Thursday, February 16, 2012

View from the Sidelines


Rail Travel. Three engineers were killed when a Via train drove through a switching point at four times the mandated speed. Railroad safety advocates now urge that new safety measures be "fast-tracked". With seemingly indecent speed, fee-sniffing lawyers were on the scene signing up clients for class-action lawsuits, and eager for their 40+ per cent of the proceeds.

Political Correctness.
A school teacher in Quebec caused a stir when he censored from a school concert the last line of the classic Edith Piaf song Hymne à l'amour. The line -- God reunites those who love -- Piaff wrote as a tribute to her lover, boxing champion Marcel Cerdan who had just died in a plane crash. The teacher said he didn't want to have to answer students' questions about God. The culture minister decried censorship to a work of art. The education minister called it a lack of judgement. The local school board backed the offender on the grounds that teachers lack guidelines for "reasonable accommodation".


Lottery fraud. An Ontario woman was charged with fraud for writing bad cheques. She did so in order to purchase $80,000 worth of lottery tickets. Her total winnings were $3,600. The report makes no mention of fraud charges against the lottery commission.

Whales' rights.
A federal court in California was petitioned by five whales (listed as plaintiffs) claiming their treatment in a theme park amounted to slavery. The petition was signed by people from the Ethical Treatment of Animals who wanted the court to declare the owners violated whales' rights under the U.S. Constitution 13th amendment which abolished slavery. The judge ruled that orcas had no standing to seek the same constitutional rights as people.

Don't laugh. Princeton Professor Peter Singer believes that apes have greater rights than new-born babies and mentally-handicapped humans. This mischief blurs the meaning of human rights, a mischief Singer teaches to his young, likely unquestioning, students.

The rationale of it all. English language dictionaries describe usage, as distinct from their French counterparts which prescribe usage. The Concise Oxford Dictionary informs us that the pronunciation of rationale is ra-shun-al. Its bigger and older brother, The Oxford English Dictionary, describes the pronunciation as ra-shun-al-eh. It rhymes with finale. Is it that little Oxford brother hangs out in coffee houses, while Big Brother sips cocktails with the intellectual elite?

Book burning. There is no need to burn the great books of our civilization. Just leave them unread on the shelf. Our society is doing just that. Scientific knowledge is cumulative. The humanities, as expressed in great literature, great music and great culture must be read and learned anew each generation. Unfortunately, the our current money-oriented ethos rejects this approach to our heritage.
The staged book-burnings by the Nazis were fuelled by books of philosophy, history, religion, culture. I other words, the humanities.  Scientific books were saved.



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