Monday, February 28, 2005

The Unbearable Lightness of Mr. Dithers

I have been thinking a great deal during the past few days about the meaning of our government's refusal to participate in the continental ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield being developed by the United States.

Bill Graham, Canada's current defence minister, having originally made noises supportive of the initiative is now downplaying any suggestion that this decision will have any serious lasting adverse impact on Canada-US relations.

Yet as recently as September 24, 2004, his view was quite different.

But in a speech in Toronto on Wednesday and a separate interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Graham came out strongly in favour of the program, suggesting that Canada "will regret it if we don't participate." In my view it diminishes our sovereignty significantly by not being a participant," Graham said. Speaking to the Royal Canadian Military Institute, Graham said Canada has a "fundamental responsibility to contribute to the defence of the continent. Ballistic missile defence might assist us in doing this."
Given his statements above, I believe that Mr. Graham is obligated to resign his portfolio. It is the only honourable thing to do. He clearly understands that refusing to participate in BMD diminishes our nation's sovereignty. Yet he now spends his time diminishing his own credibility by downplaying the impact. Has he no shame?

I remember when ministers of the Crown would resign a portfolio when faced with a decision so at odds with their fundamental views. This is not small stuff we deal with here. This strikes at the heart of the role of a national government. How one longs for the days when Responsible Government meant more than blaming subordinate's when policy initiatives jumped the tracks.

I think that we have crossed a watershed with Prime Minister Dither's BMD decision. It is now perfectly clear to anyone with an ounce of common sense that this nation no longer is a participant in its own defence. Maintaining the capacity and the willingness to defend one's borders is one of the prerequisites to national sovereignty. That which you are not prepared to defend ceases at some point to be your possession. Washington will not fail to grasp the implications.

Keeping in mind that our homeland occupies the northern half of the North American land mass, what is more important than the defence of North America to this government?

The Liberal government is claiming that the BMD refusal is offset by a massive $12.8
billion commitment of funds to rebuild the nation's military. The spin is that by not committing resources to BMD we free ourselves up in order to pursue other national military priorities. Yet this spin is an outright lie. The Americans were not asking Canada for a significant monetary contribution to the BMD initiative. It would not have reduced our ability to spend on other military priorities.

The $12.8 billion has everything to do with an exercise in public relations, and nothing to do with the implementation of defence policy. It is said that the military needs an immediate cash infusion of $1.5 billion per year just to forestall any further rust out of the Canadian Forces capabilities. Over the next two year it is getting one third of that. Please note. The $1.5 billion would just arrest the degradation of military capabilities. It would not enhance them. The rust out continues.

The $12.8 billion budgetary commitment is a mirage. It is a principle of governance in parliamentary democracy that one government cannot bind a future government through budgetary promises made five years out. There is almost no chance that this minority government will last beyond two years. By loading the budget with big expenditures so far down the political road, the Liberals are deluding the public.

The United States will now move forward knowing that it will have to unilaterally defend the continent because its continental ally, the Government of Canada, is led by a gutless ditherer who is cheered on by a caucus chorus of anti-American cheerleaders. You think my use of the word gutless is overblown? Consider his own words on BMD on July 20, 2004.

Martin has said he wants Canada to join Washington's controversial missile defence program, which some say would turn North America into a fortress. "If there is going to be an American missile going off somewhere over Canadian airspace," he said, "I think Canada should be at the table making the decisions.
You doubt that the dollars for the military build up announced in the budget is fallacious? Read this from Lieutenant Colonel (Ret'd) Laurie Hawn, a former squadron commander and draw your own conclusions.

We should also be aware of what is happening to our fighter force. For fifty years, we have had Canadian fighters patrolling our airspace, or sitting on alert to react to Soviet incursions or other air traffic situations. The focus changed on 9/11 from looking outward to also looking inward. Our ability to look anywhere has steadily eroded.

We will soon be down to 80 operational CF-18s, the number that we can afford to upgrade. We are also critically short of fighter pilots, many having left in disillusionment. Flying time has been cut back to the point where we no longer train at low level and intensity of training has been reduced to preserve safety. Preserving safety under these circumstances also makes us ineffective. No matter how fast we can spin the earth, the new simulators we're buying will never fly and nothing in the new budget addresses the erosion of our aerospace sovereignty.

Most people probably don't know that 433 Squadron in Bagotville will shut down this summer to make one larger 425 Squadron. It won't be long before some bean counter or other non-warrior sees a source of further personnel cuts. Heck, if you've got 400 people, surely you can make it work with 375, or 350, or............ The same thing will happen in Cold Lake next summer, with the shutdown of 416 Squadron. That will leave Canada with two, count 'em, two operational fighter squadrons. Billy Bishop weeps!

Of course, most Liberal members of parliament have not likely heard of this extraordinary Canadian named Bishop who was the top allied World War I ace with 72 kills to his credit. And if they have, I doubt whether they give a damn. Bishop served on the pointed end of a stick we no longer possess.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Mr. Dithers Demands Attention

Warning! The following exchange of views may dispose otherwise sane individuals to conclude that the Prime Minister of Canada has completely lost touch with reality. No one can possibly occupy such a high office and be so stupid. Insanity, therefore, is the only reasonable explanation. (Trust me. I'm mad and I know.)

(From the Canadian Press via the Globe & Mail)

Ottawa - Prime Minister Paul Martin is insisting that United States seek permission before firing any missiles over Canada. ....

The insistence came Friday in response to warnings that Canada has abdicated part of its sovereignty by refusing to take part in the U.S. missile-defence project.

The top U.S. envoy to Canada - Paul Cellucci - said Thursday that Canada would be "outside of the room" while the United States decided whether to fire at incoming missiles. Mr. Martin said Friday, however, that "we would expect to be consulted.

"This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission."

Mr. Cellucci said Canada has abdicated its say over how a potential missile attack would be thwarted.

"We will deploy. We will defend North America," he said.

