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Found 21 results

  1. There have been a number of specialized forums that we are actively consolidated into the new clubs feature. So if there was a forum you visited often and has gone missing, then please look for it in the new Clubs feature. https://www.gayauthors.org/clubs/ Examples: The Pit Video Gamers Sports
  2. Hunter Thomson

    WE HAVE A NEW GOVERNMENT

    On may 9th, 2017 British Columbians voted for change. Today, they have finally gotten it. The Legislature voted 44-42 in favour of the NDP amendment to the Throne Speech expressing no-confidence in the Clark government. Because of that vote, Premier Clark and her cabinet have resigned. Later today, after meeting with both Premier Clark and Opposition Leader Horgan of the NDP, the Leftenant-Governor has invited John Horgan to form a government and Cabinet, accepting the resignation of the Clark government. Today is the end of a long, 16 year nightmare. Leftist, progressive citizens in British Columbia have been crying out for change from massive infrastructure projects that serve no purpose. We've cried out against the shortchanging of children in order to pursue a fossil fuel industry that won't be competitive. We've demanded an education system that's funded properly, a welfare system that provides a fair payment to our least fortunate, and a health care system that works for everyone. The NDP-Green coalition will not be perfect. They'll fight. It will be hell to get through a Legislature that is deadlocked 43-43 on all votes, with the Speaker needing to save every piece of legislation from the abyss. But we have a chance to make life better for millions of people right here, right now. Every single thing this government does will come under attack by the media, and it's unlikely that this government will serve a second 4 year term in 2021. But in the four (possibly less if the Greens abandon us or someone gets sick) years we have to us, we're going to change this small part of the world for the better. Universal child care, a basic income pilot project, billions of dollars in education funding and the expansion of the tar sands required by federal law. We're going to protect our environment and put thousands back to work on environmentally friendly infrastructure. Welcome back, New Democrats. You've been given a chance to govern. Follow our principles, and when you see yourself starting to waver, remember that over one million British Columbians put their hopes in you. Don't let us down. Now, it's time to go celebrate, every bar in town is hosting an NDP victory party tonight!
  3. For those of you who read my #BCPoli election blog, thanks. It was fun, never doing it again. This is a postscript for those of you who read through everything. The BC Liberals nominally won the election with 43 of 87 seats. However, the NDP won 41 seats and the BC Green Party won 3 seats, and they have agreed to a written accord (not a coalition, which is a formal governance agreement in Canada) whereby the NDP will govern with the tacit and supporting votes from the BC Greens to achieve a majority. It is not a coalition, in that the Greens reserve the right to sit in Opposition to the NDP government they are propping up, and have agreed only to vote with the NDP on matters of budget or confidence in the government. Having said that, this government may die in a few weeks since there's an impasse on who will serve as the Speaker of the House. A liberal Speaker would preserve the Accord's majority, but an NDP or Green Speaker would lead to legislative deadlock. The Speaker, by unwritten convention going back 7 centuries, can only vote to continue debate or preserve the status quo. This means that legislation will die in Third Reading, including budgets, throne speeches and other matters of confidence in the government. Which means that as soon as the NDP attempts to table any such documents, it will die unless the Speaker is willing to repeatedly defy precedent for the next 4.5 years. Such a position would be absolutely unprecedented in Canadian electoral history. Liberals have unanimously declared that if elected, they will not serve as Speaker (something that they can apparently do in spite of the secret ballot used to elect the Speaker). So it's entirely likely that I'll spend my summer working a second election campaign, which would be an immense relief to me since I'm going insane from boredom. A summer election would end the boredom very quickly. But it's time to figure out what I want to do politically. Anyone who knows me knows that I harbour political ambitions, and I have the connections needed to make a good showing when I choose to make my run. Given the NDP sweep of my hometown and all of the surrounding districts, it's not advantageous for me to contest a provincial seat (which is what I would truly like), nor would I be well-situated to win given my lack of real-world experience at the moment. I'm also not likely to succeed at present in the federal seat I reside in. It has a history of electing NDP representatives, including very young gay New Democrats, but I think it unlikely that I would be their first choice, given the high profile of the seat and the fact that the party controls every other elected position in the city EXCEPT this one federal seat. That leaves city council or the school board. Both have vacancies due to the provincial election, which guarantees an opening for me to run in that doesn't explicitly mean that I have to face the city council directly in a nomination battle. Given the absolute virulence that some on Council have shown me (and I've shown them repeatedly in exchange), that's probably a good thing, since they would deal with me in short order in a head to head election, but may not play favourites for the open council seat. The alternative would be to contest the open school board seat, where I have broadly strong relations with all of the major players, and would be seen as less of a public frustration than the current school board trustee blabbing about internal discussions to the local paper. I have the benefit of having worked with the school board on policy in the past, having pushed them into creating and working through an explicit anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia policy that includes resources for including pro-LGBTQ material into the curriculum. So... they know me, and they like me enough to invite me to be a keynote speaker at a district event. Both options appeal to me. Council desperately needs my voice on housing issues, and even as the council reluctantly starts to take my activist viewpoint on expanding housing in the city, winning a council seat with that as my main platform issue would certainly boost the effectiveness of my critiques. In spite of their past anger towards me, they would be loyal and help elect me if I was part of the slate. I wouldn't be able to guarantee success on expanding housing options in the city, but those issues would have a voice and champion. It would also allow me to continue and expand my work on the city public safety committee where I've spent the last six years improving police awareness of youth crime issues and ensuring that stays on the radar. Councillors have seen me there, and they appreciate my work on those files, so they may also appreciate my diligence on other issues before council, should I get there. The school board interests me as well. Obviously as a teacher I couldn't teach in a district where I served as a trustee, but with my master's degree coming I may not be teaching anymore anyways, and may shift entirely into a research career, which would free me up to serve as a trustee at home. I already know that I can work well with the current trustees, and it's a lower profile position that would allow me to get used to actually governing before becoming a councillor or something with more clout and public profile. There are things that I would want to accomplish at the school board as well, including the expansion of additional Mandarin language classes, and expanding the Advance Placement capstone program to all eight high schools in the district. Increasing public knowledge about the ACE-IT program for early trades certification would also be a priority issue for me. So there are things that I can do, and I wouldn't be choosing school board because of its potential as a springboard to alternative elective offices. There's also the fact that the open Council seat is likely to be more interesting to potential candidates than a school board seat. Better perks and the like, and I'm not entirely in it for the perks. All of which is a long way for me to say that I don't know what I want for myself. I have a meeting with the local party's treasurer in the next few days, and I plan to sound him out a bit before I go too much further. I'm also considering talking to a current city councillor and a school board trustee that I have strong connections to, in order to better grasp what their views would be. I feel like they'll suggest I wait. It's what they Mayor said when I asked for his blessing to run federally in 2015, and I ignored his advice. The result was being squished like a bug by the powers that be. What a learning experience that was. Perhaps waiting another election cycle until I've more thoroughly rebuilt the bridges I've burned all to hell from my public comments. Perhaps hearing from my superiors will give me an idea of what my options are.
