Saturday, March 31, 2007

You Can Depend on It

You can depend on the Mounties letting down the side, that is. This time it's about their retirement fund. This was a topic that had bubbled almost to the surface a couple of times, only to be submerged by a different lump in the stew that is the RCMP.

As the story goes, it seems that somebody noticed there were 'problems' of an undefined sort with the RCMP pension plan, at that time administered by senior members of the force. I believe the concern was that certain budgetary measures were being met from the interest or corpus of the fund. The matter was solved when the senior members opted to turn the fund over to outside management.

Well, apparently, they made a cock-up of that as well and this is where he current story lies. Former governments were informed of the problems but, for one reason or another, things were left as they were. Now the 'originators' are retired from the force - enjoying their pensions or warming chairs in CSIS or private security outfits. And the 'caca' they made is ripening for dispersal by fan.

Among other things, it seems they hired members of their families as the 'outside administrators' and paid them better-than-competitive wage scales for looking after the boodle. It seems there were 'buyouts' made that shouldn't have been made and that critics of policy were silenced or shipped off to the much desired traffic patrol at Pearson Airport in Toronto or the one man post at Okotoks. All the small potatoes crap that makes the high echelon RCMP seem like such a bunch of putzi.

And smack dab in the middle of all of it ' Zack'- the master of the horse! But he's gone and the acting superintendant, commissar, or whatever, bears a resemblance to Frau Farbessina. I hope she's whipping the boys into shape. But I doubt it. Another big expense coming up - and I'll bet we have to kick into that retirement fund to boot.

Dead Babies for Democracy

A story originating in American headquarters in Baghdad and attributed to a General Barbero disgusted just about everybody in telling how car bombers had used two small children to fool security checks. They detonated their bomb, apparently killing the two children. The story was later corroborated by the Iraqi police.

This story has engendered more than 165 000 internet posts, but has appeared on only six notably similar news reports. The details are sketchy. All six tell of two children in the back seat of a car driven through security checkpoints and exploded after the front seat passengers, 2 men, exited and walked away. Then things start to change. In one post the children were spotted by American security at two checkpoints. In another the children were spotted by shop keepers who told the men they couldn't park their car.

The story reports 6 - 8 people killed but does not refer to the children. In the aftermath, these children remain apocryphal - no reports on their bodies, gender , age, etc. - no reports of missing children. Since the original story - nothing, if you don't count 165 000+ internet entries, that is. If numbers alone can make something true this is a fairly good example. Not one poster in the first ten pages even wonders if the story is true.

Like other stories of atrocities committed by one side or the other, that later are found to be insubstantial, these things have a way of remaining buried in the psyche. To the pro-war population they're just more proof that it's a 'mission civilitrice', a prevention of similar atrocities over here, a battle against heartless terror. To the antiwar people its another in a litany of inhumanites in a questionable cause. To others it's bullshit, pure and simple, like the BS that started it all.

Two weeks ago a truck bomb aimed at a kids playground turned out to be some American demolitions gone awry. Before that, there was the massacre of the innocents leaving the mosque - it never happened.

One of the first casualties of war, is truth. It's just a real pity when the 'good guys' the claimed forces of the light are forced to lie. It's disgusting that they do it with such blatant arrogance. If it wasn't for the fact that they're claiming to save the world, it would be understandable. But then, look at what happens in our 'democracies' every day. The media runs us and the powers run the media. And some of those 'powers' are deluded, they're so whacked on their own BS they're nuts. What you have in Iraq is just some third-rate advertising flunkies, the real deals are back stateside making six figures peddling beer and cars.

The bummer about making fabricating wartime horror stories is that, eventually, they come back to make you look wrong. And when you're snotting hell out of somebody else's country that can be worse than dead babies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dr. Lister I Presume?

A recent newspaper article originating in the Canadian west tells of a regional health centre shut down due to problems in sterilization procedures. This is, sadly, not an isolated case.

One of the greatest breakthroughs in medical science was the dicovery that disease was caused my microorganisms rather than foul air, or an imbalance in natural humours. The consequent notion of disinfection, along with anaesthetics, made modern medicine.

The subsequent discovery of antibiotics and the Vietnam experience, where the overreliance on antibiotic qualities entered the mainstream, changed medicine again, for the worse. After the 1970 common wisdom held that infection was a secondary concern, that disease or trauma repair came first, antibiotics would handle the other. Common wisdom flowing from this also changed the physical structure of hospitals. Where, at one time hospitals were striking for their antiseptic utility, they became, with remarkable celerity, quite homey with furnishings of a less spartan nature. These furnishings were also far less sanitary. Virtually all Canadian hospitals built in the 1970s and 1980s were carpeted. This in spite of what everyone knew of how clean home carpets were. Room furnishings too became dirt bombs as householding services were less medically supervised and allowed to decline.

The rise of superbugs, antibiotic resistant disease organisms - first evident during the Vietnam experience, spread world-wide to become the number 1 problem for medicine to-day. New antibiotics have not equalled the efficacy of penicillin, and have to be carefully applied to maintain what effect they have. The rise, and threatened rise of newly- evolved disease forms threatens the return on pandemic style disease. What is remarkable is that a subject - antisepticity - formerly an aspect of basic medecine has had to be rediscovered by medical personnel to-day. Some, apparently, still see it as a subject belonging to the age of medical dinosaurs. The unfortunate part, for the public, is that the learning experiences might prove disastrous.

