Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Light Show

Most likely I'm still at Midnight Mass, but I wanted to be sure to say Merry Christmas! Here's a way to celebrate for one and half minutes, or two minutes if you want to let the video load for a second.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Polar Bear Panic

I still can't believe that one cheap animation in an Al Gore presentation has had so much effect on our culture. The imminent extinction of the polar bear has been well documented over the past 3 weeks. Mercifully, at least one Ottawa Citizen reader is doing his part to insert logic into the debate:
Since your newspaper is so deeply interested in current scientific opinion, you are undoubtedly aware that another polar bear specialist, Dr. Mitchell Taylor
(Department of Environment, Government of Nunavut) has declared that, "It is entirely appropriate to be concerned about climate change, but it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years, based on media-assisted hysteria ... Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present. I understand that people who do not live in the North generally have difficulty grasping the concept of too many polar bears in an area. People who live here have a pretty good grasp of what it's like to have too many polar bears around."
After two weeks of shovelling snow and feeling my nostrils freeze, I'm sure the Arctic ice will be just fine and the polar bears will have tasty seal for dinner soon. Wait, aren't we supposed to save all the baby seals? No I'm sorry that was last year's cause du jour.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What Can We Do?

This month old article in the Globe and Mail highlights the problem of ethnic cleansing in Iraq:

The Islamic State of Iraq, an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, announced it carried out the cathedral attack to force the release of Islamic converts allegedly being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt. The group later declared Christians everywhere to be “legitimate targets.”

As Christians converged on their churches Wednesday to seek counsel from their religious leaders, the capital's Syrian Catholic archbishop made an emotional appeal for Western countries to come to their rescue.

“It would be criminal on the part of the international community not to take care of the security of the Christians,” said Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka as he tried to console members of the Baghdad cathedral’s congregation.

I'll admit I feel helpless. I don't know what to do to help these embattled Christians. This is a country that our American allies paid dearly to liberate. Unlike Afghanistan, I don't think the Americans could credibly threaten to withdrawl their support from the country. There are far too many risks by simply leaving the country for Iran to meddle in.

I shall simply pray and hope whatever pressure our governments are able to apply will have some effect. In the meantime I will take some small comfort in the fact that the Iraqi Prime Minister is at least saying the right things:
Wednesday’s attacks came just a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the scarred cathedral and urged Christians not to leave the country. Iraqi security forces would protect them, he promised.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Innovation in China

I was pretty impressed on Saturday morning when I read about China's new high speed train:
Measurements during trial service on the run showed that train CRH380A reached a maximum speed of 486.1 km/h (302 mph), breaking the world operation speed record for unmodified commercial use trains. With this run, the train obliterated its
own previous record speed of 416.6 km/h (259 mph) set a mere two months ago.
I'll admit my bias toward China is it's a great place to buy cheap throw away items. Now it seems they're capable of advanced technology as well.

Good for China. They have the money and economic growth to invest in new technology, and the fact that they have partnered with a strong international company like Siemens is a positive sign that the technology may be transferred to the rest of the world.

There's probably no need to make too big of a deal about the train. It's normal operating speed is 350km/hr which isn't terribly faster than the TGV trains in Europe. Nonetheless, the story offers a welcome challenge to my image of China as a low tech, high pollution economy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Working Too Hard

I've been putting a lot of hours in at work. In the office, on the road, and now even at home. I just can't seem to switch gears. So here it is a work related video on my personal blog. It's 4.5 minutes and it helps explain the problems with the livestock industry in Ontario. Both the cattle and hog industries are shrinking dramatically, breeding cow inventories have shrunk by nearly 20% since 2003 and the breeding herd for pigs is shrinking even faster. Down by more than 20% in less than 3 years. There are plenty of reasons, US trade barriers like Country of Origin Labelling, H1N1, an increasing Canadian dollar, and rising feed costs lead the list.

It's to the point now where there have been massive layoffs in the processing sector and suppliers as well as farmers are going out of business. If the industry falls below a critical mass there could be even less processing capacity causing a descent into a death spiral that does huge damage to the whole economy along the way. Ontario Farmers have put forward an affordable solution for governments. Hopefully you'll take a minute or 4 to watch the video and maybe even learn more about the program at

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Doctors Playing Hard to Get

The headline story from a recent study of Canadians' views on Health Care is, "It's hard to get health care after-hours." That's a very polite assessment, it's hard to get care anytime. The Toronto Sun reports:

Although Canadians take great pride in their country’s health-care system, they have a hard time accessing health care after-hours and are often forced to turn to emergency departments for care when their family doctors are unavailable, according to a new survey.

More than one-third of Canadians surveyed (37%) said it is very difficult to get care in the evenings, on weekends and holidays without going to a hospital emergency department.

And 44% of Canadians said they had visited an emergency department at least once in the last two years — making Canadians the most frequent users of emergency departments of all 11 countries surveyed. Switzerland, Germany, the U.K., Norway, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and the U.S. were all surveyed.

Timing of medical care was also a concern for Canadians. More than 40% said they had to wait more than four weeks to see a specialist after being advised to do so, and only 45% were able to get an appointment on the day or next day when they were sick or in need of medical attention.

I'm just not that concerned that doctors don't work evenings, if you're that sick take off work. The more scandalous news is that 55% of Canadians can't get an appointment with their doctor within 2 days. The survey also doesn't mention wait times at emergency rooms. It's very common for people to try to decide which hospital to go to based on where they think the wait time will be shortest. It's also extremely common for people to go to an emergency room and then decide after 4 or more hours of waiting that they'll just take their chances at the pharmacy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A lot More Green for Electricity

The Ontario government's latest plan to discount electricity rates by 10% is barely going to scratch the surface of the rapid increases we'll see in the next 5 years. The Star notes:
Ontarians will be zapped with a 46 per cent increase in home electricity costs over the next five years to pay for much-needed hydro system upgrades, warns the Liberal government. . .

Duncan conceded the Liberals’ green energy policies account for 56 per cent of the skyrocketing prices with expansion of nuclear and natural gas power plants the reason for the remaining 44 per cent.
Extremely generous subsidies for wind and solar power are costing consumers dearly and (interestingly) drawing criticism from environmentalists for turning farmland to concrete. I haven't given the issue much thought, but given the fact that both natural gas and nuclear power have nearly zero greenhouse gas emissions and are substantially cheaper than these renewable sources, it's probably worth having a debate about whether the subsidies for solar and wind power are just too rich.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mob Funeral

Watching some video of Nicolo Rizzuto's casket being carried out of the funeral at a Montreal church today left me with several questions. I wonder what the homily was like. . . How do you honour the life of a brutal murderer? What would happen if the priest said something unkind? How were those folks carrying the casket feeling knowing they were all vulnerable to an unscrupulous sharp shooter?

It's good that everything went off smoothly today, with a great deal of restraint by all involved.

Still the best word I have to describe this is eerie.

Poppy Protocol

Watching CBC news (involunatrily at the airport). Lots of reporters are still wearing poppies. What's the protocol? I thought that after Nov 11 we were supposed to stop wearing them. Anyone know the right answer?
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smack the US Around a Little Stephen

I feel a little betrayed by Stephen Harper's comments defending Quantitative Easing in the US. The US plan to print an additional $600 Billion can only lead to a further devaluation of the US dollar and continued inflation in commodity prices, which will move through the rest of the economy at an uncomfortably quick speed. The weaker US dollar, gives every US company a competitive advantage against Canadian companies and the impact has been felt for the past several years as the Americans have allowed their dollar to plummet in value.

