Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Greatest Canadian is Unknown

At the risk of providing yet more publicity for the CBC's overblown Greatest Canadian nonsense, I must say that I find the whole process silly and superficial.

I confess to having voted in the early stages for Don Cherry, in an effort to grant the whole process the gravity it deserves. Now I see that the the top three choices are, in order, Tommy Douglas, Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau.

Whatever the merits of Mr. Douglas, it is inconceivable that he has earned such a lofty title as the Greatest Canadian. Medicare is not our defining characteristic. It appears that the NDP latte drinkers have been mustering the Birkenstock militia to the cause.

Terry Fox was a courageous young man who deserves respect, but not this level of adulation.

Pierre Trudeau is a more complex read and whatever one thinks of his legacy, he would be a contender in a political short list against John A. MacDonald (though Sir John A. ought to win that one).

My choice? I'd go with Canada's unknown soldier. I note that he made the list at number 21; not as high, mind you, as high Stompin Tom Connors (13) Neil Young (14) and Shania Twain (18). We Canadians are a very musical people. Nor does our Unknown Soldier rate a spot in the top ten with the likes of Wayne Gretzky. Shooting a puck at a goal just can't compete with shooting a rifle at Vimy Ridge. Celebrity has its place north of the 49th parallel it seems, and the Unknown Soldier is rather, ... well, unknown.

Of course, if we had a sense of our own history the Unknown soldier would win hands down. This country was forged on the battlefields of the Somme, Paschendale and Vimy Ridge. It was further confirmed in places like Ortona, Juno Beach, the North Atlantic, the flak filled skies over Western Europe and in places with strange sounding names in Korea.

In my view the Unknown Soldier is truly the Greatest Canadian. The father of medicare may well be responsible for free blood transfusions, but it is the Unknown Soldier's blood which consecrates our nation.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Tom Axworthy's Shameful Idea.

The Globe & Mail has an article today that takes my breath away. It is by Tom Axworthy, Pierre Trudeau's former principle secretary, and a key architect of the federal government's policies during that era. Mr. Axworthy is recommending that the goverment deploy a brigade of the Canadian Forces to Afghanistan, in order to assist in that country's reconstruction.

No, you didn't misread that last statement. A full brigade of troops. Most wonderous phenomena! Mr. Axworthy has clearly ingested something which alters conciousness and causes him to hallucinate non-existent orders of battle and phantom soldiers. As an academic and chairman for Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University, he really ought to know better. His former policy role with Mr. Trudeau means he was one of those who set in motion the current fiscal and policy neglect of the military which makes implementing his recommendation all but impossible.

Just in case he is completely unaware of the pathetic plight of our profession of arms I invite him to do a little homework (something I thought academics were expected to do so they won't embarrass themselves and their university in public). He could start by reading "For an Extra $130 Bucks" a report of the Canadian Senate on just how bad things are in the forces.

It is the Committee's belief that a 30 month moratorium in overseas tasks
only represents a starting point in putting the Canadian armed forces on the
road to recovery. It is likely to take the better part of a decade to bring
the military back to the shape it was in when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
Atrophied capacity cannot be restored over a few months.

A pause would allow key personnel - many of whom would otherwise be
serving overseas - to play a role in refocussing and rejuvenating Canadian
Forces training programs. Current training capacity is far too depleted to
make training a priority without repatriating overseas regulars for a
predictable period.

Two years will not be enough to rehabilitate the navy and air force.
However, over two years, a significant turnaround could be achieved in the
army. Though the army's current deficiencies are even more pressing than
those of the navy and air force, it takes less time to train army personnel
than it does navy and air force personnel. With adequate planning and
funding, the Committee feels that a two-year turnaround is at least within
the realm of possibility for the army.

The current recruiting drive should be sustained - the current level of trained, effective personnel in the Canadian Forces is 52,000 - 8,000 short of current authorized levels. But recruiting without adequate training is worthless. The Committee encountered recruits forced to sit twiddling their thumbs because of the military's depleted capacity for training. And training certainly isn't the only commodity in short supply.

The report, written in 2002, (prior, I might add, to the deployment of nearly 3,000 troops to Afghanistan) then provides a sordid litany of Liberal government fiscal and policy shortcomings which ought to make any first year student of government blush. I doubt whether any of this entered Mr. Axworthy's head before waxing philosophic about committing a brigade to the other side of the world. The party which he served so diligently for so many years really does think it can play a significant role in current world affairs without paying attention to the basics of domestic governance.

