Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Has Canadian Journalism Gone Yellow?

"Canadian Troops Kill 2 Afghan Children"

Girl, 4, and her brother, 2, hit as soldiers fire on speeding car

’My innocent children have been killed by foreigners — for no reason.’ Mother of slain children

’This is the last thing soldiers want to happen. . . . The soldiers believed they had to take action to protect their convoy because the car was coming toward them at high speed.’ Canadian army

Funny, I was actually niave enough to think that the American media were the only ones who actively tried to make their military look bad, who actively and deliberately slanted their headlines to scream something to the effect of "Our bloodthirsty soldiers must be stopped!".

Apparently, sadly, I was wrong.

I mean, I could be way off base here. But in comparision to the above headline, don't you think this just slightly changes the story?

Canadian troops killed a four-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother Sunday by opening fire on a car that they feared was about to attack their convoy in Afghanistan.

Soldiers said that as the car sped toward them in Panjwaii district outside Kandahar city, they flashed the lights on their vehicles, made hand gestures and issued audio warnings for it to pull over.

The car came within 10 metres of the convoy.

The crew in a light armoured vehicle faced a life-or-death choice and had very little time to make it — fire at the car, or risk being blown up by a suicide bomber

Really, is there any excuse for that sort of headline?

And please don't feed me that crap about violence and gore selling or that they only write the stuff we want to read. Because these are our own Canadian soldiers, our neighbours' sons and daughters, and our very country they're selling down the river. Unjustly.

Now you might respond that those very pieces I highlighted give the lie to the sensational headline, that anyone who reads the first few paragraphs will immediately get the real story. True enough. But there's only one small problem ... how many people will read read that headline and never stop to read one further word in the article? Will never read that the soldiers had a legitimate fear for their own lives and tried to warn the vehicle away to no avail?

Think about it, how often do you walk by a newspaper on display in a store, read the headline and keep on walking? Leaving those words, "Canadian Troops Kill 2 Afghan Children" to ring in your ears. And how many people do little more than skim the headlines at any time?

So do these types of headlines really matter? Yes, yes they do. And frankly, I expect better from Canadian journalists. Because selling out our military in order to sell newspapers is quite simply not okay with me. Is it with you?

And no, I'm sorry, but you can't justify this, not for one single second, just because you report 'the rest of the story' a few paragraphs down. Because by then, the damage is already done.

And for that, we can thank "Canada's trusted news leader", The Canadian Press.

Update: Stay tuned for Part II of my thoughts on the article from hell.

Welcome To My World, Redux

Yep, that's right. Doorkeeper came to take me away. Unfortunately for her, she forgot the clean, white coat. Good luck to her, says I!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Carry On, Sir

So the good Capt made it to the Washington Post.

Which proves, I suppose, that you can't keep a good man down. How cool is that?

He is the man.

H/T to CityGirl

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Those leaning to the *right* delight in pointing out Obama's gaffes.

Whereas the *left* delights in poining out McCain's gaffes. Although to its credit, the MSNBC video does point out Obamas' most recent gaffe near the end. But McCain is now portrayed as "Senator Surge"? Pull-eaze.

And what's up with that MSNBC video anyway? Since when has that passed for "reporting" the "facts"? No bias there, eh?

Personally, for me, I tend to lean towards ... they're all nuts!

Of course, I can get away with that as long as it's not my election ... then it might just be another story!

But this video ... I gotta say, I really love this!

H/T to NeptunusLex for that last video link

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Transitions - Accepting Separations

One of the hardest things to deal with at the moment is my mom's general state of unresponsiveness. To my voice. To my touch. To my kisses.

And even worse, even more hurtful, is when she seems to respond just a little more to the Kit Kat and the Blue Jay than she does to me.

"Loss of emotional closeness is sometimes most painful for loved ones as the dying person separates from them. This happens when the one who is sick begins to focus on the process of dying rather than staying alive."

A person near dying has little reserve energy to give back into relationships with even those who are close.

The dying person may not be able to risk vulnerability of growing closer while preparing the enormous task of transitioning.

