Thursday 30 September 2010

Hot Dogs: Worth their weight in salt... literally!

For years now, I have been aware of the health recommendations and the growing concern over how healthy our diets are. I have taken to reading the nutrition panels on food products and must say that it is to all our benefit that our society has mandated such information to be published on packaging. After all, shouldn't we know what we're putting in our mouths?

Unfortunately, like a lot of things I imagine, we have access to information but then ignore it. The warning signs are posted; the red flag is up but we carry on obvious to what nastiness we may be wreaking on our poor bodies. I guess its testimony to our infinite capacity to rationalize how we can steadfastly continue a course of action which will see us crashing onto the rocks.

Salt is a necessary part of our diet but as with many things, too much is bad. The recommended daily intake has been for quite some time around 2,000 to 2,500 milligrams, usually 2,400 mg, about a teaspoonful. However new guidelines recently published have set the recommended daily intake of salt at 1500 mg. Those same guidelines are setting 2300 mg as the upper limit. Apparently, Canadians consume on average around 3,400 mg of salt per day which is already well above the former recommended level of 2,400 mg.

While not being a nut about it, I do pay some attention to my health. My father had triple by-pass surgery and eventually died of a heart attack but at the age of 80 so that was still a good, long life. I consider it would be nice to avoid those health problems later in life. As a consequence, I started a long time ago to pay some attention to these questions, faithfully get an annual check-up and talk frankly with my family doctor to both educate myself and push him to do the extra in examinations. And now, with the arrival of this new recommended daily intake of salt, I thought I would do a double check of just what I have been doing.

Everyday food: I never thought about it
Ah, the barbecue! Gosh I'll have a hot dog. No, I'll have two! Mmmm. So, as I'm chowing down on my frank; I turn over the package of 12 to read the nutrition label. Holy crap, a single hot dog, your average frank contains 650 mg. of salt! And I'm going to eat 2 of these suckers?

I look at a package of jumbo hot dogs - Mmmm mouth... watering (Homer Simpson sounds of hunger)- and one, just one contains almost 900 mg. Oh my gawd, I've eaten 2 jumbo dogs and I realize that in doing so, I've gone well over the new recommended daily intake of 1500 mg. of salt. Wow, add on top of that the potato chips I'm eating along with my dogs and I realize I could have been keeling over right at the picnic table from a coronary.

Back in my bachelor days, not being much of a cook, I relied probably too heavily on pre-packaged foods. The kids laughed quite a bit when I confessed to having on occasion eaten "Pizza Pockets". Last year, with my wife away for a week, I bought a package of Pizza Pockets for a laugh. As I stood in the kitchen eating one of these pockets - not quite as good as I remember - I read the nutrition label on the box and discovered that a single Pizza Pocket contains 600 mg. of salt. 600! Heck, I remember eating 2 or 3 of these things. And parents are allowing their kids to eat this stuff? I ended up throwing the rest of the box out; that is too much salt and as I said, not quite as tasty as I was thinking.

I confess to have also indulged in what we used to call TV dinners; nowadays your microwavable meal in 8 minutes. While the idea is a good one for people like me who hate cooking and are looking to get the food on the table as fast as possible with the minimum amount of work, I come back to just what the nutrition label may be telling me.

Last night I stopped at a little food mart to pick up a couple of things. As I walked by the frozen food section, I looked at various packages to check the salt content. A Hungry Man dinner, a steak dinner with mashed potatoes, a vegetable and a dessert - just microwave for 10 minutes - clocked in at 1,820 mg of salt. Now just think about that. You eat that, just one meal out of the entire day and you've already surpassed this new recommended limit. Now what do you eat for the rest of the day? Bread and water? Ha, I checked. Even bread has salt in it - 1 slice = 104 mg - so anything else you eat is going to be just adding fuel to the fire, that high blood pressure high risk coronary fire.

But salt is flavour
That certainly seems to be the case. I bought a can of Campbell's reduced salt soup and it was so bland; I want to eat in a healthy manner but I don't want to give up taste!

This experience certainly supports the experts who say that manufacturers are using salt to mask foods which just don't really have much taste to begin with. Good tasting food shouldn't need a ton of salt to tickle my palette.

Love those hamburgers!
Let's take a peek at those wonderful fast food hamburgers we love to wolf down.

1020 mg - Burger King Whopper

1040 mg - McDonald's Big Mac

 940 mg - Wendy's single

Once again, just a single hamburger takes up so much of your allowed daily intake of salt; you can't really eat anything else for the rest of the day. But imagine adding an order of fries and a soft drink, two things which also have salt. We must now be off the chart!

Think you're eating healthy? Think again!
Lean Cuisine? Ha! There you are thinking how good you're being to your body when you are, in fact, eating a packaged meal and we return to the principal idea of prepared foods: if the result turns out to be insipid (no taste), add salt. This product varies according to what the meal is, but basically this clocks in at anywhere from 510 to 690 mg.

Super Size Me
This 2004 American documentary film took the "experiment" about the foods we eat to the nth degree when the film maker, Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's food during a 30 day period. The story followed the changes in Spurlock's health on such an extreme diet interspersed with his inquiries into the eating habits of Americans and a growing obesity n the country.

While the film is an obvious bizarre example of eating badly and eating nothing but fast food, it certainly underlines our own ignorance of just what we are putting in our mouths. All of us must be more pro-active about our health; after all, at the end of the day we can't truly rely on somebody else or even the government to stand over us and watch what we eat, we must bear the responsibility for taking care of ourselves. Keep in mind that the government has mandated that food packaging must have that nutrition label; it is now up to us to read the damn thing and do something about it!

Adjusting to less salt
A few years back, I started buying reduced salt products. I like potato chips (guilty as charged!) however; I started buying Lay's lightly salted chips which contain about 50% of the salt of regular chips. Now when I eat regular chips, I find the salt overwhelming. So, it's true what the experts say: our taste buds will adjust to less salt.

I also like the crackers Triscuit and have been purchasing the reduced salt version for years. Once on vacation, I couldn't find them in a local store so I bought the regular Triscuit. My gawd, I couldn't handle the salt taste; it was overpowering. I threw them out.

But what to do? How to replace salt?
[crying] Don't take away my salt! Anything but that! [I look at my blood pressure] Oh, oh. Maybe I better get on-board.

Victoria Ties, a contributor to eHow has the following ideas:
  1. Empty your salt shaker and refill it with half a shaker of Mrs. Dash TM, and half a shaker of garlic powder and onion powder mixed. Use this sparingly on your table food. You will actually come to like this mix better than salt!
  2. Add garlic powder and onion powder instead of salt to all your homemade recipes such as soups, stews, casseroles, roasts and pot-roasts. Add a couple of shakes of the specially prepared Mrs. Dash TM shaker to the table food when food is ready.
  3. Grate sweet onions over sandwiches and soups for a burst of flavor instead of sodium. Grate sweet onions and place them in a baggie in the refrigerator so they're on hand when you need to perk up mealtimes.
wikiHow has an article entitled How to Follow a Low Sodium Diet which lays out in 12 steps what we all should be doing in our diets. Number 1 on their list is Eat at Home. Like Victoria Ties above, the authors say that preparing food yourself is the best way of avoiding too much salt by doing what you think best not what somebody else thinks is okay to sell commercial food products.

The Number One Killer
Heart disease is the number one killer of us all with cancer as a close second. Obviously there are many risk factors to consider when looking at heart disease such as exercise, smoking, obesity; there can be no doubt diet is an important component to good health. Salt is there on the list with the strong suggestion of not exceeding the recommended daily amounts. Not exceeding it? Let's not forget that Health Canada has pointed out that according to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, Canadian adults are consuming an average of 3,092 mg of salt per day, over double the level recommended. Gee, do we all have some sort of death wish?

It is obvious that we the public have an addiction to salt. Can we shake it? [groan] Okay, bad pun. Nevertheless it is time to be more pro-active in taking care of ourselves.

Final Word
Eubie Blake (1887-1983) was an American composer, lyricist and pianist of ragtime, jazz and popular music. At his (supposed) 100th birthday, he said,

"If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."

Words to live by.


CBC News - July 29, 2010-09-29
Slash salt intake, Canadians advised

Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling

Health Canada

Salt vs. Sodium

Comparisons of hamburgers

Fast Food Restaurants & Nutrition Facts Compared

Wikipedia: Super Size Me

eHow: How to Replace Salt With Flavor

wikiHow: How to Follow a Low Sodium Diet

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Heart Disease is the Number One Cause of Death

Wikipedia Eubie Blake


Tuesday 28 September 2010

Sex: Still Dirty After All These Years

Sept 28/2010 (Updated: Jan 14/2011, June 14,25,29/2012, July 27/2012; Nov 24/2014 It's over! Jan 5/2016 Aftermath)

At the end of August, 2010, beginning of September, Canadian media broke the story of a senior Manitoba judge involved in a sex scandal. While the air still remains to be cleared; there can be no doubt that this judge has found herself smack-dab centre stage in the middle of public opinion.

