29 June 2009

Canada No Longer Popular Among Canadians

This post over at Stageleft should be getting more attention.

Canadians across this land are increasingly feeling unrepresented and powerless - and powerless to change that situation. There's good reason for this and it's not just about our cruddy electoral system, vicious attack ads, parliamentary pissing contests, elitist party financing, and so on.

More crucially than any of those, it's the assumption that, as Canada continued stretching its boundaries east, west and north to include hugely diverse regions whose very diversity partly stems from their geography, the federation could remotely (literally) fairly represent and serve the diverse interests of all the people who live within it.

Federations are fine for geographically similar or smaller countries. They don't work for countries as large as Canada.

Go read Stageleft. He states it better than I.

See also this post which Daphne and I wrote back in January, and this one written by James Bow.

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Scott Feschuk on Senator Mike Duffy

What a hoot! Apparently, Mike Duffy's been doin' some learnin':

"Once you get in there, you realize that every piece of legislation passed by Parliament has to go through the Senate prior to adoption.... And the Senate rules are different than the House of Commons. Senate committees can’t sit while the Senate is in session, so that puts you in the situation of having some pretty long days."

Where's that roll-eyes icon when you need it? (Read the whole thing. It gets better - or worse - depending on your point of view.)

I said it once and I'll say it again. Mike Duffy is an embarrassment to the Senate, an embarrassment to journalism and an embarrassment to Canada. Might we send him off as an export somewhere?

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28 June 2009

Ocean's Twitter Follow Policy

For all you Twits out there, please be guided by my Twitter follow policy before hitting that magic button.

My interest in Twitter is primarily to connect with people who have interests similar to mine, but I also welcome making connections with people who live nearby, regardless of their interests. (I'm on Vancouver Island, so 'nearby' includes all of BC, the Yukon and Washington state.)

Please do NOT follow me if:
  1. your life is peachy-keen and you are busting to share the news of your good fortune. (My life is rather miserable and you know what they say about misery loving company.)
  2. you are selling something, including home-based business ideas; promoting yourself; or you are pushing religion, 'faith', 'family values' and similar twaddle.
  3. you are a company or a bot.
  4. you are a do-gooder who wants to 'save' me. (I prefer to save myself.)
  5. you tweet for the purpose of promoting social media, Twitter apps, or number of followers.
  6. you use an autoresponder to welcome new followers.
ETA: Why do I give a damn who follows me? Because I want to do my bit to discourage the proliferation of spam, bots, inane commenting, religiosity....

I am LIKELY (no promises!) to follow you if:
  1. you care about and advocate for human rights.
  2. you care about and advocate for animal rights.
  3. you are a Canadian political junky of the social libertarian persuasion (see here and here).
  4. you are a writer (blogger, journalist, author).
  5. you are using Twitter to communicate with others rather than only to spout your own spiel.
  6. your profile includes your real name, location, primary interests - or a link to a site where such information can be found.

Of course, exceptions will occasionally apply.


This page was inspired by the Twitter follow policies of @RayBeckerman and @dianelevin.

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Soooo Cute! Tiny House, Tiny Yard - Updated

This is so cute, tucked snug between two larger homes.

I love the little yard. Together with the backyard, it's ample space to grow one's own herbs and veggies.

Here's the The Tiny Life blog from which that image comes.

ETA: The little house has its own website, writes a commenter! And the house is in Toronto!

But I find this interesting: "Current value: priceless." Does that mean no one lives there? That no one is allowed to buy it?

Also, I notice that the backyard has been paved over. What a shame! From the History page on the website:

After his wife passed away, [architect and builder] Mr. Weeden, 77 years of age, ... lived in the house for 6 more years, during which time he tended to the vegetable garden in the rear of the house, growing tomatoes, cabbages, Swiss chard, rhubarb and some flowers.

That's more like it!

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Oh, for steady employment!

I was speaking to a friend the other day. I've been very depressed lately and it has been getting worse. For years, I've craved steady employment but as I've aged and poverty has taken a more solid footing, my disabilities have worsened. Almost all of the employment available in this community is retail and that involves standing for long periods of time, stretching, twisting, lifting... In other words, I'm no longer employable. And I feel so damn worthless because of it.

Contrary to the stereotype, most people of very low income yearn for a job. It's not about the income. It's about having stability in one's life, a daily routine. It's about giving and getting back, and being valued for one's reliability and the quality of one's work.

Here's Tatum, one of the WISE storytellers, talking about the importance of routine and doing paid work:

I really enjoy waking up in the morning and getting dressed up nice. It makes a whole difference to my wellbeing throughout that day. I’ve learnt that I need to get a job in the morning hours. I want a routine: shower, get dressed, go to work. That’s real important to me that it work out that way.

Listen to her story, as told in her own words:

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27 June 2009

Friday Night Chuckle: Canada Apologizes to US

Courtesy This Hour has 22 Minutes:

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Per Vote Party Financing & Election 41

It's another Harper double-dare, coming to an opposition party of your choice.

Whenever the election does come, Harper has one plan in mind for afterward: the elimination of public funding to political parties. A punishing blow to his opponents. Sure, the idea caused a showdown last autumn, [a Harper] adviser said. "But in retrospect, we should have stuck to our guns. It was strategically smart. It's still strategically smart. We're going to run again on it. And we're going to do it, if we win the next election. It's coming."

Yes, indeed. No surprise here.

As noted previously, for low-income voters who are unable to donate to their party of choice, this would be one more blow. For members of the electorate whose only remaining reason to visit the polls has been that $1.75 contribution to their party, it's a further disincentive to vote. For certain opposition parties, removing the subsidy could well see their demise; hence, it would likely contribute to further erosion of our democracy.