Let me be really clear for him. The airplanes and helicopters of the Canadian Forces are old, unreliable and well past their prime. The capital infrasture of the forces has been allowed to rust out. There aren't enough boots on the ground to deploy and sustain a brigade in the field for any reasonable length of time. The training system is under great stress because we've been taking instructors and placing them in those rusting vehicles in the multiple overseas deployments which his party insists on making. The men and women are overstretched, exhausted and growing increasingly bitter over his party's refusal to properly support them. The navy, .... well if he doesn't get it at this point he is unteachable.

You Mr. Axworthy are one of the main reasons this dreadful, irresponsible, unconscionable, and hypocritical state of affairs exists. Shame on you!

Stand with the Ukrainian People

In today's Globe & Mail there is an article written by Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and co-chair of the political opposition to Viktor Yanukovitch, who continues to cling to power after running a fraudulent election. In her article Ms. Tymoshenko writes that Russian soldiers have entered Ukraine wearing Ukrainian military uniforms. Similarily, last night on CBC radio, we heard a similar report asserting that the presidential compound was being guarded by Russian special operations troops.

This is a very ominous development and one which deserves further exploration by the main stream media and Western governments. If it can be authenticated that Russia is directly involved in this electoral fraud, then Western nations must stand with the opposition and demand recognition of Vickor Yushchenko as president. At the very least we must insist on a new and fair election.

The Globe also has an editorial today in which it applauds Yushchenko for asserting his rights through the courts, while claiming that any attempt by the opposition to seize power through popular action of the people would be "dangerous" because the country is so divided. The Globe is right that a judicial decision overturning the election fraud would be preferable to direct action by the people in the streets. One wonders, however, whether the Globe editorial writers are suggesting that, in the end, the people accept a possible adverse ruling from a tainted judiciary in order to buy peace.

Do the people of the Ukraine not have a right to defend their democratic rights, through force, if necessary? Yes it is a dangerous option. But Ukranians have as much right to free and fair elections as do we here in Canada. We are only 15 days removed from our Remembrance Day services, in which we revere the memory of those Canadians and allies who gave their lives so that we may live free. Those men and women knew the meaning and value of freedom.

The Ukraine is on the cusp of civil war, but the responsibility for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Vicktor Yanukovitch, Vladmir Putin and others of that ilk. Ukrainian citizens have a choice. They stand up now for their rights, or they watch evil men strangle their civil rights.

The Russian people have much at stake here as well. Putin is steadily returning his own people to the dark days of autocratic rule. He recognizes the danger in allowing democracy to flourish next door while he moves away from it at home. A free Ukraine, a likely future member of the European Union, would be a constant public rebuke to his domestic political designs.

Ms. Tymoshenko is eloquent when she notes that:

Ukrainians have endured the worst that man can do to his fellow man:
Stalin's orchestrated famines of the 1930's and the Nazi slaughterhouse of
the Second World War. So do not doubt our ability to endure and stand firm.

She begs us to stand with her people and for freedom. We must do no less.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Struggle Continues in Ukraine

The struggle for Ukranian democracy continues as I write. It is clear, at this point that the biggest danger facing Ukranian democrats is President Putin of Russia. Mr. Putin would dearly love to reclaim Ukraine as a Russian dependency and is doing everything he can to assist Victor Yanukovitch to steal the election from the people.

With few exceptions around the world governments, including that of Canada, have refused to accept the results of this electoral travesty. Good. It is also clear, however, that pressure needs to be applied as much to Moscow as to Kiev, if democracy is to survive. A ray of hope rests with the Ukrainian judiciary which has banned publication of the election results. A proper judicial review of this skulduggery, combined with continuing international pressure, may be Ukraine's best hope.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Intellectual Bigotry

On the way into work this morning I caught a bit of "The Current" interview with Robert Wright, who is giving this year's Massey Lectures on the CBC. The Massey Lectures are broadcast by the CBC's "Ideas" which, if you haven't tuned in, is usually well worth a listen. The blurb advertising this particular event on the CBC website is as follows:

In his 2004 CBC Massey Lectures, A Short History of Progress, the acclaimed
anthropologist and novelist Ronald Wright argues that only by understanding
humanity's patterns of triumph and disaster since the Stone Age, can we
recognize the threats to our own civilization. With luck and wisdom, he
suggests, we can help shape the future.

Ronald Wright said one thing in this morning's interview that made me chuckle. He asserted that species evolve in ways that sometimes lead to evolutionary traps from which they cannot extricate themselves. His thesis is of the, "we are doomed ecologically unless we radically change our environmental ways right now," school of thought. He said the best empirical evidence illustrating a human evolutionary trap was the experience of the erstwhile Polynesian settlers on Easter Island.