Lori Douglas, associate chief justice of Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench (family division) had a formal complaint filed against her with the Canadian Judicial Council and her husband Jack King, 64, a Winnipeg lawyer still has a complaint lodged against him with Manitoba's Law Society.

According to the story, a computer specialist Alexander Chapman, 44 has alleged that King harassed him in 2003 by pressing him to have sex with Douglas who was only a lawyer at that time. Apparently, King showed Chapman sexually explicit photos of Douglas engaged in various sex acts including forms of bondage, in chains, with sex toys and performing oral sex. King's lawyer has said that King did not tell his wife he had shown the photos to anyone or that he went so far as to post the photos on a porn website.

An Ottawa legal expert, Sébastien Grammond, dean of civil law at the University of Ottawa has said this incident raises issues about Lori Douglas's ability to perform as a judge. Even if it is proven that Douglas is the unwitting victim of some sort of scheme, her credibility has been damaged if not destroyed. Grammond went on to explain how a judge represents the legal system and the conduct and image of a judge reflects on the justice system as a whole. He doubts that Douglas would have ever been appointed a judge if it was known that nude photos of her existed on the Internet.

Sex, still the ultimate sin
As I read over the various articles about this story, I was reminded how sex more than just about anything else has the ability of instantaneously transform the innocent into the guilty, of elevating the minor to the major and ruining a career and destroying a reputation faster than you can blink an eye. If I say "Bill Clinton", does anybody remember him with an approval rating of 73%? Does anybody remember anything he did as president? No and that is an emphatic no. We all remember just two words: Monica Lewinsky. No matter what he did as president, no matter what he's done since and let's not forget that this includes charitable work, work in the political arena as a world stage negotiator and a public speaker, we will never manage to erase the white spot on the blue dress.

Pee-wee Herman
This comic fictional character created and portrayed by actor Paul Reubens rose to the pinnacle of fame with Pee-wee's Playhouse, an Emmy Award winning children's series on CBS. In 1991, the actor, Paul Reubens was arrested by police for masturbating in an adult theatre. Both the actor Reubens and the character Pee-wee became the subject of ridicule. CBS dropped the show; Walt Disney severed all ties; Toys-R-Us removed Pee-wee toys from its stores. Paul Reubens went into hiding.

I have to think about this. Paul Reubens made a mistake; he used poor judgement. He was merely doing what just about all of us do. Nevertheless, his infraction was elevated in the eyes of the public to a crime of biblical proportions and he had to pay with his career and his reputation. It almost seems like being sentenced to death for littering. You go to a movie theatre to watch a pornographic film, a type of film designed to sexually arouse you but you get arrested if you try to do something about it. If the movie showed a nice juicy steak and you started to drool while feeling peckish, you could at least eat your popcorn. Somehow there's something odd in all this and I come back to being sentenced to death for littering: the punishment far outweighs the crime.

Sex is Dirty
Is it no wonder that we grow up with this idea that sex is dirty? That sex is something which must remain hidden; can only be performed behind closed doors and for gawd's sake; be careful with whom you discuss it? Talk about it; admit to it and your name is mud. Tilt; game over.

Ah, I can hear you say, "But these stories involve something bad being done, possibly criminal activity." We could argue about whether it's bad or criminal but the point is how the connection to sex remains indelibly engraved on our memory. Even if we are not personally involved, there can be an associated sense of apprehension if not fear about anything relating to sex.

When the Monica Lewinsky affair hit the papers, there seemed to no limit to the amount of column space dedicated to reviewing in detail every aspect of the case. Bill was impeached for lying. "Ha, ha, ha!" you say? Does anybody enjoy getting caught with their pants down? Does anybody enjoy being put on public display? Does anybody enjoy the most intimate details of their life especially their sexual life being dissected and analysed in the media?

Yes, I know, these people did something wrong. Fine, I got it. But what is the one difference between these people and us? Simple, our peccadilloes have not hit the headlines.

Is sex dirty? Only if it's done right.
- Woody Allen: from the film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972)

Can we talk?
The tag line of Joan Rivers: can we talk? Good question. The answer lies very much in whether or not we can break free of our puritanical shackles and whether we can support the potential ridicule of those who do not take kindly to our displays openness and honesty. One bitten, twice shy? Openness and honesty are great but there are risks in that not everybody is going to subscribe to the same policy. We may inadvertently bring down on our head scorn and shame. It makes you think twice before opening your mouth.

Night Court
An episode of this American television sitcom comes to mind. One of the main characters, Dan, has suffered some erectile dysfunction on a date. Worried sick about not having been able to "get it up", he confides to the various other male characters. One by one each man listens with a great deal of sympathy telling him that it's nothing to worry about. At this point of his conversation with each of his colleagues, Dan asks if the other man has ever had this happen to him. Each male character replies by exclaiming in an indignant tone, "Who me? No way!"

This is all done to be funny but exemplifies the current state of affairs. Don't forget how much humour can come out of merely repeating what we all know to be true. We don't talk about sex; it's taboo, dirty, stuff to snicker about behind closed doors. - Of course, this episode of Night Court also makes fun of us men as supposedly being supermen, men who never fail, who are always "up to the job". But that will be another article.

These "dirty" people are the exception to the rule
Hmm, are they? In my blog Anonymity: The power to speak freely, I write about how we are very much influenced or pressured by the people around us, by the world around us, by "real life" and that we probably have no idea of what "really" is going on.

True story
My father had read an article in Reader's Digest in which the author made the statement that one in four Canadian families have experienced some sort of domestic abuse. During a walk around the neighbourhood, he ran into a neighbour, a family doctor to whom he talked about the article and his surprise in thinking that a statistic of 25% would mean that such a thing is going on in the neighbourhood. The doctor replied, "Oh I assure you, I know it's going on in this neighbourhood." The point is, do we really know?

Clarence Thomas
This gentleman has been an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1991. Now there's a position which elicits a certain degree of respect and honour and trustworthiness.

During his confirmation hearings, it came out that one woman Anita Hill alleged that Thomas subjected her to comments of a sexual nature; behaviour she felt was inappropriate if not quite illegal sexual harassment. A second woman alleged the same thing.

Thomas got off but I knew he was guilty. I've seen this behaviour; I've heard the suggestive comments and being a guy myself, I know exactly what this all about. See my blog Sex: Men Are From Mars

The point is that we have a respected member of society showing his... naughty side. Would you have guessed?

How many "dirty" people are there?
Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. Somebody's got to be looking at that stuff. But that is at the far end of the spectrum; we can tone it down a notch or two and our net starts encompassing an even broader segment of the population.

Go to Google and type in "rate my". Rate my teacher, rate my car, rate my puppy (cute), rate my parking, rate my mullet (what?), "normal" stuff, eh? How about rate my picture, rate my bottom, rate my chest, rate my rack, rate my body, and rate my ex-girlfriend? Who are these people? Who's posting the pictures? Who's looking at them?

Let's kick it up a notch. TangoTime which started several years ago as a fairly tame web site devoted to the posting and rating of normal pictures has grown into a site of everyday people posting sexually explicit photos of themselves. Let me repeat "everyday people" posting pictures, not professional models or porn stars, just everyday people. Gosh, it could be Lori Douglas and her husband Jack King. Or it could be your neighbours.

I can add to all this the term "sexting", the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. Let's not forget virtual worlds of MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like Second Life or Red Light Center, even World of Warcraft where participants can create an avatar representing them and engage in activities which span the gamut of everything one can do in real life... er, or can't do in real life.

True Story
Back in the early 90's, I was watching one of the talk shows, not quite as elevated as Oprah but not as low as Jerry Springer. A couple is being interviewed but we're given to understand they have a secret. Commercial break. We return to see... two women. I look closer. Woman number two is the husband; he's dressed up in drag. The wife explains that her husband has always had a fetish for women's clothes and once a month he dresses up and the 2 of them go out together as 2 women. She goes on to say that her husband is a wonderful man, a great husband, a good lover and an excellent father; he just seems to have this one special quirk and it is the only oddity out of an otherwise exemplary human being.

First of all, that is quite the example of a woman's love for her man and her acceptance of him. But secondly, do we ever really know what's next door? Who's next door?

On the one hand, our society seems to have a puritanical streak, the link to our past and our traditions which are very much based on religion; on the other we have what is going on behind closed doors and which in some cases spills over into public life as in posting pictures on-line.

