For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas and happy New Year.  May this be a time of peace and good will for you and yours, and may 2012 be a year of good health and prosperity.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Twisted words

Okay, I haven't been posting much lately, as I've got a lot of things on my plate, but I was having a debate with someone over an article that was getting too long for the format.  That and I'm seeing the article being passed around by others as if it were God's Own Truth, so I figured I'd finally hunker down and write about it here.

This is the article.

15 Food Companies that Serve You 'Wood.'

This is typically followed by comments about how Teh Big Bad Food Companeez are Out to Killz Us (yes, I mock). 

The problem?

The article is horribly misleading.  In fact, in light of something my debating partner pointed out about an assumption I had made, it's even more misleading than I originally thought.

The basic premise of the article is this.

Companies are using cellulose as filler in food.
Cellulose is wood pulp.
Companies are feeding us wood pulp (insert nefarious motives here).
These are fifteen companies and their products that use cellulose, therefore they are feeding us wood pulp, therefore you should refuse to buy these products or support these companies, or anything else where you see cellulose in the ingredients list.

Well, let's start from the top.  The article opens with this.

The recent class-action lawsuit brought against Taco Bell raised questions about the quality of food many Americans eat each day.

Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you’re actually paying for – and consuming – may be surprising.

Now, I will admit the mistaken assumption I made that was pointed out to me right here.  I hadn't followed the link at the top.  Since the writer went straight from the class action lawsuit against Taco Bell to writing about using wood pulp as an extender, I assumed that the use of wood pulp as an extender was actually part of the lawsuit.  Turns out it isn't.  At least not that you can tell from the brief piece linked to, with no link to a source.  It's talking about the use of filler and the accusation that there's more filler than beef in their seasoned Taco filling.  There is nothing to tell the reader that "Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (wood pulp)..."

So right off the hop, by going from the lawsuit to the use of wood pulp, the reader is lead to believe that Taco Bell is being used for using wood pulp as filler in their products.  This is false.  The accusation is that they were using a lot of filler in their seasoned beef.  Filler can be any number of things, and for all we know, that includes the seasonings in their seasoned beef.

Now, just as aside, I do most of my cooking from scratch.  When I cook ground beef, you know what I do?  I use fillers.  And seasoning.  Back in the old days, this was called "stretching" and was a way of stretching a small amount of meat to feed everyone in the family.  In the depression era, it wasn't unusual for the family meatloaf to have more filler than meat.  I have cookbooks from that era that share tips on how to stretch meat as far as possible.  Bread and bread crumbs were most commonly used.  Myself, I tended to use a combination of bread crumbs, milk, egg and whatever herbs and spices I had handy.  Unfortunately, I have family members who are lactose intolerant and one that's gluten intolerant.  So I don't use as much filler.  The result is a less flavourful meatloaf that tends to fall apart.  Those breadcrumbs act as a binding agent that also hold moisture and flavour.

Which brings me to the next point.  Do you know why breadcrumbs hold moisture?  Because they have cellulose in them.

Now, if you read this article, you are lead to believe that cellulose is wood pulp.  In fact, they are very specific about that.

Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (wood pulp)

Cellulose is virgin wood pulp  

It even goes so far as to differentiate cellulose from dietary fibre.

Cellulose adds fiber to the food, which is good for people who do not get the recommended daily intake of fiber in their diets, Inman said lied. 
I find the unexplained strikeout particularly revealing.  Right there, you are told that anyone who suggests cellulose adds fiber as a good thing is revealed to be a liar.

The writer goes on to further separate cellulose from fibre or anything other than wood pulp.

...powdered cellulose has a bad reputation but that more of his customers are converting from things like oat or sugar cane fibers to cellulose
So his customers are moving away from good, safe food based fillers, like oat or sugar cane fibers, to cellulose, which has already been defined for us as wood pulp and has a bad reputation.  What is that reputation and why is it bad?  We aren't told.

The article also tells us how the use of cellulose is a bad thing.  Most of this is through the use of leading language.  The use of cellulose in a wide variety of products "is now being exposed." It "is deemed safe for human consumption" by the FDA which "sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products meant for human consumption."  Oh, and I just love this guilt by association paragraph.

... a company that supplies “organic” cellulose fibers for use in a variety of processed foods and meats meant for human and pet consumption, as well as for plastics, cleaning detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, automotive brake pads, glue and reinforcing compounds, construction materials, roof coating, asphalt and even emulsion paints, among many other products.
 You see?  If you're eating cellulose, even "organic" cellulose (note the scare quotes), you may as well be eating pet food.  Or plastic.  Or asphalt.  Or pet litter.  Isn't that just disgusting?

Booga Booga.

And, of course, we MUST bring up that other evil of food, fat.  Companies are feeding us wood pulp to pander to the weight loss crowd.

...allowing consumers to reduce their fat intake. to remove as much as 50% of the fat...

He said cellulose is common in processed foods, often labeled as reduced-fat or high-fiber...

So companies are basically accused of misleading/cheating/whatever their customers who want to avoid fat by feeding them wood pulp, instead.

And why are companies doing this?

Money, of course.

Perhaps most important to food processors is that cellulose is cheaper...

...the fiber and water combination is less expensive than most other ingredients... producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose...

Of all the egregious statements made in this article, I find this note from the editor most fascinating.

[Note: Humans are unable to digest cellulose since we lack the appropriate enzymes to break it down. This is a food adulterant and another example of the wholly corrupt nature of the federal agency responsible for food safety but continues to prove itself more concerned with corporate profit. ~Ed]

Take the time to follow that link.  I'll wait.

Notice something?


Cellulose is a carbohydrate.  All plants have it.  Of course humans can't digest it.  We are not ruminants, with their specialized stomachs, bacteria and enzymes.  That's why cows eat grass and we eat cows. 

Now go to the bottom of that page.  Notice something else?  Where it talks about dietary fibre?  Right.  Dietary fibre - which is part of cellulose - is good for us.  Which also, according to the strikeout in the article, is a lie.

Ah, but wait!  Not only is this a lie, but according to the editor's note, it is a "food adulterant and another example of the wholly corrupt nature" of the FDA.  Why?  Because they are "more concerned with corporate profit" of course.  Implication: the FDA is controlled by the corporations.  Do they have proof?  Who needs proof?  The FDA did something the writer disagrees with, and that's supposed to be proof enough. 

The article then finishes with...

To that end, TheStreet rounded up a list of popular foods that use cellulose. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and we suggest consumers read food labels carefully.

So what do you come away with from reading this?

Taco Bell is being sued for using filler.
Cellulose is used as a filler.
Cellulose is wood (implication: Taco Bell is feeding you more wood than beef)
The products listed at the end of the article contain cellulose.
Since cellulose = wood pulp, that means these companies are feeding you wood.

Or, to simplify it even further, this is the premise of the article.

1) Cellulose = wood pulp
2) Product X contains cellulose
3) Product X contains wood pulp.

So what's the problem?

The problem is right with item one.  Throughout the article, the writer maintains that cellulose is wood pulp, and even goes so far as to differentiate cellulose/wood pulp from fibre sources such as oats and sugar cane.  Cellulose is then painted as something horrible that shouldn't be in our food, even if we aren't getting enough fibre, because saying cellulose adds fibre is a lie.

Even if you followed the link in the editor's note, you are *still* told that using cellulose is bad and lead to believe the cellulose is wood pulp and wood pulp only.

This is the core of what's false and misleading about this article.

The other problem is the implication that cellulose is bad for us.  Yet we need cellulose, even though we can't digest it.

Although cellulose is indigestible by humans, it does form a part of the human diet in the form of plant foods. Small amounts of cellulose found in vegetables and fruits pass through the human digestive system intact. Cellulose is part of the material called "fiber" that dieticians and nutritionists have identified as useful in moving food through the digestive tract quickly and efficiently. Diets high in fiber are thought to lower the risk of colon cancer because fiber reduces the time that waste products stay in contact with the walls of the colon (the terminal part of the digestive tract). Read more

Because cellulose passes through your digestive tract virtually untouched, it helps maintain the health of your intestines. One way cellulose helps the intestines is that it clears materials from the intestinal walls, keeping them clear, which may help to prevent colon cancer. Cellulose is the fiber (or roughage) of which your cereal box says you need more.  Read more.

Cellulose is the substance that makes up most of a plant's cell walls. Since it is made by all plants, it is probably the most abundant organic compound on Earth. Aside from being the primary building material for plants, cellulose has many others uses. According to how it is treated, cellulose can be used to make paper, film, explosives, and plastics, in addition to having many other industrial uses. The paper in this book contains cellulose, as do some of the clothes you are wearing. For humans, cellulose is also a major source of needed fiber in our diet. Read more.

So if you sit down with a lovely salad, fresh from your own garden, you are eating cellulose.

If you crunch down on some fresh, organically grown vegetables or fruits picked up at the local farmer's market, you are eating cellulose.

If you eat some delightfully flavourful whole grain bread, with crunchy seeds and flax and other tasty bits like that in there, you are eating more cellulose than if you chowed down on a slice of white bread.





