Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Cherished Child

Once again we learn of a parent completely abrogating the most fundamental responsibility of a parent to a child, by leaving a toddler strapped into the family vehicle in freezing weather for six hours while the father, who had custody of the little boy, amused himself gambling inside a casino. The child's distressed wailing was heard by another casino customer while in the parking lot, who alerted authorities within the casino.

The little boy is 21-months-old. The first responders to the emergency in the parking lot outside the Silver Dollar casino was a fire crew arriving from a station that happened to be located down the road from the casino. When they arrived they found six casino customers along with a few security guards standing next to the car, where the baby could be heard crying, inside. The windows of the car had been draped in blankets so no one could detect the presence of a child.

When the firefighters pried open the front passenger door, one climbed into the vehicle, unbelted the child from his car seat, and carried him into the warmth of the fire engine. Isn't it every little boy's dream to sit inside a fire engine? And just to make certain the child would appreciate this dream come true, he was also handed a stuffed bear. The crying stopped and laughing began.

The 50-year-old father of the infant boy had parked his car in the lot at six in the evening. He returned to his vehicle six hours later, right around the time when the police and emergency measures services came on the scene. Just in time to be arrested. The surveillance cameras posted in the lot and patrolling staff were unable to detect a child left unattended, thanks to the window-covering precautions the father had taken.

Child abandonment is a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. This is the sixth such incident where parents have been charged under similar circumstances, with child abandonment. Isn't it every child's right to be cherished and protected, its well-being uppermost in any parent's mind?

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Freedom To Exploit

Just what Canada needs, more freedoms for its already-freedom-surfeit population. We can only hope that what the prognosticators of doom and gloom prophesied when Canada legitimized gay marriages, that a slippery slope had been engineered toward the introduction of legalization of other types of marriages - such as polygamy - would merely be a matter of time before becoming reality.

Same-sex marriage seemed such an absurdly unnecessary burden for this society to embrace, to begin with. To some, in any event; not those who embraced it so whole-heartedly. True, the gay and trans-gendered community had suffered greatly over the years, and it was past time for society to accept them as they were. But why it was seen as necessary to submit to juvenile demands for parity in the marriage contract is beyond ken.

With guarantees under the law, and social-political guarantees relating to property, insurance and retirement benefits, among others, it would seem sensible to just let matters rest right there. Why the anomaly of two men or two women setting up house together to be given the sanction of 'marriage' and to insist that only this investment in expanding society's norms would suffice?

Well, it's done, and little thought given to it after the fact. But for the nuisance factor and downright inexplicable fact that some gays seek to prosecute religious figures who don't sufficiently respect their social-legal entitlements, adding another lunatic dimension to society's grumbling acquiescences to childishly unjust demands disadvantaging some while advantaging others.

Now a test case to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, from Bountiful, B.C. lawyers for fundamentalist Mormon Winston Blackmore, whose open practise of polygamy and the sexual exploitation of young girls will bring us to yet another, far worse conundrum. A liberal democratic society whose values distinctly exclude such social anomalies as polygamy may be faced with the prospect of accepting it.

A bitter pill indeed for an unsuspecting population led down the garden path to perdition. Children within fundamentalist communities, along with their mothers, aunts and grandmothers become fodder for the sexual gratification of the older, established men who have taken steps to disadvantage and displace young males who might inconveniently challenge their predilection for collecting multiple wives.

Child brides serving a lifetime of serfdom to a male's desire for multiple sexual companions under the newly defensible characterization of 'freedom of religion'. And then of course there's the contiguous situation of immigrants from societies and religions that espouse and accept polygamy, bringing their habits with them, legally, to Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada urgently requires a remedial crash course in fundamental intelligence before it embarks on a legally discerning interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Taking Umbrage - Again

Sometimes it seems as though this is what Canada and Canadians do best; bristle with indignation over the perceived - and too often real - belittlement we seem to suffer at the hands, mouths and apprehensions of our American 'cousins' to the south of us.
If it isn't taunting Canada for the diminished state of our armed services, it's taking pot shots at our universal health care system which, while delivering a fundamentally sound and reliable service, does have some flaws, in contrast to the U.S.'s lack of any universality of medical/hospital care leaving an immense population at risk.

There appears to be a debate ongoing in the U.S. about Canada's 'inferior' type of medical/hospital care, under our guaranteed universality. One that, it is claimed, seriously failed Natasha Richardson, in speedily verifying her condition, taking expert professional steps to ameliorate it, and in the process, save her life. The claim being that the Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe where the actor was initially treated for four hours lacked a CT brain scanner. The hospital does have that state-of-the-art equipment.

By the time the woman was admitted to their care too much time had elapsed to save her life. She was herself the unwitting architect of her own irreversible condition due to her initial refusal to have medical attention bestowed on her, or to be evacuated by ambulance for professional care. Her reaction to what appeared to be an insignificant fall on a beginner ski hill taking lessons from a ski instructor was not an unusual one, when people are embarrassed at having fallen and bringing unwanted attention to their clumsiness.

The lapse of critical hours post-fall when immediate medical care might have diagnosed the problem and intervention taken to ensure her condition did not deteriorate to the extent that it did, was the unfortunate culprit here. That she did not wear a ski helmet was another uninformed decision. The headline in the New York Post needling irritation within Canada's medical community: "Canadacare may have killed Natasha", is simply one additional vestige of traditional one-ups-manship.

One that the co-president of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, Paul Saba, an emergency room doctor at Lachine Hospital, rejects outright, as 'completely unjustified'. But these tedious little spats of national conceit will continue to fray tempers between the two countries; they always have, always will. Yawn.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Child-Mobbing Avengers

Young children can be off-puttingly cruel to one another, but they can also, when the occasion demands - and it often does - be kind and even solicitous toward one another. It is, unfortunately - particularly among girls - when they reach the teen years that things change, and social competitiveness marches into the equation, when girls become catty and manipulative, shunning those whom they perceive as different or somehow deficient to their constructed norms.

So it was interesting to read about an event that occurred in France, when a little girl's classmates came to her aid when she was in a situation that might have ended quite differently without their vigorous intervention. This was a seven-year-old schoolgirl whom an obvious pedophile had targeted for abduction. He entered the school playground where the children had been out to play, attempting to entice the little girl with promises of sweets.

Young girls have long been forewarned of the approach of strangers in such settings, and no doubt this child, like most, received warning from her mother to be suspicious of someone she did not personally know approaching her for any reason. Somehow little girls, as though by osmosis, pick up, through casual conversations with one another, and by overhearing adult talk, of the possibility of dangers directed toward them.

This child refused the stranger's tempting offer, and in response he dropped all avuncular pretense and began to manhandle her, dragging her toward his car. Doubtless she objected, strenuously. That's when an eight-year old classmate of the seven-year-old, taking note of something dreadfully untoward, ran forward to kick and punch the would-be abductor. The outcry they made in resisting the determined kidnapper, alerted other children.

Eventually dozens of other children from the first child's class converged on the frantic drama, and among them overcame the pedophile. He fled in the panic of both the overwhelming effect of swarms of children plaguing him and shouting to the skies, and a distinctly potential fear of detection by adults who should have been in the area, and the next step - apprehension.

One can only wonder what the outcome might have been had it been a teen-age girl who had been accosted and the attempt made to abduct her. Would her bored and disaffected classmates have assumed this was a family affair they wouldn't interfere with, or just looked away, not wanting to become involved in something unpleasant, or perhaps considering that she wasn't worth bothering over, had she been an unpopular girl.

And then, perhaps not. In the best of all possible worlds, an older girl's peers would have responded with alacrity to rescue their coeval, determined to get the better of a would-be abductor. And in the best of all possible worlds no such predator would exist.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Little People

Gnomes, elves, troglodytes, they're somewhat different than you and me. They're not dwarfs, nor actually human, but rather another, alternate species of being, a magical touch in our pedestrian world. And many believe in their existence. Seems far-fetched, but then there is an amazing number of people who believe in the existence of fairies. Not to mention those who believe in Big Foot, or the Sasquatch, and their existence is rather difficult to prove.

Still, people believe in them. In Iceland belief in the existence of little people whom Icelanders call the 'hidden ones' pervades the society. To the extent that the Public Roads Administration delays or re-routes construction to ensure no elf habitation or cursed spots are interfered with. Lest the wrath of the elves be brought down upon the interlopers so baldly lacking in respect. That they're unseen doesn't necessarily mean that they don't exist.

Besides which there are those who swear they've seen them, encountered them, had discourse with them, even invited them into the house for a chat and a cup of tea. Try that with Big Foot. There are places where Icelandic believers construct 'elf doors' to mark rocks where the population of elves is said to be particularly dense. There's likely to be more elves inhabiting the rocky, mossy, waterfalled atmosphere of Iceland than there is people.

Reykjavik, where most of Iceland's 300,000-strong population live is most definitely not an elf stronghold. Which is just as well since the elves are well known for their mischief-making, making off with items, then suddenly returning them while the frantic owners search everywhere. It's likely what happened with the fish, leaving Icelanders without their traditional source of income through fishing. Only the elves didn't return the fish.

What they did, instead, was conspire among themselves to wickedly persuade Icelanders that they could become wealthy simply by transferring worthless pieces of bank papers, back and forth between their banks and lending institutions and the people suddenly found themselves with far more wealth than they had ever imagined they could acquire through the banality of fishing for a living. And then, what did those elves do? Why, they made those promissory notes worthless, and whoosh! all that wealth disappeared.

