Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Silly little men and their self-importance

The current Labour government of the United Kingdom is a pathetic excuse for a government. Labour is traditionally not supportive of the monarchy, but the latest flip of the bird to her Maj really takes the cake.

It appears that the government of France is planning a big ceremony to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy by allied forces on June 6, 1944. This was the beginning of the liberation of France, and ultimately Europe, from the Nazis. When I say allied forces I am referring to Americans, the British and the Canadians. The Americans came ashore at beaches named Omaha and Utah. The British landed at Sword and Gold. The Canadians took Juno beach.

But, the President of France, who appears to be desperate to kiss Barack Obama’s ass, has only invited the Americans to the celebration. Now, Obama would be the first to fall all over himself to remind everybody that he wasn’t even born in 1944, so don’t blame him for American casualties on those beaches. Neither was French President Sarkozy.

In fact, the only head of state in this quartet that actually was alive in 1944 and participated in the relieve of bombing victims in London and worked on repairing military vehicles during the Second World War is Queen Elizabeth. She would like to attend but protocol requires that she be invited. She cannot ask, but she can indicate that if she were asked she would be happy to attend. The signals were given, but Sarkozy did not respond. He did however invite the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, when Brown said he would like to come.

I think I am fairly safe in saying that any surviving veterans who attend the occasion couldn’t give a rat’s ass if Gordon Brown showed up, but would be tickled pink to see the Queen. Brown should do the decent thing, if any Labour politician knows what those words mean, and press Sarkozy to invite the Queen, and, if he fails to do so, not attend himself.

The Queen represents a generation who understood noblesse oblige. We are now governed by lesser people whose grasp of history and ceremony is negligible.

Let us hope that Obama has passed the stage where he thinks DVDs and iPods make swell gifts to other heads of state. Let us also hope that Sarkozy can overcome his obvious inferiority complex in Obama’s presence.

A simple question, with disturbing consequences

I have been reading several works concerning religion and non-religion. They say that the fundamental beliefs in the Abrahamic strains of religion are that God is: 1. all-knowing (omniscient) 2. all-powerful (omnipotent) and 3. benevolent.

There are, of course, stories and aspects of the scriptures, which are the sources of religious dogma, that contradict these three fundamental beliefs about the supreme being, but at the heart of the deistic concept these three remain stubbornly embraced by the faithful.

In the course of considering the various arguments for and against the existence of an entity that possessed these attributes, a simple question formed in my mind.

If I were suddenly empowered with those two abilities and the one quality and I wanted to create a world, is this the one I would create? Is this the best world I could come up with? Could I do no better than God appears to have done?

And if my answer is that I could do better, then who is this God that has created this one and why should we honour him/her/it?

Ask yourself that question and try to answer it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday morning gripes with China and autoworkers

May 27, 2009 Addendum

Yesterday, I took out my lawnmower to cut the grass in my backyard. My lawnmower is Canadian made and has given me good service for 20 years. I have only had to tighten the nuts on the wheels and sharpen the blades from time to time. It is an electric model. Unfortunately, I guess its time has come. My grass is very dense and the mower is a basic model and has no height adjustment. Consequently, it was really difficult to push it through the lawn. The motor no longer seems up to the job and the cutting stalled repeatedly. Time for a new mower.

I looked in several retail outlets, not having purchased a mower in two decades I was not up on the latest technology. They ranged in price from a $100 to over $500. For a $100, you got the basic rotary push mower -- I might have been inclined to this, except I do not think it would handle my lawn and my wife would have none of it, since she has to mow the lawn occasionally. I finally settled for a model that cost $450. It is a cordless electric and it carried a well-known American brand name.

Since I wrote the posting below, I made sure to check the place of manufacture. Without exception, every brand, known and no-name, including the one I purchased, was made in China. I hope mine will last through the summer. But the reality is, if you have to mow your lawn in Canada, you have to buy a mower made in China -- there is no other option.

May 26, 2009

Some days you wake up cranky and the first thing that puts you off sets your mood for the day.

I like a cup of tea to start my day. This morning my electric kettle quit and I had to boil the water in a pot on the stove. No big deal. Except this kettle is only a month old. It replaced a kettle that was in use for 6 months before it also expired. The new kettle was cheaper than the old one, but not that much cheaper. In both cases, the label on the bottom of the products said they were made in China.

