Ruminations

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Hard Bargaining"

It's hard to figure out which of the two groups is more distastefully offensive, those being sued or those who brought the lawsuit against Ali Karimi, owner of a chain of Zesty Market convenience stores in Ottawa.

Mr. Karimi and his wife, Nava Vosough, have had criminal charges brought against them; he nine charges including extortion and attempted extortion, possession of the proceeds of crime and criminal harassment, and she with attempted extortion and criminal harassment.

Mr. Karimi claims that employees at his convenience stores have, over time, robbed him of over a million dollars and he has launched civil lawsuits to that effect. It was his right, according to his lawyer, to demand from his employees the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars they had criminally extracted from him.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, allege that Mr. Karimi extorted the money from the employees under threats that he would have them deported from Canada as it was he who had legal status and they were present on the basis of student and work visas. Those employees, all from Iran, and all of them uncertain of Canadian laws, were fearful when their employer threatened to call police.

Mr. Karimi had suspected his three employees of having taken money from his chain of stores for a prolonged period of time. He undertook to recover the money he felt was rightfully his by threatening them, by demanding that they execute letters of confession, and by forcing them to turn over to him all the money they had in their personal bank accounts.

The defence claims to have a series of recorded telephone conversations between one of the former employees and a friend in Iran where, the friend claims, Farzad Panahi, one of the accusers of Mr. Karimi, admits to having stolen $200,000 from his employer. In the telephone conversations Mr. Panahi also appears to implicate the other two employees in theft.

What is puzzling, among other things, is how so much money could have been available to be pilfered by unscrupulous employees working in convenience stores. And how so much money having gone missing, would not have been obviously missing. And why, if Mr. Karimi suspected that he was being so drastically short-changed in his trust of his employees with respect to his profit margin, he would continue to keep them employed.

Why not, under those circumstances, go to the police and lodge an official complaint, rather than become abusively extortionate and threatening? The intrigues and dark menace in this case seem peculiar. In any event, as the Crown prosecutor observed, the mere suspicion that someone is a thief does not entitle the owner to the pursuit of criminal acts of his own.
"Because an employer thinks you are a thief, he cannot demand a confession, he cannot demand your bank account numbers, he cannot go to a bank and drain your accounts."

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Going Door-to-Door

It's not very neighbourly, not at all a good idea, and definitely a hostile move for parents of young children to place basketball hoops with their great cumbersome bases not on private property, but on public property. Those basketball devices meant to be placed in a driveway may be attractive to young children to practise their shots and have fun together, but these activities should take place where they do not impact on others.

A neighbourhood group in Manor Park, Ottawa, has assembled signatures on a petition in response to having been informed that someone in the neighbourhood lodged an official complaint with the municipality at the practise of parents placing those heavy bases adjacent their properties, but verging on and over onto the road. On the street in question there are no sidewalks, and people walk on the road.

An elderly woman who had lived in her home in that neighbourhood for 60 years had taken umbrage that her walks, particularly at night, when ambient lighting is dim, have been complicated by the presence of these basketball bases. If she walks close to the curb and cannot adequately see the dark base in the dim light she stands the risk of suffering a fall; not a pleasant prospect for the elderly.

But it is not just the elderly walker who is at a disadvantage, for anyone driving along the street where these bases verge out onto the road is similarly affected. The roadway should be clear of distractions and impediments to any who use it for the purpose for which it was designed. In addition, it is illegal for anything like the basketball bases to be stuck out on the road.

In their defence, the parents of children who use the hoops and who have placed them in such a manner as to interfere with the free flow of traffic, claim that their children need the exercise, and because their lawns slope it is difficult to place the base effectively; it would require hard physical work to dig it into place.

A poor defence, one that abrogates personal responsibility and pleads for special accommodation when none is due.

Several of the mothers who defend their right to have the city allow the presence of their children's sport equipment on the street took their petition from house to house in their neighbourhood with the intention of discovering just who it was who had lodged the complaint. When they came to the house of the individual who had lodged the complaint she willingly offered the information that it was she.

It was the danger that the heavy, wide bases represented to her in her walk-abouts that caused her to complain. She does not feel apologetic about her complaint, nor should she. The women who live on Lonsdale Road who feel it is their civil right to endanger the health and well-being of others because they are too lazy and feel entitled to do as they wish, should apologize to their neighbours.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Poverty Amelioration

The world, it seems, is becoming a better place. That's fairly hard to believe, given the incessant news of conflict between nations and within nations, of nation-wide protests that governments are solving by sending tanks into the streets to use live fire on unarmed protesters. There is news constantly about natural disasters: floods, drought, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, all impacting dreadfully upon vulnerable populations.

But if we were to select from among various causes of human misery one single causative, it would have to be poverty. A close second comes Third-World diseases that eviscerate societies without the medical knowledge and the health professionals and the funding to provide health services and life-saving pharmaceuticals to their people.

But the economically and technologically advanced societies of the world, have always seen it as their obligation to part with a portion of their monetary reserves to help.

And now it seems, from data released in Poverty in Numbers: the Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015 by the Brookings Institute report, along with a UN report on the world's economic prospects, there have been enormous improvements internationally in the poorest, most endemically-poverty-stricken populations of the world.

An astonishingly rapid alleviation of global poverty has been taking place, driven, it would seem, by high and sustained economic growth right across the developing world. There's little doubt that assistance from First World economies through UN-driven programs, the World Bank and NGOs have helped. Figures tell the story that between 2005 and 2010, a half-billion of the world's most needy have escaped living below the poverty threshold of $1.25 a day.

The rapid acceleration of poverty amelioration has resulted in the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving the rate of global poverty by 2015, being triumphantly achieved in half the time given to succeed in that course of action.
"A lot has changed in the past six years. The economies of the developing world have expanded 50% in real terms, despite the Great Recession. Moreover, growth has been particularly high in countries with large numbers of poor people; India and China, of course, but also Bangladesh, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Uganda, Mozambique and Uzbekistan - 9 countries that were collectively home to nearly 2/3s of the world's poor in 2005 - are all experiencing phenomenal economic advances."
And, suggests the report, over the course of the next four years, another 300-million people will join the larger contingent that has already escaped the misery of unspeakable poverty.
"Today growth is being driven by a number of big countries which are home to large poor populations. Between 2005 and 2015, India (current population of 1.233 billion) Bangladesh (169 million), Vietnam (89 million), and Ethiopia (87 million) are each expected to grow by at least 6.3% per year. In the process, each is likely to see a quarter of its population lifted out of poverty."
China, Brazil and India are leading the global recovery after the international financial meltdown leading to a prolonged recession, with some European countries left in dire financial straits, requiring bail-outs from the EU and the World Bank. The adoption of market-driven economies with young, entrepreneurial and well-educated people in still-low-paid work forces in China and India resulted in rapid industrialization.
"China's per-capita income will hit $85,000, more than double the forecast for the European Union, and also much higher than that of India and Japan. In other words, the average Chinese megacity dweller will be living twice as well as the average Frenchman."
Who might have foreseen that wealthy industrialized countries like Canada, the United States and Britain with their huge public debts would begin to reverse their economic positions with those of China, India, Brazil? Not quite a total reversal, but an interesting phenomenon all the same. From poverty-stricken to low-income but stable and middle-income but stable on the part of the emerging economic giants.

The reversal seen in the economies of the world's heretofore leading economies; Japan hit by a triple disaster, falling back into deep recession; the United States with its massive debt and growing deficit, its reserves held by China, the European Union patching up Spain, Greece and Portugal. Who might have foreseen it?

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trapping A Menace

There are people for whom the wolf represents a mystique that they admire, a wild creature that is feared and admired, a hunter and a ferocious threat to those for whom it represents both a challenge and a danger. Those people believe that it would represent the pinnacle of the binary dog-master relationship to be in possession of a hybrid, a wolf bred with a dog to produce a wolf-dog.

Interbreeding produces a biological amalgam, and it is likely that the genetic inheritance will always be weighted heavily in favour of the wolf genes over that of the long-domesticated canine genes. Experts in animal behaviour likely warn that the wild animal in the hybrid can suddenly surface, surprising the wolf-dog owner who might feel it to have been suppressed to the point of firm control.

Someone who prided themselves on owning a wolf-dog suddenly realizes they can no longer control or predict the animal's behaviour, that it presents as a danger to them and anyone else in its proximity because of its unpredictability and its inbred instincts that become dominant over those of the more submissive canine.

Ferry operators recount how frequently they see people coming along to Bowen Island, B.C., with a large companion-dog, and then seeing only the people, sans 'dog', on the return trip. It would appear that Bowen Island has been a depository for people abandoning animals they realize they can no longer control.

And it was just one such animal that recently presented as a threat to livestock and to domestic pets and potentially to young children, on the island. The presumed wolf-dog had been sharpening its skills by hunting and killing dozens of cats and dogs and geese. The forests on the island were littered with deer carcasses. There was more than just survival involved; it became sport as well.

The Bowen Island municipality was desperate to deal with this growing problem. A local veterinarian had become personally involved, acquiring a high-powered tranquilizer rifle, and attempting to hunt the animal for months, but without success. The initial thrust was to trap the animal, not kill it, but as it continued its predatory killing spree the resolve was made to destroy it.

