Monthly Archives: May 2012

Anonymity & Identity

My Friends,

   Been doing a lot of facebook debating as of late.  I mean its one thing to write a blog and hope someone reads it, but if you comment on someone’s post I find it is more engaging; people are more willing to discuss things that they brought up in the first place by posting them.  I would like to think it is always a mutually respectful discussion, but sometimes things are misunderstood, or points aren’t made or someone gets frustrated, or someone makes a joke without putting LOL at the end and things devolve rather quickly.  This is an unfortunate limitation of text-based discussions.  
   Now, between the ongoing discussion I have been having with a friend of mine for over 3 weeks (it started when I implied stated outright that Obama and all other president’s were ineffectual), and the more recent thread I started on the FB group “Veterans Against Occupy Wall Street,” (I tried asking them why they were so against OWS and they accused me of trolling and then deleted the thread) I have spent quite a bit of time as of late elucidating on the ills of society as I see them.  What I didn’t take into account initially was that these comments posted on facebook would be visible to my friends.  People started making references to these discussions (positive and negative) and just today my friend posted this…
…on my wall, along with some choice words about how people viewed me.  Insofar as I let myself get caught up in arguments, he is right.  Arguments, even in person are about being right => winning.  However I maintain that there is still merit to discussions, or mutually respectful discourse.  And the great thing about facebook and other social media is that your rationalism or stupidity is there for everyone to see.  It forces you to choose your words a little more carefully because you never know who might be reading their news-feed and see that you were trolling some memorial page for a kid who died from leukemia.
If you troll this kid’s memorial page you are scum!! … never mind why I’m laughing

   I remember one time someone posted a link to a group for sexual abuse survivors.  I think it was called “Sexual Abuse Survivors.”  I saw this thread started by this middle-aged overweight female sexual abuse survivor and saw her attention-whoring about how she was a sexual-abuse survivor.  I made it clear in no uncertain terms that by posting all this about herself on an open forum she was making a great sacrificial lolcow out of herself, and that some troll could easily come and milk her for her delicious lulz.  
Lulz: Where’s Your Mustache?
My warning was interpreted as a troll and it became a bad scene real quick.  I aborted and when I returned to my home-page I saw that the news feed showed like five different posts about how I posted on the sexual abuse survivors group. 
   Bricks were shat.  I didn’t want people to think I was a sexual abuse survivor looking for support, but I especially didn’t want them thinking I was trolling the group.  And that’s probably how it would have looked too; after all I didn’t have to go there and point out their attention-whoring ways.  In fact, my advice was unsolicited and so I kind of looked like a jerk.  This incident made me very cognizant about which arguments were worth getting into on facebook, or at least made me realize that I could change the settings which notified people about where I was posting.  In that regard it helped me to see that if someone is sufficiently pathetic, you can always be in the wrong if you get caught pointing out how pathetic they are acting.  So don’t get caught.
   Then, at some point in time, I discovered 4chan.  Its simply a bunch of different image boards, the most popular one being the /b/ or “random” board which has no rules about posting except that you can’t post illegal things (child porn, how to get child porn, etc…) or else you get banned.  The great thing about 4chan is that posting is done primarily anonymously (although so-called “namefags” can elect to fill out the name field) so the rules you might adhere to on facebook go out the window.  No sexual abuse survivor or leukemia baby is safe.  No pun intended.
   In spite of what you may be thinking, this is actually a good thing.  Not the leukemia trolling specifically but the consequence-free anonymity which enables it.  Sure you can see the ugly side of people but barriers are also torn down.  I guarantee I have been more honest on 4chan on average than I  am in daily life because I know it will never be pinned on me.  The bullshit goes out the window and you see that people, although they have a definite sadistic streak for those who have it coming, are really deeply feeling and fucking hilarious when they don’t have to worry about people poking fun at them personally.  Sure someone may tell you to GTFO or call you a fag, but they’re not calling you a fag, they’re calling anonymous a fag, so they are calling themselves a fag(s).
   Now one April fool’s day a few years back, 4chan’s administrator added a new field to the the established submission field.  It was called “Facebook Connect” and it had a little box to check that would post your 4chan submission (pic & comment) on facebook.  The lulziest part was that the box was checked by default, so if people didn’t notice it was there, then whatever invective, vitriol, faggotry, goatse, heart-warming or noble thing they were posting on 4chan, got posted to their facebook wall.  
   Shit was hilarious.  All of a sudden threads popped up with people submitting screen-caps of their FB profiles with the offensive post displayed, talking about how all of their friends now knew what a racist, sexist, Islamophobe they were and how their lives were ruined.  Thankfully, the admin took it down but it hammered home the point about how your anonymous life and your internets persona but be kept separate and distinct.
   Now you might think, “Good, it taught those guys a lesson.  There shouldn’t be anonymity.  Then people will just behave poorly with impunity.”  I think you would be wrong in this line of thinking; anonymity is the one way we can get away from the pressures of maintaining an internet persona.  You don’t have to post a picture of yourself flexing your muscles, or partying with friends or dressed up nice with the right lighting because no one cares, no one is judging.  Its actually kind of a relief.  
   But its not one or the other: Just as anonymity allows a certain freedom of expression, the accountability which comes with a posting on FB or Twitter is also important because it teaches people what is acceptable in the context of internetting.  For example, anonymity may allow you to express creativity and vulnerability, but it won’t teach you to rebut a differing opinion with anything more than “OP is a fag!,” or “GTFO faggot!”  Likewise, you may learn what is socially acceptable on social networking sites but I find they don’t afford much inspiration or lulz.
  We want an identity but we want anonymity as well.  There is nothing pretentious about the former and nothing cowardly about the latter.  And since I continue to post actively as both myself and anonymous, I have to remember to keep my fb discussions civil or risk becoming a Special Olympics gold-medalist.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   

