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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Justice Done

In the end justice prevailed, but not before making a complete and utter ass of itself.

That Toronto police felt justified in arresting three Chinese shopkeepers who had taken it upon themselves to infuriate the police by doing their job for them served to ensure that public censure would descend upon the police officers in question who were instrumental in charging David Chen and two of his associates with criminal offences. That they enlisted the help of a known thief to assist in the prosecution coloured their own offences even more bruisingly.

And even though Justice Ramez Khawly spoke rather expansively of his own impressions and concerns in a matter that should have clearly focused on the egregious behaviour of the police toward Chinatown shopkeeper David Chen, he found it lawfully needful to uphold the rights of ordinary citizens who are forced to act in their own defence when policing authorities do not.

As was clearly the case in this instance, and many others as well, when shop owners alert police to theft and the response is non-existent.

"The only conclusion I come to is that I have a reasonable doubt." This appeared to be the concluding argument of Justice Khawly to himself, leading him to the inescapable judgement that: "All such doubts must resolve in favour of the defence. All charges against you are dismissed."

Had they not been dismissed - and they should have been summarily dismissed, without putting these three men through a two-year nightmare of apprehension - the public would doubtless have risen up in moral umbrage.

That is, even greater anger than has already been expressed in this absurd case. Where those who are materially harmed by the obnoxious insistence of a known petty thief that he can rob honest shopkeepers of their profit, with impunity.

Which has been the case in the past, since by the time a police response occurred, in most instances the thief would long since have left the scene. In those alternative situations where the aggrieved shopkeepers detained the thief, he would face justice.

Which would mean a period of time in prison to atone for his crimes, and then swift recidivism, for the penalties never seemed to quite penetrate the consciousness of Anthony Bennett sufficiently to detain him from ongoing thefts.

As much as Justice Khawly criticized David Chen for his imperfect English, and for his presumed attempts to avoid clarification in instances where he was closely questioned to be held to account for his unfathomable act of self-defence, justice was served.

Not without the stings of imperious criticism from the bench, but in the final analysis it is the criminal justice system that has been held up to ridicule, and the power-jealous response of the police that has elicited scorn from the public.

And it is the graceful response of David Chen, in thanking his supporters and the public and the news media for their encouragement - and urging that people work together for a common purpose in pursuit of civil decency that won the day.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

"The Elephants Come First"

"They've taken everything: my dog, my bird, my cat, my home, my life's work - my elephant."  Carol Buckley

That's a piteous plaint.  From a woman who has dedicated her life to the welfare of superannuated animals.  Not just any animals, but pachyderms, the largest of land mammals.  Elephants have always fascinated people; their size, their very particular design by nature, but above all their willingness to live among humans; submissive to the direction of puny human beings, these powerful animals capable of wreaking destruction, or allowing themselves to behave meekly by instruction of a mahout or someone exercising the power of persuasion.

They are used, and often dreadfully misused, as beasts of burden.  Their intelligence and the longevity of their memories is legendary.  Their empathetic care for one another, and their collective assumption of responsibility for the calves and the elderly among them puts the lie to the often heard flippant comments that animals have limited intelligence and feel no emotions.  They have demonstrated often enough over their long acquaintanceship with humankind that they are capable of performing complex and quite demanding tasks on command and demand.  And are capable of reciprocal care.

That an American woman recognized their exceptionality as intelligent animals, and sought to offer to such large beasts the opportunity to live in retirement comfort when they were no longer prized by the zoos and circuses which made public spectacles of them speaks volumes for her compassionate nature.  And she, along with an animal trainer was instrumental in launching a sanctuary for elephants, where they would be valued and cared for in an natural-landscape area approximating their natural habitat.

This refuge would gain international appeal, and people sympathetic to the plight of aging and ill elephants contributed charitable funding for the enterprise, which grew in reputation and size: known as The Elephant Sanctuary, located in rural Tennessee.  The sanctuary that this place represented for these great beasts, and the experienced expertise of Carol Buckley as an authority in elephant rehabilitation speaks volumes about the woman.

Now she has launched a lawsuit against the board members of the sanctuary who had seen fit to remove her from office as the sanctuary's president and chief executive officer.  They also forced her to vacate her home on the grounds of the sanctuary.  Worse, for this dedicated woman, was her forced separation from the 36-year-old female Asian elephant whom she had named Tara, and which she had raised from a calf.

Ms. Buckley's contention is that she was deliberately slandered by board members who informed donors that she engaged in "illegal practices" and that her demeanor toward the elephants was one of "aggression".  The motivating factor, she insists, was her opposition to a $60,000 payment to the spouse of a board member.  She wants her position restored to her; above all, she wants to be reunited with Tara: "This is my elephant.  She's my family."

Ms. Buckley has great support among experts in the world of animal conservation.  A good proportion of the sanctuary's tens of thousands of members have withheld their donations, in her support.  One might think that for the best interests of the animals and the ongoing work of the sanctuary, a degree of accommodation might be arrived at between the conflicted parties.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Canada-EU Free-Trade Complexities

The European Union is a powerful entity as a coalition of countries with a common goal; the advanced hauling the advancing up by their social, political, economic bootstraps. 

The union of so many countries that have historically been antagonistic toward one another, should it succeed further into the future, can only be a good thing for world stability.  With so much in common, and a shared sense of purpose, nations that once jealously guarded their sovereign autonomy and saw their neighbours as adversaries, have been brought to a state of usefulness to one another in a pluralistic yet inclusive set of values and priorities benefiting all.

A political, economic coalition of this kind sends a powerful message.  And its bargaining strength is not to be denied.  Little wonder then that other countries, far removed from the European continent, would dearly love to arrange special status within the EU benefiting them equally through mutual collaboration.  Countries, for example, as diverse as Israel and as Canada; the Middle East to North America - making for a peculiar geographic extension of the original purpose of forging unity between European countries.

And it may indeed prove to be useful for a country like Canada to have trade and economic benefits with the European Union.  Although the EU has ideas of its own that may not always be quite as beneficial to other countries as it would be to the aggregate within the EU.  Closer trade ties are fine, but some of the free-trade agreement recommendations don't actually sound as though they represent cost-savings to countries that attempt to lower their governmental-administered costs say, through the acquisition of pharmaceuticals.

The EU is interested in delaying the free-for-all that ensues when patent protection of pharmaceuticals expire, and generic drug companies begin to flood the marketplace with their own renditions of top-selling medications.  If the EU gets its way in its bargaining for a free-trade agreement with Canada, this country would be agreeing to costly extensions of patent protections which would benefit brand-name pharmaceutical conglomerates, to the detriment of the Canadian consumer and the federal and provincial governments which seek to lower their drug-acquisition costs through the purchase of generic products.

The old charge by the brand-names that unless they recoup their research-and-production costs handsomely and beyond, it will not continue to be feasible for them to continue investing in further research-and-development, a costly, slow process required to bring new products to market.  Advertising campaign costs to launch new drugs onto a waiting market often consume more dollars than the actual R&D, but that's another thing altogether.  Drug manufacturers are not in the business to provide anything resembling a 'cure' for dread medical conditions; the bottom line is what deeply interests them.

The brand-drug sector insists that a country which closely regulates patent expiration, encouraging generics to jump into the picture as soon as legally feasible, is not an environment certain to be a hit with the global industry to invest there.  On the other hand, maintaining and extending drug-patent protection interminably, short-changes the consumer, particularly the medically uninsured, as well as government at different levels having to purchase more costly versions of comparable drugs - and does no favour to the general drug-consuming society. 

When billions of dollars are earned by pharmaceutical companies for only one of their products, it's difficult to buy the line that their earnings don't warrant continued commitment to investment in research.  There are times when governments should just hang tough in the scrum of free-trade bargaining, and this is one of those times, for Canada serving its health-care-consuming population to best advantage. 

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lawful Outrage

In Canada's largest, most populous and most ethnically diverse city an absurd situation has arisen whereby the law as it is written and applied offers twisted "justice" to petty thieves who make the lives of merchants utterly miserable by the thieves' penchant to haul away shopkeepers' goods sans payment, while holding shopkeepers to a standard of behaviour that would make sense only in a society that welcomes pilferers and looters to help themselves.

Shopkeepers who witness slippery-fingered thieves at work and who immediately contact the police can wait a half day before busy police manage to respond.  In the interim, the thief has made off with goods, diminishing the return on hard work, long hours and merchandise-sales for the shopkeeper.  Common sense allied with practical solutions would have it that the shopkeeper could detain the thief until the arrival of the police.

After all, as it was pointed out during the trial of David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose Food Mart, this is exactly what large merchandise emporiums like The Bay and Home Depot, for example, do themselves.  These large enterprises have the monetary wherewithal to hire private security firms to vet and audit clients' behaviour, and to detain them - even run after them outside the store to detain them, until the arrival of police.