Stephen Harper reportedly said:

Under the circumstances, the quantitative easing policy is in the short term the only option available for the Federal Reserve and I'm not sure anyone else has provided any compelling argument as to what alternative policy they would pursue, at least in the short term.

Well let's try this alternative. Do nothing. The American government has run up a massive deficit and contributed to a destabilizing of world currency markets by last year's quantitative easing. Stock markets have increased, commodities prices have risen so now it's time to let the American economy adjust gradually rather than start a wave of massive inflation in the medium term and shut down more Canadian businesses in the short term.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Meaning this Remembrance Day

Tim Horton's had a great radio spot today encouraging everyone to wear a poppy to honour all of our soldiers who have fallen and those who continue to serve. I love this tradition, it's something so small that we can all do it. The poppy boxes are almost omni-present and they slide easily from one jacket to another.

I've always worn a poppy, but it took on special significance when my brother joined the army 7 or 8 years ago. One of my proudest moments was when Remembrance day fell on a weekend and we were both able to make it back to the ceremony at the cenotaph in our hometown. When I saw him (and his wife) wearing a their uniforms and standing proudly in front of our friends and neighbours. I just wanted to shout out, "I'm with them!"

This year my brother is serving in Afghanistan. I don't know much about the mission, but he has been able to send regular updates and he believes in his mission and the specific project he's working on. (Although he hasn't told me what it is).

I'm not sure of all the emotions that I'll be feeling at 11:00 tomorrow, but I'm sure pride and thankfulness will be among them.

Tomorrow I will say a prayer of gratitude for everyone who has sacrificed themselves in service of our country. And if there are any present or past members of the armed services reading this. Thank you for all you've done!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Robbing the Robin Hood Legend

"There's no story that isn't made better by the retelling," an Irish relative told me recently. This weekend I found a sad exception to the rule. Hollywood's latest take on Robin Hood was incredibly disappointing. Although the acting was quite good and some twists on the story that seemed somewhat plausible (such as Robin acting as an impostor for a dead nobleman) the plot moved at a glacially slow pace. My much bigger complaint is that the movie is grossly historically inaccurate and completely contradicts earlier versions of the legend (from story books, Disney, Kevin Costner and Mel Brooks) that I've heard. My dismay is driven by 3 major falsehoods:
  • King Ricard's death - In all of those stories I remember King Richard returned from the crusades. Wikipedia also says that King Richard returned, so that's a pretty huge and unnecessary liberty taken by the movie in an early scene that sets the movie off course from the start.
  • An open condemnation of the crusades - Russell Crowe's character states that he was about to kill an innocent woman who looked up an pitied rather than feared him. This made my stomach turn. It's an example of our cultural elites famous 'Western self-loathing' on display. I'm quite certain there was no mention of a saintly Muslim martyr in any earlier variations of the Robin Hood legend. I know also little about the crusades, but I'm certain they must be judged in the context of aggressive moorish expansion throughout southern Europe.
  • Reference to the Divine Right of Kings - In this version of the story, Robin Hood supposedly presented the Magna Carta to King John, but John refuses citing the divine right of Kings. There are at least 2 problems here. The first is that King John actually did sign the Magna Carta. The second is that the doctrine of the divine right of kings did not come about until nearly 400 years after the Magna Carta was signed.
The story was a complete disaster. If you haven't seen this movie count yourself lucky.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Disastrous Arrogance

Barack Obama's disastrous arrogance apparently knows no bounds. Only hours after being handed a nearly unprecedented rebuke in yesterday's congressional elections Obama suggested he would force changes to the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy during the lame duck session of Congress:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday renewed his call for repealing a ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, voicing hope that action could be taken before a new Congress is sworn in.

Obama said legal wrangling in the courts over the issue had created confusion for the armed forces.

"We need to provide certainty. And it's time for us to move this policy forward," Obama told a news conference.

Speaking a day after his fellow Democrats suffered a major defeat in legislative elections, Obama suggested the law could be changed in the current Congress before a newly-elected Republican majority takes over the House of Representatives in January.

With the Pentagon about to complete a review looking at the effect of lifting the ban, Obama said there was still time to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law in the final weeks of the current Congress.

"There's going to be a review that comes out at the beginning of the month that will have surveyed attitudes and opinions within the armed forces," he said.

"I will look at it very carefully. But that will give us time to act in -- potentially during the lame-duck session to change this policy."

American voters have clearly signalled they want a change from the Democrats' extreme left wing agenda. Now instead of being humbled, it seems the President will deliberately push through as much wrong headed legislation as he can before he faces a new congress that will hold him accountable. Too bad it's still another 2 years before Americans can finally turf this radically arrogant disgrace of a president out.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mark Steyn in London

I saw Mark Steyn in London last night with a crowd that filled the main floor of Centennial Hall - there were probably 1000 people there. The controversy created by the University of Western Ontario's lack of cooperation and the London Convention Centre's decision to cancel his original booking certainly helped pack the hall.

I didn't really know what to expect from the event, the singing and comedy meant that instead of just hearing a run of the mill political speech, it was actually quality entertainment.

I've been a fan of Mark's for years and I'm very familiar with his thoughts on the decline of the West economically, demographically, and intellectually. But he expanded on a new idea last night. Part of the reason for the economic and social decline of the West is our refusal to work. When university students stay in school until their late twenties or early thirties studying impractical topics women's and multicultural studies and then expect to retire in their 50s, people simply aren't working long enough to drive economic and social development. Combining that with the empty intellectual philosophies like moral relativism and ever declining birth rates our society has already begun to decline and it will be very difficult for most countries to stop.

He made one argument that the pace and significance of technological change over the last 60 years is nothing like the transformational technologies over the previous 60 years despite (and perhaps because of) the fact that people are spending about twice the time in school. I'm not totally convinced, but I'm willing to hear him out on that.

On a purely personal note standing in line to get my first edition copy of America Alone signed, I couldn't help but feel like my inner geek had completely taken over. I was so excited to talk to him, I forgot to mention my name.

My wife was quick to lean over and let Mark know about a conversation we had years ago. She had asked what some of my goals were in life, the first was to have a beer with Mark Steyn. Later in the list came a veiled reference to wanting to spend the rest of my life with her. I didn't get the beer, but a hand shake, a picture, and his autograph will do quite nicely.

Friday, October 29, 2010

He Better Serve His Full Sentence

So only shortly after admitting that he did throw the grenade that killed Sgt Speer, Omar Khadr said he's sorry to the sergeant's widow.
“I am really, really sorry for the pain I have caused you and your family,” said Mr. Khadr, now a hulking 24-year-old who bears little resemblance to the fresh-faced 15-year-old he was the day he admits he threw a grenade that killed Sergeant Christopher Speer, a special forces medic.
He deserved every bit of the condemnation that Tabitha Speers gave him:

“You will forever be a murderer in my eyes. It doesn’t matter what you say,” widow Tabitha Speer said, fighting to keep her composure in a hushed Guantanamo Bay courtroom.

“I’ve heard over and over how he’s the victim, he’s the child,” she said, glaring at Mr. Khadr. “He made a choice. My children had no choice. … [They] didn’t deserve to have their father taken by someone unworthy like you.”

