Thursday, March 29, 2007

Quebec's Election was the Best Possible Result

For those who followed didn't follow last Monday's election in Quebec, the results were quite historic. Wikipedia summarized it as follows:
The Liberals were reduced to a minority government, Quebec's first in 129 years,
since the 1878 general election. The Action démocratique du Québec, in a major
breakthrough, became the official opposition. The Parti Québécois was relegated
to third-party status for the first time since the 1973 election. The Liberals
won their lowest share of the popular vote since Confederation, and the PQ won
their lowest share since 1973 and their second lowest ever. Each of the three
major parties won nearly one-third of the popular vote, easily the closest
three-way split in Quebec electoral history. Voter turnout among those eligible
was 71.28%, a marginal difference from the previous general election in 2003.
Premier Jean Charest acknowledged the result appropriately saying: that Quebeckers delivered a "severe judgment" of his party. More than likely he will form a minority government with the ADQ.

This is perhaps the best possible outcome for that election. Quebec elites have been given a clear message that the standard choice between nominally federalist socialists and nominally separatist socialists is no longer acceptable to Quebeckers. They want real choice and responsible and responsive government. The ADQ promises to deliver this, unfortunately the party is far too small and its elected members far too inexperienced to actually govern. Had the ADQ won outright, it's highly unlikely they ever could have governed.

The next two years should give the ADQ representatives time to learn the ropes, while still being able to influence Charest's government. Whenever the next election comes along, Quebecers should truly have real choice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Budget 2007

Today's Budget appears truly innovative. Here are my Thoughts:

+ The biggest ticket item was a system of transfer payments to provinces, that will allow them to deliver programs that are within their areas of responsibility. It makes logical sense that the level of government closest to the people delivers government programs wherever practical. Hopefully, this will also allow for provincial tax cuts.

+/- There was definitely less tax relief than I was hoping for although the $2,000 tax credit ($310 in actual tax savings) for each child will offer families some support.

+/- I hope that the increased funding announced for Health Care and the Environment are attached to well thought out plans to ensure we get value for our money. While both are important, they can both be a blackhole if not managed properly. I hope that this isn't merely throwing money at a problem because it's an election year.

+ $60 million to support our troops is very welcome. This money looks like is targeted to helping soldiers directly. (Incidentally at the Conservative Rally in Toronto on Saturday, there was sustained applause every time Stephen mentioned supporting our troops.)

+/- More money for Agriculture, again I hope that this money is delivered effectively. It's badly needed, but this government could definitely be more cooperative with farm groups and provincial governments on this front.

++ The Working Income Tax Benefit looks like the boldest move in the budget. I cannot say enough good about this program. It will help people come off welfare by providing a tax incentive to get started working. Welfare traps people by offering benefits as long as people do not work, and taking away those benefits as soon as they start working. This benefit looks like it's designed to help people out of the trap without cutting benefits to those in need!

- One small disappointment, according to this Globe and Mail article, this budget will continue to fund Status of Women Canada. That's too bad. As Suzanne at Big Blue Wave notes, it's time to abolish the SOW.

Overall, the budget gets a positive rating from this blog; especially because of the innovative Working Income Tax Benefit.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Women's Hockey

I started watching a hockey game while I was at the gym. (Yes, I go to the gym about three times per week, and for those of you who don't know me, I'm quite buff. For those who do, feel free not to comment on this post.)

So, as I was watching the hockey game, I noticed there were a lot of players with pony tails. I though to myself come on guys, hockey hair went out in the 80's and in reality it was never really in. Anyway, I continued watching since the TV was right in front of my treadmill and the game was better than the Leaf's game last Thursday. When the next break came, I found out it was a Women's Hockey game, part of the 2007 Canada Games. They were really quite good, and it's easy to see how our girls brought home the Gold medal in the last Olympics. You go girls.

The Theology of Sex

I am absolutely amazed at an apparent lack of understanding of Christian Theology that has been on display since Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham declared:

The Christian church has a deeply flawed understanding of sex that has led to morally groundless objections to masturbation, birth control, abortion and homosexuality, says a leading Canadian Anglican bishop.

