Category Archives: Crime

“Je Suis Charlie”

There was a time when I wished I was born in another era. I had romantic dreams of journalism as a youth, and still do. I believe media changes the world.

I know there are bad journalists and there are corporate entities fucking it all up, but if you talk to the average news journalist, they’re genuinely in it to tackle things they see wrong in the world. They’re in it to spread truth, challenge corruption, and effect change.

Journalists are always people I hold in highest regard. And rightly so.

Je Suis Charlie at AFP Paris


Night has fallen in Paris and the streets have been taken over by protestors and those wanting to pay tribute to the fallen members of Charlie Hebdo, the satirist paper that has never shied from controversy. They brandish pens in the air, shouting “Charlie! Charlie!”

Apparently Parisians have failed to realize they’re supposed to be terrorized in the wake of this attack. This is what happens when you attack what is arguably the birthplace of modern democracy as we know it.


Somehow, when life takes a turn for the evil, the horrible, or the immeasurably stupid, I seek a moment of beauty or humanity to remind me that it’s all going to be okay again.

Evil, inhumanity, these things aren’t modern inventions. They’re part of what mankind is, and we’ve had evil and badness among us since time began. Look at slaughters in Ancient Egypt, invasions by the Mongol Hordes.

We’ve simply improved efficiency (yay, guns!), and media is omnipresent, ensuring these events seldom go unheard today.

These shootings, slaughters, murders, and more — they’re going nowhere. Neither are the bad guys. You may dream of that day, but good luck coping with the inevitable truth that it’s simply a part of our (in)humanity. Nature is a beast, after all.

The animal kingdom does it too. Lions eat their young. Dolphins can commit infanticide with intentional impact injuries. For whatever reason, this ability to act with ultimate cruelty is stamped in DNA across species.

With 7.2 billion people on the planet, perhaps killing each other has been partly of biological/environmental necessity, but our ethical code teaches the majority of us that, even if our survival depends on population cull, it’s not something that most of us are capable of committing or ignoring. We’d rather be in it together with a compromised planet than witness mass loss that might save ourselves.

Look at the hundreds of thousands dead in the tsunami of 10 years ago. It felt like a gaping wound was ripped into the planet. We all felt the loss and horror of their adversity.


So days like today, when 12 people are killed because of one evil organization’s intent on squelching the freedom of the press, it’s strangely affecting. Just 12 people, out of 7 billion, but it’s 12 people who died for a reason that no person should die — because they wanted to challenge ideas, inspire dialogue, and push the envelope.

There is no sense to be made of this. Aside from spreading the news, not allowing it to happen in a vacuum, what else is there for us to do?

Admittedly, I’m a newshound. I follow these stories like a dog on a scent. It’s what I do. But I also walk away. Go back and find all the incidents of terror and mass shootings — outside of America, that is, because mass shootings in America have grown tragically all too common — and you’ll find 90% of the time I’ll take a long walk or bike ride to remind myself that the planet is largely beautiful, most people are kind, and it’ll remain that way most of the time.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.


Still, it’s a sad day. A horrible crime. A terrible thing to die for.

It’s a day that reminds me why I’m so outspoken, why I don’t censor myself. My language, the news I circulate, the opinions I raise like a flag, all these things are because I believe we need to speak truth to power — every one of us. Change happens on a personal level before it can take hold in society.

If you are too timid to say what you think, too scared to stand up to power, too apathetic to get involved — then the terrorists, the corrupt governments, the bad people, they all win.

Remind yourself that it’s a beautiful world. It’s worth fighting for and standing up to speak your truth. Otherwise why did these 12 people die?

Like the publisher gunned down today once said — he’d rather die on his feet than live on his knees. I like to think he was standing when those motherfuckers opened fire.

Today, my heart is with all those journalists and editorial cartoonists who feel emptier and less safe after this terrible attack.

But they’re just one small part of the fabric of humanity, and we good guys have strength in numbers.

Postmedia News.

L’ecole Polytechnique: 25 Years After

25 years. Wow.