Apparently this deserted, barren island with its mysterious stone heads was once a fertile wooded paradise. Alas, the former inhabitants had a cult of ancestor worship, which led them to erect these large stone monuments to their ancestors. In order to erect these monuments they gradually denuded the island of all the trees. The soil then blew into the ocean and the inhabitants no longer had wood out of which they could fashion boats. They were doomed without soil to grow crops and without trees on which to fish, or escape.

He went to note that we must not allow ourselves to hold to unrealistic religious beliefs that in the end can do us in. So far so good. He then drew a parallel with American Christian fundamentalism, which he said believes that is ok to degrade the environment because God will make it right in the end. Get it. If the Christians (who are irrational and not at all scientific) have their way we are finished.

That is what made me chuckle. Think about it for a moment.

Christian fundamentalists, as a rule, do not believe it is ok to despoil God's earth, on the basis that He will make it all right in the end. In contrast, it is the post-enlightenment, irreligious acolytes of the modern world, who hold to such a deep irrational faith in such matters. It is they who assert that the good arises from the pursuit of material things and that "scientific knowledge" is the necessary means by which we acquire those things. It is they who have harnessed the considerable power of science to meet the insatiable demand for material goods.

Now, some on the post-Christian left recognize the ultimate irrationality of such a belief and the excessive exploitation of the environment which flows from such thoughts and have reacted against it, blaming the Christian "right" for the perceived environmental miasma. Of course, Christian fundamentalists, and other inhabitants of planet earth who believe in unending human progress are reflecting not so much their Christian theology, but the influence of the various materialistic utopianism philosophies of the age such as capitalism, socialism and fascism.

Christianity, properly understood, presents us all with an opportunity to exploit the world's resources for the benefit of men and women, but also imposes an obigation of good stewardship towards this planet. This obligation arises from the compelling Christian imperitative, "to love one another, as He has loved us." For Christians, the Creator gave us a paradise and we must ensure that it remains so. To deliberately despoil this great gift is a great sin.

Ronald Wright's comments on The Current allow us to glimpse a common bigotry of the modern mind. It the flawed view that faith and science are opposing gladiators and not complementary allies in the pursuit of truth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Where is Isaac?

Nine days ago, in my first blogging effort, I raised an important theological issue about the Anglican Church in Canada dropping Isaac from their Eucharistic prayer in favour of his mother Sarah. I asked what Isaac had done to warrant being expunged from the liturgy and demanded to know where he was now and what the Anglicans had done with him.

Nine days, and still we wait for answers. I had expected a firestorm of protest from like-minded individuals. I had expected a response from the Anglican primate, or at least some ringing protestations of innocence. Instead there is silence. Yet there is no indication that Isaac has been restored to his place with his father Abraham. Nothing. I am beginning to think we are being stonewalled here.

You Anglicans cannot hold out forever. We are on to you now and will continue to demand answers. Free Isaac!

A Critical Moment in Ukraine

As I write there is a great drama being played out in Ukraine. Victor Yanukovitch, the Russian leaning and autocratic Prime Minister is attempting to cling to power through massive voter fraud. His Western-oriented opponent, Victor Yushchenko is having none of it and tens of thousands of supporters have taken to the streets in an attempt to have the election declared a nullity. Will they succeed? Will Ukraine explode in violence?

In large measure it may depend on whether we in the West care enough to apply persistent pressure on the old regime in support of those people in the cold streets several thousands of miles away. If our governments fail to apply continuing pressure, and back it up with real ecomomic and political xonsequences then Yanukovitch may well succeeed in subverting democracy in his country and we will all be poorer for it.

I suggest we pause and pray for the Ukrainian people. If you aren't normally a praying person try it anyway. It couldn't hurt. Additionally, you might send an email to Prime Minister Martin urging him to oppose this travesty of an election. Down in South America today he made the right initial noises by demanding an investigation. Don't let this one drop through the cracks.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Iran and the Bomb

I'm following the news about Iran's nuclear weapons development program with considerable trepidation. It appears that the European Union's attempt to limit Iran's capacity to develop and deploy nuclear weapons has met with very limited success.

In fact, the Europeans last week agreed to provide Iran with light water reactors and other goodies, which may well enhance Iran's nuclear weapons capabilties. In exchange, Europe obtained an inspection regime which may prove to be quite ineffective and declared any military options beyond consideration. That may well be the case for old Europe. As the applause dies down in London, Paris and Berlin, though, we still need to ask the hard question.