You can help prepare by letting the sick person set the pace and the intensity of these last days or hours together. A dying person usually does not want lengthy conversations. If he or she needs to separate, allow a quiet time to buffer your need to keep the person close and that person's need to slip past loving ties. Your loved one may want you always near or wait for solitute in which to slip away. You will ease the transition by allowing the person to guide you.

Separating from relationships may be more painful for caregivers left behind than the actual death. Separation is normal for the dying person. Understanding can ease some of our pain, anger and disappointment when a loved one withdraws from emotional connections. Inability to continue relationships suggest a refocusing rather than rejection or loss of concern for loving ties.

. . .

As the dying person decides to separate, he or she may grow calm, peaceful, or remote. Letting go replaces holding on. Stay near and quietly available. Your gentle presence may be all that is needed.

This is the time for family left behind to change focus somewhat.

Comfort and take comfort from others. Allow the death transition and sorrow of losing someone very dear to come to full expression.

Understanding separation as an important part of dying allows acceptance of the dying person's remoteness.

Yet understanding will not stop our feelings of helplessness, rejection and loss.

No. No, it won't. But at least it does help explain it. A little.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

'Tell His Parents'

There has been much hullabaloo in the blogosphere of late over the inane and idiotic words of Michael Savage. Speaking, obviously, on a subject he knows little to nothing about.

But rather than even attempt to respond to his drivel, I will give the floor to Dwight Meredith, the father of an 8 year old autistic boy. Apparently, Savage must have voiced similar vile in 2003, but Merdedith's words still ring loud and true.

50 Life Lessons

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone, everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

H/T to Dar

Friday, July 18, 2008

This One's For You ...

Admittedly a little late [ahem], but as promised, this one's for you, punky d.
The Ten Commandments for Parents of Special Needs Children

1. Take one day at a time, and take that day positively. You don't have control over the future, over today, or over any other day, and neither does anyone else. Other people just think they do.

2. Never underestimate your child's potential. Allow him, encourage him and expect him to develop to the best of his abilities.

3. Find and allow positive mentors: parents and professionals who can share with you their experience, advice and support.

4. Provide and be involved with the most appropriate educational and learning environments for your child from infancy on.

5. Keep in mind the feelings and needs of your spouse and your other children. Remind them that this child does not get more of your love just because he gets more of your time.

6. Answer only to your conscience: then you'll be able to answer to your child. You need not justify your actions to your friends or the public.

7. Be honest with your feelings. You can't be a super-parent 24 hours a day. Allow yourself jealousy, anger, pity, frustration and depression in small amounts whenever necessary.

8. Be kind to yourself. Don't focus continually on what needs to be done. Remember to look at what you have accomplished.

9. Stop and smell the roses. Take advantage of the fact that you have gained a special appreciation for the little miracles in life that others take for granted.

10. Keep and use a sense of humor. Cracking up with laughter can keep you from cracking up from stress.

11. There is no 11th, silly. (See the 10th.)

~ Author Unknown

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Our Loss, Their Gain

Highly credible rumour has it that Mr. Justice Thomas Cromwell (currently of Nova Scotia Court of Appeal fame) is a front-runner for the next appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Many moons ago (long before his judgeship days), His Lordship was my Civil Procedure Professor at Dalhousie Law School. He was a great prof (smart, funny and very down-to-earth and approachable) and from what I have seen and heard, an excellent judge as well.

Apparently, I'm not the only one to feel that way.
Lawyers and court watchers throughout Atlantic Canada like Justice Cromwell’s chances.

He is "a very able-bodied person," said Lorne Clarke, a retired chief justice of Nova Scotia Supreme Court. "He’s got a great academic record."

"When he’s on the bench, he’s a mensch," said Joel Pink, a prominent Halifax defence lawyer. "Essentially, he’s a gentleman first class. When you look at Ottawa, that’s essentially what you have, those types of individuals."

Wayne MacKay, a professor at Dalhousie law school, also lauded Justice Cromwell.
"I just think Tom is a person with the qualities required to be a Supreme Court judge: compassionate, very polite, moderate and balanced in his approach to things, so to me, he’d be an excellent choice."

"Cromwell is the best," said one Newfoundland lawyer who spoke on condition that his name not be used. "If I had an opinion on it, he would be the guy. There’s nobody in Newfoundland."

