Monday, March 28, 2011

Surrey Rally

I attended a federal election kick-off rally for Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party at the Sheraton Guildford yesterday.  My constituency, Surrey North, is a swing riding, which has elected both NDP and Conservative MPs in the past.  The local MLAs for Surrey-Fleetwood, Surrey-Whalley, and Surrey-Green Timbers are NDP.  The federal Liberals are a non-factor, always placing third.

The turnout for the rally filled the room, but it was not overflow.  At 9:30 am Sunday morning, it largely attracted long-time NDP members, officials, and candidates.  It was also an event at which I didn't feel particularly old, seeing almost a complete absence of young people.

The two local candidates spoke briefly (the Sheraton Guildford sits on the dividing line between the ridings of Surrey North and Fleetwood-Port Kells), and then Jack came in.  He was limping badly and using a crutch, the result of a stress fracture suffered recently.  He says that he's able to campaign, but I wondered if he'll hold up.  I can't see him doing much main-streeting.

Jack's speech was a pep talk, promising better pensions, more doctors and health services, assistance to families, more affordability, and an attempt to link the Conservatives with the unpopular Harmonized Sales Tax, which caused the BC Premier to resign last fall.  He urged everyone to get out and work for the NDP candidates.

As Jack was speaking, his speech was also displayed on three large tele-prompters, allowing him to see it, regardless of the direction in which he faced.  This gave the impression of speaking spontaneously, but I could read the words before he said them.  Obviously, this technique serves well for people watching at home, but it seemed somewhat artificial for a rally.

Also missing was any literature spelling out details of the NDP program.  Hopefully, this will develop as the campaign progresses.   Speaking generally about improving services or reducing living costs makes the NDP sound similar to the other parties.  They need specific proposals.  He didn't mention the environment, alternative energy sources, job training, youth issues, or the cost of housing.  Of course, you can only do so much in a short speech.

I shook Jack's hand and wished him good luck.  I noticed the NDP were ahead of the other parties with their signs, already staking out good locations.  Voting is May 2.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ray Lockard

Ray Lockard and his wife, Yvonne, were longtime friends of our family.  I came across this obituary the other day.

Obituary : Ray W. Lockard Print E-mail
Ray W. Lockard March 11, 1927 - September 22, 2010 Funeral services for Ray will be held at Greenlawn Southwest Mortuary, 2739 Panama Lane, Bakersfield CA, at 3:00 p.m., Monday, September 27, 2010. Visitation will be Sunday, September 26th, from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. Ray was born in Tolbert TX, the 9th of 11 children, to Thomas and Birdie Lockard. The family moved to Bakersfield in 1939. He attended Kern County Union High School (BHS) and after serving in the Army, met and married the love of his life, Yvonne Jones. They were inseparable for almost sixty years. Ray dedicated his life to Yvonne and his daughters Lisa and Kathy and later to his three beloved grandchildren. He worked as an accountant for Trico, Bender, Apex and Fairway/Houchin. Family and friends will miss his great sense of humor and his intellect. He had an uncanny way of making everyone feel as if they were the most important person in the room. His favorite things were playing dominos at the Petroleum Club and Friday night dinners at Mexicali with family and friends. He and Yvonne were lifetime members of the Bakersfield Racquet Club. They loved playing tennis and played often with good friends Bob and Margaret Self. They also loved their wonderful friends on Cork Lane. Ray is survived by his daughter, Kathy Graham; grandson, Jayce Graham; granddaughters, Kaydee and husband Steve Trojanowski, Candice Graham, Brandee and Chris Ramirez; and beloved brother, T.H. Lockard. Ray was preceded in death by parents, Thomas and Birdie Lockard; his wife, Yvonne; daughter, Lisa; sisters, Nita, Reudean, Mary and Louise; brothers, Ralph, Shaw, Bedford, Chancy and Curtis. In lieu of flowers, make donations to Hoffmann Hospice, 8501 Brimhall Road #100, Bakersfield, CA 93312. Greenlawn Southwest Mortuary

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Preparing for Disasters

At work, we had many fire drills and alarms over the years.  Get up from your work station immediately, proceed to your designated exit, leave the building, go to the designated assembly point, do not return until you receive the all clear from the fire department.

For earthquakes, it was similar.  When you feel a tremor, duck under your desk or table, wait for the tremors to stop, leave the building if ordered, don't stand near the building, go to the designated assembly point, wait for further instructions. 

It was necessary to practice.  The first time we had an alarm, some staff wanted to log off their computer, finish a task, run to the washroom, or return for a forgotten purse.  After a few trials, we improved.

We also trained first aid attendants, stocked emergency supplies, brought canned food, held monthly meetings of the health and safety committee.  We had inspections for occupational hazards (loose electrical cords, blocked doors, tidiness).  We appointed floor wardens and fire marshals.

Of course, no one knew what would happen if we had a once in two hundred years, 9.0 earthquake.  The building might be severely damaged, the bridges down, the power out, possibly flooding along the Fraser River.  We considered that we might not be able to get home.

In Japan, for all their training for earthquakes, they had not practiced what to do in a real tsunami.  It's difficult to anticipate exactly what the situation might be: how high the water might reach, how much time you might have, how to protect vulnerable people. Clearly, they needed a better plan in some of the towns affected. Those who left immediately when the alarm sounded, survived.  Those who procrastinated, did not.  In all cases, you need a plan; to practice it; to act on it immediately.

There are similarities between the Japan tsunamis and the Katrina hurricane.  Risks not properly assessed.  Failure of the evacuation plan.  Resistance of  the population.  Difficulty assisting the elderly and sick.  In some ways, these seem to be recurring factors in all large scale disasters.   

Friday, March 4, 2011

Free Speech -- U. S. Style

The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 that the Westboro Baptist Church has a right under  the 1st Amendment  to picket funerals of soldiers and display signs such as, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers", "God Hates Fags", and "God Hates Jews".   In Canada and European countries, their signs would be prohibited as hate speech.  In the U. S., they are protected as free speech.

The protection stems from a strict legalistic interpretation of the U. S. Constitution regarding  freedom of speech, although the U. S. does place some limits on it.  Initially, it may be limited by considerations of place, time, and manner.  You may not, for example, shout your message in a quiet neighborhood at 3:00 in the morning. You may not be able to say what you want in your workplace or on a university campus.  You may not incite a riot or violence against a group or individual, where the prospect of violence is imminent.

However, if the violence is not imminent, you are in a public place, and not interfering with others, you may spout hate speech as much as you like, attacking race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

I wonder whether this "freedom" really serves the United States, or  is even what the framers of the Constitution intended.

Other countries realize that attacking diverse groups because of  race, ethnicity, or religion divides the society and leads to group animosity.  Attacking someone for gender or sexual orientation is degrading.  It's hard to see that allowing this with impunity promotes in any way a stable, harmonious society, or "promotes the general welfare", which is a principal responsibility of laws and government.

The argument that hate speech may be prohibited only if produces "imminent" violence, but is protected if it only contributes to "eventual" violence seems flawed.  In either case, the harm is potentially the same.