Oct 222009
 
Black Light Bulb

Black Light BulbThis week (Oct 22, 2009) some London City Councilors have suggested that the city turn off its street lights completely so that that the birds and the trees can get their rest.  Yes, not the birds and the bees but the birds and the trees.  This dark skies lunacy is just another innovative way that the meddlers have found find to make our lives just that more miserable.

All of this over-regulation, banning, and health scares have something in common and what they have in common is hatred.

About 50 years ago Ayn Rand identified exactly what motivates these people.  She called it “hatred of the good for being the good.”

The following is from an article called The Age of Envy, in
Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, by Ayn Rand.

“Today, we live in the Age of Envy.

“Envy is regarded by most people as a petty, superficial emotion and, therefore, it serves as a semihuman cover for so inhuman an emotion that those who feel it seldom dare admit it even to themselves . . . . That emotion is: hatred of the good for being the good.

“This hatred is not resentment against some prescribed view of the good with which one does not agree . . . . Hatred of the good for being the good means hatred of that which one regards as good by one’s own (conscious or subconscious) judgment. It means hatred of a person for possessing a value or virtue one regards as desirable.

“If a child wants to get good grades in school, but is unable or unwilling to achieve them and begins to hate the children who do, that is hatred of the good. If a man regards intelligence as a value, but is troubled by self-doubt and begins to hate the men he judges to be intelligent, that is hatred of the good.

“The nature of the particular values a man chooses to hold is not the primary factor in this issue (although irrational values may contribute a great deal to the formation of that emotion). The primary factor and distinguishing characteristic is an emotional mechanism set in reverse: a response of hatred, not toward human vices, but toward human virtues.

“To be exact, the emotional mechanism is not set in reverse, but is set one way: its exponents do not experience love for evil men; their emotional range is limited to hatred or indifference. It is impossible to experience love, which is a response to values, when one’s automatized response to values is hatred.”

This quote is from later in the same article:

“What is the nature of a creature in which the sight of a value arouses hatred and the desire to destroy? In the most profound sense of the term, such a creature is a killer, not a physical, but a metaphysical one—it is not an enemy of your values, but of all values, it is an enemy of anything that enables men to survive, it is an enemy of life AS SUCH and of everything living.”

And the last quote I have is from Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged.

They do not want to OWN your fortune, they want you to LOSE it; THEY do not want to SUCCEED, they want YOU to FAIL; they do not want to live, they want YOU to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence, and they keep running, each trying not to learn that the object of his hatred is himself . . . . They are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your WEALTH that they’re after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the MIND, which means: against life and man.”

Man’s means of survival is an unfettered mind working in a free society.  Man creates a light bulb – then someone tells him to turn it off.  Man creates items of convenience – then someone tells him that his items of convenience are destroying the insects or the rocks or the trees.  Man creates luxury and is then made to feel guilty about it because it goes beyond mere survival.

Name something man-made and you will always find someone like a politician or pseudo-intellectual who will try to make you feel guilty about using it.

Take your clothes…made with slave labour in China.

Your bottle of water…filling up our landfills.

Your cell phone…gives you brain tumors.

Your car…pollutes the air.

Your house…not energy efficient enough.

Your food…makes you fat or gives you cancer.

Your entertainment, whether television, movies or video games…promotes violence or objectifies women.

Your self and your children…overpopulation.

The list is endless.  You name it and they will find a reason to destroy it.  You value it and they will hate it.

We have on London City Council, and in Queen’s park and in Ottawa a great tribe of people who hate technology, convenience, luxury, even survival itself.  The reason they hate these things is that they really just hate themselves.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right October 22nd, 2009  (Show #125).  To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org)

Oct 082009
 

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, or Privacy Czar as she has been called, has just released her annual report to Parliament.  Now I have never given too much thought to the comings and goings of the Privacy Commissioner except perhaps on a couple of occasions… must recently the decision this summer to investigate complaints against the Social Networking site facebook.   Prior to that it was the warning to Google that its Street View project MAY violate Canadian Law.

These investigations got me wondering about such things as Do we have a right to privacy?  If so, how is it defined?  What are the powers of this Privacy Commissioner we keep hearing about?  What laws are there to protect our right to privacy?  Are these laws reasonable?

