Sunday, May 29, 2011

They Never Had A Chance

Our provincial newspaper has just wrapped up a five-part series looking at "care options available to vulnerable person with intellectual disabilities across Canada".  The series was well done (the writer, Canadian Press reporter Michael Tutton, writes a fair bit in regard to issues around persons with disabilities) and it was an interesting, albeit hard read.

From the woman in Nova Scotia whose 20-year-old grandson spent 15 days locked alone in a constantly lit room at the Braemore adult residential centre with only occasional breaks, urinating in a corner when he was unable to get a staff member’s attention...

... to the aging mother in Newfoundland who worries who will care for her severely-challenged adult son when is was no longer around to do so...

... to the 16-year-old with a severe case of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (making him impulsive, easily frustrated and with very little short-term memory) whose increasingly violent behaviour deteriorated to the point where his adoptive parents could no longer care for him in their home but whose current life in small group homes has been a disaster, allowing him to stay out all night, drinking and doing drugs...

... to the issues of aggression that can stem from poor housing options and lack of access to mental health services for those with intellectual disabilities (an issue I can personally speak to when it comes to the Blue Jay being denied access to our local child and adolescent mental health services for the simple fact that she is mentally challenged).

To the one bright spot, the what can could and should be - namely, the positive effects of housing and care options that actually work, like L'Arche.

A happy, safe home and community involvement - at some level, isn't that all any of us really want for our children when they mature into adults, whether they be mentally challenged or not?

And yet, I write not about any of those stories today. 

Instead I write about a baby boy "who never had a chance". 

His young mother squatted on the bathroom floor to deliver him while the baby's father stood in the doorway, smoking a cigarette and ignoring her pleas to call an ambulance. Finally she reached over to the bathroom sink, grabbed a pair of scissors she believes her boyfriend used for his dope and cut the umbilical cord.
The baby wasn’t crying. She left him on the floor, went out into the living room, sat on the chesterfield and watched television as Cunningham cleaned up the bathroom.

The infant was dead at birth, she said. "He wasn’t crying or breathing or nothing."

Oickle testified at Cunningham’s preliminary inquiry last December that she saw Cunningham put the baby into a box and then put the box in a derelict oven in the hallway outside their apartment.

The body stayed in the oven for five days until family members found out about the birth and persuaded Oickle to take the baby to nearby Queens General Hospital.
As sad (and depraved) as this is, unfortunately, it's not uncommon. And, thus, it was this part of the story that really grabbed and held my attention.
A neuropsychological assessment and a forensic report found Oickle fit to stand trial and criminally responsible for her actions, although she has an extremely low IQ — in the bottom one percentile of the population — and limited coping and problem-solving skills.

Bryson said those factors help explain Oickle’s actions.

Defence lawyer Franceen Romney, who represented Oickle, said the assessment shows Oickle is able to handle routine situations but not complex ones. In such cases, her reasoning, judgment and ability to make decisions are impaired.
An IQ in the bottom one percentile of the population means that this young woman "officially" qualifies as being "mentally challenged".

Given that we have no information about the boyfriend's "mental capacity", I can make no judgment in that regard although I must admit that a great deal of my anger is directed against him. He who callously stood by and refused to make a simple phone call (or even allow his girlfrind to do so) while his own child was dropped onto a bathroom floor and then scrubbed up that same floor, placed the baby's dead body in a box and leaving it in a derelict oven in the hallway of their apartment building.

I am deeply saddened by this young woman's story.  Fortunately, some sort of justice seems to have prevailed in that although she was convicted of failing to obtain assistance during childbirth, she was placed on probation for three years, during which time she must have no contact with her boyfriend, get mental health counselling and live with her parents.

Am I too easily "letting her off the hook" for her actions?

Or am I looking at my own 18-year-old daughter, with similar ability levels, for whom I fear a society that would just as easily manipulate and hurt her?  I must admit that I think that being "forced "to live with her parents is likely the best thing that could possibly happen to this young woman. 

