Ruminations

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leading To Barbarity

Imagine a poll with questions deliberately designed to obtain a specific result. Such polls do exist. So how much credence can be placed in what results from them? With questions that skirt an issue, but make skewed references to that issue in the most ambiguous manner to elicit a particular response certain to gladden the hearts of those whose purpose in parsing those responses to obtain a designed outcome has been a roaring success.

The Canadian-Ukrainian community and the Canadian-German community, for their own reasons, have been decidedly uncomfortable with the initiative originally undertaken by the Jewish owner of a news conglomerate, to make plans to engage the public and receive government support in the building of a Holocaust Museum. Those ethnic communities have been outspoken and vociferous in their rejection of a Museum to commemorate the Holocaust though the concept of that museum was altered to reflect a presence as a Museum of Human Rights.

That museum would of necessity reflect the issue of genocide, and the single most extreme example of an ethnic-religious-cultural group of people singled out for systematic social isolation, mass incarceration and finally annihilation on a carefully calibrated and designed scale that would see success in the extinguishing of six million lives of men, women, children of all ages would be front and centre. What united the victims as victims was their Jewishness.

Others suffered a similar fate under the Nazis during World War Two; political prisoners, the mentally and physically impaired, gypsies, homosexuals and many clerics who defied the fascists. But it was for Europe's Jews that special attention in weeding them out of the general population, removing their human rights entitlements, slandering them, pauperizing them, and systematically murdering them that makes this attempt at eradicating Jews from the face of the Earth special.

There were others who suffered grievously throughout modern history; the Russians, Chinese, Poles, Ukraines, Rwandans, Cambodians; the list is long and dreadful. Many still suffer, in North Korea, Burma, Sudan and elsewhere in the world as they are exploited and torn from their land, maimed and slaughtered. They will have their place in The Canadian Museum for Human Rights which is also designed to offer a special place to commemorate the Holocaust and the Aboriginal experience in Canada.

This afflicts its critics with the angst of having their particular dreadful political, social, existential experiences take second place. All the other miseries and dread occurrences experienced by other people in other times and other places are meant to have their place in the Museum. Its critics demand that all be given equal space and equal place; that there be no special memorial for any one dire event.

Ignoring the reality that many other countries of the world consider the Holocaust to represent a unique and dreadful event in human history, needful of its own memorial as a remembrance to what human beings are capable of descending to. So in their need to succeed in turning public opinion to their support, the poll was designed to elicit a desired response. The poll, undertaken by NANOS Research, commissioned by Canadians for Genocide Education.

Canadians for Genocide Education describes itself as a coalition of 50 associations representing 27 different ethno-cultural communities. There is no Internet presence, and its volunteer chairman is an Ontario lawyer who was once head of the Canadian Arab Federation, James Kafieh. The 44-member group he claims to represent is a peculiar one. Some when contacted claim never to have heard of him or the coalition.

Others could not be contacted as the contacts were 27 years stale, others had no working telephones or contact information. But Mr. Kafieh is adamant that the focus of the Museum is quite wrong, and represents the result "of politicians pandering to a special interest group". Of course Mr. Kafieh would be intimately familiar with the considerations and agendas of 'special interest groups'.

Lybomyr Luciuk, director of research for the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association, another staunch detractor of the main focus of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and which aided in the funding of the poll, insists the results of the poll confirms that a museum funded by taxpayers must not give 'preference' to one group's suffering over that of another's.

"I know this will sound harsh, but there is fundamental ignorance [on the museum board] of history and a preoccupation with their own community's suffering", Mr. Luciuk explained, neatly summing up his own and his partners-in-adversarial denial of the original purpose of the Museum's own singular, self-involved agenda.

"This is not a genocide museum", clarified Angela Cassie, director of communications for the Museum. "It's a museum about human rights. And, she points out, the Holocaust is the most meticulously documented genocide in history, and as such is eminently capable in its presentation of teaching in the most absolute manner how abuse of human rights leads to dreadful barbarity.

So let's hear it like it is. The Winnipeg museum, a federally-funded institution, which will also be funded by private and corporate subscriptions is meant to have an area dedicated to the carefully planned and executed murder of six million Jews. It is intended that atrocities committed against Canadian Aboriginals will receive similar treatment. Other atrocities will be housed collectively in an adjacent area of the Museum.

This is not a display of the hierarchy of suffering, it is an object lesson in the degradation of humankind, using as its focal point the most singular descent into the black hole of nihilistic destruction through meticulous state and ideological planning ever documented. The poll that asked a few relatively innocuous questions about preferences, never once referencing the Museum itself, resulted in 60.3% of Canadians polled expressing a preference for "one exhibit which covers all genocides equally".

More than adequately reflecting the Canadian spirit of egalitarian compassion. Without informing those whose opinion was being solicited any of the inconvenient details. Which leads one to the indelible and damning impression that a rather nasty, hidden agenda to have a conclusion reached that would reflect the demands of a disparate, grudging group afflicted with anti-Semitism will stoop to any means to validate their point of view.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Excessive by any Standards

The municipality that is eager to 'save money', so it can tell its property tax victims triumphantly that it will raise taxes a mere 5% this year, and perhaps a little more the following year, is considering cutting transit routes it considers superfluous, much to the dismay of the working people, the senior citizens, the families, the young people attending school who have used that particular route for generations.

This is also, as it happens, the municipality that in its great wisdom is seriously considering cutting back redundant once-weekly trash pick-ups. Presumably the recycled bins for paper and plastics may also go that route. While the green bins are set to be picked up weekly, rather than bi-weekly as currently presents. Wasn't all that long ago that compost pick-up from garden waste was considered an unneeded frill, but public anger reversed that trend.

This is also a municipality whose previous mayor was such an impressive dud there was no chance he would be re-elected. So what the municipal electorate did was re-elect a mayor who had overseen the affairs of the city many years earlier, gone on to provincial politics, then returned to the city to offer himself up for mayor again. His self-assurance, political manner and well-organized campaign with its many volunteers won the day for him, ensconcing him back as mayor.

And as a seasoned politician who knows which way the wind blows, unlike his predecessor in the office, he knows how to get along well with city council, and with city employees.

This is a city of not quite a million residents. Through amalgamation, a province-wide initiative, the city absorbed surrounding municipalities for miles around, and this was done so that consolidating everything -- from policing, to fire stations, school boards to broad municipal services and hospitals - would result in a better, more economical use of resources.

Those who are employed by the municipality must be of high calibre professionalism indeed. Their earning power as city employees is mind-boggling. The city employs quite a large number of individuals all committed to serving the public in the best possible way. Their remuneration is also interesting, since almost 1,200 employees have earnings in excess of $100,000.

The top twenty employees earn from $309,000 down to a mere $190,000. That's big-time salaries. Well beyond what most residents would ever dream of being able to bring home in a pay packet. A number of these top earners bring home over $100,000 because of overtime; some cash in vacation time, some work extra jobs.

Roughly 400 city employees earn a base salary greater than $100,000. The balance of the list represents those who earned retroactive payments, overtime, cash-outs, on-call pay and merit pay.

Mayor Jim Watson explains "Every time the list comes out, I will get calls and councillors will get calls and people will be upset. I understand people may be frustrated when they look at that amount of money and think, 'what does this person do?'"

Precisely.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Now That's Chutzpah!

An employee obviously morally challenged, perhaps led to his exploit by a disagreement with his employer, or having felt himself unappreciated, decided to break into his place of employment. Timothy Clements of New Brunswick was arrested as he busied himself in an attempt to break into First Stop Auto in Saint John.

