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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

To Benefit Canadians

Let's hear that again? Canada a potential destination for medical-tourism? That's a stretch, isn't it? Universal medicare and hospitalization within Canada is already stretched to its outer limits. And Canada is not in the business, like countries whose economies are struggling, in the business of making a reputation, let alone money, off the avails of surgical-medical expertise, therapies and state-of-the-art, precision equipment.

Canada has long waiting lists for certain surgical procedures. There is a shortage of medical experts in some quite particular disciplines. There exists, relative to other wealthy and developed countries of the world, a relative paucity of expensive diagnostic and surgical equipment. All complicated by the inexorability of a steadily aging population, requiring more hospital admissions and critical care.

But then, there are some that present the situation and the possibility that Canada might indeed open up to a different kind of medical-surgical treatment offered to foreigners suffering from unfortunate medical conditions. Apart from the occasional temporary visas issued to young children urgently requiring life-saving surgery or organ transplants from undeveloped countries through pure charity.

There are those who contend that simply because Canada is so relatively well endowed with the expertise of surgeons who have mastered new life-saving techniques in organ transplantation and surgical advances, that there is an obligation to share with others less fortunate than Canadians who may take advantage of such opportunities.

It's an argument that fails somewhat to convince, since in all instances, save for charity being extended to poor sufferers from abroad, non-Canadians seeking advanced medical-surgical treatment in Canada must pay their own way, and that way tends to be exceedingly expensive. Medical tourists going to countries like India and China experience a good level of satisfaction with their outcomes.

But costs associated with travelling there and other countries offering superior medical treatment in facilities not normally offered to their own populations, are relatively cost-effective to the medical tourist. It has become an industry, one that the travel and tourism industry itself has become lucratively associated with.

There are currently up to fifty countries of the world involved in offering medical tourism, where people may with relative ease, as long as they can pay the freight, receive joint replacement, cardiac surgery, dental and cosmetic surgeries, and surgeries that haven't been approved in their own countries like the MS 'liberation' procedure.

People willing to travel outside their own countries at a special rate tied up with surgical procedures must consider that the regulations and professional medical-school training may not equal the standards demanded in their countries of origin. That follow-up treatment and the drug protocol may prove to be problematical on their return home.

In Toronto the University Health Network representing multi-organ transplants appears to feel that since the medical professions' ultimate role is life-saving, it hardly matters whose lives are being saved, and the option to seek life-saving treatment should transcend borders. Doctors and patients from diverse places on the Globe make contact with the Toronto General for transplants, with patients bringing with them living donors.

But Canada's hospitals, its doctors, its medical-teaching universities are taxpayer-subsidized. There is a universal insurance plan for all Canadians paid out of general tax funds transferred to the provinces by the federal government, and individual provinces exact additional fees from families by way of an added tax in support of universal medicare.

Institutions and the benefits that flow from them are meant for the well-being of Canadians, acknowledging the odd exception for humanitarian purposes.

Even if a foreign patient is prepared to pay the entire cost of travel, the medical-surgical procedure and the follow up requirements, expert time and attention is taken away from Canadians, and operating rooms and hospital beds - already in short supply - are used for foreign, non-tax-paying individuals.

In the end, were this to be ome common practise in Canada, there is nothing particularly humanitarian about offering services to people from abroad. In essence, the services would be offered only to those who have the financial wherewithal.

It might benefit the health professionals by giving them more experience and enabling procedures to be streamlined, but this would occur under normal circumstances as procedures become more widely available.

Canada has, like most other countries, a problem acquiring enough donor organs to service the long waiting list of Canadians awaiting life-saving transplant operations. It makes little practical sense to complicate the issue even further by extending to non-Canadians the opportunity to travel on a visitor's visa for the purpose of acquiring surgery.

The issue is, if not a rare commodity, then at least one that is sufficiently difficult to obtain that its acquisition should be available to a narrow spectrum of beneficiaries; those who are citizens of the country, and who have paid their taxes in support of a universal education and medical care system meant to benefit Canadians.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Premier Qualities

Has quite the spectacular ring to it, got to admit it: "Prime Minister Jack Layton". Jack thinks it's about time. Members of the NDP do, too.

They've worked long and hard in the background of Canadian politics and feel justified in claiming they deserve the chance and the opportunity to prove themselves. It is perfectly true that the tireless nudging and badgering and background manipulation NDP-effect on various Liberal and Conservative-led governments can be traced to the adoption of some of Canada's more progressive social welfare programs.

We grant them that. They've been a background social conscience, as it were. And they've always been able to think of expensive social welfare programs that the reigning parties haven't signed on to, as well. Just a hopeful wish list. Their enthusiasm for social engineering and welfare and progressive stances on everything to make for one great big happy federation cannot be denied.

And there have been provincial NDP governments that haven't done too badly.

While others, like those that prevailed for a short while of temporary disorder in Ontario and British Columbia proved that the NDP had a great potential for screwing up right royally. Funny thing about that; in both instances the former NDP premiers after being tossed ignominiously out of office turned to the Liberal Party, which welcomed them warmly, and where they then set out to practise what they preached there, too.

Jack Layton performed exceedingly well at the Leaders' Debates; fluently bilingual, just a nice guy. And he really laid into Michael Ignatieff, pricelessly slaughtering him with the lines that pointed out that you've got to be present in the House to cast your vote and to demonstrate your dedication to your chosen profession to be counted in. "You know, most Canadians, if they don't show up for work, they don't get a promotion. You missed 70 per cent of the votes."

Point well taken, Jack. Can we assume too that if you're running for office during an election your candidates should be there, at the ready, prepared to return calls and emails, and show up at all-candidate meetings, and knock at doors and generally be there in the riding as a kind of signal that they're really, truly interested in being elected? The Canadian public was advised that only the NDP really invested heavily in encouraging female candidates.

So what's this? The NDP candidate for Berthier-Maskinonge chose to go on vacation to Las Vegas? Rather inconvenient, isn't it? I mean is this the way a candidate for political office demonstrates commitment? Good thing Cedric Williams was available as NDP Quebec campaign spokesman to give a reasonable explanation. "It's just that in this case she needed to go, and she couldn't get refunded." Oh. Good for Ruth Ellen Brosseau, She has her priorities.

Hey, another one: The NDP candidate for Richmond-Athabasca couldn't make an all-candidates debate because she is currently in France for three weeks? Isabelle Maguire has decided that being in France for three weeks tops sticking around home just because she's running for public office. And Cedric Williams is on top of that one too, he's in the process of verifying her whereabouts. He'll get back to us with another excellent explanation.

But they're not just in Quebec. Nicole Yovanoff, the NDP candidate running in Don Valley West is kind of ... not there ...? No telephone number, no campaign office, does not return emails, chose not to attend all-candidates' meeting. That's a peculiar kind of commitment, but then who knows? That's the thing about the NDP, their pluralist-socialist-ideology attracts the young and the untried; lots of university students opting to run while writing exams.

And then there's the mild embarrassment of candidates who suddenly decide, looking around at their opponents' energetic programs that it's just too much of a stretch to get out there and contest the seat, after all. Throwing in the banners and the posters and resigning their nomination, preferring to throw their support to a worthwhile rival - say the riding's Conservative nominee, as a better fit?

You'd think that would be enough to give the party and its dauntless leader a fit, but no, Jack is as chirpy and as self-assured as ever. He keeps studying his profile in the mirror, squinting a bit, and saying to that reflection, full-face, "now say after me, Prime Minister Jack Layton".

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Interesting Times

Britain is well known to have been completely infiltrated by rabidly fanatic Islamists. British Muslims famously attend mosques where visiting and home-grown imams constantly preach jihad. The natural outcome of which is that a good percentage of British Muslims harbour sympathy for violent jihad, and a small but significant proportion of British Muslims aspire to become involved themselves with violent jihad. Of that number a smaller yet number have travelled to Afghanistan for terror training, and some of have returned to Britain.

Muslims living in Britain who espouse and encourage views in the Muslim community that run entirely counter to the welfare and values of the country which has given them haven and citizenship, consider Britain a 'colonial Crusader' country hugely invested in conquering and occupying Arab and Muslim lands to continue controlling oil output. Britain's role in NATO and its relationship with the United States in joining to combat international jihad has created the anomalous situation of an immigrant community loathing the politics of its adopted country.