Which was precisely what a trapper who was hired by the municipality did. He waited patiently nearby an area on a farm where the predator had killed sheep earlier in the week on the premise that it would return to the scene of its earlier success. When it did, the hunter dispatched the 90-pound animal with a shot to the head.

A lot of concern, tribulations and trouble, let alone the grief given to pet and livestock owners might have been averted but for the stupidity and conceit of people who fantasize a relationship with a creature they cannot, in the end, cope with.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

High School Tragedy

Safety and security are assured in certain places. These are the places where society would prefer their most vulnerable be cared for. In their homes, in schools. But accidents occur anywhere. And no one ever knows what fate or fortune has in store for anyone. And it is just as well that we don't know. We trust that there will be no issues, nothing that will occur to disturb our peace of mind.

Parents have an easy mind knowing that while they are busy going about their work day their children are at school. Their malleable minds are being exposed to useful information, their interest in various types of enquiry and enlightenment are being stimulated. And, in some schools, science classes and physical education classes and technical classes introduce young people to physical and technical and scientific stress.

There is the occasional mishap, with pulled muscles and bruises at phys ed, with chemicals erupting at science classes, and shopwork at technical classes may result in cuts and slightly more serious accidents as young people learn to master an array of mechanical and electrical saws and other devices. And then there is the rare occasion when something may really go awry.

As it did this week at Mother Teresa High School in a suburb of Ottawa. Grade 12 students were working at the automotive shop, cutting up metal barrels for the purpose of making them over into barbecues, a neat reinvention of purpose. Not so neat when the barrels held substances that were volatile in nature, as happened with one young man, and one barrel.

The barrel, previously used to store a highly volatile oil commonly used in herbal medicines, perfumes and skin products, was being cut in half by 18-year-old Eric Leighton, when it exploded. The peppermint oil, flammable in the presence of heat or open flame or sparks, exploded in the boy's face and fatally injured him.

Paramedics were able to restore a pulse en route to hospital, but the boy did not survive. Now questions should be asked, for example, why discarded metal drums whose former contents might prove hazardous were being used without full knowledge of the extent to which they might be considered dangerous?

Might the teacher, also injured and sent to hospital, not have been aware that peppermint oil can be explosive when the fumes are mixed with air?

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Culture of Caring

Some people are just quick thinkers. Capable of reacting in the best possible way in emergencies. Most people would prefer not to get involved and complicate their lives. It's obvious that an Ottawa woman who works for the federal government, doesn't mind complicating her life if it means she can help someone. Someone who is an absolute stranger, but obviously and urgently in need for someone to care.

There were others in the proximity of where this woman was behaving in a bizarre manner. Even if her behaviour mightn't have tipped off someone who has a natural curiosity and interest in the welfare of others, the fact that she was unclad from the waist down, should have done the trick. But it wasn't until Gleny Cateriano, riding her bicycle on her way home from work ventured by that anyone noticed a woman in distress.

The woman was standing beside the Rideau Canal dressed in a red shirt, staring over the railing into the water below. From the waist up she might have looked like anyone else, interested in the canal and looking to see what might be there, below. Except that her shoes, pants and underwear were somewhere else, not on her body.

Ms. Cateriano instinctively understood that there was something quite wrong with this little scene - this was no exhibitionist but someone in need - and she stopped, set her bicycle aside, calmly asked bystanders to call police. And then she quietly approached the woman, watching as she threw her red shirt into the canal leaving her then clad only in a bra, and staring at the water in the canal.

The woman must have been oblivious to the presence of other people, transfixed deep within herself with some unknowable pain of dysfunctionality. Ms. Cateriano spoke to her: "Hello, do you want to talk? What is your name? My name is Gleny", immediately making a soft and personal connection with the distressed woman who responded with a bleak look.

The woman may not have understood the words in her detached and perilous condition, but she comprehended the tone, and walked away from her vigil by the water, telling Ms. Cateriano that she had a dire need to be held. And that is precisely what this perspicacious woman did, with this stranger; she held her.
"All this time, I was just holding her tight. I didn't want her to go back to the water. I was trying to comfort her, just telling her she is beautiful, she is a wonderful person, she was going to be fine."
Sometimes that's all it takes: to take notice of someone's existence, to reach out with words and a touch, to make someone feel that another human being, even one they don't know, cares about them. That's all it may take to wrench them away from the urge to self-destruct, but it will doubtless take much more for health care professionals to lead the woman to a place of healthy equilibrium.

But at least she now has the chance to experience that.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Biological Gender Politics

A Toronto couple has indicated to their friends and family that they are in the process of completing an experiment they began with their first two children, extending and finalizing the experiment with the birth of their third child. This couple, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, decided between them that they would not burden their young children with the understanding that they represent a gender. The idea being, one supposes, that the children, as they mature, will somehow decide for themselves which gender their body and their psychological orientation represents.

This open-minded couple is simply reprising a situation on another level, that some parents engage in, by not indoctrinating their children into any recognized religion, eschewing such identity for themselves and feeling that when their children are old enough to make their own decisions about such things, they will. Something like the latest engagement on the circumcision question that recently surfaced in the U.S.; to forgo infant circumcision and to allow instead, a teen-age boy to decide whether the avoidance of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is worth the sacrifice of a foreskin.

The couple is obviously possessed of a yearning to be 'different' than their peers. More authentic, bold and imaginative. Readily enough distinguished in their selection of first names for their offspring. The first two , 5 and 2, have been named Jazz and Kio, respectively, both male. The newborn's gender is unknown, not to be divulged, lest the child somehow be put on the wrong identity track; and its name is Storm. First names that are sufficiently 'different' to distinguish these children from their peers.

They are, however, already distinguished as being different from their peers. For most children undergo a subconscious patterning; boys somehow take their fathers as their guides, and girls their mothers; subtle indoctrination into the mysteries of biological identity. This is, after all, the role of parents, to guide their children through life, and one of the guideposts is to help them understand their gender; not gender roles, particularly.

Obviously, there are some girls who prefer boys' activities, and some boys who find traditional girls' activities attractive to them. There will always be personality differences and preferences; some boys are total klutzes as handymen, whereas some girls take to hammer-and-tong naturally. Which still does not differentiate them as this set of parents appear set to separate their three youngsters from the rest of society by abrogating their parental role.

The two young boys who are the older of the three children were given free rein by their parents to do as they wished, without being geared as is often done, to do 'boy' things. They could dress as they pleased and comport themselves in a manner that seemed to appeal to them. Nail polish and braids and pink clothing appears to appeal to the 5-year-old. Setting that child up for future problems with his school peers, as though the names weren't sufficient provocation.

Moreover, the five and two-year-old have been schooled not to divulge to anyone the gender of their new brother-or-sister. Practising to deceive. Depriving the two boys first of their firm gender identity by declining to give them the opportunity to see whether being a male feels comfortable, by emulating their father. Leaving the children with a clear bias against the firm acceptance of the biological attributes they were born with.

And leaving the parents free to feel themselves justified to play confusing psychological games with the minds of their children. Ensuring they will likely never feel fully confident with whatever gender identity they eventually end up with. It is as though these two parents are so egotistically involved with themselves that they will not conceive of a time in their children's lives when their confused identity will cause them the anguish of both rejection and failure.

Obviously, the parents are self-involved with their noble experiment to 'prove' something to the world that will in the end, prove nothing to their little experiments-grown-to-maturity who may bemoan their ill fortune in having been switched at the hospital nursery from their real parents to these pseudo-parents who have managed to confuse their lives in the process of a self-reverential choreography.

Which leaves the burning question: what of the parents' self-identity as per their genders? They must somehow have arrived at the distinction of male and female and practised the ritual of mating to produce their offspring. What, otherwise, is their role-playing as male and female in their intimate home relationship that their children cannot emulate? Is Daddy a cross-dresser and Mummy a balls-breaker?

Is their rude and crude reality the basis for manipulating their children and calling it free choice? Should they be charged with child neglect, and abandonment of their parental roles in raising well-adjusted children?

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Flabbergasted"

That's what a flabby agenda will get for you: "flabbergasted", but insouciantly so. As in it hardly matters, we'll just recalculate and select another suitable date. After all, if the End of Days is going to arrive, it'll come, like it or not. And it's best to be forewarned. Better still to be prepared. The evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping is pleased to bring such glad tidings to all the ears that will open to hear.

It's hard to believe that the world is inhabited by some strange alternate species for whom such tidings bring great joy. Such joy that what some might shudder at the prospect of - seeing the world collapse in upon itself, and the Great Spirit in the Sky gathering up the faithful to celebrate with them their ascension to Heaven - is a matter of hugely momentous Rapture to the faithful believers.

The skeptics who are yet believers in the omniscient omnipotence of God cluck with disapproval at the Reverend Camping's presumptuousness. It is not, after all, his province, nor is it meet for a mere human to express a definitive opinion that should be left to God's graceful pronunciation alone. For only God knows when the world will end.

