Saturday, February 28, 2009

Obama's Dangerous Gamble

Barack Obama is a master of spin. The guy has proposed a new budget that will increase government spending to $3.6 trillion or 27% of the Gross Domestic Product and then in his weekly radio address he tries to sound like a conservative determined to hold the line on spending:

"I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight," Obama said, using tough-guy language reminiscent of his predecessor, George W. Bush. "My message to them is this: So am I."

Some analysts say Obama's proposals are almost radical. But he said all of them were included in his campaign promises. "It is the change the American people voted for in November," he said. Nonetheless, he said, well-financed interest groups will fight back furiously.

Insurance companies will dislike having "to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that's how we'll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs," the president said. "I know that banks and big student lenders won't like the idea that we're ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that's how we'll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won't like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that's how we'll help fund a renewable energy economy."

It's pretty hard to argue with the list of cuts or 'taking on special interests'. But Obama's budget isn't about cutting subsidies it's about massively increasing government spending and revenue through direct or indirect taxation. Republican Senator Richard Burr says describes the budget succinctly: He said Obama is pushing "the single largest increase in federal spending in the history of the United States, while driving the deficit to levels that were once thought impossible."

I like the way the Indiana Star Star described the situation:

President Barack Obama isn't betting that big government is the answer to all that ails America. He's gone all-in on the notion that huge government is the solution. The scale of the new president's first budget is astonishing. Federal spending under Obama's plan would spike to $3.6 trillion a year. The proposal also contains $1.4 trillion in tax increases and forecasts a $1.75 trillion deficit this year.

The administration projects significantly lower deficits in future years, but that is based on two unlikely assumptions. The first is that the economy will grow by more than 3 percent next year and will expand by an average of 4 percent in the years to follow. The second assumption is that Congress, after indulging in an unprecedented spending spree, suddenly will discover restraint next year and thereafter.

Just how large would Obama's government grow? Federal spending is expected to account for more than 27 percent of gross domestic product, its biggest share of the economy since the end of World War II. The deficit is estimated to equal more than 12 percent of GDP, also the largest in the postwar era.

If Obama wanted to be more honest with people he would describe what justification and benefits are for massive spending increases rather than talking about small budget cuts and deficit reduction. And even that deficit reduction is a red herring as the Economist magazine reports:
Most of Mr Obama’s targeted deficit-reduction comes not from his own actions, but from the expiry of the temporary stimulus, a halt to bail-outs, and the natural restoration of tax revenue as the economy pulls out of recession and grows by 2-3% over the next decade. And therein lies the biggest threat to the president’s plans. The economic outlook has darkened significantly even since January. Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, said this week that the recession would end this year only if the financial system stabilises, which so far it has not.
Sounds like a big gamble. So big that the Digital Journal reports, "Many moderate Democrats were caught off-guard by the boldness of Mr. Obama’s budget." If a gamble this big goes wrong, this budget could cripple the American economy for years to come. So far so bad, markets have already reacted negatively to the budget.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mark Steyn is Back at Macleans

Mark Steyn is writing for Macleans again! This is exciting news because my favourite columnist is now going to be writing specifically for a Canadian audience. In his first article back he starts with a humorous broadside at Barack Obama and then attacks left wingers who want people to stop having kids but still keep our lavish social programs. The first paragraph bears repeating:
Anything happen while I was gone? Oh, yeah. The collapse of the global economy. Armageddon outta here. The ecopalypse is upon us. Down south, President Obama has abandoned the gaseous uplift of “the audacity of hope” and warns we’re on the brink of the abyss. In the old New Deal, FDR warned that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” For the new New Deal, President Hopeychangey says we have nothing but fear itself. Get used to it.
Yep it's classic Steyn, he'll skewer the lefties at the first sign of hypocrisy. He often talks about population decline and this article has two great one-liners to summarize the extreme environmentalists' prescription:

The best way to save the planet for the next generation is not to have a next

It’s necessary to throw out the babies to save the bathwater.

I just love it. Welcome back Mark.

More Thoughts on my Opa

I wrote about my Opa on Monday. He hasn't been able to walk after a stroke late last year. Based on some conversations I had last Saturday, I knew it was time to start praying more intensely for him. That message was confirmed for me on Sunday when part of the Gospel reading was taken from Mark 2:10-12:
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on
earth"-- he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
It's exactly for this reason that I still believe God answers our prayers. It's His way of demonstrating that he cares and that he really is in control of everything down here. Our job is simply to ask, believe, wait, and then give God thanks and glory when he answers. Most of my family seems to have given up on Opa, so I'm hoping that this time God answers the prayers by helping Opa to walk again.

