I have always been opposed to abortion, an issue that has now been put on the Canadian back-burner—we have no laws governing the practice since the Morgentaler decision in 1988, one of only a few countries in the world in that situation. There are no laws even governing when in the pregnancy an abortion can take place.

I could cite my influences as being things like our beautiful daughter, born to a young single mother who was quite likely advised by some to seek an abortion, or things like hearing of the lady in our community who aborted a child because she had to stand at a wedding in October and wanted to look good, but even long before that I was influenced by enough knowledge of biology to know that (reinforced now with our tremendous knowledge of DNA and genetic coding) that a fetus is a human being, unique in itself, from the very beginning. If you can only grasp potential, it has all the potential in the world, including the often stated possibility of being the first person to find a cure for cancer, had we not placed them in the garbage instead.

I know the world is over-populated, I know we don’t seem to take care of the people we have (though we could), but I don’t think the answer there lies in getting rid of some of us as we are just developing. Continue reading

Ok, I will predict …

Though I don’t mind giving out my opinion on elections while sitting at Tim’s, I’ve always tried not to put thoughts into print—the danger there is that event- ually people vote, unfortunately too soon for people to forget what I forecast, and in the morning after I can be proven definitely wrong.

So I’ll make some comments, probably enough for you to get an idea of my leanings—I was about to add, “but I won’t make any prediction”, but as you probably know by now, I don’t have that kind of control.

It’s an interesting election, ignoring the issues of the tremendous cost and whether we really needed one or not. There are some interesting personalities in the mix. I think more than many elections, the focus is on the national leaders, and a lot of local ridings will tilt from the desire to have one leader over another.

I have to say that I don’t like Stephen Harper, and my voting might end up as more of an “anything but Harper” than the real supporting of another party. I think that if he gets the majority that he desperately wants, it will only happen the once. Harper, under minority conditions, only lets us see glimpses of his true personality and true agenda. Under majority conditions, he can basically push through almost any piece of legislation he wants (particularly with a senate stuffed with his choices, all of who have realized by now which side of the bread has a lot of butter). I think we will see a lot of movement to the political right, a huge amount of control, and very little input from parliament other than as a clearing house formality. Members of other parties will be the nuisances he has to put up with, and members of his own party will toe the line or find themselves dispatched to a political Siberia.
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The Domino Effect

I recall an incident quite a few years ago when most of the students in the high school where I taught had a walkout.  Or perhaps we could call it a “walk-in”, since they went to one of the gymnasiums and refused to go to class.

 It was not a protest against the administration or teachers, in fact it was an action designed to bring attention to their desire to have a cafeteria in the school, mainly done in hopes of attention from the community, municipal council, and school board.

 While teachers and The Office were very sympathetic to the purpose, a school can’t run with about five-hundred students in the gymnasium, so eventually the principal called their attention, described how he agreed with the idea, etc., etc., and then formally ordered them to leave and return to classes.

 They didn’t go.
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A Contributing Factor

The shooting of twenty people in Tucson has opened up the usual media frenzy. Experts in all imaginable fields are being dragged into the studios to provide the background the producers feel we all require to understand this tragedy. In only a few days we’re already getting tired, which is an unfortunate disservice to the victims.

There’s an attempt to sort through the head of killer Jared Loughner, if they can, to discover what motive he had for the shooting. He’s not particularly cooperative, saying little to police, and apparently only providing minimum answers and a few smirks at his first court appearance. His mug shot on being charged is a clown face. The “massacre”, as some are now calling it, was likely in a sense vaguely political, but distorted enough that few of us will be able to comprehend his reasoning. Friends indicate that his opinions about government and politics were usually so bizarre that they couldn’t get a handle on just what his agenda was. He seemed to have a particular paranoia about the government, made comments about mind control and brainwashing, and had a specific concern about the US money system.

A nut case, for sure, so the attention turns to what might have set things in motion, or made his assault possible.

