Why, not How

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and all those affected by the tragic school shooting in Newport, Connecticut. It is commonly said nothing is more tragic than the death of a young child, the cutting down of such innocence. In the aftermath, emotions run wild. Shock turns to grief, to fear, to anger. People demand justice. Someone has to be held accountable for this; someone has to pay. How could this ever be allowed to happen? Something must be done. This cannot be forgiven. Things must change.

I agree, something has to be done. Children should be safe at school. They should be able to retain their precious innocence for as long as possible, and most certainly should not be worried about getting gunned down at school. Yes, this is a common event in other parts of the world – and frequency does nothing to change that fact. It is inexcusable in Connecticut; it is inexcusable in Afghanistan and Uganda and everywhere else in the world. Just because this particular incident was on US soil does not mean it is any more tragic than similar events elsewhere.

The points of this rant – because let’s face it, this is a rant even if I try to keep it on the intellectual side of the precipe – are two in number and simple. One, remind the world this event is not a solo occurrence in the United States. Two, tell people to focus on the real issue at hand.

One: Remind the world this event is not a solo occurrence in the United States.

Yes, that is right – in other parts of the world children are regularly killed at or en route to school. In some places, it is a common occurrence. Do you see that making the headline news every time? I think not. Why? Because it is not in the US or another “civilized” nation – so people just do not care. Just because something terrible happens all the time does not mean it is any less terrible each and every time it happens. “A single event is a travesty, but many are a statistic.” Why is this? Because we let it be this way. Stop. Those children are no different than these children except that they had the “misfortune” of being born in another part of the world, amidst conflict and strife. That is not their fault and if you want to say all life is precious, look past your own and to the rest of the world. There is life out there too; stop ignoring it.

Two: Focus on the real issue at hand.

At first, this was going to be my topic, but then I got started and added the other one. So pay close attention to this point. STOP YAPPING ABOUT GUNS AND LOOK AT THE REAL ISSUE. Whenever there is a shooting, people immediately start yelling back and forth about gun laws and gun control. Most call for more restrictions, others argue they would make no difference. Either way, this is where all the focus is. This is where all the energy goes. This is all anyone thinks about, talks about, or cares about. This is not the real issue. This will solve nothing! (Okay, that’s not true, stricter gun laws are a good thing and will lower gun violence, but not in this context).

People need to stop arguing, climb out of their trenches, and take a good hard look at the situation. What is the real issue here? Is it the access people have to firearms? Is it the access people have to children? No, not really. While these are important, they are not the fundamental, crucial, underlying issue here. What is, you may wonder? WHY DO PEOLE FEEL THE NEED TO KILL THE CHILDREN IN THE FIRST PLACE? Oh, did not think of that, did you? Well I did. If someone has it in their head to kill the children or an alternative target, access to a gun is the least of your concerns. Take away all guns and they will just find another way to do it. Guns are merely tools – it is the person behind the trigger that is the problem. You can take everything away from a person leaving them with just their naked body and they could still kill someone. Yes, they would not be able to kill twenty people so easily, but they could still kill someone.

The fact that someone is so enraged they plan to kill is the problem. That should be the focus. We look at America and wonder why they seem to have so many school shootings. Gun laws are always blamed – but honestly, even if guns were impossible to get, dedicated people would just find another method. A bomb, perhaps. And those are banned already. So do you see what I mean? We should be focusing less on the HOW of the situation and more on the WHY. Only then do we stand a chance at understanding the depth of the situation and figuring out how to fix things so this does not happen again.

That being said, gun laws and gun control are important. Normally I would say common sense is the best law, but people are stupid. Hence, we need to protect them from themselves – and protect ourselves from them. This is why we have gun laws. This is why people should need a licence to own a firearm so that everyone who has a gun at least knows what they are doing. In Canada, it is not hard to get a licence and a gun – and yet I still feel safe because I know they had to prove themselves first. I have been through the course; I know what it entails. And I am not scared even though I live next to an elementary school.

Just to recap quickly – one: care about the other children too; two: focus on the WHY not the HOW. And most of all, do not be stupid.

From our perspective we see illegal immigrants paying their life savings just to be smuggled in as a bad thing, a problem.  But from their perspective, it is the only way for a potential future and at times for life itself.

Who are we to judge?  How should we act?

These are questions that plague me at three in the morning.