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Farewell, My Friend

My Friend has died.

The four to six month prognosis turned out to be a mere six weeks.

Friend stayed at home for one month before a decision to move to an 'end-of-life' bed in a tiny Care Home in a small community twenty miles from his residence was made. His room there was as home-like as possible, with windows that were left open at all times, as he requested. His dog was allowed to visit, jumping up on the bed to be close to him. His large community of friends kept a constant vigil by his bedside, day and night. All his medical requests were met, even to ensuring no heroic life-saving measures were applied.

The day he died was a mild and sunny day, typical for the West Coast this time of year. I was around all morning while his last lover spent hours tending to him. When she said her goodbye, I sat with him, holding his hand and telling him that all was well, that it was safe to go. And he did.

To a 'better place'? To be with 'god'? To meet up with others who have 'passed on'? To where 'we'll meet in the sweet by and by'? Was it a 'mystical experience'? A 'spiritual' one? Was it 'an honour' to be present when Friend died? Unanswerable questions, all. It was a great relief to see him come to an end of his physical suffering. It was also overwhelmingly sad, as Friend was only 56 years old.

For me, it brought a sharp awareness of life's short and fragile existence, of the exquisite beauty in nature, of the love given and received from family and friends.

Friend's death is an acute reminder that I, too, have to die.

Farewell, my Friend.

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25 June 2009

Health Effects of Abuse Last a Lifetime

First mental illness, now cancer.

A stunning discovery by University of Toronto researchers indicates a profound link between cancer and child abuse. Adults who were physically abused as children have a 49 per cent higher chance of developing cancer, shows their study, which will be published in the July 15 issue of the journal Cancer. This was true even after the team controlled for variables such as childhood stress, adult smoking, drinking, exercise and socioeconomic status. The research is especially important to helping doctors identify risk factors for cancer in their patients. There may be psycho-physiological reasons why this happens. Future studies will examine how the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, affects the cancer-abuse connection.

Expect more studies to focus on cortisol and its effects on health. One obvious, likely finding: high levels of cortisol in people whose household incomes are in the lowest decile.

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India can/will do it. Canada? Not on your life.

It's well known that India has among the highest number of people living in desperate conditions. Many haven't homes at all or don't make enough money to buy their own.

So now Tata, the maker of the $2,500 Nano, a small car, has plans to build tiny apartments that even people of low income might manage to buy.

Tata, the Indian conglomerate that launched the "world's cheapest car," announced last month that it plans to build 1,000 apartments in an industrial enclave outside Mumbai. And like the $2,500 Nano, the units in the Shubh Griha development will be sold at rock-bottom prices.

Real estate prices in Mumbai are among the steepest in the world—apartments in South Mumbai, for example, can fetch up to $1,200 a square foot. Tata’s apartments, by contrast, will go for between $10,000 and $16,000 apiece. The catch? They’ll be downright tiny. The smallest dwelling will come in at 228 sq. feet, with the largest topping out at 465 sq. feet. Along with the Nano car, they represent one of the most aggressive attempts by a major company to corner the market on goods aimed at what management guru C.K. Prahalad calls the “bottom of the pyramid”—that is, the world’s hundreds of millions of poor people.

Could something like this happen here? No.

Why? NIMBYism.

The only way it could happen in BC or Canada is if such housing projects were created in undeveloped areas.

Tata Housing CEO Brotin Banerjee describes the Shubh Griha development as a “continuation of the group’s commitment to providing quality, innovative products for the common man.” So far, Tata’s had no trouble finding “common men” interested in scooping them up. Just two weeks after announcing the project, the company already had 8,000 applicants.

I would LEAP at the chance.

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24 June 2009

"Conformists may kill civilizations"

Well, duh! It shouldn't take a whole lot to realize that. Still, this article raises interesting points.

Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University ... and Pete Richerson of the University of California, Davis, have modelled how different learning strategies fare in different environments. They found that conformist social learning - imitating and emulating what the majority are doing - may also cause the demise of societies....

Behaviour that is genetically determined can adapt to environmental change by the slow process of natural selection, but only when that change is also slow. Rapid change puts a premium on the capacity of individuals to learn through exploration and experience, and to adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Figuring things out for yourself can be time-consuming, however, and a waste of time when others around you have already acquired the relevant knowledge....

"[1] Societies should promote individual learning and innovation over cultural conformity, and [2] the models for social learning should be individuals who have demonstrated that they understand how to live with the current environmental trends," says Whitehead. [my emphasis]

Translation of the second point: If you must follow someone else's example or be instructed by them, then make your role model a present-day environmentalist. That is, adapt your behaviour and learning to our changing environment. If enough of us do that, then we MIGHT yet save our civilization.

Alternatively, carry on as you are; the planet will do just fine without us.

Regarding the second point, post-secondary institutions must look seriously at what the hell they've been doing. "Higher learning" has become an industry and post secondary institutions little more than diploma mills whose aims are to provide a labour force to big business.

Moreover, far too many graduate students have discovered that conformity is THE ONLY WAY they'll be permitted to climb the academic ladder. Innovation and originality are taboo, given that these challenge the academics already in power. Modern post secondary institutions effectively discourage, weed out and reject non-conformists. It wasn't always this way and is anathema to the way education should be.

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So, You Wanna Eat Meat?

