Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mohawks Should be Very Careful

There are some pretty serious threats coming out of the AkwesasneMohawk reserve. They demand a firm response from the Canadian government. The Ottawa Citizen reports:

Mohawk Warriors from the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve near Cornwall say they will storm a Canada Border Services Agency post on Monday and shut down the international border crossing, unless their political leaders receive a commitment from the government not to arm border guards at the post, which stands on reserve territory.

The agency started arming guards in 2007, and officers at the Akwesasne reserve, which straddles the Ontario-Quebec-New York state boundary, are scheduled to begin carrying 9-mm guns on Monday.

So, border security guards have been armed without incident for 2 years but now we may have an armed conflict with the Mohawks just because the border is treated like any other. Let's just say I'm not sympathetic with the native position. The most extreme rhetoric is coming from Thomas Stacy:

"We are going to clear them (border guards) out," said Thomas Stacy, a middle-aged former professional wrestler who stood across from the border post with a small group of young men carrying large Mohawk Warrior flags. . .

"Tomorrow night at 12 o'clock (midnight) we have to have an answer," Stacy said.

"If that answer don't come, that's it. Monday is going to be the worst. That's the crackdown. It's going to be over. It's going to be done. No more signing papers, no more negotiations -- nothing."

Stacy said the reserve's political leaders have been in fruitless discussions with the border agency and federal officials. "We are not getting anywhere with the government. The government is going to come over here and take over everything," Stacy said.

The Mohawk Warriors are a long-standing group that is separate from hereditary chiefs or more modern elected chiefs and councils. Stacy said they have made it clear to the council and to the Akwesasne police that if the government does not back away from its plan, then the Warriors will act.

At minimum this guy should be arrested for uttering threats and held personally responsible for any action that may happen tomorrow. Although the official Mohawk leadership has spoken well of negotiations some of their rhetoric has been less than helpful:
"We seriously consider your government's actions in arming the (CBSA) guards as a direct assault on our sovereignty, which resonates into an act of war against our people," wrote (Akwesasne Grand Chief Tim) Thompson in a 2008 letter to Stockwell Day.
The Mohawks should be very careful about declaring war. That means armed conflict, and I'm pretty sure nobody wants that.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

4 Country Radio Stations Heard in Woodstock

I don't listen exclusively to country music anymore, but if I lived in Woodstock, Ontario I just might. As I was driving by the town last night, I scanned the radio and heard 4 FM country stations clear as day.

BX-93 has been playing country music for London for as long as I can remember. I grew up on that station in the kitchen, the chicken barn, pretty much everywhere. They're still going strong and they still sound great.

Country 95.3 broadcasts out of Toronto, it's my least favourite. I find the announcers loud and obnoxious which is definitely not what I'm in the mood for when I listen to a country station. Still it's a clear signal and there are some decent songs there.

KICX 106 is a Kitchener station and it's only been around for a couple years. It's the only country station that has a place on my presets because it comes in clear on my drive into work, and I like their announcers and their advertisers.

Country 107.3 is brand new, I just heard them for the first time last night. They're broadcasting out of London and playing a great mix of both new and classic country. They also seem to have a great newsroom. These guys could give BX-93 a run for their money.

So there you have it. If you're a country music fan, it's worth driving through Woodstock.

Not the Great Depression

Since the beginning of this economic crisis last October, I had the impression that the general doom and gloom and the many comparisons with the great depression were somehow overdone. Finally I've seen the picture that says a thousand words on the topic.

The chart was created by Donald Marron, a one time director of the US Congressional Budget Office. I'd say that gives him some credibility. The picture is dramatic showing a 3.6% decline in real GDP from mid 2008 to the second quarter of 2009. That's a long way from the 29.3% drop seen during the great depression.