My knee jerk reaction to the notion of a right to privacy was that we don’t have one!  Other than the fact that people can’t just come into my house uninvited I thought that as soon as I walked out my front door any illusion of privacy ended.  Well, as is sometimes the case, my knee-jerk reaction was wrong.

Like most things political or philosophical I often turn to Ayn Rand for a bit of guidance and in doing so this time I found a great quote from her book The Fountainhead.   “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy.  The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe.  Civilization is the process of setting men free from men.”

Apparently Rand had some idea that privacy is something of value.  But is it a right?  I had to think about it some more since Rand herself never actually wrote much more on the topic than the quote I just read.

This is what I have reasoned so far.  We do have a right to privacy but it is not a fundamental right.  It is a corollary of other rights that we have…the right to own property, the right to our life and liberty, and the right to enter into contracts with others.

The extension of a right to privacy is often a natural consequence of owning property.  Basically we can build a house and shut the doors and close the blinds and be confident that we are enjoying our privacy…away from the prying eyes of the rest of the tribe.

The right to privacy is also a consequence of our right to enter into consensual contracts or agreements with others.  Every time you go to a website that asks you if you agree to a set of terms before entering the site or becoming a member (as with facebook) you are entering into an agreement with that company.  If the terms are that they will respect your privacy and not share your information well that’s just dandy.  But if the terms of membership are that they will keep your information indefinitely and may even share it with others.  Well you know that is just dandy too.  Remember if you click on agree and become a member you are consenting to their privacy policy.  You always had the right to choose not to become a member.

Enter the privacy commissioner.

Back in 2000 the Parliament of Canada passed Bill C6 or the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA for short). This act made it clear that the government now had an interest in you clicking that little “I agree” button and an interest in your consensual relationship with sites like facebook, myspace, twitter or any other web-site or brick and mortar business for that matter.

The Act created a position called the Privacy Commissioner who has very real powers and authority.  Some of these powers might surprise you.  Here are a few…. Tell me after hearing about them if think Privacy Czar is a more appropriate title than Privacy Commissioner.

Section 12 of the act says:

The Commissioner may, when conducting an investigation

1)    SUMMON and ENFORCE the appearance of persons before the Commissioner and COMPEL them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce any records and things that the Commissioner considers necessary to investigate the complaint in the same manner and to the same extent as a superior court of record;

This means that if you are a business owner with a complaint against you (by the way the complainant can be anonymous and anonymity is guaranteed) the Commissioner can force you to come before her and force you to give evidence. Remember this is before any actual charges are laid if ever.

2)    Receive and accept any evidence and other information, whether on oath, by affidavit or otherwise, that the Commissioner sees fit, whether or not is or would be admissible in a court of law (emphasis mine).

This is sounding very much like the infamous Human Rights Commissions.  Facts don’t seem to matter in their investigations.  Evidence may not be admissible in a court of law but can become a crucial part of their investigation, even though it may be hearsay or even lies.

3)    At any reasonable time, enter any premises, other than a dwelling-house, occupied by an organization on satisfying any security requirements of the organization relating to the premises.

There are other officials who can do this you realize including safety inspectors, fire inspectors, Ministry of Labor officials and the like.  But do you realize that even the police can’t do this without probable cause or a warrant?  Although they can do it apparently if the Commissioner requests them to.

4)    Examine or obtain copies of, or extracts from, records found in any premises entered under paragraph (d) that contain matter relevant to the investigation.

So, apparently the privacy of the anonymous complainant is respected but not the premises or records of the businessman under investigation.  Granted what is discovered during these searches is supposed to be kept confidential I still have to ask myself the question how did we ever survive without a Privacy Commissioner?

The Act goes on to further describe the powers of the Commissioner but the last one I’ll mention is that the punishment for obstructing the Commissioner during the course of her responsibilities can be a fine up to $100,000.

Is it really necessary to have this level of heavy handed bureaucracy to protect a right that up until 2000 was dealt with in our civil and criminal courts?  I don’t think so.  I am an advocate for the rule of law and I believe that government has as its prime function the protection of our rights but I think that a number of people have gone about protecting our right to privacy in the wrong way.