  4. In two months, my home province of British Columbia will be heading to the polls. I'm looking forward to the campaign, and hopefully in displacing the long-ruling BC Liberal government, which has had a continuous legislative majority since the 2001 elections that obliterated the BC New Democratic Party. Now, politics in British Columbia are different from the rest of Canada, so here are the important players. BC Liberal Party - Their leader and the current Premier is Christy Clark, who became Premier after winning the party leadership after former Premier Gordon Campbell was appointed High Commissioner to London. Premier Clark was, at the time, a radio host and former member of the Legislature, and won the leadership after a protracted leadership campaign. The BC Liberals, contrary to their name, are the main 'conservative', free enterprise party in British Columbia. Their membership reflects a combination of national Liberals and Conservatives, and is the direct successor to the Social Credit Party as the leader of the capitalist, free enterprise coalition in British Columbia. The Liberal Party vote has a floor of around 40% that does not leave the party, no matter what. BC New Democratic Party - Like their federal cousins, the New Democratic Party is the progressive, social democratic party in British Columbia. Our (Full disclaimer/disclosure: I'm a paying member of the BC NDP and have served as a party officer since 2009) leader is John Horgan, who won the leadership in late 2013 after our previous leader surrendered a 25 point lead in the polls. The party and its predecessor the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation have been the main social democratic party in British Columbia since 1933, and has been one of the top two parties in terms of vote share and seat count since the party's inception. With the exception of 2001's massacre, the party can consistently expect around 38% of the vote in any given election. BC Green Party - A progressive leaning Green Party that focuses on sustainable development and environmental protection as their main policies. The Green Party is lead by Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist from the University of Victoria, and he is currently their only elected member of the Legislature. The party has been experimenting with new policy ideas, including a proposed pilot project for a universal basic income. The BC Green Party was created by dissident New Democrats in the 1990s, angry that the NDP government of the decade opened up part of the Great Bear Rainforest to development. Some recent polling has shown the Green Party surging in support across the province, taking around 20% of the popular vote. BC Conservative Party - The BC Conservatives are a new party, fighting their second election in their newly constituted form. Parties with the name 'BC Conservative' have come and gone, with the party being de-registered as an active party at several points over the last seventy years. The party currently has no leader after the previous leader, Dan Brooks, resigned the leadership for the second time in as many years. The party is not currently included in many election polls. With all of that contexty stuff out of the way, let's get to the interesting bits, the actual campaign! This year's election is being fought over the context of a number of different economic strains on the budget. Last November, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the BC Liberals unconstitutionally destroyed the teachers' contracts and required the government to reduce student-teacher ratios and class composition (the number of students with individualized education plans) back to the 2002 ratios. This necessitated over a billion dollars in new funding to the public education system and the subsequent hiring of over three thousand new teachers (a process that is still ongoing). This is a particularly black mark for Premier Clark, as she was the Minister of Education that initially destroyed those contracts. Adding to the financial strain on the government is the Ministry of Children and Family Development, which has been repeatedly under attack by critics for allowing children in care to die, and without even ensuring adequate care for the children. As a case in point, the most recent investigation covered an 18 year old in care who was placed into a motel as his housing by the Ministry. Additional funding has been promised, which has impacted the budget projections for the government. The Liberals have also been rocked by various ethics controversies, including accusations made against Health Ministry workers that directly led to the suicide of an accused graduate student who was later found to be innocent of the accusations. Finally, the government has been frustrated in its attempts to create a liquefied natural gas industry in the province, and failed to halt federal approval for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion leading to the Pacific Ocean. In the government's favour is the fact that the NDP hasn't won an election since 1996, and has only won three times in all of its history in British Columbia. The Liberals have much more money to spend on the campaign, and most of their incumbents are running again. Many of them also remember that at this time before the last election, they were trailing by 25%, so being in a tied election right now is a far more comfortable position for them than they faced the last time they faced the electorate. The NDP, traditionally supported by the labour unions, is facing an internal revolt as private sector construction unions are beginning to endorse the anti-union Liberals, thanks to the Liberals support for massive construction projects that would lead to more union jobs in the province. This has sapped the organizational strength from the New Democrats going into the election, at a time where they could potentially be capitalizing on Liberal failures. The New Democrats also face renewed strength in the BC Green Party which shares an electoral base, especially on Vancouver Island where nearly a third of the NDP caucus is elected. My home district is a bellweather riding that normally votes with the overall provincial winner, though in 2013 we backed the NDP thanks to superb organizing and volunteer efforts. I'll be interested to see whether the parties can break out of their traditional bases. The Liberals have strength in rural and suburban British Columbia, but face difficulties in some of the inner suburbs and the main cities, as well as Vancouver Island. To win, the NDP has to start performing in rural British Columbia and sweeping the suburbs along with its traditional progressive coalition. For the Greens, winning more than just the leader's seat will be seen as a successful campaign, though some Green insiders are hoping to supplant the NDP as the main opposition party to the Liberals. That's a lot to take in about the BC Politics scene, so let's all take a quick break before I start talking about my favourite subject - my political career. In 2018, the municipal elections will be happening (In Canada, different levels of governments have elections in separate years from each other). I'm planning on contesting the local school board elections in my hometown. The place I live is one of the few communities in British Columbia with organized municipal political parties, and my relationship with the dominant party would be considered strained at best. They have accepted me again as a paying member of the party, but in the past years I've attempted to defend my seat on the executive and was defeated for opposing the party stance on affordable housing. Since that's an issue of Council and not the school board, I'm hoping that it will not be used as a weapon against me in any potential nomination contest. For those who don't know, I'm currently a private school teacher teaching in Downtown Vancouver. Now that I've been on the teacher side of the field, I see the importance of strong leadership in education, and I'm hoping that my past experiences in policy formation and execution will help me as a potential school board trustee. Beyond the negative publicity of attacking my own party, the members who turn out for nomination races do otherwise have a favourable opinion of me, particularly those who have served with me in the leadership. There's also residual support in the LGBTQ community in the city due to my organizing and lobbying in favour of a local anti-discrimination school board policy that was enacted in 2011. Passing the policy over vocal objection both on and off the school board garnered lots of positive media coverage, but after seven years those views are unlikely to have remained with the electorate. Which is fine, I'm not running to defend the policy or even to expand it. While I'm proud of the work I did to create the policy and defend it in the election of 2011, I'm not focusing on it as a campaign platform. My focus is to be on expanding access to trades training programs and advanced placement programs. The province, in partnership with the local school boards, offers a program known as ACE-IT, which provides students with practical experience and their first year trades training in a trade of their choice. The program is entirely funded by the district, and helps reduce the time needed to become a journeyman tradesperson. However, there's a lack of knowledge about these programs being available, and each school only offers a few of the programs, creating a patchwork where students in some parts of the city do not have access to the ACE-IT program at all. Expansion of the College Board's Advance Placement Capstone program is another goal of mine. It's currently being run as a pilot program in two of the eight secondary schools in the district, and I'd like to expand that program to all students in order to provide that additional benefit to students pursuing post-secondary educations. Of recent issue is the idea of the district being a 'sanctuary district'. While I'm supportive in principle, I'm interested to see what happens with the new policy and how the district staff interact with federal immigration authorities over the next year. This is service for me. I believe in giving back to the community and the schools that helped shape me, and while I have no quarrel with any of the school board trustees currently on the board, I feel that many of them have served their community for long enough, and that new voices are needed to replace those individuals seeking their eleventh term on the school board. Changing educational technology and new pedagogical practices necessitates the need for new voices at the board of education to ensure that the students of my city are best served, especially with the rollout of new provincial curriculum guidelines and additional provincial funding to uphold the Supreme Court ruling. As a new teacher who's recently obtained my teaching certificate, I feel that I would be an articulate voice for the new generation of educators that is not being heard at the board level right now. Whew. That's all of it. I'll write another one of these soon, but I'd love to hear what people think about the BC Political scene, or any advice for a campaign I may or may not end up running. For the record, this won't be the first campaign I've run or worked on. I've been a past campaign manager, past candidate and past paid staffer for a few campaigns, so I already know what kind of costs are going to be involved. See you later blog buddies!
  5. Carlos Hazday