Justice Cromwell is bilingual, which is desirable, especially given that he would replace Justice Bastarache, who is bilingual. And he has experience at the top court, having worked there as an executive legal officer in the 1990s.

Justice Cromwell’s record of decisions shows he is a moderate, court watchers say. Mr. Harper might like to appoint someone more conservative.

"I think they’ll be looking for someone who is seen to share that agenda, or at least not to be antagonistic to that agenda," said Philip Girard, a professor at Dalhousie law school. "That’s a bit of a hard person to find in Atlantic Canada."
Were he to receive the next appointment to Canada's highest court, if would be a very happy and a very sad day, indeed. He would be very valuable addition to the SCC, no doubt about it. But he would be sadly missed from our Court of Appeal.

As one of my various jobs, I digest decisions from our courts and I can honestly say that I truly appreciate those written by Mr. Justice Cromwell. They are always well-written and logical and show a solid grasp of both the law and common sense.

And as an advocate in the field of special needs, I can tell you that no matter the bench, be it our Court of Appeal or the SCC, I would be happy to see any of our cases argued before this man. It would receive a very fair hearing. And that's really all you can ask for.

So, all the best to Justice Cromwell. Here's hoping you get that new appointment. And here's equally hoping that you don't.

Cross-posted at A Primer on Special Needs and the Law

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Down The Rabbit Hole

I was reading the latest in the saga as to exactly what information the Conservative government was privy to in the Omar Khadr matter yesterday. Apparently new documents released by the Foreign Affairs Department show that Canadian officials knew in 2004 that "the US military was depriving the then 17-year-old Khadr of sleep for weeks to soften him up for interrogation".

Putting aside for the moment of the issue of whether or not Canada should have done more (or anything) to get Khadr out of Guantanamo and have him returned to Canada and recognizing that I ain't no fan of either Prime Minister Harper or his Conservative government, I have to say that I quite taken aback by these statements from Khadr's lawyer.
It boggles my mind that this prime minister is prepared to criticize China over human rights and is prepared to lambaste Mexico for the way its criminal justice system is applied to a Canadian," said Edney.

"But when you have a young Canadian who is in Guantanamo Bay whom Canadian courts have said has been abused and tortured, our government remains silent."
Excuse me, but when, exactly, did depriving a person of sleep to "soften them up" for interrogation become defined as "torture"? Admittedly, it's not very pleasant and certainly not a very hospitable thing to do, but torture?

A quick Google search for the definition of torture yields the following:

Definitions of torture on the Web:
  • anguish: extreme mental distress

  • unbearable physical pain

  • agony: intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain; "an agony of doubt"; "the torments of the damned"

  • distortion: the act of distorting something so it seems to mean something it was not intended to mean

  • torment: torment emotionally or mentally subject to torture; "The sinners will be tormented in Hell, according to the Bible"

  • the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason; "it required unnatural torturing to extract a confession"

    • Or try these documents.

      The U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991:

      b) Torture- For the purposes of this Act–
      (1) the term `torture’ means any act, directed against an individual in the offender’s custody or physical control, by which severe pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering arising only from or inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions), whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on that individual for such purposes as obtaining from that individual or a third person information or a confession, punishing that individual for an act that individual or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, intimidating or coercing that individual or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind; and
      (2) mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from–
      (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
      (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
      (C) the threat of imminent death; or
      (D) the threat that another individual will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.
      The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

      For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
      Now, I'm sorry but nowhere can I equate anything in any of that with simple sleep deprivation. Particularly given that the reference to "depriving ... Khadr of sleep for weeks" was more succinctly described as not being permitted more than three hours in any one location for a three week period.

      At three-hour intervals he is moved to another cell block, thus denying him uninterrupted sleep and a continued change of neighbours."

      The documents go on to say that Khadr was to be placed in isolation for up to three weeks and then interviewed again.
      I'm certainly not privy to what else might or might not have been done to Khadr. So I will make no comment on a recent Federal Court finding that that the way the U.S. military prepared Khadr for interrogation with visiting Canadian government officials broke human rights laws, including the Geneva Conventions.