There's no way to know really what the results of this would be. I don't know if God will answer this prayer the way I want him to. Even if He does, I'm sure some people will say it was only a matter of time for him to get his strength back anyway. BUT - if He does help Opa to walk again, I'll make sure my family all knows my explanation.

My last thought on this is just to be extremely thankful that Euthanasia is illegal in this country. I can see how my family could easily be ripped apart if this was considered an option. I think this is an important time for Opa to reflect on his life and get ready for the next. I don't want anyone ending his life before his time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Today is Ash Wednesday, the end of Mardi Gras, and the beginning of Lent. I've always practiced and appreciated lent. Almost always anyway. There was the year I gave up chocolate and Cadbury came out with their Easter cream eggs for the first time. I still think that's cruel.

Lent has definitely become more meaningful since I became Catholic because the Church still places a lot of emphasis on it. I remember as I was considering becoming Catholic and one of the guys at university was all excited about Lent, singing the praises of self-denial and mortification. What-ifcation? That sounds kind of morbid. It is. It's about dying to yourself - denying your body or your mind certain things in order to draw yourself closer to God.

On first thought, it sounds pretty wacky but it's not at all. It's a reminder that we're spiritual beings and our body is just a temporary vessel. By saying no to some of our cravings we recognize that life is about more than eating, sleeping and seeking earthly pleasure. I'm going to try to deny myself again this Lent. Here's how:
  • No internet poker - I enjoy this but it takes up way too much of my time.
  • No Cookies - I usually eat at least 6 cookies a day, plus more if I can get my hands on them.
  • I will call my family more. I'm so self centered I usually wait for them to call me, unless I need something.
  • I will read a book, probably, Feeding Your Appetites.
Wish me luck. Better yet, pray for me!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stockwell Day Gets Well Deserved Credit

Finally Stockwell Day is getting some of the credit he deserves in an article by David Akin of CanWest News Services. Here are some highlights:
On Parliament Hill, Day recently sent out a memo to MPs from all parties seeking to organize a weekly fun run to encourage fitness and some non-partisan camaraderie. Day, 58, and a grandfather, is in the best physical shape of his life and, according to politicians on both sides of the Speaker's chair, he just might be in the best political shape of his life.
I've said before I'm a Stockaholic. A big part of the reason is he's just a great guy as witnessed by his efforts to build relationships even with his political adversaries.

Now his caucus colleagues -- including some of those rebels of 2001 and even some political opponents -- say Day is now one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most effective cabinet ministers. As Canada's trade minister, Day is Harper's right-hand man on one of the trickiest and most important files for the government, fighting off protectionist trends in the U.S. in order to preserve a $1.5-billion-a-day trading relationship and all the while building new trade ties. Keeping borders open to trade -- and even knocking down some trade barriers -- is a key part of Ottawa's plan to lift Canada's sagging economic fortunes.

"Canada is as prosperous as it is because we have been free traders for our entire history," Day said in an interview with Canwest News Service and Global National. "Because of great technology and great skills and great education, we produce a lot more than we can consume. And if we can't sell it abroad, then it's going to be lean times all the time, not just up and down in recession times. So any free trade agreement for Canada is very good and that can be demonstrably shown with very strong evidence."

Stock's absolutely right, if trade barriers start coming up, then we'll really see what tough economic times are all about. Good thing we've got the right man for the job.

According to those who have watched his political career, Day has had to learn the hard way there is no substitute for knowing your file frontwards and backwards. From foreign affairs critic while in opposition to public safety minister in the last Parliament to his current assignment, Day's political success has been largely a function of the respect he's earned from colleagues, opponents and the press for mastering the subject of the day.

"I have nothing but praise for the job he's done," said Monte Solberg, his cabinet colleague in the last Parliament and one of those who rebelled against Day's Alliance leadership in 2001. "He does do his homework and takes his job very seriously."

I think this was a good lesson for Stockwell Day and a good reminder for us all. Do your homework, get some depth, and respect will follow.

His renewed political success even has some in his party quietly whispering that he ought to consider running for leader again when Harper decides to retire.

"Absolutely not. I'd like to make that very clear right now," Day said, laughing at the suggestion. "That's a very tough road. Jean Chretien was right -- occasionally -- when he said that's a tough job. It is a very tough job. That's why we're giving the prime minister all the support that he needs."

Two things. "Quietly Whispering?" No Way. I'll say it loud and clear, Stockwell Day would be an excellent Prime Minister! He's certainly more likable than any of the current party leaders.