Barley?  Lentils?  Chick peas?  Kamut?  Spelt?


Oh, and yes, M, I was clumsy in my phrasing about making cellulose from rice.  That, by the way, is here if you want to see it.  I guess I'll have to remember to stop telling my family that I'm making rice, when in fact I am actually cooking it.  I had caught the clumsy phrasing but never got around to fixing it.

Now, in direct response to my debating partner (other points have been responded to above)....

I don't think this article misleads. I only agreed that it isn't as informative on all the aspects of naturally-occurring cellulose as you'd like it to be.
 Uhm.  No.  The article is pretty clear that cellulose = wood pulp.  That's not less informative.  That's misleading.  Of course wood pulp contains cellulose, and cellulose from wood may indeed be used as filler in food.  My argument was that the article maintains that cellulose *is* wood pulp, and that is what is the core of what is misleading.

I assume the writer has knowledge that the "cellulose" they are talking about is from wood.
 Why?  The writer bends over backwards to associate cellulose with wood pulp and differentiating it from anything else.  At that level of dishonestly, why assume the writer is being honest about anything else?  Or that the writer is doing anything other than assuming the cellulose in question is sourced from wood pulp?  The writer simply states that cellulose is wood pulp, then goes from there.  The writes gives nothing to tell us she knows that the cellulose used in the products list is actually from wood.  We are simply to assume it is.

I am baffled by your statement that you're not claiming there is no wood. 
 I have no idea if there's wood or not.  There is cellulose.  That cellulose could have come from wood.  Or it could have come from something else.  We don't actually know.  The writer simply tells us that cellulose is wood.  My claim is that this is misleading.  It is.  I don't know how much clearer I can get then that.

If your point is not that they're lying about the wood, why make all this fuss? I don't understand your motive.
 My point is that the article is misleading.  That in itself is not a big deal, I suppose.  The problem is that in the process, this article also attempts to speak with the voice of authority, makes a claim that it does not back up, then provides a list of companies and products and tells consumers to avoid those companies based on the writer's misleading claims about cellulose.  Then people who have bought into the highly charged lede and emotional claims start passing it around as if it were some great and wise truth.  It is maligning companies and products without evidence.

My motive?

I am no longer willing to let bullshit pass without comment.  When something as egregiously misleading as this article starts getting passed around, I'm going to say something.  Because not saying something is a sort of tacit approval. 

 Having gone over what the article does do, here's a bit about what the article doesn't do.

The article tells us the cellulose is bad but, other than talking about its use as filler and extenders, it doesn't tell us *why* it's bad.

The article tells us the cellulose is wood pulp.  There's even a picture of someone holding wood pulp.  Another thing about it that's misleading, since it implies that wood pulp is actually being used as filler, bringing to mind the image of that grey stuff in someone's hands is being mixed in with Taco Bell's seasoned beef, or mixed in with your yogurt and ice cream.  The cellulose is extracted and isolated into crystals or powder forms.  Wherever the cellulose came from, it is no longer that thing.  It is simply cellulose.  Does the source matter?  Well, it might from an ethical perspective (for example, the cell line used to make chemicals to enhance flavour and reduce calories used in some soft drinks originated from aborted babies.  It's generations away from the original cells.  Does that make it any less from aborted babies?  I don't know, but I don't think I can ever drink Pepsi again).  In this case, the source is supposedly from trees, and that's a bad thing.

Why?  We're not told.

I was told that it's because trees aren't food.  Except that people do eat trees.  We eat bamboo shoots and heart of palm.  We eat cinnamon and other barks as food or medicine.  First Nations have been eating the fresh shoots and inner bark of tamarack trees for centuries, and the starchy pith of the sago tree has long been an important food source. 

So why is cellulose from trees a bad thing?

It just is, apparently.

Even the use of fillers at all is assumed to be a bad thing, but again, why?  The use of fillers is common and can enhance a food.  Don't just tell me using fillers is bad.  Tell me why.  Make the case.  This article fails to do that.

Now, I can agree with the use of fillers can be a bad thing.  If I buy a pound of ground beef, I want it to be ground beef, not meat plus filler.  If, on the other hand, I buy seasoned beef, I expect there to be fillers of some kind.  Then it becomes an issue of how much is too much?  I don't want companies to be dishonest about what they put in food, but it doesn't help if the people railing against the companies are just as dishonest.

As to the types of fillers that are a problem, I have very little concern with the use of cellulose, even if it *is* from trees.  I am more concerned about fillers that are soy based (two out of four in our household cannot tolerate soy), dairy based (three lactose intollerant members in my household) or grain based (one household member who cannot do gluten). 

It's not cellulose that should be the concern here, and by being so misleading, the writer misses the boat completely and does her own cause a disservice.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Royally pissed

I am NOT a happy camper.

In the last few months, our van has been showing signs of electrical problems affecting our lights.  First, the right headlight stopped working.  We'd just changed the bulbs after the left headlight had burnt out, so this was unexpected.  We tried changing it again, but still nothing.  It did, however, suddenly start working again, then stop.  Clearly, the bulb was not burnt out.

Then the dashboard brake light starting turning on.   This is supposed to be the light that warns you if there's a problem with your brakes, so when it first started, that's what I was thinking was the problem.  However, it would turn on and off intermittently, usually without the dinging noise that 's supposed to accompany it when it turns on. 

Not good.

Eventually, we noticed that the rear driver's lights stopped working.  Then they started again.  Except for the hazard light.  When opening the sliding doors, the van's hazard lights turn on, but the one on the rear driver's side wouldn't turn on or blink.

Oh, and then there was the signal lights.  First, the left signal started blinking at double time.  The light was working at the front (we could see it blinking furiously in the reflections of cars in front of us) but wasn't working in the rear.  I think.  It's not like we could see it while driving, but when we tested it, it wasn't blinking at the time.  With those lights not being reliable anymore anyhow, I had no idea when or if the left signal light was turning on at the rear at any given time.

The right turn signal had been fine until very recently.  What started to happen is that I'd signal right, it would start blinking, then suddenly start signalling left (which we could hear happen because of the different speeds), then back again.  Or they would simply not turn on, left or right.

In the last week or so, as temperatures have been dropping, our front headlight suddenly started working again.  Temporarily.  It was still off more often then on, but it did work on occasion.  The signal lights switching from right to left or stopping completely hasn't happened in a while, but obviously I'm still concerned that it will happen again.  No change in the dashboard brake light.

When we bought the van, we got their highest level of insurance coverage for repairs, but we still didn't know if it would be covered.  There's a list of things that aren't covered by any of their plans - switches, bulbs, certain parts, etc.  It left me unclear as to whether or not we would be covered.  Despite several attempts to find out, we never got any response to our questions about it.  They did try to sell us a newer vehicle, which we would have been willing to look into if we hadn't encountered several other problems.

I ended up calling the insurance company directly.  I was quite happy with the information I got from then.  As to whether or not our problem would be covered, we'd have to know what it was, first.  That required a diagnostic.  Though we could have hunted for another garage that would honor the coverage we bought at the dealership, the guy I spoke to told me they deal with our dealership's garage on a daily basis and he suggested I do go there, as they would be more familiar with the coverage than others.  We talked for quite a while and I am happy with them and how they keep an eye on things, but I have little trust in garages.  We got burned badly in the past and know how prevalent scamming by garages is.

Long story short, I ended up taking the van in this morning.  After considerable time spent describing the problem, which the woman helping me inputted into the computer, printed out, got me to check (I spotted an error) and sign, I got a shuttle ride home.  They were going to do the diagnostic, then call us later.  I was told (and I was expecting this after talking to the insurance company) that if the problem was not covered by our insurance, we would be on the hook for the diagnostic - at $140 an hour, with the possibility of needing up to 2 hours.  It turns out the airbag on our van has been recalled, so that was going to get done either way, and there was the tentative push to get an oil change and have our brake fluids done, which I said no to (neither is covered by our insurance).  There would also be a complimentary inspection, which we apparently had as a purchase perk but had never used. 

Of course they called while I was away, but Dh was there to answer.  He was told it would cost us $50 on our deductible (which is $100) to fix the problem, which was covered by our insurance, another $60 for bulbs, and they made recommendations to get our break pads changed up, among a few other things that turned up in the inspection.  He said no to anything that wasn't what we'd brought it in for, but gave the okay for that part.

Eventually, we got the phone call that the van was ready.  A relief, since Eldest has a 5am shift to get to, and there are no buses running that time of day.  I called for the shuttle to pick me up and headed over.  It turned out that I got there basically as they were closing for 6pm.  The woman that had helped me with the paperwork before was staying late to process my file.  This was not really a good thing, as she was new to the job and there was no one there to help her out when she needed it.  Anyhow, on top of the deductible, the bulbs and parts added another $156 to the bill.  She wasn't able to close the file because there was no one to help her out, but she processed what she could, I paid the bill, and she promised to call me tomorrow to take care of the details she couldn't finish up.  I got my key then went hunting for the van.

