Archive for August 2012

Caring for the poor?

Caring for the Poor is Government’s Biblical Role – by Jim Wallis

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

There is hardly a more controversial political battle in America today than that around the role of government. The ideological sides have lined up, and the arguments rage about the size of government: how big, how small should it be? Some famously have said government should be shrunk so small that it “could be drowned in a bathtub.”

But I want to suggest that what size the government should be is the wrong question. A more useful discussion would be about the purposes of government and whether ours is fulfilling them. So let’s look at what the Bible says.

The full article can be found at:


Posted August 31, 2012 by allanbaker in Christian Faith, Inspiration

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Loving, hopeful and optimistic

Loving, hopeful and optimistic

On August 20, 2011 Jack Layton wrote an inspiring letter that, after his death, was shared with all Canadians, and even people beyond the artificial borders of this country. A year later, many of us are still remembering Jack’s words, and our souls are still being fed by their positiveness.

The concluding paragraph of Jack’s letter was an example of how Jack elevated the tone of political debate in Canada. He wrote:

“My friends, love is better than anger.

Hope is better than fear.

Optimism is better than despair.

So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

NDP leader Jack Layton speaks with the media during  a round table discussion in Brampton, Ontario on Saturday.   (Matthew Little/The Epoch Times)

Credit: (Matthew Little/The Epoch Times)

Posted August 30, 2012 by allanbaker in Inspiration

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United Church elects new Moderator

The following is a new release from the United Church of Canada:

United Church Elects New Moderator

Photo: Gary Paterson, 41st ModeratorOttawa:  A Vancouver-based minister who describes himself as a passionate preacher and poet, the Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson was elected Moderator of The United Church of Canada by the 41st General Council on August 16, 2012.

Paterson becomes the first openly gay leader of a major Christian denomination. At a news conference following his election, he rejoiced that his sexual orientation has been a non-issue.

“One of the most wonderful things for is me that in the time of discerning and in the time of writing responses to people, it’s actually been a non-issue, and I would suspect that is the primary news story,” said Paterson, who was joined at the news conference by his partner, Tim Stevenson.

“What some denominations or some parts of the world see as a huge dilemma and a problem has not within our immediate community been seen in that way at all,” said the Moderator-elect.

“We recognize that it was 20 years since Tim was the only openly gay person to be ordained within the United Church, and we look at the kind of distance that has been achieved, at least within this community of church and this part of the world,” Paterson said. He will formally become Moderator at a worship service on Saturday, August 18, 2012.

Paterson, 63, was elected Moderator in an election that lasted more than eight hours and included a record number of 15 nominees. Paterson was chosen on the sixth ballot.

The Moderator-elect, who has been in ministry more than 35 years, insisted he will not make his sexual orientation the centrepiece of his term as Moderator. Instead he said he will be focusing on establishing partnerships to bring hope and inspiration to people who worry that the church is dying.

“I don’t have power. I root that in God and in the community,” Paterson said during the news conference. “I would see trying to enable the church to look realistically at what is happening and not be frightened. We will find our way through. We will be changed and we will be faithful, and God will be with us.”

Paterson has a long history in the United Church. He was ordained in 1977 and served several churches before joining the staff of British Columbia Conference. He worked in one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods with First United in Vancouver, and then moved to Ryerson United Church in Vancouver for 11 years. He now serves the congregation of what he calls a “cathedral-like” church, St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church in Vancouver.

  • Mary-Frances Denis
    Program Coordinator, Media and Public Relations
    The United Church of Canada
    E-mail: Mary-Frances Denis

The Circumference of Home

Long Island, Nova Scotia, 2012

What’s good for the soul in this time of a 24/7 world? What soul-filled response can one make in response to the crisis of climate change?

I’ve been reading some excellent books, and articles, that document the climatic catastrophe currently affecting our common environment. We all live and breathe one atmosphere; and drink of one life-giving water.  Some books, like Chris Turner’s “Geography of Hope” leave me with a positive feeling. However, all too frequently, I end up thinking that reading about climate change has replaced economics as, “the dismal science”.

Kurt Hoelting’s book, “The Circumference of Home” deals with a personal response to climate change, but it is food for the soul. Having witnessed the effects of climate change, and realizing their implications, Hoelting decided to reduce his carbon footprint by “living locally”.

The result is a journal of his year-long journey spent within a radius of 100 km of his home on Whidbey Island. He travelled extensively on foot, bicycle and kayak to get to become more familiar with the land, air and sea within 100 km of home. This was a journey without his car. There were no aircraft flights. It is his reflections on this travel that makes the book worth reading. That’s what touched my soul.

