Friday, March 21, 2008

Farra do Boi - First the bull, then who ever crosses them!

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated...”

-- Mahatma Gandhi

Given Gandhi’s quip, this weekend’s “farra do boi” (or party of the oxen) will prove yet again that in terms of morality, many in Brazil still lag centuries behind much of the world.

Farra do boi is one of those archaic, justified under the banner of culture and tradition, events of barbarity and savagery that would make the seal hunters of Canada look like PETA volunteers.

Here’s what some in Brazil consider a good time. For weeks, local fisherman and community members from various small villages throughout Santa Catarina lock up an ox, starve it for days, usually with food just in view in an attempt to drive the animal insane and then unleash an unimaginable night of horror unto the poor creature. On the night of the “party” (usually during the Easter weekend – my how Jesus must be impressed) villagers shove broken glass up the creatures’ anuses, cut their tails off, light them on fire and break their legs; this is just a few of the shuddering things inflicted on the bull throughout the course of an evening. In the end, the ox usually ends up being driven into the sea and left for dead; the drunken revelers then go home and bask in their night of brutality.

“Farristas” as they are called, or “knuckle draggers” as I refer to them argue this is “all in good fun”, and of course use the mother of all scapegoats citing that, “it’s all about preserving Azorean culture” like culture is some sort of static concept that trumps all.

Santa Catarina was mostly populated with people from the islands of Azores where this ritual or torture supposedly originates. There is some controversy as to whether or not today’s farra do boi even remotely resembles anything from the islands, however conveying that to the toothless troglodytes that participate in it here is an exercise in futility, and could have you end up dead.

To the Federal Government’s credit, Farra do boi was made illegal in 1998 under Law 9605, however the State government thumbs its nose at the federal authorities and still refuses to officially acknowledge this “tradition” as being a “crime”. Governors have openly defended the blood-sport and this gives community members the impetus to “fight for their culture”. Some communities, Governador Celso Ramos for example, have renamed the event “Brincadeira do boi” or “playing with the bull” in the hopes that sweetening the name will somehow magically distill the cruelty and idignation.

Some progress is being made, and with more and more “outsiders” (and by this I mean people from other regions in Brazil) moving to Santa Catarina, there is less and less tolerance for out and out barbarity.

Many of those participating in Farra do boi – as it has been commented -- are actually using the bull and this tradition as an excuse to exercise cruelty over fellow human beings. It’s often been said that animal cruelty is a pathway to violence against people.

When and if Police are called to stop an episode of farra do boi (as required by law) the community and those participating turn on them. Every year the papers are filled with violent clashes between those participating and those appalled; few if any are ever prosecuted and so each year the army of blood thirsty thugs grows.

I had the not so great pleasure of finding myself trying to protect a women who had placed herself between the bull and the community last year. Although my concern was not over the bull but over the women’s safety which was obviously in jeopardy, I was still mobbed, brutalized and beaten for "interfering". Hit from behind, like most cowards tend to do. Actually, when it was clear that I was a “foreigner” the beating intensified (I’ve not talked about Brazil’s blatant xenophobia, but will in another blog).

A knife was wielded, and I am certain that if the police had not arrived in time, I’d be just another body in Brazil’s 50,000 plus annual murder stat. I wasn’t asked to file a report or make a complaint. The cop only ordered me into a car and out of the region for my own safety. Imagine this happening on a main tourism street in Canada? Yes, we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!

Farra do boi will continue. Many in Brazil (I mean LOTS) have a tendency to cling blindly to meaningless rituals and participate in pointless violence. Let’s see if I’ll survive another Easter here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Al Gore is a poopy pants, so global warming is a hoax?

Lorrie Goldstein from the Toronto Sun is off on yet another rant. Although appalled at the appearant “hysterics” employed by those who accept what a preponderance of the world’s leading scientists have to say about global warming, Mr.Goldstein seems quite comfortable applying those very same child-like “hysterics” he professes to abhor so much. Me thinks one of the Sun’s most prominent tabloid news peddlers should look up “hypocrite” the next time he decides to pop a synapse and go off on yet another anti-environmentalist bender.

“If your neighbour is a charter member of the Al Gore Nation, today would probably be a bad time to ask him how he's been enjoying shovelling all that "global warming" out of his driveway this winter.

Charter member of the Al Gore Nation? That was certainly clever. Can we lose the Al Gore thing now? It’s getting rather stale.

Trust me, climate hysterics (anyone who accuses others of being "climate deniers") do not like being mocked [my italics].

SHOCKER! Stop the presses!

Who actually likes being MOCKED? And how does mocking people concerned with the future well-being of this planet add to any meaningful dialogue on climate change and what should be done?

That’s what Mr. Goldstein fails to recognise and that is why certain indivuals are getting a tad frustrated about having to deal with such adolescent behaviour. It is an issue that could affect the lives of billions of the planet, and mocking (which is what a majority of climate change “denialists” do) adds absolutely nothing to the discussion. It only highlights the level of maturity we need to put up with daily.

