Saturday, November 25, 2006

Root Causes

Over and over, in this War on Terror, we hear the glib lefties reprimand the civilized world for ignoring the root causes of terrorism. This, they tell us, exacerbates the problem and makes terrorism harder to fight.

They propose that poverty and oppression are what cause people to strap explosive vests to themselves and get on public buses in Jerusalem. It's the inability of these poor and oppressed to have an effective political voice, so the experts say, that pushes them to extremes.

Douglas Rushkoff opines the same message in the Dec. '06 edition of Discover magazine (p.72). He describes the modern media environment (spanning everything from the mainstream media through the opined rantings of bloggers) as cybernetic, meaning it has the ability to share feedback much more rapidly than before. It is similar to what biologists observe in living systems with massive surface areas like coral reefs or slime molds, which can respond instantly to a need in one isolated sector of the entity. This ability, he suggests, isn't causing anything in and of itself, but is rather showing us new insights into what the origins of certain effects are.

If I understand his point correctly, he is saying that when the blogosphere erupts with outrage over something like tampered photos and exposes the fraud worldwide (to the embarrassment of the mainstream newspapers who had relied on the photos to justify their editorial slants), we witness a wondrous effect of society's core dissatisfaction with the same old biased messages. That dissatisfaction has been around for a long time, and the internet has given many of us the ability finally to speak to it. Take, for example, Kate at When asked why she blogs, she writes:

Until this moment I have been forced to listen while media and politicians alike have told me "what Canadians think". In all that time they never once asked. This is just the voice of an ordinary Canadian yelling back at the radio - "You don't speak for me."

Rushkoff then goes on to suggest what I feel is a bit of a stretch: what we call terrorism is the uncivilized world's dynamic response to what they feel is an injustice. So while Westerners blog to vocalize their opposition to the status quo, the Third World blows up buses for the same reason. Different acts, but same causes.

Never in the history of warfare have we striven to explain the actions of our enemies like we are doing today. Imagine the outcry if some historian tried to explain Hitler's obsession with the Jews. The Nazis, after all, did feel like victims. Karl Stern was a German Jewish psychiatrist who endured the opening years of the Third Reich in Munich. In his book The Pillar of Fire (Image Books, 1951), he relates this tale of a walk he took with his father through the town square during his first visit back to his Bavarian home town, well into Hitler's reign:

[There] was a big showcase, brightly lit, and above it a sign: "The Jews are our misfortune." I knew those showcases. They displayed a weekly paper which was entirely devoted to enlightening the population on the Jewish question. There were detailed stories of, let us say, a Jewish lawyer of Magdeburg who assaulted his non-Jewish secretary; or an orthodox congregation who kept German girls in the cellar of their synagogue for the purpose of commercial prostitution; statistics of the part played by the Jews in the Russian revolution and in the organization of "Wall Street."

If somebody today tried to make this point, he or she would be decried as a bigot and receive condemnations from Jewish organizations around the world. [Don't believe for a second that I am trying to make that point myself!] And rightly so, for even if such a claim were true, it could never justify the actions taken against the Jews in the 1930's and 1940's.

The same principle applies today: even if terrorism is a response to legitimate grievances against the "Great Satan" (and I would suggest that it is more hate-driven than frustration-driven), the responses are completely inappropriate.

Root causes, schmoot schmauses. Terrorism, like firing up the gas chamber, is an unacceptable coping mechanism. That's why we're fighting it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I Like What I'm Hearing

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is turning out to be better than even I had hoped.

His recent snub against the Chinese for their human rights abuses, at the possible expense of trade partnerships? How very Catholic of him.

His motion in the House of Commons recognizing Quebec as a nation within a unified Canada? Brilliant, accurate, and well-timed. Take that Gilles Duceppe!

And the announcement today of planning on aggressively paying down Canada's foreign debt? Makes sense to me, speaking from the perspective of a guy doing the same thing with his credit cards.

Keep it up, dude.

OK, I must speak to this. It's been bugging me for months, ever since I learned better.

When you're referring to a non-gender specific individual, the correct pronoun usage is "he/she." To say "they" when trying to avoid using a generic pronoun (now that everybody is afraid of "he") is ridiculous, and indicates a plurality where there is none.

Example: "If anybody wants to go to the park, they should should sign the permission form first." Sounds right? Wrong. "...he or she should sign the permission form first" is the appropriate way to say this.

You may now consider yourself smarter.

