Archive for the ‘Political Rants’ Category

Why I’m Voting Quebecois

Posted: April 30, 2011 in Political Rants

Editor’s note:  the views and opinions in the following article are right


Democracy 101

I don’t care who you are, who your father is, or under whose divine authority you speak, but I’m really sick of your incessant whining: “But there’s no PQ rep in your riding, Baumer!”

Hogwash.

Alright, fine, touche, anonymous lambaster (I just made up that word, yes).  Maybe there’s some relevance to your belly-aching.

So, there’s nothing healthier for liberty, democracy and egalitarianism than these looming elections, amirite, Canada?

Who cares about over-confidence, no-confidence or grossly negligent incompetence?

Let’s blow a few mil on some polls, amirite again?

I knew he was after a throne! God damn is he dreamy.

My faith in democracy evaporates when politicians call the elections themselves.

It makes me nostalgic for the good ol’ times of dictators, despots and absolute monarchs.  There was never petty quibbling in any sort of shack, shed or house of commons.

Dissent if you must, but there shall be consequences, peon!

Really, though, what good is the entire democratic process if it is usurped by the very leaders we elect?

Party politics is relatively short-sighted.  Important matters, both regional and national, include issues over taxation and budgets.  We’ve reached a point in society where our ideas and ideals about the future must stretch beyond 4-year clusters.

We need to be at a critical level of awareness about long-term social programs – such as health care – and long-term spending, acknowledging coming advancements in technology and eventual carbon footprints.

Fiscal responsibility needs to be redefined.

What he said

Barring any sort of water-raising Armageddon-type scenarios, I think I can safely speak for the rest of humanity when I say it doesn’t want to put itself on the endangered species list.

How does that translate on voting day?  I can’t honestly tell you.  I can, however, say definitively that voting for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party is a surefire way to invite instability.  Kiss goodbye healthcare as we know it (suspending, for a moment, disbelief that our current system is immaculate).  Say hello to the privatization of the health care sector.

As we all get together as a nation and vote let’s remember that the wholly pure idea of democracy and egalitarianism is inherently incompatible with the function of nationalism.

Further, true democracy is mostly unattainable.  In practice it is far too susceptible to abuse and corruption (as is any man-made institution).  Similarly, the theories of communism, socialism and anarchism vary greatly from their actual (or probable) practice in society.

I’m no statistician or social scientist but based on personal experience, nationalism breeds as much unity as it does division, repackaging, repeating and re-emphasizing the existential threat of “The Other”.  Xenophobia is a natural survival extinct that allowed tight-knit human communities to flourish in the past.

Yet today, in the age of endless information and globalization, this vestigial instinct does reprehensible harm to the species.  Being forced to integrate, accommodate or encourage deep-seated social, cultural and political norms runs contrary to impulse – the impulse to destroy outsiders or intruders.

REFOOORRRRRM. Booya.

If we can move past party politics for the sake of both this discussion and the perpetuation of the people population, we start to see timescales longer than the 2-4 year election cycles.  5, 10, 50 years.  500 years.  What will the face of democracy and egalitarianism look like then?  That’s what we’re being called to the polls for, to exercise our democratic right (and some will argue our legal obligation), to help shape our future.

To say I have the answer would be a lie.  I’m forced to look where the parties’ underlying ideological principles lie.  I’ve typically considered myself a moderate and plunked down around slightly right-centre on the political spectrum.  As we know, though, our own ideals with our own plans on how to make the world better don’t necessarily match those of others and the leaders we subsequently elect.

But wait a minute, did I say elect?  As you may know, we don’t actually elect a national leader, but a local one, who in turn votes for the leader of that party.  Weird, I know, but also a system that brutally strangles actual democracy.  This quotation from Wikipedia sums it up nicely: (bold mine)

In August 2008, Sir Peter Kenilorea commented on what he perceived as the flaws of a first-past-the-post electoral system in the Solomon Islands:

“An[…] underlying cause of political instability and poor governance, in my opinion, is our electoral system and its related problems. It has been identified by a number of academics and practitioners that the First Past the Post system is such that a Member elected to Parliament is sometimes elected by a small percentage of voters where there are many candidates in a particular constituency. I believe that this system is part of the reason why voters ignore political parties and why candidates try an appeal to voters’ material desires and relationships instead of political parties. […] Moreover, this system creates a political environment where a Member is elected by a relatively small number of voters with the effect that this Member is then expected to ignore his party’s philosophy and instead look after that core base of voters in terms of their material needs…”

Here’s a fun fact:  other than England and the United States, we’re one of the only developed nations that still utilizes this process.

If a rival receives more votes despite not having a majority, your ballot is essentially neutralized.  Their candidate takes the seat and that’s that.  In a proportional system, you and the other 472 votes for your choice would be 472 votes towards victory.  Instead, with our plurality system they become zero. This is a gross over-simplification of these two systems, so check them out on your own.