That said. I hope for her sake that she is able to forgive Khadr with time. Letting herself be consumed with anger will do no more damage to him. The truly disturbing part of the story is the strategy of his legal team
His Canadian legal team will likely claim he is entitled to immediate release once he returns to Canada, based on the nine years he will have already spent in U.S. custody and that fact that he was only 15 years old when he committed the crimes.
If he is sucessful Mrs. Speer's healing process will be even more difficult.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Little Help

I've entered into a vivid discussion with a self described human hating environmentalist atheist. Our conversation has meandered from the environment to matters theological. My only regrets are (1) that this post is going to fall of the front page of my blog soon so nobody may ever see the discussion, and (2) I can't dedicate as much time to the debate as my opponent. Fortunately, he's volunteered to take on all comers so please join in the debate if you like.

We're starting a second discussion on the sanctity of marriage here. I hope some of you do join in the debate, I'm enjoying trying to get into this guy's head.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Call to Leadership

Today's rain clouds did have a silver lining. I was able to pick up Faith FM 94.3 on the drive home. They played this new song called Lead Me. Actually it's not that new apparently it's been #1 on the Christian music charts for a few weeks but I just heard it today.

The song is a powerful reminder to men that we have to take a leadership role in our families and leadership means self sacrifice. The song also inspired the band Sanctus Real to post a special prayer on their website, which the announcer read on air today:

Lead Me- a prayer for husbands

Christ Jesus, you have called me to love my wife tenderly and sacrificially, even as you love the church, but too often I know myself to be a selfish man with a distracted heart. Please give me patience, gentleness, and kindness toward my wife, and the wisdom to value her for her gifts and ideas. Teach me to be vulnerable with her, openly sharing my own heart and thoughts, hopes and fears, even as I seek to better understand her.

Remind me to be ever mindful of her interests and needs with each decision I make and to structure my life in such a way that she receives the best of my energy and attention, rather than the leftovers. Give me courage to passionately pursue relationship with her even when I feel wronged or wounded. Let me become for her a man of tenderness, kindness, creativity, and integrity, protecting and cherishing her by vigilantly guarding my own eyes and heart.

Above all, teach me to lead as you led, Jesus, in humility and service. Only by your grace can I be a godly man and a good husband for my wife.

Lead me Lord, I pray.

As a rather remarkable coincidence today's readings at Mass included Ephesians 5:21-33:

Brothers and sisters:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the Church,he himself the savior of the Body. As the Church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his Body.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.

In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

Maybe God's trying to tell me something.

Monday, October 25, 2010

8 Minutes . . .

Was all it took for Rob Ford to claim victory in Toronto's race for mayor.

Carol Wilding, president and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade, said Mr. Ford ran a “really strong campaign” focused on an issue hot among Torontonians.

“He was very focused on an issue that is incredibly important to Torontonians,” Ms. Wilding told the National Post, noting that Mr. Ford is pushing for a “cultural shift” in the way City Hall is run. “He tapped into a sentiment that people were feeling and he’s delivering on that.”

Ms. Wilding is clearly right that there's been a cultural shift in Toronto and I'm going to say that's a good thing. Although it's mind numbingly simplistic the 'Stop the Gravy Train' message is a lot more appealing than the shrill voices of his opposition.

As someone who doesn't live in the city of Toronto, the very best news tonight is that soon I won't have to hear anymore coverage of Toronto's election campaign on my commute.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brutal Attack on BC Bishop

The Vancouver Sun Reports:

Bishop David Monroe, 69, was admitted to Kamloops Royal Inland hospital with severe trauma to the face and head, and body injuries, including several cuts after emergency officials found him lying on the floor bleeding and unconscious.

He was taken out of intensive care Sunday and moved to a recovery unit where he continues to be monitored closely, said Msgr. Jerry Desmond, vicar general of the Kamloops Roman Catholic Diocese.

“He recognizes people and can say his name but that is about it,” said Desmond. “It’s that serious.”

Fortunately it seems they have found the attacker:

Police were able to get a modest description of the suspected attacker after linking the attack to another incident at the Royal Inland Hospital, just two blocks away from the church.

At about 8:30 p.m., a man was reported to have broken a hospital window and fled after his family admitted him because of concern over his well-being.

“He may have had some delusions about religion,” said [Sgt. Scott] Wilson [of the Kamloops RCMP].

The Church's grace and forgiveness was on display when Monseigneur Desmond said:
“It’s quite a tragedy. We pray for the recovery of the bishop and the mental state of the (suspect).”
I do pray that the Bishop makes a full recovery and that the suspect comes to his senses, realizes the gravity of what he has done, and repents of his sin.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Are the Liberals more conservative than the Conservatives?

Probably not.

Yesterday the Liberals announced a plan to eliminate the deficit faster than the Conservatives.

The announcement got me thinking. . .
  • Maybe the Conservatives' drift to the left is finally going to bite them.
  • Is Ignatieff actually a brilliant strategist who helped force the Conservatives to the left and now stands ready to capture the fiscally responsible title?
The answer is likely no on both counts. Rather than cutting spending, the Liberal plan involves raising tax revenue by cancelling planned corporate tax cuts designed to stimulate the economy. Brian Lee Crowley, of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa think-tank, noted:
It’s an economic fact of life, that lowering corporate taxes creates jobs, and freezing those taxes, as the Liberals propose, would keep those jobs from being created.
More ridiculous their so called plan to eliminate the deficit is based on gaining $6 billion by cancelling the planned tax cuts, when the budget office estimates the cost of the tax cuts is only $4.5 billion. That's a huge problem if this is the cornerstone of their deficit reduction strategy.

The Conservatives can be assured, Canadians will see through the Liberal smoke and mirrors and continue to place their trust in the Conservatives for sound economic planning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Say it ain't so.

Canada's Redneck Games are no more. The Wellington Advertiser reported this weekend:

After five years and numerous top 100 festival awards, the Minto Redneck Games will no longer be there to “Get It Done.”

Last week, council made the decision to cancel the games, following a loss of roughly $8,500 on the event’s Saturday night concert.

Although Economic Development Committee manager Belinda Wick-Graham was welcomed to the table, it was with a heavy heart she presented her report on the status of the games and the results of the meeting held with the Redneck Games committee.

“My report basically sums everything up,” Wick-Graham said. “I have mixed feelings about this.” She explained there were multiple meetings with the core committee, made up of 14 different community groups involved with the event, to try to come up with a decision.

There was not a solid consensus and if a few additional people had been at the meeting, Wick-Graham said it may have swayed the vote in a different direction. . .

The recommendation made to council was to discontinue the event.

“If at some time in the future, if there is an urge to regenerate it, that can happen.”

With regret, council approved the recommendation of the Redneck committee that the event be discontinued.

It's sad news no doubt. I never attended the games, but I always got a kick out of the pictures that would make it into the local paper. It looked like serious fun.

The brutal truth is despite the fact that I always though the event looked fun and Harriston is less than an hour away, I never went. The event was cancelled because there wasn't enough attendance or volunteer leadership. This is a reminder that if we want community events, we really should lend our support.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is Religion a Force for Good?

75% of Economist readers think not. During a 10 day debate, polling was consistent with a daily maximum of 27% of respondents agreeing with the statement, "This house believes that religion is a force for good."

The result is not unexpected given the typically hostile view the magazine holds toward religion. But, the result is scary none the less as the magazine has a massive circulation and is read by leaders of industry, government, and academia as well as wannabe thinkers like me. I don't usually comment on online articles but I couldn't resist this time. Here's what I had to say:

Dear Sir,

It seems that the working assumption on both sides of the motion is that God does not exist and that religion's primary benefits are fostering a sense of community and the enjoyment of ritual. When weighed against the clear evils that have been done in the name of religion such as Islamist terrorism, the widespread conclusion that it is not on balance a force for good is understandable.

