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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Canada's position on North Korea

[Submitted to the Globe and Mail, but not published]
August 13, 2017

Sometimes, when your friend is on the verge of doing something dangerous, you have to intervene. It’s certainly good that [Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister] Chrystia Freeland criticized the dangerous rhetoric and actions of the crazy North Korean dictator, but what about the twitterer in chief in the White House? 

If it’s not possible for Canada to criticize a friend, we’re not true friends. Even silence would speak volumes, as people have noticed with Trump’s silence over white supremacist violence. To simply say, “When they [the US] is threatened, we are there.”, without also noting Trump's tweeted threats, is higly irresponsible. 

Will Freeland still put all the blame on North Korea if Trump is emboldened to a pre-emptive strike? Even if that results in the North devasting Seoul, and the Chinese military crossing the border, as they have promised to do if the US throws the first punch?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

[This letter was not published by the Globe and Mail. That's not unusual for me. But what was interesting is that no letters were published in response to an extremist pro-vaccination op-ed by one Timothy Caulfield, which illustrates that mainstream media have indeed become propagandists for the vaccine industry.]

Dear Editors;

I don’t know on what basis Timothy Caulfield (“Stop those naturopaths who spread anti-vaxxer myths”) was criticizing BC naturopaths for criticizing thimerosal, the vaccine preservative. Was he trying to say that it is no longer used in vaccines? It still is, in multi-dose flu vaccines, for example. That it doesn’t contain mercury? It is about 50% mercury by weight. That there’s no evidence that the form of mercury it contains, ethyl-mercury, is not toxic? There’s lots of evidence.

If we are going to have an adult conversation about vaccines we cannot pretend that all vaccines, under all circumstances, no matter what ingredients they contain, are safe, effective and necessary, and we need to stop using the childish pejorative, “anti-vaxxer”, to describe all their critics, whether they are parents who have seen adverse reactions with their own eyes, doctors who have seen patterns of damage from vaccines and changed their opinion, or scientists researching vaccine additives, such as mercury or aluminum.

- David Crowe

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Manchester Bomb Massacre

Letter to the Globe and Mail. Publication Declined.

When we in the west take the senseless bombing of a wedding party in Yemen as seriously as the senseless bombing of concert goers, then perhaps both problems can be solved.

Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan mouths the credo of western interference in muslim countries. He can’t or won’t understand that outbreaks of horrific violence require not just the existence of jihadist ideology, but also our killings to provide the justification that sick and warped people need to see themselves as heroes, and not as monsters. The BBC is already reporting that the British used Libyan jihadists to destablize Gaddafi, believing their promises to have no interest in politics outside their country, but sometimes the enemy of my enemy is not our friend, but the enemy of everyone.

-  David Crowe

After emailing this letter, I also found that, according to Russia Today, the sister of Salman Abedi, Jomana Abedi, told the Wall Street Journal that, I think he saw children – Muslim children – dying everywhere, and wanted revenge. He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and wanted revenge. Whether he got that is between him and God, she said.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The cost of not taking your medicine (is less than the cost of taking it)

Submitted to the Globe and Mail newspaper, but not published, as usual when I criticize the medical establishment.

A recent Globe and Mail article, “The cost of not taking your medicine”, estimates that 125,000 deaths occur every year in the USA due to people not taking their medicine. Ironically, way back in 2000, the even more prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association published an estimate that 106,000 people die each year from properly (!) prescribed medications in hospitals. Given increases in population and pharmaceutical use, that’s roughly the same number. But if you include improperly prescribed medications (wrong drug, wrong dose, etc), over-the-counter drugs and drugs prescribed outside hospitals (via a GP, old folks homes, prisons, etc) the number of people who die from taking their drugs is much, much higher than those who die from not.

And many of the people who don’t take the drugs are probably experiencing side effects that they don’t want to confront their doctors with, probably because they are worried their doctors will chastise them. And, in many cases doctors will dismiss the side effects as unrelated to the new symptoms. At least until the drug is pulled off the market for causing too many side effects or deaths, as happens quite often.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sex Selective Abortion in Canadians of South Asian Descent

The Globe and Mail newspaper (Toronto) reports that a study has shown that the preference for male babies among women living in Canada, but born in South Asia, remains strong no matter how long since they immigrated.
Most striking is that the ratio of boys to girls among Punjabi women who have given birth to two girls, and no boys, is 240 boys to 100 girls.

It's probably true that most people who have two children of the same gender would prefer a third child of the opposite gender, however it probably does not lead to an abortion in many cases.