"Absolutely not." Boo. I hope he's just being loyal and if Stephen Harper steps down, Stock will give the idea due consideration.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Not Quite My Point

I don't often write about my work, I don't want anyone to mistake my personal opinions for my company's position. So to be clear there is nothing official about this post.

I respect politicians and the media. It can be difficult for media to try to capture a story when they may not have a lot of background and when time is a precious commodity there may not be a chance to double check every fact. When a politician says, "that's not what I said," I'd say they're usually being honest. More than once I've read a newspaper column and said, "Umm . . . that's not quite what I meant."

I recently gave a presentation with an expert colleague at Ridgetown College about Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) requirements in the US. COOL is a source of endless frustration and seems to be functioning like a non-tariff trade barrier, but I'll spare you the details. Anyway, I just read a couple news articles and I thought I should clarify some points in case anyone cares. The first article captured the story pretty well:

O’Neil said the impact of the American legislation has meant fewer Canadian hogs being shipped to the U.S. In the fourth quarter of 2008, for example, 22,000 fewer Canadian hogs were being shipped every week.

“It’s the same impact as if one of the packing plants closed.”

He said the impact is greatest in Western Canada, but is still being felt by Ontario producers.

The only thing wrong with this bit is the numbers. I could have said 22,000, which would actually be low - but that number only referred to little pigs that are sent to be fed to market weight in the US. There were also about 50,000 fewer market hogs each week over the same period, with the majority of the reductions coming from Western Canada, that's what I meant when I referred to that being the same impact as a packing plant closing.

The second article got most of my quotes right, but sort of missed my point.

O’Neil touched on the issue of the exchange rate, and said it can make or break your balance sheet when shipping to the U.S. Despite that volatility, however, he said producers owe it to themselves to consider marketing their hogs to the U.S.

No, I didn't say that part about farmers owing it to themselves to consider selling pigs to the US - at least I didn't intend to. We had been invited to provide an update on the COOL rules and to talk about selling pigs into the US. In the presentation I was just trying to answer the question that was asked. If I could summarize my message it was high freight costs means it usually means it's better to keep your pigs local and that the new rules are making it even harder to export pigs, but some opportunities still exist. To me the article sounded like I was selling those opportunities and that certainly wasn't my intent.

He's NOT Plugged In!!!

I'm not sure where to start. My Opa (grandfather) was a healthy, vibrant man in his late 80's, who until just a few years ago would bike to his aqua fit class. Eventually he gave up the classes but he kept his bike and had adjusted to apartment life with my Oma (grandmother) in a retirement complex. Unfortunately, a few weeks before Christmas Opa had a stroke, and he remained in the hospital over Christmas. He finished his treatments at the hospital, but he wasn't able to walk, so he had to move into a nursing home, separate from my Oma.

From what I've seen and heard, he's not entirely happy. He feels like his new nursing home is a prison, and he misses his wife intensely. When his children come to visit, he often gets angry or refuses to speak if they won't take him out of his nursing home, and sometimes he just stares off into space without answering a question. Worst of all, in a family of card players, he will now play his cards out of turn, and take a trick that he hasn't won.

He tries to walk, but he just doesn't have the strength yet. I understand it's just a strength issue and maybe a pain issue, but that he may be able to walk if he continues his physiotherapy. So I've been praying for him, but not especially intensely my grandparents have had their challenges before and they've always bounced back. I've just assumed it would only be a matter of time until he was walking and would be allowed to move back in with his wife.

Last Saturday, at a birthday party for my Oma, I was shocked by some of the comments. First off, Opa wasn't there because the party was at his old retirement complex, and nobody wanted to take him back to the nursing home after, because there would be too much of a fight. I was disappointed, but I reluctantly agreed - I didn't want that fight either. As the afternoon went on, most of our conversation was about Opa, naturally everyone was sad about his situation. But I couldn't believe the emerging consensus opinion was it would have been better off if he died, I disagreed but felt hey - my aunts and uncles deserve to deal with this in their own way.

Then someone said, maybe we should just pull the plug . . . "HE'S NOT PLUGGED IN!!!!" I exclaimed. Fortunately that helped move the conversation along, but it was a wake up call. Since then I've been keeping Opa in mind and praying more intensely.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Good First Visit

It looks like today went well for both Canada and the United States today. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from President Obama's visit today. With all the protectionist rumbling that has been coming out of the United States these past few weeks today could have gone very poorly. Instead it seems like the leaders were both saying the right things:

Obama spoke out against protectionism and in favour of co-ordinating auto-industry bailouts, said he's committed to ensuring trade flows smoothly across the border, and even declared, “I love this country.” The two leaders also announced the launch of a “Clean Energy Dialogue” to co-operate on developing technology to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, although it fell short of launching talks for the broad North American climate and energy pact Mr. Harper has proposed.

