Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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12

Aug

2022

Specifics trump generalities

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday August 7, 2022

 

Is it just my imagination, or is there a predictable pattern to news coverage these days?

            The pattern starts with someone accusing, say, Hockey Canada for covering up charges of rape. Or attacking the Canadian Armed Forces for sex discrimination. Or a charity comes under fire for misusing donated dollars. Or a TV program unearths evidence that a renovation firm’s labyrinth of corporate connections defrauds both its customers and Canada Revenue. 

            The accusers are willing to go public with their names and faces. 

            The accused are not. They decline personal interviews. Instead, they issue carefully-worded statements which assert, essentially, that the conduct in question contravenes their code of ethics, didn’t happen, and if it did, won’t happen again.

            The language used is numbingly bureaucratic.


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12

Aug

2022

Beyond the facts of evolution

Author: Jim Taylor

August 4, 2022

 

Zoology 101 was a favourite first-year course at the University of British Columbia. My class probably had 250 in it, enthralled by from Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan’s witty and profound explanations of what animals were, and how they related to each other. 

            As I recall those classes, McTaggart-Cowan talked more about animals than plants. Certainly it’s the animals I remember. Everything from single-celled amoebas to humans. 

            A lot of it dealt with taxonomy – the formal classifications of animals. That we humans, for example, are a species, Homo Sapiens. Of the genus Homo. Of the family Hominidae. Of the order Primates. Of the class Mammalia. Of the phylum Chordata. Of the kingdom Animalia. Of the domain Eukarya.

            Taxonomy, however, doesn’t answer the question, “Why?”


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12

Aug

2022

Expecting too much of the Pope’s visit

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 24, 2022

 

There is only one event worth writing about this week -- Pope Francis’s “penitential pilgrimage.”

            “Penitential” means doing penance -- making amends for having done something wrong.

            The name alone acknowledges that the Roman Catholic church failed its indigenous members.

            Church doctrines have long taught that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. Figuratively, Pope Francis chose to do the same with his church’s involvement in residential schools.

            People have mixed feelings about his trip and his apologies.


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29

Jul

2022

Fisheries Dept. needs to think like a fish

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 24, 2022

 

Earlier this week, the B.C. Wildlife Society released a disturbing report. Steelhead are headed for extinction. 

            If you’re addicted to fishing, you’ll know what a steelhead is. It is considered a world-class sport fish for its spectacular size and fighting capabilities,

            Steelhead fall into the crack between migratory fish and resident fish. Indeed, the federal Department of Fisheries (DFO) oscillates between defining them as salmon and as trout. 

            DFO has historically based its classification on the “looks like a duck” principle -- if it looks like a salmon, and acts like a salmon, it must be a salmon. 

            Except that it’s not.


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29

Jul

2022

Poster child for emergency ward closures

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 17, 2022

 

I have a soft spot in my heart for the community of Clearwater, about 125 km north of Kamloops on the North Thompson River. The Clearwater River runs deep and clear (of course) out of Wells Gray Provincial Park – one of the best fly-fishing rivers in British Columbia. 

            The town of Clearwater is postcard pretty.

            Sadly, though, Clearwater has become a poster child for emergency ward closures. 

            The hospital is supposed to have eight full-time nurses on staff. It currently has four. 


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11

Jul

2022

Peering over the edge of Seneca’s cliff

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 10, 2022

 

Do you ever get the feeling that the world is heading for hell on a handcart? And that the handcart is rolling down a steeper and steeper hill?

            The U.S. has already had more than 300 mass shootings in 2022, barely past its halfway point. One recent figure states that 22,618 Americans have died by gun violence this year. 

            Climate change keeps accelerating, even as governments sign pacts to stop it without actually doing anything about it.

            Instead of reducing violence, black movements seem to exacerbate it. Retaliation for rattling the presumptions of white supremacy, perhaps.

            That sense of things going wrong, faster and faster, has been around for a long time. A reader introduced me to the Seneca Effect, also known as Seneca’s cliff. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Seneca, Baldi, collapse

9

Jul

2022

’Originalism’ gives too much credit to ancients

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 3, 2022

 

One of my former computers had an operating system that allowed me to recover my settings and data if I made a catastrophic mistake. I could “restore” the system to a date before the mistake.

            Recent news suggests that Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and the U.S. Supreme Court run on a similar system. They want to restore America to a previous time.

            Donald Trump’s preferred “restore” date is fairly evident. His “Make America Great Again” campaign wanted to go back to the 1950s, when America was the world’s uncontested and most prosperous superpower.

            He hasn’t rebooted his mind since.

            The Republican Party, equally clearly, wants to reset America to before the Civil War. When white men still exercised authority over women and other lesser beings.


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9

Jul

2022

Guilty of trespassing

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday June 26, 2022

 

“Forgive us our trespasses,” says the most familiar prayer in Christianity, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

            If those words are so important, why, in 80-odd years of attending worship services all over the world, have I never once heard a sermon connecting them with colonial peoples’ treatment of Indigenous inhabitants?

            Indeed, I doubt if any preachers focussed on those words from the Lord’s Prayer even this week, which marked National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.

            Because there can be no doubt that we are trespassing on lands that did not originally belong to us. 


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24

Jun

2022

Paying back 12 years of transfusions

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday June 19, 2022

 

“The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men,” wrote poet Robbie Burns long ago, “gang aft agley.”

            Canadian Blood Services and I laid plans for celebrating the one-year anniversary of opening the new Kelowma plasma clinic, this coming Wednesday, June 22. Alas, life had other plans. Things went agley.

            I wanted to be the first plasma donor, when the clinic opened in 2021. My wife had been receiving plasma transfusions for 12 years, while she had chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). The plasma contained immune-globulin, antibodies distilled from about 1000 donors per transfusion, to supplement her weakened immune system.

            I wanted to repay some of that debt, if I could.


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17

Jun

2022

The Queen and I

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday June 5, 2022

 

England is having a grand party to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s platinum anniversary – 70 years on the throne. (TV doesn’t tell me how enthusiastically the Scots and Welsh are joining in.) 

            “Lillibet” and I don’t have a long personal history. Minimal, in fact. Our life stories intersect at only two points. 


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