In Ireland elves are also commonplace. But in Ireland elves' penchant for mischief is well known. So Irelanders, while respecting the elves and the gnomes and other Little People, knew far better than to trust them, and take advice from them. In Ireland wealth was found through IT start-ups. But wouldn't you know it, the elves got to them anyway, and Ireland's wealth too, dissipated into the ether.

The thing is, rational people don't believe in Little People, or Big Foot, or Sea Monsters. They need proof before they will succumb to irrational beliefs in the presence amongst them of supranatural beings. And since proof is rather elusive, since the elves and such are suspicious by nature and not given to showing themselves when they needn't, since the gullible will believe in their presence anyway, it is they who hold their presence in such esteem.

Mind, there are creatures living in our biosphere that even scientists and biologists don't realize the presence of. Intrepid scientific discoverers are always on the prowl to root out the presence of creatures whose existence we hardly suspect. In fact, in what is being termed a "lost paradise" in Papua, New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific, new species of spiders, geckos and frogs have been discovered.

These species, unlike the elves and the gnomes don't actually communicate with humans, they prefer to remain aloof and well away from those other species whose arcane activities tend to do harm to them. It's likely they've conspired with the elves to get their own back.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Municipal Idiocy: The Blind Leading The Halt

The nation's capital has a businessman-entrepreneur for a mayor, one tainted by a criminal investigation into election wrong-doing, whose inability to understand how a city should be run has resulted in sclerotic responses to taxpayers' needs. And now, the latest, a closed-door council meeting where city manager Kent Kirkpatrick has laid out his plans to pink-slip city employees. For the purpose of serving the citizens of Ottawa in a manner which they deserve.

The City of Toronto, in contrast - and in recognition of current financial straits affecting more and more of its residents, despite its own fiscal disabilities - has decided to hire more municipal employees, retaining what they already have, in planning for the future of greater stresses to meet the needs of Torontonians. Which of the two municipal decisions makes more sense, given that urban populations are steadily rising, thanks in part to immigration.

The greater need for city services to meet the challenges of integrating newcomers to the country and the cities, the increasing numbers of recently-unemployed people requiring assistance through welfare and other social benefits is not diminishing, but increasing, given these troubled economic times. The recent transit strike has left many small businesses in transition between hanging in there and declaring bankruptcy.

And Ottawa is cutting back on those who deliver services? "We're now focusing on the client, instead of the organization" boasts this pitiful mayor of all the people who would dearly love to see him depart, and will, shortly, to face criminal charges. But he's still in the driver's seat and as he says "I'm confident now that the overall goals of transformation I put on the table 600 days ago will be accomplished."

The city manager claims that the new management structure he has designed will result in greater efficiency, a streamlined, focused organization, resulting in a better plan for the citizens of the city. Is that likely? Has it ever worked, cutting staff and raising the workload of those remaining to produce a more streamlined, efficient workforce? When the federal government tried it a decade ago, they ended up hiring more people than they let go, finally.

The goal is to save $113-million in operating costs for the city, from its current $2.1-billion of operating expenses. According to the city manager, severance payouts for those dismissed will cost the city an immediate $5-million. But smile! the cuts will result in a $3.7 million annual saving. Will that be before or after the city finds itself short-staffed and begins a hiring spree?

One level-headed councillor, the sole and perpetual 'trouble-maker' on council who always seems to agitate against the majority on behalf of those whom they purportedly serve and whose taxes pay their salaries, left the meeting in utter disgust. Capital Councillor Clive Doucet had no good words for the restructuring. It makes no good sense to him.

"We're seeking half a billion dollars in funding from upper-tier governments to create jobs, and we're laying people off at the same time", he fumed. "Finding employment is hard now, and if we get the government money, we'll need to hire more staff because there will be more work. It's hard for me to see the coherence in all of this."

Bravo.

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The Conscience of the Hereafter

Perhaps that should more correctly be a suddenly heightened consciousness of the hereafter. The hereafter in which one is designated to the upper or the lower chambers of the afterlife. For those, in any event, steeped in the wisdom of the testaments of an afterlife where the worthy meet the angels, and the unworthy suffer the torments of hell.

In the case of an Oklahoma factory worker who had fled justice after murdering a neighbour, it's clear that he suffered the torments of the potential of being brought to justice, not the torments of guilt. For after killing a man thirty years ago whom he suspected of harbouring lust toward his wife and setting out to seduce that loyal creature, he lived in a world of silent disavowal of guilt.

Silent because not a word was let loose, nor an incriminating action released, over that most unfortunate incident. The couple fled from justice in Tennessee; a justice that, taking its tack from the Old Testament virtues of an 'eye for an eye' would most certainly have brought James Brewer to the death chamber for having flouted the Sixth Commandment.

Self-preservation seen as the finer point of virtue in his case, they settled under assumed names in Oklahoma where, thereafter, they lived out their lives as model citizens, an intact and churchgoing family whom none might have suspected of being anything other than pillars of their church.

"I don't know what their former life was, but I do know they were both dedicated to the Lord", was the testimonial to lives well lived by their former pastor, where Dorothy Brewer had established a Bible study group. Fear of his impending death and his unassuaged guilty conscience was finally James Brewer's undoing.

Unwilling to meet his Maker as a devout Christian (or St.Peter, at the pearly gates who might have directed this new supplicant to the downward staircase) without having confessed to his sin and seeking absolution, he instructed his wife to call police to the hospital where, severely ill, he faced death.

He unburdened himself, claiming the guilt that was his, and in the process, ensuring to his satisfaction, his place in the hereafter. But the plans of mice and men, so often going awry did for him, too, for he recovered, discovering that his revelations were all for naught. He now stands charged with that 30-year-old crime.

And belatedly, may face the very death penalty that he had imposed upon another man, out of jealousy, yet another one of the forbidden sins, despite that his neighbour, in coveting his wife, had committed yet another of those sins. Life is a complicated affair, but James Brewer in making his pact with the devil profited greatly.

He murdered a man, yet, having fled prosecution and justice, enjoyed a respite of three decades. Affording him the opportunity to raise a family, enjoy grandchildren, become a highly respected member of his community and church. Proving yet again that things are not always as they seem, nor are our perceptions as simple as they appear.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hey, You CAN Fool All The People Some Of The Time!

There was universal outrage and generous public support among Mario Plourde's neighbours and the local businesses in Riviere-du-Loup when he was arrested on an obviously faulty charge of drug trafficking the week before Christmas. They knew their man. And besides being a trustworthy man and a good neighbour, he protested his innocence.

Those in the Riviere-du-Loup region rallied to his defence, raising funds to cover the $250,000 bail. Even farmers in the area did their bit, topping up the collection jar at their local co-op so he could pay the expenses related to his defence, his legal fees, for the need to prove his innocence. They could not and would not let a good man like Mr. Plourde fester for want of support.

"It is important for me to thank people for the support and solidarity they have shown toward me. I never would have thought it possible", Mr. Plourde humbly and gratefully avowed. "Collecting $340,000 in loans is no small thing, and then the thousands of dollars of donations. I can't believe it" he told the local newspaper after his release.

The parish priest, tasked with administering a trust fund that the parish had established to pay his legal expenses and to help his wife with her living expenses, left with the two children to struggle to maintain themselves, said about $40,000 had been raised, with roughly $25,000 spent, as required.

The criminal complaints included a purported partner in crime, one Bruno Bendo of Laval. Mr. Bendo was pulled over at a traffic stop when a drug-sniffing dog was brought in because Mr. Bendo was behaving in a suspicious manner, despite that this was a routine event. The search that ensued revealed two suitcases full of Ecstasy tablets in Mr. Bendo's car.

Whereupon Mr. Bendo obligingly led police to a warehouse and trailer, and it was at that location where Mr. Plourde was arrested. The charges levelled against the two was conspiracy to possess marijuana and Ecstasy in quantities sufficient to ensure a large distribution, and hefty pay-off.

The community is now belatedly aware that their trust in the honesty and trustworthiness of their neighbour was sadly misplaced. For their neighbour, Mario Plourde pleaded guilty to two of ten charges brought against him. The shocked community has not yet up-dated the Web site through which they hoped to raise additional funds in his defence.

This highly respected family man, neighbour and all around good citizen, alas, has belied his community's trust in his assertions that he was falsely accused. So what else is new? He is due for sentencing on April 30th.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Television Cretins

Coming to a general surgical practise and a hospital near you, doctors proud to have been trained and professionally instructed through the medium of intensely viewing television medical techniques. Forget years of imbibing medical data and learning how to diagnose and treat patients. It's a tedious and cumbersome ritual that has now been replaced by eager young doctors-in-training learning life-saving techniques from television shows like ER, peopled by fictional MDs, who really know their stuff.

That appears to be the finding of critical-care specialists at the University of Alberta Hospital, publishing in the journal Resuscitation. "We were a bit shocked", according to Dr. Peter Brindley. "The important lesson here is that we can't leave medical education to chance alone." What an amazing conclusion. My doctor, the television freak.

It appears that when doctors at the University of Alberta Hospital enquired of their medical students and residents where they had learned their peculiarly inadequate intubation techniques, so critical for ensuring longevity in medically distressed patients when they're incapable of breathing on their own, the response of many was that they had 'learned the procedure' from watching television medical dramas.