      But I do feel that I can say with a fair degree of certainty that not permitting someone more than three hours in any one location does not qualify as "torture". Not in any case and certainly not for someone suspected of lobbing a grenade that killed a Special Forces soldier following a firefight in Afghanistan.

      Then again, I wouldn't consider at least half of the stuff listed here as "torture" either. Although, just to be clear, unlike many others, I would and do consider waterboarding to qualify as "torture".

      But as for the rest of it, if I start referring to a chair as a table and enough other people start mimicking me and doing the same, will that chair really become a table?

      Gravedigger Down

      A sad note from City Girls' Kaboom Blog.

      In a sad mix of irony and fate better suited to the writing style of LT CPT G, the Gravediggers ,who have managed to escape injury in combat despite numerous close calls, have now had one of their members seriously hurt in an accident.

      PV2 Hotwheels was seriously injured when a generator ignited, engulfing him in flames. Thankfully, two fellow Gravediggers and a terp [interpreter] came to PV2's rescue and within a couple of days, he was transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, suffering second and third degree burns over 60% of his body. Sadly, he has went on to develop infections which have caused serious gastro-intestinal issues.

      PV2 Hotwheels’ mother has set up a website which she regularly updates to keep everyone up to date on his recovery. And she has made a most important request ... for prayers from all over to help her son get through this difficult time.

      Let's do what we can.
      “He was part of the good ole boy contingency of the platoon; young Southern kids that liked teasing their city-boy LT and promised to take me opossum-hunting when we got back to the States.”

      Thursday, July 10, 2008

      The Summer of Our Discontent

      It's hard to know sometimes how personal to get on a blog.

      But when it comes to what's going on with my Mom, in some ways it's a little easier. If I don't feel like posting about it, I don't. And when I need to post about it, I do.

      Driving back from the hospital today, I realized that I am drained. Exhausted. Both physically and mentally. When the Blue Jay was little and repeatedly spent large chunks of time in the hospital each year, I found that I could get through that. Stay with her at the hospital most nights. Advocate with the doctors and the nurses. Work. Take care of the Kit Kat. I could do all that. Until.

      Until she came home and was okay again. Then it was my turn to crash. And crash I would. People would look at me and say "But the Blue Jay is fine. What's wrong with you?". They didn't get it, probably never would. I got through those awful times in hospital on pure adrenaline. But the adrenaline surge would always come to a crashing halt just as soon as she came home. Eventually I came to realize that. To know, understand and accept that about myself. It was just how I operated.

      Today, in the midst of mentally wondering what the hell was wrong with me, I realized that it was happening again. I suppose that having taken care of Mom in some form or another ever since she was first released from hospital at the end of April to having her move in with us five weeks ago has taken its toll. And now that she is back in hospital, it's time to crash. How predictable. How me.

      I thought I had learned to stop beating myself up for these times when I felt so exhausted and so useless. And perhaps I had in the context of dealing with the Blue Jay's world. But it looks like I need to learn how to do that again, to let go and be okay with it, knowing that this, too, shall pass.

      Not that it's exactly easy now. It's just that some of the more in-my-face direct stress of caring for Mom physically is relieved. But it's so hard to see her like this. When she's awake and alert, she is so unhappy, so miserable to be in hospital even though she understands why she has to be.

      But more and more now, that's not the complaint. She is just tired. So tired that she hardly eats. Today, she barely spoke. So I sit there and hold her hand. Talk to her. And work really hard for a smile. Which occasionally I am rewarded with. It's amazing how something we take so for granted on a daily basis, like a smile, can come to mean so much when it's rarely seen. I work hard for those smiles and when I am rewarded with one, everything is very nearly all right with the world. At least for a few minutes...

      I found myself wondering today if somehow you come to touch the edge of your own mortality as you watch your parent slowly die. I do know that today the thought struck me that someday my children will have to deal with these very same feelings that I have now. And that there's not a damn thing I can do about that. Not for them, then. Not for me, now.

      Dusting For Prints in Digby

      Every Big Story needs a "big picture", don't you think?