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How to Win the Game of Thrones

My Friends,
   After many positive recommendations I have relented and begun to watch Game of Thrones.  It is a pretty sick show to be sure, and it is probably the first show I have watched since The Wire in which I find myself actually caring about the characters.

Sorry Peggy, but  your trailblazing path to the top of the male-dominated world of 1960s advertising doesn’t make you that interesting to me.

One exchange of dialogue has stuck with me for the past couple of days; it is from the scene where Tommy Carcetti tells Alec Trevelyan Little Finger tells Ned Stark, the Hand of the King, that it is gold and not soldiers that wins wars.  
Ned doesn’t always like what Little Finger has to say.
This conversation is spurred by the fact that the king, Richard is unable to exercise control over his wife’s family, the Lannisters, because he (and therefore his realm) is deeply in debt to the supper-rich Tywin Lannister, the head of the family.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown it would seem.
   Using my knowledge of monetary-ism I think I have formulated a way in which Boromir Ned Stark could actually get the king and the realm out from under the thumb of the Lannisters.
   To begin with, in the land of Westeros there is no paper currency but rather gold itself.  So far there has been no indication that there exists goldsmiths who receive deposits of people’s gold and issue receipts payable for gold on demand, which people would then trade instead of gold for simplicity’s sake.  This is how our paper currency evolved and it is a logical step in the development of commerce, but we can’t assume anything.  This is actually an advantage for the land because we can assume that goldsmiths, who would realize that depositors claim their deposited gold infrequently and then issue more receipts than they had the gold to back so they could lend them out with interest, thereby inflating the currency, would simply not exist.  This method of usury called Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB) is what we have today all over the world, and it evolved from the basic fraud of lending more than one has committed by the original goldsmiths.
   No, in Westoro there is simply gold and no smiths.  And while inflation doesn’t seem to be a problem, scarcity indeed does.  So what can the king do about this lack of a finite resource?  Well he can cut his dependence on it and issue a fiat currency, that is currency not backed by anything but faith in the king and his government.  We actually have fiat currencies today but they really don’t alleviate national debts because central banks typically emerge and become the sole lender to the government, trading central bank notes (legal tender) for government treasury bonds.  Governments then owe interest to the central bank for this loan (the interest is of course in excess of the amount of principal generated aka THE ENTIRE MONEY SUPPLY) and are forced to borrow more (with interest of course) to pay off the existing debt.  This is how countries get into debt in the first place and why they will never get out.
   So, back to Westoro, the king and his treasury should issue currency, and not borrow it from a bank like we do today in exchange for government bonds.  Thomas Edison once made the very apt observation that if a government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar of currency; both have the same value and the latter comes without interest.  
   Now there are two immediate problems with this idea: inflation and acceptance.  With regard to inflation, it is true that flooding the market with a new currency would devalue the existing gold, gold-backed or fiat currency.  So set up an exchange: in the short-term and have the new paper currency redeemable for gold and vice-versa.  Paper money is more convenient than heavy-ass gold and the state would simply be playing the role that the original goldsmiths from our history with one key exception: They would NOT lend out more currency (gold-receipts) than they could back with their gold reserves, or in other words keep a fractional reserve.  You may think this restriction of the money supply is limiting and it is, but its short-term for a transitional process which could happen very quickly if the problem of acceptance is dealt with.
   How do you make someone accept a currency?  Well, in the case of our fiat currency we have faith in our government.  In the case of a gold-backed currency, like this transitional one I propose for Westoro,  people will have faith in the money because it is redeemable for a perpetually scarce and valuable resource.  Still, there may be some intransigent types who simply like the weight and shine of gold and possess such an abundance of it that they could retard the complete transition to paper currency.  Short of a government seizure of gold bullion (like that which was conducted in the United States during the 1930s), there is one more way which this transition could be peacefully effected: Make all taxes payable in the new currency.  People will soon realize that aside from the luxuries of jewelry, it doesn’t make sense to hoard a currency that is now useless for something which everyone needs money for.  
