25 July 2008

Harper Government Delivers $517 Million Deficit

Is anyone surprised at this, that the Harper government created a $517 million deficit in April and May?

I can see the strategy now, just as happened in the Mulroney days.

The "fiscally conservative" Cons reduce taxes, especially for Conservative-friendly populations, then spend the tax dollars they have left - and more, thus digging a hole - to buy more votes. By which time, they've created a deficit, added to the national debt and Canadians realize that they need the Liberals back in to fix the damage.

Then, once the Liberals are back in power the Cons, alongside the Bloq and NDP (the Cons' friends whether or not they're in power), rail against the Government's stringency and demand more spending on typically non-Conservative friendly populations.

In other words, creating a deficit and running up the debt is, contrary to all logic at least for the short-term, Conservative strategy. In the long term, it can work and stands a better chance of delivering them a majority - that is, unless Canadians wake up to what they're doing.

Over the same time period last year, the government ran a $2.8 billion surplus.

The federal finance department said Friday that during this April and May revenues declined by $1.6 billion, or 4.1 per cent...

GST revenues dropped by $1 billion, or 20.9 per cent, partly as a result of the one percentage point reduction in the GST rate, which was effective Jan. 1, 2008 [while] spending on programs rose by $2.1 billion, or seven per cent...

"The monthly profile of growth in spending will initially be quite high but by mid-year will moderate considerably, consistent with the 3.4 per cent annual growth projected in budget 2008," said the finance department forecast.

Regarding that projection, isn't that a bit overblown?

Recommend this post

24 July 2008

Hargrove Demands Federal Bail-Out of Auto Industry

When I read the headline this morning, the No! which burst from me could not have been more furious.

Once again, Buzz Hargrove, head of the Canadian Auto Workers union, is demanding government bail-outs of the auto industry. He justifies it this way.

Every day now is more bad news in our industry... It's a very stressful time for our union and especially our members and their families at GM, Ford, Chrysler and independent auto parts supplies now. It's just a horrible situation. We really need the feds to join with us in partnership to deal with the challenges that we face and try to bring in some programs that will help restore the strength of the industry.

Industry leaders, from both management and union, cannot have had their heads buried in the sand over the past decade and more.

They hire expert market analysts. They've known the greening of consumer interest was coming and they've known their competitors, equally informed, were preparing for that future.

That these men (they're always men) didn't act on this information is telling. They were either incompetent or irresponsible. I'm guessing a mix of both, with a heavier dose of the latter.

The big bosses on both sides of the negotiating table rarely looked beyond the short-term gain, not least because they could get away with it: if they dug themselves a hole and fell into it, there was always the government to pull them out.

Given that mindset, neither auto workers nor management prepared for the future.

Now the chickens have come home to roost.

There should be no more government bail-outs. In fact, there never should have been.

Businesses and industries rise and fall. Just as there should be separation between church and state, there should be separation between private enterprise and government - including no tax exemptions in either case.

Which returns me to Hargrove's demands for government intervention, made on behalf of auto workers. What about those workers and the bleak futures many of them may be facing?

Everyone in the auto industry, worker and manager alike, knew the end was coming. Those who prepared for the future, by cutting back on spending and socking away their savings, will do fine. The ones who didn't, won't.

This may sound hard-hearted, but you've only to look at situations like mine to think again.

Since 2000, I've seen my income falling. By the end of 2001, I knew that condition was not going to reverse. Over the past five years, my earnings from all sources, including tax refunds, income from self-employment, savings from the sale of an old mobile home and interest, came to $61,620.

That's an average of $12,324 per year.

I've learned to live on far less. I've had to.

My only expenses are hydro, food, a broadband Internet connection and rent, which has gone up by almost 20% over the same five-year period.

I have no phone: neither landline nor cell. No TV. No VCR. No radio. A poorly-equipped kitchen and very little furniture.

I walk everywhere, wearing shoes with cracked soles, which cause my feet to become soaked from wet pavement. I don't buy clothes: neither new nor used. To save on hydro, I tend to eat my food uncooked. When possible, I turn off the fridge, again to save hydro.

Living this way, I've been able to save just under $6,000 each year; more in the earlier years, less now as the cost of rent, hydro, Internet connection, and food hike up.

That means I've managed to save almost $30,000. On an annual income of no more than $12,324.

I'm 58 years old. I've disabilities which are worsening. I'm not employable in the usual sense, hence the reason I do contract work when I can get it. I've no assets other than those savings.

In two more years, I can start collecting a small monthly allowance through the Canada Pension Plan and will qualify for BC's Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters, a rental subsidy program. Because I saved when I knew I had to, I'm going to make it until then, with enough to make up the difference for the following five years until I reach age 65 and other government support will kick in.