After all, what other options are there for her?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blows My Mind

This video is freaking amazing. *

Lex posted it for the very low altitude barrel roll at 24 minutes that resulted in a knock it off and the team cancelling the rest of their schedule to return to Pensacola for further training. (See I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about!)

But to a ground hugger like me, the whole video was amazing, albeit a little too long.

* I would highly recommend you watch it full screen with a cup/mug/glass/bottle of your favourite beverage in front of you. And get comfy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Twits" Expanding Definition of Online Hate Crime?

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I wrote about the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Guide for Bloggers, which attempts to help bloggers figure out and stay clear of some of the legal liability issues potentially involved in, well, blogging.

Now, as if there weren't enough to think about, today I came across this. 

I can't say it's really surprising - I mean if you're brainless enough to post something stupid on Facebook, Twitter or wherever, you probably deserve what you get. 

Anyone who hasn't yet figured out that police, reporters and future (and even current) employers will check up on what they're on to line ... well, let's just say they're not the brightest crayon in the box.

So, let's just hope all the twits tweeters out there remember that, too.

Although I must say that getting fired for simply stating what many might consider the obvious does seem a bit much.
Goddard landed in hot water last week after retweeting a comment by Twitter user @Uptownhockey, an account for Burlington, Ont.-based Uptown Sports Management, which stated: "Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage.’ Legal or not, it will always be wrong."

In his own tweet, Goddard wrote: "I completely and whole-heartedly support (Uptown’s) Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage."
Let's hope they have a lot more than that backing them up when they try to defend a wrongful dismissal suit. Free speech anybody?

But if you thought that was bad, you might just want to sit down for this one.
Are the federal Conservatives trying to kill use of the hyperlink in Canada?

As ludicrous as that sounds, pending legislation in Ottawa seeks to amend the Criminal Code in a way that would make people who hyperlink to other websites potentially guilty of a hate crime if those linked sites wilfully promoted hatred against an identifiable group.

The wording in question in Bill C-51 is as follows:

"Clause 5 of the bill provides that the offences of public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred may be committed by any means of communication and include making hate material available, by creating a hyperlink that directs web surfers to a website where hate material is posted, for example.

The changes are touted by government as necessary to "modernize the Criminal Code in light of new technologies as well as to arm police with stronger powers to investigate computer-based crimes.
Yup, as crazy as it sounds, it appears that our esteemed Conservative government is seriously considering amending the Criminal Code so as to potentially make a blogger guilty of a "hate crime" for linking to a website that contains "hate material".

Now, I'm all for updating all manner of laws to deal with this brave new world we find ourselves in (including the rules of parenting!) but does anyone think this might be going just a little too far?

As pointed out by Mr. Schneidereit, what if the blogger didn't know the website she linked to contained such material? What if the material was posted to the second site after the link was established? What if the site linked to wasn't "hateful" but it (either now or later) linked to a site that was?  What if we've all gone down the rabbit hole?

And just as an aside, not that I am any fan of our current government, but doesn't "conservative" generally mean "less" government, not "more"?

 I mean I could see the federal NDPers trying something like this and giving all us "left leaners" a bad name. 

But the Conservatives?  Really?

Perhaps it's time we all put the mouse down and stepped away from the computer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thought of the Day

Eternity's a terrible thought.
I mean, where's it all going to end?

~ Tom Stoppard

Friday, May 13, 2011

Creative Writing - Potential Op Ed Piece

UPDATE: This was published as an op ed piece in the Chronical Herald on May 19, 2011. Not quite the headline I was going for but we will take what we can get.

It's a good thing I'm not Ralph from The Honeymooners because I'm seriously tempted to threaten to send the Nova Scotia Department of Education "straight to the moon" at the moment.

First, the Department amends its Teacher Assistant Guidelines to eliminate any reference to supporting the teaching of students with special needs or providing "support for instructional program", leaving the only remaining job responsibilities of a TA as "personal care" and "safety/behaviour management support". If you don't have a child with special needs or aren't otherwise involved in the school system, that may not mean much to you. But if you do, it’s not hard to picture exactly what that bodes for the future.

