Monday, September 22, 2014

ISIS: Thuggery That Looks Like Religion

As many of you who read the crap I write in this space know, I believe that religion is the worst thing to ever happen to humankind. There is absolutely no proof that any god exists and asking people to believe in something that they can't prove is, I believe, just a method to exert control over people.

The latest group to use their so-called belief in a god and his (always a he, right?) holy text to control people is the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq: ISIS. Muslims I know who live in western society call them extremists and in comparison they are. I won't bother with the question if whether there is any form of religion that doesn't treat women as second to men or homosexuals as sinners; or whose version of Islam is the "real" Islam. What ISIS is, regardless, is a murderous gang of thugs. They use religion as an excuse for their crimes, and attract weak minded fools to their cause. Their form of "religion" is just an excuse to plunder others, keep men in charge of women, and have their way with anyone who challenges them. It's thuggery and nothing more.

Apparently these gangsters believe that they can intimidate via threats and vile acts of murder. This week they've ordered their followers to kill Canadians. Of course all that will do is ensure that a coalition of Canadians, Americans, French, British and others will kill more of them than you could count. And that leads us to the point: should we be there? Is there a threat to us? I believe the answer to both questions is yes.

The idea that the world outside of the middle east should just keep its nose out of the middle east while groups like ISIS slaughter thousands upon thousands for not believing in the same non-existent god in the exact same way is ridiculous. First of all, what do you think the reaction in the middle east would be if all western powers completely abandoned the region? No military, commercial or diplomatic presence. They'd freak out. They know that the USA exists as a force in the middle east for more than just oil. In Saudi Arabia they were there at the invitation of the Saudi royal family to help protect against other aggressive powers in the region. The Saudis aren't alone in that. But vilifying the USA is easier than explaining how their own rule keeps people poor.

I know that the pseudo-intellectual "cool" thing to say is that the USA is only in the middle east for oil and that they'll kill people for it without a thought. Being a thoughtful, intelligent person, I disagree with that nonsense. And I can prove it is wrong.

The USA's #1 source of petroleum is the USA. Only 33% of its petroleum is imported from foreign countries. The top foreign country that imports oil to the USA is Canada, which accounts for 28% of imported petroleum. Saudi Arabia trails far behind at 13%. Mexico is quickly catching up at 10%. The USA's dependance of foreign oil has not been so low since 1985. If the Keystone XL pipeline gets build the numbers from OPEC countries will dwindle away to nothing.

I believe that the United States, while far from perfect, is one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Western powers aren't in the middle east to kill people for oil. They are there because the middle east is volatile and a middle east that is ruled by thugs and gangsters parading as the faithful is a threat to the entire world. Leaving groups like ISIS and the Ayatollahs of Iran unchecked would result in the region being over run by evildoers who will then turn their evil intentions to the west. It's the truth and we have seen the results before. Let's not deny what everyone knows.

Many like to put forth the idea that terrorists attack western targets because there are western powers in the middle east. That's absolute garbage. Terrorists attack the west because the west represents everything that is the opposite of what they want to achieve in the world. In the west women are equal. In the west people choose their own leaders. In the west people have freedom of religion and freedom from religion. In the west people have private property. And more and more in the west homosexuality is accepted. The west accepts Israel's right to exist. Thugs like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and others hate that. To them it is an obstacle to their goal of domination. They use religion as their excuse, but it's all about sexism, patriarchal domination, homophobia, anti-semitism and good old fashioned greed. The kind of greed that makes Wall Street look philanthropic. This greed involves killing people and taking their possessions just because you can.

It's evil and keeping our nose out of it is not an option. If the intentions of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda weren't global, then one could argue that the middle east must develop and progress at its own pace regardless of what happens. But since they do have global intentions, and have stated so, we have to be there. Not for their own good, but for ours.