Do I feel sorry for auto workers whose income has been four, five, six times that of mine? Who had benefits in addition to that? For people who could see the writing on the wall?

No. I don't. Just as I don't expect people to feel sorry for me.

Recommend this post

23 July 2008

Politics and Rhetoric

Jason Cherniak, in a post which appears on his blog today, hit on something which my friends and I have tried and tried and tried to get across to politicos.

He writes: "When you don't use rhetoric to get attention, you are often ignored in politics."

Not quite. When you DO use rhetoric, and to the point that content or substance gets virtually drowned in it, you register negatively with voters - or, put more succinctly, you risk putting people off from voting at all.

I wish parties and politicians would get this. My friends and I are increasingly sickened by the rhetoric and its frequency of use is only getting worse.

While the media may love manifestations of irate, incensed, and otherwise offended politicos - evidenced, for example, in the theatrics of puffed chests and cheeks and ruffled plumage -, voters aren't fooled. Messages that are filled with hyperbole rather than containing much, if any, substance convey to the commons that politicians think we are stupid.

Yet Canadians want debate. We want to be engaged. We want to know the issues. We want to know party policies and positions. We don't want to know how x FEELS about y, or whether so-and-so is "outraged," and we don't want Question Period to be used for the game of you'rrre-badder-than-weee-arrre, behaviour which most six-year-olds have outgrown.

There is proof that the public has been turned off by the over-the-top use of rhetoric. Do the research and find the numbers.

The party which has vented used the most hot air bombast and targeted the policies of other parties while only, almost as an afterthought, mentioned its own policies, is the party which has lost the highest percentage of its own supporters over the past four years.

Canadians want principled discussion from their politicians, not one-upmanship and the treatment of politics as a game.

Recommend this post

Not Mad about Mad: A response to David Oaks

I originally contacted David Oaks, Director of Mind Freedom International (MFI), to learn about the rationale for his organization’s adoption of the term ‘mad’ - as used, for example, in their Mad Pride campaign, an annual celebration of the struggles and triumphs of people who live with “mental illness” or who have come up against the mental health industry.

Because I’d mentioned a concern about accepting any sort of labelling, Oaks sent me a link to his essay “Let’s find language more inclusive than the phrase ‘mentally ill’.” His intention in sending the link was to dissuade the view that he or MFI supports labelling.

This is a response to that essay.


Oaks begins by suggesting some “replacements” for the term mentally ill. I’ve rearranged the order of his suggestions for ease of response.

  • Mental health consumer
  • Mental health client
  • Person labelled with a psychiatric disability
  • Person diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder
  • Psychiatric survivor
  • Person with a mental health history
  • Person with mental health issues
  • Consumer/Survivor/eX-inmate (CSX)
  • Person who has experienced the mental health system
  • Psychiatrized
  • Neurodiverse
  • Person experiencing severe and overwhelming mental and emotional problems, such as despair
  • Person our society considers to have very different and unusual behavior, such as not sleeping

Oaks cautions that his suggestions are “not about perfection or correction.”

Regarding perfection, I assume this means we shouldn’t suppose there aren’t better substitutions out there. “Correction” I don’t quite know how to take. Perhaps that we should not view Oaks as saying his terms are better than terms we may be using (with reference to) ourselves or that, if we are using other terminology, it’s ipso facto wrong and should be replaced by one of his suggestions. In other words, Oaks is suggesting what might be used, not what should be used. Fair enough.

A clue to the composition of Oaks’ list is this, written early in his essay:

How can we try to be more inclusive with our language in the mental health field? How can we show those who have been marginalized by psychiatric labels that we are listening and welcoming?

Contrast it with this:
The term ‘mentally ill’ is very much a medical model... When people use the phrase ‘mentally ill’ ..., the implication is that since an illness is the problem then a doctor ought to be part of the solution. ‘Mental illness’ also says since the problem is like a materialistic physical illness, then perhaps the solution ought to be physical too, such as a chemical or drug or electricity. [my emphasis in both quotes]

In the first instance Oaks looks to be writing from the perspective of someone in, or representing, the mental health industry. In the second instance he correctly weds ‘mentally ill’ with the medical model.

Both mental health and mental illness are terms used by the psychiatric industry either to refer to itself - as in mental health professionals - or to its area of purported expertise: illness or “disorders” which are distinctly mental. Granted, psychiatrists loathe the use of the term mental illness (though they’re not so loathe to use mental health). However, they do use “disorder,” and the adjectives preceding disorder are always in the mental or behavioural sphere: e.g, manic-depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder.

For mental health to be meaningful, there must be mental sickness.