      Bruce MacKinnon cartoon in today's Chronicle Herald

      Things Worth Knowing

      This press release was issued today by the American Association for Justice:

      Insurance Industry Employs "Deny, Delay, Defend" Strategy, Puts Profits Over Policyholders

      WASHINGTON, DC – Allstate ranks as the worst insurer for consumers, according to a comprehensive investigation of thousands of legal documents and financial filings.

      The rankings show a distinct pattern of insurance industry greed amongst 10 companies that refuse to pay just claims, employ hardball tactics against policyholders, reward executives with extravagant salaries, and raise premiums while hoarding excessive profits.

      "While Allstate publicly touts its 'good hands' approach, it has instead privately instructed its agents to employ a 'boxing gloves' strategy against its policyholders," said American Association for Justice CEO Jon Haber. "Allstate ducks, bobs and weaves to avoid paying claims to increase its profits."

      Allstate (NYSE: ALL) set the standard for insurance company greed and placing profits over policyholders. Allstate contracted with consulting giant McKinsey & Co. in the mid-1990s to systematically force consumers to accept lowball claims or face its "boxing gloves," an aggressive strategy designed to deny claims at any cost. One Allstate employee reported that supervisors told agents to lie and blame fires on arson, and in turn, were rewarded with portable fridges.

      Thousands of court documents, materials uncovered from litigation and discovery, testimony, complaints filed with state insurance departments, SEC and FBI records, and news accounts were reviewed to compile the rankings and statistics.

      The rest of the rankings are as follows:
      2. Unum (NYSE: UNM) – Unum's actions are even more shameful considering the type of insurance it sells: disability. Unum's behavior was epitomized when it denied the claim of a woman with multiple sclerosis for three years, stating her conditions were "self-reported," contrary to doctors' evaluations. In 2005, Unum agreed to a settlement with insurance commissioners from 48 states over their practices.

      3. AIG (NYSE: AIG) – The world's biggest insurer, AIG's slogan was "we know money." AIG, described by commentators as "the new Enron," has engaged in massive corporate fraud and claims abuses. In 2006, the company paid $1.6 billion to settle a host of charges.

      4. State Farm – State Farm is notorious for its deny and delay tactics, and like Allstate, hired McKinsey consultants. State Farm's true motives became apparent during Hurricane Katrina; for example, it employed multiple engineering firms until they could deny the claims of the Nguyen family of Mississippi. In April 2007, State Farm agreed to re-evaluate more than 3,000 Hurricane Katrina claims.

      5.Conseco (NYSE: CNO) – Conseco sells long-term care policies, typically to the elderly. Amongst its egregious behavior, the insurer "made it so hard to make a claim that people either died or gave up," said a former Conseco-subsidiary agent. Former Conseco executives were fined when they admitted to filing misleading financial statements with regulators.

      6. WellPoint (NYSE: WLP) – Health insurer WellPoint has a long history of putting profits ahead of policyholders. For instance, California fined a WellPoint subsidiary in March 2007 after an investigation revealed that the insurer routinely canceled policies of pregnant women and chronically ill patients.

      7. Farmers – Swiss-owned Farmers Insurance Group consistently ranks at or near the bottom of homeowner satisfaction surveys, and for good reason. For example, Farmers had an incentive program called "Quest for Gold" that offered pizza parties to its adjusters that met low claims payments goals. Like Allstate, it also hired the
      McKinsey consultants.

      8. UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH) – The SEC opened an investigation into former UnitedHealth CEO William McGuire for stock backdating, which ultimately led to his ouster in 2006 and returning $620 million in stock gains and retirement compensation. Physicians have also reported that their reimbursements are so low and delayed by the company that patient health is being compromised.

      9. Torchmark (NYSE: TMK) – According to Hoover's In-Depth Company Records, Torchmark's very origins were little more than a scam devised to enrich its founder, Frank Samford. Torchmark has preyed on low-income Southern residents and charged minority policyholders more than whites on burial policies.

      10. Liberty Mutual – Like Allstate and State Farm, Liberty Mutual hired consulting giant McKinsey to adopt aggressive tactics. Liberty's tactics were highlighted when a New York couple's insurance was "nonrenewed" by Liberty, even though they lived 12 miles from the coast and never experienced weather-related flooding.

