Sunday, November 26, 2006

Apology Insufficient. Send Cash.

Remember the old saying,

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”?

Well, forget it.

If we are to believe the lessons of popular culture, weapons such as sticks, stones and birdshot aren’t worthy of mention; however for words, saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.

We teach our children to apologize for the most minimal of transgressions, such as making their sister cry, even if they aren’t really sorry. It is part of the civilizing process.
The offended sibling, in turn, is taught to forgive.
Over and over.

That is how it is supposed to work.

Now, the decision on whether to make or accept an apology seems to depend upon how much equity you can hope to wring out of the occasion. In the case of the man whose face got in the way of Vice-President Cheney’s gun, the shootee ended up apologizing for the ruckus. But for the Michael Richards hecklers, who up until the moment they hired lawyer Gloria Allred were seen as victims, multiple apologies won’t cut it, nor will mountains of public sympathy.

Show them the money.

I would be interested in finding out how those two hooked up with Ms. Allred in the first place. Did they seek out a lawyer, smelling opportunity, or did she swoop in like a latter-day ambulance-chaser? There is surely money to be made for the *victims*, but even selling their story to the National Enquirer would be *taking the high road* compared to a lawsuit. Instead of their role as the recipients of a truly vile, uncalled-for tirade, they now appear to be opportunists of the worst kind, trying to cash in on hundreds of years of collective racial abuse.

What started out as a lesson in how not to behave has become a lesson in how to make lemonade out of lemons; unfortunately these lemons were never fit for human consumption.

Children, take note.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

When the Work-Around Exacerbates the Original Problem

Scientists in Britain are proposing a new method of creating stem cells for research: combining an animal egg (probably that of a cow) with the nucleus of an adult human cell to produce... ?

Whatever it was would then divide itself for six days, upon which time the researchers would try to harvest stem cells and then destroy the... thing.

According to this article in the London Times, the method is proposed as an alternative to the use of human eggs which are “in short supply” and mainly used in infertility treatment. The article doesn’t mention the existing supply of excess, unused embryos created in the course of that treatment, whose proposed role in stem cell research is creating controversy for ethical and religious reasons. Currently, those excess embryos are frozen, and are eventually discarded.

I can see where some might have a problem with creating human embryos for the express purpose of research. However the objection to using embryos that would otherwise be unceremoniously destroyed, is beyond me.

And the idea that creating some kind of sci-fi human-animal hybrid is a better solution to this problem, is totally insane.

While the plan is to use the proposed technology strictly to obtain stem cells, the potential for abuse is enormous. If an egg of this sort found its way into a womb – I don’t even want to speculate on what species of womb – what would be the result? What laws would apply? What unforeseen public health hazards might occur? Not to mention the moral, religious and ethical concerns which would be legion; much more complicated than the issue of destroying an embryo in the name of life-saving research rather than throwing it out in the garbage.

The march of scientific progress is like the flow of water: it will find its own level, and if blocked it will find a way around the obstacle, with sometimes tragic results. Those who try to impede progress need to take a good look at what potential abomination their opposition is creating.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

This Will Not Do!

Now that the US has taken the first step back on the path towards sanity, and before I turn my attention to the upcoming Canadian Liberal Leadership contest, I have to ask:

What is up with those Brits?

Two recent news stories have come to my attention and I think they reveal a very troubling trend.

First,

Birthday card could be 'ageist'

Somewhere in England, “new legislation” dictates that anyone sending even a slightly snarky birthday card could be liable for discrimination or harassment:

"Even sending a birthday card that says colleagues are 'over the hill and past it' could be taken as ageist behaviour," says a memo to staff.

What would be the point of sending a card if you could not gently poke fun at the recipient?
And what about the greeting card industry and the retailer? Is the industry to have separate catalogues to comply with laws of each jurisdiction?

Who is responsible for the content of the cards? Why carry them in your store if people are going to be afraid to buy and send them? And what of e-cards?

Most importantly, where can we find a donor for the sense of humour transplant that these bureaucrats clearly need!

Beyond being a nuisance, the other story, I feel, is just one more step towards turning out a generation of robots:

Stop hugging, school head tells his pupils

I suppose since bullying is no longer in vogue, children have turned to other means of communicating. Problem is, all that hugging makes them late to class and can lead to *gasp* other things.
Never mind that all manner of physiologists and psychologists agree that physical contact is essential for human well-being.
Students claim the school has gone so far as to punish students for hugging.

Headteacher Steve Kenning declined to comment on claims that pupils had been given detention or named and shamed.
In his explanation on the school website he wrote: "Hugging has become very acceptable amongst students and this has led to some students believing that it is okay to go up to anyone and hug them, sometimes inappropriately.
"This is very serious not only for the victim but also for anyone accused of acting inappropriately. To avoid putting anyone at risk please avoid hugging."


The VICTIM?

Call the authorities, I am the victim of a random hug.

The prisoner who now stands before you,
Was caught red-handed showing feelings.
Showing feelings of an almost human nature.
This will not do.

-Pink Floyd

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Better a Lame Duck than a Cooked Goose

Half an hour before the US mid-term election results begin to come in, I have to wonder if we should be careful what we wish for.

By “we”, I mean me. And all who agree with me.

I would like nothing better than to see this administration lose some power. Any power. Anything that might conceivably put the brakes on the erosion of civil rights and the willful disregard for the Constitution and the system of checks and balances that has served the US well for over 200 years.

I would like to see some progress toward holding the Bush administration accountable for their actions; not so much as to paralyze the country in the next two years, but enough to convince me that come 2008, there will be consequences.

The only thought that gives me pause is, if the Democratic Party has any power between now and the next election, they will be an easy target for blame.
They are inheriting a mess, which is likely to remain a mess for some time. All we can hope for in the short term is for it not to get worse. What ensues in the next two years will be perceived as occurring on their watch, or so it will be spun. It won’t be Bush’s fault because he will have been a lame duck.

But if a Democratic win now leads to Republicans regaining power in 2008, so be it. It is a chance worth taking because two more years of unfettered neo-conism would, I fear, destroy the heart and soul of the United States. I think Americans are beginning to get it, in sufficient numbers that change is now possible. We will soon see if that is the case.