Monday, July 20, 2009

Mission to Mars?

I'll admit, I have no idea about the scientific merits of establishing a colony on Mars. However Buzz Aldrin did capture my imagination with this article:
Our next generation must think boldly in terms of a goal for the space program:
Mars for our future. I am not suggesting a few visits to plant flags and do photo-ops but a journey to make the first homestead in space: an American colony on a new world.

Robotic exploration of Mars has yielded tantalizing clues about what was once a water-soaked planet. Deep beneath the soils of Mars might lie trapped frozen water, possibly with traces of still-extant primitive life forms. Climate change on a vast scale has reshaped Mars. With Earth in the throes of its own climate evolution, human outposts on Mars could be a virtual laboratory to study these vast planetary changes. And the best way to study Mars is with the two hands, eyes and ears of a geologist, first on a moon orbiting Mars and then on the Red Planet's surface.

Mobilizing the space program to focus on a human colony on Mars while at the same time helping our international partners explore the moon on their own would galvanize public support for space exploration and provide a cause to inspire students. Mars exploration would renew our space industry by opening up technology development to all players, not just the traditional big aerospace contractors. If we avoided the pitfall of aiming solely for the moon, we could be on Mars by the 60th anniversary year of our Apollo 11 flight.

Much has been said recently about the Vision for Space Exploration and the future of the international space station. As we all reflect upon our historic lunar journey and the future of the space program, I challenge America's leaders to think boldly and look beyond the moon. Yes, my vision of "Mars for America" requires bold thinking. But as my friend and Gemini crewmate Jim Lovell has noted, our Apollo days were a time when we did bold things in space to achieve leadership. It is time we were bold again in space.
Right or wrong, it's an enchanting vision.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Goldman Sachs and Caritas in Veritate

I've gotta spend a lot more time reading Pope Benedict's latest encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," or Love in Truth. When I do read it, I'll post on the encyclical again. In the meantime I think this article by Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, Vice-Chairman of Goldman Sachs International is significant. Lord Griffiths says:

Despite heavy competition from some of the world’s finest minds, it is without doubt the most articulate, comprehensive and thoughtful response to the financial crisis that has yet appeared. It should strike a chord with all who wish to see modern capitalism serving broader human ends. . .

Pope Benedict’s words are not just platitudes. They affect every person at work every day. In the City they are a challenge to management to create a culture of prudence, responsibility and integrity.

There has to be zero tolerance for misleading clients, fudging conflicts of interest and inflating valuations. However great the revenue they produce, those who deviate must be disciplined. This kind of ethos cannot be imposed by regulation alone.

From what I know about the encyclical so far, I believe Lord Griffith's analysis strikes at the heart of the message in the Encyclical. It's encouraging to know that the Pope's words are being read and understood by those at the highest levels of finance. If Goldman Sachs follows the recommendation of the Pope and their vice-chair, maybe their record earnings will be sustainable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Pope and Our Prime Minister

Despite the limited coverage of Prime Minister Harper's meeting with Pope Benedict, it was still an important event for our country. It was an opportunity for the Pope to talk about important life and social issues and Stephen Harper's recent comments about the meeting were reflective of many Canadian's deeply held respect for the pontiff:

"While I'm not theologically a Catholic, in my judgment the Catholic Church is a critical bulwark of worldwide Christianity. The Pope is an important moral and spiritual leader generally and for Christians generally, even though I'm not a Catholic."

Harper called Vatican City a small but important state. "It is an influential, well-connected state that is very influential in world affairs."

These comments show that the Vatican has a friend in Stephen Harper and that he respects the Pope's contribution to world politics. His comments on Vatican City are also important since there's always pressure from left wing lobbyists at the United Nations to strip the Vatican of it's status as a nation state. Finally, Harper's right about his analysis of the recent controversy over his receiving communion at Romeo Leblanc's funeral:
"People who want to cause embarrassment in religion and drive a wedge between
Protestants and Catholics" are driving the controversy, Harper told a Catholic news agency in an exclusive interview after his meeting Saturday with Pope Benedict. "That's whose agenda this is and that's not the Pope's agenda."
Those who are driving the controversy are not friends of the Church or the country.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't Call it a Wafer!!!!!

Today Stephen Harper responded to accusations that he took the Eucharist, but didn't consume it:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed reports that he pocketed a communion
wafer as "ridiculous" and "terrible" and said he would never do such a thing.

. . .

"First of all as a Christian I've never refused communion when offered to me, that is actually pretty important to me," Harper said.

Good for him for taking a principled stand. It's comforting to hear him address the issue directly because it actually is important. Strictly speaking he should not have taken the Host, but this issue has been badly handled all around. At most catholic weddings and funerals the priest will make a statement before communion inviting non-Catholics to come up and receive a blessing. If that didn't happen at this funeral, at least part the fault lies with the presiding priest.