I suggest that if both sides started with the assumption that we are created beings longing to be in touch with our creator, this debate would have been entirely different. That said, without getting into the debate about the truth of religion it is still a force for good on both an individual and societal level.

On an individual level religion provides meaning and answers the basic question of why we are here and what is our purpose. There is no satisfactory answer provided by atheists.

Religion empowers people through prayer. When there is little or nothing you can do individually to change a situation, prayer offers something positive that can be done.

As a society, religion defines virtue. Secularists and unbelievers can claim to be moral (and very often are), but that morality must be measured against an objective standard and without religion no such standards would exist.

The point was made well that religion builds community. I can speak personally to that, attending world Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 was a chance to see 1 million people gather to participate in the mass led by Pope John Paul the Great. Looking around and seeing the faith, energy, and enthusiasm from people from countless cultures and every corner of the planet was a truly transformative event in my life.

The criticisms leveled against religion seem to assume that it is an irrational opinion to hold. However Pope Benedict has made explaining the mutual dependence of faith on reason and vice versa a cornerstone of his papacy.

I applaud the Economist for attempting to debate this important topic, however, next time I’d encourage inviting people with more theological depth and breadth
to participate.

I don't suspect my comments will have any influence, after all the Economist's debate has ended. The results are a warning especially to Christians who feel like their views are being deliberately excluded from public policy. People of faith must make the their views known eloquently and fight for the right to continue to do so. There's a large segment of the population that would prefer we be silenced.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

American Muslim Workers Sue for Prayer Breaks

I saw this story on a news website specific to the meat trade. It's a free site, but because you need to register, I've included the full article for those who don't want the latest meat trade information in their email twice daily.

Basically a group of Muslim workers is suing a meat packing plant for not letting them take prayer breaks at a specific time of day during Ramadan in 2008. The suit is being sponsored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency.

I've gotta say I feel for the company on this one. They appear to have done everything they could to accomodate the workers, even attempting to change their break times.

JBS discriminated against Muslim workers, Feds say

By Tom Johnston on

Federal officials said JBS USA’s Grand Island, Neb., beef plant must provide Muslim workers prayer time and not retaliate against those who request it.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday filed a lawsuit on behalf of 86 Somali Muslims who were fired after walking off the job during Ramadan of 2008.

“[JBS] has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination by (1) unlawfully denying reasonable religious accommodation to its Somali Muslim employees; and (2) unlawfully terminating its Somali Muslim employees because of their religion, national origin, and in retaliation for their requests for religious accommodation, and their complaints of denied religious accommodation,” the complaint states.

The suit seeks backpay and other compensation for the workers.

A similar suit was filed in Colorado aimed at JBS USA's Greeley, Colo., beef plant, an EEOC spokesoman told Meatingplace.

JBS did not respond to requests by Meatingplace for comment.

The company fired the workers in the fall of 2008 for repeatedly walking off the line while bartering for prayer accommodations during Ramadan, a month-long holiday during which worshipers fast from sunrise to sunset.

At one point JBS resolved to move up second-shift dinner break up to 7:45 p.m. from 8 p.m. so Muslim workers could observe the holiday. However, management changed its position after nearly 400 non-Muslim workers walked off the job, protesting that the company's decision unfairly catered to their peers.

The EEOC spokeswoman said the break-time requests the Muslim workers made were within timeframes permissible in their bargaining agreements.

It's fair to say comments on the article were pretty solidly in favour of the company.

Mirage Politics Fascinating

Don Martin describes a fascinating background to the announced closure of the Camp Mirage military base. The way he describes it, this is a trade dispute that has spiralled out of control. Hopefully there's a way to turn rescue the situation before the base is closed:

In a remarkable tit-for-tat exchange, Canada’s refusal to allow more UAE-based airline flights into Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary turned into the UAE’s petulant blockade and military eviction. Some say the UAE went so far as to lobby its Arab neighbours to vote against Canada’s security council seat.

There are no angels in the air over this dispute.

Transport Canada has been needlessly protectionist in refusing sister carriers Emirates and Etihad Airlines more than their thrice-weekly landing rights in Toronto; this from a Conservative government that has campaigned worldwide to eliminate barriers to trade and commerce.

But the UAE is not playing fair in evicting Canada from Camp Mirage on 30 days notice, and then denying Defence Minister Peter MacKay and his top general permission to land there over the weekend. . .

To sacrifice so much trade in one of the world’s fastest growing economies and a military partnership with the most Western-friendly Gulf state to help a domestic airline seems an expensive airfare subsidy.

Provided Air Canada is granted equal air access to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Transport Canada should open up our skies and let consumers make the choice of which seats to fill. That is supposedly the Conservative mantra.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving and the Book of Common Prayer

Flipping through an old Anglican Book of Common Prayer, I came across some excellent prayers. It was a welcome reminder of how dependant we are on God's provision every year and that just a few poor production years on our farms could send our world into chaos. All the more reason to remember to ask God for his continued blessings and to give proper thanks. Here are two prayers worth reciting, I think they're especially fitting if you experienced the same perfect weather we had in Southwestern Ontario this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend:
ALMIGHTY God, who hast blessed the earth that it should be fruitful and bring forth abundantly whatsoever is needful for the life of man: Prosper, we beseech thee, the work of our farmers, and grant such seasonable weather that all may gather in the fruits of the earth, and proclaim thy great goodness with thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, We thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks For all thy goodness and loving-kindness To us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; But above all for thine inestimable love In the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; For the means of grace, And for the hope of glory. And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, That our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, And that we show forth thy praise, Not only with our lips, but in our lives; By giving up ourselves to thy service, And by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, To whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Yes Lord, please accept our humble and hearty thanks!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Great Song and Incredible Hand Dancing

I was planning to write about competitive currency devaluation, but that issue isn't going away anytime soon. Instead I'm just going to point out this incredibly fun song, that I'll probably listen to several times this weekend:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Boys in Blue, You Have my Attention

I'm a bandwagon Leafs fan at best. I believe the team only deserves our attention if they are at a level that starts to approach decent. The last several years that simply hasn't been the case. I got a little excited as I drove by the Molson Brewery on the way home from a meeting and saw a massive Toronto Maple Leaf's flag waving. A close win by over the Montreal Canadians is a great way to start the season. National Post sports writer Michael Traikos is optimistic:

this is a different team than last year. . .

In fact, 13 of the players in last night’s lineup were not part of last season’s home opener loss to Montreal.

The Leafs now have a legitimate No. 1 line. They have a goaltender who can bail out his defenceman and stop the puck. And for the first time in two years, they have a captain.

If they start winning consistently, I'll start paying attention.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Keep Enforcing the Law

I somehow missed the news that an Ontario Court ruled that laws against prostitution are unconstitutional. Fortunately our government and at least some police are taking the right course of action. The Federal government is appealing the ruling and asking that the decision be put on hold pending appeals and Vancouver Police made headlines by shutting down a brothel today:

Vancouver police spokesman Const. Lindsey Houghton said at a news briefing the
force won't stop prosecuting such offences.

"We're aware that there are some court challenges to some prostitution offences in other provinces but that has absolutely no effect on how we're doing business right now," he said.

"Until the Parliament of Canada strikes those offences from the Criminal Code, we will continue to enforce them."

Hat's off to the the Vancouver Police. I hope that police in the rest of the country take the same position. I also hope that the government's appeals are successful and that our current laws remain in force despite this radical ruling.