While leaders of the fanatic groups of Islamists dedicated to defaming and challenging Britain's government and its military in their forays abroad with NATO continue to denounce the government, many of them live entitled lives of welfare dependency. Now, with the country in celebratory mode in preparation for the royal wedding to take place at Westminster Abbey, security alert is at a high level. And people are being warned that there may be problems, while the police ask them to be aware and inform the police should they note anything out of character.
"We really need you to be our eyes and our ears. If you see anybody in the crowd that is acting suspiciously, please bring it to the earliest attention of our officers."
Recent WikiLeaks documents describing Britain as representing a "crucible of terrorism" over the past several decades have not exactly revealed anything not previously known. But they do highlight what is known, bringing the reality closer to the scrutiny of people who would prefer to wave it aside as irrelevant. Until the next home-grown terror attack occurs, leaving chaos and bloody slaughter in its wake.

Some things have certainly changed in Britain in the past few decades. Where once Britain had the headache of the Irish Republican Army to concern themselves with, they now are concerned with a lethally determined religious ideology of fiercely paranoid hatred. The footman riding the wedding coach of the royal couple will be a security officer, armed, and fully prepared to physically cover the royal couple with his own body should they happen to come under attack by anyone with sinister intent who might breach security.

Five thousand police officers will be on duty the day of the royal wedding. Of that number, one-fifth represent a rapid reaction force prepared to isolate and surround and de-activate violent protesters,whether they are anarchists or anarcho-Islamists. The threat level has been set at "severe", interpreted as meaning that British authorities consider a high potential for a terrorist attack is likely.

A radical Islamist group, Muslims Against Crusades, which has planned a protest against the "Nazi" Prince William, and which has been denied a permit to protest and banned from the area of the royal procession, still intends to gather for the purpose of "disrupting" the wedding ceremony and celebratory occasion. Their website incites followers to get out, gather and "protest" the crusading British military, along with the fascist royal family, labelled as "enemies to Allah and his Messenger".

Friday is fated to be an interesting day of polarized events and participation. Interesting in the sense of that old Chinese curse.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Guest List

Britain Royal Wedding_Pisc (12).jpg

Westminster Abbey, that piece of landmark architecture in London, is preparing once again to host royals and celebrities; a guest list of 1,900 especially chosen to present themselves at the nuptials of a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, right up there at the top of the ladder to ascend the throne after his father eventually does, for a very brief time. Oh yes, there's a bride, a commoner who had the fortitude and patience to live, on and off with Prince William for 8 years before he finally decided a permanent relationship looks good on a future king.

Prince William and Kate Middleton have been busy, along with their attendants, in a whirl of social decision-making, and the minutiae of planning for a royal event that will represent as extravagant and brilliantly entertaining to the slack-mouthed royal watchers-and-peepers for whom vicarious day dreams about princelings and princesses bring colour to their otherwise listless lives. No one will be able to escape notice of the event, for Westminster Abbey's bells will chime relentlessly for three hours following the wedding ceremony.

Invitees must be in an absolute tizzy about decorum and dress, lavishly spending on designer outfits that no one will notice but their spouses when the haute couture invoices finally arrive.
The House of Windsor has been busy calling in its favours and disseminating them as well. It is not only royalty and the aristocrats of theatre and popular arts and culture who have received invitations but a handful of ordinary folk from a village dear to the hearts of the betrothed. Former prime ministers of Britain of course, but definitely not if they represent Labour. Sorry, Messrs. Blair et Brown.

The dictators and autocrats and royalty of the Middle East are invited, however. And heads of Commonwealth countries; hello, Zimbabwe. Repressive regimes whose famous violations of the primary rights of their populations are welcome, while former Labour prime ministers of Britain are not. This is, after all, a rather eccentric country of eccentric people, royal members included. Rowan Atkinson who made a very comfortable living off portraying those eccentricities will be present, along with Elton John and David Beckham, the creme de la creme of Britain's sport-and-popular-culture elite.

Absolute majesty is demonstrated in blatant unconcern over such irrelevant optics as the invited presence of ruthless dictators whose protesting publics have been treated to very close and critical attention of their own armed forces, dispatching some unfortunates to the other world from whence no one has yet returned, while an unfortunate member of House of Windsor by marriage, quite out of favour with 'the family', will not attend, her children there with their father, absent their mother.

Among the pageantry of pomp and gilded splendour, a spectacle of royal ineptitude in failing to recognize moral and ethical values as reflected in their imperial choices.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Sorrow and Lamentation

Just as well we proceed into the future innocent of what life - or fate - has in store for us. Some may be fascinated with the potential for precognition, and seek the advice of those who claim as clairvoyants that they can read the future in palm lines or tea cups. Better, far better not to know.

And then dream and aspire and hope that what you wish for may be fulfilled. Work toward that fulfillment to the best of your abilities.

If people were able to imagine the very worst scenarios that could befall them they would live their lives in anticipation of grief and anguish yet to come, and many would submit to hopeless despair, ending with suicide.

A truly sad story has emerged of a family living in Montreal. Immigrants from Colombia. While living in Colombia the mother, whose husband was a good provider as a local businessman, was killed during a robbery.

The mother assumed responsibility for pursuing a livelihood for herself and her two young children, a boy and a girl, two and six respectively. Leaving her children temporarily with the parents of her dead husband while she went off on a brief business trip, she returned to discover that her six-year-old daughter had drowned in the family swimming pool.

The woman eventually left Colombia with her then five-year-old, thinking she would seek a new future elsewhere, far from where tragedy twice struck her. Her fresh start in life was her decision to emigrate to Canada, to work for the same high-tech company that employed her in Colombia.

In Montreal, attending an English-as-second-language class, she met another immigrant, from Kosovo. They married, and had a child together, a little girl. The son, by the time this story was told in the papers, was seventeen, and he would look after his 7-year-old sister, picking her up from elementary school after his school-day was over, until the appearance of his working parents.

And then, last week, the young man was crushed to death, under a municipal bus.

His step-father explained that when he met his future wife at language classes, "William was five years old. She told me then, and she told me every day, that William is the only reason she is alive." " Everyone loved him, he was my adored son and I came to Canada for him", said the grief-stricken mother. "It will be very difficult to continue."

William Quintero was a skateboarder. His mother believes her son held the skateboard under his arm, at the time he was hit by the bus. His step-father, mourning the death of his wife's son, his step-son whom he helped raise for the past dozen years, cannot believe that no one from the transit authority has contacted them.

"No one has called to say they are sorry or do you need any help. Someone should say they're sorry, we're human beings", he said. Everyone is sorry when something so utterly devastating like this occurs. The very heavens weep in sorrow and frustration.

What was lacking here was the dire need of one human being to reach out to another, to impress on those whose anguish is unassailable that others think of their living misery with compassion and sincere regret.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pageants and Circuses

It's a nice event on the social calendar, to be sure. British royalty at it again. Those magnificent and outrageously grand ceremonials with all their pomp and regal presence are irresistible to many people. Representing celebrity at its utmost elevation. Queens and Princes and the commoner who is living the fairy tale of being selected by a real, live prince. Who may, if succession proceeds as planned, take the throne in the near-to-distant future.

Europe has plenty of royalty and those photographs of pomp and ceremony, brilliant smiles and lavishly extravagant gowns and festivities are always captivating in their way, at least for a brief period. But the amount of space taken up in the news media with details of the forthcoming marriage at Westminster Abbey, and preparations for the grand event tend to be somewhat gagging.

When is enough just that? Just about now.

This brace of young people who have spent the last eight years of intimacy together are now to be formally wed. There's a departure that the last generation has brought to tradition. And the memorabilia that will flood the market; everything from fine porcelain cups, to look-alike dolls, commemorative coins and tea towels with the photographs of the happy pair in pre-connubial bliss.

And then there's that shabby little bit of information that of the royal guests one member of that family has not received an invitation. Two of the Queen's grandchildren, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie will be in attendance along with their father and all others. But not their mother. Quite so that Sarah, Duchess of York is a shabby character herself, but she is their mother.

All manner of foreign dignitaries, ambassadors to Britain from various countries of the world, including those in fairly questionable odour, have been invited, however. Diplomats who represent autocratic, tyrannical and dictatorial, theistic governments who oppress their people. Libya, however, is definitely out; no invitation for them, but Syria's all right.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Young Men, Dying Young

It's a sad and tragic story among many other sad and tragic stories that hit the newspapers day by day. Young people, particularly young men, engaging in reckless activities. Particularly driving activities. Speeding, ignoring traffic rules, becoming distracted by the use of texting messages while driving, and far more seriously, driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Young people feel they're invincible, that nothing, no course of action can ever imperil them. They harbour an attraction toward doing things that carry the frisson of danger to themselves. Rarely, if ever, considering that if they're engaged in some pursuit that is the least bit dangerous, particularly in public, their behaviour also by extension endangers others.

