Monday, April 27, 2009

Those ever fascinating unions

I see that Chrysler workers in Canada ratified the collective agreement negotiated by its union leaders by 87%.

I negotiated collective agreements on behalf of my employer during my most active years in the work force and I have always been fascinated by the relationship between the rank and file workers and those who supposedly speak on their behalf at the bargaining table. There is an assumption most workers make that their locally elected leadership (the people who actually work in the establishment governed by the agreement) is in charge of the process.

In big unions, like CUPE or the CAW, not so. The regional or national boys always take over, and the local president and his or her two or three minions become seat-fillers at the bargaining table. The problem with this is that the union politics spearheaded by the national headquarters takes precedence over local issues.

I recall a circumstance when I caved into a union demand that I did not like regarding job security because the national office was demanding it in all their agreements (pattern bargaining). But, I also managed to soften the blow by offering much less money for wage increases than I had been prepared to offer. After all, I had to justify the agreement to my board of directors.

When the members voted to ratify the deal, only 65% approved. It was enough of course, but in the previous half century of the union’s life it was common to obtain 98% ratification. My sources told me the big disappointment was the wages and that the security issue was of no concern to the local.

I wasn’t completely surprised when I saw the CAW seemingly going down the road to collective suicide with its intransigence at the bargaining table, just before it did the abrupt about-face. The vote of the workers clearly indicates they would prefer a job to a long time in the unemployment lines, and I guess at some point the union leaders woke up to what the workers really valued.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Silly media take on religious poll

Featured below is a misleading media take on a possibly misleading poll commissioned by Mclean’s Magazine. It was published by Canada News Wire. Read the report and see my comments following. Note the headline and prepared to be shocked.

A disturbing new poll shows the limit of our tolerance

TORONTO, April 23 /CNW/ - Canadians like to think of their country as a
model of multi-ethnic and multicultural harmony - a mixed mosaic to which
other countries can aspire. But when it comes to the major faiths other than
Christianity, a new poll conducted for Maclean's finds many Canadians harbour
shocking biases.

Almost Half Say Mainstream Islam Encourages Violence

When asked if they thought "the mainstream beliefs" of the major
religions "encourage violence or are mostly peaceful," only 10 per cent said
they thought Christianity teaches violence. But fully 45 per cent said they
believe Islam does, and a sizable 26 per cent saw Sikhism as encouraging
The poll, by Angus Reid Strategies for Maclean's, surveyed 1,002 randomly
selected Canadians on religion. As Maclean's Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes,
reports, the findings strongly suggest minority religions aren't getting a
fair shake. Sorting out complex issues - like the real meanings of Islamic
terms like "fatwa" and "sharia," or the factions in the Sikh community - can
undeniably be tricky. Still, when it comes to respecting the mainstream
beliefs of minority faiths, Canada is quite obviously still a much-flawed work
in progress.


- 70% of Canadians hold a positive view of Christianity

- 41% hold a positive view of Hinduism

- 30% hold a positive view of Sikhism

- 45% believe mainstream Islam encourages violence

- 44% would not want their child to marry a person of Jewish faith. Even
fewer would be comfortable with a Sikh or a Muslim.

- Nationally, 62% think laws and norms should not be modified to
accommodate minorities. In Quebec, that number rises to 74%.

Fair shake?

When Mclean’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, John Geddes says minority religions aren’t getting a “fair shake”, what does he mean? Do we infer that Canadians do not understand these religions and if they did then they would consider them more favourably? Do we infer that Canadians do understand these religions and simply don’t like them – and that is not fair?

How would that not be fair? You have a perfect right to dislike a religion for whatever reason until the Human Rights tribunals take away your rights.

Who are these Canadians with these “shocking biases”?

This is a poll of randomly selected Canadians. Do we know whether any of the people who responded to the survey are themselves self-described members of some of these religions? We are not told. An atheist might have a certain bias towards these religions, considering all of them to be equally flawed. A religious person would be biased in favour of his or her own faith.

Considering that more than 70% of Canadians hold a positive view of Christianity should not be surprising since that is the number of Canadians who are identified in the national census as Christians.

Marrying outside of your faith

It is common that people of one faith prefer their children to marry within their faith. What are we to make of the numbers showing that 44% of those polled don’t want their children to marry Jews? If the people who responded to this were Jews, that would be news. But does it imply that 56% of the respondents would have no problem with this? We don’t know. But, if it did, that would indicate a fairly good level of tolerance.

Mainstream religious beliefs

What does “respecting the mainstream beliefs of minority religions” mean? Let’s consider the majority religion for a moment.