But that's just how I see it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Fuss Over Gordon Dirks

With some folks Jim Prentice just isn't going to win. Some are either so done with the Progressive Conservative brand that nothing he does will matter while others feel the PCs aren't right wing/left wing enough anyway and will hate-on for hate's sake. The rest of us, in the middle, will wait to see what happens. The latest round of political pettiness to flow in Alberta is the "outrage" over Prentice's appointments of Stephen Mandel as Health Minister and Gordon Dirks as Education Minister. While some are simply unaware that Canada's constitution allows for unelected people to be appointed to cabinet and then run in by-elections, while others saved their vitriol for the appointment of a Christian to the education portfolio. Well, I can't help those who didn't bother to pay attention during high school social studies. Nor can I reconcile their desire that Prentice's team be "new" without adding new people. But hopefully I can illuminate the dark brain cells of those who have been wailing and gnashing their teeth over Dirks and his faith.

As those of you who read the drivel I post in this space know very well I am a committed atheist and fairly militant secular humanist. I dislike religion and feel it is the worst thing to ever happen to humanity. That said, it would be wrong headed for people to assume that people of faith cannot serve in a public role without shoving their religion down everyone's throat. I can understand why someone might be hesitant that way, but in the case of Dirks there is some pretty good proof that he is willing to work in a public system and not shove Jesus on everyone.

Gordon Dirks was once a cabinet minister in Saskatchewan under Grant Devine. That government had its fair share of scandals, but none involved Dirks, who lost his seat in an election. His next stop was VP at Canadian Bible College. Dirks then moved to Edmonton where he served as an assistant deputy minister in Family and Social Services. He then was pastor at an Alliance Church in Edmonton. Then he was President of Rocky Mountain College. Dirks also served as chair of the Calgary Board of Education, where he was re-elected by his peers multiple times.

So here's the crux of the matter: Dirks is a Christian and holds views such as homosexuality being a sin. Of course every Christian save the ones who conveniently dismiss the parts of the Bible they don't like (which makes no sense and throws the whole thing out the window, but that's for another time) would hold those views. As would a Muslim, Jew or person of most other faiths on the planet.

So, should he be disqualified from serving because of his religious beliefs? Is it simply not possible that he could serve as Minister of Education without pushing Jesus on public schools? It might shock people to know that many a Christian has held a position such as this in Canada without pushing Jesus on public schools. But what's Dirks' record? He's obviously worked in education and has extensive experience. That's a positive. He also served as an administrator at two Christian colleges. To some that is distressing. I've read no less than 20 past news articles on Dirks and can't find anywhere a story where he's ever spread hatred against gays. In a Christian setting I'm sure he has peached what's in the Bible. But is society ready to call the Bible hate speech? Maybe some would, but not the majority. So can we fault him because he's a Christian?

What about his record as a school board trustee in Calgary? He was elected and re-elected several times as chair by his peers. Nobody who served on that board has said anything but positives about him. Did he try to put Christian theology in public classrooms? There's no record of that. He did support the idea, as did others, that parents should be allowed more choice in public education. This meant that alternative schools would be allowed to apply to join the public system. That could mean a religious school, of course, as well as a soccer academy or special needs school. This, by the way, happens in many places in Canada as a means to enhance enrolment, create space and give parents choice. That's about as far as it gets.

The conclusion is that the guy is a devout Christian who is always involved in his church, which means that he holds some views personally that many, including me, would disagree with; but also has a solid record as a public school trustee who has loads of experience in education.

If he turns out to be a nutter then those who are crying bloody murder right now will wet their pants while gleefully saying, "see I told you so". But it would be disingenuous to say that there's really any evidence that this guy is a nutter or that he's going to push his personal beliefs on the public school system in Alberta. If he does I hope Prentice shows him the door without delay, but there doesn't seem to be any real cause for alarm as he has had ample opportunity to try to do that and hasn't. In that light it's hard not to accuse his detractors of being as intolerant as any faith based person who actually follows their religious texts and doesn't just pick and choose to avoid the silly bits. They are, ultimately, saying that only an atheist should be allowed to hold public office. I would love to hear them admit to that and give us their argument. Sounds like a more honest debate.

But that's just how I see it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The World Cup Beautifully Illustrated North America's Snootiness

Now that the World Cup is over I thought that I might be able to get away from the soccer bashing I constantly hear from Canadians and Americans who think that if it's not an engrained part of their own culture it must be stupid. I guess not.