And, as far as a California-based Rapture blogger is concerned Harold Camping is pushing his luck: "He's in big trouble with God", she claims. Does she have this vital data on the basis of a private conversation with God? If so, she's an insider and Mr. Camping is a mere amateur of pretense trying to trump authenticity.

Poor Harold Camping. The world simply wasn't paying sufficient attention. Yes, there were untoward occurrences; earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, floods, firestorms. But in selected geographic areas, making life miserable for a relative handful of unfortunates. The colossal, world-wide paroxysms of the Earth preparing to perish, was a no-show.

Back to the calendar, Camping. Get someone to teach you how to use a calculator. Of course, there's still October 21st. Camping has great faith in himself.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

'Till Income Do Us Part With

This must rate as breaking new ground in income support for common-law partners. Without the bond of a marriage contract, a less-than seven-year alliance with no children involved, and the B.C. Supreme Court saw Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie declare for the plaintiff. Despite a reasonable doubt relating to the "most conflicting" affidavit evidence relating to the contribution to the relationship of Marianna Goriuk, she has been granted an interim payment of $25,000 monthly.

Ms. Goriuk seems to believe her handful of years' commitment to a partnership with Nickelback's Chad Kroeger has a redeemable value of $95,000 a month. After all, her former partner earns a hefty $9.7-million annually, while her income was a mere $12,000 a year. Which would certainly not permit her the luxury of living in the manner to which she became accustomed while the common-law partnership was in full flow.

For his part, Chad Kroeger contends that his former common-law partner did not share his intense relationship with music, made insignificant contributions to his business endeavours and viewed his professional touring as a negative, bringing a sense of resentment to the relationship. Which would auger ill for any relationship. And is strange, given that it is precisely those elements that are required to realize success in the field of popular entertainment.

His investment was clear: a love of music and of making music and of entertaining. A commitment to travelling with his group for the singular purpose of exposing their talents to as wide an appreciative audience as possible. A willingness to make sacrifices to attain the hoped-for end, a public popularity that would result in a solid income as recompense for their talented expression and public availability.

Mr. Kroeger of his own volition, when the relationship failed, did the honourable thing, and provided Ms. Goriuk with a generous $10,000 monthly stipend. While she felt this was insufficient to enable her to continue the "lavish lifestyle" she had shared with him. Her 'budget' was in the neighbourhood of $25,000 monthly and this was the least she could expect. And the judge agreed with her. Although she had aimed with great ambition for $95,000.

Ordering Mr. Kroeger to commence paying Ms. Goriuk $25,000 monthly and to be prepared to continue doing just that until the issue is finally resolved at a trial, to follow, the judge is doubtless pleased with her wisdom. Ms. Goriuk has expenses, after all; a 2.4-hectare hobby farm with two horses which must be maintained, costing her $5,100 monthly for that purpose. And oh yes, a $3,400 monthly mortgage for her retired parents.

Which goes to show what a tangled web is woven when those with money become involved with those who appreciate that they have money, and feel entitled on the basis of their generosity in sharing a lifestyle, to a hefty chunk of income in perpetuity - for self and dependents. Not everyone has children, but everyone has parents.

It's the details that kill you.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Delinquent Juveniles

You simply have to ask yourself, what kind of message, what manner of values are parents endowing their children with - when in a community where clearly it is the community's own teens causing problems in the area - where situations things can occur? That old question: do you know where your child is? originally was meant to bring home to parents that their youngster might be in some kind of danger through their neglect.

The question, over the past decade and more has increasingly meant something significantly other; more about do you have any idea what your child is up to? The company they're keeping? The activities they're engaged in? Their mode of thought and action? There was a time - that hoary old legend that keeps being repeated - when parents seemed more concerned with engaging with their children, with leaving them under no illusions with respect to the behaviour they expected from them.

That was back when parents seemed to take greater responsibility for the calibre of the life lessons their own lifestyles were teaching their children, augmented by family discussions about ethics, morals and values, and accepted societal normatives. Oddly enough, this is also the era where parents, even while farming their young children out to day-care-givers, hover anxiously over their children.

There appears a division between those who are too absorbed with their children and give them too little breathing space and opportunity to develop their personalities based on the guidelines the parents have stressed, and those parents who are uninvolved with their children, allowing them to pick up whatever values they find suitable, without mature adult guidance.

Possibly, it was always this way. Responsible parents as distinct from irresponsible ones. There have always been juvenile delinquents and often enough these young people come from homes where the kind of social and material support inclusive of firm discipline was absent. But it is the increase of serious social problems surfacing with ever younger teens that leads to the suspicion that sociopathy is on the increase.

There are more than enough incidents of young boys and girls in their teen years being apprehended by the police and charged with violence, with robbery, and with murder. Possession of drugs and use of alcohol seems almost endemic in some neighbourhoods and unfortunately present at a lower scale, in many others. Bored young people who have been given material goods and lack emotional support, look for distractions from their daily lives.

In an Orleans neighbourhood, residents have recently become startlingly aware that they have severe problems with the safety of their young children. They have long been aware that teens have been using a relatively-new playground bordering on an urban forest to leave behind broken beer bottles, but no one in the neighbourhood could have imagined that someone was rigging the playground equipment to endanger young children.

A resident just happened to notice utility blades that had been affixed to playground equipment. Someone had gone to the trouble of melding them with the metal of the playground structures, sharp ends pointed upward to extract the maximum damage on tender young flesh. "Last year, they were playing so much in there that they set fire to the forest", commented one parent of young children.

Obviously, they've upped the ante on the excitement-and-danger quotient, their delinquent imaginations having no compassion whatever for the children that could have been caused great physical harm.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

High Park

Toronto's huge, protected tract of parkland called High Park is well worth the respect it is due. It has a long and storied history. And as a parkland within the greater confines of a large and growing metropolis, it represents a natural escape existing within a concrete jungle.

As a natural resource located close to the waterfront of Lake Ontario, extending upward from there, and readily accessible by anyone who lives in the city who might wish to touch with nature from time to time it is an invaluable treasure.

So, that a group of Mohawk Warriors have set up a protest camp in a section of High Park is explicable only because they oppose the ravaging after-effects of off-road cyclists using the natural resource of a huge inner-city park as a social gathering point for avid outdoor enthusiasts. Enthusiasts who do not really respect nature for what it has to offer. Theirs is not a vision of nature to be admired and to serve as inspiration.

Rather the young people who use the park as a venue for riding their machines on inclines and jumps to contest their agility and abilities as stunt riders disparages nature. For in the end the use to which they put the park is one that destroys the natural lay of the land, and it despoils the beauty to be seen there.

The BMX tracks that have been built in the park as a venue for bored inner-city youth looking for thrills corrupts the original purpose of a natural parkland.

This is not, of course, the reason that the Mohawk Warriors have set up a protest within the park. Their outrage is manifested by what they claim to be an insult to a cemetery. To the memory of ancient aboriginals who once roamed the terrain and whose bones may have been laid to rest within the park confines.

For them it is a matter of respecting an ancient burial site. That may have resonance with certain sensibilities, but it should not necessarily be the entire reason for protesting the misuse of High Park's auspices.

The trails within the park should be left for the recreational use of walkers, runners, those who enjoy the opportunity to be within a natural forested setting. To witness the beauty of nature. To take advantage of the opportunities given them to see mature trees and forest plants in various seasons.

It could be used perhaps for casual bicycling as well. But certainly not for the destructive use of altering the terrain for the purpose of giving adventurous thrills to those who have no appreciation whatever of nature's heritage to the people who live within the city.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Choices and Consequences

It's tragic that young people feel themselves invulnerable to harm, and entitled to exercise less caution than they should in the exuberance and celebration of their youth. Young men in particular - but not exclusively, between the ages of 16 and 24 appear to be particularly susceptible to the delusion that nothing will occur of an untoward nature as a result of any reckless behaviour they engage in. Life is an ongoing adventure, after all.

But not for everyone. Some people die in the pursuit of that adventure. And that's what happened to a privileged son of a former Canadian premier; he became the instrument of death for a close friend. This was an accident, there was nothing intentional about it, other than the intent to have fun. Having fun for so many is synonymous with alcohol consumption; it loosens up the social inhibitions and makes decision-making just so much easier.

Jack Tobin, son of Brian Tobin, really has no excuse for his behaviour that took the life of Alex Zolpis. They were having a Christmas Eve blast at Byward Market, isn't that what young guys do? Engage in exhibitionism, frighten the life out of more sober people around them, challenge others to join them in having fun.

Jack Tobin's act was a commission of stupidity; his attitude prevailed even before alcohol was consumed. If he believed while sober, before the night on the town with his buddies, that drinking and driving was a bad combination he would not have done just that while intoxicated. His privileged background and his obvious sense of intelligence and honesty, if anything, should have imposed an obligation of caution upon him.

He cannot be excused for the inexcusable. The tragedy that his stupid behaviour caused, with two friends caught under the vehicle he was wheeling about on the roof of a parking garage caused a death. One man dead, another man's life impaired. There is no doubt he has suffered the agony of self-blame. But he will also doubtless suffer the shame and blame that an act of free will however intellectually impaired causing death, deserves.