Lori Douglas dressed up in bondage leather and performing oral sex? Well, that's not something she would necessarily want published as the front page headline of every national newspaper in country but it would seem to me from the above various examples that her behaviour is not as "uncommon" as one may think.

Will Lori Douglas survive? I repeat what the legal expert, Grammond said. Even if it is proven that Douglas is the unwitting victim of some sort of scheme, her credibility has been damaged if not destroyed. ... A judge represents the legal system and the conduct and image of a judge reflects on the justice system as a whole. Grammond doubts that Douglas would have ever been appointed a judge if it was known that nude photos of her existed on the Internet.

Clarence Thomas went on to serve well. Bill Clinton was a good president and continues to be a good world statesman. Paul Reubens is back and I've been given to understand, so is Pee-wee. Is Lori Douglas any less of a judge? Only her peers and time will tell.

I quote the Toronto Star from an article published on September 1, 2010:

The Canadian Judicial Council’s Ethical Principles for Judges — which judges are encouraged but not required to follow — say they should strive to conduct themselves with integrity and avoid conduct that would diminish public respect for the judiciary.

Can someone who poses naked with a whip be considered a person of integrity, or does the question open the door to inappropriate moral judgments about an individual’s personal life?

While Chapman did drop his suit against Douglas on September 21, he still has an outstanding complaint of sexual harassment against Douglas filed with the Canadian Judicial Council and he is still going to pursue lawsuits against King and King's firm. Originally, when the story broke, it was reported that the Council would take 3 months to review these charges. As such, Douglas must still run the gauntlet before finding out if she's still in hot water or free and clear.

But will she ever be free and clear? No matter what happens, nobody is ever going to erase the headlines splashed all across Canada. We have all read the stories and I'm sure there are many copies of these supposed racy photos floating around in cyberspace. Nevertheless, she can remain hopeful. Bill has a new career that so far is "spot on" and even Tiger is slowly making a comeback.

Postscript: January 14, 2011
Newspapers are reporting that pictures of Douglas have shown up on the Internet. This obviously isn't going to end anytime soon. Ms. Douglas is still facing a review by her peers which could result in her being removed from the bench and I'm sure the re-posting of these pictures will not bode well for her future. Anonymity is a truly wonderful thing. (see Alan Parker's admonishment below)

Postscript: June 14, 2012
According to the Winnipeg Free Press as of May 18, 2012:

Jan. 6, 2011: An initial review of the complaint against Douglas determines it warrants further consideration and is forwarded to a review panel of five judges.

July 6, 2011: The five-judge review panel sends the investigation to a rare public inquiry to determine if Douglas should be removed from the bench.

According to Christine Blatchford in the Vancouver Sun, June 14, 2012, this whole case is at its best very weak. The Canadian Judicial Council, in the hopes of being transparent while under public scrutiny, is continuing out of due diligence but seems to be indirectly admitting the whole thing isn't worth it.

Postscript: June 25, 2012
The case seems to boil down to whether or not Douglas should be penalized for the actions of others. While the taking of explicit pictures of Ms. Douglas by her husband may be questionable, it is legal. If it is accepted that the husband then uploaded said pictures to the Internet or used those pictures in any dealings with Chapman without the knowledge of his wife, should Lori Douglas be in any way held accountable?

National Post - Jun 26/2012
Yes, judge’s hearing is all about the sex by Christine Blatchford
Ms. Blatchford sums up the current inquiry with the same assessment as I was trying to make above. It's all about the sex.

The Vancouver Sun - Jun 29/2012
Complaint's credibility in tatters at Judge Douglas's disciplinary hearing
By Christie Blatchford, Postmedia News June 28, 2012
It would seem that Mr. Chapman is something of an unsavory character. I'm certain Mr. King, the husband of Lori Douglas, rues the day he ever had any dealings with this man.

Postscript: July 27, 2012
I am betting that everyone involved is very, very sorry that this issue ever came to light. It is embarrassing but it is also distracting. I am sure many would argue there are far more important issues to be dealt with and no matter what happens here, nobody is ever going to get satisfaction. The latest newspaper articles on the case would lead one to believe that this is going to drag on and on and on.

The Toronto Star - Jul 26/2012
Lori Douglas is not a victim by Georgialee Lang
Georgialee Lang is a Vancouver lawyer and former adjunct professor at UBC law school. She has spent 24 years as trial and appellate counsel and authors an award-winning blog at [Ms. Lang has written an interesting article and a compelling argument for Lori Douglas to step down as a judge. Whether she is a victim or she is complicit no longer matters.]
Yes, I reject Douglas’ claims she is a victim; she is not. She has the education and sophistication of a worldly woman who knew when she applied for a judicial position that she would be held to a higher standard of conduct than the pole dancers at Winnipeg’s popular Teaser’s Burlesque Cabaret.
Judges must understand and accept restrictions on their activities, even if those activities would be acceptable for Jane Doe.

CBC - Jul 27/2012
Blackmail risk kept Manitoba judge from prior appointment
According to this report, other judges and/or the JAC have had knowledge of the sex pictures for nearly a decade and have acted accordingly worried about "the potential risk of embarrassment and blackmail."

Postscript: Nov 24, 2014
A Canadian Judicial Council panel has accepted an offer from Lori Douglas, a senior Manitoba judge, to retire early in exchange for avoiding a hearing on whether she should be kicked off the bench over nude photos of her that appeared on the internet. ... Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, said the agreement was struck with the council to stay the proceedings in return for the associate chief justice's offer to retire in May 2015. In addition to staying the proceedings, Douglas would have the photographs in question returned to her so she can destroy them. -CBC Nov 24/2014

Postscript: Jan 5, 2016
A Manitoba judge whose nude photos were posted online by her husband without her knowledge says her subsequent disciplinary hearing was like being repeatedly sexually assaulted. Douglas is quoted as saying that knowing staff with the Canadian Judicial Council were viewing the photos as part of the hearing was like "torture that's inflicted in war on women."

In the article, Douglas said she feels that had she been a man, the reaction to the photos would have been different. Douglas said she did nothing wrong and the council should have defended her rather than drag her through a messy disciplinary hearing. "But nobody spoke up for me," Douglas is quoted as saying. "If I had been a man whose wife was taking pictures, the CJC would have said, 'Poor Joe. He's married to a wing nut."'

Douglas is quoted by the magazine as saying her life crumbled when the photos surfaced. "I lost my job. I lost my life. I lost my reputation. If it hadn't been for my son, there would have been little reason to keep on." ... She was "furious" when she found out the photos existed online, Douglas said. King apologized to her almost every day and Douglas ended up forgiving him. -CBC Jan 5/2016

CBC: Nude photos of judge contained in complaint - Aug 31/2010

PumpsMag: Judge Lori Douglas Caught In Bondage Scandal (Hmmm, is this real?)

Radio-Canada: Une juge relevée de ses fonctions

Wikipedia: Lori Douglas

Wikipedia: Bill Clinton

Wikipedia: Pee-wee Herman

Wikipedia: Clarence Thomas

Wikipedia: Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)

The Toronto Star - September 1, 2010
Nude photos raise questions about private lives of judges

Winnipeg Free Press - September 23, 2010
Man drops sex-scandal lawsuit against Winnipeg judge

Toronto Sun blog - September 3, 2010
Manitoba sex judge just a Canadian copycat by Alan Parker

Mr. Parker in an amusing way compares Lori Douglas to a Belgian judge who also found himself in hot water over public revelations of his sexual escapades. Mr. Parker ends his blog entry with this admonishment:

If, on the other hand, she is able to hang onto her judging job, nobody — lawyers, court staff, civilians appearing before her — will ever be able to sit in her courtroom again without thinking about those photos of Judge Lori in her sweaty altogether with the chains and whips and sex toys/tools.

Let that be a lesson for you, kids: Whatever you do in your (supposedly) private life, don’t let anyone take photos of you doing it … or it could someday be far more public than you ever expected.

Canadian Judge Cum Porn Star Will Be Probed
By David Lat - Jan 7/2011

Above The Law - Feb 3/2011
Madam Justice Lori Douglas: Underneath Her Robe By David Lat
[This site offers up censored versions of the photos, but also says where to see the uncensored versions.]

Wikipedia: Above the Law (blog), is a law gossip blog which circulates rumors primarily about large commercial law firms (Biglaw). Above the Law publishes the rumored salaries and bonuses (according to off-the-record associates) at many of these large firms. The site occasionally publishes gossip and rumors about law schools and small legal practices. Above the Law was recognized in 2008 by the ABA Journal as one of the 100 best Web sites by lawyers, for lawyers. The Washington Post in passing, called Above the Law "a must-read legal blog."


