Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pluto - a new verb

I love learning new words! Therefore I signed up for the daily word from Urban Dictionary to increase my vocabulary. This also helps me to be hip in the office and maintain my title of the coolest aunt to my four nephews.

It is a pleasure to share this with you! In honour of Pluto, Urban Dictionary has come up with this:


Verb. to pluto someone or something is to downgrade, demote or remove altogether from a prestigious group or list, Like what was done to the planet of the same name.

Example: Harvey got plutoed from our blog


Hard news, to hear of another school shooting. And once again, the shooter was not a berserker pushed suddenly over the edge to run amuck with bare hands or whatever weapon came to hand. Once again, the shooter took time to gather weapons and go to the school.

Fifteen times since 1975, someone has gone to a Canadian school with a gun and an agenda. And that's not even counting the time in 1977 when my high-school principal was knifed by a former student in the school parking lot. By the time the shooter begins to fire, there's usually not much anyone can to to avoid multiple injuries, death and suicide by cop. Usually the shooter is a student.

When it's an adult, he's not able to be steered from his crime, because of chronic mental illness and long-term distress. One Canadian school shooter was a husband unable to adjust to a divorce, another a professor who didn't get tenure. The male pronoun is used on purpose here, because almost all school shooters are male. Chronic mental illnesses take a while to fester, and are usually due to multiple causes.

But when the shooter is a student, the acuteness of his mental illness is usually a response to the student's experience at that very school. And from this fact, I draw some hope. If we improve the experience for most of the students (if never absolutely every one of them), we might make shooting up the school seem less possible.

We've already learned how to prepare schools for these emergencies once they do happen. General emergency preparedness helps cope with fire or earthquakes as well. At Dawson College, everybody reacted absolutely right. The students ducked and ran, helping each other escape. The teachers were alerted and instantly decided whether it was right to evacuate the room immediately, or lock the door and bunker down as well as possible.

The police have learned through experience that it's best not to wait for the SWAT team, but engage the shooter immediately; they drew his attention and fire. The nasty event came to an abrupt end about four minutes after the first shot was fired. The careful search for any possible accomplices was both necessary and thorough.

So, we've learned how to prepare schools for these emergencies. Now, what we need to do for our schools is how to help the students have better experiences at school. It may be one of the determining factors in making school shootings less likely. And if not, well, there is no excuse for any school tolerating bad socialization among its students. There is certainly no reason we should accept bad socialization as a major or minor factor contributing to school shootings.

Where mental illness is due to genetics or diet or personal trauma, it has to be treated on a one-by-one basis. But where frustration and lack of social connections and loneliness are factors, we can improve those for almost everyone. From an institution's zero tolerance policy on bullying to an individual's effort to smile and share pencils, we can each improve social interactions at schools. It may not have seemed worth insisting on, for the one-third of students who leave Canadian schools with lingering emotional scars, or the few who commit suicide (how many last year?) If we do it to reduce the chance of one in a million students coming to school with a gun and an agenda, we may not reduce school shootings to zero -- but we will definitely improve school experiences for many students.

“It can’t happen here!” students were heard to scream as they fled Dawson College. That denial is natural. But we have to learn to deny that these things can happen, not only where we are, but ever. Our instant, natural protest has to become the one that says this event just can’t happen at all, not just that this danger can’t happen to me.

Even in the Winter, Arctic Ice is Melting

Scientist are very worried because it appears that Arctic ice is melting even in the winter:

Ice core borings in Antarctica have produced a record of historic carbon dioxide concentrations over the last 600,000 years. The borings show that the levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, are at their highest ever because of the burning of fossil fuels, Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.
Serreze said he was surprised to see a new lake, or polynya, the size of Maryland, opening up in the sea ice north of the Beaufort Sea.
In 20 years of looking at sea ice, he has never seen anything like it.
"If you asked me five years ago if it was human activity (causing global warming) versus natural variability, I was a fence-sitter,'' Serreze said.
"The magnitude of the changes is starting to rise above the noise of natural variability. There is a continuing trend. What we see in the Arctic is part of a much larger picture. We hate to say, 'We told you so.' But we told you so.''

Montréal Shootings

It turns out that my great-nephew spent two hours holed up in a classroom in Dawson College yesterday while a nut was shooting up his school and his classmates. He's fine, physically anyway, and his girlfriend who also attends the college was off campus when the shooting began.
I tried to think of something profound to say about the nature of violence in our society but I've come up blank. We are violent; we are hunters, predators, meateaters. And some of us can't seem to get beyond that. But why should we when our leaders can't see beyond that, either? When the answer to every international crisis is to threaten force, to use force, to bomb innocents, to invade sovreign nations, to lock people away, to execute, to intimidate, to torture.
Perhaps violence is the nature of our society.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 was when...?

According to this story, 30% of Americans don't know what year the 9/11 terrorist attacks occured (although 95% did know the month and date of the attacks....)

Friday, September 01, 2006

De-Criminalizing Bush

According to this story at Counterpunch, Bush et al are planning to enact legisaltion that will retroactively "protect" Bush from war crimes charges.
"Under the Nuremberg standard, Bush is definitely a war criminal. The US Supreme Court also exposed Bush to war crime charges under both the US War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Geneva Conventions when the Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld against the Bush administration's military tribunals and inhumane treatment of detainees.
"President Bush and his Attorney General agree that under existing laws and treaties Bush is a war criminal together with many members of his government. To make his war crimes legal after the fact, Bush has instructed the Justice (sic) Department to draft changes to the War Crimes Act and to US treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions.
"One of Bush's changes would deny protection of the Geneva Conventions to anyone in any American court.
"Bush's other change would protect from prosecution any US government official or military personnel guilty of violating Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Article 3 prohibits "at any time and in any place whatsoever outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." As civil libertarian Nat Hentoff observes, this change would also undo Senator John McCain's amendment against torture.
"Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice says that Bush's changes 'immunize past crimes.'"