Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Devil In Ms. Jones

To those 57%  who couldn't rouse themselves to vote in the last Ontario election, please do not make sounds of outrage over the likelihood that Doug Ford will introduce more privatization into our healthcare system. You didn't participate, so I really have little regard for your thoughts on the matter. Electoral silence, in my view, gives consent.

Sylvia Jones, our new Minister of Health, is starting to use the word innovation a great deal, which many see as code for privatization. Indeed, one can well-imagine that one of her early innovations will benefit the many private operators of long-term care facilities including, of course, the Chair of Chartwell Homes, the infamous Mike Harris.

Here is one of the brilliant ideas Ms. Jones is sharing:

Jones and Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra will outline a spate of “operational” reforms Thursday morning at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

One move, first reported by CityNews and confirmed by the Star, is to make permanent a pandemic emergency measure that allows the moving of patients in hospitals awaiting a long-term care bed to nursing homes in other communities.

Progressive Conservative sources said the decision to transport elderly people to an available bed elsewhere would be left up to doctors and could free up some 250 hospital beds by year’s end.

A bloodless solution, eh, unless you happen to be an essential caregiver to the relocated senior, likely a senior yourself.

I won't bore you with the details of how, despite the mantra that private enterprise always does things more efficiently, the private model is more a shell game than a solution; you probably already understand it is merely rearranging those deck chairs on the Titanic and ultimately confining many to the steerage section to await their doom.

I'll let the always entertaining and infinitely more witty Brittlestar speak for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Revised: Sometimes, All You Can Do Is Feed The Birds

I have revised slightly my original post. With lunta's comments I realized my point was not entirely clear, that sometimes we have to "just feed the birds," whose meaning I had hoped was clear.

I hope the revisions clarify my point.

For many years, there was a popular saying that everyone seemed to know: "Think globally, act locally." Basically, it was a call to consider the global environmental implications in every decision we make. Not a bad sentiment, but I find myself living by something quite different in these latter days of my life.

In my backyard, which is perpetually sun-challenged, I have an array of drought-resistant perennials ranging from Hostas to Black-eyed Susans to Purple Coneflowers. Unfortunately, I have never had any luck with my Milkweed efforts, but at least the 'garden' offers something for pollinators.

Also in the backyard I keep a birdbath and two bird feeders, both of which I replenish regularly. Seeing the birds come and the bees collecting pollen offers me a small measure of comfort in these dark days. Because, when you think about it, sometimes all you can do is feed the birds.

The above  essentially encapsulates what has become my philosophy of life. Recognizing that the big issues like war, famine, drought, massive climate change, to name but four, have little likelihood of remediation, I was forced to change my outlook in order to keep even a semblance of hope and positivity.

Feeding the birds both literally and metaphorically allows me to maintain my humanity. Metaphorically, it means doing a little good, usually locally, when I can. Such acts do not have a world-shaking impact but perhaps might make someone else's life just a little bit better or at least reduce their suffering in a small way.

I will not bore you with details of how I try to practise this philosophy, but opportunities to help abound: community refrigerators, hot-meal programs, foodbanks, mentoring, helping a neigbour, providing a sympathetic ear to someone in distress, etc. Because some people enjoy a graphic, l bring to your attention, and only as an example, the situation of a young boy whose family is facing real challenges in living with and accommodating his rapidly deteriorating condition. I am not advocating for them, but only offer this as one example of how all of us, in our way, in our own communities, can "feed the birds." 

Here is Brodie's story:

In my life, I have much to be thankful for. I accept the goodness in my life with gratitude, knowing that days of grace are guaranteed to no one, nor are they really ever merited. As grateful as I am, if I can do even a little to show monetary/emotional support for individuals who are suffering, I feel called to do so.

We sometimes really do underestimate what a kind word, a sympathetic voice, a show of support or a small donation can achieve in someone's life.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

They Walk Amongst Us

Most of the world is rightfully decrying the attempt on Salmon Rushdie's life. A cowardly effort to silence a voice that some find blasphemous, his near-death experience is a potent reminder that there are those living amongst us who attack the views of those they find objectionable, often in tandem with hatred for their ethnicity or gender.