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Monday 27 September 2010

Anonymity: The power to speak freely

William Quincy Belle is not my real name; it is a pseudonym. When I first decided to join the ranks of those espousing their personal view of the world, publishing their stream of consciousness and divulging the intimate thoughts of their innermost selves, I felt a certain degree of reticence about revealing myself to the outside world.

Anonymity does bring a different aspect to blogging. There are no rules; there are no restrictions. You can say anything you want. Nobody is overseeing your choice of topics; nobody is editing your prose or your approach in dealing with your chosen topic. Freedom and total liberty are the principal attributes of being anonymous. Yes, you can choose to get feedback in the form of comments but you do have the option of moderating comments and you also have the ultimate authority in deleting any comment which just doesn't strike your fancy. You have complete power; you are lord and master (lady and mistress?) of your domain.

Ah, but with freedom comes responsibility. Freedom to utter your innermost secrets may also be your ticket to boring the heck out of people. Do you really have something important or interesting to say? Just because it's an innermost secret doesn't necessarily mean you've got something profound to share which will captivate your potential audience and leave them wanting more.

On the other hand, and here's where I see the importance of anonymity, your freedom to say anything is your opportunity to not worry about all the normal restrictions we contend with in regular life. Whether we like it or not; whether we admit it or not, our actions, our words and even our thoughts are very much affected if not controlled by our surroundings. Our family, our friends, our colleagues, all these people play a part in determining what may or may not be acceptable to them and hence to us. Add on top of that society in general like the laws of the land and the morality of religion and you end up with quite a long list of influences both good and bad which will certainly affect how you behave.

I wrote an article entitled Sex: Men are from Mars during which I spoke of masturbation. Hmmm, now is that a topic of conversation I'd consider bringing up around the water cooler at my place of employment? Am I going to talk about that with my neighbours or even my kids? Ha! Maybe, as a good parent dealing with sex education, I should have talked about it with my kids!

Nevertheless, my point is that any of us would probably think twice of discussing such a topic and we would certainly think it over three times as with whom we would discuss this. Society, our "real life" sets up numerous impediments to talking about certain topics like personal feelings, emotions, and relationships and of course, sex.

Why? Well, it strikes me as rather obvious. We do something; we get a negative reaction; we don't do that again. We do something; we get a positive reaction; we repeat the action. Seems somewhat Pavlovian; a sort of trial and error system whereby we determine what we can and can't do. [chuckles] I imagine that a great deal of all this is learned as a child with our parents; then comes school with teachers and classmates.

So, let's return to this idea of anonymity. Ha! I think of one of those cinematic moments where somebody enters the confessional in a Catholic church to absolve themselves of their sins. The main idea here is that you have, to a certain extent, anonymity. Maybe not anonymity from the priest although it is supposed that the priest does not necessarily know you, but you have anonymity from the community at large. Your friends and neighbours even your own family are going to be unaware of what you've confessed to. Ah, the liberation of being able to divest yourself of whatever troubles you without the worry of criticism, censure or even banishment. Confession is good for the soul. - [chuckles] Even good for Tony Soprano if I think back to the HBO television series. Excellent series by the way; catch it in reruns or get the DVDs.

But not all of us are Catholic. Growing up Protestant, I do not remember there being a similar ritual in the church and off the top of my head I cannot speak of other religions; such a system of confession is unknown to me. Other than religion, there are professional services like psychologists, therapists or some sort of support group so in some way, albeit complicated to find or get involved with, there may be an outlet away from family and friends, an outlet somewhat anonymous where one may discuss topics that normally one would not want to discuss with family and friends.

My nom de plume
When I was in school way back when the Earth was cooling, in the early 60's, the teacher gave us an assignment to write a short story. At that time, James Bond had hit the mainstream with first the movie Dr. No then From Russia With Love. I ate it up like any pubescent boy discovering girls, manliness and the idea of being an adult by devouring every book ever penned by Ian Fleming. As a consequence, my choice of topic for a short story was a spy story similar to James Bond featuring a spy I elected to call William Belle. I had never forgotten the name and when considering a nom de plume for my blog, I naturally said why not use this name. Just before starting the blog, I researched the name William Belle and discovered a number of people with this name so I further distinguished it by adding Quincy.

Other aspects
In perusing information about anonymity, I can see all sorts of angles to the issue. It can be a good thing as it allows us to talk of things we would normally be reticent to bring up. It can be a bad thing as it allows people to say or possibly do things, bad things, for which they cannot or will not be held accountable. Obviously, as with just about anything, anonymity has its pros and cons.

The issue I did want to bring up, the real issue about anonymity and me choosing to write using a false name is that anonymity provides a certain freedom, real or perceived, to discuss matters very subjective and personal that the real world may frown on. It's interesting to note the level of apprehension if not outright fear any of us may have in discussing certain ideas. If I was in China, I would be afraid of criticizing the government. At work, I'm afraid of criticizing my boss. With family and friends, I am afraid to discuss personal issues whether it be my own quest for the meaning of my life, what possibly have I managed accomplish of any worth during my oh so brief time on this planet and my relationships, my marriage and sex.

Fortunately, I live in Canada, not China. We have freedom of speech here which does permit me pretty much total liberty to say what I want. Of course, our society may put certain limits on such freedom: no promotion of hatred, nothing related child porn, etc. but for the most part, I am free to say what I want. Ha! Imagine trying to criticize our Prime Minister Stephen Harper in China. You'd be jailed!

See my blog entry Freedom of Speech: Freedom to say "anything"? to see some of the bad aspects of such total freedom.

I picture this as the quintessential example of everyday social interactions. It certainly is here that we can observe and participate in what anybody would call "the norm" of behaviour. Yes, here we are very much influenced by what others think; especially if that person may be one's boss. We are probably very, very careful to stay in the middle of the road out of fear of being ostracized or even fired. Ah, the influence one has when one has the power to send somebody packing!

Family and Friends
While this social circle is arguable closer than the previous group, there are still rules of etiquette with taboos and censure for those things which may fall outside the realm of the norm. With friends, you may say more than at work; after all your friends do not have the power to fire you. Of course, they have the power to ostracize you and that is quite the power to wield. Nobody likes not being part of the "group".

Family is slightly different; hopefully a little more intimate but then again, a question for all of us: Just how open and honest are you with your spouse? Still have secrets you are leery to divulge to your partner in life?

Am I being dishonest? Maybe, but at least you can't firebomb my house; you can't turn me in to the authorities and you can't tell my boss about me. Although my wife knows about this blog and reads it periodically.

Let's just say that I have given myself a liberty of expression that "real life" prevents me from having. One could argue that any impediments to the freedom of speech I may be feeling are more imaginary than real but while I think my article about masturbation is true, pertinent to the human condition and hopefully a tad humorous, I'm not sure I am ready for others, family other than my wife, my neighbours and my colleagues at work, to be made aware of my thoughts about a subject which remains pretty much taboo in our society. For that, I remain as embarrassed and uncomfortable as the next guy. But behind my nom de plume, I can speak freely!


Wikipedia: Anonymity
Anonymity is derived from the Greek word ἀνωνυμία, anonymia, meaning "without a name" or "namelessness". In colloquial use, anonymity typically refers to the state of an individual's personal identity, or personally identifiable information, being publicly unknown.

Wikipedia: Pseudonymity
Pseudonymity, a word derived from pseudonym, meaning 'false name', is a state of disguised identity. The pseudonym identifies a holder, that is, one or more human beings who possess but do not disclose their true names (that is, legal identities). Most pseudonym holders use pseudonyms because they wish to remain anonymous, but anonymity is difficult to achieve, and is often fraught with legal issues. True anonymity requires unlinkability, such that an attacker's examination of the pseudonym holder's message provides no new information about the holder's true name.

my blog: Sex: Men Are From Mars
In my lifetime, whether it is my own experiences, the experiences of others, what I have observed in everyday life, television, movies or the news, I have noticed a theme. Men can be and ofttimes are both persistent and very direct in their quest for sex. Why?

my blog: Freedom of Speech: Freedom to say "anything"?
In Canada, the anti-Jewish extremist Salman Hossain has been charged in absentia with three counts of promoting hatred and two counts of advocating genocide based on what he said on his web site. In the United States, the white supremacist "shock jock" radio host Hal Turner has been found guilty of threatening 3 judges based on what he said in his blog. We all think we're free to say anything we want but are we free to say absolutely anything?