So high-speed chases by the police, unleashing more testosterone in the young adult male who is driving too fast, or driving under the influence - and has no intention of stopping to be queried by the police - ending in tragedy. There's always the thought uppermost in the minds of these ordinary young people doing momentarily extraordinary things that they'll get away with it.

Living to tell the tale, as it were, has enormous cachet among one's peers. Admiration and celebrity, however brief, among like-minded juvenile minds. Except when things go wrong. And that's when all the friends and acquaintances and family members make themselves available to the news media to deplore nasty fate, remembering him as a 'good guy', with a 'wonderful sense of humour'.

And then there's other, extenuating situations, where the over-enthused driver, all hopped up on adrenalin because he managed to elude the pursuing police who just happened to decide that in the interests of public safety they'll let him go, having already taken down his license. That speeding driver who just happens to lose control of his vehicle and his passengers are injured or killed in the ensuing crash.

Or, as happens often enough, that speeding driver, exultant and full of self-congratulations, loses control, his vehicle ending up in oncoming lanes of traffic, crashing into other vehicles. There's some irony along with the tragedy in a recently-reported such event where the car driver, 20, is dead, and so too is the driver, 19, of the car he crashed into.

The presumably careful driver of a like age with the aggressive, careless one, becomes yet another victim joining the cadres of young men who die far, far too early, leaving behind their grieving families.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Accessories To The Crime

The Islamic Republic of Iran gleefully noted the street-murder of 16-year-old Yazdan Ghiasvand Ghiasi last year, shot in Ottawa as he was sitting in a vehicle, and then tossed out of the car as it sped off. Purportedly a drug deal that went wrong. What kind of country is Canada, that such dreadful things occur in the street, a young boy of Iranian extraction so heartlessly murdered, Iran thundered, sanctimoniously scandalized.

Well, it would seem to ordinary Canadians that there might be something awry with the seeming inclination of immigrants with a Muslim background, who seem to turn, disproportionate to their numbers in society, to crime. This is obviously a response that would never pass the lips of Canadian diplomats, nor for that matter anyone who respects the dictionary of political correctness.

Yet Muslim youth appear drawn to the easy pickings and the adventurous excitement of crime on a micro- and macro-level, from drug dealing to murder, in greater numbers than their demographic seems to warrant. Young Ghiasi was shot in the heart by Mohamed Webbe; the dispute evidently occasioned over a bag of drugs, on a residential downtown street.

One shot killed the boy, hitting him directly in the heart; the other went skyward, shattering the sunroof of the blue Nissan Maxima involved in the tragedy. Two others, Abdulhamid Wehbe and Mohamed Webbe are also charged, with 2nd-degree murder, while Mohamed fled Canada; all in the family, as it were.

The trial of 18-year-old Zakaria Dourhnou has just concluded. He is a young man, previously in trouble with authorities and on probation, which included the court-ordered condition that he was meant to live with his mother who would monitor his activities. His mother, evidently having little respect for such conditions, allowed her son to live elsewhere, and paid for his apartment.

And it was in the parking lot of that apartment that the murder vehicle ended up. Mr. Dourhnou was instructed to clean up the incriminating evidence, as a gesture of friendship. And he was not averse to doing just that; police watched as Dourhnou and another teen, Khaled Webbe, obligingly set about cleaning up gunshot residue and blood.

"Mr. Dourhnou was acting for a friend in order to defeat a criminal investigation, by destroying evidence. the relevance of DNA evidence is well known ... It was obvious by the state of the vehicle that a serious altercation had taken place", stated Ontario Court Justice Celynne Dorval, in arriving at her decision.

A year in prison, over the 135 days already spent behind bars awaiting trial, a ban from possession of any weapons for five years, probation for three years. And his lawyer is outraged.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Atrocious Love

A child is so wholly dependent on parents for emotional stability and support, for guidance and for caring love, that with all or a portion of those absolute requirements withdrawn from that child the world must certainly appear as a dark void of misery. It is not actually possible for most people to visualize a child so utterly abandoned, left hopelessly adrift by a parent's disinterest, or in certain circumstances, left to psychotic episodes of child abuse and exploitation.

Most people feel an instinctive, subconscious need to to cherish a child, support and love a child. It is a deep-rooted imperative inscribed in our collective genes, tied securely to our most basic instinct of survival. Love and compassion flow from strangers toward an abandoned child. People become emotionally moved to do whatever it is in their power, to help a child overcome feelings of being lost and abandoned.

Yet the dreadful fate of some children is to be violated; by extreme physical neglect, by psychological torment arising from lack of care, and by sexual predation. In Ottawa, a trial presided by Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve has just concluded, with a 57-year-old man being sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment as penalty for having molested and abused his step-daughter from the age of six to age fifteen.

The child was very well aware that her mother was involved in her abuse simply because her mother witnessed it and encouraged it, to keep her husband in a good frame of mind. And the step-father testified that this was an ongoing life-lesson for his step-daughter, to teach her that everything comes at a price. The gifts and money he gave her were in exchange for 'favours', of a sexual nature.

The birthday gift the girl implored her mother to grant her for her fifteenth birthday was to have her mother finally put a stop to the sexual abuse. The young child lived a life of horror, and when her pleas to her mother went unanswered she finally revealed to a friend and the friend's mother what had been occurring to her.

The girl testified against her step-father, but no charges were laid against her compliant and willing mother, because the girl refused to press charges against her mother. The mother admitted to police she was aware of what was occurring, she witnessed her husband touching her daughter's breasts, and knew that from age six the girl was forced to masturbate the man.

The mother gave no explanation for her having assisted her husband in abusing her daughter. And she has no intention of leaving the man. A court-appointed psychiatrist testified that the man claimed the girl enjoyed his sexual attention. The young girl testified in a victim impact statement her empty feelings, lack of self regard, and thoughts of suicide.

And there is, in Montreal, another ongoing trial, that of a doctor, a father of two young children, whose wife, he discovered was having an affair. That knowledge devastated the husband. In the absence of his wife he murdered his five-year-old son and his three-year-old daughter in their beds, using his surgeon's skills to eviscerate them.

The morning he was discovered in his bedroom, having taken a drug overdose, with h is dead children lying bloodied and cold in their beds, police rushed him to hospital. He asked paramedics looking after him en route to hospital to "Tell my wife I love her". And he also said "I did it this morning".

His parents, who lived an hour's drive away had an anxious premonition when they had spoken with him the night before; his mental condition seemed highly abnormal. They had discussed between them whether to drive over that winter's night to ascertain whether all was well, and decided in the end, to wait until morning.

And in Manitoba, a Winnipeg woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for smothering her two-year-old daughter to death while at a Child and Family Services-approved shelter. She was under the supervision of Child and Family Services while living at a women's shelter where the little girl had been returned to her care. The 29-year-old mother insisted she hadn't meant to kill her child, just stop her crying.

An autopsy of the child revealed she had over thirty separate injuries to "nearly every portion of the body", in the days leading up to her death. Injuries that included bite marks to her legs.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rise Up!

Sounding like a passionate, mind-addled Evangelist, Michael Ignatieff chanted to an attentive crowd during an election stop, a fusillade of Obama-like inspiration: "Rise Up!, Rise Up!, Rise Up!" One suspects that in a self-induced trance of hubristic entitlement he felt not the least bit embarrassed. There were some onlookers to the event who must have doubted his sanity.

A temporary unhinging of the mind, that's all. He was restored to his usual self-assured, folksy attitude, no longer resembling an outright imbecile, in short order. Must have been something he had for lunch, or a nightmare he experienced the night before that horrified him with a technicolour vision of a majority government for the Conservatives.

Or, quite simply, a recall of his predecessor, the estimable Stephane Dion, declaring at the 2006 Liberal party convention: "We must get back to power as soon as possible." Possibly, Michael Ignatieff has been haunted by those words ever after. Particularly as, having assisted in ushering Mr. Dion off the stage, and manoeuvring himself into position, "as soon as possible" seems to have eluded him.

And then, there's that statement by M. Ignatieff's nemesis, Stephen Harper who said: "We're in the election to win, and all I can say is serving my party and serving Canadians in my capacity as leader and prime minister is a great honour, it will always be a great honour". Precisely, it is that, and more, and S. Harper is clearly undeserving of that great honour.

It is one that Michael Ignatieff, an aristocrat born, yearns to savour. And that detestable S. Harper stands stolidly in his way. What could conceivably be more intolerable. He has presented the electorate with his plan, put voters on notice.

"What I'm prepared to do is talk to Mr. Layton or Mr. Duceppe or even Mr. Harper and say: 'Look, we've got an issue here. How do we solve it? Here's the plan I want to put before Parliament, this is the budget I would bring in, and then we take it from there'". Clear enough; the issue that is. Being Mr. Ignatieff's insatiable thirst for power. Take it from there.

