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

Monday, February 28, 2011

"On God's Time"

It's pretty hard to understand what motivates people like Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader of Windsor. They are, without doubt, horribly emotionally distressed. Their lives have been anguished by the death of a daughter eight years ago, from a rare and dreadful neurological illness. That is the kind of trauma that no one wishes to befall even those whom they detest.

So having undergone that miserable and unforgettable trauma, it is fairly amazing that they decided to have another child. Having done so, it might have been prudent to try to determine whether their new child in utero had any possibility of also being diagnosed with that dreadfully unforgiving neurological disorder.

As things turned out their baby, Joseph, was suffering from the same vicious ailment that had brought his sister to an early death. There is no possible medical intervention. The infant, nine months of age, is rapidly deteriorating. His parents had rushed him to hospital, where he has been under the care of dedicated doctors since October 2010.

The baby has not long to live. He is on life support, as his life drains away. His distraught parents are now undergoing the second such intolerable event in their lives.

And the father has conceived of the idea of having his son discharged from hospital. He wishes to take the child back home with him, so he can die with his parents, in his home. He has demanded that the doctors at the London Health Sciences Centre perform a tracheotomy; insert an apparatus that will allow Joseph to breathe on his own.

So that he can be returned home, where, he has informed the news media, he can then die "on God's time". That kind of physical intervention, according to the doctors - an operation to cut a hole in the baby's throat and install a device to enable him to breathe on his own - is "invasive", and "not indicated for baby Joseph because he has a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is fatal".

The parents of Joseph who is dying, refuse to accept this, and insist that the doctors heed their wishes. And Mr. Maraachli has set out on achieving a public relations campaign through the media to enlist public opinion to his side. As a result, the hospital has revealed that it and some of its doctors have received threatening telephone calls.

And to counteract what they see as an attack against their professional integrity, represented by slanderous statements made by father Moe Maraachli, they are launching their own public relations campaign as push-back to the misleading information released by Mr. Maraachli.

"The threats are being taken seriously and have come by email and phone and have been passed along to the police. The health and safety of our patients, our staff and our physicians are our top priority." The hospital is also considering taking legal action against the claims harming its doctors' reputations and theirs.

If the parents of this baby - so dreadfully abused by its genetic inheritance somehow gone awry - are attempting to salve their grief by creating a situation where they are to be seen as victims of a system they are attempting to blame for their pending loss, they are clearly out of control.

Their own subliminal sense of responsibility for poor decision-making has been twisted to find blame elsewhere than with themselves.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bountifully Hideous

It represents a vicious practise more relevant to the Middle Ages than the 21st Century in North America. Pederasts, child molesters, serial bigamists, sexual predators have found a solution to the problem inherent in satisfying their pathological perversions by influencing the suggestible looking for a place to comfortably put their faith in the immortality of religious devotion.

The breakaway Mormon Church that prides itself on still practising polygamy represents an offence against civilization.

Yet, in the United States and in Canada, the practitioners of polygamy have succeeded in influencing their communities that it is right and proper and blessed in the eyes of God to sacrifice their teen, and on occasion pre-teen daughters to holy matrimony with older men who have elite status in the Church and who have gathered to themselves countless other 'wives'.

All of whom are dedicated to that esteemed personage's personal wishes and desires.

To honour and obey him, and to raise countless children so his DNA will continue to defile humanity long after he has gone on to explain to the Almighty what a faithful servant he has been. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has bypassed the authorities in their leaders criminally practising illegal and clear criminal violations of the law and prevailing social mores.

Parents living in Bountiful, British Columbia have crossed the border into the United States with their pubescent daughters to obediently hand them over to men in the United States living in the American counterpart Mormon Church communities practising polygamy. One such man, Warren Jeffs, added two 12-year-old Canadian girls to increase his already bountiful harem of 57 wives.

Girls of 14, 15, 17, bespoken by their fathers to mature men, handed over as pawns in the Mormon communities, their lives circumscribed by the circumstances of their parents' devotion to a spiritual belief that insists that girls and women be chattel to bear children and be available for sexual gratification whenever called upon by a man who views himself atavistically as a holy Eastern potentate.

These marriages of mature men who have convinced their communities that they do the bidding of God, to young girls and women as though they were fulfilling the commandments of a deity assault the dignity and the human rights of the girls and women who live out their lives in human bondage. This is a sordid insult to the integrity of the human spirit and basic human rights.

The caution with which the legal system and the law enforcement system are tackling this issue is indefensible, given Canadian guarantees of security, and freedom and laws against child exploitation. Even pitting them against the constitutional rights of religious devotees to be free from persecution.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Adaptability to Canadian Values

Any day of the week a newspaper reader can see accounts relating to the court roster of any Canadian city. Invariably, a substantial proportion of cases involving murder, illegal possession of arms, drug dealing, break-and-enters, violent physical attacks, domestic abuse, have names linked to them that are readily identifiable with Muslims. With people who came to Canada as immigrants or whose parents did, from countries in Africa and the Middle East where Islam is the majority religion.

Because of the rise of militant Islam and the threat to world stability from international jihad, non-Muslims have become increasingly aware of the growing Muslim community within Western society. Defenders of Islam always point out, defensively, that Islam is a religion of peace, charity love and tolerance. And without doubt it represents all those emotion-grabbing superlatives in human relations for most of its adherents.

But it is never the majority of people who represent as normal, moderate and interested in making the most of their lives in advancing social well-being and individual aspirations toward success that represent society's problems. It is the minority who declare themselves through their actions and their values to be variants who cling to an ethos that rejects what we think of as the social contract, and who bring conflict and chaos to order and justice.

The readily-identifiable Muslim names that speak of geographic origin, heritage, tradition and religious adherence and which present as disproportionate in the incidence of criminal activities and apprehension by lawful authorities inform the interested that there is a problem with the religion of peace and the migrants to Canada who bring with them elements of an alien culture that does not transplant well within the welcoming country's values and priorities.

Some comparison can be made with large communities from the West Indies that have settled in the Toronto area, where single mothers traditionally raise their abundant young on their own, bereft of a male figure. These are families that live on welfare or who represent the working poor needful of extra social services. Theirs are communities deprived of male authority figures upon whom boys can focus and who can have a guiding influence.

Women raising large numbers of children, living in poverty-stricken areas with their own special culture of welfare and dependency where children run amok because their mothers are too busy either trying to earn a living for their brood, or unable to maintain discipline because they are continually distracted with life's burdens, seem unable to instill in their boys a grounding in law-abiding virtues.

The boys, the teens, the young men, become embroiled in gangs, in drugs, in violence. A similar situation exists in the Somali community of which there is an estimated ten thousand in the city of Ottawa alone. The mothers of young Somalis who have seen trouble with the law because of their involvement in crime - from mayhem to murder - have formed a self-help group, the Canadian Somali Mothers Association.

This activist group of mothers thought to organize themselves as spokeswomen for their community, after having become aware themselves of the reality that their sons represent a major portion of criminal malefactors, out of proportion to their statistical presence in the community. But rather than looking within their community to try to understand what they may be doing wrong in raising their young, they look at the wider community to blame it for low expectations of their sons, and the labelling of them as social misfits.

If they are social misfits it is because they have placed themselves in that category, refusing to fully integrate, to accept the prevailing social values and verities, clinging instead to the very tribal and social customs that they fled when they left their country of origin, mired in incessant violent struggles for dominance. These mothers insist their sons need support not condemnation.

But the community does offer support in many ways through many agencies, inclusive of the education system. Their sons have not been encouraged to view education as a means of striving toward a future. Social services agencies and some Somali community groups themselves have come to the realization that additional support is needed to steer young people toward acceptance of the effort to self-actualize, to commit to being educated, to aspire toward success.

It is one thing to collectively advocate on behalf of their children, it is another entirely to abrogate their own responsibility to imbue in their children respect for authority and for hard work to advantage themselves and their community. That they act as interlocutors to influence and educate the police and social service agencies about their culture has its limits. It is incumbent upon them and their offspring to merge their values with that of the prevailing society.

These are women who are courageous enough to come together for the purpose of representing their children's interests. But they are directing their energies in the wrong direction by seeking to alter perceptions and behaviours and outcomes of others, while ignoring the need to do so for themselves and influence their children in more positive modes of behaviour.

