Archive for February, 2008

Tasers and Human Rights

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

The use (or rather the misuse) of tasers by law enforcement in Canada (and also the U.S.) is a growing human rights concern according to Amnesty International (AI) Canada (please see “Amnesty International’s Concern About Tasers”). Taser-related deaths have been increasing since they were deployed amongst law enforcement officers in Canada (and the U.S.). Most recently is the case of a Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, who died after being stunned with a taser by the RCMP at Vancouver International Airport (see Amnesty International Canada’s news report on airport death). (News reports at the time said that Dziekanski was arriving to meet his mother and got lost in the airport. He couldn’t find any assistance in finding his way and couldn’t contact his mother. He grew frustrated and agitated at being lost in the airport. RCMP didn’t realize he was speaking Polish and sent the wrong language interpreter to the scene.) In 2004, AI Canada published a report addressing the issue of tasers. With the report are clear cases of tasers being used excessively, in some cases ending in death (please see “Canada: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers”).

Instead of sitting by and allowing this misuse of tasers to continue and taser-related deaths to increase, AI Canada is calling for a moratorium on the use of tasers. AI Canada is asking that law enforcement cease the use of tasers until independent research can be conducted on them. If you believe that the use of tasers should stop until more research is conducted on them, take action and fill out the form on AI Canada’s moratorium page. I have filled out the form and added the following comment:

Addditionally, the use of tasers can be inherently dangerous if used on someone with a pre-existing health condition (such as epilepsy or heart disease). Persons with specific health conditions are at greater risk of dying from being stun by a taser as their bodies’ tolerance to being stunned is lower. I do not believe law enforcement officers are well trained enough to be able to determine if someone may have a health condition that might predispose them to dying from a taser stun.

Clearly from the increasing taser-related deaths, tasers should be considered lethal force and in the meantime, should not be used until further research and clearer safety parameters are set.