Why then should it be different for a small shopkeeper, frustrated beyond mere irritation that the same thief, well known by neighbourhood merchants in Toronto's downtown Chinatown for his purloining ways?  Having witnessed Anthony Bennett, the bane of Chinese merchants for far too long, hauling away goods without paying for them, and then returning to compound the situation with another theft, Mr. Chen and two of his employees gave chase.

They apprehended the thief who himself was violently abusive toward Mr. Chen, and refused to pay for what he had stolen.  Toronto police who did show up after being called through a bystander's call to 911, took grave umbrage at citizens taking the initiative out of maddening exasperation, to do what the police should have done, and treated Mr. Chen, his employees Qing Li and Jie Chen as though they were the criminals.

Charges were laid of forcible confinement and assault against the shopkeeper and his two assistants, and the thief plea-bargained a break in exchange for testifying against Messrs. Chen, Li and Chen.  During which time he admitted to being a habitual thief, a perjurer and an unreliable witness. 

While the trial is ongoing, set to be concluded on Friday, Mr. Bennett finds himself back in jail.  Seems like a second home to the man.He simply was unable to refrain from his life-long habit of lifting other peoples' property, yet again. 

The Crown prosecution, however, insists the shopkeepers have broken the law.  Mr. Bennett's ongoing theft opportunities are irrelevant, as he would have it.  Perhaps it is this particular law which has broken the covenant between the property owner and the state to ensure security of private property through due diligence on the part of security agents, such as municipal police?

"A man was accosted, pushed against a fence, pushed to the ground, and hogtied", expostulated the Crown prosecutor.  True, true, certainly true.  The thief defied the lawful property owner's request for payment for his purloined goods, and he also kicked him repeatedly, initiating the violence that the Crown so deplored.

Under the circumstances, a violet thief whom police and the law have done little to deter, suffered the brief indignity of having to answer for his crimes.  The combined anger of the Toronto Chinese merchants and purveyors of foodstuffs has been aroused in this absurd case.  The Crown is quite correct in stating: "There are a number of points that beggar belief", in pursuing his case against Mr. Chen.

Foremost among those points, from the perspective of the Chinese shop owners in Toronto is that the law is diligent in its defence of a committedly bold thief, and appears quite disinterested in the affairs of lawful, hard-working shop owners.  That's what beggars belief.

David Chen
Aaron Lynett/National Post
Storekeeper David Chen poses for a portrait outside of the Lucky Moose Food Mart on Dundas Street West in Toronto's Chinatown, Friday afternoon, Oct. 1, 2010. Chen, who was ironically charged after apprehending a shoplifter, will have his case go to court next week.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some Things Are Not Forgotten

In Ontario, the municipal elections have come and gone. Contestants for public office have been electioneering, on occasion most impolitely, for far too long. Just as well it's behind us now. Only the campaign posters and lawn signs have now to be collected. Sooner rather than later, we hope. They're a collective blight we will not miss, once they've been gathered and spirited away.

Mission accomplished, for the voters of Ottawa. Mind, a disgraceful number of voters turned out, only representing 44% of eligible voters. One can only suppose those were the taxpayers who were most invested in a collective urge to turn the scoundrels out, given that the damage they managed to inflict on the population of the city had gone far enough. The false promises that were not met are not readily forgiven.

Above all else, however, the determination to cleanse City Hall of the presence of flatulent-mouthed Larry O'Brien succeeded handily. A jejune, smut-tenored street lingo, testosterone powered swaggering bully of a man whose braggadocio style impressed no one save his former and current spouses.

He will most definitely not be missed for he brought no honour to the position of "hizzhonour", the mayor.

His steep learning curve at awkwardly attempting to administer the affairs of a middling-sized city came at our expense. His mea culpa in admitting that his years in office represented an abysmal failure did not endear him to most voters, and only added fuel to the fire of resentment that he sought the mayor's chair as the power-toy of a bored entrepreneur.

His clumsy on-again, off-again positions, his disagreements with his council, and his disaffected interactions with the city's bureaucrats did us no favours and nor did they enhance his reputation among us. Which was tarnished from the very moment he ascended to the office of mayor, when it was revealed that he preferred foul methods to fair.

Though he was finally acquitted of the criminal charges brought against him in attempting to buy off a challenge from a fellow candidate for the mayor's office, onlookers to the trial where O'Brien's vast personal wealth afforded him the costly benefit of a clever lawyer capable of befuddling the testimony of witnesses, still left the indelible impression that this man violated his position and our trust.

He is now free to swing his gonads elsewhere, to paraphrase his spectacularly rude language.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Outraged Family

That's what the little tagline on the news item read: "outraged family demands answers", just under the larger bolded heading that read: "Disabled girl, 4, barred from school field trip". A four-year -old child, now that's certain to attract anyone's attention, a four-year-old child who has been "barred" from a school field trip. That's pretty low-down, poor kid.

And there's the photograph of her mother, wiping away a tear, so upset is she that her small girl has been short-changed. And this child really has been short-changed. By life's roulette wheel if nothing else. The child has a dreadful physical condition. She suffers from what is called a syrinx, a cyst that forms within the spinal cord and which can result in paralysis.

The little girl, a blonde-haired cutie is mostly wheelchair-bound, but she can walk for very short distances. She has scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and hypotonia (low muscle tone, affecting muscle strength), and she wears a hearing aid. The child is also losing sensation in her hands and feet. It is obvious that this little girl hasn't been genetically blessed.

But her mother and father, are outraged that their little girl was not able to accompany the rest of her class on a trip put on for their junior kindergarten class in Windsor to a local pumpkin farm. It would be very nice and a good experience for the child to go along with her peers to any kind of field trip, circumstances permitting.

But because neither parent was available to accompany their child on the trip, the child was unable to go along with her classmates. "I told them straight out, she was up before the boys were. She was ready to go. She had all the energy. She's having an awesome day today. We have a lot of bad days with her but today was a really awesome day. She was really excited. I was mad, very mad", said her father.

The onus, one swiftly determines, is placed on the school itself to make all arrangements for someone to focus on the child's needs which are quite special, in lieu of parental presence. There does happen to be an educational assistant at the school - one of whose assignments is to be of assistance to the child - but that day she was otherwise engaged.

It would appear that the school board and the school administration are doing what they can to ensure this child has a normal school experience, at her tender age. The mother laments that her child has been "centered out" whatever that means. "It's unfair", she repeatedly asserted. "I feel like my daughter just got discriminated against."

Good grief! Not really...! There is obvious concern for the physical well-being of that child, just as there is for the well-being of her other classmates, all of whom would share the same very young age, and who would require the close attention of attendants on an outing. This singular child with her exceptional physical needs would require very special attention.

Is this not what parents provide for their children? Since when has it become imperative that society provide every last little detail to satisfy the demands of every individual? If the parents themselves are not prepared to be present when they are required to do so, why must it fall upon the larger society to fill the gap?

If it is difficult for the parents to be present, consider how much more difficult it is for an adequate number of parent-volunteers to commit to these trips to ensure the safety and security of all the children? People become just too invested in their own sense of entitlements and forget that they too have obligations to fulfill toward their own needs.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Contrasts in Placatory Awards

Wrongfully convicted. That's a category, an unfortunate classification no one might ever imagine they might find themselves included within. Convicted of a major offence, a crime of such magnitude that you would lose whatever was dear to you. Accused of being a a pederast, an inhuman monster who preyed on a child. None other than his own four-year-old niece. Found guilty of sodomizing and strangling the child.

Thanks to the deliberation of a highly respected medical practitioner, a pathologist, along with three other doctors, all of whom convinced themselves, and freely gave their professional opinions, representing damning evidence of guilt against William Mullins-Johnson. Who was sentenced for his purported crime, and was incarcerated for twelve dreadful years of his life. Perhaps his incarceration wasn't the worst of his sentence.

Having been found guilty of a crime he strenuously denied having committed, he lost the trust of his family. With the revelation of the disgraceful conduct of pathologist Charles Smith, came the light of day. With not only Mr. Mullins-Johnson's exoneration of guilt, but others, including parents of children who were found guilty of their murder, because of the pathologist's wrongly convincing testimony.

To further complicate the wrong done against Mr. Mullins-Johnson, Dr. Smith lost critical evidence during the review of the case, causing the wronged man to spend an added six-year period longer than he might have, had he been exonerated initially, with the help of the missing evidence. Dr. Smith had convinced himself that child-torturers and -murderers lurked everywhere within normal families.
"In the end, it was found that the pathology evidence upon which the court had relied in support of his conviction was completely flawed. The court of appeal concluded that in fact, there had been no crime, that he did not assault his niece."
Ontario's Attorney General apologized to the wrongfully convicted man, and to his family for the dreadful miscarriage of justice. And the Government of Ontario is prepared to pay a $4.25-million settlement to Mr. Mullins-Johnson. As though there is any kind of usefully acceptable recompense for the agony of suffering that the man was forced to undergo.