The proceedings of a democratic election will not faze him. The presentation of another minority government a heaven-sent opportunity to thumb his entitled nose at the electorate's choice. Haven't the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc already pledged to reject another Conservative budget? Ergo, the House has no confidence in the minority government.

Or, as Mr. Harper says: "So there will either be a Conservative majority or it will be a majority cobbled together between the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois." "It's very, very clear", said Bob Rae, "You form a government because you have the most seats, and if you win the confidence of the House of Commons ... you continue in government.

"And when you lose confidence, you lose." Rise Up!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tell And Shame

Must've been one of those infamous 'slow news days'. Or just practising their option to foment a little bit of controversy. The pretense of unveiling and in the process unravelling hypocrisy? Well, certainly there was that in the story to an extent. Perhaps, given later information that distracted from the message contained in the news story, merely illustrating and illuminating just how human we all are.

Some, obviously more than others, as far as fallibility goes. On the other hand, there are some who see it as their role in life to bring hope and cheer to others and they are gifted at doing this. Those who give relief from sorrow and unwieldy concerns to others are indeed special in any society. Those who do not merely stand before others and thunder sermons from the pulpit, but those who display their compassion for others.

And it would appear, from all the protesting letters from parishioners of Father Joe LeClair that he has touched people deeply, to the very core and essence of their being. People who trust "Father Joe", and who stand prepared to forgive his transgressions, for no one, they affirm in their trust of his care for others, is immune from falling from grace.

The front-page article published on April 16 of the Ottawa Citizen titled "The priest, his gambling and trouble at Blessed Sacrament", laid out in stark and living detail the calling of a man who responded to the needs of those who attend his church. Emphasizing the good man's obvious detour from selflessness and pandering to his inner need to gamble.

Details of his salary, his emoluments for services rendered, his home and his vehicle, along with the advances he called upon through his credit to permit him to gamble large sums of money at Casino du Lac-Leamy, totalling some $490,000, of which he repaid Visa $424,000. Whose business and concern is this man's private life? That of his parish to be sure, and they are dealing with it.

Why might it have been seen as desirable to unveil this man's personal life and unfortunate addiction, to the world at large? Sensational news always seeps its way into the news and slithers from one news source to another; fascinating. Father LeClair faced his parishioners after the initial story was published, confessed his weakness, asked for their understanding.

As he gave them compassion and his caring presence in their many times of personal need, they have returned in kind if not quality and quantity what he expended upon them. This man transformed a moribund parish and church into a place of genuine support and worship for his community. He earned the trust and caring that is now lavished upon him.

Allusions to his having possibly lifted church funds to pay his debts are denied by the church hierarchy. The very thought of the appropriation of funds given by church attendees to further the work of the church they depend upon being used in the manner the newspaper article suggested has been strenuously denied by Father LeClair and supported by the church.

If anything useful has come out of this unfortunate decision on the part of the newspaper descending to a rare display of muckraking, it is the opportunity given those who trust the man obliquely accused to demonstrate their own forgiving natures with respect to human imperfection.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Once Is Quite Enough

That is a horrible thing to occur. Just about as nasty as you can get. A young woman, working as a greeter at a Home Depot outlet on Cyrville Road was the recipient of a dreadful surprise. The store, like so many others, has a notice on its doors that dogs are not permitted within its confines. Sometimes people bring their pocket-sized and slightly larger dogs with them, and shop there, with the dogs placed on the infant seat portion of the shopping cart.

Most dogs are well behaved, otherwise their owners would leave them at home. One might assume. But there are some dog breeds that are high-strung, aggressive and tend to snap. This woman learned to her huge dismay and painful experience, that shih tzus in particular can be very miserable-tempered little animals. She also learned that it isn't a good idea to place one's face too close to a dog one is not familiar with.

This dog, shopping with its owner, reacted adversely when Anne Riel bent down toward the dog with the intention of patting it. Suddenly the dog leaped out of the cart at the woman and managed to bite the tip of her nose off. The unfortunate employee screamed in pain as would anyone in such circumstances, and cried out for someone to call an ambulance.

Other members of staff immediately came to her aid. The woman with the dog had no intention of remaining there, and swiftly sought to depart with her pet. She was, in fact, escorted out of the store by a manager. "The lady didn't say sorry, didn't come to see me. She was basically ready to leave", Ms. Riel explained.

She is the mother of two children, a five-year-old girl who is not too happy with her mother's new-look injury, and a sixteen year old boy. Doctors managed to stitch her skin together over the tip of her nose, and to re-attach her left nostril to her face. Her nose will be functional, but the reminder of what happened to her will be permanent; the tooth punctures will remain as scars.

The owner of the dog is being sought. Bylaw officers with the City of Ottawa arrived on the scene along with paramedics. Ms. Riel informed them that the dog owner evinced little concern abut her injuries. It's hard to imagine that someone would have a companion pet so ill behaved they would take it out in public without warning people of its temperament, and without being responsible for its actions.

It's obvious that this unfortunate event will now become the catalyst for stores choosing to enforce their rules and regulations about dogs not being permitted entry, even those who are well behaved, very small, and kept by their owners securely attached to their person, slung over a shoulder in a carrying bag.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

That's All Right?

Isn't that amazing, Elections Canada which is such a stickler for form and sticking to the letter of the law relents when it suits its purpose. All in the interests of benign helpfulness.

To encourage university students to option their voting privileges. Can this mean that anyone can decide to set up a polling booth wherever they deem it might be useful? Might this mean that a local returning officer with an agenda of his own could manoeuvre opportunities on behalf of his own political choice?

After all, Elections Canada by law must give permission for the timing, dates and location of polling booths. They're held at schools right enough, but for the general voting public. And at an agreed-upon, by law, specific date. And dates of advance polling booths are also mandated by law.

So how does it happen that an impromptu and quite specific-located special ballot at University of Guelph is set up without the pre-knowledge and permission of Elections Canada?

A public-minded returns officer took it upon himself to locate and date and encourage Guelph University students to turn out and vote. And 700 votes were cast that day. It would be fascinating to have a count of those votes to determine how many were cast for specific parties.

So when the Conservatives - on the basis of the illegality of the vote - asked that Elections Canada void the event, the Liberals screamed their outrage that an initiative to encourage young Canadians to practise their citizenship obligations was being denied by those nefarious Conservatives.

And the response from Elections Canada was cool and unaccommodating.
"All information at our disposal indicates that the votes were cast in a manner that respects the Canada Elections Act and are valid. In light of the focus on youth and student electoral participation at the 41st general election ... a well-intentioned returning officer undertook a special initiative to create an opportunity at the University of Guelph to vote by special ballot."
Having little option but to agree, the Conservatives withdrew their request and accepted the decision of Elections Canada. And added :"We applaud the decision not to disenfranchise University of Guelph students because of errors by the local Returning Officer" rejoindered Guy Giorno, national Tory campaign chairman.

"At the same time, we are pleased that the rules for special balloting have been clarified and reconfirmed. The same rules should apply everywhere and be applied consistently across the country." Logically.

On the other hand, when Christian organizations appealed the dates of the advance votes which just happen to coincide with Easter, Elections Canada was less than accommodating, citing the law which stipulates precisely when those dates must be recognized in relation to voting day.

Interestingly enough, the NDP has declared it is interested in having an investigation launched into what precisely occurred at the university. For in the past, in 2006, the Liberals successfully had a special voting booth at the University of Toronto discounted.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dangers of Unhealthy, Unclean Minds

There are some societies, simply put, for whom basic rights of the people themselves fall far short of respect. There is that old adage that the values of a society can be assessed by the manner in which the most vulnerable within it are treated. In some countries of the world like Italy and other places in Europe, including Canada's far north, hunting dogs are prized and cared for and used for a time; during the hunting season. After which they are let loose and must care for themselves.

In so doing they become a menace to society, for they become feral, form hunting packs and look for food sources wherever they become available. Like wild animals on the prowl, seeking to extend their lives, they present as an affront to farmers by attacking their livestock. The pack will not hesitate to attack young children. And then the dogs are hunted and killed and their nuisance factor nullifies any concerns about the brutality meted out to them.

At one time in the very near past, within China famine stalked the land, and any source of food was avidly welcomed and hunted. Even yet cat and dog meat is a favoured dish in parts of the country. At one time there were no birds to be heard singing for they were trapped, caught, eaten, along with locusts, caterpillars and aquatic life of any description to assuage peoples' dreadful hunger to survive.

None of these contingencies appear to exist in modern Iran. So geographically close to Egypt, where in antiquity foxes, jackals, dogs and cats were worshipped, attributed the worshipful status of deities, half-animal-half-human - honoured and respected. In Iran as in many modern Muslim countries dogs are considered to be unclean, their presence barely tolerated.