“I came to Canada on my first trip as president to underscore the closeness and importance of the relationship between our two nations, and to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to work with friends and partners to meet the common challenges of our times,” Mr. Obama said at the opening of a four-question news conference that stretched to 40 minutes.

“As neighbours, we are so closely linked that sometimes we may have a tendency to take our relationship for granted.”

So true. I also appreciated Obama's comments on Afghanistan:

“I certainly did not press the Prime Minister on any additional commitments beyond the ones that have already been made,” he said, adding he only complimented Canada on its troops there, and the 108 who have fallen.

“There has been extraordinary effort there and we just wanted to make sure that we were saying thank you.”

That really needed to be said, and it's to Obama's credit that he was so forth right.

Prime Minister Harper seemed to be on the right track leading up to today's events as he has driven home the importance of maintaining trade agreements. I don't know much about the 'environmental dialogue' but given the heavy criticism that has been coming from the US about Canada's oil sands, it's definitely a very important dialogue to be having for the environment but also for trade and the economy. Harper was definitely on message today on other issues as well:
Mr. Harper looked past Ottawa reporters to send a message to Americans: “Threats to the United States are threats to Canada.…” “We as Canadians have every incentive to be as co-operative and alarmed about the threats that exist to the North American continent in the modern age as do the government and people of the United States. And that's the approach with which we treat the border.”

Mr. Harper closed with his own suggestion that the two can do business together,
on a two-way street.

“As we all know, one of President Obama's big missions is to continue world leadership by the United States of America but in a way that is more collaborative,” he said. “And I'm convinced that by working with our country he will have no greater opportunity than to demonstrate exactly how that model can operate over the next four years.”

Based on what I've read today, I'm going to say, so far so good. Kudos to both leaders.

Weather Network Founder Says 'Don't Believe Climate Change'

MSN is linking to this story today. It tells how John Coleman a 'founding father' of the Weather Network is on a crusade against global warming hype:

If you consume mainstream media, odds are you’re not hearing much debate about
climate change these days. We’re told the debate is effectively over. Scientists say so, too. It’s our consumption that continues to ruin our planet’s environmental health, so there’s no longer time to debate—it’s time to act.

Every time we do anything, like flip on a light switch or charge an iPod or turn on the A/C, we’re contributing to the release of greenhouse gases, and so the oceans rise and that’s a problem for the polar bears and, well, you know—something like that. It may be difficult to explain, but we know the state of the environment is bad. Most recently, in fact, we were told that the effects of man-made climate change are all but irreversible.

John Coleman has dedicated his life to studying weather and the science that creates it—so shouldn’t we at least hear him out?

So, yes, the debate is over. And yet for some reason, somewhere outside the fray, the weather sage John Coleman decided it shouldn’t be. That we’d been hoodwinked. That it was still worth talking about. So a year and a half ago, determined he’d heard enough of the noise and the Al Gore and the polar bears, he threw his voice into the conversation.

When Coleman posted his first climate change brief online, he was surprised by the attention it got. “I thought I was the only one,” he says. “I started finding that there were plenty of people out there, it’s just that the media was ignoring them and the place to find them was on these little corners of the internet.” In May, 2008, an organization called the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine released a petition at the National Press Club, with the signatures of 31,000 scientists rejecting the U.N. consensus of man-made climate change. Nine thousand of the names reportedly belong to Ph.Ds.

31,000 scientists, 9,000 Ph.Ds. signed the statement. It just goes to show again that intelligent people can differ. Later on in the article Coleman's comments get really interesting:

“Gradually there’s this build-up, this hysteria about global warming,” he says. “The Al Gore book comes out. The Al Gore movie comes out and starts winning awards. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gets headline news status and starts issuing its predictions. The media is clamoring aboard and the next thing I know, it’s headline news every day, everywhere. And I’ve been studying it, reading stuff, and looking at it, and can’t figure out what the heck they’re talking about.”

What “they” are talking about, and we have heard much about is that climate change is one of greatest challenges we face in our lifetime and that humankind is generally fucking up everything imaginable involving air, water, and land. John Coleman says it’s perpetrated by the media. . .

“You’ve got Al Gore. You’ve got the environmentalists. And then all the networks come aboard, because they love gloom and doom, the-end-is-near,” he says. “From Y2K to killer bees—God, give us something to tell people their lives are coming to an end—cancer scare, HIV, whatever we’ve got—let’s go, Man, scare the hell out of people,” he says. “This is awful. Shame on them, scaring people. That’s deplorable.”