The dire economic news, including massive job losses and big declines in housing prices are certainly no fun. I'm ready for a turn around any time now, but whatever we're going through right now, it's certainly nothing like the great depression.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Common Sense Ruling from California

Almost immediately after Californians voted to amend their state constitution to ban same sex marriage, the decision faced a legal challenge. Now the state Supreme Court has ruled wisely:
It is not our role to pass judgment on the wisdom or relative merit of the current provisions of the California Constitution governing the means by which our state Constitution may be altered. . . . In the absence of an explicit subject-matter limitation on the use of the initiative to propose and adopt constitutional amendments, . . . we conclude the existing provisions of the California Constitution governing amendment and revision cannot properly be interpreted in the manner advocated by petitioners.
So Proposition 8 stands and same sex marriage can no longer be practiced in California.

The ruling is really about democracy. The rules in California clearly stated that the constitution can be amended by majority vote through a state-wide referendum. Maybe that rule is a low standard that makes such a foundational document too easy to change. Maybe that rule makes government more responsive to the needs of its citizens. That's a debate for another day, but the Court ruled wisely in that respect, to decide otherwise would have unilaterally changed the foundations of American democracy and initiated a constitutional crisis.

I welcome this wise decision. I can't say I expected it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Proud of My Neighbours

The folks in the town of Halton Hills are on to something:

the Fair Trade Resolution first passed by the Town of Halton Hills [is] now spreading across Canada. The resolution supports free, fair, and reciprocal trade. It simply says that Canadian municipalities are willing to make their infrastructure projects open to any country that doesn’t block Canadian-made products for their projects. That’s called reciprocity and it’s just common sense.

Similar resolutions have already been passed or endorsed by the Region of Halton, the City of Temiskaming Shores, and over a dozen other local governments. Others are planning to bring it before their local or regional councils in the coming weeks. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, with over 1750 members and representing almost 90% of Canada’s population, has classified it as an emergency resolution to be debated and voted on at its annual conference in Whistler, BC in early June.

Halton Hills is practically next door to Guelph, so these folks are basically my neighbours. The resolutions are probably only symbolic but they're still a powerful statement against protectionism. The statements are timely, the current US administration is running rough shod over their international trade obligations and the more Canadian municipalities, companies, and consumers send messages to US companies and consumers the better chance the US government will realize the error of it's ways.

Yeah, I know I'm probably dreaming, but I still commend the municipalities and Fair Trade for Canada for their efforts so far.

H/T Bourque

Action Needed to React to Plummeting US Dollar

I'll start by saying I know that currency variation is complicated. There are such a variety of factors that bank economists with powerful models can rarely agree. But I will say when a currency jumps like the Canadian Dollar has done recently there's gotta be a dominant explanation. There have been 2 major explanations thrown around. 1 - Rising Energy Prices. 2 A Weak US Dollar. I'd say at this point rising energy prices are simply a function of the weaker US dollar. This video below is a fun demonstration of how much extra US dollars have been printed and why the US currency will continue to weaken.

That's a problem for everyone. American consumers are going to face more costly imports. However, I believe the US administration is content to let this happen because allowing their dollar to fall will make their exports appear cheaper.

However, Canadian exporters are already finding themselves getting a body blow from this fluctuation. Our currency has increased by about 15% since March, meaning a Canadian exporter who is paid in US dollars is receiving 15% fewer Canadian dollars even while their costs remain the same. This threatens to decimate the Canadian economy while they are fragile. Our government needs to (A) pressure the US government to reign in their money supply, or (B)consider printing more of our own money as a response.

A is much preferable to B, but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Proclamation! Unites Local Churches

My parish church is hosting the Proclamation event for the local chapter of the Canadian Bible Society. Basically the Bible is divided up into a bunch of different readings, from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Gospels and the Psalms then by reading verses from each section the Bible is read aloud entirely in about 10 days.

People from every church in the community are taking turns reading a few verses so it's a great opportunity to meet people from other churches and to see the inside of another church that you might otherwise never have entered. It really can pull communities together like it did in Newfoundland in April 2001.

On Friday night, I took my turn to sit and listen and to read a few chapters. It's a pretty neat feeling to get up and read the Bible aloud - The stories really seem to come alive and by choosing random passages I got to hear parts of the Bible that I just don't get to listen to very frequently.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I'll Take it!

