Dell's Canadian Tails

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dell on Using Your Brain

Shelley was here early this morning. My grand-daughter told me her visit was an opportunity to bring out the heavier stuff before Canada Day weekend, but when we sat down for a coffee on the deck, right off the git go she mentions an "unusual phenomenon", and I knew it wasn't about the lawn chairs and tables.
"Unusual phenomenon" is a term Shelley uses when she's talking about her online experiences [see Dell on Dating & Fishing]. Shelley's an IT wizard and finds her way into all sorts of places [legally, she assures me].
"Be specific, Shell," I said, wondering if she was about to say I had done something wrong on my blog.
What she told me was certainly food for thought. You see, Google Analytics, which has something to do with bounce rates [see Dell on Getting It: June 19th], is apparently so sophisticated, a blogger can check his analytics to learn which blogs were read, on which day, the depth of each visit and location by city, around the world.

Her unusual phenomenon was something she found out using Google Analytics for my blog. She said there had been an unusually high number of visits from Bracebridge and North Bay, Ontario, together with in-depth viewing and serious time spent reading my blog posts. I was all set to strut around the deck like a peacock when she stopped me cold with this:

"I queried Google using those two cities and the word "G20" and up comes a link to a page with the banner: G20 Security Guards - Private Investigations - North Bay Huntsville Bracebridge Orillia Gravenhurst."

"Back up," I said,"are you saying I do or I don't have a following in Bracebridge and North Bay?"
"Well, it is odd that this unusual phenomenon should occur within hours of your post on The Truth Behind Toronto's G20 Summit Costs, and only from those two cities. And remember that Anonymous email comment, Grampa?"
"I suppose now you're going to tell me my one and only comment isn't from a follower?"
"Well, I wouldn't go that far, but it is unusual that only that post has been commented on."
"Are you telling me that this anonymous person was sending me a comment in order to find out where I am actually located?"
"It's possible, Grampa, if you are something of an expert, to do just that, and to cover your trail," she went on,"In your case, I'd call tracking like that a form of covering your Canadian tail."
"C'mon, Shelley," I responded,"you sound as paranoid as Buzz, with his three plant grow-op."
"I am definitely not going to accuse this security service of anything," Shelley said,"but I will say this, I find it very interesting that your one comment drew an attack crying foul and innuendo. Using the facts at hand is exactly the sort of thing that Google Analytics is basically about: drawing conclusions based on the information provided. Not much point having analytics if you don't apply them."
"Rather like having a brain but refusing to form an opinion. But then accusing someone of innuendo is typical of the bully who will try to gag those who disagree with him. I saw it in action this week with the posts at CBC news' online. The comments sections, below the articles on the Toronto G20 and violations of citizens' rights, were peppered with individuals crying fascist at commenters who supported the Civil Liberties groups or were outraged at the treatment of Canadian citizens protesting peacefully," as an afterthought, I asked her," Am I going to live long enough to see the return of the Canada I remember?"
"I hope you don't mean that literally," Shelley replied.
"You've forgotten my post on Win/Win, already?" and we laughed, but not for long.

Dell on Lies of Omission & Toronto's G20 Security

I took a jaunt to town yesterday, with Ron driving. We went to the walk-in clinic for the doctor's opinion on my sore feet. Gout: just what I thought, but best to have it checked out, and I picked up the prescription while I was in town. Afterward, we stopped at the coffee shop. Perfect timing: the usual suspects were all there. I questioned them on the various issues emerging following Toronto's G20 Summit and want to share with you some of the feedback generated.

Keep in mind that in this neck of the woods, Ontario's solicitor general, Rick Bartolucci, is the Liberal MPP for the riding of Sudbury, as well as the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
You are considered more or less a neighbour if you are within a five hour drive of someone in northern Ontario, so these folks know who Bartolucci is, compared to most Canadians.
You need to understand, too, that Bartolucci isn't particularly popular in these parts having chosen to remain neutral in October 2009, avoiding voting on NDP's Peter Kormos' private member's bill to bann the use of replacement workers during the Vale Inco strike in Sudbury.
Having chosen not to speak up on the strike issue, no one was surprised that Bartolucci didn't speak up and reveal the truth regarding the secret June 2 change to the Ontario Public Works Protection Act. [The regulatory amendment was approved through an order-in-council by the cabinet; no debate in the Legislature: then quietly posted June 16 at the government’s e-laws website.]
The NDP's Justice Critic, Peter Kormos has now been quoted as saying "McGuinty's solicitor general [Bartolucci] misled the people of Ontario and the police into believing that police had the authority to demand identification and to search people without warrants," entering the Red Zone area designated around the Summit meeting in Toronto.

Who else was in on this lie of omission?

Certainly, Sgt. Tim Burrows of the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit knew. He had said, "The public has nothing to fear with this legislation and the way the police will use this legislation, It really comes down to a case of common sense and officer discretion. If you're approaching that fence line, we want to know why."
Burrows was also quoted as saying that the police, at their discretion, could deny access to the area and "use whatever force is necessary" to keep people out. Anyone who refused to identify themselves or refused to provide a reason for their visit, were told they could be fined up to $500 and face up to two months in jail.
You should have heard the hoots of derision when I mentioned that this Ontario Public Works Protection Act regulation states that if someone has a dispute with an officer and it goes to court "the police officer's statement under oath is considered conclusive evidence under the act."
You have to understand, these folks had heard Toronto Chief of Police Blair's notion of what consitutes a lie. When asked on Tuesday, after the Summit, if the "five meter rule existed," Blair smilingly replied, "No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out."

"Liar, liar, pants on fire!"

Praising the police, Bartolucci referred to the "thugs" protesting the G20 as proof such measures were justified.
The end justifies the means? Lie by omission? Deny citizens' their rights? Who are the "thugs" now?
These politicians and senior police officers lied, not only to the public, they lied to all the decent, dedicated police officers called to serve security in Toronto, who believed they were acting within the law, only to learn after the Summit that they had been hood-winked into breaking the law they were sworn to uphold.
If this deception doesn't anger police forces across Canada, they're missing a golden opportunity to regain credibility with the Canadian public by demanding the resignation of Blair, Burrows and any other police personnel found to have participated in the deception.
Bartolucci has been quoted: "Will there be armchair quarterbacks? There's going to be armchair quarterbacks, there always are," as recently as Sunday.
This was Tuesday: Does Bartolucci consider Liberal public safety critic, Mark Holland, an armchair quarterback?
Holland says the National Security Committee will be seeking answers to questions "over the coming weeks". In my opinion, Holland will likely have the support of opposition parties, and the House of Commons committee will be convened over the summer. There were dissenters at the coffee shop, sure no politician would want to spend a summer that way.
Mark Holland has asked Conservative MP and Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, the former Minister of Justice for the Government of Canada, to provide answers to his questions and I don't think he's prepared to wait.
Here's a few questions from regular citizens: How high up did this deception go? Did others holding public office know and similarly believe Canadians find the lie of omission any less offensive than an outright lie? Who are the guilty parties who took the law into their own hands?
By four o'clock we were headed back to the lake and Ron left me to my thoughts while he drove. As I reflected on our friends' opinions I suddenly realized I had been totally wrong; my concern that Canadians would mostly be angry about the billion dollars spent, rather than the civil liberties issues, had been an unnecessary worry. The general consensus was that it was money well spent if the ongoing erosion of Canadian citizens' rights ceases.

And that reminds me, my next post is on CSIS, Fadden, Harper's promised transparency in government and a flawed piece of Liberal legislation: the Whistleblower's Act.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dell on Harper & Watering the Maple

There is nothing like sitting down with a friend you have known for years. Ron and I have lived roughly the same history, seen the same movies, loaned each other books. We're of a similar mind, even if we don't always see eye to eye. Ron boated over yesterday on the windiest day we've had in a bit, then headed home just before dark under a sky thick with dark, thunderous clouds. I was relieved when he gave me a shout on the two-way radio: arrived in one piece.
To give you an idea of the how it is with us, I'd like to share with you the gist of our talk last night: the subject being my earlier posts about Harper and the show of police force at Toronto's G20 Summit.
Honest to God, Dell, I'm dancing in the dark on this one. I can see what you're getting at, but I can't put it together.
1986 with  Martha Henry or 1995 with Victoria Principal? I'm've already forgotten my post on missing pieces?
As in Dancing in The Dark, 1995. Raped: as in seriously screwed. I've got all the pieces, Dell, it's the context I'm missing.
Be specific, Ron.
All right, let's talk this a give the mouse a cookie situation?
Air Force One, and you've got part of it. Harper is the mouse. He's already got the cookie if no one opposes his abuse of civil liberties. Worse, Harper has used Canada's own police forces to enforce his abuse of power. Canadians should be concerned that if this mouse gets this cookie he's going to be able to demand, not ask, for his glass of milk. He'll point to the cookie and say, "Hey, you were okay with the cookie." Suppose Harper wants to screen The Deer Hunter instead of Coming Home, as he has promised Canadians?
Deer Hunter beat Coming Home at the Oscars after a timed film release for Oscar consideration. It wasn't screened in public theaters until after it had already received the Oscar nod. A risky move on the part of Universal..but the gambit worked. Does it make a difference if he's screening Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps?
Art imitating life. Nope. Doesn't matter. You were screwed when you gave the mouse the cookie.
Has Harper used "a sledgehammer to crack a peanut"? and if he has, where's the peanut?
Tommy Douglas, criticizing Trudeau's invoking the War Measures Act, perfect quote for an analogy. Harper has swung an unauthorized sledgehammer against a fake peanut labelled G20. Trudeau only pulled out the sledgehammer when there was an actual peanut.
And if Harper gets away with using his sledgehammer against the fake G20 peanut...
... we will have given Harper the power to swing that same sledgehammer against any future real peanuts of public dissent.
We're talking peanut butter. Do you think Canadians will screen The Trotsky?
More like Network.
Howard Beale, 1976, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
Maybe it'll be the first known instance of a Prime Minister ousted for lousy ratings.
Would you quit already! I gotta take a piss.
Wild at Heart, 1990.
I'm serious, Dell, I gotta take a leak.
All right, Ron. You go water the maple. I'll grab us a couple more cold ones.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dell on CBC Reporter Susan Ormiston's "Visceral Response"

My first post today, June 28th, commented on the CBC's The National and their Sunday evening coverage at the G20 Summit in Toronto. See: Dell on The Truth Behind Toronto's 2010 Summit Costs.
In her moving report, Susan Ormiston, in Toronto, said the police presence there evoked a "visceral response". As words are the tools of Ms. Ormiston's trade, I pay attention to the words she chooses.
The adjective visceral is a form of the word viscus: an internal organ, with viscera being the plural form.
The internal organs removed from a butchered animal are known as "offal" which is pronounced exactly the same as the word "awful".
Visceral response: Offal response: Awful response: you don't have to be Freud to get the message.
Roman pagan priests used the viscera or offal of animals as a means of divining the future. Susan Ormiston's report is a means for Canadians to divine the future, too!
CBC reporters are among the best in the world, and it is reporting of this calibre that makes CBC news and The National my choice for reliable news.

I'm back from the clinic and shopping in town, where it is not raining today. Shelley says Ron plans to boat over for dinner this evening, so I have to do some preparations before his arrival.

Dell on Hate Emails & Refugees

You have probably opened your mailbox at least once to find a friend has sent you a provocative piece of information regarding the amount of money paid to "simple" refugees, including dollar figures meant to elicit Canadian's outrage:
Typically, it will read:

It is interesting to know that the federal Government of Canada allows :

A monthly pension of : $1,890.00 to a simple refugee
plus 580.00 in social aid to a grand total of : $2,470.00 monthly X 12 months
By comparison, the Old Age Pension of a senior citizen who has contributed to the development ofCanada for 40 or 50 years, cannot receive more than $1,012.00 in Old Age Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement per month X 12 months.
These hate emails then  go on to state Canadian seniors should be applying for the Status of Refugees, instead of applying for Old Age Pension.

You will then be asked to circulate this false information to all your friends. BEFORE YOU HIT FORWARD TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS ~ SPREADING MIS-INFORMATION, you may want to check the following link to Canada's web site dealing with these emails. The Canadian government's web site states this myth originated with a letter to a newspaper, later corrected. No one read the correction, and bigots continue to spread these false figures as a way to incite hatred. See: Canadian Government Website: Media Myths vs. Facts

Then go to Google and query the original email information: you will find it contained in personal posts and the like.
My father's reply to people's gullibility in these cases was, "They have read it in a comic book: must be true."
This would be funny, if the intent behind the emails was anything other than race motivated hatred toward refugees: designated "refugee" through a lengthy and detailed process .
Because refugees are not eligible for welfare until their status changes, they are provided with one time payments and, for up to a year, an amount roughly equivalent to general welfare rates,  far below what a Canadian pensioner receives.
In this age of information, make sure you are getting the facts and not taking part in a smear campaign.

I'm off to have my one perfect cup of coffee, and then I will get back to you with some additional thoughts on last night's topic: PM Harper's G20 costs of one billion: an expense you may find outrages you, with good reason.

Dell on The Truth Behind Toronto's 2010 Summit Costs

For those of you following my posts on concerns surrounding the criminalization of Canadian citizens, you may want to check out the archived news for June 27th : CBC's The National with Peter Manbridge, reports from Rex Murphy and Susan Ormiston [the latter in Toronto for the G-20 Summit]. Susan Ormiston's reports included her describing a "visceral response" to the imagery before her in Toronto: "two or three lines" of riot police, two rows deep, sometimes reinforced by police on horses, and she found herself asking, "What country am I living in?" Susan Ormiston went on to describe how one woman had wept to see the city of her childhood filled with the enormous police presence.
Do you suppose this visual image of a huge police force in Canada was the real reason behind the spending of almost  a billion tax dollars?
Rex Murphy suggests that the violence of a small group of 200 or so "losers" he also refers to as  "The Black Bloc" [a misnomer because there is no group; it's just a catch-phrase for those who wear black and protest violently] will be a "partial cover" of PM Harper's spending almost one billion to host the two Summits. Has Rex Murphy already forgotten President Sarkozy's remarks of the day before?
When French President Sarkozy was asked about the price tag for the G-8 and G20 Summits in Canada, he side-stepped the question, instead saying he hadn't seen anything "opulent or luxurious". Interesting then, that Sarkozy should make a second statement which appeared to be a criticism of Canada, the host nation, saying that when France hosts the Summits, the cost will be one-tenth what Canada has spent. Why would Sarkozy make those two particular statements?
It would appear President Sarkozy found a nice way of drawing attention to what Harper was actually doing: using the G20 as a staged scene with a message for the Canadian populace.
The film imagery of these last days in Toronto is stunning. The last time I recall such effective propaganda imagery, the director was Leni Riefenstahl, and I imagine that classic piece of film was expensive, too. Riefenstahl's 1935, Triumph of the Will, was made at the request of her leader with a message for the populace. It was wildly successful.
If the spending of one billion on the two Summits wasn't about security [Fadden] and wasn't about luxury for the guest nations [Sarkozy], then it had to be something else. What might that be?
With already 600 protesters arrested and that number expected to rise overnight, Susan Ormiston additionally reported that the previous Quebec and Seattle Summits, where the black-garbed violent protesters also showed up, resulted in fewer arrests than in Toronto 2010. Ormiston also stated the FLQ October Crisis of 1970, [following the kidnapping of James Cross and Pierre Laporte, the latter murdered by his kidnappers], resulted in fewer arrests; in fact, 497 were arrested, but only 62 were charged and held.
Does Rex Murphy actually believe his talk of "heavy penalties" and "banned for life" treatment of protesters is going to have any meaning in the face of what Prime Minister Harper has actually done here? Harper has played fast and loose with our civil liberties and tax dollars, in order to orchestrate a show of the police power at his disposal. And why would he do that?
We're supposed to be pulling out of a war. If we don't, there are going to be protests. I predict Harper is gearing up the propaganda machine in advance of his release of that very news and perhaps news of a financial collapse to boot. Would PM Harper dare to use this country's police force against its own citizens? Harper hasn't said it, but I'm hearing the words, "Just watch me."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dell on Going Viral & Vampires

Kevin and Shelley arrived this morning as I sat inside watching the rain on the lake. It's such a peaceful sound you would think it would be my favourite. Instead, I prefer the sound of rain on a tin roof. Did you know you can actually order these sounds online? Before Kevin put on the new camp roof, this was one of my life's simple pleasures; although I know he was right, the roof needed an upgrade. Now, whenever I get lonesome for that sound, I just take whatever book I am currently reading and go sit in the outhouse which still has the original tin roof. That Kevin is some kind of smart. He rigged a set-up using heated water line built into the outhouse floor, charged off the inverter, I can switch on up at the cabin before heading to the outhouse. I can sit in there with my feet in total comfort. Love comes in all shapes: a heated floor in the outhouse is just one.
Shelley said their tenting was wonderful and thanked me for minding Dorg. Then continued, "...and since it was raining, we thought we might as well be in the rain at the lake. [I think they missed us: or at least Dorg.] Shelley, Kevin and Dorg left just before lunch, heading across the lake to Ron's, in the rain. Ron will appreciate their surprise for him, a lovely rainbow trout packed in ice. There was one for my cooler, too. I took a pass on joining them, as my feet are aching. They'll be back in the morning to run me in to the Vampires at the clinic.
Shelley took a few minutes to look at what I'd been up to on the computer, then said if I was "going viral, she had to do something."
I told her I couldn't be viral. I have a card in my wallet proving I had the H1N1 shot at the clinic, last October. She said she'd explain later and gave Kevin an odd look. Was it something I said?
She made a few phone calls. Apparently, she has a freind with an extra email address they were willing to help out with, so now I have my own official email address. Her friend will have my emails directed here.  "I'll do it before we head to town in the morning," Shelley said, so it must be a simple thing, as we have to be in town for ten. Shelley had better not use that word 'viral' around Leona. That woman will be bleeding me like a leech before you can say, "Now take a deep breath."
Tomorrow's going to be a long one: shopping. We won't be the only ones. Running the gauntlet [my phrase for shopping], is one of my life's unfortunate necessities.
The only highlight will be the local Farmer's Market. A buddy rang me up this weekend to tell me the first fresh srawberries are on sale, as well as, asparagus and, for sure, I'm picking up fresh local eggs. Shelley generally sets the menu for our Canada Day celebration: she gets me to help out sitting at the kitchen table peeling potatoes, or fixing the strawberries. Again, love comes in all shapes: giving me the sitting down jobs, while she stands, is just one of them. Ain't life grand?

There was a fine looking full moon last night. The impending rain made it all misty and fuzzy around the edges. We're socked in as Graham, my pilot friend, would say. Clouds appear to be just above tree level. You know, I'm missing Dorg already!

Dell on Eminem

Do you remember the children's lullabye Hush Little Baby? Shelley and her friends were playing their music one evening out here at the lake and right in the middle of this one song, I was hearing words from this lullabye. When I asked them to play it again, they took me inside to check it out on youtube, so I could read the lyrics as it played. I was surprised when she entered Eminem. I thought she had been saying, M & M, like the candy. Shelley said I was half right [or half wrong] because the artist's name was Marhsall Mathers.

With the words in front of me and the music playing, I was just blown away, to use one of Shelley's phrases. Here was someone using the same consonance rhymes I recognized from the World War I poet, Wilfred Owen. Considered the finest war poet from that period, Owen wasn't the first to play around with consonance and pararhyme, although he used it more than other poets. Wilfred Owens' poems are especially heart-rending because he was killed a week before the end of the war. His poems described the terror of life in the trenches and the horror of mustard gas. You may have seen old photographs of the masks on the soldiers. Owen's most famous poem Dulce Et Decorum Est is a description of the reality of chemical warfare and ends with a quote from Horace: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. That nonsense is still being told to young people; romanticizing war makes about as much sense as romanticizing 8 Mile in Detroit.

Eminem's rap Mockingbird made a fan out of me. The lyrics of Mockingbird are an account of the breakdown of his relationship with his children's mother, his longing to be a good father and see his children happy: familiar emotional territory.

Then Shelley brought me the movie 8 Mile, starring Eminem. Loved it.

When I hear my contemporaries call rap "crap", I make a point of telling them why I think Eminem is worth a listen. The misery of poverty, depicted in 8 Mile, is in part rooted in the prejudiced mind-set that hangs labels like "crap" without even listening to the music. When did people get the notion that maturity is getting one vision of how things should be and then refusing to budge from that vision? Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Tomorrow Shelley and Kevin are due back. Dorg has been pacing back and forth tonight obviously ready to be reunited with his owner. Maybe I'll sing Hush Little Baby to him, or not.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dell on Broken Hearts

Two posts ago, I said I'd blog on an incident in a small town. While I've changed bits to protect folks' privacy, it's a true tale, nonetheless.

A few years back, following my heart surgery, I spent the next six months recovering, staying with friends in a little northern Ontario community. Everyone knew everybody else going back generations. I made friends while I stayed there, but have never returned. Whenever my chest scar itches, I think of one friend in particular: Sammy.

For some reason, young people like to tell me all about their lives. Maybe it's their way of saying I can get on with the business of dying: they are ready to take on the world. Sammy and I became friends in early autumn as she strolled her year old daughter through the park. My surgery had left my chest some kind of sore and I'd walk a bit and then sit on the park bench until I could walk some more. Sammy would spot me at the park, wheel Nicole alongside and plop down beside me. "How's things going?" I'd enquire, and Sammy would be off and running.

She would tell me whatever new things little Nicole was doing. How Jason, Nicole's father, had been picked up by the police for showing up at her place again. Jason was in his twenties, quick with the fists and slow on responsibility. Mostly I just let her talk. She, Jason and Nicole had started out as a family until Jason decided to go a couple rounds with Sammy, who is a good fifty pounds short of his weight class. Children's services decided Nicole should temporarily live with Sammy's parents. Eventually, I met them and Sammy's brother, Trevor, too. He would have been about thirteen at that time.

Trevor had the scars of having once been badly burned. Sammy told me he had been just three years old. and had woken up one evening, after being put to bed. He had gone outside and fallen into the coals in the campfire. Both his hands and one side of his body had been badly burned. Their father had been drinking, her mother at work. Sammy said she woke to Trevor's screams and ran outside. Too young to know what to do, she had pulled Trevor from the fire and dumped him in the wading pool. Then she had shaken her father, passed out in a lawn chair, until he woke up. Trevor spent years going back and forth to a burn unit for skin grafts. Sammy said Children's services didn't want to give Trevor back to her parents until they quit drinking.

"And did they? give him back?" Dumb question. He was living with them. "Did the drinking stop?"

"Yeah, they were perfect parents until Children's services backed off. The drinking's never got that bad again."

"Do you worry about Nicole being with your folks?" I asked Sammy.

"Nope. Trevor watches her like a hawk. He adores Nicole. If there's trouble, I'll hear about it."

Mid-winter, Sammy showed up at my friend's front door, looking for me. She had brought Nicole, tucked under a mountain of blankets in a snow sled. Sammy was over the moon with happiness; Children's services had returned Nicole to Sammy's care. The two of them came in to visit and warm up. Little Nicole was all over the place and into everything. Sammy had the patience of a saint with her daughter.

My failure to properly parent my own daughter had led to my becoming a better parent to my grand-daughter. She came to live with me when she was fourteen, after her mother's drunken boyfriend went after her. Her mother never asked Shelley to come back and my daughter died suddenly two years later. My post Where Were You? tells that tale. Raising Shelley, and being involved in her emotional recovery, gave me a whole new understanding on the role of parenting.

Sammy's folks didn't know who I was when I came up to them in the coffee shop one day. I had recognized Nicole in her snow sled, so I introduced myself. They were quick to say they had no use for Jason. He wasn't from town. Sammy had met him while visiting her aunt out west and Jason had followed a pregnant Sammy home. Sammy's father said he had offered to find Jason work at the mine until he got in that fight with Sammy. "He can piss up a rope sideways, for all I care. He'll move on once he gets the message," Sammy's father proclaimed with confidence.

Sammy had told me she kept hoping Jason would show her parents he could be a good father. Court orders forbid Jason going to Sammy's apartment and his visits with Nicole were always supervised by Children's services. With so many folks against Jason, Sammy's dreams didn't look like they'd be coming true any time soon.

Three weeks before I was due to leave, Sammy came running up to me, sobbing hysterically. "They took her, they took her," was all I could make out at first. As she calmed down, the details emerged. She had been home with Nicole when Jason showed up at the door with a puppy. Sammy had told him to leave but he put the puppy down and then followed it into the apartment. He wasn't there more than five minutes, according to Sammy. Then, minutes after Jason left, the police came knocking on Sammy's door looking for him. She admitted he had been there and had left. The officers then began to search her apartment. They found a single joint of marijuana on top of the fridge. Children's services were called. They immediately took Nicole and placed her with Sammy's folks.
"Honest, Dell, it wasn't mine. Jason must have put it there. There is no way I would risk losing Nicole by doing something that stupid."

"So what will happen now?" I asked, "is she going to stay with your folks again?"

"I don't know. Family court is next week." We talked for a bit and then, as she was walking away I hollered after her "Chin up!" She waved without turning around, but her shoulders were shaking and I knew she was crying again.

The time finally arrived for me to leave. I took a walk into town to see if I could find Sammy. Instead, I found her brother, Trevor. He told me Jason had left town quite suddenly. Family court had given their parents permanent custody of Nicole. Sammy had moved in with a fellow she'd only just met.
"How did it happen?" I wondered aloud to Trevor, "Surely to God they don't take a child from its mother for something as minor as a joint?"

"You know that saying It's not who you know?... In this case, who my parents knew was all that mattered."

As we said our good-byes, he shook my hand, then looking at his scarred palm said, "Sammy always looked out for me. She would have been a great mom. She just never got a chance."

Dell on Ribbons

Dorg and I have just returned from a trot along the beach. He did a real trot. I sort of stumbled along. As I searched for a stick to toss for him, I came across this piece of driftwood: a ribbon pinned to mother nature.

Thousands of miles away an oil disaster is wreaking havoc and she wanted me to pause for a moment to consider her pain and loss; asking if I will support her cause.

If you've ever seen Schindler's List, you may recall Schindler's reaction on receiving the gift of a golden ring in thanks for the lives he saved: he weeps for the lives he failed to save.

Nature has a huge capacity to recover from man's inflicted indignities: her generosity is no excuse for my having done so little, for so long.


Dell on Good Intentions Gone Bad

Another wet morning and my dogs are hurting again. Dorg is lying on top of my feet so that will warm them and ease the pain.
To pick up from my last post: I had stated I believe social policies and their supporting agencies have become part of a systematic means to criminalize Canadians. PM Harper calls for more jails and longer jail sentences, this despite a cost expected to break the backs of Canadian taxpayers. [see Dell on The War on Drugs]. With the best of intentions, laws and the social agencies originally formed to help families have, over the last decades, become power tools.

The horror of having government agencies running your life has always been the nightmare of the poor and minorities. Having discovered the "help system" can be used to castigate whomever, that is exactly what is happening. Those in power have seen the effectiveness of employing the police and supporting agencies, including the legal system, to create more poverty and despair. Are people getting rich on this misery? You betcha!

Agencies serving troubled and disabled young people in their care, usually cease involvement after the ward turns sixteen. In fact, they will make a point of returning children to their original families just before this time,  thereby avoiding mandated financial responsibility. Those still in care who outgrow the agency, end up living at a group home. I am not talking community living or regulated group housing, but something else.

Large homes are bought as an investment. The owner runs a lucrative business renting to young people in need of housing. He will charge the exact amount social services allows these young people for room and board and provide them a single bedroom with shared bath facilities. With no staff to speak of, the owner may have from four to eight young people bringing in between $3,2000 to $6,400.00 a month. You do the math. The remainder of the social services cheque that is given to the boarder is his own, but it isn't much, and many unscrupulous landlords find a way to get every cent of these cheques into their own pocket. It's easy money. They don't have to police their boarders, either. They simply set them up for a police charge and the system takes over. You think I'm making this up? Not so.

I personally met a young man with learning disabilities [18 at the time] who was living in just such an arrangement. When the landlord, an alcoholic with a mean streak, objected to this young man coming in after nine in the evening, the young boarder was arrested. Another resident's unopened monthly cheque had been found in the boarder's dresser drawer. This young man couldn't read and his own cheque was directly deposited because he didn't have sufficient skills to negotiate banking matters. He told me he had no idea how the envelope got there because his door was locked and only the landlord had a key. Charged, he was released prior to his court appearance, with conditions that suited the owner/landlord: curfew. The charge itself never made it to court. Instead, the Crown used a Mental Health Diversion. Unable to read or write, this very sweet young person signed the form, unaware that he had placed himself under the ongoing control of a mental health agency. There was no crime and he did not fit the profile for Mental Health Diversion. The entire system worked to serve the needs of the landlord/owner.

In an earlier post, I described the typical scenario of the destruction of a family. Courts now routinely require the involvement of agencies; a systematic form of control in which counsellors do assessments, recommend psychiatrists who then recommend medications for adults and/or children, and ongoing agency interventions; all this as part of addressing, or as a requirement of, sentencing. This is the fuel that keeps the system going: money made by creating misery and criminalizing the population.

Having created a miserably unhappy citizenry, it is no surprise that drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions. Yet, as I pointed out in 'Dell on The War On Drugs', the warring is only a war in name. In reality it is punishment or control of individuals and NOT meant to stop the burgeoning drug business (prescribed or illicit) nationwide. Why on earth would they want to "make war" on the very lucrative business of drugs? There are millions if not billions to be made by increasing misery.

Whole industries depend on rehabilitation to create jobs and secure funding.

Why do doctor's rarely sign forms for medicinal use of cannabis? Would drug companies want people using non-addicting cannabis instead of their very addictive prescription drugs?

The saddest part of this situation is the number of Canadians working in these agencies, who unwittingly believe they are doing good work.

In the next post or two, I will tell the tale of a small town family, the police and service agencies, lest you think the problem is confined to large cities.

I'm off to have my one perfect cup of coffee and give Dorg his run along the shoreline.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dell On Criminalizing the Canadian Citizen

I was playing around in blogspot earlier and all hell broke loose. Well, maybe it wasn't that bad. I finally figured out what I did wrong, all by myself. Not bad for an old guy.

Anyway...I'm back, with part two of my thoughts on Canada's tough on crime policies.

A decaying society typically includes the criminalization of its citizens: tough laws, more jails and jail time, more police state behaviour. Now why is that?

It always comes down to money. As the gap widens between the haves and have-nots, the necessity to control those at the bottom, requires a heavy hand. Take a look through history if you think I'm making this up.

Who is usually targeted for criminalization? the poor, minority races and anyone who threatens to end the gravy train. You might be surprised to find it's you next in line. Nonsense  you say. Consider this:

Over the last decades, Canada's family and criminal laws have changed. The system of agencies meant to provide supports and assist the severest cases of family problems, have instead become the power tool in the systematic and endemic criminalization of Canada's citizens.

Prior to these changes, if a marriage was in trouble, family, friends or a church minister stepped in and talked to the couple. People who actually knew the couple helped them through their troubles. Only in truly difficult cases would the police or social services be called in to work with a family. 

Family matters are now routinely dealt with by government services. These agencies almost always claim a mandate to keep families together. In practice, almost without exception, they have the exact opposite effect. Intrusive, manipulating, controlling and punishing, they exhibit the hallmarks of bullying: police, mental health services, the legal system, social welfare, child protection services and the list just keeps growing.

A typical scenario now goes like this: John and Mary get married, have a couple kids and all is well for some years until the local manufacturer closes down and John is out of work. Stressed out and worried, John who was never been a big drinker begins regularly having a few beers. Mary is concerned but figures once John gets back to work he'll be fine. After some months of this, John's drinking is beginning to become a real problem. When his EI cheque fails to show up one week, he gets in a foul mood, proceeding to get really drunk. He's hollering, banging doors and Mary is yelling at him to settle down. The kids are upset and one of them runs outside crying. The next-door-neighbour has seen the crying child and heard Mary yelling and calls the police. The police arrive and can hear Mary yelling, "Don't....don't...John...don't!"

The police officer knocks on the door. John answers and is asked to step outside. Quite drunk, John tells the officer to, "Go f**k himself!" and proceeds to head back in the house. Before he can figure out what's happening, he's on the ground, knee in the back, cuffs on and out to the cruiser. Mary and the children are in shock at this. The police officer takes down the particulars of the situation as he sees it. Mary says John didn't hit her, but the officer notes a bruise on her arm. Mary says she got it moving a table out of the dining room. She insists John has never been violent with her or the children. She is informed that John is going to be charged with assault. They don't know if an assault actually took place. That's what court is for. One officer takes the oldest child aside and asks, "Has your Dad ever hurt you or your mother?" Not sure what the officer is asking, the child says nothing. Within the hour a Children's Agency worker shows up wanting to interview the children.

Mary and John are now under the thumb of the system. They will spend the next couple years paying for lawyers or rely on legal aid. They will have to jump through hoops to get the Children's Agency worker out of their lives. Mary will be required to see a family counsellor who will then recommend she see a psychiatrist for depression. The psychiatrist will put her on medications and refer her for ongoing mental health evaluation. John will have to see an alcohol and anger management counsellor. The children will be assigned a counsellor at school. Not surprisingly, the children will  begin having all kinds of school troubles. John will keep losing jobs because he misses so much time for court ordered counselling, anger management, and court hearings that keep getting put over. Eventually the charges are withdrawn...but not before John and Mary's marriage breaks down.

A formerly okay family, who might well have managed, given time and family support, to gresolve issues surrounding John's unemployment and drinking, is demolished by the very system that claims to serve them. Who is gaining from all this? It sure isn't the families.

More on this subject in tomorrow's post. Right now, Dorg needs outside, then I'm headed for the sack.

Dell on The War on Drugs

Do you believe there is a war on drugs? Is the tough on crime stance legitimate? or propaganda?

I thought it was for real, as the young people say, until I took my blinders off and had a rude awakening.

Consider the following: Local girl in her late twenties who likes her alcohol, doesn't smoke marijuana or use any drugs. She works at minimum wage and sells small amounts of pot to teens, at affordable teen budget prices, for their weekend parties. Everyone in town knows her and her family: local youth came and went from her place without incident for years. Then, her boyfriend gets a cocaine habit. She's not happy about it but talks to her man who lives on the outskirts of town, who supplies her pot...he sells her the coke boyfriend wants but she refuses to sell the coke to others. Her thing is selling marijuana and she doesn't want any trouble. When the boyfriend runs up a tab for his coke habit and doesn't have the cash to cover it, her supplier tells her she can have some time to pay that debt, and he will continue to supply her marijuna, but no more cocaine until the debt is clear. After much nagging by the boyfriend, he talks her into driving to the next city, a couple hours away, to purchase cocaine for him there.

She is arrested, for the first time ever, returning from the city with the cocaine in the vehicle.

What are the mathematical odds of her being stopped the one and only time she goes out of town to purchase cocaine? That's what I thought.

She owed one dealer in one city, she shows up elsewhere with cash, she's arrested on the way home. The lesson to her is this: pay your bill or you won't buy anywhere else and we'll f**k up your life if you try it. The police had to have been in on it as did the other dealer in the other town. That's some networking going on. Her dealer remains untouched.

"The dealer or someone else could have called the police," you say? Just try and call the police on someone selling drugs. Good Luck! Unless you sign an affidavit saying you have seen the drugs, been present during transactions, and so on, they will not be doing a take-down any time soon. More likely, you will be targeted for some harassment thereafter. If you belong to the right circle of friends, the dealer may be quietly relocated elsewhere.

What is true in a small way is usually true in a larger way.

After that incident, I made a point of watching and learning.
Same town: a man in his forties relocates with his family and becomes part of the downtown scene selling his own prescription for oxycontin, his child's Ritalin prescription, marijuana from the same supplier as the first young lady, in both teen and adult-sized quantities. He can also negotiate for hard drugs with the supplier, depending on who is doing the asking. His favourite thing is selling small amounts of marijuana to teens, because this guy likes, according to the young people, to do the grabby, feely thing with either sex, and two different young ladies say he raped them. You want something to smoke? you put up with it. Then come a flood of charges against local teens who get probation, curfews and are subjected to the local police questionning them every time they are looking for another teen to arrest. There is a raid at the local highschool and Mike __ , is arrested for having a couple joints on him. He had only got it the night before from this same man and no one else knew he had it. How did the police know? Bingo! You have guessed it: Mr. Creepy has a deal with the local police: I give you information so you can look like you're doing your job. Some kid complains I've sexually assaulted them, you point to their drug record. Who will believe the teenager? the Crown won't even look at the case.

Another man, on a disability pension, augments his poverty by selling oxycontins bought from others with legitimate prescriptions. They sell their prescriptions because their pensions don't meet their needs, either. This man also sells marijuana and can find ecstacy, date rape drug, meth, cocaine, etc. if the customer wants it: one phone call and its delivered to his door in minutes. This man went on unmolested until he tries the cocaine a few times and gets a habit. Now he's cocaine paranoid: keeps guns, bear spray, brass knuckles, pitbull dogs are adopted...eventually a decision is made that he is just too big a risk, given his paranoia. He gets arrested.

Compassion clubs, providing marijuana to those who use it medicinally, are similarly targeted for big take-down scenes and arrests.

So is there a war on drugs? If you want the answer to that, you have to follow the money and power trail.

That will be the subject of my next post. In the meantime, you might want to read Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History (March, 2010) a thought provoking book, including what you can do to confront the lies perpetrated by your government and its agents.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dell on Knowing When to End It

It has been an absolutely gorgeous day here at the lake. I was sitting on the dock with Dorg, thinking about my rule for knowing when to end a relationship: business, friend, spouse, children, acquaintances, strangers...doesn't matter.

My rule is this:  If there is no love in it, end it.

Let's use the example of a business relationship: How does love come into business? you ask. Okay, substitute the term "goodness" for "love", since goodness is a form of love.
You are in a business relationship. Over some months, you realize that your associate has a behaviour that is somewhat self-serving. Do you end the relationship?
...what if this self-serving behaviour clearly feeds something emotionally undeveloped in them?
...what if others or yourself are getting hurt?
...what if, having spoken to your associate regarding this behaviour, having pointed out it is hurtful to yourself or others, the associate still persists. Just when should you end the relationship?

We all want to be liked and, when it comes to a spouse or family member, a decision to disengage can be difficult. So how does one know when to end it? As my mother [and probably your mother] always said, "It's all fun and games, until someone loses an eye." Yet, it is not always necessary to disengage or end a relationship, even if someone is getting hurt. In fact, being patient while another person processes is a normal part of human relationships. We should be as patient with others in this regard as we hope others will be with our own failings. It is inevitable that even those who love us will hurt us. Just because we identify the other's behaviour as self-serving isn't necessarily a call for action.

It's the intent behind the behaviour and the resulting effect that need to be discerned, and it is at this point I apply my rule. I absolutely must disengage as soon as I realize that there is no "goodness" to be found anywhere in what is going on: the other person is engaging in a behaviour which has no "love" in it, nor any hope of love. Even if I were willing to put up with whatever is going on, I must not participate and I must disengage. By applying my rule I find I am able to make a decision without too much difficulty.

One thing is certain: No amount of love you bring to a relationship will have any effect whatsoever if there is no love there, excepting your own.

Dell on Richard Fadden & Air India

Richard Fadden, head of CSIS, revealed his concerns, with Canada's national security, to Peter Mansbridge of the CBC.  John Iveson of the National Post wrote the following:

"The most likely explanation is that Mr. Fadden sees himself on a mission to shake Canadians from their complacency over threats to their national security and has just learned the hard way why previous CSIS directors have stayed in the shadows." See: National Post: John Iveson on Fadden for the full article.

If it is any comfort to whistle blowers everywhere, you have your admirers, including myself.

Mr. Fadden is now in the same boat as Richard Colvin, who daringly spoke up on the torture of Afghan detainees. Confronted with the choice to do the right thing or the convenient thing, those who speak out should receive our full attention.

When the whistle blower is then made to retract part of all of his statement, I might wonder what is behind the retraction, but it rarely leads me to conclude the original statements were anything other than the truth.

That Richard Fadden's revelations coincide with the report on, and another anniversary of, the Air India bombing, seems an unlikely coincidence. Timing is everything in politics. Why now, Mr. Fadden? Is there something more you're trying to tell Canadians? I'm listening...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dell on Foreign Ownership & Investment

I don't know how things are where you are, but it's raining cats and dogs here: sure to help keep the fire risk low.

I'm looking for feedback on the situation outlined below :

A foreigner buys a lakefront property in Canada: everyone in the area has always traipsed through the hilly forest to get to the lake at the top. It's a deep cold lake, fed by a series of ground springs and its full of Walters. I'm talking big fish, pristine water, Canada's finest resources: stocked since great-great grandpappy's day by hardy men who backpacked fingerlings in to provide for future generations.

The foreigner spends a good number of years and dollars improving his property: an investment in the future, you might say. The road he builds up to the lake is gated from the time of purchase, but left unlocked as contractors come and go. Tresspassing continues in the owner's absences. After the contractors leave, the gate is securely locked. The owner, has done nothing to confront trespassing: indeed, locals always leave his property as they found it, minus a fish or two. Now worth a small fortune, the foreign owner's vision is perfectly fulfilled: generated electricity, water system, fancy heated water line, solar generated back-up, septic system, all those trees and the finest fishing, too!

Another form of access to this jewel of a lake has never been an option. Due to heavy terrain and cliffs, only a couple of hardy souls have managed to scale the cliffside using special gear. It's just not something your ordinary man is willing or able to undertake: daunting task.

Nothing happens until the owner arrives one sunny day to find a group of locals in their boats fishing on the lake. Then, all hell breaks loose. The local constabulatory are called in: the trespassers are warned not to return.

Within a few months of the completion of this magnificent wilderness domicile, the place burns to the ground at the owner's next absence.

The foreigner is paid on his claim for damages. The locals resume their fishing, keeping their backs to the burned wreckage.

Who is to blame that this event got to the point of arson? Should the foreigner have been confronted regarding his intentions? Should the foreigner have spoken up in the beginning? Why do you think the two parties weren't talking to each other? Did separate agendas play a role in all this? Whose resources are we talking about? and to what degree can they be owned, shared or denied? Does the foreigner come out ahead on this situation? or do the locals fare best?

Fires are serious business. I was raised with Smokey: "Remember...only you can prevent forest fires!"

I'm off to my own special spot this evening, for a last cast in the fading light. Dorg is turning circles at my feet knowing the tackle box on the table can only mean one thing: we're going to the lake. Dorg is one smart dog.

Dell on CSIS,Fadden, Harper & Air India

I am enjoying another sunny morning here in N. Ontario: Dorg is keeping me company while Shelley and Kevin are off on holiday with his family, returning in time for my next appointment with the clinic vampires.

Speaking of vampires, the news is rich with those who suck the life's blood out of Canada. This week, Peter Mansbridge's CBC interview with CSIS', Richard Fadden, was particularly thought provoking, as was the news that the federal government's tough on crime policy means more jail cells will be needed.

After watching the news, I found myself thinking about a book someone gave me several years ago: Kevin Trudeau was the author. I remember how I laughed out loud as he prefaced his work by saying he was telling the truth despite threats to his life. If he lived it was only because they didn't dare touch him because he told the truth. If he wound up dead, it was further proof he was telling the truth. A win/win situation. This was a brilliant marketing move: he's right no matter what. Unfortunately, Kevin Trudeau's marketing technique, with a few adjustments, works just as well in politics.

In Canada, according to the CBC news report, 80% of security money is spent on terrorism, despite evidence the greater national threat is foreign influence through long term efforts to control key persons in government and the ongoing theft of billions in trade and technology secrets. If there is a terrorist incident, the millions spent to fight terrorism will appear to have been a good decision. If there is no terrorist incident, it's because the money was spent to prevent one. It's a "win/win" situation, that fails to address the real threats.

Prime Minister Harper has announced he plans to build more jail cells. The Ontario government is rightly balking at a Federal policy intending to dump the cost of those jail cells on the provinces. If Canadians are going to get tough on crime, we need more jails, this despite a projected cost for those jail cells capable of breaking the finanacial backs of Canadians. If crime rates soar, Harper is right. If they go down, Harper is still right. It's "win/win" policies such as these that fail Canadians.

With technology advances, many of those in jail cells for non-violent crimes, could be monitored safely with house arrest in the community. Criminalizing the poor creates a 'them versus us' mentality necessary to motivate the public's fear and continued financial support of a tough approach to a perceived threat. With reports claiming 15% of adult Canadians use cannabis, I cannot help but notice the criminal "them" is "us".

If Fadden is correct in saying Canada's biggest threat is the billions of dollars lost to the theft of technology and trade information, we have not only misplaced our funds, but our fear as well. The government is willing to spend millions on airport security and install X-ray equipment for passengers, while the real threat, according to the findings of the Air India bombing report, is loose security then and now, along with crime protection agencies unwilling to share information.

The Canadian taxpayer, duped into the fearful belief that crime and terrorism are rising threats, is asked to  dig into his pocket yet again and fork over more cash. As long as this government formulates policies using the "win/win" method, unwarranted rising taxes will continue to flourish. What is needed is social reform. Unfortunately, no one gets to rich with a scenario that promotes understanding instead of fear.

I'll post more on this subject after lunch and power nap. Would you believe that it is now pouring buckets of rain here? If we have rain, it's good for the garden. If we have no rain, it means I can spend time outside. Another "win/win" situation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dell on Ender's Game

Rainy day here in northern Ontario: spent it reading. Went online to check a fellow blogger's site for the latest news on the making of the movie, Ender's Game.
Even if you had never read any science fiction before, Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, would have you hooked. Based on a short story by Card, an American author, this 1985 book is classic hero tale on the level of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter movies; all big money makers. So why isn't Ender's Game making it to film?

We're not talking box office risk on the level of Kevin Costner's Waterworld, purported to cost $175 million dollars. Ender's Game is a work with a solid following, including myself. Other than Stephen King's The Stand, I cannot remember a movie, based on a book, I  have so eagerly awaited. Not even Lord of the Rings, which was a terrific movie with a sound track I listen to over and over again, was able to inspire my movie release mania at this level. So why is the film  industry reluctant to bring Ender's Game to film?

The only reason, I believe, for delaying this film's production and release is this: the current social climate is wrong. A movie story that deals with manipulation, control and misrepresentation by those in charge during a war, is bound to get people thinking...parallels between Ender's Game and current social reality will be inescapable.

If you wanted people to keep funding a war and sending their young people to die, would you show them the film Ender's Game? The cost of a population catching on to the games being played on their backs is apparently too dear, no matter how great the possible pay-off at the box office.

Dell on Being a Shit Heap

How do I reconcile to you the dear old gentleman, Dell, today, with the Dell who was a shit heap. No one uses that phrase much anymore, but you get the general meaning, I'm sure.

When I spend my time speaking to my grand-daughter's friends, or make a post online, I feel I have in some way put back the love in the world that I spent the better part of my life taking out, with little or no regard for those around me.

It wasn't that I was selfish in the sense that I kept material things to myself. Rather it was the motivation behind almost every decision: do what's good for Dell.

I believed I was the person I had been told I was as a child: Dell always followed the rules [religious, social and the like, at least outwardly] while making sure that as many of Dell's wants were served as possible. A delicate balance that required an enormous amount of energy: nice face: self serving.

It wasn't until fourteen-year-old Shelley arrived to live with me,when I was newly retired and turning sixty, that I accidentally saw who I really was and just what the price had been in maintaining this fictitious nonsense. Many of my contemporaries say, "He thinks too hard on life." It is some comfort to realize these are generally the ones who are sure there is a heavenly reward. They have their own sort of bliss, I guess, but miss the opportunity to be fully alive and truly know themselves in the one lifetime they are given.

This is why Eckhart Tolle's spiritual writing is hugely popular: it provides a new context, formerly generally acquired within institutionalized religion, by which one is able to experience his unique spiritual identity: his own mythology, if you will. Tolle's books and website provide enough materials to guide anybody through the bewildering rethinking of their lives. Many of you will have heard of  The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

For as long as man has endured, some men have experienced life in this manner, as reflected in the words of wisdom from numerous spiritual cultures. Eckhart Tolle has taken the breadth of that spiritual wisdom, laid it at the feet of the this and the next generation, proferring a framework whereby a man may reveal to himself his unique spiritual identity. An inspiring vision: A New Earth !

I almost missed life entirely until eleven years ago. My now is given to living in truth and loving those put in my path. Whatever time I have left will be directed toward love. There is nothing else.

Dell on Poverty

This past weekend was just about as perfect an introduction to summer as one could ask for. Kevin and Shelley arrived Friday night along with Corey and his girlfriend Amy [first time in the bush]. Wade and Jake were here for Saturday and spent a good deal of time on the lake, fishing and out in the canoe.

After twenty-four hours of sunshine and revelry, Saturday evening's bon fire chat led to a discussion on poverty. The subject probably wouldn't have come up, but Corey's friend, Amy, mentioned she had received a call that there was an opening in a geared-to-income building in town and it turned out that's where Jack is living. Amy was so excited to finally have decent housing after years of sharing a less than desirable apartment. Jake pays full rent based on his income and there was some joking about how Jake would be paying Amy's rent, yet everyone agreed finding affordable rental housing is a real problem.

I asked them if they had seen the National Film Board documentary, The Things I Cannot Change, (1967) by Tanya Ballantyne: the story of a large family dealing with unemployment with only meager social supports . No one knew the film, so I explained that the title was a line spoken by the father in the film, quoting part of the Serenity Prayer.

The kicker, I pointed out, is that acceptance is exactly the problem behind poverty. Despite over forty years of incredible wealth, many here in Ontario, and throughout Canada, still live in poverty: women, children, the elderly and the sick. This is accepted by the vast majority of taxpayers. They pay taxes to provide the supports that were lacking in 1967, only to find the poor are still suffering.

Frankly, whenever I read a statistic about how generously Canadians give to the poor, my reaction is, "That's nice, but when are they going to use their vote to reform social welfare policies?"

Here's the reality: if you are unable to work, you are eligible for general welfare [a temporary payment never meant to assist in the long term], while you apply for a Disability Support pension [glorified welfare]. In many provinces, either monthly cheque is insufficient to cover rent, adequate groceries, clothing and life's necessities, for singles or families. While prescriptions are usually covered, as well as eye care, only emergency dental care is covered for adults; this despite evidence a mouth full of teeth is essential to one's health. Welfare payments continue while the applicant waits for approval of the provincial disability pension. For many this means they will be sick and struggle along on welfare, sometimes for several years, before their pension is approved.

Retroactive pension payments are made once the pension is granted. Sounds good? It isn't. There is a pattern policy of denying disabilty pension claims: the retroactive difference is only paid from the date of the most recently approved application. Under the Harris government, Ontario had huge changes and cuts to social programs. Cuts included discretionary retroactive payments: some got it and others did not. Those who were short-changed have never been granted these retroactive payments.
The death of Kimberly Rogers in 2001 was a wake-up call for social assistance reform that has yet to be heeded, despite the hard work of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Adequate housing, sufficient income to eat properly and society's indifference, were the focus of Ballantyne's film; forty years later they remain matters of grave concern. Recent cuts to fund building upgrades have added to a housing crisis of epidemic proportions. This year's bank changes requiring larger down payments for investment housing will surely only aggravate matters.

Did you know that in Ontario, the Disability Support program allows recipients to receive up to $200.00 a month in assistance from friends or family without penalty? There is no tax benefit in doing so and I've only met one person whose family assisted in this way. Why?

Canadians simply accept that having paid taxes for social programs, the needs of the poor are being met. That they still have to give generously to feed those same poor should be a good indicator present social supports are not working. The housing crisis could be addressed almost immediately if disability pensioners could qualify for a home ownership loan. Why doesn't it happen? The biggest, quick investment money is made in slum landlording, which depends on the poor not being able to own a home. Essentially, social welfare programs provide just enough money for a lousy apartment when that same amount could easily cover a mortgage; but the poor don't qualify. Over twenty years, a disabled pensioner will pay roughly $450.00 for each month's rent. You do the math:  it's clear the situation will continue as long as someone is making money on the backs of the poor. Who makes up the difference financially in this situation? the taxpayer: first in taxes and then giving generously.

It is difficult to motivate those who have life's necessities to make poverty a voting issue, but I suspect that this may change as a larger aging population feels the bite of poverty. Certainly, while legislation allows business creditors to get ahead of pensions in cases of bankruptcy or collapse, there is a good chance that those who didn't think poverty a voting issue, will some day live in the very poverty they ignored while affluent. Acceptance is not the answer: reform is.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dell on Camp via Digital Camera

The digital camera makes taking and sharing camp and nature pictures a cinch.

I took this photograph in late afternoon light and am able to share it with friends within minutes of my return to camp by simply connecting a cord from the camera to my computer. That's it: no CD to load, the computer recognizes what I'm up to and asks me which viewing application I want to use and voila! up come my photographs to copy, crop, adjust, save, delete or retain, just as I please.

Are you able to feel the warmth of the 78 degree afternoon? upon this lovely white birch? can you hear the sound of the birds calling among the treetops, the soft slap of waves lapping the water's edge under the fallen maple? the duck startled into flight rising over the sun-drenched water, the rustle of the leaves overhead?

I still think in fahrenheit although it has been over thirty years since Canada went metric: that's a warm 26 Celsius today in northern Ontario, with thundershowers expected tomorrow. While forest fire risk is currently rated low to moderate, the dry spell that has lowered area water levels is cause for real vigilance concerning fire: man-made fire for cooking and heat or nature's fire: lightening strikes.

Speaking of fires, this maple that fell after one of this spring's heavy wind storms is slated to become part of my wood pile. Some downed trees become homes and nests for wildlife, including raccoons and wood ducks. I noticed the brown-eyed susans are on the verge of blooming. They're one of my grand-daughter's favourite flowers; I'm hoping to take a frame-worthy photograph. With my digital camera, I always know if I have the shot I want.

For those of us who remember the Brownie camera, I recommend Digital Photography For Seniors For Dummies (2009, paperback).

Dell on Narcissists

I've had my one perfect cup of coffee this morning and am totally refreshed after a weekend of Father's Day activities. As a grandfather who has parented both his daughter and grand-daughter, I can honeslty say I have been two very different fathers. The first time around I was on auto-pilot; whereas with the arrival of fourteen year-old, Shelley, I got a chance to understand what had gone wrong the first time around and how I could acquire healthy parenting skills. But first I had to own the size of my parenting problem and some behaviours I had acquired without even noticing the destructive effect they had on those I loved.

Paul Meier co-authored one of Shelley's favourite self-help books, Love is a Choice. His latest co-authored book is You Might Be a Narcissist If... - How to Identify Narcissism in Ourselves and Others and What We Can Do About It . This is my bedside book for frequent review, because those behaviours, even a small number of them, are unhealthy in ourselves and those with whom we interact. Narcissistic traits were learned as a child but I could only address these traits when I recognized them for what they were. Too often, someone will recognize a certain pattern in an abusive spouse, but fail to see their employer or best friend has similar traits, if not to the same degree. The pattern may be narcissism under various guises. Personally, the worst of narcissism was realizing I failed to see it in myself: comfortably numb [not in the Led Zeppelin way, either!]

Another timely book, is last year's The Entitlement-Free Child: Raising Confident and Responsible Kids in a "Me, Mine, Now!" Culture by Karen Deerwester. As the saying goes, Any man can be a father... raising a child requires thought and actions geared to preparing that child for the challenges of the future.

Grandparents have a special role to play in today's busy world: raising or assisting in the raising of grandchildren. Understanding changing social structures and their impact on those we love provides the groundwork to being a better parent. Whether you are a first time parent or grand parent, or simply interested in self-improvement, these books are worthwhile additions to any library.

Summer has officially arrived. Shelley's friend, Kevin, has stayed on at camp here for another day and the two of us are heading outside to catch some rays.