I don't know who this dude is but I can tell he feckin' loves the shit out of freedom. And area aerial bombing.

Our system is polarizing.  Attack ads?  Seriously?  Think about that for a second.  Forget principles, politicians regress to ad hominem jabs, linking personal characteristics to the validity or efficacy of that candidate’s proposed policy.  The goal shifts to crafting a personal legacy if that candidate’s ego is sufficiently aggrandized.  The stakes are never higher and the electorate becomes increasingly confused as to the purpose and result of yet another election.

The next government will dictate the future of health care in this country.  The Canada Health Act comes to review in 2014.  Its main purpose is to channel federal dollars to the provinces.  If the federal government redirects funding the provinces will be forced to pick up the tab, ultimately paving the way for privatization.  Harper has, over the years, stated explicitly or implicitly his lack of support for the Health Act.

Another major issue to consider is the Conservatives’ abolishment of the mandatory long-form census.  They claimed that it was a violation of privacy to ask people more detailed questions.  This may very well be true, but it’s not the sole reason, like they may suggest.  Some long-form advocates believe that this will make at-risk communities all the more vulnerable and proper funding and social programs would not reach their intended target.  A devilish catch 22 is concocted:  the opposition cries for social spending, but the Conservatives point to the lack of data.

As you can see, I’ve been slamming the Conservatives pretty hard.  I’m not saying don’t vote for them because it’s important to vote for the party you want to govern, the party that best represents your ideals.  This is where vote-splitting comes into play with our (in my opinion) broken system.  Take, for example, my riding, York Centre.  My MP is Liberal Ken Dryden but with a Conservative backlash his seat is threatened.  Now, I still don’t know, I just know that I will not vote Conservative.  If I vote Liberal, it helps keep the Conservative out of power, but I’ve compromised the integrity of the essence of democracy:  I’ll be voting for someone I don’t want and against the other people in my area.

Vote Communist!

When you go to the polls tomorrow, vote for the candidate you want, not against the others.  Try to detach yourself from the emotional appeals of the campaigns and focus on their parties’ founding principles.  Imagine a picture of Canada in 20 years time and vote for the party that you think would actualize your ideals.

No matter how likely they are to win.


I Hope the Pope gets the AIDS

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Political Rants

I’m HIV positive he’s a healthy candidate

Originally published 30 July 2009

Well, it’s Friday night, and in honour of the Sabbath, I shall go on a rant.

While the Pope currently embarks on a “peaceful” mission to the strife-ridden Middle East, I’d like to step back several weeks and discuss some of my previously unaddressed scathing criticisms of religious dogma.

Pope Benedict XVI just can’t seem to pry himself away from controversy, no matter how many asinine-suppression pills he gorfs down at breakfast.

pope-benedict2

Do you remember when you were a little kid, and your mommy told you explicitly, “don’t take a cookie from the jar!”?

Of course you do.

And what did you do?  You took it.

Of course you did.

People, especially children, take great pleasure in defiance, as it can be very empowering.  How else are you going to know how much your mom loves those crystal figurines until you smash a few and find out?

Enter sex.

Contrary to much religious doctrine, humanity is a hugely sexual species – in fact, that’s how we reproduce.  Sexually.  But don’t try telling that to the United States’ Department of Education.  Instead of embracing the inherent tendency of adolescents to explore their experimental and curious impulses, the official policy, instead, is to not only endorse abstinence, but to preach it virtually exclusively.

That’s right, folks; the vast majority of the effort encourages the demonizing the horizontal polka, rather than telling kids that if they happen to act  human, they should do so safely (i.e. through condoms, spermicide etc.)

And gee golly Kimmy Sue, guess what there then happens? They go and do it anyway.  But since there hasn’t been any relevant education in preventative measures, it seems that “Catholic Schoolgirl” syndrome is on the rise, along with teen pregnancy, and the tent in Jimmy’s pants.

Enter Africa.

Here we have millions of impoverished people desperately seeking to shake loose the shackles of colonialism, overthrow the ruthless dictators left in its place, and find some semblance of progressive humanity that much of the Western world enjoys.

But the problem is that people are dying by the thousands, by a pesky little thing known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and its angry offspring, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

Africans from all walks of life, from the Algerian sub-Saharan, to the rape capital of the world, Johannesburg, South Africa, are dropping like flies because they can’t seem to suppress the continent-wide pandemic.

aids-graphic

A big reason?  Christian dogma.

Sure, not all of it is bad, if you filter out all the contradictions, terrible advice, and lunacy…but then I guess you’re not really left with much once you put the red marker down.

But here we have the Pope, the spokesman appointed by God, but elected by men, declaring that abstinence is the true path to Jesus, and giving into our dirty, sinful, disgusting nature will give Jesus a hernia, or worse.