I’d just turned 16. I grew up as the last generation to be bombarded with cigarette advertising everywhere, when Virginia Slims still sold us the idea that women’s liberation was Mission: Accomplished. We’d come a long way, baby.

But then December 6th came. An angry man had a murdering rampage, killing 14 sharp, ambitious, promising young women, all engineers at L’ecole Polytechnique.

It blew my mind. I was young, death didn’t have the same impact as it does now because I was still innocent and hadn’t encountered much loss. And I didn’t really get why women trying to be engineers was such a radical concept to a backwards murderer like Lepine.

What I did understand was that these women were killed because they wanted to play at the big boy’s table. I understood this was a crime motivated out of resentment, pettiness, and jealousy.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve understood that petty misogyny that drives hateful men like Lepine.

I’ve gone from not wanting to be identified as a feminist when I was young to now being of the “goddamned right I’m a feminist, and why the hell aren’t you?” persuasion.

Something Must Have Caused This

Back then, I thought this terrible rampage was a backlash from women’s lib. The old cause/effect argument. “Women are changing things, men are reacting to change.” Simple.

It seemed then there were only two ways things would go. One, awareness would increase that violence against women wasn’t some Hollywood plot point, but rather a real social ill needing remedying. Or two, we were just getting started and an era of blowback was yet to come.

I didn’t take option two that seriously. We couldn’t be just starting an era of blowback… could we?

Maybe we could. 25 years later, we’re still seeing crimes against women happening because men feel entitled to attention from women, or they feel entitled to career advancement over women, or all kinds of other situations prefaced by the phrase “men feel entitled.”

Marc Lepine killed 14 women because he felt he was entitled to attend an engineering school, and that women had no right to occupy his space in the program. He didn’t make the cut, and instead of taking it to mean he had to work harder, he chose to believe women were accepted as a quota, that they hadn’t earned their space.

He felt entitled. Angry. Bitter. Vengeful.

And He Wasn’t Alone Then — Or Now

I look on the internet today and I see a lot of angry, bitter, vengeful entitlement making the rounds. Usually middle-aged white guys who are bitter they’re not more important at their jobs, or wealthier. They see women being smart or successful as further threatening their status quo, and they hurl insults about how ugly the women are (as if women are only trophies), cut them down professionally, and lob rape threats.

God help us if these anonymous, spiteful men ever screw up the resolve to grab a gun and let their bullets do the talking.

Misogynists are everywhere. You hear them defending those accused of serial rape — like Cosby and Ghomeshi. They spew ridiculous defenses, usually about how maligned men are, and the accusations by “spiteful” women are a conspiracy to destroy lives, et cetera.

There are GamerGaters verbally attacking female journalists because they don’t like their opinion, threatening them with rape, and worse.

There’s the infamous, ongoing brogrammer culture in Silicon Valley, celebrity serial misogynists who never get reined in. We even had a mass killer in California who blamed women for not sleeping with him.

A Flickering Light in the Tunnel

Despite all these recent reminders of just how big this struggle is, there are signs, I think, of women saying “enough is enough.” They’re exposing misogyny online in Italy and France. Just this week, a pair of Indian women went viral for beating up men harassing them on a bus. Women coming forward against beloved celebrities like Ghomeshi and Cosby are actually being believed.

There are signs.

But still I sit here today, aware that a quarter of a century has passed and we have so far to go.

In 2006, the first time I blogged about this day, I wrote:

“I think there’s good to be found in remembering what was lost that day, especially in proximity to Christmas, a time of joy and rebirth. I try to remember that in the smoke of that gunfire was borne a new kind of feminism. I like to think some part of me is a product of that day.

It’s the only way any of it can ever make sense.”

And five years ago, I wrote this remembrance of L’ecole Polytechnique, about how far we still had to go with the feminist struggle.

And here we are, 25 years on, still fighting an uphill battle as a new generation vacillates between accepting gender equality and railing against it.

Let’s Hear it For the Boys

But “feminism” is still a dirty word. There are those who still deludedly think it’s a female-supremacy movement. (No, but equal pay would be nice.)