    Presidential Inaguration

    Forty years ago today, on January 20, 1977, I stood on the grounds of the Capitol freezing my butt off. The same weather system which had brought snow to my hometown of Miami the previous day had dumped inches of the white stuff on the nation’s capital; the cold seeped through the soles of my shoes making me shiver and bringing my group of friends into a huddle seeking warmth. Try having your feet stuck in snow for hours, when you’re used to warm South Florida winters, and you’ll know how uncomfortable I was. But we were not about to move; we were there to watch the inauguration of Jimmy Carter as the 39th President of the United States. As a freshman at Georgetown University I’d made friends with connections. Those contacts scored me tickets to the Gerald Ford Victory Celebration on election night the previous November. My friends and I milled about the hotel ballroom that night, drinking overpriced cocktails, watching the election results displayed on a screen behind the stage. We returned to our dorm disappointed our candidate had lost. The same congressman who gained us admission to the party on election night, came through with tickets for the inauguration of the man who I’d not voted for. But in the politically charged environment which was a university campus in Washington, DC it made no difference: we were witnesses to the peaceful transition of power from one party to another. An event our nation took for granted after almost 200 years and which many around the world envied. Today I find myself in a similar situation: a man I did not support will be inaugurated as president. I won’t be in Washington this time around, but I’ll be watching Donald Trump’s swearing in as the 45th President from home. Yes, I’ll be watching. No, I’m not happy it’s him taking the oath of office instead of his opponent. Yes, he’s my president. I’m an American first. My concern is for the nation as a whole. I may disagree with Mr. Trump in many areas, I may cuss at him and his policies, but he has my best wishes. If he fails, we all suffer. Some may suffer if he succeeds, but he won the election and he deserves an opportunity to show us what he can accomplish. I will support him when I agree with him, and I will speak out against him when I don’t. But I will continue to believe in the American system of government, flawed as it may be, and will continue to participate to the best of my ability. Because if I don’t, if I abdicate my responsibilities as a citizen, I give up the right to speak up and complain. Change is coming and I hope it surprises me. I hope our nation and our people are better off in four years than they are today. Good luck, Mr. Trump.
  6. Carlos Hazday

    Grace In The Face Of Defeat

    Carlos -- Thank you. Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for, and I’m sorry we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country. But I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together –- this vast, diverse, creative, unruly, energized campaign. You represent the best of America, and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful, and it will be for a long time. But I want you to remember this: Our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love -- and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America –- and I always will. And if you do, too, then we must accept this result -– and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power, and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things –- the rule of law, the principle that we’re all equal in rights and dignity, and the freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these things too -- and we must defend them. And let me add: Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top; protecting our country and protecting our planet; and breaking down all the barriers that hold anyone back from achieving their dreams. We’ve spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American Dream is big enough for everyone -- for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities. Our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. And I know you will. I am so grateful to stand with all of you. I want to thank Tim Kaine and Anne Holton for being our partners on this journey. It gives me great hope and comfort to know that Tim will remain on the front-lines of our democracy, representing Virginia in the Senate. To Barack and Michelle Obama: Our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude for your graceful, determined leadership, and so do I. To Bill, Chelsea, Marc, Charlotte, Aidan, our brothers, and our entire family, my love for you means more than I can ever express. You crisscrossed this country on my behalf and lifted me up when I needed it most –- even four-month old Aidan traveling with his mom. I will always be grateful to the creative, talented, dedicated men and women at our headquarters in Brooklyn and across our country who poured their hearts into this campaign. For you veterans, this was a campaign after a campaign -- for some of you, this was your first campaign ever. I want each of you to know that you were the best campaign anyone has had. To all the volunteers, community leaders, activists, and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook - even in secret or in private: Thank you. To everyone who sent in contributions as small as $5 and kept us going, thank you. And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks -– sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too. This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives. To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will -– hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world. Finally, I am grateful to our country for all it has given me. I count my blessings every day that I am an American. And I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together, with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation -– our best days are still ahead of us. You know I believe we are stronger together and will go forward together. And you should never be sorry that you fought for that. Scripture tells us: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” My friends, let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do. I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election. May God bless you and god bless the United States of America. Hillary
  7. God, I hate that I am going to talk about politics so soon. But today calls for it. Today, I saw something that shocked, hurt, and pained me. So, I left a long comment on it. I have no idea if it will be posted... so I am posting a similar piece on here. I am a young man that champions the "Freedom of Speech" and I live by Voltaire's "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." but what I saw really tested my resolve. I do not merely disagree with what I saw, I absolutely disagree with it and I cannot, nay will not, defend it. It pains me to write that. To not defend a person's right to say something is anathema to me. Having to think that is so disheartening. I was offended by what I saw. Now, if I had seen something like this two months ago, I would have thought it was meant out of a certain brand of humor. I understand, that their are humorists, satirists, and comedians that say and do offensive things for the sake of humor and comedy, But what I saw, along with previous things by the same person, I can therefore say it was offensive for the sake of being offensive. I try to look at the good in everyone, no matter their faults, but this post just pushed me beyond my limit. It grieves me, that I don't have the will to defend it, but... **sigh** I wash my hands of it.
  8. Hi everyone, This is my urban adventure story - attempting to be something along the lines of a British Tales of the City (at least i'd like to think so). It's a bit of a comedy, mystery, political, love story. But urban adventure is probably how i'd describe it. Set in Manchester, UK, 2009. Would really love to know what you think of it, if you'd like to take a look! I'm about two thirds of the way through and aiming to complete by Christmas. https://www.gayauthors.org/story/stuyounger/lostinmanchester Stu x
  9. advocatus diaboli