These mothers appear to have rejected outreach programs by other members of the Somali community anxious to counteract the appeal to young Somali men of global jihad. To teach them to resist the recruiters for Islamist jihad that targets vulnerable young men who find themselves attracted to the message of hatred, revenge, dominance and violence toward others.

Ignoring the very real problem of youth radicalization will not result in its defeat. Ignoring their personal responsibilities in teaching their children to respect the law and the need for those young people to acquire an education while immersing themselves in the values and social mores of the greater society of which they have become an integral portion helps guide their children toward the continuing path of legal difficulties.

One of the Somali mothers instrumental in organizing the mothers' group insists she left her native Somalia to spare her children from the "endless horror of fighting in Somalia." She has not found the safe harbour she insists she was looking for: " there is another kind of war, where they are marginalized and they have to fight so many labels."

That 'marginalization' stems from the situation they have placed themselves in. The family unit is as vital in Islam as it is in any religion; as important to any culture to sustain a society where the needs of children are ideally seen to by two responsible adults, as parents. Single parents always face an economic and social struggle, as society attempts to pick up the slack. People living in poverty can live in as much dignity and self-respect as any others.

With a failure to adapt to the welcoming society, its culture and socialization and mores through the influence of a concerned parent whose responsibility it is to encourage children to adopt those values, a social aversion to them results in a greater acceptance of outlawed behaviour. Parents have an especial obligation to steer their children on to the pathways of social normalcy, and receiving an education is the first of those paths.

The labels, of social deviance and criminal records, of divorce from the values that speak of Canadian social imperatives and respect for the law, are a matter to be confronted first by the mothers raising impressionable children, to steer them in the right direction, to support their decent futures as equally endowed members of Canadian society.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The "Clumsy Don Juan"

Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar of Manitoba revealed his antediluvian biases more than adequately in the thought processes behind his judgement that no jail time was warranted for a rapist because, according to the judge's reckoning, Kenneth Rhodes who received signals that the woman whom he decided to violate gave off signals that she "wanted to party".

Those signals more than adequately demonstrated in their speech, their enthusiasm, their manner of dress. The raped woman and her accompanying girlfriend were wearing tube tops with no bra, high heels and makeup. Tube tops are made to be worn without bras. Women mostly wear high heels when they're out for the night - or at any other time. Most women also wear makeup.

These mark the currently prevailing dress code of most young women who live in a free society. One that has laws to protect the innocent from criminal acts directed against them. And which has long ago abandoned the old myths that served for far too long to victimize women. In contrast to many male-dominated cultures that blame women for irresistibly luring men to violate them.

The judge felt the the women's makeup was excessive, their bra-less tube tops signalling they were prepared to indulge in intimate relations, their high heels provocative. And of course, men being men they are helpless, hapless creatures, nastily manipulated by women who have the devil in them. Making those women undeserving of respect, and ripe for rape.

Too bad about Kenneth Rhodes, the judge moaned, empathy obvious for his dilemma; the clear incapacity to control his virile energies that obviously escalated into undeniable priapic urgency thanks to the provocations of the 26-year-old woman he had paired with for the evening. A getting-to-know-you evening, where two young women met two young men on a night out.

"They made their intention publicly known that they wanted to party", the judge concluded. 'Party' obviously denoting that they were signalling they were prepared to have sex with the men. That was obvious because of the manner of their dress, their social exuberance, their chattering of swimming in a nearby lake that night "notwithstanding the fact neither of them had a bathing suit".

Damn, damn, damning!

They left the bar parking lot and made their way into a wooded area, after meeting outside a bar in "inviting circumstances". Invitation to abuse was written all over these women's faces, their gestures, their open friendliness. Hostility to the young men's interest in them would have represented a far more socially acceptable device, according to the judge's way of thinking.

"This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation", claimed the judge. "This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour." Rape is a criminal offence, it does not quality as "inconsiderate behaviour" to excuse its violent contempt of a woman's right to retain ownership of her body.

The defence lawyer brought in another mitigating circumstance, that alcohol was involved, obviously impacting on the judgement of both the rapist and his unwilling victim. His client did not threaten the woman, had no weapon, was simply "insensitive to the fact (she) was not a willing participant." Adducing mere lack of civility in this matter is ludicrous.

"Protection of society is not advanced one iota by putting Mr. Rhodes in jail", explained Judge Dewar in his great good wisdom.

How he arrives at that comfortable conclusion is beyond the understanding of most men and women who understand quite well that predatory men who claim that they have been provoked beyond endurance, and that their act of rape was not deliberate, and find their claims of innocence well received, with the penalty helpfully eased, will encourage other such events and claims.

This is the kind of inexcusable, obnoxious precedent-setting finding in law that sets back decades of acknowledgement that rape is a violent and vicious tool of sociopaths, social deviants and misogynists. The blame is placed squarely on the victim, extenuating reasons are found for the aggressor.

Yes, punishment for his crime was handed down in the form of a year-long curfew, the man's name placed on the national sex-offender registry. He will be ordered to write a letter of apology to his victim. She will doubtless have learned a life-lesson.

It's doubtful that her rapist will have.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Embrace Me

Undated screen shot from the Britney Spears video Hold it Against MEe, a new video that features prolonged images of an Internet dating site, cosmetics line, electronics brand and the singerís own perfume. On Thursday, the singer's producer teased portions from the new track, How I Roll.        HANDOUT PHOTO:        For Misty Harris (Postmedia News). MUSIC-VIDEOS

Undated screen shot from the Britney Spears video Hold it Against MEe, a new video that features prolonged images of an Internet dating site, cosmetics line, electronics brand and the singerís own perfume. On Thursday, the singer's producer teased portions from the new track, How I Roll. HANDOUT PHOTO: For Misty Harris (Postmedia News). MUSIC-VIDEOS

The cult of celebrity is extremely heady. It is power incarnate. It can move millions of people to lavish attention on those upon whom they have become fixated. And in the process it can make the object of their attention wealthy beyond imagination. All the more so when such individuals become popular role models.

The aristocracy of the film world, those who commanded munificent acting fees, along with a percentage of box office proceeds, became infected with the worm of venality. Realizing, decades ago, that though some might see it as professionally degrading, they could earn vast sums of money by discreetly permitting their famous faces to be used in advertising campaigns far from Hollywood.

And in the interests of collecting those big fat pay cheques for leasing their famous faces, one after another agreed to sign contracts with Japanese advertising companies lauding the wares that consumers in that country would then connect with their favourite, adored actors. The money made up for the tarnished prestige that well-paid and -respected thespians would stoop that low.

It's no longer low-stooping, but high-swooping, as celebrities in the world of entertainment parlay their fame and appeal into ever-more rewarding enterprises. Once they've conquered the world of pop music or Oscar-rated cinematic performances, they can indulge themselves to their fullest by endorsing products whose manufacturers are willing to pay them whatever sum they name.

Better yet, they're now by-passing the consumer products under labels not their own, as singers and actors and designers and television talk-show hosts contract out perfumes, jewellery, fashions to bear their singular imprimatur and lustily hawk them through glamorous advertising featuring their well-known faces and bodies adorned by fabulous jewels and clothing.

The message to their avid followers: if you'd like to look the way I do, have the wonderful things I own, simply consume what I offer and the world will be yours. The susceptible hordes of celebrity-watchers couldn't be more thrilled, but the celebrities raking in the proceeds are even more thrilled at their surpassing successes.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Threatening Self-Imposed Starvation

The infamous, elderly John Demjanjuk who stands accused of being an accessory to the murder of no fewer than 27,900 Jews during World War II and the seminal event of the Holocaust, is threatening in Germany where he is being prosecuted, to go on a hunger strike. How dramatic. The man's lawyer has read a statement from 90-year-old Demjanjuk whose trial is in the completion stages.

"There is only one path open to me: to show the world what a mockery of justice this trial is". And so, because justice is not being seen to be done by this former death camp guard who proclaims his innocence of ever having been a camp guard at Sobibor in 1943, he will take the path of passive resistance by starving himself to death.

He is, after all, 90 years old. He has lived a long and productive life, while having assisting a state machinery that was engaged in removing life from millions of men, women and children. Like the accused during the Nuremberg Trials he too is "nicht schuldig", because as a tiny cog in the wheel of improvidence for Jews, he was simply following orders.