These days, the only time feminism gets good press is when a man comes out and speaks up about why feminism is important, like Terry Crews did recently, which is going viral as I write.

And yet, I saw someone snarking “Oh, [Crews is] just saying what all these smart women said before him.”

But isn’t that what we fought for? Isn’t it in the benefit of all women that guys start identifying with why feminism is important? Isn’t it a bold new day when guys like Crews are standing up to say “If you’re silent, you’re a part of the problem”?

It’s helpful to the cause when guys like Crews explain to other men that it’s not about female supremacy, but rather just leveling the playing field. If they understand that, they might be able to accept that change is needed.

Mediocrity & Misogyny

Marc Lepine didn’t get that change was a long time coming. Instead of understanding that women should be in the engineering program, he felt they were stealing his opportunity. But he just wasn’t good enough to compete in a crowded arena.

Mediocrity, perhaps, is the greatest enemy of gender advancement. Men like Lepine don’t make the cut and then, instead of thinking “Well, hey, I’ll work harder and get in next time,” they blame the bitch who stole their spot.

It’s sadly ironic, but the only way feminism wins is when more men identify themselves as supporters of the feminist cause, when more men like Crews keep saying that silence means you endorse the status quo.

When I was a kid, I thought women would be truly equal by the time I was 30. Now I’m 41 and hope an era of change is upon us and maybe I’ll see a different world for women by the time I’m 60.

Maybe.

Busted! At bail hearing. CTV photo.

BUSTED! Jian & His Big Penal Adventure

Woke up this morning to the news that Jian Ghomeshi has been arrested. It’s like rainbows exploded in my head. So this is Schadenfreude, eh?

I’m not someone given to delighting in the misery of others (aka Schadenfreude), but this time I’m not fighting it.

There are still some early defenders of this ass who’ve not publicly reversed their opinion on social media, and that’s sad, but hopefully they’re starting to realize that, yes, when you have a number of women coming forward, there’s probably a lot of substance behind those charges, and to not give them any credence is just another form of attack against them.

Those courageous women had NOTHING to gain from coming forward. They stood to have their lives dismantled. Lucy Decoutere could never have guessed that, instead of being hounded and harassed, Twitter would explode and “#IBelieveLucy” would be the first of several hashtags empowering all women to talk more about this oft-dismissed topic of sexual assault and violence against women. But thankfully, that’s exactly what happened.

Today, Ghomeshi’s on $100,000 bail, has dropped his $55 million suit against the CBC, owes them $18K in legal fees, is the topic of social media for deleting all his public accounts, and even has to go live with his mommy until completion of the trial, the duration of which will be spent without a passport in his possession.

Cops don’t proceed much on sex cases like this unless there really is something solid somewhere, which is often so hard to obtain given the nature of the crime.

With any luck, these charges being laid will give faith to others who’ve been hedging their bets. Maybe still more women will come forward.

The guy looks like a mess — sleepless and lost. The photo above is from his brief appearance in public today, which I think is his first since all of this news broke a month ago. Life’s hard on a narcissist like him, when they think everyone hates them.

Hate him I do, but I’m proud of the victims, thrilled with the cops, deeply sorry for Ghomeshi’s mother, and still curious how the CBC side of things proceeds, since I think they’re not taking responsibility for his almost legendary misogyny.

I hope every woman who’s ever had a bad encounter with this man, or any man, is enjoying watching his downfall. There are so few victories in the fight against misogyny and sexual violence against women that I think a little Schadenfreude today has been a long time coming.

Now we can allow the courts to do their thing, but here’s hoping the journalists keep digging too. One small victory for women, but it’s a good ‘un.

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manson

A Tale of Charles Manson: Marriage & Manipulation

The internet erupted after learning Charles Manson, 80, was granted a license to marry 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, who prefers the name “Star,” because Manson says she’s a “Star in the Milky Way.”

A mousy young woman, Star looks eerily similar to one of Manson’s most fanatical murderous followers, Susan “Sadie Mae” Atkins.