    Why I'm Not Patriotic

    I'm proud to be Canadian, but I'm currently not proud to be a Canadian, at least not domestically. Why? Well: Federal Government 1. There's the ongoing Senate scandal. Senators on suspension are having criminal charges placed against them for, effectively, stealing tax payer money. Many things have happened as a result of this: a. The NDP want to abolish the Senate completely. They feel as if it's a complete waste of time and energy. The Senate is so muddled by party politics that nothing is getting done, so just get rid of it. b. The Liberals kicked out all their Senators from the party. Two things arise from this: i). If you think they're not still Liberals in everything but name, you're silly. ii). If you think Justin didn't see criminal charges coming against Liberal senators and is distancing himself, you're silly. 2. Harper. I don't even know where to begin. He just needs to go. His time is up. Period. 3. Justin. Firstly, he's riding on his father's coattails politically, I think. He came out of nowhere and suddenly he's federal leader? What? How did this happen? The other thing, is he doesn't know the difference between his opinion personally and his opinion as a politician. When asked what country he admired most, he said China. Why? Their dictatorship-like structure allows them to move quickly and get stuff done. Words do not describe. Provincial (Ontario) Government 1. Kathleen Wynne. I don't even know where to begin. Unelected. Scandals. No regard for tax payer money. Just... wow. 2. Andrea, the provincial NDP leader. Proping up Wynne's government. Why?! I'm embarrassed - ashamed - to consider myself an NDP because of this. Municipal (Toronto) Government 1. Leave Rob Ford the fuck alone. He was elected to be the Mayor of Toronto, for which he is doing a fine job. He was not elected to be the Moral Compass of Toronto. If he doesn't want to go to Pride? Fine, no problem. I don't blame him, I don't want to go either. Norm Kelley is a tool, also. --- Our government, on all levels (I image other municipalities and provinces have it just as ad) is so broken it's embarrassing and laughable. Can we hurry up and just have the entire system crash, so we can start over? Pretty please, with a cherry on top.
  10. advocatus diaboli

    The Silk Road.