Next week: "They're, There, and Their: Why The Confusion?"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Logic & Error

I read a dangerously written opinion article in the Salem Statesman Journal today. Peter C. Boulay, a former religious brother, speaks with a forked tongue on the Church's stance on contraception.

Most of my readers know that the Catholic Church bans any form of artificial contraceptive behaviour. It always has. Boulay misstates historical fact when he claims that the Church "laid down a tough, absolute law in the [Pope Paul VI's] 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae." The belief was nothing new; what Humanae Vitae did was to solidify it as official dogma. The reason was that 38 years previously the rest of Christianity started to disagree with a ban on contraceptives with the 1930 Anglican Lambeth Conference, as I've written about before.

The concept of shoring up the doctrinal walls against an onrush of questioning is also nothing new. For example, every last item in the Apostles' Creed was laid out in its detail exactly because some heretic tried to change the understanding of an article of faith. The most frequently assaulted beliefs were the ones expounded on, such as the person of Jesus. The Creed defends his consubstantiality with the Father, his miraculous conception, the virgin birth, his passion, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his promise to return. Yet the Holy Spirit gets only one item merely stating belief in his existence. Why? Because nobody questioned the beliefs around the Holy Spirit. The Son, by contrast, was such a sign of contradiction in all he did that many doubters were spawned, and thus the deeply held faith of the Church was laid out on paper, when it had been held in hearts long before the questioning began.

In case you're wondering, I learned that concept at Aldersgate College, my Protestant alma mater.

Boulay goes on to accuse Pope Paul VI of a flawed logical conclusion when he affirmed that natural methods of spacing children are acceptable, by referring to the "hapless rhythm method of birth control." The flaw in Paul VI's logic, Boulay says, is that periodic abstinence "could be approved because it retained an intrinsic link to procreation — when, in fact, both partners were seeking to avoid procreation."

But Paul VI was seeking to condemn the desire to divorce the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect of sex, not the desire to postpone pregnancy. He was trying to reinforce the understanding of sexuality as a total gift of self, in a world where it was fast becoming an incomplete offering.

The demand for the Church to approve condom use in Africa has never been higher. The almighty rubber is expected to stem the tide of AIDS, once those abstinent old white men in Rome change a few rules.

Nine years ago I toured Ireland with three friends (one of whom became my wife), speaking in schools promoting chastity. We discovered there that some young boys say they won't use a condom because the Church says it's a sin, yet they don't hesitate to sleep around (also a sin, if memory serves). I found myself not believing their stated reason. They don't want to use condoms because they're selfish. Not that using a condom in illicit sex would be selfless, as it adds another sin and further scars your soul. Adherence to Church teaching isn't like eating at Bonanza's buffet. You don't get to pick and choose what you want.

Yet Boulay's key error hinges on exactly that concept:

Yet Humanae Vitae is not, in its reasoning, as absolute as one might think.

Paul wrote: “A right conscience is the true interpreter ... of the objective moral order which was established by God.”

Thus he left a sort of conscientious-objector status for Catholics who could not believe in the evil of contraception. That was a hole through which marched 97 percent of American Catholic women, according to the government’s 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Some stayed in the church. Some left. Some were happy. Some were not. All had departed from orthodoxy.

A right conscience is hard to come by. I can't just say, "It feels right for me, so it must be right." I have a responsibility to form my conscience properly.

Compare conscience to driving. As a driver, I can't say, "I feel that, for me, it's acceptable to turn into oncoming traffic. Or go through a red light. Or park in the middle of the freeway." If I drive by the rules, I will never get a ticket and, to the extent within my control, I will never have an accident. A police officer pulling me over when I speed is not out to condemn me; he is out to remind me that my behaviour is dangerous, even if I don't think it is. So it is with the Church admonishing those who fail to see the danger in the contraceptive mentality: she is begging you to turn from your sin and come back to intimacy with your Creator.

One last point: we were created in the image of God. That statement rebounds upon itself. We were created in the image of the Creator. We are an image, a reflection, of the one who caused us to exist. Thus we ourselves, as creations of the Creator, have within us a creative aspect. That is the core of our sexuality, and that is what connects us as sexual beings to the very person of God. This doesn't mean that God is sexual; it means that sexuality is the primary human form of the creative power of God.

When we kink the hose of our sexuality, we are not living up to the image we were created in. God didn't suppress his creative power when he performed the act of Creation - that would be a contradiction of his very essence. In fact, Scripture tells us that God used "periodic abstinence" himself - for on the seventh day he rested, and did no acts of creation.