Jim Flaherty's announcement today of a 21 day mandatory grace period on new credit card purchases is welcome news from my perspective. My bank actually got ahead of the curve, there was a notice on my last statement that they would increase the grace period to 21 days.

About 12 years ago, when I first got my credit card, there was a 21 day grace period on it. Then they dropped it to 19 and then I believe 16 or 17 days. Each time they dropped it was a major adjustment because I had become used to paying the bill at a certain time each month, that usually coincided with my pay check. At the time, the changes were a royal pain in the side, and almost resulted in my having to pay interest.

Now I don't need to worry about that happening again, and if I miss a payment it will be my own fault.

Good news if you ask me.

American's are Pro-Life

Lifesite News is reporting a dramatic change in American attitudes toward abortion. For the first time since 1995 the majority of Americans describe themselves as pro-life:

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, has found that 51% of Americans call themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking that question in 1995.

The new results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50% were pro-choice and 44% pro-life. Prior to the current poll, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46%, in both August 2001 and May 2002. . .

Additionally, a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center recorded an eight percentage-point decline since last August in those saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, from 54% to 46%.

The change in view points does not make the assertion that life is sacred any more true than it already is, but, it might mean that at least some limited legal protection for the unborn is getting closer. Hopefully those pro-life Americans will put their beliefs into action and accomplish great things.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The New Attack Ads

The latest Conservative Attack Ads are pretty good. I especially like "The Economy." It's the least personal of the ads and it hits hard by drawing attention to his promise to raise taxes and the way he described himself as a 'tax and spend Liberal.' The ad still plays to the fact that he's basically completely unknown except for the fact that he's intensely arrogant. The image at the end of all the English with Ignatieff seeming to imitate a king or Pope, kissing his hands toward a throng of journalists speaks volumes. If you haven't seen it, take a 30 second look below:

I'll close with 2 random thoughts. The French ads seem OK, the tone is tougher and I think they'll play very well in a province that still seems anti-establishment. The downside is they end with a reference to a website, which sounds a lot like 'who am I?' I was intrigued, but right now that website just jumps to the Conservative Party's YouTube page.

I don't think these ads will be as effective as the anti-Dion ads. Dion was just too easy a target. I do think they are important, Ignatieff is an enigma and he's spent the last 5 months focusing on opportunities for self aggrandizement to the exclusion of everything else. These ads are certain to make Canadians think twice about this guy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pope Benedict in Israel

Today was the highlight of Pope Benedict's visit to Israel. His message of peace and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims was delivered before 50,000 people at an open air Mass in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel. The message appears to be well received, even Al Jazeera has favourable coverage:

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from the scene, said about 50,000 people had gathered to listen to the pontiff. "There's a real sense of exitement and pride here as the ground mass gets under way.

"This is the largest Arab city in Israel so it's a great source of pride that the biggest mass of the papal pilgrimage is taking place here.

During the mass the Pope said Christians and Muslims should,

reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice. . . Sadly, as the world knows, Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between its Christian and Muslim communities, I urge people of goodwill in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence.

This is clearly the biggest challenge of his journey and indeed one of the biggest of his papacy to foster a more healthy and respectful relationship between Christians and Muslims. It's a tough road especially with the violence and hatred spewed out by Islamic extremists. Many Christians are simply moving away to avoid the conflict. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Holy Father tackled this issue head on:

"While understandable reasons lead many, especially the young, to emigrate, this decision brings in its wake a great cultural and spiritual impoverishment to the city [of Jerusalem]," he said. . .

In his speech, the pope said he would like to "speak directly to the tragic reality - which cannot fail to be a source of concern to all who love this city and this land - of the departure of so many members of the Church community in recent years. Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: In the Holy Land there is room for everyone!"

I hope that his words have power to encourage Christians in the Holy Land and to help earn respect from Muslims as well. I think they might. Benedict XVI did a lot to set the stage for this message earlier in his visit. In addition to remembering the holocaust and lamenting the violence against Israelis, he also called for a Palestinian State and said he hoped Israel's security wall will come down. His words were kindly received by Arabs and demonstrate that he's well aware of both the suffering felt by Palestinians and the legitimate fear felt by Jews and Christians.