Our long evolution from primate to man has shown that humans are herbivors. And the science is there to prove it. Our bodies are not equipped with large fangs to rip flesh from bones, our hands are not (and never have been) designed to catch and kill prey and our large intestine does not provide for easy passage of ingested flesh.

Don't take my word for it. Read what the professionals have to say.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine President Dr. Neal Barnard says in his book, The Power of Your Plate, in which he explains that “early humans had diets very much like other great apes, which is to say a largely plant-based diet, drawing on foods we can pick with our hands. Research suggests that meat-eating probably began by scavenging -- eating the leftovers that carnivores had left behind. However, our bodies have never adapted to it. To this day, meat-eaters have a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other problems.”

In fact, our hands are perfect for grabbing and picking fruits and vegetables. Similarly, like the intestines of other herbivores, ours are very long (carnivores have short intestines so they can quickly get rid of all that rotting flesh they eat). We don’t have sharp claws to seize and hold down prey. And most of us (hopefully) lack the instinct that would drive us to chase and then kill animals and devour their raw carcasses.

We seem to be hung up on the idea the we HAVE to eat meat! This is learned conditioning which is continually reinforced in our society.

Top nutritional and anthropological scientists from the most reputable institutions imaginable say categorically that humans are natural herbivores, and that we will be healthier today if we stick with our herbivorous roots. It may be inconvenient, but it alas, it is the truth.

Be brave, folks, break through your conditioning; do some research; get out the alternative cookbooks; enhance your health and that of our little blue planet by eliminating flesh from your diet today.

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21 June 2009

What's Next to Fall Under "National Security"?

To prevent Canadians from learning the financial costs of Canada's presence in Afghanistan, the Harper government is citing national security concerns.

In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country's taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security....

The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under Access to Information by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada's military participation in the ... military mission to Afghanistan.

When the NDP asked for the identical figures last year, the military made them public.... The yearly incremental cost of the war would top $1 billion.... This year, military censors cited Section 15 of the act in blocking out the figure.

What has changed is not any threat to national security, but fears by Harper government that revealing the figure would be harmful to its health or further survival.

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24 Journalists Detained, includes Newsweek Reporter

From Al-Jazeera English:

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released the names of 23 Iranian journalists, editors and bloggers arrested since June 14 and said several others were believed to have been detained or had gone into hiding.

"The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target," RSF said.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world's biggest prison for journalists."

It said that jailed journalists were under pressure to make filmed confessions and that there were allegations of torture.

Newsweek said that Maziar Bahari, who has been living in Iran for the past decade, had been "detained without charge by Iranian authorities and has not been heard from since."

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Cannon Hypocrisy

Re Iran, here's Lawrence Cannon, our Minister of Foreign Affairs:

"The Government of Canada continues to support freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Iran."

Here at home, however, such a statement needs some tweaking:

The Government of Canada supports [some people's] freedom, [sham]ocracy, [certain] human rights and the rule of [some] laws - excepting particularly those laws which pertain to politicos.

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Foreign Affairs Responds re Assisting Injured Iranians

From an email received by me today:

From re-sos@international.gc.ca
Date Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 11:40 AM
Subject Canadian Embassy in Tehran, Iran
Mailed-by international.gc.ca


In response to your concerns regarding the situation in Iran, we would like to share the following with you:

Reports on Saturday that the Canadian Embassy in Iran was turning away people seeking sanctuary are false. The Embassy was closed Saturday and there were no Canadians at the Embassy when the protests began.

We have been advised by other Embassies in Tehran that they did not provide shelter to injured Iranians, as has been alleged.

Embassy staff has made every attempt to ensure services, particularly consular, remain unaffected by the situation. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, including the Canadian Embassy in Tehran, continues to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens in-person, on the phone and through email.

In case of emergency consular assistance regarding Canadian citizens in Iran, please contact the Embassy of Canada in Tehran at +98 (21) 8152-0000 or the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s Emergency Operations Centre by calling collect to 613-996-8885 or by sending an email to sos@international.gc.ca.


Operations Officer/Agent des opérations (CEC)
Emergency Services Division/Direction des services d’urgence
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada /
Affaires étrangères et du Commerce international Canada

In other words, the embassy is prepared to help Canadians, not injured Iranians if they should turn up on its doorstep.

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17 June 2009

Widdle Iggy and Widdle Harper Go to School

Scott Feschuk says it best and Kady O adds the zinger in the comments section of his post.

Harper: How about a panel? We could appoint a panel to look into this whole Employment Insurance thing over the summer.

Ignatieff: A panel? You must be joking. Only a day ago, I stood before Canadians and firmly proclaimed...

Harper: What if we make it a blue-ribbon panel?

Ignatieff: Deal.


Oh, mighty blue ribbon! Be it a non-confidence crisis in a system of parliamentary democracy, the desire of hipsters to be seen drinking an out-of-fashion beer or the low self-esteem of a pig at a state fair, there appears to be no problem you cannot solve. You are the bold, fabric-based answer to the needs of unemployed Canadians in a time of economic turmoil. Your elegant rosette serves as a satiny beacon of hope to a nation whose problems can be solved only by an esteemed panel comprising those of great eminence and many monocles! Godspeed, flappy blue ribbon. Godspeed.

To which Kady responds:

I fell asleep knowing that I would awake to Feschuk finding le mot juste. I was not disappointed. "Flappy" doesn't just describe the ribbon on the panel.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars have been spent for decades, STUDYING and RECOMMENDING the reforms necessary to improve EI and other social programs such as the Canada Pension Plan.

Canada has become famous for its research. It has also become famous for its failure to act upon that research. Other countries do, turning to our expertise. Here? Nada.