He does not seem to understand that the prosecution in Germany too is following orders. Not simply the orders that justice demands, but the necessity to bring order to human existence through a commitment to ensure that those who commit grave crimes against humanity must, despite the passage of time, face their responsibility.

In the case of John Demjanjuk, who was highly successful in evading his personal responsibility for far too long, a fifteen-year sentence hardly represents punitive compensation for the thousands of lives that were summarily ended. The sentence, should it be pronounced, is a representation, a symbol.

No one expects the man, old and ill, to live out that time of incarceration. Justice must be seen to be done, however tardily, however inadequately, however - as far as this man's longevity and punishment is concerned - uselessly.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Treadmilled Rats

It doesn't seem like much of a necessary commitment to arrive at such a satisfactory conclusion. As an investment in motivated time and action, just 45 minutes of moderate exercise performed three times weekly for a guarded guarantee of better health down the pipeline?

Apart from the fact that those 45 minutes of moderate exercise engaged in three times a week, as a minimum investment, have more immediate benefits of making one feel good, the added benefit of knowing that installing such a routine in your life would have pronounced long-term benefits represents a huge net gain.

We've heard it said often enough, that to battle the onset of lifestyle disease, including obesity there is nothing more effective than using our muscles. And there is nothing more sensible than incorporating a daily regimen, however brief, into our lifestyle so that it becomes an automatic action, a short period of time set aside routinely for activity. Even if it's just walking somewhere, ambling along at a fairly decent pace. There is much to gain, and nothing to lose.

On the other hand, leading a completely sedentary lifestyle, eating all too well, and not giving your body the opportunity to work off those calories, nor your sinews and muscles the opportunity to strut their stuff also leads to gains, not losses. The wrong kind, unfortunately, as the pounds pile up, so gradually they're hardly noticed until suddenly the body has become congealed with fat under our dermal layer, and our movements become creaky, our organs beset with failure.

Mice genetically bred so that they would age much faster than those whose genetic imprinting was not tampered with, were given an experiment. Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton had two sets of mice. One set allowed to sit about, eat, and just do as they wished. The other set given regular tasks, of middling treadmill exercises for 45-minute periods three times weekly.

The result was, five months later when the experiment concluded, that the mice that were made to exercise looked young and healthy and active. While those left to their own devices were exhibiting all the symptoms of aging, shrinking in size, experiencing hearing and seeing losses; greying, patchy fur. The cost in health and longevity was obvious.

The mice accustomed to being exercised scurried and scampered about their cages, while their non-exercised counterparts huddled quietly in corners, immobile. What is common to the rats' experience is common to all living creatures, including humankind.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Collective Memory

"And there is nothing we can do about that. They are the winners and we are the losers; we are dominated and they are dominant."
It truly is hard to credit that intelligent people can permit themselves to feel the corrosive resentment of history still boiling away wreaking havoc with their sensibilities so they cannot perceive that what they resent is simply not worthy of a second thought. Yet throughout the world there are ethnic, religious, tribal groups whose ancient handed-down memories of assaults on their honour, on their integrity, on their possessions, on their geography, remain resonant to this very day.

How intelligent is it, however, to allow one's every waking thoughts to linger on ancient grievances, never quite moving on from there, simply nursing resentment after resentment? Nothing is ever accomplished by it, those who represented the aggressors, the despoilers, the victors, have little wish to admit to what they are accused of, or they view those historical events in the context of the times, not the present.

There is little satisfaction to be had for the simmering resentment, even if those whom they accuse will express regret long after the fact. For the fact is, it was another world, another time, with far different values. And imperial conquests where one country battled another for hegemonic or settlement rights belong in the distant past, the results of those events expressing the consequences that everyone should have learned to live with.

Which hasn't stopped Quebecois from nursing their aggrievement over a battlefield where their 'side' succumbed to the superior battle strategy of the 'other side' in a struggle for supremacy. And despite that the 'other side' was surprisingly magnanimous in their recognition of the merits of permitting the vanquished to have their culture and their language protected with the enactment of new laws, this has never been accepted as satisfactory.

The 18th Century Conquest of New France bridles and infuriates pure laine Quebecois. Imagine, a history teacher bitterly admitting "I am very much aware, even today in 2008, that they won and we lost the war". Imagine another teacher of impressionable young French students admitting that he discusses the situation as a signal case study of the historical message that to the victor go the spoils.

As though Quebec and its population of still-resentful francophones cannot yet bring themselves to feel any kind of meaningful relationship with Canada because they have been blinded by a rage that will not dwindle; that of a conquered people having to submit to the superior might of an alien culture, language and politics. Let alone religion, even though said religion has long since been relegated to heritage status.

These are insecure, immature and juvenile maunderings of a people wilfully allowing themselves to be traumatized by events they had no part in, the memory of which is sufficient to send them into lugubrious doldrums upon recall. The indulgence in the bathos of having been cheated of their rightful place in history, their resentment of the reality that the province of Quebec is but one of many provinces to make a coherent nation is pathetic.

Quebec was not built solely by the French. There were many other ethnic, religious and cultural groups who invested generations of lives in its formation to present as what it is today. Those 'other' provincial occupants of the province saw it as theirs, too, though they never thought to wrest it from the French. Quebec's response to all of this is continued anger over the unfairness of it all.

The enactment of draconian language laws, the rejection of overtures by the rest of Canada, a deliberate need to cut themselves off culturally and linguistically from the rest of Canada has been the result. A nation unto itself, it struggles to proudly present itself as coherently other than what obtains elsewhere in the country. When it teaches its young their proud history it is as a long-suffering population ill done by.

The English-speaking component, the ethnic minorities who immigrated to the province to help it become itself, are seen as no legitimate and deserving part of that history. They remain incidental, ignored and despised. In part that is understandable because of the traditional Anglo superiority over the ignorant, church-obsessed 19th and early 20th Century French fact.

But since the Quiet Revolution and the rejection and overturning of Anglo manipulation and tamping down of francophone rights, there has been no excuse for the French fact not to accommodate itself in a far more mature manner toward the rest of the country.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

University Politics

"We didn't know if it was safe to leave. We were basically trapped in the room until Campus Safety sent more officers, who then made sure that students inside (the council chambers) could get to the elevators." Emile Scheffel, Ottawa Israel Awareness Committee.
Carleton University's student council has been deservedly commended for standing their ground, for refusing to submit to, and abandon their principles at the demand of a radical student group. The group determined to influence the student council's decision-making over a profoundly controversial and socially troubling political stance brought forward by the group, determined to de-legitimize a democratic society.

"I was very pleased with CUSA council. They were under a lot of pressure and they handled it well", Carleton's director of student affairs said, at the conclusion of the meeting which he was witness to. He is under some scrutiny for being somewhat slow in recognizing the oppressive state of safety perceived by those under verbal attack, fearing violence to follow.

At the conclusion to their meeting, Carleton University's student council had chosen not to emulate the ostracizing politics of the United Nations Human Rights Council in their decision, despite raucous intimidating pressure from the radical student group calling themselves Students Against Israeli Apartheid to indulge in a process of social sequestering of a single country held by them to be outside the pale of social acceptance.

This can only be construed as a truly refreshing turn of events, given the outsize success on previous occasions by the vociferous, bombastic, self-righteous anti-Israel group that has allied itself with national and international Jew-baiting groups seeking to disenfranchise Israel from its place of honour among civilized societies.

The motion before the Carleton University Students' Association council was to urge the university to divest its faculty pension plan from identifiable companies doing business with Israel. Thus placing financial pressure on those companies resolved to treat Israel no differently than any other investment opportunity; ultimately to force them in self-interest to fracture business ties.

Witnesses describe seeing a rowdy crowd numbering between 80 and 100, milling about in a hallway outside the Dunton Tower council chambers, awaiting the decision of the council deliberating the issue. Upon hearing of the decision reflecting the council deliberations, those in the crowd outside the chamber joined the handful inside by shouting and banging their outrage on walls.

Additional Campus Safety officers were finally called to protective duty so the chamber could be vacated and council members could leave in safety. The student council members had chosen to reject the motion, installing in its stead one that urged Carleton University to recognize ethically responsible investment opportunities; finding it unnecessary to single out any one country for condemnation.
"My personal safety was threatened repeatedly" one CUSA councillor, Hashem Hamdy, said. "Those opposing the motion were subject to intimidation, physical confrontation, and homophobic slurs inside and outside the council chamber. They don't seem to recognize that in a democracy, you don't have a licence to riot just because someone opposes what you say."

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Back to Sticks and Stones

Assuredly there are infinitely greater numbers of individuals whose surname is 'Brown', than those with the very un-traditional British surname of Wiener. Woe betide the child with an unusual name, for he becomes an irresistible taunting magnet to school bullies. Or perhaps just those with a somewhat warped sense of humour. Or those youngsters who have been ill bred and taught.

On the other hand, it's a kid-thing, isn't it? When young people are irritated by others causing them grief they're liable to act out in their own fashion, protesting against the injustice of it all. Or they remain locked within themselves, resisting the appeal of fighting back and nurse their own special social misery. To state simply that children can be cruel is truly an understatement.

I still recall as a child how devastated I felt when a gang of my peers (not my friends) who lived up the street, would heckle and jeer when they saw poor little innocent me: "Rita, Rita, kiss my feeta down the streeta". That marked me for life. Almost 70 years on, I still recall the burning, irritating frustration. (Those who know me can attest that I am not normal, now; marred for life from the unfairness of it all.)

Which didn't stop me, years later, still young, but old enough to know better, from joining in when a young girl was singled out for the availability of her name, slightly different than those of the others around us: Anna. She was regaled with "Anna-Banana". And although I liked Anna-Banana very much, I thought the extension of her name so sweet, though she did not.

There are times when a child fights back, and slings his own verbal shots to counteract those hurled at him. We do teach our children not to resort to physical violence, but we do not necessarily teach them to absorb and slough off perceived personal insults. Nor should we. And it is most untrue that "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me", for they do.

And when ten-year-old Harrison Wiener experienced bullying in his schoolyard in Oldham, northwest England, as a bully made a mockery of his surname, he returned the compliment. Harrison was called "sausage boy" by the bully, and Harrison called the bully "chocolate brownie". Both are Caucasian, the reference to colour simply derived from the surname.

Yet school authorities thought this rather amiss, and teachers at Thorp Primary school felt Harrison's to be a racist rejoinder, insisting that he apologize. The incident was written on his school file, and a report made to the local education authority. In an absurd instance of adults behaving like complete and utter asses.

Likely they too were tormented by school bullies at an impressionable age, and the carnage wrought to their sensitive cerebral functioning marked them too, for life.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

"I Paid The Money Back" Oh. Oh?

Ontario had the absurd occurrence of a thief repeatedly victimizing Chinese shop-owners in Toronto's Chinatown, by lifting goods and making off with them without paying the shop-owners. And then this notorious thief decided to steal from one particular shop-owner. And the police issuing a warrant for the shop-owner for having had the audacity of waylaying the thief to await the arrival of the police.

Justice is not always necessarily what one thinks it should be. Yet this incident, which was well publicized and raised the disbelieving ire of just about every resident of the province, became the catalyst for a change in the law. And the victim who was treated as though he were the thief, and the thief who was handled with kid gloves, did eventually see justice.

It happens everywhere. Where society bends over backwards to try to understand what would motivate some individuals to behave in a socially-destructive, unlawful manner, and to benevolently offer that person opportunities to redeem him or herself. In the process, all too often the harm done to the victim is casually overlooked.

In the town of Witham in Essex, eastern England, the owner of a flooring business had hired a man whom he felt would be a good employee. He was a family man, a father of three. And then the employer, Simon Cremer, discovered that his trusted employee Mark Gilbert, had taken the liberty of forging a cheque in the sum of $1,350 to himself.

When it was reported,the police issued a caution. Mostly because the employer had taken the initiative to hang a sign across his employee's chest, stating the disgraceful conduct he had exhibited, in taking a substantial amount of money from his employer. With the sign firmly in place, Simon Cremer frog-marched Mark Gilbert very visibly through downtown Witham.

Mr. Gilbert launched a civil suit, going after two years' lost earnings and compensation for the 'distress' he suffered at the public display of his malfeasance. Mr. Cremer decided to settle out of court when he learned he would have to pay $40,000 in court costs. He ended up paying his former untrustworthy employee $7,970, and still had $12,760 in legal fees to pay.

"I don't want to give him a penny after what he did, so it really sticks in my throat", he told The Daily Telegraph. For Mr. Cremer, the wronged employer, justice grinds slowly, painfully, not very satisfyingly, nor cost-effectively. He was robbed, and he ended up paying compensation to the man who robbed him and claimed trauma and distress.

For Mr. Gilbert, justice rang the right note: "I feel for the bloke, I respect the bloke but I want him to pay for what he's done. I went in my local pub and felt a cold shoulder. I probably deserved it for what I did, fair enough, but I wasn't stealing from him and I paid the money back."

Justifiable perspective is just about everything, isn't it?

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

$100,000 In Cash, Jewels, Returned

Zubiru Jalloh, a taxi driver in New York, is a pious Muslim. He is a family man, a hard-working individual who prides himself in his honesty because this is what Islam demands of him. More to the point, this is what he demands of himself. The dignity of self-respect.

He works 12-hour shifts for the privilege of bringing home to his wife $300 weekly to pay their bills. A place to shelter their little family, food to put on the table, and whatever else his family requires.

It sounds as though Zubiru Jalloh, a 42-year-old who has seen much of the world, since he is originally from Sierra Leone, does not demand much from life. And it seems as though the life he lives in the United States, where he has been domiciled since 1998 is one that he feels is suited to his aspirations, providing him with a better living wage than what he experienced in his home country.

As sometimes happens, a customer left something behind in his cab. And Mr. Jalloh took casual possession of that something, with the intention of waiting until the owner of the property would seek to contact him through the taxi company he works for. He was certain that the property owner would make the effort to retrieve his property.

In fact, he found the bag that had been left behind rather fascinating, and showed the contents to his wife when he arrived home with it. The bag contained a significant amount of cash, an amazing cache of jewellery, and photographs representing valuable mementos. All to be handled and admired. And placed away for safe keeping.

They did not have to languish long, locked in a cupboard in Mr. Jalloh's home. The owner did of course contact the taxi company and he did indeed manage to retrieve his property. And in appreciation he awarded a cool $1000 to Mr. Jalloh. "Taking someone else's property is like eating someone's flesh. I can't do it."

Had Mr. Jalloh not been given that reward for his honesty, he would still, he said, have been awarded recognition of his honesty: "if not from the people, then from God", he said.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pay Up, Canada

The urge to "pie" Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois increases daily. His provocative pronouncements of Quebec sovereignty, expectations, exceptionalism and entitlement are gagging, galling and deliberately incendiary.

As though the rest of Canada hasn't sufficiently kowtowed to Quebec's perennial grievances as a misunderstood, under-appreciated, long-suffering nation-aspiring entity. No amount of assurances of how much they are loved and valued assuages their sense of grievance.

So why bother going out of our way any longer? Why cannot we simply say, grow up, mature as part of a vibrant nation, or just shut up.

And by the way, we're reducing those equalization payments; if you're so special, begin earning your 'special' status, on your own dime. But Quebecers have no shame; at least the 37% of them that keep voting the Bloc Quebecois back into Parliament so they can be paid through tax dollars to agitate for secession.

And here's Gilles Duceppe, digging that sharp knife just below the ribs of Canadian taxpayers again: "I am now challenging Stephen Harper to respond to Quebec's expectations. We are asking for simple fairness, elementary justice", he intoned gravely. If Prime Minister Harper neglects somehow to understand that Quebec's expectations are to be met, Quebecers will understand they have been abandoned.

"Quebecers will remember in the next election. Mr.Harper has a choice. He can respond to Quebec's expectations or he can spark elections. On our side, we will not fold. We are going to stand up for Quebec. My dear friends" he said, addressing a party general council meeting, "prepare yourselves for a rough battle."

Quebec deserves, and demands, Mr. Duceppe contends, an additional $5-billion out of federal coffers, brimming over with plenty of loose change, thanks to the Canadian taxpayer. Quebec needs more loose change for more subsidized day-care spaces at cheap rates, to lower already lowest university tuition, bring in more doctors and nurses, and pay for mopping up after the ice storm that occurred over a decade earlier.