Verisimilitude is not recognized as a value feature in most television programs revolving around any kind of professionalism, much less that of medicine. Yet these huge brains studying to be medical professionals simply assumed that what they were so engrossed in viewing on television represented quality medical treatment at its finest.

Their puzzled superiors then undertook to view those programs to discover, predictably, that on those shows the fictional MDs and nurses performed the procedure incorrectly each and every time. How would they know any better? Why would they, after all; they're actors, not doctors.

Remember that old game kids used to play, sitting around in a circle, whispering a legend to one another, and when it finally reached the ears of the last child who was then encouraged to repeat it aloud, the final legend resembled nothing whatever of the original. Utterly distorted in the passage from one ear to another.

The investigating doctor-instructors discovered that while a proportion of their students took their instruction in a lecture hall, they later practised on real patients with insufficient supervision, the resulting procedures poorly done on critically ill patients; those same doctors later teaching their ill-conceived practise nonetheless to others.

While many others learned the protocol revolving around the insertion of a tube down the windpipe to enable a patient to be hooked up to a mechanical ventilator in life-and-death situations, through 'trial and error'. Aided substantially by 'tips' picked up while viewing medical television dramas where, invariably, the patient's head is improperly adjusted for intubation to properly proceed.

These are medical-school graduates training in specialities like anaesthesia, surgery and emergency care. And here we are, the ailing public, entrusting our frail bodies to the knowledgeable professionalism of medical students too lazy, too uncaring and too sloppily stupid to attain proper technique capabilities. Trusting to the infallibly-trustworthy protocol seen on television.

As though it's not bad enough that Canada hasn't enough medical professionals to adequately look to the health needs of a growing population. Now we're alerted as well to the sad and sorry fact that the newer generation of medics, unquestioningly enthused by what they see on television cannot separate the amateur from the professional, fact from fiction.

The pain of it all.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Living Human Tragedies

Sometimes society can exercise the best of intentions, sacrifice time, attention and tax dollars to an extreme degree, and find itself incapable of effecting the kind of humane rescue it sets out to accomplish, regardless. And, one supposes, that the best of societies, caring for all its populations, inclusive of those whose degraded condition of drug dependency leads inevitably to suffering and early death, will accept those sacrifices for the sake of what amounts to end-of-life hospice care.

In British Columbia, a massive infusion of tax dollars abetted by a grim determination of government to combat the scourge of life-deadening drug dependency on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, has resulted in a slender amelioration for the thousands of hopeless drug-addicted human failures, but a concomitant recognition that the initiatives haven't really worked. In that they have not been successful in helping to turn people away from drugs and toward normalcy.

In the struggle to achieve some positive results, charitable organizations and social agencies continued to grow new services along with a greater determination for a better outcome for those they served, living degraded misery on the bleakly squalid streets. Free and subsidized housing was thought to represent a potential break-through, giving hope and dignity to the afflicted.

The province's government purchased six decrepit hotels for refurbishing, to house people in single-room occupancy hotels as permanent residents to single occupants. The government has spent $84.5-million in the last two years for acquisition of conversion properties and anticipated a similar amount to be spent on refurbishing. The cost coming to $123,268 per room once renovations are completed.

Single-room occupancy hotels have been opened for the 'hard to house', that segment of the homeless who are direly addicted, and the terminally ill. Renovations related to that housing represented an $326,484 outlay of tax funding per room of building space. People on disability allowances and pensions live in these accommodations, injecting their drugs.

Some of these accommodations are maintained for 'palliative care'. It just isn't working out that people are given hope and opportunities to turn their lives around. With the best of all possible options available to them, taking them off the streets, hoping for the best, they're simply unable to wean themselves off their dependencies. And they're slowly, agonizingly, dying, with services incapable of keeping up with their needs.

Perhaps offering this hopeless human flotsam decent accommodation off the streets, and with it a modicum of human dignity is the most, in the face of such unrelenting dependence, that any society can hope to accomplish.

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A Modicum of Common Sense Will Do

It's not necessarily a matter of social probity and propriety, but rather one of responsible recognition of appropriateness. And it just simply isn't appropriate for 14-year-old boys to be given the opportunity to learn about sex, avoidance of spreading sexually transmitted diseases, and the correct use of prophylactics in the guise of a game.

They're just kids. Even if their hormones are driving them into a direction that confuses and aggravates them. And their confusing urges should be treated with respect, not irritatingly bawdily.

There is, quite simply, an objectively simple and direct way to instruct young people about human sexuality and 'best practices' when it comes to social-sexual interaction with the opposite gender. Abstinence, due to the frailty of their chronological years is the first instruction.

But in recognition of the fact that forbidding anything to young people is the best way to insure they will grasp any opportunity to experiment for themselves, they should also be made aware of the incidence of SDTs, and the need for respect - for themselves and for their potential partners.

The curriculum that a Cambridge Ontario mother who happens also to be a public-health nurse - giving her concerns additional weight - certainly represents as an ill-considered and oafishly-designed attempt to get grade 9 students involved, treating a serious matter as a competitive sport, hinders rather than steers young people in the right direction.

The young boys were tasked with purchasing condoms, bringing them to school for their 'health' classes, and then competing with one another to determine which among them could successfully place a condom on a wooden artifact resembling a penis in the fastest possible time.

Not only, through this process, trivializing an important message, but imbuing the participants with a sense of competitive 'fun' in the process.

And that is precisely the attitude that would carry over to the actual event of experiencing sex at under-aged and inexperienced trysts, given a certain level of implied authorization by the school board. Implicit, if not explicit, even though it's clear their intent was to educate, not enthuse.

There's no doubt this exercise wouldn't be viewed as amusing and fun by a good portion of the boys in grade 9 classes. Some, obviously, would be embarrassed and want nothing to do with the exercise. The mother's contention that the exercise was "inappropriate" that a matter of sex education be turned into a "sports competition" was well put.

Trustees at the Waterloo Region District School Board plan to discuss this particular health 'assignment' at one of their regular board meetings.

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Sociopathic Self-Absorption

Canada has experienced more than its share of horrific instances of young girls exhibiting psychopathic tendencies and acting on them, with socially and personally devastating results. The girls involved in tragedies their egos have engineered suffer from personalities resulting from an incapacity to empathize with other people, who consider themselves to be above and beyond anything approximating normal constraints of behaviour, and whose self-indulgence resulted in dreadful deaths.

From the abysmally sad death of Victoria's teen-aged Reena Virk, so anxious for acceptance from her peers, to the brutally demented killings of a twelve-year-old's father, mother and younger brother at both her hands and that of her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke's. To the latest death last year of a 14-year-old Toronto girl, murdered at the insistent behest of a 15-year-old girl whose like-aged boyfriend felt unable to resist her orders.

Parents really do not always - not even half the time - know what their children are involved with. They see the familial familiarity, the facade that their teens permit them to recognize and feel comfortable with. They have little to no awareness of the hedonistic and heedless lives some of their children indulge in. Nor are they familiar with the conspiratorial and socially aggressive tone some of these activities take.

Parents actually should trust their children. Trust that they have imbued their children, through their own behaviour, with values and moral imperatives that they hold dear, and which their children have been patterned to emulate. Parents cannot, after all, be lingering over their children's shoulders, instructing and informing, berating or congratulating them as they fit themselves into the social contract they draw upon with their peers.

It's difficult all too often for parents to objectively evaluate their children's characters, to determine which elements on display give them pause for second consideration. And having identified some areas that require remediation, where to draw upon for help in steering their children toward a more balanced and acceptable view, one that does not necessarily place their immoderate desires first and foremost.

In the case of Stefanie Rengel, this was a young girl merging into adulthood, whose misfortune was that she attracted the enmity of another young girl, slightly older, whose character was maladapted to personal constraints. The girl whose enmity was aimed toward Stefanie Rengel had a volatile and unforgiving temper, paranoid and vengeful. Capable of turning a young boy's fragile hold on decency toward murder.

The unnamed accused was found guilty of first-degree murder at the trial into the death of Stefanie Rengel. This girl, known only by her initials, was incapable of feeling remorse for the murder she had orchestrated, felt comfortable in what had occurred, thought nothing of taking a life, and demonstrated her approval of what her recalcitrant and moronic boyfriend had brought about on her instructions.

On hearing the verdict brought down by the jury the young woman began quietly crying. Not because of what her imperiously jealous attitude toward someone she had never met had resulted in, but because her freedom has been removed for a significant period of her young life. Her obsession with herself and her vibrant resentment against others whom she felt had wronged her marks a distorted sense of self-involvement.

That she admitted to police after she was detained that she felt glad at the death of the young woman she had ordered murdered speaks volumes about the depths of this young girl's lack of humanity. Both she and the young man whom she conscripted to carry out the murder of Stefanie Rengel represent the depths to which young people may plumb evil without recognizing it as such because its meaning eludes them.

They have joined a short but hideous list of young Canadians whose crimes represent a nightmare scenario for any society.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Enough, Please!

It is never pleasant when anyone loses their life. All the more so when that loss of life occurs unexpectedly and as the result of a seemingly insignificant event. But such things do happen. We read small items in the newspaper from time to time of young people, around the age of 20 with previously undiagnosed heart problems suddenly collapsing with a fatal heart attack. We can be vigilant to a certain degree, but we cannot interrupt all of our activities to weigh the balance of safety before proceeding to live our lives.

