Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Meaning of Life

Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Monty Python's final movie was titled “The Meaning of Life.” The gist of it was that nobody knows what it is; we're all wandering around clueless. Douglas Adams implied the same by declaring randomly that the meaning of life was 42.

This is actually quite a new problem. Everyone used to know. It popped up more or less postwar, with dadaism, then postwar again with existentialism. Their blank black banner is now carried by postmodernism.

Until perhaps the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, everyone knew what life was about. And we really still all do in our hearts; for it is graven there. We were not made without instructions. As the ancient philosophers noted often enough, life is the quest for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. These are the things with intrinsic value, and which bestow value and meaning on all else.

Note this does not even require a belief in God; this much is self-evident to polytheists as much as Christians. Plato and Aristotle knew it; it's in the Bhagavad Gita.

Postmodernists and their tribe insist, counter to this, that there is no Truth, no Good, and no Beauty. This is just not a philosophically tenable position.

Truth: Two plus two equals four; it does not equal seven. There's truth. Today is Monday, and not Friday. There's truth. The distinction is not difficult to see; no sane person can miss it. A commitment to Truth requires you to go where reason and the available evidence lead; rather than just believing what you want to believe, what others tell you to believe, whatever first comes to mind, or what seems in your self-interest to believe.

It is a blood-red herring to object, as postmodernists will, that you cannot be certain that you have the absolute truth. So what? No glass is ever entirely full either. There is still a critical difference between full and empty. I don't have all the money in the world. That does not mean I have no money.

And, of course, the simple statement “there is no truth” self-contradicts. It cannot, by its own terms, be true.

The Good: That morality is not relative is demonstrated planly enough by the fact that evey major religion and moral system bases itself explicitly on the same maxim: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It can be and is formulated in different ways as well, but it appears almost word for word in this same way everywhere. There is no disagreement or ambiguity here; nothing relative. Kant too found this the one irrefutable imperative of human existence: do unto others. Treat others as an end, not a means. If how this is worked out in detail can vary, so can how we build a bridge; but our calculations are all still based on the same law of gravity. Accordingly, we can plainly say there are better and worse ways to build a bridge. We can judge moral codes as more or less strict; not as randomly different.

The Beautiful: No, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. For example, show pictures of women of various races to men of various races; contrary to what is sometimes claimed, their evaluation of who is beautiful is consistent across all cultural lines. There is, objectively, such a thing as good taste and bad taste. It makes no differencce that some people have consistently bad taste; some people also do poorly at math. Statues like the Winged Victory of Samothrace can still be easily recognized as sublimely beautiful, two thousand five hundred years later and several thousands of miles away.

The question here is why so many people so often deny what is about as self-evident as anything in existence.

The Gospel of John tells why:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Once you turn away from the Good, generally in favour of self-interest and for animal pleasures, you will soon deny that any true good exists. Because it stands in condemnation of you. And, as philosophers have pointed out, each of the three transcendentals implies the other: without Good, there can be no Truth, without Truth, no Beauty, and without Beauty, no Good.

Therefore, once you turn decisively from the Good, you develop a vested interest in denying Good, Truth, and Beauty, all three, altogether. If you stumble on a truth or a good deed or some beautiful thing, you will want to deny it, conceal it from others, or, ideally, destroy it.

This naturally divides mankind into two opposing tribes; which Jesus called the sheep and the goats. The sheep keep building; the goats keep trying to tear down. Sheep may stray, through temptation or through folly, but their resolve is to keep on the path to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Goats do not acknowledge this call. They begin by merely doing as they please in the moment. But over time they come to try also to distract the sheep away from the goal. They will actually seek and promote the false, the bad, and the ugly for their own sake, and to crush the good. Evil is an addiction.

It serves a certain inevitable justice then if, as Jesus says, the sheep at worst, if lost, suffer a time in purgatory, while the goats descend to hell forever. It has been their choice: they rejected that road, knowing where it led. If you refuse the path to Truth and Good and Beauty, you will not arrive at Truth and Good and Beauty, will you?

Understanding this, one can see, by the popularity of postmodernist views, that our Western culture is currently in great peril. It is urging us on to perdition. It obliges us, for example, to expressly claim to believe things that are untrue; such as that people can simply decide for themselves what sex they are. It often now promotes art that is deliberately ugly. It requires us not only to tolerate abortion, but to pay for it through our taxes or health premiums. It attacks any established moral system, such as Catholicism or Confucianism. These are definite attempts to prevent others from pursuing the Good, the True, or the Beautiful.

This was claimed as well of cultures in the Old Testament: the Canaanite, the cities of the plain, the Philistine. It did not end well; for the sake of all concerned, such cultures had to be wiped out. As Carthage or Nazi Germany had to be wiped out.

This begins to sound very gloomy. Is Western civilization doomed?

I trust not. I see no obvious better alternative. If the West has gone barking mad, I have lived in China, in South Korea, and in the Arabian Gulf, and found those cultures, quite different one from the other, to be even madder, even further estranged from the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Perhaps the Trump phenomenon, for all its wartiness, is the first glimmer of a new Great Awakening in the US, that can reverse this downward spiral. Perhaps too the countries of the old European East Bloc carry the flame of truth. Living in the Philippines, I find the average Filipino strikingly sane in contrast to the typical Canadian: perhaps the newer Christian and Westernizing cultures of Africa and Asia will lead a revival.

Ford and the Accusations Against Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh.

I guess it is proper for the US Senate Judiciary Committee to listen to what Dr. Christine Ford has to say, if she is at last ready to testify, about Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But by this point it can only be pro forma, for the sake of completing the record.

It is no longer just a case of he said-she said. Ford claimed four people were witnesses to the event; and all four of them have now stated under oath that so far as they know or can recall the thing never happened. So it is her word against five other people, counting Kavanaugh himself.

The general consensus is that it must have been a case of mistaken identity. I think the more plausible explanation, given Ford's apparent reluctance to testify, repeatedly making demands that sound patently unreasonable, is that she is simply lying for partisan political purposes. Someone who has been wronged and feels they have justice on their side should be eager to testify. Instead, it looks as though she is very afraid of having to make her claims under oath, and is looking for ways to avoid this, while stalling the nomination process as long as possible.

The argument that she must be honestly mistaken instead of lying is founded, it seems, on the confidence that someone so socially prominent as a sociology professor would not go around lying.

That is a naive and frankly classist, discriminatory, assumption, it seems to me. Sure they would. Social prominence is no assurance whatsoever of morality. Anyone who has read the New Testament should have internalized that message.

I bet in the end she finds some excuse not to testify.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Family Values

St. Joseph

The Fourth or Fifth Commandment (there are two numbering systems) reads:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12).

This commandment raises a special problem for the abused child. What if your father or mother seeks your harm?

Worse, a narcissistic parent will use the accusation with abandon. It is a perfect cudgel for them. Narcissists are entirely likely to be superficially religious, as well, when it suits their purpose. And it usually does. The tendency to hypocrisy a core issue in the New Testament. The obvious ruse for a bad person, so as not to be discovered and punished, is to put on the airs, the external and social appearances, of a good person. It is more or less automatic that they will.

This cudgel can, tragically, then alienate too many abused children from religion itself, which should be their main help. God comes to be seen as on the side of the abuser.

We need to look more closely at this commandment. What exactly does “honouring” your parents mean?

The Greek word “tima,” as it appears in the Septuagint, translated “honour” here, does not mean “obey” and does not imply subservience ( As for the original Hebrew, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a respected 19th century Jewish catechism, defines it:

What constitutes “honour?” One must provide them with food and drink and clothing. One should bring them home and take them out, and provide them with all their needs cheerfully. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 143:7).

In sum, then, one owes one's parents material and emotional support in their age and infirmity.

This makes sense. You owe them your physical existence, and, if you are still here, their material support while growing up. Notice that this commandment comes with an explanatory quid pro quo, a promise. No other commandment does. You do this “that your days may be long.” It is a matter of social order. If the entire society does this, everyone gets to live longer. The alternative would be, as in many hunter-gathere societies, leaving older people to starve to death.

Jesus specifically endorses the commandment to honour your parents; it remains in force. However, what he means by the commandment must be judged against some interesting Gospel passages.

For example, Luke 2: 42-49:

When he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Joseph and his mother didn’t know it, but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.” 
He said to them,“Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

It is not clear that Jesus disobeyed an explicit instruction from his parents here, but he certainly disobeyed them in spirit, ignoring their wishes and their right to decide for him. He must, at twelve, have been fully aware of this. And note, as a matter of doctrine, Jesus never sinned.

It follows that one is not obliged, even at the age of twelve, to obey one's parents.

And certainly not as an adult. John 2: 2-4 records,

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”

Jesus does then do as she says, but he expressly reserves his right not to. Some translations soften this rebuff, but the American Standard, Revised Standard, and King James all have almost identical wording here.

And Jesus is making an even stronger point: not just that he is under no moral obligation to obey a parent, but even that he is under no moral obligation to recognize them as anyone special to him. In the story of his visit to the temple, he is implicitly saying that Joseph is not his father, and Mary not his mother. At Cana; he is saying he has nothing in particular to do with “this woman” who bore and raised him.

Nor is this the only time that he says something like this:

His mother and his brothers came, and standing outside, they sent to him, calling him. A multitude was sitting around him, and they told him, “Behold, your mother, your brothers, and your sisters are outside looking for you.” He answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking around at those who sat around him, he said, “Behold, my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and mother” (Matthew 12: 31-5; Luke 8: 20-1).

Here again, Jesus denies that his physical family is his true family. His physical mother is not his mother; his physical father is not his father.

That sets a pretty low bar for honouring your father and your mother. You honour them as much as you would any stranger.

This lack of obligations to the earthly parents seems consistent throughout and across the gospels. So much so that it seems a core message of the New Testament.

Mark 1: 16-20, for example, describes the calling of the first four disciples:

Passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you into fishers for men.”

Immediately they left their nets, and followed him.

Going on a little further from there, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him.

The scene of the calling of James and John seems almost comical: one pictures the puzzled old man, Zebedee, abandoned in the boat. That's honour.

And Simon apparently similarly abandoned a wife; for Matthew records:

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her. So she got up and served him. (Matthew 8: 14-5).

So as he was wandering about with empty pockets, across the empire to ultimately be crucified in Rome, there was apparently a family at home who just stopped hearing from him.

Not only was this abandonment of family morally proper; it was demanded. Consider Matthew 8: 21-22:

Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Mark 10:30:

“Jesus said, `I tell you the truth. If any man has left his house, or his brothers, or his sisters, his mother, or his father, or his children, or farms, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, he will receive his pay in this life.”

Luke 14: 25-6 is even stronger:

Now great multitudes were going with him. He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple.”

Literally, Jesus says here that you must hate your father and mother if you are going to be a good Christian. It's required.

This is a bit awkward: the Bible says that we must both honour and hate our parents.

This particular passage is always taken as hyperbole; but that is the literal meaning. You must hate your parents to be a good Christian. And there are theological problems with dismissing it as pure hyperbole. It paints Jesus, God, as deliberately misleading at least some of the faithful.

The two commands can be reconciled, however, if we understand “honour” as meeting our parents' physical needs, in return for their physical contribution to our being, while “hate” implies not giving them any higher moral status than this because they are our parents.

Which makes sense; giving priority to one's parents is a violation of universal love, which should not discriminate. You judge all in accordance with their moral worth, not by birth or race. Family is an idolatry, only selfishness writ large, just as nationalism or racism is an idolatry, a form of extended self-love.

Mark 6: 4 and Matthew 13: 57 even expect any good person to face trouble from their family. Mark:

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

In his original commission to the apostles, reasonably understood as the charter of Christianity, Jesus warns them:

“Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child. Children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. ...

For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. (Matthew 10: 21-7).

If, then, you are being opposed by a parent, this is not a sign of sinfulness. It is a sign of your moral worth. Blessed are you. Moreover, Christianity even positively encourages such strife. Jesus says it is what he came for.

At Matthew 23: 9, Jesus requires of his disciples:

Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven.

Again, this is usually just dismissed as hyperbole; but this is not satisfactory for theological reasons. It has to mean something reasonably close to what it actually says.

This is actually a key teaching, surely, of Jesus: whatever special place the family might have had in the old covenant, that place is taken by a new conception of God as Father, “Abba,” in the new; the same covenant by which we are now all brothers, whereas before race, Jewishness, held a special place.

Seems pretty clear now on the face of it. You owe your parents material support as needed, but nothing more--except as towards anyone else, based on their merits.

If we are Catholics, we must turn now to Catholic teaching. Catholics are not free to read the Bible as they like. What does Church tradition say?

To begin with, it says that the state of celibacy, being without a family, is preferable to family life. So much for the primacy of family values.

The Catechism sees the obligation to honour parents as the obligation to honour those in social authority in general: “We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority” (CCC, para 2197). “It extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it” (CCC, para 2199).

So much is required to maintain social order; we cannot all be going off on our own, or life becomes a war of all against all. Yet this obligation to obey secular authority has limits, and known limits. We render unto Caesar only what is Caesar's. In general, secular authority, the powers of this world, are understood by the New Testament as a necessary evil. They're the guys who crucified Christ. The same would then apply to the family.

Our obligations to government, or family, are strictly dependent on the behaviour of that government, or family. As the framers of the American Declaration of Independence explained, if a government or a family oversteps its bounds, it loses legitimacy, and it becomes both our right and our duty to oppose it. This comes from long Christian tradition. Contrary to much popular nonsense, Christianity has never recognized a “divine right of kings.” Aquinas recognized a right and obligation to civil disobedience.

Just so, the Catechism notes:

“This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.” (CCC, para 2199).

Accordingly, Clement of Alexandria, among the Church Fathers, writes, “if one's father, or son, or brother, be godless ... let him not be friends or agree with him, but on account of the spiritual enmity, let him dissolve the fleshly relationship.” (“Who is the Rich Man Who Shall be Saved?”, v. 22)

In the early days of the Church, it would have more or less gone without saying that family relations would have been godless: the other family members would be pagans. One hopes matters have improved since. But one sadly cannot assume it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Free Woody Allen

Fake mug shot of Woody Allen from "Take the Money and Run."

I hate to talk about the private lives of celebrities. It is almost automatically the sin of calumny. Celebrities have the same right to privacy we all do; it is supposed to be a human right.

But I must speak out on Woody Allen, because a grave injustice is being done.

He is innocent.

Yet many people are protesting The Atlantic for even allowing his wife, Soon-Yi, to give her side of the story.

I am not a Woody Allen fan. I think his influence has been baleful. He is a disciple of Freud, and Freud has been a wrecking ball in our culture. But the man is innocent.

Allen is accused of assaulting his step-daughter Dylan, when she was seven. That's it.

This charge was looked into twice, by two independent authorities, in New York and Connecticut, and neither found any credible evidence to support the charge. Never even made it to court.

Moreover, Allen and Mia Farrow were in the middle of an acrimonious breakup when the incident was alleged to have happened. Faking a charge of child molestation is simply standard practice among unethical women in any divorce proceedings these days, to milk the husband for as much as possible in the settlement. If you are caught lying, there is no penalty; so there is no downside to doing it. Arguably, it is malpractice if your divorce lawyer does not advise it.

Dylan still insists it happened. But memories from age seven are intrinsically unreliable and subject to suggestion. Her testimony might be sincere, but it is worth nothing as evidence.

There are apparently no other allegations against Allen. This is significant, because according to the experts, pedopiles are compulsive. They never do it just once, with one victim.

Indeed, there are apparently no allegations of sexual misconduct against Allen from any adult leading ladies either, although he was obviouly in a position directly comparable to that of Harvey Weinstein. He apparently did not exploit it.

Unfortunately, it all reflects shockingly badly on Mia Farrow; as does Soon-Yi's testimony about her, which is corroborated by her sibling Moses Farrow. Perhaps, then, it is best to stop here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Social Science

The South Sea Bubble

Why are so many so devoted to the social sciences—even though after a couple of hundred years of effort, that stake has never panned out? They have never built any solid body of knowledge about society or human life. As the mathematician and nuclear physicist Stanlislaw Ulam noted scornfully long ago, every result they have ever produced is either trivial, or not true.

Freud and Marx dominate popular culture and the academy. Even though both have been long ago positively disproven in any scientific terms. Yet everyone seems to simply ignore this, and carry on. The same could be equally said of lesser figures: Margaret Meade, Noam Chomsky, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, “learning styles,” “left brain-right brain.” Karl Popper, our reigning cultural authority on what is and is not science, compared it all to astrology. But nobody will let the false theories go.

It deserves a section right after St. Vitus's Dance and tupilmania in “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” Except that this irrational faith in social science would need a section bigger than the entire remainder of the volume. We have gone elaborately crazy nuts. Mad King Ludwig had nothing on us.

So what is driving this?

I think the answer is not that hard to find. People grasp at social science as a substitute for religion. Religion is the discipline that previously covered the same subject matter: man's soul, man's inner being, man's relationship with his fellow man.

And social science appeals because it strips out all moral considerations. Leaving people feeling free from moral constraints.

How could anything be any clearer than that this is the base of Freud's appeal? Sex in the street!

Marx, in turn, gives license for envy and for scapegoating. Take what you want from others! If you have less, it's the oppressive system! You deserve what you want!

This is usually the tacit appeal of every new theory in the social sciences: it gives license for some traditional vice. Beyond freedom and dignity!

This is not going good places. I think it fair to say, from an objective consideration of history, that social science has brought us the awful mass murders and monstrous wars of the 20th century. All of them. Not to mention the growing epidemic of mental illness worldwide.

Time to wake up and move on.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Benedict Option and a Very Immodest Proposal

Interior of Orthodox Church.

The crisis in the Catholic Church gets worse almost by the day. The Pope himself is now under suspicion for harbouring abuse. His own closest supporters within the US hierarchy seem to be those charged with coverups. There are claims that he himself covered up abuse when archbishop of Buenos Aires. There are claims of further damning documents at the Vatican, showing he protected and promoted abusers there as well. An Italian newspaper claims to have the scoop.

Now, what can be done if the Pope himself is part of the problem?

On the face of it, available options are grim. There is no mechanism to remove a pope. Even were he to resign, some argue, this would be an awful precedent. Two popes resigning in a row? It would convert the papacy into a merely political office, the incumbent serving only so long as he held popular approval. What a disaster. He could not longer hold the line on doctrine.

Here are a couple of ideas. First, rather than simply resign, Francis resigns in favour of Benedict, cancelling the previous resignation. Then, instead of a precedent of two popes resigning in a row, we have a precedent that popes do not resign. This would require a new conclave, with Benedict again being formally named. But if Francis himself calls for this on resigning, it would probably be pretty automatic. Resignation retroactively not accepted.

This would be a cruel burden on Benedict, but surely he could appoint someone else whom he trusts to actually handle affairs, and become largely a figurehead. Like a constitutional monarch.

Now, what if Francis, though proven guilty, refuses to resign? Is schism the only remedy?

I doubt Francis is such a man as to cling to power for its own sake in such a circumstance. But even so—here's a wild thought. The alternative need not be, as many fear, schism. Dissident Catholics, parishes, and dioceses, could instead enter into negotiations to join Eastern Orthodoxy. They too have the apostolic succession. They too have the sacraments. We have always been told that theological differences are almost non-existent; mostly a case of mutual isolation and developing apart. By joining the Orthodox, Catholics would not be creating a new schism, but healing an old one.

Perhaps, indeed, that is God's plan in all this; his way to end the ancient breach. Let the greater in numbers, the Catholics, humble themselves to the lesser, and seek their help.

It is the perfect recipe for any reconciliation.

Might even draw the Pope along in the end.

Singhing in the Rain

Jagmeet Singh

Jagmeet Singh's leadership of the NDP is in trouble. The Dippers cannot seem to budge the polls, and now internal dissent had broken out over Singh's high-handed approach to matters in caucus and in Saskatchewan.

I said at the time that the NDP was making a big mistake in dumping Tom Mulcair. I'd say now this proves me right.

The NDP thought that, with Singh, they could out-fresh face, out-hope-and-change, out-Obama, and out-progressive Trudeau's Liberals.

Bad concept. Trudeau's Liberals were already crowding that side of the political spectrum, governing left. There was not much viable ground to their left. Why vote, then, for a party with less chance of gaining power, when your agenda is being accomplished by the party in power?

Worse, if Trudeau screws up, or the public gets tired of him, Singh does not work as an alternative. He shares the same characteristics likely to alienate from Trudeau: being young, inexperienced, a pretty face, from a privileged economic background, from Central Canada, very urban.

Now imagine how much better Mulcair would play than does Singh on this score and at this point, if you are annoyed with Trudeau. If Trudeau looks amateurish, out of touch,, callow, and, as the Conservatives said, not ready for prime time, so does Singh. Mulcair has an avuncular look, solid political experience, performs well in the House. He looks like the adult alternative. Rather than crowd the left end of the spectrum, he was moving the NDP toward the centre, where they could look like a safer alternative to the Tories as well as the Grits.

Tom Mulcair.

Both Trudeau and Singh came in on the coattails of Barack Obama in the US. Whenever some new US politician makes a splash, the instinct among Canadians and Canadian pols is to find the closest parallel they can to run. But Singh is too late at the feast. Trudeau got there first. Now Obama is gone from the nightly news and the front pages, and that approach is old hat. The drive now, on the right, is to get someone who looks like Trump. Enter Doug Ford. On the left, the obvious model now is Bernie Sanders.

That's the avuncular thing.

Policies aside, Mulcair looks more like Sanders than does Singh.

Can Singh come back? Doubt it. Can the NDP get Mulcair to come back? Doubt it.

But I bet that if Mulcair were still leader, the NDP would be looking right now as though they had a serious shot at being the next government.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Allan Blakeney.

Doug Ford is planning to use the Canadian Constitution's “notwithstanding clause” to override a court that seeks to block his plan to reduce the size of Toronto City Council.

I see a bunch of people online protesting this “unconstitutional” action, which violates “the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Whether or not you agree with Ford's action, it is simply wrong to call it “unconstitutional.” He is invoking a clause of the constitution. The constitution is not unconstitutional, by definition.

Is he violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Yes, in the opinion of a judge. But isn't there a real-life possibility the judge is wrong? I hear everyone in the know was surprised by the ruling; they did not think there was a legitimate charter case here. After all, how is reducing the size of a city council a violation of anyone's free speech? Can anyone really justify that claim?

Beware. If rights can come to mean whatever a judge says they mean, then they mean nothing. They are gone.

And if the courts cannot be counted on to protect our rights, the legislature must step in.

Many argue that the issue is not important enough to justify invoking the notwithstanding clause. I agree that the issue is not important. But I think it is important for some government to invoke the notwithstanding clause for its own sake. Probably best to do it on an issue not itself too big and controversial, not too fraught with partisan concerns, in order to normalize the practice without causing any real crisis. If the judiciary has gotten out of control in general, and has been appropriating to itself the duties of the legislature, this is exactly what is needed: a clear shot across the bow. Without anyone getting seriously hurt.

And I think that is exactly what has been happening, in dramatic fashion. The Canadian courts have been out of control. An obvious recent example is a court's disallowance of the Kinder Morgan/Transmountain pipeline, at catastrophic taxpayer expense. The judges need to be reined in, and the job of legislating returned to the legislatures. There has been a pileup of terrible decisions and precedents now, that without resort to the notwithstanding clause, will haunt us forever. Because judges cannot bear not to be in control, and always want to make historic rulings that go into the law books and change everything.

That's the point of the “notwithstanding clause.” To prevent this. That is exactly why Allan Blakeney fought for its inclusion in the Constitution.

Now's the time, and well past the time. Ford does us all a great service.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Music of the Spheres

People like Christopher Hitchens look at the vastness of the known physical universe and maintain that this is evidence that God does not exist. Why would he create so many worlds?

This is like Emperor Joseph II's criticism of Mozart: “There are simply too many notes.”