One supposes he could have attempted to convince the arresting officers that he worked there - which he did - and had forgotten something really important, say his car keys, and was unable to drive home until he secured them. But investigators were under the impression that he and another man who accompanied him were intent on securing the shop's cash float.

In which design they were spectacularly unsuccessful. When he was released from custody the following day it was on the condition that he not return to the business. Understandably the business owner wanted nothing further to do with his former employee. He was in fact informed by police his boss most definitely had no wish to see him.

He was fired. Or perhaps the correct interpretation was that he had decided to leave his job. Who in his right mind might believe that having been caught in the act of trying to rob their employer, they would still be welcomed back to their place of employment? Timothy Clement must be subject to delusional beliefs in his especial entitlements.

He applied to the New Brunswick Employment Standards Branch claiming two weeks' pay because his employer failed to give him notice of termination. The Employment Standards Branch ordered the employer to pay poor misunderstood Clements $943.58 representing wages in lieu of notice.

Which was when the Labour and Employment Board stepped in to cancel the payment. Leaving one to wonder what Clements will do for thrills and his own special brand of exploitative self-availment next time around?

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Forbidding Vulgarity

Really, it can be so annoying when a newspaper picks up a story say, from Agence-France Presse, and then doesn't bother to do a follow-up. In the sense that the story, as published, alerts the reader to a substantive issue, lays out in some detail what a certain country's lawmakers are grappling with in their attempts to serve the finer interests of their nation and their countrymen, and you're just left dangling.

There's no conclusion. There are no further stories, no updates, nothing to alert you to the reality that the issue has been resolved. Now, is that fair? Doesn't it make sense that if a story is worth news-time, if it's worth reporting on, of being published, and picked up by various newspapers in various countries of the world as an item of interest, then surely they and the reader have invested something in it?

Curiosity must be salved...

The issue becomes theirs too. They become curious. They want to know what occurred in that particular parliament. What on Earth happened to the issue? Doesn't the reading public have a right to know? Our interest has been aroused, and we're left dangling, as it were. That surely is not right.

This issue, for example: Malawi has a law that states:
"Any person who voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."
"Guilty of a misdemeanor", now that sounds impressive. And the delicacy of that wording: "Any person who voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere..." Forgive our ignorance, but what might that mean? Ah, here it is: vitiate: vitiated - corrupted: ruined in character or quality. Someone then, who corrupts the atmosphere. By cursing? By behaving badly?

Ah, now it becomes clear. Soiling the air by intemperate passing of gas.

The debate in Malawi was all about a farting ban. There, it is said. A farting ban. "The government has a right to ensure public decency. We are entitled to introduce order in the country", said Justice and Constititutional Affairs Minister George Chaponda. "Would you like to see people farting in public anywhere?", he further added.

Why, no, we would not, and yes Mr. Chaponda, you do have a serious issue there. And President Bingu wa Mutharika's government has a legitimate concern over Malawians' incapability or unwillingness to control their farting: "They should go to the toilet instead of farting in public. Nature can be controlled ... it becomes a nuisance if people fart anywhere."

No, this is serious business. This cannot be seen as acceptable behaviour, soiling the atmosphere in such a manner. One wonders, are Malawians great bean eaters? Regardless of which, the country's Democratic Progressive Party (thank heavens for progressives everywhere) has a majority in their parliament that means to pass an amendment to the law first passed in 1929.

The amendment would make farting in public an offence. And so it should; the penal code should reflect such egregious odiferous insults to the public weal. Let's hear it for the good people of Malawi; they deserve better. They most surely do.

Polite social convention will triumph!

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Reprehensible Dr. Charles Smith

"Your transgressions were egregious in nature, repulsive in result, caused irreparable harm to many innocent victims." Dr. Marc Gable, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
This was the opinion of a panel of five doctors acting on behalf of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, who sat to determine the College's response as a disciplinary measure to be levelled against Dr. Charles Smith whose professional misconduct as a highly respected paediatric coroner was found so lacking in professionalism and ethics as to declare him incompetent, strip his medical license to practise in Ontario and fine him a paltry $3,650.

This is the man considered during the 1980s and 1990s to be Canada's leading expert in the field of child pathology, who was trusted to give testimony at trials for hundreds of cases involving the premature deaths of children, many of which featured family members being held responsible for those deaths. Dr. Smith's highly respected testimony led to many wrongful convictions.

This medical professional had no formal accreditation in forensic pathology, nor did he ever experience any manner of formal forensic training. Yet he never undertook to excuse himself, never explained that he lacked credentials and knowledge, was not fit to give the testimony that judges and juries relied upon to help them form their opinions that occasionally led to guilty verdicts. He has since been held responsible for providing inaccurate evidence at child-murder trials.

Because of Dr. Smith's invention of himself as a forensic pathology expert and his masquerading as a reliable medical pathologist, more than a few innocent people spent too many years incarcerated, having been found guilty of the murder of their children. Some of those convictions have since been overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal after the Ontario chief coroner launched a 2-year investigation into Dr. Smith's work.

The discovery was made that in at least 20 of 44 autopsies which Dr. Smith performed, 20 had major problems associated with them. And twelve of those cases had concluded with charges or convictions against family members or caregivers or parents who were then held to be the cause of the deaths of children which were in fact occasioned by accident or through natural causes.

The College was disappointed that Dr. Smith ignored their order to him to present himself at the reprimand hearing. One of the mothers who had been convicted in the death of her infant and who had served fourteen years in prison for her 'crime' of which she was latterly exonerated did show up at the hearing, in the hopes she could confront her tormentor.

She obviously did not take fully seriously Dr. Smith's apology for the 'errors' he had made, and his humble statement that they had been unintentional in nature. The man was the very picture of hubris when he testified in court as an expert pathologist, knowing full well that his testimony would be damning to the accused, but he feels he has acquitted himself of responsibility by his apology.

His apology does nothing to restore the lost years, the public shame, the misery in which he left families through their traumatic experiences, but he is free to resume his life unfettered by any further concerns.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Viscerally Steering the Ship

Canada's opposition parties have succeeded in closing down Parliament, and the 40th session is now history. Over what exactly? Claims that the Conservative-led government of Stephen Harper is in contempt of Parliament. On the other hand, it would appear to many that Parliament, or part of it that consists of the 'loyal' opposition is in contempt of the government-of-the-day.

Obviously what is good enough for the electorate, the voters of this great country, is not deemed by ambitiously avaricious opposition leaders to be good enough for them. The public has not had enough of the governance of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, but his political opponents have. They've had it up to - where? their gizzards.

Their spleen was breached by the too-frequent successes of this government, leading them to choke on their own gorge. They are invested with bile, so biliously poisonous and green their complexions have been compromised; they appear now as little green gnomes stamping their feet in vexed impotence.

So they have taken it upon themselves at a critical time when the economy, while on the uptick, is still sensitive to the world order, with looming crises in energy costs and food costs and the costs of basic and precious and rare metals impacting on the country's production and export. Add to that the fact we are now involved in an internationally-sponsored war.

And, despite all this, the dyspeptic opposition has left the country rudderless in a hiatus of suspense until the electorate is able to once again enunciate through their votes, their trust proffered to the only political party in Canada at the moment that appears to know what it is doing.

Well done, her Majesty's 'loyal' opposition, plus Canada's disloyal separatiste.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Communion With a Higher Order

He had found himself, his true self, and what really matters in this life, while serving time in prison. He had ample time, throughout his 48 years of life to discover the meaning of life, since he had already languished for 20 years of his adult life behind bars. That was his reward for racking up 106 convictions for many different types of criminal activity.

