Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pope meant both men and women -- so he says

Follow-up on my last post.   There was some confusion about Joe Ratzinger's remarks about condoms and AIDS and whether he meant that it only applied to male prostitutes.   Today, a Vatican official clarified further, saying that the point of the comment was the partners having sex have due consideration for the health of each other.   In other words, the new edict applies to both males and females.

Given that a majority of sexually active Catholics, at least in the developed world, do use contraceptives to begin with, it is as I said an important step forward.   Again it is being stressed that sex outside of marriage is wrong; but if one does so it's better to be safe than sorry.   Which is what many of us in the laity have been saying all along.

One does have to wonder ... could this put the kibosh on JP2's candidacy for sainthood (a saint, after all, is someone who never sinned in his or her human life)?   Or is the current Pope asking for trouble coming his way?   We all remember what happened to Albino Luciani (JP1) when he tried to clean up corruption at the Vatican Bank -- he was assassinated within one month of his election.   God forbid it should happen now, of course, but with Sark becoming a democracy two years ago Vatican City is the last feudal state left in Europe -- and the powers that be that really run things, want to keep it that way.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Vatican caves in on condoms -- sort of

This one, I'm having a hard time figuring out.

It's no secret that Pope Paul VI (real name Giovanni Montini) wanted to face the reality, even in the 1960s, that Catholics were using contraceptives.    He was prepared in fact to cave in and permit the practice.   But he faced a backlash from his senior advisors, one of them the Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła (who of course later became Pope John Paul II).   In 1967, Montini's hand was forced and he issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae (actually ghostwritten by Wojtyła) which outright "banned" contraceptives -- not that Catholics, especially those outside the "10-40 window" were going to obey.

Just last year, the ex-"Rottweiler" of the Vatican, Joe Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) on a trip to Africa said that condoms only "worsened" the problem of AIDS, not improved it.   But this past weekend, he had a sudden if only partial change of heart.   Ratzinger said that it's actually okay for prostitutes to use condoms to help prevent the spread of AIDS and other blood-borne diseases.    Using the kind of logic similar to that used by the rationalist St. Thomas Aquinas, he said it's the lesser of two evils.

Well, duh.  No doubt some of the conservatives are going to try to rip this one apart, but at least someone's willing to chip the ice if not smash it all together.    Abstinence-only simply doesn't cut it -- people are too prepared to give into temptation, and every journey begins with a first step.    It's a welcome one, however tentative it may be.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feds don't get it on "street walking"

The feds are complaining that there will be "chaos" if a judge's order striking down key parts of the prostitution laws has its stayed lifted next week, as widely expected, and that Ontario will become a "haven" for criminal elements while there will be uncertainty over the law elsewhere.

Message to feds:   The criminal element is already there.   The women who fought to strike down the laws in question did so, so that the criminal element could be more effectively dealt with while making the sex trade safe(r) for those who walk the streets.

It seems to me that the government hasn't even listened or even read the briefs of the women who challenged the law.    If they did, they would realize the women's case is structurally and legally sound.   (It was quite a long time ago when a young woman challenged the law banning frontal nudity and I had a hard time accepting the idea, until I read an op-ed written by the woman herself -- Gwen Jacob -- I and realized she had a point.)

So Harper:  Go after organized crime for once -- not the prostitutes.   If your government claims to be tough on crime, then it's time to prove it.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Blankety Blank ™ extends the mission

Even two years ago when Parliament voted to send a date certain for the Afghanistan mission to end as 2011, my fellow "progs" and I agreed that He Who Must Not Be Named would find a way to extend the mission.    We found out yesterday, yes he has.    But where did he make the announcement?   Not in Parliament as he should have.    Nor at any of the hundreds of cenotaphs across this fair land of Canada.    Nope.  He made it at a war memorial -- in Seoul, South Korea.

I can't remember the last time a Canadian PM was not in Ottawa for Remembrance Day.   In fact, traditionally, all the party leaders are together at the Cenotaph in the capital, one of the few times they stand together in solidarity.

This can't be decided by the executive alone contrary to what the PM thinks.  This needs to be properly debated in the House and a proper vote taken.   I think we have more than done our duty and sacrifice -- by the time next year rolls around we will have spent more time there than in both of the World Wars of the last century combined.   We can't go on and on like this.   Remember that it was 1945, after Hiroshima, that Truman sent "advisors" to help maintain a so-called ceasefire in Vietnam and that nightmare lasted another thirty years.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anti-Semitism and Harper

For whatever reason -- whether it's his personal ideology or his religious beliefs -- Stephen Harper has confused legitimate criticism of Israel's policies with anti-Semitism.   The latter, of course, is something we should be constantly vigilant against; God's Chosen People have a specific place in the world and in history.