Hoelting is well aware of the effects of climate change, and he describes how some of these are affecting the area of the Pacific Northwest, where he lives. He writes about glaciers receding, stronger storms, and wonders what the future of snow may be in that area of God’s creation.

Whether it was his Zen meditations, or his past training in theology, Hoelting’s style is rich in reflective material that causes one to stop; to consider what was just read, and to continue slowly. The author of this book has a positive spirit. There is no prescription for others; no list of what must be done, no blaming of particular individuals or companies. Still, there is a recognition that we are all culpable, and we are all agents of possibilities for a better world.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the lack of action on the crisis of climate change? I was too. Reading Kurt Hoelting’s book has fed my soul, and my desire to do what I can for the sake of future generations. Our legacy, our history, will be in the sum and total of our actions – both individually and collectively.

A YouTube video of Hoelting speaking of his experiences can be found at:

Posted August 22, 2012 by allanbaker in Peacemaking

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Canadian War Department drones on with summer splurge

Canadian War Department drones on with summer splurge

This is a re-posting of a piece written by Matthew Behrens, and also published by

| August 20, 2012

With student activists away for summer vacation, it was the perfect occasion in late July for Carleton University to celebrate a new $40-million war-training contract. In partnership with war manufacturer CAE, Carleton’s Visualization and Simulation Centre will enable Canadian Forces to better practice, in the coarse but memorable phrase of former Canadian warlord Rick Hillier, the fine art of killing people.

In a moment that would have done Orwell proud, Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte gushed: “This is about saving lives. This is about saving money.” On hand for the announcement was Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who boasted this war-training partnership will advance “Canada’s security interests and…Canadian values around the world.”

If such values are so great, one wonders why they need to come out of the barrel of a gun. But that’s a non-issue in a national security state: when everything comes down to the rhetoric of “saving our way of life” from some unknown threat and protecting “our soldiers” from the threats we often arm to begin with, everything becomes justified, from transfers to torture to starving the poor of billions to pay for the War Department’s high-tech toys.

Such announcements regularly occur on Canadian university campuses, but hopefully it will spur at Carleton the kind of protest that shut down similar attempts to exploit bright young minds for nefarious purposes (such victories occurred at OISE and the University of Toronto).

The Carleton University contract was one of numerous boondoggles announced during summer break by a Canadian War Department that’s busily seeking out new enemies and new rationales to shield the lion’s share of a $23-billion budget that is unquestioned by all major political parties. The military is so awash in funds, that last March their expenditures jumped 14 per cent and no one could explain why.

In May, Canada’s Parliamentary budget watchdog remarked that the Harper government had deliberately misled the public on the costs of the F-35 stealth bombers (a deception built upon bureaucrats within the War Department also ignoring their own internal warnings that the bomber project was plagued by serious troubles).

Shortly after, we also learned that War Minister Peter MacKay had also low-balled government figures by almost seven times when he discussed how much it cost to drop bombs on the people of Libya (over $350 million at last count). Needless to say, the Libyan “mission,” as it was delicately called, was an important benchmark for MacKay and the generals, who got to play with new equipment and push for new weapons programs as a result.

Meanwhile, the drawdown in Afghanistan — where Canadians fired off almost 5 million bullets in one 20-month period — is making some Canadian soldiers itchy. In one Ottawa Citizen interview, a Kingston sergeant explained that garrison life on the home base “really discourages a lot of guys. The question becomes, ‘When do we go next?’ Adrenalin is a drug and they need the heart-pumping excitement and that level of unknown to keep them happy now.” Thus, war is an experience we must incessantly provide to those trained to be warriors, finding new enemies and places to bomb so we can keep our soldiers happy.

Some of the boys apparently got what they wanted when millions were wasted last month as a Canadian contingent of 1,400 soldiers were shipped off to Hawaii to take part in the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific war exercises, an attempt to remind China of who’s boss on the world stage (and perhaps to reassure Canadian mining firms that help is not far away when Asian locals agitate over poor working conditions, toxic spills, or the murder of their union leaders).

The irony here is that at the same time we are preparing for war — if necessary — with China — the busy Mr. Baird signed a deal to export increasing amounts of Canadian uranium to the nuclear weapons-holding government of Beijing, a slap in the face to nuclear non-proliferation.

And while the Pacific was being pounded with ordnance, we also learned the Canadian Forces are working to establish bases in the Caribbean, East Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia. This allows Canada’s military to “project combat power/security assistance and Canadian influence rapidly and flexibly anywhere in the world,” according to a memo signed by Canada’s top soldier, Walter Natynczyk.

Part of that power projection will be done not so much with human beings who — despite thorough indoctrination in home-grown training camps to eliminate their sense of empathy with those they are commanded to kill or transfer to torture — remain vulnerable to the twinges of humanity that lead to afflictions like post-traumatic stress, depression, and suicide. Rather, the path forward is the remote control warfare that has become de rigueur over the past decade.