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
- Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900)


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Sunday 26 September 2010

The Extremist In All Of Us

Have you ever gone a little nutty? Off the deep end? You've been bitten by the bug and everybody around you looks at you with the raised eyebrow that says, "What's gotten into him/her?" I'm certain that we all have our moments of enthusiasm when we first discover something and our rapture with this "thing" may take over our lives by being a tad obsessive. Ooo, do we need to hold an intervention?

Recognising a problem is the first step in solving the problem as I've heard it said. Of course, the word "problem" here is something of a personal nature and not the usual kind of problem like getting the top of a new jar of peanut butter or booking your flight to Rome. Am I lacking in self-confidence? Do I drink too much? Can I get along with the opposite sex? Am I obsessive compulsive? These are the types of problems where the aphorism of "recognising the problem is the first step" is applicable. Although, I guess recognising you can't get the top off of the jar of peanut butter is also the first step in solving the problem. Ha! Yes, if there's no problem; there's nothing to solve. If I didn't have this damn jar of peanut butter... :-)

For a long time I did not realise how much of an extremist I am. Now, reflecting on my personality and my history, I like to define extremism or my extremism as: All the way is not far enough. Sounds humorous and I mean it to be so. After all, how can anybody go farther than the maximum distance? How can anybody get more than 100%? Everything is everything; there's no everything plus one. [chuckles] But that has never stopped me from trying!

There is, however, a serious side to that statement and this serious side may conjure up all sorts of negative images which are probably associated with addiction. Alcoholic? Drug addict? Gambler? These are 3 types of behaviour which would very much fit with the idea of not knowing when to quit. Extremism can certainly be defined as not knowing when to walk away; everybody else has gone home but you just have to stick around for "one more time".

A curious thing about "one more time" comes to mind. That can also be associated with the idea of persistence. Yes, those who persist have something of an idea of "I'm not going to stop until I succeed". Now think about that one. If I'm trying to take the top off the jar of peanut butter and I say "one more time", it's persistence but if everybody goes home and I point to my glass and say to the bartender, "one more time", it's addiction. Well, at least it's something negative like extremism. I'm not calling another drink persistence! :-)

So, extremism is bad; persistence is good. Both have the idea of not quitting, of continuing when others have stopped. It seems that the result determines the quality, the good or bad of the activity. You try to swim the English Channel; you're tired; you can't go on; you continue; you drown and... well, that's bad: you should have known better and bowed out earlier. You don't stop trying to get the top off of the jar of peanut butter; you do eventually get the top off; that's good... and you now have peanut butter to eat!

Hmmm, continuing to do something and succeeding is persistence while continuing to do something and failing is extremism.

A man I'll call Rick has been bitten by the bug. At the age of 56 he "discovered" the Irish fiddle. I have heard the stories and witnessed this myself how every waking moment has been taken up with playing the violin. Get up in the morning, get a cup of coffee then go play for 30 minutes to an hour. Get breakfast then go to work. Come home, play for an hour. Dinner. Clean up then more playing. Weekends there is even more time to play and of course, week nights may also involve a lesson and even jam sessions. Keep in mind that Rick is married with 3 now grown-up kids and holds down a full time job.

Everybody, family and friends sort of look at him askance wondering why out of the blue, from zero to sixty in 5 seconds flat, he has gone from nothing to an almost religious obsession with the Irish fiddle. Normal? Odd? Do we need to hold an intervention? For the moment, let's say he's having a great time with a wonderful hobby.

In my "crazy twenties", I wanted to be a musician, a serious musician as in making my living. I had passed my teens in various rock bands playing guitar but my twenties saw me become serious after discovering my parents piano. I practised a lot and I do mean a lot. I studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto as well as at the University of Toronto; I even spent some time at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. However, by the end of the decade I realised I had a number of things going against me: late start (20 years old), limited talent (you need to start the piano when you're 5) and focal dystonia. I quit and set off in another direction. If I had fully understood earlier in the game the limitations of what I brought to music, I never would have attempted to do it full time. I would have left it as a hobby and gone off to make my living in some other fashion.

As such, I've always summarized this attempt at a musical career like this: if you continue and succeed, it's persistence. Since I continued long past the expiration date and ultimately failed, this was extremism.

It's an odd situation to be in. When should you quit? When should you continue? Anybody trying to be a good motivator would add something like, "If you want the peanut butter bad enough..." leaving the rest of the sentence unsaid: You won't quit until you get the jar open. The other side of the coin however is knowing when the risk of failure is high and why waste your time doing something when success is unlikely if not impossible?

Fail Early
Years later I ran across a lecture on I.T. project management which espoused the idea of "fail early". In a nutshell, the author was simply stating that by recognising as early as possible the failure of a project, one could minimize one's losses. This lecture was specifically about projects relating to technology, building a piece of software, for instance but the idea of fail early is certainly applicable to just about any project.

Example: You start building a house. After spending $100,000, you discover the house is right over a fault line and there's a risk of a quake and the house disappearing into a sink hole. You could shore up the house, attempt to compensate in some way or you could get out now. Invest another $300,000 and always face the risk of a quake or get out now and lose $100,000.

Example: You invest $100 in the stock market then the stock goes south and you end up with quite a bit less. You could invest more in the hope of recouping your losses or you could get out and minimize your losses.

Great idea. In looking back at my own experience of the failed career in music, I recognise now that I did not recognise then my inability could not be overcome by throwing more work at it. It wasn't a question of a little more effort would get the top off the jar; it was a question of building on a fault line. But there was that extremist in me: All the way is not far enough.

I've never played the piano again and it's been 30 years since I got out of music. My left hand has gradually gotten worse. While I used to be able to type with 10 fingers, many times I type with the 5 fingers of my right hand and just my index of my left. If I go very, very slowly, I sometimes can type with some of my fingers but if I ever speed up, my entire left hand locks up and I completely lose control of it. It's the oddest sensation. I could almost equate it to those times I've woken up after having laid on my arm and the blood flow has been cut off to the point where I literally can't move my arm. I roll out of bed and my arm just flops over and no matter how much I concentrate, I just can't move it at all. Ha! Very strange. I know I've got these appendages; I can see them but they just refuse to cooperate.

[sigh] But one must be philosophical about these changes in life. C'est dommage mais c'est la vie! (It's too bad but that's life!)


my blog: Irish Fiddle: Heaven or Hell?

Wikipedia: Focal Dystonia

my blog: Poor Me
I write about the unbelievable turn of events which dramatically changed the life of one 21 year old girl. When I heard this story, I realized I should never complain about my circumstances.

... Hé ! Hé ! Toute la distance n'est pas assez loin !


Sex: It seemed like a good idea at the time

Last night I was channel surfing when I ran across a show featuring a compilation of various stand-up comedians. One guy had a great bit about men and women.

In a nutshell, he started off talking about how women like to analyse things, to think things through and fully understand the pros and cons of an action. In opposition, guys just do things without really thinking too much about it. The male explanation for such behaviour was pretty much "It seemed like a good idea at the time." Drink too much? Dance with a stripper at a bachelor party? Post a picture on Facebook of you face down in the toilet? It seemed like a good idea at the time.

This comedian went on to talk about Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the fact that Clinton was impeached for lying to Congress. The comedian suggested that instead of lying, Clinton should have just told the truth. Clinton should have sat down before the Congressional committee and when asked if he did it and why he did it, Bill should have just said, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Of course, this brought about a burst of laughter and a round of applause but while I was chuckling, I couldn't help thinking that this comedian had actually hit the nail on the head. Women are reflective and we men are more of a gut-feeling, go-with-the-flow, ya-have-to-try-it-once type of thinkers. This may seem like a stereotype, maybe even a shallow comparison, but I can think of a number of examples which support this view of the genders.

Bill Clinton
Nuff said. Just what the heck was he thinking? [chuckles] I don't think he was thinking at all. Well, at least, he wasn't thinking about getting caught. And I guess that's the nature of the beast. If we thought... no, if we knew we wouldn't get caught, I imagine we'd be doing all sorts of s**t.

Pee-wee Herman
This comic fictional character created and portrayed by actor Paul Reubens rose to the pinnacle of fame with Pee-wee' s Playhouse, an Emmy Award winning children's series on CBS. In 1991, the actor, Paul Reubens was arrested by police for masturbating in an adult theatre. Both the actor Reubens and the character Pee-wee became the subject of ridicule. CBS dropped the show; Walt Disney severed all ties; Toys-R-Us removed Pee-wee toys from its stores. Paul Reubens went into hiding.

Did Reubens intend for all this to happen to him? Did it seem like a good idea? Then? Now?

True Story
I personally know of this story. One of the executives of a small company investigated the email of a manager. Tipped off by a secretary who worked for the manager, the executive wanted to find out if this guy was abusing his position. He discovered a series of emails from the manager to a female employee suggesting he, the manager, was "in love" with his employee.