It took me a while, but I did find it. 

First problem?

Right away I noticed they hadn't taken off the plastic on the seat from it being worked on.  Okay, fine.  Then I tried to get to the driver's side door, but there was a truck parked next to it and I really didn't want to squeeze though (I'd already had to do that getting out of the shuttle van), so I went in through the passenger side.  That's one of the things I like about the van - it's easy to do that. 

After clearing the plastic off the seat and the cardboard off the floor, I took the time to text Dh that I'd be heading out and stopping at a grocery store on the way home.  Then I started backing out.

First, I immediately noticed an odd noise.  A sort of grinding noise as I turned the steering wheel, as if something were loose somewhere.  Once I started driving straight, then turned left to leave the lot, it wasn't there anymore.  Hmmm.  And that new headlight must be really misaligned or something, because I can't see it.  I start driving down the road and...


The brake light on the dash turns on, then immediately turns off.


I keep on driving and as I make my way, I notice that the grinding noise happens when I turn right, then straighten the wheel, but doesn't seem to happen with I turn left then straighten the wheel.


I stop at a grocery store along the way, pull into a parking spot behind another car and immediately notice a reflection.

Or lack of it.

I still have only one headlight!

By this time, I was royally pissed.  I texted Dh to let him know (you can imagine how thrilled he was with the news), then headed into the grocery store, did some quick shopping, then headed home.  Grinding noise still there.  Brake light turning on and off, but no longer dinging.  The signal light was working fine, at least.

When I park at home I get out and check the lights.  Front, just one headlight (but the amber lights are working).  I check the rear lights and they seem to be on.  I open one of the sliding doors.

No hazard lights.  At all.

I close the door and turn on the hazard lights.  They're working fine.  They're just not turning on when the sliding door is opened.

So not only do I still have one headlight out, still have the dashboard brake light flickering like a Christmas tree, but now the hazard lights when the sliding doors are opened no longer start up at all and I've got a grinding noise that wasn't there before.

Our van is in worse condition coming back then when we took it in.

Being closed, there's nothing I can do about it until tomorrow.

They are going to get a major earful when I talk to them tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Remember, occupiers; this is what you wanted

Ah, the logical inconsistencies and magical thinking of the occupiers.

Groups of people squat illegally on public and private land in cities all over the place.  They openly call for revolution and our very own version of an "Arab spring."  When told to leave, they repeatedly refuse.  Their cause is greater than law and order, apparently.  They seem downright offended that anyone should expect them to leave (and equally offended when these freeloaders discover that homeless people have been sharing their bounty).  In their magical world, they should be free to break whatever laws and regulations they want, with impunity, and the rest of the world should bow down to their wisdom and do all the stuff they want us to.

The more fanatical among them have been looking for their Kent State moment, and they got it.  I expect them to milk this for every drop of sympathy they think they can get.  Oh, the outrage!  The brutality!  Never mind that they were repeatedly told to leave.  Never mind they had plenty of warning.  Now, someone is injured - an Iraq war hero, no less (let's forget that these are the often same people who otherwise consider soldiers to be brutal killers of innocents, acting on the orders of that warmongering GWB).  Now they've got their bloodied hero to wave before us all, claiming victim hood (I'm sure it would have been much better for your cause if he'd been killed).  Those evil, evil police, terrorizing peaceful protesters. 

h/t Moonbattery

Peaceful protesters?

If you are truly peaceful, pack up your tents, clean up your mess and go home.  Then get proactive about change by doing something effectual.  I realize this might involve something you don't believe you should have to do - namely, work.  Believe it or not, work is not a dirty word, though from what I've heard from occupiers, such things are beneath you. 

The world does not owe you anything, no matter what your Marxist professors and liberal/progressive teachers seem to have taught you. 

And our cities are not required to bend to your will, allowing you to break our laws, because you think your cause demands it.  You have been shown far more leeway and patience than you deserve. 

If you repeatedly break the law, while making it clear you have no intention of obeying the law, while calling for "revolution" and so on, what the heck to you expect to happen?  Do you really believe that the rest of the world will just sit on their hands, letting you continue having your little power struggle?  Then when they finally come to arrest you, you act all surprised, resist and people get arrested, bloodied, bruised and even seriously injured.  Why do you even pretend to be surprised by this?  This is what you've been asking for.  This has been what you've wanted all along.

This is your revolution, folks.  And in revolutions, people get hurt.  People get arrested.  People get killed. 

From what I've been hearing, this is what you've been after all long.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Catch phrase activism

I've got a photo heavy post for you today.

Youngest and I headed over to the library this evening.  Our usual routine, when the budget allows, is to sit for a while in the Second Cup that is in the library, chat, do some crochet, whatever.  Unfortunately it's closed for renovations right now, so we were going to go across the street to a fair trade coffee shop.  On finding it was going to close within 10 minutes, we headed into a nearby mall where we thought we might get some bubble tea.  Everything there was closed.  We still wanted to go somewhere, so we headed a couple of blocks over to a Tim Horton's we knew would be open later.

It just happens to be directly across the street from where the local Occupy group is squatting in a private park.  They were supposed to be gone this morning, but from what I read in the paper, they apparently had an hour-long meeting and decided they wouldn't leave.  The owners have granted them an extra day, but there's no word yet on what's going to happen tomorrow.

We couldn't see much of what was going on.  It was rather dark, so all we could see were a few signs and the edges of tarps and tents light up by the street lights, and shadows in the background.  It's a small park holding a small group of people.  We didn't go across to see more.  I wasn't comfortable with the idea of going past there in the dark with my 15 yr old daughter.  My older daughter, sure.  Eldest is a more assertive, confident type that people tend to leave alone.  Youngest, unfortunately, has the sort of demeanor that has every passing drunk shouting "yeehaw!!" when they see her walk by in her cowboy hat and duster, and every aggressive panhandler aims for.  I have less concerns about her walking along past the federal prison near us at night than walking alone down the main thoroughfare downtown.  The types of people that come out are very different.

Though we didn't go across the street, we found something else.  Leaving through a different entrance, we found a bunch of chalk writing on the sidewalk.  Only in front of the Tim Horton's, though.  I found this interesting, since there's a CIBC at the other end of the complex.  I thought the occupiers were against banks?  Perhaps walking to the other end of the block was too much effort.

For those outside of Canada, the CIBC is the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The complex is even called Commerce Place.  It's tenants include not only the Timmies we were at, but everything from a radio station, corporate offices and retail outlets, including an organic restaurant/bakery/mini-grocery store that specializes in all natural, sustainable fare.  It's always a very busy place, too.  An excellent example of capitalism, actually.  Among the services it offers is a meal delivery service, where people can order prepared, hot organic meals for regular delivery.  They know how to give their customer base what it wants, and are very successful at it.

Speaking of capitalism, here's one of the sidewalk phrases we found.

It reads, "capitalism kills love - you decide - love kills capitalism."

In interesting sentiment.  According to this, people have to chose between love and capitalism.  Either choice is violent, resulting in the death of the other.  Fascinating.  False dichotomies like this are really popular.  It makes me wonder what the writer thinks capitalism is.  Somehow, I don't think they mean the organic food store I mentioned above.

This one reads, "we'll see you at the barricades."  I didn't see any, but it was dark.  There may have been some across the street, but I've no idea where.


I'm not sure what this means.  It could be a reference to communism as a form of government.  Or it could be suggesting we all live in communes.

 "Cynicism of the intellect
Utopianism of the will."

What the heck does that even mean?  I am catching the vague Marxist/Leninist reference, but that's about it.

Two phrases in this one.  "Destroy capitalism" and "the kingdom of heaven is among you."  I find the juxtaposition of destruction with a heavenly biblical reference amusing.

 Another dual message and biblical reference.  "Occupy everywhere" and "the meek shall inherit the earth." 

Uh huh.

 "Without love no one would care enough to act in defence of our society!"

What was I saying about false dichotomies again? 

"CNT-FAT You do the work they get the pay."

I have no idea what the CNT-FAT refers to.  Actually, I don't know what they're referring to about people working while someone else gets paid for that work, either.

"Freedom should be free."

Actually, freedom is bought and paid for with blood and sacrifice.  Freedom in never free and needs to be fought for and defended.  Strange that people living in one of the freest countries in the world do not seem to appreciate, nor recognise, their freedom and the price others paid to bequeath it to us. 

 Love is greater than money.  Another false dichotomy. 

 Oh, the next few I find hilarious!  First...

Here is one of a couple of free papers available.  This one, put out by the same company that sells the Journal next to it, if I remember correctly, is labelled good.  The paper is free because it's paid for with advertising dollars.  In other words, we get this paper for free thanks to capitalists.

 Here is another free paper, put out by a competing company.  It, too, is labelled good.  I assume because it's also free.  It could also be because of the content.  If you click on the image to see it full size, you'll note the front page reads "Bad teacher," with an apple labelled "Eat me."  We stopped reading this paper because of the high sexual content.