Now it seems a motion to ban dogs has been tabled in the parliament of the Islamist Republic of Iran. Cultural norms sometimes become altered when there is exposure to events and to values that are clearly otherwise in other parts of the world. Dogs have been increasingly seen as having companionship value, particularly in wealthy parts of Tehran with people walking their pets in parks.

No more may they engage in such clearly un-Islamic behaviour. Walking "dangerous, unhealthy or unclean animals such as dogs in places and upon public transport is forbidden", the newly-introduced bill states. Offenders will be fined $100 to $500 in penalties, and "their animal will be confiscated". This is a country with a death penalty especially reserved for gays and political opponents of the state.

Confiscated animals will be destroyed. For there will be nowhere, legally, for would-be dog-lovers and -owners to maintain their domestic pets. Since the draft bill goes on to state "it is forbidden to keep such animals in an apartment". The police have not enforced a current law that forbids dogs from cars and from being walked in public places. That is obviously set to change.

What else to expect from rancid minds twisted by deep-seated paranoia. One can only wonder how many Iranians would prefer to ban dangerous, unhealthy, unclean ruling Ayatollahs and their supporting elite Islamist politicians.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

BP's Compensatory Responsibilities

Isn't that just like human nature? Tucking the conscience and ethics away in a corner - as high up as possible, so it's a real stretch to reach them and pluck them down for later use - in favour of diligently taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Something like the sudden loss of law and order when disaster strikes and people begin looting, not to waste unexpected opportunities.

In this instance it is the opportunities that presented themselves in the chaos and rush of a presidential order to begin compensating townsfolk living directly in the wake of an unprecedented Gulf Coast oil spill a year ago when BP was desperately attempting to contain the Gulf of Mexico disaster in the wake of a rented oil rig being stricken and eleven men working on it drowning, with the following runaway oil gusher.

The U.S. government negotiated (furiously strong-armed) a $20-billion claims compensation and clean-up package for Gulf Coast residents from BP. And then of course there was the billions consumed in various other initiatives to try to control the oil spillage. The company is preparing to sell off assets to the value of $30-billion to help pay their bills. It is, needless to say, their responsibility.

On the good news side of the equation are stories coming out of the area that in most instances the ocean itself appears to have helped considerably in the clean-up by pushing the grease and oil away from land, and absorbing what it could. That beaches and wetlands are no longer impacted, with oil contamination nowhere to be seen. Aquatic life is returning to normal, and birds normally seen in the area are also returning. Nature coming to its own rescue.

And then there are other stories, describing the "BP rich", the new "spillionaries"; Gulf towns and their residents who have taken what some might consider to be excessive advantage of spectacular opportunities to do well by themselves. Such as cleanup companies submitting bills for payment not bothering to complicate matters by itemizing things, and by submitting documentation with their invoices. Stamped paid.

A subcontractor billing BP $15,400 monthly for rental of a generator that it usually rents out for $1,500 a month. A company charging BP over $1-million a month for land that it had formerly rented out for less than $1,700 a month. "This parish raped BP. At the end of the day, it really just frustrates me. I'm an elected official. I have guilt by association", confessed the chairman of the St.Bernard Parish Council.

People living in areas that hadn't recovered from the depredations of Hurricane Katrina, where almost every home was flooded, made compensation claims to BP for payback following the spill. Money flowed generously to people claiming their lives, their properties, their livelihoods had been deleteriously impacted by the oil spill crisis.

People who vituperatively blasted BP, a foreign enterprise that degraded the U.S. coastline and created a disaster for the environment and for thousands of people who depended on the marshes and the oceans to supply them with their livelihood, went out of their way to take BP to the cleaners. It was clear to many that businesses that had been hit by the recession, not the spill, were receiving BP compensation.

"I don't understand how BP is just giving its money out like this. Give it to the people who deserve it", said the manager at St.Bernard's off-track betting parlour, noting the increase in customers gambling claims money, increasing her business to the extent that employees had to work overtime to accommodate all the new business.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who Do They Think They Are?

Now there's a bit of an interesting social tidbit within a non-story. A celebrity juvenile pouting that paparazzi are making him uncomfortable. They are too intrusive. He would appreciate some private time to enjoy himself without having cameras and microphones stuck in his face. He would like some anonymity. And why cannot his privacy be respected?

Possibly because he deliberately surrendered his privacy in favour of becoming a lauded pop-professional, a celebrity for the younger set who swoon over his musical delivery and his persona as a successful young vocal artist. He worked hard to attain that status. Giggling all the way to the bank.

The spectacular public relations reviews he has garnered and the opportunities given him to appear at venues certain to return huge revenues all very much treasured. Enabling him to be cherished by the masses, his recordings hit the stratosphere in sales, hob-nobbing with other celebrities, at ease with his fame and his fortune.

Both of which he has in abundance. Fame, fortune and the misfortune not to be anonymous. The heart bleeds for this talented and spoiled juvenile, tweeting his displeasure at being stalked by paparazzi when all he really, truly wants to do, is tourist around, visiting the Biblical holy sites in peace - and prosperity.

He is obliged to his fans to permit the paparazzi to take his photograph at the various sites in the Holy Land, for to them he owes much; his fame, his fortune, explains one of the paparazzi. It is their trade to assist fans of the famous to see the objects of their admiration in various public venues.

And as they do that, they also assist the celebrities to take advantage of all that free publicity. Priceless, as they say.

But Justin Bieber sulks, and complains, and insists it is his inalienable right to be private, secluded, ignored and respected, withal. And when it came to an audience with the Prime Minister of Israel, where he would be present to meet and greet eager children from the border area between Israel and Gaza who adore him and need some distraction from daily rocket attacks, he draws the line.

They can buy tickets and see him perform as scheduled. He will not deign to entertain them at an unpaid-for venue.

Who do they think they are?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Excessive Judgement

It is, without doubt, a transgression of a high moral order that represents what Denise (Dee) Harvey of Florida did to complicate her life and that of the 16-year-old boy whom she had sexual relations with. Herself a mother of a boy the same age who was a friend of the boy she had sex with on a number of occasions, this woman exercised extremely poor judgement.

That her marriage and her relationship with her son, let alone that with her husband, was not completely destroyed is a testament to their forgiveness of her absurdly unforgivable folly. Why on Earth would the mother of a 16-year-old boy succumb to the temptation (itself inexplicable) to have sex with a friend of her son, to begin with?

Obviously what we might consider to be normal inhibitions, a repugnance toward the very thought of something so morally wrong, did not constrain this woman. There can be little doubt that the people living in the community of Vero Beach, Florida, would not have thought very highly of this woman.

She was convicted by a Florida court in 2008 of the offence of having sex repeatedly with a minor. A personal shame and a public disgrace. Difficult for both families involved to live with. Her sentence was an egregious over-reaction, however. She was given the maximum penalty for the offence; 30 years in prison.

She chose to flee the sentence, as who might not? Compounding her original social offence. She and her family fled to a small town in Saskatchewan, and a cross-border hunt was mounted for the convicted sex offender. In the interim, the family lived for a year in Pike Lake, Saskatchewan. Where they seemed like any other compact little family.

It is not a crime in Canada for a 45-year-old woman to sleep with a 16-year-old boy, unless she was abusing a position of trust. This woman lived with her family in a bungalow next to the local Anglican Church, where she was a volunteer. People liked her, as a friendly neighbour. And, when she was arrested by the RCMP last week, they rallied to her support.

Her bizarre sentence was an over-reaction, the punishment did not fit the crime. A similar case that occurred in West Virgina where the age of consent is 16 and the boy involved was 15, ended with the woman who was the sexual predator being given a 30-day sentence. Quite a difference between a 30-day prison sentence, and a 30-year sentence.

In either case, the women involved were guilty of high stupidity and of disgracing themselves through offending the social compact, let alone the moral turpitude of older women preying on young boys for sexual adventures. When men do such things they are considered to be completely debauched, threats to society, detested pedophiles.

But the sentence handed out to this woman in this particular case offends reason and the equability of justice.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Family Pain

It might seem to the young woman who decided to call off her impending marriage to the young man whom she discovered had betrayed her trust and that of her family by preying on her younger sister, a personal tragedy. But through the pain and trauma of discovery she was saved from a dreadful marriage. She is now haunted by the vision of her trust in the man who became her fiancee, and her introduction of him into her family circle as a betrayal.

How was she to know that the young man who seemed so right for her, who seemed to share her values and was as anxious to marry her as she was to marry him, was burdened by a dreadful disease? On the other hand, the young man who secured her trust, and who became a fixture within her family, accepted as a future son-in-law, most certainly was aware that he was a predator, and he did nothing to stop himself preying on a trusting 10-year-old.