Lorrie may enjoy the antics of the class-clown at the back of the room, but the rest of us would like to get on with this very important lesson plan. Voicing a concern is one thing and skepticism is one of the hallmarks of science. However, placing your hand to your mouth, blowing and making a "farty sound" then giggling or constantly attacking Al Gore, is something quite different and is rightfully not tolerated by those who don´t suffer fools lightly.

He does save some face here:

Finally, there are many things we can all do to help the environment and lower our reliance on fossil fuels, good ideas regardless of your views on global warming.

Don't buy a bigger house than you need. Don't drive a more powerful car (or buy more cars) than you need. Cut down on flying. Vacation closer to home. Take public transit more often. When possible, buy domestic instead of foreign produce and manufactured goods. Eat less meat, more fruits and vegetables. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Now if he can just get to this point without some cheap pot shot at Al Gore, or Mocking those he doesn´t like, he would actually be contributing something meaningful.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A climate change conference few talk about, and rightly so..

The Heartland Institute’s 2008 International Conference on Climate Change that ended this week in New York has been called everything from “denial-a-palooza” (desmoglbog) to “the Skeptic’s Conference” (various media). The conference was organized to bring together some of the world’s leading climate change cynics (retired scientists and reported industry shills) to show the world that the debate over anthropogenic climate change is far from over. Although failing miserably to achieve this, the conference did unwittingly prove that those from the denial industry are not only a fringe group of tin foil hat wearing nutters, politically and ideologically motivated, but that their nonsensical ramblings and accusations of conspiracies and character assassination attempts are in fact heavily funded by wealthy right-wing organizations.

I’ve mentioned before that the issue of climate change only really stuck in the craw of many when Al Gore’s traveling side show on global warming hit the big screen in a documentary called “An Inconvenient Truth”. Those to the right of the political spectrum had puppies that an environmental issue had risen to such prominence; and come hell or high water they were going to retake their libertarian “let’s pollute like we want” moral low ground. So the gloves came off, and they´ve done everything possible to re-label the phenomenon. What was once “Anthropogenic Global Warming” would now be considered “Al Gore’s Global Warming” (that would be the easiest way of amassing an army of right wing ignoramuses over night) and appearantly the conference went on a lengths to reinforce this cheap tawdry tactic.

Here’s a great article by the Wall Street Journal about what I’ve been on about for some time…

Gored: Why Skeptics Need AlPosted by Keith Johnson

I’ve long given up reading anything that starts with or inlcudes “Al Gore’s" global warming. You just KNOW these folks can’t separate their hatred of liberals/democrats from objective reason, and will simply wallow in their political enmity, unconcerned with science and equally unconcerned with the environmental consequences of ignoring science, solely to score points for the conservative mindset. Bloggers eat it up... here´s an example

I am still trying to get over Al Gore “scoring” a Nobel award over a dumb
home-made flick. This goes to show how much “spin” there is in all of these “end
of the world” studies…Comment by Alternate Reality - March 3, 2008 at 1:36

However the use of character assassination/hate by association tactics as well as the blatant dismissal and demonization of science have proven pretty useless for coercing much of the “main stream media” and the public into “seeing the truth about the global warming hoax”. This was one of the reasons climate "cynics" attempted to create the illusion of a scientific conference; to sway media to their camp. When it was not attended by the mainstream media, or at least not covered to their liking, it was decided that the “mainstream media” is part of the great conspiracy, too.

When cynics feel ignored, or isolated in view by the MSM, they argue it’s further proof to liberal media collusion or themainstream media getting in wrong. It's the typical Bill O’Rielly rant. (Although, I´ve never EVER understood how fox news can be one of the highest rated cable networks, yet they don´t consider themselves mainstream news? And remember, those thinking that 9/11 was an inside job ALSO think the mainstream news was part of a cover up).

Having been a reporter (long, long ago and in a galaxy far far away) and currently a fim maker I am well aware of the pressures for balance in reporting (and the denialists USE this journalistic tenet constantly to manipulate people and journalists), however when you have over 30,000 scientifically peer reviewed papers, backed up by literally thousands of the world’s “current leading” scientists on climate change on one hand, and on the other hand you have maybe one or two scientific papers (although heavily debunked) a handful of retired cynical scientists paid for by a who´s who of right wing think tanks then there comes a point when journalism is not just about presenting a nice little “he said she said” package, but is actually about getting to the heart on an issue and simply reporting the truth.

Monday, March 03, 2008

It’s moments like this I’m truly proud to be Canadian. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a chest pounding rabid nationalist that throws his fists up the moment a comment or criticism is raised about the motherland, nor do I wander the globe complaining about my home. I’m simply proud that I was born and raised in a Nation that, although some may argue and bicker with the details here, takes issues pertaining to political corruption seriously.