      Financial documents also revealed extravagant profits and executive compensation while policyholders' claims were routinely delayed and denied:
      · Over the last 10 years, the property / casualty and life / health insurance industries have each enjoyed annual profits exceeding $30 billion.
      · The insurance industry takes in over $1 trillion in premiums every year. It has $3.8 trillion in assets, more than the GDPs of all but two countries.
      · The CEOs of the top 10 property / casualty firms earned an average of $8.9 million in 2007. The CEOs of the top 10 life / health insurance earned an average of $9.1 million.
      · The median insurance CEO's cash compensation is $1.6 million per year, leading all industries.

      To see how consumers can hold the insurance industry accountable and view a full copy of the study, visit
      And to think some people have never understood why I haven't much use for insurance companies. Any insurance company. It's experience, I tell ya. Both personal and professional.

      H/T to Bob Kraft's P.I.S.S.D.

      Wednesday, July 9, 2008

      The Big Story

      The big story locally is the fight between a group of off-duty police officers and two black teens in Digby. At least, I assume it's the big story, given that I have heard it repeatedly in various forms for the past three days on our two local radio stations. And it doesn't seem to be anywhere near petering out, either. Even though there doesn't appear to be anything new to report.

      Digby is a small fishing community along the Bay of Fundy. But what Wikipedia doesn't tell you is that Digby is "Home of the World Famous Scallop & nominated Canada's Most Romantic Town". Seriously though, Digby is a pretty little town (of course, in my view, just about any city or town with a harbour is pretty) and a great place to go for seafood. But it's a little on the ... um, shall we say, quiet side. As in not much to do if you're a young person hanging out, whether during the day or at night.

      Of course there always is Club 98, which is, I think, about the only "night spot" in town. Fitting somehow that the street in front of the Club was the scene of this latest incident. Now, before we get started, let's get one thing clear - I really don't believe for one moment that this latest incident had much, if anything, to do with bored youth hanging around town in the middle of the night, getting into trouble. Oh sure, that's easy enough to find anywhere. And easy enough to pin the blame on any time there is an incident between the police and youth. But not this time.

      This story goes a little something like this.

      There was a group of off-duty police officers in town. For some sort of charity event, apparently. And as our two villains protagonists victims heroes young men walked down the street in front of Club 98, it is said that one of these "drunk" officers "directed a racial taunt" at one of them. The youth responded verbally, resulting in five or six officers getting out of their van and one of the group throwing a punch at one of the youth. Unfortunately for the officer, I suppose, he missed. The youth swung back and the officer spent the night in the hospital.

      But wait, it gets better. Apparently two on-duty Digby RCMP officers were in the right place at the right time. Go figure this, according to the youth, they simply sat in their vehicle and watched, not responding at all until the off-duty officer was punched. By the way, the youth that delivered that punch (after being swung at first, you will recall) was tasered four times and then arrested. But not charged with anything. According to him, he was never told, prior to being tasered, that he was under arrest and had made no aggressive moves towards these officers, he was only backing away from them when he was tasered.

      A little skeptical of believing everything a person engaged in a street fight has to say? Especially when their 'victims' were members of the law enforcement community?

      That's okay. Because apparently we have it all on video. Video from a town street camera, that is. Unfortunately the Digby RCMP vehicle surveillance cameras weren't rolling at the time. The cameras, you see, only come with one disc, that is only good for a set number of hours. New CDs were on order at the time of the incident. And because the cameras weren't rolling, neither were the microphones worn on officers' lapels running. A pity, that.

      So, what's next?

      Although this past Tuesday, the Halifax Regional Police stated that they weren’t planning to investigate their members’ actions from that night, as
      "We have no public complaint in relation to the incident and, at this point, from our investigation of what happened, no HRP member acted in an inappropriate manner",
      they apparently have changed their mind and are now investigating the conduct of the off-duty officers involved in the incident. Off-duty officers who were from various areas of the Province, including Halifax.

      And what a coincidence that the very officer who was captured on camera as taking the first swing and later ended up in hospital is a member of the Halifax force. Which has to make one wonder a bit, considering that it's been my experience at least, that investigations into such matters are always farmed out to other forces so that officers are never investigating the conduct of their colleagues that they work most directly with. That pesky little matter of justice not only being done, but being seen to be done, don't ya know.