ETA: Kady writes a post of her own on the subject.

I tell ya; Macleans is about the only credible dead-tree (and online) traditional news source left in this country. Wish I could afford a subscription to the magazine!

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My Kind of Man!

Here is one man's story of consciousness, responsibility and caring for our little blue planet.
Last year, I became castrated impotent sterile. That is, I had a vasectomy. While it's actually a very common procedure (nearly 500,000 are performed every year in the US), it raises eyebrows - and a lot of questions.

I know other men, my brother included, who've opted for a vasectomy. As with women who decide to terminate, permanently, their ability to conceive, it is not done without considerable insight and social awareness.
Although this was a very personal decision for me, it was also a choice I made out of larger societal, political, and environmental motivations. I consider the environmental ones paramount. In an economic system that demands infinite growth with finite resources, not doubling my own consumption is one small stone in a big river.

The medical procedure is uncomplicated. After few days of discomfort, he is no longer able to impregnate his partners.
For men, vasectomies are simple. There are almost no side effects and no long-term impacts; it's a quick, low-cost, outpatient procedure. Having decided that I want to take an active role in birth control, a vasectomy is fair, easy, and it confronts my privilege on this issue.

It is profound way of taking responsibility and relieves women of the burden of birth control.
All the other common birth control methods have one aspect in common: They place the onus on women. Not only does our society expect women to deal with the logistics of birth control, but these methods also have severe physiological drawbacks, from roller-coaster hormonal changes to intensifying menstruation cycles to weight and skin changes. Although these methods have come a long way in a few decades, they still burden women and their bodies. Is it any coincidence that in a male-dominated society, the medical establishment has thus far focused on birth control methods that leave the burden solely on women?

This man and others who chose vasectomies are heroes in my book!

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15 June 2009

What's the Matter with People?!

I'm astonished at how little attention most bloggers, including progressive bloggers, are paying to the Iran situation.

Don't you CARE what's happening to the MILLIONS of Iranians protesting against Ahmadinejad's coup? Are you all so focused on your own little corner of the world? Or is it that Iran isn't sexy enough - while Gaza, for a time, was?

Wherever human rights are denied, progressives must do whatever they can to fight the good fight.

Want to help the Iranian protesters? I include some tips in the post below.

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The Revolution WILL be Broadcast - Seven Demands

Just picked up on Twitter... The protesters, during their one MILLION strong march today, drafted the following demands:

  1. Dismissal of Khamenei for not being a fair leader.
  2. Dismissal of Ahmadinejad for his illegal acts.
  3. Temporary appointment of Ayatollah Montazeri as the Supreme Leader.
  4. Recognition of Mousavi as the President.
  5. Forming the Cabinet by Mousavi to prepare for revising the Constitution.
  6. Unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners.
  7. Dissolution of all organs of repression, public or secret.

Source: TehranBureau.

Want to help? If you don't already have a Twitter account, get one! Then set your timezone under your profile to GMT+3:30 - Tehran.

Then start tweeting and include '#iranelection', 'iran9' (without the scare quotes) in all your Iran-related tweets. This will confuse Iranian government techs who are trying to track down Iranian citizen journalists.

The best way to follow what's happening in the Twitterverse is to use this site, which was set up by the folks at Twazzup, expressly for helping the Iranians get the word out.

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14 June 2009

UPDATE 2: The Revolution WILL be Broadcast

CBC's Jian Ghomeshi speaks at a protest event earlier today.

See also the video in post below, which is getting a lot of attention. It shows both the size and strength of the protest, and compassion as some protesters protect and help an injured police officer.

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UPDATE: The Revolution WILL be Broadcast

Thank goodness for social media! What's happening in Iran is all over the Twitterverse. Check out the hashtag #iranelection for eyewitness accounts and other news, also this new Twazzup site which provides live second-by-second updates.

Among the latest: 120 academics have resigned at Sharif University, also this graphic video of riot police caught by crowd of protesters.

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13 June 2009

Obstetrician Denies Woman Tubal Ligation

Apparently, 21-year-old Tarrah Seymour is old enough to marry and make an informed decision about having children - she and her husband Adam Sylvester are about to have their second child -, but not old enough to decide she doesn't want anymore kids after that.

The young couple asked her obstetrician to do a tubal ligation when he does the Caesarean section they've planned for October.

"No, I won't do it," Dr. Kayode Ayodele told her unequivocally. "You're too young."

A tubal ligation was simply not even open for discussion. He told her that she might get involved with someone else down the road and regret her decision. He told her it's a permanent sterilization method and he's had so many patients wanting it reversed, that he won't even consider performing one now on any woman under 25....

Seymour's family doctor was not surprised by the obstetrician's refusal. He warned her that while he would keep looking, he doubted he would be able to find any ob/gyn willing to perform the procedure.

There are no age guidelines for tubal ligations, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, but their Canadian Conception Consensus does note that 14 years later, 20% of women sterilized before age 30 expressed regret in a survey, compared to 6% of those who were over 30.

Because one-fifth of women under 30 surveyed "expressed regret" for having had a tubal ligation, the other FOUR-FIFTHs should have been denied?

IT'S OUR BODIES, you damn fools!

I was the same age as Seymour when I had my tubal ligation and never regretted it. I suppose I was fortunate that the first doctor I asked, after expressing concern about my age and possible future regret, didn't hesitate to honour my decision.

H/t feministfatale on Twitter, via Bust Magazine.

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11 June 2009

I KNEW it! I just knew it!

My hair was entirely white by the time I was 30 years of age. Given that premature grey hair doesn't run in my family, it was always obvious to me what (and who) was to blame. Now there's corroborating evidence.

When an aging mouse's lovely brown fur turns grey, she can now officially blame stress - at least, the kind of stress that damages DNA, Japanese researchers have confirmed....

[The researchers] teased out the apparent mechanism that causes hair to lose its colour during aging. [They] subjected mice to high levels of a type of stress called "genotoxic stress," which damages DNA - something that all living organisms experience constantly through exposure to ultraviolet light, other radiation and certain types of chemicals.

Now couple that report with this study and one can understand how stress due to prolonged childhood abuse can cause the hair of the grown adult to turn prematurely grey.

If children are abused early, they are flooded with stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, said Louise Newman, a professor of perinatal and infant psychiatry at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

"This impacts directly on how the brain develops and the stress regulation mechanism. It becomes highly stressed so it's like setting the thermostat on high, setting up a system which regulates stress less efficiently," Newman said.

Have always argued that my mother downloaded her stress onto me. No surprise then, that while my hair was turning white before my eyes, my mother remained, well into her 60s, raven-haired, with only an attractive grey streak falling seductively from her temple.

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CTV, Ethics and the Harper-Duffy Show

Thomas Mulcair, NDP MP: "Why did they make the announcement hundreds of kilometres away from Parliament and not in Parliament as they were supposed to do with a cream-puff interview with Mike Duffy, the former TV guy from CTV who's now a Conservative senator?"

Like Harper, Mike Duffy is an embarrassment. He's an embarrassment to journalism. He's an embarrassment to the Senate. He's an embarrassment to Canada.

So is CTV. Word is that some spokesperson for the network declared CTV would NOT air the Harper-Duffy Show. Then it did. Now if that's true - I've not a TV and refuse to access CTV newcasts online; hence I cannot verify this -, then such behaviour sounds awfully familiar. Recall the Steve Murphy-Mike Duffy Live treatment of Stephane Dion's interview outtakes, subsequently found to be in breach of journalistic ethical standards.

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French High Court: Internet Access Fundamental Right

Can't disagree with this statement. In their ruling regarding web piracy, France's highest court, the Constitutional Council, declared the Internet to be "a fundamental human right that can not be taken away by anything other than a court of law."

Certainly in modern democracies Internet access is a political necessity. In Canada, it should be included among our demands for democratic reform.

[Cross-posted at NADER.]

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10 June 2009

Tears of Stress, not Contrition

I don't buy the tears. Lisa Raitt has been under a lot of pressure and her political career is in jeopardy.

Of course, she was sincere when she talked about how cancer touched her own family, but I don't buy her sincerity when she expressed remorse for her insensitive words.

Mix the stress of the last several weeks and days (and coming ones) with past memories and ipso facto, you get tears. Those tears shed by Raitt were for herself, not for the people she hurt.

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09 June 2009

California to Swap School Textbooks for Ebooks

This is fantastic news! Finally, a government in North America is moving into the 21st century!

Beginning in August 2010 high school students in California will be using online math and science texts, rather than their hardcover versions. In addition, students will be provided with e-readers. Some of these devices can store as many as 1,000 books.

The e-reader on my wish-list? The Cybook Gen3, pictured above.

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08 June 2009

Allegations of Baird Coverup

Did John Baird's changes to the Port Authority's constitution and his appointment of two new Board members immediately subsequent to the December prorogue constitute a coverup? Such is the allegation that he did so to quell a move by the Board to examine mismanagement claims against Lisa Raitt.

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Alberta Cons Looove Ignatieff Libs

More evidence that there's little to differentiate between the Harper Conservatives and the Ignatieff Liberals. In Harper country it's Iggy who is gettin' the looove.

Talking points, prepared by the [Alberta] provincial Conservative government's caucus office and distributed to party MLAs, argues that federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is doing more to champion the lucrative oil sands than Prime Minister Stephen Harper....

"Why is the Federal Liberal Leader giving more ringing endorsements about the importance of the Alberta oil sands than our Prime Minister from Calgary," the document says.

In the meantime, Harper communications strategy - which is NOT to communicate - also draws fire from his homeboys.

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Raitt still has "confidence of the PM"

... despite the latest. Alas, the PM hasn't the confidence of the people. Unfortunately for the people, with Iggy at the helm of the Liberals there's little to differentiate the two parties.

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Number of Bloggers Would Disagree, Ms. Raitt

A friend of ours - also a friend of Progressive Bloggers - was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. We take exception to your statement, Ms. Raitt, that the isotope issue is "sexy" due to its propensity to conjure up (legitimate) fears of "radioactive leaks, cancer." I doubt our friend would agree, and I cannot imagine her anger and shock when she learns of your remarks.

Fortunately for our friend, who had to ask her surgeon about this today, she will not be affected by the isotope shortage. Other cancer patients will not be so lucky.

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06 June 2009

Feds Urged to Help People Buy Cars

Another $350 million this program would cost, to encourage people to trade in their old jalopies for a new auto. Nothing like pouring more money after bad, nothing like embalming the harmful, dead culture around which our society has been built.

Until we let dinosaurs like the auto industry die, we can't move forward to a better future.

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05 June 2009

"Our" Recovery Unaffected by Rising Loonie

Loonie's surge threatens our recovery, blares the headline, one of many similar headlines topping financial news reports today.

But here's the thing. "Our" recovery obviously doesn't include people whose households fall below the lowest tenth in income.

The higher dollar will, eventually, mean lower prices, once manufacturers and retailers have grudgingly unstuck their sticky prices.

Life at the bottom of the poverty well floats at much the same rate regardless of activities above. The poor haven't investments that can be hurt by the rising loonie, so our recovery will be unaffected, if not slightly improved.

Your recovery may be a different matter, however.

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THIS is Community

My Friend is living with terminal cancer. He is indigent. His family is too far away to help. Friend reached out to the community for support.

An amazing occurrence has taken place. Within one evening a few close friends gathered together to devise a plan that would enlist many loving hands to honour Friend's request that he live at home with his beloved son and dog by his side, eating the food he likes, listening to favorite music and spending time with as many of his friends as possible.

Registered Nurses make daily visits, the Doctor makes house calls and LPN's come to spend the nights. The community of friends come at scheduled times, so Friend is never alone.

Very few of us have money but there is an abundance of love available, which is freely given. It is awesome, in the largest sense of the word, what has transpired. We rented a hall, had a pot luck dinner, silent auction, Tango and Salsa dance demonstrations, poetry reading and five live Bands to entertain us. Friend was there, even managed to dance the Tango. Enough money was raised to cover Friend's expenses and pay for his choice of a Green Burial.

THIS is what "poor" people can do. THIS is what love is. THIS IS COMMUNITY.

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Sad Story

Picked up on Twitter: Jesus leads authorities on three-hour car chase, shoots self.

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04 June 2009

Home Ownership About Autonomy Not Equity

There are three classes of people when it comes to shelter: home-owners, home-renters and home-owners who lease homes to renters.

Home-owners have autonomy and can, if they wish, smoke, have animal companions and do whatever they like within the walls of their own homes, subject to the law.

Renters do not have similar licence. They are subject to the dictates of the people who own the home. Renters of homes have no protection in law, for example, to smoke or have animal companions. Landlords can deny renters privileges the owners themselves have, for no other reason than they own the property in question.

This issue of autonomy, more than housing as equity, is what makes home ownership for renters so vital, especially for renters whose autonomy is already reduced by income or health barriers.

In British Columbia, landlords can refuse to rent to people who have animal companions. Now some landlords of multiple-unit dwellings are refusing to rent to people who smoke.

I don't smoke. Selfishly, I'd appreciate living in a smoke-free building. But I think it's wrong that people who smoke can be denied rental accommodation. I think it's wrong that, in terms of autonomy, 'home' doesn't have the same meaning for owners and renters and that owners can impose rules that they themselves don't have to live by.

Essentially, I think it's wrong that owners can lord it over people who've no choice but to rent their homes.

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About that 30% Threshold to Obtain Mortgages

To obtain a mortgage, the standard income to total shelter expenditure - mortgage, property tax, maintenance, phone/internet, insurance - is 30 percent. It has been 30 percent for at least the past four decades.

Why? Why that threshold and why has it never been changed?

Times are not what they were forty, or even ten, years ago. People don't all have the same priorities or want the same lifestyles. A growing number of home owners do, and are getting by, on paying 50 percent or more of their income on shelter expenses. Renters pay upwards of 70 percent of their household income on shelter now.

So what is the rationale behind mortgage lenders' carved-in-stone 30 percent income to shelter expense threshold? Why are people refused a mortgage if they would, without hesitation, pay more of their household income, say the 50 or 70 percent they are already paying, toward preserving a roof over their heads, but one that they actually own?

To me there's something extremely elitist, not to mention unrealistic given today's market, about that threshold.

First, consider its originators and perpetuators: certain haves who cannot conceive of a lifestyle other than their own, people who cannot conceive of anyone who pays the majority of her household income on shelter as other than a person who is destitute or hard-done-by.

Well, here's a message to such haves: Not everyone considers travel, new clothes every season, dining out, or cottage or vehicle ownership as essential. Some of us are quite content - or would be, if we had a chance! - to own a tiny house on a bit of land in a beautiful spot and leave the rest of the world and its trappings and its lavish, monied values behind.

Second, the 30 percent threshold imposed from on high serves not only to broaden the gap between the rich and the poor, or the propertied and the non-propertied, it entrenches and deepens class divisions.

Which leaves me wondering... Perhaps that's why the threshold has never been changed. It does more than maintain the status quo, it increases the social stature of those already better off. In other words, the threshold serves those with the power to preserve it.

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Harper Government Imploding

1. Since the provinces aren't moving, or moving fast enough, to eliminate all trade barriers within Canada (aka, adopt TILMA agreements which allow out-of-province businesses to challenge the awarding of municipal contracts), Harper & Co. are working to bring NAFTA down on communities instead.

2. Raitt-gate and the Chalk River fiasco. It's not just the leaving behind of documents that's at issue but what the documents revealed.

3. Silver loaned to Ottawa from Buckingham Palace auctioned-off.

4. Gold from the Canadian Mint misplaced.

5. Ottawa ordered by Federal Court to return Abousfian Abdelrazik home.

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03 June 2009

Harper "Strongly Advises" Iggy: Don't vote down government

Wanna bet the implied "or else" is another cancellation of Opposition days and/or an early closing of Parliament for the summer?

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UPDATE: $1,500 Homeless Home Project

... found a home. But there's a problem concerning their being used as homes.

From my March 2nd post:

Remember the $1,500 tiny houses that students of the Emily Carr Institute designed for an assignment given them by instructor Christian Blyt? Well for several months the project itself was homeless.