Finding religion took long enough; he was obviously a slow learner.

That was all before he entered a man's home for the purpose of robbing him, before the homeowner, Kim Eric Logan, discovered the presence of a burglar in his home and attempted to defend himself and his possessions. James Davy Pilon, described by Ontario Superior Court Justice Douglas as the "most recidivist, persistent and unrepentant offender [he had] ever had to deal with is returning to a long prison stay.

For the past decade and more Pilon has been vowing that he was "filled with the Holy Ghost", which somehow hasn't hobbled him in his ongoing life-pursuit of illegal and criminal acts. Since he first began earnestly attempting to persuade prison wardens and lawyers and other members of the legal profession that he had found God, he went on to commit 66 additional crimes.

No one seems to want to understand the deep religious faith and conviction representing Mr. Pilon's new turn-about in life, it would seem. He has found redemption in faith. He has determined he will sin no more. He has discovered new insights into his life predicaments. Judge Rutherford, a judge of 20 years' standing, failed to be convinced.

"Your days as a menace to society and manipulating the system are nearing their end", he warned. Adding that any follow-up crimes to this last one will result in Pilon's being locked up indefinitely. Where, once again behind bars, he will be enabled to have profound revelations and epiphanies. Some of which may even lead him to the conclusion that his life has truly been a mug's game.

For the time being, this dedicated career criminal who stabbed the house owner over a dozen times with a screwdriver, has now been sentenced to an additional 8-1/2 years in prison custody. That should give him ample time to resume his communion with a Higher Order.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Intelligence, Kindness and Compassion

Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve metes out justice again. This is her duty. And she must believe she lives up to her obligation toward the society she lives within, in doling out justice to the victims of crime. Which has never stopped her from experiencing some level of compassion for the psychopaths and sociopaths who appear before her charged with various crimes. Which sensibility guides her toward what she feels must represent a compensatory sentence.

In the instance of two young men who conspired to respond to a private advertisement for the sale of an expensive bracelet by stealing it and disappearing, never to be held to account for their thievery, she has pronounced sentence while gravely deliberating on the expression of regret by the malefactors. "It was an impulsive act that had dire consequences", commented Justice Maisonneuve understandingly.

This was a youth, she said, whose rehabilitation must be considered in the sentencing protocol. Although she did admit she found it difficult to perceive how Yonis Awais Hassan, said to be intelligent, kind and compassionate, and aspiring toward social work and youth volunteerism, could descend to such a plot as to deprive a woman of her ownership of a costly piece of jewellery.

The woman who took exception to 19-year-old Hassan and his 17-year-old accomplice grasping her for-sale bracelet and driving away with it. And in her determination to reclaim what was hers, she held onto the departing vehicle, until the younger thief managed to close the door on her arms, causing her to fall to the pavement and suffer dire injuries.

The victim, Natalie Galipeau, remains neurologically impaired two years after the violent incident. She had suffered a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury, fractured sinus wall, road rash and abrasions to her face, head and body, a tear-duct laceration, broken and chipped teeth and bruising to her right arm. Perhaps, however, it was the psychological trauma of the event that most troubles her.

Life, she maintains, will never return to 'normal' for her. "Nothing can make me really happy. It's not like everything has gone away. I am not back the way I was. Nothing is the same anymore", she explained. As the victim in this affair, she does not appear to feel particularly vengeful, nor did she express an opinion about the sentencing meted out to her attackers.

The younger man, unnamed because of his tender age and the protection of juveniles under Canada's criminal justice system, was sentenced to deferred custody; house arrest, followed by 18 months' probation. As for the main accused, the one who insists he was not aware he was dragging Ms. Galipeau to a violent conclusion, Justice Maisonneuve felt that 10 months incarceration would be reflective of his unfortunate crime.

He was placed on probation for an additional three years, ordered to provide a DNA sample, and for ten years is banned from the possession of a weapon. All of which leads a curious onlooker to imagine that this young man will never devote his time to social work, and to wonder what stretch of imagination might lead anyone to consider him to be imbued with intelligence, kindness and compassion.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Full Disclosure Demanded

One cannot even begin to guess at the kind of mysterious relationship that must have existed between Mary Elizabeth Harriman and her husband, Russell Williams. A marriage of convenience? A relationship offering companionship when and if required on certain occasions? It was, nonetheless a relationship of long standing. And by all accounts a mutually agreeable one, with evidence as expressed by former friends and acquaintances, of affection one toward the other.

And obviously that affection and that long-standing relationship did not deter Williams from pursuing his wrought, sinister agenda that demanded an entirely different kind of satisfaction, gained from the sadistic pursuit of women and children, haunting their homes and coveting what they wore, things they treasured, as mementos of his bestially tormented intrigues. Williams' horribly twisted psyche compelling him toward destructive forays into innocent lives marked him as a demented psychopath.

Who would not want to be quit of a marriage contract entered with such a human monstrosity as he represents? So it is a logical conclusion that one make a clean break. He will serve out the rest of his natural life incarcerated in a maximum security federal prison. At least we can hope he will. There he can entertain his mind and go about relishing whatever he can find of value in the life left to him. That option was entirely removed for the two anguished young women he tortured and slaughtered.

The women upon whom he preyed, whose torment will never leave their memories and who must live with the reality of the nightmare he inflicted upon them will also be left with little choices in their lives but to endure the unendurable. One of them at least, has launched a lawsuit against Williams and his material assets. And seemingly to protect those assets which must be considerable, Williams and his wife decided - conspired some might say, under the circumstances - to sign over most of the valuable assets in her name.

Now, as part of the divorce proceedings and any settlements that accompany them an Ottawa judge has determined that all the details involved in the domestic contract transferring property to Harriman's name should be disclosed. A lawyer for the Citizen has argued that details of the transfer of assets are of great interest to the public and as such should not be withheld. It is a matter of a fraudulent undertaking in the transfer of assets inclusive of title to an investment in a home of great value.

"There's a public interest out there in knowing what former colonel Williams did with his assets six weeks after being charged. What's so secret? What are they afraid the public might learn?" What indeed? There does not appear to be anything extraordinary in the proceedings themselves, since divorce proceedings tend to be public. In this particular instance, however, given the gravely hideous acts of this murderer, it does not appear to be quite on that Harriman and Williams be granted "100 percent secrecy".

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prison Pay

When people are charged under the law with offences against society and then found guilty and must suffer the penalty imposed upon them it is just that they be expected to do so. Those who decide to flout laws that are enacted for the protection of society do so generally speaking, with free will. No one is compelled to perform illegal acts, nor to present as a harm to society.

When sociopaths conduct themselves in a manner harmful to those around them they must be given fair and just warning that their behaviour is not acceptable. The penalty of wrong-doing is a moral discipline and a physical apprehension. It is a costly one, both to the law-breaker and to society at large.

The law-breaker loses his/her independence for a specific period of time, and society pays for that incarceration.

In societies such as Canada's which are relatively wealthy and considerate of the future, there are often opportunities available to those living within prisons to learn skills which may be useful to them once their designated time has been served. It is useful to recall that it costs the Canadian taxpayer roughly $101,000 to maintain each inmate in prison annually.

Prisoners have the opportunity to sign on to a protocol leading to their correctional rehabilitation. Within those protocols there may be work programs, training and sometimes conflict management sessions. Those who sign on receive a negligible but important payment of between $5.25 and $6.90 daily.