Now, we learn that a review of the Province's public education system is calling for the Province to "consider reducing the number of teaching assistants in special education". Does anyone else see any connection here? Is this the beginning of the end of a proper education for our children?

The Province's newest Teacher Assistant Guidelines provide that "Teacher assistant support should be considered only when the student cannot perform prescribed outcomes independently, as determined by the program planning process" but I have to wonder how even those students will receive support when 1) supporting students who cannot meet prescribed outcomes (independently or not) is most definitely no longer part of a TA's job description and 2) the current recommendation is to cut back on the number of TAs when many would argue we don’t have enough to do the job now.

I find Mr. Levin’s concern about the number of students receiving special education services due to an increase in the "soft" areas of identification, like “students thought to have learning disabilities or behaviour problems” rather odd. If he had spent any time at all in Nova Scotia's schools he would know how difficult it is to obtain any special education services for such students. Students are not considered to have a learning disability simply because a parent or teacher thinks this may be so; services won’t be offered (if at all) until a student has been diagnosed by a qualified psychologist. And, given the wait times to be seen by a school psychologist, students can literally wait years for that type of assessment.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's Baaack...

It seems almost anti-climatic to even comment on Bin Laden's capture (everybody who's anybody having already done so and a good many jokes having crossed the airways at his expense).  But, besides the almost guttural feeling of satisfaction that filled me when I realized the words I was reading were not a hoax, two things struck me about the event.

The first was that the Global War on Terror appears to have made a reappearance (for how long, who knows?) with Bin Landen's death.  I mean wasn't it known as the Overseas Contingency Operation for quite a while now?  And yet, right there, on the American TV news, just last night, they stood at 'Ground Zero' and talked about the GWOT. Who'd have thunk it?

The second thing that struck me (again watching American news on TV) was that after Bin Laden's body was taken to the USS Carl Vinson, it was washed and wrapped in a white sheet (as is the Muslin custom) before being thrown overboard. After all, Muslim tradition requires the dead to be buried within 24 hours.
The burial at sea largely followed widely accepted interpretations of Islamic law taking care not to anger the mainstream Muslim community, said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University in North Carolina.
Defense officials said the administration reached out to one other country to take the body for burial, but the country refused. Brennan said appealing to other countries would have exceeded the time frame Islamic custom requires, of burial within 24 hours of death.
And yet apparently some still weren't satisfied.
But some Islamic scholars and clerics were divided Monday over whether the sea burial was appropriate or an insult to Muslims. Several said bin Laden should have been buried on land in a simple grave. The body was washed in accordance with Islamic custom, placed in a white sheet, then put inside a weighted bag.

With only a small group of witnesses, a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a "native speaker," the official said. The body was placed on a board, tipped up and then "eased into the sea" from the carrier's lowest deck, the official said.
So here's what I don't get - if you've invested as much blood and treasure as the US has to track this guy down and then double tap him in the head, why on earth would you bother to cater to Muslim sensibilities? 

I don't  know, for me it's kind of a WTF moment ... at best, Bin Laden was a criminal the leader of a terrorist group bent on destroying "the West", at worst, he was ... words I choose not to use on my blog but you get the point, I'm sure.  You've just "invaded" his "home" and shot him in the face ... and now, you're concerned that his customs and traditions be followed?  Lest someome be offended?

Nope, no disconnect there.  None at all. 

I mean, if you capture and kill a nefarious criminal, a serial killer, who happens to be white, who shares my culture and (in name at least) my religious beliefs, I really can't see myself getting all that worked up about how his body is disposed of.  In fact, I might just have a few suggestions of my own ...

Does anyone still think this dude is actually going to anyone's version of heaven?  And, if they still do, given everything he's known to have done, why should we care what they think?  Wouldn't they have to be just as crazy evil as he was?

And if we're that concerned about offending people of that ilk, then why even bother to hunt Bin Laden down and kill him in the first place?  Don't you think those kind of people might just find those acts alone rather offensive?

* As an aside, I note there are a fair bit of conspiracy theories floating around out there about Bin Laden's death (or lack thereof).  That kind of surprised me until I stopped to think about it - which is when I realized it shouldn't surprise me at all.