The struggle for the Home for Less Project to be adopted by communities facing a homeless problem couldn't have been more ironic. No Lower Mainland municipality would take them, despite the urgent need for affordable temporary and permanent housing and despite the inclusive philosophy behind the project.
“The main objective ... was a form of three-dimensional communication,” says Blyt. “We wanted to show that with very limited resources, you can create homes for these citizens, and I keep stressing citizens because they are citizens with rights just like the rest of us.”

Now these 64 square-foot houses have found permanent residence.

"Home for Less Project," wrote Blyt in an email to me this morning, "has found a permanent home on Bowen Island through the efforts of the Bowen Community Housing Association and a private citizen that will be donating land where the units will be placed in the beginning of April."

Thank goodness for the volunteer community, grassroots organizing, Mr. Blyt and his students! Had we to depend on government to get the job done, we'd be waiting years and likely by that time, the situation would have grown worse.

TODAY: All of which sounds wonderful, doesn't it? I would be thrilled to live in one of those tiny homes! But then there is this:

While the houses were originally slated to house a few of the Island's twenty-plus homeless people, their arrival was met with scepticism, as many residents worried the mini houses would attract homeless people to the Island.

According to Richard Best of the BCHA the houses will remain empty for the foreseeable future, though they will serve to educate islanders about the need for more affordable housing.

From hope to despair in the space of a single sentence.

Why are people with money or property so afraid of people without it? All any of us want is a place to call our own and a community that respects our right to live a dignified existence.

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Bury me Green

No, it's not the title of a song.

It is Friend's request. I'd never heard of a Green Burial, so went into research mode and found a cemetery that caters to those who want to be kind to Mother Earth, even after death.

More research brought me to "Green to the Grave". I'm impressed.

More people are turning to natural burials, typically much simpler than traditional ceremonies. Bodies are preserved with refrigeration or dry ice rather than embalming; cotton shrouds and biodegradable coffins replace metal or ornate wooden caskets; and the body is placed in a shallow grave instead of deep inside a concrete vault. Burials take place not in a traditional cemetery, but in a natural area destined to be protected and preserved for posterity as a woodland or nature reserve

Alas, for those of us contemplating cremation the options are not good.

Cremation, with its discharge of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and other airborne pollutants, including a few nasty ones like mercury vapor from teeth fillings, is not especially kind to the environment either.

Talking these options over Friend is enlightening. And an affirmation that even as death approaches, there is all that is Life to consider.

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To Improve Their Lives, Poor Use Underground Economy

Contrary to public perception, 80 to 90 percent of the very poor spend most of their waking hours trying to improve their lives. However, they don't do it using standard means. Invariably they can't due to barriers imposed by the rigid societies which surround them.

As Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail, reports

Deepa Narayan and her team of analysts at the World Bank have been transforming our understanding of global poverty for the past several years, and their work has culminated in a huge-scale work, Moving Out of Poverty: Success from the Bottom Up.

Based on interviews with 10,000 very poor people in a dozen countries, ... Dr. Narayan and her colleagues found that what stops people from making it out of poverty is, most often, a lack of market opportunities. Because the world of jobs, businesses, licences and investments is tied up and tightly controlled by the established middle class, poor people's only avenue is through the informal system - hang out a shingle, start buying and selling and investing and don't worry about formalities.

Compare the above with these comments by WISE storyteller Anna:

Conducting business in North American society is very much different from the society I was born and raised in. If we want to start a business in my country, you get your supplies and whatever else and you’re able to set up, you’re able to start selling and people will support you. When it comes to the liabilities and legalities of it, we don’t have to worry about putting $20,000 – $30,000 into starting a business. We don’t have to worry about all this liability insurance, these permits, that licensing. We don’t have to worry about how the competition will react or is doing better, or how we need to select our target market group, or do adequate promotions and marketing and sales and advertisement strategies. We don’t have to worry about writing 25- to 30-page business plans, financials. All this nonsense is basically another way to oppress people.

Top-down strategies designed not by those living the experience but by purported experts nonetheless - and thus deemed the most appropriate strategies - are expected to be welcomed by the poor and to be the most useful to them. Yet most often those strategies contain unworkable assumptions. Anna, for example, got caught in a maze of bureaucratic red tape and the most illogical, asinine, dehumanizing trail of unrelated regulatory hoops ever to be conceived. To receive assistance, she had to play the victim.

I asked, Are there anymore resources that may be of help to me? I was referred to the Disability Resource Centre. Now with the DRC, I have to prove that I have a disability. It means I have to revisit my past. I have to go back ten years into my life and dredge up some kind of traumatic stress syndrome to be qualified for some type of disability. They are sending a 5-page form to my family doctor to confirm that I have a disability. That’s a violation of my human rights, having to play a victim role. I shouldn’t be put in the position of having to revisit any illness from 10-15 years ago and show how it still affects me today. Whether or not it does, it shouldn’t be a basis and foundation for me getting funding.

How ridiculous, counter-productive and potentially harmful is that?! Not everyone benefits from dredging up the past, from tearing open scars that have grown over old wounds.

All the red tape is nothing but another method of control. No wonder so many poor people opt out of the system in order to earn a survival living! The system leaves them no choice.

Too bad the powers-that-be don't include at least 50 percent of the real experts on poverty at the policy-making table. The poor have plenty of solutions and most are far cheaper than those proposed by academics. Alas, those same powers likely know that in adopting solutions proposed by the true leaders of change, they'd have to relinquish control. Clearly, that's not a good sell.

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02 June 2009

Tweeting on Hunger Awareness Day

The conversation began with Michael Shapcott reminding the Twitter-sphere that it's National Hunger Awareness Day. The following shows that I am not, contrary to my own previous declaration, finished with poverty activism.

michaelshapcott National hunger awareness day today in Canada: More than 700,000 forced to use foodbanks monthly http://tinyurl.com/msjtll

tidewaters RT @FrancescaBG : RT @michaelshapcott : 700,000+ use food banks monthly http://is.gd/MruG | That # misleading. Many poor won't use food banks.

michaelshapcott Just back from Commons committee hearings on poverty: Everyone is polite - what we need is political commitment, timelines, targets, $$$

tidewaters RT @michaelshapcott : Just back from Commons committee on poverty: Everyone is polite <= Have had it w/ "polite"; it often cloaks patronizing

michaelshapcott RT @tidewaters : RT @michaelshapcott : 700,000+ at food banks | # misleading. Many poor won't use food banks// This is very sad and very true

tidewaters Grocers in my community donate ALL day-olds/off veggies/etc to food bank. Leave nothing 4 poor who won't use food bank. ...Cont'd

tidewaters Cont'd... Grocer policy 2 send all old fd 2 fd bank sends msg: If UR poor, U must use food bank. Treats all poor alike. Limits our choice.

FrancescaBG @tidewaters it's a paradox,I've gotten hampers for families who just can't imagine going themselves to a FB

tidewaters @FrancescaBG It's complicated. For many, it's about privacy, self-esteem, not wanting 2b object of charity, wanting 2 do 4 self...

tidewaters @FrancescaBG Or 2b seen as begging. A WISE storyteller: "I did all kinds of begging when I was growing up: Pls don't hit me, pls love me..."

tidewaters @FrancescaBG Cont'd WISE storyteller: "Pls look at me as a person. Now I won't beg for anything." Like many WISE ST's she exp. child abuse.

Moral of the story: To be at the mercy, charity or behest of the Other can be more than a person can do. Personal histories can impair the ability to trust or to seek help in ways seen as appropriate or fitting by supporters (and even many challengers) of the status quo. One must constantly check one's assumptions.

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01 June 2009

Maybe You Can Relate.

So there I am, minding my own business wondering if my three part-time jobs will cover expenses for the next month when a good pal phones me with the news that our mutual Friend is dying of cancer. He says that said Friend wants me to accept Power of Attorney on his behalf, agree to a Representation Agreement (means that I and three others make medical decisions on his behalf when he can no longer do so) and become the executor, with one other, of his Will.

Well, those requests are hard to turn down, as I have known said Friend for 30 years!

Suddenly, my life is turned upside down. I take a leave of absence from one of the three jobs, dedicate myself to organizing other friends to spend time, cook, clean, do laundry, slot in massage treatments, sit with Friend, make sure his dog is fed and other sundry details too numerous to list. Not to mention spending many long hours with Friend, holding his hand, listening, commiserating and trying to understand the journey he is on.

The end is near.

Now it must be decided if he enters a palliative care facility far from his community or continues to stay home. Which means the added burden of travelling, of ensuring that medical aid is programmed to suit the circumstances, supporting the caring community of friends, making decisions regarding the medical care he receives, ensuring the burial requests are covered (he wants it to be "green"), comforting his teenage son and contacting overseas friends and relatives.

I am almost stretched beyond my limit as I care for my Friend. I love him, no question, even though we are poles apart as far as his life-style and mine are concerned.

I'm reeling. Can anyone relate?

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Community, Poverty and Helping by Butting Out

Am really enjoying Twitter. It's fun and a great vehicle for learning about new resources and reaching more people than you might otherwise. Of the latter, have been tweeting seriously for only six weeks and already have 144 followers.

SusanneUre What makes a community? A community is a group of people united through a common struggle with the same stories. http://twurl.nl/y5jz3s

tidewaters P1 What a gr8 blog! RT @SusanneUre : What makes a community? Group of ppl united thru common struggle w/ same stories. http://is.gd/LNjA

tidewaters P2 Do-gooders pls note: A community is a group of ppl united by a common struggle & same stories. Ergo, butt out unless asked.

tidewaters P3 Note 2 do-gooders: Poor & homeless ppl form communities. Dont assume their communities can't help themselves, haven't their own leaders.

tidewaters P4. If U really want to help poor/homeless, always value their proposed solutions higher than those proposed by the usual suspects.

The link provided by Susanne pointed to a post on a blog titled "The Art of Non-Conformity." Subscribed to its feed immediately on the basis of the title alone.

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GM Share Comes Without Power Steering

Here is how The Current opened its show today:

It's Monday, June 1st.

At the going rate, the bail-out of General Motors will cost Canadians about 1.4 million dollars for every GM job.

Currently, that price does not include power steering.

Nor is it likely to in the future.

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Government as Shareholder Counter to Public Interest

I have never supported corporate bailouts. I do not support politicos who hail market capitalism during the good times and harrumph, posture, and then hail corporate socialism during the bad times.

Now it is reported that Ottawa will become a shareholder of GM. While there are those who might argue that reaping profits (if there ever are any) could be advantageous to taxpayers in such circumstances, I disagree.

How does owning a stake in GM - an industry, not just a corporation, whose financial bottom line depends on a nation-wide infrastructure and a lifestyle based on private, individually-owned vehicles - encourage the federal government to invest in public transportation? Doesn't investing in the one contradict investing in the other?

What about environmental regulations which would challenge Ottawa's profit margin?

I anticipate all kinds of ethical dilemmas on this slippery slope. Unless, of course, the government should exercise foresight (which I've yet to witness) and insist - with its 16 (to reduce to 11.7) percent clout and single Board member - that GM put as much of its resources into producing railcars and buses as in private vehicles.

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