Jeffrey Cain pleaded guilty to sexual interference with a minor. He has been diagnosed as a pedophile. He was sentenced to an eight-month period in prison for the crime of interfering with a child who was nine at the first instance, and ten at the time of two later offences. Now that truly, is a violation of emotional trust and physical security.

The young woman, abused of her trust in the man who was preparing to become her husband, blames herself for altering her family's perspective on welcoming into their home people who just might turn out to be odious child-molesters. And the mother and father of Jeffrey Cain will live with the pain of knowing their son was found guilty of sexually abusing a child's trust.

The young man seems quite aware now of the position his twisted search for sexual gratification has left him in. He expressed to his former fiancee how "incredibly, incredibly sorry" he was. Presiding Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve stated that she hoped the young man would receive the treatment he required while in prison.

A sad story that could have been profoundly sadder, but destructive enough in its results.

Then there's the story of a young woman, Nicole Doucet, married to a Canadian Forces soldier for eighteen years, with a young daughter. Three Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judges upheld Nicole Doucet's acquittal for attempting to hire a hit man to kill her husband. The man she negotiated to hire was an undercover policeman.

And the result of her trial was explicable with the description of the woman's suffering, living with an abusive man who threatened to kill both her and their daughter, if she tried to divorce him. He had decided, pre-marriage, that having a wife would help his reputation, marred in the military by his behaviour.

She felt drawn to him, thinking he was a good person who had surmounted a bad childhood.

His explosive, abusive, controlling personality was revealed to her, as so frequently occurs, only after their marriage. Another case of a battered spouse fearing for her life and that of her child. The years of abuse she had suffered living with her husband in military bases in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, convinced the judges that she had acted in desperation.

Women's rights groups might see this case as one that did not end as so many others have, in an abusively controlling husband murdering the wife who finally left him. Seeing instead a woman who, driven to the depths and the limits of her emotional and physical endurance, attempted to remove him from her life, choosing her life over his.

Not all marriages are made in heaven; not even a minuscule proportion of them. Human beings are different in their values, their temperaments, their orientation and their priorities. Their social flexibility, their ability to love another as much as they do themselves, their emotional maturity, and their outlook on life in general.

There are without doubt as many emotionally unstable women as there are men. Women tend to wound with their sharp, malicious tongues, leaving indelible emotional wounds. Men, in extreme situations, tend to wound with their hands, leaving mortal finality that harms in perpetuity.

One half of the equation may survive their intimate emotional ordeals, while the other may not.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Creeative Fiction Fabrications

Isn't it amazing that there are always those lurking in the shadows eager to discover naughty little items about people who preceded them, famous for their intellectual and creative output. John Steinbeck wrote some very impressive social commentary of his time in his novels documenting American social life.

He was celebrated as the author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, his two most important novels, both of which expressed the creative artistry of a man with a social conscience and the ability to deftly portray what he recognized as social and human misdemeanors impinging on the human rights of people whom society wronged.

His creative artistry was celebrated at the time, and he remains a legend as a writer of another era. What then, is the purpose of 'discovering' that this man indulged in gilding the lily when it suited him? In the interests of penning an interesting travelogue documenting his personal search for time and lapsed years, he took it upon himself to indulge his muse.

That another writer now seeks to throw a light of dishonest recounting of his experiences set out in his book Travels With Charley garners no one much of a useful revelation. John Steinbeck's choice to write as he did, recounting events that may or may not have occurred as he described them was reflective of his intention and his writing career.

It is nothing short of scholarly mischief for another writer, Bill Steigerwald, to hold John Steinbeck to a standard that Mr. Steigerwald feels the famous author should have embraced. If he had planned to do so, he most certainly would have. If the book detailing his travels with his dog contains scenarios that represent "creative fiction", then so be it.

Of such revelations are small minds obsessed.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Intellectual Democratic Deficit

In Ivory Coast, the latest of the African countries, following Kenya and Zimbabwe, where the president set aside the results of a democratic election to inform the country that he has no intention of stepping down and the opposition can go stuff itself, chaos has resulted, with government and opposition forces both on a tribal-slanted slaughter mission. In Ivory Coast, French intervention will shortly settle the question of legal, democratic order.

But the thousands who have died in an orgy of hated and revenge as the two sides seek advantage in the contested election fall-out will remain a blot on democratic procedure. Democracy is new to Africa, but deadly tribal antipathies leading to mass slaughter most definitely are not. When the two are harnessed, the newer social-political convention is supposed to surmount the traditional war-mongering disagreements between clan and tribe, but there is a long way yet to go on that path.

There are reminders on occasion that even in Canada, where the population does not resort to primitive violence and democracy has as long a pedigree as the country has existed, people still react on occasion with a vestige of the same blistering entitlements leading to bitter dissent. One might suppose if this were to occur anywhere in Canada, it is likelier to happen in a rural setting, rather than an urban one.

Urbanites are more shall we say - urbane, sophisticated in their thinking and reactions; cosmopolitan in their understanding of the social contract. While rural dwellers are understandably closer to the land, so their inherited and primal instinctiveness is instructed through a dimly recalled and subliminal acknowledgement of collective memory known as the survival instinct.

All this to say that in the recently-concluded provincial nomination in the Carleton-Mississippi Mills riding for the Progressive Conservative Party, the riding association itself was taken aback when a well-planned campaign with more support locally than they might have realized existed was successful in finally unseating 69-year-old veteran MPP Norm Sterling.

One might ask, isn't 34 years at the public trough as a politico long enough for anyone? When might someone of his vintage and his experience consider it is time to move aside and allow others to take up where he left off? Particularly when many in the riding may not consider theirs to be a fiefdom; rather a riding in need of someone who will become actively engaged in presenting their interests at Queens Park.

Mr. Sterling's opponent, Jack MacLaren, a West Carleton farmer and libertarian, will now join his next-door colleague Randy Hillier who represents the riding of Lanark-Frontenac Lennox and Addington where both of them may partner in tilting at frustrating-landowner windmills. As for Mr. Sterling's ire; longevity in a political contest is never an assurance of easy victory, nor should it be.

The manner in which a politician acquits him/herself on behalf of his/her constituents is the ruling order here. It is a democracy, after all, that we celebrate and live within. And which civil people recommend for other nations so they too may realize fairness and justice. And to be completely fair, the grudging acceptance of the inevitable by Mr. Sterling fits him exceedingly ill.

In that the ill grace that he evinced in his unwillingness to accept that the electorate chose a replacement rather than allow him to continue as their representative shines a nasty light upon his character. His grumpiness in alluding to his continued challenge to maintain a seat by running as an independent, his public flirtation with abandoning his party during the election by voting for another party should a personal friend decide to run, does him no credit.

What he does demonstrate is a vain conceit in his belief that he alone represents the needs of the area's constituents, and his cantankerous rejection of the idea that someone else may now be in a better position to do just that, reflects his own sad lack of principle.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ah, Those Entitlements...

The idea that people working in certain professions must be entitled over and above their earned salaries to charging on the taxpayer's dime expenses relating to professional garb, entertainment, and all manner of trifling things like taxi charges, parking fees, hairdressers, laundry and dry cleaning, is one of those hard-to-swallow entitlements.

Some recent publicly-aired revelations that Elections Canada is routinely solicited to approve payment of such entitled charges for reimbursement relating to shoes, clothing, parking tickets and other like items through campaign charges is enlightening. And infuriating. Reminiscent of some types of employment, like the diplomatic corps, having just about everything subsidized by the taxpayer.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that in Canada all political parties engage in padding their expense claims with items that they should be expected to pay for themselves. Not that Canada is alone in this; fairly recent revelations that in staid old Britain members of Parliament charged illegally for thousands of pounds of entitlements having nothing whatever to do with their positions are a reflection that this is a universal human failing.

Which doesn't make it any more acceptable. Paradoxically, when charged expenses were scrutinized a while ago of all Members of Parliament, it was discovered that two members of the NDP out-charged and out-expensed all others; the leader of the NDP and his wife, Olivia Chow. When, at the time, she was asked about her conscience, she shrugged the enquiry off, stating that what she charged was perfectly "legal".

It may be legal, but is it ethical and morally acceptable? But then of course, MPs elected in 2008 who attempted to charge their personal grooming, wardrobe expenses and other tidbits as personal expense claims to Elections Canada represented the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, the Conservatives as well as the NDP. Of the thousands expensed and for which reimbursement was sought, however, Elections Canada sturdily permitted a standard $200 reimbursement for expenses incurred.