At a time when the travesty of human trafficking is becoming ever more apparent, now is not the time to allow our laws to be changed. Otherwise there will be even more incentive to continue enticing people from poor countries to come to Canada only to be forced into the sex trade.

Honestly I really don't know how the ruling can hold. Even the so called feminists that support the ruling seem to be contradicting themselves:
"While we agree with the decriminalization of women in prostitution, we feel that it's only a half-measure," said Trisha Baptie of the Vancouver-based advocacy group, Exploited Voices now Educating. "There's still a further step that needs to be taken to air on the side of women's equality and see prostitution for what it is, which is violence against women."
If prostitution really is violence against the prostitute, and I believe it is, then there is only one logical response. Keep our laws in force.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Brand New ProLife Hero

Ruth Lobo is an eloquent and brave young woman who was arrested along with four other university students at Carelton University. They've been charged with trespassing after refusing to take down pro-life signs that they were holding. It's been clear for many years that conservatively minded students at Canadian Universities are subject to ridicule and unfair treatment. This is a brand new low.

My bet is that Carelton picked a fight with the wrong girl. In this video Ruth is eloquent and confident even as she is being arrested. The university should drop the charges immediately. Miss Lobo should launch a civil suit against the university for violating her rights as a student.

Stay Strong Ruth!

h/t Christian Conservative

Eddie Long Coverage Reveals Double Standard

Televangelist Eddie Long is vowing to fight allegations that he used his wealth and position of power to coerce young men into sexual relationships. Long is 57 years old, married, and head of a 26,000 member Baptist mega-church in Georgia.

So far, that seems to be the theme of the coverage. A focus on his flash and charisma more than the pain that his victims that have (allegedly) suffered. One article even used the tragedy to rave about his fashion sense and chiseled abs:

I'm just a fashion editor. And while we may not be the first to spot a good liar, we sure can spot good style. And no one, but no one, makes a stronger style statement than Bishop Eddie Long. The leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, an Atlanta-area mega-church with over 25,000 members, has a penchant for bad toupee's and good clothes. Really, really good clothes. He's also - allegedly - got a penchant for young men. At least that's what his accusers, all four of them (and counting) are saying. . .

If his wardrobe in the pulpit is predictable, his sartorial choices outside of it aren't. In the few photos of a more casual Long that litter the Internet, it is very apparent that he is an exercise buff. A news clip of him in a tracksuit hint that he might have a workout wardrobe as collated -- and curated -- as his preaching one.

That hint was proven true when suggestive, self-portraits of a remarkably buff Bishop surfaced. They showed Long, primping and preening in flimsy muscle shirts that hugged every ripple in the fifty-seven year-old's startlingly chiseled physique.

What this man is accused of doing is a disgrace and a tragedy. Unfortunately, the event has generated a sea of spin and gossip mongering.

I suppose that's all we can expect since prominent evangelical pastors crash and burn regularly. Ron Hart notes sarcastically, "By now we know how the redemptive process works for a televangelist accused of sexual relations with young males." So the story needs a new angle weather its race or fashion sense.

A few things about the story strike me:

First there just doesn't seem to be the same kind of anger directed toward this guy as toward the Catholic Church when allegations of abuse surface.

Second, in most accounts, including the article above, he is referred to as "Bishop Eddie Long," despite the fact that Baptists do not have a hierarchy. Strictly speaking a 'Baptist Bishop' is a misnomer. Including the title of Bishop in the story seems to be just another way to somehow transfer the tarnish of this man's sin onto the Catholic Church by association.

Most importantly, the fact that he is married apparently did nothing to stop his aggression or sexual appetite. This is very reminiscent of the charges brought against prominent evangelical Ted Haggard. Haggard was also married and sought homosexual relationships.

Whenever news of a scandal happens in the Catholic Church it is used as an argument against the vows of chastity that men and women consecrated to holy orders take. But stories like this make it clear that allowing priests to marry would not end abuse. Something else must be done. Fortunately, especially since the scandals in 2002, the Church has placed an emphasis on screening unfit candidates before they enter the priesthood, on proper formation of the men in seminary and on supporting priest's spiritual needs in order to prevent tragedies like this.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Social Network

Here's an excellent quote from the Colbert Report last night. Stephen was interviewing the director (I think) of the new film, "The Social Network." The director had a quote that I'm sure will catch on, "Socializing on the internet is to socializing as reality TV is to reality."


Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mobile Post

This is my first mobile post. I'll keep it short. I saw a daily chart in USA Today. They had a poll that showed 44% of Americans who lost their jobs during the recession thought that their new jobs were better than their previous jobs. Less than 20% thought their new jobs were worse.
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Defending Freedom

I was inspired a moment ago by a post called 'The Key to Freedom' from the Moose and Squirrel. Briefly, the argument is that the key to freedom is having the tools to defend yourself i.e. guns. The post reinforces a well argued point made by George Jonas, that by enabling citizens to arm themselves they can better protect their freedom than by ensuring that guns are owned by only police and criminals. I'll grant that point.

BUT it takes more than guns to make people free. Frontier or vigilante justice can quickly give way to anarchy. So guns alone can't guarantee freedom. Authentic freedom can only exist in a society where people have value. A place where if everyone had a gun they would only use it to defend themselves or the innocent, where that gun would not be used aggressively.

Anyway this post isn't about guns, it's about freedom. A free society depends valuing individuals enough to respect their inherent freedom. True freedom rests on values. As Carl Anderson writes in A Civilization of Love:
Freedom is not an absolute value. It cannot be lived in isolation, that is, unhinged from other values such as equality and human dignity. In a tyrannical society, the masters are just as much in bondage as their slaves. As a nation, we have put slavery behind us. But what is slavery other than the ultimate institutionalization of the idea that another human being can be regarded as an object to be used, rather than always regarded as a person to be loved. If there is to be freedom in any meaningful sense, it must be rooted in something higher, and that is morality.
Earlier in his book he also notes: We are all familiar with the lines from the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." We frequently forget however, that these lines explicitly say that "all men are created equal" and that "they are endowed by their Creator" with these "unalienable rights." Can our belief in these rights continue to stand without a belief in a God who upholds them or, even more important, whose revelation of love reveals their true meaning?
Quite simply it takes more than guns to defend freedom. Defending freedom requires an understanding that freedom rests on the premise that everyone has value. And the premise that everyone has value by virtue of their humanity comes from our understanding that God created us in His image in order to love and be loved.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pope Benedict's Address at Westminster

Faith and Reason was again a major theme of Pope Benedict XVI as he addressed Britain's political leaders at Westminister Hall. He eloquently argues that faith is strengthened by reason and the reason and that reason is also strengthened when informed by faith and because of this faith must have a major role in informing public policy discussions:

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of
religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

The Pope is correct and I truly hope that Western world leaders take his advice to heart and stop the deliberate marginalization of faith in our society.

I should also note that my primary source for analysis of the Pope's visit to England is Archbishop Cranmer's blog. At time's he is a harsh critic of the Catholic Church, but he is always reasoned and succinct in his analysis.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Safety First

So called 'equality' crusaders set off alarm bells Thursday as they tried to spin a court decision that ruled that Canadian Blood Services has the right to refuse to accept blood from homosexual men. How inconvenient that on the same day another study confirmed that homosexual men have the highest risk by far of contracting HIV:

Transmission of the AIDS virus seems to be "out of control" among gay men in France despite an overall fall in the number of new HIV cases in the country, according to a study published on Thursday.