      As for those Digby RCMP officers, although Staff Sgt. Phil Barrett, the commander of the Digby RCMP detachment, had asked for a full investigation by the RCMP’s major crime unit on Tuesday, he now, apparently, is satisfied that his officers acted professionally and properly throughout. That they did what they could under the circumstances. However, he neglects to mention the fact that while those officers tasered one youth and chased down another, they failed to ask any of the other individuals involved (the off-duty officers) their names or detain them in any fashion. Funny that, too.

      That RCMP investigation is underway, however, with the New Minas detachment conducting the probe with help from the RCMP's major crime unit in Yarmouth. So it's good to see that at least the Digby detachment isn't in the business of investigating its own officers actions.

      Now, I am most definitely not a cop-basher. As I've said before, they have a tough job, one not many of us would want to do. One you have to respect. At least, I do. And it's one we demand expect them to do well, to do right. All the time. Every time. Which, given that there are actual human beings behind those badges, is no doubt a little unreasonable.

      But it is unreasonable to expect law enforcement officers, even when off-duty, not to engage in the very conduct that they have sworn to impede? Not to break the very laws that they have sworn to enforce?

      On camera, remember.

      Oh yeah, one more little thing. Digby, the black community and the RCMP have a bit of a history, you see. It was a mere six months ago that the RCMP brass apologized to the Digby-area black community for the racist and sexist behaviour of a former detachment commander who has since retired.

      Now apparently some very reasonable local residents have questioned why there was such a problem on the same weekend that several off-duty police officers from other parts of the province were in town. Good question, no?

      Monday, July 7, 2008


      Yup, that's right. I've been TATTOO'D.

      No, not that kind of tattoo, silly.

      Picture a dazzling array of marching and pipes and drums bands (both civilian and military) from Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom. Picture amazing displays of gymnastics and acrobatics. And as an aside, I will say one things for those Trinidians ... they do like to have fun!

      Think singers, a multitude of dancers of all disciplines, ranging from the Amethyst Highland Dancers, through the Acadian Baie en Joie dancers, to some spectacular African dancing, accompanied by the Atlantica Gymnasts. Think performers from Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada and the UK.

      And let's not forget the military - with obstacle race teams, a Tri-Service Guard and a Naval Boarding Team in action as just a few examples. (Oh yeah, the Ceremonial Guard destroyed the Air Force in the obstacle course competition. Now, if it works anything like it does in the US, why aren't I surprised?)

      And what could be more iconically Canadian, with more international recognition, than the sight of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Ceremonial Troop?

      But perhaps, most of all, think Pomp and Circumstance.

      Hey, the amazing light show on the floor, by itself, was nearly worth the price of admission.

      It's the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

      Tattoo Defined The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines “tattoo” as 1. an evening drum or bugle signal recalling soldiers to their quarters; 2. an elaboration of this with music and marching, presented as entertainment; 3. a rhythmic tapping or drumming.

      In Dutch towns and villages during the 17th century, drummers marched through the streets, summoning the soldiers who were spending a little down time in local taverns or inns. A drumbeat–coming from the street–would signal the owners and keepers of the establishments to “turn off the taps” or “doe den tap toe.”

      In time, the message was shortened to “tap toe”, and finally “tattoo".

      It's the second year we have attended. And although not quite as good as last year (a little too many marching bands, a little not enough military and not as many humorous acts as last year), it was still an amazing show.

      This year the Tatoo also commemorated the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War and celebrated the 250th Anniversary of Parliamentary Democracy in Nova Scotia. Halifax, Nova Scotia ... the site of the very first parliamentary democracy in Halifax. Who would have thunk it?

      By the way, have you ever seen people do acrobatics and cartwheels through nine turning skipping ropes, laid out like the spokes of a wheel? Pretty cool, I tell ya.

      My favourite part of the show, though? When all those in the audience who have served Canada , in any branch of the military or in law enforcement, are asked to stand to be recognized and honoured. Yeah.

      Without a doubt, a good time was had by all.