The incessant campaign is ridden with misinformation and disinformation, oftentimes claiming that condoms outright don’t work, or even more ludicrously, that they exacerbate the spread of AIDS.

Yeah, that’s right, they’re telling people that using domes will give them AIDS.

And praise the lord, they’re listening, in droves.

I think the Catholic Church was onto something in 1992 when they made the timely concession that Galileo may have, in actuality, been telling the truth when he asserted the Earth was not the centre of the Universe.

Series_Good_evil

It’s about time society takes off its collective blindfold and kicks its malevolent addiction to faith and scripture.

I mean, most of us know now that it’s not demons that cause infections and disease, but bacteria and viruses.

The Church has done so much rewriting, apologizing, and backpedaling over the last 15 centuries that maybe we should realize that it’s not the word of a god, but the words of men; men whom eventually discovered pasteurization, atomic theory, and genetics.

Men that should endorse the use of condoms, in defiance of ignorance,  because it’s the humane thing to do.

But when was the last time religion advocated humanity?  I think we lost track of things killing each other in the name of our lord.

Peace be upon you.  Shalom Aleichem.  And As-Salamu Alaykum.

Although, I kinda think that those words have lost every last bit of their meaning.

Not because I don’t want it, but because it’s theoretically and literally impossible

And I mean that:  literally impossible.  Literally in the literal definition of literally.

And I also mean theoretically in the scientific sense; that is a theory based on available data and future predictions.

“Nothing’s impossible, Baumer!” one might crow.

Sadly, though, this most certainly is, and is certainly the most naive of any degree of idealism.

My views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have varied widely and wildly over the past two decades.  I was raised believing in the fundamentals of Zionism – that is the steadfast existence of the Jewish state – but by no means was I or any of my family Zionist.

We weren’t going to move to Israel or anything crazy like that.

It’s just sort of the default position.

If you don’t believe in the fundamentals of Zionism you’re going to be duck-duck-goosed out of any Jewish social circle, whether your objections are valid or not.

“How can you not believe in Israel’s right to, and necessity of, existence?  Do you want another Holocaust?”

Israel is the first haven for God’s favoured persecuted people.  Glad we established that whole covenant thing with Abraham; God knows where we’d be if we hadn’t.

I digress.  Of course no sane Jew wants the stage set for another Holocaust. Especially me, though.

Sure, there is the mandatory narrative in public and high schools, but I scrutinized that era in my undergraduate studies.  I know far more than the average person about Nazi domestic and foreign policies, the Death’s Head SS, the Einsatzgrouppen, etc.

My point is, I get it.  Israel must exist.

But I’m no Zionist.  Never was, never will be.

Like I said, though, even legitimate criticism of Israeli domestic policy is a guaranteed free ride out of town aboard the ostracism ostrich.  My lack of criticism over the years stemmed mostly from my ignorance of 20th century history. Before that I was infused with the (mostly understandable) rhetoric that Israel, and by association global Jewry, has been and will forever remain the victim.

I know better now and have a far more comprehensive understanding of all “sides” of the issue.  Before, I could very easily (and did) pick a “side” and fervently argue in support of it.  After years of careful study, I’ve reached my conclusion:  it’s all needless bullshit.

Why am I neither “for” nor “against”?

The following chronology omits many facts, and is not intended to be a summation of all Israeli-Arab 20th century relations; rather, a brief overview of what Israel “did” and “had done to” it.

There is historical proof for the following facts:

  • Arabs in British Palestine, from 1880 until 1945, knowingly and willfully sold land to wide-eyed Zionist dreamers
  • This land was barren, useless, and essentially worthless – that’s why they sold it
  • As Zionism gained popularity in the early 20th century, more and more Jews migrated – legally – to Palestine and began the admirable yet insane task of converting desert into arable land
  • Jews and their Muslim/Christian Arab neighbours lived in relative harmony, save for some very notorious riots
  • Between the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, there was relative consensus in the international community that a Jewish state wasn’t necessarily desirable, but at least probable
  • Even after 1945, Britain put a cap on Jewish immigration to Palestine, forcing European refugees into camps in Cyprus
  • In 1948, Britain ended its military presence in Palestine as it sensed a war between Jewish settlers and surrounding Arab nations was imminent
  • Those Palestinian Arabs sane and/or wealthy enough to leave, did.  Most left on their own accord but many were displaced due to the necessarily aggressive nature of Israel’s declaration of independence later that year
  • The encircling entente of Arab states (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq) openly stated that they would not allow a Jewish state to exist, period
  • None of these states allowed Palestinian refugees to enter their borders.  This blanket restriction would later serve political and propaganda purposes
  • During Israel’s war of independence, many Palestinians were forced to leave, either because they were attacked or because they simply did not want to live within Israel’s borders
  • The Suez Crisis of 1956 saw Israel’s first assertive/preemptive move after establishing its independence, as it invaded the Sinai Peninsula to reopen shipping routes
  • In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan began amassing tens of thousands of soldiers along all of Israel’s borders
  • It was generally accepted in the American and Israeli cabinets  that any war would likely end in a decisive victory for Israel, due to superior training, logistics, materiel, weaponry and psychological resolve
  • This superiority lessened the strategic importance of occupying formerly integral geographic “buffer” areas, such as western Jordan (the West Bank), Syria (the Golan Heights) and Egypt (Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula)
  • Israel launched a crushing preemptive strike against all surrounding belligerents, and annexed land that increased Israeli territory by an order of magnitude
  • In the interests of relative regional stability, Israel ceded some of the new territory it occupied, but held onto the Sinai Peninsula until 1981