Not eligible to apply for parole again until he’s 92 in 2027, Charles Manson is arguably among the world’s most famous prisoners, and by rights shouldn’t be alive for his present-day notoriety. Sentenced to death in ‘71 with four followers, they lucked out when California’s death penalty was nixed in 1972. Those on Death Row were given a stay of execution and death sentences commuted to life in prison. Within six years, death was back on the books and is still in effect today, but Manson and his “Family” stayed blessed with the gift of life behind bars.

Marriage, some argue, is a basic human right. I would agree, and have long supported that premise in support of LGBTQ seeking marriage rights. But you need to be human before you deserve basic human rights, and Manson is far from.

To understand why some are so outraged about this “right” being extended to Charles Manson, we need to start at the beginning.

The Formative Years

Manson’s criminality and depravity began young. Born to a partying teen mom who’d get in trouble with the law later, Charlie grew up fascinated with guns, smitten with stealing, and constantly in trouble with authorities. By 13, he ran away from Boy’s Town, where it’d been hoped he’d find a better path. His would be a life of reform schools and prison then on.

READ THE REST over at the Vancouver Observer. Click here.

Riot Report? Fuck the Report. Charge Someone.

This riot report business, man, I don’t know.

You want to know what it says? Go ask someone who cares.

Important facts are pretty simple: Here in Vancouver, we had us a little hockey riot. Everyone made a big deal about it, ‘cos it IS a big deal. We’re civil Canadians, we don’t do that shit. Want to do that shit? Hand in your Canadian passport at the door. You ain’t Canadian enough.

Well, cue the UK riots. That brought a lot of perspective to Vancouver folk.

All our hockey-riot hullabaloo passed — millions of dollars in damages, people injured, and all those things that come with mass destruction unleashed by drunk assholes — and not one charge has been laid. Not one.

In the Queen’s realm, not only have charges been laid, but people are already doing HARD time for their actions! Our riot was a couple months before theirs, and much easier to dissect, being all of 3.5 hours in Vancouver, versus four DAYS in the UK.

What happened in Canuckistan?

The same thing that always happens in North America, but that BC politicians have perfected.

The relevant happenstances get forgotten. All the players turned the riot chaos into a political free-for-all ‘cos there’s an election in five months. Next thing, everyone’s pointing fingers about whose fault the thing was.

Maybe these guys didn't burn this car, but they're celebrating it, so that makes them assholes too.

“I didn’t do it. You did it! It’s your fault! Hey, people, blame him! And, psst… vote for me!”

No. You know who fucking did it?

Assholes who got loaded and trashed our city. Young, angry, stupid people who deserve to be in jail, on probation, or doing civic service to atone.

It’s not THE MAYOR’S fault. The city wanted public parties and viewing in the streets. We were longing for the communal bliss of the Olympics, and a little recreating didn’t hurt.

More than 150,000 or so folks convened downtown to watch the games. They thought it was a good idea. Those who didn’t go down mumbled thoughts that Vancouver would riot no matter how the game transpired, because some folks just look for the excuse, but I didn’t hear many of them saying “don’t do the public showings,” because they figured riots would happen with or without public events.

Still, there were plenty of politicians and would-be candidates in the mix, wearing their jerseys, cheering like it was the best thing since Oprah handed out hams.

Public parties are an awesome photo op, it would seem. “I’m a good citizen! I like hockey too. Look, I bought a jersey!”

The riot ain’t the chief of police’s fault. Our fine officers stopped the riot without firing a weapon, without using rubber bullets, and when it was all said and done, the citizens were so impressed they literally wallpapered a department squad car with THANK-YOU notes.

When you cover your face, you know you're a thieving fuck and should be ashamed of yourself, so that makes these guys fucktards.

In 3.5 hours the riot was done and dusted, honey, ‘cos our boys & girls in blue ate their Wheaties before the shift.

The fault of the great Hockey Riot was simply people who wanted to kick the shit out of things because… who the fuck knows why, “BECAUSE”? Because they did.