Consider the reporting of the state of one’s (physical) health. Surveys commonly ask respondents to rate their health from excellent to poor. A report of less than optimum health means we have one or more diseases, disorders, disabilities, or deteriorations of one or more parts of the body.

Now consider reports on the peculiar state of the body which is, according to the mental health industry, uniquely mental. A person would be, according to the medical model of mental health, either mentally healthy or mentally diseased, disordered, disabled, ill or sick. In other words, any report of less than optimum mental health means we have one or more disorders of ... what?

The body? The physical organ which is the brain?

If yes to either of these questions, then the illness isn’t mental, it’s physical - which brings us back to health, unqualified, and thus a collapsing of any purported distinction. If the answer is no, then these “disorders” have no association with the field of health.

Returning to Oaks, he says his intention is not to oppose any “particular model.” Rather, his opposition is to the medical model being the dominant one “in this complex field” and he pleas for the “bullying in mental health care” to stop.

Oaks clearly accepts the legitimacy of the mental health industry itself. What he doesn’t accept is certain of its practices,

such as the use of words and phrases like ‘patient’ and ‘chemical imbalance’ and ‘biologically-based’ and ‘symptom’ and ‘brain disease’ and ‘relapse’ and all the rest of the medical terminology when we are speaking about those of us who have been labelled with a psychiatric disability. [my emphasis]

Oaks accepts the phrase ‘psychiatric disability’, but not other medical terms.

Or is it that he does not take ‘psychiatric disability’ to be a medical term because of the adjective?

If so, then Oaks would be hard-pressed to find a psychiatrist who would agree with him. For one thing, psychiatrists go to medical school; they have to in order to prescribe drugs, order electroshock or administer other purported therapies directly done on or ingested by the body.

Accepting Labels Legitimizes Mental Health Industry

While Oaks questions some of the mental health industry's terminology and practices, I question the legitimacy of the mental health industry itself. This is why I take exception to the acceptance of labels. And returns me to the list of Oaks’ alternative suggestions for 'mentally ill’.

  • Mental health consumer
  • Mental health client
  • Person labelled with a psychiatric disability
  • Person diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder
  • Psychiatric survivor
  • Person with a mental health history
  • Person with mental health issues
  • Consumer/Survivor/eX-inmate (CSX)
  • Person who has experienced the mental health system
  • Psychiatrized
  • Neurodiverse
  • Person experiencing severe and overwhelming mental and emotional problems, such as despair
  • Person our society considers to have very different and unusual behavior, such as not sleeping

First, given Oaks’ own rejection of the medical model, I recommend that he jettison all alternatives which include disability, disorder, mental, neurodiverse or psychiatric, with the possible exception of psychiatric survivor, which simultaneously speaks to a person’s strength in having endured the system and doesn’t let that system off the hook.

Of the choices in ‘h’, only survivor packs empowerment with it. Both consumer and ex-inmate focus on the individual as patient/passive rather than actor/active, and there’s no recognition of the mental health industry’s role.

Of the remaining options - j, k, l and m -, all but the first apply an adjective or adjectival phrase to a person, hence labels that person. The last option gives too much weight to societal norms, which are almost always shaped by elites. Among the latter, not coincidentally, are forensic psychiatrists who influence criminal cases and participate in establishing legal precedence.

Psychiatrized. While this is a label, it's of a peculiar sort. Psychiatrized is not a noun or adjective, but a verb in the past tense. It indicates something having been done to a person by another. And it has the flexibility of being understood in either a positive or negative light. For example, someone like me might adopt psychiatrized to cast aspersions on the psychiatric industry, while someone else might use it to indicate their belief in having been helped by that industry.

Points of Agreement

There are issues on which I agree with Oaks, including this:

To admit one has been officially labeled psychotic is perhaps one of the deepest closets to come out of, because the discrimination against those with that label is so immense. I prefer to talk about discrimination rather than stigma, because discrimination is something we can actually challenge and change... The word stigma comes from branded and implies that my identity as a psychiatrically-labeled person is inherently negative.

In my view, whatever stigma may be worn it should be by those who affix the labels, the so-called mental health professionals.

The adoption of ‘mad’

Returning to the reason I contacted Oaks, to learn why or under what context MFI was using ‘mad’, Oaks explained it to me in this way:

Now and again, some of us, myself included, like to have some fun and be outrageous, such as at MAD PRIDE events, where it is okay to be creative and reclaim language that has been used against us.

Certainly no person needs permission to apply self-descriptors, but that wasn’t my question.

In giving Mad Pride events as an example, Oaks makes my point for me. A whole movement or campaign, of which Oaks is a not an insignificant part, has chosen to adopt the term.

But why mad and not something else? I ask, because in adopting that term, the movement implicitly requires that any psychiatrized survivors who would like to participate in a Mad Pride event accept the adjective too.