"We simply cannot understand why Canada would in effect give up its sovereignty - its seat at the table - to decide what to do about a missile that might be coming towards Canada."

Canadians might not worry about being targets of a missile launch but, Mr. Cellucci noted, anything fired at the United States could very well pass over its northern neighbour.

"I personally don't think it's in Canada's sovereign interest to be outside of the room when a decision is made about a missile that might be incoming toward Canada," he has said.

Let me see now. Incoming missiles fly at a gazillion miles an hour. Decisions respecting interception must be made in a matter of minutes or seconds. Let us assume the missile is overflying Canadian airspace heading for an American city. Mr. Martin insists the United States of America has to consult with him before intercepting the missile over sovereign Canada.

Soooo, what are the chances that the US will take precious time ask permission to consult with a man so noted for his decision making abilities that the Economist has nicknamed him Mr. Dithers? The ditherer is demanding a veto over an interception undertaken by a defence system which he has refused to support, but which the US government feels is vital to the defence of their homeland. Yea gods.

It is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you a fool than to open it and prove the case.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Heap Big Smoke But No Fire

The Liberal budget commitment to spend $12.8 billion on national defence is all smoke and mirrors. Major General Lou Mackenzie pointed out on CTV yesterday that the plan is to spend only an additional $500 million in each of the next two fiscal years.

Given the commitment to add 5,000 regular forces personnel and 3,000 reservists, and the near complete rust out of the Force's equipment this new money isn't enough to purchase enough rust paint to keep the Rube Golberg machine running.

Of the promised big dollars reinvestment $8 billion is really recycling of existing spending commitments, not targeted until three, four and five years from now, and what little is new is so far to the edge of the political radar screen as to be worthless political posturing.

Have a look at Babbling Brooks for some of the grisly details.

Bah humbug!

Mr. Dithers Shoots Down Missile Defence News Staff
Prime Minister Paul Martin announced Thursday that Canada will not sign on to the controversial U.S. ballistic missile defence program.
"We are announcing today that Canada will not take part in the proposed ballistic missile defence system," Martin told reporters outside the House.

"Let me be clear, we respect the right of the United States to defend itself and its people."

"However, BMD is not where we will concentrate our efforts. Instead, we will act both alone and with our neighbours on defence priorities outlined in yesterday's budget."

What utter stupidity. Involvement in this initiative was at no cost to the Canadian federal treasury. Now we've demonstrated in a most stark and compete way to our closest neighbour and largest trading partner that we aren't even serious about defending our common homeland of North America.

The first duty of a national government is the maintenance of the borders and the protection of its citizens. Paul Martin is failing to fulfill these obligations. I know people are ridiculing him for being a ditherer. I'm beginning to hope he adopts the Mr. Dithers persona for the rest of the time he is in office. Too frequently, when he finally gets around to making a decision, it's the worst possible choice and the precise opposite of what he has argued for publicly to that point.

What a weak man.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Beware of Hanging Priests

Several days ago I read comments from Theresa Carpinelli at Catholic Exchange. She posted this two part tale (part one and part two) about the historical wickedness of Catholic priests and the dreadfully superstitious nature of the Catholic religion, in general. It has stuck with me and I guess I'll make my own comments. Ms. Carpinelli wrote:

My local newspaper ran an article by Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post entitled: Seeking the Hand of God in the Waters. The article began by recounting an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, that devastated Lisbon, Portugal, on All Saints Day in 1755. Almost 90,000 people were killed, many while still at morning Mass for the Holy Day. What did the Church do in the aftermath to aid her children? Mr. Vargas writes that, "Following the devastation ... priests roamed the streets, hanging those they believed had incurred God's wrath."
It seems that with all the news about the recent tsunami, numbers of media reports have referenced the above eighteenth century tsunami tale in order to give some colour to what C.S. Lewis called, "The Problem of Pain," i.e., How can a good God allow great suffering?

The eighteenth century Lisbon tsunami story has been a perfect accompaniment to the modern Asian Tsunami story. It allows the commentator to appear historically erudite and also permits the general public a momentary moment of smugness as we look at how far we've come since those ignorant Catholic priests were so influential in society.

If you read the story, how did you react? Did you nod knowingly, accepting the underlying premise of the superstitious brutality of the Catholic Church in former times? Did you think the story reasonable and probable? If you did, you are wrong. The story has no basis in fact, as Theresa Carpinelli explained so well in her articles.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the story is the manner in which the Washington Post attributed these views to a serious historian, - Martin E. Marty, Professor Emeritus of religious history at the University of Chicago and a Lutheran Minister, - who says he never expressed the view attributed to him by the Washington Times reporter. This is the exact quote in the Post.

Martin E. Marty, professor emeritus of religious history at the University of Chicago, has written his 55th book, When Faiths Collide, which he says should land in bookstores this week. He's been an ordained Lutheran minister since 1952. "It's only natural to repose yourself in the will of God," he says. "If you're a believer, then you must believe that God, somehow, is a presence in all of this. But God didn't tell anybody that you go through life without disasters." Still, talk of religion's role in the disaster irks Marty. Following the devastation in Lisbon in 1755, priests roamed the streets, hanging those they believed had incurred God's wrath. That event "shook the modern world," he notes, changing people's idea of a benevolent, all-caring God.
But when Ms. Carpinelli contacted Martin Marty to ask him if he was the source,

... his reply was prompt: ... "No, I certainly was not the source of that." In fact, according to Dr. Marty, the "priests roamed" allegation did not even come up during the course of his interview with Mr. Vargas, he was not familiar with this allegation, and he promised to check out his church histories, as well as Voltaire, to see if he could find the source of the information for me.
No source can be found. Mr. Vargas's smear appears to have originated with an on-line encyclopedia called Wikepedia, which, when contacted by Ms. Carpinelli, acknowledged there was no reference on file for the story. The section was removed, but the encyclopedia's representative then made this remarkable statement.

