Monday, October 19, 2015

Just another prediction

It's going to be a minority, but the next mandate is going to be the most trouble that Canada has ever seen. The person who will win it (most likely Justin Trudeau) will most likely wish he hadn't. Stephen Harper will probably take a winter vacation and never come back.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The power of denigration

I guess that many of you reading this weren't around during the Cold War, when the United States was the protector from communism we all loved to hate, although not entirely without reason. Yes, they were a  tad overbearing at times, I can remember the Reagan years, and being a teenager throughout most of that time, thought that the Americans were a bit too imperialistic.

Fast forward to now, I still think that they were a bit pushy then, but the rest of the world also said and did a lot of things about America and Americans that they should not have, and I believe that, going back ten years, it culminated in American foreign policy when they invaded Iraq and the toxic atmosphere in international relations that was created. The U.S. seemed to be reacting to all the trash-talk that it took from abroad for decades by returning all the insults it had previously seemed to take in stride, and much of the American conservative movement still seems to operate on this mindset, fighting a new Cold War against anyone who questions them, at home and abroad.

During this time, it was the Europeans, the French in particular, who took the brunt of the Americans' seemingly hostile new attitude toward anyone who did not support whatever they did. Whatever France's reasons were for not entering into the second Gulf War (most likely Jacques Chirac's general loathing of all things English-speaking), overnight, they were America's newest enemies, all things French are bad and needed to be changed (remember 'Freedom Fries'?), and their war record in the past century was cited over and over again, accusing them of cowardice in battle (surrendered to the Nazis after five days as one example).

Back to the present, France seems to have picked up the slack that the U.S. has left in being "the world's policeman" (which they seem very unwilling or unable to do at the moment), taking the lead on things like the ouster of Col. Khdaffy as one example. I do believe that this is a direct response to all the bashing that it took due to the Iraq invasion and they are trying to prove them wrong at every turn. It's quite understandable, as was the Americans' hyperdefensiveness during that war. It seemed that the entire American conservative movement was reacting to being beaten and held down for so long, but they have yet to get it entirely out of their system.

Some lessons here:
  1. People are fickle. For example, one day everyone's hating on the Americans, now they're not.
  2. National pride can be a fragile thing, even a superpower like the United States.
  3. Trash-talk in politics (particularly at the international level) ultimately leads to irrational decision-making and festering ill-feeling, even if it's delayed. 

This is a link I was looking for, just found it now. Apparently the U.S. is not disengaging from the world, and frankly I'm glad they're not. I do believe that the U.S. and what it stands for is a force for good in the world, but the Iraq war just exemplified doing it the wrong way with the wrong attitude.

Monday, January 13, 2014

These are the good old days

I keep hearing about economic inequality, I guess that is only here in the West. In most (but certainly not all) other places, things are getting better. Nations that we refer to as 'developing' are becoming 'developed', and more people are being lifted out of extreme poverty. According to a British magazine called the Spectator, rising international trade increased wealth and community-based programs are the reasons for it, not government programs. It also mentions UN Millenium Goals (without bashing the UN, pleasant surprise) being met and exceeded.

Someone else drawing much of the same conclusions, but from a liberal perspective.

What do we have to look forward to this year? Worldwide hunger is being halved, more people around the world are literate, and certain diseases are being eliminated, largely because more people are getting vaccinated. Again, UN Development goals are being met. Not that it was the UN's doing necessarily, but they set the goals, and I was, quite frankly, skeptical of any of them being met.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

How should we treat our rogues?

So Ronnie Biggs has just been buried (one of those people you did not realize was still alive). I first heard about him when they showed the weekly kids' half-hour news show "What's New?" which my Grade 5 teacher Mrs. Roblee gave up half an hour of teaching time to show us. Perhaps a small part of me was happy for him for winning a real-life version of 'Cops and Robbers'. It may have been a somewhat popular sentiment off-and-on while I was growing up, but these days we have little tolerance for people like him from reading the 'peanut gallery' in those links.

Just recently, I was reading a story from the book 'My Canada' by Pierre Berton about William 'Bill' Johnstone, the 'Pirate of the St. Lawrence'. He was born in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec in 1782 but grew up to despise Canada and fought for the American cause. He had a few successful raids from which he profited quite handsomely, and the few times he was imprisoned, he was a talented escape artist, and he had friends on the American side who helped to grant him a presidential pardon (by William Henry Harrison, who lasted only a month in office before dying of pneumonia).

Today, there is a famous (at least in Quebec) cricket club called 'The Pirates of the St. Lawrence' presumably in his honour. And they actually made a bronze plaque of him 120 years after he sacked and burned the 'Sir Robert Peel', in the country he despised, in 1958 in Ontario, and his memory was celebrated by local dignitaries at the time. As for Biggs, while it is highly unlikely his life will ever be commemorated in any way (at least not by public officials), what I read in the comments in some articles about his life basically call him a monster, or even a sociopath (that word does tend to get thrown around a lot), and I do not want do excuse or condone anything he did, but I do detect an air of increasing self-righteousness in people. Which may not be a bad thing in itself, but we should try to keep things in their proper perspective. Biggs was a petty criminal, nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friends, family, everyone else; read carefully, take heed

I have often wondered why Bob and Suzanne Wright chose the name "Autism Speaks" when that so-called charitable organization was founded in 2005, the name would suggest that we are unable to speak for ourselves. Maybe it was not unintentional, but probably was the the core idea.

At this point, I do not want to judge anyone on the autism spectrum who does associate with or receive services from them (whatever those services are), but a long-running complaint against them was the lack of representation of actual autistic people, either employed by them or on their board of directors (even in an advisory role). Being someone who is currently (and proudly) the Nova Scotia representative of the Advisory Committee of the Autism Society of Canada, I did not want to put anyone on the spectrum in a "Catch 22" situation who is currently employed by Autism Speaks or any of their chapters (I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to steer them to a righteous path). As much as I disliked 'Autism Speaks' since their inception, I still held out some hope for them, that they would acknowledge their scientific and ethical mistakes and atone for them. (What's Wrong With Autism Speaks? Let her count the ways). But as of this week, I have abandoned all hope for them, they are dead to me.

While they do use some of their donations to fund scientific studies, their overall purpose seems to be to eradicate, or 'cure' autism, and funded medical studies towards that dubious end. But they have descended into a scientific and moral basement, when they gave an endorsement for the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts (brief wiki here). At an upcoming Walk Now for Autism function in Washington, D.C., they have listed the JRC as a 'service' and given them a booth at a resource fair planned for that day (explained at length by Autistic Hoya). As a result of this decision, John Elder Robison has announced his resignation from a couple of boards of Autism Speaks, and explains his decision quite thoroughly.

So in short, if you want to remain on my good side (and you know you do >:-), you should not give any acknowledgement to that particular outfit, and if you should run into a representative of Autism Speaks, tell them to take their puzzle pieces and shove 'em.

P.S. An acknowledgement of gratitude to Jenny McCarthy, from a 31 year-old woman with pertussis.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Happy (admittedly belated) Blasphemy Day!

One of the great things about living in Canada is that you can be accused of saying something blasphemous and not be arrested for it (a slight chance of getting assaulted if you insult the wrong religion, but still slight). I am not an atheist, but also not easily offended. I would like to think that most of the Western world is the same way, but if enough religious people get worked up enough, nowhere is safe, in what should be free societies.

I just stumbled onto something, Canada actually does have a blasphemy law. One can only assume that it is dated from around the time Canada became a country, maybe even before that. Most European countries likely had blasphemy laws dating back to the Middle Ages, were meant only for Christian religions, and may still have them on the books. However, like Canada, most of them have never gotten around to repealing them or saw any urgent need to do so. They all may want to consider doing so, because the people who want to prosecute others with these laws are not likely to be Christian anymore.

Back to my original point, this sort of thing needs to be dealt with clearly and resolutely. No minority (or non-minority) should assume that their own laws (religious laws particularly) apply abroad. I still like the idea of multiculturalism but it is one of those good ideas that ultimately goes too far. There should be some set boundaries as to what concessions we should make, and they should be expected to give up some things in their new country. The main idea behind it is "give and take" and not to move in and "try to take charge of the entire sandbox".

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Chronicle of Murder

From what I gathered without seeing it, it was like a documentary of a murder that you just knew was going to happen if you followed that horrible blog 'Age of Autism' like I used to. I used to follow it on Google Reader when I was working and researching for Autistics Aloud, but I stopped following 'AoA' and writing about the discredited 'vaccines cause autism' garbage because I believed that it would diminish and eventually become a non-issue if people like me stopped talking about it, and we could go on to more relevant issues. I was mistaken, it is still an issue because enough people still cling to it, and this pseudoscience may still be gaining wider acceptance among conspiracy theorists who allege a coverup with government and Big Pharma.

But most of all, it is an issue because a young man is dead. His name is Alex Spourdalakis, fourteen years old, and he was murdered by his mother and godmother. On the surface, it could appear to be a case of 'caregiver fatigue', not that it would be an excuse by any means. He was a non-verbal autistic boy, and it turned out that he was being treated with 'alternative medicine', or 'autism biomed' in an attempt to 'cure' him of autism. He was sick, and apparently getting sicker, but it was because of the side effects of the medical quackery that was trying to 'cure' him of autism.

They had all kinds of help with their 'alternative medicine' from people like CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who recently made a report (video available as of this writing) and herself has had a history of unethical reporting and advocating for bad science. In this case, the report gets too close to the subject matter (tries to make you feel sorry for the caregivers) and advertises a website on YouTube called "The Autism Media Channel" which is run by anti-autism advocate Polly Tommey and frequently features Andrew Wakefield and his junk science.

I could make a case about the deplorable state of journalism here in Canada and the U.S., but that would be more appropriate for another post. The bottom line here is that a boy is dead, and was killed by a lethal combination of bad medicine and ableism. His mother and godmother thought basically that he was better off dead than autistic. This was documented over a period of time, and we can only hope that it adds up to a conviction of first-degree murder and all that entails.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

W(h)ither Blossom?

Say it ain't so, Mayim. It seems that this woman who plays an ├╝ber-geek in one of the few TV shows I watch faithfully anymore, (unlike her fellow actors, it's not really 'acting' for her) is betraying science. This article at makes some fascinating comparisons with her and Jenny McCarthy, who will be able to spread her deadly anti-vaccination quackery to a much wider audience on ABC's 'The View'.

Except in Bialik's case, she does have a PhD. and is a scientist in real life, which gives her some real credibility, but her scientific credibility flies south with her apparent embracing of McCarthy's anti-vaccination stance and homeopathy.

It's hard to say what's worse, someone with no scientific credentials spouting junk science to a wide audience, or an actual scientist who has done great work giving credibility to the same junk science who has a smaller following of intelligent, educated people who ought to know better but a few of whom might fall for this dangerous way of thinking, and spread it to other people as well.

Still on the subject of bad science, here is a listing of the 10 worst anti-science websites from another 'skeptical' website. Some of which you may well be familiar with (the Huffington Post makes no. 10), some you may dismiss at the outset as conspiracy mongering (911truth dot org for one), and others that dismiss science (Answers in Genesis). The list covers left and right on the political spectrum, so no one should feel left out.

Got Oranges?

I just can't imagine life without them. From what I've seen of this years crop, there is something seriously wrong. This may make you want to consider using genetically-modified organisms. Mainstream science does accept them, even if there are no long-term studies because this is relatively new science.

Now before anyone screams 'MONSANTO!!!', let me assure you that I am no fan of theirs either. If there should be any labeling, they should say whether they have been in any way processed by any product made my Monsanto, GMO or not. The hysteria around 'frankenfoods' may well have been overhyped, but we will not know for sure unless we try, or spend the rest of our lives without O.J. with our breakfast.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stick to what you know

First of all, I like rap. I also like country music. I like most genres of music that I have heard, but I don't think that I have a favourite. There is a lot of great music which I will never hear, or like. That's just me and my personal tastes. I bought a rap record second hand in the late '80s, 'Raising Hell' by Run-DMC, because it had the version of 'Walk This Way' that I had become more familiar with, and ended up liking it better than the original (the entire album, pretty good). Having established that, I could never get into 'gangsta' rap, with its violent, misogynistic lyrics, and the near-constant ingratiating (is that the right word?) references to themselves by name and all the 'bling' they have. 

As for the recent controversy with Drake, I did not hear the song, I just read the lyrics. Yes, I was taken aback, but I did not take it personally. Ignorance abounds, I have long accepted that. Not to be politically correct here, but this sort of thing should be nipped in the bud early, because this could contribute to problems already experienced by people with disabilities, or start a dangerous new trend (I have always thought that that episode of "South Park" which had 'Kick a Ginger Day' unwittingly did just that). 

His and J Cole's apology does not change my opinion of him (If you feel the need to apologize to Autism Speaks, you have definitely done something wrong). He still doesn't get it, but it is too soon to expect a change of attitude. I will not hold it against him, I have always had a bigger problem with people who actually know autistic people and try to 'help' us. (more examples here and here [FB]).

Peace out.