Another tangential problem is the rise of the hospital bureaucracy - non-medically trained personnel who manage and operate hospitals. Ideally they are subservient to the medical staff, in practice, however, like in all such situations they develop a knowledge base, a unique position and a power of their own. Whether things get done, or not, depends, often, on powerful organization people with no medical training. The lapses in sterilization at the hospital out west can be laid at the door of an administration that failed to supervise a vital medical process. The medical staff who assume somebody is doing their job are equally at fault. In such cases there are usually other indicators besides growing numbers of sick people. Tragically, such failures happen all too often.

Hospitals, the folklore went, were places to avoid - places were a lot of dying took place. Sadly that is a truism. However, statistics tell us the hospitals really arent safe. They are places where accidents happen with all too much regularity, where people get sicker instead of well. For all our technological advances we are restoring a level of 19th century danger to modern medecine. And it could be avoided, or greatly minimized, by rereading and following Lister.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Updates on My Pets - peeves that is.

Having had the octave of St. Patrick's off, more like the tridecade, I'm back with updates from to-day's (St. Joseph's day) news.

First, about AIDS - apparently the scientific community has reached agreement with me, after statistical study, that there is a 'silent' increase in the transmission of HIV caused by - you'll never guess - newly infected people who haven't had the disease long enough for it to develop those opportunistic wens and buboes that diminish their attractiveness for sexual purposes. One of the beauties of the disease is its affinity for the wildly hormonal - ie those who are in full spate, sexually. Its natural design gives it a good chance of replicating itself. I wonder if the 'experts' aren't beginning to notice that, too.

Two other points that I'd posited about the disease that have yet to be addressed are the possibility of transmission via another vector. If you can get HIV from a 'dirty needle' is it possible to get AIDS from an insect bite? I noted in a related story, providing children in Africa with "nets", to protect from malaria mosquitoes, or to reduce HIV transmission? The former might well be the main objective because malaria, along with AIDS, is a fast track to the grave. But the malaria parasite is much larger than HIV, so , if a mosquito can carry a gut full of them, then why not a gut full of HIV? Ditto other biting, regurgitating insects - fleas bedbugs, lice, etc?

The other point, yet to be fully realized, is the behaviour connection. Scientists know this way down deep, but there is something preventing them from being forthright in addressing it. There is something - probably deriving from the 'naturalness of sexual behaviour movement' - ie homosexuality and sodomy are 'natural', as are any other forms of sexual expression, that inhibits the thinking that behaviour has to be, and can be, changed. The latex suppliers and pill pushers are still ascendant and while they are, HIV will continue to proliferate. Watch for the scientific community to catch up here, too.

The other item is the indian stand-off at Caledonia. Negotiations about the housing development have again broken down. There is a new wrinkle however - the old Indian tradition of 'who's in charge'. Apparently the Six Nations are split over who should be negotiating - the 'traditional' leaders - appointed hereditarily by the female elders, or the elected band council. Added too, is the tradition that nobody can speak for anybody but themselves which has caused much of the trouble with native 'treaties'. "My Great-Great-Grandad might have signed it, but he never talked to me about it, and I disagree - so the treaty is null and void. Let's negotiate."

Trying to work native 'law' into the current judicial system is impossible. Given the fact that there are now so many 'Canadians' who originated anywhere else but North America to 'send them all back where they came from', it's best to stick with Eurocentric law - at least that's the only one with physical evidence of a pre-existence. A deal is a deal - if it was for 5 dollars a year a cow and three sacks of beans - that's what should be paid - or the dollar equivalent. Pro-rating to reflect actual current 'value', rather than face value seems fair. But opens the debate to include 'was the original value fair', given the fact that there's now a multimillion dollar amusement park on the site of somebody's relative's ancient village.

By the same token, just how much territory was controlled by the native people at the time the treaties were struck? The modern view would posit 'all of it'. But once again, we fall into the trap of thinking that, had it been left as it was to the natives, it would somehow be equally as well developed as it is now. Historically the evidence is scant. White settlement on the continent dates back 500 years, at most. The indigenous people have been here at least 12 000 years, and possibly much longer than that. With only a couple of examples of anything approaching 'high culture' on the two continents, and given the fact that natural starvation was a regular occurrence when the Europeans first arrived, one can assume that native culture couldn't have advanced much beyond survival mode had it not been for European influence. There certainly would have been no malls, superhighways or massive hydroelectric plants had the indigenous people been left to their own devices. This development is what gives 'land' to-day its value. Say what they will about being 'one with the earth', the native people would be in bad shape if Europeans had had the same outlook. We can't be re-writing history because somebody thinks his ancestors got 'ripped off'. That should be a given in the discussion.

That being said, somebody - a court panel, perhaps, needs to determine the extent of the Haldimand grant. If land was usurped - ie illegally deeded by non-native powers - give it back. If not, tough luck - let's get on with it.