I requested of Wikipedia that a source be cited for this allegation. The person with whom I was corresponding claimed not to have written the line, that it was a "remnant" from a previous version; but she left it in anyway. She writes: "i dont have a reference though i dont find the allegation strange, considering the power of the Jesuits at the time and the religious fanatism of the time." [sic].
Sigh. I see now. It's the fanatical Jesuits, of course .... roaming the streets of Lisbon as a clerical lynch mob ... hanging all suspected of heresy .... believing that heretics caused the tsunami ... but ... but ... as Ms. Carpinelli points out ...

What history records, even secular history, is that it was the dedication of the Jesuits to the study of science, their observations and careful documentation of the Lisbon earthquake, just before, during, and after, that is recognized, even today, as the beginnings of seismology. It is why scientists know what they do about the Lisbon quake. In fact, Jesuits have so dominated this field that it became known in the 20th century as the "Jesuit science."
You see, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) are what they have always been - very highly educated and dedicated men. When informed of the facts by Ms. Carpinelli:

Mr. Vargas has expressed great concern over this matter, and indicated that anti-Catholicism was in no way his motive - something I am inclined to believe, as his distress over that aspect of it seems most genuine.
Ms. Carpinelli concludes with this comment.

I stand by my position that the Post has a duty to print a retraction. In the interest of justice, it should also be sent to every newspaper around the country that picked up Mr. Vargas's original article. Even though the information was ?out there? [in Wikepedia] long before Mr. Vargas published it in the Post, it was not "in the Post" before this. Now that it has been published in the Post, it has been picked up by many more outlets than it would have had it remained on the less-than-credible Internet sites.
Just so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

John Robson's Blog

Kevin Jaeger of Trudeaupia has put me on to a must read blog. Go visit John Robson's Blog and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

A Lesson for Scouter Dad

Today the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides celebrate the respective and simultaneous birthdays of Lord Robert and Lady Olave Baden Powell. The former founded the Boy Scouts and the latter the Girl Guides. By all accounts General Powell, the hero of Mafeking (South African War), was an extraordinary man and his wife was every bit his equal. Together they have had an enormously positive impact on millions of young people around the globe.

This morning Master Liam, a first year scout (having graduated from cubs last year), greeted me with the news that he was going to wear his scout uniform to school in honour of Baden Powell. He said he would be laughed at by some kids but that was ok, because wearing the uniform today was important. I should point out that I am a scouter because of my son, and I congratulated him on his sense of pride in being a scout and his strong character for ignoring the taunts of lesser schoolmates etc. etc.

He looked me in the eye, smiled and asked if I was going to wear my uniform to work. I started to point out that I had meetings to go to and .... well .... I uh, .... Liam asked if I was afraid of being laughed at .....

I went to my closet and put on my uniform. Lord Baden Powell always said we must lead by example. He was right.

Province Amending Laws to Accommodate Same-sex Marriage

The following press release was issued today by the Attorney General of Ontario:

For Immediate Release
February 22, 2005

Includes Update For Religious Officials In Relation To Same-Sex Marriages

TORONTO - The Ontario government has introduced legislation that would, if passed, amend more than 70 Ontario statutes to bring them in line with court decisions that found same-sex marriage to be constitutional, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today.

"We are committed to ensuring that same-sex couples are treated with the same respect and dignity as opposite-sex couples," said Bryant. "By changing the definition of spouse in these statutes, our government is helping to ensure that Ontario laws don't discriminate against same-sex couples, including those who choose to marry."

The proposed bill also includes provisions to clarify that religious officials cannot be compelled to perform marriages or use their sacred places for the celebration of marriages that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

The legislation follows a June 2003 decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal upholding a Divisional Court ruling that the common law definition of marriage, which excluded same-sex couples, is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On July 17, 2003 the federal government asked the Supreme Court of Canada to provide an opinion on whether Parliament could change the legislative definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

On December 9, 2004 the Supreme Court confirmed that same-sex marriage is constitutional and that the Charter guarantees the freedom of religious officials to perform marriages and use their sacred places in accordance with their religious beliefs.

"Our government believes this is the right thing to do," said Bryant. "With this proposed legislation, we are ensuring Ontario's laws comply with the Charter, so that all citizens have a chance to live a life free of discrimination."

- 30 -


Greg Crone
Minister's Office
(416) 326-1785

Valerie Hopper
Ministry of the Attorney General
(416) 326-2202

Monday, February 21, 2005

Indian School Abuse Claims

Just when you thought the federal Liberal government couldn't do better than the gun registry and the sponsorship scandal in demonstrating their utter incompetence and unconcern over the expenditure of our tax dollars, we have this February 17th story from the Toronto Star.

Since 2003, when the federal government tried to drag aboriginal claims out of the clogged courts and into what was to be a faster, less formal system, about 50 of an anticipated 12,000 claims have been settled.

During that time, the 87,500 still-surviving students have been dying at a rate of five per week. Progress is so slow - at this speed it will take 53 years to resolve all claims - that cynics are persuaded that death is being encouraged to do government dirty work. What's more certain is that slow isn't cheap.

Stirring gun registry memories, it cost taxpayers $125 million to deliver about $1 million in compensation to those opting for the alternative resolution process.

Overall, Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada, a boutique operation easily mistaken for the Department of Justice, spends $4 on administration for every $1 paid to victims.
Sound familiar?

If there is any merit in that position, there is noticeably less in the government's argument that start-up costs explain the astonishing bureaucratic overhead. Lawyers appearing Tuesday tore that argument apart with the sharpest instrument of all - experience. They detailed how $20,000 was spent flying a lawyer across the country, preparing evidence binders and renting space for a claim with a $3,500 ceiling. And they talked about the government appeal of a
$1,500 award to elderly and ill Flora Merrick.

As British Columbia lawyer David Paterson scathingly put it "We are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure we don't compensate the wrong people."
Yes folks, it's business as usual. But don't worry. It's only your tax dollars at work.

A Joke

My six year old had a joke for me this weekend. On the way to mass on Saturday evening Master Brendan posed the question, "Dad. What if God isn't real?"