It is a tragedy for any family to lose someone whom they love. All the more so when there are young children left without a parent as a result of that loss. But it is irksome beyond belief to have to read countless stories relating over and over again how very special a particular loss is because it is a celebrity who has lost life. As, for example, the death of British actress Natasha Richardson. This was a truly untoward event, one that resulted in a personal calamity.

She was taking skiing lessons, and was on an moderate beginner hill, along with an instructor. She experienced what appeared to be a negligible fall. One from which she was immediately able, on her own steam, to recover from, raising herself, and laughing off the incident. When she was approached by a first-aid response team on the spot she waved them off, despite their warning that something amiss might have occurred without her knowledge.

Within an hour she was in marked physical distress and was taken to a medical centre; from there to a full hospital setting where she fell into an irreversible coma from which she would never be resuscitated. Her family flocked to her bedside, as families are wont to do, where everyone in shock, disbelief and grief, comforted one another. This is what families do, in extremis. And such disastrously untoward events do occur randomly from time to time.

So the appearance of one solemn testimony after another, lamenting the passing of a talented actor from a distinguished acting family afflicts the reading public each and every day; multiple items with their excruciatingly irritating little details about the woman's beauty and talent and skills. Why must we be assaulted in this manner? She was in the business of entertainment, and as such represented a middling talent.

There was nothing to distinguish her as a particularly outstanding public figure, an individual of great public merit, someone who made her mark other than through her family's proclivity for thespian display. She did that which pleased herself. She earned her living entertaining others. Her death was a tragedy for her family.

A simple obituary would suffice, thank you very much. Once, and once only.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Grim Helpfulness

It somehow goes against the grain. To become an accessory to another human being's addiction - assisting that person incapable of tearing him/herself away from the ruin of their lives through addiction - to obtain the very sinister essence that had brought them to their current state of utter social incapacity. I suppose there's a double standard at play here; when I see a heap of misery on the street entreating passersby for 'change' I cannot simply walk by without proffering the money they beseech.

I've been chided for it, for helping fund their addiction, that the money they collect will only be used to buy the cheapest available alcohol in whatever form available for them to scramble their brains further into a fog of stunned inebriation. I don't think of it that way. I see another human being, degraded as they may appear, in duress and pleading for something that I can so readily offer.

It embarrasses me when the person to whom I offer this pittance in the face of their utterly ruined life thanks me. I don't want to be thanked. I'm only assuaging my guilt over my good fortune and their ruinous fate. It's clear they've made choices that I never did. But who am I to sit in judgement on these poor aggravated wrecks? I want to put as much distance between my life and theirs as speedily possible.

And that, in a nutshell, is how most of us feel about the destitute and the squalid lives of dependency they live. Dependence on alcohol or 'recreational' drugs of one kind or another. It's simply incredible, to people who haven't got these critically abusive cravings, to imagine why anyone would let themselves fall into that state of cerebral and physical disrepair, but it's a reality for far too many.

The homeless in our streets are represented in large part by the mentally unsound whom society at large surely owes something to, having decided decades earlier to unleash them from the security and care they received in public institutions, and to grant them the 'freedom' to live as they wish. And then there are the addicted, who comprise another failed element of society, whatever their backgrounds.

Runaways, young people who flee abusive home situations, or who simply won't submit to the demands of their families that they conform to societal expectations, comprise another element of the homeless, those who 'prefer' to live on the streets, to beg for funding from passersby, to go to downtown soup kitchens and support agencies for the abandoned and forgotten in society.

And then there are programs run by various charitable enterprises and by municipalities who in their enlightened humanism have constructed a social apparatus whereby alcoholics can sign up for special life-ameliorating programs. Where, if they forswear certain requirements, inclusive of giving up panhandling, they're given a place to sleep and decent food, and an alcohol-infusion every hour on the hour.

Commensurate perhaps with the drug-related harm-reduction programs operated also by social agencies associated with the municipality, despite the general censure by the tax-paying public at large. These clients are maintained in a low-level state of inebriation or drug-fuelled fog, but they're decently housed and fed, and the state of their health monitored.

All else has failed them, starting with their most immediate environment in their families, to their succumbing to the incredibly stupid choices they make, to their final incapacity leading them to be shunned by opportunity, good fortune and society.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Through The Looking Glass

Where have we seen this scenario before? Ah, now I remember; it's that creeped-out ploy where the authority of the day, occasionally overstepping its boundaries thanks to the oafish enthusiasm of the brutes whom they employ, is brought to attention by the outraged condemnation of law-abiding social activists engaged in civil unrest to draw a line where civil society will no longer accept official brutalization.

These social revolutionaries meet, plan protests, put authority on notice that they plan to take back the streets. It's become a yearly celebration, an occasion where the voiceless and the put-upon within society are defended by the rhetorical loud-mouths and the sociopathic detritus of society. A must-not miss occasion of meaningful social dissent against brute authority.

Montreal police are, after all, fairly notorious for their occasional lapses in shooting first, looking into the situation afterward, pleading the stress of the situation and the wearily tiresome fact that the victim was behaving in a suspicious manner; above all, wearing the skin and facial elements of a known breed of social malefactors.

To which all people imbued with a healthy dose of social consciousness abetted by collective guilt, breathe a sigh of appreciation that the group naming themselves the "Collective Opposed to Police Brutality" marches, in righteous indignation, speaking for all of civil society.

But damn, as so often happens, something untoward happened on the way to the church.

Intent became sidelined to temptation, and the protest managed to develop instead into a riot. Not that the police in attendance swung their clubs, hauled out their guns, pepper-sprayed and beat the protesters insensible, but that the protesters happened to morph into the lowest measure of society's misfits; goons who took the occasion to run riot.

Taking a page out of the hymnal of the Palestinian "protesters" whom they love to support, they assembled construction debris as handy objects to hurl at police, at the windows of fast-food outlets, pharmacies, hotels and vehicles. That several hundred run-amok of Montreal's protectors of the wrongly police-assaulted managed to turn the downtown area into a war zone.

And wasn't that just a whole lot of innocent fun?

"It was like we were in the middle of a war. I'm so angry, because if it is a demonstration against violence, how can they use violence against people?" That was the emotionally ruffled voice of a woman who, with her 7-year-old child exited the Place des Arts concert hall to discover their vehicle sans whole windshield.

This anti-brutality protest certainly went a far way to endearing itself to the public, and putting police on notice that civil society isn't going to take it any more.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Imbecilic Reactions

There they go again, the management of Ottawa's OC Transpo and the president of the union, Andre Cornellier, who never will bypass the opportunity for hysterical denunciations of management. Sounds like a no-brainer, to observe safety measures that will not permit bus drivers to remain on the job for periods of driving time in excess of good sense. If anything, a normal thinking adult might consider this to be a protective measure both for drivers and their passengers.

Instead, it's a re-enactment of the original union decision to strike for an unprecedentedly long and horribly difficult period throughout the worst of this city's winter months, hobbling commerce, and imprisoning people in their homes, causing many to lose employment, and businesses to shutter, students to miss classes. Before a semblance of reasonable reaction to the chaos caused by an intransigent union and a bullying city council finally submitted to the need of the city's residents.

Transit drivers for OC Transpo are said to be enraged by this latest move by the city which they claim upends their rights to do as they will. Should they wish to drive a day shift and then an evening shift, it is their concern, they contend. The city claims that for everyone's safety a sensible period of rest and restorative sleep is a must. Which party to this disagreement sounds sensible?

Now resentment is taking its toll of driver civility and respect toward the people who pay their salaries. As though there weren't enough complaints pre-strike about morose and hostile drivers, now more are surfacing, as transit users complain they are deliberately left at bus stops while their bus, which they've hailed, bus pass in hand, speeds by.

Others detail bus drivers deliberately dawdling to ensure their timing is off, and bus riders arrive late to their destinations; again threatening people with low-paid employment with new reasons for their employers to lay them off. It may very well be a minority of drivers who are responsible for these abusive actions, but they're harming the goodwill bus passengers were willing to extend after a long hiatus of no service.

And in the process they're ensuring that fresh hostility between taxpayers, the city and the bus union will continue to bloom, as trust in the professionalism of OC Transpo employees becomes corroded through this deliberate choreography of contempt for bus riders being practised by what one might hope is a loutish minority of drivers.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lost In The Political Shuffle

Racism raises its malevolent head everywhere, though we had thought that good will and a more emergent civility of late had muted it to the extent that it hardly existed but on the fringes of a resistant minority within society. At the very time, for the black community, for example, that finally, in America, a black candidate for the presidency was considered by an emphatic majority of voters as representing the future, black communities world-wide are still experiencing overt incidents of racism.

Recent world-wide events of attention-grabbing terrorism enacted by violence-and-death addicted Islamist jihadists had seemed to turn universal attention to visual identification of those who might fit the physical description of someone from the Middle East clinging to a repugnantly violent version of Islam that singled out hirsute, dark-complexioned men for suspicion. And those communities felt the sting of condemnation and suspicious grievance.

Muslims in Europe and North American began to work hard at earning a reputation for untrustworthiness, rejecting the values and imperatives of the social contracts most communities expected of their citizens, as an increasing number of restively aggrieved young men demonstrated their willingness to accept the mantle of 'martyr', wreaking havoc in their adopted countries as well as those abroad where the infidel were slaughtering their co-religionist jihadists.