The overtures to Muslims were tempered by the Pope's decision to walk out of a meeting on interfaith dialogue after an out burst by a muslim cleric. That decision was principled and sent a strong message that respect and reason are essential to any discussion on faith or peace in the Middle East.

The Pope had a lot to accomplish on the visit from strengthening ties with Israel to building bridges with Muslims and supporting local Christians. Despite critics that were ready to jump at every supposed gaffe, such as using the word 'killed' instead of 'murdered,' I believe Benedict accomplished all 3 goals while staying true to Church teaching. This is no small feat and I'm thankful God allowed it to happen.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Music, Happy Faces

Here's an interesting study that shows listening to cheerful music makes people think others look happier. The Telegraph reports:

In the tests, the volunteers listened to 15 second clips of music and their reactions to photographs of a variety of faces were recorded.

Results showed that happy music "significantly enhanced the perceived happiness of a face." Further studies of the volunteers' brain waves revealed that the effect of the music was almost instantaneous. It took just 50 milliseconds for changes to take place – too fast to be under our conscious control.

Similarly, listening to depressing music made sad faces appear more miserable.

It's pretty intuitive. I think of Christmas when we're inundated with cheerful carols and it really does seem everybody is happier. I do think it's remarkable how quickly the volunteers responded to the music and how the study seems to demonstrate that the changes in perception happen subconsciously.

It tells me that we have a lot more control over our emotions than we think, we can choose how we want to feel toward others just by choosing the right music! Time to look through my CD library.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Putnman Pig Sings About H1N1

This is one talented pig puppet. Singing, dancing, air guitar.

Not sure I buy the government laboratory conspiracy that seems to be suggested, but Putnam's right that the flu that drove media bonkers for 2 weeks did not start in pigs.

One last tidbit. Urban dictionary makes it official, the correct pronunciation of H1N1 is 'hini'

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Campaign Life Endorses Klees

Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) endorsed Frank Klees today. Lifesite News reports:

"Campaign Life Coalition's Preferred Candidate Frank Klees (MPP Newmarket-Aurora) has a pro-life history, has been a strong supporter of parental rights and conscience rights for health care workers. He supports the traditional definition of marriage and the defunding of abortion." spoke with Klees about CLC's backing. He said the endorsement was gratifying and confirmed his pro-life stance. "My position on pro-life positions has been consistent since I've been in public life," he said.

This endorsement is a big deal for the Klees campaign which started out well behind the other campaigns that had been organizing since the last election, well before John Tory's resignation.

Campaign Life's endorsement matters because of their long established organization, substantial membership, and motivated volunteers. Their targeted support will bring far more memberships and volunteers to the Klees campaign than a half dozen MPPs or riding presidents.

The fact that Frank Klees welcomed the endorsement speaks very well of his credibility. Many politicians are willing to accept social conservatives' help but shy away from acknowledging them publicly. Frank's reaction speaks to his integrity and his level of commitment to the cause.

Each of the issues highlighted by the CLC is a winning issue. Other candidates recognize the importance of conscience rights as essential to our fundamental freedoms, but Frank has backed this commitment with action by introducing a private member's bill in the legislature. Perhaps the most controversial policy sighted by CLC is defunding abortion. However, even this policy is supported by a majority of Ontarians, Frank's support for this policy is both principled and politically savvy.