Why doesn’t matter.

The problem we have here is, the citizens don’t CARE about the mayor or the cops, and antagonistic media DOESN’T GET IT. We don’t care about the politics! SHUT THE HELL UP. Stop sensationalizing! Contribute to the solution! PLEASE.

We understood what happened THAT DAY. We didn’t need any fucking inquiry. The increase in cops wasn’t enough, the confiscation of liquor wasn’t consistent enough, the ability to get alcohol downtown on the day of the game was a part of the problem, even with sales ending at noon. The sunny weather brought out even more people. We got it. It was booze, numbers, and shitheads. Pretty simple.

How do we prevent the next riot? Well, we don’t. It’s always a possibility. Our riot response just needs to improve even more. The response improvement from 1994 to 2011 was impressive. Continue that.

In the meantime, we want justice. We want these punk-ass bitches, many of whom were caught IN ACTION, to be punished!

And if they’re NOT punished, FIX THE GODDAMNED LAW so they can be charged NEXT time. Get us some fucking politicians in chambers who execute new legislation that makes it possible to prosecute for incitement and agitation when it’s not related to a political protests. Those get a different measuring stick.

Seriously, write a law that escalates punishment if in conjunction with civic celebrations. If a riot happens within a day of a sporting finals or major sporting event, or public celebration like The Symphony of Fire, have it be a charge of hooliganism.

Or something. My University of Phoenix correspondence law degree ain’t done yet, so let’s not make me think so hard. Write somethin’, lawmakers.

But stop the fucking finger-pointing. If leaders weren’t so damned afraid to bust out a dance in this province’s political scene, we might actually have progress happen and effect some real change. God knows we need it.

That’s fantasy thinking, there. Here, in Lotus Land, everyone’s prepared to play the blame game before the record even starts to spin.

I’m tired of it. Guess what? Most taxpayers are tired of it.

Assholes that are “the future” went out there and tore my city apart, assaulted my police officers, broke our hearts, AND THEY’RE GETTING AWAY WITH IT.

They’re on TAPE! We have photos! There are witnesses!

AND THEY’RE GETTING AWAY WITH IT.

I’ve never considered politics in British Columbia to be more pathetic than it is now, and any politician campaigning with “riot speak and blaming” as a major part of their platform will not get one damned bit of support, or a vote, from me.

It’s time to grow up, BC politicians. And grow a pair.

Shut up and solve some problems that need solving. Get these punk-asses charged and answering to society.

If these jerks can’t be prosecuted, then I want laws in place by June 1, 2012, that make it simple to lay charges and have them stick, when it comes to wanton sports-hooligan violence like this.

Because right now the legal system and political system in British Columbia is an embarrassment. An EMBARRASSMENT.

People wrecked our city. We know who to blame. Prosecuting them is just not brimming with enough political cachet.

Well, we, the people, we don’t need politics.

We want justice.

Now give it to us.

A Last Look at a Horrible Crime

In 2008, my brother’s closest friend from high school and his early 20s was killed in a bizarre Craigslist murder that has captured the media’s attention.

Yesterday, the jury came back with a verdict of guilty. Mark Twitchell will, it seems, spend 25 to life behind bars. (Thanks, Jury.)

The poster Johnny's friends made when he first "disappeared".

My brother has obsessed over the case, following it in extreme detail. The murder broke his heart, I guess because Johnny Altinger was one of those quiet dorks that everyone loved because he was able to be himself. John was a little obnoxious, a little sweet, a little clueless. But he was a whole lot of good. He was a good, good, good man, and he trusted people at the blink of an eye.

Their crowd grew up on the computer, they were the original “social media” crowd. They talked on chat systems, came of age as the humble modem grew from 110bps to 300, then to 1200, then 2400… and now at seemingly the speed of light.

It was an oddball mix, back then. Folks too smart for the general population, kids too outside the norm to conform to the school crowd. They found like-minded friends on the precursor to the Internet, the Dial-Up Generation.