A certain amount of effort was initially going into trying to lay the blame for the shooting of Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen other people in Tucson on the doorstep of one Sarah Palin. The style-but-no-substance Alaskan had a website that featured a US map of gun sight “targets” (one of which was Giffords), Democrats in close contests that the Republican Party should “eliminate”. It’s a stretch to feel that this alone inspired Loughner, but that map is a symptom of a larger US disease that contributed to the shootings.
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Emmett and Jeannie

We often watch the Ellen show on TV, it’s good for laughs, and she frequently has guests that are some of the top names in music, performing, and news.

Ellen is quite well off from the top-rated show, and she tends to be generous. In one of her regular segments, she sends “Senior Head Twit” (Ellen’s label) Jeannie out to surprise a person in the community, who has either written to Ellen about financial difficulties, or has been recommended by a friend. I anticipate that thousands write in, but logically only a few are chosen, making the arrival of Senior Head Twit Jeannie a surprise.

The usual situation is that Ellen will call the lucky person on the phone during a live show, while Jeannie and a camera crew wait outside the person’s house. After the initial shock of receiving the phone call ends (it seems to frequently provoke lengthy screams), Ellen will mention that it appears someone is knocking on the recipient’s door, and it is, of course, Jeannie and the crew, often bringing an attaché case of about $10,000 and/or a new automobile.

It’s typical for the woman receiving the gifts to burst from the house, rushing into the arms of Jeannie, tears running down her cheeks as they do a joyous dance of hugs.

I sometimes sit there thinking, “How marvelous!”

It’s not the thousands of dollars or the beautiful Buick at curb side. It’s not the thrill of the family being given a much-needed shot of optimism.

It’s my age, and the fact that I was a teen and young adult in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and then and later in my teaching career I took an interest in the racial unrest in North America, particularly in the southern United States. You see, financial crisis is the prime qualification for the appearance of Senior Head Twit Jeannie, and because of that, and because of the still financial imbalance in the US along racial lines, often the woman receiving the gift is black.

Jeannie is white, and there is absolutely no hesitation, as there should not be, in the two of them rushing into each others arms in the dance of joy. There is no hesitation in Jeannie scooping up the little children clustering around their feet. Thankfully, it’s a new generation.

It was not always that way, obviously– in fact it was drastically and tragically not that way. I find the young people of today have little appreciation of that fact, since to many of them the 60’s and beyond are as relevant as the days of Julius Caesar.

This article would stretch to longer than my novel if I attempted to go into a litany of hate crimes against blacks over the last century and a half. In the hundred years up to 1968, some five thousand blacks were lynched in southern United States, many for “crimes” as absurd as not stepping aside in time from a white person’s walking path or from the path of his vehicle. For the vast majority of these beatings, hangings, and burnings no one was ever charged or punished.

In 1955, fourteen year old Emmett Till, visiting from Chicago and apparently naïve about the situation with blacks in the south, made a comment to a 21 year old white woman in a store. What he said is not clear to this day, but making any comment to a white woman was unheard of at that time. It was possibly flippant, the most likely words being, “Bye, Babe”.  The woman’s husband and his brother went to the house where Emmett was visiting that evening. They took the youth and, probably in the company of other men, beat him severely, breaking his leg and gouging out one eye. They then shot him, tied a large metal fan around his neck with barbed wire, and threw his body into a river.  He was found by family three days later.

The husband and brother were arrested, went to trial, and were acquitted. One jury member later told a reporter that he didn’t think any white person should go to jail for killing a black person (of course “words to that effect”).

Emmett’s body was sent back to Chicago, and his mother displayed him in his casket as he was found, refusing any repair by morticians. Tens of thousands attended the macabre viewing and funeral, and it made national news. One of the arguments at trial was that Emmett’s body was so damaged that positive identification could not be done at that time. In 2004 he was exhumed, positive identification made, and he was reburied in a new casket. His original casket resides in the Smithsonian. Emmett was only one of many.