Two days after the fact I'm reading stupid media articles from so-called journalists who just have to have their say about how much they hate soccer. Whether it's the consistently ridiculous Ann Coulter calling soccer un-American and pointing to it as illustrative of an eroding of American values or whether it's the Post's Matt Gurney wasting space in his paper so that all of you can know how much he doesn't care about soccer. Good for you, Matt. Now the world can keep turning, I guess. I think Ann Coulter missed the fact that the USA is a country built by immigrants and aboriginals.

There are 7 Billion people on the planet. Pretty much all but half a billion of them love soccer. In many places it has a religious connotation to it. But I guess if the 318 million folks in America and 33 million in Canada don't dig footie, it must be stupid. That's called snootiness and self absorption. And let's not actually include all 351 million of those folks. The MLS averages 18,000 people per match in the US and Canada. Total attendance in the MLS last year was over 6 million. The average attendance in MLS exceeds that of the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association. It is also only a few thousand short of the big leagues in Italy, Netherlands and France. The Liga MX in Mexico now has average attendance of over 25,000, the fourth highest of any footie league in the world.

There will always be those who lament the lack of scoring while ignoring the difficulty of what these footballers do out there. Then there are those who point to the diving. Sure, there's diving. There's also diving in hockey. Basketball players are taught how to draw fouls. Canadians and Americans seem to think that footballers always go down way too easily. Try getting kicked in the back of the leg and see how easily you just "fight through it". It always looks innocent on TV. In real time it hurts like a bitch. And if going down when someone grabs your jersey and tugs it to slow you down gets you a free kick, you do it. Don't want that to happen, don't tug the guy's jersey or kick at his ankle. Both sides always know the score. Perhaps considering the body armour hockey players wear there's no excuse for how easily so many of those guys fold like cheap suits.

No matter the sport, sitting in your armchair saying "oh what a dive" when a guy has gone to ground after getting kicked, kneed, dragged at, or otherwise molested is silly. In soccer a foul is penalized with a free kick. A foul in the box is a penalty. You don't need to go to ground for that to happen. Yes, guys simulate, just like in any sport. And yes, it happens more in soccer. But if you don't know what fouling a guy will cause a free kick regardless of whether the guy sells it or not, you're a stupid player. Would the sport be better if all simulation was stamped out? Sure. Tell that to proponents of fighting in hockey. Same tune, different instrument.

The World Cup was a fantastic tournament for those of us who enjoy the beautiful game. And if you don't like soccer, then that's fine. But stop with the asinine quips about how it's somehow illegitimate or out of place in North America. It's not. The only thing it's going to do it grow in popularity. And this is where I think so much of the animosity towards the sport comes from. Somehow it is seen as foreign and that makes some people uncomfortable. Well, remember, North America's population consists of aboriginals, immigrants and their descendants. The economies of the USA and Canada rely upon immigration for growth. That means more jobs filled, more growth and more soccer fans.

Soccer has arrived in North America. Get used to it.

Can't wait for this year's Champions League campaign.

But that's just the way I see it.




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Racist Sports Team Names or Political Correctness Run Amok?

Yesterday the US Patent Office cancelled the trademark of the Washington Redskins. The battle over the Redskins name is not a new one and is sure to stir the pot regarding what is appropriate to name a team. Well, for those of you who are bored, here are my thoughts on the matter….

The idea, in my mind, that naming a team after a group of people is inappropriate is not well thought out. Many sports teams are named after groups or kinds of people. That doesn't make the name disparaging. I don't think that the Vancouver Canucks name is disparaging of Canadians. Neither is the Montreal Canadiens (les habitants).

What about teams named after races or ethnicities? Again, it matters if the name is disparaging. The Cleveland Indians isn't a name that is disparaging of aboriginals. Neither is the Edmonton Eskimos or the Chicago Blackhawks. Is calling a football team the Vikings disparaging of Scandinavians? Certainly not and those who think so simply have too much time on their hands and should find something more useful to do than looking for cheap ways to be offended. Neither the Eskimos, Indians, Vikings or Blackhawks names make a negative reference or call attention to any negative stereotype.