Johnny was the kind of guy who, in the ’70s, would’ve been stuck in lockers or mocked senselessly at school. He had a big nose, bad glasses, awkward gait, goofy teeth. But, coming of age in the ’80s, he found his crowd online, and so did my brother. Some of their friendships are as strong now, 25 years later, as they were then — friendships born on ideas and discussions, not just happening to be in the same class or born in the same neighbourhood, friendships that seemingly came from a deeper place and lasted longer on merit alone.

Johnny A and my bro kept in touch when Johnny moved north. They chatted online, stayed in touch, traded book titles to read, shared video files — at length. It wasn’t a surprise to hear that, given his newly isolated northern home, John was meeting more friends off the computer, and even using Craigslist for dating.

All right: I’ll be the first to admit that Johnny annoyed me. A lot.

But he was my brother’s friend, I was 16 or 18 or so, and that’s how it rolls — older brothers and their friends torment the annoying little sister. I think it’s Sibling Rule 72, paragraphs A through C.

That said, there were those rare moments where we both managed to be ourselves, rules aside, and I liked what I saw of him. More importantly, he was always a friend when my brother needed one.

But we were never close, and I don’t want to pretend we were. My brother didn’t live at home when he and Johnny were friends, so I really seldom ever saw him. He wasn’t even someone I’d even thought of in 5 years, aside from my bro’s rare mentioning of him.

Still, when I heard not only of his death but the horrific circumstances behind his death, I rethought many things I assumed to be true in life.

No one I know will ever be bludgeoned, stabbed, dismembered, burned, and dumped in a sewer. Wrong. Internet violence is a myth, it could never happen to me. Wrong. This stuff only happens in the movies. Wrong. Canada is a nice safe place. Wrong.

I’m more skeptical of people I meet now. More dubious of online followers, usually distrustful that they are who they say. When I see X many people in my audience, I now assume, the larger the number grows, that some amongst them are just plain evil. Because now I know it’s out there.

I thought my innocence was shattered in my teens, but the truly heinous nature of this crime, and the fact that it’s even touched the peripheries of my life, gave my remaining innocence a big adjustment.

And it’s so weird.

Now everyone wants to know about John. Everyone wants to hear “what was he like?” My brother can’t even log onto Facebook without a new reporter trying to contact him.

But where were these curiousity-seekers when he was looking for friends and relationships on Craigslist? Sure, now you have a story to file. Now you’re bored and surfing the web at work. Now you’re interested.

That part makes me angry. Now, interested. Now, prying through his life. Always with the sensationalizing. But I was trained as a journalist, so I get it, too. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Sigh. I don’t know. This whole case… the tragic death of a good guy, Johnny Altinger, it’s just so fucking unsettling when I think of the guy I knew, and THIS happened to him. If there’s anything I have, it’s a very healthy imagination. And this turns my stomach every time a flash of an image hits me.

My creative side has always wanted to write macabre books with twisted deaths. Sometimes I think about it now, but I stop at a thought of Johnny and I feel physically ill. It’s straight out of Dexter, ripped from fiction, what happened to him.

There are things that happen that really shake our faith in people, and this chapter has been one for me.

There’s a severe disconnect between the kind of person it takes to commit this kind of crime, and the kind of trusting person it takes to be a victim of this crime, and the idea that they both are in this same world, at the same time, breathing the same air…

When they told me the world was full of possibilities, well, I never for a moment wanted to believe they meant it like that.

Still.

Twitchell didn’t get to become the serial killer he dreamed of becoming.

People noticed him. He got caught. That says something, right?

People are horrified by the crime. That says something, too, right?

But I still can’t watch Dexter. It cuts too close to home. I’ve never been able to imagine a victim’s mindset like this before, and I hope I’m never able again.

Rest in peace, Johnny.

I hope it’s the hardest time imaginable that Mark Twitchell serves. I honestly do.

Today, as a testimony against this kind of crime that preys on those who are lonely and looking for friendship, be nice to someone who might not get a lot of attention. Don’t brush off that small-talk-making stranger at the bus stop or store. Give them just a moment of your humanity. You just never know.