You know that old saw about the kettle lecturing the pot for being black. Can’t happen. The Chinese kitchen products die before they even have a decent set of fingerprints on them, let alone getting discoloured from use.

In my last home, I had to replace the new clothes washing machine twice in one year. Made in China.

Then my clothes dryer caught fire. Fortunately I was home and able to shut it off before it burned my house down. Dryers are supposed to come with a failsafe thermostat that shuts them off when they get too hot, long before reaching the temperature that melts the insulation on the wiring. My failsafe failed. Made in China.

We paid over $500 for a fancy stainless steel hood over our kitchen stove in our new home. After 6 months, it doesn’t work. I had a repair guy in and he said he couldn’t fix it (he specializes in that brand) and he charged me $75 to tell me that.

Guess what the manufacturer’s label said? No, really, guess. If you said made in China, give yourself a Cuban cigar. At least they are still the real deal.

Western civilization will be over if you ever get a Cubano made in China.

We have gone from a society of “planned obsolescence” to the “disposable age” and have now entered the “made in China” phase. Planned obsolescence was a boomer concept. Disposable was generation X. How do we label this one – maybe the “crap generation?”

I laugh every time I see an advertisement on television flogging what used to be known as brand identity. “Buy this product because you know the name of the company and it stands for quality.” Bullshit. They all make their stuff in China and it’s all crap.

I can’t wait for the North American highways to be flooded with Chinese cars. Watch the ensuing chaos and road deaths.

Speaking of cars, I finally got my tea and started to read the newspaper. It seems General Motors Canada has inked its 3rd renegotiated collective agreement this year with the auto workers' union. The workers voted 86% in favour. GM now has labour costs (leaving aside legacy costs) the equivalent of Toyota Canada, which was a demand made by the government of Canada, the company’s new minority shareholder.

Oh joy! Government made cars. Since the government has been unmasked as buying Canadian flags and Canadian lapel pins from China, I wonder how long it will be before it gets the bright idea of having GM makes its cars in China.

The workers got the message, but, in a way they still don’t get it.

One individual said, “We still fought hard.” No my fuzzy little auto worker friend. The days of “fighting” the company as if it is the enemy is at an end. When you go into survival mode you band together to save the ship from sinking.

Another said that the company was badly managed and the “brass” got off scot free. One definition of badly managed is agreeing to outrageously expensive union demands during collective bargaining. If this assembly line worker meant that management ought to have said “no” much more forcefully in earlier bargaining sessions then perhaps the union ought not to have made such profit draining demands in those same sessions.

As to the brass. Well, in the U.S., Obama fired the company CEO, while you, my friend, get to keep your job.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mama always said, "Stupid is as stupid does." Why pick on Scientology?

A story today indicates that Scientology, the so-called religion invented by British science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, is about to go on trial in France as being a fraudulent organization. You can read the details at this website, but one thing struck me as a cop-out.

It is the allegation that the adult complainants who were fleeced for hundreds of thousands of dollars were “vulnerable”, as defined by psychologists. This puts them in the same category as 6-week old kittens and 5-year old children, as well as 80-year old seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Surely, fully-formed adults, lacking brain tumors or serious alcohol and drug addictions cannot be classified the same way.

Where does vulnerability leave off and stupidity start?

If I am a guy who believed Bernie Madoff’s promises about much “better than market” financial returns and ended up losing everything, does society immediately brand me as “vulnerable” or was I just made stupid by giving into my greedy instincts. I am sure the latter.

So why do people who were taken to the cleaners by a fraudulent religion rate a special victim category of being “vulnerable”? Weren’t they just acting on their own self interests by embracing the lies of the liars the same as I would have been had I fallen for Madoff’s proposals?

The only reason I can think of that fits the facts is that these people were seduced by an allegedly fraudulent religion as opposed to a legitimate religion. If it weren’t for the religion aspect these people would simply be seen as stupid, unlike the followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, for example, who can never be seen as stupid because they believe the fantasies their religious leaders hand out in return for service in coin and kind to those organizations.

Let’s take the American Christian Reverend, Peter Popoff, for instance. He is a faith healer and has now branched out into financial healing. Perusing my late night fare on television I came across his program and was subjected to a pitch by Popoff to buy some magic “spiritual” water. I was promised that if I sprinkled this stuff on any of my credit cards the outstanding balances would simply disappear. I am not making this up. His patter was followed by testimonies from people who claimed it worked for them.

As you will see from this website, Popoff was investigated more than 20 years ago and declared to be a fraud. Yet, there he is still, larger than life and even richer.

Well, yes, you say, but he is a televangelist and we all know they got their training either from the ranks of used car sales people or the public relations departments of Big Tobacco. So the people who believe him, even if they are Christians, would still be stupid and not vulnerable.


Well what about the Reverend Fred Phelps, an American Baptist minister who runs around claiming U.S. soldiers die in Iraq and Afghanistan because the U.S. tolerates homosexuality, or the Church of England bishop who blamed devastating floods in the northern U.K. a couple of years ago on God’s displeasure with British homosexuality? And what about the Pope, who set up exorcism squads to cast out demons possessing the faithful (or is it the "less than they ought to be" faithful)?

I won’t even get into the business of dying in the service of your religion and getting to enjoy -- if that is really a word that could be applied to the concept -- the sexual services of 72 virgins forever.

Are all the people who believe this stuff vulnerable, or are they just stupid?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carla Bruni, she is more than just a pretty face

Kudos to Carla Bruni, former model and current wife of the President of France. She told off the Pope for the harm his church causes in Africa by its ludicrous stand on birth control. Recently Benedict poo-poohed the use of condoms, claiming that they just worsen the AIDS epidemic.

Bruni has brought down some Catholic condemnation for her remarks which are said to be inappropriate for France's First Lady. Let us hope she sticks to her guns.

You go girl!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Public protests in a democratic society

In a liberal democracy the right to dissent and protest by minorities is a given. It is just part of the democratic fabric we admire in our secular system.

Periodically the streets around our capital buildings get choked with farmers protesting farm policies or truckers objecting to high diesel fuel prices or over-bearing regulations. These demonstrations last a day, inconvenience other people who need to use those streets, garner some media stories and photo-ops, and then fade from memory.

With a huge immigrant population, Canada has been treated to the new phenomenon of street protests over wars and injustices in far flung parts of the globe that have little relevance to Canada geographically or politically. We seem to be paralyzed by these protests. To what extent should we tolerate them?

If you go near any Chinese government building you will regularly find Chinese protestors carrying signs and handing out literature decrying the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Falun Gong is a meditative spiritual movement that has been outlawed by the Chinese government. Its leaders and adherents have been jailed, tortured, and there is some evidence have even been killed for their organs. Yet, the streets are not blocked to bring this injustice to light and life for the other citizens goes on.

It could not be otherwise, because the practitioners of Falun Gong are essentially pacifists, so comparison with other grievance groups is not that instructive.

Closer to home is the relationship between native Indians and the larger society.

A few years ago, native Indian protestors began a campaign of public harassment to draw attention to various issues that were bugging those folks. In some instances, not only were roads and railroads blocked, but public and private property was damaged or destroyed. This culminated in an unfortunate shooting death of an Indian protestor by a policeman and a subsequent political firestorm over his death.

Then, more than two years ago, Indians moved in and occupied a tract of land near Caledonia, Ontario. That they were there illegally is beyond question. They have remained there ever since and the occupation has been accompanied by a kind of “wild west” string of violence, intimidation, and property damage. The Ontario Provincial Police has lost credibility because it is seen as an enabler of this illegal and violent activity.

A few months ago, pro-Hamas protestors marched in various cities to object to the fighting between Israel and Hamas. In Calgary they targeted a shopping mall owned by Jews (not Israelis). A few counter-protestors showed up. The police chased them away.

So, with all those examples of how our authorities deal with disruptive ethnic protests, sitting on their thumbs in the legislatures, and the police enabling the disruption, even in the in the name of support for terrorist organizations (financial support for which is a criminal offense in this country), what do the Tamils who wish to protest the 26 year civil war in Sri Lanka learn. They know that they can shut down Canada’s largest city and openly carry the banners of a terrorist organization with impunity.

It is in the nature of the militants to always try to push the envelope a little farther. The Tamils outraged the Citizens of Toronto when they took their children onto an elevated expressway which they closed down for some five hours.

You have to draw the line somewhere and it is time that our craven, vote-seeking politicians stopped being afraid of every ethnic minority with a gripe and started drafting some reasonable and balanced protest laws that allow democracy to run its course while protecting the rights of others, and making sure that the police enforce those rules. It would also be advisable to draft some rules regarding the safety of children in such protests and pinning responsibility on their parents.

We have managed to achieve a reasonable balance or rights with labour protests and strikes, so why should ethnic minorities be treated differently than we treat our labour unions?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In defense of Harry Truman

Here is a Pajamas Media defense of former President Harry Truman who was accused of being a war criminal by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show for dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. The only thing not mentioned in this video is that the Japanese had some notion, correctly, that the United States did not have a huge supply of these bombs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dhalla does Debbie

I see that my former member of parliament, Ruby Dhalla, is much in the news lately, being accused of illegally employing immigrant nannies and then mistreating them.

A lot of stuff about Dhalla has been surfacing almost daily. One of the things that caught my attention was that fact that she has one of the highest staff turnovers on Parliament Hill. This is a sure sign of a bad boss, but, in my experience, many politicians make bad bosses, particularly if they have had no good prior experience in management. They are a paranoid, untrusting, micromanagement lot.

The high turnover in Dhalla’s office may explain the fact that the only time I contacted her I never got a reply. I had sent her an e-mail asking if she supported her fellow Liberal Keith Martin’s private members bill to reform the Canadian Human Rights Commission. An office aide sent me back a standard reply that my message was being forwarded to Dhalla. Three weeks later, I sent a reminder. Four weeks later, I sent another reminder. I never did get a response.

Mind you, my situation has not improved any. I am now in the riding of Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister. When I was formerly in his riding and he was an Ontario cabinet minister I also sent him a question. I never got a reply from him either.

Ruby is very popular in Brampton. I recall when she first ran and put “Dr. Ruby Dhalla” on her election signs. I thought that was highly pretentious, but then I heard she was trying to distance herself from the image of a steamy Bollywood actress. Still, I don’t consider chiropractors to be real doctors, so it still seemed a bit pretentious.

I have been reading the letters to the editors and the blog commentary sections of the newspapers and we are getting the usual allegations of racism: She is a woman, she is South Asian, the media are mainly white males, and they are trying to do her in.


This is a woman who considered running for the party leadership which means she has pretensions to being Canada’s Prime Minister. She is not a retiring wallflower backbencher. The charges against her are serious no matter what her sex or ethnic origin. The only thing that might not work to her advantage is that she is very lovely and people do like to see the bright and beautiful laid low.

I hope the allegations prove to be false because I think Dhalla brings a lively and colourful dimension to federal politics. Plus, she is easy on the eyes.

Friday, May 8, 2009

And the hits just keep on coming

One wonders how many times the public needs to be kicked in the balls before it learns its lessons.

There were two disturbing stories this past week.

The first was that the Alberta government has decided to spend extra money, in a time of deficit financing, to bolster its disgraceful Human Rights Commission. This is the one that outlawed an evangelical minister from expressing his scripturally-inspired views on gay marriage. It is also the one that dragged Ezra Levant through its meat grinder because he had published the Danish cartoons in his former news magazine.

This thing should be shut down, not enriched.

The second was that the Liberal party of Canada held a convention and policy proposals included expanding the scope of the wretched Canada Human Rights Commission to prosecute discrimination based on “citizenship” and “socio-economic” status. Since the grounds of nationality and ethnic origin are already covered, one wonders what “citizenship” would catch that they don’t. With respect to “socio-economic status”, that is a catch-all that one can easily predict will inevitably lead to a number of ridiculous rulings we will end up grinding our teeth over.

Why don’t these people know that this monster should also be starved to death, and not fed such juicy morsels to justify its non-essential existence?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama, don't do it!

Now here is a truly bad idea. The EU is pressuring Obama to surrender control over the Internet to some as yet to be organized international organization that will make the decisions. The U.S. invented the Internet and so far hasn't done a half bad job of keeping it running and organized. I see no compelling reason to surrender control and a good one for not. Increasingly, international organizations, at the state level, are proving to be ineffective in achieving common goals, simply because the world no longer has common goals. We have seen this in the United Nations (a misnomer in the 21st century). No country has shown more dedication to freedom of expression than the United States. Once other countries get their hands on the levers you will begin to see censorship raising its ugly head.