Note that this paper, labelled good, is owned by Quebecor.  Quebecor also owns this paper....

 Yes, this paper that is labelled as "lies."  Three times, even.  It's part of the Sun Media group.

So, free paper full of sexual content, good.  Sun newspaper, owned by the same company, is filled with lies.

Got that?

No, I don't get it, either.

This smudged out writing reads "Edmonton Sun = Fox News."

So not only is the Sun filled with lies, it's Fox News.

This is actually an inadvertent compliment.  It turns out that Fox News is the most balanced of the big news sources.

Opponents of Sun Media are a fairly amusing lot.  They insist, no matter what the facts, on equating them with Fox News.  Fox News, of course, is the source of all things evil and hateful, according to them.  I don't get the channel, so I have no idea.  I don't watch any of the other big news channels, either.  For Canadian news, Sun News Network is the only thing I watch now, though any tv watching is rare for me.  I'm more likely to watch clips online. 

SNN has nothing to do with Fox News.  Never did.  There is no connection between the two, except that they are both admittedly right leaning (unlike the other news sources that are left leaning, but won't admit it).  This is enough, however, to have them branded as the source of all things terrible by people who admit they never watch either.

So this particular bit of sidewalk wisdom is not only an inadvertent compliment, it's perpetuating a falsehood.

This one is funny.  It has the words solidarity and love spelled out, with the peace symbol and anarchy symbol scattered around for good measure.  I read this and I suddenly start hearing this.

I don't think the people who wrote this understand where Solidarity comes from.  Being of Polish descent, the movement and its accomplishments held great meaning for my family.  For a group of people who openly advocate communism, Marxism and socialism, I find the expropriation of the Solidarity movement both ironic and disgusting.

 You'll have to click on this one to see it full size.  I did my best to put together 5 photos to get the whole thing.  It has two messages.  The long one reads "Be careful or the media will have you hating the people being oppressed and loving the people doing the oppressing."
Under that it reads, "transcend without transcendence."

The first part is inadvertently funny, while the second part sounds like New Agey spiritualism.

 Another merging of photos gives us a quote from the band, Billy Talent.  "You can turn your back or you can plant the seed.  You can choose compassion or universal greed."

Yet another false dichotomy, but it's lyrics from a famous band, therefor it's wise.  Right?

I think I should swing by these guys during the day with a camera - if they're still there - and see what other nuggets of wisdom they have to share.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A little entertainment

Dude.  Take a valium.
h/t Eye on a Crazy Planet

Gonna save America, huh?

Random thoughts on the OWS claims

Just a few random thoughts that have been passing through my mind as I see what's being shared back and forth among people I know, both left and right of the political spectrum, about the OWS protests.  Funny thing is, I've been away from home a lot and not keeping up with my usual news routine, so almost all of this is stuff that's fallen in my lap, so to speak, when I check my facebook, emails and the few blogs I manage to squeeze a visit in.

Question.  Those going around saying, "I am the 99%", do you really believe there even *is* a 99%?  I've been looking through the site, reading the placards, and watching a few youtube videos.  You know what?  You're not part of any 99%.  First, your representation of a 99% vs a 1% is a false dichotomy.  Most of the groups you claim are part of the 1% aren't, and your definition of what the 99% is has no basis in reality.  By your definition, I'm one of the 99%, yet I don't know anyone who fits your description, including the people who've lost their jobs, etc, nor do you represent me or my views.  You are not the 99%.  If you're liberal, you are part of a roughly 50%.  If you are unemployed, you are part of a 20% (US) or 9% (Canada).  If you've lost your home, you're part of a US national average of less than 3%.  It's the same with health insurance, debt, etc.

The 99% is an illusion.

To those of you complaining about bailouts, do you not realize that it was the government that did the bailing out?  Did you know that some companies tried to refuse bailout money, but had to take it anyways?  As for those that did take the bailout money, if you have someone offering you millions of dollars, wouldn't you take it, to?  I totally agree that there shouldn't have been any bailouts, but you're aiming your rage at the wrong target. 

Oh, and while we're at it, how is it that when the Tea Party folks complained about the bailouts, it was a bad thing, but now that you're against the bailouts, it's a good thing?

For those who think that capitalism is the problem, just what do you think of when you picture capitalists?  It seems to me that what you're actually talking about is crony capitalism, which is fake capitalism.  You seem to think capitalism consists only of big banks, big corporations, big companies.  You know what capitalists really look like?  Check out the next street food vendor you see, selling out of a truck, with lines of people eager to indulge in their delicious offerings. Those are capitalists.  Think of that small, family owned bookstore or convenience store in your neighbourhood.  Those are capitalists.  Think of your favourite coffee shop or tea place.  Even if it's a franchise, they are still owned or run by individuals who have invested time and money to provide you with a place to sit, enjoy a hot beverage and get free wi-fi.  Those are capitalists.

So when you say you want to destroy capitalism, say goodbye to your favourite book store, your grocery store, your coffee shop.  Say goodbye to your laptops and cellphones and tablets.  Say goodbye to street vendors and those funky little boutiques where you get your hipster clothes. 

To those who say you want socialism, have you spent any time looking at history?  Every single society that has gone the socialist route has failed, or is in the process of failing right now.  At best, socialism is expensive, and is incapable of paying for itself for long, as we are seeing in Greece.  At worst, it eliminates personal freedoms, individual rights and leads to the sort of death and destruction we've seen in the likes of Stalin, Lenin, Mao and Hitler, and continue to see now in North Korea and China.  This is not to say some things considered socialist do not have value; just as communism can use capitalist principles and make money, democracies and use socialist principles with some success.  The difference is, one is forced and controlled by the government while the other is chosen by the citizens and the government is acting on their behalf.  If you want a fully socialist society, say goodbye to democracy, freedom and individual rights.

Another question I have for OWS supporters.  Those of you who went on and on about how the Tea Party were just shills for big business (ignoring the fact that the Tea Partiers were against crony capitalism and bail outs) and that they were all astroturfed by the Koch brothers and so on.  Why are you so content to ignore the fact that the OWS is astroturfed, complete with paid protesters?  If you're so upset about corporate corruption (and rightly so), why are you not equally upset about union corruption, and union money funding OWS?

While in the same vein, how is it that you're so upset because some people got pepper sprayed, or a police officer apparently punched a protester, but you aren't upset when protesters are violent?  Why is it okay for the protesters to break the law, while you expect the police not to do anything about it? 

For those who think this "movement" is big in any way, you might want to get a look at this.

Click on it for a larger size.  You see that tiny little smudge on the right?  That's you.

For those of you with your trite little saying on your placards (and those sharing photos of some of the "best" ones), did you misrepresent things on purpose, or are you really that detached from reality?  And let's not forget how incredibly self-centred and spoiled some of your "demands" are.  I gotta tell you, some of you folks haven't just gone off the deep end.  You've been there a while and are doing the backstroke.

To those of you going on about how great the OWS is now, but were against the Tea Party protests in the past, please explain this.

Tea Partiers got the proper permits for their demonstrations. There were no arrests, no violence, no drug use, and when they were done, they left the areas they used in better shape than when they started.  They had a clear message, stated it, then went home to their lives and jobs.

The OWS folks are occupying private property illegally, their mess has gotten so bad I'm starting to wonder when the cholera outbreak will start, there have been many arrests, they've broken a number of laws, there is rampant drug use, noise, public sexual activity, while freeloading off of donations for about a month now and vow to continue even longer.

How is it that the Tea Partiers are the bad guys, but the OWS folks are the good guys?

Oh, and a lot of those "rights" you are demanding?  They're not rights.  They're privileges.  You don't have a "right" to a job.  You don't have a "right" to own a home.  You don't have a "right" to an income.  You don't have a "right" to have someone else pay for your medical care, your tuition, your mortgage, and so on.  Yes, times are tough and it's hard to make ends meet.  Yes, it's good to have a safety net for those truly in need.  They still are not rights.  I am also at a loss as to how OWS will in any way improve circumstances for anyone.  You're protesting the wrong place.

I've got other questions and observations, but I'll save those for another post.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Who is what?

I haven't been going out of my way to follow the situation going on with Occupy Wall Street (OWS).  Despite that, I'm still learning more about this than I ever wanted to know.

Of course, the usual folks are practically creaming their jeans over this US version of the "Arab Spring."  Somehow, they forget that revolutions have a tendency to leave hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people dead and many more struggling.

For now, there's just one area I want to focus on about the OWS folks and their supporters.  That is their "we are the 99%" thing.

According to these folks, there're two types of people in the world.  There's the 1%, who are all evil capitalists stealing money from and taking advantage of everyone else, with the everyone else comprising the 99%.  They've even got a website up where people share their tales of woe, which is all because of those dastardly 1%'ers, forcing them to take on loans they can't pay, buy houses they can't afford, and generally keeping a boot on their throats.

There's a slight problem with this issue.

