Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

So I did my TV show yesterday. I used to drag cameras out to events and film them so I could show those instead of my awkward self, but my self has gotten a lot less awkward in front of the camera and I’ve changed how I do things. The last few shows, I’ve just gathered people in studio and had a discussion on some topic or another.

The obvious topic this time was funding of religious schools. My guests were like the start of a bad joke – a Jew,  a Christian and a Muslim walk into a TV station … But they were great – articulate, well-informed and smart. I particularly liked the Muslim woman. She’s a very outspoken and involved woman and I was surprised, when I met her, to see that she was a tiny and very young-looking. (I wonder how many men underestimate her based on that?) Anyway, she brought her outrageously cute young son and I brought my three, and we abandoned them in the Green room with construction paper, markers and orders to behave. I wasn’t really worried – Maya is very responsible. Turns out they were all having so much fun that the little guy didn’t want to leave at the end since mine were staying while I taped my introduction.

I brought up the various arguments against funding religious schools. These were the responses:

1. It will take money away from public school.

Schools are funded based on how many students are enrolled. Just because another school is now also getting money doesn’t mean that first school will receive any less. No money will leave the system. Yes, they will have to put more money into the school system to pay for the extra students, but since we are talking about only an extra 53,000 kids (this is a very, very small percentage of Ontario students), it isn’t going to break the bank. And, as one guest pointed out, if all the parents sending their kids to religious day schools suddenly decided to pull them and put them in public school, as is their right, the government would have to find the money, and would.

2. Religious day schools are against Ontario’s values of multi-culturalism and those students will grow up less tolerant of others.

This one is just silly. The Muslim guest was a former principal of an Islamic school and pointed out that her students graduated with a strong sense of their own identity and self-esteem, and were more likely to comfortably integrate into society (which they’ve obviously been doing all along, with soccer, and neighbours, and inter-school tournaments). Providing a child with a strong sense of who he or she is does not make them less likely to be an involved citizen.

3. Tons of kids would leave the public system for religious schools, taking even more money out and segregating kids more.

Other provinces that already fund religious schools (Newfoundland, Quebec) have not found this to be the case. The numbers don’t change much. And my Christian guest pointed out what a sad argument this is – basically ‘the public system sucks so much that if you give people any option, they’ll leave.’

4. The Muslim schools will become terrorist breeding grounds funded by public money. Again, my Muslim guest answered this well. Firstly, she pointed out that the schools already exist and no one has a problem with how they are teaching their students, so why would that change with public funding? And secondly, as it stands, the schools have standards enforced by the parents, who expect a good education for their children, but they do not have to keep up to provincial standards – and with lack of funds, some of the smaller schools struggle to do so. By providing provincial funding, all these schools will be brought under the government umbrella and forced to keep to provincial standards. The extra scrutiny means the chances of anyone teaching hate or intolerance is less likely, not more.

So, it was a good, in-depth discussion. Too bad more people won’t see it.

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Okay, what’s with the obsession with luck lately? For the past couple of weeks, the post that is getting the most hits is an old one about four-leaf clovers. Lots of people are searching for luck on google, which I find just weird.

The other search string I get a lot is a variation on Dalton McGuinty’s hypocrisy. Seems there are a fair number of people out there who think he’s a hypocrite. And a fair number who just plain hate the guy. Also, a good number of people have popped on asking what school his kids go to. I like to think they aren’t stalking him, rather, they are just confirming that in fact his kids do go to Catholic school – the source of his hypocrisy.

But despite the people finding their way to me, polls show that the majority of Ontarians are still against funding other religious school. In the paper today, someone said right out in a letter that it will allow Muslims to more easily set up terrorist training camps. McGuinty must be delighted.

I’m doing my little TV show tomorrow on the topic, with a Jew, a Christian and a nice Muslim woman terrorist on to discuss it. God, people are stupid – not the nice Jew, Christian and Muslim I’ll be talking to, of course, but the idiots who think Muslims are all terrorists.

I’m in an extra bad mood because it is 1:40 am and I am conscious. I have insomnia.