Now here was a guy 63 and half years old, only a year and a half from his pension professing his love for a 27 year old female employee, recently married and expecting her first child. I couldn't help thinking upon hearing this story that if I had known this guy was doing this, I would have taken him aside, grabbed him by the labels and yelled at him, "Are you out of your freakin' mind?" Hell, what 27 year old young woman would want some ugly old fart?

The result was that the guy was let go apparently with a reduced pension since he missed the last 1.5 years needed to get the full pension. This was all for the usual reasons: sexual harassment, abuse of power, whatever. My gawd, this was not a good idea at the time and this wouldn't be a good idea at any time.

So what's the explanation? Did these men "do it" simply because they didn't think they would get caught?

The Bank Vault
Here's my scenario. I put you in front of an open bank vault and tell you that you are free and clear to take any amount you want; it is guaranteed that no one will ever know and that you will never get caught. The question now is not whether you'll be punished; the question is merely whether you can overcome any moral compunction which would prevent you from taking the money. Yes, you could choose to not take the money but this would in no way benefit anybody or hurt anybody. The only aspect of this is that the money isn't yours. You would be taking money that wouldn't belong to you.

What would you do? I'm betting you'd take it. Why? Well, why not? Leaving the money benefits absolutely nobody on Earth; it would only benefit your conscience.

Apparently, back in the late 50's, a postal worker in San Francisco found a bag full of unmarked bills (unmarked = the bills could not have been traced) which had apparently fallen off a Brink's truck. - How does a bag of money "fall off" a truck? - The worker turned the bag in. When the story broke, the postal worker supposedly received letters from all over the United States telling him he was an idiot; he should have kept the money. Ha! I'd say those people wouldn't think twice about cleaning out the vault in my devised scenario above!

There's Something About Mary
In this film, the protagonist is advised by a male acquaintance to masturbate before dating a woman. Apparently, the possible sexual arousal of a man can be disadvantageous as it can cloud his judgement and potentially ruin a date because the man will be attempting to seek sex when the girl just wants to go slow and talk.

In my blog entry "Sex: Men are from Mars", I talk about this idea at length. Our libidos tend to cloud our judgement but by removing our libidos from the equation, we could at times make better decisions.

Sound dumb? Maybe perverted? Would Bill have even looked twice at Monica? Would Paul have reconsidered? Would Paul have even gone to the cinema? Would the 63 year old have realised that there was no chance on God's green earth that a 27 year old would ever be interested in him?

After almost 13 years of marriage, my wife and I have concluded that a separation is in order. I am in the process of moving into my own apartment with the idea that the 2 of us will then see if there is a future for us. [stunned silence] ... What!?! ... I'm not going to go into detail here; I'm certain everybody will fill in the blanks whether I say something or not. However, I will close by saying that I think the correct explanation lies in the biting simplicity of the comedian's one liner: It seemed like a good idea at the time.


my blog: Sex: Men Are From Mars

Wikipedia: The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot


Friday 24 September 2010

Abortion: My final word on unwanted pregnancy

A while back, I wrote an article Abortion: If we make it illegal, the problem will go away which was inspired by a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news report on childbirth in Africa and the enormous risks faced by women in situations where health care was poor or nonexistent and sanitation left much to be desired. That article generated some responses and I thought the moment had arrived to address some of those comments and the pro-life arguments therein. Let me donate my $0.02 to this issue; my final word.

First of all, in going back and forth with certain people, obviously pro-life, in reading some forums and following the debates both for and against abortion, it occurred to me that no amount of arguing is clearly going to define the winner. You are either for abortion or you are against it. You can't argue the point; there is nothing to be gained by debating the issue. Each side just plainly believes what they believe and I doubt either side is going to be swayed by the other side. Yes, both sides will come to the table with their talking points, their examples both personal and general but at the end of the day, each side will continue to believe what they believe.

Abortion is murder or it's not. Nuff said. Yes, I've heard the arguments about the development of the foetus prior to X number of weeks, aborting before the 2nd trimester, no life before the heart starts beating, whatever. No amount of medical explanations about consciousness, scientific rationalizations about the formation of life is going to sway anybody. Abortion is murder or it's not. Accept one side or you're accepting the other.

But why? I have sometimes been surprised at the ferociousness with which some people hold their pro-life beliefs. They may be in no way personally touched by abortion but they are ready to vote, campaign, stand out on the streets with signs and sometimes go so far as to bomb clinics and even kill doctors. Where does this all come from?

In my entry on abortion, I spoke of how reports claimed that every year in Africa, 25,000 women die from botched abortions. You must remember that in 90% of the African countries, abortion is illegal. A few weeks after publication, I found this comment to my entry:

Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...
As a purely ethical matter, am I supposed to feel bad when a murderer, in the course of murdering, dies?
Because it just ain't there.

Sounds fair to me. Ted Bundy who confessed to over 30 murders was executed by the electric chair in 1989. Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma bombing which killed 168 people was executed in 2001. Yes, let's get those murderers; they deserve to die!

My mother was born in 1929, the 2nd of 2 daughters. My grandfather and grandmother faced the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent depression. In 1937, my grandmother unexpectedly and inadvertently became pregnant. Don't forget that this was the time of a one income family; my grandfather worked and my grandmother was a stay at home mom. The family could not financially support a third child so my grandparents elected to have an abortion. Could you even get a legal abortion in Canada in 1937?

My grandmother died as a result of the procedure. I don't know if it was a legal abortion or an illegal one but according to my aunt, my mother's sister, the incident was hushed up so I would assume it was probably illegal. My mother was left without a mother at the age of 8. My aunt, her sister was 10. My grandfather lost his wife. I lost the opportunity to ever know my grandmother.

But as Feynman and Coulter's Love Child pointed out, we shouldn't feel bad when a murderer dies in the course of murdering. Hmmm, I never thought about my grandmother as being a murderer. Then again, maybe my grandfather, whom I did know when I was young, convinced my grandmother to have an abortion so maybe he was really the murderer.

My wife described with a touch of compassion that no woman makes the decision to have an abortion lightly and no woman walks away from an abortion unaffected. Making the decision to not continue with a pregnancy and carrying out that decision is something one will carry around with them for life. What if? Ah, to reflect on that question What if? Nevertheless, there seem to be compelling reasons why a woman would decide to not have a child, reasons which would compel her risk her own life. I repeat she would risk her own life! Just imagine that 25,000 women die each year in Africa due to botched abortions.

It seems easy to stand from afar and label abortion as murder. I think it's a little more complicated than that. It seems easy to say that those women who die from a botched abortion deserve to die in the same way a murderer deserves to die. Except maybe when the person is somebody you know. Feynman and Coulter's Love Child total lack of compassion for all those unknowns who have died over the years... well, I feel so sad. Such coldness is unworthy of any human being.

Is abortion risky?
In my original article, I talked specifically about Africa where health care and sanitation leave much to be desired. Under these circumstances, probably any medical procedure may turn out to be risky. But here in the Western world where medical care may be top notch, an abortion is not at all risky and can be done, is done successfully with no complications at all. The difference is the quality of the health care.

I come back to looking at the phenomenon on a global scale. Western world, good health care, abortion no problem. Third world, poor health care, big danger.

In the CBC report, a journalist spoke with a representative from Canada working for one of the aid agencies. The rep demonstrated a simple plastic sheet, a sheet which was sanitary and she went on to explain that the agency had a program to distribute these sheets so that woman would have something to lie down on when giving birth. It was amazing to realize that there were areas so primitive, that there was literally no medical care at all and the process of giving birth sometimes was nothing more than lying down on the dirt floor of a hut. Apparently having a woman lie on one of these sanitary sheets would substantially decrease the risk of infection and even death during childbirth.

So, is abortion risky? I guess it depends where you are and what access you have to top notch medical care. Good care, safe abortion; poor care, well a risky abortion. Let me come back to the principal point of this article and the first one I wrote: If a woman didn't have an "unwanted" pregnancy, she wouldn't need an abortion.

If we make fire trucks illegal, all fires will stop
In my original article I made the above statement meaning that if we make the process of having an abortion illegal, "unwanted" pregnancies will stop. Of course, they don't and no matter what the legal status is about abortions, there continue to be approximately 42 million abortions each year across the planet.

So, let me stop you. Think about this for a sec: why? Why are there 42 million abortions? What is the cause, the reason, the motivation which would inspire a woman to possibly risk her life to have this operation? Either these women are unconcerned about risking their lives or they do not imagine the operation is potentially risky. Of course, with Western medical facilities being as good as they are having an abortion might be as risky as having a root canal.