You can read AI Canada’s latest report (in pdf) on this issue – “Canada: Inappropriate and excessive use of tasers (May 2007)”.

~~~Cass

Recently read and currently reading

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake is the first novel in a trilogy, the follow-ups being Gormenghast and Titus Alone. The trilogy is nominally an epic, which tells the story of the 77th Earl of Gormenghast, Titus Groan. In the first book, Titus is born to Lady Gertrude and Lord Sepulchrave to the initial dismay of his older sister, Fuchsia. The first book basically tells how Titus becomes the 77th Earl of Gormenghast before he’s even two-years-old. The world of Gormenghast is dark, quite gothic in feel. Fuchsia has the temperament you would expect of any fifteen-year-old girl – she does whatever she wants and rebels against even her childhood nursemaid, who she professes to love with all her heart. The book is well-written and leaves a remarkably fantastical world imprinted on your mind. Although I initially wasn’t planning on reading the whole trilogy and despite criticism that the next two novels aren’t as impressive on the imagination as the first, I’m intrigued enough to want to find out what happens to Titus Groan in his later years. The next two books will be on my reading list.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley written in 1932 still scarily reflects on modern society, even in this new millenium. What can I say about it that hasn’t already been said? Obviously, there’s a strangely polarized danger to trusting in either science or religion too much. Yet, in many ways science seems to be the new religion of the modern world, as it seems to be in Brave New World.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season eight) by Joss Whedon et al. is the comic/graphic novel version of Buffy. It continues the story after Sunnydale is blown up at the end of season seven. Volume one collecting issues one to five in graphic novel format is now available. There is also a continuation of the Angel serial. Look for Angel: After the Fall – it should be in graphic novel format once the comic gets to issue five.

I mentioned Fables before, I’m sure. I have pretty much caught up with the series I’m up to volume nine now, but I’ve taken a break from it to finish up some other books on my reading list.

If you’re interested in manga, some interesting ones are Blame!, Tsubasa, xxxholic, and Chobits.

I’ve been plodding my way through Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Quite an amusing read! It’s 1006 pages so it will take me awhile to finish it, especially since I tend to change books every so often for variety. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to finish a 1000-page book in five hours like a certain person I know.

I haven’t gone back to Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time yet. I find his serial quite absorbing and there are many plot lines to follow, so it’s best for me to read it when I have a good block of time available and I don’t have to think about doing anything else. I’m thinking I will get back to The Wheel of Time (book seven, A Crown of Swords) when I’ve knocked down my reading list a bit.

I’ve currently gone back to reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It’s been a few weeks and I want to know how Strange is doing overseas as a magic advisor. 😉 I think the novel is wonderfully written.

I also started reading the much shorter novel Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. It’s listed as science fiction and like Brave New World is a commentary on modern society and where it may lead. Well written in the first person narrative, it’s easy to get drawn into the story. It’s told through the eyes of an empath who must learn to control her abilities.

Other fiction books on my reading list are:

The Ghatti’s Tale – Book One: Finders-Seekers by Gayle Greeno
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (I didn’t think I would read the rest of Bradley’s novels in this series, but something keeps drawing me back to them. Having read Mists of Avalon and The Forest House already, the next in the series are Lady of Avalon, Priestess of Avalon, Ancestors of Avalon, Ravens of Avalon, and Sword of Avalon (to be published in 2009). The last three books in this series are written by Diana L. Paxson rather than the late Ms. Bradley. I’m thinking if I like Ancestors of Avalon, I’ll continue reading the rest of the novels written by Paxson, but I’m sure I’m going to read up to Ancestors of Avalon.)
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (a recommendation by Nathan (see his blog))
Artemis Fowl (books two and three) by Eoin Colfer (This is such an amusing children’s fiction series. You can’t not like it. 😀 )
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Yes, I’m a little slow. Haha. Actually, it’s more that I’m not overly excited about the rest of the serial and I also don’t like reading hardcover books if I can avoid it. It’s an amusing children’s fiction serial and since I started it I thought I’d finish reading it. When the last book in the serial is available in paperback, I’ll read this one.)
Vampire Hunter D by Hideyuki Kikuchi (Ever since I read Battle Royale, I have no hesitation about reading another Japanese novel, especially one that Nathan’s picked up. 😉 This book should be amusing.)
The Diamond Throne and The Ruby Knight (books one and two of The Elenium) by David Eddings (I found these down in our laundry room where people recycle books. Thought I’d read these sometime. I read David Eddings’ other serial before and thought they were amusing, although Nathan doesn’t like Eddings’ writing so much.)
The Tower on the Rift (book two of The View from the Mirror) by Ian Irvine (Nathan read both books one and two and lost interest because Irvine’s writing isn’t the greatest. I have to agree. The story sounds interesting, but I found it hard to finish the first book. I may read this book at some point, but I’m in no rush too. Maybe if I really, really want to know what happens to the main characters…)
Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee (I don’t have this book yet, but it actually does sound interesting and the writing I’m assured is pretty good. The book is the first in a series.)

Aside from reading fiction, I’ve been studying various subjects still and still have a pretty hefty list of non-fiction books to read. For the most part, I’ve been studying astrology (Western and Chinese astrology) and topics related to reiki and healing. I’ve also finally gotten a chance to delve into human rights like I wanted (gee, that wasn’t obvious with the last few posts). I’m more interested in international human rights, which is why I’ve been researching Amnesty International. There is a new human rights book that will be published and released later this month (International Human Rights: A Comprehensive Introduction by Michael Haas) that I want to read. I’m in the middle of writing a few pages on human rights for my website. It’s a work in progress and won’t be available until I get through a few source materials.

~~~CJ

The Ms. Conover issue – update #2

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Many people are still unclear about this not necessarily being a human rights issue (as posted below). Today, I posted the following comment on my own facebook note to help clarify:

The following excerpt from the OHRC website may make things clearer:

“You have the right to be free from discrimination that is:

* in a specific social area such as jobs, housing and services, and

* because of a ground protected by the Code, such as race, handicap or sex.

Your rights under the Code are not violated if you only have a social area or only have a ground. For example, the Code does not apply if a stranger on the street insults you by making a racist comment because this did not happen in a specific social area. The Code will also not apply if you feel you are being treated differently in your job due to a personality conflict with your manager because there is no ground.”

(source: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/Guides/
GuideHRcode2?page=GuideHRcode2-PART.html#Heading53):

Based on this, I would say Ms. Conover only has a ground (religious practices and beliefs) and not necessarily a social area (such as employment).

Additionally, I’ve addressed the idea that since the pageant is a public event, then this is a human rights violation by not allowing Ms. Conover to be a judge. Here were my comments on this:

No one’s disputing Ms. Murray’s actions. What you have to understand is that it is not a “public service”, which is a service offered through a governmental body or agency (a few examples would be government housing and employment insurance). Therefore, it does not necessarily fall under a human rights violation. The fact that the event is offered to the general populace and takes place in a public venue does not mean it is a “public service”. (Many people often confuse the meaning of “public” as it is used to refer to some businesses – not all businesses are “public corporations” – as well as government services.)

Again, I must state that being invited to be a pageant judge is not the same as being hired. It is as yet unclear if she was being offered a job or simply being asked to attend as a “honoured judge”, the latter being cited in news sources as the case.

Here’s clarification on the meaning of the word “public” as it is used in different legal contexts:

1) public service – refers to a service offered through the government, whether municipal, provincial, or federal

2) public corporation – refers to a business that has become “incorporated” (incorporation gives a business certain rights, one of which is that the incorporation is considered a “person” under the law) and has offered shares of the corporation to public

Not all corporations are public as not all offer shares to the public. Where a business becomes incorporated and does not offer its shares to the public, it is a “private corporation”.

Non-profit organizations (NPOs) may become incorporated. They do not offer shares to the public, though they may provide services to the public. They operate slightly differently and are governed by a different statute than profit corporations . Some people mistakenly call NPOs “public organizations”, which is not a useful term.

The Ms. Conover issue – update

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

This is a follow up to “Human rights or not – reactions to the Ms. Conover issue”.

“Local witches are fired up and ready to picket
in support of Miss Toronto Tourism Pageant judge ousted for Wiccan beliefs”

Ms. Murray is going to have a rude awakening.

Though I wonder if in some way this is adding more fuel to the fire that originally sparked Ms. Murray to write a nasty mean letter to Ms. Conover regarding her hobbies, reiki and tarot card reading. While I agree that what Ms. Murray wrote to Ms. Conover was bigoted, we must realize that although the letter has been made “public”, it was a private letter to begin with. Much as I support the cause of religious freedom, a cause dear and near to the hearts of my pagan/Wiccan acquaintances, I also support all forms of human rights. Ms. Murray has the inalienable right to express her opinion, which she did (although in one of the more nasty ways possible towards a Wiccan) in her originally-private-made-public letter to Ms. Conover. If we as a society are going to vouch for one form of human right, we must also hold to other forms as well. Otherwise, why bother having them? Sadly, this does mean that in private correspondence, Ms. Murray can write what she wishes, even mean and nasty words. Had she gone and written this on a public message board forum or blog, there may have been more legal recourse possible. This is not the case. Ms. Murray’s letter was originally private. (At this point, I must ask, “How did the letter become public? Who made the letter public?”)

Returning back to the fire… clearly Ms. Murray has strong opinions against reiki (though I feel I must state here that there are Christians who also do reiki; “Ms. Murray if you happen to read this perhaps you should do some research before you start venting your views”) and tarot card reading. Clearly, she lacks knowlege of what is really involved in either of those practices. That being said, would picketing her precious little pageant change anything? Not sure. She may very well be one of those die-hard (emphasis on “die”) Christians who relish the thought of being a martyr for their god. For all we know, this is her biggest battle and it’s her chance to show her faithful duty to her god. Lovely. Then what we have is another Christian martyr for others like her to look up to. The flip side, of course, is that pagans/Wiccans and most sane people out there will think Ms. Murray is well… just a little insane (not that people don’t already think she is).

In any case, what I see here is something spiralling hopefully not out of control – yet. Let’s hope it doesn’t.

In the meantime, I choose to sit back and let my dear friends do what they must do. I must do what I must do. I believe in human rights. This means that I must see both sides of this issue and I cannot take sides. Doing so would mean that I believe that one human right (right to freedom of religious choice) outweighs another (right to freedom of opinion), which is not the case. I believe in both equally. (Think about it? I’m a pagan who also loves writing!)

Here’s hoping that something good comes out of all this and not the scenario I presented above. Mediators be ready, this is a tough one.