  As the currency circulates and grows in popularity (as it will if its the exclusive means of paying taxes) the gold backing can be removed.  A gold backing would be unnecessary, much like it is today.  This is where the temporary restriction of the money supply (a by-product of backing it with scarce gold) would be lifted.  The only thing determining the size of the money supply would be the how much money was needed.  The treasury could print off more to undertake large public-works projects or the raising of an army, and conversely shrink it when the supply was excessive and inflated.  As long as the king never outsources the printing of money to a private firm or decides to borrow it with interest from a central bank, there should be relative stability in his realm.  As for the gold the treasury received from the exchange, the government could pay off any existing debts which it had already agreed to pay in gold, but the rest could be credited back to the citizens of the seven kingdoms in equal measures as a return from a wise and benevolent government.  (This is not unheard of; even today the citizens of resource-rich regions often get regular sums of money which symbolize their share of the mineral wealth being extracted from their homelands).  The value of this gold would the be relative to how much existed, and while it would not be formally circulated as currency, private transactions could still be conducted for a sum of gold the same way they could theoretically be conducted today.  
   If you were expecting more talk of military strategy and think the title of this entry misleading, I assure you that this issue of currency is more pressing than all the allegiances, hordes and dragons which threaten the balance of power in Westoro.  Whoever controls the money supply in Westoro will prosper and run the show no matter which ambitious lord presumes to usurp the Iron Throne.  If the king controls the money supply through his government treasury he will truly be in charge of his realm and not be beholden to usurers.
   I’m not much for subtlety and nuance so I will come out and say explicitly that this type of monetary policy could alleviate many of our current monetary problems.  It would actually be easier for us because the gold standard has already been abolished.  We would simply have to move from a debt-based fiat currency to a debt-free fiat currency.  A simple matter with minimal upset of the economy as it is now.  There are five simple steps:
1) Issue a new currency, tied to the value of our dollar.  Have the treasury print it, DO NOT borrow it from a central bank or contract a private firm to print it.  Begin circulating it.  
2) To offset inflation, incrementally increase the cash reserve banks must keep on hand.  This would keep the money supply stable.  Right now Canadian banks are not required to keep any reserves on hand.  They could loan out billions for example without a cent in their vault.  If this egregious fraud doesn’t rustle your jimmies, your jimmies may well be un-rustle-able.
3) Make all taxes exclusively payable in the new currency.
4) ????
5) PROFIT!!!
   If it could work for Middle -Earth, Westoro, it could work for us.  I’ll leave you with a quotation to ponder:
“Give me control of a nation’s money-supply and I care not who makes its laws.”
-allegedly uttered by Mayer Amschel Rothschild 
or his son, Nathan Mayer Rothschild
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
For further information about our monetary policy and how to turn money from our master back into our servant as it was originally intended to be, check out the following:
Or, for a more intimate glimpse on the intricacies of the Canadian system,
   
   

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The Cancer That’s Killing Facebook

My Friends,
   Pardon me for the tongue-in-cheek title of this post, but its a reference to a commonly-used phrase on a website whose name the first two rules of the internet forbid me from mentioning.

Now that you have absolutely no idea what the fuck I am talking about, let me reassure you that facebook is (mostly fine), but I did spot a post from my sister which caught my attention.  It was a CTV report by Lloyd Robertson (evidently from a few years back) which talked about the use of a cheap chemical called DCA which was showing success in curing cancer but whose efficacy was for some reason being denied by the Canadian Medical Association?? Canadian Drug Administration?  Well, whatever the Canadian equivalent of the FDA is anyhow.
   The posting of the video sparked some enmity from two of her friends, one a microbiologist and the other a cancer researcher (its funny how people who post online are always the undisputed experts of whatever topic they are talking about.
   Ian (the cancer researcher) posted first:

Ian: I don’t even have to watch this to know it’s fake. I work in cancer research – anyone claiming to have ‘a cure for cancer’ doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases, not a single condition that has ‘a cure’. It’s like saying “I have discovered a cure for disease”.