In particular, the church has been wrong for centuries on the notion that sex exists only for the purpose of procreation, Right Rev. Michael Ingham, bishop of the greater Vancouver Diocese of New Westminster, told a conference in Ottawa last night.

"Christianity as a religion stands in need of a better theology of sexuality,"
he said, "a better understanding of the complex role sexuality plays in our
human nature and of the purposes of God in creating us as sexual beings."

Does it? The Christian Church has a very coherent teaching on sex, and this teaching was recently enhanced by Pope John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body.

In reality the Church Teaching is really not that difficult. Here's how I understand it:
  • God created man and woman to be physically complimentary.
  • God gave us sex as the means to procreate and therefore it is good.
  • Sex is an essential part of marriage that serves to draw husband and wife closer together and can allow the couple to participate in God's plan of creation.
  • Marriage is a symbol of God's love for his people, where the two become one flesh.
  • Sex outside of marriage is always sinful, and God explicitly forbids homosexual sex.
  • Chastity is a high virtue that every single person is called to.
  • When we remove the procreative aspect from sex, we diminish the gift that was given to us by God.

Unfortunately Bishop Ingham and his followers reject this outright assuming that traditional church teaching is a list of prohibitions. Like all of God's law, we are given this direction not to diminish our pleasure but to protect us from the hurt and emptiness that are inevitably caused by sin. God also recognizes that we will inevitably fail to meet his standard of perfection, but He is quick to forgive us every time we confess our sins.

If Bishop Ingham began to propose a new Christian Theology of Sex, he would have a very difficult time improving on the Church's current teaching, which, derives directly from God's word in the Bible. Ingham's vision of a new permissive sexual theology that called all sex moral could simply not be called Christian in any sense.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lorna Dueck at the Globe and Mail

Christian journalist Lorna Dueck will be taking questions on the Globe and Mail website about the recent comments by Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham, who suggested Christians need a new 'theology of sex'. I submitted the following comment:
Lorna, are you familiar with Pope John Paul the Great's Theology of the body and
an earlier papal encyclical Humanae Vitae? Do you think it's possible that this Anglican Bishop can actually be ignorant of some of the significant Theological work that has been done? Finally in your experience do you believe greater communication between protestant and catholic theologians would create a greater understanding of this topic?

My comment and concern is that Mr. Ingham is wholly dismissive of both scripture and Christian tradition, and that from that perspective it is absolutely impossible to develop any theology that could properly be called Christian.

It's scary to watch my old church fall apart. As I wrote earlier, I left my old church for a reason. Anyway most of the rather weak Anglican brain trust was quick to jump on the Ingham bandwagon. (See: Some Anglicans welcome debate on theology of sex) I was encouraged by one Anglican theologian who still has his head screwed on right:

Dr. Gary Badcock, theology professor at Huron University College, said the
bishop's argument rests on “slender foundations.”

“The fact of the matter is that Judaism, prior to Christianity, universally rejected homosexuality. It would be very, very strange for a first-century Jew like Paul to make a case like Ingham is trying to claim,” Dr. Badcock said.

As for the argument that procreation is not truly basic to human sexuality, Dr. Badcock said the procreative aspect can't be ignored.

“Theologically and biologically, one would still need to privilege the procreative aspect of human sexuality since if that were to cease for 40 years, the human race would be extinct. It exists for some purpose,” he said.

That's the thing about truth; it will always be true no matter how hard some people try to deny it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More Encouraging News From Iraq

The White House released an excellent Fact Sheet on Iraq yesterday. According to the White House recent gains include:

+ The Iraqi government has completed the deployment of three additional Iraqi Army brigades to the capital. These additional forces join the nine National Police and seven Iraqi Army brigades already in the Greater Baghdad area.
+ Iraq's leaders have lifted restrictions on Iraqi and Coalition forces that prevented them from going into certain areas, and U.S. and Iraqi troops are now pursuing the enemy in neighborhoods like Sadr City, where our operations were once restricted.
+ About half of the joint security stations have been established in neighborhoods across Baghdad.
+ Iraqi and U.S. forces have rounded up more than 700 people affiliated with Shia extremists and have recovered large weapons caches, including mortar weapons systems and rocket-propelled grenades.
+ Iraqi and U.S. forces have launched successful operations against Sunni extremists, recently killing al Qaida terrorists in Baghdad, who were responsible for numerous bomb attacks.
+ In the past two weeks, U.S. and Iraqi forces have uncovered large stockpiles of Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs), which are used by extremist groups to attack our troops.