The work programs can typically include work as mechanics, furniture makers, laundry staff and hazardous material technicians. Being taught these trades represents opportunities for the future, where skilled workers are well compensated in the outside world. The payment received enables prisoners to pay for their telephone calls, snacks, pens and papers, coffee.

Those who eschew the corrective program receive $1 daily. Parole boards take into consideration prison attitudes as factors to determine whether they will assent to early parole. Obviously those inmates who agree to take part in work programs are also agreeing to participate in their rehabilitation. Which represents Correctional Service of Canada's goal.

Now, for the first time, British Columbia prison inmates have initiated a movement to launch Canada's first prison union. The purpose of which will first and foremost be to agitate for higher wages. ConFederation Prisoners' Labour Union, Local 001 would ostensibly be tasked with representing the welfare of Canada's federal prison inmates.

In which cause a work-wage more closely resembling work-and-remuneration figures seen in open society would be offered to federal prisoners. Logically, were inmates to receive a living wage while incarcerated, it would make sense to garnishee most of it to help pay for their room and board while in prison.

Obviously, this is not quite what a union representing the interests of federal prison inmates would be aiming for. It may seem fair to many to pay people what their effort is valued at in normal society based on the theory that their pride in accomplishment would assist in turning them away from recidivism once they are discharged.

On the other hand, these are also individuals who have chosen to betray society's trust, who have committed offences against society, and whom the justice system has disciplined through a prison-sentence penalty. In the process of rehabilitation, and the exposure to a different way of earning one's livelihood than crime, is it really necessary to bribe inmates?

If an individual has a sense of personal responsibility to self and to society the recognition should be there that deviant offences come with penalties. The victims of crime remain victims with no recourse to amelioration of their pain. The offenders are not owed by society the kind of gentle treatment that such a union's demands would result in.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Time To Grow Up...

Carleton University students are feeling truculent and rather put out that they are being informed they are expected to pay for the services that they use. University students are in a continual state of straitened financial circumstances, trying to stretch their unbudging loonies as far as they can go, but they are also expected to be mature and intelligent and responsible as adults attending institutes of higher learning.

In any society knowingly taking steps to dodge licit responsibility as a mature adult is considered to be illegal, and as such an affront to that society's values. Sure, we all like the thought of getting something for 'free', without having to strain the budget for fundamental necessities. On the other hand, someone has to pay for services that are available, and why not those very people who make use of the services?

Seems to make sense. If stretching that loonie is really all that difficult, then balance the desirability of clean clothing against an evening brew at the pub or a coffee from Tim Horton's against one you make yourself and stick in a thermos bottle. Education is a subsidized commodity in Canada, paid for by tax dollars, like most everything else of social and public value.

Students and/or their families are responsible for paying their portion of tuition, and along with that, the cost of living. It's a simple reality. But it appears some clever Carleton students discovered that the swipe cards they use for all kinds of purchases on campus did not necessarily bill them for campus laundry facilities if they punched in a specific code number, enabling them to use the facilities without charge.

While they weren't being charged, through this clever little distancing from responsibility, the university was, discovering that they were $28,000 short of an invoice from the laundry room operator. Obviously someone was bypassing the system and their personal accountability. Except that the university was able to identify those individuals and to figure out how many times they'd bypassed the system with their swipe cards.

And they are now billing those students commensurately for their unpaid use of the laundry facilities. More than sixty students owe over $100 each, while one student owes $342 in unpaid laundry services. "It's completely unfair and just another method for the university to off-load its costs onto the students. It was a glitch in their system and not the students' fault", said Karim Khamisa, president of the residence association.

Well, not quote. The discovered 'glitch' in the system, enabled unscrupulous students to bypass the system, to neutralize it from automatically and necessarily billing their accounts. Knowing full well that they were taking advantage of services for which they should be paying. Who else would be paying for those services if they eschewed their personal responsibility? Well, the university, and ultimately the taxpayer.

A brilliant decision that was not.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Drunk-Driving Killers

A six-year prison term for a woman with multiple previous citations for alcohol abuse and drunk driving, once again driving while heavily under the influence of alcohol, her vehicle littered with emptied beer cans, other alcoholic beverages close at hand, swerving crazily in night-time traffic, then piling directly into a 16-year-old boy riding his bicycle home from his evening grocery job.

The collision was horrendously forceful, throwing the boy 39 metres from the point of impact.

So drunk she did not bother to stop, despite the force of the collision bashing the boy off his mangled bicycle onto the road, and leaving him there to die. His body discovered three hours later by police. Samira Daoud's blood-alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit when she left the bar where she drank wine and tequila, before destroying Alex Hayes's life.

She refused an offer to be driven home. When the police had received numerous 911 alerts about a dangerously erratic driver and stopped her, it was a half-hour later that the boy's body was found, and fully three hours after she had plowed into the boy on his bicycle. She denied being responsible for having hit anyone.

Ontario Court Justice Celynne Dorval, finding Daoud morally culpable, also made mention of her unhappy childhood, as a kind of explanatory exoneration. Her sad and sordid childhood, having traumatized her, left her less than fully responsible, one might take it, for her lack of restraint and maturity in posing as a direct danger to others on the road.

The judge stated that Daoud, in her opinion, could not count among the worst of offenders. This, despite previous drunk-driving convictions, including 13 breaches of court-ordered conditions relating to alcohol abuse. The woman once abandoned her 2-year-old to the child's own devices as she went out with friends to drink at a bar. Clearly indifferent to her responsibilities.

Her abuse as a child in Ethiopia and forced marriage at the age of 12 to an older man, purportedly set her up for a life-time of alcohol abuse and danger to the public. Obviously, not everyone who has suffered abuse has descended into such a moral abyss. Six years in prison for taking a life. That will not necessarily translate as six years served.

And then this woman whose past exposure to alcohol-addiction programs still saw her reverting to her usual state of inebriation and lack of responsibility, will be free to resume presenting as a deadly menace on the road.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Panic Mode

It's pretty amazing how susceptible human beings are to panic when situations evolve that upset the normal expectations of our daily lives. We are so devoted to our expectations that life will continue upon a track that gives us comfort in its dependability that when nature strikes with routine-upending results we are completely thrown into mental disarray.

It's hardly surprising. We find comfort in the reliability of routine. When routine is disturbed and we are faced with events that threaten to steep us in despair and insecurity we react in instinctual survival mode. Unfortunately that reaction runs counter to survival, since panic is not conducive to usefully and rationally scrutinizing a situation to discover how it can logically be faced.

Which is why people around the world have become insensible to reason, to believing that the fall-out of radiation from the tense and fraught-with-danger situation in Japan with its crippled nuclear power plants are behaving irrationally. Coastline communities in various countries of the world off the far stretches of the Pacific Ocean are in no direct danger from radiation contamination.

They believe, however, in the potential of life-destroying contamination as some levels of exposure to radiation float in off the prevailing winds, despite the knowledgeable assurances of nuclear and environmental professionals in the field. Useless and sometimes harmful expedients are sought for protection against possible contamination. Red wine, iodine, salt, and various other believed ameliorating substances are in hot demand.

While residents of Japan who have real reason to fear the contaminating effects of radiation as Japan struggles against time and fortune to control nuclear disaster have good reason to fear and to flee. Commercial airliners still flying out of Haneda and Narita airports are full of expatriates and Japanese citizens striving to flee impending disaster. At the same time, Japanese who have been working or visiting outside Japan are determinedly returning.