I’m rather enjoying all the noise made over Tom Zytaruk’s book and allegations that the late MP Chuck Cadman was somehow bribed, or an attempt was made to bribe him. I spent a couple of hours lurking in the background of a few political forums, taking in the humorous but sad assortment of “political cheer leading” that usually goes on by folks who treat politics like a high school football game. You know the type; they route for their “team” regardless of what happens in the field and spend a disproportionate amount of time trash-talking their opponents as opposed to engaging in issues. Still, the Cadman affair seems to be a hot topic across the board.

As I read the details of this supposed scandal, and watched it blaze across the Canadian media I was given a sense of pride because of just how trivial and banal the allegation was. Don´t get me wrong, it needs to be ferreted out, no matter how small (corruption can not be tolerated nor a flase allegation of corruption) that´s why I´m proud. Because in Canada this type of corruption, or accusation, is not very common and when it is raised it is treated seriously.

Here in Brazil, you literally (and I’m not exaggerating here) cannot open up a daily newspaper or weekly magazine without reading about a new scandal. Corruption in Brazil is as engrained in politics as tattoo ink is in one’s skin. There is no escaping it, whether at the Federal, State or Municipal levels, whether corporate or public. It’s a nation awash in corruption and dirty dealings and worse of all, it’s basically accepted.

The current scandal in Canada is based on a bribe allegedly made to an MP in return for a vote. Here in Brazil, suitcases containing 20,000 dollars were routinely given to party members in return for their support on certain issues. It was called the Mensalão, or ‘Big monthly” in English. This, being one of the largest scandals to affect the nation in recent times did end with the impeachment of the president’s right hand man, José Dirceu (although the President knew nothing.. ahem).

Politicians have cleverly over the years designed laws to protect themselves from punishment for any crimes they may commit. With a secret vote (of course), Dirceu was surprisingly impeached meaning he can’t “officially” play politics for 8 years. No jail time, no fines, no community services; just a “go away for a while” sneer. But this being Brazil, of course he’s still well entrenched behind the scenes.

Corruption is allowed to flourish in Brazil because of impunity mixed with a generally short national affair's attention span and rampant apathy. In other words: there´s too much to keep track of, no one will be charged, why bother?"

One of Brazil’s most famous political thieves is a man named Paulo Maluf, who has apparently been charged over 40 times with scandals involving billions of dollars (that´s billllllliooooonnnsss), but he always manages to make his way back into politics. He’s been Sao Paulo’s mayor (Sao Paulo being one of the world´s largest cities), the State of SP's Governor and was rumored to have run on a platform that boasted “I may be a thief, but I get the job done”. He’s now a federal deputy, of course.

I could fill this blog with a million stories that would make your average Canadian’s head spin, but that is not my objective. I opened up the internet today and saw a series of articles on a tiny scandal in Canada, that will be analyzed and debated more than the IPCC´s 4th assessment, and we probably won’t hear about another political scandal in the Great White North for some time to come. It’s moments like these that I pine to live again in Canada when you know those working on your behalf are still "politicians" with all that word connotes, but honest ones at least. Maybe one day, we´ll move back.

Oh, but those winters!

It’s ANOTHER conspiracy!

The Bilderbergs are the puppet masters, damn it. No, it’s the Illuminati! No it’s “Dr. Eeeeeeeeevil”! No, it’s Al Goracle and environmental movement that want American, no Amazon, no Canadian riches! Ahhhhh.

I’m certainly amazed at how folks keep all their global warming conspiracies straight with black helicopters chasing them everywhere. However, although there are, to quote Dr. Evil “a bajillion” nutter theories and crackpot rumors, as diverse as they are perverse, circulating the net at any given minute, one of the hallmarks almost all of them share is that they prey on the fears of nationalists.

In Brazil, 75% of Brazilians think there is some sinister plot afoot by the world to “Internationalize the Amazon”. Brazil has suffered from this national psychosis for eons, but of course the new version of the theory has ecologists and environmentalists working as the ‘shock troops” for European and US interests. It’s the job of environmentalists to protect the forest, so that international interests can exploit them at a later time. Climate change and international concerns over the planet’s future health, is seen by many recently, as just a smoke screen with the aim of limiting Brazil’s growth as a nation and, of course, steal the Amazon.

In the US, global warming is not only being argued a hoax but a cleverly concocted plot with the collusion of thousands of scientists and socialists (pulled-off by one man who could not even get elected in 2000) to wrestle away American freedoms and liberties, and profit immensely by doing so.

This vid/conspiracy theory called Global Warming or Global Governance would be a belly buster if it were not believed by so many people! In a nutshell is posits that global warming is a conspiracy to usurp American sovereignty, or as Congressman Don Young from Alaska in the video warns:

“The environment is being used to make a one world government. This is a wake up call. We’re waging war against those that want to destroy the great United States.

Environmentalists I reckon are “those” from the Congressman’s rant and are now the new planetary bogeymen. You know what inevitably happens when you have a villain and the threat over national security and sovereignty?

It probably won’t be too far off in the future that the US will start having some form of witch-hunt like in the good ole days of Joey McCarthy. They’ve already had congressional committee meetings in Brazil regarding nongovernmental movements in the Amazon, and I doubt we’ve seen the last of them.