    Disclaimer: In no way, shape or form does this blog entry advocate for or against the use of controlled substances. This blog entry discussed the use of controlled substances and the fallout of the closure of a marketplace that distributed controlled substances. Do not mistake the call for legalization as a call for use, it is not. The author of this blog entry feels that it's the individuals decision to engage in this activity or not, and it's not the government's decision to determine the legality of the individual's choice. TOR is an interesting concept. It stands for The Onion Router and basically what it does is 'bounces' your signal across so many different servers globally that it's almost impossible to trace your activities back to you. This allows for another interesting concept to emerge. It's called the Deep Web and is not indexed by any search engine. Their domain names end in the .onion top level domain and can only be accessed by the TOR browser. These sites can only be accessed by those that are using the TOR browser and since no search engine can index the site, you have to know the exact web address to view the site. Naturally, this had lead to some very unusual and highly illegal activities on the Deep Web. It's also worth noting that the Deep Web is approximately 4 to 5 times larger than the regular web, but there's no way to know, for sure. This is a very broad topic and can go in many interesting directions, but I want to talk about one site in particular, and the implications surrounding it: Silk Road. Development for this Deep Web site began in the second half of 2010 and the site was launched in February of 2011. Silk Road has been described as the Amazon or eBay of (illegal) drugs. The vast majority of the drugs sold on the site were illegal, but not all. Some were prescription medication that (from my understanding) was sold at a cheaper price than was commercially available. It wasn't a free-for-all, either. Buyers were able to make an account, for free. Sellers, on the other hand, had to purchase a "seller's account" from an auction, which had a limited quantity. This ensured that the seller was legitimate and serious with their intentions. If someone was looking to flood the market with poor quality or incorrect drugs, they're far less likely to do so when they had to purchase their account. There's an extra level of protection involved, because the entire site operates on the BitCoin currency, with the owner taking a cut. If you don't know what BitCoin is, it essentially boils down to this: an anonymous, decentralized, purely digital and global currency. BitCoin isn't something that world governments are particularly fond of, and countries like Thailand have already outright banned it. No BitCoin can be used in the country, enter or exit it anymore. On the 2nd of October of this year, the FBI seized control of the domain for Silk Road and arrested the owner of the site, Ross William Ulbricht. This came as an alarming surprise to most, especially the buyers of the site. Supposedly, the FBI has obtained a bit-for-bit copy of the server(s) that host Silk Road, therefore having all the information on the site, including addresses where product was sent. It hasn't been said if the FBI will be using that information to press further charges against more individuals or not. The sting that brought about Ross's arrest is bizarre and not entirely relevant to the intent of this entry. The more disturbing issue is the drugs and the buyers. The FBI has noted that the quality of the drugs sold on Silk Road is impressive. Upwards of 70% of the drugs they purchased (in over 100 purchases) were of 'high quality', which is practically unheard of. As well, the FBI seized all BitCoin deposits in the system when they took control of the site. Buyers had no option of withdrawing their BitCoins once they made a deposit into their Silk Road account. This has created a host of issues for buyers. Many had made deposits valued at hundreds of dollars moments before the shut down of the site. Some had made deposits worth thousands. Even worse, many buyers have stated that the money they deposited into their account wasn't even theirs - it was being fronted to them by other individuals, to make purchases on their behalf. With the FBI closing the site, all that money is gone. Suddenly, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have lost large sums of money and are being held personally responsible to reimburse the lost funds, with money they don't have. The fall out of this will never be properly measured or known, but could be widespread and catastrophic. Supposedly, there's a mechanism in place to return all deposited BitCoins to buyers, in case of a situation like this, but no such mechanism has been triggered... yet. Atlantis was considered to be Silk Road's competition. However, that marketplace was closed by their owners some time ago for 'security reasons'. As it currently stands, buyers and sellers have no viable fall back marketplace to turn to, to provide the services they desire and need. This has created a very dangerous situation for the buyers, some of whom suffer from an addiction and don't enjoy the luxury of stopping their purchases. The only place they have left to turn to now is the streets. Before this, they had Silk Road. They had a controlled, quality-driven marketplace where they could pick and choose exactly what they wanted from trusted and vetted sellers. Their drug of choice was purchased anonymously and sent directly to their home by mail, with no one aware of the content of their package. Now, without that service available, they need to turn to the outside world. It's no secret that the streets are not safe. Both from the people roaming it and the drugs that they sell. One former Silk Road user made a post, explaining the quality of MDMA (commonly referred to as Molly) in comparison between Silk Road and the streets. She had a sample from Silk Road, which she tested and found to be pure. She took two samples, each from independent vendors in New York City and found that both had been 'cut'. The MDMA had been diluted with another substance (sometimes other drugs, like heroin or tranquilizers designed for horses, etc.). Both samples were unpure and contained unknown third party chemicals. Even if the now ex-Silk Road buyers survive the violence of the street, the drugs their buying are now killing them, and much faster than before. Silk Road sold illegal substances. No one is disputing that. The services that Silk Road provided were incredibly illegal. No one is disputing that. However, while the intentions of the FBI were good (they dealt a harsh blow to the drug cartels that were using Silk Road to distribute their products safely), they've done far more harm then good. They've forced untold numbers of buyers to turn to the streets to seek the drugs that they need. Once again, the fall out of this will never be properly measured or known, but could be widespread and catastrophic. The owner of Atlantis has written a post mortem, from their experiences. The most striking quote from what they had to say is this, in my opinion: (source) That really is interesting, isn't it? Ulbricht made some mistakes in how he conducted himself and his business, but it's undeniable that he was smart and knew what he was doing. Why would someone with so much future potential throw it all away? He'll probably never see the light of day, with the charged laid against him. Snowden is forced to reside in Russia, in temporary asylum. He doesn't know what his future holds or where he'll end up. All he knows is that he'll never be able to step foot into his native country or allies of his native country ever again. Manning, whose prison sentence ensures they won't be released until they're old enough to be a grandparent - their life is effectively over. All these people's lives are effectively over. They also knew this when they chose to do what they did. But why? They all feel, whether correctly or incorrectly, that the government is over-stepping it's bounds, from within the law and the Constitution that created the country. They feel that the government is out of control and they felt they were playing their part to reign that control in. To put a stop to the injustices committed by the government. The FBI has started an arms race that they have no hopes of being able to win. Look at The Pirate Bay, which is still alive and kicking. They're on the regular web, and they make no attempt to hide what they do and they're still around. Silk Road v2.0 is coming and soon. It'll be bigger and better and far more secure than ever before. If that's taken down, then another one will appear and another one and another one. The people have spoken, the demand is there and capitalism is doing its thing. This will not go away for the FBI or anyone else. Drugs will not go away, they're here to stay. On a similar but unrelated note, the Ontario Liberal government launched a site to crowd-source suggestions for their next election platform (which is a hint that an election is coming, but that's another blog entry). One of the suggestions was for the government to set up a crown-corporation (of sorts) that produces Methamphetamine. It was immediately dismissed, of course, but is it such a bad idea? Since the war on drugs was started, the quality of drugs has dramatically improved and the price has dramatically fallen. To me, at least, this seems like the exact opposite of what should be happening. As one former police officer put it, to win the war on drugs, it seems reasonable to completely remove every trace of drugs from the face of the Earth. That would constitute a "win" for the war, wouldn't it? Of course it would. But it is also entirely unrealistic and impossible to do. The government's problem is that they're too involved with the lives of the individual. I say this as someone that is incredibly socially left-wing. One of the major arguments for the legalization of same-sex marriage is for the government to get out of the bedroom. The same case can be made here. As long as the drug user isn't harming anyone, let them do whatever they want. If they want help, give them the help they need. "But that'll cost money!" you say. However, they'll be doing the drugs anyways, and if they want the help to get better, it should be available to them. You shouldn't put a price on a human life and they'll become a productive member of society (assuming they aren't already, but chances are, if they need help, they aren't). The government needs to legalize drugs and put an end to the pointless and expensive war. More importantly, instead of trying to squash the drug marketplace sites on the Deep Web, the government needs to open their own site and provide the services themselves.
  11. W_L