I agree with Archbishop Richard that Harper clearly did not mean any disrespect. The thing that makes me angry isn't whether he received the Eucharist but the discussion around it - especially from Harper's so called defenders who have tried to downplay the issue saying it's unimportant and just a wafer. Terms like 'wafer-gate' drive me bananas. Catholics refer to the sacrament by a number of names most prominently the Host, the Eucharist, and the Body of Christ, so terms like wafer and cracker are just not accurate.

I haven't seen very much discussion on the relevant Catholic teaching. Simply put Catholics believe that the Eucharist really is the body and blood of Christ. It's not just some crazy church teaching, but Jesus' own words that form the foundation of this belief:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28
The Church's teaching that communion must only be taken by Catholics who are in communion with the church, free from mortal sin, and observed an appropriate fast also comes straight from scripture:
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 1
Corinthians 11:27
It really doesn't matter to me if you believe this or not, I suppose most people don't but PLEASE be respectful. The Eucharist is important.

Finally, I wanted to tip my hat to Owen who carried the flag on this topic in the comment section of my last blog post. Near as I can tell Owen is a good Conservative, a faithful Catholic, a fellow cyclist and quite the artist. Thanks as always for your comments sir.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sweet Justice

The way this video is making it's rounds over the internet, there's a good chance you've seen 'United Breaks Guitars' already. Tonight it's the number 2 entertainment story on, right behind more crap about Michael Jackson. Even the Globe and Mail is reporting on it, noting the song has become an 'internet sensation'.

The song really hit's home with the story of a musician's guitar damaged by on his flight with United Airlines. Anyone who's been frustrated with poor customer service is going to enjoy this song. I can also relate as a guitar owner, there are many times I want to break my guitar - but I certainly hope nobody else does.

One last personal connection to this story: As I watched the video I thought this is the kind of band I'd love to sit and listen to at a fair or music festival. Come to think of it I'm pretty sure I did . . . the Sons of Maxwell played the Fergus Scottish Fesitval last year and I quite enjoyed them.

Definitely watch the video, I'm sure it will have over a million hits on YouTube by the morning.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Harper's Delivering the Right Message at the G8

I strongly approve of Prime Minister Harper's message to the G8. Further stimulus is not what the world economy needs right now. CTV reports:

Earlier Wednesday, Harper urged leaders to complete the stimulus initiatives that are already underway, before committing new funds.

"My own thought is before there's talk of additional stimulus, I would urge all leaders to focus first on making the stimulus that's announced actually gets delivered," Harper said. "That's been our focus in Canada and I would urge the same priority

Harper also signalled he will continue to push his message that the temptation for nations to move towards protectionist tendencies should be avoided at all costs, saying such moves could actually prolong the recession.

Harper is right. Access to credit, maintaining open markets and following through on previously announced stimulus packages what really matter. The crisis is over at this point further government spending will do more harm than good.

Friday, July 03, 2009

I Want to be a Good Man

I've stumbled upon the phrase "a good man" a few times in the last year - it was used in key moments during the movie Fire Proof and the 1970s version of the Poseidon Adventure. I'm coming to realize that the phrase really is powerful.

It hit me over the head when a friend of mine casually said, "you're a good man." I smiled and moved on, but inside I was bursting with pride. That conversation was months ago and I still feel good when I think about it. The beautiful thing about the phrase is it's a general endorsement of your entire character. In it's purest sense it's probably impossible to be truly good, I've got more than my share of embarrassing faults, but in a lesser sense of displaying integrity and generosity it's certainly something to strive for.

This song, "A Good Man" from Emerson Drive is going to be my theme song for the day tomorrow:

These are my favourite lyrics in the song:

My dreams aren’t that complicated…

I wanna be the one When all is said and done

Who lived a good life, loved a good wife, and always helped someone in trouble

On the day they lay me down I want everyone to gather ‘round

And say he was a father, brother, neighbour and a friend

He was a good man!

Yeah, me too.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada Day

I'm not a flag waving patriot by any stretch of the imagination. I remember the hollow concepts and faux nationalism under the Chretien government. Flag day, the CBC, and vague "Canadian Values" just don't make me all weepy. However, on a day like today it's worth reflecting on some of the things that do make me proud to be Canadian.

Our Armed Forces have served admirably in the past and present - most notably in World War II, but also in Afghanistan where our soldiers continue to risk (and sometimes give) their lives to protect our freedoms. These men and women are well trained and committed individuals, they're worthy of our respect and gratitude.

Our Parliamentary Democracy has stood the test of time. Regardless of the quality of our elected representatives, they are able to make informed decisions and are held accountable for them.

Our Committment to Free Trade is an example of how a small country can show leadership in the world. I believe the consistent and clear message from our government is essential to help fight protectionism and allow the world economy to recover.

Finally, the natural beauty of our country is indeed astounding and the truth is I like our climate. We are clearly blessed and I'm thankful.

God keep our land, glorious and free!