Scientists from the French National Institute for Public Health Surveillance found that nearly half of the 7,000 people newly infected with HIV in the country in 2008 were gay men, and the incidence among homosexual men is 200 times higher than in the heterosexual population.

The health data is similar in Canada as the National Post's Mark Gurney notes:
Over half of the new cases [of HIV/AIDS] reported in Canada each year are a result of sexual acts between male partners. That’s triple the rate from intravenous drug use. HIV/AIDS is not, as it was originally claimed by many, a gay disease, but it remains a disease that hits the gay community with disproportionate lethality.
That activists are seeking to put their bizarre agenda ahead of the health of Canadians is unconscionable. Canadian Blood Services CEO, Dr. Graham Sher, and the judge who made the ruling were absolutely correct in their analysis. Sher said:

"Firstly, blood donation is not a right. There is no law or obligation that requires Canadians to be blood donors and Canadian Blood Services is under no obligation to receive a donation. Blood donation is a gift; it's not a right."

Secondly, Sher said, the court decided that his agency's policy to not accept blood donations from men who have sex with men does not distinguish on the basis of sexual orientation, but rather, is based on health and safety issues -- in particular, the much higher prevalence of HIV and other diseases in the men-who-have-sex-with-men population.

Thank goodness for some sanity. No amount of screening can make erase the fact that accepting blood from practicing homosexual men is exceptionally risky. The health of Canadians must always be put ahead of the ludicrous demands of these homosexual activists.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

How Crazy was the Crazy EnviroWacko?

EnviroWacko James Lee was shot dead earlier this week after a foiled attempt to takeover the Discovery Channel and force them to broadcast his anti-human manifesto. Safely dead, he's being widely condemned as a crazed extremist. But seriously just how crazy was he? Or rather how far are his views really outside of mainstream environmentalist thinking? My two favourite quotes from his rant are:
Saving the Planet means saving what's left of the non-human wildlife by decreasing the human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies!

Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures around and are wrecking what's left of the planet with their false morals and breeding culture.

Honestly if he didn't decide to invade a major TV studio, his thoughts would be totally unexceptional. I'm reminded of an almost readable blog that I stumbled on the other day. The blogger describes his writing as follows:

The blog of a bipolar misanthrope. The fact that I like many individuals and even love a few doesn’t stop me from hating our species as a whole. This is what I mean by bipolar, rather than that I actually am bipolar in a clinical sense.

Our species has truly earned its place in history. We are the cause of the sixth great
extinction on this planet. Like the comet that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs, we are a catastrophe. Quite literally, our evolution has been a catastrophic event on this beautiful insignificant planet we call home.

The Misanthrope is almost eloquent, and I think he demonstrates that it's not necessarily unreasonable to hate humans. Rather, it's a logical conclusion if you assume that (1) the biodiversity of the planet is the most important value on Earth and that (2) humans are just another species.

Was James Lee crazy? He did want to eliminate people to save the planet, but then again we will often have controlled hunts or animal culls when a species is taking over in it's environment. So if he really bought into the ridiculous notion that the value of our species is equivalent with all others maybe he wasn't that crazy at all.

How do we stop the next James Lee from trying to take down a TV station? Maybe all we need is a different worldview, one that says humans are in fact special and that every human life is valuable because it was made in the image of a loving creator.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where's Irealnd?

The Economist magazine had an interesting artilce about the rapid increase of beer consumption in Asia featuring this picture:

I was shocked that the graphic didn't include Ireland's beer consumption. I know they have a relatively small population, so their total consumption might not be huge. Still, out of deference to Ireland's history and status as the world's biggest beer exporter (I think - correct me if I'm wrong), one might expect that they'd at least make the chart.
Oh well, Ireland fared better than Australia which is completely covered by a second chart.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No Sympathy for Khadr

"Don't look at me - anyone could have thrown that grenade." That's the line Omar Khadr's defence took at his trial today. Given that there's video evidence of Khadr assembling an improvised explosive device, eye witness accounts that he threw a grenade killing an American soldier and he himself confessed to throwing the grenade and being a terrorist, I've got a pretty good idea of how this trial might turn out.

The drama surrounding the trial including Khadr's lawyer's collapse today and Khadr's age at the time of the murder are red herrings. What matters are the substantive arguments that have been made so far. The Washington Post reports:

Because conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense contends that the other fighter's presence makes it impossible to know who threw the grenade.

To counter that doubt, the prosecution plans to introduce Mr. Khadr's interrogation statements indicating that he threw the grenade. The defense contends those statements were taken under abusive conditions and are unreliable.

The government also introduced a videotape showing Mr. Khadr assembling roadside bombs among joking and bantering al Qaeda militants.

These are the arguments that matter and I'm hoping the trial resumes soon so that Khadr can face justice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Can't Contain Excitement over Contained Well

The news was all over the radio on the drive home from work. I kept on switching stations to get another take on the news that BP has finally contained the oil that was gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico. I really hadn't been following the story aside from the headlines over various failed attempts and the tragic delays in clean up efforts because of government inaction. Still today I can't contain my excitement over the contained well. There's finally hope that the clean up efforts will be a winning battle. I'm praying it works!

Just in case you missed it. Here's the Guardian's take on it:

for the first time in 87 days, it appeared last night that BP had control over the well.
The company said it would have to monitor the cap holding back the oil in a series of pressure tests every six hours for the next 48 hours, before it could be certain the well would hold.

It also cautioned that the final solution remained a relief well, still some weeks away.

"I am very excited that there's no oil in the Gulf of Mexico," Kent Wells, a senior vice-president for BP, said in a conference call. "But we just started the test and I don't want to create a false sense of excitement."

Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, said engineers would be checking carefully to make sure no oil was escaping from the well from previously undiscovered leaks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Americans - Why are you SO cynical?

I just recently returned from Ireland a week ago Sunday. I was scheduled to return on Saturday but my flight was cancelled. I was scheduled to fly with Delta Airlines from Dublin to New York JFK to Toronto Pearson. I only have a few complaints relating to the inconveniences of numerous line ups, getting a hotel room and then being denied boarding on the next day's flight. The really bizarre part of the whole ordeal was the reaction of the other passengers.

It started as one of the airline personnel went up and down the line explaining the situation. Apparently there is only one flight per day and the flight crew wasn't trained to operate the plane that landed. I listened and moved on to asking questions about the next flight, our hotel room and other practical questions. The other passengers seemingly without exception insisted on pushing their various conspiracy theories. They were convinced that the airline was hiding something and believed that there had to be another reason that the flight was cancelled.

In various line ups I tried my best to explain my logic. I said the airline had no incentive to lie to us, stupid mistakes happen, and I was quite certain the airline wouldn't voluntarily take on all the extra expenses associated with cancelling a flight. But my efforts were fruitless - it didn't matter who I talked to, the other passengers remained convinced we were being lied to.

To my American readers, can you please offer any insight as to why your compatriots would find it so hard to trust in such a simple straight forward situation?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Live Music to Feed the Soul

Friday night we saw James Taylor and Carole King at the Air Canada Centre. It was my first concert at the ACC and even though we were in the extreme upper edges of the cheap seats, it was an amazing show. The sound quality was perfect and the screens gave an excellent view of everything that was happening on the rotating stage below. James Taylor's voice was extremely rich as he sang simple yet meaning full songs like Fire and Rain, and Shower the People You Love with Love. My personal favourite is definitely, You've Got a Friend, which he's singing in this YouTube video from 2008:

Perhaps the best part of the evening was singing along to some of the songs along with thousands of other people in the stands. It was deeply moving, almost spiritual. That surprised me given the fact that there's nothing religious at all about the lyrics in the songs. Still, I left the concert feeling deeply fulfilled. That's probably why the Church has made music such an integral part of it's worship through the ages. It's also probably part of the reason why massive concerts like this almost always sell out and often very quickly.