In a later follow-up to my inquiry, Oaks told me that the Toronto Mad Pride organizers were using MAD as an acronym, to represent “Marginalized And Disempowered.”

Off the top of my head, I offer an alternative: eMpowered Affirmed Determined.

Without a doubt, there are better acronyms to give a positive meaning to MAD (or eMAD in the above case). The point is not to focus on the negative, which in the end puts the power to define us and our place in society into the hands of societal elites and potential oppressors.

Instead, focus on our strengths and on the message that, in coming together - and alone, as individual survivors - we take back our power, we affirm who we are, and we celebrate our difference and determination to fight against the mental health industry.

Of related interest: Growing Up in a Labelled World, Meanings - Belonging, Home, Community, and Mental Health and Religion: A comparison. For additional posts which touch on mental health/illness or the effects of the mental health industry on people's lives, search here.

Recommend this post

20 July 2008

Video: The Nation's Deathbed

Am watching this new film on the Security and Prosperity Partnership and the protests against it which took place on August 20, 2007 during the SPP summit in Montebello.

Very interesting segments on the police presence at the protest and the way the riot police were managed. Sounds like the protesters were penned in like cattle, in which case there was no need ever to use pepper spray or tear gas.

Every Canadian should watch this video. It was uploaded to Google Video on July 2nd and has been rated five stars, with 185 ratings so far. (107 minutes)

ETA: You must catch this quote at 1:29:22 from Dubya when he spoke in a press conference after the summit:
I'm amused by some of the, some of the speculation of, some of the old, ah, what do you call it, political scare tactics. When you've been in politics as long as I have you get used to that kinda technique, where you lay out a conspiracy and then force people to try and prove it doesn't exist. That's just the way some people operate.

Oh, Georgie-boy, you ought to know!

Recommend this post

Cartoon: Canada's Slight Detour

This great image appeared July 17th in the Calgary Sun and was picked up today by TruthDig.com.

Recommend this post

US Hegemony Harms Democratic Advancement in Cuba

More evidence, if we ever needed it, of the hypocrisy that is US foreign "relations." (I'd call it foreign anti-relations, or 'do as we say, not as we do' policy.)
According to [Cuba's] Vice Minister of Telecommunication, Boris Moreno, the government is unable to offer Cubans comprehensive Internet for their new PCs because the American embargo prevents it from getting service directly from the United States nearby through underwater cables. Instead, Cuba gets Internet service through less reliable satellite connections, usually from faraway countries including Italy and Canada.

One of the greatest tools for promoting grassroots democracy (as opposed to the democracy-in-name-only that is imposed on its own people and foreigners by the US government) is the Internet. Which is why, rather than enabling Cuba to link to the Internet via Florida's underground cable, a mere 120 km away, US policy forces Cuba to make a deal with Venezuela, 1,500 km distant from them.

Check out the link. It points to Wikileaks, one of my favourite sources for leaked secret documents. The ones which go with this story include technical details, maps, information on the agreements' signators, terms and conditions, costs, and much more.

Recommend this post

16 July 2008

Rising Food Prices Forcing Tough Choices

What do you feed your cat?

Despite my very low income, I've always fed my two furry companions a high-priced, top-quality food, because their health matters more to me than my own. But Kiltie and Brodie are going to have to start putting up with something less nutritious and healthy for them.

Hopefully, they'll forgive me, given their sacrifice is being shared by their human, who is having to make tough dietary choices for herself too.

With food prices jumping up in leaps and bounds over the past few months, I've been buying ever cheaper food and eating less of the good stuff.

Not to be thwarted by the rising prices, I've being using certain techniques to drag the calories out.

For example, about a year or two ago, my local Country Grocer store brought in an automatic slicer for customers to use. Since I've not appreciated how bloated the slices in regular sliced bread had become (bread manufacturers were thickening their slices to get customers to eat more bread and more often), I was thrilled with the new gizmo and began buying CG's unsliced, fresh-baked bread and slicing it myself.

In other words, while slicing my own bread meant I was getting more slices for the buck, something which I welcomed, that wasn't why I began the do-it-yourself project a year or so ago. I simply hadn't liked those thick slices, which were producing sandwiches with a higher bread to filling ratio than I was used to or wanted.

Back then, CG's fresh-baked bread was selling for $0.89 a loaf.

A couple of months ago, it went up to $0.99.

Now it's $1.39.

Each time the price changed, I made my slices thinner.

However, I began my slicing enterprise by using the number 14 setting on the automatic slicer (four nudges below the medium thickness setting of 18).

Now I'm slicing the bread at the number 10 setting.*

And that's so thin that the slices flop around and deform as they cook in my standard toaster. (Perhaps a toaster-oven would solve the problem but I haven't got one of those.)