We should not be surprised to learn that this reactionary behavour is happening in our own country as well. Journalists are often the target of such odious attacks, one of them being Rachel Gilmore, a reporter who covers federal politics for Global News. At this point I would normally post a video showing the kinds of abuse that is heaped upon her by men who feel threatened by her, but I do have certain standards for my blog and will not promote their bile. However, if you have a strong stomach and want to know more about what she has to endure, check out her Twitter feed.

Donovan Vincent, a veteran reporter and the Star's new public editor, writes about this disquieting trend:

... a rise in hate — fuelled in part by political polarization, divisions over mask mandates and vaccines, economic and employment shifts and other factors — has resulted in a torrent of racist, homophobic, misogynistic and violent messages being directed at journalists, often women and women of colour.

In the past week alone, a horrible message was sent to Toronto Star podcast host Saba Eitizaz, a journalist of South Asian background. The filthy, cowardly and pathetic note — the sender didn’t leave a real name or contact info and hid behind an encrypted email address — also mentioned Hill Times columnist and podcast host Erica Ifill, a Black woman, and Rachel Gilmore, a reporter for Global News who is white.

I can’t repeat much of the content of the note because this is a family newspaper. But the personal attacks were meant to unnerve these women.

Make them feel fearful, humiliated. Make them doubt themselves. Silence their smart, confident voices.

The letter infers the women are on a hit list, and need to be “silenced” and “retired.”

There is no doubt that racism plays a part in some of these gutless comments.

Others in my newsroom, mainly young, non-white journalists or those with ethnic backgrounds, have also been recent targets.

“They are trying to silence us, intimidate us and play on our anxiety. They’re trying to keep minorities oppressed. That’s how I feel,” said one of my young colleagues, who didn’t want to be named to avoid receiving more hate.

Reading some of their messages, I was struck by instances where similar language and terminologies popped up. For example, some of the letters refer to the female targets needing to be “boogaloo’ed the f…k out of Canada” — i.e. escorted out of this country.

If you go to this link, you will see the efforts Erica Gilmore made to bring to the authorities' attention the threats she and others were facing. The results were less than satisfactory. This has prompted some action on the part of news-gatherers.

These past few weeks, the Star, the Hill Times, Global News and the Canadian Association of Journalists, along with the journalists impacted and others, have decided enough is enough. The parties came together to pen a letter that is being sent to the chiefs of police in Toronto and Ottawa (the three women span those cities) and federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino. It’s also being sent to the heritage minister — who is looking into legislation and regulations to address online hate — the justice minister, the minister for women and gender equality, the commissioner of the RCMP, and Ontario’s attorney general.

 The letter points out that incidents of online abuse directed at the three women — “targeted, vile threats of violence” — made them fear for their safety and prompted them to file a number of police reports. The lengthy letter includes demands that the chiefs and safety minister take steps to address the incidents and work with the media organizations to combat the abuse of journalists, and fight online hate and the harassment of all victims.

A key point of the letter is that the harassment seems to be part of a campaign against journalists, and that police and the law often treat these cases as separate. But that’s a fundamental misunderstanding that misses the “connections among cases and the connections to extremist groups,” the letter points out.

Despite the fact that the MSM is routinely denigrated in social media, I, for one, have a deep respect for what journalists do.  Are they perfect? Of course not. They are, however, our best hope of staying informed, much-needed ballast in the sea of misinformation we now must habitually navigate.

They have my deep respect and full support.



Friday, August 12, 2022

Who Benefits?


Some time ago, I read an excellent book by Michael Lewis called The Premonition: A Pandemic Story. In it, the author follows a group of dedicated researchers and a public health officer who fearlessly follow the science of the emerging pandemic, frequently facing obstructions and even threats to their very careers. Their heroism stands in sharp contrast to the careerists who lead entities like the Centers for Disease Control, utterly failing to fulfill their mandate of protecting and keeping the public adequately informed on the emerging virus. To say that such people are political whores is the gentlest way to describe them.