He's right about that it really is deplorable the number of times in the last 20 years that our society has been taken in by a doom and gloom story hook, line and sinker. From my perspective, the next few paragraphs neatly sum up the debate about climate change.

“Have temperatures gone up? No. Is global warming sweeping the planet? No. Is the ice melting at the poles? No. Is there any proof that it’s creating significant impact? No. Can you produce a computer model that predicts that it will? Oh yeah, anyone can manipulate a computer model, and they have.”

Of course, the prevailing wisdom is that yes, temperatures have gone up, that ice is melting, and that the scientists assessing climate data aren’t doing so with malicious intent. Attempting to debunk those who are attempting to debunk climate change, as it turns out, is complicated.

To get some sort of definitive explanation, I talked to Kerry Emmanuel, who is a professor of Atmospheric Science at M.I.T. He agrees with Al Gore that the debate is over (although he does think the movie has some “scientific flaws”). “I would not take anything that John Coleman says too seriously,” Emmanuel tells me. Emmanuel says he could relatively quickly give me a “good feeling for the evidence.” But, he says, to bring me up to speed on the physics behind the greenhouse effect, “you’d have to take a semester class.” On top of that, he says, “The models are even difficult for the professionals to understand.” So the problem, as Emmanuel presents it, is that scientists often expect the general public to accept conclusion “as an article of faith” because the explanation can be so intricate and difficult to communicate. "Therein lies a problem,” says Emmanuel. “You have to take my word for that.”

And you see that's the thing Mr Emmanuel, I won't just take your word on that. It's your job to convince me, and so far nobody has done that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Family Day is Awesome

This was only the second year we celebrated family day in Ontario. The provincial government only recently created the holiday. Last year I remember scoffing and calling it a fake holiday. This year I just took it and made sure I enjoyed it to the max. Sure it's provincial only and not everybody gets it, but it coincides with President's Day in the US and several other provinces take a holiday on the same day.

If it wasn't for Family day it would have been 99 days between New Year's Day and Good Friday. It was a welcome break and I'll gladly take it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Which is Worth More?

So which is worth more a barrel of oil or a DVD? One is essential for transportation and making our economy work, the other is good for an hour and a half of fleeting entertainment. According to the markets last Friday a new release DVD was worth more than a barrel of oil.

Oil Closed below the $35 on Friday, and opened there again yesterday morning. If only I could convince some poor fool to buy my DVDs for $35 each, I'd be able to drive for free for years to come!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bold Move by Ontario Human Rights Commission

I'll give Barbara Hall one thing, she's bold. At a time when Human Rights Commissions are facing serious challenges from both federal and provincial governments, Ontario's chief human rights commissioner wants to create a national media watch dog to review all publications such as newspapers, magazines and websites:

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is calling for Parliament to force all Canadian magazines, newspapers and "media services" Web sites to join a national press council with the power to adjudicate breaches of professional standards and complaints of discrimination. . . .

The media's freedom of expression comes with a duty to "address issues of hate expression, and [media] should do so either voluntarily through provincial press councils, or through statutory creation of a national press council with compulsory membership," the report reads.

"At the same time, the OHRC recognizes the media have full freedom and control over what they publish. Ensuring mechanisms are in place to provide opportunity for public scrutiny and the receipt of complaints, particularly from vulnerable groups, is important, but it must not cross the line into censorship."

Barbara Hall, OHRC chief commissioner, said in an interview the rise of the Internet has strengthened the case for a national media watchdog. In her vision, a national press council would be "a vehicle for full discussion about what's written in the media" that is less strict and more accessible than the courts.

Hold on a second, this sounds an awful lot like the current human rights commissions - more accessible then the courts and receiving complaints from vulnerable groups. This would just create more opportunities for left wing interest groups to launch complaints against anyone who disagrees with them as we've seen happen through the recent cases brought against Maclean's for publishing excerpts of America Alone by Mark Steyn.

Fortunately the proposal looks like a non-starter based on the heavy criticism its receiving and the fact that there is no likely champion in Parliament to advocate for such a body. I'm sure there are already many eloquent condemnations of the idea, but for now I'll settle for highlighting some of the highlights from today's National Post editorial, No to National Censorship Council.

As if Barbara Hall's own crude, broadsword agency were not destructive enough of free speech rights, now the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) wants a national press council to further chill free expression in the media. And she is not looking just to curtail newspapers, talk radio and television news. Ms. Hall wants any new press council to have jurisdiction over Internet sites and blogs, too. . . She seems to think the best way to preserve free speech is to limit it.

. . .