In other words, I can't skinny my bread slices much more and still keep up with the increase in the cost of bread.

In the meantime, of course, I'm eating less whole wheat bread, which means my already skimpy, low-income diet has become skimpier.

So..., what do you feed your cat?

* Don't know what those numbers represent. It's not millimetres. A setting of 10, e.g., produces slices of 8 millimetres.

Recommend this post

12 July 2008

Harper Needs Lesson in Logic

Commenting on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's statement that Ontario is revisiting its requirement that gasoline include ten percent ethanol by 2010 (from the present five percent), our Stevie had this to say:
There are several causes to the recent rise in food prices and biofuels is probably a factor, but we're convinced that the far greater factor is actually the rise in energy input costs for the production of food.

Harper needs to go back to school, because any first-year student in logic or critical thinking could tell him his reasoning is flawed.

That energy costs are the greater factor in rising food costs does not diminish the fact that the production of food for fuel is also a factor - and a big one. Hence, a government which supports biofuel development - to the tune of $1.5 billion no less - is a government which is contributing to the rising cost of food.

Harper admits in his statement that biofuel is a factor. But then dismisses the point as irrelevant.

Stevie, you're losin' it.

Recommend this post

09 July 2008

Green Shift Inc. suing Libs for Commercial Advantage?

As more details are revealed about the spat between Green Shift Inc. and the Liberal Party of Canada regarding the latter's use of the term 'green shift', one has to wonder about the roles of the various players and the benefits which the owners of GSI think would accrue to them by pushing the matter further.

Now we learn that GSI owner, Jennifer Wright, intends to file suit against the LPC for $8.7 million.

While Wright denies any Conservative party offer to help with the legal bills, she has admitted to there having been "a bunch of [conservatives] emailing saying they want to give us money."

And there's more.
Green Shift has retained a former Progressive Conservative communications guru from the days of Brian Mulroney, Michael Krauss, to orchestrate her media strategy for the costly legal action.

But Krauss says he met Wright through mutual friends, and is not affiliated with the Harper government or the Conservative party.

The first word of Wright's lawsuit surfaced June 23 on the Conservative blog A Step To The Right, when an unidentified Tory blogger said he telephoned Green Shift that day to ask if the firm had formed a partnership with the Liberals.

The blogger said Green Shift intended to deliver a "cease and desist" letter to the Liberal party and added: "My instinct tells me there is also a very strong possibility of a lawsuit, one (in) which the Liberal Party would be unable to defend its use of a copyrighted item."

...Wright told a news conference she wants to ensure Green Shift is not tainted by partisan politics because of the Liberal plan.

Wright's protest that the Liberal use of "green shift" would confuse or alienate her customers doesn't mesh, given the hay-making which her suit will produce in the Conservative camp. In fact, Wright's latest move ensures that her company's image will be used politically, to disadvantage one political party and advantage another.

Wright said her firm has supplied both Ontario provincial Liberal and federal Liberal events with biodegradable cups and luncheon ware, and that she also allowed the Ontario NDP to use the slogan in the past provincial election campaign.

The legal notice filed by Wright's counsel, trademark lawyers Christine Pallotta and Joshua Spicer in Toronto, claims $8.5 million in damages for "passing off" Wright's trademark and $250,000 in aggravated and punitive damages.

It also asks for a court order that the Liberals destroy or remove "in an environmentally conscious manner" all paper and electronic documents it has containing the Green shift name.

Wright said her Green Shift trademark has been approved by the Canadian Trademark Office, but is stilling pending final registration.

The biodegradable catering ware Green Shift distributes appears to be ecologically sound, but it is expensive, possibly because of its origin.

A food-service executive who buys Green Shift biodegradable cups, utensils, plates and napkins says a container of the spoons costs $70, compared with $15 for plastic spoons.

The executive, who did not want to be identified, said the products are made with sugar cane and other fibres and are manufactured in China.

Suit aside, let it be noted that "ecologically-sound" and "biodegradable" does not equate with environmentally friendly. It takes a lot of carbon-based fuel for product to travel from China to Canada.

Recommend this post

Old USSR rebirthing - in the good 'ole U S of A

I remember reading years ago about the distrust people in the old Soviet Union felt of their neighbours, workmates, even family members. In those days anyone could be a spy for the KGB.

Seems to me the following indicates the beginning of a reemergence of the old USSR - in the good 'ole U S of A.

A new class of everyday spies, from paramedics to utility workers, are being recruited to be "terrorism liaison officers." They are entrusted with hunting for "suspicious activity," and then they report their findings, which end up in secret government databases.

What constitutes "suspicious activity," of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But a draft Justice Department memo on the subject says that such things as "taking photos of no apparent aesthetic value" or "making notes" could constitute suspicious activity, Finley wrote.