First, though they talk about that 1% being comprised of "the rich" who control almost all the money in the world (they tend to swing back and forth between "the world" and "the US" a lot), that 1% represents the wealthiest of the wealthy.  A few years back, the numbers were that 5% of people controlled 95% of the wealth.  Then I heard it was 2% and 98%.  Now it's 1% and 99%.

The point being that that 1% is a tiny minority of the world's richest people.  According to the Forbes list of billionairs, the No. 1 slot is held by a Mexican named Carlos Slim Helu and his family ($74 billion).  He's a self-made billionaire, meaning that he didn't inherit his wealth or win it in the lottery, nor did he get make it as an employee of someone else.  He started his own business.  No. 2 on the list is Bill Gates ($59 billion), another self-made billionaire.  Warren Buffet  ($39 billion) weights in at No. 3, and is another self-made billionaire.  No. 4 gives us Bernard Arnault ($41 billion), a purveyor of luxury goods.  No. 5 takes us to Larry Ellison  ($33 billion), yet another self-made billionaire.  No 6 brings us India's Laksmi Mittal ($31.1 billion), No. 7 is the Spanish Amancio Ortega ($31 billion), No. 8 is Brazillian, Eike Batista ($30 billion), No. 9 brings us back to India with Mukesh Ambani ($27 billion), and No. 10 brings us back to the US with Christy Walton and family ($24.5 billion).  That's just the top 10.  You can see the full list of the world's billionaires here.  The list of the top 400 Americans is here. 

What you'll note about these people is that they are all billionaires.  And only the top numbers of these people, worldwide, consist of the evil 1% of the world's wealthiest people.

You know what that means?

The 99% the OWS protesters claim to represent includes all the millionaires and low-end billionaires that didn't make it to the top 1%.

A blog worth reading.

Alan Caruba gets it. 

Tell me again?

For all those people telling me that there is no persecution against Christians, and that we're just playing the victim card, read this.  Then try to tell me that Christians aren't being persecuted.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another one?

So here's a rarity.  Two posts in one day - and on the same subject; pithy sayings that reveal more about the people making them, then the people they are targeting.

This time, after being away from my computer for a few hours, I came back to find another graphic making the rounds.  This one is a combination of text an image.  On one side, there is a bicycle.  On the other, a car.

I'll bet you already suspect which one is demonized.

Over the bike, the text reads: This one runs on fat and saves you money.
Over the car, the text reads: This one runs on money and makes you fat.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again, because so far, nothing has shown me otherwise.  Logic is what people use to justify their emotional responses.  I now add to this, the stronger the emotional attachment, the more willing people are to suspend logic completely.

Let's look at the first part.  The bike, we are told, runs on fat.

Really?  Not too familiar with biology, are we?  Fat, of course, is basically stored energy.  Key word being "stored."  It's not going to do anything on its own.  What we use when riding a bike are our muscles.  Yes, I do realize that this statement implies that, if only we all just cycled more, we'd lose fat.

Which is bullshit.

Yes, some people do lose body fat when they increase their exercise levels.  Lots of people don't.  There are skinny cyclists and there are fat cyclists, and a fat person suddenly starting to cycle isn't going to miraculously become a skinny person.  Because bikes don't run on fat.  They run on muscle.  Now, I'm not going to go on yet another rant on how you can't judge a person's health by looking at them right now.  Suffice to say, there is a whole lot of ignorance and misinformation surrounding body fat. 

The second part of the statement tells us biking saves money.

Well, that depends.  If you're just tootling along a few blocks every now and then, you can get away with a cheap or second hand bike and minimal equipment.  Of course, there are helmets (if local laws require them).  And backpacks.  Water bottles.  Repair kits.  Lights and reflectors (cyclists, pleasepleasePLEASE don't skimp on lights and reflectors!).  Proper clothing and shoes.

For a dedicated cyclist, a good bike can easily set you back a thousand dollars or more, not counting equipment.  Others, just a few hundred dollars.  Still a lot cheaper than a car, but certainly not pocket change, either.

That's just for one person.  What about families?  For my own family, if we were to switch to cycling instead of our van, we'd need to multiply all the expenses by 4.  Still cheaper than a van, sure, but the cost is climbing fast.  For people with small children, there is the additional cost of child seats or trailers.  If cycling is one's primary mode of transportation, add in saddle bags or a trailer to haul the groceries or other such things.  One could, of course, just dangle the grocery bags off the handle bars, but that gets rather dangerous.  I speak from experience, there.

You can forget hauling anything big.  For that, you'd have to either borrow/rent a vehicle, pay someone else to deliver, or find some other way of hauling larger items.  Forget about hauling anything fragile, either.

You can also forget about helping other people out by giving them rides and whatnot. 

None of which covers another problem of cycling I know only too well - it can be surprisingly dangerous.  As someone who used to cycle as my primary mode of transportation, I try to be understanding and considerate of cyclists on the road.  They don't make it easy.  I know it's not a bike-friendly city that we live in, but when cyclists don't even try to follow the rules of the road, it frustrates the heck out of me.  Or scares the heck out of me as I find myself having to avoid killing someone who thinks it's a good idea to swerve in and out of traffic, run red lights, go from road to sidewalk and back again, and my personal "favourite," cycle and text at the same time.  Using both hands to text. 

But I digress.

Simple rebuttal; no, bikes don't run on fat.  They run on muscle.  And no, they do not make you skinny, either.  Do bikes save you money?  That all depends on your family needs and what use they'll be put into.  I'd say yes, with exceptions.

What about the next statement?  Do cars run on money?

Well, obviously they don't.  It's the price of fuel that's being referred to.  And yeah, fuel costs are getting ridiculously expensive.  That fact that these price increases are completely artificial and contrary to a free market economy doesn't help.  What about the cost of the vehicle?  Well, for us, the monthly cost of car payments plus insurance, plus fuel, plus maintenance does add up.  However, buying 4 adult bus passes per month is pretty much a car payment right there.  Buying four bikes, helmets and equipment?  Still a financial hit, but yes, cheaper than our van.  Not being able to buy in bulk makes food purchases more expensive.  Having to pay to deliver larger items, uncommon as that might be, also adds to the expense. 

As to the second part, does driving a car make you fat?

Just as the magical thinking involved in saying bikes run on fat, saying cars make us fat is false and misleading.  Cars can't make anyone fat.  The implication, of course, is that people who drive don't exercise, and if they don't exercise, they will become fat.

Ah, if only the world were so simple and magical.

Judging some one's body size by the fact that they drive a car is as ludicrous as judging a person's health by the size of their body. 

Of course, judging a person for driving is just plain stupid in the first place.  Unless you actually know a person's circumstance, you have no idea why they are driving.  We had some neighbours who would drive the two blocks to the store.  They were both thin, too.  So why did they drive?  Because being heavy smokers, they both found walking two blocks left them short of breath.  If you want to talk wasting money, there's a much better example! 

There are also other possibilities.  A person may be driving because they have health problems or injuries you know nothing about.  Their job might require them to go places and do things that cannot be done on a bike.  Who knows?

What I know, however, is that it's pretty rich for people to make such smug, judgemental statements about people based on what mode of transportation they use, and just plain stupid to make assumptions that those choices affect our body sizes.


Every now and then, various groups come up with a catch phrase or quote that they start using because it wittily portrays their own position in a positive light while demonising those who hold opposing positions in a few, easy to remember words.

Unfortunately - for them - what they've really done is revealed their own intellectual shortcomings, or at least highlights their willingness to suspend logical thought in favour of emotionalism.

There's a couple of those being gleefully passed around right now, but here's one I've seen a often enough to comment on.  It's a simple text graphic.  There's some sort of tumblr url on the bottom I can't read, but no accreditation, so I have no idea where it came from or who came up with it.  The text reads:

Homosexuality is found in over 450 species.
Homophobia is found in only one.
Which one seems unnatural now?

Wow.  Really?  Do you really want to be saying this in support of your position?

Right off the top, I see one, two part problem, and it centres around the word "species."  Humans, we are to assume, are the "only one."  In other words, humans and animals are placed on the same level.  Now, this is the standard position of atheists/materialists, so that should be no surprise, but some of the people sharing this are either not atheists, or not materialists.  I'll explore that later, but first I'll address the equivalency problem.

There's two ways one can view the equivalency problem.  Either it raises animals up to the level of humans (as some animal rights groups believe), or it reduces humans to the level of animals (as materialists believe).

Let's examine the first position.  In this case, animals are basically anthropomorphic.  They think and behave on the same intellectual level as humans.  In other words, animals can think through various possible courses of actions, are capable of understanding the consequences of those actions, then choose one course of action over another.  This, of course, is completely untrue.  Animals can do some pretty amazing things, but there is no evidence that they are able to think like humans and can thereby willingly control their own behaviour through the choices they make.  Animals may be intelligent, but you're not going to see lions and hyenas engaging in peace talks to end millenia of killing. 

On the flip side, humans are reduced to animals.  In other words, our ability to think through and choose our actions is an illusion.  We are really base creatures, ruled by our hormones and physical desires. We don't really control ourselves.  We just think we do.  Thereby, not acting on our physical desires or instinctual behaviour is what is unnatural.