The function of the justice system is to protect our rights according to law and according to established rules of justice which are over 700 years old in our common law heritage.  You should not be subject to government agents compelling you to give testimony against yourself.  You should not be subject to searches of your business and seizure of your records without probable grounds or a warrant.  A complaint from an anonymous person, who may very well just be a rival businessman, is not enough to have our own rights violated by a government bureaucrat.

If we think that our right to privacy is being violated then legal mechanisms already exist to have them addressed: the criminal and civil courts.  An impartial judge could determine whether or not a contract was violated or a property trespassed.  The creation of a Privacy Czar (or more precisely at the present, Tsarina) only establishes a monolithic bureaucracy whose main goal is to scare the public into thinking that every time they log onto their computer some evil hacker is going to steal their credit card information or cyber-molest their children.

The first line of defense to protecting your rights rests with each and every one of us.  Just as you would lock your doors at night there are steps you should take to protect your privacy online.  We can’t just be lazy and hope that the government is going to do the job for us every time, especially at the expense of our more fundamental rights.

If you don’t want your information compromised by the companies you deal with then find out what they intend to do with the information and if you don’t like it don’t give them your information.

When I go to my local electronics store to buy a camera and the cashier asks me for my phone number I don’t give it to them!

When a major newspaper calls me up as they did last week to give me a great deal on a subscription to which I agree they can ask me for my credit card information but I won’t give it to them.  I ask them for their extension then I call the number of the paper and only then do I give them my credit card information.

You are in control of your information.  And it is only by being too free with your information that you feel that the government should be proactive and interrogate businesses even if no crime has been committed.

Read your contracts.  Be judicial in giving out your information.  If a company misuses your information take them to court!  But to have a Privacy Czar knocking on any businesses door, compelling them to give information which may be used against them, and doing things even policemen find difficult to do scares me more than spam e-mail.  It’s far worse than finding an advertizing cookie on my computer, and infinitely worse than having a picture of my street on Google Earth.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right October 8th, 2009  (Show #123).  To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org)

Oct 012009
 

Other shows and the newspapers have touched on the recent introduction of Bill C-384 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Right to die with dignity) but what I would like to do is to take us through the bill, clause by clause and discuss the arguments against the bill and those in favour.

And the best place to start with most any subject is defining terms.  What is euthanasia? What is assisted suicide?  And later, what does it mean when we say we have a Right to Life?

Euthanasia is from the Greek meaning “good death”; Eu meaning good and Thanatos meaning death.  Today we take this to mean dying without pain or dying with dignity.

Euthanasia has been used frequently to refer to way we “put down” animals.  We euthanize them.  Human euthanasia can be broken down into two areas; Voluntary, Consensual Euthanasia and Involuntary or Non-Consensual Euthanasia.  We need to clarify that right from the start Bill C-384 refers only to consensual euthanasia.

Regardless of the whether it is consensual or not there are three types of means to euthanize somebody…Passive, Non-Active or Active.

PASSIVE euthanasia is practiced every day by many ill people.  It is simply not treating an illness and allowing the illness to take its natural course.  For example, a cancer patient may refuse chemo-therapy.

NON-ACTIVE euthanasia is withdrawing treatment or life support. Pulling the plug in other words.

ACTIVE euthanasia is actually the use of some substance or another to kill the person.  An example would be a Dr. Jack Kevorkian style machine which injects drugs into the body to terminate the life of the patient, or increasing the dosage of Morphine to the point of death.

If any of these methods are performed by the ill person himself it would be called suicide.  But if the patient is incapable of pulling the plug or increasing their morphine dosage themselves and they actually require help then we are into the area of assisted suicide.

As it stand now the criminal code of Canada outlaws assisted suicide.  I will quote you section 14 of the Criminal Code entitled “Consent to Death”.

“No person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person by whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given.”

In other words even if you consent it is not considered legal and anyone who assists in your suicide may be held responsible for culpable homicide.

Section 241 of the Criminal Code is titled “Suicide” and reads…

“Everyone who a) counsels a person to commit suicide or, b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”

This is where Bill C-384 comes in.  It has been introduced by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde and has reached second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill would amend the Code to allow doctors to assist suicide and not be held criminally responsible, however nine conditions must be met first.

