Monday, October 31, 2011

The Beaver, The Bear and The Useless

This is not a joke.

Last Thursday at 1:40 p.m. Senator Nicole Eaton of Toronto stood in her place in the somnolent Senate of Canada and proposed that the beaver be fired as the official symbol of Canada. She proposed that the polar bear take its place.

A politician we pay $132,300 base salary a year (plus research grants of $30,000, office budget of $20,000, tax-free expense allowance $10,000, free business class flight for them and families etc. etc.) actually stood up in the Senate and said:

 “While I would never speak ill of our furry friend, I stand here today suggesting that perhaps it is time for change.”

The beaver, she said, is a “dentally defective rat” and “tyrant” that wrecks roads, streams tree plantations, lakes and farmlands.

There’s no clue why she wants the beaver replaced by the bear, except she did tell us the polar bear is “the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore and Canada’s most majestic and splendid mammal, holding reign over the Arctic for thousands of years.”

That’s nice, but why is the outrageously expensive Senate operation promoting nonsense when we still haven’t figured out how to fix the health care system, how to stop the gang wars on Toronto’s streets, how to stop the oxycontin abuse epidemic, eliminate child poverty, stop youth suicides . . . . The list of problems and challenges this country’s politicians face stretch from sea to shining sea.

The Senate meanwhile talks about whether the polar bear should replace the beaver as a national symbol.

We citizens pay an estimated $100 million a year to keep the Senate functioning. It sits 69 days a year. It fulfills no useful purpose. It is not supported by the people, and there never will be agreement on how to reform it.

Folks, it’s not the beaver that should go . . . .

And, do we really want Canada symbolized by a ferocious animal that wanders the world’s harshest climate alone and perpetually hungry like the unfortunate street people? Or is it better to be symbolized by an animal that works . . .  well like a beaver . . . quietly, efficiently, and without complaint to build a better life for itself and its fellow citizens.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lowering the Threshold; Diminishing Ourselves

The rising trend of people accepting publication of more gruesome images reached a new threshold with the death of Libyan dictator Gaddafi. His body was not yet cold when video and still images of his contorted and bloodied face flashed around the globe.
For Whom the Bell Tolls?
It used to be that publishing or broadcasting photos of the dead or dying was a news business taboo. There was some leeway: overall shots of indistinguishable people dead on a battlefield, or an unidentifiable body lying in the ash of the monumental Mount St. Helen’s volcanic eruption.
The news media has continually lowered the threshold. Remember the grainy photo five years ago of the hanging of Saddam Hussein? Now the bloody death images of Gaddafi further lower the threshold, and allow even more room for arguing that anything should be published.
A main argument for publishing such images is that they will get out to the public anyway, through the Internet and various social media. What a specious argument. Another is that lack of photographic evidence of the death of monsters such as Osama bin Laden leaves the question of whether he is really dead. Bull!
If we buy that argument, should we not see morgue photos of Clifford Olsen’s cancer-ridden body to prove that the monster who tortured and murdered children in British Columbia is really gone? Why not a close-up shot of serial killer Ted Bundy frying in the electric chair as proof that he would not be around to kill more?
In 99 per cent of the cases, Gaddafi’s included, there is nothing to gain, except sensationalism and ratings, in publishing death photos. Gaddafi’s death throe images do nothing to advance the world. The world is a bit better place because he is gone; but not because we see him dying.
Quite the opposite. Englishman John Donne (1572 - 1631) wrote: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
Every person, even a mad dog like Gaddafi, deserves dignity at death. When we deprive someone of that dignity, we diminish ourselves.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Do It!!!

I offered an outstretched hand to someone the other day. He recoiled slightly, then said groggily: “I have a cold.”
Good for him, I thought. I could see that he felt a bit embarassed, thinking he had appeared rude. In fact, he was being thoughtful.
It is autumn, cool and wet, and the flu season with its coughs, colds and roiling stomachs is starting. It’s a time when people should be thinking more about their hands, and what’s on them.
SARS and flu pandemic scares have made us more alert to bacteria transfer and hand washing. But most of us don’t think nearly enough about the bacterial dangers of the common items we touch hourly.