I asked him if he thought Jesus was real. He thought about it and then smiled and said he thought He must be. Why, I asked?

He replied with a grin, "Because Jesus comes from the land of Israel."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Where is John the Mad?

I've been very busy with family and work related matters. It has left little time for posting. I'll try and get back to it this weekend. Apologies to all visitors. ...I know, I know, ... publish or perish .....

Hang On to Your Pocketbook

Saturday morning's Globe & Mail has a story by Jeff Salott which ought to send shivers down those charged with trying to maintain the family budget. The Liberal Government is about to embark on a great national cause.

Canadians want to change their lifestyles to fight pollution and to help Canada meet its goals under the Kyoto accord on climate change, Environment Minister Stéphane Dion says.

The government's pending Kyoto plan "will appeal to Canadians; that will, I think, mobilize the population for a great cause," Mr. Dion said yesterday.

Incentives to encourage people to conserve energy will be part of the Kyoto plan and will be announced with the federal budget on Feb. 23, he added.
We want to change our lifestyles? Well, I guess that may be true. I want to live in a mansion with a three car garage and a swimming pool, where my manservant takes care of those pesky annoying details which consume so much of my time. Somehow, however, I don't think he means that kind of lifestyle change.

Beware of politicians selling soap. Beware, even more, of politicians embarking on a great national causes which are predicated on us changing our lifestyles. I believe we are about to be whacked hard in the pocketbook for our energy needs?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Unconditional Love

Day two of Lent. Not too late to do something good for the duration.

My youngest son and heir, Master Brendan, said to me the other day that when he went to heaven he wanted to be six. That is his current age and I asked him what he meant and said I hoped he went to heaven when he was much older.

He smiled at me and said that was not what he meant. He meant he wanted to live to be old, but when he went to heaven he wanted God to make him six again, so that he and I could be together just like we were right then.

What a statement! His idea of heaven is being together with someone he loves. Not a bad definition. I am not deserving of my kids totally unconditional love, but I am very grateful for it.

Deo Gratias.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospels."

With those words a Basilian father (priest of the Order of Saint Basil) smudged my forehead with ashes in the form of a black cross. It is Ash Wednesday and I just returned from St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, and it is the beginning of Lent, the 44 days of repentance which precedes that greatest of feasts we Christians call Easter. It is a strange day as days go. Catholics all over the world walk amidst civilized folk with smudged foreheads, feeling a bit self-conscious. It is the start of a time of repentance.

St. Basil's Church was overflowing with people as it is every Ash Wednesday. All in attendance received ashes and most received the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour at the mass. For those who take it even a little bit seriously, Lent is a time of beginning again - of renewed purpose - and duty recalled.

The ashes are also a reminder of our mortality and I always experience them as a call to humility before God. When I was a child the priest used to say, "Remember man that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return." This was heap big stuff for an adult, let alone a kid. In my mind I still hear those words when receiving the ashes. The words today are not as bleak, but in their own way, just as powerful.

So it begins. Holy Mother of God, pray for us. All you angels and saints, pray for us. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Lent is Coming - What to Do?

The season of Lent is approaching. It is the time in the liturgical calendar in which we do 40 days of penance before Easter. Rebecca, at Doxology has a very nice post on this topic ( following her post on the Superbowl .... both are spiritual experiences, I guess) Scroll down to Not Having a Must Have World.

When I was a kid Lent was fraught with great significance and my Catholic friends and I used to have discussions about what we were going to give up as a spiritual penance. The trick was to find something you liked a lot, but could likely give up for 40 days without dying, or wimping out. The other option, less used but still viable, was to do something extra for 40 days. That might mean going to mass during the week or not bugging your siblings all the time. The selection was a tricky matter, as one could not be too ostentatious about the penance, upon risk losing all glory later in heaven and a lot of mocking from one's peers. Nor could it be so easy that no real effort was required. That way lay years of extra time in Purgatory (or so I speculated at the time).

When I was about nine years old I had just read an adult book about St. Francis of Assisi (1181 -1226 AD) which had a real impact on me, even though there were parts I only vaguely grasped. Saint Francis was a son of a prosperous cloth merchant who gave up his comfortable life, became a friar and embraced complete poverty as a way of serving Christ.
On a certain morning in 1208, probably 24 February, Francis was hearing Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near which he had then built himself a hut; the Gospel of the day told how the disciples of Christ were to possess neither gold nor silver, nor scrip for their journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff, and that they were to exhort sinners to repentance and announce the Kingdom of God. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and so soon as Mass was over threw away the poor fragment left him of the world's goods, his shoes, cloak, pilgrim staff, and empty wallet. At last he had found his vocation. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic of "beast colour", the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, and tied it round him with a knotted rope, Francis went forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace.
This was my answer; I had found my Lenten task and life vocation. That night as I lay in bed I vowed to follow St. Francis by eschewing all worldly comforts. I got out of my bed and lay on the cool wooden floor of my bedroom, basking in my Lenten zeal. Twenty, or thirty minutes later I found it impossible to find a comfortable position on the hard floor. My head hurt where it pressed into the wood. I surmised that a pillow would not seriously damage my spiritual quest. After all, I would still have no mattress, or blanket. It was a understandable theological compromise. One could not properly pray if completely distracted by jawbone pain. I grabbed my pillow.

Some time later I noticed that I was really quite cold. I offered up my freezing condition to God for the salvation of sinners and the souls in Purgatory. I was obviously on my way to sainthood. St. Francis of Assisi and St. John of Mad. My name would be linked to his down through the centuries as wonderful examples of Catholic sanctity. I grew colder. My discomfort increased. Perhaps a blanket would not be unreasonable. What good could I do the Church frozen to my bedroom floor? A blanket would be a mercy to others as it would clearly save my life and the life of a saint was not to be tossed away recklessly. Saints were wonderful conduits of God's grace. Besides I reckoned, suicide is not permitted to Catholics. I gently pulled a blanket from my bed.