Penalty for Dr. Smith for ruining so many peoples' lives? Bad press, and being drummed out of his profession, one he admitted to having little facility for, but despite his misgivings over his own professional (dis)ability, he continued to work as a pathologist and proceeded to give evidence damning innocent people; knowingly accusing the innocent.

Contrast that to a Canadian of Syrian descent who travelled on a dual passport to questionable destionations, during a time of high alert for Muslim terrorists, when security impressions were tense and people were swept up in a general search for additional threats. A man who suffered the fear and indignity of incarceration in a Syrian prison where he was purportedly tortured.

He and his supporters held Canada and the United States partially co-responsible for the incident of mistaken intent and identity which caused him to be illegally rendered to Syria as one of their nationals, where he was immediately taken into custody and interrogated, security and policing officials there convinced he represented a threat.

On his return to Canada he brought a legal suit against the Government of Canada for its laxity in overlooking the need to give him all the protection that a citizen is owed by his government - albeit under the impression he posed a threat to society. And for sharing security suspicions of his intentions as a possible agent of a terrorist organization with American security counterparts.

The $10-million (as opposed to the $37-million sued for) that the Federal Government agreed to give Maher Arar as compensation for his trials and tribulations seem rather out of whack in comparison to what Mr. Mullins-Johnson suffered and received in compensation. Simply by way of perception. Searching for adequate and propitiatory justice.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just Practising

What an enterprising student. A criminology student, no less. Testing the boundaries of legalities she does not agree with. Not when they impact on her bottom line, in any event.

Isn't that what the criminal class, as a matter of fact, does? Ignores laws the better to practise their covert, illegal and often very profitable enterprise called law-breaking? Is this Carleton University student studying criminology to better understand the phenomenon, and seeking to practise law-breaking herself to discover the thrills and profit inherent in it for its practitioners?

After all, public transportation facilities are meant to convey people from point A to point B and all other points in between and beyond. Public conveyance is a costly business. The vast network of infrastructure points, the convoys of trains and buses and the upkeep of stations, the hiring of public transit workers, all of that costs hugely.

Much of the cost associated with operating a functional public transportation system is municipally subsidized; that's tax money that homeowners and businesses pay for services that the entire community enjoys.

Of course transit users also have to shell out for their monthly passes, and they too are quite costly. Geared, largely, to the services provided. And some societal demographics get lucky, as ways are found to pool resources to service specific communities in a more economical manner. Senior citizens always get breaks of one kind or another. And so too do students whose disposable incomes are fairly finite.

So it was that a special arrangement was agreed upon with local universities, to launch a low-cost full-semester transit pass subsidized by the entire student body through the institution of a mandatory $290 fee added to tuition costs. An agreeable arrangement, one might imagine, but not everyone agrees.

Those students who live on campus and who don't require the use of public transit feel ill done by, being charged for a pass they are issued but don't have a need to utilize. And some of them attempt to sell their Uni-pass to earn back that $290 they had to shell out. It is illegal to do so.

The city's transit authority has problems with enterprising student entrepreneurs who even, cleverly, use first-rate copiers to produce fraudulent tickets which they sell on line. As a result, and to try to nip the practise, OC Transpo peruses sites like Craig's lists and Kijiji, where they see the advertisements students place for the sale of transit passes.

It is illegal to sell a pass that has been issued to a specific individual - or to loan it out to someone other than the legal holder. Without the U-Pass, students would be paying up to $920 for season's passes. So for most students this is a good initiative, helping them enormously to keep their costs down.

The Carleton University student who does not in fact live on campus but has a free shuttle service available to her from the University of Ottawa campus to classes at Carleton, insists she has no need to use OC Transpo. It made practical sense to her to try to recoup her $290 in additional student fees reflecting the OC Transpo pass cost, by selling it to someone else.

But these are non-transferable, and each pass is made deliberately user-specific, with the name and photograph of the individual right on the pass. Moreover, right on the pass itself is a legend informing the holder that the pass is non-transferable. That hasn't stopped some students from their determination to try to sell their individualized passes.

And it didn't stop this young woman studying criminal law, either. She made an arrangement to meet someone who had responded to her advertisement, purportedly to purchase the pass for his daughter.
"I go, I met her...I said, 'Hi, are you looking for the U-pass?' She said 'yes'. She gave me $250 in exchange for the pass. then she pulls out a badge, and then she waves over her partner who was waiting in the doorway in Sears. I was just dumbfounded by the whole situation."
Doubtless, she was. Particularly when she was handed a real buzzer of a ticket, valued at $610. Now that stings. To save $290 she now owes the courts $610 for undertaking an illegal transaction. Might be a valuable lesson to this young woman. Clearly, she is engaged in pursuing an academic career for which she is unsuited.

She has seen the seamy side of illegal activities. She might now consider enrolling in law school.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Destroying Trust

The human mind can pass through emotional stages that extend from the sublime to the truly profane. And when the two most urgent and sensitive emotions that the human mind can cope with come into play against one another, tragedy is certain to befall those incapable of exerting discipline upon themselves for the sake of those whom they claim to love.

It's difficult enough to digest the information that a man, through angry frustration, a bruising sense of vicious entitlement, or whatever the cause leading to a psychotic outbreak in emotional dysfunction, will kill someone. Take someone's life. Become a murderer. The most heinous human act; to take a life.

And yet, it is a common enough occurrence in any society that a woman will be killed by her boyfriend, her male companion, her husband. Any rational person might ask themselves, how it is possible for people who once felt love for one another to allow themselves to become so morally degraded and emotionally frail as to violently attack the other.

But it is done, frequently, and usually the victim is a woman. Generally speaking, a woman desperate to escape the confines of a man's grasp of her as his personal property. Unwilling to allow her to leave, anxious to maintain a relationship that is no longer viable, angry that the woman insists she must go and find her freedom.

Usually freedom from an overbearing, demanding, jealously possessive man. Not that uxorious husbands don't also lose their marriage or common-law companions, when women for their own reasons, decide that the relationship is beyond saving, at least for them. Irrespective of who is responsible for the severing of the bond, when it is time to leave, each should accept it.

So it's shocking to read of one incident after another where a man, infuriated by a set of circumstances he can no longer control, decides to seek revenge, and nothing will satisfy him other than the death of the woman he once loved. Much worse, infinitely worse, when children are involved.

And in this particular case, there were two children, an eight-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. Whose parents were separated, and both of whom were attempting to secure custody of the children. Parents do love their children for the most part, whether mother or father. Bitter quarrels result from disagreements revolving around the disposition of the children.

In the recent newspaper story there was the revelation of a man, the father of the two children, violently struggling with his wife. The mother of the children in desperate straits, begged her little girl to run out to alert a neighbour, to "Go tell the police". But the child did nothing, and soon her mother was no longer moving, and her father proclaimed her dead.

Then he took up his children, dressed them for church, and went with them, after having wrapped their mother's corpse in a rug. After church, the father gave both his children many gifts dear to the hearts of small children. He told his children he would not be seeing them for a long time, but he wanted them to remember that he loved them, very much.

He must have thought he did love his children. In his delusional state he must have also thought that what he was about to do, and directly in their presence, would have no lasting impact on the children he loved. Nor would the fact that he planned to deprive them of their mother have any effect on their short- or long-term future.

And then he called 911 to report what he had done, and was taken into custody to stand trial. During the trial, which took place two years after the dread event, the little girl, now ten, testified: "They were, like, fighting, kicking, hitting and, like, punching", she elaborated. "Mommy said, 'Go to the neighbours and say help us and call the police', but I didn't want to because I was a little shy."

Along with the many gifts the little girl's father gave her before calling the authorities, was two Hannah Montana dolls, two High School Musical DVDs and CDs as well as a Hannah Montana shirt, pants and jackets. Her brother was given a Thomas the Tank engine toy and a shirt. She, at least, will recall this in her later years.

She will also likely never forget another thing her father gifted to her which she described when she was asked why she thought she would get into trouble and so had hesitated to tell the investigating detective the truth of what she had witnessed: "Since I didn't stop my parents fighting and it was a little bit my fault", the child explained.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Troubled Global Economies

Workers everywhere are reviling their governments anxious to cut back on spending strategies after the globally severe economic slowdown and stimulus action taken to ameliorate nations' struggles against mass unemployment and loss of consumer confidence. The unions have become grumpily militant as a result of governments like that of France, taking steps to reduce the impact of rising worker expectations and diminishing government ability to meet them.

Reversing the trend that had seen steady increases in workers' benefits is not an easy thing to do. Greece saw rampaging protests that turned violent and anti-government when it attempted to install its economic reforms. And France is still struggling mightily to cope with the trade union responses to President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. In Iceland, workers are simply stunned at the failure of their false economy.

In Germany a blow-back of the financial collapse leading to high unemployment rates has seen a return of xenophobia, tangled with sentiments always simmering below the surface of polite society, leading to discrimination and overt symptoms of racism. What better target than immigrants? Since it is the presence of immigrants or refugees, from countries as diverse as South Africa, France, Spain and Germany that is held responsible for a lack of jobs.

Fragile national economies make for uneasy social times. At the best of times, when economies are flourishing, unions make their inroads, demanding reductions in workloads and increased wages, along with more benefits and time off for employees. During the worst of times, when nations find themselves groaning under the impossible weight of pension responsibilities, back-tracking on benefits becomes nigh impossible.

It is relatively easy to be generous; far more difficult to invoke national need and unity in the name of revoking entitlements once given.

The unemployment rate in the United States, traditionally the global leader in growth and viable economic stability, has reached almost 10%, an unheard-of height of social dysfunction, leading to huge numbers of bankruptcy claims and home foreclosures. In cities across the United States, municipal governments find it difficult to balance previously rich entitlements for their workers against the provision of social services in a tight economy.

Benefits packages for the employees of various States of the Union are hampering the ability to plan for renewed infrastructure, understandable when state payroll represents a 41% increase over similar jobs with Fortune 500 companies. New York City can barely finance its schools in view of the burden it shoulders to provide retirement benefits to ten thousand former policemen, retired at age 50.

In California the average corrections officer earns $70,00 annually, plus overtime, while teachers earn significantly less. Prisons are well funded, schools are not. Buffalo has seen a reduction by half of its population in the last fifty years, yet its public working staff is as large as it was with twice the population it currently has. Worker rights become unassailable when unions financially support the candidacy of state leaders who then become indebted to them.

In Canadian cities taxpayers are being squeezed. In good times generous programs were undertaken, and in bad times they still have to be paid for. City budgets are over-strained, and much of that is due to salaries, with too many public employees on the payroll, too many duplicate and costly programs, and too much wastage. Municipalities are facing elections and it's the rare mayor who will be re-elected as voters hope for better management leading to better times.

In Toronto, the left-leaning mayor who many felt was simply a stooge for municipal unions is facing the certainty of being replaced by a more practical-minded right-of-centre politician whom Torontonians in their fatigue with transit and garbage collection strikes, are anxious to offer an opportunity to. In Ottawa, squabbles over tax increases resulting in fewer services, are leading to a replacement of the incumbent.

It's a universal mess, with no nice and tidy end in sight, quite yet.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Stating The Obvious

"If we do not want to jail one terrorist only to release three, we need to take pre-emptive action based on the experience of our friends and allies. If we take the problem seriously and do our homework, Canadians can get ahead of prison radicalization before it becomes a major security concern." Alex Wilner, author of a new report by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, public policy think-tank.
He is but stating the obvious. There is nothing particularly new about the growing understanding of the realities that exist within the country, where dedicated jihadists have revealed themselves and their dangerous intentions to attack symbols of authority and the general population. Canada's security agencies have caught up with them, and they have stood trial for their violent ideological-religious convictions and establishment of plans to wreak havoc in society in the name of fundamentalist Islam.

Momim Khawaja, the first convicted home-grown terrorist in Canada, was known for his 'work' in seducing other prisoners to Islam while he was incarcerated awaiting trial. The verdict in his trial of guilty as charged and the time allotted to him to serve out his sentence, gives him ample additional opportunity within the penal system to continue that work on behalf of spreading the message of Islamism. He will, no doubt, successfully convert other men to the glory of radical violent jihad. Appealing to the sense of pious adventure residing deep in the psyches of the mentally unbalanced and the social misfits.

It is well enough known that prisons in Europe are busily breeding future jihadists at an unprecedented rate. Out of proportion in numbers to those being recruited through other means; social Internet networks, within mosques and community centres, and through covert word-of-mouth in indoctrinating susceptible people. Invitations to radical Islamic speakers whose values and concerns are obviously deleterious to those of Canada, result in foreign Islamist sympathizers and jihadis speaking freely on Canadian soil to impressionable young Muslims.

The report just issued considers the threat within this country to be as yet "much less severe" in scale than what presents currently as a growing threat in the United States, Britain, France and Spain and Germany. As more aspiring jihadists are being apprehended and incarcerated, the incidence of spreading the extremist pathology of fascist Islamism increases exponentially. And Mr. Wilner, author of the report, has some recommendations for Canadian authorities interested in stemming the tide of home-grown terrorists.

Chief among them to cut off access by extremist Muslims to other prison inmates, which would of necessity mean isolating them from the general prison population. An effort to be made to screen the Muslim clerics who visit prisoners to clear them of radical intention. And any such conversations should be monitored (although if discussions take place in languages unfamiliar to the screeners/monitors, an additional problem arises). Within the Correctional Service of Canada, a unit should be tasked with monitoring radicalization trends.

The idea is to produce a state of apprehended violent jihad, cutting it off from spreading the appeal of violence in dedication to fundamentalist Islam. And without a shadow of doubt that's past time to occur.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Entitled Complaints

It's a new world of academia. Where university courses can be taken over the Internet. Sit at home, log onto your site, and attend virtual lectures. Send in papers, write exams, email lecturers and professors. And it's not a bad idea, actually. Giving people the opportunity to remain in the city they're familiar with, while taking university courses on line at a university located halfway across a continent.

Things that seem simple can sometimes also be complex. There's the news item in the city section of our local newspaper outlining a complaint from a young woman who, to save money, decided to stay at home with her parents in Ottawa, and 'attend' university at the University of Victoria. Long distance, over the Internet. Neat stuff.

But she's complaining. Money is tight, she is a full-time student in the university's child and youth care program. Tuition fees and course publications have already cost her thousands. She has a job and is trying to make ends meet, so to speak. She had attended Algonquin College in Ottawa last year. And last year she had no problem acquiring a student special-fee bus pass from the local public transportation authority.

This year, different story. Since she lives at home and attends virtual university the transportation authority failed to see how she would qualify for a student bus pass. Students who live in Ottawa and attend school full-time, from elementary school, to colleges and universities do qualify for special-rate student passes. They attend school daily, and transportation is required.

But not her. And she's fuming about it.

Public transit, we should remember, is costly. It is also subsidized by local taxpayers. It is a benefit to society and its use is encouraged for obvious reasons. And this student, in her first year at University of Victoria, feels very ill done by. That she does not physically leave her home to 'attend' classes is irrelevant, she insists. She still has to take public transportation to go to libraries to enable her to do research.

And she works, as well, so she does use public transit regularly, she says. To go to work. Trouble is, the pass is meant for academic attendance, not employment. The differential in cost between a regular transit pass over the course of a semester would amount to several hundred dollars. But the transit authority's policy is that only students attending school in the area which it serves are eligible for a student pass.

It's hard to feel much sympathy for this young woman. She lives at home, so her costs are relatively modest, other than for tuition, but she does work to help pay her expenses. One can only wonder; if parents are freed from the burden of paying a child's tuition because the child works, could they not offer to help pay for her bus transit passes?

Why does it make more sense for people to assume that a tab that owes much to taxpayer support appears like a good thing, not that, in instances such as this, it becomes a parental or familial responsibility?

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Seditionist Extraordinaire

As an illustration of just how entitled and bitter Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois is, his latest foray into recommending to an American audience the break-up of Canada represents the ultimate act of an immature ingrate. After all, the Canadian taxpayer funds his party handsomely to sit in Parliament because in Canada people can say what they wish, and if a majority of Quebecois choose to elect a traitor to Parliament, they may do so.

And so they have. So this man, representing a secessionist political party which its original founder himself (Lucien Bouchard), feels has lost its timeliness and appeal to its target audience, travels to other provinces to address its social and political and economic elite in an effort to persuade them that Quebec has a right to leave Confederation. And that to encourage and assist it to do so would constitute a clear victory for justice.

Mr. Duceppe has some nerve. For which he is admired in some quarters, alarmingly. He speaks truth to power, claim his supporters. He speaks libellous tripe when he insists that French-Canadians are a persecuted minority within a greater English-speaking majority. Francophone Canadians have inordinate political sway within Canada. Traditionally, prime ministers have come alternately from English and French Canada. Not bad for a minority.

French-language rights are enshrined in law. The rest of Canada is hugely encouraged to become bilingual and as a result many public schools teach young Canadians French in a bilingual atmosphere. Wherever federal signage is located in Canada, it is bilingual. All federal political parties have agreed to designate Quebec as a 'nation'. If a significant number of Francophones reside anywhere in Canada, by law everything must be translated for them.

There are no reciprocal niceties. Little recognition that bilingualism should encompass the entire country, where required. Quebec has a significant Anglophone and allophone demographic, people for whom no slack is cut when it comes to language. For Quebec is officially unilingual. And those who live in Quebec may only be permitted to send their children to English-language schools under precise circumstances. English-language signage is frowned upon. The courtesy of bilingual signs is irrelevant to the Quebec government.