Today, Asher was in a bad mood after school, crying over not being able to find a snack he wanted. I asked him if anything bad happened in school today and he said, “Nothing unusual, just the same old shit. They make me work there and I don’t like work.” He said it so casually. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to stop the bad language completely and am just trying to compartmentalize it, I must confess. Just don’t swear around the grandparents and teachers, please.

I am an awful mother.

I don’t remember any kids his age swearing when I was young. None. According to him, all his friends swear this way. Not Maya’s though, and she’s older. I wonder if it is a boy thing.

Oh, this reminds me of a funny, though. In the summer, a good friend rented the cottage next to ours for a couple of weeks with a friend. We’d pop over regularly. Her friend really loves Jasper and once when Asher showed up there alone, my friend asked Asher, “Where’s your dad?” Asher answered, “With Jasper.” Her friend then asked, “Well, where’s Jasper?” Asher replied, “Taking a shit on your lawn.” They were appalled, but I thought it was hysterical when they told me. That’s the problem, of course. I am not appropriate shocked, and my kids see right through me when I try to be.



Okay, one last thing. I promised to say why Jasper avoided a buzz cut. I’m sure no one really cares that I haven’t followed up on it, but it’ll eat away at my soul until I honour my promise.

That’s all bullshit, of course. I just want to share with the world, or at least the doodle owners who surf onto here, the amazing discovery I made. A couple of months ago, Jasper started to mat like crazy, which apparently doodles do when their adult coats come in. Everyone goes on about how great it is to have a non-shedding dog, but no one mentions that it means you get a clumpy mess if you don’t really take care of it. I don’t mind, though. I love to brush him and hack off the hair growing over his eyes and such.

But I brushed and brushed, and still he matted. I cut the mats out, but he finally reached the stage where his hair wasn’t successfully covering the bald spots and the only answer I could come up with was shaving him down. As he has white skin and red fur, this was not going to be pretty.

The problem was, what to do when his hair grew out? Would he just start to mat again? I put the question to an on-line doodle group and one guy pointed me to a line of brushes with the stupid name of Les Pooches. These things aren’t in regular stores, requiring one to order the $85 brush from New York and then pay shipping and duty, without even testing driving the thing. Ouch.

However, a little more poking around as I looked for reviews allowed me to make the discovery that there is one store in all of Canada that sells these brushes and it is, unbelievably, about 20 minutes drive from here. I drove straight over. The nice store lady demonstrated the brush, miraculously brushing out several mats right there. And, to top it off, she was charging $10 less. I never have luck like that.

I bought it (expensive, yes, but less than the price of a single grooming session) and chased poor Jasper around for days, brushing out all the mats. And now my boy has long, soft, tangle-free hair. He was lying in the school yard today with about 6 children surrounding him with their hands buried in his hair, saying, “He’s so soft.” He’s still my pretty boy.

Gratuitous cut kid shot. They all look so happy. They all were so happy:


I’m really bloody tired.

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Larry O’Brien

Okay, having complained about Ontario politics, I am now going to complain about Ottawa politics, which is not something I often do. I’m branching out.

But here’s what makes me nuts: Larry O’Brien, who is the current mayor, ran last election on the platform of being the successful CEO of Calian Technologies and having nothing to do with politics previously. He also said he’d freeze taxes which, if you had only half a brain, was obviously impossible.

His primary opponent was a nice guy named Alex Munter, who had been in politics forever, is young and energetic and refused to make a similar ridiculous promise. He deserved to win, but he didn’t.

Voters should have gone running on the fact alone that O’Brien looks just like Mr. Clean, but they were sucked in. Lots of people really liked the idea that he would freeze their taxes, not thinking ahead to the services they rather like from the city, like garbage pick-up and drivable roads. They also liked that he had no political experience. This latter one drives me nuts. I see the same thing happening with Hilary Clinton now. People actually consider experience in their chosen fields to be a bad thing. They are now tainted, apparently.