      Tuesday, July 1, 2008

      Canada Daze

      My Little Spot In Cyber Space To Kick Back And Contemplate Life, Politics, Raising Kids while Raising Parents And What It Means To Be A Canadian In A Topsy Turvy World

      So what does it mean to be "Canadian" in a topsy turvy world? I think I may have a little better idea of that now, having surfed my way through the fascinating world of the blogs for the past few years.

      One thing in particular I've noticed is the difference in attitude or perception (I'm not quite sure of the best word) between Canadians and Americans (as a good counterpoint).

      I love my country. I am proud of my country. Most of the time anyway. Although I love to travel and there are many places I might like to spend lengthy times visiting, I wouldn't want to actually live anywhere else. Most people probably feel that way about their country. But what I've noticed in my interactions with Americans online is this. In many of their views, the US is THE BEST Country in The World. Bar None. The Best Place to Live and THE BEST Country. Some (many?) go so far as to say that it's the world's only true democracy, the world's only true ... fill in the blank...

      I must confess that I have had a bit of a hard time with that. Sure, I would categorize some countries as better than others. I certainly don't see them all as the same. As equal. But I would never place my country (or any other) at the top of the heap. That's always struck me as pretty egotistical. Pretty dismissive of everybody else. And quite frankly, it's a value judgment that I don't believe I am in any position to make.

      Perhaps if I had lived for a significant period of time (not visited, not read or heard about but actually lived) in just about every country on the face of the earth, I would feel that I had the right to make such a judgment. But how can I legitimately judge that which I honestly do not know? And when I use the word "know", I mean really "know", as in intimately, not just think that I know.

      But I have come to think that this is a fundamental difference between us and them. Perhaps this American phenomena is not really so much egotistical, at least not in the way I usually think of the word, as it is simply a product of their own unique brand of patriotism. Perhaps they are not trying to be so dismissive of everyone else but are simply speaking their reality, as they see it. In other words, it's not an attempt to be nasty or callous, it's just telling it as (they honestly believe) it is.

      Yes, Canadians are patriotic. But not the same way as Americans are. I'm not so sure that we're any less patriotic now (I think prior to 9/11, we may well have been) than they are, I think we just show it in a different way. And that different way is influenced, moulded even, by the fact that we are Canadians. By how we perceive ourselves. How we perceive the rest of the world. And how we perceive our place in that world. The very fact that we are Canadians, what it actually means to be a Canadian, not only shapes what our patriotism looks like but actually defines the very meaning of the term for us.

      I'm not sure that I can verbalize it or express it beyond this. It's a strange place for me to be, a place where I *know* what I want to say but can't quite seem to find the words I need to express my thoughts clearly.

      Moving on to a lighter note, it appears that a recent survey that I can't now seem to lay my hands on shows that Canadians define ourselves by things like the Maple Leaf, our flag, hockey, the beaver and the Canadarm. So make of that what you will.

      And if you're so inspired you can take a quiz and see how you stack up in your opinions against your fellow Canucks, if you be one of us, or just against those strange creatures in the Great White North, if you are not so fortunate as to be from here. And if you don't want to take the quiz, but might like to look at all the results, you can take a gander here.

      Results like

      • in a choice between doctors, firefighters, pilots and pharmacists, 94% of Canadians would put their trust in a firefighter, 91% in pharmacists, 85% in doctors and 81% in airline pilots

      • 43% of Canadians feel the world is changing too quickly and this is a major cause of stress

      • If we won $10 million, 50% of us would share with family, 39% would donate to charity, 35% would travel and 23% of us would use it to pay off debt. But only 10% would quit their jobs!

      • 33% of us hide what we have paid for something from our spouses.

      • More people have suffered a broken heart in my home province of Saskatchewan than anywhere else. The place where you are least likely to get a broken heart is Quebec.

      • Over one-third of Canadians think Newfoundlanders have the best sense of humour. 13% think Quebeckers are funny while only 1% think Prince Edward Islanders can get a laugh.

      • And perhaps most interestingly, British Columbians are most likely to say we are different from the Americans. The province whose residents are least likely to think so is Alberta.
      So what does that tell us? Hell if I know, I only live here!

      ~ HAPPY 141st BIRTHDAY ~

      ~ CANADA ~