Ms. Hall also stated that all journalists should put their writings through a "human rights filter" before publication. Because she was not able to force such a filter on Maclean's, her current proposal for a national press council is almost certainly an attempt to make such a filter mandatory, in law.

"Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism," Ms. Hall has said previously. But because no one has god-like powers to discern accurately what is "fair" and "unbiased," then no one -- not even the chief commissioner -- is qualified to sit in judgment of which articles and opinions meet those criteria and which do not. Most people's interpretation of fair and unbiased reporting corresponds very closely with their own opinions on the subject at issue, and Barbara Hall is no different. She has been granted no special powers not given to other mortals to divine the truth; therefore, neither she nor any other pompous purveyor of social concern has the ability to judge which speech should be free and which not.

"Free societies should not be in the business of criminalizing opinion," Mr. Steyn, told members of Ontario's standing committee on government agencies this week. "When you go down that road, all you do is lead to the situation that you have in, say, Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, you can't start a newspaper and print what you think, so if you object to the House of Saud, the only thing you can do is blow stuff up."

Similarly, making all writers, bloggers and broadcasters hostage to a national press council is merely the first step toward letting the Barbara Halls of the world decide what you get to hear, see and read. To that, we say: "No, thanks." And so should every newspaper reader, Web surfer and television viewer in the land.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Is This Really Necessary?

I came across this stamp in my travels. To protect the individuals involved I cannot reveal where.
I just have one simple question, Why would anybody keep a printed copy of a document if it didn't contain important information? I guarantee whoever created that stamp is one of those annoying people who label all of their emails as high priority.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Always Have a Choice

Today I've gained a new pet peeve. Twice today I heard the expression I/You don't have a choice. In both cases it was simply not true and I immediately identified other choices.

First someone made a poorly thought out and rashly arrived at decision. I listed other choices but their response was basically, "I don't want to know what the other choices are." My second conversation was more balanced where one option had obvious strengths over the other.

Either way it simply was not accurate to say there wasn't a choice. 'I don't have a choice' can mean 'I really don't like the other options,' or 'I've already decided' or many different things but it never actually means there is no other choice.

I'm reminded of the famous 1984 election debate between Brian Mulroney and John Turner. Wikipedia describes the debate as follows:

Turner had planned to attack Mulroney over the patronage machine that the latter had allegedly set up in anticipation of victory. He launched what appeared to be the start of a blistering attack on Mulroney by comparing his patronage machine to that of the old Union Nationale in Quebec. However, Mulroney successfully turned the tables by pointing to the recent raft of Liberal patronage appointments. He demanded that Turner apologize to the country for making "these horrible appointments."

Turner replied that he "had no option" except to let the appointments stand.

Mulroney famously responded: “You had an option, sir. You could have said, 'I am not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada, and I am not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.' You had an option, sir — to say 'no' — and you chose to say 'yes' to the old attitudes and the old stories of the Liberal Party. That sir, if I may say respectfully, that is not good enough for Canadians.”

Turner froze, and could only repeat, "I had no option."

Mulroney called Turner's admission "an avowal of failure" and "a confession of non-leadership." He told Turner, "You had an option, sir. You could have done better." The exchange led most of the papers the next day, with most of them paraphrasing Mulroney's counterattack as "You had an option, sir — you could have said 'no.'"

The result of course was that Brian Mulroney formed the biggest majority government in Canadian History. It's worth remembering there's always a choice.

While I'm Waiting

I wrote on Sunday that I loved the movie Fireproof. On thing I didn't mention is the really poignant soundtrack. One song in particular was in my head all weekend and all of yesterday. While I'm Waiting by John Waller is a touching song with a very simple message. Keep trusting in God even while we wait for him to answer our prayers.

I've written before about some of God's answers to my personal prayers and there are many examples that I haven't written about, but I hope I haven't given the wrong impression. There are many prayers I've made that I'm still waiting to be answered - with some of them I've been waiting for years. Not being the most patient person by nature it's very hard to just wait and pray and hope and trust. That's why I love the simplicity and truth in this song:

I’m waiting

I’m waiting on You, Lord

And I am hopeful

I’m waiting on You, Lord

Though it is painful

But patiently, I will wait

Later the song encourages me saying:

I will move ahead, bold and confident

Taking every step in obedience


I will serve You while I’m waiting

I will worship while I’m waiting on You, Lord

That's really hard to do, but I know it's the right response. Simply trusting in God and being faithful in worship and service will give us the strength we need to wait even when it seems like forever.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fireproof - Rent it

Fireproof the movie just came out on DVD recently. We rented it Friday night and it was the best $5 I've spent in a while. The movie is a real romance, not boy meets girl they do lots of fun and exciting things and amazingly end up together. The movie is about a fireman who's been taking his wife for granted and their marriage is on the brink of divorce. His father convinces him to give his marriage one more shot with a 40 day challenge called the Love Dare. It's tough slugging and his wife keeps on rejecting his efforts, but with conversion, prayer and a lot of encouragement from a friend and his father, he's able to stick with it. There's just an amazing amount of self-sacrifice and personal growth for Caleb, the main character played by Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains. I knew my eyes were watery at times, but when I saw the damp spot on my wife's sleeve where I was resting my head I realized it was time to admit it made me all weepy.