Today I'm even more sold on live music than I was before. I'll definitely try to go to another concert at the ACC. Although, I'm probably not ready to go onto ebay and try to grab some Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber tickets just yet.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scandalous? Hardly

The CBC reported:

that the head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is responsible for offshore drilling, had resigned. Liz Birnbaum had run the service since July 2009. Her department had faced intense scrutiny in recent days after a report by the Interior Department said MMS staffers had accepted tickets to sports events, lunches and other gifts from oil and gas companies.

The report "can only be described as appalling," Obama said Thursday. He also accused her office of having a "scandalously close relationship" with oil companies.

Sorry Mr. President, you're rhetoric strikes me as harsh. You're not simply trying to deflect any blame for the unsuccessful clean up efforts from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are you? Seriously if the sins listed in the article are all that was done, there's no scandal at all. Tickets to sporting events are common gifts from companies with season tickets; lunches with clients, suppliers or industry partners are normal and essential for doing business; and other gifts - what does that mean? t-shirts? If so my closet could land me on the wrong side of the President of the United States.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bryant Decision is Just

The charges against Michael Bryant were dropped this week after a lengthy investigation into last summer's accident that killed cyclist Darcy Sheppard. At the time I quickly identified with the victim, he was my age and by some accounts it sounded as if the driver tried deliberately to harm Mr. Sheppard. I said to myself, "I hope they nail this guy to the wall." Turns out it's a good thing we have a legal system.

Michael Bryant seems to have been the target of a random assault from an angry and violent man. I saw in the Toronto Star's coverage that even Darcy Sheppard's father was satisfied with the result. Today's Hamilton Spectator editorial is right, justice has been served:

If anything, Bryant and the charges laid against him were subject to more scrutiny by the justice system because of his prominence. A prosecutor from B.C. handled the case. The investigation was exceptionally thorough and complete. The explanation for withdrawing the charges was lengthy and detailed.

It's part of human nature to try to assign blame for tragic events such as Sheppard's
death. Withdrawing the charges neither diminishes the tragedy nor does it declare open season on cyclists.

Charges are withdrawn regularly in courts across the province, generally with less public airing than Bryant's charges received. That is part of the justice system. In this case, the system worked.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Toronto Star Covers March For Life

Tonight's headline story on the Toronto Star online is the March for Life. I never expected to see the day when this event would get such positive coverage in Canada's left wing newspaper. I suspect the purpose of the coverage is to try to help promote the Liberal 'smear' that Harper is pro-life. Still this particular article is fair and will undoubtedly encourage more pro life Canadians to stand up and be counted. Protecting unborn children at at least some point in their gestation is a mainstream opinion. Today and tomorrow Canadians will know that there were 15,000 people who were willing to stand up and be counted by travelling to Ottawa and standing up for life. I salute every one of them.
In the meantime here are some highlights from the story in the Star:

Around 15,000 pro-life campaigners, clearly buoyed by what they see as last month’s victory on the foreign-aid front, cheered loudly when numerous speakers talked about the next steps in what one called bringing a “culture of life” to Canada.

“We would like some more courage to do something more in Canada in defence of the unborn,” Cardinal Marc Ouellette, of Quebec City, told the crowd. Ouellette minced no words in explaining later what he would like Harper to do next: “Reopen the discussion in Canada about this judicial void; there is absolutely no protection for the unborn,” Ouellette told reporters.

“The next step should be a reopening of discussion about the legal situation of abortion in Canada.”

Pro life Conservative backbencher Rod Bruinooge helped keep the event in perspective:

Bruinooge says he accepts Harper’s long-stated refusal to open up any debate over abortion legislation in Canada. Thursday’s rally was purely for information purposes, he said.

“The goal of the pro-life movement in general is to acknowledge that the unborn have value, that they’re human and we as a society need to consider their value. And I think that’s a message that’s beginning to come out,” Bruinooge said.

He would not comment, however, on whether the movement has gained strength because the increasing clout of the Christian right in Canada, as asserted in a newly released book, Armageddon, by Canadian journalist Marci MacDonald.

“In our country there’s a number of faith groups … there’s Sikhs, Hindus that have many similar philosophical viewpoints to Christians, and I think that many people, from various theological communities, suggest various ideas that I think are important to public policy,” Bruinooge said. “On the life issues, I know that not only are Christians generally supportive of pro-life politics, but I know Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists are as well.”

At the rally, Bruinooge particularly singled out the two Sikh MPs who turned out on stage: Liberal MP Gurbax Malhi and Conservative MP Tim Uppal.

Again, congrats to everyone involved.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who's the Extremist?

The federal Liberals have spent the last several months trying to slander our Prime Minister by making him look like an pro-life extremist as he works to focus government aid on improving impoverished women's access to health care without directly promoting abortion. Harper has finally spoken on the matter:

“Canadians want to see their foreign aid money used for things that will help save the lives of women and children in ways that unite the Canadian people rather than divide them,” Harper told the House of Commons in Ottawa Tuesday.

“We understand that other governments, that other taxpayers, may do something
different,” Harper said. “We want to make sure our funds are used to save the lives of women and children and are used on the many, many things that are available to us that frankly do not divide the Canadian population.”

That sounds pretty darn reasonable. It sounds all the more reasonable given the way left wingers continue to push the envelope and find new ways to offend mainstream Ontarians. Last week's controversies on explicit sex education for grade 3 students, and shopping in Toronto on Christmas Day, demonstrate that it's the left wingers who are intent on constantly pushing the envelope as they race toward evermore extreme positions not our conservative Prime Minister.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Powerful Scriptural Themes in LOST

As I gear up for tonight's LOST episode, I'm still stuck on last week's episode that featured the story of Richard, a mysterious character on the island who doesn't age. As with many episodes, I've seen strong Biblical and religious references. Last week's references were so strong everyone seems to be talking about them. Early in the show Richard is in a prison cell awaiting punishment reading his Bible. The Bible was open to Luke 4:37 a passage where Jesus cast out an evil spirit, that's possibly important to the plot, but not particularly interesting theologically.

The really interesting part of the episode was a conversation between Richard and Jacob, a supernatural being who appears to be a force for good and a protector. Here's an excerpt form their conversation that I'll intersperse with my own comments and some outside references. To make things less confusing outside references will be blue. You can read the complete transcript here.
[Richard is sitting on a log near the remains of the statue with a blanket wrapped around him. Jacob approaches with a bottle of wine. Richard glances towards the Statue.]
RICHARD: What is inside?
JACOB: No one comes in unless I invite them in. [offers Richard a cup of wine.]
Compare that to Jesus' words, "No one comes to the Father except through me." John14:16. Also the way Jacob poured the wine appears to be strongly Eucharistic, although his later use of the wine in the bottle to represent evil kinda blows the analogy.
RICHARD: Are you the Devil? [Jacob pauses a moment and smiles.]
RICHARD: Then who are you?
JACOB: My name is Jacob. I'm the one who brought your ship to this island.
RICHARD: You brought it here? Why?
JACOB: [picks up the bottle of wine] Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell. There's many other names for it too: malevolence, evil, darkness. And here it is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out because if it did, it would spread. The cork [raises cork] is this island and it's the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs. That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptible because it's in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when they get here, their past doesn't matter.
Compare that to the story of Job:

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."