Those who are wealthy and for whom cost is no problem, and who are unable to find scarce airline tickets on commercial carriers are opting for private chartered flights whose cost for a return flight between Hong Kong and Japan comes in at between $90,000 and $140,000. Fear and insecurity provoke panic reactions in people, and this is completely understandable.

What is far less logical is people who are so far removed geographically from the tragedy imagining themselves to be at high risk for a compromised health future at the imagined prospect of prevailing winds bringing high radiation contamination to where they live.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Courageous Light To The World

An honour code and love of country so compelling that people are willing to surrender their lives in support of doing everything humanly possible and technically impossible to aid Japan in its time of need. It is difficult to even imagine that people would of their own accord, answer that ultimate call to duty. A call which, in the severity of its reality, is weighted with the prospect of the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet this is precisely what dedicated nuclear technicians, plant managers and others associated with the dreadful situation at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have without a murmur of negative reaction dedicated themselves to. Sacrificing their potential to live healthy, prolonged lives with their families, to achieve the greater social good; using their expertise to desperately attempt to turn around the catastrophic situation at the out-of-control power plant.

This kind of inspirational selflessness draws admiration for the strength of character this kind of action represents as dedication to country and society. There are not too many, however, who would place themselves in such danger for any reason. In Japanese society, ingrained throughout life in the need for social cohesion and service to the country, a very different mindset obtains. Sacrifice on behalf of the entire society is a given.

The traditions of the culture demand no less. Japan may be in many respects a cloistered society, one that demands much of itself and which prides itself on its monoculture, its heritage as a Buddhist society living in harmony with a huge population on a relatively small area of land continually embattled by the encroaching elements, but it stands as a beacon of what a people can accomplish through defeat.

Rising like the proverbial phoenix of antiquity from the ashes of two deliberate atomic concussions that levelled two major cities, leaving a legacy of dread and apprehension about the control and potential ruination through nuclear power. And now facing its crucible of endurance yet again with nuclear power proving its nemesis-adversarial capacity in the wake of nature's assaults; a massive quake birthing a brutal tsunami.

Japan stands as its own light to the world at large.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Fury of Evangelical Faith

The Canadian parents of a fourteen-month-old boy have demanded of London Health Sciences Centre, where specialists have been looking after their child who is receiving end-of-life palliative care, that they operate on the baby who is dependent on a respirator to prolong his life. The baby has a fatal neurological condition, not entirely unknown in its devastating effect, since years earlier they had had a girl who had died from this very same deadly neurological condition.

One might think that having suffered the unspeakable agony of witnessing a child undergo the effects of such a thoroughly morbid genetic inheritance, parents would be cautious to the point of avoiding another conception. Such appears not to have been the case with this couple. Who might, conceivably, have had tests taken in utero to determine whether the mother would be bearing a viable foetus granting opportunity to a child to thrive in good health.

Without doubt they love their child, as they loved the child's sister who had previously died an early and excruciating death. The medical experts at the hospital have refused the father's demand. They offered, instead of a tracheotomy, to have the baby's breathing apparatus removed at their home so that the child could die at home with its parents.

The parents' preference is that the operation proceed so the infant could ostensibly breathe on his own, be brought home to die 'naturally', in God's own time. The story has leached into headlines across North America, was picked up by Fox TV network, and the resulting outrage from the pro-life and anti-euthanasia groups has been vociferous.

Leading the faith-based SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre in St.Louis, Missouri, to offer to operate on the child, and the transfer of the infant from London to St.Louis along with medical costs, to be paid for by the U.S. group Priests for Life. Those who have responded with outrage at the decision of the London hospital and its medical staff have done so in an extremely anti-life manner.

"Physicians and staff were targeted by well-organized social media feeds and directly via email with personal threats, threats to their families, innuendoes and falsehoods. The threats, many of which emanated from members of U.S.-based groups, have been passed along to LHSC lawyers, who will liaise with police where appropriate", explained a hospital spokesman.

It is well worth noting that the London Health Sciences Centre's decision to refuse father Moe Maraachli's request for his baby's tracheotomy informed him the procedure was deemed to be invasive, and would not advance the baby's condition. The hospital stood by its decision, saying its judgement in this case was "sound, both medically and ethically".

Joining them in agreement were an independent Ontario tribunal, the Consent and Capacity Board, and a Superior Court judge. Which did nothing whatever to give second pause to the U.S. groups who mustered their resources to 'save' Joseph Maraachli by giving him the surgical procedure in an American hospital to permit him to die at home.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

On The Richter Scale

A small country, but a dynamic and powerful one, with the world's third-most-important economy. Still struggling to emerge from a decade of financial weakness, and beginning to see the light of day on its economy. A country comprised of three islands; a large central one, a northern and a southern island. Geographically close to countries that resent it mightily because of past indiscretions as a once-martial nation.

Still respectful of its monarchy though no longer regarding it as divine, and now a staunch democracy, Japan has gone through many changes over the last century. It has faced many challenges during that period of change and surmounted them all. The Japanese are a resilient, compliant people, tending to obey authority. How else could so many people live in harmony on those tight little islands?

Compliant but not complacent. The security that most people once held dear in employment for life, and loyalty to the employer and a small-town-life attitude even while living in a huge metropolis, faded, imposing great pain as the economy waned. A nation of powerful corporations and small shopkeepers representing a huge proportion of the country's wealth.

A country now heavily in debt. And suddenly all those problems on reflection seem to have been far more preferable than what the country looks like one day on from the one before. On Tuesday there was a relatively modest tremblor, on Wednesday another, and then on Thursday a viciously brutal earthquake that has transformed Japan's major island.

The Japanese are accustomed to earthquakes, they occur continually throughout the course of a year. This is an earthquake-prone area, sitting within the notorious 'ring of fire'. Every household has a prepared earthquake kit, to grab as they exit their homes. Of course, tremblors do not occur only when people are at home.

They happen when they're at work, when they're out shopping, out and about engaged in recreational events, or touring, or attending a temple, or gardening. An earthquake that engages you when you're sitting within the confines of your home is vastly different than one that occurs when you're on the 20th floor of an office tower, or when you're out of doors.

Wherever it occurs it engenders in you a feeling of disbelief, of helplessness, of awe and fear. But this was not the ordinary garden-variety kind of trembling of the earth that people have long been accustomed to. This one was 8.9 on the Richter scale, and fearsome in its tremendous earth-shaking, destructive power.

And ... and the tsunamis that followed, and the inundation and the washing away of homes, vehicles, boats, trains, the mudslides that followed, the collapses, the ruination of human habitation, the perishing of too many helpless human beings.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

English-Language Minority Rights in Quebec

The frantic attempts to protect the French language in Quebec leading to an almost complete obliteration of English-language signage has certainly made that province what appears to be a unilingual province. In fact, although Canada is officially bilingual, it appears that this pertains to all provinces with the exception of Quebec. Where French is paramount, and any appearance of English in public view however minuscule, however subservient to the French version appearing above it and far more prominently as required by law, it is little wonder that English-speaking Quebecers feel ill done by.

The passing of Bill 101, Quebec's language law, and its associated policing of the forbidden appearance of English on signage, polluting the visual atmosphere, along with the persecution and deliberate neglect that English speakers felt they suffered in attempting to receive service in their mother language, in insisting on sending their children to English-language schools, in becoming suddenly unemployable if their French language skills were not perfect, persuaded quite a few Anglophones to leave the province.