    The Shutdown and Me

    I've seen enough to make up my mind about this shit. Alright, most of the people around GA have only mentioned news stories or circumstantial issues with the government shutdown, let me give you all a real life experience, but first let me lay down three points: 1. I have never been a fan of the Tea Party. The members of the GA Soapbox and GA Right Forum can attest to this fact. 2. I am actually applauding President Obama's no negotiation stance. He is showing courage and leadership. If I were in his shoes, I'd never negotiate under duress. The United States has a formal policy, "We Don't Negotiate with Terrorists". You cannot demand concessions by threats against the United States or its peoples; I consider this an act of terror (Democrats won't say it to that extent, but I will call this act terrorism as a conscious non-PC Republican) 3. I also weep for Representative Peter King and other Northern Republicans, who cannot seem to get our house in order, so to speak. He has a direct way of speaking the truth that is refreshing and even if I do not agree with all his stances; he is true to his words, so I can commend that. Now on to the the situation: Yesterday, I found out that my paternal grandmother, an 85 year old with decent mobility, was going to be evicted by her senior housing administrator due to late filing of income verification. It was a mistake not to check with her housing office and depend on her to give us documentation to fill out. She has been going more and more senile for the last few years, but she appeared to have a handle over her own affairs and my family tried not to take over too much of her life. Since, my grandmother cannot seem to remember her English (She was a British Citizen of Burma back when it was still a colony and was educated. A lot of well-off Ethnic Chinese people migrated to British territories for business during the 1900's), I act as her proxy for government documents and other issues. Well, first, I tried to present the senior housing administrator with bank statements, but the asshole said that those cannot be used to substantiate income. He told me that I must go to the SSA , Social Security Administration, and get a formal letter from them showing her income. I told the man that I was not sure if the Social Security Administration would be open or not, plus did not know if the Shutdown would limit their services for income verification. He told me as a matter of fact, "You must provide me with a "government issued" income verification form". I called the SSA and they said that they could not provide me with an income verification document as they are currently unable to process those types of documents. I told them our situation and they said, my grandmother must go in person to the main office in Boston, but warned that they have limited hours due to the shutdown. I knew I couldn't go with her, so I ask if they had Chinese translators or any other administrative personnel, who could help her once the transportation drops her off. They told me the translators were furloughed and did not know the current situation with staffing there. This is fucked up, my elderly grandmother may lose her apartment, because some guys in Washington are trying to "raise a voice for the people". Breaking down the system is supposed to be Patriotic. I will answer that with "F" "U"1 Fucking BS, who are "the people" anyway that you represent, the American who has nothing better to do than go to rallies and tell you guys to breakdown government with NO PLAN TO END IT. That's not Conservatism, it's reactionary and it's populism or Mob rule. I've got my own job and my own responsibilities to hundreds of employees across the country. I have to answer to a lot of major clients with huge stakes. I don't like Obamacare either, but I know why I hate it, because I actually live with it, what the Fuck has the "Average American" needed to do? Buy Insurance! Oh Shit, let's start a whole Revolution! I had to go through three IT Audits, HIPAA evaluations, and URAC credentialing to keep our medical firm operational and profitable. Compared to that, the "Average American" has it easy. I might hate it, but I can live with the crap and so can my industry. The "Average American" is up in arms, threatening grassroot campaigns and primary challenges. Maybe I am not the "Average American", but I am what represents the largest part of America. I don't need this type of BS in my life and I should not need to worry about my own grandmother losing her home. If anyone find my blog offensive to your political beliefs, I can only say "Get a F*cking Life!"
  12. advocatus diaboli

    Government shutdown.

    Here's some things that the United States government doesn't consider essential: Safety inspections for foods and drugs.* * Operating in emergency status. Details here: http://www.hhs.gov/budget/fy2014/fy2014contingency_staffing_plan-rev2.pdf Public housing. No new social security applications are being accepted. The CDC and flu shots. The Environmental Protection Agency. The Head Start program. For those of you that don't know what that is, it provides education, health & nutrition to approximately 1 million low-income children. Approximately 3,200 preschoolers have already been affected. Disability benefits in general and disability benefits for veterans. Public assistance for women and children near the poverty line. (Source)
  13. It is necessary to see death. It is necessary to see death, stark naked, lurid and wild, Death as it pisses in the dark alleyways drunk and ecstatic on the jumps of drugs that are hard to name and harder to pronounce, it is still necessary to see death face to face. In a breach of society sanctioned lucidity hardwired in our brain, It is still very necessary to see death, To see the violent vandalism of civilization, Of ashes and nuclear death of atoms and atom bombs, Billions of flashlights burning up the sky, Smell of rotten carcass evaporating in sterile perfume of laboratory engineered poisons, Gases and liquids and solid whites of the eyes of the dead and the suffering of millions upon millions of innocence of ruthless greed of narcissist wankers. It is necessary to see death as it is, for the spring of flowers is nearly over and now we make war. 02/09/2013 ©asamvav111
  14. The Saga Continues.... The Dick & George Puppete Show! A Saga Series:Part I This is a Saga Series about the Bush Administration that was like Holocaust complete with a new Adolph Hitler who took away a majority of the Help Agencies and Assistance to those in need for their lively hood,health,and money. He took away the sole income of families, disabled, elderly,and retired. What does one do when your only source of income is taken away from with nowhere to go for help? Where does one go for food after a great number are closed or run out food for a week or longer? What does one do when they can't get the medications that they need to combat the terminal illness that they have? Necessaries of our well being were taken away by the Rich who wanted to rid the World of the poor,sick,and needy. This series is told through the eyes of a Black Gay Man who's HIV+. With the help of the Corrupt and rotten to the core Corporate America and Dick Cheney conspired to get his
  15. Tiger