Indeed, the eagerness of War Minister Peter MacKay and his cronies to grab their joysticks and bomb from the safety of 5,000 miles away in Playstation fashion is clearly palpable. The U.S. and Israel have long dominated in the global use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), but now most countries are getting in on the act because of cost savings (especially relative to multi-billion contracts like the F-35 stealth bomber) and the relatively lower political costs (no troop deployments, no body bags from “our side,” no embedded media who might step outside the boundaries and inspect the “collateral damage” on the ground).

And so we have also learned that Canada’s poor will have to sacrifice an additional $1 billion so that armed Predator drones and their Hellfire missiles will be part of Canada’s growing arsenal.

The drones are also touted as vehicles by which Canada somehow “saves lives,” but this equation always leaves out the lives at risk on the ground. Over 3,000 souls have been slaughtered from the skies in the not-so-secret and clearly illegal drone war waged by Obama and his minions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the rapidly evolving technology is also being used to prevent refugees from finding asylum and to target political demonstrations. Drones represent the ultimate tool in a 24/7 surveillance and punishment society: the forces of control can always monitor us and, when convenient, vaporize us, without any sense of transparency or accountability.

They’ve been used extensively by Obama in his targeted assassination program, and are increasingly privatized to take them out of the already limited loop that would provide any measure of accountability. Indeed, private mercenary firms like Blackwater are deeply involved in arming and conducting drone strikes, thus privatizing larger portions of what’s known as the “kill chain.” Ironically, by the rules the Pentagon plays, such use of private mercenaries creates a whole new army of “unlawful combatants” who, if captured by the Taliban, would have no rights under the Geneva Convention. But such a scenario is unlikely, since the Taliban cannot invade the safe sanctuaries in New York and Nevada in which drone “pilots” sit in air conditioned comfort and fire the missiles.

The usual rationale for anything military these days is being touted in the drone PR: it is to protect “our Arctic” (and the precious resources that we stole from First Nations) from anyone who’d steal them from us. But even the War Department knows this is a red herring, as an internal assessment revealed in late June concluded Russia poses no threat to the region.

But corporations like Northrup Grumman are not letting logic or the facts get in the way of a good profit, and so in June pitched the Canadian government at the annual Ottawa weapons bazaar, CANSEC. War merchants have until September 28 to submit their tenders to provide the Canadian War Department with a fleet of Hellfire-armed Predators.

In addition to the direct damage caused by drone strikes, they play a huge role in projecting psychological torture on those who live beneath them.

Last year, Pakistan’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights, in conjunction with U.K. human rights group Reprieve, brought together 350 people to discuss the traumas of life under the drones, which many reported seeing 10 to 15 times a day. The anxiety of never knowing when the hovering drones will strike is unimaginable: war by drone is a form of torture, an indefinite death sentence hanging over the heads of villagers that can be executed at any time of the day and night. And the victims never know what hit them, as Hellfire missiles travel faster than the speed of sound. In addition, after a drone strike, villagers often face death squads who believe someone in the village provided targeting data. Kidnappings and torture ensue, a convenient extension of the “kill chain” that begins back in a Nevada bunker.

The social justice group Homes not Bombs has long protested at the site of Canada’s largest drone profiteer, L-3 Wescam, located right next door to a private elementary school in Burlington, Ontario. The group conducted their first attempted weapons inspection of the plant in late 2002 and numerous direct actions have followed, but such challenges have not, unfortunately, slowed the relentless search for newer targeting systems (though one employee informed the group of a resignation, spurred to leave when s/he discovered the true nature of their work).

L-3 Wescam announced last month at the U.K.’s annual Farnborough weapons show the launch of its MX™-10D electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) imaging and designating turret, with their equipment showing, in the lifeless language of murder, “exceptional performance in all modes of flight throughout the HELLFIRE operational envelope.”

Canadians concerned about remote control murder, the rights of refugees, and freedom to associate would do well to resist Canada’s new generation of drone warfare: with this technology, the wars have truly come home.

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.


Posted August 20, 2012 by allanbaker in Doublespeak, Peacemaking

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The (final) Reckoning

Resilience ?

 I am re-posting a compelling article written by Bill McKibben, and originally published in Rolling Stone.

The Reckoning

By Bill McKibben

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke 2,132 high temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the northern hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7×10 to the 99th, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record,” and was part of a 12-month stretch of heat so statistically rare, according to one calculation, that absent global warming we wouldn’t see it again till 46,298 AD. The same day, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice.

Click here to read the rest of the article on >> 

Posted August 11, 2012 by allanbaker in Economics, Environment

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