Many corporation headquarters did likewise, but that did not stop the province and its succession of governments from cleaving to their flawed (questionable under the Constitution) language laws. Quebec feels so entitled to its single-language policy it stands in grudgingly belligerent contrast to Ontario, to the adjoining border states all of whom make an obligingly courteous effort to ensure that traffic signs present in both languages. Quebec feels no such counter-obligation, however.

Anglophones have had to form protest groups to attempt to persuade the Quebec government that they too have language rights. Yet those rights have been steadily eroded. While French remains sturdily protected and in fine shape throughout the country, with little indication that it is threatened, the same cannot be said for the English language in Quebec. And now a study, following hearings by the federal Senate, has been presented to the federal government on just that very topic.

No fewer than sixteen recommendations came out of that Senate committee. All of them geared toward the protection of the rights of Quebec's English-speaking minority. "Despite all the goodwill there may be on the ground, there are major disparities when it comes to access to schools, cultural products, heritage training or jobs in English." Where once the Eastern Townships were majority Anglophone with heritage farms handed down from generation to generation, those populations have slowly evaporated.

The City of Montreal remains now the stronghold of Quebec's Anglophones, along with the area close to the National Capital that was once called Aylmer. Diminishing language rights in the province remain in contravention of the Official Languages Act in protection of the rights of minority English-speaking communities. There was also an acknowledgement that a fair distribution of funding from federal programs has not been automatically recognized and respected.

"In reality, (the English-speaking community) is caught in a dynamic where it must constantly stand up for its rights, and yet is not necessarily able to promote them. The problem could stem from a number of sources: a lack of commitment to the English-speaking communities on the part of federal institutions in Quebec, a lack of consultation, the absence of communications about existing federal programs, a poor fit between the policies of the province and the federal government, or a lack of transparency in the use of funds transferred from one level of government to the other."

All of the above, with an especial emphasis on the last two hypotheses.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Rainy Days

Even those who have voluntarily given up all earthly ambition, have no interest in garnering to themselves worldly goods, can obviously be imbued with a sensitivity toward rainy days. It does no harm to plan ahead. To consider that although there is no need at the present time to hoard or to save, one may put funds away in thoughts that at some later, future date, they may be needed.

There must be a universal, inherited human trait toward feathering one's nest. A natural enough phenomenon. Just think what a social, intellectual and emotional wrench it must be for people to allow themselves to surrender to poverty. To give up all normal ambition toward acquiring goods. To reject living in comfort and plenty.

And this is just what religious do, when they decide to cloister themselves, turn away from the world, and turn their heads, their hearts and their souls to the all-encompassing worship of God, and rejection of societal norms. Dedication to the life of the pious, the holy, the seekers-after-godliness eliminates the prudent gene.

Gone the daily scrabble to earn a living and to do it well enough so that leisure and idleness also have their place in the routine of the day. Recreational pursuits, and purchasing power come to those who dedicate themselves to mammon and the good life. Hard work and enthusiastic play time.

Women who decide, for one reason or another, to give their lives to the Church, become nuns. It has come to light that sisters who lived in seclusion, spending their time in the arcane art of book-binding, alternating with worshipping their God, managed somehow to amass a fortune in 500-euros adding up to $2-million.

The Spanish convent wherein these sisters lived was recently broken into. Somehow, someone knew just where to look to find the cache of plastic bags containing all those euros. The diligent robber evidently went directly to the wardrobe where the money was concealed. Spanish nuns who have spurned the norms of society and taken a vow of genteel poverty....

They were for the most part, secluded. One among them was genuinely gifted as an artist whose paintings were much in demand, selling for up to $67,000. And it was this trade in paintings sold to the outside public said to have been responsible for the gradual accumulation of wealth for the convent.

Gone, now. They will have to content themselves with the wealth of their inner resolve, their dedication to the Holy Spirit, their communal society, their wistful thoughts of a rainy day.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cry Me A River

There's that red flag. That name that warns that the situation is more than has been reported. That something odiferous in the extreme is in the offing.

Three resident doctors at University of Ottawa, foreign medical students, appear to feel that they have been discriminated against. Complaints have been filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The complainants: Dr. Waleed AlGhaithy, with the university's neurosurgery program, and Drs. Khalid Aba-Alkhail and Manal AlSaigh, residents in the cardiac surgery program, all from Saudi Arabia.

The nature of their complaint has not been fully set out for the reading public. Merely that they have lodged their complaints. The press release revealing the complaints did not reveal their nature. Emails that passed between Ottawa Hospital executives were said to have comprised the "unambiguous" evidence of the discrimination, reprisal and intimidation the students are claiming to have been the targets of. It would appear that the instances of the case are widely known among faculty and residents of the university.

Which would lead one to the conclusion that the three residents are not held in particularly high regard, among the faculty for whatever reason. Not, one would assume, because of their citizenship nor their religious views because if one thing can be fairly well guaranteed, at University of Ottawa or indeed any university in the land, Arabs and Muslims are generally highly regarded, treated with equanimity and equality, if not undue deference.

Officials at The Ottawa Hospital and the Heart Institute, both associated with the University of Ottawa, have been alerted and are prepared to respond. It would appear that a neurosurgeon at The Ottawa Hospital who is also an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa is involved in having managed in some manner to offend the litigants.

As proof that Arabs and Muslims are well respected, the university's student body is prepared to support the grievances of the three residents.

One of the claims made with respect to 'reprisals' is that an august group of actors with these institutions, Drs. Wilbert Keon (emeritus professor, surgeon, founder of the Heart Institute), Theirry Mesana (chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute), and James Worthington (The Ottawa Hospital's vice-president of patient safety), met with Mr. Aba-Alkhail, indicating to him that he might be prepared to dismiss his grievance or face "career obliteration".

Mr. AlGhaithy's complaint naming Dr. Tsai had the potential of having him "dismissed/suspended", should he obstinately decide to forge on with his action. The university's student federation's Student Appeal Centre's director claims she had dealt with other instances of discrimination, most often involving Arabs or francophone students from Africa in the university's nursing program.

"Students go in good faith and file complaints for things they consider to be very serious. What you see is a pattern of disbelief, of blaming the victims, lack of investigation and improper procedures."

Sad, is it not, when the student body and their representatives are at loggerheads with the administration? "We are aware of many students who are going to the tribunal, bringing forth complaints now against the university", according to the director of the university's Centre for Equity and Human Rights, representing the student federation.

All of this sounds rather tawdry and offensive, not at all reflective of what should be occurring at a Canadian university and medical centre of great renown. And then you read the clincher, that the three resident doctors who are up in arms over their purported discriminatory treatment, have travelled to Victoria to meet with their lawyer. And who might that lawyer be?

Ah, there's the rub: the notorious Doug Christie.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Unspeakable Judicial Recklessness

Truly, the mind boggles.

Is it remotely possible that a judge could be so removed from the potential of harm for a very young child, that he unhesitatingly permits the child's father, accused of the murder of his wife, the child's mother, to have visitation rights with that child? Sounds like an ill-thought plot of a strictly amateur novelist hoping to create some friction from unrealistic fiction.

Would that it were so. "We are fearful for Ireland", her grandmother explained. "What I'd like to see is judges exercise more caution for the safety of children in cases like this." That is the grandmother of the five-year old child on the distaff side. Yvonne Harvey, mother of 28-year-old Chrissy Predham-Newman, has her perspective and she has the rule of law with her as well.