H1N1 Swine Flu Virus
 How many times have you seen a restaurant staffer wiping condiment containers to remove germs? In most places, those ketchup bottles, mustard, relish containers and salt shakers get a once-a-day cleaning. In lots of eateries, days and days of people handling them pass before they get a cleaning.
And, although we might think about the germs on coins, handrails, remote controls and telephones, we seldom think about other items. For instance, studies have shown that more than two-thirds of lemon wedges perched on drink rims hold germs. 
Rhinovirus causes colds
One study had researchers order drinks at 21 restaurants, and they found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the 76 lemons pieces. Some held E. coli and other fecal bacteria.  
A University of Arizona study found that about 25 percent of public restroom soap dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria. One of the study researchers said that most dispensers are not cleaned so bacteria grow as the soap scum builds up. Hands that touch the bottoms of the dispensers are dirty, so there’s a continuous culture feeding millions of bacteria.And how about those restaurant menus; handled by hundreds of hands, many not properly washed.  Hotel rooms with TV remotes, phones, desks, and sink and tub handles that may or may not have been swabbed by cleaning staff.
Telephones are particular dangerous for bacteria because they receive not only germs from hands, but bacteria contained in saliva that sprays when speaking.
Hand washing messages are everywhere these days. So are instructions on how to do it properly.
The key is for all of us to put hand washing out front in our minds. Do it  often.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Cottage Thanksgiving

The young maple at Shaman's Rock
 is an example of the outstanding
fall colours seen in the Dorset area
Notes from Canadian Thanksgiving at Shaman's Rock:

It was the finest Thanksgiving weekend in memory. Cloudless skies with temperatures double the average for mid-October. In some cottage country spots the thermometer hit 26 degrees Celsius.

Missing was the usual panic to get cottages on winter footing. People kicked back, soaked up the sunshine. Some even went swimming.
The lineup of cars wanting to get up the hill to the Dorset Lookout was so long, two police patrols were called in to direct traffic. The wait was worth it. The leaves are brilliant this year. No matter where you might travel in October, there's probably no place that has better fall colour than the Dorset area. The bright sunshine and absence of wind left the lakes like mirrors, reflecting the shoreline foliage of the maples, oaks and birches for double the pleasure.
The weather was perfect for a final spin in the boat. We checked the winter dock storage area--a protected little bay at the end of the lake. We found our main dock taken over by a family of beavers. They have piled sticks and mud over part of it to make a winter lodge.

It's a mess, but there was no use trying to pull apart their construction. They'll only rebuilt it. We're hoping that when the lake level rises in spring the dock will float free.

The beaver piled sticks and mud
against our dock to make a warm
and cozy winter house

Beaver have used fresh cedar
branches to conceal entrance
to their new house beneath the dock

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Beast is Off the Books

Clifford Olson, the Beast of British Columbia, finally is off the federal government books. He died of cancer Friday, in prison where he spent the last 30 years being clothed, fed, amused and cared for by taxpayers' dollars.

The tax pool from which money was drawn to look after him in prison was contributed to by all of us who pay taxes, including the relatives of the 11 children he kidnapped, tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered.

The cost of keeping a federal prisoner now is around $100,000 a year. So it cost us an estimated $2 million or so to look after Canada's most vicious and unrepentant serial killer. It's unfortunate we had him on the books for so long.

Olson was the classic case for capital punishment. He wrote to the parents of one of his victims, describing in detail what he did to him before he killed him. Also, he was allowed in prison to write manuscripts and make videos in which he described his victims' tortures, including pounding nails into their heads and asking them how it felt.

It was a good thing, for many reasons, that Canada abolished capital punishment. But many Canadians felt the ultimate penalty should have been retained for special cases. We shouldn't be executing those who kill in rage, passion and the other usual circumstances in murder.

But we should be executing admitted monsters like Olson. And, Robert Pickton, the B.C. pig farmer who murdered somewhere between two and four dozen women. And, Paul Bernardo (aka Paul Jason Teale) who with his lovely wife Karla Homolka raped, tortured and murdered decent young women, including Homolka's sister. 

State executions of course will never happen in Canada. All we can do is hope that their time on the federal books is much shorter than was Olson's. And more haunted, and more painful.

We also should obliterate the monsters' names and photos from our minds, and remember instead their victims. Young people who should never have suffered such horrific fates.

Two of dozens of innocents who suffered death by monsters:
Kirsten French and Simon Partington.