And Jews living in Israel and beyond began to realize once again how easy a target they will always be for the unleashing of fresh onslaughts of anti-Semitism, attempting to defend themselves from the never-ceasing bloody antagonisms of Muslims incensed at the presence of a Jewish state within an Islamic geography. The rise of anti-Semitism at the very time that the larger Jewish community began to breathe a sigh of released tension at its long absence, has re-awakened them once again to reality.

Muslims have adopted their own inimitable version of nomenclature to describe the sudden increase in the world's attention on all things Muslim, and more to the point and most particularly the very direct threats unleashed against the world of the West, by Islamists. Islamophobia has become their catch-word, as they lament the plight they feel themselves to have been exposed to, through profiling, to being harassed at every turn, they claim.

And then, there are the black communities who find themselves suddenly still defending themselves against racism, but this time the spotlight of universal attention and support has been mysteriously absent, and they find themselves without the political defences they have learned to rely upon. And had every expectation to re-discover, in traditional support from traditional sources.

In Ottawa, over 150 black academics, legal experts, social workers and activists have been congregating at a policy conference to which black youth representatives and others have assembled from across the country. Their mission has been stated; to grapple with the unending issues of racial discrimination and public instances of racist denigration, causing the larger black community no end of frustration and concern.

The organizers of the conference had issued invitations to attend their conference, to politicians at every level. The result was not one single acceptance from any politician, municipal, provincial or federal. The matter of black Canadian racism has appeared to have completely dropped off the agenda altogether. Yet the themes coming out of consultations highlight the incendiary hate crimes the black community is contending with.

In 2006 Statistics Canada released figures showing that race or ethnicity is the most common motivating factor for the commission of hate crimes in the country. At that time, almost half of all such crimes were committed against blacks. "Anti-black hate crimes are on the rise" a lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic informed the audience at a panel discussion.

"The effects are deep and long-lasting for the individual directly involved, and send a deep chill of fear through the rest of the community." The charges of demonstrated racism run the gamut from graffiti to violent assaults, and workplace harassment along with lack of opportunities for professional advancement. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and it's abundantly clear that the black communities owe much to themselves, as much as they demand from politicians.

It's obvious too, however, that Canadian politicians need to react to this heads-up with a renewed commitment to engage in assisting the black community to feel more protected and cared for within this country. Governments at every level might see their way clear to liaising with the African Canadian Legal Clinic in a concerned and concerted bid to allay their concerns and commit to greater involvement in pursuing the needs of this community.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lunatics Among Us

One can only suppose that when the original mistrial of Allen Tehrankari took place, there wasn't time for his lawyer to assess his mental stability before he was summarily fired, a new trial called and Mr. Tehrankari insisted on defending himself. Since that time, throughout the court proceedings where this man defended himself against the first-degree murder charge laid against him, it seems clear that had a lawyer persuaded him to plead not guilty due to insanity it would be likely he would have been found not guilty due to a severe mental disability.

That, however, is not what occurred. And in all likelihood - this megalomaniac, accustomed to successfully manipulating people whose own hold on sound judgement and view of the world were previously severely impaired due to their intellectual limitations - would have refused to limit his options by declaring himself of unsound mind, so certain was he of his extraordinary capabilities to persuade people to trust in his fantastical idiocies.

After a life of crime, serving just punishment for offences against society, he discovered an extended family whose simple-minded trust in religious fundamentalism led them to believe his assertions of having found God, thanks to their caring ministrations. He could, thereafter, do no wrong, it would appear. And they were willing and eager to place their trust in him, rather than rally to the support of their sibling; eager to believe his febrile tales, and condemn her mores.

His own wife, Susan Pearce, chose to be obsequiously protective of him, iterating and reiterating the inane and genuinely imaginative albeit clumsy stories he invented to 'explain' away the incredible amount of incriminating evidence arrayed against this monster. Her brothers testified their belief that she was herself responsible for the horrible manner in which she lost her life, due to her lax morals.

"The trouble she was causing was going to cause her trouble. The ripple effect of her adultery and fornication - it was damaging peoples' lives", her brother Robert Pearce informed the trial jury. Barbara Galway herself expressed her disappointed at her family's unwillingness to understand her needs and come to her aid. "I seem to be getting support from everyone except from my own family (except for Allen)" she emailed another brother.

Her brothers felt she needed the help of a psychiatrist; it wasn't 'normal' for her, in the wake of the dissolution of her 27-year marriage, for her to seek out the company of men. They believed she was simultaneously seeing two men, and enjoying illicit sex with them; an unfathomable, condemnatory sin. In the face of their outspoken condemnation of her, she found some consolation in her 'understanding' brother-in-law.

Until it finally became obvious to her that his interest in her was not at all what she had taken it for; rather than a sibling-like concern for her, he was demonstrating an overt sexual interest that alarmed her, and caused her to mention her unease at his incessant attempts to connect with her. When it finally became clear to Tehrankari that Barbara Galway intended to confront him in front of his wife, his 'affection' for his sister-in-law turned deadly.

It was thanks to Barbara Galway's brothers' intervention that Allan Tehrankari was alerted. They approached both him and his wife to convey their conviction that their fast-and-loose sister meant to cause a rift between husband and wife. They were convinced their errant slut of a sister meant to seduce her brother-in-law. With that knowledge, Tehrankari began to plan how he would proceed.

His entrapping of his sister-in-law, followed by a beating, a rape, asphyxiation, and then the conveyance of her body to a forested area where a trail of blood left n the snow from the parking lot to the place where he doused her body with gasoline and set it afire was amply proven by the evidence presented in court. Barbara Galway's blood everywhere in the bathroom of the Tehrankari home, in the hallway, walls and door frames, their van and the mattress soaked through with her blood gave testimony to his unspeakable crime.

Neighbours testified to having seen him bundling a red-stained tarp, struggling with her corpse to remove it from the house, and neighbours testified they saw him tie the blood-soaked mattress on top of his vehicle. Vaginal swabs of the horribly burned corpse identified Tehrankari's DNA. A piece of the bloodied carpet he had removed was discovered in a neighbour's trash can, along with a purported note from Barbara Galway.

Yet Allen Tehrankari's religion-deranged in-laws felt compelled to continue charging their sister with a mentally disturbed state, handing out sexual favours to all comers, and developing a sexual fixation on her sister's husband. Their sister, Tehrankari's wife Susan, insisted that her husband's inanely fabricated stories of assault and semen extraction, his denial of implication in murder, were all reasonable and rational arguments.

When Justice Colin McKinnon, in receiving the verdict from the jury praised their service, empathizing with their having had to endure a "profound disruption in your lives", he must surely also have been alluding to their having had to sit and listen as a veritable madman sullied the very air they all breathed with his deranged charges. Not only his determination to insist the jury believe his stories fraught with madness, but his insistence that he was being framed.

His defence substantially revolved around his claims of forcible confinement, sexual humiliation, and victimhood at the hands of a cabal intent on murdering his sister-in-law. A dreadful event of which he was completely innocent, and of which the jury must exonerate him. Instead, they must believe that the man they were sitting in judgement of, was framed by "professionals"; police officers, the Crown, expert witnesses; all guilty, not he.

Justice McKinnon was grateful for the jury's findings of guilty of first-degree murder. The justice spoke of the murder of Barbara Galway as "venal, callous and brutal in the extreme... You disposed of her body as if it were a piece of filthy garbage. You robbed her sons of a loving mother, you betrayed the faith and trust of your devoted wife and precious child; you manipulated the goodwill of your wife's supportive family."

And then imposed upon him an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years from the time of his arrest. Sane people can only shake their heads at the witless connivance of innocent people in the moral obstruction of charging a murderer with a heinous criminal offence.

And hope and trust that the lunatic accusations and utterly bizarre story-telling in a court of law that proceeded with this case will never again be permitted to occur.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Shopping Lists






I don't use them. Never have. No need to. I just walk down the aisles of our local grocery supermarket and select what I know I need. Once a week, every week. Works out to just about the same time of day, too. Predictable, one might say. This morning I baked a peach pie, and prepared a chicken soup to simmer on the back of the stove. I cleaned up the house a bit, for the week-end.

While I was thus busy, my husband fixed up the dining room chandelier that had somehow, mysteriously, slid down on the cord that affixed it to the ceiling, to rest on the rose medallion bowl sitting in the middle of the dining room table. It's a very heavy chandelier, made of metal worked into the shapes of red poppies. We had heard nothing to warn us of what had occurred.

And were quite happy that it came to rest so gently on the bowl, which did not shatter. Nothing like a hundred-year-old porcelain piece to keep the peace. And because the temperature rose to just below freezing, and the wind was slight compared to the last two days, and the sun was out, we took ourselves and our little dogs out to the ravine for our daily ramble there.

Then we drove to the supermarket, so I could do the shopping. While he sat in the car, in the sun, with the dogs, reading today's newspapers. In the supermarket - quite crowded this day - I set about assembling the edibles we'd need to carry us through the week. Sans shopping list.

I selected: grape tomatoes, cluster tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, carrots, parsnips, yellow, orange and red bell peppers, mushrooms, russet potatoes, sweet potato, daikon, sugar snap peas, cooking onions, anise, two bunches of bananas, clementines, naval oranges, two containers of strawberries, one of persimmons.

Also because they were on sale, three toilet tissue bundles (one for our daughter), high-energy laundry detergent, plain yogurt, 2% milk, chocolate milk, 10% coffee cream, Earl Grey tea, lemon juice, orange-cranberry juice, bag of red lentils, bag of demerara sugar, bag of frozen peas, Vitamin E eggs, bag of frozen raspberries.

