Occupy That Place Over There

It looks like the Occupy Wall Street protests are finally starting to wind down.  I must admit they lasted longer than I expected in some places.  GIven the relatively harmless nature of the event, I found a lot of people over-reacting to it.  My feelings about the OWS movement are basically split into two camps:

First, I wish everybody would just calm down.  We’re talking about a bunch of people camping out.  This isn’t a march or a riot.  They’re not blocking traffic or stealing babies.  They’re simply trying to express their frustration.  I’m just amazed at the level of hostility these people received just because they wanted to get heard.  If anything, I think the venomous reaction they drew actually prompted me to support them, if for no other reason than simply because I hate seeing people get picked on for no particular reason.  They looked like they were getting bullied and that sickened me. No wonder there’s so many thugs in the schools when all their parents are thugs as well.

Bottom line: They weren’t hurting anybody so let them camp out if they want to camp out.  Geez, lighten up!

But then, there’s the other side of the equation: protesting by committee simply does not work.  Based on the various interviews that took place, these protests drew everything from legitimate gripes to the tin-foil hat brigade.  I’d like to say that I agreed with the goals of the OWS, but frankly I was never really clear on what (if any) goals they actually had.  They don’t like rich people, ok check.  Got that much.  Beyond that, it was simply noise.

There are a lot of things to be done for the working poor, both in Canada and the US.  Pick two or three… put them on a piece of paper and get everybody to read it aloud in front of any news camera they see.  Raise minimum wage? Fine. Ban government handouts to corporations? Fine. Eliminate high income tax exemptions? Fine.  Heck, make it whatever you want but at least send a clear message.  If those Tea Party fanatics can find a way to send a clear message then surely the OWS could do it as well.  Stop trying to please everybody and focus on the battles you can actually WIN!

Bottom line: You’ll never get anything if you never ask for it first!

There’s no denying that OWS made for an interesting autumn this year.  It’s actually nice to see normal people being able to vent some spleen over the economic roller coaster we’ve been on the past few years.  But, I think both sides could have behaved better.  OWS opponents need to calm down.  Take an anger management class or two.  Better yet, pop a few valium and try to reduce the size of that swelled vein in your forehead.  OWS members, on the other hand, need to take a few public relations classes.  Make a plan and stick with it, because I guarantee that you don’t get anything in this world if you don’t learn to ask for it coherently.

Cheers!

Boo!

October 31st is upon us, and once again all the little ghosts and goblins will be heading out soon to engage in their annual candy-gathering rituals.  Unfortunately, there are always people out there determined to leverage innocuous traditions for their own personal motives.

Jesus Ween is a non-denominational Christian group whose primary purpose seems to be old-fashioned religious conversion.  This gang, believe it or not, intend to hand out pocket bibles to your kids instead of candy.  By their logic, apparently, Halloween isn’t a Christian enough event, so they’re out to replace ghosts and goblins and witches with more religiously acceptable forms of entertainment.  Whatever that might be, I’ll leave to your imagination.  Admittedly, I’m an athiest so my opinion may be biased, but I’m of the opinion that Christianity has enough of its own holiday events around the calendar, so they can damn well leave Halloween alone.

Another group out to moralize Halloween is a student group at Ohio University called Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS).  Their campaign is centered around the argument that a lot of Halloween costumes are inherently racist.  Geisha costumes stereotype the Japanese.  Pocahontas costumes stereotype Native Americans.  You get the idea.  Basically, political correctness run amuck, as if toddlers are being bigots because they want to emulate their favourite Disney hero.  Maybe I’m a bit naive on this, but I doubt very much that a 6-yr old has a sophisticated level of racial bias such that they perceive a mean-spirited basis for dressing up as a character based in a different culture.

These groups, and others like them, hope to alter public perception to align with their personal values.  They are well within their rights to express their opinions, but why should those personal views necessitate change on the part of society as a whole?  Halloween is a social tradition that dates back hundreds of years.  If you don’t want to play along, then don’t play along.  Nobody is forcing you.  But, by the same token, don’t try to pressure others into playing by YOUR rules.  Let the children enjoy childhood while they still have it.  They have plenty of time to turn into adults.

Crime and Punishment

Two Federal initatives have been getting a lot of attention lately: the omnibus crime bill and the elimination of the long gun registry. The problem is the government is simply replacing one bad policy with another.