The states where this is going on include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

Dozens more are planning to do so, Finley reports.

Colorado alone has 181 Terrorism Liaison Officers, and some of them are from the private sector, such as Xcel Energy.

The full article is a must-read, regardless from which country you hail.

Recommend this post

08 July 2008

Professor Ticketed for 'No to Empire' Bumper Sticker

Have you done your activist duty for the day? No?

Well, here's a mind-boggling (but never surprising, in the good 'ole U S of A) story to which you may want to respond in appropriate fashion.

Professor Robert Ovetz was driving through San Francisco on the morning of June 30 when he saw the lights of a police car behind him.

Ovetz pulled over.

"When the officer came up to my window, he asked the typical police requests: registration, drivers’ license, insurance card," says Ovetz. "I asked him why he was pulling me over. And he said because of the bumper sticker on my back window."

That sticker says, "No to Empire," in large bold letters, and on the bottom in very small letters, "www.thenation.com," Ovetz notes. It’s a bumper sticker from The Nation magazine.

The editor of this story notes that one can buy one's very own No to Empire bumper sticker at the Nation store. As you can see, others are available too!

Recommend this post

Damned Women or ... Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don't

There's an excellent editorial written by Susan Douglas which appears today on one of my favourite news sources. She writes about the fine line - more like a tripwire - which women are expected to walk. It's the tripwire between being 'feminine' and being a feminist.
The news media ... oscillates wildly between its commitment to equality and its continued, though unconscious institutional sexism and racism. Women are held up simultaneously to feminist and feminine standards, and must fulfill both, but with a bias (still) toward the feminine.

Sen. Clinton has been treated like most male candidates,... Yet the press has also persisted ... in emphasizing her physical appearance to an extent rarely done with male candidates.

The feminine-feminist schizophrenic playbook has also been closely followed for two women who couldn't be more different: Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama...

On Feb. 21, as reported in the New York Daily News, a "slender" Cindy McCain, "the striking blond" and "perky stay-at-home mom" "stood by her man" to defend her husband against charges printed in the New York Times that he had had an improper relationship with "an attractive female lobbyist." Or, as the Washington Post stated, she stood by "her husband's side, all jewel-toned clothing and icy blue eyes."

Yet in an April USA Today feature, we learned that this "elegant blonde in jewel-toned suits and a quadruple strand of pearls ... travels to poor countries on medical missions" and "chairs a huge beer distribution company."

...That same week, Michelle Obama appeared on the cover of Newsweek in a simple, sleeveless, pale blue satin sheath, a string of pearls, and a simple bouffant hair-do, immediately prompting analogies to Jacqueline Kennedy. The headline read "He Calls Her His 'Rock.' " Inside we learned she's "steely." In her account of her interview with Michelle, CNN's Soledad O'Brien emphasized her "perfect make-up" and "fabulous patent-leather boots." Yet Mrs. Obama faces continuing denunciations for saying, "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." Right-wing pundits consistently cast her as negative, unpatriotic and as hating America. So, Mrs. Obama is a stylish Benedict Arnold.

It's a tension that women feel and have to navigate every day of their lives.

I remember as a little girl questioning the double standards.

My mother could never understand my objections, said this was just the way things are. And she was happy enough about it.

Among the advantages to keeping the status quo that my mother saw was society's (then) expectation that men financially support their wives - even when there was an 'ex' before that noun.

She did well by that too, and couldn't understood my astonishment at her feigned helplessness and my insistence that she should earn her own money. She was highly intelligent, able-bodied, and in excellent health. There was no good reason not to work. Yet to the end of his days, my stepfather paid for all her expenses.

That's wrong. Dead wrong.

As much as I feel anger toward men who belittle women, do nothing to change their attitudes or society's treatment of women, I'm more angered and frustrated by the women who continue to accept things just the way they are.

Recommend this post

07 July 2008

Naomi Wolf: White House condoning sex crimes

A must-read article by Naomi Wolf provides further exposure of White House crimes and misdemeanours or, better put, "How Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay basically turned into an organized sex-crime ring in which the trafficked sex slaves were US-held prisoners."
I had a sense of deja vu when I saw the photos that emerged in 2004 from Abu Ghraib prison. Even as the Bush administration was spinning the notion that the torture of prisoners was the work of "a few bad apples" low in the military hierarchy, I knew that we were seeing evidence of a systemic policy set at the top. It's not that I am a genius. It's simply that, having worked at a rape crisis center and been trained in the basics of sex crime, I have learned that all sex predators go about things in certain recognizable ways.