In stating that Catholics who use natural methods of spacing their children are being contraceptive, Boulay is simaltaneously accusing God of being contraceptive when He rested on that first sabbath. There is a world of difference between doing something, and not doing something.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Buck Can Stop Anywhere It Likes, As Long As It's Not Here

A German woman has successfully sued her doctor for child support.

No, I didn't splice those two sentences together from separate articles. The doctor implanted a birth control device which failed, and she got pregnant.

Naturally, it's the doctor's fault. Um, ok... this is one of those math questions where I'd need to see your work to understand how you got to that conclusion. But I'd still mark your answer as wrong. He's not the one who participated in the child-producing activity.

The real corker here is that the parents are no longer together, and the doctor also has to compensate the biological father for his own child-support payments.

The German newspaper Die Walt picked up the obvious point: "In addition to the highly private inkling that he was not wanted by his parents, he now has official confirmation that he was born by mistake."

But don't worry - if his therapist can't cure him of his low self-esteem or intimacy issues, he now has precedent to sue the therapist for damages.

Who in their right mind will want to be a doctor in this coming era?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Incomplete Morality

A few days ago my wife received an email asking her to sign a petition to be sent to the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert. The petition asked him to ban the gay pride parade scheduled for November 10 - which was two days ago.

Turns out the parade was cancelled. From

Organizers backed down from today's scheduled event following the pleas of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders who called such a public display in the holy city offensive.

The Holy See sent an appeal to Israeli authorities to cancel the parade, explaining that "it constitutes a grave affront to the sentiments of millions of Jewish, Muslim and Christian believers, who recognize the particular sacred character of the city of Jerusalem and request that their conviction be respected."

Sounds good, doesn't it? From that part of the article, it sounds like the homosexual community has practiced what it preaches in terms of tolerance and sensitivity. But keep reading. The real reason they cancelled the parade was:

Authorities asked organizers to scale back the gathering amid reprisal threats after errant Israeli artillery shells killed 18 Palestinian civilians in Gaza on Wednesday.

So the parade wasn't cancelled to respect the religious convictions of the diverse faiths which hold Jerusalem in high esteem (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Ba'hai). It was cancelled when local authorities reminded the parade organizers that they were about to show their colours in an area known for its random violence.

Were I one to put my own homosexual inclinations into practice & activism, I would be insulted by such a rationale.

As it stands, I am disappointed that the homosexual community had to be fed that line instead of expecting them to respect our sacred ground.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Today, for my foreign readers unfamiliar with the Commonwealth tradition, is Remembrance Day. It marks the anniversay of Nov. 11, 1918, when the armistice ending World War I was signed. That war was so massive in its scale that the civilized world called it "The war to end all wars." Little did we know that the ending of that war and the punitive conditions imposed on Germany would lay the ground for a second war, more massive in scale and more hideous in its final examination.

Our Canadian soldiers have been over in Afghanistan for at least four years now, but this is the first Remembrance Day in which my thoughts have turned to our new veterans. When I think of a Canadian war veteran, immediately I picture an old man in a beret and a blue blazer, adorned with medals. Today a veteran of WWI, even if you found a man who lied about his age to enlist, would be over 100 years old. Our WWII vets are in their eighties and nineties.

For many years I've been concerned that, once we've lost our remaining vets, the purpose of Remembrance Day would fade into memory like the purpose of Victoria Day or Boxing Day. But this new generation of veterans from Afghanistan has its own memories of the dead to preserve. In a few decades we will have nobody left who was there in Europe to fight against facism. But our new vets will help us to remember that history, for they fight on the foundation their grandfathers laid.

Let us remember with them. Let us thank them for their willingness, for their obedience, for their sense of duty, and for their sacrifice. Let us pray that God will grant them unending peace.

Let us never forget.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Aftermath

I must admit, I admire Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report. For those of you unfamiliar with it, this is a show which profiles the news and current events of the day, but in a satirical format. It's what Canada's own Rick Mercer Report tries to be, only it's actually funny. His critics think he's not funny because they're not smart enough to get his jokes. Colbert's humour is intelligent & sophisticated, so much so that he is called slapstick and juvenile, with one critic even saying he was "sub-Three Stooges."

Well, of course he's sub-Three Stooges - they were the very kingpins of comedy. Everybody else wants to be as popular and as culturally iconic as Larry, Moe, and Curly (yes, I know, and Shemp, and Curly Joe too).