And, oh yes, the Canadian taxpayer should be prepared to cough up a goodly portion of the $400,000 Quebec City envisages having to shell out for a brand-new, state-of-the-art professional sports stadium to encourage the NHL to bring its team back 'home'. Count on it.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Disgrace to the Uniform

"You overpowered me, hurt me, held my arms so tight I couldn't move - violated me then made comments to me afterward that made me sick to my stomach."
When he left his home that evening on his way to a social occasion for the RCMP, bidding farewell to a fellow officer, he had been cautioned by his wife not to drink at the party. His predilection for drink-and-drunk, and previous unruly, bawdy incidents were to be avoided. But he arrived at the party prepared, bringing his own whiskey and beer, joining the other 40 Mounties already present, and cordially handing out shots of the Havana Club he'd thoughtfully brought along.

This much was typical; he aspired to become a law-and-security officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was in his mid-30s, married, father of several young children. He had, in his younger years, experimented with cocaine. He was also socially attracted to alcohol. But he was inducted into the Force as having most of the characteristics that would result in a good officer, absent his earlier indiscretions. Taken on trust, that his position of trust would help him make the grade.

In the few years he was an officer of the RCMP he was accepted, respected and tracked. By 2008, however, it was clear his probationary acceptance which led to his full incorporation was in jeopardy. And when 2010 turned the corner he pleaded guilty to assault, sparing himself a criminal record, accepting an order to perform 100 hours of community service. Six months later at an RCMP disciplinary hearing he admitted to having sexually assaulted a fellow RCMP officer.

That hearing branded him a disgrace to the national police force.

"The board agrees that the consequences of a police officer's failed judgement can lead to the erosion of the cornerstone of the RCMP's organizational values. Society expects and deserves a high standard of honesty, trustworthiness and integrity from its police officers. A police officer is a person that occupies a position of trust and has a special role and status in the community. A breach of that contract of trust diminishes society's confidence, and impairs the ability of the force to effectively function within the communities it serves."

A female constable refused his offer of a shooter. He did not take kindly to the refusal and began to manhandle her. No one seemed to notice. He later cornered her in a kitchen, while he violently restrained her, groped her viciously and spouted obscenities at her. When, finally, other colleagues noticed her in tears, they sought him out and found him in a bathroom, passed out, dead drunk.

Not a very collegial atmosphere actually; he was driven home, and an investigation proceeded the following morning.

"How can a man I considered a friend, a co-worker, someone whom I have put my life in trust with and whom I have also supported on dangerous dispatches, make me a victim? I have relived the nightmare of that night in my mind a thousand times and still cannot believe it happened to me." The female RCMP officer delivered her victim impact statement to the disciplinary hearing, on the charge of sexual assault levelled against her former colleague, Constable Mario Jiminiz.

"The board is gravely concerned that Constable Jiminez has violated the trust of female members on two previous occasions. Furthermore, the board cannot be expected to believe the member's attempt to mitigate the disgraceful behaviour subject to his disciplinary hearing by asserting that he is a family man". The ruling that resulted was that Constable Jiminiz resign from the force within 14 days or be fired.

And although the RCMP attempted to fire him in June 2010, he has appealed his dismissal, remaining on the Force under suspension until the appeal, not yet scheduled, is heard.

The degrading personal shame his wife must feel on his behalf, must surely be mirrored by her husband. This lapse of moral character and disciplinary responsibility must be a source of grief to both their extended families. Worse yet, when their children are old enough to inform themselves how will they regard their father?

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Sunday, February 13, 2011


Celebrants have rallied on Parliament Hill to express solidarity with the people of Egypt on the occasion of the downfall of their former president, Hosni Mubarak. A sense of accomplishment and hope for the future of a traditional Arab state transitioning to democracy has stimulated people everywhere to feel positively about the prospects of Egypt moving confidently into the 21st Century.

As though overnight there will be a remarkable transition from a Dictator-led republic to a relinquishing of power by the country's powerful, politically-invested armed forces to a civilian-led government dedicated to the institution of democracy for the greater good of the people. Sounds great in theory. But that very transition will be time-consuming and difficult to achieve.

In the interim, the problems that assail the country are the same for the most part that confront many other emerging economies, not all of them in the Middle East, but most (including of course Africa). All countries in the Middle East however, with the exception of Israel have the issue of human rights and freedoms to attend to eventually, since all with the exception of Israel are deficient in those areas.

It is tedious in the extreme to see that the usual self-proclaimed human-righteous activists, the opposition party, self-reverentials were out in force to speak disapprovingly of the measured stance of the Government of Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, remarking on the revolutionary hand-over that has taken place in Egypt. MP Paul Dewar, and Monia Mazigh front and centre.

Revolutionary; not quite, since an armed forces-backed republic has seen its head of state removed and the armed forces moving in to restore order and security, urging the protesters who vociferously, implacably, insisted on that removal, to disperse and permit the country to return to normal. Whether or not the armed forces will conspire to remain in power with a figurehead, or permit the country to remake itself under civilian rule is yet to be seen.

Yet to be seen is the place that the Muslim Brotherhood will find for itself in the governance of the country. Most of the youth leadership of the protesters may have rejected the feasibility of the Muslim Brotherhood profiting politically from their epic struggle to remove their president, but the people do speak, since this was a popular-people revolution, and that people in the majority prefer the domination of Islam in their lives.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated, Russians and the former satellite countries of the USSR entertained visions of themselves entering a state of democracy, and chief among their dreams was that of becoming a capitalist society. For, as they well knew, capitalism meant wealth and with a democratic capitalist transformation everyone would be wealthy.

And so, Russia declined into poverty, the expectations of its people dashed, and state monopolies sold to private bidders at fire sale prices. It took quite a while for Russia to find its political, social and economic legs, before it could feel confident about itself and its future, and before it began to prosper under a free market.

This is not what Egyptians are looking forward to, a long and insufferably miserable time of reaching for that elusive goal. With democracy and freedoms should come enterprise and success at a galloping pace, making them comfortable and secure. It should, if dreams were reality, but reality does not express dreams. Often nightmares ensue before the merest whisper of a dream can evolve.

It's not surprising that people who feel themselves newly liberated exult and dream about instant gratification of their desires. It is, however, unconscionable when those who know better encourage them to believe in miracles, rather than render calm congratulations and proffer sincere hopes for a better future.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Making History

"When a system of government and a culture of governance has prevailed for many, many years, it cannot be rectified or corrected over night. There are institutional issues that need to be addressed and there are cultural issues that must be addressed." Egyptian Ambassador Wael Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd, Canada
Reasonable and to the point. Which also speaks to the point that President Hosni Mubarak, now deposed and out of power in Egypt, also made. It was his intention to guide his country through that transitional period, at its inception. And to step away from his guiding post at the earliest possible opportunity. Which suggestion to his people only served to further enrage the anti-regime protesters whose success in removing him from office his wishes further encouraged.

Events moved swiftly, far more so than any onlooker, within or outside Egypt, might have imagined. Because, in fact, the unimaginable occurred. A small but growing, resolute group of disaffected Egyptian youth decided that they would no longer live under the authoritarian rule that had marked their lives and that of their parents for three decades. Not that Egypt had ever known any other kind of rule, even if some might point to the Nasser years as an experiment in socialist iron-fisted democracy.

Many Egyptians, having experienced dire living conditions due to poverty, poor civic infrastructure, religious intolerance between the ancient Christian Copt community and Egyptian Muslims, and the heavy institutional hand of state security, chose to leave their country. Over many decades 55,000 Egyptians assembled through emigration and birth, to live in Canada. They retain, as is natural, a deep-rooted interest in their country of origin.

And they celebrate the vast changes that have taken place in Egypt, with the hope that more beneficial changes are yet to take place. The uncertainty of the outcome of the protest must have been riveting for them. They feel a new confidence in their old country of origin, that it will now take a turn toward the kind of secular democracy that will advance Egypt into the 21st Century for a prosperous and sustainable future.

The concerns expressed by outsiders that with the vacuum left by the departure of President Mubarak and the dissolution of the executive of his National Democratic party, the way has been opened for the only well-organized political group remaining in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood, is dismissed by many.

Perhaps not, however, those within Canada who do represent the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, active throughout the world, as a political force.