There are countless French-language radio stations both within and without the Province of Quebec, and like numbers of television stations. Canadians in general have learned to be sensitive to the tender feelings of Quebecois. We pay for a federally-recognized political party whose sole concern is the separation of Quebec from Canada to become reality, and enable its leader to speak how he may, wherever he wishes.

Quebec has been granted special privileges by the federal government on the world stage. It can represent itself as a province that is fairly autonomous. Provincial parks and institutions are named 'national', not provincial, although they are clearly provincial in nature. Quebec envisions itself as wholly separate from Canada in the future, but reliant economically.

As it is currently, through transfer payments, Quebec receives far more of the share allocated to 'have-not provinces' than it deserve. Enabling the province to offer to its residents privileges and perquisites not available to residents of most other provinces, including the 'have' provinces whose taxes support Quebec.

And now the final, resonating insult. Gilles Duceppe travelling to the United States to speak before influential public-policy elites, where he has predicted the defeat of Liberal Premier Jean Charest, leaving the door ajar for the province's departure, with the election of the Parti Quebecois. Mr. Duceppe was expansive in persuading his listeners that "the U.S. would have two very solid allies for the price of one".

The response from the director of the Canadian Institute of the U.S.-government funded Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Hudson Institute was telling:
"If the United States is going to have to make a choice between Canada and Quebec, I think the answer is pretty obvious. I don't think the United States would like to be put in that position and the American government will do anything it can to avoid being put in that position."

Former president Bill Clinton did, on one of his visits, make it abundantly clear that the U.S. wanted no part in Quebec's plans for secession. Yet the Bloc leader explained to his audience that he was "counting on the United States to be a decisive player", to "push for negotiations and a quick and orderly resolution", once the referendum victory he and the Parti Quebecois are anticipating becomes reality.

The reality is perhaps starkly different. There have been, in the past, sufficient numbers of Quebecers who have indicated their unwillingness to leave Canada. A previous referendum proved just that. In the words of the MP for the Quebec City riding of Levis Bellechase, "I am really stunned that Gilles Duceppe is trying to sell a concept (on the international stage) that he can't even sell to Quebecers themselves".

Perhaps it's not entirely too late to enact a federal law that would make it an indictable offence to plan, initiate and participate in a clearly harmful destruction of social and political unity within Canada.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Credible Deniability

Isn't that just like the federal government? Outwardly attesting to its dedication to family values, and covertly allowing the infiltration of degraded sexual activities to sully Canada's social mores. You just cannot tell who you can trust any more in this world. Where did the federal government lose its ethical values? It is to grieve hopelessly. We are so disappointed.

We know these things have been happening because we have it straight from the indignantly accusatory mouth of Ontario's Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. He has released for public scrutiny a letter he sent off to federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley. He is appalled and disgusted and figures we should be, too.
"I do not believe provincial government employees should counsel clients to train for a job as an escort or table dancer, nor do I see it as the government's role to assist in recruiting staff for strip clubs and escort services", he puffed. Please accept this as official notification that Ontario will not comply with any directive of this nature."
How utterly disgraceful. What can the feds be thinking? This is entirely un-Canadian, to impress upon the provincial governments and territories that they have an obligation under federal direction to direct job-seekers to the sex industry. Furthermore, to train them as strippers, lap dancers, and who-knows-what-else?

Mind, when all else fails, and the country has a growing deficit of employment opportunities, perhaps we could see our way clear...? No? Yes, of course, perfectly correct.

It would appear that the document in question that was received by all provincial governments delineating a policy review of job-bank websites by Human Resources and Skills Development in Ottawa, has caused the hackles to rise in the government of Dalton McGuinty.

When it comes to the ballot box, he's hoping Ontarians will forget the millions of wasted tax funding for special projects that never quite came off.

Nor should they recall their umbrage over rising energy costs related to 'green energy' initiatives that is putting a whole lot of in the bank accounts of green-energy-entrepreneurs.
Of foreign companies that will bring in windmill technology in spades just as wind energy is being downgraded as an alternate source of energy by the acknowledgement that it is intrusive, expensive and unreliable.

Oh, how surprising. The federal government is denying any knowledge at the executive level of any such bulletin. Claiming that all job postings must "continue to reflect the social values and ethical practices shared by the Federal Government, its provincial and territorial partners, as well as Canadian society as a whole." Outlining the inclusion of exotic dancers, erotic dancers, nude dancers, escorts and chatline agents.

"I'll be very frank here, if a directive of this nature is here, we will not be posting jobs for strippers and escorts. We don't feel it's an appropriate use of taxpayers' money. The federal government has the final say, but if they don't like it, they can sue me." Thus said Ontario's Minister of Training. What a good man, what rectitude, what a sense of universal morality. Remember the name and vote for him.

Meanwhile, what does the federal government respond with? "[The draft note] has not been seen by the Minister's office, nor would it ever have been a policy under consideration by our government." One would think. Right?

The memo, insisted Ryan Sparrow of Ms. Finley's department, was prepared by low-level bureaucrats, never solicited, let alone received the permission of the director general of the department, nor the Minister and could never be thought of as legitimate government policy. So there. And go soak your head.
"Obviously, we disagree with the memo. It has no legitimacy whatever." Ryan Sparrow
Quite as obviously, some bored civil servant with a rakish sense of humour thought he'd break up the intolerable ennui suffered by those whose employment entails too much predictable routine that has been suitably remunerated.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Real Vision" For Health Care

Guess Maxime Bernier, obviously a deeply devoted Conservative, doesn't much care about the regard with which he will be held in Quebec. He can, doubtless, rely on the loyalty of voters in his riding, who returned him handily in the last election, despite his unfortunate indiscretions that lost him a plum cabinet post.

Mr. Bernier has been openly critical of his province. Which he characterizes as infantile and greedy. Reflecting just how many other Canadians regard Quebecers. Who love to flirt with the prospect of nationalism and the potential for separation from Confederation, and use it as a bludgeon to keep the rest of Canada sufficiently concerned to allow the province its coy blackmail.

He has castigated the City of Quebec for having raised fiscal eyebrows in anticipating that the federal government was prepared to hand over millions of dollars for a new hockey franchise which the city could proudly take ownership of. The wealthy league and its overpaid hockey stars felt too that it was reasonable to accept tax money to establish a franchise they themselves were not prepared to fund.

And here is Mr. Bernier, recommending that the concept of transfer payments - meant to provide a system of equalization among the provincial social and health facilities ensuring that Canadians, no matter where they live in the country - would have access to equal services, be abolished.

Leaving a clear provincial jurisdiction in the provision of such services to the provinces.
And enabling them to undertake to fund those enhanced and innovative medical-hospital services that would result, through tax-funding. The federal government to diminish the level of its taxation of income, leaving the way clear for the provinces to take up the slack.

As far as Mr. Bernier is concerned, the current traditional one-size-fits-all transfer protocol has not resulted in a dependable and current universal health care system. It stifles the ability of provincial governments to seek alternate methods more useful and efficient than the current model.

And he may be right. And Quebec will most surely detest him for yanking the plush carpet of exorbitant transfer payments out from under their toasty feet.

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Uncivil, Brutal Reactions

"It wasn't long before I hated the NATO warplanes as much as the Serbs, who, a matter of months earlier, I'd thought could use a good pounding. Now any of us on the ground could end up dead in bombing raids that were routinely killing civilians, so it made no difference whose side I was on, or who had the stronger claim to right or wrong. The constant rasp and howl of jets delivering their bombs was a trigger that set off a fire of anger in my gut. The people killing from the safety of great speed and height seemed as cowardly and arrogant as the Serbian murders they had come to stop." Paul Watson, Where War Lives
Wouldn't one be justified in thinking that Serbians had learned, through their own crucible of fire and instant death when NATO assaulted them while they were cleansing the country of Albanians, the signal lesson that people are people, needful of recognition for their differences, but never the kind of vicious disregard for their human rights that was exhibited during the uncivil war in Bosnia.

Apparently not. Serbs recently demonstrated the same shamefully brutish mentality of a vicious mob when they violently protested Belgrade's first gay pride parade in a decade. Gay pride parades are most definitely not family-fare events with their outlandish costumes, deliberately provocative voluptuous posturings, and defiance of homophobia. But nothing excuses the vicious behaviour of the rioting mobs.

Any society has its gay population. Men and women for whom gender differentiation holds no erotic and emotional attraction. That they seek emotional and sexual fulfillment with others of the same gender and orientation may be a matter of disgust to many in society but we still live with the conceit that we are civilized countries, capable of accepting diversity, and politely overlooking that some values do not mesh with our own.
A force of about 5,000  police clashed with anti-gay protesters on Sunday, leading to  arrests and many injuries as Belgrade hosted its first gay-rights  rally in nearly a decade.
Photograph by: Marko Djurica, Reuters, Reuters

Thousands of police were deployed to cope with anti-gay protesters, who went on to express their displeasure by attacking political party headquarters. Over a hundred police were injured in grappling with gangs of skinheads and nationalists. Five thousand riot-geared police valiantly attempted to control the violence of the crowd. The thuggish 'protesters' attempted to enter parliament, smashed windows at an embassy, torched a car in front of another embassy.