Then:

Ian: Yeah, DCA is an old story. For some reason it keeps popping up despite the fact that it’s been shown to be based on terribly shoddy science over and over again:

http://scienceblogs.com/

insolence/2011/05/

the_dca_zombie_arises_again
.php (I never checked out the link)


I love a good argument, especially with someone who seems to have so flagrant a conflict of interest, so I had to chime in.  But alas I was at work and a calculated response would simply take too long.  So I waited…
   When I got to the computer half an hour ago, the microbiologist, Jas had said his piece:

Jas: Yup, this video is nonsense and dishonest

There was some banter back and forth between Jas and my sister and then I decided to weigh in:

Me: Ian, if cancer is “hundreds of different diseases” why are you even researching it? surely you must see the hypocrisy… 
As well, the venom with which you attack the video (before watching it no less) betrays an interest in not seeing alternative medicines work Cancer research is big business which carries both fortune and prestige for the researchers.

I am unfamiliar with DCA (the video is playing as I write) but I have heard of Dr. Stanislaus Burzynski and his antineoplastins which have had amazing success in Texas but have been brutally suppressed by the FDA and the American Cancer Association (http://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=1qG_ZWs04es). I suppose he is a quack as well?

I will agree with you that in the broader sense cancer has no simple cause or cure: Removing asbestos from a worksite for example does not solve the greater structural problem of an exploitative labour-market system which will negligently subject workers to the next harmful substance with impunity until specific legislation is passed to prevent it.
There is a definite tendency to look at causes and cures too reductively and not consider the socio-economic factors which contribute to the proliferation of diseases.

However, what makes the formal institution of cancer research (the institution I assume you work for) so different? Do you, in your work, address the social factors or look at the more localized (i.e. physiological aspects?) If so, wouldn’t that be no better than someone claiming to have a cure?

You can’t even cry make a cry of “misinformation” at this video, because normal people (me and Tanya for example) are incredibly UN-informed. These alternative medications which presume to threaten the formal institution of cancer research get almost no airplay in mainstream media and that’s no accident.
Unfortunately, people are getting fed up: Years of research and all you guys can offer us is radiation and chemo?
“No” you say? There are other treatments available? Well to the initiated researcher those cures might be known but for the lay-people (again, me and Tanya) you cancer researcher types don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to protesting alternative cures until you show & prove.

Best of Luck.


I linked this video.  Please watch it and pass it to your friends.

Jas shot back:
Jas: You know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.

Then me:

Me: No. “Medicine” is the name for solutions which can be patented and sold for a profit.

The (dis)qualifier “alternative” denotes a more democratic, less profitable solution.In much the same way, solar, wind and geothermal are all “alternative” sources of energy.


Then Jas again:
Jas: Well, you’re right about wind and solar being less profitable, and wrong about “alternative” meaning the same thing in both cases.

“Medicine” is any substance or therapy that has been proven to improve patient outcome. This is why there is no such thing as proven alternative medicine because at that point it becomes medicine.The first sentence you wrote on this thread is ridiculous btw – nobody sees the hypocrisy but you. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases and we will never find a cure in our lifetime. This is obvious to anyone who’s spent a moment learning about it.


Finally, me: Nobody sees the hypocrisy but me? Story of my life…


What I was implying is that someone who gets paid to research cancer in the economic paradigm in which we live has an interest in not seeing other cures taken seriously. I don’t mean to imply that Ian is knowingly lying to anyone, but I would suggest that by being so immersed and ingratiated in any system, one would be inclined to disregard information which falls outside of the realm of approved knowledge. i.e. Einstein was probably considered crazy at first by scientific minds who had made their careers as champions of the Newtonian physics paradigm

Call it overly suspicious, but why would the heads of international cancer research give up willingly the profitable racket they have eked out for themselves by supporting a cure? Like you said, “we will never find a cure in our lifetime.” Imagine that, a perpetual source of income and access to all the research funds you could want. Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

I’m not sure where you got your definition of Medicine (a textbook or dictionary I will assume) but I mostly agree: medicine at its core should be benevolent. With regard to the appellation “alternative,” it is simply a disagreement on what constitutes alternative and we will have to agree to disagree.