Here's the trailer, you can decide for yourself if it's worth watching.

UPDATE: I cried the second time I watched it too.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Harper is Back!

Finally Stephen Harper sounds like a Conservative and he is acting like our Prime Minister. After 2 months of being on the defensive, offering the opposition 'coalition' everything they had asked for, Harper was beginning to look like a push over who was going to govern like a Liberal until the real Liberals had raised enough money to force another election. There were some days in the past few years where I didn't like that Stephen Harper was acting like a bully, but I liked him a lot less as the one being bullied.

When Canada's employment report came out yesterday and we found out that 129,000 jobs were lost in January when most analysts only expected 40,000 would be lost, the leaders of the Spend and Spend Coalition went into full panic mode demanding even more stimulus money. This time Harper is holding his ground, the Globe and Mail reports:

Stephen Harper says he will not yield to opposition calls for more economic stimulus measures despite confidence-shaking news that Canada lost 129,000 jobs in January, the sharpest decline ever.

Little more than a week after the federal government introduced a budget that projects a massive deficit and pours $40-billion in stimulus measures into the economy over the next two years, the opposition Liberals have said the worsening economic picture will probably require more.

Mr. Harper said Canadians can expect more job losses in 2009, but that the government has already responded in a big way. "The reason this government has proposed such a massive economic plan and such a massive deficit-spending stimulus is our anticipation of significant economic challenges, including significant job losses in the year to come. That's why we're doing what we're doing," he said at an event in Miramichi, N.B . . .

. . . the Prime Minister directly rebuffed the Liberals' hints they might force the Conservatives into another round of stimulus spending in late spring. "We cannot have in Parliament, quite frankly, instability every week and every month, every time there's a new number, people demanding a different plan…" Mr. Harper said. "We continue to believe this is the action we need, and we're going to need it in the months to come, and we're not going to be blown off track every time there's some bad news."

He's right. There are limits to how much the government actually can do to revive the economy, and there are definite limits to how quickly it can take effect. The government's budget contains a lot of new spending and other measures to breathe life into the economy, opposition calls for more spending before any money flows from this stimulus package are simply ludicrous.

We've already learned the hard way in the 80s and 90s that massive deficits can cripple the economy. I'm hoping the big deficits our government will run in the next few years are only temporary. For the first time in a while Stephen Harper looks like he might be capable of keeping spending in line.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Now's Your Chance John

The Toronto Sun Reports, "Finally! Tory gets a chance." Premier McGuinty has called a by-election in the riding where Conservative MPP Laurie Scott agreed to step down so that John Tory could run. The election will be held on March 5 and then the Conservative Leader will finally be able to sit in the legislature and challenge the premier face to face.

Tory has been without a seat since the 2007 election that saw the Conservatives get soundly defeated and saw John Tory lose his own seat. Since then the only time John Tory has made the news was when he faced various challenges to his leadership. Essentially he's wasted a year and a half when the party could have been rebuilding while he tried to convince someone to step aside for him. Assuming he wins on March 5 it will be his chance to turn the tide and show himself to be an effective leader. I hope he's up to the job, but I'm just not sure.

Incidentally Facebook keeps on suggesting John Tory as a friend I may know. Somehow I just can't bring myself to add him to my friends list.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Narnia is BACK!

Christmas 2010 is the target launch date for Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the next installment of the Narnia series. I've been a Narnia nut for the last several years - ever since I heard Focus on the Family's radio drama of all 7 books. I very much enjoyed the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and I just bought Prince Caspian on DVD (previously viewed - I will NOT pay $35 for a DVD). I had only learned a few weeks ago that Disney had pulled out of producing the movie, but last week MTV reported:
Walden Media has found a new studio to call home, and Fox will be sharing duties on “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” The studio is hoping that the high fantasy of the third installment revives interest in the franchise — if the film is a smash hit, they will likely continue the franchise, and give Narnia fans the seven films they crave.
That's great news. Walden media is an excellent film company and they're certain to do justice to the books. I'm looking forward to all 7 films it's just too bad that we still need to wait almost 2 years for the next one.