"I don't believe Egyptians want to go back to that. The economy has grown quite a bit during the peace (with Israel), and my hope is that they (Egyptians) want to preserve the peace", according to Sherif Barakat, president of the Egyptian-Canadian Cultural Association of Ottawa, in response to expressed concerns about the possibility that under a new authority Egypt might break its peace ties with Israel.

We can only hope.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Like Attracts Like

They think of themselves as bold seekers-after-truth, those whose mission in life it is to confront authority, challenge it and present themselves as classic iconoclasts, heros of a social revolution to bring to the public any and all news furtively hidden by government agents with their agendas that bode no good for the nation, nor the world at large.

They view themselves as acting in the public weal. And through the spectacular results of their unveiling of otherwise classified or secret or diplomatic documents, the public hails them for their boldness and audacious determination. They are the champions who reveal all, consumed with their ideological insistence that nothing should be hidden from public view.

How much of their zeal is attributable to an authentic desire for accountability, and how much is driven by vanity is another matter entirely.

There are, however, many things that should be maintained in discreet files. We have governments whom we elect, and government agencies, which we largely trust to do the bidding of those to whom we have entrusted our countries' well-being - and by extension that of their citizens - on the basis of trust. And in democratic countries with a history of free presses we do obtain the news we require to assess the above.

So it is rather intriguing to read that a former close colleague of seeker-after-truth Julian Assange, has characterized him as paranoid, and a "megalomaniac". Of course there are those who follow this man's forays into the news and who observe what can only be the entitled actions of a paranoid egotist, so just like the purloined documents that are revealed in which we learn nothing new, this revelation falls into a like category.

Despite which, it does pique one's interest. "Children shouldn't play with guns", grimly assessed the author of Inside WikiLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg. When that adult-cum-child seems incapable of adequately assessing the value of the data he reveals, and appears rather careless of the disaster he may visit by those revelations, upon both individuals and nations, it is a fair characterization.

A WikiLeaks insider reviewing the newly-released book dishing insider information about WikiLeaks and its founder, observes that the author confesses within it to various acts of sabotage against the organization. Sabotage is quite what WikiLeaks itself sets out to accomplish, informationally.

A certain air of petulant grievance seems to emanate from some of the book's quotes, reminiscent of Julian Assange's personality, as well.

And it's just too apt, in view of Sweden's desire to have Julian Assange appear before a public prosecutor on allegations of rape and molestation that the book describes his view of women - "She has to be aware of her role as a woman" - and his boast about how many children exist around the world with his genetic code inscribed as their father.

An altogether thoroughly unpleasant individual, even with the added description of "brilliant". Leavened by the description of other personal attributes like an aversion to hygienic principles, and eating habits reflecting a background where it appears he was "brought up more by wolves rather than humans".

This will most definitely not give pleasure to Mr. Assange's proudly doting mother.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let Us Hope Not...!

Unpleasant signals coming through that the federal government may yet decide to assist in the funding of a sports arena for the City of Quebec. Definitely, that would represent a most unpopular move in the rest of Canada; to take tax money yet again, for yet another Quebec-based favour.

To endow the city with a professional sports arena will not endear the Conservative government outside of Quebec. Come to think of it, nor will it endear the government to voters inside Quebec, but for vastly different reasons. Pauline Marois can explain that one; Quebec's values are not commensurate with Canada's, she has recently announced.

Pierre Karl Peladeau of Quebecor, a vastly wealthy Quebecois, is prepared to negotiate with the city to do his part in funding said arena. Which is precisely what such sport infrastructures require; private philanthropy, not taxpayer-funding.

The salary-rich pay-outs to those involved in professional sports; the players, the team owners and others associated with the profession do not really need us to make them wealthier.

In any event, an agreement between the municipality and the province appears to have concluded that they are prepared to go it alone, without the assistance of federal taxpayers, and we should leave them to it.

Premier Charest, out of the goodness of his heart, and with an eye to his unpopularity and the next election, has committed to provide 45% of the estimated $400-million cost. Nice; but of course much of that would also represent funding from outside the province.

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume is decidedly disinterested in an agreement that would involve the re-negotiation of the federal gasoline tax transfer program issuing revenues targeting infrastructure projects.

The mayor has the sense to realize that using the tax program would be tantamount to taking from Peter to pay Paul; cities are in urgent need of replacing vital ageing infrastructure and their need to increase public transit.

The eight conservatives MPs in the province are understandably anxious to have the federal government come through with funding for this project. Hoping it will reflect nicely on them come time for voters to express their appreciation.

It's all very well that the city aspires to enticing an NHL franchise, replacing what they lost. And aiding their aspirations for a future bid for the Winter Olympics. But not from the general tax revenues of all Canadians, please.

Even if the federal government seems to have discovered it's in possession of billions of unclaimed government benefits.

We'd far rather the money rattling around in the Treasury because eligible seniors have not taken advantage of Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement and Canada Learning Bonds not be used for a sports arena.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011


God is everpresent, lest one have a lapse of memory; He is omnipotent and omniscient, and a guardian of the Internet.

If, after all, he sees a sparrow fall, hears the tree crashing in the forest that no one else is aware of, why be surprised that he is present on the Internet? Ever aware when needed by his flock, he has granted his intermediaries the franchise of acting on his behalf on the World Wide Web.

And they are prepared, by electronic means, to reach into the ethernet to grasp the words: "Bless me Father, for ihave sinn'd".

Universal he may be, but as close as your neighbourhood Salvation Army Thrift Shop. Or your iPhone, your iPad, come to think of it. Dial God with full trust that he is aware of your travails, and will forgive your sins.

Be glad at heart that God has no wish to capitalize on his monopoly, but offers his services through those of his shepherds who are brightly eliterate at a reasonable charge of $1.99. Think of it as the indulgences sold by his messengers in days long gone.

"Confession: a Roman Catholic APP" awaits your need.

Inspired by the Pope's message urging Christians to make use of digital media on the auspicious occasion of World Social Communications Day, Little iApps developed this sacred tool so that all could convey to the Lord word of their sins, and ask for absolution.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As an authentic penitent, you will be blessed. Overlooked, your lapses in heeding the word of the Almighty. You cursed? forgiven. You threatened? forgiven. You coveted? forgiven. You engaged in thievery? forgiven. You resorted to murder? uh, forgiven. You took the name of the Lord in vain? blaspheming sinner!

When the urge becomes irresistible, do not resist; submit, recant, confess. And be blessed.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Splendidly bizarre, that's what the charges of Julian Assange's lawyers sound like; too ridiculous for anyone to take seriously. Flagrantly outlandish, to accuse a country like Sweden of having a corrupt judicial system. Mr. Assange's lawyers contend it would not be possible for him to receive a fair trial in Sweden were he to return to face charges of rape and molestation.

They've indulged in a show of silly rhetoric to purvey their view that Julian Assange would be in peril of his reputation, certain to be incarcerated, were he to return to face the allegations brought against him by two women with whom he enjoyed a brief and casual fling. It's hard to really consider anything remotely related to rape, when the women in question willingly shared their beds with the man.

Evidently they believe, or have been led to believe by a very assiduous prosecutor who insists that he must submit to the judicial procedure in Sweden to clear himself of the allegations brought against him, that there is the devious hand of the United States in this. Which is digging pretty deep, to imply that Sweden is somehow subject to pressure from the U.S.

But that hasn't stopped his lawyers from suggesting that Sweden would hand Assange over to the U.S., and he would end up at Guatanamo Bay, where his life would be forfeit. And all for a little bedtime engagement that had mutual consent. Ah, but the prosecutor contends, the woman whom Assange was lying next to was asleep and hadn't given her consent to sex - that time.

His lawyer Geoffrey Robertson claims a rape trial in Sweden, where no press is permitted to witness the proceedings, and the public is not allowed to be present, would represent a violation of his human rights. "He would be tried behind closed doors in a flagrant denial of justice", he huffed in a London court.

Isn't it deliciously ironic that WikiLeaks founder, who delights in confounding governments and politicians and exposing their official documents to the public eye, making a general nuisance of himself and delighting the reading public by the quasi-scandalous reports that simply confirm what has already been bruited about in the regular news media, is now caught in his own little scandal.