I’m hurt by your last comment which implies I have never spent a moment studying cancer; I read all of your posts in their entirety.Be well


   This is where the conversation rests right now and I am not entirely certain that Jas will respond (I just posted that last bit like literally two minutes ago).  I figure once people start attacking your credentials they are preparing to bow out while maintaining the illusion of superiority.  
   Now I should say that I did relish the chance to get into an argument (I’m kind of a dick sometimes), but its not like these guys didn’t deserve a check.  Science has to be held accountable and a scientist who does not wish to have to explain himself can very easily attack his opponent’s ability to understand the esoteric concepts with which he deals.  But that in itself is an admission of failure, failure to perform his prime social responsibility as a scientist: to demystify complicated concepts and communicate his findings to the masses.  Not simply attack another voice. That shit seems mad suspicious to me.  
   As well, oh wait, more posts—
Jas: I just don’t think you understand science or the scientific method. All research on cancer is available via published articles and all hypothesis are hotly disputed until the best answer becomes the model (until a better model emerges). Ian is doing cancer RESEARCH, which simply means that he is attempting to elucidate the signalling pathway or mechanism for whichever one of hundreds of cancers he is studying and simply gain understanding. He is not directly researching a cure, or at least, not at all directly.


There is no world conspiracy to suppress knowledge of disease – no entity has that kind of reach.


Me: It sounds like you are at least trying to be more reasonable and fair here and the effort is appreciated. Perhaps if Ian had taken the same approach from the outset my spider-sense wouldn’t have tingled. But he didn’t; he flamed a video and divulged his credentials at the same time. This made it look very suspicious considering that however you look at it his livelihood right now depends on DCA not being effective. You at least see that don’t you?

And your use of the “C” word is not appreciated. Implying someone is a conspiracy theorist is like calling someone crazy. Its dismissive and attempts to invalidate their argument without refuting it. You, as a scientist, should be able to do better. I expect better from my scientists because I put all of my faith in them.Without divulging my credentials, which are modest, I will say that without having the specialized knowledge of you and Ian, I do have a knowledge of science and the scientific method, we simply have different vantage points.


I was going to write a last paragraph but I think I think this last bit of banter will suffice.  Besides, I forgot what I was going to say.  Trust, it was going to be good.  If more posts come up I will use my discretion to see if they warrant posting  and either add to this post or start a new one.  In fact I think I will link this post to the thread.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   





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The Story So Far…

One day maybe…

My Friends,
   Most of you know that “blog” is short for “web log,” and the word “log,” to me, implies two things: First, a regularity in entries, and Second, a personal aspect, or subject matter dealing with the writer’s own life.  My blog has been somewhat deficient in both of these regards as of late.  Here’s why…
   With regard to regularity and the recording of my daily life events, I find that little has happened as of late which merits a full blog entry.  To be sure, there have been certain notable occurrences as of late, but none which can’t be adequately summarized and explored in a twitter post or two (@dreguan).  Other than these chance occurrences, all I have been up to lately is submitting (lamentably) the past few months to wage-slavery.  This sort of base existence does not really lend itself to anecdotes worthy of relating, but its a necessary evil for the time being.  The irony is that while I was travelling I had all the stories in the world to tell and often no computer.  Now I have all the internets I could want and a rather uneventful existence.  Such is life.
   Another reason I have not been reporting on my own life actually springs out of my wage-slavery circumstance: faced with the abominable boredom of doing work fit for automation for 8 hours a day, I have turned to listening to documentaries while I work to both educate and entertain myself while I pass the time.  This has had something of a re-honing effect on my (justifiably) grim outlook on the world, which took a turn for the rosier when I was traipsing about the world meeting all sorts of wonderful people and fellow kindred spirits.  Learning more about the inherent problems with our system while at the same time once again faced with the reality that every hour I was travelling took several hours of work to finance, I can’t help but be a little bitter about how the world works and hanker for some real change.  I feel this has influenced my recent writing to the extent that it has moved the focus away from me and more to the problems I see in the world and their manifestation in my life.
   However, there is one aspect of my life which is developing slowly and also warrants mention here.  It is my potential transfer to the air force.  Family and friends are constantly asking me about the progress of said transfer and it is an uncomfortable topic for me because there are only so many inventive ways I can say “no answer yet.”  But I will set the record straight no because it is something I am loathe to discuss and that in itself makes it worth discussing.
   I first applied to transfer from the army reserve to the air force as a pilot back in June 2010.  I was anticipating a quick process where I would go and be tested for suitability, receive either a positive or negative answer, and go from there, knowing that even if I didn’t get in at least I made the attempt to achieve something I had been thinking about for years.  From the beginning it got complicated as I was soon told that I would have to wait until the following April (2011) when the next transfer intake started because I had missed the 2010 intake.  Patiently I waited.
   Come April 2011 I waited a week.  Then 2.  Then 4.  Then 6.  At this point I finally started sending emails and realized with dismay that my point of contact no longer held his position and that someone else had taken over.  After getting in touch with this person I was informed that my application had not been picked up for the 2011 intake and that I would have to wait until the following April (2012) to see if I got picked up then.  I should remind you that at this point I still wasn’t even waiting for a position as a pilot, but simply for a chance to go in for a 3-day selection process to see if they would start training me as a pilot or not (a training process which I could still ultimately fail out of).
   I took this news on the chin for two reasons: One, I had, from the beginning (June 2010) prepared myself for a potentially long wait; years if need be.  Second, it occurred to me that the transfer centre, with their constant suggestions that they could cancel my application if I wished whenever I emailed them impatiently about the status of my transfer, might drag this process out on purpose for the sake of weeding out those candidates for selection who were not serious about the commitment.