ICC extends deadline Saif al-Islam Gaddafi deadline

While I am indeed glad to see the international community coming together, this is not how I would have wanted to see things happen. But, getting everyone involved here to cooperate is no easy task and I greatly respect those who have worked so hard to make it so, and so I freely accept this as a suitable course of action.

Whether or not Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with by the ICC (International Criminal Court, in The Hague) is not for me to say, nor do I propose to pass judgement here and now. I firmly believe everyone, including those accused of crimes against humanity, have the right to a fair trial and to be treated equally throughout the entire judicial process. After all, they are still human.

When Saif al-Islam was captured, the new government of Libya told the ICC they wanted to try him in Libya instead of The Hague, and the ICC agreed to this with the condition they would be duly assured he would receive a fair trial. From the ICC's standpoint, it is not as important where the trial is held so long as it is held in a fair and just manner; in this particular situation the importance of Libya trying the (a) case was not lost on the ICC either. To quote the ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, "The standard of the ICC is that it has to be a judicial process that is not organised to shield the suspect. [...] I respect that it's important for the cases to be tried in Libya." While the ICC was under no legal or jurisdictional obligation to agree to Libya's request regarding the trial of Saif al-Islam, to do otherwise would have constituted no more than an act of bad faith from the international community towards the newly "liberated" Libya as denying their request to hold the trial themselves would indicate a lack of trust in their justice system. As is, the ICC agreed to Libya's request but wants assurance it will be a fair trial and set a deadline for a report on the health and status of Saif al-Islam.

Today the BBC reported an extension in the deadline given to Libya by the ICC for their conditional report on Saif al-Islam, stating it has been moved to the 23rd of January. While this development will no doubt raise questions about Libya's abilities to fairly and justly prosecute the son of their former leader, especially with various human rights organizations calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay citing numerous human rights offenses against its political detainees, it is worth noting Human Rights Watch representatives have seen Saif al-Islam and that he is not completely sequestered away from all others.

Ideally, things should be different. First of all, I would like to see Saif al-Islam tried by the ICC in The Hague, not Libya. It is not so much that I doubt Libya's abilities to fairly prosecute him - though I will always have my doubts about any country trying one of their own, regardless of history - but more so I would like to see the ICC stepping up its international presence. For this to have happened, Libya would not have requested Saif al-Islam stand trial in Libya; once they did that, of course the ICC should allow it so long as it can be done properly, which is what they did. Second, Libya should be more forthcoming with information. I understand the new government is trying to rebuild the nation and after all the conflict, turmoil, death, destruction, etc. there are many important issues for them to address - like ensuring clean water, food, shelter, and other essentials for human life. They certainly have a lot to do and rebuilding a nation deserves admiration. That being said, if they cannot ensure the ICC is aware of Saif al-Islam's status or meet the other requirements, then it would be best for them to politely hand him over to the ICC. It is important for them to process their own cases, but above all else it is crucial justice be fair. Under the circumstances (rebuilding a nation), it is completely understandable for the necessary resources to be unavailable. Like I said, there are other, very important matters that need to be addressed by Libya, and I would prefer to see them hand this case over to the ICC - even temporarily - so they could focus their efforts on the people. The lack of information sincerely makes me wonder if they are stretching what little resources they have right now (post-NATO attacks it is amazing they have anything) a little too thin, and perhaps taking on too much in an attempt to prove themselves to the world. Yes, Libya has a lot to prove, but I do not want justice to suffer as a result. This is why we have the ICC and the UN, is it not?

Children 'switching from TV to mobile internet'

This article from the BBC, which reports the findings of a UK survey, shows a very real and very disturbing trend. As the title of the article suggests, the children of today are watching less television than their generational counterparts did years ago, and instead have replaced it with mobile internet. For those who are interested, there is a link to the BBC article at the end of the post; there is no link to the survey because I am responding directly to the BBC article that has reported the findings of the survey.

Although the findings here are based solely on data from the UK (interviews carried out in autumn 2011), the increased use of mobiles and mobile internet among children is not a trend indigenous to the UK. Of the various impacts of globalization across the world, one of particular importance is the increased similarity of youth cultures. So, even though this article and survey is from the UK perspective, it does bear relevance to other countries as well.