That question is what will the Israeli government do? Is Israel prepared to allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons? Israel is well aware that the Iranians have not renounced the right to enrich uranium, a necessary pre-condition to the production of atomic weapons. They know that much of Iran's nuclear weapons program is clandestine in nature and therefore not readily monitored. Ominously, Iran continues to develop the necessary missile technology to enable them to launch a first strike against the hated Jewish state.

I can't imagine that the world's only Jewish government is prepared to take the risk of an Islamofascist regime acquiring the ability to obliterate whole cities in Israel. "Never again" means just that.

Nor is it likely that Iran's lust for the bomb could evolve into a Middle Eastern version of the Cold War's "mutual assured destruction" doctine. Radical Islam covets suicidal terrorist martyrdom as a spiritual good and (from what I understand) views it as a compelling moral obligation when dealing with Israel. Accordingly, they are not akin to the American and Russian "rational actors," on which the Cold War nuclear standoff depended.

We may shortly be perceiving the war in Iraq as a side show in a broader Middle Eastern battle. Another good reason to pray, if you ask me.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Parrish the Pariah

Carolyn Parrish, the outspoken member of parliament has been cast from the Liberal caucus into the independent political wilderness. The obstensible reason for the banishment, cited by Prime Minister Martin, was that she had crossed the line by stomping on a George Bush doll in a CBC comedy show called This Hour has 22 Minutes. Would that it were so.

In reality of course, it is apparent that it was her subsequent nasty remarks, squarely aimed at the PM and her fellow Liberal caucus members, that brought her down. Her obvious loathing of things American was well known to the public and her previous musings such as, "I hate those bastards" etc., had brought little more than a mild rebuke from Mr. Martin in the past. Her comments that she owed no loyalty to the PM and would not mourn a Liberal Party loss in the next election, however, were remarkable for candidness and a certain (how shall I put this?) moronic quality. It seems that Carolyn, the political pit mouse of Mississauga Ontario hates more than just Yankees.

Frankly, I think there is much sympathy within the current Liberal caucus for such thoughts. She is just more vocal and unrepentant when challenged on her views. That the Canadian soggy left holds such views is no great surprise. American Democrats feel just as strongly, if not more so, about the Bush administration. Watching the appearances of Ms. Parrish in the media it is clear that her salient personal quality is an utter self-absorption. I think it prevents her from grasping just how sad she really is.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cross Expunged from Military Chaplains' Cap Badges

OTTAWA, November 16, 2004 ( - The Canadian
Defence Department announced plans Monday to remove the Christian symbol -- a Maltese cross -- from the caps of its army chaplains. The move is claimed to be because the military's first Moslem chaplain was hired last year. "We are looking at seeing what developments there could be in that field because, to have a Muslim or to have someone of another faith under that same cap badge -- I think it wouldn't be of service to them," military
Chaplain Jean Bourgeois told the Toronto Sun... The full text of the story
is available at:

I don't really have a problem with that concept. I think a better idea might be to allow for several cap badges. The cross for Christians, the Star of David for Jewish chaplains and the crescent for Muslim chaplains. Wiccans could have a broomstick or a chin wart, Veggans could have a cucumber or radish, Hedonists could have a ... well, ..... they would be having such a good time that I suspect that they wouldn't care would they. Any Hedonist chaplains out there who can confirm this suspicion?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Armpits and the Mulla

Apparently, a dramatic TV film secretly made last week in a Berlin mosque reveals the following:

"These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink," said the preacher at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, in the film made by Germany's ZDF public TV, adding: "Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!"

Now this story presents interesting theological challenges, aside from it's impact on multiculteral sensitivities and esthetics in general. It has a personal dimension for me, even though I am neither German, atheist, nor European. Truth be told, I don't shave my armpits either. Additionally, I lack a sense of smell. The truth is that my nose is not connected to my brain. I'm advised that these two justaposed facts can indeed lead to an aroma disaster.

I accept that the thought of those tiny rivulets of perspiration collecting in German unbeliever armpits must be quite distressing to the Islamic elect. Frankly, the thought is quite distressing to this nostrilly challenged infidel and I'm physically incapable of fully grasping what fuss is all about. I must take all this on faith. Alas, the Catechisim of the Catholic Church is silent on these matters. Rome has not pronounced.

This circumstance, therefore, raises certain theological challenges. I am not sure whether, "Hell lives for the infidels," as asserted by the Melvana Mosque Mulla, but my nostrilly challenged status gives me all the empirical evidence I need that Purgatory exists. Why is that?

I am pychologically scarred because I was always the last boy among my youthful peers to step back from a silent fart. Because of the covert nature of the oderous deployment I usually had no idea that an gas attack had taken place until everyone wrinkled their noses, pointed at me and yelled how disgusting I was. You have no idea how that can mark a child. Yes Virginia, there is a Purgatory.

Proof of Purgatory aside, however, my theological questions are as follows:
  • According to Islam, is a nostrilly challenged German atheist less sinful because he cannot sniff his own body odour?
  • Is a lack of a sense of smell a mitigating factor in sentencing one to Hell under Islamic teaching?
  • Is the use of deoderants, or anti-perspirants, permissable under Sharia law?
  • What is the connection between hairy armpits and German democracy?

These are important issues and we ought to spend time in quiet reflection.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Remembering September 11

The pit poured forth its bitter rain
Pure fury struck with incandescent pain
Tears were ripped from souls at bay
When hatred had its day

Those foul fall days now turn to dust
All horror withers as it must
The pain still felt shall surely fade
As Love enfolds the hearts love made

When Light renews its luster
Where Love's disciples muster
Then His determined cry is heard

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Be gentle with me. This is my first effort at blogging. In undertaking this effort I take great comfort in the words of G.K. Chesterton who once wrote, "If something's worth doing it's worth doing badly." So it is.

I am known among friends as something of a ranter. Since I send out large numbers of Emails to friends and family, opining on events of the day, I thought it wise to try a method that does not inflict my views on the unwilling. Trust me, friends, family and colleagues have put up with much. Now they can choose to tune in, or out as they want. Since I believe we human beings are obligated to avoid inficting unwarranted pain, this is surely a good thing.

It is Sunday evening and I had a pleasant day today. This morning I attended the confirmation of my best friend's daughter, in an Anglican parish in Mississauga, Ontario. Now, I am not an Anglican. I suspect that those who know me best would describe me as a conservative leaning Catholic. At least one friend likes to call me Savonarola, but I think he exagerates. I have visited Florence but once in my life and rarely burn books. Truly.

The last time I attended an Anglican service was in the same parish when my best friend's son (my godson) was confirmed some years ago. Same bishop. Same female bishop. My most vivid memory of the earlier confirmation was going forward to receive a blessing at communion. As you may be aware, Rome does not permit Catholics to receive communion in the Anglican church, though Anglicans welcome any papist who does. John the Mad, however, fully intended to obey Catholic canon law and not receive communion in the church of Henry VIII. It was not to be.

For those not familiar with the ritual, in order to only receive a blessing only, you cross your arms over your chest and grip the opposing shoulders. This signals that you do not wish to receive the host. The celebrant is supposed to bless you and send you on your way.

Now I can't say whether the good bishop intended in that first confirmation service to jam that host into my mouth or not, but she did. She simply may have not noticed my arms folded across my chest, mere inches from my mouth. Alternatively, she may have welcomed the opportunity to take revenge for the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Guy Fawkes and other Catholic plotters planted gunpowder under the British House of Lords intending to blow it and the Lords to smithereens. Anglicans have long memories. It is possible that this was revenge.

At any rate, I now confess to all here in blogdom that I, John the Mad, once received communion in an Anglican church in Mississauga, Ontario from a female bishop. There, I've said it. Let the chips fall where they may. I can supress it no longer.

In her defence, I must say that the bishop does not seem the sort to take revenge on unsuspecting Romans. Her homily on both occasions was humourous and down to earth. Additionally, she did not force me to receive the host this time round. Perhaps, though, it was because another old friend (also of Irish Catholic extraction) ran interference before she got to me. She may have been willing to take on one mick, but was flumoxed by the unexpected appearance of two at the sanctuary steps. They say there is safety in numbers.

So this time I received a blessing only. I must admit it was a good blessing. I sensed the Holy Spirit in that blessing. Of course, it may be that it was just God's reward for successfuly avoiding the Anglican host the second time round. You never know.

A post script, if I might. In the eucharistic prayer used in the service there was mention of Abraham and Sarah. Whatever happened to Isaac? For two thousand years Isaac, Abraham's son, has been twinned in the Christian liturgy with Abraham. You may recall that Abraham was told by God to sacrifice Isaac, his son, and Abraham was in the process of complying when the angel of the Lord stopped him.

God's demand that Abraham's sacrifice his son was a test of faithfulness and the result of Abraham's obediance was the covenant with the Jewish people. The twinning of the names of Abraham and Isaac, in the Jewish tradition goes back long before Christianity. Suddenly, today in Mississauga, I find Issac dropped from the program.

This is not to take way from Sarah, who was Abraham's wife. Under current family law she is no doubt entitled to half Abraham's spiritual assets, but let's face it. It was not her neck that was on the line. I want to know. What did Isaac do to deserve this? What have the Anglicans done with him? These questions needs to be answered.