Movie Friday: PG Porn

To cap off what was a ‘good news week’ (minus Monday, perhaps), I thought I’d showcase a couple of videos that don’t have any message to them whatsoever, but are just lulz-worthy. Don’t be fooled – there is no nudity or sex in these clips, but you might not want to watch them at work because a passer-by might get the wrong idea. Consider yourself warned.

I guess, if I were to stretch it, the part about the ‘big tool’ being not the proper one for the job could be a veiled reference to yesterday’s post. But it’s not. Also, I think Sasha Grey is pretty cool.

This one cracks me up too:

Oh porn. You are so silly.

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Rhetorical questions: of rocks and Jell-O

So this past weekend was the Reason Rally, where atheists from all over the United States gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to make a powerful political point: atheists exist and we are paying attention to politics. The kind of obsequious Jesus-based pandering that is the lifeblood of American democracy is at a particular peak, which makes more baffling the claims of Christians to be some kind of oppressed minority who is forbidden from practicing their faith by the evil secularist government forces headed by secular Muslim socialist Caliph Barack Obama (I am trying to distill a bunch of crazy into one sentence, so I am making this parenthetical thought extra-long in order to not overload the ratio of crazy:comprehensible… almost there… how are all of you doing?).

I didn’t go to the Reason Rally, but I was overjoyed to see a segment on MSNBC’s Up! With Chris Hayes where an all-atheist panel was assembled to discuss some of the rally’s major issues. I was quite impressed with the panel’s mere existence, because it stands in sharp contrast to the usual practice of having a lone atheist forced to contend with one or more idiots presenting “the other side” uncritically. The atheist’s time is then consumed almost entirely in distractions, forced to explain what atheism is, the difference between criticism of belief vs. believers, and in some cases having to explain grade 6 science to grown adults. This panel was different though; everyone (including the host) was an atheist, and thus could discuss the vagaries of the divergent viewpoints within organized atheism without having to stop every five seconds and explain why there are still monkeys.

I enjoyed watching the show, despite having a few objections (that are not really worth going into), and thought it was quite a coup for a nationally broadcast program to put that many atheists on camera at once. But then I read this: [Read more…]

Liberalization of Canada’s sex work laws: a more informed perspective

One of the things I’ve learned in my years (ironically, from a friend of mine) is that nobody can possibly be an expert on everything – as such, it’s a good idea to have a lot of friends who are experts at different things. That way when I need advice on understanding physical sciences, politics, law, current events, philosophy… basically anything that I don’t understand well, I can “cloud-source” it to any number of buddies who will be able to give me a much more in-depth look at things than I could manage on my own.

One of these is my pal T, who has devoted a lot of time and energy to understanding issues surrounding sex work and sex workers. Ze found me through the blog (coolest thing about this job – awesome people find me rather than me having to put in the effort to make it work the other way ’round) and we started talking about stuff. Ze opened my eyes up to some viewpoints I’d never considered before, and so when I heard about the Ontario ruling I immediately asked hir for hir thoughts. Ze was kind enough to school me a bit on some of the details and implications of the ruling. Hir response is below the fold. [Read more…]

A rare (and major) success for Canadian sex workers

So I have made my stance on sex work pretty clear – I see nothing inherently immoral about having sex with someone for money, provided both parties are reasonably informed of the risks inherent in any kind of casual sex and are capable of giving consent. That’s more or less the liberal boiler plate for sex work. I take it a step further than some do when I say that I also don’t see anything inherently tragic about sex work. Yeah, the most easily-retrievable meme about sex work is that of the street-walking hooker, desperate and starving and turning tricks to feed her smack habit. Rescue sex work exists, and drug addiction can be a serious problem in all low socio-economic status groups – the intersection of those two cannot be ignored or dismissed. However, that’s not a problem with sex work per se – there are a number of other factors, both personal and societal, that create those situations. They certainly do not comprise the entirety of the trade.

While I have expressed my reservations before about losing the focus of this blog, tilting at every windmill I come across, something happened this week that sort of blew the doors off that plan. I say ‘sort of’ because it involves Canada’s courts, and this is a ‘good news week’ (to try and balance out last week’s and Monday’s heaviness), and because fuck it, I want to. A few months ago, a group of sex workers and advocates challenged Canada’s laws on operating ‘a bawdy house’ – the language gives you a hint as to how old the law is. The law states that while prostitution is perfectly legal, it is illegal to make one’s living as a prostitute or to operate an indoor business for the purposes of prostitution. Which leaves… the street.

Scary shit happens out on the streets. When you have less control over your surroundings (and who your customers are), you are at greater risk of violence and/or exploitation. If sex work is how you pay your bills, then you’re trapped between a rock and a hard place when it comes to turning away customers or deciding to avoid the streets. One might argue that forcing prostitutes to the streets puts them in unnecessary danger that they wouldn’t face if they could practice their trade indoors. One in fact did argue that. One won: [Read more…]

White Power-less

Okay, so sometimes my country is just friggin’ awesome:

A white supremacist rally in Edmonton’s downtown lasted only minutes when the demonstrators fled into a subway stairwell after they were greeted by over 100 anti-racist counter-protesters. Police then blocked subway platform entrances until the roughly two dozen self described white pride demonstrators, most of them masked, were able to leave on a train.

Police spokesman Scott Pattison said at one point as the racist group was nearing the site near Edmonton City Hall, both sides clashed briefly, but police separated them quickly.

