too. So Abbotsford school district pretending yet again that they’re just doing a “normal” (for them, maybe) review process smacks too much of the same ole prejudices. They’re the little boy crying wolf.

Yet again we have people who purport to be Christians, those who should “love thy neighbor” and to “turn the other cheek” should something offend them. Yet they get all riled up when “those people” don’t live by their values. I just can’t figure out what it matters to anyone else. Hold your religion and beliefs in your heart and don’t push them onto others. Compassion? Puhleeze. It’s only given to those who tow the line the way the fundamentalists want. How hypocritical. Really, who a person has sex with (as long as it’s not your spouse or someone under age) is no one else’s business. I could decide that in my religion the color blue was “eeeevil” and then start running around and trying to get it banned or not allowing books that mentioned blue in the schools .

Everyone might think me a kook but should my religion get more followers we could then form a cadre and start ostracizing people based on their blueness. If I don’t want blue around me, fine, but realize that other people live by other beliefs and it’s none of your business. They don’t need “saving” and they don’t want it. I really wish fundamentalists of every religion would take a reality pill and chill out. Let everyone live their lives and if they aren’t hurting someone else, let it be.

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Writing: Things to Watch Out For

Below is listed an ad, which was reposted to a writer’s list I’m on. Markets like this disturb me for several reasons. Albeit many short story markets only pay about $100 these days (some pay more and some less), but to actually pay only $100 for a 30,000 word story amounts to highway robbery on the publisher’s part. One cent a word for that length would equal $300. You do the math on just how little you’re getting paid. Of course, if you write the low end 1,500 word story you’ll get about .07 a word.

Article writers get paid on average between .75 and $1.25 a word. SFWA says that professional rates for speculative fiction should be at least .05 a word. That would be $1,500. Now I’ve sometimes sent my stories to places that pay .03 cents or so. I’m still a fairly no name writer and there are many many writers out there. But there comes a point when you have to figure out what you’ll prostitute yourself for, and I won’t sell myself as cheap as below.

That low payment could fall into acceptable but what really gets me is that this publisher is asking for all rights. I don’t know if this includes moral rights and I’ve talked about how that is the last right anyone should ever give up, but even so, they want all rights. For $100. Wow. That’s not just first anthology rights or first electronic print rights, or first North American rights. That’s all rights. Which means you can never sell your story again, never get more money to make up for the measly hundred bucks these guys gave you to steal all your rights. You pretty much don’t own your story anymore.

If you work for a company and write on their dime, they in essence own all rights. However you still have moral rights in that you are credited with the work, unless you sign those away. Considering the big grab that these guys are doing, I wouldn’t put it past them to take moral rights too. And all rights means that they could turn your piece into a film and you wouldn’t get a penny, or they could hack it up to read like drek and you’d have no say.

Now sometimes these things are worded badly because new publishers don’t understand which rights they should ask for. But I find that the statements about “if you’re a new writer” tell me they know pros will not submit to such a place. As well, they do warn you that if you aren’t happy with all rights being taken, then don’t submit. There are other huge media magazines that buy all rights. The Cricket (Carus publishing) and related childrens’ magazines are one. However, they tend to pay more and I don’t really submit to them either.

The problem with all of this is that you get magazines and publishers who often say, we can’t pay you anything. We do it for love and you have the privilege of getting your work published. However, the flip side is that they have the privilege of publishing your work and without writers they would have no magazine. If they find writing of worth, then they should pay what they think it’s worth. I think it’s okay for a new magazine to start small, not pay much but aspire to hoping to pay more for stories as they grow. I understand that people want to put out magazines and with the internet it’s much easier, but everyone who can should be paying for the work. I too want to start a magazine one day but I won’t do it until I know I can pay at least .03 a word to start. I don’t want to dishonor writers, of which I’m one.

Writers are always the last to be paid, the ones that are often stinted in how much they get as well. Opulence magazine for which I wrote some articles, did the same thing; ripping off their writers and not paying them for years while the fat cats at the helm got glossier cars and homes. I’ve written about Opulence elsewhere. Of course individual magazines have to either get grants or raise funds through subscriptions and advertising. Still, writers should not be the ones that get less because all the other costs are more.