There was another trial that took place recently of a woman, Dominika Duris, found guilty of driving while impaired by alcohol, in the death of her 20-year-old friend who was a passenger in her vehicle. She had been acquitted in an earlier trial, and second time around she was found guilty and sentenced to a two-year conditional sentence, including house arrest.

Both she and Jack Tobin are guilty of vehicular homicide. They both chose to drive while under the influence of alcohol and both caused the death of friends. Conditional sentences, house arrest, speaking to school groups as part of their punishment, week-end jail terms are all alternate sentencing potentials for young people.

There is no punishment quite as sobering as, at the very least, a minimum incarceration as society attempts to teach shallow young minds that their choices have consequences.

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Welcoming Neighbours

You can buy a new house in an new neighbourhood, or a resale in an established neighbourhood, carefully selecting the assets you require in a home to obtain the best possible value for your money in the most significant purchase most people ever make - but you cannot choose your neighbours. Well, if there happened to be some way to make prior enquiries about the neighbourhood and the neighbours residing therein, perhaps an informed house-seeker could choose their neighbours.

How many people, in the throes of house-hunting give one single thought to whom they might be living next to, across the street from, or down the street from. Neighbours are only people like us - or not necessarily like us; people do celebrate different values, after all. And if you happen to move next to a household of louts whose uncouth and loud and sloppy behaviour directly affects your peace of mind, it's a misfortune.

There are worse things. Moving, for example, across the street from a pedophile, someone who invests his time and his energy in acquiring child pornography, and whose dreadful potential to some day violate a child - your child - is anyone's worst nightmare. How do you know? Well, for the most part, you don't. Unless, after you've committed to the house purchase and before you make the physical move a neighbour drops the casual word that the guy who lives in the house across the street is that pedophile.

Then perhaps you gulp hard, and decide that the house you've chosen may not be the house for your family, after all. You think about your two very young children and unsupervised playtime and worse-case scenarios given the proximity of a twisted mind become a possibility.
"Both children's bedrooms face him at the front of the house. Our son could be running through the sprinkler in the front yard. Maybe my daughter wants to ride a bike outside in a couple of years ... Are we ever going to feel comfortable having them out of our sight?"
And that, precisely, is the issue brought before an Ontario judge. Who has concluded that sellers do have an obligation to alert potential buyers of such situations. We expect people to divulge that there is asbestos in their homes because it poses as a carcinogenic danger, why not expect that people have a similar obligation to innocent buyers to alert them to future problems with neighbours?

Jason Dennis and Rebecca Bound launched a suit over a house they bought in Bracebridge. They bought the house and prior to moving in discovered that a close neighbour had been convicted of possession of child pornography, ten years earlier. Pedophiles are pedophiles; a prison stay is not a cure. General knowledge of that type should be revealed to parents of young children. The sellers claim they had no idea ... though their neighbours clearly did.

That house is back up for sale again; Jason Dennis and Rebecca Bound and their children will not be moving in. They are completely up-front, frankly informing would-be buyers of the existence of a problem across the street. They feel they will take a loss in the sale of the house, and are prepared for that. Their children's welfare and their peace of mind is at stake.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fending For Themselves

Bad enough to read about the tribulations of the people evacuated from the exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant in the wake of Japan's disastrous earthquake and tsunami.

Somehow, no matter how desperate things get, you know that people have some capacity to care for themselves. In dire straits, yet government is there and social agencies work to alleviate the stress and the burdens imposed upon people, although their anguish at their great loss makes them inconsolable with grief.

But then there is the horrible plight of the domestic animals left to fend for themselves. The trouble is they cannot fend for themselves. They have been bred and are accustomed to being cared for.

They are no longer feral, they have no memory of looking after their own needs. And most of them are kept in confined places where even if they might be able to find food and water, they are constrained from doing so. And so, they slowly, agonizingly expire.

When the residents of the exclusion zone were evacuated they were not permitted to take their family pets with them. Those dogs and cats and any other pets had to be left behind. The congestion in refugee camps, in schools and public facilities was bad enough; to include pets would have been intolerable.

For a while people were permitted to return from time to time to tend their pets and their farm animals, but then they were no longer given permission to return. The animals were to be left to die. Authorities sent workers in to destroy the animals that were in distress.

The haste with which people left at being ordered to do so, left little time to think of their pets. Many were left chained to the outdoors and many others were locked within their homes. Some people returned to look to the welfare of their pets, some did not, locked in their own abyss of despair.

Many of the animals have died, slow and lingering deaths, of neglect and starvation. The domestic dogs that could began to run in packs, anxiously looking for sustenance. Then intermittent visits by owners to look to the care of their abandoned pets were no longer permitted. The once-supervised trips have been closed down.

While some animals were removed to animal welfare sites and foster homes sought for them, the problem still remains with abandoned pets and farm animals. Horses, cattle, pigs, poultry so reliant on their owners for their existence had no one to rely on. Left in their sheds and coops, they perished.

The situation is intolerably sad and miserable.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Enabling Addiction

At risk of seeming Neanderthal in one's views it somehow seems a questionable enterprise to agree that providing people addicted to drugs and alcohol with the substances that have ruined their lives, improves their lives when drugs and alcohol are doled out under supervision.

There are experimental programs that have been designed with special protocols to address the societal problem of people who have succumbed to addictions. These people have intentionally, at some time in their history, exposed themselves to mind-altering drugs like alcohol and opiates, for example, and have, in effect, created their own miserable conditions of dependence and degradation.

They have, in the process, sacrificed their futures to a life of bleak dependence and misery. They have, in effect, of their own free will, chosen to alienate themselves from society, from their families, from the workforce, and from opportunities to improve themselves. They seldom seek amelioration of their condition through actively looking for help.

They end up living homeless, absent human dignity; ill and susceptible to violence - violence that they direct toward others or which others direct toward them. Their tawdry lives have no purpose but to achieve the delirium of intoxication. They are an affront to human dignity, to the aspirations of most individuals to make something worthwhile of their opportunities in life.

They have victimized themselves and in the process victimize society. Their conscience is perhaps not bothered by this, but society's conscience is troubled greatly that among them live people in such dire conditions that arose from rejection of societal norms. Chronic drug users and alcoholics in cities which have embarked on ameliorating programs have a choice.

They can seek opportunities for rehabilitation, to rid themselves of their dependency on drugs and alcohol. And they can also consider themselves incapable of making the effort to normalize themselves. Far greater numbers simply continue to submit to the incessant desire to remain dependent on drugs, than those who seek help to assert their will to succeed.

What to think of programs devised to ensure that addicts are given the drugs and the alcohol they need to keep on buzzing, and where their health is monitored and they are being counselled, and kept off the streets? The argument is that these methods are less costly in terms of human lives and the use of police, hospital and social services.

Society ends up offering this poor human flotsam the continued condition of intoxication in a 'safe' environment, rather than making the leap toward enforcing solutions through remediation; taking addicts through a process of de-toxification, both physical and mental.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Upholding Law and Order

The troubling, if not utterly pathetic story of the Mountie who couldn't distinguish right from wrong. How then, is he able to administer the notion of law and order, let alone justice? Amazing how aptly named he is, as well: Constable Wright, confused about right and wrong.

Are we expecting just too much from law enforcement officers? Are we being unreasonable, anticipating that they are imbued with a righteous sense of what is socially permissible and to avoid the illicit in their personal lives? Is their training apt? Are we prepared to accept that an officer of the law will hold us responsible for our anti-social and criminal acts, while blithely pursuing those acts themselves?

Constable Matt Wright was definitely not in his right mind - or perhaps he was - when he decided not to document taking possession of drugs and cash after a drug bust. It wasn't that he had no previous experience as a law enforcement officer, why the man had also served in the military prior to taking up his profession with the RCMP. He then must have known what he was about, and it would appear that he approved of what he was planning.

Leaving no logistical trace of the drugs and cash he had earlier seized he took the opportunity some months later to depart the Chilliwack detachment with files, his notebooks, RCMP I.D. card along with the cash and drugs he had taken possession of, but never documented. This was the result of a street arrest, after all, and no one would be any the wiser. Was the miscreant about to begin an investigation into the cash and drugs that he had been relieved of, at his arrest?

Off he set with the undocumented goods. And then he reported that those items which he had left in his vehicle had been taken by some no-good who had broken into his car. It was only a "thin wad" of cash, he explained, containing a $20 bill as a wrapper, and perhaps 50 blue pills. No great loss. But he was brought before an internal disciplinary hearing where he made an admission guilt of the allegations brought against him.

And for his misdemeanor was docked two days' pay representing due punishment for neglect of duty. "The lapse of judgement in the proper care, control and storage of an exhibit may be out of character; however, members must be vigilant in properly processing exhibits. The public and the courts expect nothing less than perfection", huffed the disciplinary board.

Months later it was revealed, Constable Wright's supervisor discovered that he had purchased a rifle a few years earlier from a retired member of the RCMP. He never got around to acquiring a firearms certificate, nor was the rifle registered to him. The superior officer took possession of the firearm, and Constable Wright was charged under the RCMP Act with disgraceful conduct.