There is only one example I can think of of a sports team name that is actually a racist or negative term and that is the Washington Redskins. The term "Redskin" is offensive because it mentions skin colour in a negative (and inaccurate) way. It is a negative term. So while the NFL team from Washington DC may end up having to change their name in time (and likely should) using one team's inappropriate name to justify open season on any team named after people is silly. That is political correctness run amok.

In the meantime, Go Eskimos!

But that's just the way I see it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Approving Northern Gateway The Right Choice

Once again I'll take the opportunity to use the best blog on the internet to tell my friends in the environmental hysteria industry that they are wrong. I rather enjoy doing so, to be frank. On the Northern Gateway pipeline the Government of Canada has made the right choice in approving the project.  Hopefully Keystone XL is next. Both pipelines need to become reality. Here's why:

Pipelines Are Safer

If the pipeline doesn't get built, it doesn't mean that Alberta oil won't reach the coast of British Columbia. It will, only it will arrive via rail or vehicle. As the tragedy at Lac Megantic showed last year, this method is not without significant risks. Pipelines can be built with significant safety features that make shipping oil via rail look like an irresponsible choice. Opposing the pipeline is the least environmentally friendly position.

The Resource Sector Is Essential to Canada

The idea that governments can just snap their fingers and create economic diversification is naive. I find it humorous that many of the same left-wing people who oppose pipelines also oppose the kinds of corporate welfare that usually attract new industries to any given jurisdiction. Tax incentives, tax breaks, subsidies and cost sharing will attract new industries. All of these measures are uniformly opposed by the usual environmentalists. Canada NEEDS the oil industry. Think that Canada would have fared so well during the 2008 meltdown and aftermath without it's resource sector? Without it Canada would have sunk much further into recession. Without the resource sector Canada's unemployment would be significantly higher than it is now and governments would have much less revenue to spend on programs. The oil and gas sector in Western Canada contributes more than $40 billion in economic benefit to all of Canada and provides almost half a million jobs. These companies spend over $500 billion a year in Canada. We simply can't do without it.

Alberta Oil Is Not A Threat To The Planet

I hate to let facts get in the way of the usual environmental hysteria, but I will. If Alberta never produced another drop of oil the effect on global warming would be nil, zilch, zero, nada. Canada produced less than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Within Canada, the oilsands contributes just 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The oilsands produce 0.15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Considering that the oil and gas sector nationally contributes 25% of Canada's emissions, the oilsands' 8% hardly justifies it's pariah status. 24% of Canadian emissions come from transportation, and another 12% come from the production of electricity. Perhaps here are easier ways to reduce emissions without costing jobs. Maybe the time has come for stricter emissions standards on vehicles.

Global Warming Can Only Be Stopped By Population Reduction

Unless we're all willing to give up fossil fuels tomorrow (and by all I mean the entire planet) stopping global warming is impossible unless major reductions happen in every part of the world. That includes China (26% of global emissions), the USA (14%, including a large portion generated by coal-fired plants), the EU (13%), India (6%), and Russia (5%). Everyone will have to reduce emissions without exemptions or exceptions. Think China is going to go for that? Me neither. And if they aren't then there's no stopping global warming. Killing the oilsands would be an empty gesture that would seriously damage our economy and eliminate jobs while doing absolutely nothing to stop global warming.

Empowering Women: The Best Way To Fight Global Warming

The best way to fight global warming is by globally empowering women. When women have access to education, jobs and birth control humans make fewer babies. And fewer humans is the best way to beat global warming. There are 7 billion people on the planet right now. That's easily 3 billion too many. That is true with respect to pollution, food supplies and water. At 4 billion global warming ceases to become an issue. The only way to get there is by empowering women. Doing that means the planet needs to grow up and get over it's ancient superstitions and patriarchal traditions. If that's not going to happen then there's no use in cutting off our noses to spite our faces. We should keep producing oil, find new and better ways to ship it to market and start planning for the consequences of global warming.