What are the mainstream beliefs of Christianity? Ask a Catholic and you will get one answer, ask a Baptist, another, and so on. Belief, first in God and then in Jesus as the redeemer, would seem to be pretty much the bedrock of all Christian faiths, but that is not much to go on. When you consider that there are some 38,000 different Christian sects which differ in their emphasis of scripture or ritual, one can see some difficulty in describing mainstream beliefs in a telephone poll.

Consider Islam, the one most people think preaches violence. What are its “mainstream beliefs”? Would we identify them from imams like Dr. Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, which self-describes itself as the largest Muslim activist organization in the country, who stated on public television that all Israeli Jews over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for Muslim suicide bombers – a double condemnation since it tacitly supports suicide bombing? Would the website of the Toronto mosque that supported political jihad be another source of mainstream Islamic belief? And I could go on with other examples.

But, the point is why does the editor of this newswire story assume that the mainstream beliefs of religions are peaceful and Canadians are wrong to think they are not? Surely that bias is itself suspect.

I think Canadians have a very good idea of these religions and it is the writer of the story who needs to give his head shake. It is the reason why it is death in this country for a politician to start mixing religion into political campaigns. Just ask John Tory or Stockwell Day.


On reflection, I should not have dismissed the surprise in this poll so lightly. I am surprised that the number of people who think Islam promotes violence is as low as it is, given the worldwide publicity Islam has been getting since 9/11, the Mohammed cartoons, the Hamas/Hezbollah fights with Israel, the pronouncements of the president of Iran and the Durban I and II conferences. I suspect this is because our authorities (recall that the original announcements of the arrest of the 18 wannabe terrorists in Mississauga made not a mention of the one common factor that they were all Muslims), as do the American and British political establishments, go out of their way to soft pedal Islam. These numbers would suggest they are doing a good job of covering up the reality.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Catholics lack a code of conduct. Help!

I see the latest thing in the ongoing saga of the kleptocratic and insularly insolent Toronto Catholic school board is that the province is being urged to implement a code of conduct for board members and others.

This is rich. While I don’t put a lot of stock in this one, but I know Catholics do, how about giving each board member a copy of the Bible and asking them to read it. They could then be quizzed before taking the oath of office to ensure that they understood fully the parts about not stealing, telling the truth and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This will be a novelty for them and it will save a lot of time in the legislature since this code is readily available in take-home print form.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From Canada's perspective, 9/11 was an inside job

It is hard to know what to make of the latest Canadian “ruffled feathers” flap going on over the comments of Janet Napolitano, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary.

She got herself in trouble in a television interview raising the old chestnut about the 9/11 terrorists getting into the U.S. through Canada. This was said in the context of the U.S. treating the Canadian border exactly the same as the Mexican border.

Early versions of her suggested that she was simply ignorant of the Canadian border situation and her 9/11 attributes bore that out. However, she has since corrected the record to say she was wrong about that and was thinking of the wannabe LAX bomber who was nabbed at the border crossing between British Columbia and Washington State.

Now she has gone on to say that her problem with us is that we let in people that would be denied entry into the United States. In short, we need to be more selective. Her predecessor, Michael Chertoff, claimed that more than a dozen “extremists” were caught trying to cross from Canada.

Maybe instead of puffing ourselves up as not being a problem we should take a little more time to talk to our counterparts in the U.S. to find out exactly what they know that we apparently do not.

I cross the border two or three times a year, and I would not want to see some unduly militarized bureaucratic operation replacing the current one. However, we should be cooperating with the U.S. on weeding out the undesirables as much as we can and if we are not willing to do that then I suppose we will suffer the consequences.

I am inclined to give Ms. Napolitano the benefit of the doubt at this stage and assume that she has some good data to back up her policy utterances.

Monday, April 13, 2009

One man's desert is another man's paradise

The Pope has spoken.

In an Easter address, he lamented that the world was sliding into a “desert of Godlessness'.

To which my thought was, “And that is a problem because???”

He went on to say there are “many societies in the world where women fail to receive a fair deal.”

This statement was immediately endorsed by the Council of Catholic Women Priests, or, at least, it would have been, if there actually were any women ordained as Catholic priests.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jesus the Easter bunny

There is Toronto Sun Columnist, Michael Coren, who occasionally writes something completely stupid and deserving of rebuttal. I don’t think Coren is stupid, but I would classify him as a religious crank. He is a Catholic.

He frequently complains about the media suppressing Christians, yet the Sun, a large Toronto daily newspapers with tens of thousands of print readers and untold on-line readers, publishes his pulpit-proud preachings of the “one true faith”, Catholicism. If there is suppression stalking the land it isn’t obvious in the editorial department of the Toronto Sun.