For a while I was somewhat comfortable. But soon I noticed that, although I was reasonably warm, and my head was pleasantly nestled in my pillow, my back hurt like heck and my hip ached where it was being slowly crushed to pulp by the hardwood floor. My discomfort grew and grew. What was I to do? What would Saint Francis have done? In vain I searched my memory of the biography of Francis for guidance. I could not recall whether the good saint slept in a bed or not. If not, I guessed he must have had hay or straw, to prevent the crippling joint and spinal injuries, such I was clearly doomed to endure.

I recalled from a catechism class that one had to guard against spiritual pride, a tricky and spiritually debilitating condition. And here I was trying to outdo one of the greatest saints of the Holy Catholic Church, who must have slept on straw to have lived as long as he did. Despite that straw he was a spiritual giant. I was only nine year old boy about to lose the use of my limbs if something didn't happen soon to prevent the loss of circulation to my legs.

What purpose would being reduced to crutches for the rest of my life serve? Even crutches might be tolerable, and would certainly be a visible symbol of my sanctity, but the situation had now grown desperate. How could I live the life of a friar, wandering the highways from town to town converting Protestants and atheists, if I had to get about without legs, which were going to have to be amputated in the morning after it was revealed that gangrene had set in, as it surely was about to do? I had already lost the feeling in my feet and one hand was numb. How could I bless the crowds without hands?

I remembered that the Church considers prudence a virtue. I took two more pillows from the bed and lay them lengthwise underneath me as a temporary measure until straw could be obtained. Thus ensconced in my frugal poverty on the floor, I said a decade of the rosary and drifted off to sleep, with angels all about me smiling at my youthful spiritual fervour.

I have yet to figure out what to do about Lent this year and I'm running out of time. Lent is approaching. Saint Francis, pray for me.

Explosions on Bay Street

I was clearing out my emails and ran across this one I sent out to my friends a year ago (during my pre-blogger life) from my office in Toronto. The serious local terror threat mentioned in the post still exists. The Liberals have done nothing about it.


[Feb 6, 2004]

Today, about midday, there were two large explosions outside our building here on Bay Street. The first larger blast shook the building and blew a manhole cover off its hole. I witnessed the second blast about two minutes later from a corner office window. A flame shot from the manhole about fifteen feet into the air. It was quite a sight, ... very loud, ... people scared, ... much twittering among staff etc. etc.

Oddly enough, cars kept driving right by the belching booming manhole. Toronto drivers are either very brave, or are as thick as bricks. Having juxtaposed the realm of possibilities I leave the call to you.

There were media reports and you may have heard one of them. Time passed and the word spread, from those officials who spread such things, for us to evacuate the building out the back doors. Public service officials tend to view matters through the prism of liability risk and they did not want us hit by flying manhole covers. For once I was quite sympathetic to their cautious approach problem solving.

We evacuated accordingly, or at least we did after security managed to unlock the back doors to let us out. It is to their credit I suppose that it only took ten or fifteen minutes to open the back fire doors. They are so seldom needed, after all.

I know what caused the explosions. I've been warning about this ever since 9/11. It is clear that it was suicide bomber alligators. I really don't think it was rats. Rats, although capable of such treachery, are normally too smart to do such things themselves. They get the other guys to blow themselves to pieces. A rat's nature is like that. No, it was the alligators all right.

Now I'm not accusing all sewer alligators of engaging in terrorism. I accept that most sewer alligators are peaceful carnivores, chomping down on passing left-over meatball pizzas, or other flushed detritus and will have nothing to do with sewer-based terror networks. It is not part of the belief system of most sewer gators to threaten humans, despite the many sordid tales on the net of snatched Canada Post mail carriers who vanish from their routes before all their mail is delivered, only to escape and re-emerge hours later in local pubs.

But some alligators become bitter beasts and fall victim to sewer rats who are all too willing to use these rejected deluded gators for nefarious purposes. In my view, we must address the root causes of alligator alienation, if we hope to avoid mass sewer bombings in the future. A federal program should be established to study the issue and come up with a plan.

I blame the corporate pet industry, myself. Consider. Pet store capitalists breed baby alligators and sell them to metrosexuals in living downtown condos. These baby gators are sold as status symbols to these elegant, but jaded, urban dwellers. You've probably smiled as you've watched these leashed young gators, wearing those cute gator cardigans and cow leather booties with the open toes to show off their beautifully painted claws, out for a walk in trendy neighborhoods with their proud owners. And those alligators are precious, ... for the first month or so.

Once their owners figure out that these cuddly pets are destined to outgrow the bachelor pad and probably consume the owner in the process, what happens? You've all heard the stories, of frightened condo dwellers flushing little Bunky the reptile, down the toilet to join the throngs of other homeless, rejected alligators in the deeps below the streets.

Small wonder that their little reptilian hearts curdle and they become prey to sewer rats preaching nihilism and death. It's another failure of the corporatist West and George Bush. I expect Naomi Klein would agree.

From these cruel beginnings it is but a small step to strapping on the vests of high explosives with "Fabriqué en France" on the collars and then going forth to attack innocents in the sunlight above. Unloved, they turn to hate and who among us can truly blame them?

Yes, it is the alligators that did it, but it's we who drove them to it.


Well, don't just sit there at your keyboard trembling. Do something! Write your MP and demand a Royal Commission ... before they strike again.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Another Recruit to the Colours

I have been remiss in not welcoming the newest member of the Red Ensign Brigade who describes himself in the following way.

"The enlightened writings of Peter C. Rempel, university student out in the Vancouver rain."

Visit his web site at Ramelia Prime when you have a moment. (see sidebar - A leprechaun places your blog link there when you join. Don't ask me how. I'm a tube model brain in a computer universe. )

Peter: Recruit platoon falls in a 06:30 hrs. There will be a kit inspection followed by 60 minutes of close order drill.

You will be expected to put a spit shine on your parade Nikes. I want to be able to see my nose hairs in the toe caps. Am I clear? No?...... Well, I am Mad, you know.