Why do I mention these points?  A few reasons.

First, I want to establish that there have been many instances in which Israel has been the victim of aggression and/or exterminationist policy of its neighbours.

Second, I want to reaffirm that Israel has also acted aggressively.  While the mandate for Israeli aggression was never genocidal, it was nevertheless controversial and arguably illegal.

Finally, I want to emphasize that there is absolutely nothing black and white about the entire situation.  It is one giant mess of shitty grey.

It’s paradoxically both frustrating and relieving realizing that there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Frustrating because I can’t figure one out, relieving since I don’t have to.

I wish I could just slap some sense into a few billion people so shit like this doesn’t have to happen anymore.

So, then, what do we do?  Clearly Israeli domestic policy needs to be put in check, but not at the cost of its sovereignty or security.  A one-state solution won’t work, because it will defeat the very purpose of Israel with non-Jewish residents being able to vote the Jews out of power and possibly existence.  A two-state solution won’t work, because any legitimized Palestinian state would allow for the potential of unchecked military buildup supplied by Syria, Iran, and any other country hellbent on “wiping Israel from the map”.

Even if we could find a mutually beneficial arrangement, the Arab states won’t care anyway.  They’ve set a historical precedent for rejecting any offer or counteroffer made by Israel, and won’t rest until it’s “pushed into the sea”.

Ok, so now that we’ve established Israel’s right to exist, instances in which Israel was attacked, and, conversely, times when Israel was most certainly in the wrong, where does that leave us?

Back at square one, basically.

It all comes down to Jerusalem.  The Jews will never relinquish control because of scripture and prophesy.  Muslims will never relent in recapturing it for the same reasons.  Both have historical claims to the city, and those claims are mutually exclusive.  It’s literally an impossible situation to solve.  Pulling a King Solomon and splitting the city in two hasn’t worked, doesn’t work, and won’t work – that’s clear.

Where do we go from there?

Nowhere.  That’s the point.

Theoretical solution: cede the Golan, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.  Yes, Jerusalem.  The Israelis couldn’t really give more than that, and even if they could, it would never be enough in the eyes of militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah or sovereign states such as Iran and Syria.  Their mandates are the destruction of the state of Israel, in its entirety.  My point is that even Jerusalem, the crown jewel of Islam and Judaism, wouldn’t matter to extremists.  Well, scratch that, it would matter a hell of a lot.  Terrorists would still be breeching borders and ultra-orthodox Jews would fight tooth and nail for the holy city.

This whole settlement-building nonsense in East Jerusalem really pisses me off.  It’s nothing but provocation and arrogance.  It does nothing productive for the situation, regardless if there isn’t even a positive alternative or inaction preferable.

The Middle East needs a redo.  Mulligan.  Hard reset.

I say evacuate everyone from Jerusalem and then drop a hydrogen bomb on it.  That way no one can come back or will ever want it.  Then we can take it from there, with these alleged “peace talks” which are a joke anyway.  The crux of the matter is that the political/social/cultural/religious foundations of either side are completely incompatible with the other.

The closest to any solution is the single-state solution.  Yes, there will be a new voting bloc with potentially radically different views, wants, needs, and demands.  Israel would need to put extremely strict immigration measures into place, disallowing a sudden influx of immigrants that could topple the balance of power.  The obviously glaring problem is that voting and/or immigration restrictions would actually make Israel an apartheid state, in practice.  If Palestinian-Israelis have more babies than Israelis, then so be it, such is life.  The government can deal with it in a generation’s time, but doesn’t need to worry about it now.

The main thing on every Israeli’s mind is security and living in peace.  This is the best out of myriad crappy alternatives.

Until the Kotel is just another wall, until Dome of the Rock is just another building, until Jerusalem is just another city, there will be a permanent and unyielding war in the Middle East.  It might vary in intensity, governments will change and policies too, extremists will become more or less extreme, and concessions and compromises may or may not be made.