But to suggest that to be against how the State of Israel treats Arabs not just in the occupied territories, but even within the internationally recognized boundaries (those who are are considered Israeli citizens, and they regard themselves as an indigenous people) to be anti-Semitic is trying to make black and white out of a very complicated situation.

It's not even clear if Harper supports a two-state solution (with free access to all holy sites on both sides of the border) as most countries officially do, or if he would go the route of the currently and rightly banned Kahane Chai - Kach and support the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel and the occupied lands.   Or is it a middle ground -- give Palestinians their country but have Israel remain in control of the airspace and the sub-surface (which would effectively make Palestine a vassal state with Israel the suzerain power over it).

As far as his claim that Canada's former stance as an "honest broker" made us weak, actually it did not.   We have long recognized Israel's right to exist -- since December 1948, about seven months after the British mandate ended.   We have long recognized Israel as an ally and in fact we even have a free trade agreement with the country.

But we have also played a major role in trying to keep a relative peace between Israel and its neighbours.    Remember that it was Canada that helped to negotiate a ceasefire over the Suez Canal crisis which involved Israel.    As well, owing to the fact that the status of Jerusalem hasn't been settled in the eyes of the world community, we from the beginning (1953 to be exact) have had our embassy in Tel Aviv.

Moreover, Canadians are actually quite divided over where they stand on the conflict -- roughly a third each are for Israel, for the Palestinians, or just plain don't care.

Being an "honest broker" means that while we make our allegiances clear, we are also willing to be a mediator between belligerent powers -- even if it's just "shuttle diplomacy" (running back and forth between neighbouring rooms because the two parties refuse to meet face to face).   Just because we were strongly on the side of France and West Germany and the United Kingdom during the Cold War didn't prevent us from reaching out to people behind the Iron Curtain; if anything relations with most of the client states in the Warsaw Pact were actually rather cordial, owing to the large ex-patriate communities here.    And we along with most of our NATO partners have had a long standing relationship with Cuba, much to the annoyance of the United States.

Canada will probably never be a superpower, unless there turns out to be even more oil and diamonds in "them thar hills" than currently proven.   But we can act responsibly in the eyes of the world and attempt to be more open-minded about world affairs.   Realpolitik is not weakness.   Being pragmatic actually demonstrates more hidden strength than just wielding the sword or sabre.   Perhaps Mr. Harper needs to remember outside of the UN Headquarters in New York City there is a monument where man "beats his swords into ploughshares and his spears into pruning hooks."   The statue specifically mentions the source, Isaiah 2:4.   The country that donated the statue?    The former Soviet Union.

Support Israel, I always will.   Seeking justice for the Palestinians -- provided they completely renounce violence once and for all -- I will also.    But carpet bombing an entire people to Kingdom Come, that is something I cannot support.   To have peace, you must sometimes wage war; but it must be measured and attack specific targets, not destroy entire infrastructures or force bombed out people on rations.

If he had just realized this simple fact, Canada might be in on the Security Council, the world's enforcement body ... and not sitting on the outside while the European Union now has four seats (five when Bosnia ends its term late next year) and effective control of the body.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Prentice, Olbermann

This week's sudden resignation of Jim Prentice is shocking because he somehow managed to negotiate a new job with the CIBC bank while apparently avoiding conflict of interest guidelines.    How?   But more ominously his departure means that there are only a handful of progressives left in the governing party -- maybe two or three in each of the House and the Senate.   The Conservative Party as it now stands is nowhere near some of the extremist parties we see in Europe -- think National Front in France, for instance -- but it's definitely now almost a carbon copy of the US Republicans minus the Cons' support for health care.

Meanwhile, listening to the BBC World Service last night, I was equally stunned to hear that NBC has suspended Keith Olbermann after it was learned he contributed to the campaigns of three Democrats in this week's election, contrary to network rules.   I don't exactly respect him that much anymore -- he's as bombastic as Bill O'Reilly at Fox -- but when was the last time someone at FNC was suspended for contributing to the Republican Party?   Exactly.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

At least Moonbeam is back

Despite the losses the Democrats suffered in yesterday's mid-terms, there's at least one bright spot:   Jerry Brown, aka "Governor Moonbeam," is back 28 years after his last stint as the Governor of California.   I kind of feel bad for Meg Wittman, the founder of eBay -- hers is a genuine American success story.   But the fact remains she ran on Arnold Schwarzenegger's record, and it was not all roses and candy.

Will Hollywood welcome back The Terminator with open arms?   Is the media ready for another run with a Kennedy?   And will Linda Ronstadt be inspired to write another song about her one-time boyfriend?

Stay tuned.

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