By the way, your clever ruse to forestall the demands of a certain brigade member for free booze by not having a comments section is very clever, but ultimately doomed. He will place his order as soon as you enter any of the brigade officers messes, which are brilliantly disguised as civilian pubs. You've been warned. Fall out!

Steyn on the United Nations

Hat tip to Keith at Minority of One.

The magnificent Mark Steyn, has a wonderful post on the United Nations Oil for Food scam here at the Telegraph:

At tough times in my life, with the landlord tossing my clothes and record collection out on to the street, I could have used an aunt like Benon Sevan's. Asked to account for the appearance in his bank account of a certain $160,000, Mr Sevan, executive director of the UN Oil-for-Food programme, said it was a gift from his aunt. Lucky Sevan, eh? None of my aunts ever had that much of the folding stuff on tap.

And nor, it seems, did Mr Sevan's. She lived in a modest two-room flat back in Cyprus and her own bank accounts gave no indication of spare six-figure sums. Nonetheless, if a respected UN diplomat says he got 160,000 bucks from Auntie, we'll just have to take his word for it. Paul Volcker's committee of investigation did plan to ask the old lady to confirm her nephew's version of events, but, before they could, she fell down an elevator shaft and died.
He also writes of the Sudanese non-genocide genocide:

That's great news, isn't it? For as yet another Annan-appointed UN committee boldly declared in December: "Genocide anywhere is a threat to the security of all and should never be tolerated." So thank goodness this isn't genocide. Instead, it's just 70,000 corpses who all happen to be from the same ethnic group ? which means the UN can go on tolerating it until everyone's dead, and Polly and Clare don't have to worry their pretty little heads about it.

Have I told you how much I loathe the United Nations? No? ... I bet you can guess.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Manipulation - Thy Name is Globe & Mail

I'm thinking of changing my pseudonym to John the Quite Sane, But Thoroughly Disgusted. Why? I just read this morning's Globe & Mail editorial on same-sex marriage (SSM). Frankly, I'm very weary of this debate and eager to post on subjects other than this one, but the advocates of SSM keep lobbing lies and half-truths into the political corral and the bull herd needs to be regularly gelded.

Let me be clear. I am a democrat. I don't mind any editorialists crusading for a change to the traditional definition of marriage, if that is what they want to do. But is it asking to much for them to be honest in how they address the issue? One has to wonder whether today's Globe editorialist is toadying for a Senate appointment? Whatever the reason, it is not very honourable.

What really gets my steam up is the selective use of information which bolsters their cause, while ignoring information which refutes the position they take. Today's editorial is a case study in manipulation of the public. How?

The Globe editorialist asserts that whatever difficulties the Liberals are having with this issue (apparently only a caucus management problem, says the Globe), it is the Conservatives and Stephen Harper who are in real political trouble by opposing the same-sex legislation. What evidence is given for this?

"But the most interesting finding in a hyped media poll this week on same sex marriage came when respondents were asked which policy priorities merit the most attention. Only six percent cited same sex marriage. Even among advocates of traditional marriage, only one in ten put voting weight [whatever that is supposed to mean?] on the issue. And this at the very height of the debate. Six months or a year from now those numbers are bound to shrink into a rounding error."
Message from the Globe. The public doesn't care about changing the definition of marriage, so get on with it.

What "hyped media poll" is the Globe writing about? Good question. It was a poll on the front page of last Thursday's National Post. Why the use of the curious "hyped media poll" phraseology? It is intended to lead one to believe that content of the poll is not really that important, or relevant. How do we know? The editorialist implies it is so, by calling it hyped, that's how.

Now what of the content of the poll itself? We bloggers are accused of mainstream journalists of not fact-checking stories, but in truth most of us here in the Red Ensign Brigade are rather assiduous about doing so. It is in our curmudgeonly nature.

Now the Globe editorialist was aware of the content of the National Post/Global poll as the poll results were carefully cherry picked to bolster the sly assertion that no one cares about the SSM. But a reading of the Post story, by Tom Blackwell, reveals that Canadians do care about the change to the definition of marriage. They care very much.

As MPs begin debating the government's same-sex marriage bill, a healthy majority of Canadians would actually prefer to see the contentious issue decided by a country-wide referendum, a new National Post/Global National poll suggests.
More than two-thirds said they would prefer a direct say on the gay marriage question, rather than a free vote in Parliament that lets politicians act according to their conscience, the survey indicates.

And the poll suggests the same-sex legislation might go down to defeat in a plebiscite, with 66% saying they support keeping the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

However, about half that number do favour creating a new category of "civil union" for same-sex partners. A similar percentage favour full same-sex marriage. The breakdown of support has changed little in the last year.
66% against! .... Just in case anyone missed it I will repeat it.

66% of Canadians say they are opposed to same-sex marriage!
Conrad Winn of COMPAS said the support for a referendum on the issue is unusual and much higher than the company generally finds, perhaps because it is a subject many people feel they understand and can offer a reasonable opinion about.
Also surprising, he said, was that the poll found public opinion on same-sex marriage had barely changed in more than a year, despite the extensive public debate over it.
That, ladies and gentlemen was the heart of the polling results and a newspaper editorialist, whose job it is to know about such things, chose to let it drift quietly by, unremarked, unnoticed and unrecognized. See what I mean by manipulation. Now note I'm not saying there was an outright lie here. Why?

The poll does say that the public is not happy with the priority the Liberals are giving to this matter.
...just 6% of respondents said same-sex marriage should receive the greatest attention from the federal government among a number of listed issues. Health care, at 48%, the economy and taxes, honesty in government spending and the environment were all rated as greater priorities. Only foreign policy and terrorism fell below same-sex marriage in the poll.
Now, I am a policy wonk by trade. I am moderately well paid by Her Majesty, in Right of the Taxpayer, to give advice to government. I can tell you that a cursory interpretation of that latter information would suggest, not that the public is unconcerned, but that an overwhelming majority are not happy that the Liberals are pursuing SSM at all.