Over 2,000 children were interviewed for this survey, and they spend an average of 1.6 hours a day on their mobiles; 32% admitted to using their mobiles at night, in bed. Ten years ago, the concern parents had was with televisions in their children's bedrooms; today, televisions have been replaced by computers and as the technology improves exponentially it has become common for children to have laptops of their own. Many people have expressed concerns regarding the impact social networks and mobile texting have had on teenagers and their social interactions with the world; the findings of this study do not directly address these issues but do provide sufficient evidence of the predominance of these methods of social communication.

1.6 hours a day spent on a mobile. 32% still using their mobiles when in bed at night. 61% with mobile internet access. 51% admit to using Facebook. Most find it easier to send a text message than locate a phone number. More than 75% of secondary-age students use their mobiles to go online. Before school, after school, dare I say at school - mobiles and internet are the primary focus. Even if children read at home, it is probably on a screen of some sort instead of a book (or even a magazine, which to my generation was hardly considered reading).

In a nutshell, children's lives revolve around and can be found on their mobiles.

Oh, and did I mention the ages of these 2,770 children involved in this survey?

Ages five to sixteen.

Flamers gonna Flame - but I don't Burn Quietly

A mate of mine posted in the comment section of a newspaper's website expressing her opinion that not all mainstream artists are terrible, and included a link to a youtube video of one particular mainstream singer performing live to support her viewpoint.  The response she received was, put mildly, incredibly rude and demeaning; not only did they fail to address the actual issue but commentators proceeded to respond using such vile language she felt the need to remove her posts - and herself - from the online forum.  Being an advocate of free speech and intellectual discussion, I proceeded to tell her what my response would have been - and here it is below.  Personally, I dislike it when people respond crudely and so inappropriately to people sharing an intellectual opinion, but as the saying goes, "flamers gonna flame".  That, of course, does not mean I have to stay quiet - nor do I.

"No, I am a musical connesoire who has the mental capacity to see past the idiotic limitations of such labels, and who appreciates music for the music itself.  To segregate musicians into two categories - mainstream and independent - based on how they have decided to produce their music (which, by the way, is an incredibly complex and involved issue of its own) is not only discriminatory but also crude and - to use your words - the actions of a "consumerist sheep fucktard."  The music itself, which is what I was admiring, is not impacted or affected by the company that produces the record which one may or may not choose to purchase.  The very fact that you focused solely and so adamantly on the consumer aspect of the entertainment industry does not, in any way, counter my point whatsoever and instead openly reveals the deep level of hypocrisy you appear to be afflicted with as you chose to allow the consumer aspect of the industry to dominate your view of the artistic part.  When you prove yourself mature enough to differentiate between the two, I would be happy to discuss the ARTISTIC aspects with you, but until then, this "sheep fucktard" will continue to appreciate music as music, and for music's sake - like it was meant to be."

ADD Medication Shortages

The New York Times published an article about the shortages of ADD medication.

F.D.A. Finds Short Supply of Attention Deficit Drugs

This was my response.

As a university graduate (BA honours and further post-graduate studies abroad) who has has ADD and is at the highest dose my gp will allow, issues with medication have always been frustrating and ridiculously difficult.  While I understand the concerns surrounding the potential dangers of such narcotics and do agree this is a serious issue requiring careful consideration, I cannot say the current approach is working.  In fact, it is down right ludicrous!

My gp is very good about monitoring my medication and we meet every couple of months to ensure both of us are fully updated and understand the situation - even though it has been the same for years.  Getting a prescription for several hundred pills is routine, but only from my gp and no other doctor.

Filling the prescription, however, is never so simple.  In Canada, my pharmacy always has to order them but usually the following day they can have the full amount ready for me.  In Scotland, however, the pharmacy told the doctors they were having a hell of a time getting the proper medication, and even though I was only given a prescription for one month's supply at a time the pharmacy always had troubles filling it.  For a while they were importing the drugs from Switzerland; it was never easy getting the medication even with the diagnosis and years of stable treatment.

It has always been hard getting my medication even with a prescription and diagnosis; now it is damned near impossible for anyone to legally acquire these drugs.  Yes, it keeps people who do not have ADD from getting them at the pharmacy - but what about those of us who do need them and can prove it!  And while legal acquisition is supposedly becoming safer, illegal sales are easier than ever.  Where, may I ask, is the safety in denying people their legitimately prescribed medications?  Moreover, when it does not stop the non-sanctioned usage of the drugs what benefits are there?