Which leads me to the next problem with this statement - the use of the word, "unnatural."  Basically, it's animals do it, it's natural, therefore it is acceptable and it's okay for us to be doing it, too.

Again, there are two problems with this.  Actually, three problems.  First, that because animals do it, thus making it "natural," this means it's somehow normal.  The other is that, because animals do it, that means it's okay for humans to do it.  And finally, there is the implication that because something is "natural" it is also "good" in some way.

Let's start with the first two parts. 

You know what?  Animals engage in a lot of behaviours that are perfectly "natural" for them to do.  How does that have anything to do with humans?  Dogs eat their feces and vomit.  If a human starts doing that, are we to say it's okay because dogs do it, making it "natural?"  Or do we say that this person has an illness?  Animals also kill and eat their own young, kill their own mates, kill the young of their own and other species, rape, and engage in the animal equivalent of mass murder - killing just for killings sake.  Animal parents reject their young, abuse their young and sometimes allows them to starve in favour of keeping themselves (or leaders of their pack/pride/etc.) fed. 

We all love to see animals engaged in behaviour we approve of. Mothers caring for their young, the young playing with each other, or animals engaging in co-operative behaviour.  We also love our animal hero stories, where animals risk their own lives to help others.  We aren't so keen on stories about baboons stealing and eating human babies, or a pack of hyenas eating a water buffalo trapped in the mud, yet very much alive while they eat it. 

Then we get to the third part of this problem; the idea that something being "natural," either in the human world or the animal world, in any way makes it good or acceptable.  As I've mentioned in a previous post, humans choose our behaviours.  We are capable of examining the consequences of our actions, then choosing to either act on them anyway, or not to act on them at all.  Animals have no way of knowing, understanding or even caring that their actions have consequences; that their behaviour injures others, or that it spreads illness and disease, or any sort of long term consequence.  Just because it is "natural" for animals to engage in certain actions, that doesn't mean those actions are not ultimately harmful.  It's perfectly natural for animals to do all sorts of things that, were humans to engage in them, would lead to anarchy.  Instead, when humans behave like animals, we use the term as a derogatory way to describe those actions.  A man who rapes a woman isn't just asserting his dominance; he is a beast who commits a crime.  A woman who kills her own infant isn't preserving her own survival; she is ill and needs to be medicated (we'll not go into the double standards in these examples).

I could go on, but there are so many directions I could go to describe how illogical the statement is, I'm actually having troubles focusing on just a few.  Instead, I'll move on to a final point.

The use of the word "homophobia."

Now, a phobia is an irrational fear.  Most importantly, it is a fear of something that is not really a danger.  Phobias can range from the mildly annoying to completely debilitating.  Though it is difficult, phobias are treatable and curable.

I have no doubt that there really are homophobes out there.  Heck, my husband served with a couple while in the navy (and being the mature sorts that they were, he and others had no end of fun driving one guy in particular out of the room by "acting gay"). 

This is not, however, how the term is used or meant.  It's meant to imply, not fear, but hate.  Anyone who in any way disagrees or disapproves of homosexuality or anything that gay activists want is painted as a homophobe.  They don't just disapprove of an action nor do they just have a mental disorder.  They are painted as haters.

What this trite little phrase does is not only try to portray homosexual activity as "natural" because all these different types of animals go it, but that disagreeing with it is "unnatural" hatred.  On the one hand, the statement puts humans and animals on the same level by using the term "species," then on the other it differentiates humans as being separate, due to our "unnatural" homophobia.

This puts humans into one of two camps.  On the one side, we have animals and humans who engage in homosexual behaviour, and this is "natural."  On the other, we have humans who are homophobes (haters), and this is "unnatural."

What this also does is shut down debate completely.  It is not possible to have a logical conversation with a side that dismisses the opposition so completely.  I find it interesting that the side that latches so firmly onto notions such as "equality" and "tolerance" is also the most adamantly intolerant of anyone who dares question their position.

This pithy little catch phrase that is being passed around by so many to demonise those who disagree with them, instead reveals themselves to be the illogical, irrational and intolerant bigots they claim to oppose.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oh, the outrage!

Taking a moment to skim through the news, and this headline caught my eye.

Tough justice outrages Opposition and critics.

What they're talking about is the Safe Streets and Communities Act.

Bob Rae tells us "the legislation provides no additional protection to the public and that it’s an ideological bill that panders to the Conservative base."

Interesting.  Will have to take a closer look to see. Meanwhile,

Inmate advocacy groups said the cost to implement the justice package is foolish with the economic uncertainty facing Canada.
“Canadians are telling us and politicians that they would rather see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on public housing, child care, pensions, health care, mental-health services, education, victims and other social services,” the Elizabeth Fry and John Howard societies said in a statement.

So their objection to it is the money?

Their comment reminds me a lot of a problem I'm seeing in our co-op (who'd have thought being on the finance committee would be so ... entertaining...).  Group 1 proposes a change. Money for it is to be paid out of budget item A.  Group 2 doesn't like the change proposed.  They start a campaign vilifying the proposal, saying the money would be better spent elsewhere, such as for things covered in budget item B.  What they are ignoring is that the money allotted to the proposal has nothing to do with anything else in the budget.  You can't just arbitrarily take money budgeted in A and reassign it to B because you don't approve of something that would be paid for out of A.  B already has its own budget.  The money for A isn't at the expense of B.

What we really have is a bunch of people who don't like a particular proposal.  So they twist things around to imply that the money going to pay for the proposal out of A's budget is somehow depriving B's budget of funds.

A similar mindset is what I'm seeing in the above quote.  By saying Canadians would rather see tax dollars going to other things (of course, by saying "Canadians are telling us..." they make it sound like they are speaking for all Canadians, which they don't). Fair enough.  What they make it sound like, however, is that this act will somehow take money away from these things, or that the money should be reallocated to these things.

Here's the problem.  We have a budget that allots money to a lot of things (including a lot of things that government shouldn't be paying for at all, but that's a different topic), and the government can't arbitrarily remove money from one area and reallocate it to another.  That's not how it works.  Can you imagine if we had a style of government that could just ignore the budget and throw money at whatever cause is popular at the moment?

If these advocacy groups want more money for these things, they need to fight to get more money for them in the next budget.  They're not going to accomplish that by complaining about the money spent in areas that have their own budget.  The money for prisons is the money for prisons.  Preventing that money from being spent isn't going to magically increase the amount of money being spent in their preferred area.

Near the end, the article makes a brief mention about new prisons being needed for this, even though current prisons are not full.

Personally, I have a problem understanding why people are against new prisons being built.  Some of the old prisons are over 100 years old.  They are horrible places, expensive to maintain and inadequate to the needs of the prison population.  I especially don't understand the objection from people who focus on the rehabilitation of prisoners.  The current facilities make rehabilitation much more difficult.  The resources and infrastructure isn't really there.  Building new prisons will allow us to do a number of things.  The buildings themselves could be built with better materials, making them more efficient and cost effective to run.  They can be built with better infrastructure and resources, including educational, therapeutic, medical, etc., depending on the need.  Instead, it's being portrayed as new prisons would automatically be some sort of warehouses to shut prisoners away and forget about them.  Why?  On what basis are they assuming that new prisons will be a bad thing, rather than an improvement on our existing, antiquated, facilities?

A discussion for another time, perhaps.  For now, let's look at the proposed act.
The Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act (former Bill C-54), which proposes increased penalties for sexual offences against children, as well as creates two new offences aimed at conduct that could facilitate or enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child;

I have no problem with something that gets the sexual predators of children off the streets longer. 

The Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act (former Bill S-10), which would target organized crime by imposing tougher sentences for the production and possession of illicit drugs for the purposes of trafficking;

Specific to organized crime.  Looks good to me.

S├ębastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders) (former Bill C-4), which would ensure that violent and repeat young offenders are held accountable for their actions and the protection of society is a paramount consideration in the treatment of young offenders by the justice system;

I've got no problem with this, either.  Violent and repeat young offenders are being enabled by the current system.

The Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act (former Bill C-16), which would eliminate the use of conditional sentences, or house arrest, for serious and violent crimes;

Specific to serious and violent crimes; again, I have no problem with this.  I never understood how repeat violent offenders qualified for house arrest in the first place.

The Increasing Offender Accountability Act (former Bill C-39), which would enshrine a victim's right to participate in parole hearings and address inmate accountability, responsibility, and management under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act;

Yes!  More voice and rights to the victims of crime!

The Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act (former Bill C-23B), which would extend the ineligibility periods for applications for a record suspension (currently called a "pardon") from three to five years for summary conviction offences and from five to ten years for indictable offences;

Again, specific to serious crimes.  Sounds good to me.

The Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act (former Bill C-5), which would add additional criteria that the Minister of Public Safety could consider when deciding whether or not to allow the transfer of a Canadian offender back to Canada to serve their sentence;

Additional criteria added.  I'd like to know what those are, but more tools to make a decisions is usually a good thing.