    More on politics

    The current state of our political system is dire. When you look at the two parties, you see little belief in working towards the common good of this country. This is far removed from the vision of our forefathers. There is lack of pragmatism. Yes, I said the p word. When creating a bill that is for the greater good for this country, our legislators tend to nit pick. Instead of thinking about what is best for the people, they decide that it's not worth while to compromise. Take for example the recent bill to solve the economic crisis that threatens our markets today. There was a plan, but the Republicans decided to vote against it simply because of some disagreement with Nancy Pelosi. Now, I may be a Democrat, but I do not believe that she was the best choice for Speaker of the House. She is, in my estimation, too extreme for the job. I believe the Speaker of the House needs to be somewhere closer to the center. Still, the Republicans' move has seriously jeopardized this country. There was also a minority of Democrats who voted against the bill simply because of a few items they did not like. Had they voted in favor, the bill would have passed with a decent majority. Instead, they made a similar move. What good does this do for our country? The fact is that it only hurts the American people. Our elected officials are supposed to have our best interests at heart, yet they do not. Gay marriage is another important issue to me. It is foreseeable that I will someday find I man I intend to spend the rest of my life is. There was a struggle within me for years where I wanted to be able to marry a woman, but it turned out that it would only be a sham. If not for that fact, I would still be in favor, mostly because of my belief in equality. Neither party seems to be working towards this goals. Republicans tend to be of the belief that there should not be any form of legal recognition at all while the majority of Democrats seems to favor civil unions, a "separate but equal" stance. While the latter is much better than the former, it's still not what we deserve. The death penalty is one of the most controversial political issues in the world. The Democrats tend to believe that it should be abolished while Republicans most likely think it is not used enough. This is one issue where I actually tend to agree with Republicans more than Democrats. While I do not see the death penalty is a deterrent, I believe that some crimes are so heinous that the perpetrators should no longer be allowed to live. These crimes include the most gruesome of murders, ones in which the level of violence is so extreme that even the police are likely to become queezy or deeply disturbed upon viewing the bodies. Also, I believe that ritualistic cannibalism and necrophilia are grounds for capital punishment. Along with brutal murders there are rapes and instances of child molestation. These individuals are just as bad if not worse. I am of the belief that they are also deserving of capital punishment. The cases should also be slam dunk. In other words, the burden of proof must be to a point where no one else could have committed the crime. If there is any doubt whatsoever, there should be life imprisonment instead. Another problem is the number of appeals in capital cases. There should only be one appeal, and the punishment should be carried out within a month after the appeal is denied.
  16. I decided to make it official. I was already planning to register as I had not yet registered to vote in Kansas. Since Kansas is way too conservative and needs more Democrats, I registered to vote and officially joined the Democratic Party. Before, I was not affiliated with a political party at all. If someone would have told me even two years ago that I would now be a Democrat, I would have said, "No way, not ever!" However, my views have changed over time, and I am now more liberal than ever. While I'm not 100% liberal, I am definitely more liberal than conservative. However, there are elements of my party that I find downright shameful. For example, there are some who seem to shun the military. Now folks, this is not a majority view of the Democratic Party, but the element is there nonetheless. I am not what you would call a pacifist. I believe that military action is justified if diplomatic means have been exhausting and the nation in question poses a threat to the United States and its allies. While I believe that Iraq was not the right war, I believe we need to withdraw in a manner that will both protect our own interests and assure that Iraq is a peaceful nation at last. Those in my party who oppose all war need to stop burying their heads in the sand. While I do not like war, I recognize the need to combat evil in the world. It's the economy, stupid! Yes, I tend to have disagreement with both parties on this particular issue. One problem I have with my own party is the fact that so many want to raise taxes. While raising taxes is sometimes a necessity, our current economic situation calls for taxes to remain or current rates or even to be lowered. I also reject the view that corporations are evil. While many corporations have harmed the environment and have had dubious practices, I believe most obey the law and are an important part of the economy. Health care is an important issue. Barack Obama wants to make health insurance more affordable for Americans, and I believe this is the best route for the United States. While socialized medicine seems to work well in France, it is a colossal failure in nations like Canada, the United Kingdom, and especially Cuba. Speaking of which, Michael Moore should shut his f**king overstuffed mouth. He does Moore harm than Moore good for the Democratic Party. His so-called documentary about Cuba is beyond dishonest. Yes, rich people in Cuba get to go to nice hospitals, but the peasants are subject to filthy conditions and sub-standard health care. Considering the size of the United States, socialized medicine is unlikely to work well. Doctors and nurses would have to take a major pay cut, and they are unlikely to want to take that risk. Also, many hospitals would probably need to be closed, because there are too many for the US government to manage. Abortion is a hot button issue, mostly because of religious zealots like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (may that rotten bastard burn in hell). While I personally believe that adoption is a much better choice, I believe in a woman's right to choose. One of the biggest concerns I have with anti-choice advocates is that they cannot argue in favor of their position without talking about God. In a country where people are deigned to have religious freedom, that is absolutely unacceptable. If you want to prove your own point of view, do so without invoking the name of Jesus. As for "partial-birth abortion" as they like to call it, I am actually against it. Once a fetus is viable, it should be protected by law unless the mother's life is in danger or there are specific birth defects in which it may be more humane to abort the fetus. Parental notification is not something I support. While I urge young women to tell their parents about their decisions. there are many cases in which that is not possible. Parental permission is unacceptable. Young ladies should have the right to say what shall happen to their bodies. Parents should not be allowed to force their daughters to have babies. I think that about covers it for now. There are many other topics and opinions I would love to share in the future. I love expressing my opinion and sharing my political philosophy with others. I have always been a strongly political person even before I came to the conclusion that I should join the Democratic Party. With that said, I have only one more thing to say. I am excited to be voting for the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama! Even if you are not voting for Barack Obama, I urge you all to vote!
  17. sumbloke

    Free Tibet!

    Free Tibet Campaign I can't really add much to the title right now. I've just seen the pictures of dead protesters in Ngaba, Sichuan. The gerontocrats in Beijing remain confident that their news blackout and black propoganda effort at home coupled with their political manouveroing and horsetrading abroad will allow them to get away with their actions. I was ashamed to see pictures of Police in Paris arresting protesters, using tear gas, dragging mothers holding children into police vans. We're having a meeting to coordinate with the Herault Committee for the Support of the Tibetan People to see if there's anything useful we can do.
  18. sumbloke

    What a world we live in

    What do you call it when a country rounds up some of it's citizens - without trial - having decided that they are undesirable and transports them forcibly thousands of miles across the ocean to what is effectively a colony? In England in the 19th century it was called "transportation". I wonder what they're calling it now in the Netherlands where they've decided that Dutch Citizens from the Antilles and Aruba (in the Carribean) who are between the ages of 16 to 24 and aren't working in the continental Netherlands will be "deported" back "home". You can dress this up as much as you want, but what's going to happen is that young black dutch people are going to be exiled. I'm trying to imagine what would happen if someone suggested applying this to all the young unemployed in the Netherlands - "Out of work? Off to Aruba with you!" It's hard to imagine that it would be tolerated even if it were watered down to sending the unemployed back to live in the town of their birth say - as long as they were real white Dutchmen that is. The per capita GDP of the Netherlands as a whole is around 32000 USD. For the Antilles it's around 16000. Unemployment for the Netherlands is around 4%. For the Antilles it's around 17%. Infant mortality rates in the Netherlands are around 4.9 per 1000. For the Antilles it's around 9.7 per thousand. Of course, in the post Pim Fortuyn Netherlands, nothing matters so much as increasing livability - making a "livable Netherlands" even at the expense of the rights of a few citizens. I can almost hear the disdain as I imagine people rehearsing the arguments as to why this is a good thing. "After all," they'll say, "they'll be better off over there, in the sunshine. Life is pretty good in the islands." And then they'll tell you about the drug and petty crime problems in Amsterdam. You have to wonder how much impact deporting a few black dutch kids will have, but you can bet your life it will be popular anyway. This week the United Nations reported that children in the Netherlands were the most fortunate of those in the developed world. This week unemployment and inflation rates both fell in the Netherlands. This week a government being squeezed to the right and trying to launch itself on a populist trajectory proposed making some citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands not quite as equal as others. I could spit.
  19. C James

    9-11 commision documents STOLEN!