The chocolate milk for our granddaughter who will spend a few days with us during March break. Chocolate-covered twizzle-biscuits for her, as well, along with a package of chicken-bacon, for she will not eat beef or pork. She'll have the chicken-bacon for breakfast with eggs, insisting on doing her own eggs.

We've no need of bread since my husband bakes all of our breads. No meat or cheese; lots in the refrigerator. Ditto butter. As for coffee, my husband orders free trade organic coffee beans which he roasts himself, that meets his needs in that department; I stick with tea.

I shop at a very basic supermarket where you are expected to bring your own food containers and pack your groceries yourself. I'd bought three large black plastic bins over a decade ago from them when they first opened. As I was drawing items out of the shopping cart and placing them on the counter in front of the cashier, a woman behind me with a quarter-full cart watched me emptying my burgeoning one.

I must have a large family, she opined. I laughed: "me and my husband", and she lifted her eyebrows. In her cart, a few pre-prepared items, like pizza. She was, I judged, about fifteen years younger than me, nicely presented, somewhat large and certainly overweight. But she was genuinely interested and wanted to know what they were, the persimmons. And the anise, and the daikon. And I was happy to explain.

Next time she shopped, she said, she would look for those items, and buy them, and try them. I daresay, I hope she writes them down before she forgets, and takes along a shopping list.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Family Finance

That's the title given to a regular item appearing in each issue of the Financial Post Magazine. It's become a fascinating read whenever the magazine is issued. The March 2009 edition no less so than the previous examples of people whom good fortune has given the opportunity to live fairly lavish lifestyles, yet for whom managing their generous incomes is a conundrum.

Invariably, the article follows the lifestyle choices and living arrangements of families earning significantly more in annual wages than the representative ordinary Canadian. Their spending habits are carefully profligate. If that seems an absurd declaration, so does their dedication to the careful apportioning of disposable income toward consuming in a way that appears to the careful householder's opinion the antithesis of thrifty.

And, truth to tell, when reading one of these installments it's my habit to run my socially appraising eye through their "financial snapshot", at the expenses, to evaluate how much is spent on charity, as opposed to total income and other expenditures. There are occasions when I'm pleasantly surprised, others when I feel disgruntled that such well-remunerated families give not a cent to charity.

And this last example fits neatly into that category, of people whose income is generous but whose charitable giving is non-existent. This is a couple in their mid-30s with two children between ages five and three. They own a $675,000 house in Toronto, employ a full-time nanny, enjoy regular family vacations, and spend a whopping $18,500 annually on 'entertainment and eating out', a figure that doesn't include vacation expenditures.

As good parents they have hired a tutor for their older child. Both parents work; his annual income is $120,000 generously augmented by an annual bonus of $40,000 to $50,000. The wife and mother earns a salary of $36,000. Which places them, earning-wise well above even middle-class earners in Canadian society. But whoops! worries about whether he will receive his normal bonus this year may dump them into a lower-earning classification and that worries them greatly.

They consider themselves to be living comfortable middle-class lives, now, however in direct peril as a result of the general financial slowdown and his particular industry's decline (his company finances real estate and construction projects), forcing them to consider lowering their expectations for their happy lifestyle, and impinging on their savings toward their retirement goals.

They have $20,000 on credit cards, dine out weekly, and spend $1,200 a year on bottled water. Bottled water? A minimum of $1,200 to charity, given their income, would still not identify them as generous supporters of charitable needs, and yet they budget nothing whatever for charitable giving. Whereas vehicle leases and maintenance cost them $13,1800 yearly and insurance another $4,900.

They've recently paid $40,000 for a kitchen renovation, not the complete one the wife really wanted, but rather something she settled for instead of the full renovation she really desired. And she has plans to set aside $10,000 a year for continuing home renovations. They don't feel as though they're particularly extravagant, simply paying for essentials.

The wife's salary comes from her interior decorating business, and given the recent economic downturn she has expectations that her business too may suffer a downturn. On the other hand, they've done very well, haven't they, having invested $9,000 in RESPs for their children's future education, and $130,000 in RRSPs.

The potential loss of his bonus, and a downturn in her business may, sadly, lead to their having to seriously contemplate some life-style adjustments. The experts who evaluate their situation have some recommendations; cut their vacation spending by two-thirds to $2,000. Reduce dining and entertainment expenses by 50% to save $9,000 a year.

And wean themselves away from the $1,200 annual bottled water habit. Along with a litany of other proposed savings; purchasing outright used cars rather than leasing; consider one car instead of two; reduce RRSP contributions and pay off the expensive credit card debt.

We should have such worries.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Imagine All That Trash

Aren't we humans just something else? Trashing our environment. Literally.

Not only through the outcomes of (mis)using fossil fuels and sending great clouds of carbon into the atmosphere, imperilling the very air we breathe, the temperature of the oceans and in the process hastening the demise of impacted species whose habitat have been deleteriously impacted, but through the intemperance of our greed in the wasting of our finite resources, speeding our own potential demise through the dangers of continental flooding, food shortages and territorial shrinkage.

All right, we've got that covered, and environmentalists and politicians and ordinary citizens are all attempting in their own way to instill in one another a greater awareness and sense of responsibility in the hopes that scientific advances will pull us out of yet another dilemma we've placed ourselves in through our use and misuse of technologies impacting on everything about us.

Then there's the little matter of our collective habit of garbage-making. We produce an inordinate amount of garbage. Through, for example, packaging that we really don't need, and through the casual dumping of perfectly good and still-useful consumer products. The result of which is huge municipal garbage dumps groaning beyond their capacity to absorb any more discards of civilization.

And no communities want these huge garbage dumps with their off-gassing, their odours, their ugly presence in their areas. We make agreements with municipalities eager to charge high fees to accept garbage trucked hundreds of miles from their source, and dump our garbage in other hapless communities' areas for them to worry about and live with.

But there's worse: our propensity to carelessly litter. Doesn't sound like much, that simple word 'litter'. But the simple fact is, done in a large enough scale of mindless tossing away of detritus we're too lazy to find proper receptacles for disposal of, we've created another huge nightmare. Our oceans have become a refuge for all manner of urban debris, impacting on an already stressed biosphere.

Plastic bags, food wrappers and containers, disposable diapers, fishing nets, straws, shotgun shells, beverage bottles - and cigarettes have been tossed onto beaches where they find their way into our waterways. A report by Ocean Conservancy in the U.S. relates a "global snapshot of marine debris" collected by 400,000 volunteers in 104 countries in a single day.

Close to seven million pounds of trash - equal to the weight of 18 blue whales, collected from oceans, lakes, rivers and waterways in a single-day clean-up that took place in September 2008. "Our ocean is sick, and our actions have made it so" said the president of Ocean Conservancy. "We simply cannot continue to put our trash in the ocean. "The evidence turns up every day in dead and injured marine life, littered beaches that discourage tourists, and choked ocean ecosystems."

Canada, out of 104 participating countries ranked third in participation rate with 34,320 volunteers. Cigarettes and filters were found to be the most collected items. Recreational and shoreline activities in Canada created the most garbage identified as straws, beverage bottles, cups, plates, toys and shoes. So much for care for the environment.

As for "reduce, reuse, recycle", what's up with that? A complete mystery?

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When Species Collide

Humans have the ability to alter their environment like no other living creature. In the process we invade the territories given over to the other creatures we share space with, and often with unanticipated consequences. There are the many instances of people bemoaning the fact that they've discovered rats, squirrels, mice and even raccoons in their attics. Or the presence of skunks living under the porch of a house discovered and presenting a true dilemma of avoidance. And it slowly occurs to them how cleverly opportune, and flintily determined these creatures can be.

People living in the country see their small pets somehow mysteriously disappear, and then discover the presence of coyotes having made themselves comfortable in the area. And then, of course, those more rustic dwellers, people like Chris Czajkowski, who described in excruciating detail in her book Nuk Tessli "The Life of a Wilderness Dweller" what it's like to discover that, while out trekking with her dogs, a bear has ransacked her isolated cabin and its contents.

Then there's the newly-distributed story of an Australian family waking one dark night to discover that a kangaroo had somehow disoriented itself to the point where it smashed through the out-of-doors into the window of the parents' bedroom. Forewarned by their dog, they nonetheless had no reason to anticipate this neighbourly drop-by, and were none too pleased when the glass-injured animal began bouncing on their bed. With them, and their little daughter under the blankets.

When the frightened animal made its way to their son's bedroom, the heroic man of the house grappled with the frantic-to-escape and bleeding creature. It was finally persuaded to decamp, leaving its bloody trail throughout the house, and with the children's father sporting scratches on his legs and buttocks. Who knows what the moral of that story might be? Listen to your dog, if his name is Vronsky?

And now, in Sweden, researchers have finally come to the studied realization that chimpanzees, held in captivity, can become somewhat aggrieved at their prisoner status, and don't exactly appreciate being gawked at, when zoo-goers are permitted entry. Santino, a male chimpanzee whose misfortune it is to live at the Furuvik Zoo, pre-planned his futile revenge on those who visit to torment him with their unwanted taunts and awed reaction when he pelts them with ... feces, stones.

He has been observed to calmly gather stones in preparation for the daily incursion of zoo-gawkers. When confronted by the people who gather to view their primal ancestor, he becomes increasingly agitated, then begins pelting them with the assembled stones. In the absence of stones he has been observed to carefully gather dried turds. The association must seem appropriate to his primate mind.

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Just.Don't.Go.There ... Get it?

What is it about warnings not to enter that compels some people to seek entry regardless?

When a Hydro authority puts up signage warning people to stay outside on the perimeter of an unsafe area, where a water dam can be released without too much prior warning, people seek to picnic there because they deem it to be picturesque, and then, as happened in Quebec a few years back, the resulting unanticipated flood surprises the sun worshippers and picnickers and people end up dead.

There have even been instances when teen-aged boys, old enough to know better, yet excited by the prospect of potential danger and their ability to escape it through their derring-do, have clambered up those main Hydro towers, after climbing over the protective railing, ignoring signage, to confront danger. And they've paid for their reckless disregard of safety warnings with their lives, as well.

The societal problem of driving while under the influence of alcohol shows little abatement, despite the shrill warning efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, municipal authorities and their police forces. People simply don't take kindly to barriers set up to prevent them from doing as they will. In Calgary a horrific crash took place when a cement truck being driven erratically slammed into a passenger vehicle stopped at a light, killing the five occupants.

A witness, following close behind, cell phone in hand reporting the accident, testified at the trial of the truck driver that he saw the driver exit his truck after the accident, lower a ladder, then climb to the back of the mixer. Where, additional evidence given demonstrated that the truck driver had thrown a half-empty bottle of vodka into the mixer, in an absurd effort to conceal his inebriated state.

Just as the use of safety devices in cars has come into common practise, and people are urged to buckle up, to seat their children in protective child seats, with the result that countless lives have been saved in collisions, so too has the mandatory use in Canada of motorcycle helmets diminished serious head injuries. Now safety experts are calling for the use of helmets in cycling and skiing, to avert the deadly effect of collisions.

Innumerable times throughout the winter adolescents driving ATVs and snowmobiles have severely injured themselves, and sometimes lost their lives, despite the warnings from safety experts that parents not permit their young children to drive unaccompanied by an adult. Now a 49-year-old man in Gatineau has sustained severe head injuries after having been thrown from his ATV, without protective head gear.

A month ago a couple from Quebec decided, like so many others before them in British Columbia to venture out of bounds, despite posted warnings. The man, reputedly a seasoned skier, ignored the signs, and he and his wife, geared up for a leisurely ski before heading back to their lodge, became disoriented and lost their way. They spent day after day attempting to find their way to safety, stamping SOS messages in the snow, hoping for rescue.

The messages, though seen by helicopter pilots, were never acted upon; the 'experienced skier' had left no word with anyone that they were out on their little adventure, and the lodge hadn't noticed their parked car, day after day. The experienced skier took his wife, Marie-Josee Fortin, into backcountry near Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, in Golden, British Columbia, for a Valentine's Day treat.

Eight days following their brave and bold decision to ignore the warnings, the man's wife died of hypothermia. Two days following her death, search and rescue authorities finally acted on the SOS messages, and brought the intrepid skier to safety. Although suffering frostbite, he was speedily released from hospital. He no longer has anyone to celebrate with. And he blames the length of their ordeal on rescue agencies that hadn't heeded his message.

That he hadn't had the basic intelligence to heed the many warnings that were placed in the area for the very specific purpose of saving people from their own stupidity, obviously another thing altogether. It's far easier on his conscience to blame the RCMP and other rescue groups, than his own lack of intelligence for deciding of his own free will to flaunt the warning signs and place his and his wife's lives in danger.

Theirs was not the only misadventure this winter season in the snowy, avalanche-prone mountains of British Columbia, which has seen a number of skiers along with an equal number of snowmobilers, all entranced by the prospect of playing in the pristine snow off-bounds, and bringing their lives to an end by exposing themselves to the results of unstable snow conditions causing avalanches.

Another two skiers were killed only this past week-end, while at a ski resort in British Columbia. They, along with another party of two adventure-besotted skiers ventured in yet another out-of-bounds area of the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden. The RCMP received an avalanche call and Golden Search and Rescue were on the scene minutes later. Their presence in that restricted area had caused an avalanche.

Two survived, two were uncovered by searchers, flown by helicopter to Golden District Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

Then there are the decidedly more mundane occasionings of tempting fate, by people tending to ignore the most basic elements of common sense; never, for example, to walk along a railroad track. Wearing headphones, Meagan Marjorie Baillie, heading to work at her local Safeway store, was struck and killed by a train on the tracks nearby her Spring Creek Mountain Village home, near Canmore, Alberta.

It's so often young people, heedless of the danger their careless decision-making leads them to, who are victims. But then just yesterday in mid-town Toronto a man in his late 50s decided to walk his two dogs along an off-limits stretch of train tracks. He'd taken his two dogs off leash, when he realized there was an oncoming train. His attempts to save his dogs failed; both they and he lost their lives.

Why we are so oblivious that our careless decision-making places us in such direct and avoidable danger is beyond rational explanation.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Besmirching Celebrity

Society needn't bother itself about abandoning all standards of decent behaviour on its own. It can simply sit back and ogle the bad works of those whom they place on the pedestal of popular celebrity to do it for them. The pity of it is when young people look to those celebrities in admiration and as a pattern of how they may themselves envision living an envious life replete with the satisfactions of success and fame and royalties.

Pity that it's social slumming in a very real sense.

The most recent examples of failures to communicate civilly and with due respect one for the other is the misalliance of two young and popular American singers. The names of Chris Brown and Rihanna are familiar to older people only because they see their grandchildren downloading their songs from the Internet onto their iPods.

Without which, presumably, their lives simply remain unfulfilled dreams, absent of glowing musicianship.

Eyes glued to the photograph of a swollen-faced, sad and well-pummelled young woman whose possessive jealousy provoked her boyfriend to assault her and leave her in a public venue to be rescued by passersby, police and ambulance attendants. The young man - any man, young, old, possessed of far greater physical strength than any woman, young or old, simply expressed his ire.

A loud accusing female voice claiming infidelity, and in spite having the intolerable nerve to toss the keys of a man's prized automobile is just looking for trouble, is that the message? Actually the message to any woman who suffers the indignity of a loud threatening voice from someone who professes to love her, let alone the violence of an upraised hand, should be to depart, quickly.

And conclusively. Don't look back, don't listen to abject apologies, don't double-think, don't forgive because it was a momentary lapse. What was momentary can so readily become habitual, and what was slight can so often result in brute violence of a kind so unrehearsed and unrestrained that it becomes fatal.

But isn't that the thing with women? They're so needily forgiving, so forgetful, so willing to give him "another chance". And then there follows a sad succession of "other chances" until the relationship builds to a crescendo of ongoing, relentless violence with the woman captured in a web of fear and accustomed victimhood.

This is misfortune at the most basic and primitive level of relationships, a man and a woman attempting to make a life for themselves, but failing abysmally because one or both are unable to recognize and to practise decent, respectful and loving relations. But there are always "reasons"; an abused childhood is one handy excuse.

And when the violated, beaten woman's own father reflects that there may be forgivable extenuating circumstances, what then can the woman do but rely on her father's kindly paternal advice? Where's her mother in all of this? The way things are...?

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Canada's Scientific Myopia

Canada can boast that it educates, trains and employs the services of some of the finest scientific minds in the world. Unfortunately, it can also groan that some of those fine scientific minds turn their attention elsewhere in the world to find employment in other countries which seriously fund scientific investigation. Canada has never invested as much of its funding potentials in research and innovation as it should for a wealthy country proud of the quality of its university graduates.

And we most certainly haven't been doing so well lately, either. At a time when, more than ever, a country's forward-looking investitures in the future of science and technology earmarks them as progressive or laggards. Canada is definitely in the laggard field. And it needn't be that way. We have the venerable research institutions, government- and university-allied, and the scientific expertise, along with a reputation for some fairly world-renowned successes.

Moreover, the studies are there to demonstrate that scientific research is no mere exercise of academic prowess. Research and development are crucial to a country's economy and advance into the future. Canada's two percent of GDP investment in science and technology produced between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs according to a 1999 study. Research contributes greatly to increased productivity in many areas. In Ottawa alone a $1-billion investment in 2006 was spent to help fuel the economy.

Now, with the latest budget brought down by the Government of Canada, meant to stimulate the economy at a time of great financial insecurity brought about by the global economic collapse, no funding has been made available for the salaries of the technicians and scientific investigators we need to further enhance our scientific and technological capabilities and create additional employment. On the other hand, the federal and Ontario governments are seriously considering handing over $6-billion tax dollars to bankruptcy-headed General Motors and Chrysler.

Instead, institutions like the National Research Council are told to tighten their belts, and they've laid off the very experts we require to keep us competitive. The funding bodies for research in universities; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research have been allocated no additional government funding in the new stimulus budget.

Instead they've been informed they're expected to cut their budgets substantially. As a result, "well below 20% of grant applicants" for research in academia is being funded. Ironically what this government has undertaken is to generously fund the infrastructure, the buildings, the equipment. But not the experiments, the research, nor those who have the expertise and the interest in conducting them. What kind of inane sense does that represent?

Government claims it has poured funding into specific research projects, including additional funding for innovation and the centres of commercialization-research excellence: "Every single budget this government put forward has significantly increased funding to the science and technology sector. ...We are supporting the places to do research, we are supporting researchers and we are supporting quality research."

True that may be, but perhaps it is also true that insufficient focus on overall scientific endeavour and research is occurring, with too great a focus on a targeted immediate return in advanced technologies and not enough on the potentials for feed-back in the future. There are huge funding gaps also for example, where Arctic research programs have been wanting in their support, and where pure research overall is being abandoned.

Canada, among the advanced industrialized countries, has a low level of private-sector research; too many of our great corporations are multinationals, and they invest research funding primarily where their headquarters are situated. The simple fact of the matter is, research is hugely dependent on government in this country, and Canada's research and development investment has declined significantly over the past five years.

As a wealthy, technologically advanced country we need to do better than this.

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Some Equivocation

Not all Canadian universities permitted matters to get out of hand during the annual perversity in morals and blaming that has been named "Israel Apartheid Week".

Although, because passions run high on the aggravation that presents as Israel-Palestinian relations both antagonists, the pro-Palestinian factions on campus and the pro-Israel groups, tended to loosen the usual academically circumspect air through which disagreements could be voiced in a civil manner, the finger of blame rests squarely with the liberal-left-union-organized pro-Palestinian IAW organizers.

Their uncommonly uncivil, vicious caricaturing of Israeli and Jewish icons presenting as child-murderers, ravening lunatics, money-grubbers to advance the deeply ingrained anti-Semitic tropes of power-hungry, lucre-obsessed Jews led the situation to the kind of culture-clash that universities seek to avoid. The response of Jewish students was predicable, desperate to protect themselves and Israel from the incendiary libels that flowed in condemnation of the 'nature' of Jews and the existential frailty of the Jewish state.

That Jewish student groups at York University and University of Toronto were so hard-pressed to maintain a level of civilized equanimity in facing the accusations levelled against them and that York University has seen fit to fine several Jewish student groups alongside the actual perpetrators of the bedlam that ensued with the prosecution of the event, speaks volumes about the values of tolerance of those institutes of higher learning.

In the nation's capital, University of Ottawa and Carleton University reacted somewhat differently, taking the initiative before matters got out of hand, to pronounce the viciously offensive anti-Semitic posters depicting an Israeli fighter jet targeting a teddy-bear-hugging Palestinian child to be incendiary in nature and not to be displayed there. This enraged the pro-Palestinian groups who then demanded that both universities overturn their decisions, to no avail.

The two universities took the unusual step of banning that particular poster deeming it to be "inflammatory and capable of inciting confrontation". Well enough put; obviously that was the purpose, to inflame passions and to incite confrontation. And, without the poster a little steam went out of the campaign temporarily. Whereas in Toronto, the two universities assented to the Students Against Israeli Apartheid coalition's assertions that they had the right to defame, corrupt reality and intimidate to their righteous delight.

On February 8, Carleton University's equity services ordered the posters to be removed from campus because, in the words of a Carleton spokesperson they "could incite infringements of the Ontario Human Rights Code". The IAW events were otherwise permitted to proceed. Following that decision on the part of Carleton University, the University of Ottawa banned the very same poster, with the statement that "the administration has the right and the responsibility to ensure that all posters comply with the posting regulations before they are displayed on a bulletin board owned by the university".

The "Israel Apartheid Week" is not the only besmirching of Jewish students and Israel that occurs on university campuses, merely the most overtly outrageous. On previous occasions other incidents have occurred where student organizing bodies for whom support of the Palestinians against tyrannically brutal Israel has resulted in attempts to boycott Jewish student group activities.

A few months earlier the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, an inter-related student group which promotes on-campus events, refused to promote a Hillel event at Carleton University. In writing to Carleton University to protest on that occasion, Carleton's president, Allan Rock responded: "I share your concern. If the facts of the matter prove to be as reported in the media, I would agree that OPIRG’s decision raises serious issues.

"OPIRG is an independent student-run organization that receives its funding from students through the Student Federation. I have contacted the President of the Student Federation, voiced my concern, and suggested that the Federation itself take the lead in defense of the important principles from which OPIRG has reportedly departed. I think it would be best if student leaders themselves showed leadership in defending those principles. I am awaiting an answer. Once I have it, I will determine how my own response is best expressed."

Carleton University's provost and vice-president academic, Feridun Hamdullahpur circulated a communication to the university community labelling the rejected IAW posters "hurtful and discriminatory. Carleton University, regardless of the circumstances, cannot and will not tolerate actions that infringe or contravene the Ontario Human Rights Code and Carleton's own University Human Rights Policy and Procedures."

He finished by adding that should anyone violate those policies, they could anticipate sanctions and "students can be withdrawn from their studies indefinitely."

Quite the contrast from the disinterested, unhelpful and neglectful response from both University of Toronto and York University where shameful and defamatory posters, statements and actions along with instances of harassment and anti-Semitic slurs have been permitted to air in the purported interests of 'academic freedom'.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

How Soon We Forget

Amazing isn't it? A Russian autocrat setting the stage for the social rehabilitation of one of history's greatest tyrants. One who, most certainly, would qualify as the head of a nation responsible for gross human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and war crimes under the definition the United Nations used to designate their 2005-enacted "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine.

Apart from the fact that Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (aka Joseph Stalin) became a murderous dictator, intent on removing all political rivals to consolidate his single supreme rule over the Soviet Union, his regime of terror would have earned him supreme and ongoing censure from the world body had it existed at the time, and had the full extent of his crimes against humanity been known at the time.

His dedication to Communism and the Marxist state was almost equal to his dedication to his personal entitlement as supreme ruler of conquered and dependent nations whose resources he took great pleasure in absorbing as his own to do with as he would. Under his avuncularly cunning direction, tens of millions of people died, of various causes, including starvation and disease.

He singled out the intelligentsia, professionals, and kulaks alike for eradication, as presenting as nuisance elements restricting the expansion of the socialist ideal. The state would provide the basic necessities of life for its people, and the people would submit to the supremacy of the state, accepting the social rigours of objectification, and utter lack of independence as human beings.

Any who spoke out publicly against his implacable presence, including those who had the temerity to question the social/political direction of his regime of oppression and terror, if not murdered outright, found themselves living a slow and agonizing death in one of the slave-labour northern gulags.

After making common cause with Nazi Germany, Russia was faced with defending itself against its erstwhile Axis partner, and in the process, suffered a greater national death-toll than that of the entire world combined during World War II.

The forced collectivization of agriculture, inclusive of the forced starvation of Ukraine when all its harvests were denied its starving peasants and trucked into Russia claimed millions of lives. The rapid industrialization of the USSR exploited another kind of slave labour where people toiled with little say in how their lives were being wasted.

Agriculture failed, and so did the initially-successful industries simply because people who have no personal stake in their labour have no interest in labouring for the collective. During the nuclear age the Soviet Union presented as an evil empire to much of the world outside its union, as paranoid and troubling as its leader.

It was Nikita Kruschev who finally admitted to the world at large the monster that Stalin was. And the former president condemned Stalin for the monster that he was, for the immense and incalculable harm he did to millions of people. And now, after all this time, Moscow, led by its prime minister, is resuscitating the fond memory of that monster.

Vladimir Putin does not believe it is salutary for Russians to dwell on the unfortunate fact that over 26 million Russians died between 1941 and 1945, and that the nation should focus adoringly on the victorious leadership of Joseph Stalin, its wartime saviour. Re-writing realty.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Prison Utterly Un-useful

Christopher Pauchay who suffered a truly horrible catastrophe in losing his two little girls as a direct result of his negligence of their basic needs, brought about by his profound need to drown himself in a sea of unconscious addiction, attests on his own behalf that he does not feel that a prison sentence would be useful.

Neither as penance for his misdeeds, nor as society's measure of condemnation for his having perpetrated a dread deed; a father being the instrument of his children's death. However 'accidental' the event was, it occurred as a direct result of his misuse of alcohol, his choice to drink himself insensible rather than to look after the needs of his children.

Causing him to haul them out of their home on a freezing winter night clad in diapers and light shirts, and abandoning them to freeze to death, while he made his way, inebriated and suffering himself from frostbite to the home of a neighbour, unaware of what he was doing, and what he had lost.

Since the death of those children, his wife has borne another child to him. Since the death of their first two children, he has abused and beaten his wife. Since the death of the two little girls who depended on their father to cherish, protect and guide them toward life, not death, he has returned to the comfort and familiarity of his alcoholic addiction.

A traditional sentencing circle went through the motions of his appearing before appointed community elders and family members so they could, on his behalf and that of the community, make peace with the reality of their loss. And that community, for whom rampant alcoholism, child neglect and spousal abuse is a fact of life, extended their compassion toward one of their own.

Affirming their support for him, and asking for the criminal justice system of Canada to regard him as a chastened, unhappy and 'new' man, one who is prepared to turn his values and priorities inside out and begin a different, responsible way of life.

They would ideally like to have a conditional sentence granted Mr. Pauchay. As would Mr. Pauchay himself, feeling and stating that prison as far as he is concerned is not a good option for him, personally. The Crown prosecutor begs to differ.

"Mr. Pauchay's actions that night constitute child abuse ... because he caused their deaths. They relied on him to protect them ... and he didn't because of his self-induced intoxication." For every action, deliberate or unplanned, there are consequences.

People must be aware of their actions, of how their actions have the potential to impact deleteriously on themselves as well as others. Mr. Pauchay's sorrow and regret at the loss of his children has not been sufficiently acute, it would seem, to assist him in turning himself around.

In pleading guilty to negligence, he should be aware that he must pay the consequences of his atrocious decision-making.

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