A blaze was set in the Democratic Party headquarters of Serbian President Boris Tadic, and at the location of the Socialist Party rioters went on the attack. This was most certainly a ravening crowd gone berserk. The country's Defence Minister spoke of a "really sad day for Serbia". President Tadic vowed "Serbia will secure human rights for all its citizens regardless of their diversity. No one will tolerate attempts to threaten them."

The situation bespeaks the legacy of former president Slobodan Milosevic. As a test of the country's preparedness to take its place in civil society with enlightened social values, this was a dismal failure. The ethnic hatred of the 1990s has been supplanted by a massive display of homophobia.

An obvious excuse, for young thugs to demonstrate the level of their commitment to the exercise of brutal rejection of those who are different. The occasion gave them the opportunity to rampage and to loot, under the guise of nationalism. Their ferocious violence merited the response of the police, using clubs and shields, tear gas and stun grenades, along with armoured vehicles.

The country that not so long ago suffered dreadfully from a war that represented the worst carnage that human beings could visit upon one another, the Serbians and the Albanians equally distant and divorced from enlightened civility, each in their savage quest to annihilate the other.

The government has its work cut out to persuade these pernicious elements of societal hatred that they cannot and shall not represent Serbia. And good luck to them.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Repulsive Partisanship

Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, Canada was shut out for a decade for the potential of sitting on the temporary Security Council within the United Nations. The current government is slightly conflicted over the usefulness of close attendance in the United Nations and what they might be able to accomplish within the Security Council, but decided it would continue a tradition whereby Canada has always succeeded in persuading member-countries it belonged on the revolving Security Council.

Not this time. Despite a very energetic and determined bid to win over the support of countries in sufficient numbers that their combined vote would represent the required majority. Portugal, a European Union country, clearly could rely on EU countries to cast votes its way. Canada could conceivably depend upon those developing countries of the world whose meagre economies it had always supported. It could depend on its reliable reputation within the UN.

Canadian politics intervened in the process in a most unfortunate way. Although it is a trifle absurd for Minister Lawrence Cannon to claim responsibility for Canada's defeat in the vote against Portugal owed much to the official opposition's degraded and despicable statement that Canada, under the Conservatives and its policies did not deserve a seat on the Security Council, the truth is it had some impact. It would have to have had, given the fact that foreign embassies located in Canada assiduously read Canadian newspapers.

Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party, demonstrated a deep level of contempt for Canada when he divested himself of his sanctimonious opinion that the Conservatives had spoiled Canada's chances for Security Council membership and that Canada did not deserve consideration for membership. His uncalled-for partisan cheap shot revealed him for the shallow intelligence he owns.

It would appear that Mr. Ignatieff received great satisfaction in the voting results that left Canada out in the cold. He is described by one news writer as having grinned widely. Behaviour unbecoming to his station, but quite explicable as a reflection of his character. Should he ever become prime minister of this country one shudders to think how he might re-revolutionize our values.

In the final analysis, popularity is a dim reflection of principle. A descriptive that does not apply to Mr. Ignatieff or the Liberal Party of Canada based on 'balanced' performances on the international scene, current and former.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homophobic? Hardly...!

It's kind of hard to fault people for having their opinions, particularly when they're balanced about it, after some obvious personal introspection. I find nothing particularly untoward in the statements made by Republican gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino. Whatever his assets as a decent human being and a potential governor of New York State, what he has asserted makes eminently good sense.

For some people public displays of absurd and boorishly insulting behaviour strikes a discordant note; their reaction is visceral revulsion, an assault on their sense of civil manners.

"I'm not a homophobic", he insisted in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America. A Democrat, of course, would instantly bless a rival who clearly states an opinion that would strike many as discriminatory. What's wrong with discrimination, when it helps you sort the wheat from the chaff? Mr. Paladino has hired a gay to work on his staff. He has a nephew who is gay whom he describes as "a wonderful boy".

Ah, but he has said some uncomfortable things about conventions revolving around the gay community. Needless to say, one could safely venture the opinion that there many gays themselves who view with distaste the public displays of flamboyant and rude behaviour demonstrated by gays garishly attired and behaving rather poorly, during Gay Pride parades.

The fact is as many see it, such behaviour is demeaning and it's difficult to see where pride comes in when people deliberately behave in such a scandalously outrageous manner so as to offend others, while believing themselves to be gaily abandoned, and entitled to foist themselves in a public forum as happy hedonists.

Have a party, for heaven's sake, in a large rented auditorium, and be gay. Don't flaunt irritatingly obstreperous and childish behaviour in front of those who have no option but to witness a public spectacle. Of course there are members of the public who applaud such displays, but one must question their ideas of civil propriety.

As for gay marriage, what an absurd contention, that same-sex partners are entitled to the sacraments of marriage. The social purpose of marriage is for procreation; the marriage pact ensures that a man is legally obligated to support a wife and children, not abandon them as many do when they break the compact. The insistence by gays that the public accept them as 'married' couples is sadly juvenile.

There is no reason whatever that gay couples cannot be given social security entitlements. Their gender orientation is their own business and most people are comfortable with that. On the other hand, heterosexuals don't publicly exhibit their intimate and sexually playful overtures, so why should the general public be manipulated by guilt, to assert their support for such errant behaviour?

Gay Pride parades as public performances are precisely what Mr. Paladino describes them as appearing: "disgusting" in character; obviously suggestive and blatantly immature. As self-indulgent theatre, a celebration for gays, and as such they should be kept within the private domain.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Britain Dysfunction

It's not the country it once was. There are social expectations and feelings of entitlements that undermine peoples' need and ability to go out into the workforce to earn their daily bread. Why bother making the effort when the country's 'social conscience' has been so generously stretched and realized that laws were enacted to allow for continual financial support from generation to generation?

Near Manchester, in Rochester, Great Britain, there is an apartment campus grandly and ironically called "Lower Falinge Estate". Estate, no less. Where there exist some 200 state subsidized apartments, for this is a housing project for those who do not appear to be disposed toward earning a living on their own.

It's estimated there are 500 residents at the housing project. Of whom a bare handful appear of a morning on their way to meaningful/paid employment. Although the outward trek - from the 'Estate' toward a working destination appears meager, there is a daily influx of workers into the housing project.

People employed by official outreach agencies to be present there, presumably for consultations and assistance to be proffered to the residents, along with council workers for the project's various maintenance procedures. Commuting appears to be a one-way directional, identifying Lower Falinge Estate as a decidedly hopeless welfare ghetto.

The unemployment rate on the Estate, leading to unemployment claims, is rather elevated, at 215, and puzzling, considering there are a registered 179 working-age individuals resident there. At the Rochdale job centre there were 903 job vacancies on offer.

The average mother of two receives about $500 weekly in social benefits, including housing and council tax benefits. And as reality has it, many of the 903 jobs awaiting applicants offer a a payscale a mere a trifle over that.

In that particular area, hailing taxis for various drives, including those representing a 10-minute walk to a destination, appear common. "I can't afford to get around in taxis", commented one of the housing department's maintenance men. "We're working people. We struggle, but they get everything. There are jobs, but they won't take them."

In their defence a woman who operates the Spotlight on Falinge project avers that most of the residents genuinely would like to return to the workforce. The social welfare payments represent a known and secure security advantage. Once it's lost, after acquiring paid employment, the claimant system is so convoluted, she claims, people are averse to going through it again, to re-claim welfare benefits.

They choose to stay where they are, how they are, managing to get by with those useful welfare benefits. Fault in the situation is a two-forked thing. Guarantee people no-stress, no-effort cheques, why expect they will garner sufficient pride in themselves to wean off welfare and search for a job?

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chronic Expectations

He is 84 years of age, enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1944, attended training camp, was deployed to Holland as part of the Allied occupation until 1946 after liberation from the Nazis. He served two years, 60 years ago, with the Canadian Armed Forces during the SecondWorld War.

He suffers now from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic sinusitis. Not, for his age, an entirely unexpected situation.

His wife is a retired schoolteacher, and their combined income in retirement is $45,000. According to 2010 figures by Statistics Canada representing 2008 values, the average two-earner family income is $63,900, while for singles it is $24,900. The average for retired couples over age 65 is $55,900.

Therefore, this particular retired couple earns less in superannuation, CPP and Old Age Pension than the average. Yet there are families with children who earn less than $45,000. Presumably, like most retired couples, their home is paid for and their expenses routinely minimal.