It's worth joining the Ontario PC party just to support Frank Kless. Join today or at least by May 14.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Barbara Kay is Right

Barbara Kay has an excellent article that slices and dices Maclean's cover story on Canadian attitudes toward different religions. To give you a flavour of the Maclean's story it finds:
Across Canada, 72 per cent said they have a “generally favourable opinion” of Christianity. At the other end of the spectrum, Islam scored the lowest favourability rating, just 28 per cent. Sikhism didn’t fare much better at 30 per cent, and Hinduism was rated favourably by 41 per cent. Both Buddhism, at 57 per cent, and Judaism, 53 per cent, were rated favourably by more than half the population.
When asked if they thought “the mainstream beliefs” of the major religions
“encourage violence or are mostly peaceful,” only 10 per cent said they thought Christianity teaches violence. But fully 45 per cent said they believe Islam does, and a sizable 26 per cent saw Sikhism as encouraging violence. By comparison, just 13 per cent perceived violence in Hindu teachings and 14 per cent in Jewish religion.
The data leads Maclean's to conclude that, "many Canadians harbour deeply troubling biases." The magazine's pollster shares their conclusion:
“It astonishes and saddens me as a Canadian,” said Angus Reid chief research officer Andrew Grenville, who has been probing Canadians’ views on religion for 16 years. “I don’t think the findings reflect well on Canada at all.”
Mr. Grenville Canadians have nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe it's your questions and underlying assumptions that are the problem. Your comment seems to be based on an assumption that Canadians should have a similar view of all religions. That's just silly! Each of religion has radically different teaching so it's only logical that Canadians should have different opinions about those ideas.

Barbara Kay has more comprehensive criticisms. Here are some highlights:

The article assigns a preemptive judgment of racism arising from opinions rather than any actual racist speech or acts: Readers are informed at the outset that Canadians hold "deeply troubling biases" because fewer than one in three Canadians "can find it in their hearts" to view Islam or Sikhism in a positive light. . .

One of the poll's many weighted markers for intolerance is that far more Canadians point to Islam than to Christianity as a religion that sanctions violence. Maclean's thus unreasonably penalizes objectivity, implying it is bigotry to acknowledge world events, and racism to honestly assess cultural outcomes over history. . .

Through selection bias the poll reveals what "we" think, but not what "they" think. It permits "old stock" Canadians (Christians or Canadians of Christian heritage) to be held up for public shaming. But the views of specific minority groups such as Muslims, Sikhs and Tamils -- who might have revealed themselves to be insufficiently celebratory of religious diversity --are spared public exposure. . .

Hostility to officially sanctioned shariah law is falsely linked here with negativism toward Muslims. . . It is offensive that Canadians should be implicitly labelled racists for upholding democratic ideals over willfully blind multiculturalism.

Barbara you're right, the Maclean's story is a terrible example of push polling used to prove a foregone conclusion.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cleaning This Gun

This is a truly great country song. It's kinda warm and fuzzy AND it's just plain fun:

It Just Doesn't Seem Right

I don't own a personal cellphone, and it seems to be old news since Rogers is just following Bell and Telus. Still, this just doesn't seem right.
Rogers Wireless said Tuesday it would begin charging 15 cents for each incoming text message for customers without message plans, beginning on July 7.
I dunno. I think incoming text messages should be free. Everything else you do on your phone involves a decision. You choose to make a call or send a text. You choose to answer a call, but a text message just shows up on your phone.

Oh well at least $0.15 is an appropriate amount. They are literally nickel and dimeing you to death.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Liberals Embrace Democracy

I didn't see this coming. The party of elites and academics has finally given party members the opportunity to vote on who becomes leader. Chantal Hebert gives Stephane Dion the credit:

As for Dion, if he served a primary purpose the past three days, it has been to make Ignatieff look good.

Any regret some Liberals might have felt at seeing him go was largely dispelled by a long, rambling farewell speech Friday that featured a lot of the woolly thinking that induced almost one million habitual Liberal supporters to stay home in the last election.

At least in Ignatieff, they have a leader who can hold forth efficiently in both official languages, and who is certain to hold his own in the televised debates of the next
campaign, two features that could not be taken for granted in Dion's case.

Dion's 2006 leadership victory was the unlikely product of a convention floor deal struck among various Liberal factions. Yesterday, the party moved to ensure that does not ever happen again. The convention overwhelmingly endorsed an amendment to the party constitution that ensures future leaders will be chosen by a membership-wide vote. Three years ago in Montreal, a pre-Dion Liberal party had soundly defeated the same resolution.

This is good for democracy, unlike the way their current leader's coronation.