I was therefore not entirely surprised that the CDC has now loosened its guidelines around COVID-19. Here are some of them, with emphasis added:

The changes shift much of the responsibility for risk reduction from institutions to individuals. The C.D.C. no longer recommends that people stay six feet away from others. Instead, it notes that avoiding crowded areas and maintaining a distance from others are strategies that people may want to consider in order to reduce their risk.

People who are exposed to the virus no longer must quarantine at home regardless of their vaccination status, although they should wear a mask for 10 days and get tested for the virus on Day 5, according to the new guidelines. Contact tracing and routine surveillance testing of people without symptoms are no longer recommended in most settings. 

...the guidelines note that schools may want to consider surveillance testing in certain scenarios, such as for when students are returning from school breaks or for those who are participating in contact sports.

Unvaccinated students who are exposed to the virus will no longer need to test frequently in order to remain in the classroom, an approach known as “test to stay.” The C.D.C. no longer recommends a practice known as cohorting, in which schools divide students into smaller groups and limit contact between them to reduce the risk of viral transmission. 

Not everyone is onboard with the new guidelines: 

Dr. Saskia Popescu took issue with the CDC removing the quarantine recommendation for those who have been exposed, particularly those unvaccinated. She also questioned the feasibility of people wearing masks in small offices where they will have to take them off for eating and drinking.

Additionally, Popescu said discouraging routine testing ignores the "high levels of asymptomatic cases."

"We should be providing people the resources to stay home if they're exposed, especially if unvaccinated and [without] vaccine-induced protection, not doing away with the quarantine guidance [altogether]," Popescu said.

Dr. Judy Stone called the CDC's guidelines "capitulation" in a tweet.

"What would be welcome to me and many others would be masking until rates are down and a focus on improving ventilation," she said. "Immunocompromised/elderly people have been devalued and discarded."

So, as I often ask about suspicious actions and decisions, "Who benefits?" 

Clearly, those disruptive elements of society who have made a fetish of their opposition to masks and mandates benefit. But if appeasement of such people is part of the motivation here, they will surely be on about something else in short order.

Perhaps the biggest winners are to be found in the world of commerce. The past two years have been admittedly very difficult, with shut-downs, staff absences, etc. But, as Rick Salutin has asked on more than one occasion, "Does the economy exist to serve us, or do we exist to serve the economy?

The new guidelines also serve to weaken calls by workers to provide more sick days, another cost to business, along with the expenses of  hiring temps in many instances. The strongest suggestion in the guidelines is that people who test positive should stay at home for five days. 

As well, the new CDC direction pays no heed to the dangers of long-Covid. If anything, they will facilitate the spread of a virus about whose long-term effects we still really understand little.

Ultimately, everything is up to the individual in the new guidelines. And if the past two years have taught us anything at all, it is that individuals, and groups of individuals, make some pretty poor, even dangerous, choices.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

A Cogent Rebuttal To Privatized Healthcare

Here in Ontario, the newly re-elected Conservatives under Doug Ford are making oblique sounds about private health care as a way to help solve our hospital crises. While we do have private clinics, etc. in this province, it would seem that they are suggesting much more than that. 

One needn't be a particularly deep thinker to see some of the flaws in that logic, the most egregious being that private entities exist to make profits, and that anyone working for a private healthcare entity is bled off from the public system.

The following is Brittlestar offering a clear explanation to those who react ideologically instead of thinking critically. I also include a couple of comments from his followers: nailed this! My sister has a doc who runs a private clinic in TO. She pays $5,000 a year to see her doctor. When she had a heart attack this doc actually said she couldn't treat her as her annual fee was due. She suggested my sister find an OHIP doc. Private Healthcare!