The salacious details of which have been dribbled out here and there, much to the chagrin of Mr. Assange, who doesn't much care to be on the receiving end of public attention when it makes him look awkwardly deficient in his choice of private activity. Rather than the notice he receives enabling him to preen his noble image as an exemplar of free-speech and -information- enabler.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Deadly Custody

It is a tragedy when those who once loved one another become estranged and no longer love, demanding separation. 'Till death do us part', may have seemed a reasonable marriage contract declaration at one time when people seemed to make more of an effort to remain together in wedlock, taking seriously the 'lock' part of the contract, than now occurs.

But people have longer life spans now, and the world is a dazzling place of choices and temptations that may not have been present in earlier times. The patience and consideration that two people must learn to give one another does not perhaps seem suited to modern times when everything is hurried and everyone is self-involved.

When marriages are torn asunder by disagreements, by a recognition of incompatibility and diverging interests and concerns, it is sad. When children are part of those families, it becomes a tragedy. Invariably, there is one partner who insists on separation, and the other would prefer their conjoined status.

And all too often a man who have been rejected will nurse a deadly grievance and anger toward the woman who rejected them and take her life. What is worse, sometimes women out of their sense of grief and dejection will take the lives of their children.

And then there are the instances when either the mother or the father will, out of a deranged sense of abandoned revenge, murder their children to make the other partner suffer. Which may just possibly have occurred with twin 6-year-old girls whose father, Matthias Schepp, was found to have committed suicide.

His death sad enough, but the children whom he had taken for a brief period given him as a reflection of partial custodian rights are missing. The father contacted the children's mother and left an anguished message that he could no longer live without her. And it is the children who are now missing.

One can only hope that the substantial sum of money he had withdrawn and was found to be missing when his remains were found with a much smaller sum of money in his possession, was used to hire someone to look after the two children. Someone had to. It can be hoped that the desperate, deranged father did not plan a final solution for his girls.

Comparisons can be made to the horrific murder of two children who had lived in Montreal with their parents. Who had moved to Texas briefly, and reconciliation failing, had separated, and the children Danyela and Deyan Perisic became part of a custody dispute. The children insisted they preferred to stay with their mother in Montreal.

The court under Justice Helene Lebel, ruled otherwise: "They do not wish to go back so they will certainly be perturbed. However, these children are intelligent and capable of coping. They are not being returned to a place where they will be in danger." How wrong she was. Law enforcement officers in Coldspring, Texas found the children shot by their father.

Both children were airlifted to hospital, but both died of their wounds. The mother, Vera Vucerakovich, was convinced that her children were in danger, in the company of their father, Pedrag Perisic. Justice Lebel held that the mother had unlawfully taken her children from Texas, when she returned to Montreal.

Her ruling that the children must go with their father to Texas was overturned by Quebec Superior court Justice Marie-christine Laberge who granted the mother custody, ordering the father to return them. He chose to take their lives and his: "They can go over my dead body to Montreal".

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Return to Professional Hospital Attire

That's interesting; a newly introduced dress code for The Ottawa Hospital is making nurses very unhappy.

This is seen as interfering with their free choice of what they may or may not wear in a hospital setting while discharging their professional duties. They warn, through their union heads, that this imposition of institutional wear will impact on their satisfaction with how they look, and by default, impact further on the manner in which they discharge their professional duties.

They will be unhappy, they claim, and as a result, the patients will suffer the consequences. Now isn't that truly peculiar?! It was once an inviolable rule that nurses wore very specific professional uniforms while working in a hospital, discharging their very important patient-specific duties, down to a silly little cap perched on their heads.

Now, nurses and orderlies seem to wear whatever strikes their fancy, and the patient admitted to hospital is bewildered at the sea of disparate outfits. Casual clothing, even amusing prints on scrubs look slovenly. Anything but professional.

The wearing of casual clothing by health professionals seems to defeat the purpose; easy identification by patients is confused, the appearance of hygienic, practical and attractive garments on health professionals imbue the patient with a comforting sense of reliance on their professionalism.

If they are garbed casually, and sloppily, that sense of confidence is shattered.

If health professionals have pride in their profession, the uniform should be recognized as a symbol of the profession, and worn with pride. The enacting of a the proposed new dress code - in fact, reverting to tradition - will result in low morale, the nurses' union warns. "I can't really see how shoving a policy down the throat of your primary caregivers is going to make you a best employer", railed one nurse.

The social formality of wearing clothing peculiar to a profession, or signifying what the profession is meant to convey, the assurance of professionalism at the very least, respect for the patient, another, where the hapless patient (who wants to be in a hospital, to begin with?) cannot identify nurses, and no identifying insignia is commonly worn, just adds to the confusion of illness and being in a situation where one is dependent on others.

Quality of care is improved just because patients feel more confident in those looking after them because they appear more professional. If nurses insist they be viewed as professionals despite dressing in an unprofessional manner it makes sense for a new dress code to be imposed, because in this instance, the administration realizes and identifies a problem and seeks to rectify it.

Whites and dress code conformity send a definite message, of assumed competence and regard for hygiene along with respect for the patient.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Global Obesity

Can anything be more repulsive than a 300-lb man or woman? Well, possibly. How about a man or woman weighing 500 pounds? Sounds impossible, but it isn't, at all. Somehow, lifestyles develop and a kind of psychological lethargy sets in where people may realize that they are gaining weight,and tell themselves they'll get around sooner or later to doing something about it, but that intention just doesn't materialize.

Eating can be such a comfort. When we're frustrated, bored, trying to cope with life, it can seem like a pleasurable break just to push all those irritations and fears temporary out of thought and relax. What could be more relaxing than indulging in the pleasure of consuming food. Not just any kind of food, since it's not necessarily sound nutrition that people crave, but comfort food. Comfort food tends to be food laden with fats, and fat begets fat.

Foods that whet our appetite smell good, taste good. We become accustomed to sweet and sour and fat. Lots of salt, plenty of sugar, not necessarily together, but not necessarily not. Hamburgers, fries, breaded fried chicken, ice cream, whipped cream, milk shakes, sundaes - when we want to give ourselves a taste treat. Tastes good to our discriminating taste buds. Easy to obtain, as near as any of the ubiquitous fast-food outlets.

Poorer countries are becoming more in touch with what pleases the palate of richer countries. In populous India and China the middle class is slowly growing, and they're demanding what they see as better food; more meat and more fat. Obesity, a new study in The Lancet has observed, has become a worldwide phenomenon, it has doubled since 1980.

Why would a world-respected medical journal report that? Well, because obesity becomes a direct lead to highly increased risks of serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, asthma. And how about heart disease, and various types of cancer, and increased risk of stroke?

Even children are now not immune to the growing obesity epidemic. It's a familial thing partially; fat parents raise fat children because of patterning into sedentary lifestyles, because of over-eating and poor food choices and the easy availability of fast foods with the wrong type of calories. Calorie-dense, nutritionally absent.

We're not even supposed to think this way, since it abrades the feminist agenda, but working mothers buy a whole lot of convenience foods. And convenience foods are just that; convenient, but not necessarily food, as in whole food, nutritional food, real food, just processed stuff claiming to be food. Which kids eat, because it's there and even they can just haul it out of the freezer, pop the stuff into the microwave and feed themselves.

In Canada in 2009, 73% of women with children under age 16 living at home were employed outside the home. It's tough to be a working mother, with time for not a whole lot, let alone to think about and to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals from primary food products. Kids' health suffers; 17% of children in Canada are overweight; 8% fall into the obese category.

Canadians are by no means the most highly representative population for obesity; that dubious honour goes to the United States, with New Zealand hot in second place, but Canada's right up there. The Lancet looked at 199 countries and territories for their study in global BMIs.

Japan, to their credit had the lowest average BMI in their population; 22 for women, 23 for men, and then Singapore with 24 for men and 23 for women. Whereas the U.S. had a BMI of 28 for both men and women, and New Zealand 27 for both genders. The average BMI for Canadian women rose to 26.7 in 2008, and for men it was 27.5 in 2008.

The deleterious health impact on these populations simply cannot be overstated. The question is, what's to be done about it? It's costly for nations to mend abused bodies, but how to prevail when trying to inform people that their self-destructive behaviour shortens their life-spans at a time when medical science has succeeded in offering us longer life spans?