The first four conditions relate to the person requesting assistance to commit suicide.

1)      The person must be at least 18.

2)      The person either:

a.      continues, after trying or expressly refusing the appropriate treatments available, to experience severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief, or

b.      suffers from a terminal illness.

3)      The person has provided a medical practitioner, while appearing to be lucid, with two written requests more than 10 days apart expressly stating the person’s free and informed consent to opt to die,

4)      The person has designated in writing, with free and informed consent, before two witnesses with no personal interest in the death of the person, another person to act on his or her behalf with any medical practitioner when the person does not appear to be lucid.

The next 5 conditions refer to the medical practitioner:

1)      The medical practitioner has requested and received written confirmation of the diagnosis from another medical practitioner with no personal interest in the death of the person,

2)      The medical practitioner has no reasonable grounds to believe that the written requests were made under duress or while the person was not lucid,

3)      The Medical practitioner has informed the person of the consequences of his or her requests and of the alternatives available to him or her,

4)      The medical practitioner acts in the manner indicated by the person, it being understood that the person may, at any time, revoke the requests made.

5)      The medical practitioner provides the coroner with a copy of the confirmation of the diagnoses.

Medical Practitioner means “a person duly qualified by provincial law to practice medicine.”

On the face of it I personally think that this is a reasonable Bill.  But there are a number of people who object and object vehemently with it.  A few of the groups voicing opposition are the aptly named “Coalition Against Assisted Suicide” a group which says it represents more than 100 faith groups.  Another opponent is the “Euthanasia Prevention Coalition”, and still another is the “Council of Canadians with Disabilities”.

Let’s deal with some of the major arguments against the Bill one at a time:

1)      “Terminally ill people who kill themselves risk missing future cures”.

I guess if I was to be flippant about it I could say that they are arguing that the patient who is in so much pain and distress that they want to die should hang around and endure who know how many more days, months or years or pain and torment on the off chance that someone, somewhere just might come up with a cure, not to mention the fact that most cures must pass several years of government regulatory testing before being used on humans.

A less flippant response would be that Bill C-384 does mention that the persons consent has to be free and informed.  Informed would have to include the knowledge of any present or pending cure.

2)       “Unscrupulous doctors might talk patients into ending their lives to disguise medical mistakes.”  This argument has totally missed the many safeguards in the Bill which call for the physician to confirm the diagnosis and for the involvement of the witnesses and the coroner.  This argument is really grasping at straws and is suggesting that the Bill be scrapped on the off chance that some doctor wants to hide a mistake by killing the patient.  The wording of the Bill clearly would not permit this to happen and let any such doctor get away with it by virtue of the Bill.

3)      “Young people may not have the judgment to decide.”  The first condition of the Bill is that the person by at least 18 years old.  In our society this is considered to be the age of consent.  People of this age, while young, have the judgment to marry, start families, handle their own financial affairs, hold down jobs and, carry a rifle in Afghanistan.

4)      Alan Ho of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide says “life is given by God” and no one has the right “to terminate other people’s lives.”  This, I think, is an underlying philosophy behind many of the arguments against assisted suicide.  Religious beliefs.  It offends God.  According to this argument we do not have a right to our life.  It belongs to God.  Well all I can say is thank God we do not pass laws based on religious beliefs.  We pass, laws based on individual rights.  It is unlawful to steal not because it is against one of the Judaic/Christian commandments of God, it is unlawful to steal because it is a violation of the individual right to property.  If someone believes that to request assistance in a suicide is a violation of their beliefs then they are not going to request such assistance.  If somebody else chooses to request assistance in suicide then it surely is no-one else’s concern.  This argument is simply trying to impose one’s own religious belief on another.  In our secular society such imposition should not be tolerated.  My body does not belong to your God.

5)      “All kinds of pain can be relieved by painkillers and other medical treatments.”  Not entirely true.  In many cases patients get used to pain killers and they lose their efficacy.  The point at which pain is relieved becoming very close to the lethal dose of the painkiller.