Colbert's style is unique: he pretends to root for the Republicans, but it's an act. Still, sometimes, I like to watch his show and sit back, close my eyes, and pretend that he's really a conservative, and that he really believes in traditional values. His reaction on the night of November 7, when the Democrats took the House and the Senate (or, as Colbert quipped, the terrorists won), was priceless. All fake, all play-acted, yes, but it was still kind of nice to see somebody portray - even satirically - how I felt on a mainstream American comedy show.

Yes, I think the Democrat victory is an unfortunate thing. But then I read James Taranto from the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today November 8th column and think it might not be all bad. He makes a few key points:

  • The Republicans deserved to lose. When they took power 12 years ago, they promised smaller government and significant reforms. But the government size grew, deficits appeared again, and spending went up. When polled on who would be more likely to lower taxes & cut spending, Americans overwhelmingly picked the Democrats.
  • The result was not a referendum on the Iraq war. Of the five Republicans who voted against the war, three were defeated. Also, pro-war Joe Lieberman, who didn't receive his Democratic Party's nomination, ran as an independent and won his Senate seat back.
  • It was not a victory for the left. The Democrats openly admit they approached evangelical, socially conservative Christians to run for them, and they may find a hard time controlling that segment of their caucus if they don't change many of their overall policies around issues close to the hearts of those candidates.
  • The "Angry Left" may be rendered impotent. They complained that 2000 and 2004 were stolen elections because they were such close calls. So will they boast that they stole this one for themselves? Or will they fade quietly into the night, never to be heard from again? We can only hope.
David Warren also cast a prediction on this outcome:

...the event might actually free President Bush from many of the restraints of holding Republican factions together. We might paradoxically find that a lame-duck presidency quacks to new life in its final two years, as Mr Bush directs his sights away from mundane politics. He has been consistently underestimated by media that despise him.

All told, it's going to be an interesting two years until the next big election down there. It'll also be neat to observe a liberal America from a Conservative Canada.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Picture This

Imagine a mother with an out-of-control child in the grocery store. The boy is sampling from the bulk bins at will, tipping full shopping carts, whining, crying, bullying, and taunting. Mom is at her wits' end.

Everybody is afraid to do anything. The store manager eventually comes to the scene and politely but firmly asks the woman to control her child. She takes offense at the correction, but she tries to calm her boy down. But he's screaming and flailing uncontrollably and she loses her grip on him, setting off another chain reaction of general pandemonium.

Everybody's staring. The manager keeps asking the boy to behave.

Finally, an off-duty Marine steps in and grabs the boy by the nape of the neck, yelling into his face, "Young man, listen to your mother! This is not acceptable behaviour!"

The boy quiets down, and although still seething with rage, he more or less controls himself, frightened into obedience by the powerful stranger.

Silently, the whole store is relieved that somebody had the brass to get the kid in line. The mom ain't too thrilled however - she's both embarrassed and angry - and the manager is fuming that his soothing words had no effect.

The story hits the media, and while everybody agrees that the boy's behaviour was indeed unacceptable, the Marine is shunted the brunt of the criticism.

"Excessive force" is the term thrown about. "Abuse of power" is another.

This young boy has a name, and I will reveal it: his name is Iraq. Mom is the Hans Blitz & the UNMOVIC (United Nations Monitoring, Verification & Inspection Commission). The store manager is the UN itself, and the other shoppers are the nations of the free world. Our Semper Fi friend is good ol' Uncle Sam himself.

We must not forget, despite all the tactical mistakes made in Iraq over the last few years, that Iraq was not America's problem to fix. The UN demonstrated repeated spinelessness with its repeated verbal reprimands to Saddam Hussein. If America didn't jump in and take charge, by now we'd be hearing about the forty-ninth UN Security Council Resolution denouncing Iraq for failing to disclose the locations of its known stockpiles of WMDs. Or in the words of the Frenchman in Monty Python's Holy Grail, "Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!"

Talk is cheap, and therefore easily produced. The UN never would have done anything but talk and talk and talk. There's your global warming cause, folks.

Weapons of Mass Destruction were found. Lots of 'em. I recall seeing at least three separate news reports over the last few years (not even including Senator Rick Santorum's) saying they found some. Want proof? Bizzyblog did a lot of work compiling various news reports. If you doubt the claim that WMDs were found, read that link.

My Americas readers, if you will listen to what a Canadian thinks about your state of affairs, I would encourage you to vote Republican tomorrow. The only way America can stabilize Iraq is via a Republican Senate & House.