What is problematic is a statement by Kripa Shekhar, executive director of the South Asian Women's Centre in Toronto, that, "A woman has a fundamental right in Canada to decide whether to have an abortion, and should not come under pressure from a spouse or other family members to deliver a male child…This is an issue of choice that is taken away from a woman, in many ways it is very abuse."

Certainly the first part of this statement is not controversial to me. Women in Canada do have a fundamental right to an abortion (whether you like it or not) and I agree that they should not be pressured to have an abortion, any more than they should be pressured to keep a child they don't want. But is it true that in all cases (as is implied by this statement) it is men who are pressuring women to have the abortion.

I have observed that cultural practices, even when they clearly restrict women in some way, and not men, such as the Burka, Female Genital Mutilation, are endorse and enforced by both women and men who are part of that culture. Just as circumcision, for example, which may damage the sex life of men, is equally endorsed by both men and women who believe it is part of their culture, or who claim that it actually has health benefits.

What if at least some South Asian women want the abortion so that their third, and possibly final, child will be a boy?

If this was true (even if just for some women) then there is a clear conflict between a woman's "fundamental right in Canada to decide whether to have an abortion", and a prohibition on sex-selective abortion.

Since I don't believe that we can reliably determine whether someone would make the same choice outside of the influence of other family members there doesn't seem to be a solution to the problem. Imagine if, for example, South Asian women were forbidden from having abortions, or from having abortions of female fetuses? This would clearly be racist because it assumes that all South Asian men are misogynists, and it assumes that no South Asian women in Canada are strong enough to make up their own mind.

Given that I believe overuse of ultrasound is a health concern, I wouldn't object to restricting the use of ultrasound, but in reality a doctor can always find a medical reason to require one, and the decision to abort when the parents find out the gender can be made without anyone speaking the reason.

The only solution, which isn't much of a solution, is to respect the right of all Canadian women to decide whether to have an abortion (knowing that in some cases they may have been pressured) and to hope that future generations become perfect in all gender matters, just like white people always have been (calm down, I'm being sarcastic).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Not published by the Globe and Mail (sigh, why do I bother?)

Dear Editors;

I sincerely wish Justin Trudeau would stop sucking up to the United States, it just encourages them to get involved in more futile and bloody wars, especially now we have a madman on the Presidential throne. Trudeau can chastise Russia all he wants, but Syria is their only base in the Middle East (unlike the USA), so a withdrawal of support just isn’t going to happen. Realpolitik 101.

Perhaps he is encouraging America to start another ‘humanitarian’ war to topple dictator Assad, just like the successful and rapid topplings of Hussein and Gaddafi. Unfortunately, although we thought nothing could be worse than those dictators, we soon found out we were wrong. And in this case we have the additional danger of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia.

It’s deeply disturbing that our Prime Minister, captured by his flowing rhetoric, is pushing the world towards WW III.

- David Crowe

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stop dissing Alberta's new election laws

Published in the May 2017 edition of Alberta Views magazine.

I’m no NDP [Alberta's mildly socialist governing party] hack, but “Getting Big Money Out of Alberta Politics” is wrong in their criticism of the dramatic improvements that the NDP made to Alberta’s election laws. Dramatically wrong. It is false to state that the Alberta limit of $4000 is greater than the federal limit, let alone almost 3 times greater. This is an enormous misunderstanding of federal rules, perhaps drawn from the VUE Weekly article that you also included in your April edition.

In fact, according to Elections Canada, in 2017 you can give $1550 to EACH of the registered federal parties. And another $1550 to Electoral District Association, Nomination Contests and Party-endorsed candidates for EACH party. And $1550 per election for EACH independent candidate. And $1550 in total to leadership candidates in EACH contest.

So if you really want to throw money around, and you want to buy influence with the two or three parties you think are most likely to win, you could easily give several times more than the $4000 total limit in Alberta. You are only limited by the numbers of parties, independent candidates and leadership contests. Unlike Alberta there is no global cap.

There are other tricks you can play, federally. You can, for example, give $1550 to a political party, and request that the money is allocated to a particular riding or candidate. And then give another $1550 directly to the riding or candidate.  I know because I actually queried Elections Canada as I was sure that they would have recognized and filled this loophole, but they confirmed that the limits apply to the entity receiving the money from you, and that there are no limits or restrictions on transfers between parties, ridings and candidates.

And if you like another candidate running for a different party you can rinse and repeat. And if that’s not enough you can donate $1550 to an unlimited number of independent candidates (perhaps to try to bleed votes away from a candidate you want to lose). And don’t forget the leadership contests.

- David Crowe
Former CFO, Green Party of Alberta