As it happens, I do not get paid the Queen's shilling to offer advice to the Right Honourable Paul Martin. But if I was so employed, I'd tell him to high tail it to the backwoods and never speak of it again. Why? That poll tells me that SSM is a heap of political dynamite. The situation is relatively quiet right now but if someone, or something, were to light the political fuse, the whole shebang could blow sky high taking the Liberal government with it. Don't think for a minute that the Globe editorialists aren't aware of the fragility of the Liberal SSM political platform. That's why they keep dousing the issue with water. Keep it cool and wet and don't, for God sakes, let the public in on how many are opposed.

The Globe editorialist ridicules Stephen Harper "in the over-the-top way" he has opposed SMM in connecting SSM with polygamy. Meanwhile, the anonymous editorialist is completely silent on the two legal opinions on polygamy commissioned by HM government in B.C. As I note in my Thursday, February 3rd post on this matter, the Attorney General of B.C. does not think the federal law against polygamy will withstand a court challenge. In 2001 former B.C. Chief Justice Allan McEachern, "agreed that a religious freedom defence will probably result in the law being struck down." Over-the-top, indeed.

Lastly, I draw your attention to another disingenuous element of the Globe editorial. Read the whole thing (warning firewall) and it is very clear that it is the editorialist's intention to undercut Stephen Harper and thereby the political opposition to SSM, by emphasizing a Conservative split, and downplaying Liberal fractures on this issue. But is there a Conservative split?

The poll also hinted at what Mr. Winn (Conrad Winn of COMPASS) calls a "civilizational" divide between the spiritually devout and others. Among the one-third who said religion was very important to them, 80% opposed opening the doors to same-sex marriage, compared with 35% among those for whom religion was not important.
Of all the parties, the Conservatives were most united on the issue, with 83% saying gay couples should not be able to marry. It could be a helpful issue for the opposition party if it chose to seize on it, Mr. Winn said.[emphasis is mine]
Among the one third who said religion is very important to them (and who are 80% opposed to SMM), are huge numbers of practicing churchgoing Catholics who have traditionally voted Liberal. They are very unhappy with Mr. Martin and the Liberal Party. It is increasingly becoming clear to them that the Liberal Party, as presently constituted, no longer represents the family values they hold dear.

In the words of Bob Dylan, "The times they are a changing." Go for it, Mr. Harper. Two thirds of the Canadian people are with you.

Friday, February 04, 2005

What is Marriage?

The media is repeatedly telling us that the "traditional" definition of marriage, that of, "one man and one women to the exclusion of all others" was defined only in the late eighteen hundreds, giving the impression that this thing called marriage hasn't really been around all that long. What they are talking about is the common law definition of marriage. The judiciary simply legally defined what was already in place in society.

Additionally, we hear these days from feminist who assert that traditional marriage is but a means by which the patriarchy asserts its power and assures its property rights over its progeny. Thus they claim, the modern family finds its roots in capitalist patriarchy. Such claims are not surprising since much of radical feminist thought can be traced to Marx and Engels. Indeed Engels had this to say about the monogamous family in The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State:

It [the momogamous family] is based on the supremacy of the man, the express purpose being to produce children of undisputed paternity; such paternity is demanded because these children are later to come into their father's property as his natural heirs.
Sound familiar? Proponents of same-sex marriage go to great lengths to inculcate the notion in the public mind that marriage, as we know it in Western civilization, is a recent institution, constantly changing and not really all that spiritual in origin. But is this true?

As a Catholic I know that the institution of marriage is a very old sacrament going back to the beginnings of the Church and beyond. The Fathers of the Church wrote about it. St. Augustine, 354-480 AD, wrote of the sacrament in Of the Good of Marriage:

For as much as each man is a part of the human race, and human nature is something social, and hath for a great and natural good, the power also of friendship; on this account God willed to create all men out of one, in order that they might be held in their society not only by likeness of kind, but also by bond of kindred. Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. ... For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk. Then follows the connexion of fellowship in children, which is the one alone worthy fruit, not of the union of male and female, but of the sexual intercourse.
For two thousand years, in Western society, marriage has been understood not as something made by judges, nor as something derived from a purely economic arrangement, or as a means to pass on wealth, but as a spiritual bond between a man and a woman which allows for the procreation, protection and nurturing of children.

Why do I mention this? To put to rest the canard that this institution is a fleeting changeling, or a legitimate plaything of political dilettentes, or a matter only concerning the loving couple themselves.

Anyone who is a parent knows that marriage is not about the rights of adults, but the obligations to the children. In enduring the many hardships of parenthood: the sleepless nights with sick babies, the allocation of the available income to the needs of the little ones, the loss of freedom to spend time in the pursuit of adult pleasures, the extra hours at the factory to pay for the schooling, the best cuts of food to the hungry little tummies, the wearing of last year's fashions to provide a few extras for the kids, the watching of Barney, and other kids shows, over and over and over..... You get the drift.

Marriage is a giving, not a getting. But oddly enough it is in this constant giving of oneself to one's children that one becomes fully human and more robustly alive. To the extent that I can call myself a man, it is because I am a father. In giving myself completely as a father, I become a man.

Marriage is the cornerstone of the family and the family is the cornerstone of society. We socially engineer this ancient institution at our peril.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Attorney General Claims Polygamy Law Vulnerable

You may recall the scorn heaped upon those of us who argue same-sex marriage will inevitably lead to the legalization of polygamy. Recall the following comment from CBC News.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler had earlier denied there was any link between the two issues. "We don't see any connection - I repeat, any connection - between the issue of polygamy and the issue of same-sex marriage," he said Thursday [January 20, 2005].

Or how about Paul Martin's January 22nd ringing assertion that:

"Polygamy is against the law and, as far as I'm concerned, it will always be against the law."

Tip of the hat to Gregl Staples, of Political Staples, for this story. Today we have a Vancouver Sun story (via the National Post) by Peter O'Neil which casts real doubt upon these bold federal Liberal assertions.
Canada's law prohibiting polygamy is vulnerable to a legal challenge and could be struck down because of a conflict with religious freedom, says B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant.