The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and related amendments to the State Immunity Act (former Bill S-7), which would allow victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world; and

Ha!  Does that mean Canadian victims of 9/11 can sue the Saudi government?  Love it.

The Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act (former Bill C-56), which would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
I would want to know more about this.  It's one thing to prevent work permits, but what recourse is there to investigate if these foreign nationals really are being exploited, and how can they be helped or protected?

Going through all this, I have a hard time seeing what the Opposition is outraged about.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Choose to be gay?

This is a piece I have been slowly working on in response to something that happened several weeks ago. 

(note: I have tried to thoroughly link throughout this piece.  In come cases, these are links that portray contradictory points of view.  Unless I state otherwise, these do not reflect what I, personally, do or don't agree with, but rather are used to illustrate the controversy.)

I recently made a comment about how the only person I know well that is gay is someone who chose to be gay.  I was promptly told that NO ONE CHOOSES to be gay.

Now, aside from that fact that this statement essentially declares this person, a family member, to be a liar, it is completely false.  The concept that homosexuality is anything other than a choice is completely modern, as is even the word "homosexual."   The idea of homosexual behaviour as separate from any other sexual behaviour was a foreign concept throughout much of human history. 

There is no question that some people, from an early age or later in their lives, realize that they are sexually attracted to their own gender.  They account for approximately 3% of the human population; 10% if you include the entire LGBT-etc. community.  Note that these are only approximations, as it is extremely difficult to get accurate numbers on such a thing.

We don't know why some people are only sexually attracted to their own gender.  There is no "gay gene."  Whatever the possible reasons, this is not the group I am talking about. 

However until we reached a point, medically and technologically, to recognise this, the idea that people didn't choose who they preferred to have sex with was a completely alien concept.  Historically, humans have had sex with whoever and whatever they felt like.  Male, female, adults, children, animals, inanimate objects, it didn't matter.  Through various times in our history, we've gone through veritable sexual smorgasbords of choices over who and what to have sex with. Even concepts of pederasty and pedophilia are modern.  I think the only real overarching taboo was incest, and even that had exceptions.
Perhaps the most famous example of cultural homosexuality is the Spartans.  This was a culture where homosexuality was mandated by law.  Males and females were generally kept apart.  Men were expected to have sex with each other, as this was supposed to encourage bonding between warriors.  There was also the practise of pederasty.  An adult male could enter into a contract with the father of a boy  who attracted his attention.  The mentor would be responsible for the boy's upbringing and education, and the boy would be available for sex in return. This was sometimes viewed as an unfair contract - for the adult.  As the boy reached puberty, he would likely turn his sexual attention to his age-mates over his mentor.

Women of Sparta, meanwhile, were expected to keep themselves physically fit and agile, so that they could be good breeders, though they had more freedom than other women of the time period.  The beauty ideal for woman's body was a man.  Or perhaps a boy.   Concepts of fidelity or adultery did not exist, and wife swapping was common.  People, and their children, belonged to the state.  While homosexuality was mandated by the state, so was marriage.  On her wedding night, the bride had her hair cut short, was dressed as a man, and taken to a mattress in the dark to await her husband.  He would later enter, have sex with her, then leave to join his fellows in the barracks.  Heterosexual sex came to be viewed as distasteful, shameful, and required only to produce more strong Spartan soldiers.

The Roman and Greek empires  were both known for their homosexual conquests.  By the time Nero was emperor, early Roman ideals of chastity before  marriage, fidelity during marriage and marriage as the holiest of Roman rites were made a complete mockery of.  Nero was seemingly a sex addict, with several "wives."  One was a boy he tried to have surgically turned into girl through castration.  He then married the youth, in a mockery of the ceremony, dressed him in women's clothing and cosmetics, and engaged in public displays of passionate affection with him.  Nero's ... celebrations, shall we say, were renowned for their debauchery.  He was hardly alone, eagerly joined by the nobility (whom he eventually killed off). 

During the time of Julius Caesar, what we now call homosexuality was culturally acceptable, along with numerous other sexual practises.  Snakes were a favourite of Roman women indulging in bestiality (I have no idea HOW...). It may not have, technically, been legal, but it was common. In Greek culture, it was also culturally acceptable, even preferable.  The use of sex toys (content warning) was also common (content warning). I recall reading a Greek comedy about two women meeting on the street.  One asked the other where she got her excellent leather dildo.  The other was surprised she knew about it, as she had lent her new dildo to a friend before she'd even had a chance to use it herself.  Part of the joke was how the dildo had been passed on from one woman to another, including a woman the owner of the dildo didn't even like.  The play ended with the women parting ways, with one of them eagerly running off to the leatherworker to get her own dildo.  Greek art shows public homosexual group sex, masturbation with sex toys, and various other sexual activities that were considered completely normal.

These cultural sexual practises were not always considered acceptable by parallel cultures.  For example, there is the Biblical admonition for Jews "that Jews were forbidden to sell slaves or sheep to non-Jews, lest the non-Jews engage in homosexuality and bestiality" (slavery being something else that has changed significantly over the millennia).  In fact, Judaism was an anomaly in its adherence to fidelity and heterosexuality - and they weren't particularly good at keeping those laws, either.

These are just a few examples throughout history, and doesn't even touch many other cultures. The thing is, we all choose who we do or don't have sex with.  That includes what gender we have sex with.  That we may or may not be sexually attracted to another gender is a different issue altogether. 

As for my family member who chose to be gay, I won't go into her personal story of how this came about.  Suffice to say that, knowing what I do about her situation, I can actually understand how and why she would make this choice.  It makes perfect sense to me.  She is currently in a wonderful same sex relationship.  She is a fantastic person, and I am happy that she is in a relationship that makes her happy.  That's all that matters to me. 

She is, however, not the only heterosexual who has chosen to be gay.  Just to give other examples, another family member used to be a mortgage broker.  She had several clients that were lesbian couples.  In chatting with them over time (and no, she is NOT the sort to ask such personal questions), every one of these couples revealed that one or both of them had been married to men, some with children, but had left those marriages.  They then swore off men entirely and found themselves female partners.  Such tales are also shared by a number of gay blog writers.
Aside from those examples, homosexuality has actually become the newest "thing."  It's trendy and cool.  Weirdly, the cyberworld is filled with 14 yr old girls writing gay porn about young men, written for other 14 yr old girls, because gay boys are just so CUUUUTTTEEEE!!!! [insert anime eyes with floating heart bubbles]  Oops.  Sorry.  That should be "so kawaii!!" It's especially expected of teen girls to experiment with lesbian sex, even if (or especially if) they are attracted to men, because lesbian sex is just sooo hooottt!!!  You have things like "emo culture"  (yes, I know, there really isn't such a thing) where boys are just supposed to have sex with other boys, otherwise, they're not emo. 

I think it's particularly hard on girls, since our sexualized culture frequently uses lesbian sexuality in advertisements.  We've got Lady Gaga and her lesbian porn music videos.  Or Katie Perry with her "I Kissed a Girl" - a song about a heterosexual woman using a lesbian woman for experimentation.  The lyrics of that one are distasteful not only for its glorifying of meaningless sexual experimentation, but also the selfish treatment of the woman the speaker experiments with, as well as cheating on her boyfriend.

Not only are kids encouraged to be sexually active at ever younger ages, but they are *supposed* to engage in homosexual sex as well as heterosexual sex.  They are also being encouraged to explore all their sexual urges, whatever they may be.  It's all good and normalExcept abstaining or heterosexuality without homosexual experimentation.  On the one hand, we deplore the hyper-sexualization of children, yet we are also expected to see them as being sexual beings, and that they must explore their sexuality if they want to know what gender they really are - the concept of binary genders now being the new taboo. 

Even before this became the new trend, there were other cultural aspects that I suspect play a bigger role in homosexuality than is recognised.  This was illustrated by a friend who was studying for a psychology exam.  She was quite frustrated with it, as she had to give the "right" answers to pass the exam, but she frequently encountered things in her textbooks she felt was wrong.  One of them was being told how important it is to make sure children only played with appropriately gendered toys.  Boys had to play with trucks and cars and other boy toys. Girls had to play with dolls and dresses and other girl toys.  Unless the child was gay.  Only then was it okay to let them play with opposite gendered toys.

When she told me that, I mentioned that, based on her textbooks, I should be gay.  I hated "girly" toys. I much preferred to play with bricks and building toys.  I also hated to dress in girly clothes.  According to her text, I should either have been forced to play with girl toys, or assumed to be gay and "allowed" to play with boy toys.

She agreed with my point, then mentioned some friends that she knew that grew up believing they *had* to be gay, because they liked "girly" things. She also mentioned that they lived in a great deal of emotional pain over their sexuality because of this.  She had come to believe that these were people who weren't actually gay, but because our culture assumes sexuality based on gendered activities, they assumed they couldn't be anything else.  It had nothing to do with who they were actually sexually attracted to.  Because they liked "girly" things, they must be gay, therefore they must be sexually attracted to men.