We now know that the torture of prisoners was the result of a policy set in the White House by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Rice -- who actually chaired the torture meetings. The Pentagon has also acknowledged that it had authorized sexualized abuse of detainees as part of interrogation practices to be performed by female operatives. And documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union have Rumsfeld, in his own words, checking in on the sexualized humiliation of prisoners.

So in the name of defence, the power-brokers in the US (and other nations) justify certain activities which at home would be treated for what they are, crimes. In the meantime, these same power-brokers get to salaciously ogle the carrying out of said activities, passing such enjoyment to certain keen and/or gullible personnel within the armed forces and 'intelligence' communities.

It's always men who lead the way in such endeavours and it makes me sicker than sick.

There are times like these when I would ask to be granted one wish: To wipe out all men on Terra who push their 'terra' agendas, or who do nothing to stop war, or who do nothing to stop violence against women, or who do nothing to protest the abuse of children (including their recruitment into men's armies), or who nothing to protect other animal species, or who do nothing...

Sigh... I'm heading for another read of one of my all-time favourite stories, The Gate to Women's Country, by Sheri S Tepper.

Recommend this post

04 July 2008

Can Bovine Growth Hormone Help Slow Global Warming?

Oh, please, spare me from the gas that is being emitted by spin doctors (Can Bovine Growth Hormone Help Slow Global Warming?) who are looking for any excuse to introduce yet another "helpful" hormone into cows as a way to increase the bottom line. It's all about profit: theirs.

Global health would improve vastly by eliminating the noxious death-inducing gases created by the raising of dairy cattle. Cut the dung and stop rearing cows, period.

Plant more crops for people to eat.

Raising cows for human consumption, dairy or beef, does more than degrade the animals. It takes up an unbelievable amount of the earth's surface to contain, breed and feed, produce and process dairy items with attendant machinery, slaughter and butchery, transport, marketing and disposal of carcasses, than can be imagined in the worst nightmare.

We don't need to drink milk. The only milk humans must ingest is from our own mothers. Lactose-intolerance to bovine milk is common and the 'Vitamin D' which is added to our milk is a steroid hormone, not a vitamin at all. Liquid dye is used to colour cheese.

All this and the money-makers aim to inject the cows with yet another hormone.

One solution would be to embrace an animal-free diet. Everyone is capable of making a personal choice to embrace vegetarianism. Worldwide, many people choose to eat plants only.

Some argue that eating fruits and vegetables is far too expensive for people living on a low income. On the contrary, once you're no longer purchasing meat, dairy, seafood or fowl, you'll discover you've more than enough to supply yourself with a healthy plant-based diet.

So stop swallowing bull. Challenge the common perception that being a carnivore is necessary to human survival.

Recommend this post

03 July 2008

Facebook Youth risk Mental Illness

It's 'expert' opinion like this which sounds the quackery alarm for the kind of society we may be entering, a society in which everyday life has become pathologized and what is 'NORMal' is determined by "mental health professionals."

Among those purported experts would be Dr Himanshu Tyagi, noted in the referenced BBC article as a "leading psychiatrist."

According to Tyagi, youths who spend an overabundance of their time (as deemed by said experts) on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace are at risk for developing 'mental health disorders'.

At the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Tyagi warned that today's psychiatrists may not be as prepared as they should be to help - ahem, "treat" - young people with Internet-related problems.

"It may be possible," he said, "that young people who have no experience of a world without online societies put less value on their real world identities and can therefore be at risk in their real lives, perhaps more vulnerable to impulsive behaviour or even suicide."

According to the BBC report, Tyagi then "called for more investigation and research into the issue."

Of course he did.

We must be sure that governments prop up the mental health industry as they have the acute care industry, and oh so exceedingly well. Far less enthusiastic are governments to support health promotion or illness prevention.

You'd think this wouldn't be the case, given the public health costs of treatment for illness and funding for research for cures - unless you'd clued into the fact that sickness and disease are big business and the sickness industries have powerful lobbyists.

Fortunately, there are glimmers of conscience and sanity even from within the psych fields.

Psychologist Graham Jones, for example, comments:

For every new generation, the experience they have of the world is a different one.

When the printing press was first invented, I am sure there were crowds of people saying it was a bad thing.

In my experience, the people who tend to be most active on sites such as Facebook or Bebo are those who are most socially active anyway - it is just an extension of what they are already doing.

Recommend this post

02 July 2008

Vegans vs Meat-Lovers: Truce?

In Tyee's book review by Michael LaPointe the week of June 23 an article entitled Vegans vs Meat-Lovers: Truce? caught my attention.

I commend The Tyee for trying to bridge the gap between those of us who are plant eaters and those of us who ingest flesh.

But in my opinion it isn't going to happen any time soon.