Mr. Plant, whose view is based on confidential legal opinions provided to the B.C. government on two occasions, said he has failed to convince the federal government to amend the anti-polygamy law.

He said the legal opinions have played a major role in the refusal by police over many years to lay charges against polygamists in the B.C. community of Bountiful, where girls as young as 13 have allegedly been forced to become "celestial wives" of much older men. "There might well be a case where the court would have to deal with religious freedoms arguments, and I think there is at least some risk that those arguments might succeed," Mr. Plant said. ...
Later in the story we see these details:

The first legal opinion on polygamy was provided to B.C.'s NDP government in 1992 by retired B.C. Appeal Court judge Richard Anderson.

The judge recommended the federal government scrap the polygamy law and come up with new laws that would "enhance desirable social objectives" without violating the Charter of Rights.

Mr. Plant said he commissioned a second opinion after the Liberals took power in B.C. in 2001. Former B.C. chief justice Allan McEachern agreed that a religious freedom defence will probably result in the law being struck down.
I'll say it again. Once we change the law on marriage to include couples of the same sex, there is no principled basis upon which to object to polygamy, polyandry, or any number of other marital arrangements.

Prepare for the deluge.

Seven Marriage Commissioners Forced Out In NFLD

A hat tip to Kathy Shaidle at Relapsed Catholic for this link:

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. February 3, 2005 ( - Seven marriage commissioners in the province have resigned after an activist judge ordered commissioners to perform same-sex "weddings" or face dismissal. Seven of 67 commissioners chose to resign their posts prior to a January 31 deadline set by the Newfoundland Supreme Court.

Gander mayor Claude Elliot told the Canadian Press that forcing commissioners to resign is an assault on religious freedoms. "It was pretty straight forward from the (provincial) Department of Justice that you either had to perform them or resign," he said Wednesday.

The Federal Justice Minister said last year that there would be provisions in the new bill ensuring marriage commissioners would not be compelled to perform the ceremonies. But the licensing and enforcement of commissioners is a provincial matter.

But of course, no religion will be impacted by same-sex marriage, says Paul Martin. Nope. None at all. Nada. Zippo. Just ask him. Trust him.

St. John's homosexual-activist group EGALE vice-president Gemma Hickey said she was not surprised some commissioners would resign, given that homophobia is especially prevalent in rural areas.
Yup. It's those hate-filled Christian rubes out there in the countryside. Don't worry, Gemma, we have enough activist judges in Canada to take good care of all of them God-fearing homophobes.

And the Beat Goes On

I've been sick in bed for a couple of days and there appears to be lots happening on the same-sex marriage front. My morning Globe & Mail says that the Liberal spin doctor's are advising our PM and Liberal Cabinet minister's to use the phrase "civil marriage" rather than "same-sex marriage." Apparently, the latter has has a negative connotation in some people's minds. Similarly, we'll be innundated with the phrase "human rights," rather than "minority rights." The former allows the politicos to piggyback on long accepted human rights, rather than drawing attention to the giant social experiment we are undergoing.

I think Paul Martin's handlers are getting very, very, nervous.

Kate over at Small Dead Animals has an excellent post on the matter from a non-religious perspective. She has an enviable capacity to strike at the heart of the issue. Go read her post.

Damian Brooks, at Babbling Brooks, has also weighed in with his views. He doen't think the matter really will have an impact on him, but thinks a reasonable compromise is to have the state perform civil unions for everyone and leave marriage to the religiously inclined.

In a related matter, Kate has commented further on the human rights case in Coquitlam, B.C. She notes from the Globe & Mail that:

The Knights, adhering to church teaching, which is against homosexual marriage, cancelled a rental contract that had been signed, returned the couple's deposit and paid for both the rental of a new hall and the reprinting of wedding invitations after Ms. Chymyshyn and Ms. Smith complained that invitations listing the hall's address for their reception had been mailed. That was in September, 2003.
Just in case you have trouble finding the case, I have looked it up. I may be found under the following citation:

Coquitlam Knights of Columbus v. the Really Loving Lesbian Couple Who Truly Didn't Know the Knights were Catholic, (Honest), but are Looking Forward to Grinding Them Into the Human Rights Commission Ideological Dust Anyway, Even Though They Now Know The Knights Are Catholic and Were Just Following their Obvously Bigoted and Homophobic Catholic Consciences, Which Must Not Be Permitted, and Even Though The Knights Obtained and Paid for Another Hall and All other Expenses Related to the Invitations, Just So The Loving Lesbian Crusaders Wouldn't Be Out of Pocket for Their Loving Marital Celebrations.

Kate of The Last Amazon also weighs in on this matter with the following comment [I originally attributed this to Kate at Small Dead Animals. See what happens when you blog when ill. My apologies to both Kates.]

And yet, the ladies still took the issue to the BC Human Rights Tribunal after receiving compensation for a new rental hall and the reprinting of their wedding invitations. So sorry, but you were more than adequately compensated for the incident and I am not willing to sacrifice Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Association on the altar of sexual politics.

One final heads up ladies. If an organization is located behind a Catholic Church and on church property you can bet the cat that the organization is affiliated with the Catholic Church.
[My last paragraph mysteriously vanished when I went to correct my attribution blunder. The blogger gods are clearly not happy with me, or the Kate's have much more influence over the blogoshere than I thought. You may assume tha whatever I said in that last paragraph was brilliant, pungent and to the point.... and now lost to history.]

Remember the above comments when Liberal politicians try and smoke you with the spin that the same-sex marriage legislation will have no impact on the rights of religious folk. It is a lie sustained only by the odious means of interpreting religous rights in the most narrow way and focusing protection from the state's power on clerics' sacramental perogatives. As for the rest of the faithful, .... well just ask civil marriage commissioners, or the Knights of Columbus, for a guided tour of the liberal looking glass world of rights and freedoms.