Recently passed legislation, Bill C-464, grants judges the initiative to deny bail in instances where the release of the accused in a murder has the potential to place a minor's safety at risk. Raymond Newman has been charged with second-degree murder in the 2007 death by stabbing of his ex-wife, Chrissy. Predictably, typically, they had been separated at the time of her death.

The bill in question so recently passed into law was based on an earlier tragic event where a woman who had murdered her husband, out on bail, took her 13-month-old child and committed suicide-by-drowning in 2003, taking her child with her in an act of suicide-infanticide.

The new law was enacted in an attempt to forestall any further, future such incidents, in the clear intention of seeking the protection of children from unstable parents. The bail hearing for this man charged with second-degree murder was the first of its kind to present after passage of the bill.

The judge at the bail hearing decided in his great, good wisdom to grant freedom to Raymond Newman while he awaits trial. And while he was at it, he decided he would proceed and reinstate visitation rights of the father accused of murdering his ex-wife, with their five-year-old child.

At the time of the mother's death, the child was just over a year old. Investigators, looking for the father, found the child in his care. The accused and his parents are in a custody fight with the family of the woman he is accused of having murdered. The child lived with her father and her father's parents for several years, until the Children's Aid Society, looking into the residence, revoked partial custody.

Which almost coincided with the conclusion in 2009, of the investigation into the mother's death which resulted in the father's being charged with his ex-wife's murder. The father, charged with murder, and his parents, have been battling for full custody of the child. The cost to the family of the child's mother, contesting custody, has mounted to $60,000 in legal fees.

That, under these extreme and horrible circumstances, the father could be considered fit and capable of looking after the child is beyond belief. That the presiding judge determined that he is, further strains credulity.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Spaced Out

Women, at any event, are often claimed to be divine creatures by those who are besotted with the fair sex. Out of this world, some of them, matter of fact. Graceful, lissome, gracious to a fault. Highly intelligent creatures, some of them. And so lovely to look at, that cannot be denied. Whoever designed them used extraordinary creative talent.

To think: these creatures yet to evolve, initiated as single-celled amoebas, may have inhabited the interstices of great balls of fire. Actually, gases and fiery ice, along with rock and metal. For within a special, very rare class of meteorites - CI1 carbonaceous meteorite to be precise - some astute and clever NASA scientist has found ancient primitive "indigenous fossils".

True, those fossils were of bacterial life within the masses of the found objects, but they indicate existence of some forms of life in their obvious initial stages, out there in the vast cold darkness of the Universe. Growing within the meteorites, those very special space rocks that hurtle themselves through infinite space.

And which, on occasion, deposit themselves at great speed burning through Earth's atmosphere, to create great concussions occasionally resulting in hollows in the earth. "I interpret it as indicating that life is more broadly distributed than restricted strictly to the planet Earth", said Richard Hoover.

The microfossils upon which he has staked his professional and very considerable opinion through their scrutiny within "freshly fractured" meteorite pieces were analysed and the conclusion reached that they are akin to those found on Earth. Read about it in the Journal of Cosmology.

The conclusion of the paper published in the journal makes note that "the implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets". We're extraterrestrials? No wonder we're so spaced out.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Willing Dupe Wails Justice!

Apart from the true misfortune of having been disfavoured by chance, nature and genetic inheritance, the case of the mature, intelligent, but dreadfully emotionally needy Doug Macklem is a lesson in submission to delusionary willfulness. The court case which found a former call-girl guilty of deliberately defrauding the man of $850,000 also outlined his own culpability in his misfortune.

The simple fact being that he sought out her company, knowing that she sold her favours to those who would pay the freight. How could anyone possibly come to the conclusion that a woman in the profession of selling her body would be interested in giving away what was highly priced without a price tag? His need to believe otherwise was what compelled him to assume she would become his female companion.

He is wheel-chair-bound, very obviously physically incapacitated, with an active mind and an obvious emotional yearning to be normal in his relationships with the opposite sex. It would take an extraordinary woman to view a man so severely physically handicapped as representing someone with whom she would enjoy a future. Particularly would it be extraordinary for a woman who views her body as a financing tool, to take that plunge.

It was he who made all the advances, enraptured by his accessibility to her body through the simple expedient of paying for it. This was a business transaction, nothing less, nothing more. Many women would recoil from having sex with a man whose physical limitations reflected this man's. Many men would recoil from having paid intimate relations. That she did not hesitate to fulfill his physical needs emphasized her willingness to perform if the price is high enough.

Where might this man have plucked the notion that would lead him to leap to the conclusion that a woman who unabashedly demands money for sex would represent a loving partner, emotionally invested in his well-being? That she bled him for money, demanding huge sums for various entitlements should have been a glaring clue to her sensibilities, but his sensitivities were lodged in his groin, not his brain.

He has now succeeded in what he can consider his pursuit of justice. Calling upon the law to rescue him from his own unspeakable folly. He claims that the woman robbed him of his dignity, but such cannot possibly be the case; he surrendered it willingly.

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Shooting Star

In the world of fashion and flamboyant personalities, egocentricity is expected, arrogance accepted. But while many of John Galliano's coevals in the industry will continue to befriend and support him, recent revelations of his repugnant racism are reverberating through the news and among those who are accustomed to using their wealth to adorn themselves expensively through the world's fashion houses.

They will have scant wish to contaminate themselves by appearing in public swathed in the admired creations of John Galliano. Their money will be better engaged transformed by the creations of other, equally-endowed designers representing the great international fashion houses' rare and precious inventories. Hosting his repugnant views and his brilliant fashion creations has become a poison pill.

The House of Dior has decided it cannot tolerate supporting the truly egregious public behaviour of a psychologically disturbed individual in arrested adolescence - now also unfit to represent a business enterprise as one who mocks others, as one whose deeply entrenched antipathy toward Jews, coupled with a stated admiration for the world's most infamous Nazi dictator and mass murderer - which effectively places him outside the pale of polite society.

John Galliano has always preened himself, presented himself as an enfant terrible, unable, unwilling, incapable of achieving maturity. His genius at the haute couture drawing board shielded him from any who might conceive an interest in seeing him at closer range. All is forgiven when the monied class see you as a idiosyncratic celebrity whose fashions they are eager to acquire.

Ostentatiously brandishing reputation and the glamour of outlandishly bizarre and garish outfits splendid in their absurdity only served to further burnish his credentials as a fashion icon. Unfortunately, the full kettle tipped too perilously in continued bouts of capricious mannerisms edging toward the socially unacceptable, and the pot recognized the kettle had become unforgivingly black.

No longer glamorous, but a solitary figure of derision and distaste. One who can, in his sober moments of realization, deny and recant and rebuke those who misunderstand him. It was not he who adores Hitler, who wished that more Jews had been deservingly gassed but the devil of self-destruction that genius cannot control.

Betrayed by his muse, which had allowed itself to become corrupted, infusing him with that dread disease.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

An Ire-Raising Letter

Unctuously soliciting the ethnic vote was always the prerogative of the Liberal Party of Canada. Pragmatic. Overt attempts by the party and its MPs to portray themselves as the assured friends of Canadian ethnic groups. Assiduously attending local ethnic events, ensuring that they be seen to be involved, present and accounted for.

Guess the Conservatives know a good thing when they see it. In terms of acquiring voting blocs, if they can. And surely if anyone could assume to have made some inroads into ethnic groups' consciousness, it's the current Immigration Minister, the truly hard-working, well-spoken, earnest and dependable Jason Kenney.