They're all rank amateurs, however, still on a learning curve, compared with recently-retired Senator Raymond Lavigne, who blithely called upon his entitlements to charge to the weary taxpayer $32,391 in expenses for a period of three months just prior to an Ontario Superior Court finding him guilty of fraud and breach of trust.

This former Liberal, appointed to the Senate, swiftly retired from the Chamber of Sober Second Thought anticipating a Senate vote to remove him from office, stripping him of both his salary and his hefty pension. Since he precipitated his own retirement just days before the Senate vote, he is still entitled to receive that pension, $79,000 annually.

Even while he was barred from taking part in all Senate proceedings while he was under RCMP investigations since 2007, he managed to spend $315,355 for office expenses and travel on top of his annual $132,300 salary. If enough people expressed enough outrage, it might be conceivable that some legal way could be found to strip the man of his pension; he has certainly earned public censure.

As an expression of justice he should be stripped of his pension, and should be required to pay back the bulk of what he expensed and was paid for through Senate expenses, even while he was not permitted to participate in Senate proceedings while under investigation. On the other hand, the man's sentencing hearing takes place in one month; May 10.

At which time he could be facing up to 14 years in prison for his very particular brand of malfeasance. Just hold your breath.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Judging The Judge

There is that about politics and elections and candidates; the leaders never quite know when an individual chosen by a riding association and often given the blessing of the party's head office, will issue a moronic statement that tends to smear the party in greasy embarrassment. Some statements can be overlooked as not being terribly damaging in a social-political context, and others simply cannot, because they reveal unacceptable social biases, even bigotry.

In Wild Rose, Alberta, former judge and Liberal candidate John Reilly stated his opinion based on his decades of experience as a judge that not all sexual offences fall into the same category and need not be treated the same; that minor sex offences did not necessarily warrant mandatory minimum prison sentences.

He may have understood where he was coming from, but to those who heard his statement it sounded as though sex offenders might have had a friend in this judge.

There have been several quite notable instances of late where judges have ruled that forced sex cases, cases of rape, revealed mitigating circumstances in that they claimed the women involved issued unspoken but fairly clear messages leading the rapists to believe the women invited assault. So, rape in these instances was to be considered the result of a simple misunderstanding, and you can't, after all, blame a fellow for thinking he had an all-clear, even while hearing the woman strenuously objecting.

This is a man, eager to become a Member of Parliament under the Liberal banner, whose website explains "He's so disgusted by the proposed Conservative Justice Initiatives that he has resigned his judicial appointment in order to take his concerns to Ottawa and better represent our riding." A conversion, in other words, from one who administers justice under set guidelines allowing a judge certain latitudes, to one who goes beyond the simple administration of the law to proposing changes in the law.

From provincial court judge to Parliament as a newly-minted lawmaker.

So what's the quality of this man's judgement? Well, he took it upon himself to take the Chief Judge of Alberta to court because he refused then-Judge Reilly's expense claim to a conference in Switzerland. The Chief Justice, in refusing Reilly's request explained that the proposed trip did not meet requirements for professional development, but he could go along if he paid for the trip himself, rather than do it on the public purse.

That response didn't suit John Reilly and he asked for a judicial review, lost, took his umbrage to the Alberta Court of Appeal, where the court ruled against him, and when he approached the Supreme Court, it decided against hearing his case. So, because this man felt he wanted to go to Switzerland in his capacity as a provincial court judge, and public payment was denied him, he tied up a layer of succeeding courts at huge public cost.

Are these the actions of a reasonable man capable of exercising sound judgemental capabilities?

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Thursday, April 07, 2011


Escalating health costs hasn't been a matter brought up as a concern by any of the leaders of Canada's political parties during this 2011 general election, but on the other hand, Canada's health care system hasn't been entirely ignored. The NDP leader, Jack Layton, has been flaying the issue; not the costs involved with ensuring the continued feasibility of universal care, but laments about its perceived inadequacies.

It's one of those hot-button issues none of the party leaders really want to delve into in great detail, because in the details there are looming problems. Governments at every level have been throwing in increasing financial support to desperately attempt to shorten wait times. Drug costs, once identified as the single most costly item in health care, have latterly assumed somewhat less of a burden with pharmaceuticals' lapsed patents.

But as the country ages and the population becomes more weighted with its elderly demographic, the health care system will be put to an increasingly difficult test. It's a grim scenario no one really wants to tackle; it's in the league of items too serious to reflect upon during the course of an election campaign when quick and easy items can be addressed for maximum effect.

Now David Dodge, formerly governor of the Bank of Canada has forecasted some of the problems inherent in the groaning health care public non-debate in a report titled Chronic Healthcare Spending Disease. Universal health care is expensive, and costs are steadily rising. They could continue rising, according to Mr. Doge, to represent 19% of the national economy in two decades.

The current levels of available universality can only be maintained in the future with the imposition of new taxes, or the curtailing of services; neither being appealing solutions. Other options include a form of co-payment by individuals for services received; de-listing services to be paid for by consumers or private insurance suppliers; development of privately funded systems for those able and willing to pay.


Even Mr. Dodge balks at those 'options'. "The Canadian public will not live with denial of service. We cannot do that again." Cutbacks in spending and services would be suicide for any political party that might suggest it, and worse for any party in government that would initiate them. Even at a time of restraint, even at a time of a huge national deficit and debt.

We value our health and the services attendant on them far too greatly.

The issue is one that a resounding 40% of Canadians place ahead of the economy and jobs as issues of importance to them. And, because it is such a vital issue, it may be one of the items taken seriously and addressed one-by-one by the leaders during their nationally televised debate. Because whoever assumes the Prime Ministership will be anticipating the 2014 federal-provincial accord renewal.

So with these concerns in mind, it really boggles that same mind to read that Gerald Savoie, former chief executive of the Montfort Hospital in Ottawa - actually a minor-league hospital in comparison with The Ottawa Hospital and its campuses - retired since 2009, last year received in his retirement $557,622, and is 'entitled' to the same for the current year. The hospital board agreed to these payouts as part of his contract.

Now isn't that rather rich? Under the agreement between Mr. Savoie and the hospital board, although the man will not have actively worked for the hospital for the past two years, he is considered to have 'earned' the handsome sum of $1.15-million as an entitled payout. In contrast, Ottawa Hospital chief executive Dr. Jack Kitts earned $642,071 in 2010, for actively executing the administration of the much larger hospital complex.

Dr. Rob Roberts as president of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute earned $612,037. These rich salaries represent the absolute top end of the highest-earning provincial civil servants in the National Capital. How can the Montfort's board of directors possibly justify glad-handing $1.15-million to a former chief executive?

Might this represent an anomaly or a symptom of the expense-malaise that afflicts the entire system?

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Just Such a Miracle

Rescue workers are still working to discover the whereabouts of a three-year-old child who walked away from play with other children, at a relative's home in Laval near Milles Iles River. He was visiting in his father's care and with his 7-year-old sister. A normal family get-together.

Except for the unfortunate fact that the three-year-old boy, Adam Benhamma, is not 'normal' in the sense of having all the faculties of other children his age.

Adam Benhamma is a deaf mute. And he is diagnosed as autistic. One minute he was there, the next, not.

His father said he and his cousin walked into the house leaving the children outside to play on their own, and they were absent from the scene for no more than "seconds". A second is all it takes for a normal, curious child to wander off. And obviously, it was all the time that Adam required to do the same.

It would appear that autistic children are particularly given to wandering off. This propensity causes great anguish to parents of autistic children who must always be on alert lest they lose their children. This father cannot possibly have been ignorant of that trifling little fact.

Moreover, since Adam is both deaf and mute, he is unable to communicate, nor is anyone able to communicate with him at a distance. So calling his name elicits no response; he cannot hear. Even so, he cannot shout for help or to assist those desperately looking for him, to alert them to where he is, to enable them to rescue him.

Close by the house that was being visited was a swampy forested area, as well as a river. Places that have a certain fascination for young children who are incapable of identifying dangerous places. And whose sense of curiosity will draw them to those dangerous places.

Those places presented as a physical challenge to negotiate for the fit and experienced rescue workers who were dispatched to attempt to discover his whereabouts.

Adam has been missing for far too long. So long that, given the terrain, his age and his handicaps, it is unlikely he will be found alive. If he is found still in the land of the living, it will be a miracle.

We fervently wish for just such a miracle.

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Who'se a Stupid Bovine?

You just don't mess with the determined persistence of a teen-age girl. There's something about horses and teen-age girls. Who develop a passion for those noble beasts, and believe that if they can ride them and jump with them and become the "best in their class", they will have achieved perfection in their lives.