Oh and Vincent Hobbes, the novelist? Well, it seems the only writing he has done has been published by Hobbes End (one book) and there is very little information on this publisher. So Vincent published his own work and made a company. That makes me doubly cautious. But each person has their own brain. It’s up to every writer just how little they think their work is worth. Of course, if I said each of my stories was worth a million bucks, and that’s all I’d accept, I’d still be waiting to publish my first piece.

Novelist Vincent Hobbes is seeking short stories for an upcoming project which will feature a compilation of strange and bizarre stories. His publisher is currently accepting submissions from any author interested in
having his or her work published in a novel.

Manuscripts being accepted will include anything from the following fiction genres:
Horror
Supernatural
Science-fiction
Fantasy
Psychological thriller
Mystery

Requirements: Word count may be anything from 1,500-30,000 words. We are seeking stories that are original and not previously published. Interesting storylines with a preferable twist at the end to captivate the reader is desired. Think Twilight Zone. All stories must be tasteful-not overly gory, no inappropriate sex scenes, or an over use of profanity.

All submissions must adhere to the following guidelines:
Single-spaced 12-point font, Times New Roman Cover sheet must be included with all proper contact information

Whether you are a new author seeking to promote yourself, or simply someone who wants your family and friends to read your story
in a published and widely distributed piece of literature, this is a rare opportunity to have your name and story published.

You may submit your story via mail or electronically. Details are as follows:

If mailed, send copy to:
Hobbes End Publishing, LLC

If sent electronically, send to:
publisher@hobbesendpublishing.com
Attn: Short Story Submission (subject line)

Deadline is October 1st, 2008

Terms: Full rights, both printing and media, will be purchased outright for $100.00 per story. Therefore, it will be un-publishable elsewhere without express permission from the publisher. Any author who does not agree to such terms, please do not submit your work for this project. Also, the best story will receive a bonus from the publisher.

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Politics: The Lemmings of Canada

Here we are chugging along through another election campaign full of pointing out what the others won’t do. Although from what I’ve heard, some of the parties are actually saying what they plan to do while saying what they others aren’t doing. Although Dion’s carbon tax (it’s become the newest catchphrase in the world) is not popular he does seem to have a better plan for various environmental aspects. Whether it would work, whether the Liberals would actually do it, who knows.

Unfortunately, there is so much of the usual rhetoric that it’s hard to even listen. Inflated promises that deflate soon after any party gets into power. In Alberta, it won’t really matter much what anyone says. Like lemmings, Albertans have voted Conservative forever, or at least since 1971. The chance of change is pretty much nil. Even when Ralph Klein raped their healthcare system and laid off numerous people, Albertans still jumped into the sea after the Conservatives. I think the Reform party (now melded back into calling themselves Conservatives) gained a few seats in the conservatively redneck lands of Alberta.

But that’s the provincial government. How Albertans vote for federal politicians may be different but I’m betting the majority goes Conservative. BC, on the other hand, has always been a pendulum province, going through a string of political parties one after the other.

When “Fundamental Bill” Vander Zalm’s Socred party got caught in too many scams, they were voted out so forcefully that they ceased to exist. The NDP came in strong and yet when they were caught in a scandal(some of it media generated) they dropped to two seats and the Liberals came in.  The current Liberals match closer to the Socreds of long ago, being more right-wing, and closer to the federal Conservatives. It looks a bit like Campbell and his goons will continue to rape the province like Klein did. Voters forget the numerous jobs that were lost, the lowered standards in our health care and hospitals which have caused many deaths due to rampant infections. The Liberals ripped up and dishonored contracts, so how could anyone trust them, yet they got in again, just like in the Klein Reich. Lemmings, yes, they’re everywhere.

BC provincial politics differs from its federal politics and it’s been possible in the past to have an NDP provincial government but Conservative, federal representatives. These days, we seem to be more of a mosaic. I must say, this is just my opinion, my feel, and I haven’t done much research into the actual numbers.

But I always worry about the lemmings. Too much of the electorate is ignorant of what really goes on, becomes starry-eyed with hollow promises and listens to media hype and believes it. Voters have notoriously short memories. They forget all the infringements of a government and only remember the good things that all governments plan just before an election. Gordon Campbell in his supreme arrogance felt he had nothing really to apologize for when he was caught drinking and driving in Hawaii. Sure, we all make mistakes, but the self-righteousness of Campbell meant that when other politicians had resigned over presumed wrongs he just gave a finger to the people of BC, like he did when there were protests of 40,000 strong in Vancouver.