"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."

Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

In the Bible God proves to Satan (and to us), through Job, that people can be faithful and just in spite of our hardships.

The other part is the offer of a fresh start. Of course God offers us a fresh start every time we repent of our sins.
RICHARD: Before you brought my ship, there were others?
JACOB: Yes, many.
RICHARD: What happened to them?
JACOB: They're all dead.
RICHARD: But if you brought them here. Why didn't you help them?
Huh. There's a humdinger. Compare to "why does God allow good people to suffer?" Another conversation though.
JACOB: Because I wanted them to help themselves. To know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them. It's all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?
I think that free will has been a major theme in the show. It's a major theme in Christianity too. The Catechism says, "God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his creator . . ."
RICHARD: If you don't, he will.
[Jacob pauses for a moment, taking Richard's words into consideration.]
JACOB: Do you want a job?
[Jacob nods.]
RICHARD: Doing what?
JACOB: Well, I don't want to step in. Maybe you can do it for me. You can be representative and intermediary between me and the people I bring to the island.
Again, big theme in Christianity. If we allow it, God uses us to accomplish his will. I'm thinking of the story of a statue of Jesus that had been damaged by bombs in WWII. After the bombing the people repaired the statue, but couldn't find the hands. They erected a sign, "he has no hands, but yours.
RICHARD: What will I get in return?
JACOB: You tell me.
RICHARD: I want my wife back.
JACOB: Can't do that.
RICHARD: Can you absolve me of my sins so I don't go to Hell?
JACOB: I can't do that either.
RICHARD: I never want to die. I want to live forever.
JACOB: Now that...
[He touches Richard's shoulder.]
JACOB: ...I can do.
And that's the conversation. Although I have to admit the character of Jacob is not that clear cut, and I found the "I can't absolve your sins" bit somewhat troubling.

The next episode is starting in just a few short hours!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So Pathetic

The students and faculty at the University of Ottawa have completely embarrassed themselves, their school, and our country. I wish this were an isolated incident, but it is emblematic of the complete lack of freedom of thought or discussion on our university campuses. It was a clear problem at Western when I went to school over 10 years ago, and it's only gotten worse. For years student councils at various universities have been trying to defund and shut down pro-life clubs.

Today's news of a threatening letter from the university's academic vice president combined with demonstrations from loud, aggressive and potentially violent students has taken the situation to a new low. I hope that the media, the public, and especially more reasonable students and faculty at our universities will point out the complete hypocrisy of those who wish to forcibly silence opposing views in the name of tolerance.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

RIP Home Renovation Tax Credit

Today's budget confirmed the Home Renovation Tax Credit is a thing of the past. That's a shame. It was hugely successful and popular this past year. It encouraged spending that stays in our community and boosts our economy. Extending the credit for one more year would have cushioned home owners from the negative impact of the expected increase in interest rates and of the Harmonized Sales Tax, which will increase the cost of home renovations by 8% in July.

Extending the credit would have also saved me $1350.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Human Rights' Commissions Problems Exposed

I was pretty excited about the tragic impact of so called Human Rights commissions about a year ago. Sometime between then and now, it felt like consensus opinion changed and the battle of public opinion had been won. I can't remember the last time I wrote about them. However, the laws and commissions remain. Thankfully there are many eloquent voices that haven't given up the fight. Last week, Ian Hunter wrote a succinct account of how the concept of equality has gone awry:

The purpose of the original legislation was equality of opportunity. It sought to achieve this by prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of defined factors — race or colour. In other words, it forbade practices in hiring, renting, etc., that placed one individual at a competitive disadvantage to another because of some innate factor like colour over which the individual had no control. Such was the original equality-of-opportunity model.

Two decades later, the-equality-of-opportunity model gave way to an equality-of-treatment model. The objective here was to identify, and eliminate, structural barriers to equality; it was contended that human rights commissions must superintend not just opportunity but all subsequent consequences, to ensure that social benefits were equitably distributed.

In employment, for example, equal opportunity required that applicants receive fair, unbiased consideration. Equal treatment expanded this to require that employees receive parity: in salary, benefits, working conditions.

Equal treatment required more intrusive state action in the workplace. Under this model, the Canadian Human Rights Commission compared the salaries of telephone operators with those of linemen, and ordered millions of dollars in compensation for what was called “constructive” discrimination.

Contemporary human rights legislation has evolved again; now it reflects an equality-of-results model. What good is equality of opportunity or treatment, this view says, if nothing much changes?

That's a dramatic evolution, that's led to some crazy rulings. Good on Ian for describing the situation. Incidentally, from the day I started studying at Western, nothing inflamed my pride in my school, like a good article by Professor Ian Hunter.

Then just yesterday, the National Post reported on a case where Barbara Kulaszka, put the situation bluntly:

"The use of censorship to stop psychological harm is a blunt instrument" that in fact has the opposite effect, she wrote, because it "leads to division, not harmony, as each strongly self-identified groups starts using complaints to assert its interests."

"Canada has a general population that deals well with expression, values the right to expression and does not experience the harm that is said to justify [Section 13]. Canadians overwhelmingly prefer open debate, not censorship," Ms. Kulaszka wrote.

Hopefully the battle continues and our country's Human Rights Commissions will be reformed or dismantled.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Maclean's Article Fair and Balanced

I just had this article pointed out to me. In December, Michael Friscolanti wrote a very fair and balanced article about the issue of abuse in the Catholic Church. It's graphic, and disturbing and it's very critical of the hypocrisy and betrayal of bishop Leahy and others in the church that have sought to cover up past scandals. I don't necessarily recommend reading the article it's long and, as I said, graphic but there were some very encouraging points that bear repeating:

But at the risk of downplaying decades of unspeakable abuse—or forgiving a Church hierarchy that moved heaven and earth to suppress scandal and protect criminal clergy—an obvious point is often ignored: the vast, vast majority of Catholic priests are not sexual predators. In fact, the scientific research suggests that men who target children are no more pervasive in the priesthood (and perhaps less pervasive) than in any other segment of society. Depending on the study, somewhere between two and four per cent of priests have had sexual contact with a minor. Or, to put it another way, between 96 and 98 per cent have not.

“It’s part of that myth—the myth of the pedophile priest who can’t help himself,” says Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University who has published dozens of studies about sexually abusive priests. “It’s really an issue of perception rather than reality. Believe it or not, probably the safest place for a kid to be is in a Catholic church environment.” . . .

In 1993, experts analyzed the files of 1,322 priests who were hospitalized over a 25-year period at Southdown Institute, an Ontario facility that treats clergy suffering from a wide range of psychological disorders. Fewer than three per cent were pedophiles. Around the same time, the archdiocese of Chicago examined its own records over the previous 40 years—spanning more than 2,200 priests—and reopened every internal complaint. The result: fewer than two per cent sexually abused a child. A New York Times analysis conducted a decade later found the same rate across the United States: 1.8 per cent. . .

So why do four per cent of priests abuse children? . . . One theory does stand out: the vow of celibacy. . .

Ask the average Catholic, and they know the solution: let priests get married. But that assumption, Plante says, is as much of a myth as the pedophile priest. “People will say: ‘Oh, if they weren’t celibate, the problem goes away.’ We know that’s not true. Sexual abuse is not an uncommon thing out there, whether you’re married or not, whether you’re a priest or not. It’s common.”

Plante's point is undeniable, but it's still very refreshing to see it included in a mainstream media article.