And docked (gasp!) another three days' pay for having an unlicensed firearm. The disciplinary board stated: "We commit to uphold the law and by acquiring a firearm without the proper licensing, Constable Wright is breaking the very law he swore to enforce." This severe chastisement caused Constable Wright to apologize.

He has demonstrated contrition, and expresses deep regret for having embarrassed the national police force. The RCMP has experienced a great many occasions of late for being deeply embarrassed by the unprofessional and occasionally not very exemplary behaviour of its members in pursuing their duties. Constable Wright feels very badly about that, too.

He has assured his seniors that he is now scrupulous about processing all crime exhibits "meticulously". Good thing that is, too; restoring our confidence in the honesty and integrity of those whose duty it is to serve the public interest in upholding law and order.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

A Model Prisoner And Then Some

When people who are accustomed to receiving respect from the community for their recognized high-profile business dealings and social standing are sent to prison because they are found guilty of white collar crimes, they usually wait out their time with some measure of resentment at their predicament. It is a humiliating experience to be found guilty of a social crime against the laws that have been enacted for the benefit of an entire society.

Justice insists that it be seen to be done. That if an individual has created a situation that illuminates their activities as being counter to the criminal code they must, after standing trial and being judged, pay the price for their injudicious indiscretion. The criminal justice system also looks for signals from the sentenced malefactor that he/she feels personal regret and responsibility for their personal situation.

But not all sentenced white-collar-crime prisoners agree that they have indeed been guilty of insulting the law, despite having undergone the rigours and evidence related to a trial. There are those individuals who insist, loudly and publicly, that the law, in their particular case, is an absolute ass. That they conducted themselves with honour and that the manner in which they were prosecuted left a good deal to be desired.

Conrad Black has his passionate defenders and he has his many critics. And people on either side of that equation often feel admiration for his bearing. A man of great personal pride having to bear public shame and a surrender of his good name to the denigration of blame and motivation toward wrong-doing is a heavy burden to bear. And this man bore his burden with uncommon good grace.

He went much, much further. Finding himself firmly incarcerated he decided that it would not be to his credit to remove himself from social contact with others in similar situations. He determined that he would use his considerable knowledge and experience to assist others to further their knowledge base under his tutelage. He comported himself with good humour and a friendly, helpful attitude to his fellow inmates.

Tutoring four days a week in the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida, he became responsible for extending learning opportunities to others by sharing his own knowledge in English, writing, economics and history. In the process of making himself useful to others, he helped himself by the very action of being functionally involved in offering his expertise with various issues.

And he also maintained an active correspondence with people outside the penal system, who wrote to him in response to the many informed and authoritative articles he wrote for publication on a regular basis on topics that the public held a great interest in; historic figures, current politics, international affairs. He inspired respect in people for his perseverance and his continued involvement in the world outside prison.

He was, after a period of incarceration, enabled to be released pending a further review of his sentence in light of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an irregularity relating to two of the three fraud convictions he was sentenced for. Now Judge Amy St.Eve who presided over Lord Black's original 2007 trial is to consider whether to impose the remainder of his sentence yet unserved, or to grant him a full release.

Prosecutors for the U.S. government are urging Judge St.Eve to consider Conrad Black's resistance to declaring himself remorseful and taking full responsibility for the crimes he was charged with, and return him to prison. Claiming there is a need to "Impose a sentence that promotes respect for the law, provides just punishment for the offense and affords adequate deterrence to criminal conduct."

His former fellow inmates at the Coleman Correctional Complex have written to Judge St.Eve to urge her to consider a full release for Mr. Black. Citing the fact that he had taken it upon himself to be enormously useful to the prison inmates and by extension the prison authorities. His active participation in assisting inmates contributed to a huge increase in the high school graduation rate of the inmates.

And he has served considerable time as punishment for the crimes for which he was found guilty. To the prosecutorial team it is irrelevant that Lord Black was a model prisoner who greatly aided the educational fulfilment of his fellow inmates through his generosity of spirit. What matters to them is that Mr. Black adamantly continues to claim his innocence of wrong-doing.

Any level-headed individual who is not enamoured of bleak retribution should be satisfied with the 29 months' incarceration that has already been served. It is past time to declare Lord Black's sentence well served, and to permit him to take up his normal life once again. Anything less represents a travesty of justice.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

For Shame!

Pretty rough when you have to start from day one to establish yourself in a new country, to find employment, to reach for security and independence without being fully aware of your legal and social rights. Particularly when you're an enterprising, ambitious and proud individual accustomed to looking after yourself and the needs of your family.

Although there are social services available to help immigrants adjust, to assist with language, with employment searches, personal initiative is also required to help pave the way to success.

The trouble is, in any society there are always those whose interest it is to take advantage of peoples' desperation to find a place for themselves. They violate the social contract by acting as social predators, by claiming to want to be useful to those requiring assistance, but in the end victimizing the anxious immigrant looking for paid employment by thinking nothing of cheating them and leaving them without the promises given.

At a time when Canada is gradually rising out of a recession and employment levels are slowly surging upward, those seeking meaningful paid employment still find it difficult to secure even entry-level positions when they have had no previous experience in a new country. They are often uncertain, concerned that they must prove themselves, and easily taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.

And sometimes the unscrupulous just happen to be those who have earlier emigrated to the country.

There is the unfortunate experience of Mizanur Choudhury originally from Bangladesh, formerly an assured businessman, but now, as a newcomer, looking for any opportunity to start anew. Hard enough adjusting to the brutal winters in Canada after having lived all his life in Bangladesh, but he was willing to take two buses to travel across the city to a position working the cash register at a Shell gas station, as a starter job that would give him a modest salary.

Mr. Choudhury, at 60, was not too proud to work at any job that would give him a wage, albeit not a living wage. He has children attending university and working part-time jobs themselves to help make living ends meet. For two months Mr. Choudhury travelled back and forth to work the cash register of a gas bar, wearing a uniform and looking after customers.

For that two months of working daily he was informed that as he was 'in training', the operator of the gas bar had no intention of paying him. "Every time I asked about money, I was told 'In a few days, in a few days'", he explained.

The man who operates three other gas bars in Ottawa insists that Mr. Chouldhury never once requested a salary. That out of a sense of compassion he allowed the immigrant to work for him to gain experience and improve his English. "I forgot about the old guy. It wasn't even training. He never asked me for money. It doesn't make sense to pay him for training for two months. It wasn't even training", explained the retailer, Gamal Abdelhakam.

And he went on to disparage Mr. Choudhury's work ethic, abilities and enterprise. Mr. Choudhury's 23-year-old daughter explained "We didn't know the system because we are pretty new here, just a year. But every day, my father was spending five dollars on bus fare at a time when we are still struggling to settle our life here. Wo when I learned about the law, we started asking about the money because he worked for it."

It was she who contacted the Ottawa and District Labour Council, and from them she learned that employers are required by law to pay for training. A position that the Ministry of Labour confirmed. Mr. Abdelhakam now insists he might have made an honest error. And he is now prepared to pay Mr. Choudhury the grand total sum relating to a week's work.

Mr. Choudhury worked two solid months of six-hour shifts. He is still awaiting payment for his honest efforts. Seems there is an epidemic of human rights violations that this family is being exposed to. One of Mr. Choudhury's sons looked for a second part-time job at night to help pay the family's bills.

Applying at a corner store he was informed he would be hired, but not to expect to get paid while he was in training.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Alleged Accident

It was a hit-and-run. And alcohol was involved. The trial is ongoing, and details are slowly emerging. The man charged with the crime, 34-year-old Vlad-Nicolas Precup, had been interviewed by the investigating police on a number of occasions. The police felt fairly confident that this man was the one for whom they were searching. But he denied ever being at the scene of the crime, denied that he would ever do such a thing, denied that it was his vehicle that was involved.

Until, eventually, he denied no further. Admitting that yes, it was his vehicle, yes, he was the driver, but no, he hadn't meant to hit the pedestrian, and wasn't aware until three days later that there had even been an accident involving his vehicle which he was himself driving. It wasn't his fault. He said this and he meant it.

The man whom his vehicle happened to kill was behaving in a most peculiar fashion: "weird". What's a fellow to do, driving in his prized red Mazda RX-8, girlfriend beside him, when a vagabond does something really irritating? And he had his girlfriend's job as a teacher to consider; how would it look for her if he came forward?

Mitchell Anderson, a homeless man, walking with a friend, crossed an intersection when the light changed to green - for the drivers. Crossing the street in front of the Mazda, he brought his hand to his mouth, kissed it and then laid his hand on the hood of the bright red car.

Who did the man think he was? Contaminating someone's vehicle with the imprint of his sweaty hand? Did he think of the kind of life that might have been his if he had been fortunate enough not to live a degraded life on the streets, was instead a responsible individual with a job, a home, driving his own car?

The driver of that red Mazda gunned it, and rammed his vehicle into the body of Mitchell Anderson, sending him flying. It was his right-of-way, after all, the light was with him. And, he testified, he was certain that the man had cleared past his car when he forged forward.Witnesses heard the tires of the red Mazda squeal before it sped off.