Translate this to any other field and you’ll see how ridiculous this is. Let’s say you need to hire an accountant and you have two options – a guy who has 10 years experience in accounting and a guy who has none, but was great at fund-raising, would love to give accounting a try and he’s sure he has ‘fresh’ ideas. Who should you hire? Let’s go for the guy who knows nothing! That’ll be a fun experiment.

This experiment, electing Larry O’Brien, hasn’t been working out so well. To many people’s surprise, he’s trying to run the city like he ran his company, which means he wants all the power and all the say and everyone else just says, “Yes sir.”

But the best part is that he’s just admitted that he actually has to raise taxes to keep the city running. The only people who are shocked by this are the idiots who voted for him. They are feeling all betrayed now, but they should actually be kicking their own butts for being so stupid as to have believed this was possible. I suspect Larry actually thought he could pull it off, but since he’d never been in politics, he had no idea what he was talking about. Huh, turns out it is helpful to have experience. Go figure.


Coming up in our next installment, I talk about how my dog Jasper avoided having all his hair buzzed off. You just never know what you are going to get at chez just making it up.

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As this whole fuss over funding religious schools picked up heat, it got me pondering why sending my kids to Jewish day school (as opposed to afternoon school) mattered so much. There certainly is the utilitarian reason of not having to send them to afternoon school, which would complicate our lives further. The school also has small class sizes, which means shy Maya is more willing to participate and Asher is getting marvelous support for his handwriting problems and gnat-like attention span. But that has nothing to do with being in a Jewish school.

As I worked it out, I wrote a column about it, and here it is:

My kids attend T… [I edited out the name of the school for the blog]. As our third child prepares to enter kindergarten, this is starting to cost us a whole heck of a lot of money. I occasionally count up the thousands and dream of vacations and a paid-off mortgage. But despite the lure of all that freed-up money, I just can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to take my kids out of Jewish day school.

Lately, as kid number three brings our costs to an all-time high, I’ve been ruminating on why it means so much to me, to have my kids at T…. As a Jew-by-choice, it isn’t like I have any personal scars of having to stand out in the hallway at public school during the Lord’s Prayer, the way some of my friends have described.

Perhaps it is my position of always having been in the majority as a kid, going to a school where pretty much everyone was like me. It is a comfortable place to be, I must admit. I’ve been thinking back to my experiences when I first converted, and found myself in the minority for the first time.

The Christmas after I became Jewish, I arrived at work one day to discover that the ‘holiday planning committee’ had festooned the office with the traditional Christmas decorations. But whereas the year before every office door had some large decoration taped to it, this year, it was every office door but one: Santa, a Christmas tree, Frosty, nothing, a wreath, a candle. It mostly struck me as silly. It isn’t like I would have thrown a fit to find a snowman on my door and I realize it was their attempt to respect me, but it did rather single me out.

They also changed the ‘Christmas lunch’ to a ‘festive lunch.’ I wasn’t fooled.

It got stranger for me when my first child was born. I remember taking her to her daycare’s ‘winter party’ when she was three years old. Despite the caregivers’ sensitivity in giving her a dreidel cookie cutter to make decorations while the others got Santa Claus and trees, they had failed to mention that Santa himself was going to drop in. She had more than your average toddler’s reaction of shock when this huge red guy showed up, as she’d never seen him before and had no idea what he was doing there. I had not known how to explain him to her, so I’d never bothered, until we were confronted with him in person.

It felt like a relief when she started Jewish preschool the next year, and not just because I got to avoid Santa Claus. I really appreciated not explaining our every holiday and defining her vocabulary for her teachers when she talked about Shabbat or building the sukkah in the backyard with Dad. 

I have one friend who challenged my decision to send my kids to an all-Jewish school (she isn’t Jewish), saying that she loves that her kids are exposed to all different cultures at school, and that is the essence of Canada. While that may be true for her, I pointed out, her kids are still in the majority, getting a taste of this culture and that. If my kids went to her school, they’d be the ones her kids were being exposed to. I want them comfortable with their own culture and religion before it becomes their job to explain themselves to others.