I come back to the one thing I see everybody missing in all these debates. People get stuck on the question of is it murder or not and completely ignore the underlying problem.

An abortion represents an unwanted pregnancy.
Why is it I never see anybody tackle this issue from this perspective? It seems to me that everybody is focusing on the abortion rather than looking at the problem from a preventative angle. If a woman is considering an abortion, I'm sorry; the horse is already out of the barn. Why can't we back up a bit and ask ourselves why are we discussing an issue which is preventable? Why are we debating abortion? Why in heavens name was the situation allowed to get so far out of control that we have arrived at this last and most controversial step?

Unfortunately, since many in the pro-life camp are of a religious persuasion, we end up discussing the various actions which may prevent an "unwanted" pregnancy. It seems however that the only method on the table is usually abstinence. I said in the other article that 42 million abortions per year indicate to me that abstinence isn't working and will probably never work.

The Catholic Church
So, what about contraception? What about prophylactics? What about the pill? These would be precisely the "preventative" measures I'm talking about. Well, let's start with the obvious policy of the Catholic Church and the Pope. Rule of the game: no condoms and no pills. Now just picture this if you will. The Catholic Church professes to be pro-life and anti-abortion yet dismisses 2 means of preventing unwanted pregnancies. I find this to be a curious disconnect with reality. I would then go on to say how unconscionable I find this position.

In March 2009, the Pope visited Africa and during his trip he reaffirmed the church's ban on the use of condoms. ... At that moment, 22 million people were infected with HIV in Africa; there were 11.4 orphans because of AIDS; 1.5 million had died of AIDS in Africa in 2007 and 25 million had died in the past 20 years.

After I read this, I have to confess my jaw hit the floor. Yes, if people practised abstinence, we could say these numbers would not be so high. But since the numbers are that high, I have to conclude that abstinence isn't working. For me, the question is then what else could be done? And so, we return to the question of preventative measures, measures which the Catholic Church bans.

Subsequent to the news articles about the Pope's visit, I read articles which described the difficulties of promoting the use of condoms in Africa because there were cultural impediments to their use, namely, a strong prudery about anything sexual. You could not promote anything relating to sex because people were too embarrassed to talk about sex. In fact, one article by a group of French doctors concurred with the Pope's ban on condoms precisely for this cultural reason.

I was stunned; stunned by the illogical rationale being used to justify a policy. This was tantamount to saying you are against seat belts in cars and say it's up to the individuals to not get into accidents. Of course, I hope the reader sees the absurdity of banning seat belts; by now, it is well known how beneficial seat belts are in saving lives. For me, a preventative measure is important to not necessarily solving a problem, but by avoiding the problem altogether. If the use of a condom would stop even 1% of the cases of AIDS being transmitted, imagine that out of the 25 million people who have died over the past 20 years from AIDS in Africa, we could have saved 250,000 lives. That's just 1%! Heck, if I aimed for 0.1%; that would represent 25,000 people!!!

Unconscionable? I'm sorry; I like most people look to a leader for leadership but when I am confronted with a leader enforcing a policy which is so obviously in conflict with reality; I must question the leadership of the person in question; I must question the person, the policy and the rationale which supports a social structure which is so patently not achieving the laudable goals of peace, love and understanding.

Under the presidency of George W. Bush, part of the right wing religious fundamentalism in America, one saw a support for programs promoting abstinence in schools. Some of these programs offered "chastity rings" whereby the wearer of the ring signed some sort of pledge to not have sex. All very well and good but what about the 1.3 million abortions performed each year in the United States (over 70,000 in Canada)? I agree that abstinence works quite well for preventing unwanted pregnancies and hence avoiding an abortion; but my question is just how effective is this? Of course, I hear the argument that better promotion and acceptance of abstinence will in the end win the day but how long will that take? How many unwanted pregnancies, how many abortions will we see before this "glorious ideal" of everybody being abstinent? I come back to my seat belt analogy. Someday, we may all drive responsibly and no seat belts will be necessary. Maybe. Possibly. But in the meantime, how many people are going to be hurt, maimed or killed? Would anybody want to go back to the days where cars didn't have safety belts? That would seem pretty insane.

Show the Truth
This pro-life Christian group promotes its anti-abortion message by showing in public graphic images of aborted foetuses.

Show the Truth
Is a non-denominational mission dedicated to showing the truth of abortion to the Canadian public. Show the Truth is committed to peaceful and legal means of pro-life education, through displaying large photographs of abortion and distributing literature.
Why show the graphic images?
Throughout history, images have been instrumental in social reform. People working against slavery, child labour, discrimination against African Americans, and in the aftermath of the Holocaust used pictures of the injustices to raise public awareness. Most Canadians are familiar with disturbing images shown to the general public: one example is the widespread use of pictures showing the effects of smoking on the lungs. Images are powerful and legitimate tools for awakening people and arousing them to action.

Are children negatively affected by these images?
We have studied this concern extensively and have come to the following conclusions. Very small children do not comprehend the graphic nature of the signs. Young, preschool and school age children look and ask, “What happened to the baby?” An honest answer from a loving parent will put the child at ease. Preteens and young teenagers take an interest in the signs and ask for more information. Read more...

What about women who have had abortions?
Post-abortive women and those who counsel them agree that women need to know the truth about abortion. It is necessary that the woman comes to terms with the reality that abortion killed her child. This ends the stage of denial so the healing process can begin. Some women attribute the beginning of their rehabilitation to an encounter with a film or an image showing an abortion. Many women who have had abortions have told us that they would not have had an abortion if they had known the truth.

How can I get involved?
You can invite us to your community, or come and join us on our missions. STT is a non-profit volunteer organization, run entirely on donations. People of all ages and backgrounds and families are welcome; the only requirement is genuine dedication to showing the truth about abortion. STT members participate in a rich spiritual life, with prayers before and after each presentation, and daily Masses and prayer services while on tour. The work can be demanding, but all participants agree that it is well worth it. It is a great joy to be part of such a project; we are changing the world by awakening the public to this great injustice in our midst. It is time to act! Innocent children threatened in the womb need us! Will you respond to their “Silent Scream”? As Christ said, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, my brethren, you do unto Me.” Read more...

"Bottom line: if you can't handle the pictures, how can you condone the act?" - Trish Boyko, Uxbridge

Shock Tactic
I find this shock tactic an interesting way of supposedly hitting home the message that abortion is the murder of a child. I guess if I can't handle an image of my colonoscopy, I shouldn't have one. I guess if I can't stomach an image of open heart surgery, well, I better make sure I remain healthy. Gosh, if I can't stomach the image of a cow being butchered at the slaughterhouse, I should immediately become a vegetarian.

In fact, a number of pro-life web sites identify themselves with wonderful, cute cuddly pictures of healthy, happy babies. The message is that an abortion is stopping all this love and joy from taking place.

This 2005 non-fiction book by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner analyzes several commonly held "truths". I refer here to a chapter devoted to abortion.

During the 90's crime rates dropped and everybody was attributing this to better crime prevention. Levitt proved a correlation between the drop in crime and the legalization of abortion in the U.S. in the 1970s. Apparently, many abortions were occurring in lower income, possibly single parent families; families who were more susceptible to producing children who eventually ended up involved in crime.

Hmmm, pro-life groups show pictures of cuddly babies all smiley and happy. Anybody show pictures of those same babies grown up taking drugs, shooting each other and engaged in criminal activity?

Hmmm, cuddly babies all smiley and happy. I repeat: even if abortion is illegal, women still seek abortions; in some cases, they are willing to risk their lives to have that abortion. Why? Do they possibly know that the end result is not going to be that cuddly baby all smiley and happy?

Are you willing to do your part?
If it is all love and joy, why then would a woman consider having an abortion? Have you addressed the issue which would lead the woman to considering an abortion? Have you done enough to ensure that this woman is not having an "unwanted" pregnancy?

Answer: no.

A banana and a condom
I see this group, as other groups; commit a great deal of time and effort into protesting abortion and attempting to dissuade those who are actually at the door of the abortion clinic. How many of those people would be willing to take a banana and a condom down to their local high school and explain to the students how a basic, over the counter remedy would reduce the chances of an unwanted pregnancy to just about zilch? Just picture this: no more unwanted pregnancies, no more abortions, no more abortion clinics. Excuse me, but isn't this what everybody would like to see?

Oops, I forgot. We are all supposed to abstain. No condom is necessary.

Hmmm, as Dr. Phil likes to say, "How's that workin' for ya?"

Why am I even wasting my breath? The reality of the situation and the possible solutions seem so self-evident, discussing the issue seems to me to be completely stupid. The Pope bans condoms. I read 25 million people have died because of AIDS in Africa over the past 20 years. The United States sees 1.3 million abortions per year, 70,000 in Canada, 42 million worldwide and anybody, I mean anybody has the gall to suggest abstinence? Protesters spend hours standing around on streets showing graphic images of dead foetuses but refuse to go to their local high school with a banana and a condom.

Are you people nuts?

I remember once way back when seat belts were first made mandatory. A friend was spouting off about how nobody was going to tell him what to do; besides, they were unnecessary.

I slammed on the brakes.

The car skidded to a halt; my friend slide forward on the seat but managed to get his arm up so it slammed into the dashboard not his head.

"What the hell did you do that for?" exclaimed my friend. I grinned at him. "Unnecessary? If you were wearing your seat belt; you wouldn't have hit the dashboard." He was ready to slug me but I made my point.

Everybody is completely stuck on abortion and nobody wants to talk about "unwanted" pregnancy. I repeat and I guess I'll have to repeat this until I'm blue in the face: Nobody aborts a pregnancy they want; one only aborts an unwanted pregnancy. Stop all unwanted pregnancies; you stop all abortions.

Integrated Catholic Life
I left a comment with a link to my original abortion article and received this response.

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff
July 2, 2010 • 3:56 pm

Hi William,

You write on your blog: >>In a nutshell, I am pro-choice and anti-abortion. I am for the woman having the choice but would sincerely hope that we all arrive someday at a point where there is no need for a woman to even have to choose an abortion.<<

Well, you know, try that argument with any other killing of innocent human life... e.g., "I'm personally against drive-by shootings, but I am for the shooter having the choice..." or "I'm personally against homicide committed in the course of a bank robbery, but I am in favor of the robber having the choice..."

That people commit evil acts in the face of laws prohibiting those evil acts is not a valid reason for opposing the law.

There is no difference in human dignity between a born mother who intends to kill her unborn child and the unborn child. Your argument sacrifices the innocent baby in favor of the guilty mother. The pro-life position is that both lives are worth saving. To accept the intentional murder of the baby to save the possible accidental death of the mother is contrary to moral law.

Deacon Mike

I am sure Deacon Mike is a very nice man. Unfortunately, he completely missed my point in the original article and continues like all pro-lifers to address the entire issue of unwanted pregnancies by only looking at the moment of abortion. If a pregnancy was a "wanted" pregnancy, it would not be aborted. Ever. You only abort an unwanted pregnancy. Address the issue of a pregnancy being unwanted and you've solved the abortion issue.
  • Avoid an unwanted pregnancy:
    abstinence, of course
    contraception (condom, pill): just don't get pregnant in the first place
    vasectomy: don't get pregnant!!!
  • Ensure the woman is getting pregnant when she wants to!!! No accidents.

Who am I to judge?
Why does a woman choose to have an abortion? Her reasons are probably numerous: economic hardship, difficult family situation, emotional trauma, who knows? Whatever the case, she's the one deciding that the end result is not going to be that cuddly baby all smiley and happy.

But at the end of the day, it's her body; it's her decision. It's not my body.

Goddamn it! If you really hate abortion so much...
Ah, my frustration is showing. If you really hated abortion so much; you would do anything to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. If you really cared about people; you would do anything in your power to ensure a woman would never end up in a situation so difficult, she would even consider having an abortion. If you really understood where babies come from - and excuse me if I'm being blunt - you would know this only happens when a man's penis ejaculates inside a woman's vagina and you would look at all measures... and I mean ALL measures to guarantee that such a transfer of spermatozoa did not take place.

Shocked? Think I've gone too far; that I'm some kind of nut bar radical? Look in the mirror. You say you want to stop abortions but refuse to see the exact causal relationship.

  • Women become pregnant because of men. Anybody consider giving men a vasectomy?
  • Women become pregnant because of men. Anybody consider making them responsible? How come they get to walk away scot-free?
  • Women become pregnant because of sex. If abstinence isn't working, what else can one do? I don't care if pro-lifers say that sex is only for pro-creation. Sex can also be fun and a lot of people obviously know that or they wouldn't be "doing it".

And more importantly, do I get vote on what the woman does? Should I get a vote? After all, it's not my body.

My Final Word
Let me be perfectly clear: It is my opinion that abortion should be legal and should be an option made available to every woman. It is up to the woman to make the choice, not me. It is her body; it is her choice.

BUT and I add here a big emphatic but.

An abortion represents an "unwanted" pregnancy. The entire debate between the pro-choice and pro-life camps is about whether abortion is murder and whether abortion should be permitted, should be legal, should be supported as a legitimate way of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Okay fine; enough already! Can we move on folks?

The point to my articles is just this: If a woman didn't pregnant, she wouldn't need an abortion. Ah, but I should be more precise. If a woman "wanted" to be pregnant, she wouldn't want an abortion. Yes, abortion is an issue; I'll let everybody else waste their time and effort arguing their stance to the other camp until they're blue in the face. I want to move upstream and deal with the issue BEFORE the pregnancy occurs. I want to be preventative. Yes, curative is good; curative is important but what can we collectively do to prevent us from even getting to an abortion.

Do the pro-lifers truly care about life? I'm sorry, I don't think so. You call my grandmother a murderer and say she deserved to die. You leave 2 little girls without a mother; you deprive me of my grandmother. You would have forced her to have the baby then walk away to leave the entire family to fend for themselves amongst the economic hardships of the great depression. Compassionate? You remain fixated on abortion but refuse to pick up a banana. You enforce policies that match your ideology then sit back and look at millions die from AIDS and say, "Too bad."

You want to ban fire trucks assuming that all fires will stop. You want to ban abortions assuming that all unwanted pregnancies will stop.

Ladies and gentlemen, I originally stated that I would like to see abortions stop. But abortions will only stop the day we no longer have "unwanted" pregnancies. And how to achieve the goal of no pregnancy being "unwanted"? Standing outside an abortion clinic showing the graphic image of an aborted foetus strikes me as being a very narrow minded, very myopic method of stopping an abortion. If you looked at every means at your disposal to ensure no pregnancy was unwanted including a banana, there is a good chance we could all be a tad closer to having no abortions at all. Women deserve to become pregnant when they want to, not when a man wants to or when a man inadvertently does so.

So, as my final word: pick up that banana, get out there and try to make this a better world. If for no other reason, you will at least not slip on the peel!

To all pro-lifers: The statistics are in and they clearly state that an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The following information clearly supports my article. By preventing unwanted pregnancies (through contraception), you can significantly reduce abortions. And this is what we all want, right?

Guttmacher Institute:


By providing millions of young and low-income women access to voluntary contraceptive services, the national family planning program prevents 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, including almost 400,000 teen pregnancies, each year. These pregnancies would result in 860,000 unintended births, 810,000 abortions and 270,000 miscarriages, according to a new Guttmacher Institute report.

Absent publicly funded family planning services, the U.S. abortion rate would be nearly two-thirds higher than it currently is, and nearly twice as high among poor women.

Cristina Page: "Pro-Life" Movement Admits Pro-Abortion Stance

[The Guttmacher Report] specifically concluded that making contraception available to low income women reduces the number of abortions by nearly 40%. When birth control isn't available unintended pregnancy increases by 2 million and the number of abortions spikes by more than 800,000 each year. Researchers noted that providing contraception saves taxpayers 4 times as much as not providing it.

Some 91% of Americans favor contraception and so were startled to discover that groups which claim to be against abortion oppose the very strategy that results in significant declines in abortion. Instead, in a further shock, they support policies that researchers show lead to sharp increases in unintended pregnancy and abortion rate. Many ordinary self-described "pro-life" Americans were confused by news of the seemingly incomprehensible, yet universally-held, position of groups that have, for decades, promoted themselves as opponents of abortion.


my blog: Abortion: If we make it illegal, the problem will go away

blog: Finding my Feminism: What happens if abortion is illegal?

Ship of Fools: forum on abortion;f=70;t=001146

Show the Truth (pro-life group)

Wikipedia: Freakonomics

Wikipedia: Legalized abortion and crime effect

Not Guilty
I'm a liberal feminist atheist about to finish my law degree. I am pro-choice, pro-socialized medicine, and I am intolerant of intolerance.

She wrote about her encounter with the pro-life group called Show the Truth who demonstrated in Burlington, Ontario on July 16, 2010.

Street Corners for Choice
Street Corners for Choice, Part 2
Street Corners for Choice: Coffee with Anti's

my blog: Spousal Support: Where are the men?
It's interesting how the entire question of abortion is centered on the woman. As I said, she got pregnant by a man. Where are these men? A pregnancy involves 2 things: an egg and a sperm.


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