Still, it's a vote-seeking device that kind of reeks of opportunism. Easily understood why the potential seems so attractive. The Conservative Party of Canada is getting tired of being the perennial bridesmaid, and is reaching on tippy-toe to achieve its aspirational height as the bride. A majority government seems temptingly on the near horizon.

But wasn't that a mite clumsy, not having the good sense to check whose door those aides were knocking on? Those clever young parliamentary administrative aides aren't quite as careful as they should be, obviously. Too many late nights out. They really seem to be scuppering Conservative aspirations rather than advancing them.

Clumsy beyond belief to print a donation-wheedling letter in support of Conservative strategy in targeting ethnic communities on parliamentary letterhead. For this was not government business, but rather political partisan money business. The NDP, Bloc and Liberals must be hugging themselves with glee.

But calling for the minister's head on a platter? Any excuse to raise a ruckus far surpassing the purported reason for indignation over an unsupportable lapse of decorum and tradition will do, though.

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Finally, Exculpation

It was worth waiting two thousand years-plus to finally hear those words of forgiveness. This is an inheritance that Jews did not really want. But history is history and divine forgiveness is not to be slighted. We had the example of Eve and of Pandora and all the world's ills flow from those indiscretions. Surely our ancestors should have known better than to leave us such a dreadful inheritance?

All those years of carrying that dreadful burden of guilt. That we, the Jews of the world, past, present and future, are responsible for the untimely and ghastly death of one of our own. Who just happened to become, post-mortem, a world figure of great renown. Who might imagine it? We have had other great Jews: Maimonides, Spinoza, Einstein, Kant, to name a scant handful, who have burnished the Jewish tradition.

But the living son of the Almighty God? Now that's special. The anointed of the All-Powerful. And we the sorry living legacy of the death of God's only begotten and surely beloved son. Sacrificed to demonstrate to the world that God Himself is not above taking the life of one so loved. To redeem unworthy humankind.

And so it was that the Jew became the symbol of the eternal wanderer. No one would have him, no country, no land, no government, no monarch, no people wanted to have Jews about, defiling the atmosphere with the stench of deicide. The inheritor of Christ's crown, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, has taken a long time to forgive the unforgiveable.

They see no virtue in any longer casting blame upon the tribe of Judea. The Hebrews are to be given full exculpation - for they knew not what they did. And Christ himself appealed for their mercy, saying "forgive them Father, for they know not what they do". And if God can find it in his immense heart to forgive his Chosen, why not his emissary here on Earth?

And so, finally, we have Pope Benedict XVI graciously exonerating the Jewish people for their dreadful act of murder. The crucifixion of Christ was a plot of Jewish priests and the elite leaders of the now-extant Jewish community, urging a reluctant Pontius Pilate, who did not mind one whit crucifying petty robbers, to do the same with an itinerant rabbi.

The rational in the scalpel-edged mind of this great intellectual pope was reason itself. "How could the entire Jewish people have been present at this moment to call for the death of Jesus?" wrote the pope in his wonderful expose of Churchly misunderstanding, Jesus of Nazareth. "The true accusers were those circulating in the temple at the time."

Ahah! Their plot truly sickened. And made of Jews global pariahs unto eternity. Shame on those unprincipled jackals.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Odious Westboro Baptist Church

"As a nation we have chosen a different course - to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate". Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Well, that's a huge relief then. The honoured and honourable core principle of free speech in the United States - that exemplar nation dedicated to the protection of peoples' right under the country's constitution to free speech - remains safely enshrined. There is no form of speech, however the extent of pure viperous hatred expounded, that can be prosecuted in the highest courts of the land.

Which means that the redoubtable Reverend Fred Phelps and his execrable family are excused from compassion and civility, and they may henceforth go with virtuous glad heart to continue their ministry of contempt and hatred throughout the United States. With the occasional incursion into that country's neighbour, as well.

Since Canada is the original fount of accepting compassion in the view that human love is not exclusive, that two individuals of the same gender may conceive a great and lasting and deep love for one another, and that too is to be equally honoured with heterosexual pairing. We must, perforce, be held in the same kind of pernicious contempt as a degraded society.

It gives one some comfort that the sole dissenting justice, Samuel Alito, wrote that his nation's commitment to free and open debate should not be interpreted as a free-for-all in distributing rancid hatred and divisiveness among people, that free speech
"is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case. Respondents' outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgement that acknowledges the wrong he suffered."
"This case" being the military funeral of a young American soldier, whose body had been returned from a conflict zone in Iraq and whose father, Albert Snyder, took pained offence at the raucous circus that was inflicted on his beloved son's funeral. Causing him to take the Westboro Baptist Church and its protesting members to court to sue for emotional distress.

It would appear now that Mr. Snyder must live with his distress, without recourse to the law to compensate him for pain and suffering caused by the vicious denigration of his son by the Reverend Phelps and his whelps. It may be of some slight comfort to the man to know that most decent, civilized people cringe at the very thought of this disgusting man's odious campaign.

Even his maker must look down upon his theatrically offensive antics with disgust.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Mind-Boggled Homicide

Unforgivable, yet we find excuses for such people. That they are victims of their own cravings. That they cannot control their needs. We fail to view them as the threats that they really are. They are living, breathing time bombs. And from time to time one of them creates an explosion that maims or kills an innocent among us.

A woman out drinking, determined to do what she has always done, satisfy her need by intoxicating herself beyond physical and mental normalcy. When the bar owner, recognizing her state of intoxication takes it personally and offers to drive her to her destination, she spurns the offer and drives off on her own.

Beside her another bottle of wine. She is a repeat offender. Her license was suspended. But Samira Daoud felt entitled to drink herself close to insensibility, to clamber into her pickup truck, more drinks surrounding her which she would pick up at her leisure, while careening in the dark around the rural stretches of roadways within the City of Ottawa.

Truly bad fortune had a young man of sixteen cycling as he always did, back home from work. Where this woman who had already caused other drivers on the road to swerve out of her way, and who had crashed over a median, decided to do a U-turn and slammed into the back of Alex Hayes' bicycle with such violence that he was thrown 39 metres into an adjoining ditch.

Where he remained, his lifeless body discovered three hours later. His bicycle sitting on the roadway, utterly mangled. Alex Hayes' parents would wait for him to arrive home, as usual. And they would wait in vain. They will never again hear their boy's laughter, watch him grow, have the pleasure of his company.

Police were alerted to reports of someone driving haphazardly, repeatedly crossing over onto the opposite lane, and the truck, now heavily damaged, was forced to a stop, hitting the front bumper of a police cruiser. The police officer noted her reeking breath and witnessed empty beer cans littered in the truck cab.

She offered sex to him in exchange for her release. Of the three breath samples taken at the police station, the first registered three times the legal limit of 80, at 259 milligrams alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. She insisted she hadn't hit anyone on the road. She did admit to being drunk.

Her criminal record lists various alcohol-and-driving offences. That all occurred last fall. The Crown prosecutor during her trial is asking for up to 10 years in prison on the charge of impaired driving causing death, to which she has pleaded guilty. But she did apologize. For what that is worth.

"I did not know your son", she told Alex Hayes' mother. "But I know Alexander will be carried in my heart, just as he will be in yours." Well, not quite. Not nearly in the same way. And her expression of remorse, understandably, means nothing whatever to Alex Hayes' mother. She is bereft of her child.

Her child's killer may serve a few years' sentence in prison, and then she will be free to resume her life. One that she has horribly mangled, just as she did the boy's bicycle. Ironically, according to Daoud's sister, another sister had been killed by a drunk driver in Ethiopia.

How much sense does that make?

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