Everything is Back to Normal

Now that the budget has passed, it appears things are moving back to normal. The best indication has been how quickly conservative commentators have been to criticise the budget. The National Post didn't pull any punches in their editorial:

As we’ve noted in recent days, all bricks-and-mortar stimulus programs are inherently problematic from an economic point of view: Injecting cash into public works and private projects involves picking winners and imagining the future; and for a variety of reasons well-understood by any student of Adam Smith, governments usually botch that job. But at least much of Mr. Flaherty’s extra infrastructure money is being focussed on projects that Canada may actually need — bridges, roads, schools and the like. In this sense, Mr. Flaherty’s blueprint compares favourably to the current legislative incarnation of the more scattershot U.S. stimulus package, described by New York Times columnist David Brooks in recent days as “a muddled mixture of short-term stimulus haste and long-term spending commitments.”

The attention being given to “social housing” by Mr. Flaherty, on the other hand, should raise red flags among fiscal hawks. Housing expenditures will raise the cost of labour in the short term for more immediately productive enterprises. Moreover, social housing has a long history of unexpectedly turning into a black hole for unwary governments — the white-elephant Vancouver Olympic Village being just the latest
example. And it doesn’t make much sense to hand cash to first-time homebuyers while simultaneously stimulating the real estate market — thereby making it more
expensive for them to buy that first home.

Good for them, it's time for voices of reason to weigh in and add balance to the debate. Government by hysteria will leave a big hangover long after the money's been spent.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Tragedy of Penny and Karissa Boudreau

When I first heard of how Penny Boudreau strangled her 12 year old daughter in a bid to keep her boyfriend I was shocked and disgusted. The details are sensational: Penny's boyfriend told her she would have to choose between him or her daughter, so Penny strangled her daughter, put the twine in a garbage can, threw her daughter's body in a river, put her daughter's clothes in a garbage can and then reported her child missing and went on National TV pleading for her daughter's return.

She eventually confessed everything to an undercover police officer and her fate was sealed. She received a life sentence for the murder. So justice has been served and it's time to close this sad chapter of history. Well maybe. What has struck me more recently is the viciousness of the condemnation that she has received. Most commentary seems to be of the "hanging's too good for her" variety, and I shuddered when I read the judge's comments:
"You can never call yourself mother," said Justice Margaret Stewart, glancing up at Boudreau. "The words, 'Mommy, don't' ... are there to haunt you for the rest of your life."
The judge may be more right than she knows. I cannot fathom how a mother could do this to her child, and I definitely can't begin to understand how she is living with herself. It seems like she's already grappling with the magnitude of the situation, the article said that she was weeping throughout the hearing and:

After sentencing, Boudreau stood up briefly to address the court.

"I'm sorry," she said in a meek whisper.

Nobody seems to interested in her apology. But maybe we should be. I'm reminded of a number of sermons I've heard about evil and about confession. There's a classic trap that the devil seems to use - first he tries to convince us that whatever wrongdoing we're being tempted to do is OK, normal, or justified by the circumstances. THEN after we've done it he encourages us to feel guilty, ashamed, worthless and unforgivable. I'm certain that's how Penny Boudreau is feeling right now, the judge did her part to make sure she is.

The amazing thing for Penny, and for all of us, is that if her guilt leads her to sorrow, and her sorrow leads to true repentance, then God is willing and able to forgive even her. What Penny did was less than human, but she is still a person. I'm praying for her that she will truly repent for her sins and that she will feel God's love. I'm also thinking it's time to go back to confession myself.

Just one disclaimer: Our system is just and Penny was rightly given the maximum sentence for her actions. My only hope is that the next 20 years she spends in jail is a time of healing and repentance not a time of debilitating guilt and mental anguish.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Barack Obama Hype

I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that the Barack Obama hype has been overdone. This past weekend confirmed it. I visited some friends in Detroit and ended up wandering through Target, a big department store. I was thoroughly disturbed when I found 2 hardcover children’s books about Barack Obama. They were the most predominantly displayed books in the whole section with some copies of “A Child’s First Bible Stories” and “The Story of Abraham Lincoln” tucked in behind.

After briefly lamenting for the poor children who are going to extremely disappointed with their bedtime stories, I walked on to the card section. I saw a card with a great big picture of Barack Obama with a big heart around him. On the front it said Happy Valentines Day, on the inside “Barack and Roll.” If that’s what works with the ladies, it’s a good thing I’ve been out of the dating scene for a few years now.