The firearms registry (introduced in 1993) was basically a political response to the Ecole Polytechnique shooting in 1989. It was believed that by registering all firearms in the country, the level of gun-related crime would be controlled. Nice sentiment, but ultimately wrong for two reasons: 1. As registry opponents have often pointed out, criminals don’t report illegal weapons. 2. If somebody is going to simply snap and go postal one day, then knowing whether they do or do not own a gun isn’t going to prevent them from using it. Sure, the registry MIGHT help the police in domestic disturbance situations, but that’s about it. Basically, it’s a political solution to a political problem.

Then, you consider the cost: program spending is well documented to be well north of $2 billion since the program began. If the program was truly effective, the program might be worth it, but as it currently exists the government is simply flushing cash down the toilet.

Ok, so we bid farewell to the long gun registry. No tears shed over poor policy. But what’s on the horizon? The Safe Streets and Communities Act, better known as the omnibus crime bill.

The omnibus crime bill is a collection of individual proposals all rolled together into one bill. It includes:

1. Increased penalties for sexual offenses against children
2. Increased penalties for production and possession of illicit drugs for the purpose of trafficking
3. Elimination of conditional sentences or house arrest for violent crimes
4. Increased penalties for repeat and violent young offenders
5. Increased limitations on granting pardons
6. Increased limitations on criteria to transfer Canadian criminals abroad back to Canada
7. Increased obligations for offenders to victims including behavioural expectations and court-ordered restitution
8. Allow victims of terrorism to sue foreign individuals, groups or nations responsible for terrorism
9. Increased power to immigration officers to prevent human trafficking

Impressive, eh? Certainly, I’m not about to sit here and tell you longer terms for child molestors is a bad thing. There are a few initiatives in the omnibus bill that, were they evaluated individually, would be passed in a heartbeat. The problem is they’re not being evaluated indvidually. They’ve been submitted as a package, and must be considered as such. On that basis, the picture isn’t as pretty.

Right off the top, the government has provided no costing for this bill. Basically, there’s been no evaluation performed to determine what this package will cost Canadians so MPs are being asked to play russian roulette with our money. That doesn’t impress me at all. I work hard for my money. I’d expect the government to work equally hard at making sure they don’t waste it.

Ok, so we don’t know what it will cost. So what, right? Well, there’s a few other problems here. Look at the first four initiatives. They all refer to increased penalties or elimination of penalty options. That means more people in jail for longer. Did you know that it costs more than $80,000 per year for every male federal prisoner? For female prisoners, the cost is well over $100,000. That’s high. In fact, that’s well over the median household income in this country. More people in prison for longer means a LOT more money from us. If you think that’s no big deal then look south, where Republican hardasses like Jeb Bush and Rick Perry are part of an initiative called “Right On Crime”, which advocates doing pretty much the OPPOSITE of what the omnibus crime bill is doing. Don’t believe me? Look it up:

http://www.rightoncrime.com

From there it just gets ridiculous. Victims of terrorism are allowed to sue terrorists? REALLY? Like our court system isn’t cluttered enough, we’re going to let people sue terrorists living in a mountain cave in Asia somewhere? Can you say “pointless”?

Don’t get me wrong. Individually, I can see a lot to recommend PARTS of the omnibus bill. Anybody can find something to like there. The problem is when you mash it all together and ignore the cost. I expect more of my government than that. We’re about to make the same mistakes that Republicans in the US are trying very hard to undo. I’m not even going to get into the issue of putting people in jail for 3 years for having a pot stash.

I don’t have a problem with crime prevention. I just want to see it done responsibly. The Firearms Registry was a Liberal initiative that cost a boatload of money and ultimately didn’t work. I won’t miss it. Unfortunately, the Safe Streets and Communities Act is a Conservative initiative that has the potential of costing even MORE and accomplishing just as little.

It’s long past time the political leaders in this country dealt with crime prevention on a responsible and logical basis. Partisan initiatives that play on the fear and ignorance of Canadians are an ineffective waste of our tax dollars. I may be naive, but I expect more of our leaders than that.

Thanks for reading.
Cheers!

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Everybody has something to say.  As a regular commentor on the Post and Globe websites, I meet people every day who have passionate opinions on issues confronting Canadians.  Unfortunately, newspaper sites are places to trade insults and parrot political rhetoric, not engage in meaningful dialogue.  I created Political Agnostic because I wanted to participate in that dialogue.  I’m going to try to post regularly on issues in the headlines, and I’d like to invite any readers out there to participate.

If you have something to say, I invite you to comment.  If you disagree with my opinion, I invite you to offer alternatives.  The only thing I ask is that you comment rationally and with respect.  The major political parties already have armies of bloggers defending them.  This blog is for me and others like me: people who don’t see things simply in black and white… or Liberal Red and Conservative Blue as the case may be.

Welcome to Political Agnostic.

Cheers!