In 1957 a group of nine young students attempted to register at Little Rock Central High School. This was but one of many actions by black children at that time, demonstrating courage that most us could never muster. They were initially prevented from entering the school by the Arkansas National Guard, under orders of the Governor. A mob of people followed them, many calling for a lynching. One of the nine black students, Elizabeth Eckford, recalled:

They moved closer and closer … Somebody started yelling … I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.

President Eisenhower called out the 101st Airborne Division of the army, and for the balance of the year, these soldiers formed lines to escort the nine into the school. In spite of that, they were of course taunted, spit on, and abused as much as the white students were able to do. The following year, the governor managed to get a law through the state legislature allowing him to close the schools to prevent integration, and the state schools were closed for a year. Only two of the nine returned after forced reopening the next year, but all managed to complete their high school in other locations, generally at relatives’ homes in the north, and went on to university and mainly professional careers.

While it seems that racial prejudice has faded with time, there is still a lot of deep-seated hatred in the south that will likely only pass with the generations. Emmett’s case was only one of many murders at that time, and many more took place in the late 50’s and into the 60’s. As late as 1998 a final racial killing took place when three white supremacists dragged a 49-year old black man behind their truck for miles, dumped his body at a black cemetery, and went to a barbecue.

While teaching history, or even in English class when reading poems or stories by black authors, I often brought in some of the stories of this long struggle for equality. Students were frequently surprised by the little steps that were made, made in what (at least to me) were relatively recent years.

In 1968 British singer Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte’s arm during the filming of a TV special.  Sponsor Chrysler requested that the segment be deleted from the show before airing. Clark refused, and she managed to get all alternate takes of the scene deleted. The “questionable” segment was aired.

Nat King Cole, like many black performers who later became famous to a wider audience, initially played only in black concerts, and was on occasion beaten for not behaving as some whites felt he should.

Famous for “going where no man has gone before”, Star Trek managed it as well when William Shatner kissed Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) in late 1968. Believe it or not, that is cited as the first interracial kiss on American television.

So here we are in 2010, and the ghosts of Emmett Till, Lamar Smith, Mack Charles Parker, Felton Turner, William L. Moore, Madgar Evers, Oneal Moore, James Byrd Jr., and thousands of other blacks (and sometimes murdered sympathetic whites like Viola Liuzzo) watch from the shadows. On a dark evening in Arkansas, in Mississippi, in Alabama, Senior Head Twit Jeannie beats on a door, grinning from ear to ear, and a woman bursts from inside, rushing into her open arms.

I smile. Isn’t that marvelous?


Too little, too late?

A news video yesterday showed the Pope entering Westminster Abbey during his visit to Britain. In the background a crowd was booing and placards were being waved decrying his visit, as well as decrying Benedict as a person. Certainly an unusual welcome.

The brief visit of the Pope to England is bringing mixed results for the Catholic Church. While not the first visit to England of a Pope since the English church split off centuries ago (John Paul II made a visit), this is treated as a “state” visit, and he was welcomed by the Queen and by the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, and figurative head of the Anglican Church in Canada, and Episcopal Church in the US.

It was anticipated that there would be reaction on the issue of sexual abuse by priests, and the crowds did not disappoint. The abuse is a scandal that has ripped away at the reputation of the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so well into the future. In his unfortunately quiet, halting, and often poorly-stressed English, the Pope apologized for the damage done in the past. It seemed to fall on deaf ears, since many regard the past and even present reaction of the church to the crimes as being almost as bad as the crimes themselves, and feel the church has fallen far short in the exposure, admission, and punishment of the guilty. A shadow hangs over Benedict himself, as he has been accused of at least dragging his feet, if not contributing to cover-ups and participating in the too common quick relocation of clerics accused of abuse. Some articles suggest that it is only his role as Pope that keeps him from being drawn into current investigations of church response.
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Dangerous Land

Call me overly cautious if you like, but while I might spend wait time reading a magazine in a dentist office, an optometrist office, or even the offices of most medical specialists, I will not touch one with a barge pole in the waiting room of a GP. I don’t think I have any unusual aversion to germs, and seem to have pretty good immunity, but when I glance around to all the people sniffing, snorting, sneezing, snuffing onto hands and newsprint, I can’t help but think that the out-of-date magazines, particularly in the humid weather of this summer, might make ideal camping ground for all kinds of sub-visual critters.