Bottom line, if the native 'tradition' is getting in the way of a political, economic and social (for everybody) process, the 'tradition' should be ignored.

Nothing much on the Mounties, other than Zacardelli's $25 000 elocution lessons for testifying at the Arar hearing. "Now no lithping, Franco. Try to thpeak out the front of your mouth and keep it pothitive."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where's the Captain on This?

One of the things that wasn't asked of General Rick Hillier might have been, if to-day's news had happened a few days ago.

Everybody knows that it takes a warm-up period for normally peaceful countries to gear up for a war, particularly if you're a nation coming out of a military "Age of Darkness". Canada has been no exception to that. But there are a couple of glaring spots of unpreparedness or incompetence that needed addressing.

The first occurred when the first wounded appeared in European hospitals. Some Col. Blimp type realized that these lads were no longer 'in danger' from further enemy action, in fact they were in a safe theater - Europe. And so it was right and proper to reduce their pay to reflect the absence of 'danger'. Deductions were made at a time when soldiers' families, and soldiers themselves, perhap, were facing life-altering decisions. Needless to say this caused no small ruckus - even among anti-war types. General Hillier stepped forth and said this would not happen. After three months it worked its way through the middle managment at Defence headquarters, and emoluments were restored to the wounded.

The latest gaffe first hit the news a month or so back. Widows of servicemen killed in Afghanistan were finding out that a common clause in Canadian insurance policies - the ones about being void under some conditions, like a war, were going to have them continue to pay down mortgages for which they'd bought motgage insurance at rates common to non-military personnel. This, too, caused no small amount of national consternation - but little in government or headquarters circles. Banks and insuring institutions began to recant, or deny, their stands - one bank waiting 3 months before it told a woman they had no such clause in her policy - 3 freaking months! This too received no comment from command levels, or the government. Now even further along, we find that mortgage cover remains a purely voluntary act of 'good will' by banks " to support the troops" but, in practice, is not the least bit 'automatic, or timely and widows continue to suffer to some degree. It ain't military business but somebody should tell banks that, if they're going to charge military personnel for mortgage insurance that in practicality will have a differential coverage, it should have differential price for them.

General Rick could have, should have popped-off about this, as he has about so much else. This would have done his soldiers more good.

More Same Old

Just checking in on my pet bugaboos.

The RCMP are 'clean' so far. No comment this time.

The Indian stand-off in Caledonia continues, the Afghan adventure warms up and there's been another AIDS 'breakthrough'. From back to front:

It sounds trite to say, "I told you so", about this announcement but when you consider there must have been brighter guys than myself working on AIDS?? It was announced to-day that most new AIDS cases are passed on from people who don't know they are infected. These would be either the tragically stupid, or people with fairly new infections. My point about transmitting AIDS before it makes you sick enough to want to find out what's wrong, seems to be fairly accurate.

Is this a fluke of statistics that, after almost 20 years of a developing world-wide AIDS pandemic, somebody decided to give more thought to who was passing it on? Scientists all agree that the virus builds up in body tissues, and excretions, until the viral load causes the immune system to crash. They also know that viral load is a major factor in transmission, and that viral loads of concerning concentration are evident in those infected who are asymptomatic for the disease. Let's see what they do with the info. The solution will be drug-related no doubt, as there's precious little you can do about behaviour, eh? Well if you're not sick enough to know you need medecine .... or maybe if everybody on earth who might be gonna have sex would take an anti-retroviral ..... Or maybe, like global warming, we just HAVE TO change our behaviour!

I saw an interview with Rick Hillier Canada's military CinC. Rick was very impressive and seemed to be speaking frankly about a number of issues raised by the interviewer. He discussed things appropriate to his office rationally, and deferred some others to political judgement. Except in two areas.

The first was an overview of the reasons for the mission. Rick blew through every 'talk point' from defence of Canada to pencils for schoolgirls in a less-than-three minute sililoquy with much blinking and a ' Hail Mary ' briskness. He didn't come across as believing a lot of this.

The second point was in regard to deploying Canada's tanks - our 8 aging Leopards and some newly-leased Leopard II's. Rick had a lot to say about the advantages conferred by the tanks, and was forthright about the possibility of risk. He's quite up front about broken eggs and omelets. But he left out what may have been a significant reason for posting our 'tank corps' to Afghanistan with their tanks: they didn't want to fight as infantry. That's probably why we're sending F18's to Afghanistan. It's not because the coalition needs aircraft, it's because Gen Hillier wants every Canadian service person to have an Afghan experience - preferably with a gun and the opportunity to shoot it.

The last point is the Iroquois stand-off at Caledonia. At last call $40 million spent so far. We 'own' a bunch of almost-complete estate homes - occupied by the Indians and for which we pay all costs. No resolution in sight. Ontario is pointing everywhere else. The feds aren't touching this purely provincial squabble and the police are complaining that 'hotheads' keep trying to get things going. News flash: it's not 'get going' season yet. It's stay in the nice warm house and protest season. Except for the police who have to spend long hours, on guard, out in the cold. Not!

La lutte continue.