A forensic pathologist informed the jury that the victim had a blood-alcohol level of 298 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. He was obviously legally impaired. Had Mr. Anderson been driving a car he would have been in trouble; clearly in no condition to drive, clearly impaired. The man's liver showed signs of chronic drinking.

His motor skills and mental capabilities were obviously not in full working order. Interesting, perhaps. That might explain his "weird" and offensive-to-the-red-Mazda-driver's behaviour. But it is the driver of the car who was not impaired by alcohol who is on trial, not the victim. Mr. Anderson, hit at high speed by Mr. Precup's vehicle is dead, and Mr. Precup sped off.

He repeatedly denied being at the scene, having anything whatever to do with the death of the unfortunate Mr. Anderson. "No man", he told the investigating officers, "I would never do anything like that." But he did. Despite claiming he sped off only aftter believing Mr. Anderson had moved out of his way. Despite claiming he had no idea he had hit anyone.

Mr. Anderson suffered a broken left leg; a typical injury resulting from a pedestrian-vehicle collision. And he died from catastrophic head injuries, including multiple fractures to his skull and bleeding on his brain.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

“If You Want War, You’ll Have War”

The meaning of love between people represents an emotional investment outside oneself. As infants in developing stages we are dependent on the love of parents whom biology has tasked with the imperative to raise their young, to invest their energies and their emotional well-being in the assurance that they are nurturing their offspring to the best of their capabilities.

It is a maturing process for the parents, and for their children. Parents have already presumably made an investment in extending a caring emotionalism and deep empathy for the individual whom they have chosen to partner them in bringing children into the world. That deep emotional investment that we call love is then further extended to encompass the investment in nurturing and raising the children that result from their union.

This is what we assume happens. That two mature adults raising children in a tandem of domestic traditions common to the animal kingdom and refined over the ages by human ingenuity, compassion, and the primitive inheritance of the survival imperative, devote themselves unreservedly to the well-being of their children.

Children are often regarded as possessions, and remain so until they become autonomous through their own emergence into a state of self-dependence and responsibility. When they are infants their parents’ lives revolve around the well-being and social adjustment and intellectual advancement of their children.

But when parents, mothers and fathers destroy their children in an act of parental rage because one of the partners has deviated from the premise that their union is meant to outlast the infancy of their children, surely it can be held as a manifestation of the parents having been left themselves in a state of infantile dependency.

Is it possible to love a child and to contemplate despite that love, destroying that child’s life? Perhaps it can only occur when the parent loves him/herself more than he/she does the child. Infanticide motivated by a sense of personal outrage at having been wronged, as a kind of revenge taken against the partner who has dared to take the relationship in vain by destroying trust through infidelity betrays a conditional love.

Which is no love at all.

It hardly seems to matter whether the parent is an ignorant, unlettered lout or a well-educated health professional whom society trusts implicitly with their own well-being through the practise of the medical profession, the urge to kill one’s own as a last desperate act to hold on to a possession and deny it to the betrayer, reflects an arrested emotional development.

Those who destroy the very human attachments that should mean the most to them, and which they should be expected to defend and protect from harm at the cost of their own lives have succumbed to the reality that their bruised and torn ego is more important than the life and well-being of their child.

Those, like the cardiologist Dr. Guy Turcotte, on trial for the first degree murder of his two young children, are mired in their own juvenile, self-absorbed needs. They excuse themselves. They manage somehow, despite destroying their own flesh and blood, to portray themselves as pitiable creatures momentarily in a state of confusion and psychotic momentum, helpless to halt the violence that their anger and despair has unleashed.

They temporarily lost contact with rationality and became emotionally deranged.

“I freaked out”, he testified, because “It tore me apart. I was going to lose all that remained … she wanted to exclude me from family life.” Reasons for his temporary descent into madness. Loss of reason representing a tolerable reason for being held not guilty as a result of temporary loss of sanity.

The back-and-forth of anger between estranged and hostile husband and wife victimizes their children. A woman who, as a mother of two very young children, knowing full well how devoted her husband appears to be to her as his wife, succumbs to the allure of a sexual attraction to another man.

Devastating her husband, who lashes out at her and whom she accuses of “controlling her life”. Does this failed relationship reflect a mature and reasonable commitment? Do defenceless children deserve better?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

High Safety Risk More Than Evident

On the evidence, and there appears to be plenty of it, Johnson Aziga should be declared a dangerous offender. With that status, he should be incarcerated for life. A harsh sentence to be sure, but he has more than earned the distinction of being regarded as a high safety risk. He offended repeatedly, and his offences resulted in the deaths of two innocent women, the severe illness of many more.

The man is clearly without conscience. He lethally infected two women with HIV. Five other women were infected with the fatal virus while four other partners tested negative despite exposure. He will continue to pose a high safety risk for women because he is a sexual predator.

He is obviously a sociopath with little compassion for the risks to which he casually exposes women.

In all of his consensual interactions with women he failed to divulge to them that he was HIV-positive. At trial in 2009, a jury found the man guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, ten counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted aggravated assault for unprotected sex with women who had no idea he was a danger to them.

A court-appointed forensic psychiatrist who examined the man felt himself unable to conclude whether the man would continue to present as a danger to women. "(Aziga) is not a typical sex offender" Dr. Philip Klassen informed the court. "We don't know enough of the behavioural patterns of these offenders post-sentencing ... in order to extrapolate to this man".

Does not his background, and his cavalier attitude toward the health and safety of women, along with his record and conviction speak for itself?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Remembering

The initiator of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, with its focus on Holocaust memorial, put his money where his soulful, mournful memory was. He envisioned a commemorative edifice to human rights with an emphasis on the Holocaust exemplifying the most vile excesses of human degradation to instruct and to edify future generations so that the horrible calamity of genocide would not be forgotten.

Other nations of the world have famously erected their own memorials and museums devoted to the memory of the six million Jewish lives that were extinguished in an odiously-planned-and-executed state-run enterprise to rid the world of its European Jewish population. The German penchant for excruciating details and documentation ensured that there would be more than ample evidence of their unspeakable plans.

And it is that evidence, in the form of lists, plan outlines, written commands and orders, reports and invoices, timetables and schedules that now comprise the documentation available to demonstrate just how orderly and devoted a project the eradication of Jews represented to the Third Reich. In the coming world of Supermen exemplified by Aryan physical perfection there would be no room for sub-humans.

The Asper Foundation Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program has been instrumental in bringing over nine thousand high school students from 115 Canadian cities to Washington, D.C. to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, since 1997. Israel Asper, the founder of the program, and the initiator behind the enterprise that is resulting in Canada's own museum of human rights, felt it past time for Canada to have its own such museum.

The museum, currently under construction, is located in Winnipeg, Mr. Asper's home city. The federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has designed the museum a federal institution, the first such institution to be located outside the National Capital Region. The ambitious enterprise is funded by the city, the province and the federal government, along with private subscription.

Canadian high school students who visit the American museum first studied the history of the Holocaust through an 18-hour educational program that concludes with the annual visit to the Washington museum. Within the museum are remnants of the physical structures that were familiar to the inmates of the death camps. Along with collections of personal objects that offer another facet of the atrocity.

Chambers containing cattle cars used to transport Jews to the death camps. The bare and comfortless wooden bunk beds from Auschwitz where Jewish men, women and children - one and a half million Jewish children perished in the Holocaust - were housed until they died of disease or starvation or were gassed. And mounds of shoes worn by the prisoners before they were murdered.

A profound experience for young people, to quietly observe the artefacts. And to connect them with the material they had read and discussed. It is past time that Canadians of all ages and interests have their own national memorial to attend, for the purpose of fully understanding how powerful a need it is to preserve human rights entitlements for everyone.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Ottawa's Library and Archives Building

It leaves an unpleasant echo, but the matter has now been dealt with. Mayor Jim Watson has withdrawn his nomination of Charlotte Whitton's name to be transferred from the old archives building to the new one. There was an outcry of protest from the community at large.

The most vigorous protest came from the Jewish community which found it hugely offensive that a woman of influence would use her time and energy for the purpose of denying Jewish children the opportunity to escape their fated death. She may well have been a firebrand and a trail-blazer for women's place in society, but she was also a racial bigot.

Jewish orphans whom she was instrumental in having the government of the day deny haven were denied the opportunity to become adults, to see a future, to become what they could have been. Charlotte Whitton was wholly invested in her view of Canada as an anglophone, British-majority-sphered community whom the presence of visible minorities, and most particularly people of Jewish origin would interfere unforgivably with.

The nobility of character of individuals from Britain simply did not at all mesh well with the lesser characteristics of Jews. The refugee children fit snugly into the category of 'unwanted', lest they diminish the greater presence of people of a finer heritage.

So the new library and city archives building will not bear the name of Charlotte Whitton after all, as the Mayor of Ottawa relented, in recognition of how disturbing this move proved to be from the viewpoint of the city's Jewish community.

That the building itself is located in a largely Jewish community - and that the memory of the Holocaust from which these refugee Jewish children were attempting to escape only to be denied refuge, infuriated those who understand that the anti-Semitism of the day was not shared by everyone in society, leaving little excuse for allowing this woman's name to grace a public building - it is fit that Mayor Watson withdrew his proposal.