I really tend not to a conspiracy theory sort of person in any way, shape or form but I must say some of their arguments do make a certain amount of sense.  I'm not suggesting for one monent that I'm on side with them, just that they're interesting.  Worthy of their own blog post, perhaps.  Not that I'm suggesting for one moment that they will actually get one, just that they might be worthy of one.  And such is life. Or death. Some days, we're not quite sure which.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

'Good For What Ails Us'

Everybody seems to know exactly how to fix health care in this country.

There appears to be two camps when it comes to the issue of how to "fix" health care in this country - the first camp seeming to believe that the only thing to do is turn our entire health care system (or at least a large portion of it) over to the private sector while the second camp seem to think that the federal government just needs to keep turning more money earmarked for health care over to the provinces.  Ask either group and you will likely hear the same thing, their solution is just the ticket, the way to solve all our problems.

Which is why I was so smitten taken with this opinion piece in Wednesday's Chronicle Herald.  

Although I must confess that I do have to question the accuracy of some of Professor Ghose's assertions (particularly since he offers no references to back up his "facts") such as, for example, his statements that our health system is the second most expensive of the 28 OECD countries [when even the right wing Fraser Institute's data would place Canada in the number six position], that the cost of prescription drugs is increasing at a rate of 10% to 15% per year [whereas this 2008 report places the rate of increase in prescription drug costs between 1998 and 2007 at 5.1% and the Fraser Institute would have us believe that after adjusting for inflation, prices for existing patented medicines have actually decreased in real terms in 19 of the last 22 years] and that the price of generic drugs in Canada is among the highest in OECD countries and is still rising [although Professor Ghose notes Nova Scotia's and Ontario's moves to cap the cost of generic drugs, he fails to mention that both British Columbia and Saskatchewan have already gone that route].

But let's not quibble and instead take a look at Professor Ghose's thoughts on how to control what he sees as the three fastest-growing items in Canada's health care budget; namely, prescription drugs, the compensation of doctors and CEOs and the funding of hospitals.

With regard to prescription drugs, Ghose's solution is a universal-access national pharmacare program that would cover only inexpensive but potent generic drugs, secure the best prices by bulk purchasing, stop payback practices that jack up prices, curtail inappropriate and over-prescription and monitor drug activity to weed out ineffective and harmful drugs.

Professor Ghose would also eliminate our standard "fee for service" method of compensating doctors, which tends to encourage seeing more patients by spending less time with them (I think many of us can attest to the truth of that statement). Instead he proposes a rationalized salary system based on performance and productivity to cut cost and improve care. He also suggests linking hospital CEO compensation to performance criteria (what a concept!), with changes in compensation requiring justification and online posting (public accountability ... say it isn't so!).

Last, but certainly not least, Professor Ghose notes the cost of delivering primary health care via ERs and tertiary care hospitals and proposes that instead it be delivered through primary care centres, working 24/7.  Such centres should also be facilities for preventative medicine, provide immunizations and actively promote health and healthy lifestyles and would be staffed by nurses and paramedics outside of office hours. [Although he doesn't specifically state it, I assume a doctor would be on call during these times.] 

His plan would also change how hospitals are funded - changing the current lump-sum funding to a method that would take into account the number of patients treated, treatment outcomes and compliance with benchmarks for improving care. Tertiary care hospitals would deliver centralized and disease-based care following the comprehensive cancer care model. 

I don't know about you but, in general, I like the way this man thinks.

As just one example, Canada has desperately needed a national pharmacare system for a very long time.  And for just how long have they been promising us that?

And the rest of it? Sounds good to me, too. 

I'm with the good doctors on this one -
"The idea that we would just put more money into the same health-care system that we have now, without stopping for a minute to consider how we could or should improve it, and what kind of big changes we could make with that money, I think is a missed opportunity," he said.

. . .

A health-care agency to provide strong oversight and long-term planning, well beyond the current four-year election cycle, would go a long way to strengthen the administration of the system, he said.