Nor is it manifested on the Christian Television Network which broadcasts Coren’s week-nightly gab fest.

Since it is Easter, the most important event in the Christian calendar of fictious historiography, it would be unseemly for Coren to pass it by. Today he wrote a column called, Let’s rise and shine.

These are some of the things he had to say:

What I particularly love about Easter is the joy it brings to all those tired old atheist hacks who can sell articles to newspapers explaining why Easter isn't Easter, Jesus wasn't Jesus and Cadbury Creme Eggs are all some sort of Christian conspiracy to cause obesity and heart disease. Much as I dislike hurting these little darlings, their attacks have to be challenged.

I am an atheist and I am getting old, but I don’t think I am particularly tired and even though I am a writer I would have to say to Mr. Coren, on the subject of hack writers, pay attention to what the alleged Jesus had say: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. But he does raise an important point about how Easter gets confused with a bunny delivering Easter eggs. I have resolved this problem for my 3 year old granddaughter quite simply by explaining that the Easter bunny’s name is Jesus.

More people have died in the name of religion than anything else. The century that saw the most violent deaths was the 20th, when the atheist monsters Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and their Fascist and Marxist buddies slaughtered hundreds of millions.

Boy, talk about the utterings of tired old hacks! None of these people that he mentions murdered in the name of atheism, unlike the inquisitors of Catholic fame and the witch-burners of Protestant persuasion, who all justified their acts by reference to God and the Gospels. But that is simply quibbling, because he is resorting to a numbers game. My response is to suggest that the outcome might have been even more appalling in the 15th and 16th centuries if the weapons of modern slaughter, communications and logistics had been available to folks like Torquemada.

People have, however, killed in the name of religion and will doubtless continue to do so. Generally these days in the name of Islam, but most Christian bashers are too intimidated or cowardly to say too much about this particular issue.

One might add that nary a peep comes out of Christians about the murders committed by Muslims. Coren himself wrote a column praising the Muslims for being visibly angry about the Danish cartoons about Mohammed. He put in the obligatory “I don’t mean to endorse violence” sentence, but this amounted to praise by faint damnation in the overall context of his column. He also wrote a column saying that we had to rush out and drop nuclear bombs on the Muslims in Iran (later retracted).

Perhaps, in light of this history, calling him a crank was being too kind. He’s a wingnut. But, divinely guided, of course.

In fact, Christians are the enablers of the Islamic will to hegemony through its intimidation and violence with their limp-wristed inter-faith initiatives and their pressure to try to introduce Sharia law into western societies. The fact is that the so-called Abrahamic religions share a kind of an unwritten understanding that if you don’t piss on my faith I won’t piss on yours. Note that when imams call for the slaughter of Jews they don’t condemn the religion, just the people who practice it.

People commit evil in the name of everything and anything, including the faith we celebrate this weekend. It is that very faith that gives us an absolute sense of right and wrong and thus leads us to know that killing, abuse, oppression and selfishness are unacceptable

So the upshot is that evil has nothing to do with religion, it is a force that infects all mankind, but faith in a religion is the way to overcome evil and if you don’t have that you will be doomed to commit evil because you will have no sense of right and wrong. No moral compass.

This is such arrogance and nonsense. How do people who believe this crap explain the millions -- 5 and counting -- of people in this country who identify themselves as non-religious who live very ordinary, peaceful, law-abiding and moral lives? Like the theory of evolution, the facts are in front of you – all you have to do is look at them to realize that your religious prescriptions don’t stand up.

If there is no God and no universal moral code, why bother to behave and -- important this -- what criteria do those trendy God haters have to judge people as being right and wrong or good and bad?

Well, here are a couple. Don’t steal other people’s goods and don’t murder other people. Why? Because, if you are going to be a social animal and live with your fellow humans these are very useful rules to follow to avoid chaos, bloodshed, anarchy and tyranny. Here is another one – respect every person’s right to dignity. Why? Because you would want your right to dignity respected and you cannot expect to get what you are not prepared to give. Did we really need a story about a man going up a mountain and returning with stone tablets to figure these things out for ourselves?

Atheists are not “God haters”. How would it be possible to hate something that you do not belief exists? Did I mention how much a really hate green unicorns?

Yes, but even if there is a God, He must be nasty because He allows all sorts of bad things to happen. Oh please! Bad stuff happening to good people is a problem for the atheist, not the Christian.

Au contraire. It is a problem for Christians who believe in a loving, compassionate and benevolent god who listens to and answers personal prayers. How to explain the contradiction? Explanations are required and that is when most of those who are going to be turned off by religion begin the withdrawal process, after they hear these unconvincing or ludicrous explanations. The atheists just shrug and say “shit happens”.

We believe eternity is more important than the 70 or 80 years we spend on earth so that while we may suffer here, our end is our beginning. The humanist mob thinks this is it, that at death we are dust, food for worms.

Yes, and that is the problem. Humanists think we should focus on this life and do the best we can with it because there is no other. The heaven worshippers can dismiss this life and the awful things that happen in it because they think it is the unimportant one.

Who would you rather have looking after your current affairs?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obama's disconnect with the Islamic world

I was going avoid blogging until May but it is all too much.

President Obama is in Turkey spreading his gospel of hope and change, and sucking up to the Muslims.

He declared that the United States is not at war with Islam. Gee, that rings a bell. Oh yeah, it was that George Bush guy who used to say that regularly.

Hmmm. That doesn’t seem to be much of a change.

Is Obama leaving troops in Iraq? Yes. Is he sending more to fight Muslims in Afghanistan? Yes. So how is this a different message from the previous one?

Maybe this is the change. He has declared the U.S. to be in a partnership with the Muslim world “in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."...

I wonder what he means and who he is talking about. First, where would we find this “fringe ideology”? In the Koran and the Hadith, that’s where. If the Koran is the ineffable word of God, as Muslims claim, how can it be a fringe ideology?

And who are the faiths that are rejecting it? The head of the Church of England has been pushing for the introduction of Sharia law. The Pope has fallen all over himself to kiss Islamic ass after a strong start in naming the real problem.

What Muslim community has disavowed the tenets of the Koran and the examples of Mohammed that require Islam to be the dominant faith and required infidels to submit or die? Name just one, Mr. Obama. There is a problem, to do so would be to admit that the Koran is not the word of God. And if you admit that, then you open the doors to a reformation.

What Muslim community asked to be a partner with the United States in fighting this “fringe ideology”, anyway? The idea of a partnership is that it is a two-way street. See below for the Turkish Prime Minister's idea of a partnership.

Then there was this “pants dropper”.

"We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better, including my own country.”

Fourteen hundred years of jihad, and counting. How does this make the world better and exactly what has been the contribution of Islam to the richness of American life, besides a greater attention to national security after 9/11?

Did Mr. Obama read the remarks of Turkey’s Prime Minister from a few days earlier?

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected attempts to call Turkey the representative of moderate Islam. "It is unacceptable for us to agree with such a definition. Turkey has never been a country to represent such a concept. Moreover, Islam cannot be classified as moderate or not," Erdoğan said, speaking at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

So who was Obama trying to partner with in tackling the “fringe ideology”? Wasn’t that always supposed to be the “moderate” Muslims, who Turkey disavows? Maybe he should try his hopey-changey speeches on Hamas and Hezbollah, because the Turks aren’t buying into it.

Erdoğan pointed to the lack of dialogue between different religions and cultures, which has led to distressing incidents in the world history.
"The animosity, unfortunately, strengthens the scenarios that there is a so-called clash of civilizations in the world. Those, who defend such speculations, may go further to identify the terrorism with Islam which is based on peace," he maintained, adding that the situation helps those who try to globalize Islamophobia.
So, the real problem in the world is not Islamic imperialism, it the “irrational fear” of Islam.

Erdoğan also wanted Western societies to be more open to cooperation and dialogue with the East. "It should be known that adopting a malicious and offending approach toward the sensitive issues of Islamic world by hiding behind some democratic freedoms like freedom of speech and right of free publication is unacceptable," he said.

Yup, we sure wouldn’t want the cornerstone of our civilization, free speech, to stand in the way of the Islamic world.

Drawing attention to the importance of mutual understanding and respect, Erdoğan stated that he believes and respects Moses and Jesus, and accepts them as prophets. "I expect the same attitude from a Jew or a Christian toward my own prophet," Erdoğan noted. He underlined the importance of Turkey’s European Union membership in terms of establishing connections between the West and the East....

As Robert Spencer points out, in Jihad Watch, from where I pulled these quotations, saying that Moses and Jesus were prophets in a line of Islamic prophets, ending with Mohammed, is not the same as saying that Muslims accept the depiction of Moses in the Old Testament and that of Jesus in the New Testament. In short, those books are false, and only the Koran is the truth.

Mr. Obama may not see this as a clash of civilizations but Mr. Erdoğan does not harbour the same delusion.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am currently on a sabbatical and will return to blogging in the first week in May.