If you want to see the worst side of automobiles, visit a repair shop, or even the extreme of a junkyard. If illness, human damage, and just general germs are your passion, let’s face it, that stuff is in abundance in medical facilities like doctor’s offices and hospitals– our locations for salvation from illness and damage, but many times dangerous places to be in, particularly as the patient.

Many wonderful things take place in our hospitals, many dedicated people work there, fantastic technology makes breakthroughs that never could have taken place even a decade ago, but danger unfortunately lurks in the long tile corridors as well.
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The Cost of G20

Canadians are divided on many issues of the day, but one thing they seem to have found close to unanimity is the senseless cost of the G20 Summit later this month. Surveys indicate that over eighty percent of Canadians think the cost is far too much for what is largely a three-day meeting of leaders of twenty countries. The Canadian government seems to feel it’s time to show the world that we are in the big time, whether we can afford it or not. $1.2 Billion is the current figure being thrown out, and some officials are indicating this as just the “taxpayer cost”.

That would be you and me.

One-point two billion, for what is mainly a three day meeting. With a security budget exceeding the weeks of the Vancouver Olympics. Although just the sound of over a billion dollars is apparently enough to trigger anger in Canadians, the numbers are large enough that we can’t even grasp how that equates in real terms. Spelled out, it is $1,200,000,000.00.

Even my calculator doesn’t like it—runs out of digits before I can get 1.2 billion in the window. Fortunately the little calculator in Windows is capable of handling that kind of number (Bill Gates needs the capability), as long as you’re careful with your zeros. Continue reading

Not Enforceable

There is a YouTube video at the moment showing a Nova Scotia school principal scuffling with a student and finally dragging him to the office. The student was apparently taking unwanted pictures of a female student, and refused to hand over his cell phone camera, nor listen to any demands of the principal to go voluntarily to the office. Cell phone camera shoved up his sleeve, the student attempted to go where he wanted, shoved the principal when he was blocked by an arm, and then was taken to the floor and then hauled along struggling to the office.

The video was apparently posted by a local newspaper, Frank Magazine, after the husband of the school board Superintendent entered her confidential board email, sent the video to his own mail, and then forwarded it to the magazine. Crazy goings on that have led to demands for the firing of the super, but that’s another story.

The principal came very close to being fired, and has been transferred to another school. Comments posted below the video seem balanced about evenly between supporting him and demanding his firing. While it’s easy for a teacher or administrator to lose their temper in a confrontation with an uncooperative student, the principal got himself into a situation that escalated into a battle of wills, and he unfortunately carried things too far. Sometimes, like a high speed highway chase that needs to be abandoned, the guilty party must be let go and picked up another day. Things have a way of escalating.
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Just Not Today

The recent Times Square bombing attempt, and the police reaction a few days later when a cooler and then a shopping bag were left unattended in the Square brought new worry to Americans. While they tell us that the more stringent security methods employed at airports makes an attack on the level of 9-11 almost an impossibility, the danger now comes more from the lone terrorist, possibly operating without any direction from groups like Al-Qaida.

Like the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber fortunately failed more due to a crude attempt than due to security screening that picked up any danger. It did seem that air security was getting lax, until Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab attempted to set fire to bombs in his skivvies on Christmas Day (resulting only in unfortunate second degree burns to his private parts– hey, it could have been worse). It was rapidly beefed up, as travelers have experienced over the last couple of months.

But how do you really protect against bombs crudely put together in a neighbourhood garage, driven on normal streets to populated places and then set off? Largely, other than by attempting to monitor the ingredient purchases, you can’t.
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