My daughter was in the hospital for 4 months due 2 complications from brain surgery. Nine years ago i had cancer. I could not imagine having 2 pick & choose what healthcare 2 get based on our income. My daughter & i are still alive thanks to universal Healthcare.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Timely Reminder

That division exists in our country is undeniable. That there are those amongst us who seek to exploit those divisions is also a fact. Two Star letter-writers remind us to be very wary of such merchants of discord:

Poilievre leads candidates in donations, Aug. 3

Uncivil behaviour, unbridled entitlement, a paranoid stance, leading to demonizing others is not how you build community and it’s certainly not how you build a nation.

Watching two Conservative leadership races play out, I am left wondering how we come together as a united country, with trust, and hope, for a future together.

Are others concerned?

Desmond Pouyat, Toronto

 An emperor with no clothes, Aug. 6

Rosie DiManno aptly describes Alex Jones as “the conspiracy monger most responsible for promoting that web of deceit.” Ex- president Donald Trump said to Jones: “your reputation is amazing.” One man motivated by greed, the other by power.

Both feeding on the ignorance and anger of a largely hateful population.

Is this what our southern neighbours have evolved into?

I wish I could turn my back and ignore their fall into mayhem, but I can’t.

In Canada, we are seeing the same exploitative tactics from politicians, such as Pierre Poilievre, who pander to angry mobs like the so-called freedom convoy.

As his popularity amongst Conservatives seems to rise, it begs the question: Are we falling into the same abyss as the Americans?

Are we going to let hate and ignorance be our guiding beacons?

We need to pay attention to what is happening down south. Or else we are doomed to fall prey to the same fate.

Maurice Sacco, Toronto 

Monday, August 8, 2022

UPDATED: About Freedom

Although I read and write a fair amount, I clearly am not an expert in the affairs of the world. I can merely observe, report and comment on the things that interest, hearten or outrage me. An armchair (or is it keyboard?) pundit am I.

Nonetheless, there are certain realities that seem to me irrefutable, global heating being the most pressing, in my view. And that's why I find Pierre Poilievre's political pontifications about making Canada the freest nation on earth both absurd and disturbing. 

At the heart of  Poilievre's corrupted vision is that personal freedom (the truck convoy being an egregious example) trumps all else, that the mythical and ogre-like 'gatekeepers' are the only impediments to becoming truly actualized individuals. 

Therein lies the sweet lie.

Anyone who believes such an idealized state is possible is clearly deluded; anyone who advocates for it is being disingenuous, manipulative and mendacious.

The reason is fairly straightforward and, I think, obvious. Freedom without responsibility is a recipe for chaos, made worse by the fact that if we to have any chance (admittedly slim) of  avoiding the worst effects of climate change, co-operation, not the rhetoric of absolute freedom, will carry the day. 

Co-operation, the working with others toward common goals, is of course the complete opposite of the reckless rhetoric espoused by Mr. Poilievre, and clearly anathema to his political posturing. His divide-and-conquer strategy is a clear abdication of political leadership, one doubtlessly appealing to those given more to reaction than reflection.

Pierre reminds me of a student I taught many years ago named Jason. A most disruptive and mean-spirited lad, he was a definite taint on the atmosphere of the Grade 10 general level class I was teaching. It was the same year that asbestos was discovered in the west wing of the school where I taught, a discovery that required moving all staff and students to classrooms in the east wing. Imagine my surprise while watching the evening news to see Jason, who professed concern for his fellow students, leading a march on school grounds protesting the 'unsafe conditions' under which they were being instructed. Jason, a most indifferent student, to put it politely, felt that the conditions and asbestos threat were not conducive to learning, and something had to be done about it.

In many ways, Pierre reminds me of Jason. He exploits discontent for his own aggrandizement, the angry and disenchanted amongst us mere props to facilitate his political goals. Sincerity and genuine concern for the country are absent.

Will Poilievre succeed? I guess it depends upon how you define success. He will undoubtedly succeed in nurturing and expanding his constituency of the aggrieved, guaranteeing victory in his leadership quest. I very much doubt he will become Canada's next prime minister. 

Of course, that will ultimately be determined by those who rouse themselves to vote in the next election, won't it?

UPDATE: Moudakis's latest is just too rich and spot-on not to add to this post: