Tag - politics

James Carville and Mary Matalin

I just attended a keynote in which spouses James Carville and Mary Matalin shared center stage – what a treat.

They’re at opposite ends of the political spectrum, of course, but as Mary said, politics makes for strange bedfellows. Very entertaining, very interesting, very insightful – it was a real pleasure. Plus, they offered a lot of insight into what is happening right now in the US political battles.

In their opinions, these are unprecedented times for American politics, and all the rules are being rewritten.

Office politics

You never have office politics at your work right? Riiighhht …

There’s a really good article about office politics at BNet. Here’s an excerpt from the intro:

Like it or not, every workplace is a political environment. But operating effectively within it doesn’t have to mean sucking up, lying, or slinging dirt. In its purest form, office politics is simply about getting from here to there: securing a promotion, seeing an idea come to fruition, or gaining support to make an organizational change. Playing the game well is about defending your position, earning respect, exchanging favors, and keeping your sanity amid the chaos. To get started, you need to know what you really want from work, then orient your political moves toward those goals. It all starts with strong relationships and helping others; those people in return make up the support system that helps you realize your goals.

Pain worse than death

OK, I still don’t get it:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday ordered his staff to begin revising the California’s lethal injection procedure to allay concerns raised by a federal judge that condemned inmates are being subjected to unnecessary pain. (Full story.)

I posted on this months ago: We’re only going to kill him if it doesn’t hurt.

It’s not the pain … it’s the killing that matters!

Sure, pain is not nice. Pain is not good. Pain is, well, painful. But it’s a very small thing, really, compared to being dead, toast, BBQ’d, poisoned, beheaded.

Pain is temporary. Death is forever.

I think those who are in favor of the death penalty think it’s easier to convince others of the rightness of that position if they can say it’s a painless process. To me, that’s nonsense.

(And I happen to agree with the death penalty in some cases.)

If you can do it painlessly, great. Fine. But don’t defend the morality of capital punishment by saying it’s painless! Conversely, don’t say that capital punishment is wrong because it causes pain.

That’s just missing the point.

[tags] death, penalty, pain, execution, Schwarzenegger, capital punishment [/tags]

Pope, Islam, violence

Recent history:

  1. Pope says Islam is violent
  2. Islamics react with violence
  3. Pope apologizes

It was not smart of the Pope to quote that 14th century sentence about Islam and violence. But it’s hard to argue that Islam is a religion of non-violence if, every time Islamics are offended, they react with violence.

Here’s a very good summing-up of the issue.

What gets me is how Islamic extremists think that murdering an old woman by shooting her in the back – a nun who has spent decades healing those in need – advances their cause in any way. And I wonder how they can live with themselves. Pathetic. Despicable. Evil.

Some other thoughts about this issue:

Either we get real about this and stop being afraid to speak the truth, or we will already have lost.

[tags] islam, muslim, violence, pope, freedom, john koetsier [/tags]

Waging a living

I just saw POV on PBS: Waging a Living, and I am ashamed that I am ever in any way discontent with my life or my job or my salary.

Waging a Living follows the lives of 4 individuals who are “working poor.” (More details about them.)

One’s a security guard in downtown San Francisco, making $9-10/hour. A raise of 25 cents an hour is a big deal to him. One is a nurse in New Jersey who supports 5 people on $11/hour. Another is a waitress whose husband left and didn’t pay any alimony or child support. Another is a woman who was abused through childhood and has slowly, painfully been getting her education and increasing her standard of living: 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.

These people are inspiring. But their stories break my heart.

I’m a social, political, fiscal, and moral conservative, but:

  • it is not right that some make hundreds of millions and some make pennies
  • it is not right that a waitress could be paid less than $3/hour in New Jersey
  • it is not right that the gap between executive management and rank-and-file is wider now than ever (200-400x more, I think)
  • it is not right that many of us make so much money we don’t even think about spending it, or even know how much exactly we have, while others have basic living expenses that outpace their wages
  • it is not right that people die because they cannot afford medical insurance
  • it is not right that single mothers working for very limited wages have to spend half a week’s pay for over-the-counter medicines
  • it is not right that we have so little respect for people that we think we can pay them a wage that reduces them to living in inhumane circumstances

We can call a spade an implement for digging, or we can just simple say that this is evil. And – yes, I’m a Christian too – God will judge us for this sin.

That said, if I was counselling young people in school today, I would say the world is not fair, and you should never expect it to be. Get your education. Get your education. Get your education! It will improve your life.

And I would say to spouses: divorce will not only kill your relationship. It will not only scar your children for life. It will reduce you to poverty. All of the people profiled in this POV were divorced, and it adds greatly to the strain of trying to make a living.

May God make us thankful for what we have, and generous to those who have not been so blessed.

. . .
. . .

And, PS: I’m glad to live in Canada, where anyone, anytime, anywhere, is guaranteed to get the medical care that he or she needs, to the best of our ability to provide it, regardless of the size of his or her bank account. Choosing not to help someone who is sick because they can’t afford medical care is revolting.

[tags] POV, PBS, waging a living, working poor, poverty, america, minimum wage, ceo compensation, social justice, health insurance, john koetsier [/tags]

Is Chavez insane?

Well, if there was anydoubt at all, this should lay it to rest:

Visiting Venezuela President Hugo Chavez has denounced Israel’s recent attacks on Lebanon as “genocide,” likening its action to war crimes committed by Germany’s Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

“Israel often criticizes Hitler … but they have done the same thing, perhaps even worse,” Chavez told reporters Friday in a briefing during his six-day visit to China.

Let’s see … kill 6 million people on purpose, versus kill about a thousand because you’re trying to stop the people who are shooting rockets at you (while surrounded by civilians). Is there any comparison there at all, either in quantity or quality? Not to any sane, balanced, and reasonable individual.

Every time Chavez opens his mouth he shows himself to be a bigger and better buffoon than the last time. I seriously doubt the US really is trying to overthrow his quasi-dictatorship, but I almost hope they would, just to shut this utter moron up.

[tags] chavez, venezuala, idiot, hitler, john koetsier [/tags]

How (not) to save the world

Does language mean something? Should you use terms that adequately describe what you’re trying to convey? Should the words you use have some level of equivalence with reality?

I think so. Apparently, Dave Pollard does not. We will not ever all agree. That’s OK. The least that can be expected, however, is that we argue fairly.

Pollard has published an article on Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, so full of overblown exageration and hyperbole as to be perhaps intentionally fallacious.

The link is above; here’s my commentary on just one of his paragraphs. Note: I don’t claim to have “the right answer” for every single issue below; but I do have a problem with the way they have been presented.

Our execrable
ad hominen
minority right-wing extremist
What?!? If that word means what the dictionary says it means, Harper is not extremist. Pollard is just using language as a weapon, carelessly, blind to the consequences of the arms race of his own rhetoric. If he thinks he’s seen extremism, I suggest he goes and lives in Saudi Arabia or Lebanon for a few years. Just because a person holds different views than you do does not by itself make him extremist.
prime minister Harper, fresh from completely botching the evacuation
So he was personally there, and personally responsible? Get a life. Are you telling us that Canada needs to equip and maintain a 10,000-strong special extraction force for the immediate rescuing of citizens in war zones? What magic do you believe in? How many aircraft carriers did we suddenly acquire? Since when did being a Canadian citizen mean that you can go to any country you like, no matter how dangerous, live there, and when it hits the fan, expect the government to bail you out? What social contract did you sign?
of Canadians from Lebanon
While we should help anyone we can, and while people with a Canadian passport do deserve our support to the best of our ability, wherever they are, let’s be clear: Canadians are people who live in Canada, primarily, and pay Canadian taxes, primarily … not people who are flying a flag of convenience and using it whenever the dangerous place they actually live in and are citizens of gets too hot to handle
and then making life more dangerous for Canadians at home and Canadian ‘peace-keeping’ troops mired in the hopeless anarchy of Afghanistan (and dying in battle at a horrific rate)
I’m not very sanguine about what we’re doing in Afghanistan either, don’t get me wrong. And any death is a terrible, desperate tragedy. But at a horrific rate? Compared to what? Not any of the actual wars this country has fought.
by blathering on about how Canadians support Bush’s war on terror (we don’t), is boycotting the AIDS Conference
He decided not to attend – big difference between this and “boycotting”
which is important enough for Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and 20,000 other people to attend, but apparently not important enough for the host country’s prime minister to attend. The PM insists it’s more important that he be in Inuvik in Canada’s North to announce how some of the billions cut from Canada’s environmental programs
He didn’t sign Kyoto; that doesn’t mean money is being cut.
are to be spent on defence of our Arctic sovereignty.

Pollard: by venting like this, you might be relieving your own pent-up frustrations, but you are actually hurting your cause. Because anyone can see that you are not defending your positions rationally and fairly.

Which are important things if we want to keep our public discourse civil.

Is this why Israel is attacking Lebanon?

There’s an important story on the Huffington Post about a Ted Koppel article in the NY Times:

Koppel goes on to note that “over the past couple of months alone, he told me, Hamas has received more than $300 million in cash, provided by Iran and funneled through Syria” and “the more than 12,000 missiles and rockets…in Hezbollah’s arsenal were largely provided by Iran.” Here’s the important passage:

. . .

Are the Israelis over-reacting in Lebanon? Perhaps they simply perceive their enemies’ intentions with greater clarity than most. It is not the Lebanese who make the Israelis nervous, nor even Hezbollah. It is the puppet-masters in Tehran capitalizing on every opportunity that democratic reform presents. In the Palestinian territories, in Lebanon, in Egypt, should President Hosni Mubarak be so incautious as to hold a free election, it is the Islamists who benefit the most.

. . .

Well. That would explain a few things for those of us who have been wondering why Israel has been “over-reacting.”

Packer: notes from a lecture

My sister Henriette went to hear theologian J.I. Packer yesterday at Regent College, here in Vancouver. Here are her notes from the evening:

Went to hear Packer presented as a free lecture by Regent College at UBC.  Amazing man, gracious, full of vitality with a mind and wit as sharp as a pin.  I tried to summarize some of his points, first of all to clarify them in my mind but perhaps you also might be interested in what his message entitled “Spirituality in the 21st Century” might hold for you.  Dale said Packer has been called the greatest theologian of the 21st century.  His message is intriguing in its simplicity and also its sense of timelessness, as he quotes Puritans and saints of the early centuries of the church.  It is unique and fresh to hear it spoken into our seeker/sensitive, “me”ism, type of church structure, although he is careful to refrain from making criticisms.  He directs his message to us personally as he said the best way to make change is to model it.

This is by no means a comprehensive summary as I had only jotted what I considered salient points down.   Some facts will be disjointed from the whole but bear with me.   Here goes:

Packer’s favourite theologians and authors:  Calvin, Owen and Edwards.

Packer was defined by his biographer as a catechist.  His definition, one who lives orthodoxy with vitality to lead people into a spiritual life, ie. spirituality.

He spoke of the inner life of the new Christian, given a new heart.  The inside struggle is to be motivated by spiritual disciplines.  The heart is the powerhouse, the driving force.

The outward story is developing Christian character, behavioural patterns developing, the fruits of the Spirit.  We are trying to live lives of influence and impact.

The above provides a brief context for below:

Packer looked at the Christian community in the 21st century and saw the following weakness:

-  Not really clear in the head (dry English wit), not having sufficient knowledge
-  Not understanding the “Trinitarian Plan”
-  Not humble in heart because not facing facts

Though we know God hates sin:

-  Many forget God’s character is as it was
-  His purity
-  His grace
-  Not understanding our sinfulness.
-  Not thoroughgoing in living a penitent life as we should be
-  Repent (military term) changes whole direction
-  Allowed to dream, then think, and drift along with the world.
-  Not as different as we need to be.

21st Century is:

-  Post-Christian
-  Secular – another word for worldly
-  Syncretistic – another word for idolatry
-  Consumed with “Selfism” – me and my happiness – got deep into us
-  Anti Christian era
-  Pride masquerades as intellectual perplexity.
-  Islamic drive for world domination

Packer said:  “What is key to faithfulness, fruitfulness, spiritual health and strength in the 21st century?”

What we need:  Renewed focus on “holiness”

His text – 1st Peter – As He who called you is holy, ……    In a Barna poll only 1/3 of evangelicals believe Christians are called to be holy.

Holiness means separation and contrast.  A technical term in Scripture, a quality that distinguishes God.  In terms of the attributes of God, it is called the attribute of all attributes.  It makes God awesome  and fearsome.

He also spoke of the love and loving kindness and mercy of God, the word he coined was “Holy Love”.
The holiness of God’s people – separation is the basic idea – separated to God in order to imitate Christ.  We practise love to God and neighbour.
-  Consecration
-  Commitment
-  Separation
-  Focus on God
-  Committed to live by the Bible.

Holiness starts in the heart.  -  Not legalistic asceticism, built on the supposition if outer behaviour is right, inner must be right, ie Pharisees, had hard hearts, were unloving and pride drove them.

Inside story – how holiness begins in the heart:

-  Rebirth, regeneration
-  God renews heart, we want to do what Jesus wanted to do, love, serve, exalt Heavenly Father.

Following dispositional acts practised:

-  Purity of God
-  Presence of God – practice it – what he called “hiking with the Trinity”, a journey that is not straight but has peaks and valleys.
-  Recognize the “ugliness” of sin – recognize self-service is a horrible thing.
-  Burden of sins is intolerable (taken from Book of Prayer – Anglican)
-  Recognizes urgings of a regenerate heart.
-  Heart resolves to practice friendship with God.  Quoted Gregory of Nisan, 4th Century, “Falling from God’s friendship is dreadful, becoming God’s friend is perfection”.

Friendship with God:

-  Conversation with God
-  Intimacy in prayer
-  Informality with God, speaking naturally from our heart.

Holiness grows downwards:

-  Grows into deeper repentance and humility
-  Model standard – template is Psalm 51 and the book of Job.  Job stayed faithful but at the end he acknowledged there were things he should not have said to God and he repented in dust and ashes.  We need to do this on a daily basis..

Opposite of Repentance and Humility is Conceit and Complacency.

Holiness looks ahead:

-  Truth of assurance of faith stemming from truth of Justification.
-  He spoke of the “Great Exchange” being the last judgement of God pronounced now.
-  Having assurance of faith makes you realistic about death.
-  He felt we concentrate on the blessings of this life.
-  We should have steady meditation and anticipation of life to come.
-  Most Christians are not ready to go
-  We should be “preparing for life at home, while travelling home”.
-  Quoted Richard Baxter, a Puritan who advocated a daily mediation of 1/2 hour on the glory of heaven.

Holiness absorbs hurt:

-  Life is full of suffering
-  Pleasure seeking world demand/expects right to pain-free life
-  Definition of suffering:  when you get what you don’t want
when you don’t get what you want
-  God uses suffering to sculpt our souls.
-  Keep sweet, steady and not to get bitter, looking to Jesus.

Holiness is “Habit become Character”:

-  If we practice the fruits of the Spirit, these are qualities that grow.
-  Fruits of the Spirit are the moral profile of Christ, to be reproduced in his disciples.
-  Love is a matter of habit – matter of serving others to make them great, God first and then man.
-  Joy is priming the pump of the mind.  The heart will rejoice when we think of things that make us rejoice.
-  (This is the most remarkable fact to me) – Habit becomes Character becomes You!
-  He lamented we have a great need of Christian people to honor.

His closing text in his quest for re-discovery of holiness was Psalm 139, vs. 23 and 24, “Search me O God and know my heart:  Try me and know my anxious thoughts:  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way”.

He then said Amen and we all echoed that.  There were many young people in attendance last night and I found this very encouraging.

His ageold and timeless message resonated with all of us and I hope it will with you too.  May the quest for holiness begin with me and you.

Henriette

Thanks for the summary, Henriette!

Use the gas tax – to kill gas!

In Canada about 50% of our gas price is tax, a fact that Toronto Sun columnist Linda Leatherdale is not happy about.

Well, I’m not either. I hate tax – it pulls money out of my pocket and into the bottomless depths of governmental waste. But I don’t think we should reduce the gas tax.

Right now, gas tax revenue goes straight to the Canadian government’s general revenues. That’s what I have a problem with: there’s something else we need that money for.

Instead of going into general revenue, a forward-looking government would divert all gas taxes right into alternative energy research and development.

Gas is about $1.10 a litre right now, approximately 65 cents of which is tax to the federal and provincial governments. Fueled by Canadian’s addiction to suburbs, commutes, and travel, government will collect about $1.8 billion in gas taxes for 2005-2006.

Imagine what $1.8 billion plowed into wind, solar, geothermal, tide, ethanol, hydrogen, and other alternative energy sources would accomplish. Imagine a Canada that produced all its electricity cleanly: no coal, no nuclear, no natural gas generators. Imagine a future in which per-car pollution is reduced 50%, 70%, even 90%.

This is something we need to do for our future health and welfare. It’s something we need to do for the beauty of the country in which we live. But it’s not just a do-gooder project.

Is the world going to need more of its energy from non-carbon sources in the future? Of course!

Will the huge energy industries of the future be oil and gas based? Of course not!

So diverting our gas tax revenue into alternative energy – clean energy – research and development will give Canadian companies a huge boost in the energy industries of the future.

Which is good for us, and good for our world.

The American Obsession with Race

Can someone please tell me why Americans are obsessed with race?

I happened to be searching for quite a few schools online today – double-checking a small subset of some contact data that we had received to gain some assurance that all of it was good – and all the school info aggregators had a high profile in the search results.

Apparently, when moving to Brent, Alabama, it’s very important to know, along with the average humidity and wind-speed, how many black, white, and Hispanic people live there:

Races in Brent:

  • Black (50.0%)
  • White Non-Hispanic (48.8%)
  • Hispanic (1.0%)

Apparently the same is true of Anchorage, Alaska.

Great Schools, the “parent’s guide to K-12 success,” goes so far as to post pretty graphs. Very helpful:

great-schools-ethnicity-graph.png

Private Schools Review goes a step farther. They helpfully sythesize and simplify the data, so that you don’t even have to add up all those troublesome colorful people. It’s now easy to determine that Saints Simon & Jude school in Arizona has 28% students of color:

private-school-review-color.png

The Local School Directory is not far behind. Now it’s easy to know who to avoid:

local-school.png

Is this just normal for Americans? Does no-one find this shocking?

How are these stats relevant? How do these companies assume they’ll be used? What is the purpose of a) gathering, and b) publishing this data?

I just don’t get it.

Maybe I’m just a naive Canadian, but I think that Americans invent 90% of their race problems by being so bloody focused on race.

Stop obsessing! Some people look different. It’s OK. Forget about it.

Move on to something interesting.

The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman

Last night I finished Friedman’s The World is Flat.

It’s a fairly wow big idea book; following are some of my notes and thoughts. This is not a review or anything like that; it’s just things I want to remember from the book.

Ten forces that flattened the world:

  1. Berlin Wall coming down, opening the iron curtain and creating the idea of one world market/community
  2. The dot-com bubble, with all the over-building of investment and infrastructure that resulted
  3. Common data languages and computer interoperability standards
  4. Open source software and community projects
  5. Outsourcing of work (kickstarted by Y2K)
  6. Offshoring of production (especially China)
  7. Supply-chaining – the science of coordination
  8. In-sourcing (hiring companies to perform traditionally internal company processes)
  9. In-forming (more and better data freely available for all
  10. “The steroids:” computing technology that is digital, mobile, personal, and virtual

The triple convergence:

  1. global, web-enabled collaboration: sharing of knowledge and work
  2. business process reorganization to take advantage of technologies: flattening of hierarchies, consolidating like functions, virtual companies, etc.
  3. China, India, and Russia joining the world markets at about the same time

On political and economic systems:
“Communism was a great system for making people equally poor. In fact, there was no better system for that than communism. Capitalism made people unequally rich.”

On China:
“China has more than 160 cities with a population of 1 million or more.”

“China is a threat, China is a customer, and China is an opportunity. You have to internalize China to succeed. You cannot ignore it.”

On international job competition:
“When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, ‘Tom, finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.’ My advice to you [kids] is: ‘Finish your homework – people in China and India are starving for your jobs.”

On change:
“No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.”

On staying competitive in the global job market:
“Average Joe has to become special, specialized, or adaptable Joe.”

On being in trouble:
“One thing that tells me a company is in trouble is when they tell me how good they were in the past. Same with countries … when memories exceed dreams, the end is near.”

We’re only going to kill him if it doesn’t hurt

Okay, am I the only one who thinks this whole story is just completely bonkers?

A CONVICTED murderer in California was due to be put to death with a new kind of injection in the early hours of this morning after a federal judge ruled for the first time that the usual method may inflict “excessive pain”.

The execution of Michael Morales, who has spent 23 years on death row for the torture, rape and murder of a teenager, had been due to take place 24 hours earlier but was thrown into turmoil after the anaesthetists suddenly refused their services on ethical grounds.

Apparently the concern is that the drug they were going to use would cause the convicted killer some pain – possibly agonizing pain – while they were killing him.

How modern this is: it’s not the killing that’s the problem, just the pain that accompanies it.

Unbelievable.

If you’re going to go so far as to execute a convicted criminal, in most cases and in reasonable circumstances that is the most violent and painful and permanent punishment you can possibly impose on him. A few minutes of pain, frankly, is no big deal compared to dying. Even agonizing pain.

On the other hand, if you are so squeamish that you don’t want to be causing any pain at all, why on earth are you killing people? That’s the worst pain – when you define pain as negative stimulus – that you can imagine.

I’m reminded of Spider Robinson’s characterization of the years leading up to the millenium: the crazy years.

These are crazy years too. We’re only going to kill people if it doesn’t hurt.

A camera in every (Houston) kitchen

Houston police chief Harold Hurrt wants to put surveillance cameras in all kinds of private spaces … including homes.

“I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?” Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters Wednesday at a regular briefing.

That’s the same stupid argument almost all proponents of invasive law enforcement actions state. It puts the burden of proof on the wrong party. It presupposes guilt instead of innocence. It makes the innocent feel guilty for not allowing the state to see whatever the state wants to see.

Most importantly, here’s the critical answer to Hurrt’s question:

Because one day, you might change the definition of what’s wrong!

More than 5, less than 200

This is a great quote about the whole Cheney shooting incident:

Dr. David Blanchard, the emergency room chief, estimated that Mr. Whittington had more than 5 but “probably less than 150 to 200” pellets lodged in his body.

From the New York Times.

Christianity and hypocrisy, part one

I happened to be surfing Tim Bray’s site today and noticed an article in which he comments about the Danish Mohammed cartoons.

I have a bit of a problem with his post in that he seems to lump all religions together: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. He’s talking about the fanatic fringes of all these three religions, and in that sense, yes: there’s wackos everywhere. But I think it’s fairly obvious that there’s a clear qualitative difference between what we’re seeing now in Islamic countries and what we’ve seen in the recent past from Jews and Christians.

On the other hand, however, he makes a great point, if in a bit of a crass way, in this paragraph:

The Christian batshit-loonies differ from the others in being apparently less murderous but vastly more hypocritical. To all the excellent Christians and Jews and Muslims out there: I know you exist. But you’re vanishing from view behind the cloud of mucky dust being raised by your lunatic fringe; as of right now, in the twenty-first century, when someone claims to be deeply religious, that’s grounds for suspicion of bigotry, greed, and a predisposition to homicide. Which is one reason my little boy isn’t being taken to church, for the moment.

I find this tremendously topical – at least to me. I’m currently working on a modern “translation” of the book of Romans, and in the second chapter, the apostle Paul says the following.

It’s a bit of a long quote, but read through it – the last few sentences are the kicker …

Now for you who think you are just fine before God:

If you know what He wants, and have been taught what is right, and agree that it is good, why do you not do it?

If you believe that others are blind, but you can guide them in the right way, and if you think that others are in the dark, but you are a light for them to follow, and if you think that you can teach others and tell everyone what to do, why are you still so sinful?

If you say that stealing is wrong, do you steal?

If you say that it’s wrong to have sex outside of marriage, do you keep yourself pure?

If you say that people should worship God over everything else in life, do you secretly put your own desires ahead of doing what God requires of us?

If you are so eager to tell others what God’s law means for their lives, do you shame God by breaking that same law?

If so, as Isaiah says, you yourself are the reason why people hate God and speak insolently about Him.

That’s why hypcrisy is so dangerous in Christians. And in a post in the next week or so, I’ll talk more about hypocrisy and Christianity – and why all Christians, myself included, are guilty of it.

China and censorship: divisions within?

This BBC story says that “former senior Communist party officials” have written and published a public letter denouncing at least one form of government censorship in China.

The officials include:

. . . Chairman Mao’s former secretary, Li Rui; the former editor of the Communist party’s own mouthpiece, People’s Daily, Hu Jiwei; and ex-propaganda boss, Zhu Houze.

This comes right on the heels of an ongoing controversy over Google’s (and other search engines) decision to allow China to censor web search results within the country.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.

Could there be cracks in the seemingly monolithic Chinese Communist party? That would be a very, very, very good sign … and should be incredibly embarrassing to companies like Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft that have enabled China’s government to censor the truth from its people.

They, by their actions, are de facto on the side of the censors, only to find that people who played major roles in the founding of the current government of China disagree.

Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say!

Islamic Cartoongate

OK, I guess I have to be the millionth blogger to post on the Islamic cartoon fiasco.

First off, Mark Steyn is more right than wrong in pointing out that always worrying about other people’s sensibilities is a good way to lose all our freedoms. And my good friend Mike Skovgaard echoes his sentiments.

In a sense, Islamic Cartoongate is a good thing.

It shows all us moderate westerners in Europe and North America that if we keep bending over to be sensitive and kind and inoffensive, eventually we bend so far our backs will break.

And our relatively open, free, and safe society will be dead, burnt in fact and just not in effigy at the stake of Muslim fundamentalism.

There are some encouraging signs that spines are actually being sought and found in Western Europe, just when many of us on the other side of the Atlantic wondered if such a thing was possible.

I have to say, I feel a little bit weird about this one, because I’m a Christian. And it often seems to be open season on the symbols of Christianity in our society. Any flakey no-talent artist who needs to generate controversy because he cannot create (good) art, dunks a crucifix in urine or some such idiotic thing.

This is annoying to most Christians. More than annoying, it’s sacrilegious. Grossly irreverent. However, Christians do not feel a need to riot, burn stuff, and kill people when this happens. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord,” is one of the key teachings of the Bible.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

(It’s worth noting that most Muslims consider the Bible a holy book as well. And that the Bible pre-dates the Koran/Qu’uran by some hundreds of years.)

But even though such behavior is annoying, and worse than annoying, it’s impossible to have a society worthy of the name where anytime anyone does anything offensive to another person we start a jihad to kill the infidel oppressor. As much as I dislike it, I’d rather have the irreverence than the police state that would replace it.

Which, is why, coming back to Cartoongate, while I think the cartoons are not a great idea, and not something I would do, I don’t want to see journalists, companies, countries, politicians, and societies lick fascist boots in response to the fundamentalist backlash.

Google and China: time for an Adwords boycott?

OK, everyone knows: Google is selling out.

China is big, China is profitable, China wants control over communication and transmission of ideas. Google is big. Google is profitable. Google, whose original purpose was to enable easy access to all the world’s information, is helping China censor communication and transmission of ideas.

And the rather idiotic “don’t be evil” slogan is now yesterday’s news, just like the “we don’t censor” statement in Google support (Try this link).

Just in case Brin and Page don’t get it, China’s government is evil. Here’s just 13 reasons why:

1) China’s government kills people that it disagrees with.

2) China’s government jails, tortures, and murders people, particularly Christians, who have religious beliefs that conflict with China’s government’s priorities.

3) China’s government jails, tortures, and murders people who don’t agree with its policies, or who want to reform the government, or – heaven forbid – change the government.

4) China’s government has created a judicial system that often does not even pretend to protect the Chinese people’s rights, instead preferring to lick the hand that feeds it.

5) China’s government has endorsed and executed a strategy of territorial expansion and racial resettlement in Tibet.

6) China’s government has, in the name of good old-fashioned capitalist profit, allowed China’s environment to deteriorate in uncounted regions to poisonous, life-threatening levels.

7) China’s government executes more criminals (often for relatively minor crimes) than the rest of the world put together.

8) China’s government continually rattles sabers and flies warplanes and steams warships and fires rockets past a separate, sovereign, and democratic country (Taiwan, which the rest of the world is too cowardly to recognize as a country).

9) China’s government has the largest military on the planet, and spends billions and billions more than than it admits on weapons programs.

10) China’s government is not accountable to China’s people, and not democratically elected from China’s people.

11) China’s government survives by a continued reliance on armed force and lies, both directed against the Chinese people.

12) China’s government has killed millions upon millions of its own people in the 50 or so years of existence in its current incarnation, particularly in the first few years of Mao and the “cultural revolution.”

13) China’s government is engaged in large scale industrial, military, and political espionage against Western nations.

I could probably go on for a while. All of the above are just statements, but you can google or wikipedia them yourself and determine if you do or do not believe them. I’m fairly certain that all of them are reasonably non-controversial, accepted facts – at least in places where people are free to examine facts and data, and make their own conclusions. If someone credibly informs me otherwise, I’ll change them.

But the point is:

1) China’s government is evil. It was created by force, is maintained by force, and by force it seeks to grow.

2) Enabling that government to keep its population ignorant, and therefore subservient, and therefore enabling that government to maintain its position, is also evil.

3) Those who too often engage in evil, become evil. Which makes Google, if not evil, at least on the path to becoming evil.

Which also brings me to my point: am I participating in that evil? Am I metaphorically shaking hands with the devil?

I have signed up for Google’s AdWords campaign. You’ll see those ads in the right sidebar of this page, and right underneath this article. Perhaps, however, you should not. Perhaps I should cancel my AdWords account. Perhaps I should take those AdWords off this site.

And perhaps all of us in the blogging community should do the same … until Google stops censoring.

There is no question in my mind that we could do this. Google is a one-trick pony. Google is an advertising company, pure and simple.

Cut off the advertising, you cut off the revenue. Cut off the revenue, you starve the beast. Starve the beast, you’ll get some action.

So what do you say: should we do this?

I’ll decide for myself in a week’s time. And I’ll take into account others’ views. Please let me know what you think.

. . .
. . .

I should add the following:

Hopefully it is fairly obvious, but I have absolutely nothing against the Chinese people in general or specific. Quite the opposite.

I have hardly failed to be impressed when I have met Chinese people at university and in work (and by Chinese I don’t mean ethnic Chinese but national Chinese). I’ve been taught by grad students who are getting their degrees in Canada but will be returning to China when finished. And I’ve worked with Chinese business people as I’ve source products or services.

But the government of China is a separate thing altogether. And quite possibly the Chinese people’s worst enemy.

. . .
. . .

[ update, January 28 ]

Google has posted a response to all the negative comment around its move into China. It’s not compelling; it simply restates their position in more detail.

The thing that’s most disappointing to me is that they chose a lawyer to deliver it. This, frankly, is just B.S. Where’s Sergey? Where’s Larry? Google is a technology company, and one of the founders, who so proudly and self-righteously set “do no evil” as the corporate motto, should at least try to sell their point of view.

Canadian election: Marxist-Leninist Party

We had an election today and nobody came.

Sorry, I just wanted to use that line for no particular reason. That’s what you can do when you have your own blog.

Actually, what happened, of course, is that we elected a lame-duck minority Conservative government that will have to battle every step of the way to get what it wants … and can be outvoted at any particular time by a combination of the Liberals and any one of the other two parties.

However, that’s not what this blog post is about.

When I voted today, there was a guy from the Marxist-Leninist party, David S. MacKay, who I had never heard of before, on the ballot. More astonishly, he actually managed to convince 85 wackos to vote for him.

I don’t say this because I’m particularly prejudiced again Communism. Or even against Marxism. (I do think they’re very foolish answers for humanity’s problems.)

But Leninism?

Who on earth in their right mind (and having any knowledge of history whatsoever) would found a party (in Canada!) with the name Marxist-Leninist Party … and actually have the gall to run in an election?

Leninism, if it stands for anything, stands for a betrayal of Communism/Marxism. A betrayal because he called for and began the practice of creating essentially a ruling class over ordinary people (proletariat in Marxist terminology). This ruling class, of course, was the Communist Party, and the organs of state control: police, secret police, and army.

And this ruling class that Lenin created and fostered was eventually to consume Russia, causing the deaths of millions during Lenin’s own lifetime, and tens of millions during the lifetime of the ruler whose path Lenin paved: Stalin.

Coming back to the point of this post – it does have a point, you can see that, right? – how could anyone in their right mind call their party Leninist, knowing, as we know now, that Lenin was in effect a mass murderer, a turncoat, and a betrayer of all he ostensibly originally believed.

We know this, because know history, but also because Lenin himself knew this.

Near of the end of his life he had several strokes, and lived in de facto retirement, slowly but surely getting divorced from the reins of power, as his successor, the brutal Georgian, gathered them into his own hands.

And, as I mentioned in my mini-review of a history of Lenin’s life, he awkwardly apologized to the proletariate he had betrayed.

Lenin ushered in a century of Russian suffering. And it has not yet ended.

Which is why no party that understands history in any realistic sense should title itself Leninist.

Journalism with Chinese characteristics

Communism in China is often changed and adapted to fit the needs of the ruling class. This is referred to as communism (or socialism) with Chinese characteristics.

Microsoft’s statement in support of it’s canning of a Chinese journalist’s blog on MSN Space sounds suspiciously familiar:

“MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms and industry practices. Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements,” the representative said.

“Unique elements” like no freedom of speech. “Unique elements” like jailing people who think differently than you. “Unique elements” like polluting villages. “Unique elements” like then shooting the villagers who protest.

Disgusting.

Scoble is right on

Madonna, Scientology, and blissful ignorance

Poor, misunderstood, and abused pop star Madonna is telling people to lay off Tom Cruise for being a Scientologist. As she says …

“We’re both in the take-a-lot-of-s— club together,” Madonna tells Rolling Stone magazine in its new issue. “I don’t really know what Scientology is, and because I don’t know, I’m not in a position to have an opinion about it. But I don’t think anybody else knows, either.”

She doesn’t think that anyone else knows? What?!? I don’t think Madonna is stupid, but that is not an intelligent statement. Very frankly, it’s an ignorant statement.

There’s enough on the web that a simple web search will turn up that is credible, well-substantiated, clear … and not too complimentary of Scientology. Only those who are willfully ignorant or intellectually lazy don’t know that.

Note:
I’ve posted on Scientology before:
when a Scientologist tried to convert me,
– on what Scientology has done to members who want to get out,
– and on my feeling that Katie Holmes was brainwashed.

And just the other day, I saw this article by Mark Ebner, writing for a major publication, and reposted here.

It includes a quote by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology:

“If you really want to enslave people,
tell them that you’re going to give them total
freedom.”

Norwegian company exodus?

Okayyyy ….

Norway is considering breaking up companies that do not have at least 40% women in top management.

“For a woman to get in a man must get out. It is not difficult to find qualified women.”

That’s a quote from Karita Bekkemellem, Norway’s minister for family and children. The second sentence is interesting, from a business point of view. I find it hard enough to find qualified applicants period, never mind if I’d be forced to choose just from half the potential population.

I also find the first sentence interesting, from a human rights point of view. If I was a man in top management in Norway, I’d not be feeling too comfortable. And if I lost my job because of an imposed gender quota, I would sue the pants off the government for sexual discrimination.

Frankly, if I owned a business in Norway, I’d really consider relocating. This does not sound like a business-friendly environment. And being forced to ditch even a couple senior managers could be a serious blow. At least the minister is being honest and forthright, but she’s presenting what in some cases is a legitimate problem in very stark them versus us language, and that’s bound to backfire.

I also find it interesting that the minister for family and children is the one promoting this law. The fact is that children do best when at least one of the parents is a full-time caregiver. Frankly, women do a better job at that than men. And 80% of the women I’ve met and talked to about this issue say that, given a choice, they’d stay home with their kids until they’re in school.

So why is the minister of family and children pushing this issue, instead of the minister for labor and business? Odd!

The decline and fall of the American empire

This article on the Online Asian Times by a European financial analyst (who also has posted the article on his blog) summarizes many of my fears about the United State’s current direction.

Ill-advised wars without clear endpoints, money flowing out the door like a river of cheap paper, a focus on the short-term benefits of outsourcing at the expense of the long-term benefits of retaining “in-house” production capacity, and an attitude of arrogance at the top are combining to isolate and simultaneously impoverish America.

That’s probably a premature statement at this point, and there are caveats.

But a country cannot continue to spend more than it makes, just as a family cannot continue to spend more than it makes. And making more enemies than friends is never a good plan. And there is a whole world out there of young, hungry economies snapping at the heels of the erstwhile economic giant.

I find this sad, because though much maligned and often, with justification, criticized, overall the US “empire” has been a force for good in the world … from helping to win WWI and WWII, to restraining totalitarianism in Communisitic guise during the post-war period, to spreading the freedom meme across the globe.

And I’m disappointed that this decline is being presided over a by a president who appears to be a Christian, but makes too many backroom deals, has too many strings tying him to niche lobbies that do not have the overall public interest at heart, and, most importantly, has extreme difficulty saying those simple words: “I was wrong.”

How will America turn this around?

Well, it’s a big ship. And big ships take a long time to reverse course. It won’t happen overnight, and it will be painful. America needs a party that is not in bed with lobby groups. One that will get back to basics: pay the bills, don’t over-reach its financial means, and focus on developing and sustaining the talents, capabilities, and health of its people. And engage its armed forces a little more judiciously than we’ve seen in the past few years.

The only problem is that this party does not exist.