This brings to mind something my daughter brought up.  Love and attraction are not synonymous with sexual attraction, even if those things are present from birth.  Being attracted to someone and wanting to touch them with your genitals is not the same thing. If you've ever had a chance to read some historical letters, you will see some examples.  J. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis were extremely close friends.  Their letters to each other were expressions of deep love and affection.  These sorts of expressions of platonic love were common for the time.  While modern humans tend to view ourselves as being more accepting of relationships, we have a terrible habit of sexualizing them.  Anyone expressing themselves in the same language as those used by Tolkein and Lewis today would be branded as gay.  Even my own parents' generation allowed far more open expressions of love between people that did not involve sex or sexual attraction.  Other cultures still do.  Our own culture (in Canada and the US) does not allow for such intimacy without sexualization, and I think we are much the worse for it.

Among the conversations I've had with Eldest, we've talked about how things are gendered in our culture.  Having studied historical dress, I find that men today have it pretty crappy.  They used to be able to dress in lace and flounces, wear bright colours, wigs, freaky shoes, clothes that today would be considered dresses, and so on.  Today's males can't enjoy such things without being assumed to be gay.  At least for girls, if they dress or behave boyishly, they're called tomboys and do not as frequently have their sexuality judged for them.  Heaven help the boy who likes pink or satin or lacy frills.  

Unfortunately, though there is some effort to change that, those efforts are being co-opted by gay activists.  The example that jumps to mind is of a boy who wore a pink shirt to school.  He liked pink.  Once at school, he got teased horribly for it and was called gay.  This lead to a backlash of support for him, with many of his fellow students wearing pink to school.  Eventually, people all over the place were wearing pink in support of this boy, and there is even a "wear pink" day.

So what went wrong?  Well, what started out as a backlash against this boy being bullied for wearing pink, with being called gay being part of the bullying, it became a LGBT promotion event.  People started selling and wearing pink t-shirts that read "it's okay to be gay." 

Now, instead of being an anti-bullying campaign, it became a anti-gay-bullying campaign.  Never mind that the boy wasn't gay.  He just liked pink and wanted to wear it.  He was bullied for it, which should not have happened.  That part of the bullying involved calling him gay was pretty meaningless.  The word isn't even used the same way anymore among most public school teens, and is now being used the way people used the word "lame" in my youth. 

Instead of being about bullying, the whole thing became about sexuality.

Why do we have to push sexuality on our children?  Especially when they're so very young, and all they want to do is play dress up.  It isn't any better when some 5 or 6 year old boy wants to wear pink and his parents say, "that's okay, honey.  We love you even if you're gay."  Huh?  He's 6, for crying out loud.  Let him play dress up!  Let him wear pink!  But for crying out loud, why turn it into something sexual?  And then we wonder why some kids are gender confused?  I remember talking to a mom new to our home schooling group.  While her 7 year old daughter was playing with the other kids, conversation somehow got to potential grandchildren.  She announced that she had to get used to the idea of not being a grandmother because her daughter was gay.  What struck me was not only the strange idea that a 7 year old was already sexualized, but the mother's preening body language.  She wasn't just proud that her daughter was gay.  She was proud of what a great mother this made her.  I found myself wondering, was her daughter really gay, or did her mother decide that for her? 

The images in the above link give an example of how our culture assigns gender to behaviour.  A boy likes to smell flowers?  He must be gay.  A girl likes skateboards instead of dolls?  She must be gay.  Why can't they just be children who like different things?  Why do we have to sexualize their choices, or assign sexuality onto them for those choices?  That these particular children did turn out to be gay is beside the point. 

There are a number of questions that also come up about the "born gay" trope, when it's used to claim that all people who are gay were born that way.  This is on top of our cultural habit of assigning sexuality based on things like colour preference, choice of toys and preferred activities.  How does this explain people who "discover" they are gay or bisexual later in life, even after they have led completely heterosexual lives before then, and had not felt sexual attraction to their own gender until later in life?   

What about the statistics that show same sex relationships have higher instances of infidelity and domestic abuse? What about the higher divorce rates of same sex marriages (and why do gays even want to get married at all, since it's supposedly such a terrible heterosexual construct in the first place?) Why is homosexuality so often associated with fetishes and offensive behaviour in gay pride parades, which includes everything from full nudity to engaging in sex on floats, to disrupting mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral and desecrating the church and Host while harassing the people inside?  Why are so many in the LGBTetc. community people with incredible trauma and abuse in their past?  Could it be that, in going so far to "normalize" all forms of sexuality, we are inadvertently harming people who actually do need treatment?  That in being so "accepting" of a behaviour, we are in fact ignoring symptoms of a problem?  And what do we tell people who say they are gay, but don't want to be?

 How much of our sexuality is biology, and how much is choice?  Being humans, a species that requires two sexes to procreate, heterosexuality is a necessity.  The biological urge to procreate is a heterosexual urge.  It can be nothing else, since it's the only way our species can procreate.  Like any other species of binary gender, heterosexuality is the default.  That this is necessary for the propagation of the species doesn't mean it's the only type of sex binary gender creatures engage in.  I think pretty much everyone has seen a dog trying to hump a human's leg.  I've seen cows trying to mount other cows, and have stopped one of our male barn cats from raping another male cat - and it was most definitely a rape.  Dolphins will screw anything, even a pipe, and will attempt to have sex with human females.  I even watched a video taken by researchers in the Antarctic of a leopard seal sexually assaulting a penguin.  Talk about playing with your food!  When it comes to sexual urges, it's pretty much no holds barred in the animal kingdom.

Unlike animals, humans are not ruled by our sexual urges.  We are not led by our genitals, though some people certainly live their lives as if they are!  Our physiological responses do not rule us, nor do they decide attraction or even sexuality.  Finding someone sexually attractive does not mean we are sexually attracted to that person, even if there is a physiological response.  Our bodies will respond to things, even at odds with our desires.  Perhaps the most extreme example is in rape.  Men who have been raped by women are often told that this is impossible; that they must have had consensual sex because they had an erection or even ejaculated.  They must have enjoyed it or wanted it.  Their rape wasn't really rape.  This is based on the assumption that their physiological response is one of sexual desire.  Yet how many pubescent boys have found themselves embarrassed by erections at inopportune moments?  Even paraplegics with no sensation will get erections.  One paraplegic man whose interview I read recalled the first time he was bathed by a new and inexperienced nurse.  When, much to his embarrassment, he developed an erection, she actually dropped the sponge and ran away, leaving him helpless in the tub.  An older, experienced nurse eventually came and bathed him.  He felt humiliated, yet had no control over his body's response.  The inexperienced nurse could not get past the idea that his physiological response was also a sexual response, and was never assigned to bathe him again.

It's not only men who are demeaned and humiliated by the assumption that physiological response = sexual desire.  Women who have been raped can also struggle with their unwanted physiological responses.  Some women report their shock and horror when, while being raped, their bodies responded to the rape in a pleasurable way.  This has led to much guilt, shame and confusion (sound familiar?).  If their bodies responded this way, was it really rape?  Did they actually like it?  Did that mean they deserved it?

Of course, the answers are yes, no and no.  Their physiological response does not negate their trauma.  It does not mean they liked being raped, or that they wanted to be raped.  Yet we live in a culture that equates physiological response with attraction and desire, and this can cause unbelievable psychological pain.

This leads us to numerous questions.  What is attraction?  When and why is attraction considered sexual desire, rather than just appreciation?  What role does culture play on what we do or don't find attractive? When and why does attraction determine sexual orientation?  Why do we choose to act on our desires? 

Oh, and to answer the question I know is out there, when did I choose to be heterosexual?  The answer, for me, is about 14 years of age.  Maybe a bit earlier, but not much.  Perhaps I was a late bloomer, but the idea of being sexually attracted to either gender was completely foreign to me until then.  Even when I had the maddest crush on someone when I was younger, it had no sexual element to it at all.  Perhaps because I was raised in a very different culture than my peers - a culture that saw women walking hand in hand, men hugging, and everyone kissing everyone else in greeting, even if they were complete strangers - I did not grow up associating the desire to be with someone with wanting to touch genitals with them.

So how do I conclude an already ridiculously long post?  The original statement was, NO ONE chooses to be gay.  It may indeed be true that some people know they are gay from an early age, though it has yet to be determined if anyone is born gay.  To claim that this is true for all gay people is not only false, but it demeans the reality of those who do choose to be gay.  At the very least, it calls them liars.  It also degrades the relationships they choose to be in, reducing them to nothing but hormones and sexual urges.  This would be equally true of heterosexual relationships.  I find my husband sexually attractive because I love him.  I do not love him because I find him sexually attractive.  And I think my husband is HOT. ;-) 

The point is, the relationship came first.  For some people, their relationship with a person is important enough, deep enough, and loving enough, that becoming sexually active with that person is just one more step in the relationship.  Even if it's a same sex relationship, and they themselves were heterosexual.

We can, and do, choose.