Category Archives: Commentary

It’s easy…

It’s easy to call yourself a Liberal.  It’s harder to be habitually generous.

It’s easy to call yourself a Conservative.  It’s harder to conserve, preserve and transmit the traditions that you love.

It’s easy to call yourself a Democrat.  It’s harder to respect the beliefs, viewpoints and experiences of your entire society.

It’s easy to call yourself an environmentalist.  It’s harder to plant a tree.

It’s easy to call yourself a pacifist.  It’s harder to be a peacemaker.

Labels are easy.  Actions are hard.

Man of Steel

Last night some I saw Man of Steel with some friends, and was reminded why I don’t go to the movies very often.

It’s not that I’m opposed to entertainment, and I certainly enjoy hanging out with the guys every bit as much as any other introvert with social anxiety and Aspergers, but I found myself very impatient with the movie.

Continue reading

Secret secrets

The US government commanded the phone company Verizon to secretly collect vast amounts of data about its users activities.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order

Furthermore, Verizon was banned from admitting the existence of this secret order.

“The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.”

I am very disturbed when anyone is ordered to do something unethical and then required to deny all knowledge of that action.  At this point I truly believe that non-compliance, even if it results in prosecution, is the ethically correct action.  To do anything else is to be complicit in the creation of a privatized secret police.  I would have a huge amount of respect for any executive who stood up in public and said “we have been ordered by the government to spy on our customers and then deny all knowledge of this program, but instead we choose honesty.  We refuse to do this.  We will inform you if we receive further secret orders.  And we will accept the consequences of our honesty if necessary.”

Imagine the power of an executive choosing to go to jail rather than become complicit in large scale espionage.  That would be someone I could respect.

 

Courts Martial for Christians?

So my facebook feed this morning had a couple of folks worried about ‘the last days’ and ‘the decay of western society’

The cause?  A breathless report worrying that soldiers in the US military may be court martialed for sharing their Christian faith.

At this point I did a daring, radical thing.  I actually looked up the policy in question.  It took me all of about 30 seconds to find it: it’s freely available at http://www.180fw.ang.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120820-005.pdf.  Despite being reported in some circles as being ‘unreal’ or ‘a slap in the face to the military,’ it’s actually a completely unsurprising piece of HR policy that would not be out of place in any large government agency or private enterprise.  The articles in question are as follows:

2.11. Government Neutrality Regarding Religion. Leaders at all levels must balance
constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs
and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example,
they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious
beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion…
 
2.12.1. All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no
religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting
others whose viewpoints differ from your own. 

A document exhorting individuals to ‘confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from you own’ is hardly indicative of the downfall of western civilisation.  Unless, of course, you don’t want to respect others.  Perhaps you genuinely feel that you should be allowed to use a position of authority to extend preferential treatment to adherents of one particular sect.  Perhaps you feel that the government should be in the business of picking and choosing creeds.  Perhaps you want your government be the official arbiter of acceptable belief, practice and religous affiliation in your country.  After all, we already have examples of how well that works.

But if you are such a person, frankly you concern me far more than a well-written HR document outlining the principles of freedom of conscience and respectfulness towards others.

A Long Line of Criminals

I have been thinking a lot recently about incarceration.

At its highest levels, the Soviet Union’s gulag system imprisoned 800 people for every 100,000 people in the country.  Today the United States has 743 prisoners for every 100,000 people.  Nearly a quarter of all the prisoners in the world are in United States prisons.

This worries me, and when I read about the Stephen Harper proposing more ‘tough-on-crime’ legislation, I wonder what exactly we are trying to achieve.  But before I delve to deeply into the subject, I first have to recognize how this must be approached.  As a Christian, I belong to a faith tradition that has, frankly, spent quite a lot of time in jail.

  • Joseph was imprisoned for years on trumped up sexual harassment charges.
  • David spent his formative years as an outlaw.
  • Jesus was arrested,  imprisoned, and condemned as a threat to the state.
  • Paul wrote large chunks of the New Testament from a prison cell.
  • William Tyndale was imprisoned and executed by the imperial authorities
  • Martin Luther King wrote his most important work from a Birmingham jail.

I recognise in our society the need for a judicial system, for police officers, magistrates, prison guards and probation workers.

But when we are discussing the criminal justice system, the starting point for those who call themselves Christians needs to be this – our first and primary identity is with the jailed, not the jailer.  As the founder of our movement said, “I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

 

Public Speaking

I got to give a little presentation at Ignite Barrie this evening.  I found it surprisingly good fun to stand in front of a room full of people and share a little about my experiences running triathlons and some of the life lessons that I’ve learned in becoming a triathlete.

We also got to hear from a beekeeper, a poet, a science-fiction fan and many other unique and wonderful individuals from the community.  I’m learning that Barrie truly is a diverse and fascinating city!

I’ll put a link up to the videos of the evening once they are posted.

 

Paul Godfrey Doesn’t Understand Markets

Apparently, you can be the CEO of a major Canadian company, even if you don’t understand the first thing about free markets.

Paul Godfrey is the President and CEO of Postmedia Network, the owners of the National Post.  He’s also the chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and previously has been both a politician and the CEO of the Blue Jays.

Despite that impressive resume, he demonstrated during his interview today on ‘Ontario Today’ a quite startling lack of understanding of the way that free market capitalism works.  He was asked whether, as the National Post and other newspapers try to move to a more restrictive online model, whether readers who are used to free content would be willing to now start paying for it.

In one of the most impressive displays of wishful thinking that I’ve seen in a long time, Mr. Godfrey replied that they would, because they should. He didn’t base this argument on an analysis of market forces, but rather an appeal to to necessity.

Namely, that newspapers would not turn a profit unless people pay them more.

Clearly Mr. Godfrey did not pay attention as Blockbuster saw its business model destroyed by online movies.  Nor did he notice that the classified ads sector lost billions of dollars from its market value when Craigslist appeared.

Tell me.  When you want to buy or sell something, do you post it on Craigslist or Kijiji?

Or do you say to yourself “No no, the poor starving newspaper industry deserves my hard earned cash.  I will pay to post this item in tiny, unsearchable print in the back-end of my local newspaper.  I’m sure it will get noticed sitting in the bottom of a recycling bin.”

Paul Godfrey said that “newspapers are going to have to return a profit to their shareholders.”  He said that “the consumers must pay.”  He said that “the public has to remember that the greatest provider of content is newspapers.”

He even said that if you want opinions, you will have to pay newspaper sites.  Who knew that opinions were in such short supply?

The National Post costs money to produce; therefore, in Mr. Godfrey’s fantasy land, loyal citizens of this country will take it upon themselves to re-imburse his expenses.

Except, of course, we won’t.  We’re children of the digital age.  We will continue to learn about our world from The Guardian, from Reddit, from Twitter, from AlJazeera, from BBC, from CBC, from Google News, from Wikipedia and Wikinews and from countless other online sources.

And if we’re smart, we’ll divest ourselves of any equity we own in companies run by Mr. Godfrey.  Anyone who thinks that they have a moral right to paying customers should not be a CEO.