But his serene insensitivity to such a blatant example of overlooking the obvious for the expediency of the moment gives good cause to think twice about his suitability for the position he now holds as the chief municipal representative of all the people of the City of Ottawa.

Name the building far more appropriately after the proudly responsive figure of Cairine Wilson.

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

One Fallen Swoop

The very most basic of qualifications for a political candidate for public office is to provide some kind of evidence of commitment, both to the service of the country and to the political party under whose banner they plan to run.

And then there is the appeal to the constituents of a riding. First off, that the individual proffering themself as a candidate has a connection to the riding. And is capable of communicating to the public in the common language. And presents themselves for public scrutiny of self, qualifications and stand on matters of public and social interest.

When none of these most basic of qualifications have taken place, and yet the candidate, who has never even visited the riding in question still not only obtains enough votes to win the candidacy, and win by a huge margin, it is questionable whether this is an expression of democracy or sheer public idiocy.

Who knew that behaving like an imbecile was contagious? How else explain that like a herd of mindless sheep people simply flocked to emulate one another in stupidity?

A young woman of 27 who works at a university, student-operated bar, agrees when asked to present her name as a warm body in the quest for enough candidates to cover all ridings in a federal election. This is a casual acquiescence with not even the barest modicum of commitment.

How else explain that during the election campaign not once did Ruth Ellen Brosseau turn up in the riding in question, much less present herself at an all-candidates' meeting. A largely unknown individual, with none of the voters having any idea what her personal platform was.

The so-called "orange crush", simply swept her along on the tide of blind votes because of lavish and irresponsible promises made to the province of Quebec by the leader of the NDP to satisfy all of its desires, however divisive to the rest of the country, inclusive of sovereignty, that his party would be invested in, to please exceptional French-Canadians.

In their rush to shut out the Conservatives, the one party with whom the province should have made an alliance, as the only party at this juncture that could and might very well, accommodate some of the demands of Quebec, the investment of voters was to park their votes with the NDP. Which party shot up in membership from one, to 53, sweeping the province, and ushering the NDP into opposition status.

Heaven help Canada.

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Malpractise, in Fact

There are two issues at play here with the information released in a recent study whose conclusions were contained in an article published by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. One is that people generally are too ill-informed about their own health outcomes when contemplating procedures recommended to them by their doctors, and that they should take the time and make the effort to be more fully invested in their own health and well-being.

The second is that health practitioners who specialize in certain areas of the medical profession, particularly when it comes to delivering new souls into active life, appear to be inordinately busy figuring out a way to parlay that necessary activity into more complex procedures that are more costly to perform, therefore more highly remunerative, and since it all comes out of one big pot - the universal health care system - why not?

Why not is rather evident when that more complex procedure once only used as a method of last resort in emergency situations when normal childbirth protocol was felt to be inadequate, relates to the risks involved in Caesarean section surgical procedures. It's worth noting that a first-time C-section is billed $2,265 over the cost of a normal birth procedure.
"Compared to vaginal delivery, C-sections pose greater risk of cardiac arrest, hysterectomy, infection, fever, pneumonia, blood-vessel clotting and hemorrhaging, as well as risks for the baby", according to the article written by PhD student Esther Shoemaker.
Convincing as an argument against using C-sections other than for emergency responses in the delivery of newborns. Yet C-sections are often routinely advanced by gynaecologists to their patients, not only for initial, first-time procedures, but for following childbirth procedures. It is a more lucrative procedure for the doctor; more intrusive and potentially dangerous for the patient.

"Canada's health care system could save close to $25-million if the rate of first-time C-sections, let alone repeat C-sections, could be reduced to the 15% recommended by the World Health Organization", the article - considered to be a tool by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation to put to rest myths accepted by patients - states.

The current C-section rate in Canada stands at 27%. Higher rates of maternal obesity lead to higher rates of C-section as a result of riskier pregnancies, only partially explaining the trend. It seems clear enough - and has been evident for a number of years as the incidence of use of C-section has steadily risen in Canada to become a normative - that elective C-sections should be restrained.

Those doctors who counsel their patients to be compliant to the doctors' recommendations to have a C-section for any reason other than to address an emergency delivery could be considered to be practising medicine like a business where the practitioners seek the highest remuneration for their services, making them deliberately more complex than need be. In the process, endangering their patients.

This reeks of malpractise, in fact. Women who explain after the fact that it was not their original intention or desire to undergo a Caesarian section, but that they acceded to the professional advice of their doctor, point a finger of exploitation at the medical professional whom they must trust to provide them with the best possible outcome.

Clearly, those doctors who urge their patients to bypass the normal childbirth procedure in favour of the more dangerous and complex surgery do their patients no favour, while favouring their bank accounts.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Double Damnation

Who might possibly have credited an elderly man - all the more so when that man is a Bishop to an entire community - of representing the epitome of degraded sexual dysfunction. A mockery of the Catholic Church's chastity vows for its priests, through Bishop Raymond Lahey's surrender of his soul to child pornography, to a horrible fascination and gratification with the repulsively nauseating spectacle of a child being horrendously sexually molested.

It is more than likely that this man - venerated by generations of Nova Scotians who trusted him implicitly as the shepherd of their moral and ethical values, bringing them closer to the spirit of goodness in their worship of god - was always devoted to his abhorrent fascination for children as sex objects. The wry symbolism of his having been the principle figure in Nova Scotia's child-abuse settlement claims cannot be lost on anyone.

The man's conscience, assuming he was possessed of one, was tucked safely out of the way; obviously not interfering with his preoccupation with pornography and with his own record of molesting young boys. It is not yet clear how actively engaged he was in actual physical molestation beyond satisfying his twisted yearnings through pornography, but there is an active accusation against him by a former parishioner.

This grandfatherly-appearing man with his highly respected position in the Church alongside the high regard in which he was held by those who thought they knew him so very well, visited notorious child-exploitation countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. He searched the Internet for materials that would supply him with the degraded gratification that he obviously craved.

He was discovered to be in possession of hundreds of child pornography images and videos featuring young boys being humiliated, degraded, tortured and held in sex-slave conditions that could not conceivably have any final impact but to destroy their childhoods and leave them as dysfunctional adults.

The man presents as a pitiful figure, an expression of mankind's capacity to indulge itself in the grimmest, most odious grovelling in filth. But it is not the destruction of his own psyche that is the outstanding feature so disturbing to contemplate; rather it is the outcome impacting on the lives of children used and horribly abused to ensure that men like Lahey, now 70 years of age, have satisfied libidos.

His personal humiliation at the discovery of his illicit material so carefully gathered and prized by him, might seem to some a living death in the short time this man has left to live. He may be facing a sentence of a year in prison, but the children who were robbed of their childhoods for his favour, have a lifetime sentence of misery and psychological illness.

He chose to sacrifice children's well-being to his criminal addiction, and chose also to sacrifice his reputation and his legacy as a man of the Church to his sick cravings. The Vatican, more than sufficiently embarrassed over the years by similar such incidents by priests is prepared to take "appropriate disciplinary or penal" action against Mr. Lahey; who yet retains the rank of a bishop emeritus in the Church.

This man's degraded status as a fallen bishop speaks to the lowest possible fall from grace conceivable; an expression of the utter failure of a human being far more than the simple failure of a man of the Church. But that failure is a double damnation.

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Straightforward Extortion

There's nothing quite like the fierce determination of an unscrupulous, conscienceless bully to intimidate, coerce and terrorize people at a disadvantage; to see themselves compelled to bow to the will of the demands placed upon them. Immigrants who have succeeded in fulfilling all the obligations of landed immigrant status and who have attained citizenship have a decided security advantage over those immigrants or visa-holders who arrive in Canada to make their way in a new country.

The new immigrants naturally enough turn with some measure of confidence to those who have arrived in an earlier wave, to rely on them for assistance. Often enough that assistance is given, in small or large ways, to help others. On occasion, there is someone with an ulterior motive who seems on the surface to be willing to help, but the true motivation is the exploitation of the vulnerable.

If, once indebted in some way, the dependent individual expresses some measure of independence, that self-confidence can be deflated very quickly with the expression by the presumed benefactor of the potential of informing immigration authorities of some presumed irregularity that would have the effect of deleteriously impacting on the newer immigrant's legal position in the country.

Which appears to be an explanation for the grip that Ali Karimi, proprietor of a chain of five Zesty Mart stores in the Ottawa area, had over Yashar Kablou. Mr. Karimi caught Mr. Kablou in the commission of what certainly appeared to be a theft. Mr. Kablou explained in court that he was preparing to leave the employ of Mr. Karimi, who owed him back-pay, and was withholding it.

The young man, in Canada on a temporary visa for study and work, surreptitiously dipped into the cash register of the convenience store where he had been employed for ten months, to extract the amount of cash he felt was due him and which his employer, Mr. Karimi, was withholding. His real problems started when Mr. Karimi, who had witnessed through a video camera, what Mr. Kablou was doing, confronted him.

During that confrontation, Mr. Kablou explained his motivation. In response, Mr. Karimi, accused the young man of having stolen money from him on a regular basis, extrapolating the $300 that Mr. Kablou had been apprehended from obtaining, to having taken similar amounts each and every week he had worked for him, for a total of $54,000.