   So I began the process of waiting another year.  In that time, I started this blog, had an awesome summer and did some globe-trotting in the fall/winter.  Fortunately, I arrived back from my travels scant weeks before receiving an email in mid-January saying that I should make sure all of my annual fitness-testing for the military was up-to-date, as I should expect an opportunity to attend selection during the 2012 intake cycle.  I diligently set forth setting appointments and booking interviews.  I did my fitness test in Hamilton in late February then later that week went to the brigade clinic in London for my initial medical assessment + hearing test and basic vision test.  The following week (early March) I went to Orangeville (a pain in the ass with no car) to do my blood work, electro-cardiogram and chest x-ray.  I also had to do a pulmonary function (PFT) test, but since that was by appointment only I made plans to come back into Orangeville for that on March 24th. 

   Leading up to March 24th I completed both my comprehensive vision test with an opthamologist and my interview (it is an employment transfer after all).  With the successful passing of the PFT on the 24th of March, I figured nothing really sat between me and the selection I had waited for for so long.
   Wrong again.
   Since I had been so on top of my game and had finished all of my preliminary testing before April 1st  I informed the transfer centre that they could expect the results of all my testing within a week or two and waited, content that I would get an answer soon.  When I finally did hear from anyone, it was a Captain Taylor who had received my file and was waiting for the flight surgeon to sign off on my medical results before scheduling me for a selection serial.  I got in touch with the physician’s assistant in London who had done my physical exam and asked if he had received my medical results from my family doctor and passed them on to the flight surgeon.  He had received them and they hadn’t yet been passed on.  I was told to keep waiting.  Sometime not too long thereafter he got back to me informing me that the rules had changed as of March 4th, and the initial medical assessment he had performed with me was now supposed to be done by the clinic in Toronto not London.  He said that since I had done mine before the regulation had changed he would see if he could get my results validated.
   I waited a week and called back.  He was still looking into it.  8 days later (last Tuesday) I decided that it made better sense to just redo the portion that was no longer valid rather than waiting for an exception that may never come.  I informed the physician’s assistant about this and he suggested a doctor.
   I went to to look for this doctor in the Toronto base directory and couldn’t find him.  So I emailed the PA back asking for more information on how to contact him.  The PA simply responded that I should call the London clinic as that’s where the doctor worked out of.  This seemed weird to me as the PA had earlier told me that the testing now had to be done in Toronto.  That was Wednesday, and I called several times that afternoon, and throughout the day on Thursday trying to get a hold of either the PA or the doctor in question, but neither were diligent about returning calls.  Finally, this past Friday morning I got a hold of an Officer Cadet who informed me that the actual new instruction was that all medical assessments for potential pilots had to be performed by contracted doctors, not PA’s which explained why the PA had referred me to a Dr. in his clinic in London.
   That all sorted out, I asked the OCDT to schedule me in for a re-assessment ASAP.  The earliest date she had was 25 July 2012.  Unacceptable.  And I let her know as much.  Politely.
   My problem with this date was not so much waiting 2 and a half more months, but losing any priority I might have for selection this year and having to wait until the following intake year to go for selection.  She understood my plight and said that if she didn’t call me back later that day to call her Monday morning.
   Come Monday (yesterday for those keeping track) she called me and said the doctor could squeeze me in that day at 13:00.  Now it was 9:30, I was in Oakville at work and I didn’t have a car.  I had no idea what Via and Greyhound schedules were like and plus I was ya know, at work.  I told her I would call her back.  After an abortive attempt to borrow a friend’s car I reasoned that since I was trying to get there on army business I was justified to use an army vehicle.  I called the quartermaster who controls the vehicles for the regiment to see if I could borrow a truck.  She was not around.  Then I called my friend Lloyd (who works with the QM) on his cell phone to see if he could issue me a truck.  As it rang I remembered that his wife was a couple of days overdue with her baby and that he might be at home celebrating the birth of his new boy or girl, and totally uninterested in my never-ending missions to get a chance to fail selection for the air force.  I thought I heard someone pick up the phone then the line went dead.  If he had hung up on me it was probably deserved, after all it was 9:30 am, he was on leave (which I found out later) and I could have woken up the baby.  On trying the quartermaster again I got a hold of the private who works for her and who was the only person manning the office that day.  Rather serendipitously, he had just learned how to issue a vehicle for the day.  What a co-inky-dink; I needed a vehicle for the day.  After checking my credentials via computer database he agreed to set me up with a truck.. I promptly left work and took the train to Hamilton where I picked up the truck and started heading to London.
   I made it there at 12:40 (20 Minutes early) and then waited an hour and a half before the doctor was ready to see me.  But then, waiting an hour beats waiting til July 25th so I really couldn’t complain.  We redid the portion which had to be redone by a doctor (motor skills, eye and ear check, strength test, etc…) and I was struck by how much less comprehensive these exams were than the ones initially done by the PA.
   During the appt. the doctor asked me if I had had a urine test.  I wasn’t sure if I had.  Certainly my family doctor’s office would have performed that test when they were doing my blood work, right?  Wrong.  In fact the necessary urine test had never been requisitioned and was now outstanding.  As well doctor informed me that I needed an ECG.  With relief I told him that I had already done that test.  He informed me that I had done an Electro Cardiogram, not an Echo Cardiogram, which I still required.
   So that’s kind of where I stand now, waiting to do two more tests that I should have been made aware of back in January/February.  The piss test is a walk-in, but seeing as I am going to have to miss work to do the Echo Cardiogram I might as well see when the military schedules it and do the piss test the same day.  You know, get two birds stoned at once.
   If this seems like a long read, imagine how I feel having to basically recite this same series of events every time someone asks me innocuously, “Hey, what’s going on with the air force?”  Its actually kind of fucking with me because I feel like people have been asking me that for years now and I never have an answer which shows much progress, and it seems (to me at least) that this betrays some sort of lack of diligence on my part.
   Ultimately, I can’t let what I think people’s expectations of me are mess with my head, but there is also a more practical inconvenience to all of this waiting: For the last few months since I have returned I have felt somewhat in limbo; Do I set out in earnest applying for the advertising jobs I want knowing that I could be gone if I get picked up by the air force, or do I wait and see how it pans out during selection before I take any definitive action in that regard?  As much as I gripe on work in general, I am glad that I have a long-term employer in the mean-time who can accommodate my unpredictable schedule and who keeps me on staff knowing I might be gone in the middle of busy season.
   The most troubling aspect about the limbo I find myself in right now is that I do have a relationship which the possible acceptance into the air force has large implications for.  In winter/spring 2011 we had discussed moving in together and were both really into the idea but I decided against it because I wanted to see where I was with my air force transfer (if I got picked up I would be heading out west and I didn’t want her to be alone).  Obviously the transfer didn’t pan out that year.  So this year, even after the military contacted me in January telling me to get ready to be called for selection, we decided to get a place together (which we just moved into last week) and deal with whatever my transfer might mean for us as it comes.  At this point, whether I got picked up or not I mostly want an answer so I can know whether or not to get too comfortable where I’m at.
   It seems I have little difficulty recounting stories of my triumphs, and even my losses become fair game for recounting after the initial sting has worn off.  But I find it difficult to deal with obstacles I currently face and continue to face because the possibility of failure, or conversely the lack of any progress whatsoever bothers me so.  It feels good to be able to get this off my chest.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Thug Luv