As a strict vegetarian, I don't like the label "Vegan" to begin with. Self-named vegetarians who consume dairy products, eggs, fish or fowl are not vegetarians!

Some people might say the vegetarian/vegan distinction is merely semantics. But semantics is the branch of linguistics concerned with meaning. A "vegetarian" who accepts that label and eats anything other than plants is being dishonest; he or she also misleads, intentionally or otherwise, those who are less knowledgeable about the herbivore movement.

Getting to "know" your animal, as suggested by LaPointe, before it is slaughtered, bled, disemboweled, butchered and brought to your table is ludicrous, at best. It is akin to eating the canary, horse, dog or cat that you have raised from its infancy.

As long as there are carnivorous experts condoning the inclusion of meat in our diets provided, they argue, it has been butchered humanely (how do you kill with benevolent compassion on such a large and constant scale, anyway?); as long as mainstream society continues to mindlessly consume meat, thinking it is good for them, then a truce between the true vegetarians and eaters of animal products will never be reached.

Recommend this post

Spain Awards Apes Legal Rights

While I applaud Spain's attempt to ensure right to life, liberty and protection from torture for apes, I question why the same is not offered to their female human counterparts.

Alternative and mainstream media all report on violence against women, at the same time allowing advertisers to use women to sell consumable, disposable products, quietly promoting the idea that women are expendable.

Everyday the information highway is dotted with stories about the degradation, misuse, abuse and violence against women perpetrated by men, often their husbands, fathers, uncles, grandfathers and male friends. Today's Daily (printed version only) carries the story of the Dad who has been labelled a dangerous offender. Reading to the end of this brief, well hidden blurb, I find the mother is accused of being an "enabler'. I am outraged at the bleeding of responsibility for Dad's morally vile actions onto a woman, his wife.

There is the often asked question of what is to be done to affect change to end the torture of women. Would it be: Tougher laws? Yes. Affirmative political action? Yes. Awareness and preventative measures? Yes.

Alas, these are slow to materialize and it would seem the necessary action must be taken by women.

Beginning at home our male partners and offspring must learn to respect women, speak against the blowhard who launches endlessly into sexist jokes, observe and intervene when a male co-worker pats the bottom of the robust young secretary, tell the man in the line up at the bank that his repulsive asides about the older female teller are not appreciated and out of line. Our sons must be taught that "she" is his mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece and neighbour, the one who has given him life.

Until women unify, globally, nationally and locally to take action at home very little will change.

We, like the apes the Spanish government is attempting to protect, deserve and require the same respect from our male partners.

Recommend this post

01 July 2008

People shunning Cars

GM sales for the month of June were down 18.5%. But that still beat Toyota, which slipped by 21.4%. - Ford sales fell by a whopping 27.9%.

Toyota sales have beaten the Big 3 consistently over the past while, largely due to Toyota's forecasting consumer demand for greener alternatives.

This drop in even Toyota's sales suggests that consumers may be starting to turn away from cars altogether. And what a great boost for the environment that would be!
General Motors shares, which had fallen to a 54-year low on Monday, recovered from early falls to close up 2.2% in New York.

Toyota had been expected to fare better during the month because its smaller, more fuel-efficient cars were better-suited to high fuel prices.

But in the event, Toyota suffered even worse than its US rivals, with its truck sales in particular falling by 38.9%.

Recommend this post

Obama to "strengthen links" between government, faith programs

The continuing encroachment of the US evangelical movement into US - and Canadian - politics scares the bejeezus out of me, and reports like this don't help.
Obama visited a community ministry in a conservative region of the election battleground state of Ohio to unveil a plan to reinvigorate faith-based community programs first pioneered by President George W. Bush.

The Illinois senator, who will face Republican John McCain in November's presidential election, said he would put more money and emphasis on strengthening the link between government and community faith programs....

Obama ... said he learned early on as a community organizer in Chicago the value of acting on his faith. "I came to see my faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community - while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work," he said.

Obama said the office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives set up by Bush as part of his "compassionate conservative" agenda never lived up to its early promise and social service programs for the poor had been underfunded.

He proposed a new Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to reinvigorate the effort.

What can atheists, secularists, humanists, free thinkers, etc., do to stop this infestation of irrationality? It's like a plague of the most malignant kind.

I ask this seriously. What can I/we do?

Because more and more it seems, homo sapiens sapiens is backsliding to primitive form.

For further evidence of human devolution, consider this drivel, courtesy of Lorna Dueck and the Grope and Flail, in response to an intervention by a Quebec judge on a father's grounding of his 12-yr-old daughter.

Here's the baffling truth: We're born with sin in our genes and it takes a lifetime to evolve to good.

Yea. Right.

Fortunately, there's some hope. Witness the number of negative comments to Dueck's piece.

Recommend this post