But who remembers that? And I’m mixing provincial and federal politics. Of course, we have less direct conflict with federal leaders than with provincial leaders. Call me skeptical though. Whoever gets in (unless it’s the NDP or Green Party who have not held federal leadership positions before), we’ll soon see that half the promises go unfulfilled and that various scandals and wrongdoings will bubble to the surface like a pestilential pool.

I suppose I’m somewhat cynical, but then I remember beyond yesterday’s political promise, and when all the lemmings are jumping to their doom, I’ll shake my head. Of course it won’t help the country and sometimes I almost want to run as an opponent. I guess I should go get the dinghy ready with the emergency supplies.

I should also add that I know less of Canada’s other geographically specific lemmings. Quebec has been known to waft back and forth between Bloc and Liberals and even Conservatives. Ontario too but I’m less able to whine about them.

http://www.abheritage.ca/abpolitics/events/party_intro.html

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Politics, the Religious Right and Books

Interesting discussions have come up of late about “Left Behind” books. I hadn’t even heard of these before but it seems they’re tales written by and for the Christian extreme right, the fundamentalists, and portray apocalyptic views. Mostly the earth opens and people are tossed down to Hell, usually by Jesus. Errr…excuse me? Jesus? Wasn’t he the guy that said love thy neighbor and if you are without sin, you can throw the first stone? Wasn’t it Jesus who preached compassion and love and all that stuff?

I’m just amazed at fundamental right-wing Christians who follow these views portrayed in such fantastical books and then try to say they’re loving and compassionate. To me it doesn’t seem that you should be separating good works and compassion by race, gender or religion. Love thy neighbor stands even if he is a Muslim or she a Buddhist, or gay. You don’t pick and choose who to love equally.

Now, over in some of the Middle Eastern countries we have views just as extreme about wiping out unbelievers, smiting them and therefore, even if you blow yourself up, you’ll get to Heaven. Their way is the only way and everyone else is a heathen.

So let me get this straight. Christians believe that Jesus is the messiah and God the supreme being. Muslims believe that Mohamed is the prophet and God the supreme being. Jews believe in no prophet (I hope I have this right) but that God is the supreme being. And um…isn’t this the same God for all three of these branches of the same monotheistic religion?

So, when you die, whether you blow yourself up in holy righteousness taking down “those sinners,” or whether you’re blown up by some right-wing fundamentalist, you’re still going to end up in the same Heaven? The Heaven that will have black and white and brown people, men and women, gay and straight, Jews, Muslims and Christians?

Oh and isn’t converting by the sword or the gun kind of pointless, because someone will say what they must to survive but don’t you want the belief to be in their heart and soul, not just on their lips? It seems to me (who is not Jewish, Christian nor Muslim) that a little compassion and loving thy fellow being might just make conversion a bit more sincere.

Fundamentalists, no matter which religious paint brush you color them with, are scary creatures. Why? Because they’re so afraid of views that don’t agree with their own, that there might possibly be more than one right path, that they will do anything to tamp that down. Anything, like shoot doctors who perform abortions, bomb those who aren’t following their view, trashing religious buildings that they see as offensive. They believe that everyone who isn’t of their religious viewpoint are godless heathens and therefore evil, ready for Hell. The same fundamentalists who think invading Afghanistan was the correct thing to save people from the right-wing Taliban, are often the same, that if they had their ways would be pushing their religious views onto everyone else. (Not that the religious subjugation of so many people didn’t need to be addressed.) Take Sarah Palin, who believes she is on the right path because God is paving it for her. Well, then, her God-given right will mean that she’ll be less likely to listen to other evildoers if she ever holds more power than she already does.

Recent discussion on one writer’s list has ranged from disbelief that these Left Behind books would be listed under SF and fantasy, to others saying where else would you put them; they’re completely fantastical. Whichever it is, I can say one thing. If it is one God for Jews, Muslims and Christians and therefore one Heaven, I think I’d rather stay down here and be Left Behind then end up with all the Evangelicals and Jihadists. Heaven must be a pretty scary place.

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