Also the relief of pain may not be the only reason a person wishes to commit suicide.  Bill C-384 allows for people simply suffering from a terminal illness to request assistance in suicide.  Perhaps they find that it is simply not just the pain that is tormenting them.  It might be the confinement to a hospital bed with no prospect of ever getting out of it.  It might be the burden they are placing on their loved ones.  Whatever the reason, it is not for anyone else to say to that person that we don’t agree with your reasons so you can’t die.  Too bad.  I consider this to be a rather arrogant stance for people against the Bill to take.

6)      “The bill is not restricted to Canadian citizens and could make Canada a destination for Suicide Tourists and Suicide Clinics.”  I’m sorry but I have to be flippant about this one as well.  SO WHAT?  As long as a tourist doesn’t expect us to pay for it I think it would be a great idea to welcome foreigners here to relieve their suffering and allow them to die with dignity.  It would demonstrate to the world that Canada is a free country that respects people right to their life and that we understand that also means that you can terminate your life on your own terms.

7)      The Bill “directly and intentionally threatens the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.  The lives of people with disabilities and chronic conditions, people who live with depression and mental illness,” This is from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition although others have brought it up.  I can only respond by saying that Bill is intended to allow assisted suicide for those who are in “severe physical pain without any prospect of relief, or suffering from a terminal illness.”  In a sense this does cover people with disabilities and chronic conditions but certainly not all of them satisfy these criteria.  The Bill is pretty clear that you have to be either dying or in un-relievable pain to request assisted suicide.  Simply being disabled or depressed is not going to get you any doctor to help you die.

Dean Richert, Co-Chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, has said “Living without dignity and suffering are common misperceptions that able-bodied Canadians have about the lives of their fellow citizens with disabilities.  Bill C-384 does nothing to protect those who find themselves socially devalued in these ways,”

A blogger who goes by the handle DJ and whose blog is called “My Thoughts On…” has put together a very cogent response to this argument.

She says…”The desire has to come from the individual…not the person’s family doctor, neighbor, friend or anyone else (unless previously and legally arranged beforehand) with an interest in their death.  In fact, the advocacy statement has to be witnessed by at least two people who have no interest in that person’s death!

“How does this threaten a person’s life at any level of ability or health?” she asks. “I’m just not seeing anywhere in the Bill that says that anyone else can make this decision for a person with a disability or chronic condition and thus threaten their existence!

“As a person with a perceived disability, I would take huge offense to the ideas that I am vulnerable, unable to make my own decisions or need to be subjected to a painful, low quality of life because some do-gooders think they know what’s best for me!

“People with non-progressive disabilities may not want to end their lives prematurely and there is absolutely no threat to that here.  This Bill has absolutely nothing to do with them or anyone else not wishing to end his or her life!

“People with progressive disabilities or conditions that could end up being quite painful and unbearable currently do not have the choice to end their lives and their pain because of Section 14 of the Criminal Code.  That is a violation of a person’s right to make a choice about his or her own life, in my opinion.  This amendment to Section 14 simply keeps that option open for them.”

Again that was from the blog “My thoughts on…” by a woman simply identified as DJ.

To continue with the arguments:

8)      “The Bill would change the trust relationship between the medical practitioner and the patient.”  I would think that it would be the exact opposite.  The degree of trust between the patient and doctor would have to be very high to begin with for the patient to request that the doctor help him commit suicide.  Would anyone ask someone they didn’t trust to perform such a task?  I wouldn’t think so.

This Bill recognizes our right to our own life.  It recognizes that we have the freedom to choose.

In fact it is one of the very few instances of legislation I can think of that dares to delve into that often quoted but little understood right that everyone of us has…our right to our life.

What many people often don’t realize is that a right to something also means a right to not have that thing.  For example the right to free speech also means that we have a right to keep quiet, the freedom to associate also means the freedom not to, and the freedom of expression also means that we don’t have to express ourselves.  Likewise our right to our life also means the right to die.

Nathanial Brandon, Ayn Rand’s one-time intellectual heir, wrote “It is in the name of the life proper to man that a rational person may be willing to die—not as treason to his life, but as the only act of loyalty possible to him.”

A life of constant pain can often be no life at all and sometimes all that is left for us is to bow out with dignity.  Bill C-384 is long overdue in this country and should be supported.

Post Script – On April 21, 2010 Bill C-384 failed to reach second reading.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right October 1, 2009 (show # 122).  To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org)