English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Some people just can’t admit defeat.  They kick and scream and cry and refuse to admit they lost.  The other side cheated!  The other side lied!  When the empty echo of their own voices forces them to the realization that no one’s listening to their whining, they either bury their head in the sand or they turn to throwing temper tantrums as often as they can.  Anyone looking for a perfect example of such juvenile (dare I say asinine) behaviour need look no  further than our neighbours to the south, where vengeful Republicans have shut down the American government.


The Republican controlled Congressional House shuttered the White House and most American Federal agencies at midnight last Monday in an effort to kill President Obama’s signature domestic legislation, the health care reform bill commonly called Obamacare.  After failing to repeal Obamacare 41 times over the past four years, House Republicans tried to extort the Obama administration, telling the White House that they would not pass a budget, essentially de-funding the American federal government, unless the President delayed the implementation of his own health care law, scheduled to begin going into effect October 1st, by a year (the full extent of the law takes effect January 1st of 2014).  For the last 48 hours of September, Congress and the Democratically controlled Senate played ping-pong with various bills, each one outdoing the previous in absurdity.  And when the clock struck midnight Monday, a Republican forced shut down ground the American Federal government to a halt.


This isn’t about the law (and that’s what Obamacare is, a full-fledged law), or the ethics or philosophy behind it.  Entire libraries have been written about the pros and cons of health care reform in the U.S. and no one from either side of the debate is ever going to change the mind of anyone on the other.  This is about the American Republican party failing to cope with the reality that they lost this fight.  Several times.  Health care reform was central to Barrack Obama’s campaign when he was first elected president in 2008 (more than doubling John McCain in the electoral college and collecting nearly ten million more votes) and Obamacare was a huge issue when he was re-elected in 2012 (beating Mitt Romney by 126 Electoral College seats and over three million votes).  The American people were given two opportunities to vote on Obamacare, essentially approving it by referendum, but Obamacare has weathered even greater storms on its way to becoming law.  It was passed by Congress (yes, the same body that’s moving political heaven and earth to repeal it now) in November of 2009, following fierce debate and Congressional vote where a handful of House Republicans voted to pass the bill, making it law (the backlash over Obamacare’s passage was disturbing in its violence, with the offices and even homes of some Representatives who supported it being vandalized; failed 2008 vice presidential candidate Sara Palin even posted a bullseye over the constituency offices of members who voted in for the law, one of whom was Representative Kathy Giffords, who would be shot in the head months later).  Obamacare even survived a constitutional challenge heard by the conservative dominated Supreme Court of the United States.  It has cleared every obstacle it has faced. This government shutdown is nothing more than a temper tantrum thrown by Republicans who have failed to defeat it with the legitimate devices the American democracy affords them.  They have been unable to man up and deal with their repeated losses.


It’s estimated a government shut down will cost the American taxpayer an estimated 200 million dollars a day, agencies such as the Federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centre for Disease Control are immediately affected and the effects will only grow.  And if you think this won’t affect those of us north of the border, consider the following; depending on the time of year, up to seventy percent of Canada’s goods and services flow south.  If demand decreases, it will create a drag on our economy headed into the most consumption heavy time of year.  And if the shut down lasts long enough to affect border security . . .   The GOP claims that current polls demonstrate that Obamacare is unpopular with the American people and that’s why they’ve turned the government’s lights off for now.  And in truth, there is some merit to this argument.  But polls also show that a government shut down, for whatever reason, is even more unpopular with American citizens as well.  Funny how they ignore that one.


Shayne Kempton


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English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. Español: Dr. Martin Luther King dando su discurso “Yo tengo un sueño” durante la Marcha sobre Washington por el trabajo y la libertad en Washington, D.C., 28 de agosto de 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


     This weeks celebrates the anniversary of two monumental dates in American history.     On August 27th, the American constitution’s nineteenth

amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote in the entire U S of A, turns 93 yeas of age.  And on the 28th, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luthor King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the March for Jobs and Freedom at Washington D.C. in 1963.  Both dates commemorate milestones in the struggle for liberty and equality by all.  But other events this week have shown that, while we may have come far since these two days, we still have so much further to go.

While I didn’t watch MTV’s Video Music Awards this past Sunday (I’ve given the channel a very wide berth since it’s entire programming slate degenerated into teenage moms and the weekly cat fights of pseudo-celebrities), I did take a peek at a video of the Miley Cyrus performance that caused enormous backlash on the entire planet’s social media.  I watched maybe a minute of it before my eyes vomited a little and I had to run away screaming (one online commenter suggested Robin Thicke get a pregnancy test after his Close Encounter of the Miley Kind).  While plenty has already been said about Cyrus’ . . . unique performance, I find myself asking the same question about the price of female success in pop music that I’ve been asking ever since a seventeen-year old Britney Spears wore a mini-skirt and gyrated to seductive choreography while asking men everywhere to hit her one more time; why do women have to be sex objects to be successful?  Cyrus isn’t the first to strut across the stage nearly nude and look like she was auditioning for a porn movie-and she won’t be the last-but I think we need to ask why every major female star in pop music for the past three decades has, at one time another, marketed her sexuality in order to conquer the top 40.  Spears, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, the current queen of shock Lady Gaga, the Pussycat Dolls, the list stretches on and on.  And while it may be argued that the ladies in question are simply cutting loose and having fun, and that Cyrus in particular is trying to divorce herself from her little girl image, would any of these women have enjoyed the same level of success had they not turned themselves into walking sex fantasies?  One notable exception is Kelly Clarkson, yet she could well be the exception that proves the rule as American Idol’s very first winner has had to endure criticism about her weight and body every step of her impressive career.  Would Janice Joplin, Karen Carpenter or Patsy Cline be successful in today’s sex saturated industry?  Or would they be consigned to obscurity?  And while pop music may be one of the biggest and most visual examples of this lopsided social dynamic, it’s hardy the only one.  It seems that more than nine decades after the fairer sex won voter equality south of the border, woman still have miles to go for before they’re seen as genuine equals and not sexual possessions.

And while the entire free world should celebrate both Dr. King’s speech and the pivotal march where he delivered it, every week we’re confronted by evidence that racial equality in the United States is still light years away.  One current story making the viral rounds is about a party of 25 black customers being ejected from a Wild Wing Café in North Charleston, South Carolina.  Michael Brown and the rest of his party were bidding farewell to his cousin, who was leaving the North Charleston area, when they were asked to move by the restaurant’s shift manager.  Apparently, they were making a white customer feel uncomfortable and when one of the offending party began recording the unusual request on their smart phone, the manager became offended and asked the entire group to leave because “she had a right to.”  Brown called Wild Wing’s corporate headquarters repeatedly but didn’t receive a response until he posted the story on the restaurant’s Facebook page.  He immediately received a call from Wild Wing’s head office offering him an apology and a free meal for himself and everyone in the party that night.  Needless to say, he refused both the offer and the apology.  Most telling of all though are attempts to keep blacks (and others) from participating in American democracy at the most basic level.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a number of provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prevented voter discrimination and suppression based on race (legislation that was a direct result of Dr. King and the March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington D.C. half a century ago), a number of southern states rushed to begin shoving through legislation that would make voting more difficult for blacks, latinos and other minorities.  Texas waited a mere two hours before introducing its legislation and North Carolina’s laws have resulted in widespread campaigns of civil disobedience across the state (Texas is currently being sued by the American Department of Justice over it’s new restrictive voting laws).  The scarier part is, this fight started well before the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act and last November, hundreds (if not thousands) of black voters waited in line more than four hours after polls closed in Florida in to cast their vote for President.  Most did so in defiance of that state’s attempt to disenfranchise them.  These battles will only grow more intense as next November’s mid term elections for control of the Senate and House draw closer.

The sacrifice of those who inspired and engineered such pivotal moments should always be celebrated.  The women who marched to win the right to vote were often spit on, beaten and worse.  Many were rejected and scolded by their families and church leaders before being disowned or thrown out of their congregations altogether.  Martin Luthor King was arrested dozens of times for frivolous and often fictional offences and he always knew an assassin’s bullet waited for him.  But he, and others like him, persisted and fought the good fight, no matter how much needless blood was spilled and how much their dignity was assaulted.  And the world benefitted from their graceful yet determined resolve.   But as we mark the passage and importance of these unforgettable days, we should take equal measure of how far we sill have to go before the architects of such change are truly vindicated.  We should also take stock how far we’ve fallen since.

Shayne Kempton

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Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)



There are some things Canadians love above all others.  We love our Timmies in the morning (or any caffeinated beverage for that matter, regardless of where it comes from), we love hockey at any and all levels and the Grey Cup.  We love believing we’re humble and then bragging like it’s going out of style when a native of the Great White North makes it big abroad.  We love to judge our American cousins to the south during their Black Friday insanity, pushing and shoving each other for half price toilet paper and then we lose our collective minds over half price DVDs come Boxing Day.  And we love complaining.  We love complaining about the weather (I am truly amazed by how many people seem to think they’re living in Bermuda come January, their Facebook statuses proclaiming that snow must portend the end of the civilized world), about our politicians, our TV and movies (“this is so bad it must be Canadian”), our money, our justice system, our military and on and on and bloody on.  It seems our favourite thing to complain about though is, well, Canada.  But we have 364 days a year to do that (and we do it quite well), but this is Canada Day, a day to remember that Canada isn’t just one of the best countries in the world, it is THE best, and in case you forget why in between your two-fours, well let me remind you (you may want to play the Canadian National Anthem in the background. Or a Molson commercial.).


We’ve been bombarded by a lot of political scandals over the past few years, but when you look around the world right now, man, we’ve got it good.  The robocalls scandal is a clear and obvious attempt at voter suppression, but the architects of that particular political faux pas are rank amateurs compared to the strategists in America’s Republican party, who without shame or apology try to convince people not to vote or deny them the right to (if you can’t get enough people to vote for you, try to get people voting against you to stay home).  And while we’ve seen our Senators play it fast and loose with their expense claims, playing pinanda with the Canadian taxpayer, the United States government lost nine billions dollars in Iraq.  Give your head a shake and read that again if you need to.  That’s nine billion greenbacks.  Not wasted.  Not squandered.  Lost.  It wasn’t even like losing a bet, like when your brother-in-law comes over after you’ve a had a few drinks and he brings a blank Pro-line form with him.  Nope.  They put it down and when they came back, it was gone.  You could buy Toronto with that kind of coin (or pay for Rob Ford’s monthly crack supply).


And while it’s politically fashionable to pounce on Conservatives in Canada and paint them as bigots and fascists, have you seen the GOP in the United States lately?   Take it from a guy who’s wasted many an hour debating American conservatives online, you can at least carry on an intelligent conversation with most Canadian conservatives, whereas their American counterparts are proudly represented by the likes of Sara Palin, Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann.  These people are barely literate and running amok talking about “legitimate rapes” and marrying power tools.  Alex Jones thinks homosexuals are chemically engineered by the same government that possesses a tornado making machine.  Man, I wish I could make this stuff up.  Marriage equality became a legally accepted fact in Canada years ago, but when the Supreme Court of the United States paved a similar way in the U.S. last week, a lot of people over fifty but with an IQ lower than sixty suffered from either an aneurysm or a severe bout of apocalyptic diarrhoea.  This particular demographic, also known as Fox News audience, collectively prayed for Americas soul while scarfing down Chic-fil-A and cleaning the guns they need to keep the mailman from stealing their freedom.  You want to see really scary Conservatives?  Take a look at Greece and their growing Golden Dawn Party.  They’re turning Olympus into OMG real fast, and they’re doing it with baseball bats and torch-light rallies that make Klu Klux Klan meetings look like Fourth of July picnics.


The Canadian Parliament has taken a heavy dose of criticism lately for its deteriorating civility, but I’ve lost count of the countries where politicians settle debates with fist fights.  And while that may sound cool at first, does anyone really want to see Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair throw down?  Really?  Because you just know it’ll degenerate into a contest of slapsies and purple nurples, and nobody needs to see that.  OK, maybe Alex Jones.  And when you vote in a Canadian election, there’s at least a little bit of suspense who’s going to win.  In Russia for instance, there ain’t much.  I’ll give you a hint; it’s Vladimir Putin.  In fact he’s already written his acceptance speech before the election is called.  He could be dead, and he’s still going to be on the ballot. And win.  Plus, Canada invented peacekeeping.  That’s right, everyone else hides behind stuff and shoots at you, but not Canadians.  Oh no, we stand out in the open between the people shooting at each other  and. . .wait, on second thought forget this one, it might not be a good bragging point.


Hockey is our national passion, a sport that sees grown men (and increasingly women) streak down a sheet of ice a wearing knives on their feet.  And sure, you may need to wear armour while playing but you can’t run out-of-bounds, you don’t have to have a shot clock to make it more exciting and when was the last time you saw a baseball player hit a winning home run with a broken leg?  Or a broken anything for that matter?  And speaking of injuries, do we really need to bring up professional soccer? The only guys I’ve seen take more dives are Olympic swim teams.


Captain Kirk may have said he was from Iowa, but we all know that deep down he was Canadian (and so was his toupee), and that guy scored with green aliens and holograms.  Think about that next time you’re getting shot down at the bar on a Saturday night.  We gave the world Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne and Nickelback; in return we ask the world one very considerable favour, please don’t give them back.  We’ll beg if we have to.  And the truth of the matter is, if you were born in Canada, you won the lottery right out of the womb.  The simple fact is, in over two-thirds of the world today, there’s someone just itching for an excuse to maim, rape, kill or torture another human being based on their gender, skin colour, age, political affiliation, tribe, the deity you choose to worship, your grandfather’s tribe, your dog’s tribe or your favourite colour.   In Canada, that only happens to Justin Bieber fans (as a Canadian I apologize to the rest of the world for inflicting the Biebs on you, yes, we do realize it was a violation of the Geneva convention and I hope you’ll forgive us, we were drunk).  You can walk in and out of a Canadian hospital without fear of getting a bill in the mail that’ll give you another heart attack and Canadians can hold their alcohol almost as well as the Vatican hold its altar boys.


Canada isn’t perfect, not even in the same postal code, and we have plenty of skeletons in our closet.  Our history, while often mistaken as boring, has plenty of bloodshed and suffering in it, and we’re not quite the polite, tolerant people we like the world to think we are.  But we’re much better off than most of the rest of the world.  So Happy Birthday Canada!  Today is the day we celebrate everything you are, everything you could be, and everything you aren’t, the day we lift a drink (or seventeen) to appreciate how good we have it here.  Because tomorrow, we’re going to be right back to bitching about you for the next twelve months, and why not, because as Canadians we’re Champs at Complaining.  It’s just one more thing we’re the best at.


Shayne Kempton (secretly a Nickelback fan-shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone)