Archive pour juin 2008


juin 30, 2008

By a vote of five to four the United States Supreme Court has barred Louisiana and five other states from executing child rapists.

Between 1930 and 1964, 455 people in the United States were put to death by the states for rapes of adults or children. Apparently none of the executed was a white man who raped a black woman or child.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing in dissent in favour of the death penalty for child-rape, wrote: « The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave…. With respect to the question of moral depravity, is it really true that every person who is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death is more morally depraved than a child rapist? »

But it seems to me there are several problems to a policy of executing criminals for the rape of children. First, there is the potential for wrongful executions, given unreliable or induced testimony from children. Second, the child victims would often have been obliged to testify, in effect to bring about the death of a criminal who might also be a close relative. Third the death penalty would remove the rapist’s incentive not to kill his victim. And fourth, rape within families would be even less likely to be reported than it is now.

What is most disturbing here is the U.S. Supreme Court came within one vote of joining the brutality of state-sanctioned murder to the brutality of child rape?

Do you agree?



juin 29, 2008

Did you know that in scores of countries around the world–including Thailand, where food markets are stocked with commercially raised water beetles and bamboo worms — bugs and insects have long been part of a well balanced meal?

Furthermore eating insects could be a far greener way to get protein than eating chicken, cows or pigs. With the global livestock sector responsible for 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and grain prices reaching record highs, cheap, envirornmentally low-impact insects could be the food of the future – provided people can stomach them.

Insects require little room and few resources to grow. For instance, it takes far less water to raise a third of a pound of grasshoppers (150 g.) than the staggering 869 gal. needed to produce th same amount of beef.

Incredibly efficient to raise, insects are also crawling packets of nutrition.

Some people are revolted by the alien appearance of insects, but then again lobster could hardly be described as cute andcuddly.

Consider the Waxworm spring salad. Cook waxworms as well as Queen Atta ants. If cooked correctly, what you get is crispy, meaty and flavourful.

Would you ever consider eating well-cooked insects?


juin 27, 2008

What an experience.

We left for Unity, New Hampshire (1507 pop.) about 10:15 Thursday morning. We arrived in New Hampshire four hours later. We knew we needed tickets which we didn’t have. So first off, we checked into the two locations where cars were to be dropped off before taking a bus to Unity.

There were no tickets at either site. Then we checked in to a Best Western and asked the effervescent young woman on registration if she would try to get us tickets on the Internet. She would. Sadly,the answer was all the tickets for the buses were gone.

With hearts sinking we drove a few miles to Unity and stopped at the school where the outdoor event was to be held on Friday. Jim stayed in the care, I went inside the school. Finally, I got to speak to a young Obama supporter named Duncan. I t old him our story. Duncan was impressed we had bothered to drive so far. Then he gift wrapped a huge Christmas present six months early. He would put Jim and me on the list for VIP parking. I couldn’t believe it. In one stroke we finessed tickets, buses, the whole ball of wax.

Friday was a lovely, hot, sunny day. We arrived in the meadow behind the school about ten-thirty, early enough to get a seat. People continued to pour in for the next two hours. Local politicians brayed away. The most interesting was the popular former governor, Jeanne Shaheen, now running on the Democratic ticket against the incumbent Republican, John Sununu. I expect she will win.

The smiling crowds pouring in were happy, the air electric with anticipation. Only one incident marred the pleasant scene. A few yards down the fence from us there was some kind of scuffle. A state trooper ushered a fiftyish man wearing a T-shirt of the National Rifle Association off the site. I had no trouble with the T-shirt but the man’s face, scowling and suffused with anger, resembled nothing so much as a cracked sidewalk. The incident left an aroma of apprehension.

Promptly at 1:15 the music stopped, the cheers swelled and Hillary (in a robin-egg blue pantsuit) and Obama (in a white shirt, blue tie and no jacket) walked onto the stage.

Obama made it clear he needed Hillary (and Bill too); Hillary made it clear she was on board for the duration. The crowd roared their approval. It felt like a tide of change was flowing, that something historic had occurred. It felt good to be there.

Oh yes, as a parting gift, I got to shake the hand of the next President of the United States.


juin 26, 2008

Robert Mugabe was brought up a Catholic and taught by the Jesuits. Sadly, he is now one of the bloodiest despots on the face of the earth. He has reduced Zimbwabe to a poverty-stricken, fear-ridden country where bullets and blood are the daily fare.

He has forced the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, to flee to the Dutch embassy and refuse to take part in Friday’s election for fear of numerous deaths. Mr. Tsvangirai has asked the United Nations to send in a peace force. The leaders of the International community are now calling tomorrow’s elections a sham although the dictator has refused their call to postpone them. On Wednesday, as a sign of her « revulsion » the Queen stripped Mugabe of his honorary knighthood.

What keeps Mugabe in power are the military and a handful of cronies. Mr. Mugabe bought their loyalty with land and other largesse. Only very personal punishments – freezing their foreign bank accounts and denying visas – will bring them to their senses.

The United States, Canada, Europe and especially other Afican governments must all make clear that if the runoff election scheduled for tomorrow is not delayed — so that Mr. Tsvangirai can campaign without the threat of violence — they will no longer recognize Mr. Mugabe or his government and will use all their powers to punish and isolate them.

Do you agree that every effort should be made to remove Mugabe?

Am off today with my friend, Jim, to motor to Unity, New Hampshire, for the first joint campaign appearance of Obama with Hillary. Should be fun. Back late Friday. Have a great weekend.


juin 25, 2008

Obama is-pro choice. So how in the world can he be the pro- life candidate in the American election? Easy. Most of the data now show that the pro-choice approach is more effective at achieving what the American public views as pro-life goals: reducing the number of abortions, preventing late term abortion, than the pro-life approach,

In some ways the key problem here is not killing developing babies but preventing unwanted pregnancies. The pro-choice movement and pro-choice politicians like Obama are the ones who champion wider access to birth control, and birth control is one of the only ways to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion. (The Catholic church forbids all use of artificial birth control).

Obama will remind the voters that it’s the pro-choice movement and pro-choice elected officials who have fought for health insurance coverage for contraception as well as to bring new and more effective contraceptives to market.

So what about abstinence pushed by the pro-life forces? In a word, it doesn’t work. Obama supports the comprehensive sex-ed programs that have been proven to work. McCain supports no sex-until-marriage-programs which ave been proven to fail. (Cardinal Martini is one of the few Catholic leaders who wants the Church to recognize the fact that the majority of younger people are sleeping together, many with the consent of their parents.)

Obama could remind the voters that only 11 per cent of sexually active women don’t use contraception and from this 11 per cent comes 50 per cent of the nation’s abortions. It is in that context that pro-life groups have been spearheading campaigns to prevent Americans from accessing birth control.

The right to life approach, which McCain has pushed for decades, is actually at the root of the problem: leading to more abortions.

Obama supports policies that will reduce abortions. McCain supports policies that will increase them.

Is there any doubt about who is the real pro-life candidate in this election?


juin 24, 2008

Today is the Fete Nationale du Quebec. So, happy feast everybody. The day is especially significant this year because Quebec City is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its founding.

Quebec is a smiling pleasant place these days — at peace, prosperous and readying for a summer of fun festivals of which the Montreal Jazz festival is the most famous attracting thousands of visitors including many Americans. Today, my wife Catharine and I will go to the Atwater Market to obtain a basket of ruby red juicy Quebecois strawberries.

And there is more good news on the political front. A new nationwide poll suggests that a strong majority (71 per cent of English-speaking respondents and 78 per cent of allophones) of Canadians – including most of the country’s French-speaking population – believes Quebec is « destined » to remain part of Canada. Only a third of Quebec residents believe the province will one day become a country.

These results suggest the limited appeal of the historical narrative long promoted by Quebec separatists – that « accidents of history » such as the British victory on the Plains of Abraham, have merely delayed Quebec’s inevitable emergence as an independent state.

Instead, most Canadians including Quebecers, appear to find the classic federalist story line – which emphasizes inexorable progress toward reconcilation of the French-English conflict at the heart of Canadian history – more compelling.

Furthermore, all the political polls show that the strongly federalist government of Jean Charest would win a majority were an election to be held today.

So deck the halls, blow the trumpets and ring the bells. Quebec’s heart is beating strongly at the centre of the federation. And we are off tonight to celebrate at a Quebecois concert in the Old Port.

What about you?

And do you agree with the large majority of Canadians who believe Quebec will remain in Canada?


juin 23, 2008

Many parents across the country are shocked and angered by a judge siding with a 12-year-old girl from the Gatineau against her father.

According to court proceedings, the father had banned his daughter from going on line after she posted photographs of herself on an Internet dating site. Then, after she allegedly fought with her stepmother, he told her she could not go on an end-of-year school trip.  At that point the girl acquired a lawyer and took her father to court.

It should be noted that the girl’s parents have been divorced for 10 years. While the father prohibited his daughter from going on the graduation trip, his divorced wife approved it. So it might be argued that Judge Suzanne Tessier was simply trying to protect the child’s interests from being submerged beneath a stalemate between divorced parents.

But that’s not how many Canadians saw it. The Montreal Gazette thundered: « By ruling that the father of a 12-year-old girl had abused his authority by forbidding his daughter to go on a class outing because she had disobeyed his order to spend less time on the Internet, Judge Tessier diminished not only the authority of all parents, but also the majesty of the law she serves. »

The Gazette continues: « De minimis non curat lex » – the law does not concern itself with trifles – and what could be more trivial than a pre-adolescent’s whining about missing a school trip? »

This personal example may have some relevance here. We travelled to high school by bus. The bus was occasionally late getting home because we stayed in the high school town for a movie. But during Lent my father would not permit me to stay for a movie. The problem was that if one student objected to staying for the movie, the bus could not stay, and all the other bus students were forced to miss the movie. Not a happy scenario for me.

In the case of the Gatineau girl her father has announced he will repeal the ruling.

What do you think?

Should the girl have been able to go on her graduation trip as the judge ruled?

Or should she have been prohibited from going as her father demanded?


juin 22, 2008

Recently, a « high doggie tea » was held in Toronto to raise money for a new cancer centre for dogs. One woman paid several thousand dollars for her dog to have cancer therapy to make her elderly dog comfortable for a few more months. Come to think of it, was this woman trying to preserve her pet’s lifestyle or her own?

There are approximately 3.5 million dogs in Canada. It’s estimated that one in four will develop some form of cancer. Researchers say it is hoped that these animal cancer centres can develop new ways to fight the disease in both animals and people.

There’s no question people are spending two or three times more money than they used to, say 20 years ago, on the health of their pets. One veterinarian says if people can spend even more money on lottery tickets or smoking, why shouldn’t they spend it on animals who at least give them unconditional love.

One dog owner says: « Will people think I don’t love my dog and cat enough if I am not prepared to spend thousands on tests or treatments to prolong their lives? I think I’d be a better person to let my animal die naturally and then give $1,000 to combat child poverty, or even animal abuse. »

Do you own a pet?

Should owners pay thousands for their pets’ health?

What do you think?


juin 20, 2008

Late this afternoon the Supreme Court of Canada delivered its most important business decision since the court was established in 1875.

The decision related to BCE and its friendly takeover by a consortium of companies headed by the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund for $52 billion dollars – the largest takeover in world history.

More specifically the question the Court dealt with was whether the directors of BCE adequately took into consideration the interests of the bondholders viz.a viz. the shareholders.

Shareholders use their money to buy stock in the company. So if the company’s shares go up the shareholder makes money. If the stock goes down the shareholder loses money. There are no guarantees. Buying stock means taking a risk.

The bondholders do not buy stock; they lend the company their own money. There is a contractual obligation to pay the bondholder interest on his or her money and to pay back the whole amount when the bond becomes due. There is little risk.

In the case before the Supreme Court the company argued that it owed the bondholders only their contractual obligations. The bondholders argued that the company failed to properly consider their interests in a debt-heavy takover that is gutting the value of their investment.

Today the Supreme Court came down unanimously on the side of the shareholders. Presumably now the deal, which must be wrapped up by June 30, will go ahead.

Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision?

Do you think it will now be more difficult for companies to raise financing because potential bond buyers will feel their interests are being subordinated to the interests of shareholders?


juin 20, 2008

There has not been a big issue separating the federal parties since the election of 1998 was fought on free trade. Now, as a result of Stephane Dion’s announcement there will surely be a big issue in the next federal election. It is called a carbon (pollution) tax and its purpose is to slow global warming.

There is no longer much scientific disagreement of the close connection between the emission of greenhouse gases and the inexorable rise in the earth’s temperature. Nor is there much disagreement that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary culprit. An essential part of a market-based solution must involve imposing a cost on those responsible for those emissions. The result would be a greater incentive to find ways either to reduce the burning of fossil fuels altogether or to continue burning them while preventing the toxic emissions from polluting the atmosphere. It’s simple. Tax fossil fuels and reduce global warming.

But that’s only the first half of the policy which will raise more than 15 billion in new taxes. The other half is that every dime of these carbon taxes will be returned to Canadians in the form of tax cuts and tax credits. So « the green shift » at one stroke creates the right incentives to reduce fossil-fuel use while not increasing the government’s tax take.

The richer we are, the more cars we own, the more air travel we do, and the more oil or electricity we use to heat our larger homes. So a carbon tax which raises the price of these products will collect more tax revenue from high-income households than from low-income ones.

Look at it this way. Imagine three income groups – low, middle and high – and suppose that the amount of carbon tax collected annually from the three groups is $3,000, $6,000, and $9,000 respectively. If there were equal numbers of taxpayers in each group, the government would then need to reduce income taxes by $6,000 for each taxpayer. The low-income households would clearly be better off while the middle-income group would see no change in their total after-tax income. Only the higher income households would be worse off because their income-tax reduction would be insufficient to cover their higher carbon taxes.

So a new Liberal government under Dion’s carbon tax would ensure that lower-income Canadians would end up the real winners. In addition, of course, to the environment.

Do you agree that climate change is happening?

Do you support Dion’s carbon tax?

Can any reasonable person be against such a task?