Monday, January 16, 2012

Unhappy Coincidences

In the nineteen-fifties, my summer job was with the federal Department of Transport, Air Regulations. All of the inspectors in the office had been pilots during the Second World War.

One of them told me he never returned from a mission with a load of bombs, the danger of explosion on landing too great. The usual recourse was to drop them in the English Channel. This inspector said he preferred to drop them anywhere on German soil.

Sitting in a coffee shop recently, I got into conversation with an elderly woman. She told be she had spent the war in her home town in northern Germany, a place of no strategic value. The locals got so used to the allied aircraft, they could tell from the sound of the engines if it still carried a load of bombs.

One night, they heard a aircraft returning from an abortive raid on Berlin. The sound of the engines told them it still carried bombs. The bombs were dropped on a nearby town, killing, she said, several thousand people who became part of the 400,000 civilians killed by Allied bombing during that war.

Another such coincidence occurred at a house party in Toronto in 1984. One guest told us that it was on this very night forty years earlier that Canadian bombers destroyed her city. A few minutes later, in another room, I saw a friend I knew flew a bomber during the war. He said he was sad because it was on this very night forty years earlier that his best friend was killed in a bombing mission over Germany.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

They Had Real Heroes Then

On listening to an piano concerto by Franz Liszt, I was reminded that he and his friend Frederic Chopin were once the idols of Paris. In the early 19th century, they were lionized in salons as well as concert halls, most likely in cafés. Women adored and pursued them. Their talent and creativity placed them among the great and worthy of the era.

Today, the objects of pursuit are over-paid athletes, limited-talent film stars, and no-talent rock musicians, the majority of whom soon fade from public consciousness. Mere entertainers have replaced creative painters, composers and performers in popular esteem.

A composer makes more money writing a jingle for a commercial than for a symphony, an artist for a corporate logo, or an actor for a product endorsement. Too often must creativity demean itself in order to survive.

The general populace is always in search of heroes. Is today's crowd searching in all the wrong places? Have we failed to produce men and women worthy of great praise? Or has our education system failed to develop in us appreciation for things that matter?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Questionable Polling

A copy of this post sent to The Globe and Mail editor and to Nanos Research. No reply.

The latest example of questionable polling comes from The Globe and Mail and Nanos Research (June 21, 2010). Note each word in this finely-crafted question: Should people who receive Canadian aid internationally enjoy greater, the same, or less access to safe abortions than people in Canada?

Beware of questions beginning with the entrapment word should, especially if followed by options implying free choice. Such is not the case here.

The Globe seems unaware that abortion is illegal in many countries receiving Canadian aid. To impose outside values on poor countries is yet another example of rich nation imperialism.

Sidebar: The Globe, as with most of the common media, has yet to acknowledge the correlation between today's elementary school closings and the number of abortions a decade ago.

The question goes on to ask if recipient people should enjoy access to abortion. The subliminal message is that women enjoy destroying the life inside them.

Excluded from the question are those who favour some restrictions to abortion access, such as most Canadians. At the outset, the pollster determined if the interviewee agreed with abortion. If not, there's the end of the call, and the beginning of the bias. The Globe and Nik Nanos then extrapolate these questionable data from 1,008 calls into a national consensus.

In fact, the purpose of the poll is to intimidate the federal government into aligning its foreign aid policy with that of the pro-abortion newspaper.

Note: A December 30, 2011, report in the Toronto Star begins: "Canada's polling industry could be in for a shakeup in 2012, after some major knocks to its reputation in 2011." Ipsos senior vice-president John Wright admitted, "We are distorting our democracy, confusing voters and destroying what should be a source of truth in election campaigns -- unbiased, truly scientific public opinion poll." And the media are part of the problem, the report continues.