Which Mr. Karimi then demanded to be compensated for, in total. The intimated younger man agreed to everything that his employer accused him of. He testified in court that his employer had forced him to write an admission of guilt. Propelled by fear of his employer. The employer's wife, accused of extortion in regard to two other of their employees, faces charges of criminal harassment in this case as well.

The trial jury had been informed by Mr. Kablou that he had paid Karimi $9,500 in installments before he finally went to police. He had finally been convinced that this was the right thing to do when other employees informed him that Mr. Karimi had worked his extortion techniques on them, as well.

Mr. Karimi has pleaded not guilty to the 15 charges brought against him, inclusive of allegations he extorted or attempted to extort three employees and a woman. Yashar Kablou has had some interesting experiences in a country far from his origins. It will be more than a little interesting to discover how the jury will find; for the accused or for the accuser.

From all accounts appearing in the press, the story appears straightforward enough.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Evil Done Endures

"Charlotte, who had earlier opposed the acceptance of European child refugees, most of whom were Jewish and whose evacuation was supported by the Canadian National Committee on Refugees under Cairine Wilson, new welcomed British youngsters." Dave Mullington, Charlotte: The Last Suffragette


Cairine Wilson was Canada's first female Senator. A feminist trail-blazer, one who has had public buildings named after her; in the suburbs of Ottawa, Orleans has an elementary school named after Cairine Wilson. From what Mr. Mullington wrote, we also know that Cairine Wilson felt it an imperative to save Jewish children from the death penalty imposed upon them by Nazi Germany.

Charlotte Whitton was an acerbic-tongued feminist determined to prove that a woman of strong will could contest a man for any kind of position of public trust, including becoming mayor of the capital city of Ottawa. She was, by all accounts, a formidable woman of firm will, and imbued with a conscience.

Her conscience failed her quite obviously when contemplating the possibility of being involved however remotely in a plan to rescue Jewish orphans from the death machine of the Third Reich. Children from Eastern Europe were to be left to their fate, for Ms. Whitton had no wish to further blemish the Canadian population by an introduction of Jewish refugees.

During the very same conflict when Britons devised a plan to remove their children from their island redoubt which had become a theatre of war against the German Fascist army intent on world domination - besides the obliteration of all Jewish European life - the indomitable Charlotte Whitton gave generously of her efforts to bring British children to Canada for safe-keeping.

Because Charlotte Whitton was secretary of the Canadian Welfare Council, her voice was an influential one: British children in, Jewish children most definitely not. Ms. Whitton viewed Jews and Jewish children as "undesirable" immigrants who would sully the bland perfection of Canada's British heritage.

By actively lobbying to deny Jewish children an escape route to life within Canada she consigned them to an early death, along with Jewish men and women, parents and grandparents. Her reputation did not suffer as a result of her mission to keep Jewish orphans out of Canada.

She was latterly awarded many civil honours, including the Order of Canada in 1967.

Like many of her generation in Europe and North America, Charlotte Whitton suffered the communicable disease popularly known as racism, and anti-Semitism. And now, once again, the organized Jewish community in Ottawa is doing lobbying of its own; to convince Ottawa city council that given her past record, the naming of a public building in her honour appears inappropriate.

In her defence, Ottawa's current mayor, Jim Watson, describes the woman as a complex personality; that the proposed naming of the new Archives and Library Building after her in no way condones the unfortunate part of her personality and history. That naming would simply represent a recognition of her importance as a colourful personality, a woman who broke gender barriers.

There are many even within the Jewish community who contend they do not believe she was anti-Semitic, citing the fact that she befriended some Jews, and that she was the recipient in 1964 of a Woman of the Year award from Toronto's B'nai Brith. Clearly, at that time her energetic striving to ensure that Jewish orphans were not permitted entry to Canada in the late 1930s was not generally known.

Back to the present: There are a number of representatives of groups prepared to speak against the proposal to honour her by naming the archives after her. One of whom is the past chair of the Ottawa Jewish Federation's Holocaust remembrance committee, a Holocaust survivor.

Vera Gara is prepared to appeal on behalf of those orphans who did not survive.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Well Done, Obama

There is nothing quite like well-earned ridicule to take the pontificating absurdity of a poseur away from the realm of reality into the area of absurdity, which is where it belonged in the first place. Prick the pomposity of an idiot spewing nonsense under the guise of a pundit and you have a deflated ego hanging out to dry.

And, if anyone deserved that comeuppance it was certainly Donald Trump. A real estate entrepreneur and nothing else. With aspirations to the White House which should have presented as delusional to anyone with half a brain, but amazingly quite a few Americans who lean Republican were impressed with Trump's expression of interest.

Raising a stir among the Tea Partiers by echoing their call on Barack Obama's true birth, certainly not as an American, more likely a citizen of Indonesia, by birth. And who could believe that this biracial man who managed to influence enough voters to sail him into office, is really a Christian as he claims to be? They know a closet Muslim when they see one; and that's him. And The Donald most pleased to repeat the calumnies.

Creating a buzz by appearing as a shallow-minded expert on corporate interests and money-making, in the process playing the heavy and dominating a round table of experts, while brutally dampening the aspirations of poor dunderheads who believe Trump's prognostications and empirical decision-making, does not a feasible candidate make for the presidency.

Except in the mind of someone so self-involved and egotistically entitled that his enthusiasm for himself seems highly infectious, enough so to cause others who venerate celebrity and wealth to consider his qualities expressive of a prestigious political posting of the highest order.

So when someone whose genes imbued him with a true measure of intelligence expresses his own opinion of his detractor it is well worth paying attention to. What better venue than the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner to display President Obama's acerbic wit, turned upon Donald Trump's naked ambition?

As a send-up it was priceless; to wit: Trump taking personal ownership of the White House to stamp it eponymously and to set about administering the affairs of the country in reflection of his Celebrity Apprentice show. "Say what you want about Mr. Trump. He certainly would bring change to the White House" stated the President.

On the obvious basis of his "credentials and breadth of experience".

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Jack On The Dole

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NDP Leader Jack Layton, accompanied by his wife, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, arrives at the East End Children's Centre during a campaign stop in Toronto on Sept. 17, 2008.ANDREW VAUGHAN/The Canadian Press

Smilin' Jack is beside himself with delight. Throw in some glee; who would've thunk it?

Himself, that's who. Because if there's something Jack Layton is well endowed with, it's a vigorous sense of self-entitlement. We just thought that Michael Ignatieff was stuffed full of himself, in the belief that he would make an excellent prime minister. Or that Stephen Harper felt entitled after his minority-government apprenticeship to an opportunity at full-steam-ahead majority status.

Come-from-behind Jack knows of a certainty that it was time his brilliance as a politician was appreciated. And the public appears prepared to support him in that belief. Will wonders ever cease? And will Canadians finally - actually, yet again - get the government they're deserving of? Which is to say, are there really that many delusional voters dazzled by the fancy hobble-work of Jack-the-survivor to vote him into 24 Sussex Drive?

Jack and his estimable wife are accustomed to tax-subsidized digs. They felt equally entitled to life-support in Toronto in subsidized rent-scaled-to-income living arrangements. Never for one moment considering how peculiar it might look for two well-remunerated politicians taking away housing from those who really do need it; they just felt kind of comfortable there, anything wrong with that?

Well, yes. There is, a whole lot wrong with it. Something analogous to being the high-spending duo in Parliament out of the entire Member-of-Parliament contingent. A rather extravagant $1.6-M total expenditure annually for office expenses, travel and what-not, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer. When asked to justify that huge sum in an interview with a nosy reporter, Olivia Chow simply said "it isn't illegal".

It should be. But there's an honour system in Parliament. We figure that those whom we elect to public office have a care about how they spend-and-claim taxpayer-funded largess. After all, our lawmakers are important to the political health and social well-being of this country. If we cannot trust them to be sensible and prudent with the country's welfare uppermost in mind, then who can we trust?

Well, Jack of course. He has great plans for this country. He and the unions that support him want better bargains for union workers. They're not sufficiently entitled. An already-bleeding industry sector better get ready to bleed more jobs as manufacturers decide to re-settle offshore. Ditto for foreign investment, when Jack decides to raise corporate taxes. Employment heading south....

As for viable candidates, Jack promises more women in his caucus and Cabinet than any other party. Olivia Chow for Treasury Board by way of Finance. And those NDP female candidates who absented themselves in Las Vegas and France and just elsewhere-who-knows-where, to prove their commitment to the party and the country, will be slipped into office by voters suddenly enamoured with the NDP.

And then there's Quebec, and its special status; very special under Prime Minister Jack Layton. Feel like extending Bill 101? Right on. Restrict English, sounds like a sound business choice. And no, there will be no Supreme Court judges appointed under his rule who are not efficiently bilingual. Nope, no English-language studies for Quebecers who think they may slip through the barriers. As for Quebec independence, why not; a simple majority will do; rescind the Clarity Act.

Who needs the Bloc when they've got Jack Layton and the NDP in the PMO? Got those moving vans busy at 24 Sussex yet?

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