But that's just the way I see it




Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Potbellied Pigs, Awful Neighbours, Insensitive Mayors and Outright Stupidity

An odd news story from the place I live has a family fighting to keep their pet pig while the local municipality has threatened to take the pig away and fine the family. Many in the public are sympathizing with the family and vilifying others.

This news story has enough stupidity and awfulness to warrant a ranting blog from Jay, no?

Potbellied Pigs

According to Strathcona County a potbellied pig is "livestock" and therefore is not legal to have as a pet. Many municipalities have similar bylaws prohibiting livestock as pets. Livestock is meant for farms. The stupid thing here is that while a potbellied pig may be classified as livestock, it really isn't. This isn't the kind of pig you eat anymore than a parrot is the kind of bird you serve on Thanksgiving.

Awful Neighbours

This only became an issue and story because a neighbour of the family complained. Was the pig bothering anyone? Maybe, maybe not. The neighbour, who is now suing the family for emotional distress (really, I'm not making this up) has shown that they are simply awful people. More to that story, for sure. Sounds like an awful, vindictive neighbour. The kind that calls bylaw if go a week without cutting your lawn. We all know this kind.

Insensitive Mayors

Strathcona County Mayor Roxanne Carr has gone on record as saying "A pig is a pig is a pig". Not "Unfortunately this is against the bylaw prohibiting such animals as pets, and while I am sad to see this family lose their pet, we can't allow this for one family but not everyone else". Some people just suck at politics. If such a person is so cold hearted, then perhaps those of us who vote in that municipality might consider that come election time.

Outright Stupidity

This is where the pig's owners and I part ways. Yes, the bylaw isn't great. Yes, the neighbour is awful. Yes, the Mayor is insensitive. But who gets a pet that they know is illegal to have? While the neighbour may be awful, eventually this was going to happen. Leave out the fact that a pet pig will eat everything in your home and cause an awful mess. Someone wants a pig for a pet, who am I to judge? But to get one while it is not legal to have one in the first place, get your family attached to it while the threat of removal hangs over you….that's just dramatically irresponsible and stupid. So, while the pig's owner may bash the neighbour, the mayor and the bylaw, she is to blame for this, and nobody else. It was outright stupidity.

But that's just the way I see it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Jay's Awesome "Dress Code" Blog

I've been reading, with some amusement, news stories about high school students fighting with schools over dress codes. At first I thought that perhaps some of these schools go too far with dress codes. After all, if a girl wears a tank top on a hot day, and she just might since it's hot out, you're going to see her bra straps. And high school isn't the same as a downtown office. But like most things, we can use our common sense to reach logical conclusions. In this regard, both schools and students aren't using much common sense.

So, in that vein, let's run through some examples of appropriate dress for different situations so as to illustrate why some standards of decorum and dress are necessary.

Situation 1: The Office
Appropriate: Suits, golf shirts, loafers, dress shoes, blouses, skirts, button up shirts
Inappropriate: Bikinis, scuba gear, bare feet, wedding dresses

Situation 2: High School
Appropriate: T-shirts, jeans, leggings, shorts, skirts, running shoes
Inappropriate: Bikinis, scuba gear, bare feet, wedding dresses

Situation 3: Wedding
Appropriate: Suits, ties, dresses, wedding dress
Inappropriate: Bikinis, scuba gear, bare feet

See where I'm going with this? If you set a standard of dress which is situationally appropriate, you logically are accepting that not everything is appropriate at every time or place. This then throws out any "it's my freedom" or "don't objectify me by enforcing a code" argument.

Whether it's high school or the office, can a skirt or shorts be too short? OF COURSE! Let's not deny that. If I can see your ass cheeks, and I don't want to, then it's too short. Is it out of bounds to ask people not to show their underwear by having their baggy pants so low that their gonch is on display? I don't think so. On the other hand, is it unbearably uptight to say a half leg skirt is too short or that you're "distracted" by the bra strap showing a bit because of a tank top on a hot day? I, and most level headed people, would think so.

So why don't we all pull our collective heads out of our asses and start thinking straight for a change. We could solve all sorts of problems, don't you think?

But that's just the way I see it.