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

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20

Oct

2019

Evidence grows against e-cigarettes

Author: Jim Taylor

I’m not sure exactly when I first encountered vaping. I was leading an editing workshop. I explained the house rules, which included “No Smoking.” One participant pulled out an e-cigarette. “Is this okay?” he asked.

            He said he was trying to quit smoking.

            After some discussion, the group let him vape. We were wrong.

            It took 500 years for western civilization to recognize the risks of tobacco smoking. The hazards of vaping have  become all too evident in one decade.

            I can accept that the Spanish explorers who brought tobacco from America to Europe had no idea of its harmful effects. They had no ill intentions. Smoking was simply a novelty.

            I cannot accept that their successors, the tobacco companies who aggressively marketed cigarettes through the 20thcentury, did not know that their product caused harm. The medical evidence was overwhelming. Smoking made almost every ailment worse, from cancer to heart disease.


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13

Oct

2019

Old political labels don’t stick anymore

Author: Jim Taylor

Today is Thanksgiving Sunday. It’s also just nine days away from a federal election. One of the things I’m thankful for is that Canada is not mired in the political lunacy in the U.S.

            So far, about the only thing the various Canadian parties and candidates have been able to agree about is that the other side has more flaws than they do.

            I suspect that if our ballots had a “None of the above” box, we’d elect a non-government with a huge majority, made up of members who didn’t get elected.

            In today’s elections, traditional labels don’t work. A conservative is not necessarily a Conservative, let alone a Progressive Conservative. And a Liberal is not necessarily liberal, especially out here in B.C.


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6

Oct

2019

No Sharp Edges column today

Author: Jim Taylor

No, I don’t need a holiday. No, I don’t particularly deserve a day off. But on Thursday, the managing editor of the newspaper that gets the first lick at my Sharp Edges columns sent an email: “Take this weekend off. I need your space for election coverage.”

            I had a column partly complete. Mostly complete. But I wasn’t happy with it. It was about the federal election, of course. More specifically, about the candidates in my local riding. About which, I daresay, no one outside this riding cares a whit. 

            (A “whit” -- in case you’re wondering, is a literary or archaic term meaning “the least possible amount.”)

            So I accepted my weekend off. 

            All I can give you, this weekend, is your own letters about last week’s column, in which I excoriated (there’s another word worth looking up) a leadership conference here in Kelowna that involved two former prime ministers. 


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29

Sep

2019

Leadership conference lacks leadership

Author: Jim Taylor

It was billed as the biggest, most important, leadership conference ever held in this area -- the Level Up Executive Leadership Conference -- 10 hours with eight great leaders -- yesterday.

            If you bought tickets ranging in price up to $1600, plus tax, you got to hear about leadership from two former prime ministers of Canada: Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper.

            The term “former” applies to several other speakers too.

            Darren Hardy is the former publisher /editor of Success Magazine.

            Walter Bond is a former star in the National Basketball Association.

            Omar Johnson is the former CEO of Beats by Dre, the premium headphone company.

            Lane Merrifield is the former owner of Penguin Club, sold to Disney for $350 million.

           I tried to think back to Jean Chretien’s years as prime minister. Only two things spring to mind -- his attempt to strangle a man who objected his policies, and his long-standing feud with Paul Martin that split the Liberal Party and led to its humiliation in the 2011 federal election.

            If that’s leadership, count me out.

            I remember much more about Stephen Harper’s leadership.


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22

Sep

2019

On the wrong side of a watershed

Author: Jim Taylor

My granddaughter is black. She’s in Grade 10, in a comfortable, friendly little city with a population of around 40,000 -- almost entirely white.

            My granddaughter is discovering racism. She’s the only black person in her class. Some of her classmates -- one boy in particular -- call her “nigger.” They make fun of her. She feels excluded. 

            She says she desperately wants to move to Vancouver. Or Los Angeles. Or even Atlanta. Where she won’t stand out, be different, where there are more black people and she can blend in.

            She doesn’t realize that blending in -- especially in Los Angeles or Atlanta -- might be more hazardous than standing out in Canada. Blending in might mean getting pulled over, interrogated, searched and manhandled, for the crime of being black while driving. She might be denied educational opportunities, or shut out of job opportunities. At worst, she might be a target for a white-supremacist’s bullets. 