“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed.  The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness” 
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

My Friends,
   A few days back I became embroiled in a lively lunchtime discussion centered around the Canadian government’s plan to renovate some Canadian prisons.  My fellow co-workers were indignant about footing the bill, as taxpayers, for the plush accommodation the prisoners in said jails were to be receiving (bigger cells, world-class gym, wi-fi, etc…*).  One co-worker even said “put them in a dungeon,” though he later retracted this statement as the conversation developed.  Naturally I chimed in as I feel very strongly about prison, what its purpose should be and how that purpose should be achieved.
   First of all, I reject any argument for prisons being segregated from the population.  What a great world it would be indeed if we could just sweep our problems under the rug and forget about them.  Concepts like the Lunar penal colony and inter-dimensional penitentiary make for great fiction but what they amount to in practice are horrors like Siberian gulags.  No, that simply wouldn’t do; prisons should be located centrally and serve as a constant reminder that there is something not quite right about the world we live in as it makes monsters out of men.
   Second, and related to the first point, any argument for greater austerity in the lives of prisoners related to the costs of housing them should be refuted.  Prisoners are once again, our collective burden and a group we must deal with if we live in a system which creates them.
   With these two points made, I feel that the purpose of prisons can be discussed.  The purpose as I see it should be rehabilitation, not punishment.  Now its hard to rehabilitate people who commit crimes for money (over 90% of inmates) because they will always need money and the system is set up in such a way that there often is not access to decent-paying jobs in low-income areas.