I’ll hold my breath for the hellishly frozen airborne pigs overhead.

Hopes for peace are naive and unrealistic.

No one-state, no bi-state, no two-state, nothing.  It will never work, period.

When monotheism itself is abandoned, only then will the region have the potential for peace.

And we know that religion isn’t going anywhere without a fight.

And fight everyone will.

Did my grandpa lie about his involvement in the Royal Canadian Air Force?

After having dinner with my uncle, aunt and two cousins tonight, Sammy (the other first born) and I started talking about my grandfather and his role during the Second World War.  It only took him a few words, but my cousin managed to send chills down my spine and spark a nascent and urgent desire to find out what my grandfather really did.

 

Not implemented in Europe, these B-29s over Japan give you an idea of the scale of the raids

 

He died 12 years ago, affording my cousins and siblings little time to get to know him, and me little more.  Sure, I departed for London ever since I was weeks old to stay at the “spa” as my parents liked to call it.  I was spoiled, I was loved, and I have the fondest of memories spending weeks of summer there.

I remember riding on my bike, tearing around corners, constantly under the loom of London’s magnificent and majestic trees that seemed to be hundreds of feet tall.  There I was, peddling my little heart out, and then slamming on the brakes every block.  I’d turn my neck and beckon to my grandfather to hurry up. But he just responded with a silent smile as he casually strolled down the sidewalk, walking stick in hand.

I remember going apple picking with him in London’s orchards.

I remember feeding stale bread with him to the goats and deer at Storybook Gardens.

I remember the joyous smile on his face after he looked upon my own, after having a new haircut or Ninja Turtles action figure.

I remember him teaching me the provinces and all their capitals, then quizzing me.

I remember his onion breath, his penchant for salt, his late-night waffle indulgences.

But I never really knew him.

As an adult I’ve developed a passion for learning and understanding history, with a particular focus on WW2 and the havoc that ensued.

As a child, though, I was more concerned with cartoons and toast.

Never asking him directly, I have fleeting memories of family members describing his wartime role:  “I changed light bulbs,” he would reply, half in jest.

And that was it.

Whenever someone dared pry further, he was quickly quieted and with tears in his eyes offered a forced smile and wished for a change of subject.

We just assumed that he didn’t want to talk about that time.  And it’s hard to blame him.

In 1932 he immigrated from Poland to Canada, accompanied by a sister and brother.  His brother was denied entry due to a medical condition and was promptly sent back to Europe.

One of eight brothers and sisters, my grandfather, Saul, made his home in London, Ontario.  While he kept correspondence with family throughout the ’30s, after September 1939, my grandfather would never see or hear from any of his family again.  His five brothers and sisters, his mother, his father, his aunts and uncles and cousins, all and sundry never to return. Their ultimate fate rests in the hands of speculation and conjecture, worthy names for the epitaphs of unmarked mass graves, electrified fences, or billows of smoke from crematoria.

So we understandably tried not to ask him about the war too often.

Shortly before he succumbed to his persistent heart condition and diabetes, he divulged that changing light bulbs wasn’t the only thing he did.

He loaded the bombs onto the planes that would rain fire and death on German troop concentrations, factories, railroads, and civilians.  Claiming to be a lowly serviceman, he scoffed at the thought of having any significant contribution to the war.

The RCAF, under the umbrella of the RAF, played a pivotal role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Normandy invasion, and the strategic (which was ultimately deemed to be horribly indiscriminate and inefficient) bombing of German cities.

But why lie about it – for decades?

It was easy to dismiss his reservations as moments of somber silence and remembrance, muted stories that had no words yet spoke volumes.

And then there’s the minor issue of the two daggers that once belonged to officers in the SS.

Yes, that’s right, along with two pistols (possibly Lugers) he returned from Europe with two very interesting items.

One resides with my aunt and uncle each and I’ve yet to examine either closely.

The circumstances in which he came to possess these artifacts could be easily and swiftly explained by the lucrative barter system in the armed forces.  A swastika-bearing flag for a pistol here, some plundered jewelry for a knife there.

But he never offered an explanation.  Except once.

When my grandma asked him where he got these vile symbols of hatred and death, he responded vaguely, and I quote, “I found them.”

Uh, sure you did.

Look, dude, I love you and all, but I’m going to have to call bullshit here.

 

Where did they come from?

 

They likely belonged to members of the Waffen-SS, acquired some time between or after 16 December 1944 and 25 January 1945 – during the Ardennes Offensive – famously known as the Battle of the Bulge.

I remember him telling me that he was in Belgium and Holland, but it was my grandma who reminded me he was also in Germany proper – an unlikely (yet not impossible, granted) place for someone in the RCAF.

I won’t know the full picture until I scan his service files – records of where and when he was stationed – documents that my grandmother has stashed away somewhere.  I also hope to interview other family members to see what they know.

What scares me is that he may have been harbouring a more sinister, guilt-ridden, ironic, traumatic secret.

Maybe he wasn’t loading the bombs.  Maybe he was dropping them.

Maybe we’ll never know.

The UJA Campaign 2011 was launched sometime over the past few months, I’m not sure exactly.

I noticed these  billboards perhaps a couple months ago but didn’t pay much heed to them.

That is until I saw the one prominently displaying the infamously innocent smile offered by one of the most famous people in history:  Anne Frank.  And it was kinda creepy.

The picture itself is inconspicuous enough, but the context and historicity of the 1942 photo tell a different story. Anyone who has received a formal education (not home-schooled in the American Bible Belt) knows this picture, knows its meaning, knows its historical magnitude.  For those who don’t know much beyond her legendary diary, here is a brief synopsis of her persecution:

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Frank and her family emigrated to Amsterdam, Holland, in 1933, in an incidental act of foresight, with the Nazi Party gaining power later that year.  As the German Blitzkrieg swept across Western Europe in the spring of 1940, Holland was swiftly swallowed by the Wehrmacht and subsequently occupied, forcing Frank and her family into hiding two years later when anti-Jewish sentiment peaked.

We know that she and her family successfully hid from the German occupiers until their clandestine attic’s existence was betrayed by an anonymous tip. Members of the dreaded Shutzstaffel (SS) stormed the home and the family was promptly arrested, interrogated, and deported to Auschwitz (and quite efficiently, as the train timetables were accurate to within minutes, thanks solely to IBM’s punch-card technology, managed by its German subsidiary, Dehomag, in all of the Reich). Anne managed to survive long enough only to be transferred to Bergen-Belsen where she died an inglorious death at the hands of a typhus outbreak.

Her diary, which outlined the day-to-day happenings of an ordinary pubescent girl in an extraordinarily horrible situation, was found by her father (the only known surviving member of her entire family) in 1947 upon his return to Amsterdam.

So, here we are, 2011 only a couple months away, and we have these. . . posters.

They are located along Bathurst St. (and elsewhere I’m sure), finding these within a couple minutes from my apartment. As far as I know, the campaign consists of the four following posters:

It’s the 2nd and 4th posters that I found particular issue with, but I’ll mainly focus on the one with our friend, Anne.

First and foremost: this is downright creepy and almost pornographic. Exploiting Anne’s image in what is essentially propaganda betrays her suffering.  I wish I could better describe why I get this feeling while looking at it, but I know I’m not the only one.

Second, the wording is subversively exclusionary, stating “Make Sure Our Children” as opposed to “Make Sure [All] Children” (or anyone, for that matter) never ask who she is.  To imply that it’s only important for Jewish children to be aware and to not promote a universal educational imperative betrays everything that picture represents.

Third, why would children have to ask “Who Is That?”?  I wasn’t aware there was a particular threat to the narrative of the Holocaust and its place in textbooks.  I had no idea there was a campaign to remove from the annals of WWII either Anne Frank or any of the other 10,000,000 civilians murdered by the SS war machine.  Implying that children will no longer be able to identify Anne Frank is a betrayal of the exhaustive efforts of historians and archivists in preserving and uncovering historical records.

It’s just one big betrayal.

Look, one could argue that I’m over-analyzing this whole thing and it’s all simply a campaign to raise awareness of, and contribute to, the reduction of anti-Semitic sentiment.

But this isn’t the way to do it.

Being exclusionary, xenophobic, exceptionalistic, and outright racist have been some of the underlying reasons that Jews have faced such persistent and pervasive persecution for millennia.

I’m hardly objective, as I’m a staunch anti-theist and find the whole religious hubub grossly insulting to the intellect that evolution has afforded us.  And I’m not suggesting Jews should just throw in the towel and assimilate wholesale, either.  I just think this is more of the same “Us Versus Them” bullshit that has led to the death of countless millions over the course of our brief stint on this cooling rock.

I don’t have an answer or alternative for you, either, my fine readers.

What I do know, though, is that this isn’t it.

Street Proselytization Fail

Posted: October 5, 2010 in Political Rants

Venturing out onto Bloor St. West has never been so much fun.

After a couple hours since our last reprieve, the prospect of a crisp autumn breeze permeating my uncharacteristic red sweater (if you know me, you’ll understand its significance) was both welcome and necessary.

An unassuming man wearing a light fall jacket and a lighter beard approached me and my colleague (and yes, it is grammatically correct to use me instead of I here) .

“How are you, what’s your name?!” he demanded, arm outstretched, an attempt at feigned banality gone horribly awry.

“Ali,” answered Ali.   “What’s yours?!” Ali demanded in kind.

“Kenny!” Kenny declared.

Sorry about the quality, the camera on my phone isn't very good.

Sorry about the quality, the camera on my phone isn't very good.

Our break time running out, Ali cut to the chase.

“Is there a reason for this conversation?”

Whoah, clearly Ali is way more equipped than I am to handle strangers from downtown Toronto.

Unfazed, our new 6-foot friend answered Ali’s question with a question, thinking this tactic n was even remotely advisable.

“What is your purpose in life?” he asked.

Hmmm, maybe he’s going to tell us the meaning of life,  I thought.

Ali and I exchanged glances.

Before either of us could offer a snide reply, Kenny began his own cookie-cutter manifesto.

My purpose is to be a good person.”

I suppose that’s admirable.

“Well, what’s good?” Ali asked.

It was at this point that the veil of dishonesty was dangled before our eyes.

Kenny proceeded to pull three strings from his pocket, each of different length.

Under the guise of a “magic trick” (oh the irony) he explained how each string represented a different man.  One pretty rockin’, one that could have recycled more often, and another who spent his free time raping and murdering.

As he gave descriptions of each man, I was closely watching his hands, hoping to catch a glimpse of deft sleight of hand.

Then it happened.  As he held the three strings, rising parallel and about an inch from his hand, he took his other hand an pulled down the outside strings, forming a rudimentary replica of the Romans’ preferred vehicle of execution.

I knew it!  I so had a feeling this guy was sent by God, directly.

WELL THEN MAYBE HE SHOULD GET A HOBBY OR TAKE ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASSES AND STOP BITCHING ABOUT IT TO ME.

Well then maybe he should get a hobby or perhaps take an anger management class. Either way, he can totally be angry with my wickedness after he explains his curriculum vitae i.e. the Old Testament.

Blah blah blah, we’re all sinners, doomed to eternal damnation, thermostat cranked to 5000, barbecues every Wednesday night.

Game time.

“I don’t believe in God,” I firmly offered, eager to get a word in after his faux-righteous diatribe.

“Have you read the bible?” Kenny queried, hoping to supplement my response in the negative with a reason to read it.

“Which one?” Ali quickly interjected.

Man, this is like playing doubles’ tennis against a rabbit.

“This one!” Kenny exclaimed proudly, pulling a bible from his pocket.  This just kept getting better.

“Well that’s just one version, how do you know it’s right?” Ali asked.

“There are hundreds of versions and translations, I don’t know how many alterations and edits,” I added.

Kenny didn’t really seem to hear either of us and explained more about how Christ died for our sins.

I was thinking of asking him why God would send himself down from Heaven to sacrifice himself to himself, but we were running out of time and had to be back inside any minute.  I was going to ask a couple questions of my own.

“-So you believe in Original Sin then, right?” I interrupted without regret.

“Yes.”

“So you’re saying that everyone is born into sin without having committed any past crimes, and the only way to salvation is through accepting Jesus Christ as my lord and saviour, upon pain of eternal damnation, right?”

He seemed to like me outlining some of his beliefs for him.

Ooooooh, ooooooh, oooooh! I got this! Ok, 5 letters. They voted to make him divine at the Council of Nicaea! Um...ok! He likes hanging out and is great with a hammer. Rhymes with Reeses? Stop yelling at me!

“Yes, that’s right.”

And the god you’re talking about, he’s all powerful, all good, all just, and all merciful?  Especially all good and just, right?”

“Of course.”

“Well it defies logic that an all powerful, all good, all just creator of the Universe would create a place solely for the purpose of torturing his own creations.  Your god is a contradiction.  And on that note, our break is almost over, so we have to get going.”

I then led the exodus from the sidewalk, glancing back at Ali, seeing his emerging grin.

In all fairness, I didn’t give him a chance for rebuttal.

Really, though, come on street preachers, evangelicals, and anyone else out there trying to convert me:  I totally don’t mind debating with you.  It’s kind of fun.  But at least come up with some new arguments.  They’re the same, old, tired, rehashed half-truths, veiled lies and disinformation that has been spewed for centuries.

All in all, I’d have to say that my first encounter with a street preacher was highly entertaining, mildly amusing, and moderately satisfying.

I’m going to hang around out front during lunch tomorrow and see if he comes back.  My punching bag is in the shop.

Iran Tests Missiles, Patience

Posted: October 2, 2009 in Political Rants

Ahhh, the good ol’ Islamic Republic of Iran.

Expert sabre-rattlers, rabble rousers, and patience-testers.

Nearly my all-time favourite theocracy, second only to the enlightening and liberating regime presiding in Saudi Arabia.

At least women can drive in Iran.  But I would hardly call the republic progressive.

So, yeah, um…about that uranium enrichment…what the hell are they thinking?

Evidently, prior sanctions imposed by the United Nations were but mere short water bursts from a Super Soaker 75. Sure, it’s a little annoying to get wet, but the water quickly dries.