    CONFIRMED: The President's National Security Advisor stole, and then destroyed, an unknown number of classified documents destined for the 9/11 commission BEFORE the commission had a chance to examine them in it's 9/11 investigation. Shocked? You should be. But, hold off on the Bush Bashing for a minute, becuase the aforementioned President is Former President Clinton. The National Security Advisor is Sandy Berger. Berger was given sole access for "vetting" top secret Clinton-era documents at the specific formal request of former president Clinton. Berger repeatedly stole and destroyed documents. Berger's excuse? It was an accident! An oversight! He said he didn't understand the Security Procedures! That is utter garbage: Berger was Clinton's National Security Advisor: . If anyone should understand security, I'd think it would be the National Security Advisor. Berger has plead guilty, not just to taking the documents, but to destroying quite a few. Berger, at the time of his crimes, was part of John Kerry's campaign, and was Kerry's probable choice for Secretary of State. Much has been made of "media Bias", but this is clearly a case of it: Consider, for a minute, if a Bush official had been caught red-handed stealing and destroying documents that the 9/11 commission needed for its investigation. All hell would have broken loose, and rightfully so. Where is the outrage over this crime? Was Clinton involved, or was Berger just acting on his own hook? There is no hard evidence that I am aware of. Yet, given the fact that Clinton, AFTER Berger was caught, tried to defend his motives (the ridiculous "accident" excuse) there is plenty of room for suspicion. The most bizarre thing here is the sentence Berger received; a $10,000 fine and a three year suspension of his security clearance. Could someone PLEASE explain to me why this sentence fits the crime? Under no circumstances whatsoever should Berger be allowed access, ever, to classified documents. As for the fine, given the number of classified documents he stole and destroyed, he'd have received a bigger fine if he had, instead of destroying them, tossed them from his car window separately and received fines for littering. There is one possible ray of hope here; part of his plea deal was to fully co-operate with investigators. I have a feeling that they plan on having the Rat finger bigger rats. However, I can't see any excuse whatsoever for allowing this thief to ever have a security clearance again. Remember, this was the investigation into 9/11 that he tampered with. The biggest question (of many) is just what, exactly, he was trying (and has apparently succeeded in doing) to cover up. Take a look for yourself: The PDF file of the OIG CRIMINAL report. Read the whole thing. It seems Berger had a particular interest in documents from the Millennium after-action review (referring to the Millennium plot, the failed Al Qaeda attack on the US in Dec 1999). It gets REALLY interesting around page seven, when describing Berger's antics during the thefts. I especially loved this little gem "Mr. Berger said he did not want to take the risk of bringing the documents back into the building and the possibility that <redacted> might notice something unusual. Mr. Berger said he placed the (Classified) documents under a trailer in an acceptable construction area outside of the Archives." The above, incidentally, is a classic espionage technique called a "dead drop". There are glaring holes in this investigation. For one thing, there is no indication that Berger's cell records were checked to verify that, indeed, he made the phone calls that were so often an excuse to be left alone with the documents. The entire tone of the investigation is reminiscent of the Keystone Cops. I hope this is not the last we hear of this case. It deserves far more coverage and investigation.
  20. sumbloke

    The Dispossessed

    All the talk among my French friends in London is naturally enough about the events in France - the rioting, the political crisis, racism, hooliganism, immigration. It's pretty frightening. I feel slightly nervous talking about it because the discussion is so polarised. It's one of those subjects where any discussion of explanations for what's going on that doesn't begin and end by condemning the violence is viewed as apologetic liberalism. It's very hard to explain that condemning the violence - however morally correct it might be to do that - won't go far at all towards a solution. Thinking about a real solution makes people angry and defensive because it seems to require that we all (the French that is) take some responsibility for what is going on. But focussing on blame just distracts us from the real task which is to find some political solution that is more than just a band aid. However horrifying the actions of the rioters seem to us they are driven by a desperation that leaves masses of young people living in the HLMs (municipal housing estates) without aspirations that they can articulate and with no stake in the political life of the country. We have created ghettoes - not intentionally, like so many situations small political and social policy decisions aggregate to create a disastrous, unintended but not unpredictable result. In this case some of the problems are created ironically by our national ideology of equality and freedom or at least by the way that we have translated those ideals into practical policies. Pragmatisn may seem like a euphemism for unprincipled, but the fact is that a genuine pragmatic response to the situation of the urban poor - and that means of course very large numbers of immigrants and their children - is an absolute neccessity if we want a peaceable and tolerable society. Ironically, Chirac once chided Sarkozy for being un-French and anti-republican because he raised the possibility that positive discrimination might be desirable (I don't think it is - there are much better ways to address these issues). Chirac's position is that of the old republican - that all French men whatever their origin and equally French and must be treated equally - without favour. In France, opposition to moves to address poverty and deprivation rarely take the form of opposition to public spending - the French don't in general object to taxation being used distributively - rather they are seen as compromising the principle of egalite. In much the same way the headscarf issue was largely supported because it was presented as being a matter of equality - of stressing the universalism of French identity over ethnic or religious particularity. OK, I'm right in there, however old fashioned, I still support the principles of our revolutionary republic but I am not convinced that we have balanced fraternity, freedom and equality in the best way so as to create a society at peace with itself. What seems to me to be crucially lacking is the will to find leaders among the dispossessed communities of immigrants and urban poor who can be recruited (without cynicism) into the political process so as to give people a voice where the general working of French democracy has manifestly failed. Because, like it or not, it has failed and no amount of moral outrage and hand wringing will be effective. We can self-righteously proclaim that whatever their grievances these young people should not resort to violent confrontation and the destruction of property but if that is all we do then we better build walls around the ghettoes in the suburbs and patrol them with guns. By refusing to engage with immigrant communities except to announce that they are just French citizens we have made it difficult to engage with them at all. Most disturbingly we created a situation where young immigrants are at the mercy of anti-assimilationists - many of them religious leaders - who have been able to hitch a ride on genuine resentment about racism and deprivation and reinforced a cynical mindset among some young French people. What I hope for is the emergence of a cadre of young people from the deprived communities who can promoste political engagement over reactionary violence but that won't be possible unless someone from the establishment is able to extend a hand of cooperation that isn't perceived as an iron fist in a velvet glove. I can't think straight about this right now. Part of me is worried about my friends and family even though none of them have been close to any of the violence. I think I'm going to sleep on this one for now.
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