Iraqis Are Beginning To Deliver On Benchmarks To Achieve Political Reconciliation.
+ Iraq's Council of Ministers approved a national hydrocarbon law that provides for an equitable distribution of oil revenues throughout the country. The draft law will need to be enacted by the Iraqi Council of Representatives when it returns from recess, but the prospects for passage are excellent because all the major parliamentary blocs are represented in the cabinet.
+ Last month, the Iraqi government approved a $41 billion budget that includes $10 billion dollars for reconstruction and capital investment.
+ Iraq's leaders must meet the other pledges they have made. These include:
1) Narrowing the limitations of the de-Baathification law; 2) Establishing the framework and setting a date for provincial elections; and 3) Pursuing the constitutional review process.

In addition to the President's message. Brian Williams from NBC has noted that Americans are in total control of Hit and Ramadi, two cities that were former hot spots for insurgents. Williams also quoted several military officers making statements like, "The people here are very glad to see us — very hesitant for us to go. They want us to stay and to keep beating down the insurgents."

Just today CBN News reports:
The locals appear to be noting the changes as well. Since US and Iraqi troops made their joint push into Baghdad, streets are getting busier. Stores that were closed down are re-opening and murders are down. There has even been little resistance in Sadr City.
For the sake of Iraqis and the whole world, I hope the good news from Iraq continues.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Environmental Group Think Stifles Scientist

It's a shame the Guelph Mercury didn't keep the article posted longer, but there was an interesting piece on Ross McKitrick in this Saturday's paper. Ross is a university of Guelph professor who has been the victim of personal attacks due to his view that human activity is unlikely to contribute to climate change; a view he outlines in his book, Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming .

According to the article Mr. McKitrick's statistical research was instrumental in debunking a popular "hockey stick" graph that suggested global temperatures had been constant from 1000 AD to 1900 and then rose dramatically in the last century. His statistical work demonstrated that the data in the graph was flawed.

Unfortunately despite his valuable and rational contributions to discussions about climate change, he has no more plans to do any research into the area. His decision seems to be based on fatigue with the personal attacks he has faced for holding views that are contrary to the mainstream. One label he has acquired is climate change denier, which brings an image of someone who is denying the facts. In his own words this is "a ridiculous term because it suggests there are camps of people who would dispute what climate data says. Most of what I write about is taking that common perception and then showing it's at odds with the data."

It's unfortunate that he has chosen to step back from the discussion. Good science requires that hypothesis are constantly tested especially when there is no clear result. Now that Environmentalist evangelists like Al Gore and David Suzuki have claimed that any debate about climate change is over, we need knowledgeable, eloquent, and intellectually honest scientists to offer their contributions. It seems less likely, as the Mercury article closes:

[Ross McKitrick] knows there are others who have similar views but don't speak out. He said he has come across these individuals, who want to remain anonymous
since the climate change debate has become so "bitterly politicized."

"What it means is that there are all these voices that we should be hearing from
those who won't speak out because they don't want to be on the receiving end of
all this abuse."

Let's hope they do step forward for the sake of academic freedom and so that our politicians will make rational decisions on the environment.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Movie Review: Evelyn

This weekend we were able to watch the movie Evelyn (trailer). It's a heart warming story about an Irish father's battle to regain custody of his children after his wife has left him and the government takes his children away. Desmond Doyle, played by Pierce Brosnan, is a hard working father who is abandoned by his wife, his vicious mother in law then notifies the Children's Aid (or equivalent) that confiscates his children and they are taken away to be raised in Church run schools. The movie then focuses on his legal battles to win back his children, a battle that takes him all the way to the Irish supreme court.

I loved the movie it was totally moving and every character played their part perfectly, especially the young actress who played Evelyn. My biggest surprise was that even though the children were staying at church-run facilities, the movie didn't bash the church at all. In fact, with the exception of one sister, every religious character was portrayed in a fair or positive light. This is a wonderfully uplifting movie, and I highly recommend it.