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16

Sep

2019

Water should be treated as sacred

Author: Jim Taylor

I stepped out the front door of the theatre last Saturday night just as the first drops of rain fell. The drops felt as big as marbles.

            I ran for my car.

            Then the rain came pounding down. Too much, too fast, for windshield wipers to keep up.

            Driving home, I counted the gaps between flashes of lightning. Three to five seconds. Once, I got to ten seconds before the next flash.

            Water coursed down the gutters. Tree branches, bent under the weight of water running off their leaves, thrashed in gusts of wind.

            And I was not in the Bahamas. Where Hurricane Dorian had wreaked utter havoc earlier that week.

 

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8

Sep

2019

Evolution and science are not the enemy

Author: Jim Taylor

There have been more mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year than days in the year. CBS News predicts the U.S. will end 2019 having averaged at least one mass shooting every single day.

            It makes reporting fairly easy. Reporters can simply fill in the blanks: “Today in (name of city) a gunman opened fire in (name of church, store, mosque, or synagogue) with a (make or model of gun) killing (number dead), and injuring (number hospitalized) before being shot and killed by police.”

            In the wake of the latest mass shooting -- Which one? Does it matter? -- the TV program  Fox and Friends called in a pastor to explain what was going wrong with the nation.

            Former police officer Tony Perkins, a Southern Baptist minister who heads an organization called the Family Research Council, blamed the rash of mass murders on the teaching of science --  particularly evolution -- in American schools.

            He said, “We've taught our kids that they come about by chance through primordial slime and then we're surprised that they treat their fellow Americans like dirt."


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1

Sep

2019

The column I didn’t want to write

Author: Jim Taylor

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” So said the inscription at the entry to hell, in Dante’s Inferno.

            Dante was an optimist. He saw hell as some other place, from which he could return safely to his everyday world. 

            I’m afraid that our world — this world, the one we live in, the one our grandchildren will live in — is becoming its own hell. 

            I am optimistic about individual relationships. I have yet to meet anyone who would refuse to help another individual in need. Race, education, and wealth don’t seem to matter IF – and it’s a big “if” -- there’s genuine contact, person to person, soul to soul.  

            At the same time, I am profoundly pessimistic about humanity as a whole. Collectively, we humans persist in seeking short-term solutions. Our corporate mindset is incorrigibly greedy, seeking our own benefit even if it harms others. Yes, even if it will harm us, farther down the line. 


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25

Aug

2019

Nuclear nations squabble over Shangri La

Author: Jim Taylor

            Hong Kong is a thriving hub of international business. Kashmir is a backwater, even by Indian standards.

            Hong Kong has world-class communications. Kashmir has frequent power failures. Internet communication, iffy at any time, has been shut down completely by Indian forces. So have telephones. And the post office -- you can’t even send out a scenic postcard!

            In Hong Kong, almost everyone speaks English, the result of 156 years of British rule. In Kashmir, only the educated class speaks English.

            And Hong Kong is home to about 300,000 Canadians -- many sent as children to Canadian high schools in the 1980s to provide an escape plan for their parents in case the handover to China went badly. According to Global Affairs Canada, Kashmir has just 12 Canadian residents.

            Therefore it’s natural, even inevitable, that our media would concentrate on Hong Kong and ignore Kashmir.

 


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20

Aug

2019

The slippery slope of mind-meddling

Author: Jim Taylor

            The case against conversion therapy is based, mostly, on it being aimed at the LGBTQ2 community. Mainly by the most conservative Christian churches, who consider homosexuality a sin, prohibited by the Bible and against God’s divine intention.

            It’s directed mostly at gay men. The Bible has one verse denouncing sex between women, but I haven’t heard of conversion therapy being applied to them.

            Conversion therapy attempts to show these “sinners” the error of their ways, and restore them to the heterosexuals God meant them to be.

I remember when mainstream society openly endorsed conversion therapy. In the 1970s, it was called “de-programming.”

            It was advocated for returning prisoners of war, “brainwashed” in Vietnamese or Russian prisons.

            Also, with good reason, for  cult members mesmerized by charismatic leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson. Manson convinced his Family to murder nine Hollywood celebrities and their hangers-on. Jones took his colony to Guyana, where 900 followers committed mass suicide. Koresh and 80 followers perished in the infamous Waco standoff.

 


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