Save for the army

As well, with a criminal record they will be even less likely to get a decent job, exacerbating the problem.  No matter how good any prison rehabilitation program is, it is failure if the convict, released back into the toxic environment which made them resort to crime, relapses into their old ways. To come down on these individuals who have been so obviously fucked over by the system and who will get fucked over again, seems to be kind of a cruel joke, and I don’t think their rehabilitation can truly take place without sweeping structural change which would render crime for money obsolete.
   So the only criminals left would then be the actual sickos; people who enjoy doing bad things to others regardless of the payoff.  In my unqualified view these people have been poorly socialized and there is evidence which indicates that in most cases these people have been subjected to severe abuse throughout their lives, especially as children.
   In either case, whether sicko or criminal for pay, the approach to the stated goal of rehabilitation seems clear.  One is not rehabilitated by being locked away in poor conditions and deprived of human dignity.  Nor are they rehabilitated by being either held in solitary or immersed in a general population which has been just as poorly socialized.  It seems clear to me that these measures only serve to aggravate maladjustment and make better criminals.
   In a perfect world there would be no crime.
   In a slightly less perfect world, maladjusted/poorly socialized individuals would be be accepted into communities of people who live harmoniously with each other.  There they could learn that they don’t need to hurt other people to get ahead and they wouldn’t have to fear for their own safety.  This has been tried with notable success by the Israelis when they decided to send criminals to kibbutzim for rehabilitation.
   The problem with this solution is that most people don’t want to live among criminals.  We have been so individualized in our culture that we feel little kinship with or affinity to our fellow man, much less those whom society deems criminals.  So we instead make them live in prisons.  Well ok, but assuming we still want to rehabilitate these people (and that is the operative assumption here) we can’t really nickel & dime them on amenities.  A prison sentence should be a period of growth, positive growth.

Even someone who has been sentenced to life in prison or death should be able to improve themselves every day until their demise.
   Without getting too specific, the broad categories of things which I feel contribute to rehabilitation/remedial socialization would be comfortable (not decadent) accommodations, access to fitness facilities, access to education, and lots of interaction with people outside the system.  Remember the goal here is not punishment but rehabilitation, but even if you do believe that there should be a punishment component remember that the prisoner is still without their liberty.
  I should mention that I lack a psychology degree and I have no formal training in rehabilitation.  I have spent no time in prisons** and friends of mine in law enforcement and corrections would probably disregard my ideas as idealistic and naive, citing the gravity of the crimes of the inmates.  What I do have is personal experience though.  And while I realize that you can’t extrapolate personal experience into general rules, it strikes me that people in similar situations would be inclined to make similar choices.  For example, I have been been destitute, desperate and hopeless (albeit by choice) while hitch-hiking and travelling.  These emotions tend to make you do things you would not normally do: strike yappy animals, steal, and run from police.  I have done all of these things on the road, and except for that last one I am ashamed of these actions.
   These experiences taught me that the wretched are prone to wretched behaviour.  My whole stance on prisons is predicated on this idea and this is why I don’t believe in punishment so much as an earnest effort by the state to reform its wayward citizens.
   Now of course the alternative viewpoint is that some people are just bad.  Natural born killers as it were.

This is an ironic title for the film when you realize that both main characters were severely abused from childhood.

I refute this type of dangerous thinking because it is a bedfellow of psuedo-sciences like phrenology and eugenics.  Furthermore, attributing crime to genetics/heritage is a cop-out because it allows us to glaze over structural problems which cause crime and need fixing.  Such problems have no easy solution, so it is far easier to blame the individual.  I think that anyone who hasn’t felt wretchedness and the cavalier attitude toward morality which it engenders can not really understand how good people can do wrong.
   Basically I think we all have a capacity for evil which can be brought out by poor circumstances and a lack of socialization.  If jail is to remedy criminal behaviour (which I believe it should) it must address the causes of the crime and supply the education/skills, interaction, meaningful relationships, and positive expectations the criminal has been lacking in their life.
   It is much easier to preach about my beliefs however than it is to act, so I am going to look into volunteering for Corrections Services Canada so that what I write is not just so many meaningless words.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   

*Try as I might I could not find the article dealing with these renovations and as such my knowledge about the specifics is lacking.  As well, they might not be getting wi-fi in Canadian prisons, as that might have been brought up when European prisons were introduced into the conversation.


**I have a actually spent a little time in Sarpoza prison in Kandahar City, Afghanistan during a tour of duty.  I was not permitted to tour the cell blocks though unless I left my rifle with security.  I was unwilling to do so.  

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