Eager to panic and dismay the international community, insane asylum-escapee and current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, decided now was as good a time as any to announce that Iran has not only scoffed at UN sanctions, but is in fact currently operating a second clandestine uranium enrichment facility.

Maybe they just want nuclear powered televisions or something.

Of course history tells us not to judge a book by its cover; a certain nation that shall not be named decided it was best to ignore the heedings of the UN and invade a sovereign nation under the false pretense that it was developing weapons of mass destruction.  We all know the story, as the weapons inspectors went in, unturned many stones, but, alas, found nothing other than conventional weapons (hardly casius belli for invasion and subsequent occupation).

Yet Iran is another story, entirely.

Here we have a nation that currently sits atop one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas; yet, inexplicably and brazenly, declares that it seeks to pursue a nuclear program for “peaceful purposes” in order that it may provide “nuclear energy” to its citizens.  As my idol Judge Judy always says, “If it doesn’t make sense, then it isn’t true.”  Sorry folks, but it just doesn’t make any sense.

A common counterpoint that some offer is that there are already several nations in the region that possess nuclear arms, and they are hardly the benchmark of stability.  Most commonly referenced are India, Pakistan, and the kid that no one wants to invite to birthday parties:  Israel.

Israel is really what the whole situation is about, always has been about, and always will be about, so long as theocratic regimes seek to assert their god-given mandates to spread the word of Allah – by words, often; by breeding, if convenient; by the sword, if necessary.

Despite what apologists scream at cynics and realists alike, the Jews (hell, even democracy) is the sworn enemy of Islam.  And last I heard Israel was jam packed full of those pesky Hebrews.

Even though it’s never been officially stated, Israel is speculated and widely believed to be in possession of a healthy stockpile of nuclear warheads and the capability to deliver them – via rush courier with same-day delivery – should the need ever arise.

But that’s sort of the main point here.  What possible reason would Israel ever have to use thermonuclear weaponry? There is really only one plausible situation, and that is if its very existence was threatened – or assured to be snuffed out.

Let’s try for a moment to push to the back-burner Israel’s human rights track record and some of its highly dubious and questionable domestic policy concerns.  By no means should they be dismissed, but they aren’t quite relevant here.  The reason for that is, despite many Arab nations calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza, that would hardly settle the issue if Israel were to ever even consider complying.  Israel’s very presence in the region is perceived as an ever-present “f**k you” to its neighbours – even though it would like nothing more than to just be left alone.

So long as Israel maintains its own borders, has a standing army, and has Jews running the show, the Middle East will not be at peace.  I hate to say it, but it’s true.

Then we have the egregiously instigant regime in Iran, prodding and goading Western nations with its persistence and insistence on having enriched uranium.  But for what purpose?

Israel certainly won’t take the issue lying down, either.  They’ve explicitly stated that they will not permit Iran to wield a nuclear weapon, and will attack any facility preemptively to ensure it.

So there’s the standoff:  Israel on one side, vowing not to allow a nuclear Iran, and Iran on the other, going full steam ahead with its program.  So where does that leave us?

There are three possible outcomes.

First, Iran could back down after all this hoopla, let weapons inspectors inside, and face whatever consequences.  This would seem like somewhat of a fruitless venture, not really gaining anything from it all…just the ire of every reasonable and rational person on the planet.

Second, the most plausible scenario, but still extremely unlikely:  Iran provokes Israel into attacking, causing a fairly explosive local conflict which  would result in further instability in the region.

Finally, the least likely possibility:  Iran manages to continue on with its program, straps a thermonuclear warhead to a ballistic missile, and launches it Tel Aviv-bound.  Calling this outcome catastrophic on a global scale would be an understatement.  You better believe that Israel would launch all of its (speculated to be several dozen) warheads at Iranian population centres in a last hurrah before it meets its fiery demise.

But would that really happen?

Unfortunately there are many religious groups in the world who not only pray for the apocalypse, but believe it to be imminent – and, hilariously, every generation since the first century believed it to be within their lifetimes.  Most notably they are Christian wingnuts, but there are still some Jews and Muslims who would welcome the end of days. Are there any of these crackpots with their finger on the button?

It’s pretty obvious that President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are hardly the cornerstones of mental stability.

Could they do it?

Could they provoke Israel into war, sacrificing potentially millions of its own citizens, in an effort to wipe Israel from the map?

It is conceivable that some secret treaties could quickly come to the forefront should Iran go to war.  Where China and Russia stand is oftentimes ambiguous.  Sure China owns most of the United States’ debt, which would probably keep them from siding against the US and its Western Allies.  But it could be equally as dangerous if a superpower like China were to remain neutral rather than declaring its intentions.

We get it Iran.  You finally made it to the party.  You’ve made your point.

Now back the fuck off, because the world is in no mood.