So a bunch of cowardly neo-Nazi shitheads decided to put on a “white pride” rally. I have no issue at all with white people showing pride in their accomplishments – there’s a lot of them. “White pride” as a movement, however, has always meant (and continues to mean) overt expressions of antipathy toward other groups. White supremacy is a pathetic and risible philosophy, not only because it is demonstrably untrue (there is no scientific correlation between things that code for phenotypic race and any yardstick by which we could demonstrate the ‘supremacy’ of one vs. another), but because it is often most strongly espoused by those who simply have nothing else about which to feel superior. [Read more…]

And you can bank on it

One of the things I am learning about poverty is how quickly and how easily you can get completely wiped out. I, for example, have a line of credit. If something happened to my job, I’d still have 8 or 9 months of rent that I could borrow (on top of Employment Insurance and the fact that I’m highly employable) to keep myself in my home and in groceries. That doesn’t happen by accident – I can borrow because I have a job based on my income. I have the job with my income because I was able to go to school, because my parents helped me, because they worked jobs with good income… and so it goes.

If I didn’t have all of those things – a personal history that puts me in this advantageous position – I’d be in major trouble if I lost my job. If I was living cheque to cheque, the slightest disruption to my income could result in me being out on the streets. I wouldn’t be able to borrow, except through credit cards with high fees that would put me deeper in debt the longer I relied on them. Trying to claw my way out of that debt would take an extraordinary and consistent string of good luck. Chances are, I’d end up bounced to the streets within 3 months.

Of course once I’m on the streets, things get rough. Without a permanent address, I can’t apply for a job. No job means no steady source of income which means my ass stays on the street. Then again, if there was some way for me to patch a small hole, cover the cost of a rent payment, a broken cell phone, any kind of financial emergency that might come up in the course of life, I’d be able to avoid losing my residence perhaps long enough to get something going for myself.

And that’s where the city comes in: [Read more…]

Watch for flying pigs

Shit’s been heavy recently. I think it’s maybe time to lighten things up with another ‘good news’ week.

I’ve talked before about my crush on Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin. I really don’t want that to be construed in a disrespectful way, but there simply is no other way to express my fanboy admiration for pretty much every aspect of her legal mind. If I could, I would take her brain out for a nice dinner, maybe go dancing, walk it to the door, shake hands and walk home feeling really good about myself. I have never made a study of the law, but I do have a pretty clear idea of what fairness and justice look like, and every decision I’ve seen come from Justice McLachlin’s court have been more or less in lockstep with those ideas.

Those of you who read last month’s series on Black History know that the central thesis of my exploration of the facts of history was that we can and should use those facts to essentially chart a forward course. We can avoid repeating mistakes and learn from our failures as much as our successes in planning immigration and social policy, and in dealing with each other as countrymen who do not necessarily share a land of origin. The principle is equally valid in understanding not only broad social phenomena, but personal and interpersonal issues as well. At least I think so.

And so, apparently, does the McLachlin Supreme Court: [Read more…]

When the rug is pulled

The following paragraph is going to come across as excessively self-congratulatory. I suggest you buckle in for a brag-fest of epic proportions.

I am well above-average in the success department. By age 25 I had two science degrees from universities that are among the Canadian “Ivy League”, was running a scientific journal, was full-time employed with lots of prospects ahead. Since then I’ve been accepted for a third degree at a third Ivy-league school, fronted a successful indie rock band, and was plucked out of relative obscurity to write for one of the largest independent secular thought platforms on the internet. I’m a classically-trained violist whose resume includes two seasons as a semi-professional player. I am widely-read and conversantly eloquent enough to be comfortable hobnobbing with the upper crust when the situation demands.

I’ve got it like that.

So here’s me, accomplished and talented, sitting with my also accomplished and talented friends at a local bar enjoying ourselves. Not obtrusively, but in the normal way for people our age. Up sidles a young gentleman, drunk and friendly, who began chatting and joking with us. After 5 or so minutes, he leans in and asks me if I can sell him some cocaine. Baffled, I told him that if he was pulling some kind of gag, I didn’t get it.

His response: “C’mon man, you know. Big black guy… you’ve got to be selling drugs right?” [Read more…]

Please sign this petition

Natalie Reed’s audience is much larger than mine, and I can’t imagine that there are too many of you reading this who aren’t reading her as well (and if you’re not, you should be). However, this issue is important so I’m going to signal boost as much as I can:

Next month, in April, an extremely pivotal bill is going to be up for debate in the Canadian parliament. It’s Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected under the Canadian Human Rights Code, and amend the pertinent sections of the Criminal Code in regards to anti-transgender violence, assault, and harassment.

Currently, transgender Canadians have no such protections, and may be discriminated against on the basis of their gender by employers, businesses, shelters, institutions (public or private) and individuals without any legal consequence. Effectively, I can be turned down for a job, barred from entering a restaurant, denied admittance to a shelter or hostel, or forced to comply with male dress-codes at public institutions without my having any recourse. If I am harassed, assaulted or murdered on the basis of my being trans, this does nto qualify as a hate crime. I am in the position of having to depend simply on the mercies of a legally empowered majority to choose not to exercise their right to openly discriminate against me.

This is not okay.

Read the rest of the post, then (if you’re Canadian), call your MP and demand an answer. My MP (who I can’t imagine opposes this bill) is being uncharacteristically circumspect, so I’m going to keep pressing her. Right now the biggest opponent of the bill is the fact that nobody’s talking about it. Let’s see if we can’t get some chatter going.

Sign the petition