There is, decidedly, a sexual connotation here, according to many psychologists; a subliminal need that surfaces with raging hormones. But there is a German girl in Bavaria whose aspirations were spurned and who delivered her own ultimatum to herself: make do with what you can. And she most certainly has done that.

Horses, she must have reasoned, are not the only large, domesticated animals that can jump. And truth is, all juvenile mammals, carefree in their youth, are capable of light-hearted playfulness, inclusive of gambolling and leaping, and all manner of unsuspected acrobatic talents. But a cow? Seems so.

Regina Mayer
And there's the proof. A heifer, to be exact. Not yet mature. Regina Mayer (queen of all she surveys on her family's farm), responded to her parents' refusal to allow her to have a horse, by deciding she would train a calf. The first one, evidently, balked at this splendid opportunity to become a horse. The second calf proved more amenable to Regina's patient training. Luna is her name and she responds to Regina's commands.

"Go", "Stay", and "Gallop" are the verbal communications that Luna recognizes and acts upon with alacrity. Two years ago Regina began her training of Luna by accustoming her to a halter, and walking with her in the woods. At six months of age, Luna was saddled. "She was really well behaved and walked normally. But after a few steps she wanted me off her back." Regina was patient.

She conducted a consultative process with a specialist cow academy located in Switzerland whose philosopher-owner claiming that cows can do anything horses can, encouraged her to begin a reward protocol with Luna; whisper to Luna, then offer her tasty treats. That program was so successful that Luna now is able to jump over metre-high obstacles. With Regina on her back.

For the time being, Regina observes, Luna appears to connect with horses. "She keeps chasing after real horses and tries to make contact with them. But they want nothing to do with her." Poor Luna, life can be so unfair - while she is breaking entirely new ground for her species.

As Luna matures, however, that may be a completely udder story.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Skip Newborns; Circumcise Boys?

Now does that strike one as sensible? "Circumcise older boys not newborns: expert."

To launch an informed medical recommendation for peripubertal boys to be encouraged to select for themselves a circumcision in a forward-looking attempt to decrease their future risk of contracting HIV or human papilloma virus (HPV). Rather than go the more traditional route of encouraging parents to make that decision for their newborn boys.

On the thesis that it is the boy himself who should make the informed decision, not the parents.

Professor Noni MacDonald at Halifax's Dalhousie University's pediatrics study group has published a guideline for a new male-circumcision protocol in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Her theory is that since the protective benefits of circumcision only occur once a male has matured to become sexually active, it is not necessary to jump the gun and perform the surgery on babies.

Better to wait until they are older, and capable of making their own decisions.

Not a very good idea, actually. Although it's true that the choice to remove or retain the foreskin would then be the individual's, how likely is it that a young boy of 11, 12 or 15 would choose to voluntarily undergo surgery? A painful surgery for which there would be a lengthy period of physically restorative rest imposed upon a boy for whom physical action at that age is an imperative.

At an age, moreover, when anything closely resembling surgery is frightening and more likely to be rejected than accepted as future insurance against becoming infected with a virus that could have unfortunate repercussions. Sparing the infant to cause pain to the boy. Does that meet the criteria of common sense?

The infant's distress and pain passes, as it is given the required anaesthesia to counteract the pain. The young boy's pain in latterly undergoing a process that might have already been committed to at a time he would have no memory of it, will be one that could conceivably cause unneeded psychological trauma.

Recent trials from Africa have reached the conclusion that male circumcision has the effect of cutting the risk of acquiring HIV by roughly 60% in heterosexual men. There is also a marked decrease in the risk of contracting human papilloma virus (HPV), a virus that can cause genital warts, and penile cancer, as well.

Women whose partners have been circumcised have a far lower risk of contracting HPV and cancers, as well as any number of sexually transmitted disorders. With the foreskin removed it is much easier to achieve a good degree of cleanliness.

There has been much controversy over the past several decades of the need for and the effectiveness of male circumcision. Once done routinely in the Province of Ontario and throughout North America, it has undergone a rejection as an unnecessary and intrusive procedure, one that is not really required, in some perceptions.

Men who had undergone circumcision as babies sought to have further surgery done of a cosmetic nature to restore their foreskins, feeling that they have lost something valuable to them. On the other hand, there has also been the reality of a landslide of sexually transmitted diseases becoming ever more common in society, which circumcision could help diminish.

Infant circumcision has come under great criticism. And it has also been vigorously defended as an important hygienic tool. Studies performed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto affirm that newborns undergoing the procedure without the administration of painkiller may be likely to experience a reflexive aversion later in life, lowering their pain thresholds.

The decision to have a male child circumcised should be an informed one, taking into account many important variables. For some, it is a simple matter of respecting the heritage of custom, as with Judaism. For others it represents a deliberate and offensive interference with what nature intended. This latest recommendation presents as another type of option.

As with so many other matters of public and private health concerns, there are no easy answers.

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dangerous Driving Causing Death

Shouldn't people discipline themselves better? People who are educated, ostensibly responsible, business owners, professionals? Don't we, as a society, know how dangerous it is to drink and then get into a vehicle and drive? Don't we care that in doing so we present as a danger to the public? The answer to all those rhetorical questions is obvious, yet the carnage continues.

Fifty-year-old Bryan Casey, married for twenty years, the father of three young children, dead. Father of two boys, 7 and 11, and a daughter, 9 years old. Those children are now part of a single-parent family. They will have vivid, loving memories of a father they knew for too short a period of their lives. Their mother will now be forced to be father and mother to their three children.

Good thing they have a supportive and extended family, friends and colleagues. They will need them. But they are not a substitute for the father and the husband that they have lost through someone else's lack of conscience, someone's decision to drink alcohol and drive on a public road, becoming a mortal menace.

Mr. Casey was in his Dodge pickup truck on Highway 17 near Arnprior. He was on his way home for the week-end from his job as an engineer at a Siemens Canada project located in Chalk River. It was his usual practise, barring inclement weather, to head home every Thursday night. He would often arrive home before the children went to bed.

This Thursday he did not. It took Arnprior firefighters 20 minutes to remove Bryan Casey from his wrecked truck. Ottawa paramedics treated him for critical multi-system trauma. En route to The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus trauma unit from the Arnprior & District Memorial Hospital, Mr. Casey went into cardiac arrest. The doctor accompanying him along with the paramedics was unable to revive him.

His truck had been hit by a westbound Ford Expedition SUV that crossed into his eastbound lane, colliding with him. The driver was a 46-year-old Pembroke woman who now faces three drunk driving-related charges. Her name is Christy Natsis and she sustained a minor leg injury. The charges levelled against her are impaired driving causing death, driving with over 80 mg of alcohol in her system, and dangerous driving causing death.

Ms. Christy is Dr. Christy Natsis who, with associates, operates a Pembroke dental practise.


Friday, April 01, 2011

Fat Roosting

It is sad, that people whose lifestyle and consumption of food is such that they have grown uncommonly overweight, causing stress on the health care system, and condemnation from health authorities because their excessive weight renders them susceptible to serious morbidity. There are so many overweight and obese people in society now that the incidence of diabetes, heart attacks and operations for total joint replacement has rocketed as surgery to replace damaged knees and hips strain the health care system.

It becomes difficult to accommodate people on public transit, airplanes, hospital beds incapable of taking excessive weight, along with diagnostic equipment not designed to take the weight and breadth of excessively large individuals. Fat people simply take up too much of everything. Which is detrimental to their own well-being, and detrimental to the manner in which they are viewed by society at large.

Surgical bookings for weight-reduction operations through stomach-stapling and other similar measures take up needed time and space for other emergency operations. All of which cost the health-care system to attempt to restore people who have over-indulged to a better, more balanced state of health. Resentment begins to evidence itself as increasing reports of ill health due to a growing overweight population surfaces.

And overweight people find themselves the objects of ridicule and contempt. "Of all the things we could be exporting to help people around the world, really negative body image and low self-esteem are not what we hope is going out with public health messaging": Dr. Alexandra Brewis, executive director of the School of Human Evolution social Change, Arizona State University.

But it is inevitable, isn't it? Social perception can turn on a dime. Although in the instance of the global phenomenon of constantly growing overweight and obese adults and children, it has been a long time brewing. The constant messaging about the harmful effects of sedentary lifestyles accompanied by incautious appetites and fat-laden pre-prepared foods with little nutritional value is having its effect.

People are increasingly expressing negative attitudes about those in society whose burgeoning weight and compromised health is now seen to be a growing problem. With a rapid "globalization of fat stigma ... The change has come very, very fast", in places as diverse as Tanzania, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Argentina, New Zealand, Iceland, India, Britain, the United States.

An impetus for focus on healthier living, we dare hope.

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