Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A Woman's Issue

As soon as you see a mistake and don't fix it, it becomes your mistake. -- Unknown

How much longer must we see people blame the victims for the crime, and watch the authorities act too slowly? When will people understand that the men and to a lesser degree, the culture, are the problems?

A post on a Facebook community page for women's issues in India lamented the fact that victims of rape in India were getting younger; the most recent being a four-year-old that was severely injured. One male commenter wrote: "Stop being sluts then u won't get raped". How DARE this idiot pin the blame on a child who couldn't even know what constitutes "slutty" behaviour?

His FB timeline contains glaring contradictions. He posts that he wants to adopt a child, he is tolerant of other people's sexuality, and he supports the medical use of marijuana. How can one reconcile that with his statement above? All I will say is that if he adopts a girl, hopefully he won't have to find out what it's like to be the father of a girl who was raped.

The description of an Islam-oriented women's group reads as follows: "Allah has created women with the most beautiful figure, we know it's beautiful. So why then should we cover it? Because it's not for everyone to see. Likewise in the case of hijab, Allah created us with beautiful structure and because of our beauty, He is testing us by stating to cover our beauty and to be modest about our beauty. By wearing the hijab we are respecting Allah and our love for Him. Since He's our creator and the Creator of the world we are living in, we have to respect His laws, shari'a. Hijab can save a woman from evil's eye. Only hijab makes one feel better and safer."

This is what they might believe, but the truth is that the hijab protects them from nothing. Women who wear full-length burqas are equally as likely to be raped as those who wear bikinis. We all have the right to wear what we choose and not be afraid; our choice of clothing does not indicate we are "asking for it". Is a man who walks down the street in the summer without a shirt "asking for it"?

Rape is not always about sexual gratification, it's about power and control. If a man cannot control himself, or respect a woman's right to safety, that man should not be allowed to remain in society at large. Any blame for his actions should rest squarely on his shoulders, and nowhere else.

Monday, 15 April 2013

A Moment of Inattention

It is the disease of not listening, the malady of not marking, that I am troubled withal. -- Shakespeare, Henry IV

As much as I don't want to admit it, I am middle-aged.  Where the heck did all the years go?

This afternoon I had what I termed a 'senior happening' that up until now I had discounted as only experienced by older people who were in the process of losing their faculties.  It scared me deeply.

I was cooking, stirring a sauce with a plastic utensil, which I often use to avoid scratching my cookware.  Then I was distracted by a holler from my daughter in the next room; she wanted my attention for something, I can't even remember what it was now.  I couldn't have been absent for more than a minute or two, but upon my return I discovered to my horror that the entire kitchen was filled with smoke.

Missy must have heard my curses but otherwise she seemed to be oblivious to what was transpiring.  The pot I had been stirring now contained a foul gooey mess - I had accidentally left the utensil in the pot, and it had melted and welded itself to the bottom of the pot.  At once I shut off the stove, whisked the pot outside, and then opened as many of the windows as I could to clear the smoke.

The windows would remain open for the remainder of the afternoon as I tried to remove the burned plastic from the pot.  I managed to scrape off most of it without damaging the steel, but a stubborn quarter-sized area remained despite all my efforts.  Eventually I had to concede that the pot was most likely no longer useable.

Hours later, after dinner had finally been served, the kitchen cleared, and Missy put to bed, everything finally hit me.  I had been distracted for a mere moment, and had forgotten the most basic rule of cooking safety: never leave an operating stove unattended.  I had endangered my daughter and myself.  This should not have happened.  Only a fool could be ignorant of what was happening in front of them!

As I write, the house still reeks despite the windows having been open for half the afternoon.  I'll probably have to wash everything that can be washed, to get rid of the smell.  And I hope that Missy and I don't suffer any ill effects from inhaling that smoke, even if it was only for a few minutes.

One thing's for sure, I'll never leave a pot on the stove again.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Do you want a background check with that?

This battle for 'common-sense' gun control laws pits emotion and passion against logic and reason. All too often in such a contest, logic loses. So, expect more meaningless, if not harmful, 'gun control' legislation. Good news - if you're a crook. -- Larry Elder

Up to now I've been keeping out of the gun control debate because I know how much it has polarized people's opinions.  Personally I abhor guns and would never touch one, much less have one in my home.  However a comment I read this morning on a CNN article concerning the NRA's resistance to background checks struck me as being right on the money.  Here it is:

"As both a gun owner and an NRA member (there are actual benefits to being a member), I 100% support universal background checks. I think the level of paranoia some gun owners show is absurd! I have a hard time drawing a connection between universal background checks to gun confiscation! I have no problem with the background checks because I have nothing to hide...

Due to an overwhelming response to my original comment, I'm adding in a few (well, more than a few) additional comments in order to address some of the most common threads.

1) To the trolls who have nothing to say other than short, one liner little absurd comments: get a life, get a job, and get out of your mother's basement. You want to have a discussion, we can have a discussion. I'm open to the idea that I'm wrong, but how about discussing/debating it instead of the stupid "you're a liar", "I would rave you a thousand times if I could", etc. Also... spelling helps.

2) The notion that universal background checks ultimately leads to a gun registry because it would not be enforceable seems a bit... short-sighted... maybe narrow-minded... to me. Is it not possible to come up with some sort of a system where, when I sell a firearm privately, that I can't check the person out first to at least have a warm fuzzy that this person isn't going to go off killing a bunch of people with the firearm I just sold them? Instead of just going off the handle on how it can't happen, why not offer up alternative solutions? One I liked was the gun license. You want to own a weapon? You have to have a gun license. That provides the background check and gives us gun owners some sense of "yeah, this guy is ok to sell to".

3) I like when people bring up the 4th and 5th Amendments. Basically saying that somehow this will lead to giving up the 4th and 5th Amendment rights. I'm pretty sure the 4th Amendment includes the words "probable cause" and the 5th Amendment includes the words "due process". For my weapons to be confiscated, the process of law still has to be adhered to. Are there corrupt law officials and politicians? You bet... but guess what... there are corrupt gun owners too.

This law doesn't all of a sudden give law enforcement the blanket right to search the home of a gun owner without a warrant and without probable cause. It also doesn't allow law enforcement to confiscate without due process. We wouldn't be throwing out the 4th and 5th Amendments just by making background checks a requirement before the purchase of a firearm.

4) I love all the "What If" scenarios that everyone has been putting out. What if this happens or what if that happens. If we try to come up with laws that cover every possible scenario, every possible outcome, we would never get anything done. Oh wait... we don't get anything done now because we try to make everyone happy and cover every possible scenario/consequence.

Here's a "What If" scenario right back at you. What if you are going to a gun show with your AR-15 with the intent of selling it. Before you walk into the gun show, a person approaches you and says "Hey buddy, how much you want for your AR?". You tell this person your price and they produce a wad of cash. No big deal, you sell him the AR, take your cash and go home happy. The next day, you're watching the news and they tell you a story about a person who walked into their place of business and summarily shot a bunch of people before taking their own life. You figure out that it's the same person you bumped into at the show and the weapon they used was the AR you just sold them...

I know that is a stretch... but honestly it's less of a stretch than some of the other "what ifs" I've heard. I can tell you honestly that I'm not ok with this situation. For one thing, it wouldn't happen to me because I absolutely do not sell a firearm to someone I don't know. However, what I described about purchases at gun shows DOES happen... all the time!

Look, no system is going to be perfect. We live in an imperfect system and it was, in part, designed that way. We aren't going to prevent every crime and we aren't going to all of a sudden eradicate evil with a few laws. But, I think we need to have a more sensible approach to how firearms are purchased and transferred. If universal background checks is a step in that direction, I'm all for it. If you guys can come up with a better solution, I'm all ears!"

The only thing I can add is that there should be a licencing system in place. If anyone wants to own and use a gun they should be required to obtain a licence.  After all, we need licences to drive a vehicle, marry, and practise certain professions.  It makes sense for gun ownership too.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Help, I've been stupid!

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious
stupidity. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hardly a week goes by when I am not shaking my head in sadness and/or outrage at stories of individual and societal ignorance or stupidity.

Law enforcement in a small community could not or would not press charges against four boys accused of raping a girl at a party because it was concluded there was "not enough evidence".

A teenage girl posted in a pregnancy forum that she needed help to determine if she got pregnant by her boyfriend because she "didn't learn about ovulation and all that".

The latest foofaraw over language in Quebec has made Time Magazine.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

During my formative years growing up in suburbia, everyone knew their neighbours.  Everyone looked out for everyone else's kids.  I or any other kid I knew could ring the doorbell of almost any house on the block and someone would help solve the problem.

You don't see that too much any more.  Often both parents in a family (if there even are two present) are working.  Kids are placed in daycare or after-school programs where they are practically raised by others.  People are too focused on their own lives to bother with anyone else's, and might not even know their neighbours' names.  Kids and teenagers are left to their own devices for long periods of time.

It's sad.  And so it's no wonder that many young people now get into trouble.  The adult support network just isn't there.  When will people begin to take a more active role in the education and betterment of their children and their community?

I still think about the six-year-old boy that used to live across the lane from us.  One day after school last spring he came over and asked to play with my daughter.  I invited him in, got him a snack, helped him with his homework, and supervised as he and my daughter played together.  An hour later his father knocked at the door, worried and furious because the boy hadn't told him where he was.  The boy burst into tears, not wanting to go home.  The apparent root of the problem was that the family was going to be moving away from the neighbourhood, and the boy was upset about it.

I'm glad that I was able to be there for that boy when he needed some help.  It's the kind of thing we need more of.

Monday, 1 April 2013

You Can't Eat Money

"Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed, and love of power." -- P. J. O'Rourke

This morning I am physically ill.  Not because I have a cold or 'flu, but rather it's a reaction to a story circulating in the news.

The town of Mayflower in central Arkansas, with a population of about 1700, was flooded on Friday afternoon.  Not with water, but with oil.  An Exxon-Mobil pipeline known as Pegasus ruptured, sending thousands of gallons of heavy crude coursing into the town's drainage system, streets, and backyards.  The spill has supposedly been contained and the company has offered an apology, but so far the cause of the spill hasn't been identified.

What kind of apology can mitigate this?  Part of a community has been destroyed because of inadequate oversight and maintenance on a pipeline.  People in the spill area will never be able to sell their homes, and will likely never see any form of monetary compensation.  The ground and local water supply will be contaminated for decades.

Let's look back at the Exxon-Valdez spill of 1989 in Alaska.  Although the spill was "cleaned up" the effects are still there, 24 years later.  Dig down into the soil a few inches and you see oil.  Sea otters and orcas in the affected area are in decline, and fisheries still haven't recovered.  Exxon was ordered to pay billions of dollars in fines but its multiple appeals and legal wrangling on the case caused the total to be revised downward to a fraction of that amount.

How ironic it is that a town named for the ship that brought some of the first European settlers to North America in search of a new life has been so adversely affected by the "new" American life: greed.  The oil flowing through the ruptured pipeline isn't even American; it originated in Canada and is being transported to Texas for refinement before shipment overseas.  So Exxon was pumping oil that wasn't theirs through an inadequately maintained pipeline that had previously been idle for four years, and they expected it to work?

There have been at least five landbased oil spills on United States soil in the past three years (two in Canada).  How many more accidents will it take to make the bigshots realize that transporting oil is dangerous?

How many communities like the town of Mayflower will pay the price?