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Shaming a Child

The schools we send our children to have a vital mission to fulfill. Teachers at the elementary school level introduce malleable young minds eager to learn, to be exposed to interesting and valuable knowledge, how to make sense of the world they live in. It is also a profoundly socializing experience, throughout the course of a child's early education, to mingle with peers, to take lessons from a qualified instructor, to learn to imbibe knowledge and seek out answers.

For the most part our schools do a fairly acceptable job of it. For the most part, unfortunately, too many teachers - and school administrators - behave as though they have a mundane job, not an elevated professional avocation. Men and women should, in a perfect world, enter the teaching profession only if they have a passion for exciting young minds, enticing them to learn how to learn for themselves, exposing them to fascinating things they had no previous knowledge of, encouraging them to love learning.

It's a demanding vocation, energy-draining and mind-numbing, engaging with eager and sometimes not-so-eager-to-learn young minds. The responsibility inherent in the profession is staggering. That is, if teachers and administrators took their jobs as seriously as they should. For far too many who may have started out as idealists it soon becomes a means to a well-earned pay cheque and little else.

It's tough to constantly entertain and intrigue and enthuse boisterous young children more given to physical expression than intellectual dimensions. For some who excel at the profession, their success at imparting knowledge to their students, and witnessing young minds opening up is its own reward, supplemented by that very nice salary. For most others it is a headache-inducing interplay fraught with frustration.

Those are not the instructors and teachers that most students will recall in their later years with anything approximating gratitude. Which brings us to the unfortunate reality that some schools are going out of their way to play another kind of game; to instill their idea of environmental responsibility in their young charges. As has done a school in Quebec, which teaches its kindergarten children that school lunches should be packed in reusable containers, not plastic baggies.

If schools commit themselves to teaching their charges about nature and the environment and our place within both, they should focus solely on imparting to the children an appreciation of nature in all its forms and manifestations. Teaching respect and an admiration of nature. Most definitely not manipulating a child to feel shame if that child's parents somehow fail the test of responsible environmentalism by packing a sandwich in a disposable plastic baggie.

When a child is made to feel ashamed of his parents' lack of commitment to what his teachers inform him is a stern obligation, by failing to wrap his lunch sandwiches in a washable/reusable plastic container, rather than a disposable plastic bag, this represents a gross interference in a family's right of private choice. Exploiting the feelings of a vulnerable child does no credit to the school system.

The child is punished multiple times by his parents' unforgivable environmental transgression in the mind of the school. It is made public that his parents' lack of commitment to the environment reflects on him personally. He is humiliated by this unwanted attention, and made to feel ashamed, and by extension he is ashamed of his parents' unwitting carelessness in the eyes of the school.

And then he is punished again by being forbidden as a result of this failure, to take part in a draw for a free toy.

What the Laval kindergarten teachers are doing is teaching their young students the misery of humiliation and the value of societal-approved bullying.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Egyptian-Canadian Protesters

Egyptian-Canadians, in solidarity with their brethren in Egypt have been demonstrating in their adopted homelands. Over 150 gathered in Ottawa, in front of the Embassy of Egypt, in a showing of support for anti-government protesters in Egypt. The homeland they left is likely just as it was when they left it, for a myriad of reasons. Not the least of which might have been lack of opportunities to achieve financial success.

Living in a democratic country which emphases freedoms and equality and opportunities without doubt magnifies those lacks in Egypt.

The sympathetic demonstrators want to make it quite clear to the Egyptian diplomats stationed in Canada what their take is on the revolution that appears to be taking place. And they are emphatically for a change of government. Clamouring vociferously for the ouster, immediately, of President Hosni Mubarak.

But transition from one system of governance to another cannot be achieved instanter. It must be a methodical, careful process to transition intelligently and creatively, embracing the new, eschewing the old. Opportunity adores a vacuum. Were the National Democratic Party, its chief executives and President Mubarak to step down as demanded, what happens to logical transition?

A period of chaotic anarchy would ensue, and that would fairly quickly result in the most opportunistic, established parties in the country to take what they will assume to be their rightful place in the governing hierarchy. The outstanding example of this kind of 'transition' was Iran. Do those demonstrating in Ottawa visualize an Islamic Republic of Egypt as their ideal?

Needless to say the Muslim Brotherhood does.

And it would be interesting to know, just out of curiosity, how many of those demonstrating belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, or have been exploited psychologically by their ideology, believing them to be the saving moderates they claim to be, just as the returning Ayatollah Khomeini was lauded as an elder statesman who would return Iran to the people.

"He is not respecting us, he is not actually hearing us, we've said clearly that we want him to leave the country", ranted one demonstrator. The voice of the people, vox populi, has never been paramount in decision-making at the highest administrative level anywhere in the Middle East.

Arab and Muslim countries have traditionally been ruled with a firm, autocratic hand, as a people given to great excitability branching into hysterical violent action, when not firmly directed. Both the administration of the country and the expectations of its people may change, given the reasonable length of time it will take to undergo reasonable change.

The arrogance of a mob mentality will not affect that change. Once that change becomes a rational reality there will be ample time for the population to exercise their right to cast a ballot through an enactment of true democracy.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Felling A Forest

Isn't it interesting how with all the good intentions in the world, owners of properties permitting others the wholesale use of those properties for however finite a period of time, run the risk of having those privileged users begin to consider that private property theirs by conquest of usage. Something like that old adage of "use it or lose it" turned on its head. Or "possession is nine-tenths of the law". Even, to coin a new phrase, "arrogance of entitlement trumps possession".

To bolster their case, people who have bonded over an issue that they feel has meaning to them, lose no time in inventing all manner of reasons why their will be done and that of the other, by comparison to their righteous indignation, has no reason. The passion of their argument, in fact, overrules reason. It's not hard to understand why people feel so possessive of the natural world. It is immensely vital to our well-being.

But this is the instance of a business, a construction enterprise which had ownership for 30 years of land which it intended at some future date to develop for housing in anticipation of population growth and city boundaries extending. In the interim, the property owners of the 40-hectare site in Kanata, gracefully permitted the residents of the area to enjoy free recreational use and enjoyment of the land.

"Over the years, the public has built trails. Had we not done that, nobody would have said a word (which is to say, had they built a tall fence around the property and denied people use of the land during that 30-year hiatus). We assumed we were doing something good for the public. Now we're finding that maybe we didn't do something so good, because people have a certain affection for this land." So said Lyon Sachs, president of Urbandale Construction.

And how perfectly correct that analysis is. People become attached to their proximity to untouched land comprised of forests and trails, where they are able to amble along in all seasons, with their children, their dogs, enjoying the pleasures that nature brings to people. When that privileged space is suddenly yanked out of their orbit of 'co-ownership' by default, the defensive reaction sets in.

On the part of Urbandale and its partner Richcraft, having decided that now represented the optimum time to proceed with their plan to build 400 townhomes and single-family homes, the realization has struck, that they should have foreseen these difficulties in public relations, as nearby residents are protesting their plans. Perfectly legitimate plans since, after all, they are the legal owners of the land.

The residents have the support of local environmental groups and have also enlisted the support of aboriginal groups, all of whom claim that to proceed with plans to eliminate Kanata's Beaver Pond Forest would be an unspeakable assault against nature, against a primeval forest, against a mother lode of aboriginal artefacts buried throughout the site.

A legend has arisen of old-growth trees present on the acreage, even though foresters hired by the owners concluded the trees range between 50 and 70 years. "There's no old growth in there at all", the owner stated. And in fact, the area was all once farmland, now reclaimed by nature. As for the archaeological artifacts claimed to be on the site, a 2003 archaeological assessment discovered to the contrary there were none.

Those findings were accepted by the province's Ministry of Tourism and Culture, in 2004. It seems clear that passion has overwhelmed reason. The additional argument was made that animals would be displaced with the clear-cutting of the forest and the construction to follow, and that is undeniably regrettable. But the same holds true for any area of the city that has been cleared to make way for housing.

It's a sad story to be sure. Sad that people who value their natural surroundings must face the reality that theirs is not the final say in the matter. The lawful owners of the property who had permitted its use for recreational purposes for a generation of nearby residents have now taken full possession of what is theirs.

Sometimes progress has a heavy cost and that of itself is lamentable. Reflective of our human priorities. Where nature comes second-best.

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