As anyone who sends their children to Jewish day school knows, just because my kids go to school with other Jews doesn’t mean the live in a bubble. They still meet non-Jewish neighbours and make friends with kids through sports and other after-school activities, learning about other cultures that way. But they learn from a position, however briefly, of feeling as though they are in the majority.

The year my son went to Junior Kindergarten at T…, we took the kids to a craft program at the Art Gallery in the spring. They were helping the kids crate fancy Easter eggs and asked if my children wanted to join in. My son announced loudly, “We don’t celebrate Easter. We celebrate Passover, because we’re Jewish.” (He then consented to decorate an egg for the seder plate.)

The project leader laughed at his booming little voice and said to us, “He certainly has a strong sense of his identity, doesn’t he?”

Yes, we agreed, he certainly does.


Boo at her model seder at school. Check out the plague of frogs on the table cloth.

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I think I’ve given away enough in this blog that people realize (if they care to think about it) that I live in Ontario. We are coming up to an election, and the big topic this time is funding for religious education.

Ontario is in a ridiculous position. The government funds public school and free education for Catholics. Just Catholics. The rest of us get nada, zip, zipch, nothing. Even the most hardline postion against public funding of religious education would probably agree that since our children are learning the Ontario curriculum, the government could cut us a little slack for that part of their schooling. But instead, the Catholics go free and we pay every cent of our kids’ education.

The Liberals, who are in power, insist it will stay that way. Way back when Ontario became Ontario, the constitution entrenched free Catholic education because that was pretty much everyone: Catholics and Protestants. Now when people point out the inequity, The Liberals and a lot of Catholics just hide behind that, as though that were actually a reasonable response. But the Ontario of today is a very different place.

What outrages me the most is that Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal leader, says he won’t ever fund religious education because Ontario is about pluralism and multiculturalism and he wants our children to grow up to be public-minded individuals, and religious education can’t do that. I suspect that Dalton would consider himself a public-minded individual, given that he’s premier and all, but he went to Catholic school. And so do his kids.

So why is it that if my kids go to Jewish day school, they will become close-minded bigots, but his kids can go to Catholic school and they are just fine? Because Dalton McGuinty is a huge hypocrite, that’s why.

I don’t even want my kids to go for free. I just want the government to pay for the non-religious part of their education. I don’t think that would break the bank, because I bet a lot more kids would put their kids in religious schools if it cost half what it costs now, and thereby be subsidizing the system more. I also want them to make the Catholics start paying for the religious part of their education too, but even if we get the first, we won’t get the second.

As far as I can tell, the people who are against funding religious schools come from two camps. One thinks that no religious education should be funded at all and that includes the Catholics. Frankly, even though that would do me no personal good, I can get behind that. At least it is fair.

The other, as far as I can tell, is afraid of the Muslims. They have the notion that if we encourage them band together and teach their own children, the kids will all turn into little jihadists. This is, obviously, terribly unfair to the Muslim community, as well as being generally ridiculous. No one expects that the government would just hand over the money to anyone who opens a school. There would be regulations regarding the curriculum and standards that would have to be met.

It is obvious by this point that I send my kids to religious school, a Jewish day school. This choice means that I only go to the in-laws’ cottage for vacation and have no savings. As the costs rise (Boo is starting full time this September, joining her brother and sister), I cringe and wriggle and bang my head against the wall over how much this is costing us, but I cannot bear to take them out. They love school. Sure, they whine, as all kids do, but when it comes right down to it, they love school. They are getting a solid education and have a strong sense of their own identities.

The Conservative party has promised funding for religious schools. In all other regards, I hate their policies. Every provincial election, I have walked into the polling booth not knowing who I was going to vote for – the party with the ethics that fits most with mine, or the dark side, which would at least give me money to send my kids to school. Every year, thus far, I’ve been unable to put the little tick beside the Conservative candidate, but that is going to change this year. McGuinty’s hypocrisy has pissed me off too much, and I’m holding my nose and voting for the Conservatives.

I wrote a column recently about why I chose to send my kids to religious school. I think I’ll post that tomorrow. This thing is too long already. If you want a more fact-filled history of this topic, you could go to this guy. He’s an actual political journalist who know what he’s talking about.

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