The wife's medical insurance pays for most health-related costs. But not for a new set of dentures her 84-year-old husband recently required, at $2,700, or for the hearing aid he now requires which will cost about $4,000. When younger, he worked in the real estate market and says now his finances would be in better shape but for plunging interest rates in the 1980s.

He has requested assistance of Veterans Affairs to help with their $3,500 a year costs for casual employment of a housekeeper and a handyman. Veterans Affairs does have a program specifically for these types of expenses, but after reviewing his qualifications he was informed that with their combined income of $45,000 he is disqualified. It is not revealed whether this is after- or before-taxes.

But he feels hard done by, claiming that during winter training exercises in Brantford and CFB Borden, he can recall, being troubled with breathing problems, ear infections and constant colds. After leaving the army he had bouts of pneumonia and pleurisy, and he is also asthmatic.

All maladies that may reveal a poor constitution, not necessarily that his enlistment and training had anything to do with these conditions.

But he is upset and feels dreadfully neglected by Veterans Affairs for refusing him the assistance he feels is due him. Veterans Affairs has disclosed that there are 218,000 Canadians who receive support from the department; veterans, their survivors and current Canadian Forces personnel.

This man says he has voted for the current Conservative-led government, and is disappointed: "They spend all sorts of money to send (Defence Minister Peter) MacKay all over the world, but they can't follow up on us. What the hell is wrong here? I don't think I should have to beg."

Nor do taxpayers feel he should beg.

The man speaks with some umbrage: "I have to ask my wife for everything, which is a little demeaning". Is it really? His wife pulls the purse strings perhaps, but are not familial expenses a family affair? He has a grown daughter, don't adult children offer to assist their parents financially if and when required?

This man is upset and unhappy about his financial situation. He begrudges having to go to his wife to purchase needed items. Yet appears to have no hesitation in expecting the taxpayer to pony up...?

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Scuppering The Ship

Paul Watson, environmental activist, defender of the seas and the threatened mammalian life within, is dedicated to good causes. As he sees them. His notoriously violent confrontational techniques used to 'influence' sea conservation has garnered him a well-deserved, and somewhat unsavoury reputation. Among his life causes are promoting a vegan human diet, population control, and honouring the biosphere from an eco-biological perspective.

Paul Watson

All of this sounds quite honourable as a life pursuit. He was originally a member of Greenpeace, another, more authentic eco-activist group which pursues its agenda through non-violent persuasive actions and public relations. Because Mr. Watson felt more inclined toward using physical and violent means to persuade the public to his cause, he broke off his association with Greenpeace, and founded his own group, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Japan views Mr. Watson and his group with great revulsion for their violently confrontational dedication. And they've had ample opportunity to weigh whether they would prefer to avoid those confrontations. On the other hand, the Japanese are insistent that seafood of all varieties, including endangered whales, should still be caught for 'scientific' purposes - where oddly enough, they end up for public sale at the Islands' fishmongers.

Mr. Watson's reputation has taken a further hit of late where a former member of the Sea Shepherd Society has testified that its leadership is "morally bankrupt". For Mr. Watson, according to the accusations from Pete Bethune, former captain of the Ady Gil, sunk in a violent confrontation with a Japanese whaler, ordered the sinking of the bio-diesel boat, despite that it could be salvaged.

The purpose being that a boat sunk by a deliberate and violent ramming by a Japanese whaler would make for a more morally outraged and enthusiastically supportive public invested in protesting Japan's Antarctic whaling obsession. "It was definitely salvageable, it was still rock-solid from the engine room back", Mr. Bethune explained in a radio interview in New Zealand.

That high-seas collision between the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru II and the Sea Shepherd's trimaran speedboat Ady Gil, led to Mr. Bethune's arrest for illegal boarding the whaler at a later date. But he now accuses Paul Watson of scuppering the vessel needlessly as a public relations stunt. Moreover, the man who funded the purchase of the Ady Gil for $1-million, supports Mr. Bethune's allegations.
"The really dishonest thing about it is if they really wanted to scuttle a boat, they should have just come clean and said, 'Look, we can't lose more time against the whalers, we're gonna leave the boat here and scuttle it'.' But instead, they scuttled it, but did it secretly."
"I think an organization that relies on public money and public generosity to survive has an obligation to be honest", Mr. Bethune explained.

Paul Watson denies all allegations of such misdemeanors deliberately misleading the public for his eco-active advantage. Who could be surprised?

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Friday, October 08, 2010


"I was very happy to get blown up to save the world." British schoolchild exposed to an 'environmentally sound', "satirical video.
Now that's getting right down and serious about the environment. Where else but in Britain? Which happens to be the source of some very dodgy conclusions coming out of academia, but which the United Nations in its own campaign to battle climate change has used to their fullest extent. Even while many of the conclusions have been questioned and debunked, their appropriateness sent into the garbage heap of necessary disposal.

Nothing daunted, a new propaganda arm of the U.K. government has come up with a really novel idea of insisting that by the end of 2010, Britain will effectively cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 10%. The program is fittingly titled 10:10. That's just fine for Britain, of course. Of course, there is also a quite inconvenient fact that the country remains reliant to an uncomfortable degree on coal-fired energy.

So what's this all about? Why simple enough, a hilariously amusing bit of coercion. Some, on the other hand, might not find it all that amusing, truth to tell. But the producers of the video (written by Richard Curtis; shopped around by Franny Armstrong whose movie The Age of Stupid, seemed to impress the impressionable).

The video exposes, among others, schoolchildren to the dire consequences of man-made global warming. And it asks the children who have watched the video how they personally think about the situation. Do they believe that global warming is occurring and that people should be invested in ameliorating activities?

Clearly, children respond in a manner that most likely reflects the opinions of their parents, when dinner-table discussions go the round. And clearly there must be some parents who don't agree with the theory of man-made pollution imperilling the Planet. That climate change appears to be occurring is beyond debate; that what humans do to produce energy may be causing the change not so much.

So the children who respond negatively to the message, stating they don't quite believe what the video is stating stand the risk of being blown to smithereens. Don't agree with the carbon reduction program: well you deserve what's coming to you kiddo, you're going to be blown up, and there'll be blood and guts (ugh) everywhere. That's your fate, you've chosen it.

One imagines that this little trial of amusing consequences does enhance second thoughts in the minds of the young and impressionable. On the other hand, as stated, many people thought the concept outrageous. And that to pursue schoolchildren in this manner and threaten them with this kind of reprisal wasn't all that side-splittingly funny.
"With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. " 10:10 organizers.
Amazing, people have no sense of humour nowadays have they?
"Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people who are together threatening everybody's existence on the planet? Clearly we don't really think they should be blown up, that's just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?" Franny Armstrong
Sounds like someone in charge suffered amputation of the frontal cortex.

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Thursday, October 07, 2010


"The whole reasoning behind the action is to ensure the kids have education, health and welfare, all the ordinary things that your parents normally help you out with. They no longer have parents to help them out with the milestones in life, going to university, buying your first home." Lawyer Russel Molot

Simon Banke, 20 years old, and invincible, recklessly drove his black Nissan 300ZX in downtown Ottawa, feeling himself immune to traffic laws, and to the imperative not to drive when alcohol has been consumed. He cannot believe that he lost control of his car. This is what he said, over and over again, at the scene of the accident, where his car mowed down two parents of a young family.

His disbelief did not appear to linger on the fact that he could not believe he was responsible for taking the lives of two people in the prime of their lives.

Three young girls are now orphans. Their mother and their father are dead. They are bereft of the loving care and concern and guidance of their parents. There is nothing on Earth that can compensate them for this grievous loss, and no power in Heaven that can lighten their burden of grief.

Their relatives, mourning for their dead family members, worried about the future for the three daughters of Leo Paul Regnier and his wife Sherianne - both 35 years of age, and gone forever - have secured the services of a lawyer, and launched a lawsuit.

Simon Banke has been advised that he is the subject of a civil lawsuit, for his criminal behaviour. His insurance company is aware of the litigation that has been initiated. Mr. Banke has been granted bail, and he is confined to his home, but may attend his workplace or school.

He has been charged under the Highway Traffic Act with stunt driving. He may no longer, as a condition of bail granted him, drive his vehicle.

"I think he suffered from the 'not-me' syndrome. That he could (allegedly) drive like a maniac and nothing would happen to him, but it did." A comment by a witness who observed the manner in which Mr. Banke was driving his car, before the occurrence of the accident.

The tragedy in cases like this is not that 'nothing happens' to the reckless driver, but the danger they pose to other people. In this instance the danger that Mr. Banke imposed on two people out celebrating the date of their first meeting one another, was a dreadfully mortal one.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Right To Protest

Comparing abortion to genocide? Using the Holocaust as a metaphor for abortion? Well, that, in and of itself is rather deplorable. Taking such liberties with the dread history of European Jewry under Nazi German occupation speaks volumes about the gross ignorance of those who make those comparisons. It appears beyond their understanding that in doing so they trivialize one of the most horribly signal events of modern history.

The truth is they are so despicably invested in their sense of moral outrage that society does largely accept the need for women to make their own personal choices over whether or not they will bear a child, when they are not prepared to do so for a myriad of reasons, that they have no compunction about using the memory of the Holocaust for their very own society-condemning purposes.

They are moral philistines, utterly bankrupt in their intentions and abuse of historical memory.

So it's really hard to feel even the remotest sympathy for university students who are so heavily invested in their campaign to shock through the use of horrific graphic images on huge posters they had intended to place within a heavily-travelled square in the centre of Carleton University. They may have a right to indulge in their free speech enterprise, but others have a right not to be confronted by nastily-conceived, manipulative images.

Carleton's administration made a reasonable enough attempt to accommodate the anti-abortion student activists by offering a less public venue where they could erect their posters and hand out their literature. Asking at the same time that the posters themselves be faced inward, toward each other, so as not to offend those for whom their presence would represent an unwanted and offensive indignity.

Carleton Lifeline, the anti-abortion group resident at the university insists on its right to present their Genocide Awareness Project. Where images of aborted fetuses are paired with graphic images of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. The activists rejected outright the university's offer to make space available to them inside a campus building.

"No one is stopping them from expressing their view on the issue of abortion or not permitting them to erect the display. We're just saying, 'If you're going to do it, you need to do it here in this room so that people have a choice if they wanted to see the images.' It's a bit of an artificial debate to suggest this is a free-speech issue." Carleton spokesman

"When there's content that may be graphic, it's not uncommon to have that in a place where people can choose whether or not they wanted to see it." Sensible and logical. But the Genocide Awareness Project has an agenda, a controversial one that has made news on university campuses across the country.

It is about freedom of speech, yes. But the issue is also about the right of an academic institution, Carleton University, to assess and determine where it will reasonably permit students and their special interests to portray their offensive material. The anti-abortion activists were given an opportunity that they chose not to accept.

Like abortion itself, it's a matter of choice.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lousy Mayor O'Brien

Heaven save - please - Ottawans from more of Larry O'Brien. He was a disaster when he first came to office as duly elected Mayor of Ottawa, and his lack of knowledge of administering the complexities of a large municipality did no favours to the citizens of this lovely city.

His malfeasance, attempting to suborn a fellow mayoral candidate remains a fact, although he managed to evade criminal responsibility.

His feverish promise to cash-strapped, tax-weary Ottawans that under his watch there would be zero tax increases was unrealistic, but evidently served its purpose in electing him. The man wreaked havoc on city council for two years, and gradually began to understand his role as mayor and more or less acted out the role, afterward.

To his obvious satisfaction.

Although he now claims to understand that he created division and misunderstandings, and did nothing whatever to advance the fortunes of the city as mayor, terming himself "pretty bad" and "...a complete disaster", he evidently feels that his apologies to the people of the city are sufficient to ensure that they will now place their trust in him because he claims "I am a changed man."

"The old Larry is gone, probably never to come back again - and probably a good thing." Probably it is a good thing. His arrogance, flippancy, ad-hoc administrative impulses and total failure as a chief executive of the city are not that swiftly forgotten, forgiven, or to be overlooked.

Yet he clearly and ardently wishes to continue as mayor of the city.

Here's hoping that voters will wish and express their opinions otherwise.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Social Welfare For Senior Criminals?

So why the foot-dragging by Ontario and Quebec on signing up to the federal government's plan to ensure that Canadian senior citizens who are imprisoned for criminal activity don't benefit from social security monthly cheques. They're in prison, courtesy of the justice system that has found them to be guilty of crimes against society.

During their stay they have no concerns about paying their bills. Room and board paid for, thanks to tax dollars.

Ample time when they're discharged to have governments at the federal and provincial level resume their entitlements for Old-Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement cheques.

Surprisingly, there are hundreds of senior citizens incarcerated in federal penitentiaries, and a like number within the provincial jail system. They are there paying penance as it were, doing time in lieu of making time for themselves in the wide open spaces of freedom. Expiating their sins.

There are some ensconced in the penal system for whom freedom will never be an option, reflecting the heinousness of their crimes. These are the psychotic-driven psychopaths for whom human emotions of concern for others' well-being are entirely absent from their psyches.

Those who have been and are still capable of inflicting horrendous harm on society, succumbing to the demons that consume them.

For most people the name Clifford Olson bespeaks an utterly conscienceless brutality whose death none would mourn. Yet we maintain this monster as a living example of the depths to which a human being can plunge in his dance with evil.

When it was revealed that this monster receives a regular $1,100 monthly cheque representing federal benefits for seniors, people were appalled and government itself vowed to discontinue the social-benefits farce.

Alberta, Saskatchewan,and Newfoundland have committed to supporting the discontinuance by the federal government of these social pay-outs to seniors in prison for serious public, social offences.

It's time the government bill to enact legislation to cut off senior offenders from receiving OAS and GIS payments took effect.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Dotty Olde England

What was once charming and eccentric is now coarse, no longer refined. Britain is no longer what it once was. There are few social restraints and constraints, it would appear, against public intoxication by the young and the cool. Social manners and just plain courtesy appear to be in shockingly short supply. Values that were once a mainstay of a country that knew itself have suddenly plunged and become grossly devalued.

Young people who should know better have become brain-dead to their place within society. Good citizenship appears to have shipped out, leaving behind goons, yobs and social misfits. There always was an underclass of such people of retarded social intelligence, there always is, in any society, but they appear, in the last few decades to have become so commonplace in sheer numbers as to disgrace the country by their commonality.

Political-ideological fanatics countered by leftists appear also to have resulted in another kind of dysfunctionality. Naturally enough, that of political-ideological distances and social disturbances. Some of whose exemplars travel to other countries to spread their ideological bilge; people like George Galloway, for example. Just one example.

Labour has now brought in an "equality law" which makes a mockery of just how absurd a society presents when it has been unsuccessful in imbuing its new generation with reasonable social values rather than vacuous self-absorbed searches for what passes as 'pleasure' and 'good times'. Under the newly-passed law it has become an indictable offence to offend.

Slights, intended or otherwise, offensive words or suggestions which embarrass or anger others can now be seen as cause for litigation. People are now free to sue one another for perceived harassment, off-colour jokes, or unpleasant or uncomfortable banter. Which, given the zeitgeist currently in flavour seems rather absurd.

How can one insist that their dignity of person has been violated when their behaviour is lacking dignity to begin with? Such awkward details...

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Early Earthquake Warnings

You're given 30 seconds to react. Advised through an automated telephone message - an advisory alarm really - that an earthquake has been detected and you will very soon feel the earth move. That, in itself is alarming.

On the other hand, with that 30-second advance notice, there is time to grab the emergency backpack prepared and ready for just such an event, sitting in the front hall closet. Or wherever else in a Japanese home of typically crowded conditions, and more likely a small apartment in a high-rise building than a single home, this might be handily located. And then exit.

We never once grabbed for the backpack that sat in the front hall closet of the very spacious and gracious home we lived in on Meguro Dori. When quakes struck, we tended to sit where we were, and to wait them out. It was certainly a frightening experience to feel everything shake about us, the walls of the house, the pictures on the walls, the tinkle of glass if something tipped and broke.

It seemed to go on forever, before finally the Earth regained its bearings and sensibly settled back into its usual quiescent state.

It's hard to say whether it affected us more when we realized, while in the out-of-doors that an earthquake was in progress, and the very earth beneath our feet swayed.

That happened to us while we were in the historic courtyard of the 47 Ronin, an already mysterious place, with mist rising in a peculiar atmospheric condition that lent an other-worldly air to the environment, hugely enhanced by a state of unreality when the earthquake struck. And seemed to go on, forever.

Japanese seismologists appear now to have formulated a system of advance notice, using mobile phones as warnings. There were no mobile phones when we lived in Japan. The tremors occurred frequently enough, and perhaps because of their frequency, although they felt alarming, they did not appear to us then to be as threatening as they might have done.

We simply did not believe they would result in catastrophe.

They might have done, of course. It's just that people have this tendency to somehow believe that nothing truly awful is about to happen to them. Peculiar natural phenomena perhaps, movements of the Earth to marvel at, but not to direly threaten one's existence. That does happen, but elsewhere, to others.

If we lived in a state of constant apprehension it would exhaust us, so we do not.

The Earthquake Early Warning System was developed almost a decade after we left Japan. You might think that the protocol that was developed in Japan would be taken up elsewhere in the world, where earthquake-prone tectonic plates are known to exist. Too costly for some countries, and perhaps not seen as practical or required in other countries which haven't experienced truly destructive earth movements.

Despite which, living in Ottawa, along a known fault line in the Earth's crust, we've experienced a few incidents of quakes that were even more alarming than those we did in Japan.

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